Closing Myself Off

There is a constant thought which seems to linger in my mind more often than not. For the most part, I close myself off from the rest of the world. I don’t completely know why I do this, but I do. I’ve realized that I realize that it takes far less effort to remain an introvert and far too much effort to share who I am with people. I am exhaustively aware that I am undeniably gifted in many areas, and perhaps slightly overwhelmed by the smallest notion of beginning to truly develop my talents and perfect my craft.

I can admit that I have dedicated no real time to discovering who I am creatively. Yes I have traveled many places, encountered many wonderful people and have been exposed to many cultures, mindsets and beliefs. I wonder if, perhaps, most of these journeys were more external than internal. I struggle with how I even choose to perceive the world: is my life an internal experience in which I perceive outward things, or do the external things determine who I am and how I experience life internally? Is it a mixture of both? Are all of these experiences collecting dust within me the longer I wait to translate them, to express them through my eyes? As you may imagine, all of this thinking only serves to keep me stuck in a space of difficulty, not wanting to create (sing, write, teach, learn).

Often times I have wondered if I struggle with depression. It is common in my mother’s side of the family. I was given medication as a teen but since then have discontinued use. I experience this kind of indescribable difficulty to simply choose what I want in this life and pursue it. Some days I feel as though I can conquer anything! I have energy to begin to think about that which brings me joy, and brings joy to others. A majority of the time I don’t have this energy, this childlike and expressive hope. When I am lacking this hope I almost feel guilty that I cannot force myself to feel it or even believe that it was real to begin with.

I have a multitude of thoughts, ideas for music, for symphonies, for drawings, for ways of teaching. All of these thoughts remain in my head. My dreams remain dreams. I don’t pursue them, or attempt to bring them into being. There is nothing I want more in life than to cease the endeavor to remain hidden from the world when all I want is to connect with the people of it.

It is only when I begin to think how my gifts can touch people do I find motivation to pursue those gifts. In all honesty I’m not doing the greatest, but I am sure that admitting that is a step in the direction of remaining real with God, and honest with people.

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A New Thing

It has been a year since I’ve written anything. Definitely shows where I’ve been at.

Well, I want to sum up what’s been going in in my life this past year pretty quickly. Ready? 

So, I moved out to California two years ago, struggled a lot with church, community, feeling hurt, doubting God, etc. I started working a full time and a part time job, moved into my own place and basically isolated myself. I had no energy for connection with people whatsoever. Eventually I started struggling with pornography again (something I had struggled with my entire life before I became a Christian and hadn’t struggled with in five years), and had talked myself completely out of faith. I was working with a ministry and basically thought that I had fallen completely away from God. I was bitter, angry, really hurt and skeptical of everyone. Although I still knew that it was undeniable what God had done in my life, I was ready to completely give up.

However, some amazing friends of mine convinced me to return to Brazil, and I knew that I needed to go. By the absolute grace of God I’ve been realigned, seriously. In the next few posts I would like to share some specific things I’ve learned over this past year, namely struggles with faith, the topic of sex and pornography, the church, missions, work, and how each one relates to the cross.

I’ll leave this post short and sweet, and I will leave one thing with you:

If you struggle to believe, think that you’ll never stop being depressed, if you’re angry or frustrated with the church, if you’re hurt and can’t seem to kick an addiction: You are not disqualified from being loved by God. I get you, and I love you.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

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Hypocrites, Whores and Heaven.

 

I have learned many lessons this past year. One of the most important things I have learned is this:

If you are a Christian and do not have any non-Christian friends, you are missing something. If your love for God does not compel you to make friends with normal, every day people, you are missing something. If you judge and don’t know how to talk to the people sitting at the end of the freeway, girls/guys who sleep around, people who don’t even believe in God or people outside of your church/home church, you are missing something. If you look at a homeless, drug addicted, suicidal person and say, “That will never happen to me or my family, my children”, and you choose not to put yourself in the shoes of another person in order to truly empathize with another person and their situation, you are missing something. If you are part of a ministry that occasionally does charity work, food drives, builds houses or takes one missions trip a year, but you are not actually connecting with normal people outside of your Christian circle, you are missing something, and that very something is major. That something is Jesus, who is the very heart of God.

I have always been interested in the cultures and subcultures in America. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in Elizabeth, NJ. Even though I was raised within a church and a somewhat safe neighborhood, I was always skeptical of Christians and the “everything is fine” bubble that people live in. Before you read this and get angry, hear me out. Being raised in the church made me blatantly aware of the hypocrisy and empty religion that permeates the modern day American, organized church. Parents have children, believe their kids do no wrong, judge other families on how they raise their children, compare their lives, all the while their kids are addicted to porn, angry, jealous, suicidal, fighting other church kids in the bathroom, drinking, smoking pot, take your pick. It is easier to hide how f**ked up you are when everyone is really good at pretending that nothing is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry about all of this. It’s actually a very sad reality.

My family was never able to hide how messy we were. I actually think I made it my mission as a child to expose it all and to be the physical manifestation of how sick our family was. I did not care about appearances, trying to please anyone in the church, pleasing my parents or pleasing my peers. Somehow I knew God knew my heart. I did not (to put it lightly) give a single f**k about empty religion, forcing anything good that I was not compelled to do from my heart. I refused to fake it. It would have been too much work to try and please everyone. Looking back on it, I am glad that I have developed my particular perspective because of this. There is an obvious need in the world for love, but what is worse than the most heinous evils committed by people in “the world” is the secretive, quiet, ignorant sickness that exists within the church. It is the separation of “us and them”, the inability to truly become friends with someone who drinks and sleeps around, girls with daddy issues, boys who profess their sexual preference as homosexual, and the homeless. It is even at the point where many Christians will have something negative to say about people who cuss, or people who smoke cigarettes. It is an estranged relationship between self-proclaiming Christians and a God who became a man, Jesus, who chose to be friends with sinners, aka. everyone on earth because we all mess up royally at some point or another. And let Jesus catch you if you wanna trip over your offense if you feel some type of way about your life/church/group while reading this ( 1 Peter 2 – Jesus is the rock of offense).

Jesus did not come to hang out with people in the church, and only hang out with sinners if they decided to come to his church. Jesus sat at tables and ate with corrupt tax collectors who were seen as criminals, associated himself with adulteresses (women seen as dirty and dishonorable). He touched lepers (outcasts of society), and surrounded himself with close friends who were murderers, a traitor, tax collectors, doubters, foul mouthed fisherman, Zealots (Nationalist, fanatic, genocidal-minded Jews, loyal to Rome), and He consistently shut down religious mouths of men who held to the law outwardly but did not truly love God in their hearts. 

This is not only a problem that exists within the church, but a problem that is actually the hallmark (in my eyes) of our culture. People are segregated into neighborhoods, projects, socio-economic classes, religions, republican or democratic parties, etc. From my experience and perspective, people who have a bit more money and opportunity, who have been practiced in the art of outwardly appearing clean and put together, are largely disconnected from the plight of those who are below them in socio-economic status. What is sad is that many families (many being white, yes, I said it),  and many people in America who have a bit of money and more safety, often have the same internal problems as people who may have been raised in the projects, or on welfare, or what have you. The only difference is that it is easier to hide how fucked up you actually are when you have some money, a nice house, a solid/legal job, a pastor father, nice clothes, expensive cars, a ministry, a charity, to clean up the outside while the inside rots.

Pretense is exhausting. Pretending to like people when you are secretly judging them is tiring. Not speaking the truth drains the life from your bones. 

Look at it this way: Jesus came to set you free from pretending, lying, hiding, ignoring, and denying some seriously ugly shit in this life. Furthermore, Jesus called religious and the hypocritical “sons of hell” (Matthew 23:15).

God is not all about keeping you safe and segregated from the world if you are a Christian. On the contrary, He promises to keep your soul safe, but to count it all joy when you endure persecution of all sorts for the sake of Jesus and the sake of righteousness. He tells us that there will be trials of many kinds if we choose this narrow way, and that many people who claim the name of Jesus will fall away, and I believe that falling away will be those who call themselves Christians but have not truly had their faith tested because they choose to remain ignorant of suffering, along with the real world and it’s people.

If you are a Christian, you cannot close yourself off from the world and box yourself into a church building or home group that you spend a majority of your time at. You cannot be so afraid that you are going to “fall into sin” and “fall from grace”, and so you choose not to associate with people “in the world” who are doing whatever they want with no consequence. It is not what is on the outside of a person that is corrupt, it is what comes from within. So if you’re struggling with some s*it as a Christian and are tired of it, let it go, believe that Jesus crucified that shxt once and for all. It has no power over you. If you really believe in the good news, that Jesus defeated death and you have the victory with Him because you died with Him when he killed off sin, then you should not be afraid of associating with the world. You can be secure in your salvation. Don’t use grace as an excuse to do whatever you want, but don’t be afraid. There’s no fear in love. If you mess up, it’s ok. If people in this world mess up, it’s ok.

How is the world gonna know about love unless they experience it? How are people gonna relate to God who they already think is too lofty to relate to unless we can relate to real people on a real level, the level of real friendship and vulnerability? Why would people even want to believe in God if that God is portrayed by a bunch of Christians who gossip and shred people apart, who fly to third world countries to take a few pictures with kids and feed them a Bible but don’t actually want to integrate into their culture and try to contribute? Why would people want to believe in a God who only allows the clean, talented and gifted into His exclusive club? I didn’t want to believe in that kind of God. When I thought that is who God was, I was willing to go to hell. 

What is not ok is holding the world to a moral standard and law that nobody can fulfill or attain anyway, not even the people who passively claim their way and their righteousness is the way. It should be comforting to know that your own goodness and ability to be right with God is worthless, and you don’t have to work to earn right standing with God. It is good news for the hypocrite, the non-believers, the sinners and saints alike: We are all saved by the same Jesus for the same reason. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but will have everlasting life.

Luke 5:27-39:

29 Levi (Matthew) gave a great banquet for Him at his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes [seeing those with whom He was associating] began murmuring in discontent to His disciples, asking, “Why are you eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]?” 31 And Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but [only] those who are sick. 32 I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].”

Matthew 23:

27 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 So you, also, outwardly seem to be just and upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

1 Peter 4:12-14

2 Corinthians 4:8-12: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

1 Corinthians 1:27

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Matthew 5

21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders shall be [g]guilty before the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, [h]Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the [i]fiery hell. 23 So if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and while there you remember that your brother has something [such as a grievance or legitimate complaint] against you, 24 leave your offering there at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come and present your offering.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that? 48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I could keep talking about a million other things, but I’ll stop here for now. I love you all!

 

 

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Do you ever burn with anger?

This year more than any other time in my life I have repeatedly removed people from my life, or I have removed myself from the lives of certain people. I’ve found myself holding onto anger, frustration, and perhaps a little bit of hatred. I have had to question my own motives, the posture of my heart and the level of pride in it. Contrary to some belief this isn’t at all a bad thing as long as you don’t become obsessively introspective. When I wasn’t a Christian I was involved in multiple unhealthy relationships. When I became a believer in Jesus I think I began to expect Christians to have it together. In my eyes I believed that people who would speak about love and forgiveness and acceptance would be the perfect friends. They would never fail. Very quickly I have discovered this is not reality.

Through many failed friendships and relationships I think I’ve finally started to realize the “both-and” in them. When someone repeatedly presents themselves as having nothing wrong with them, when they can’t accept that they may have actually done something to hurt you and just believe that it must be you that is the only one with the issue and write off everything you’re feeling, this is when I’ve learned to discontinue regular association with this person. It’s straight up unhealthy.

Yes, I understand that people aren’t God. No, I don’t want to treat people as if they need to be God in my life. Yes, I understanding that placing unhealthy expectations on people isn’t right. There are dynamics in basic human relationship that will mean that I will get hurt, I will feel, and I will have to deal with what I feel.

Any relationship in which someone seeks to dominate you, lord their authority, position, or perceived position over you unfairly is an unhealthy relationship. There is no recognition of equality, right to individuality and personal opinion. Although I believe I have justly left certain relationships, I do believe that I have failed in my own way on so many levels. Because of certain occurrences in these friendships I have allowed myself to become judgmental and bitter, often times in my mind criticizing every move that others make. I’ve allowed myself to become so unforgiving and angry, and this has stifled many other areas of my life, not allowing me to grow.

I can’t control other people, just like I don’t want them trying to control me. I can, however, control my response to people who do me wrong. Even though my issue isn’t with people who make mistakes and admit to them, I still need to learn to forgive people who make mistakes and deny them. I have to learn to forgive someone who is prideful because I have been forgiven over and over and over again for my own pride. I know I don’t have to remain best friends with anyone, but I certainly cannot live my life allowing their existence to make me angry. I can’t blame anyone else for why I will or will not do something. When this creeps into my heart I am actually worse than who I have perceived has hurt me, and I am more blinded than anyone else in that moment.

I want to love people the way that I want to be loved. It is the only pure way of setting up boundaries in my relationships. It is the only way to non-aggressively show others how I desire to be treated. I want to stay soft. I want to trust God more than I desire to be justified, more than I want other people to acknowledge what they’ve done wrong. I ultimately have zero control of other people, and I can only decide what my own heart will look like.

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The truth about being “broken”.

The more that we ourselves experience spiritual poverty, the more we are able to love the outwardly and inwardly poor. When we realize the depth of forgiveness and mercy in our own lives, with and from that very depth we will love without fear of the past lingering in our new, clean lives, because he who has been forgiven much loves much. Pure brokenness enables us to identify with the homeless, the woman who aborted her baby, the thief, the murderer, and the rapist as our own flesh and blood. It removes the barriers we have created between “us and them”. Brokenness that was once used to keep us enslaved to fear is now the very means by which we are saved and liberated. This vulnerable, painful purity in our hearts is what enables us to see the face of God, and to recognize Him in the face of the poor. It is what enables us to truly see His face in our own.

Jesus is the face of God. Jesus’ brokenness gave us a way to embrace brokenness, and to be made whole through it. Jesus’ humiliation enabled us to enter into the Kingdom of God through lowliness. No more trying to ascend upward. He took us up with Him. With this confidence that we are already seated in heavenly places, we are free from fear and able to go lower still, secure that our descent into the depths is the true appearance of royalty. It is love.

Matthew 5:1-12, The Message

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

“Blessed are those who are poor at being spiritual,

For the kingdom of heaven is well-suited for ordinary people.”

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O que você pensa que o amor é?

Coisas que eu tenho aprendido nestes últimos 10 meses:

Durante algum tempo, eu acreditei que Deus olha o passado, nosso “pecado” e a “sujeira”, e nos ama por quem “realmente somos”. Eu não mais acredito totalmente nisso. Frequentemente, eu penso na minha vida de três anos atrás, de volta ao quanto eu estava em desordem e era uma sujeira, e no quanto minhas ações eram grosseiras. Deus não escolheu olhar para o quanto eu estava em desordem e somente amar o meu “verdadeiro eu”. Ele olhou a minha bagunça de frente e escolheu me amar por quem eu era naquele momento. O fato de que eu era tão nojenta, irritada e sombria, e, ainda assim, Jesus ter me desejado, é o que me fez acreditar que Ele era mesmo real. Ele tinha que me amar justamente como eu era antes que eu pudesse me tornar quem realmente fui criada para ser. Se eu estivesse num relacionamento com um homem e ele me amasse apenas por quem eu tinha potencial de ser, eu diria que aquele relacionamento seria insalubre. Se eu estivesse num relacionamento com um homem e ele escolhesse me amar simplesmente como eu era naquele momento, isso seria um amor doador.
Jesus não olha para o antigo pecado e finge que ele não existe, embora Ele não conte coisa alguma contra nós. Ele reconheceu o pecado ao se tornar pecado, para que eu pudesse me tornar justa. Isso machuca e é lindo. Isso é amor.

Outra coisa que eu tenho aprendido:
Quando algumas pessoas escutam sobre ter um “lugar secreto” com Deus, como eles deveriam saber o que isso significa? Para todos os que falam esse “dialeto”, nós entendemos o lugar secreto como sendo um lugar onde podemos estar sozinhos, um lugar íntimo em relação a Deus, onde nós podemos compartilhar nossas emoções profundas e nossos pensamentos com Ele. O que vou dizer a seguir é algo que eu estou aprendendo, por isso, de modo algum digo que tempo sozinho com nosso Papa é ruim. Não é ruim se afastar das pessoas, às vezes. Jesus se afastou das pessoas inúmeras vezes para ficar sozinho com seu Pai, mas Ele sempre retornou. E eu gasto muito do meu tempo sozinha.
Tenho aprendido que ser íntima de Deus não significa apenas estar sozinha num quarto sem outras pessoas. Tudo de Deus-Pai, Espírito e Filho vive dentro de mim. Isso é intimidade constante, unidade e comunhão. É companheirismo ininterrupto. O “lugar secreto” não é um lugar que eu visito quando tenho um tempo de quietude, mas o lugar a partir do qual eu vivo, que constantemente habito. Intimidade divina é a únicaintimidade que é segura para as pessoas adentrarem. Jesus diz: “E peço que todos sejam um. E assim como tu, meu Pai, estás unido comigo, e eu estou unido contigo, que todos os que crerem também estejam unidos a nós para que o mundo creia que tu me enviaste.”
Ser aberto, transparente, “íntimo” de Deus nem sempre é um momento exclusivo e privado. Trata-se de um alegre e contínuo estado de ser. É o que permite outros a simplesmente ser. Minha liberdade e transparência, e minha habilidade de amar profundamente vêm de uma constante intimidade, permanecendo no amor Ele mesmo, e é nele que eu quero convidar as pessoas a entrar. É um casamento do qual todos nós fazemos parte, nova aliança. Estar com Deus se parece com lavar louça, roupa, pagar contas, limpar a casa, trabalhar, respirar, piscar. Nem sempre é algo super espiritual, olhos fechados, violinos tocando, vela acessa, momento de meditação.

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What do you think love is?

Things I’ve learned these last ten months:

I’ve believed for a while that God looks past our “sin” and “mess” and loves us for who we “really are”. I don’t entirely believe this anymore. I often think back on my life three years ago, back to how much of a mess I was and how gross my actions were. God didn’t choose to look past how much of a mess I was and only love “the real me”. He looked my mess right in the face and chose to love me for who I was in that moment. The fact that I was so disgusting, angry and dark, yet Jesus wanted me is what caused me to believe that He was even real. He had to love me just as I was before I could become who I was really created to be. If I was in a relationship with a man and he only loved me for who I had the potential of being, I would say that relationship would be unhealthy. If I was in a relationship with a man and he chose to love me just as I was in that moment, that would be unselfish love.

Jesus does not look past sin and pretend it doesn’t exist, although He does not count anything against us. He acknowledged sin by becoming sin so that I could become righteous. It hurts, and it’s beautiful. That’s love. 

Another thing I’ve learned:

When some people hear about having a “secret place” with God, how are they supposed to know what that means? For all who speak the lingo, we understand the secret place to be a place where we can be alone and intimate place with God, a place where we can share our deep emotions and thoughts with Him. What I am going to say next is something I’ve learned, and in no way am I saying alone time with our Papa is bad. Jesus withdrew from people all of the time, and I spend a lot of my time alone.

 I have learned that being intimate with God does not only mean being alone in a room without any other people. All of God-Father, Spirit and Son, live within me. It is constant intimacy, oneness, and communion. It is unbroken fellowship. The “secret place” is not a place I visit when I have quiet time, it is the place I live from, that I constantly dwell in. Godly intimacy is the only intimacy that is safe for people to enter into. Jesus says,” I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Being open, transparent, “intimate” with God is not always an exclusive and private moment. It is a joyous, continuous state of being. It is what allows others to just be. My freedom and transparency, and my ability to love deeply comes from the constant intimacy, abiding within love Himself, and this is what I get to invite people into. It is a marriage we are all a part of, new covenant. Being with God looks like doing dishes, laundry, paying bills, cleaning a house, working, breathing, blinking. It isn’t always some super spiritual, eyes closed, violins playing, candle lit, meditative moment.

That’s all for now. Love ya all.

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