Yes, You Can Be A Non-Conservative Christian

Since coming out as a Christian, I’ve had people ask me, “What’s changed?” Do I still support gay rights? Am I all about sexual modesty now? Well, here’s the answer.

My belief is that there is a God. That’s a drastic change for me. I used to be a hardcore atheist. I also believe Jesus was divine.

The matters that concern folks who have come to me with questions are still intact. Yes, I support gay rights. No, I’m not a prude.

I was initially willing to change a lot of beliefs due to my conversion. But Christianity does not entail conservatism. Many people may think it does, but it doesn’t. Do I believe in God? Check! Do I think Jesus was divine? Check! That’s basically all one needs in order to be a Christian. Any more than that can be debated.

And, in those debates, I look to all kinds of sources. I may think the Bible is a holy book, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mix and mingle with thinkers, philosophers, rapscallions and whoever else may have a great idea. And, anyway, isn’t that what Jesus would do? Didn’t he mingle with rapscallions?

What I’ve also found is that many people who’ve asked me these questions haven’t even opened a Bible. I have. I may be just beginning, but I have indeed opened a Bible. What does the Bible say about these things? Well, there’s debate on that. Serious debate. And I follow the liberal interpretations.

There aren’t many churches that are liberal, I grant you that. And I am indeed liberal (or, probably, more of a socialist-communist, really). I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by Christians who are sympathetic to my views.

So, there you have it. A non-conservative Christian.

Poem #5,387.

I get spam phone calls/
from every place we traveled together.
Colorado, New York, North Carolina.
And I wonder/
If it’s really just you
spamming me all over again.

Call Me C.S. Lewis: An Unlikely Convert

Long time readers may wonder about my sudden shift to writing about Christianity. I’ve converted. You may wonder why. So, I’ll tell you.

About six months ago, I had a psychotic break. It was severe and there are possibly some readers here who witnessed parts of it.

One evening during my psychosis, which lasts usually a week or two, my mind felt like it was going to shatter. It’s hard to explain what it’s like for your mind to shatter, but it’s horrible and scary. You lose your whole identity. I seriously felt like I was going to be in long-term inpatient care. That’s also terrifying.

Normally, I would have gone to the hospital. My first urge was to do just that. I would be, possibly, injected with something like Haldol, and, hopefully, stabilized. It usually takes going to the hospital in order to re-gain any sort of coherence when one’s mind shatters.

However, no one was really around to get me to the hospital. All our vehicles were gone. I couldn’t very well take myself and I didn’t want to call 911 because I thought I wouldn’t be mentally present by the time they showed up.

All of this went though my head very quickly.

I felt my only choice was to pray. They say there are no atheists in foxholes.

I got into my bed and prayed. I said, “God, please help me keep my mind together.”

I was willing to do my part, if and however I could. But I needed God’s help.

As I prayed, my mind was shattering. I was losing my identity as I prayed. The only thing I knew about myself was that I am a woman. So, I prayed to God, “I know I am a woman.” That’s as much help as I could offer God.

I slowly fell asleep.

In the morning, my mind was healed. There was no psychosis whatsoever. No shattered mind.

I don’t currently know how long this healing will last. I don’t know if it’s forever or not. I still take my medications and go to counseling. But, that night, I believe I experienced a miracle. So, I’ve converted.

Oh, Crap. I’m a Prophet.

That was my first reaction to the spiritual gift of prophecy. Oh, crap.

It wasn’t like I asked for it. It’s just that as I encountered the Bible, things appeared to me. I had visions. I had dreams. I had revelations.

But, to make matters worse, I also have a history of living with schizophrenia. Only God would do a thing like that. I would, of course, give the power of prophecy to someone else. Someone with a strong history of, well, telling truth from reality.

People who really have the gift of prophecy will tell you that they will know what’s from God and what’s not. And you will know who’s of God and who is not by their fruits.

It’s hard for me to explain the difference, but I know what’s of God and what’s not. My revelations are nothing like what I’ve experienced with schizophrenia. Absolutely nothing like it.

A Burning Bush

Many people would like a sign from God—to prove His existence, to answer a prayer. I have found that hearing God is not about looking for a burning bush. It’s not that God cannot give you a burning bush, it’s that oftentimes hearing Him depends on developing a relationship and a sort of sensitivity to receive God’s messages to you.

God will answer every prayer, everything we ask of Him. Granted, it may not always be the answer we want to hear. If we ask for something, we may not get it. God has the right to say no.

If you seek God, you will find Him. But you have to, in my experience, be sensitive to hearing Him. And by hearing Him, I don’t necessarily mean an audible voice. It may be a small voice in your head. It may be a vision, a dream or a picture in your mind. You will know it’s from God if you maintain a relationship with Him. His ways are good and you can always trust Him.

God is Not Conservative (or Liberal)

Only God would endow a person living with schizophrenia the spiritual gift of prophecy. God would expect you to suspend your disbelief and believe me when I say I have recently had divine encounters. In my new (small) book, I try my best to write them down for you, as they are relevant to people, particularly Christians, currently living in the United States. But they may be of interest to others, as well. Please enjoy my book.

More Reflections on The Fall

Pretend for a moment that The Fall really took place the way it is described in the Bible. It goes back to something like opening Pandora’s Box, which unleashed all the evils into the world. What was left in the Box was only hope. The Bible tells us the punishment from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil: Women will have pain related to child birth, people will toil the Earth, men will rule over women.

But what if the message is something deeper that haunts us until today. What if most of our tasks—solving medical mysteries, engaging in philosophical discussion, political activity—are all the result of The Fall. And it is our task to do our part to make things right again. After all, the tree was knowledge of all things. What if ‘all things’ includes our successes and our mishaps in these areas? Of course, The Fall includes a separation from God, too. So it would probably be prudent for those of us who believe to cleave close to the Creator. The Bible tells us how to have hope, too.

A Fallen State: The Patriarchy

I was reading the Creation Story and The Fall in the Bible this morning. A few things came to mind:

-The tree of knowledge of good and evil is not itself bad. Everything God created was good. What was bad was disobedience to God.

-As punishment, God makes men rulers over women. This suggests equality in the Garden of Eden prior to The Fall. This is, possibly, the beginning of sexism and patriarchy. The suggestion is not that men *should* ideally rule over women. The Bible suggests this is the punishment for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

-Eve succumbs to temptation. It’s not bad to be tempted. Even Jesus was. It’s bad to succumb to it. This means a few things. First, Eve was obviously able to be tempted, which flies in the face of many interpretations in which women are by nature and are supposed to be chaste. Second, Eve was obviously tempted by something amazing. It was knowledge of good and evil, i.e., knowledge of all things. This makes Eve a pretty bad ass woman.

 

Climate Change: God’s Law of Consequences

I’m reading the book Boundaries. It’s really a wonderful book. I’ve learned through that book that God has certain spiritual laws in place in addition to laws of nature. I seek to discover each.

Let’s take a look a climate change. Many unschooled Christians think super storms, like the hurricane we experienced in Florida this year, are God’s punishment for things like gay marriage. But I think the lesson is far closer to the point here. God wouldn’t make us take such wild leaps in logic.

Rather, I think the lesson is that we haven’t been very good stewards of the Earth. The Bible says we are to be managers of the Earth. How are we doing as managers? No very good.

We can look to climate science, which tells us that human activity—yes, human activity—is causing a great rise in temperatures. If you don’t believe climate science (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t), you can merely look to the increasing amount of super storms. Why are they happening?

God put in place consequences for every action. Bad actions cause bad consequences. If we are poor stewards of the Earth, we will get an unhealthy planet.

What climate change and super storms tell us is not that gay marriage is bad. Instead, the lesson is that we haven’t been good stewards to the Earth. We need to do much, much better.

(Cross Posted at The New Floridian)

Review of the Past Year

Last week, I was in therapy and the topic of more daily tasks for me to do came up. After reviewing my past year, I think I’ve remained pretty busy!

For example, in the past year, I was:

-Involved with NoDAPL and received a letter from President Obama on the matter.

-In regards to NoDAPL, I was published in the Daytona Beach News Journal.

-I was published on the Ghost Parachute Blog 3 times.

-I wrote a book.

-I edited an international philosophy journal.

-I was on Team Bernie during the primaries.

But most importantly, I have remained focused on my mental and physical health.

My Church’s Africa Mission

I am raising money so people in my church, such as my mom, can go to Kenya, Africa on a mission trip. All the money goes to Cross Creek Community Church. If you are interested in donating, please go here.

Moral Skepticism and the Foundations of Morality

Like most of my books, my books on meta-ethics are in storage. But was very interested in meta-ethics. In fact, the first iteration of my MA thesis was on meta-ethics. I was thinking about the foundations of morality today. I can’t say I have any answers–for all the searching I’ve done.

But my thesis was originally on value pluralism.

Emotions

I have been thinking about emotions lately. Specifically, whether and what they tell us. Emotions have been given a bad rap among some, but I have come to the conclusion that they are tied to the beliefs we have.

I have said previously that I don’t experience anger. And I don’t. So I don’t know what cognitive content anger has. Most times I have seen anger, I have thought it irrational. There may be such a thing as “justified anger,” but I don’t know.

If I love you, for example, I probably have some knowledge and beliefs about you. I could be incorrect. But these are the beliefs I have. (Note: I’m not an expert on philosophy of love and friendship.)

I see, recently, many people expressing emotions. I think these emotions tell us something. They tell us about the beliefs they have and the knowledge they have.

So, while emotions may have been given a bad rap as something to be quelled if we are to be “rational,” I think emotions are intimately tied to our knowledge and beliefs. I’m open to other suggestions, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Kierkegaard

Anyone who knows me knows I was sort of obsessed with Kierkegaard as an undergraduate. And, after undergrad, I took a year off to study both Kierkegaard and skepticism. I don’t really do philosophy anymore, but Kierkegaard came to mind today.

One of his seminal works is Fear and Trembling. I’m not a Kierkegaard expert, but I do know that this book has been important to me. Others find it perplexing.

I haven’t read Fear and Trembling for several years now and my copy is in storage. But Fear and Trembling tells the story of Issac and Abraham. The book focuses on Abraham and his choice to sacrifice his son–who he loved most in the world–because of God’s command. This choice and the feelings that came with it, along with the ethical dimensions of these choices, are the focus of the book.

The title of the book probably comes from Philippians 2:12:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Kierkegaard was the father of existentialism. And I took a whole course on existentialism as an undergrad. The reference to Philippians has always been powerful to me. I try to understand it more almost every day.

Kierkegaard was difficult to understand and interpret because he used a method of indirect communication, dedicated his books to ‘that single individual’, and had a deep and abiding, if never consummated, love for Regine.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of going to Copenhagen to study Kierkegaard more in depth.

Our Herb Garden

A while ago–maybe two years now–we and our neighbors collaborated on an herb garden at our house. It’s a nice little place to sit and relax. There’s several herbs there and a bench. Our neighbor (and us) thought it would be nice to make it a community space.

Here you can see our potted herb garden. It’s little worse for wear because of the winter, but there’s plenty of mint, basil and more.

Here’s the bench. People sometimes come and sit for a while because…

…this is the message painted in front of the garden:

I often find inspiration sitting in the herb garden. I always wanted to bring a friend there to chat, but as yet I haven’t.

On Evil

As someone who studied ethics, I was interested in, of course, good and evil. Most people think of ethics as focusing only on good, but that’s not true. The fact is, evil perplexes me. I tried to study it as much as I could. I don’t think I studied as much as some other people I know, however, because I didn’t have the same opportunities.

But I have read about evil. I have studied dark periods of history, read philosophical treatises on evil, and more.

I’m pretty lucky to have not run across too many bad people in my life. All of my friends are good people. So I don’t have knowledge of evil first hand. Thankfully.

One of my favorite books on the topic, however, is a book entitled On Evil. This book lays out a theory of evil that is pretty compelling to me.

Reclaiming ‘Spinster’

The other day, I was with a friend at a coffee shop. I told her, “I’m a spinster.”

She said, “That’s not a feminist word.”

I said flatly, “I’m reclaiming it.”

The fact is, I have never been married and I don’t know if it will happen for me. A couple of people recently proposed to me, but I said no.

All of my friends have gotten married–some also got divorced. Even someone I know who I thought was against the whole concept of marriage recently got engaged.

So, I’m a spinster, I guess. We’ll just have to see whether I stay that way.

Love and Mercy

A while back, I read Brian Wilson’s new memoir, I Am Brian Wilson. I also watched the newest film based on his life, Love and Mercy.

The film could have been better, I thought. It’s difficult to depict mental illness in film. It’s very hard to show what struggling with mental illness is like.

But it was interesting nonetheless.

Counseling is for Everyone

The other day, I was with a friend who said I inspired him/her to go to counseling. This person seems well-adjusted and doesn’t have any mental illness that we know of. But it’s my opinion that everyone should get counseling just as everyone should go to the doctor.

Mental health is often treated differently than “physical” health and so the treatments are seen differently, too. But I think everyone should go to counseling no matter who they are.

So this is a win for me. I convinced someone to go to counseling.

A Year Without Makeup

I stopped wearing makeup about a year ago now. It’s been interesting. Before, I would never leave the house without being completely made up. Now, I leave the house however I feel like. This has been such a relief.

I think when I wore makeup, I had lower self-esteem. I may look less pretty than I used to, and I may have gained some weight, but my self-esteem has improved dramatically.

I stopped wearing makeup because (1) It’s expensive and (2) Because I have sensitive skin, which was irritated by the makeup.

It’s been about a year now and I can’t imagine wearing makeup anymore. It’s so freeing to not have to wear it. I know I’m probably not the most beautiful woman in the world, but covering myself up was symbolic, I think. I think I was ashamed of myself. Now, I go “naked” and I don’t care what people think.

“Still Waters Run Deep”

I’ve always been a quiet person. Sometimes, I’ve been chastised for this from people seeking more “personality.” But I’m actually pretty comfortable with myself. Very comfortable, actually.

I’m a content person most of the time and I don’t have wild emotions. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anger. Truly. I don’t know what it’s like to feel anger.

Having studied emotion, I suppose I could estimate that those emotions are essential to the human condition. But I lack them, I guess. And I’m pretty stoic in the philosophical sense. As in, the Ancient Stoics.

I was talking about these differences with a friend today. This friend has to actively subdue wild emotions so s/he doesn’t do anything irrational. Now, I’ve done irrational things, but that’s when I’ve been psychotic. And I guess most people don’t know what it’s like to become psychotic. So we’re even.

My dad, who I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, was a perceptive person and he noted my calm and stillness from childhood. He always told me, “Still waters run deep.” And my inability to feel anger has actually helped me in many endeavors.

UPDATE: If you are interested in some of the latest philosophical work on emotion–and specifically anger–check out Martha Nussbaum’s new book.

Living Openly with Schizophrenia

In case you haven’t noticed, I live openly with schizophrenia. I came out publicly to all my friends and everyone in my life over a year ago. I was welcomed warmly. I thought I would lose friends, but I didn’t. That just goes to show what great friends I have.

It’s always difficult meeting new people, though, and telling them. One never knows how they will react. There’s a bunch of stereotypes and misconceptions about schizophrenia that people have.

One thing I often worry about is dating with schizophrenia. I read a study that 70% of people would not marry someone with schizophrenia. So far, so good, though.

I know it probably seems like I function pretty well because I can write. But I do live with daily struggles, and have a new treatment plan for this year, which I am planning to follow. I have never had to manage a serious health condition before. Growing up, I was always pretty healthy. But I’m getting a handle on it.

Right now, I don’t work. Every time I have tried to work–eight times, since becoming ill–I have ended up in the hospital. My doctors don’t think I can handle the stress of working.

Coming out publicly about my living with schizophrenia was one of the best things for me. I couldn’t keep such a huge secret and major part of my life from my friends. It was too much of a burden. I know other people keep quiet about their illness, but coming out was the best decision for me.

Coffee Redux

Phew. I went and had coffee with my friend. It took a lot out of me. I’m an introvert, for one thing. For another, I’m ill.* I’m used to spending time with just a few people and other introverts. But it was nice. We already made plans to do a lot of things together.

Fortunately, my friends don’t mind me having budget issues to deal with. The friend I met with yesterday suggested many, many free or cheap things to do together. Plus, my friend says they have fun doing small things. I do, too, honestly. So, stay tuned. I’ll be posting about my adventures as they come.

 

*People with schizophrenia usually have issues with socialization and getting out. I certainly have. That’s one reason why one of my goals this year is to try to get out and socialize more.

Socialization on a Budget

I admit it. I’ve become somewhat of a hermit. This past year was rough for me in several ways and I stayed in a lot.

This year, I’ve decided one of my goals is to get out more. I’ve made several new friends and I want to do things with them. But it’s difficult on the budget I have. I know people who are much more well-off than me and I simply cannot afford to do the things they do. But I am determined to do what I can. So, today I’m having coffee with a friend I made recently. We are going some place close to me because, having no car, I can’t travel very far. But I can get to the place we arranged and I have enough to buy a coffee for myself.

I hope to enjoy a few hours with my friend and have great conversation. Here’s to 2017’s new goals.

Nature Photography

I live with my family in a house on a lake. The back yard is mostly wetlands, and we were told last year (2016) that the lake and wetlands are now a protected environment.

Living in a rustic-type atmosphere is good for me. According to studies, people are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in urban environments. And, in fact, I had my first psychotic break when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida–a large, urban city.

Because we have been told our lands are protected, we do little to most of it. If you love well-manicured lawns, our house is not for you. We let the majority of it–the protected parts–go back to their original state. This is good for me because one of the my therapeutic hobbies is photography. Now, I’m not saying I’m particularly good at it. I simply enjoy doing it. It relaxes me. It keeps me in a calm, steady state.

Every day, I go outside to look around and see what I can photograph. There’s usually tons of flowers I can shoot. It’s winter now, so the flowers are less than the rest of the year, but there’s still some.

Here’s a picture of the wetlands.

Wetlands are a delicate, essential part of the environment.

Here’s a picture of a flower I took on 1/1/2017:

I’m not sure what kind of flower this is, but I’m pretty sure most people would consider it a weed. If you dislike weeds, you’d dislike our yard. The only real modification we do is get rid of invasive species when we identify them.

New Year’s Day

I had a good New Year’s Eve. But on New Year’s Day, it’s time to spend time with my family. We have a tradition. Maybe you do, too. We always eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.

Here’s hoping 2017 is full of great things for us all.

Quote of the Year

I read a lot this year. Probably too much. I also wrote a lot. Writing is therapeutic for me. One quote I came across this year sums up my position this year–and probably for years to come. It’s from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile:

I am not a great philosopher, and I care little to be one. But I sometimes have good sense, and I always love the truth.

This year, with the release of my book, I said my farewell to philosophy and academia.

 

Last Shot of Abilify for the Year

This morning, I went and got my final shot of Abilify for the year. They always switch between arms. First, the left arm. Then, the right. Today, it was the right arm.

I used to not like getting shots, but I have grown accustomed to it with Abilify. And, anyway, like I told my nurse today, getting a shot is a small price to pay for keeping me healthy.

The Abilify Maintaina shot, which is what I get, can seem scary, though. The injection itself is very large and looks like it would be more of a horse shot. My nurse tells me that the Abilify shot is more effective than the pill, however. I’m glad to take it and glad it has kept me out of the hospital.

New Year, New Dress

To celebrate one year of being out of the hospital–and the new year–I got myself a new dress. It may be hard to tell the texture and shine on this dress in the video, but it’s really a pretty dress.

An End of the Year Thank You

I’ve been on the internet for several years, but have only had my own real estate for a couple of years now. I have brothers in the tech industry. They have helped me with my site.

I enjoy having a blog, and I must say that I’m surprised by how many people show up. Thank you.

Since I started my blog, I have had 19,601 unique visitors. While not many people comment, some of you have contacted me privately. I thank you for that.

The reason I bring up my internet connections is because today a friend I made online who lives in Canada sent me some calendars for the New Year. I appreciate my good connections, and have rarely had bad online experiences.

So, thank you all for showing up and coming back. It makes me happy.

Books, Books, Books

It shouldn’t have surprised my parents that I grew up to be somewhat of an academic. After all, I grew up in a household where both my parents were always reading, learning, and encouraging us kids to do the same. My dad was very bright. So is my mom.

These days, I am surrounded by books. All kinds of books. Some of them are mine, but most of them are my mom’s, as most of my books–and there are many of them–are in storage.

I woke up this morning thinking about books. I have worked on several of them, and have now written a short one of my own.

It used to be that the very best gift a person could get me was a gift card for Barnes and Noble. I just loved reading. I loved books. And I got that from my parents.

However, now that Christmas is over–and having gotten no books or gift cards for books–I have found that I’ve expanded my experiences to doing more than reading. I guess it’s all part of trying to be well-rounded.

Yellow Rose of Texas

Today, I have been thinking about my dad. He died 10 years ago; in 2006. My dad was an interesting man. One time, he wrote the story of his life for me. It was an interesting life. My dad was like a Navy Seal. But that was back before there was such a thing as Navy Seals. He had a bunch of war stories, but never really talked to me about too many of them.

My dad treated me very well. One of the few things I have from him is a coffee cup he got for me a very long time ago. I keep it with all of my special treasures. He used to call me his little, yellow rose because I have blonde hair and always have. The song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was his song for me because I was born in Texas.

I buried my dad in Dallas-Fort Worth, giving him a full military-style funeral. I think my dad was always very proud of me.

Reflecting on 2016

For many, 2016 was a bad year. In fact, it’s become an internet meme that 2016 was so bad.

For me, at least one good thing happened: I managed to stay out of the hospital for the whole, entire year. That is a feat. I’ve been taking Abilify, and while it has some side effects, like weight gain, it has been much better to me than many of the other drugs I have tried. I managed, this year, through everything, to stay focused on my health and maintain my medical treatment.

That is the good thing, to me, about 2016. And it’s no small thing. One year out of the hospital is a milestone. So, I decided I’m going to celebrate all the way this New Year.

Of course, other good things happened. I got published in several places. I did manage to lose some weight.

Some bad things happened, too. I suffered through a break-up that I’m not completely over yet.

But, all in all, it was a good year for me.