Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Saturday, August 31, 2019

August a la carte

  I have only blogged 2 times this year, which is really unusual for me. There are a couple of reasons for that:

#1. My depression has been really bad this year, and that interferes with my writing and desire to write.

 #2. I have been reading a lot. And I mean a lot. I have started a few blog posts, but never finished or published them. It is like I got it out of my system, and that was that.

  But here I am starting another post. Whether I actually publish it, that remains to be seen. If you are reading this, I obviously posted it. If you aren't reading it, you either don't read my blog, or I didn't publish it. Regardless, you won't know about it either way.......

   Just because I haven't blogged, it does not mean I have nothing on my mind. I always have a lot on my mind. I'll try to cover just a few, and possibly that will help me actually publish this. If anyone reads it. :)

 And I am publishing it. 11 topics. There are more I wrote, but I'll save them for another time, as I got pretty long on some of these.

1) Moving

  The biggest thing in my life currently, is my moving. I was renting the farmhouse belonging to my little sister's father-in-law. I moved in at the end of August 2017. With the exception of an almost constant mice problem and a few issues with the furnace and electric, I really liked living there. He let me know in May that he was going to move into it in October, so I needed to find another place.

  I work in Beaver, PA, and was hoping to move to East Palestine, OH. That is as close to PA as I can be and still be in Ohio. I started looking there, and wasn't having much success. Earlier this month, a coworker told me he saw a duplex for rent. I drove by it daily coming to and from work, so I hope I would have noticed it......but who knows. I called about it, looked through it on August 7, loved it, and took it. I was thinking I'd need to downsize from a 3 bedroom farmhouse to most likely an apartment, so I had sold a lot of things I didn't figure I'd  have room for. I was amazed at how much room this place has. A very nice sized living room and dining room.... and I had sold my dining room table.....a decent sized master bedroom with a large walk in closet, and a small spare bedroom with a large walk in closet. It has a basement that is very decent, and really big.....my worries about storage space are no more.

The positives:
15 minutes and 9 miles closer to work

I can walk to McDonalds, my pharmacy, an ice cream stand, and about anything else in town since I am so close.

There is an awesome Chinese place really close to me.

I don't have to mow. The young guy in the other side of the duplex does the mowing.

It cuts out some hills that are bad in the winter, and areas where deer are bad

The negatives: 
I can walk to McDonalds and an ice cream stand

There is an awesome Chinese place really close to me.

It only has one bathroom.....I got used to two

The bathroom and kitchen are really small.

The washer and dryer are in the basement, instead of off the bathroom which was off my bedroom.

The rent is double what I was paying, and I have more bills than before....I figure I'll be paying between $400 and $500 more a month. Good thing I got those two raises in July.......

   But I love the place. I had sold my dining room table for $50, $5 more than I had paid. My dad found one for $25 from a lady he laid carpet for. It is very nice and has 2 leaves and 4 chairs. I put all of my fiction in the dining room, 6 shelves full, with one shelf around the corner in the living room for when I overflow those shelves. I put 3 shelves in the upstairs hallway outside of the spare room, one tall and 2 shorter. There is one shelf for my Christmas books in the spare room closet......I figure since I on;y use those once a year, they could go there. There will be a couple of shelves in the spare room with a dresser, and eventually a bed, sofa bed, or futon....I hope.

 I was hoping to move at the end of August, since the previous tenant didn't move out til the first weekend of this month, but my new landlord didn't want to lose a whole month's rent and wanted me to do the middle of the month. So I paid for the middle, but didn't really plan to move in til  the end of the month. He gave me the keys right away. so I started moving what I could by car for 2 weeks. About all I did when not at work was move. My parents took a few trips with his pick up, til eventually there wasn't much left. So I moved early: Friday, August 23. There was so little left, that it fit on a 15 ft Uhaul truck with a lot of room to spare. My little sister, her husband, my youngest 2 nephews, my parents, and my youngest niece and her boyfriend helped. My niece and her boyfriend gave up their date night to help, which I think is awesome. Everyone else had to work, with the exception of my other sister, who was sick.

  The kitchen is done...though it could use a little re-arranging. The dining room and living room are done, and the bathroom and my bedroom. There is still some things left to unpack, and I need to work more on the spare bedroom and organize the basement better. And seriously.......I do love the place.

2) Furniture

  About 21 years ago, I bought living room furniture: A couch, love seat, and chair....dark green plaid. It was still in OK shape, but I was tired of it, and it took up a lot of room.....so I decided to get rid of it and buy new. I put it on Craigslist at a price I was willing to take less, and kept dropping the price. I finally put it for free, and still had no luck. Finally at my sister's suggestion, I texted my landlord - not the new one - and asked if he wanted it (for free). He said yes, so it just stayed.

 Meanwhile, I ordered new from Amazon. I can do 6 months financing through them, so I bought a sofa and recliner which I like a lot.

  I also wanted to get rid of my piano, and finally sold it after I moved out.

  By the way, the pink curtains left by the previous tenant have come down.

3) Reading

 As I mentioned above, I have been reading a lot. Most work days, I start a book on my lunch break, read more of it on my other break, and finish it at home. Before I started moving, I was reading in all my spare time. As of now, I have read 382 this year, and am on my 383rd book. It helps that I am a fast reader and that I have no social life. Seriously, I don't. There are a lot of my days off that I don't even leave the house.

 There is enough room, pretty much, for my books. All of my regular fiction books are in the dining room. Not sure where I'll put my many Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense novels that are mass market. Non fiction is going in the hall upstairs and in the spare bedroom.

The dining room:

4) Trump and the election of 2020

   There was a lot to criticize about Obama, and I criticized away. There is a lot to criticize about Trump, but I don't say a fraction of what I think about him. For some reason, those who voted for him think he should not be criticized. That has not made me like him any more, to put it mildly. I sometimes wonder if I am even looking at the same man as his supporters are. I wonder how anyone can like him and defend him. There is so much you have to ignore to think he is conservative, pro-life, Christian, pro-second amendment, and even a good president. And I won't ignore it. I may keep silent for the most part, but I won't ignore it. By the way, when Trump supporters try to silence me, not only are they saying I have no freedom of speech, they are also saying my opinion doesn't matter since it isn't the status quo of conservatives.

 The man has already done more gun control than Obama would ever have gotten away with, and is proposing more.....including red flag laws, which are extremely dangerous to our second amendment rights, and under control of those Democrats not hiding behind an R, it would be even worse, Anyone who thinks Trump putting those laws into effect should fully investigate and consider the possible ramifications.

 Here is what Trump has done and wants to do. Imagine if this were Obama or Hillary:

1) He told Republicans in Congress not to be afraid to buck the NRA.

2) He did an executive order to ban bump stocks

3) He wants to raise the minimum age to buy guns to 21. 18 year olds can be in the military where they use guns, but he doesn't think they should be allowed to buy any.

4) He wants to ban silencers

5) In cases where there are suspicions, he wants to grab guns and skip due process

And I may have missed some things.

 There is so much about him to find fault with, and so much that frustrates me about his supporters and their blind loyalty and determination to ignore his horrible policies,,,,,,I could do several blog posts about that alone. The tariffs that are going to hurt us..not the  Chinese, his claims that the abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama are too restrictive., etc.

 And then this: The Bible has much to say about how we are to act and be. If it is wrong for us to act the way Trump does, to talk the way he does, and to treat people the way he does...then isn't it wrong to cheer on that behavior in him and be drawn to him the worse he acts?

 I worry as much about our country and freedoms under him as I did under Obama. Maybe more. Conservatives fought Obama on gun control and other bad policies. Under Trump, they seem oblivious or ignore it, and are more upset by we who point out his bad policies and actions than by what he actually does,

 I am not being overdramatic, nor am I saying this because I don't support him: I fear if he gets 4 more years, he will completely destroy conservatism, further infringe on our gun rights, and hurt our country even more. We need a conservative, not a liberal wearing an "R" patch. I don't believe he will beat any Democrat, but sadly I think even Jesus would lose to him in a Republican primary....the Republican party doesn't want a true conservative, Christian candidate, or even a decent human being any more than the Democrats do anymore. I still cannot fathom how such a man won the GOP nomination over several decent and actual conservative candidates.

 And by the way, it isn't easy being a conservative and evangelical Christian who does not support Mr Trump. You are misunderstood - sometimes on purpose....you are falsely accused and lied about (if you said I was for Hillary if I wasn't for Trump, that IS a lie), Trump supporters want you to keep silent, and you are nauseated by the constant praise,. worship, and defense of a man you already can hardly handle hearing about. (Picture if you are anti-Obama and a lot of your Facebook friends acting about him like so many Trump supporters act about him).

5) Too patriotic?

  I am a patriotic American. If you don't believe that, check out the decor in my bedroom. It is Americana/patriotic. But can we be too patriotic? Too pro-American? The election of 2016 affected me in many ways. One way it affected me was to make me truly think. For the first time in my life, I disagreed politically with the people of my church, my own family, the majority of conservatives and evangelical Christians, and the majority of my Facebook friends. I have become aware of a couple of truths that you may not agree with, but I believe 100% to be true:

a) American Christians view things and react to things too often as Americans first, and Christians second.....if at all. We have become so used to and acclimated to thinking as Americans and putting our country, Constitution, and freedoms first, that what the Bible says all too often takes a back seat to how we feel about things as Americans.

 Back during election time, a guy from my church was constantly texting me trying to get me to vote for Trump, even though he knew I felt it would be going against my conscience. He asked me a question I cannot remember, but I do remember what came after. I replied "Are you asking me that as a Christian, or as an American?" He shot back "can't it be both?" Not necessarily. The two are not synonymous, and the Christian part should take precedence over the American part.

b) You do not have to vote for your party candidate. I never voted third party before in my life, but honestly felt I could not vote for Donald Trump. Yeah, I took a lot of flak for it. I was told I was for Hillary if I didn't vote for him, that my vote was wasted on a third party candidate, etc. But you know what? There is nothing in the Bible that says I must vote for the Republican candidate because I am a registered Republican. Nothing.

c) Christians are too political. I am not saying we should not vote, but shouldn't we be more concerned about doing what the Bible commands us to do? Jesus didn't say to do your best to get people to vote like you, but He did say to spread the Gospel, to love your enemies, to be peacemakers. What fruits of the Spirit are we displaying at election time? Or is that the one time we can set aside what the Bible says about how to treat people?

 I'll end this with three questions. It may be like throwing a match onto a powder keg, but remember I am a patriotic American. I love the freedoms we still have. I love to celebrate Independence Day. I like to read about how America came to be and about those who sacrificed so we could be free. And my bedroom is decorated patriotic..... If you are offended by these questions, it is pretty good proof that you are reacting as an American instead of as a Christian. These are not original with me, and I honestly never considered questioning these things.....but that can be problematic. We should question things and think about it and not just do what everyone else is doing and has always done. Onto my  questions. I am not answering them, just asking:

1) Should the American flag be on the platform of a church?

2) Should we sing patriotic songs in a worship service?

3) Should we ever pledge allegiance to  the American flag in church during a worship service?

   The average Christian reading this has an American flag on their church platform, and sings patriotic songs during the worship service on patriotic holidays. They may even pledge allegiance to the American flag during those times. My church does all three.  The church I grew up in did, and I assume still does. It is all too easy to dismiss those questions, and even roll your eyes at my asking. That is the American part of you reacting. But what about as a Christian? We are there to worship God, not our country.Should those things exist and happen in church and in a worship service?

6) The Corner Store

 Speaking of patriotism, there is a cool store in my new town near me. Of course, in a town the size of East Palestine, everything is near me. My pharmacy is across the street about 5 buildings down. McDonalds is across the street from them. I could walk to several businesses on the main street of town, because I am a little more than a block off the main street of town.

 The Corner Store is on a corner....hence  the name,,,,,,,and is used merchandise. I had stopped in last week just to look when I was going to a store close to it. They had a few end-tables, and I needed one because I had sold one. The one I liked was $6.99, and they have a minimum debit/credit card purchase of $10. I am one of those people who rarely carry cash, so I started looking around to see what else I could buy. I found two things: a lighthouse picture, and a very cool patriotic ceramic stein. I don't drink beer....or any alcoholic beverage, and it is a large ceramic stein not intended for drinking from. I decided it would go well in my bedroom, so I purchased it also, and had no problem hitting $10.

 The ice cream stand takes only cash, so that is a deterrent for me since I so rarely carry any.

7) The neighbors

  The other side of the duplex I am in has a young couple and their little girl, who looks to be around 2 or younger. The couple looks to be around 15 or younger. Well, I'd say no older than 25, if that, My landlord told me that they are Jehovah Witness. I told him if they don't knock on my door, I won't knock on theirs. They both seem very nice, are friendly. and also quiet.

 I got used to listening to my music and watching movies pretty loud, and at all hours. I have to tone it down now, and have a set of Bluetooth headphones that I use if it is very late or early. Bought them from my nieces at our yard sale in June, not knowing I'd actually need them.

8) Fear vs. trusting God

  I enjoy the freedoms we still have, and I want to keep them. I worry about what kind of country we will have if the wrong people get in power. But do we worry and focus on that too much? If we truly trust God, are we going to harass people about how they are voting.....or not voting? Are we going to use fear mongering? "If Hillary gets in, she will take our guns" (Ironically, DT is the one getting gun control done). "If you don't vote for candidate A, this will happen."  "If candidate B wins, this will happen." I think sometimes Christians in America, and most likely other countries also....but I am talking our country - tend to forget we aren't living for this world. We aren't living for America. Sure, we want to keep it free and not overrun with the crazy ideas and stuff that is out there. We want those coming behind us to have a safe and free America.

  But are we living like Heaven is our eternal home, or like America is our eternal home? Are we truly trusting God, or are we putting our trust and hopes in politics, in a politician, in a political party, in our country?

  Much is said in the Bible and much has been preached about how smart and wily the devil is.....how he has an endless bag of tricks and temptations to trip us up, ensnare us, get our eyes off of God and mess up our priorities. What if the devil is using politics, patriotism, elections, politicians, and love of country to do that? What if he is using politics, politicians, and elections to stir up division among Christians and get their eyes and focus off what is important?

 Nah, Satan would never use those things. He'd just use the obvious ones like drugs, sex,  and other temptations.

9) Depression

  As I mentioned previously, my depression has been really bad the last several months. I am on two medications: one for depression, and one for anxiety....so I don't get it. Think I am stupid if you want, but turning 50 was really rough on me. Still is. I think that is a big contributing factor. I just feel I haven't accomplished anything in life, and here I am most of my life over. The reality of never having a family has hit hard, and it just seems I should be more than I am for being this age.

 And one perk of dealing with same-sex attraction is depression. A lot, if not most, gay people/same-sex attracted people deal with depression, often severe.

 Thankfully, when I am at work I can function fine and people have no idea how depressed I am. At home is a different matter, and that is one reason I bury myself in reading so often.

  Having to move, not knowing where, being overwhelmed with packing everything,  and wondering how on earth I will fit everything into an apartment  has added to the stress and depression. Thankfully, that stress has ended,

 People who don't deal with depression have no idea what it is like. Someone shared a post on Facebook that claimed it is a demon. It isn't spiritual. It is emotional and mental, and difficult.

 I give myself the sermon very often that there are people worse off than me, and I could be dealing with cancer or worse....but sometimes I wonder why I have so much to deal with. Same sex attractions and the loneliness and other "perks" that come with it, diabetes, depression, weight struggles, high blood pressure, anxiety, poor self esteem, insecurity. But yeah, it could be worse.

10)  Community and fellowship

Why do you go to church?

To worship God? You can do that anywhere

To hear a sermon? You can do that anywhere

To sing? You can do that anywhere

To gossip? You can do that anywhere

   I have heard a lot of preaching and heard others say we need to go to church for fellowship with other believers. There is even an illustration I have heard several times:

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.

After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.

As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

You get the point.

  But what is fellowship and community? Does your church have it? Does mine? What if it doesn't?

  Here is my church life: I go to church Sunday morning. I shake hands at the door with a few people, speak to a few people, occasionally have a brief conversation. I go in the bathroom and wash my hands, then head for my classroom hoping no one shakes my hand. If I see my 3 nieces, I give them a hug. (Since working at the hospital, I have become a germaphobic). After Sunday school is over, I again head into the bathroom if anyone shakes my hand. I go to my seat. We open with prayer, sing two songs, take an offering, sing another song, pray, have a special song, have a sermon, then dismissal prayer. I head out, speaking to people, shaking a few hands, and shake hands at the door with my pastor and his wife. Then I head for my parents' for Sunday dinner.

 Wanna guess the first thing I do when I get there? If you guessed wash my hands, you are a winner, my friend.

 Sunday night: I go to church, sometimes shaking hands and speaking to people. I wash my hands, and wait in the lobby for the prayer service to start...then head for my seat, hoping no one shakes my hand. (Usually hugging my nieces) Sunday night is pretty much a repeat of Sunday morning. After church is over, I go home....and of course wash my hands. I won't see anyone from church until the next Sunday, unless it is at Walmart. Is that how it should be?

 We have no programs, no Bible studies, nada. There is a Wednesday night prayer service that has a short message, testimonies, and prayer. I don't go, as I am usually working too late to go, or work the next day, and I don't go out when I work the next day.

  I like my church, love my pastor, and like my Sunday School teacher a lot. I only said that because he reads my blog. Just kidding. He does read it, but  he is the best SS teacher I have had. There are things I disagree with my church on, but I agree with enough that I don't see me ever leaving.

 But where is the fellowship?Where is the community? Maybe I am wrong, but I see neither. I don't know why, but my church won't do potlucks or anything like that. The church my parents attended as kids, and the same one I grew up in had what they called a Sunday School picnic. Every summer, the church would rent a pavilion at a park. Everyone took food. We'd eat, play softball, horseshoes, and other games. That was before cornhole. It was fun. And get this.... it was the very same denomination that my current church is. But my current church won't do anything like that. I don't get it. If the family of God is so great, then shouldn't we see each other more than just at church and Walmart? (I did see several people from my church there yesterday!)

  There are churches who do great at fellowship and community, but they also may not do well in other areas.

  In the book of Acts, it talks about the Christians in the early church having all things in common. I am not sure what all that entailed, but I get this idea that there was a lot of community. I think they hung out a lot with other Christians. They had dinner parties. They didn't just worship together, they played together. They ate together.

   I could be wrong...but I think most of us are so far from what God intended for us to be as a church, as the family of God.

  I'll be honest: I find church to be a lonely place. I find the Christian walk to be lonely. I could get at home what I get at church....with the exception of hugs from my nieces. I can't count the times God has spoken to me through a Christian novel, to encourage and convict. Just last night, I read a novel where main male character was struggling a lot to understand God's will - how to find it, how to know you are in it, etc. The author brought out some great insights through a fictional novel. A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed the newest book by one of my favorite authors and a great lady I had the privilege to meet, Kimberly Woodhouse. In her book, her characters were studying the book of Daniel. She brought out some new thoughts I had never considered. She often does that in her books, and said a while back that whatever she is studying in her Bible studies usually works its way into her novels.

 I have been helped through music. One does not have to go to church to worship God and receive help and encouragement.

 And no, I am not advocating staying home from church. Though a side effect of this severe depression makes me want to avoid crowds, and often people in general. I am just saying if we are using fellowship with believers as a reason or main reason to attend church, then we should actually have it.

11) Beards

 I'll end on a less serious note, and a bit of a rant:

There is something that irritates me, and led to a rant on Facebook a while back. I see a lot of posts and ads that claim men with beards are more masculine than men who do not have a beard.

 I don't like beards. In fact, if all men had the Duck Dynasty kind of beards, my attractions to other guys might cease. Ugh.

 Most of my life, I have struggled to feel masculine and like a man. I am not attracted to women. I loathe sports and am terrible at them. Except soccer. Kids in high school actually wanted me on their team instead of leaving me til last like in other sports. I am not good at stuff guys are good at, nor am I interested in things they are. I love to read. I like to shop. I like clothes. I like to play the piano.

 But having no beard doesn't make me less masculine than those who do. I'd have to have a really bad blemish or scar on my face, or be unable to shave, to have a beard.

 My favorite superhero is Captain America. In Avengers Infinity War, he appeared with a beard. I kept wondering who he was. It didn't help that he didn't have his shield. Someone finally called him "Cap", and I realized who he was. He definitely looks better beardless.

 And one last thing....beards tend to make guys look older. And I definitely don't want that.