Straight Pride Parade

I am not sure about you, but I often hear comments about minorities when celebrations are held, asking why that group gets to celebrate when “others” don’t.  “Why is there a Black History Month, but no White History Month?”.  On occasion, I am asked, “Why are there Gay Pride Parades?  Why not Straight Pride Parades?”

First of all, I have to say I laugh when I am asked about Pride Parades.  I mean, sure I am a lesbian, but it tickles me that the assumption is I attend every Gay Pride Parade near me.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike them per se, and I have been to a couple in Dallas as I’ve ministered to attendees, assuring them that God DOES indeed love them.  But, if I am completely candid with you, I would admit I am kind of too boring for most pride events.  My idea of a perfect weekend would be to spend the day in my backyard with my wife and kids, have one of Deana’s great home cooked meals, and do laundry.  In a word, I am old.  More like the stereotypical white, straight married person nearing their 50’s.  Further, I have often avoided becoming a political advocate for LGBT people, as I didn’t want to turn my very life into an agenda.  I accepted many years ago that my life and my love was not a point for me to convince anyone – politically or religiously – that I am “okay” to be gay.  I have resolved that in my heart and with my Lord, and that has been enough for me.  Sure, I have moments when I feel attacked that I react, but I don’t live my life with the viewpoint of making a statement or taking a stand to insist anyone accept me.  Others feel lead to do that and I appreciate it, but that is not my M.O.

And yet, here I am.  Because the whole Gay Pride Parade question got me thinking.  Coupled with the fact that I am in the UK and my sleep patterns are all jacked up, and here I am at 4:45am local time writing this blog.

I may not be super unique in the world, but I lived as a straight woman for 35 years of my life.  I didn’t say I was straight, but I lived as one.  I knew I was different when I was around 12, though I didn’t realize what that really meant until I hit puberty (which, to my chagrin, was later than my daughters DOH!).  By around 13 1/2, I realized that I liked girls and that was absolutely not accepted and pretty much I understood I was on my way to hell.  I did everything in my power to eradicate the fact I was attracted to girls; lying to myself, being very involved with the boy dating scene (which, surprisingly, I had many who were interested in me despite my super skinny body), accepting the Lord at 16, wailing and praying for hours/days/years for Him to change me, and marrying a month after my 20th birthday.  And my husband was a good man, this is not about him.  And my children were and are amazing blessings, this is not about them.  But no matter how hard I tried, or prayed, or begged, or hated myself………I was still gay.

I don’t expect anyone who is straight to really understand this, especially if you view is that I made a choice in this realm of my life.  But for over 20 years I truly hated myself.  I hated that I was gay.  I hated that my husband loved me and I loved him, but I was not really the person he thought he married.  I hated that I was this horrible creature that must not truly love God, because if I did, He would have healed me.  I hated that every-single-moment of my life I wore a mask to be accepted, or loved, or whatever.  And as I looked in the mirror I knew it was all a damn lie.  I was not proud.  I was not happy.  No, I was devastated.  I was alone.  I was this broken person who God didn’t even love enough to fix.  And, to damn with hiding this anymore, I often just wanted to die.  I truly believed that the world would be a better place if I no longer walked on its surface.  Because I was nothing, or even worse, I was an abomination pretending to be straight.

Yet, in my charade I was celebrated every single day of my life.  I was white.  I was young.  I was married.  My marriage was held to the highest of acceptance by society, my church, my co-workers, my parents, my siblings, my pastor.  I never, ever, not once in my life worried about what people would think or do as I walked in public holding my husband’s hand.  If I mentioned we were going on a vacation or that he bought me a gift, it wasn’t scandalous.  Sometimes, even at church functions, bawdy jokes would be shared and our sexuality within our marriage was never condemned, but rather celebrated.  Even on our darkest days as a couple, when we were cranky or financially stressed or even mean to each other for no good reason, we were “living the American Dream” and no one, not even the most conservative of churches or right wing politicians could say one damning thing about our relationship.  Every singe day was like a Straight Pride Parade, and we were the center of the celebration.

That might feel like a bold statement right there.  Really?  A celebration?  Every, single, day?  Come on Gina, really?

Yes.

Because I’ve also been on the other side.  When I could not take the lies anymore, to the people I love the most (including my face in the mirror), I didn’t come out for 5 years.  I was honest with myself and of course Deana after we got together (ha, that sounds funny), but we both hid the fact that we were together, even after I divorced my husband.  And we still felt the shame and uncertainty of our sexuality.  We could not share our lives, we could not admit our love, and we were afraid not only of rejection from our friends and family, but from our God.  We could not hold hands in public, we could not profess our love in front of others, we absolutely could not celebrate our relationship, and if bawdy jokes were to arise about same-sex relationships they were derogatory in nature, we had to laugh along and pretend to agree even though we were dying inside.  Often we were around people who were very direct in their persecution of LGBT, even in our employment, so we even feared losing out jobs if anyone found out.  So I know, in completely real terms, the difference between my “daily celebrated” straight marriage versus my marriage to Deana.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Deana and I eventually DID come out, which was about 8 years ago.  It was a hard transition, and we did absolutely lose friends, family, and jobs.  But the process was necessary and we have reconciled our faith, and though that is an entirely different and much longer blog entry, today I am closer to Jesus than in all my years of knowing Him.  We married legally in New York four years ago (having previously become domestic partners in CA), and are still amazed that our marriage is now legal throughout the entire country.  But we still have to be careful holding hands, of being “too out” in some scenarios, as people can and do become belligerence and at times aggressive and/or dangerous (sad to say, but true).  But during this process of coming out, we realized we weren’t these ogres that needed to hide in the shadows and be ashamed of loving each other with our whole hearts.  We are God’s children, made in His image, and love each other with all that we are.  We are proud that we argue and reconcile and irritate each other by leaving dishes in the sink while also surprising each other with love post-it notes or dark chocolate dove bars.  And, while we understand and accept that there are still many people who disagree with our love for each other for whatever reasons, we are proud.  Proud we survived.  Proud that we have remained married even through the tough times.  Proud that our children are thriving, and don’t take to being bullied either!  We are proud that the Holy Spirit directs us and at times chastises us, as we are His children.  We are proud of each other, for we are better together than apart.  We are proud that more people view us as just a couple that are doing life just like the other couples in the neighborhood, and not “those lesbians”.  We are proud that more churches open their doors to us, even if they aren’t sure what their doctrinal statement addresses but instead want to hold church to whomsoever. And we are proud that, on many days, we can walk down the street holding hands.

And THAT is why, in my opinion, there are Gay Pride Parades instead of Straight ones.

Now, I am going to try to nap before my alarm goes off…..in 15 minutes.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Processing the Hurt

Deana and I laugh sometimes – we have, I don’t know, four thousand anniversaries.  No joke.  The day we “got together” (aka, professed our love), the day I asked her to marry me, the day we became domestic partners, the day we reunited after a small break, the day she asked me to marry her, the day we held a Commitment Ceremony, and the day we legally married.  Well, I wrote that but I am sure I am missing at least 10 more…..but you get the drift.  Some of these dates we absolutely celebrate, others we mention and maybe stop to hug one another, and some we sometimes miss entirely and laugh when we realize it.

Ah, but I digress…….

In November 2009, after years of being “in the closet” as a couple, we stood in front of family and friends and committed our lives to each other.  Our children were in the ceremony, Deana’s Mother and most of her siblings attended, as well as tons more family and friends.  It was an amazing day and an amazing night, it was foundational to so many aspects of our relationship just as a wedding would have been, and it warms my heart just thinking about it.  As a side note, we legally married in a courthouse in New York in December 2011 as well.  Boom!

But here is the thing – in the past, when I’d think of our Commitment Ceremony, there was always a residue because of those who were not there.  Not people who couldn’t make it due to distance, health, or other issues, no……the residue was related to those who chose not to be there.  Those who said they loved us, but didn’t believe in our lifestyle choice.  Those who said – in love and in whatever other adjective you can insert – that they believed we were walking in sin or at least outside of the will of God.  And, in all transparency, THIS residue covered everything for me.  I could look at videos or pictures, reminisce about some great times……but always this piece would touch every inch of happiness like an oil slick on the ocean.  It hurt me, and even with the super jolt of joy I would feel and when I’d consider how grand my life has been because of my wife……I would be this hurt person that always – always – ended up hurt.

Some people like being a victim, actually get energized by processing negative emotions.  I suppose I can be a drama queen, I am Italian after all, but I can’t say I am energized by it.  In fact, I prefer to find resolution, to implement peace and solutions and change and love and……..hurt messes that up.  Yet, I was the one who seemed to live there in key areas of my life, especially my very important relationship with Deana.

So, today I was reading an open letter a gay man posted online to his parents.  His parents had refused to attend his wedding three years ago.  I only read the beginning, because it was so filled with hurt and feelings of rejection that I reacted strongly to it.  I know you must imagine I resonated with it, and if you do I don’t blame you.  Actually, I stopped reading and immediately prayed that this man’s hurt be covered, washed away, so that he can feel the peace that Deana and I felt.  As I was doing that, I seriously stopped dead in my tracks (picture a cartoon character shaking their head violently as if to say “what the heck?!?!!?!”), and said out loud “What are you talking about?  PEACE???”

But it’s true, I have felt peace towards those close friends and family who overtly or nicely rejected our relationship.  And I hadn’t even realized it until today.  That’s not to say there is reconciliation; oh no, there are still some who refuse to see Deana or who will not add us to FB or send veiled “we are praying for you” notes that we are sure imply they are praying we each somehow find a good man to love and marry.  But I do mean that, more often than not, when I think of these people my heart melts with love for them.  I find reasons to extend empathy to them…..maybe they are too old to understand the whole LGBT thing, or maybe they don’t mean to reject us per se but they sincerely believe we are doing wrong, or whatever.  And, truly the shock of all shocks, I enjoy seeing them when I can and love interacting with them EVEN THOUGH they are missing out being around some pretty amazing people in my life.  As a byproduct, those who HAVE decided to be part of our life and all the many related memories of our interactions BLESS ME and no longer have the residual hurt that once was everywhere.  The old memories and new memories are free and clear and bring amazing joy to our hearts.  Today, realizing all of this, I was just amazed and needed to share with you, my 2.78 readers.

You see, Deana and I are not activists, though we realize some assume we are just because we are lesbians.  But we truly don’t live to convince anyone to believe what we believe.  Everyone wants to be accepted I suppose, or at least not rejected by the ones they love, but Deana and I don’t really have axes to grind.  However, today’s revelation made me see with my heart that all things DO work together for good for those who love God (my bad paraphrase of Romans 8:28).  And, I’m reminded that – had I or Deana gotten in the faces of those who we saw as rejecting us – I am pretty sure we would not have any relationship with them at all.  And these are people that we love and want a relationship with, not random people who leave anonymous packages of condemnation in our mailboxes.  But, most importantly, I thank the Good Lord that he has removed the hurt that I held so long towards those I love and pray that others can find this peace in their own lives.

For those in the LGBT Community who have been rejected by family and friends, please don’t lose heart.  I GET IT.  I KNOW how it feels!  “It gets better” is not just a catch phrase.  Feel free to reach out to me if you need to vent, have questions, or need to know more about how God truly loves you.  There IS a way to process the hurt, I promise.

Oh and Deana, Happy Anniversary Babe!  🙂

An Apology to my Facebook Friends

That’s right, it’s me – Gina – apologizing to you all in a public forum, without excuse or justifications.  And the reason is, in recent months I’ve been very open about my views on Facebook (FB) about a number of subjects, including the Confederate Flag, the SCOTUS decision regarding same-sex marriage equality, and most recently the Kim Davis media frenzy.  It’s not so much that I think it was wrong that I shared my feelings – no, I think sharing when done without belligerence is often good for myself and others.  However, my sharing was manifested 100% from the heart of my natural state as opposed to the state I believe I’ve been taken as a follower of Christ.  And because this revelation has taken me a few weeks to encompass in my mind and heart, I am posting it here on my blog so that I can include my thoughts as an encouragement for myself as well as others.  Because, I think, others may easily manifest their thoughts as readily in the natural as I do.

Let me say many of these concepts I’ve personally taught at my old church and I was slapped awake by these ideas by my own notes, which I recently stumbled upon.  Many of the thoughts I derived from a sermon I heard several years ago given by Paul White.  So, I could be sad that I have “fallen from grace” and gone back to my own “law driven ways”, but instead I will just share my journey.  Thank you for reading my post and considering this trip I’ve been on.

We all like to try to take the high road, to act in an acceptable way, to be kind and loving and thought of in nice terms.  And yet, I think all of us can feel justified for responding to attacks (even if only perceived).  In that context, and to avoid a super duper long blog post, let me define three ways human actions manifest themselves on the earth:

Through the demonic – You treat me good, I return evil.  This is not just a reference to The Exorcist or other spiritually “freak me out” actions.  Instead, it’s more like a warning my mom always told me when I was younger, “Gina,” she’d warn, “never stop to help someone on the side of the road because they might be pretending to have an issue and they really are a serial killer.”  So, in this example, someone could stop to help someone on the side of the road (offer good), but in return they are killed (return of evil).  While this is an extreme example, I think there are often “demonic” activities that occur everyday where someone does something nice and someone returns a less than nice or even mean reaction.

Through the natural – this is where I usually live; you treat me well, I treat you well.  You treat me bad, I will treat you bad.  It’s pretty simple, we mirror each other and if you’re a jerk I will feel totally justified in being a jerk back to you.  I love those who love me, and despise those who despise me.  This happens often when someone cuts me off on the highway and I have no trouble showing my discontent.  In recent weeks, I have been compelled to think the very worst of Kim Davis, who I perceived as a hypocrite, judgmental and a cherry picker of scripture.  I felt totally justified in considering her a poor example of a Christian for her actions while doing many of the things I was railing against as I assembled my words of condemnation against her.  I laughed as others made fun of her appearance, I shook my head when her own sin was exposed.  In a phrase, I was just as judgmental and hypocritical as she was, just not on such a large media platform.

Through the spiritual, aka “The Highway” – you treat me well, I treat you well.  You treat me bad, I treat you good.  Basically, no matter what you throw at me, I will return love and goodness.  And, in my own power this is utterly impossible, as I’ve proven quite well in recent weeks.  But that’s not to say it is impossible.

So, let’s establish some Truth based on Scripture.  First, I have often thought the Kingdom of Heaven or of God was far off or something I would see after I died.  But the Word explains it very differently.  In Matthew 4:23 (ESV), when Jesus first started his earthly ministry the following was said (emphasis mine):

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Notice here Jesus FIRST proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and THEN people started being healed.  He didn’t heal the people in order to proclaim/show the gospel of the kingdom.

Then, in Acts 1:1-3 (ESV), which records the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after He was crucified, died, and rose from the grave, this was said (again, emphasis mine):

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

There is power in the Kingdom and Jesus spoke about it constantly, from the beginning of His earthly ministry to the very end.  Throughout the gospels it is recorded as being said “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.  It is not far off, it is not coming later……it is as close as my hand and it is here, now.  And there is power – healing power, power to change us and the world, and it is given to us freely through Jesus Christ.  I want this power in my life.  I want to live knowing I manifest myself in the Kingdom and act as if I belong in the Kingdom……not when I die or when I reach some level of spiritual maturity as if it will show up some day like a bill in the mail.

And yet, in Matthew 5:3 (ESV) at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And with that, I often freak out because, in many ways all I try to do is be more spiritual.  To be more INTELLIGENT when it comes to scriptures and theology and loving my neighbors and walking in this Truth, etc. etc. etc.  And yet, Jesus Himself said in order to find the kingdom of heaven, I must be poor in spirit.  And He said it in the present tense “theirs IS the kingdom”, not “theirs WILL BE the kingdom”.  And I believe this truly means I need to get to the end of myself and realize…….I can’t get there.  Not at all.  I can try to be very holy, very spiritual, very cerebral even in my understanding of God and His Word, but all I ever get by my own effort and actions is the power to manifest my life in the natural.  But, when I realize this and honestly say “I can’t do it, no matter how hard I try”, THAT is when Jesus smiles and says, “Now we will get somewhere”.  Because ONLY JESUS can carry us into the kingdom of heaven (as in the right now, right here version, not the place when we die).

So, as I did a few years ago, I began to give up on trying to be spiritual, of trying to manifest my interactions with others through “the Highway”.  Because I am poor in spirit and do not have the means in which to get there.  And I will tell you, when I begin to realize and act with this Truth, when my poverty is spirit is allowed to be real, THAT is when I begin to float to the kingdom of heaven with my Lord.

Have you ever seen The Passion of the Christ?  It shows Jesus being tortured, beaten, ridiculed……it is so graphic I often cry and always get very angry.  In that anger I want so badly for Christ to call His legions of angels down and destroy the Roman Soldiers and the Jewish leadership who were persecuting Him.  I think many of us would accept and understand if Jesus reacted that way, for He was completely undeserving of such horrible treatment.  Like so many of the politicians and Christians and LGBT folk do today; we scream out and demand our rights and insist that we ARE right and that we represent God and demand others see His personality and rules and actions through our eyes and explanations.  We claim to be persecuted and declare ourselves right to demand punishment for those who have hurt us.  We demand everyone should be held accountable to our views of our religion and even expect the laws of this land to reflect those morals and rules.  In God’s name we scream and get public attention and cause thousands of online debates and rancid comments and angry outbursts and we feel justified and righteous as we do it. Many of us actually PRAY that God will strike down entire countries or groups of people who we decide deserve to be sent to hell. I could add several links to professing Christians do so over and over again, but I won’t.  So I don’t think it is far fetched to imagine Jesus jumping off the cross and laying all those who persecuted Him flat on the ground and, truthfully, many of us would cheer and scream in joy had He done so.  In our natural core, we are often Zealots ready for blood.

But if Jesus really did react like that, He would be just like you and me.  He’d be walking in the natural.  He’d say “you treat me good, I treat you good.  You treat me bad, I treat you bad.”  He’d be no different or better than you, or me, or any of us who are nothing in our own power than natural thinkers and actors.

But in reality, Jesus walked or manifested Himself on “the Highway” or “the Kingdom Way”; even after ALL that had been done to Him, the humiliation and pain He went through despite His innocence, He called out to God and said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  They treated Jesus badly, and yet He returned good by not only asking for their forgiveness, but He gave an excuse for them!  The Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders hadn’t even ASKED for forgiveness – they had not repented for their actions – and yet Jesus asked for their forgiveness!  Yet we, as Christians, often condemn others and point out their sin, emphasize their sin actually, justifying why they do not deserve forgiveness and absolutely deserve no kindness, empathy, or love.

Even before His torture, when the Roman soldiers came to the Garden to arrest Jesus and Peter cut the ear off the soldier, Jesus did not return their bad with evil.  He didn’t say “You lost your ear because you meant to harm me with this arrest, so that’s what you get.”  No, He turned the bad to good by rebuking Peter and healing the soldier’s ear, without any price or request or demands from the soldier.  He returned bad with good.

The truth is, when the controversial subjects have arisen around me lately, I have picked up the sword like Peter and started swinging.  I felt just a justified in my actions as Peter did with his sword, as he lovingly and passionately protected the Lord he loved.  I can even claim my actions are for my Lord, the but truth is those actions have moved me far away from the actions of Jesus and have placed me right back into the natural.  I have put myself in a place of direct rebuke from Jesus, just as Peter was rebuked.  In fact, I and we project “the natural” too often onto the Kingdom thinking we are standing up for what we believe or what we feel is right and pound on our chests thinking we are defending our God, when in fact we are offending His sacrifice and everything He did for and to us.

And, let me be real about something else, too.  I often tell people, especially when I feel passionate about the Word or an idea related to Scripture, that the Bible is final.  And I pull out scriptures to prove my case and walk about like I am dropping the mic as if to say “BOOM, IN YOUR FACE.”  But sometimes quoting scripture is just more of the same natural manifestation that Christ has freed us from and which we keep picking up and tying around our ankles like a chain.  For example, the law was handed to Israel in Exodus 20 and then began to get more defined in Exodus 21  In fact, Exodus 21:24-25 (ESV) justifies through the law that I can and should manifest myself in the natural.  In fact, the law takes me to the place I usually live anyway (you do bad to me, I do bad to you):

 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

But I want to live in the principles of the Kingdom.  And it is amazing to go back to the Sermon on the Mount and hear Jesus say the following in Matthew 5:38-42 (ESV):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Jesus is quoting Exodus 21 and basically saying, “You got it wrong.  My plan for you was the Kingdom Way, NOT the natural way!”  He is showing us that we should ALWAYS return good no matter what is given to us, EVEN IF what is given to us is bad/mean/hurtful.  I mean really, someone sues us and we offer them more than what they asked for?????  Do not resist when we believe someone is being evil?????  Yes, that is the Kingdom way.

When we REST in Jesus Christ and stop trying to fulfill the law in which He’s already fulfilled and instead focus on loving others and not fighting others (being poor in spirit, not relying on ourselves, not fighting for God but walking WITH Him), we begin to allow Jesus through the Holy Spirit to guide us in His ways…..in the Kingdom Way.

So, as I think about Kim Davis and her actions, and more importantly myself and my reactions to situations such as her recent claim to fame, I also think on Matthew 10:11-13 (ESV) (emphasis mine):

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 

This scripture brought it home to me, in relationship to all I’ve shared here.

  • Jesus died for me, providing His righteousness and power now, in His kingdom
  • The Kingdom is powerful and is here, close at hand, now
  • I am poor in spirit – I can’t get to the Kingdom Way/Highway on my own but Jesus can take me there once I admit I can’t do it with my own power or actions
  • He showed me my reaction can ALWAYS be good when I rest in Him and His love, even when others seem to be sending me bad things
  • Finally, I can always have Peace in my life.  Because, as Matthew 10 says, if I send out peace, then others can send me peace back (I am good to you, you are good to me)……but if I send out peace and it is not received, my peace through Jesus Christ comes back to me (I am good to you, no matter what you do the Peace comes back to me……because if you send me evil I will always return good through the love of Christ).  Either way I have Peace.  It isn’t about worthiness or unworthiness of others, it is about the Peace of Christ and its power above all things in the natural.

So, again I am sorry that I have been walking in the natural and feeling justified in doing so.  I thank God that He has reminded me that He has provided the means to get to the Kingdom Highway through His power and that if I rest in Him, He will keep me coasting on the Kingdom Way.

Peace.

 

 

Making A Difference

While I have partaken in the recent wave of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges (www.alsa.org) , and while I am confused by the “controversy” that so many are talking about regarding this wave…..this post is not about that topic.  Although, I will add, if you’re looking to donate to a worthy cause, ALS is one of them worth considering.

HOWEVER, this blog post is about “making a difference”, which has been a topic that has touched my life for a long time, though it has been rumbling around in my noggin a bit more lately.  I have always wanted to “make a difference”, and that is the root of this post.

I think it’s fair to say most people want to make a difference in some way.  I know that is true for me.  I try to find ways to make a difference as I can; donate to good causes, pray for those in need, pay my taxes with a smile.  You get the drift.  At times these activities make me feel good about humanity, and good about myself.  I imagine you can relate to that as well.  But this week I had a revelation that pulled me beyond the normal “making a difference” ideas – we all make a difference, everyday, in almost every interaction we hold.

What?  It’s true.

You see, we are not islands.  We interact with people everywhere, throughout the day.  And our very beings “make a difference” no matter if it is conscious or not.  When we walk down the street, if we smile at someone walking the opposite direction, that smile can turn a horrible day into a sparkle of hope.  I contend that NOT smiling to that person also has potential for altering that person’s day.  When you get cutoff on the freeway, honk your horn and maybe flip a “sign”, you can make the other driver more angry and maybe even irrational (believe me, I can attest to that).  When your flight is cancelled and you see a frazzled gate attendant trying to assist dozens of ticked off travelers in addition to you (and if that “you” is me, chances are cranky is accurate), a kind word can go a long way and make them persevere just a bit longer.  When a young mother is struggling to get through a door with a massive stroller, your inaction in assisting or action in assisting both make a difference in her day.  We make differences, all day, everyday.

I hope I – and maybe you – can move away from the idea that “making a difference” is exclusively making donations, or quitting jobs to “join the ministry” or doing something huge.  Not to say those are actions don’t make a difference; they do!  Making a difference is more vast than these noble acts.  And making differences are good and bad.  My goal is to make POSITIVE differences, but fully admit that is not always the case.  But I have challenged myself to notice humanity around me.  Notice that humans that I may dislike or that may cause me frustration or that honestly are easier not to notice in the first place are worthy for me to make a difference on behalf of.  To notice things when I am knee deep in situations of my own, stressful or huge or serious…..it doesn’t matter!  We humans are in this together and my issues don’t trump others around me, per se.  To admit that simple gestures such as smiles, or courtesy, can make huge differences for others.  That “loving your neighbor” is not exclusively a huge outpouring in action, but finds its strength in the mundane.  And really, “making a difference” should be more about “loving your neighbor”  than about us.  And believe me, when it is about me I can attest I am more often making a NEGATIVE difference than anything else.   So, for me, I am approaching the idea of “making a difference”, differently.  And, no matter what I may be going through today or tomorrow, this brings me great excitement.  I hope it is contagious!

 

Drawing the Line

Recently I was involved with a conversation that, at least initially, encouraged me.  Then it took a turn and it made me think about a few things.  So much so, I knew I had to blog.  So here I am.

Before I start, I do have to add for those who perhaps don’t know……I am a lesbian.  As such, I am not unbiased in this topic and fully disclose that I have a vested interest in it.  I have tried to be objective, but obviously (and realistically), that is not completely possible.  Now, onto the conversation.

Recently over lunch, a topic came up.  The person starting it began by saying he believed, without reservation, that people are born gay and they don’t choose to be that way.  He added something like he wasn’t sure if it was genetics or a varying hormone level of the mother during gestation, but the bottom line was clear to him; it was not a choice of the person and they can’t be changed.  That homosexuality was something that occurred, for whatever reason, and people need to stop treating it like a choice.  I have to admit that, given the recent conversations I’ve had with friends who do NOT hold this view, it was very refreshing to hear this and not have to try to fight the urge to say……well, wow, I can affirm that it was not a choice, etc.  So it was nice to sit and pretty much not have to fight the urge and just think, “wow, cool.”

It was surprising, then, that the person turned a corner and began to add to the conversation.  He went on to say that, just like those in the LGBT community, pedophiles and serial murderers are born with a genetic or physical proclivity for their “situation” and could not help being what they were.  And at that point, he asked, “So where do you draw the line?”

So let me recap the premise raised by my lunch associate; homosexuals, pedophiles, and serial murderers are born that way, they can’t control their urges or desires, so where do you draw the line when dealing with them?

I try hard not to get pulled into debates about homosexuality – I’ve been there and done that – and made a decision about three years ago that I have not been called to convince others about my life.  That is USUALLY in the realm of Christianity, though I do make some exceptions to those who sincerely come to me to understand how I reconciled my faith and my sexuality.  But overall, it is not my job to defend myself to others.  It is not something I choose to do, to convince others that I am who I am or that I am not broken or abhorrent or whatever.  But in this case, I did speak up.  I basically said that homosexuality was most often involving adults who both consent to a relationship, often want monogamy and commitment, and that is very different from forcing children to have sex or killing people.  As such, homosexuality is not a threat to society as is pedophilia and murder, so that is where you draw the line.

Perhaps for the sake of argument, the man who started the conversation again insisted or implied; it wasn’t fair to accept homosexuals lack of choice while limiting other groups with no real choice in their behaviors.  As this person was not a friend per se and one that wasn’t aware I am gay……and since this was a larger group, I chose to leave it at that and let him proceed with his mini dissertation.  I will add, as an encouragement to me, several of those in attendance began to text me their support, which was kind and appreciated.  For my part, I worked very hard to not take it personally, and tried to consider his thought process in the matter.

So, I will admit that it does make sense that pedophiles and serial murderers may be compelled by their genetics or whatever to “be what they are”.  They may not have a choice to overcome their urges, because something in their creation made those urges a part of them.  Perhaps, even, they want to change and can’t.  I can say that I tried to be straight for a very long time, I wanted to be like the majority of Americans……fitting in and being accepted and all that.  I did absolutely live in that fronted existence, but it was a lie and hard for me.  I have blogged about that before, and I assume you get the drift.  But to suggest, basically, that we as a society are being unfair to allow homosexuals to be who they are, while NOT allow pedophiles and serial murderers be who they are, is illogical and TO ME, a manifestation of some crazy thinking.  Perhaps even a more subtle fight against homosexuality.

While I fully get that many in this country truly believe that homosexuals are damaging our country, Christianity, marriage, and probably a thousand other things; I cannot say that the vast majority of us are ending lives, physically forcing ourselves on others, or breaking laws that are accepted by most (if not all) countries.  To suggest that being in a committed, loving relationship with someone of the same sex…..who also happens to want to be in the relationship, who is also an adult and can legally consent to the relationship…….is somehow anything like an adult forcing a minor to have sex is illogical to me.  To compare a murderer to a homosexual, serial or otherwise, offends me.  My life is not forcing children to have sex.  My life is not ending the life of others, especially not in a violent way.

And that made me think…….I had forgotten that many people associate my life with these subjects.  Admittedly, maybe not in the way this conversation did.  But even two weeks later, I find myself pondering this idea.  Why do so many go here?  I don’t know the answer to that, but it does sadden me.  Not enough to become an activist, but obviously enough to write a blog.  And to maybe ask…….if you’re reading this, please consider that – if you do think this way, that they are the same things – to reconsider.  And maybe “draw a line” and admit that homosexuality is not something that damages people as does pedophilia and murder.  No gay person I know is trying to convert others, at all or by force.  No one is trying to end lives so that they can fulfill their attraction to the opposite sex.  My marriage (even my very life) does not sexually attack children or kill people.  Maybe consider that it is not unfair to limit pedophiles and serial murderers in this society while also supporting and accepting homosexuals.

That is all.

 

Broken

This post brought to you by ZzzzQuil Nighttime Sleep-Aid, which apparently will not help much with the time change in Australia!  🙂

For the majority of my life, I considered myself broken.  Wow.  That sentence was so short, so to the point, it almost seems mundane.  Simple.  Factual, but not that powerful.  And yet, the truth hidden behind its simplicity was such a huge part of my life, I almost feel sad that it isn’t getting the acclaim it deserves.  It’s like I want to scream “Here’s Broken Minard, she is a celebrity!  You should be asking for her autograph!”

Anyway……..this piece of me was rooted in many things; mostly the fact that I felt different most of my life, and this difference was revealed to my mind as my sexuality which clarified as I grew older.  But it didn’t JUST relate to that – I always felt like I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I wasn’t pretty enough.  I didn’t weigh enough (ah, to have that concern again!).  There were many ideas of “not enough” throughout the years and it all boiled down to the fact that someday, someone was going to find out I was a total fake.  That I would not be able to pull it off forever, and the truth would come out and the world would know I was nothing better than a broken, horrible person.  That my life amounted to nothing but smoke and mirrors.

I dealt with this part of my existence by being Broken Minard, though I am not sure when she arrived.  Truthfully, she always seemed to have existed.  My earliest memory of this person was in kindergarten.  I remember consciously thinking I was probably the dumbest kid in the class, but I was fortunate enough to be very, very polite (something I had heard a grown-up say about me) so I would use that to “hide” my lack of intelligence.  Over the years other ideas would come forward – I was funny, I was athletic…..you get the drift – and I’d factor those things in to build upon the facade to hide the “real me”.  And the cycle continued quite well as I grew.

Before I continue, the above was not all bad.  I’d have to say many of the things in my life today came out of this weird structure called my life.  I am a hard worker.  I have perfectionist qualities in some areas that help me succeed, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others.  I naturally am “a fixer”; within my family, with my friends, and at work.  People like to come to me because I react quickly and such.  I embrace those things now, but they are rooted in the fact that I learned early on to be many things to people to hide the fact, at the root I was Broken.  Broken Minard.

Jump to when I was 16.  I was very confused because, by this time, I kind of “knew” I was gay and yet back then it wasn’t like it is today.  Gosh, did I just sound old?  But seriously, “gay” definitely existed back in the 80’s, but I will certainly say that it wasn’t prevalent and it certainly wasn’t overtly accepted.  More progressive or tolerant people didn’t “reject” gays, but I’d say it was more “look the other way”.  My own Uncle was gay, had been with his partner my whole 16 years of life, but NO ONE said the word “gay”.  He was just Uncle and his partner was Uncle.  And to put this in context of that time……a girl won a contest on the radio and said something about, “My boyfriend and I have a baby.” and that was considered scandalous.  I mean, she ADMITTED ON THE RADIO that she had a baby out of wedlock???  By today’s standards, that ain’t no big deal.  (Note:  I am not suggestion “back then” was better or today worse or better, just sharing contextual references.)

So here I was, realizing I was an unmentionable.  And the realization made me panic, mostly because by then I had become pretty darn good at this whole “hide the fact you’re broken” technique and I knew I would have a lifetime of hard work ahead of me.  It was under this weight that I went to a friend’s church and accepted Christ.  Ah, the weight of the world of perfectionism and hiding were OVER!!!!  I had a real moment of peace and release and wow…….that moment changed my life.

However, it would appear that Broken Minard, who so ardently surrounded my being, wasn’t ready to let go.

Sheesh, I am spending too much time in the past.  I apologize, but this is not the intent of my main topic.  So now I am going to go fast forward to milestones in my life after accepting Christ at 16:

  • Knew I was gay and Christian and figured, well heck.  That can’t happen.
  • Prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal me of my sexuality
  • To help Him, I married a godly man in my church 1 month after my 20th birthday
  • Also decided I was pretty broken and worth not much to the world, but a girl has got to make money so applied for jobs I was so not qualified for.  Broken doesn’t necessarily mean risk was not worth it.  And I suppose it paid off as I seemed to figure things out easily.
  • Had three great kids, one separation, expanded career, a divorce, and through it all I’d stare at my face in the mirror and see myself as now a liar as well as Broken Minard.
  • Fell in love with a woman, we got together, but we were not out even to family.  I was happy and ashamed at the same time.  Broken Minard was at her height.  Her zenith.  Her peak.
  • Five years into said relationship, I was “found out”.  Lost pretty much everything.  My job (which was my main positive identity), friends, and so much more.  For the first time in my life, Broken Minard was exposed.  And it was much worse than I could have ever, ever imagined.

Wow.  This is turning into a huge downer.  It wasn’t my intent, but I feel it’s important to share the reality of myself in order to better frame the message I DID want to share.  So, why DID I just rehash all of that?  Why now?

A couple days ago I referred to myself as Broken to Deana.  For the record, she is the first person I ever, ever introduced Broken to.  She was the first I shared everything with, that I allowed to see the “real me”.  In any case, I said something like, “Yeah, you know me…..Broken.” and she was like……”Wait, do you really think Broken still exists?”  And I really had to stop.  I realized for maybe the first time consciously, wow…….I haven’t even THOUGHT about Broken in YEARS.  I haven’t mentioned her in YEARS.  And then, with bells ringing and mental applause exploding in my head, I replied, “Well, wow!  I think Broken is gone!”

You see, the Most Horrible Time, when I lost everything, was like a birth for me.  And since I had Kirstie “naturally”, I can attest that birth is a very arduous, painful thing.  Honestly, I hope I never, ever have to go through anything close to the Most Horrible Time again in my life.  But, even when admitting the excessive discontent and pain of that period, at the end I really think Gina was born.  And Gina, without Broken tagging along, is a very different human.

  • There is no longer this separation from Christ that I had built.  The mote is gone.  The walls have tumbled.  And the Peace of the Lord abides.  I rest in Him now, in truth, and it rocks.  And I am glad He waited for me to realize He never, every meant for me to keep the distance between us as I did.
  • I may not be the smartest, the prettiest, the whatever, but I am this amazing creature, hand crafted by God and heck, I appreciate the gifts He’s provided for me to succeed.  And there are parts of me, formerly attributed to Broken, that are really quite cool.  Really.
  • I am out, as a lesbian.  That is not as easy to say “yeah, booya, in ya face.”  Nor does that mean I have an agenda or that this is some political stance.  I realize this whole area has become so politicized and is a huge debate platform for Evangelicals especially.  Heck, I still have some anger in this area.  I do react from rejection and certainly from perceived condemnation, which happens occasionally.  But overall, I can stand tall and be authentic and no longer feel as if I need to hide, or that this truth in my life is clear evidence of brokenness.
  • Almost as if I am mirroring the story of Job, God has restored so much to my life that, in comparison, the things that “I lost” seem almost pathetic.  Almost as if to say “really, you were upset about THAT? ”  I am exceedingly grateful for all that exists in my life.
  • I am much more empathetic.  I mean, when I was Broken, to be so would admit that there was something in me that could resonate with someone else’s pain or failure.  So, a byproduct of Broken was that I was very, very judgmental and harsh.  Oh, I am still those things now and then – don’t you think otherwise because hey, I really am NOT perfect even if sometimes I still pretend to be – but overall, as I’ve moved into this stage I am not afraid to share Gina, who is insecure, sensitive, great at mistakes and downright failures, and such. And it feels great to say “Hey, it will be okay” or share “I understand Broken, and it really, truly gets better.”  I especially love to support others coming out as LGBT, ESPECIALLY Christians, as I appreciate the tug between the two and the related pains and fears that exist in that realm.
  • I can admit I made a mistake or even say I am wrong without hyperventilating.  For reals.  It almost feels great.  Almost.
  • I do miss many people who I “lost” or that felt the need to leave my life when Broken was exposed.  I miss many very much, with a melancholy at times that borders unhealthy.  But, with each day, I smile more when I think of them.  I pray more sincerely for them and actually mean the good things I am sending to heaven.  And as I pondered this point, I can’t help but share without hesitation we have TONS more friends who are the most loving there is!

I could be wrong, but I think more people have bits of Broken in their lives.  Maybe not.  I admit my world view is most likely skewed or dysfunctional due to the aspects of my life I shared above.  But if ANY of the above has touched your life, don’t give up.  I pray that you can find at least one person to share Broken with.  I hope one day you can get to a point where Broken is no longer needed, or at least no longer powerful.  I pray that you realize that YOU, yes YOU, are an amazing human with much to bring to the table and are worthy of love from others.  That, in a nutshell, you rock.

RIP Broken Minard.  It was a good ride, though I won’t miss you!

Condemnation is a Four Letter Word

If you talk to any of my 2.78 regular readers, you may learn that the topic of condemnation is prevalent on this blog.  Oh, I might not use that specific word, but it threads its way throughout many of the themes and stories that I’ve shared over the years.  And that got me to thinking……why is that?  So, for several weeks that has been rumbling through the recesses of my mind, popping up here and there with epiphanies, to the point I decided I MUST write something about it TODAY.

So here I am.  Welcome to the recreation of my mini-journey, at least in part.  Sit back, grab your coffee, and let’s roll.

You may remember my post A Response to “A Friend in Christ” last year.  This situation still slightly haunts me today, as I have no clear evidence (though plenty of speculation) as to who sent me the letter and DVD.  I still have varying emotions (anger, sadness, and such) when I think of the words that exist in the letter I received.  More often than not, I feel the need to write additional responses – at least mentally – throwing out my detailed thoughts about how wrong it was to send that letter to me and how it was, at best, worthless condemnation on my life.  The amount of anger that is involved in my emotions at the time is directly related to how biting the words I mentally create in my response are.  And really, if I’m honest with you, the more biting they become, the more justified and happy I feel.  And that was my first realization.

Condemnation breeds condemnation.

The most satisfying feeling related to this situation – when I am living in my flesh at least – is when I lay down condemnation toward the person that wrote that letter.  Even though, when I first received it, I believe with my whole heart Jesus taught me I was doing this and that it was a mirror of the person’s letter.  That I was guilty of the same sin of condemnation towards them as they were towards me.

“But Lord,” I thought, clinging to my anger…….”they were wrong!”  As if my condemnation was somehow…….okay.  Righteous even.

So that got me to look around my life beyond this scenario, even to others around me, both those I know and those I know of.  And it became pretty clear very quickly…..

Condemnation breeds condemnation.

Don’t believe me?  Check out just a few examples:

  1. Fred Phillips, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, famous for the “God Hates Fags” message and for picketing numerous events including military funerals, was nearing death.  SO MANY rejoiced when hearing of this news, saying he would burn in hell, that his funeral should be picketed, etc.
  2. Read anything online about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and you will read a rainbow of views, across the board, many of which just spew hate – more towards the people who share their views than anything else.
  3. Spend more than 5 minutes on Facebook, and probably see extreme political memes such as these.  And they do nothing but encourage those who are condemning, or giving the other side reason to retaliate with their own condemnation.liberal_logic_101_3091 60625_567855706569632_2120092106_n
  4. Religous actions and debates in thousands of online chat rooms, Facebook feeds, or online news comments filled with hate in the name of Christ (for and against topics).  Here is but one sample article and extracts of comments (more mild ones, too!).  In fact, there were over 175 comments on this article alone and most were arguments between commenters.For Against

 

So far I have offered examples outside of myself.  But I must be real with you – I am the Queen of Condemnation.  It should not be so, as I often decry the condemnation that is often directed at me for my “lifestyle”.  As I stand proud, ready to fight themes like “Lordship Salvation vs Grace” and other seemingly holy interactions.  And yet, the last few weeks have revealed that, alas, I am no better than those who contact me.  If someone is in my face about a topic (political, religious, or otherwise) I have NO PROBLEM getting right back in their face.  In fact, if I’m honest, I will say I rather enjoy it.  And at some point, it even becomes a competition – who can be the best at condemning the other?  Oh, we are usually VERY good and veiling our words in polite discourse, even spiritual vernacular or via holy scripture.  We feel justified in our personal doctrines, the dogma we adhere to, or in the developed belief system we encircle ourselves in.  But the fact remains, we are going for the kill and usually feel completely righteous in our stance, even if there are no survivors when it is all said and done.

And, to make this clear about how painful this revelation was to me……I claim in word and “deed” that my dogma, my world view, my Christian Walk, is centered in Grace.  In Love.

And yet – condemnation was the root.  The focus.  The action.  The idol.  I cannot deny it any longer.

That got me to realizing a lesson I’ve learned before, I have even taught it!  We humans, we Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, too often walk in our own fleshly nature and not that of God.

OUR nature says that it is right and good to act out based on the actions of those around me.  You are good to me, I am good to you.  You are bad to me, I am bad to you.  You agree with me, we are good.  You don’t agree with me, it’s okay to annihilate each other.  Even in the name of God.  That’s even in the SCRIPTURE!

Exodus 21:24-25 ESV, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Leviticus 24:17-22 ESV, Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.”

Deut. 19:21 ESV, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

See?  We obviously know these words so well as I have shown we function in this cycle very well in our society!

And yet…….as Jesus so lovingly reminds me almost daily and which I think I learn before stepping back into the law (flesh) and away from Grace……there is a Better way.  Because, time and again, He pointed out that we TOTALLY MISUNDERSTOOD THE CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE!  If you don’t think that’s the case, then why did Jesus have to say so often “you have heard it said, but I have said” and then corrected our understanding?  And so He did……..

Matthew 5:38-41 ESV, You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Jesus then ups the auntie by saying this:

Matthew 5:43-48 ESV (I often quote this…..pay attention Gina), You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And to just be clear what I believe Jesus meant to model the “Christian World View” on, let’s review this.  We should NOT base our actions on the old way (the law) as IT BREEDS CONDEMNATION.  In fact, the Apostle Paul himself referred to it as such and then turned around and refers to the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ as the ministry of righteousness.

2 Cor. 3:4-11 ESV (emphasis mine), Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.  For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”

So the letter (old covenant), which I seem to use in my life most often as I feel justified in “fighting back” or retaliating with those I choose to fight with, is clearly a ministry.  A ministry of death.  A ministry of condemnation.  It has “no glory at all”.  And Jesus meant for it to end.

And yet, here I am.

Instead, I want to live and walk in the spirit of Matthew 5.  If someone doesn’t agree with me – heck, call them my enemy – I will turn my other cheek.  IT SHOULDN’T MATTER.  In fact, I think Jesus was radical enough to say I SHOULD NOT RESIST THEM!  Okay, you want to say I am going to hell?  I don’t agree but you have that right and it is not my job to fight with you.  To convince you.  You have your political views?  Amen.  But my point is, we as humans/Americans/Christians/Name here spend far too much time condemning others.  And we should stop.  We should disagree, sure.  We should hold our beliefs and probably even hold them to heart, but that has NO bearing on how we interact with each other.  Vote for whom you vote, donate to whom you donate, but our hearts should be open and love should be our first thought. Empathy our second.  Respect our third.  But not condemnation.  Ever.

So, to sum it up, the HEAVENLY WAY of acting has no room for condemnation.  No more living in my flesh, of condemning others in the name of God or otherwise.  I want to live in the Spirit, where love reigns.  I will leave the rest of this summary to the Apostle Paul.  Peace to you!

Romans 8:1-11 ESV, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”