I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Story Lives - A Book Review - Being Nonjudgmental

For example, a black man in America is oppressed in a racist society.  If God is the God of the oppressed, then God is on his side.  But if this black man abuses his female partner, does God switch sides to be with her?  What if she abuses her child?  A God who resists oppression does not love or hate, accept or despise one person in this scenario more than another.  God resists the oppressive activity and calls each party to justice in their lives.  (82, Monica A Coleman, Making A Way Out of No Way)

The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution by Henriet Schapelhouman (her website), a Speakeasy book, was sort of a mistake for me-it should have been really obvious that this book was about "winning people to Christ," which is not my theology at all and I would not have ordered it if I had not realized it in the first place, still I would say that for what it is, it is really well written, the best possible book for that genre and even made me think a bit.

I put the quote by Monica A. Coleman with this review, because I think it illustrates my feelings on Godde's favor well-just like God does not choose sides when it comes to supporting and loving those who are oppressed, even if they are being oppressed by each other, so I do not think that God chooses sides on who gets to enter heaven, that is, IF there is a heaven.  I don't believe that there are people who are extra special, that by believing or saying the right things will put a person in a better category than someone who does not when they die and so I do not feel a rush to evangelize.  I want people to have a peaceful and fulfilling life now whether that means living a life as a follower of Christ or as an atheist-both are valid, in my opinion.

That being said, I do consider myself an ambassador of Christiandom, meaning that I recognize that I represent Christians, especially progressive Christians; therefore, I must be on my best behavior.  I must still be authentic to who I am, of course, but basically, what I want is when people find out that I am a Christian, I want them to be left with a good taste in their mouth, which is why I like the book's caution of not being "too salty."  Christians are supposed to be the salt of the world and I liked that this book cautioned against overdoing it and not being in people's face about my faith-what the book called being "too salty."  In fact, The Story Lives, for the most part, is presented in a way that I can support for it is about being authentic, not overdoing or overstepping boundaries, helping others in a nonthreatening way, going beyond the church to help others, looking beyond the church for leadership opportunities.  Since I participate in the feminist, intellectual, and geek worlds, many of my friends are atheist, agnostic, or from different faiths, and I want them to know that I am not judging them or even tolerating them, but that I like to hear what they have to say.  I do not consider a judgmental Christian to be a Christian with their priorities in true order.    
Of course, being nonjudgmental also applies to one's self and funnily enough, I actually find that to be much harder sometimes.  My therapist was reminding me to be nonjudgmental towards myself just this past Monday.  I suppose though, if I taste alright to other people, then surely I must taste fine to myself too, right? That is the goal, anyway.  I am really just a little anxious-it is so hard to be patient!-because soon I will be moving out of the house after five years of living with my parents!!!  A big part of me is still in shock.  Happy shock!   A big smile is on my face just thinking about it.  Don't worry, I will write more in depth about it later. 

Do I recommend the book?  Well, I do if that is your theology.  I think it is very well written and extremely respectful, but just not quite my cup of tea.  If you think people need to be saved, then I think this book could be very thought provoking and could really help you be more respectful and holistic.  I appreciated this book and it helped me see that not all people who think this way are obnoxious, which is how I hope a lot of people see me, so it is perhaps a very good thing that I read the book.  It helped me be a little less judgmental towards people of my own faith.  Sadly enough, it is the "too salty" Christians that the author talks about that I am often the most judgmental or afraid of and I need to look beyond our differences and towards our similarities, just like I do with the other people in my life.  With all that is going on in the news about Hobby Lobby and reproductive rights and gay rights, I am feeling a little sore against conservative Christians, but even so, looking at people as the enemy only breeds hate and despair, while deep inside I know it would be better to breed love and understanding, which would help lead us towards reconciliation. 

Let us look at each other as people to understand, rather than as people to oppose.

Link Love:
Congress should not make any decisions about programs meant to help families living in poverty without people who know poverty first hand at the decision-making table.

He explained that now that I knew what was required, we could have a great time in the bedroom. I told him no. I would not hide from my own body. 


“You can’t change the laws without changing the images,” she said. “It is one thing to say we exist; it is another thing to show it. Art is political, art is about activism. And it’s beyond just the art. I also want to contest the notions of an African homosexuality, and I’m hoping that others will come up with similar visual narratives in Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Virgin Islands Vacation Day Four - Revealing Godde In A Recipe and More

We are distinct from God-we are not God ourselves - but we are part of who and what God is, and God is a part of who and what we are. The entire world reveals God. (75, Making A Way Out of No Way, Monica A Coleman)

The fourth day was much better because I remembered my new mantra from the "Girls Are Not Chicks" coloring book:
I do not need conventional femininity!
Also, my parents solved my snorkeling problem by renting me a "turtle-board," which is a plastic board with a clear bottom-perfect for being able to paddle around with my glasses on to see the fish and coral. I recommend it for anyone who is as blind as I am! I discovered that the pictures of the coral do not come out well through the clear bottom, so the next day I gave my water-resistant camera to my dad. Having enough sleep, and with a fresh perspective, I was ready to witness how the Virgin Islands reveal Godde on day four. I saw it in the animals, as we ran into a herd of goats running around and I thought they were so cute!
I tasted God with my tastebuds in a pina colada from Shipwreck Landing, which made the best pina colada I have ever had!
At Shipwreck Landing, I looked awful-my hair was a mess, I was wearing grey leggings over an emerald green bathing suit and sneakers, but I was not there to model, I was there to enjoy myself and enjoy myself I did!  Happily, I had learned my lesson from the previous day.

I touched God by cooking the best meal of the trip that day.  I say, "touched God," because by cooking I was able to feed and thus heal and restore the energy of myself and my parents in a very pleasurable way.  When I cook for other people I am giving part of my essence to them, just like Godde gives part of her essence to us in Her creation every day.  

(from Allrecipes.com with adaptations-originally was Mahi Mahi)

Ingredients
2 T Olive Oil
1 1/2 t Soy Sauce
1 Clove Garlic
1 t Ground Black Pepper
1/2 t Ground Ginger
Salt to taste
1 lb Chicken Breasts
2 Cups Uncooked Jasmine Rice
1 Can Chicken Broth
2 T White Sugar
1 Can Coconut Milk
1 1/2 Butter
1 1/2 White Sugar
1 Fresh Mango, Cubed

Instructions
Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, ginger, salt together in a bowl.  Add the chicken breasts and toss to coat.  Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the rice, chicken broth, and butter to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, about twenty minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk and the 2 T of sugar.  Stir and simmer uncovered until the rice has absorbed almost all of the milk.

While the rice is cooking, remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess.  Discard extra.  Place chicken in a large baking dish in a single layer.  Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes.  

After the chicken is placed in the oven, melt 1 1/2 T butter and 1 1/2 T sugar in a skillet over medium-high heat.   When the mixture begins to bubble, stir in mango cubes.  Cook and stir until the mango is tender, about five minutes.  Serve by placing a chicken breast over a mound of hot rice with a topping of mango salsa.

OMG!!!  The creamy rice is addicting and the super sweet mangoes make your lips go smack!  The chicken is tender and one can really taste the marinade.  This recipe is a WINNER!!!

I am going to make this recipe again soon, this time with fish and I cannot wait!

So what did I learn from day four?  That just when my disability seems to be limiting and frustrating, with some investigating and help, I can often find a solution to help ease my stress.  I learned that I can appreciate Godde's spirit by admiring her wandering animals and that I can experience being a part of Godde by cooking for other people.  I learned that there is value in enjoying the simple pleasures in life and that how I or others feel about my looks should not hamper a trip to get a tasty treat.  I hope that you take the time to notice how the world reveals God to you between now and the next time I write!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Adoration by Martha Kilpatrick - A Feminist Book Review

Adoration: Mary of Bethany-The Untold Story by Martha Kilpatrick is a Speakeasy book in the spirit of His Desire Is For Me, as in it is written by a conservative and it is about adoration that is sickeningly sweet-Boo!  Fortunately, it was short.  The book is written in poetic style, which I did like.  What I did not like was the constant "He," "His" "Him" capitalized everywhere in reference to Godde.  It really seemed excessive and like the patriarchy was hitting me in the face.  The book was about Mary, the sister of Martha-the one who listened to Jesus, as opposed to Martha, who worked and so was chastised.   I found it very frustrating, as it sees things in total all or nothing - Mary was the adoring saint and Martha was the arrogant worker and there was never any room for anything in between.  Kilpatrick needs to learn some DBT!!!  I do not like the idea of vilifying Martha, as Kilpatrick seemed to be doing-women get vilified enough for working hard and wanting knowledge, as it is.

Also, this line deeply bothers me and goes against my personal theology:
The temptation is to believe that to love your neighbor is to love God.
Of course it is! In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says:
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
If that's not loving God, then I don't know what is! If loving a fellow creation that Godde has made is not loving the Creator Herself, then I don't know what is!

Adoration: Mary of Bethany does have some good bits, but unfortunately they are clouded over by the sheer enormity of the patriarchy present in this book.  I do not recommend it.

Kilpatrick on Facebook.  Shulamite Ministries  Kilpatrick's Blog: Get Along With God

Link Love:

“We need to understand that the mental health issues seen in the LGBT population as a result of minority stress are normal ways of responding to abnormal environmental stressors when our coping is depleted,” she says. “We need to address people’s isolation and secrecy around mental health issues through public education.” 

 Hobby Lobby and similar companies are placing themselves at the spiritual decision table, and they were not invited


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Virgin Islands Vacation Day Three - I Do Not Need Conventional Beauty!

Day Three was a day of glorious pictures.  First, we went to Trunk Bay Beach.  I did not feel too good that day due to chronic fatigue and fibro, but I distracted myself by taking lots of beautiful pictures.
Isn't that picture inviting?  I just want to walk down that path again...

I loved Trunk Bay, but I got frustrated, because supposedly it had wonderful snorkeling and I was tired of waiting to see what was in the water until I got to look at my pictures at night.  Fortunately, the next day, my mom was a genius and came up with a solution, but in the meantime, it was hard for me not to get annoyed.  It was especially hard for me not to get annoyed because I was tired and hurting.  I did still get some good underwater pictures, though.  Here's my favorite one for the day:
It's some kind of coral.

On our way back to our cute cottage, we stopped at a overlook and I captured some gorgeous pictures:
(That's a papaya tree on the left.)

I just love the different shades of green!

Now on vacation, as in life, it is important to have goals and my mom came up with a good one-she proposed that we have a smoothie everyday!  My dad and I deemed this a worthy goal and the fruity, sugary sweetness soon perked me up.  
Colombo's turned out to be one of our favorite smoothie places! 

After a much needed nap, we went on the Francis Bay Walking Trail.  I still was not feeling that well, but I am glad I went, because once again, I took beautiful pictures.  The trail took us to the beach:

I believe my favorite trail of the day was at Francis Bay, but I am not sure.  We walked it right before dusk, on this boardwalk where we were covered by a canopy of creepy mangroves.  Actually, like a lot of things I would later discover on the island, the nature surrounding me was slightly creepy and yet very beautiful.  The trees provided wonderful shade.  
We stopped at a pond and saw ducks!
I had a good day!  Unfortunately, when I got home my mind was so tired that it was stuck ruminating.  I am embarrassed to say that it was stuck on repeat obsessing about my body.  I felt weird that I was wearing a long sleeved shirt when I went snorkeling when everyone else was wearing bikinis.  I was doing it because I did not want to get any more sunburned, but they did not know that-what if they thought that I am - *gasp* - unfashionable?  I decided to pull out my most tried and true DBT coping skill, which is to distract myself until the thoughts pass.  I pulled out my "Girls Are Not Chicks" coloring book and the first page I turned to instantly got my mind back where it needed to be.

"When she stopped chasing the dangling carrot of conventional femininity, she was finally able to savor being a women."

After reading this quote and coloring the page, I felt free!  During the trip, I thought of the quote often and I even made it into a mantra by telling myself,
I do not need conventional femininity!
This was very handy during the trip, because as I quickly found out, the Virgin Islands are not a place to be classically beautiful. My hair was always frizzy, my skin was greasy from the sunscreen and I eventually gave up from showing skin on the beach at all and instead chose to wear both a long-sleeved shirt AND leggings, just to be extra sure that I would not get a sun-burn. Conventional beauty was out, but health and happiness was in!  The myth is that conventional womanhood is obtainable and at least where I was, it was not.  The truth is that it never really is for long-we might as well be happy with ourselves and our own versions of woman or manhood, whatever that means for us and throw "conventionality" away.

Link Love:


 The idea of weight loss creating health is what I call a Galileo Issue – it’s widely believed, fervently supported, it’s heresy to suggest that it’s not true, and yet it is not supported by evidence. 

Mindless Productivity - Not Everyone Is Beautiful
Beauty is the only trait that everyone gets free access to. Why?

Because we have created a culture that values beauty above all other innate traits…for women, at least. Men are generally valued by their success, which is seen solely as a result of talent and hard work, despite how much it depends on luck and knowing the right people.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Genesis And the Rise of Civilization - A Book Review

I am proud to say that I have been meditating on the Bible two days in a row when I have been really anxious and I must say, it has really helped!  For my non-believer friends, I think meditating on any inspirational book would work for you. (Or music or piece of art or nature...)  I read until I feel positively inspired in some way and then I pause and write down those thoughts.  Since I just reviewed the book, His Desire is For Me, on the Song of Songs, I thought I would start there!  I must admit I was feeling really negative and depressed today, but after reading Chapter 2 of the Song of Songs this is what I wrote:
My Godde has many things to show me-he is not finished with me yet. I am looking at the small picture problems and not rejoicing in the big picture victories.
In my last post I talked about viewing my Godde as my life-partner, rather than as my king:
my Godde was there as my life-giving partner, not my dominating Lord or King, but soul-sustaining, hope-giving Spirit and Friend.
 
Most churches compromise and say that Godde and Jesus is your King AND your friend, but I think that is ridiculous!  King and lord language is distancing language, for everyone knows that one cannot be friends with a king-kings are always power grabbers-they are above even the one percent!  I do not believe that Godde has all the power and so I do not give Her the title of King or Queen.  I really prefer the idea of Godde and I being in a partnership, a give and take relationship, and this is actually supported in the Bible-Godde made covenant after covenant with Her people in the Bible.  A covenant is a promise based on relationship, based on trust-and Godde held Her promises past the point when Her people did - this is NOT something a king would do, but something rather a friend or lover would.

This is why I liked j. snodgrass' book, Genesis: The Rise of Civilization, so much: it posited that Godde is really on the side of the tribal rebels than on the kings.  Snodgrass thinks that the book of Genesis is really about the struggle between the competition between feudalism (civilization) and the more carefree nomads.  Patriarchal history has made it seem like God is on the side of the monarchy and following rules and order, but Snodgrass does not think so.  He sees the loners as being the ones more willing to go out on a limb and follow the one true God, while those who are more well-known as becoming complacent and fitting in with society, ultimately exploiting the poor.  It is a funny book with quotes from some of my favorite science-fiction authors and I think it would be an entertaining read for anyone who is interested in mythology, as Snodgrass brings in symbolism and stories from many cultures.  I agree with how he reads the Bible:
I read the Bible as a thousand-year-old debate about the nature of God. There are multiple sides to this discussion, each with its own ideas about what God wants from humanity [...] and the debate is additionally complicated because there are two Gods in the Old Testament: a god of subjugation and a god of liberation. Obviously these gods will expect different behaviors from us.
He had also had this to say:
It is harsh, but true and I found it refreshing to read someone who also questions what they read and does not gloss over the parts that are problematic.  Snodgrass has written other books and I would like to read them too!  Also, besides writing theology, he writes comedic biblical plays and comics!

Friday, June 13, 2014

His Desire Is For Me - A Book Review

His Desire Is For Me: The Story of Solomon and The Shulammite by Bob Emery




On Facebook   On Goodreads

This was a book I got from Speakeasy and I must admit that I got so disgusted with the super-mushy romantic writing and the bad theology that I only read about half of it.  But that doesn't mean that you do not get a thorough review!  I am still going to talk about the points I liked and the points I really did not.

I was really excited about this book as it is a devotional about the Song of Songs, the rarely talked about love poem in the Bible written by Soloman.  Optimally, it is meant to be read in thirty days, but as I have said before, I do not have the patience for that kind of reading.  Each day opens with several pages with a fictional expansion on what might have taken place between Solomon and the Shulammite and then it has several more pages under "points to consider" that are theology.  The section then ends with a prayer.  Let me say this: not all people, or even all women, are into super intensive romance mush.  I like the Song of Songs, because romance is easier for me to take in and think about in artful and poetic formats, but the sections that are written out are too ordinary and mushy for and I ended up skimming them and then I just skipped them entirely and went straight to the theology.

Here is one example of the cheesy romance:

Wherever we go, I will not be afraid, just as long as you are there. (106)
 Gag me!  And to me that is bad theology-just because I love my partner and agree to follow them, does not mean that I still will not have times where I will not still be afraid.  The point is not that you are afraid, but that you go on anyway.  That's faith.  To state that life with your partner or life with Jesus means that you will never be afraid, to me, is lying and presenting an inauthentic version of yourself.

Unfortunately, I soon became disgusted with the theology too:
Why did Jesus heal only that one man that day?  It was because the Father who dealt within Jesus as Spirit, in Christ's spirit, was showing and telling his Son, "This is the man, my Son, whom I want you to heal today." (115)
 No, it was because the man was ready.  The man consented to be healed-he was tired of waiting and being complacent and was finally ready for action.  A person can be sick, but be complacent in their illness and not really be ready to be well-it is not so much that God chose the man, but that the man made the choice-that is free will!

Therefore, what is happening in my life right now (unless it involves outright sin on my part) must be the perfect expression of the will of God and is for my ultimate good.  (122)
 This is outright BAD theology!  Is my mental illness, my blindness, my fibromyalgia, and my chronic fatigue syndrome bestowed upon me by Godde for my ultimate good?  NO!  And it surely isn't because I sinned, either!  No, I have those conditions, because of genetics and because of life circumstances-Godde did not inflict them on me to teach me a lesson, but instead I eventually chose to find positives in those conditions and I chose to keep on striving for well-being with the help of my parents, my therapist, my friends, support groups, doctors, and yes, my Godde was there as my life-giving partner, not my dominating Lord or King, but soul-sustaining, hope-giving Spirit and Friend.  I do not believe that God purposely gives people hardship for their well-being, but that hardship on its own is a part of life and that if we listen to Godde's urging then we will be able to discern which direction to take in order to see the bad situation or condition in a more positive light.

The book presents the story of Solomon and the Shulammite as ultimately an allegory between how much Jesus loves us and our relationship to him, but I just do not see how that is possible, considering that that poem was written before Christ was ever born.  Context, people!!!  While Emery tries hard to make it work, I still find it too much of a stretch and disgusting to corrupt beautiful poetry that way by trying to make it fit into what you want it to be (I was an English major, after all).

There are some statements in the book that I do agree with and that is the idea that we must rest in Godde and Christ to provide our sustenance before we can adequately give to others.  (Sort of like we must love ourselves before we can love others, so we must be adequately rested in Jesus before we can work for him.)

Before we can adequately serve others, we need the Lord to refresh and fill us so that, out of fullness, we will have something to give. (46)
On Peter: He needed to allow the Lord to wash the dust of this world off of his feet, refresh him, and fill him before he would ever be of any use in serving others. (77)
I like this idea-it really resonates with my feelings of needing time for myself for renewal.  Even though I just got back from vacation (and I will write more vacation posts soon), I still feel like I need to draw away for some internal renewal and several books that I have read-this one included-have made me think that perhaps one of the reasons why I am still not feeling adequately renewed is because I have been trying to get renewal by being alone, but not by being alone with Godde.  It really would help if I started meditating on scripture or bringing my journal when I go out into nature and write spiritual poetry and spiritual reflections, instead of sitting there and receiving blessings that only last for minutes.  Because I am a doer and I need active participation and listening with my Godde-sitting there in silence just won't quite cut it for me, but if I specifically sit with the intention to write down my spiritual gleanings from the experience or do spiritual artwork on a regular basis, then my soul is more easily filled.  Of course, another way to be filled by Godde is to be with people and to serve them, for I find Jesus in the face of every person I help and encourage and in everyone that helps and encourages me!

Do I recommend this book?  Well, everyone else gave it good review, so you may like it a lot! However, I would only give it two stars out of five.

Link Love:

the Southern Baptist convention went from declaring that “War is a scourge, is wrong in principle and morally corrupting” to spending a considerable amount of time arguing that there should not be homosexuals openly in the military because it damages the military’s ability to kill people.

Being sex-positive must also include being supportive and respectful of those who aren’t interested in or aren’t ready for sex, for whatever reason — this includes not questioning, challenging, or harassing people who express a desire to not be sexual, whether for a lifetime or a given period of time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Virgin Islands Vacation Day Two - Redemption By Snorkeling!

Day two I woke and discovered a cute little lizard in the dining room:
He really blends into the tile!

We also saw lots of donkeys wandering beside the road.  (My dad pronounces it "dun-keys.")
Donkeys, goats, and chickens wander the countryside and roads freely!

This was also the day that I learned how to snorkel:
We went to Cinnamon Bay, which a beautiful beach, but I do not recommend it for your first time because the coral is close to the shore and it will take a while to get used to not getting too close when trying to stand up.  Other than that though, it was perfect!  I was glad that I had thought to buy an underwater camera before we left for vacation.  Something I don't talk about much is that I am legally blind-it usually does not bother me, but I could only see blurry colors in the water, so I would point the camera at the colors in the water and hope some good pictures would result.  Here are some of them:

In the last picture, you can see a sea urchin and when they are huge like that with tall spikes, they are super scary, like something out of a Stephen King novel, but I am still glad that I got to see them in person.  The last time I got a chance to snorkel was in fifth grade and I was too afraid to try-I kept on imagining a giant hand rising up from the depths and pulling me under or some huge sea monster eating me up-sometimes having a well developed imagination can be problematic!

As a reward for conquering my fear, we had to go get a smoothie!
I got a "banana boat" and it was fabulous-bananas and vanilla ice cream.  Yum!!!  We then strolled through the fancy galleries and the national park visitor's center.  It talked about how Columbus' men first killed off the native people called the Taino and then later brought slaves from Africa.  It makes me wonder why this need for colonization?  For dominating other people?  Where did my culture get this idea that it is superior?  A patriarchal mindset that lets you see people as tools to be used surely helps.  I would like to say that as a culture we are progressing and I think we are, but still we must remain ever vigilant against the racism that leads to more people of color being put in prison and being raped.  I saw this sign that read, "Taino Spirit" and thought it was wonderful, but wondered how can they know know what their Taino spirit is when they had all been killed off?  I suppose you could say the Taino spirit lives in the way the people continue to welcome visitors to the island, just like the Taino welcomed Columbus.  Now it is a good thing, but then, not so much.


All that heavy snorkling and pondering made me tired, so we went back to our cottage for a nap and then it was time for dinner at Coral Bay Oasis.

 It's a local bar and restaurant that always has a chicken, pork, vegetarian, and fish entree and plenty of extra sides.  Fabulous food!  I got the cheesy crab pie with a side salad.  The pie was slightly spicy, very cheesy and hearty with a sweet crust-very good.  I v ery much recommend the place if you are in the coral bay area-you can find them on facebook and they post their new menu daily.

In DBT they say that if you are afraid of something to go ahead and do it-I wish I could go back in time and convince my twelve-year-old self to face her fears, but then again, at the time I did not have the skills needed to be able to do that.  I am so glad that I got the chance to redeem myself on day two!  Blessed be!