Christianity and Rape Culture (A Glimpse)

Readers,

Do you ever read something or watch something on TV that so disturbs you that you’re filled with anger and you feel the need to tell someone about it? That happened to me yesterday.

I read an online post about the 2018 Golden Globe awards and the writer criticized these stars for wearing black, thereby protesting sexual assault/harassment, while still dressing “immodestly” and “allowing themselves to be objectified.” She went on to say that women of Christ should dress “modestly” because it “respects and loves our brothers in Christ.” Jesus said that whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28). Essentially, by covering up our bodies, we help our brothers in Christ stay away from sexual sin.

I’m hesitant to dive right in to this topic because there are so many layers and different opinions. I can’t say that my opinion is absolute truth. I’m sure there are areas that need to be illuminated by someone else with a wider view of the issue, but I must share my thoughts on this because this type of rhetoric is incredibly damaging.

 

Growing up in a semi-Christian environment, I was taught that my body needed covering. If I wanted to be a “good Christian girl”, I needed to cover my breasts, thighs, and butt. Why? Because Christian men might become aroused by my tight dress or pants. I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts that came above the knee. Because I developed breasts at such an early age, my mother was hyper-aware of how I dressed. There were many shirts that would fit my body normally if it were not for my breasts. Everything I wore was deemed borderline inappropriate. I never put two-and-two together and realized that the clothing wasn’t in the wrong; my body was. If I were thinner and smaller chested, would my clothing choices be such an issue? Absolutely not. So essentially we are saying that curvy women should hide their bodies because men will be attracted to them because of their curves. 

 

I grew up with the mentality that my body was naturally sexually suggestive and would always need careful guarding. I was bustier than every other girl I ever knew and would therefore have to cover up a little more. This way of thinking was further enforced by a staff worker on my India trip. In India, I was thrice sexually assaulted by strange men on the street. My breasts and butt were touched against my will. What was I wearing? Not American clothes, that’s for sure. I was dressed in Indian clothes. I was “modest”, according to Indian social rules. But, I was still touched. In fact, I was touched the most out of my team of ten women. While thinking about and mourning these assaults, I decided to rebel a little. No longer did I want to wear my dupatta over my breasts, after seeing how my female teammates neglected to wear them before leaving the apartment. If they could go without one, why couldn’t I? I asked my staff worker and she grimaced a little. I could see what she was thinking. She said, “Gabby, they don’t really need to wear one. But, you really should…” My eyes probably gave away my initial angry reaction. She followed up with, “Because they work in the city and you’re more in the suburbs, the slums. Things are different there.” Okay, she was right about that. I’ll give her that one. But, I also know that I was initially forbidden to go without a dupatta because of my breasts. But, even when I wore a dupatta, which was every day, I was still looked at and touched. Did the dupatta actually do anything for my protection? Absolutely not.

Let me just say it here once and for all: A WOMAN’S CLOTHING DOES NOT INVITE SEXUAL ASSAULT OR JUSTIFY A MAN OR WOMAN’S ASSAULT ON THAT WOMAN.

It also does not disqualify a woman’s protest of or thoughts on the topic of sexual assault in the workplace. A woman could stand in front of a crowd stark naked, speaking out against sexual assault, and her words would still be valid. Why? Because her worth and contributions to the discussion are not determined by her clothing. She is valid because she is human. 

Let’s go back to what Jesus said about looking at a woman with lust. He said it equates to having sex with her. That’s pretty intense. The Lord knew that men are visual and will easily engage in mental fantasies with an attractive woman. But, let’s be honest, men can sexually assault a woman, a man, a child, an animal…anything. We’ve seen this. We’ve known this. Many of us have personally and painfully experienced this.

Note that Jesus did not mention that women should cover themselves in order to avoid the male gaze. Not once did Jesus talk about anything remotely related to the whole “Modest is Hottest” movement that has been so strong in our churches. In fact, the only mention of women’s dress in the New Testament, which is the new covenant that we are under, is a mention of women dressing modestly in terms of expensive clothes.

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” (I Timothy 2:9).

Clearly Paul is saying that women should not arrive for fellowship time dressed in the finest clothes with the most decadent jewelry and elaborate hairstyles. Oh wait, this actually sounds like most of our churches today. Don’t women try to look their best on Sunday? This means the best clothes, the nicest jewelry, and every hair in place. Have we misunderstood Paul’s words here and actually behave like this during our church services? Many church women who are decked out in designer clothes have looked down on a woman whose skirt was ‘too short” or whose dress was “too tight”, unaware of the fact that she herself is offending Paul’s cry for modesty in dress by how expensive her clothing is. 

Also, cultures greatly differ on what’s appropriate and inappropriate. When I was in India, I could’ve rocked a sari every day, showing my stomach and back. That was appropriate. In my culture, American and Puerto Rican culture, that is absolutely not modest at all! I remember watching some Indian women work one day and thinking, “My God they’re showing so much skin. But, that’s modest in this culture.” I swear my mind was blown to Mars and back at the thought that stomachs and backs are acceptable but breasts, butts, and legs are not. Indians take great lengths to cover the breasts with a dupatta and their shirts are loose and are as long as knee-length dresses, effectively covering the butt and legs. In American and Puerto Rican culture alike, showing cleavage or wearing a tight skirt is not inappropriate. See how the cultures vary? There is no such thing as a standard way of modest dressing. In fact, in some cultures, women can walk around topless and that’s the norm! What do we do with women of those cultures when we evangelize? Do we tell them to put on a bra and a loose t-shirt after they’re saved? No we don’t. That’s a colonialistic way of thinking. Tear it down.

If we keep this rape culture narrative going, it will spiral. If a woman is assaulted or cat-called, she’s asked:

“What were you wearing?”

“Why did you go out that night? Why did you go alone?”

“You knew men would be attracted to you, didn’t you?”

“Why did you accept the drink he offered if you didn’t want him?”

“Why did you drink so much?”

Readers, a woman’s behavior is no justification for a man’s actions. We firmly plant all of the culpability on a woman’s shoulders by repeating this lie to ourselves and each other. Countless Christian and non-Christian women have had shameful coals heaped on their heads by family members, friends, and church leaders in this way. Stop it. This is evil.

A woman can wear whatever she wants, but a Christian woman should honor God with her clothing. She should honor God in all she does. When I get dressed, I ask myself a few questions that I hope are helpful to other women who want to dress in a God-honoring way:

  1. Why am I wearing this?
  2. Am I wearing this to attract men/use my femininity to get something from them?

If my answer to the latter is “yes”, then I either change my outfit or rewire my thinking. I remind myself that I like how this red dress fits my curves. I like the way this red lipstick makes my lips look. I do it for myself and not for men. 

 

 

I’m going to close out this brief glimpse into Christianity and Rape Culture by including my comment to this person’s blog post:

I think if a woman chooses to wear a dress that’s see-through in certain places or has a slit, that’s her choice. How a man reacts is his choice. Yes he will immediately be drawn to her, but what happens next is on him. Our brothers in Christ can literally be attracted to anything. Some men get turned on by feet, for example.

Also, regarding cultural sensitivity, there are certain cultures where dressing in fewer garments is actually the norm. In India, for example, women show their midriffs and backs every day. Here, that would be considered “slutty.” There, it’s modest. In Korea, wearing miniskirts is totally normal. Here, it’s seen as “slutty.” So if we should dress a certain way to help our brothers in Christ, then how should we dress? Because I don’t think it’s the same all around.

Regarding the women, each woman has an individual story and belief system regarding her femininity and what that means/how to express it. We can NEVER judge people who behave in the way they’ve been taught to behave. This is what women are taught. I can guarantee that 99% of the women on that Red Carpet do not know Christ. Why are we expected to hold them to the standard of a woman who has been walking with the Lord for years? It is unfair to judge them in this way.

The fact is, a woman could be walking around naked and A. be dressed appropriately in some cultures and not asking for it or B. if it’s not appropriate, still not be asking for it.

Asking women to cover up their bodies before talking about sexual assault is giving in to the patriarchal mindset and rape culture narrative that women are indeed asking for it. Why don’t the men cover up? Bulging muscles and tight pants draw attention to their bodies as well. Why are women blamed for being women and having curves? This just plays into the old rhetoric of the female temptress.

Gabrielle G. 
And, yes, I chose that picture of myself very intentionally. 🙂
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Thoughts on a Plane

I need Christ. I need more of Christ. I need more of His regenerative power. I need to trust Jesus and His plan for me. I need the Holy Spirit to change me more and conform me to the image of my Lord. I am tormented by my sinful nature. Like Paul said, “I want to do the right thing, but I can’t. I always do the wrong thing.” And yet, I don’t feel that God is angry with me. I feel that His heart breaks for my brokenness.

If only I would offer up my heart and mind to Him for divine healing…If only. It’s so hard to come to the cross of Christ and offer up my life to Him. I must do it every day. It’s much easier to hold onto my past traumas and current pains. Releasing it all into Christ’s hands would be so liberating…but it requires much faith.

And who would I be if I couldn’t identify by my pain anymore? What kind of identity does Christ have for me? I sense Him pulling up these traumas and pains and separating my identity from their twisted roots. They’ve mangled their way around my little heart, squeezing and hurting me.

The Lord’s operation hurts as well, but I know that it’s best for me. Others can call this rotten growth up and smooth a salve over it, but none can extract it, thereby healing it. I’ll gladly repurchase the salve, increasing the thickness each time I apply it, satisfied for the moment. But, a complete removal is too costly, too painful, too risky. It’s an investment.

Lord, help me to make that investment and take that risk. I know who my Doctor is. He is the One who formed my body and fashioned me in my uniqueness. I can trust Him with my body. I can trust Him to honor and respect my body even more than I can. My body is His home. My sinful self houses my Lord, yet He does not point out each dirty corner and piece of old furniture. He simply changes it all. He tears it down to build a mansion of little old Gabrielle G.

 

 

New Yorkers and Homelessness

How to be a typical New Yorker when a homeless person comes on the train:

1. Look away
2. Scoff at their personal story as they’re sharing it
3. Roll your eyes
4. Move away completely and act like they don’t exist
5. If you give something, give out of pity and give a dollar or your leftover food

I’ve seen this behavior from followers of Christ and non-believers alike. Followers of Christ, do not think you couldn’t be in their position in a MOMENT. Do not become so secure in your earthly possessions that you look down upon those who lack possessions. Do NOT forget that Christ had nowhere to lay His head and He repeatedly told us to give away our possessions and care for those in need. If you typically do any of the above things when you see a homeless person, check yourself.

 

I think this behavior is so rampant and so identified as a New York thing because we, as New Yorkers, have become so cynical. We see homelessness every day as we commute to our jobs or schools. I probably encounter 10-15 homeless people each day, whether that’s on the train or on the street. As I took an early bus yesterday to the LGA airport in NYC, a homeless woman came on the bus and asked for money. That was my first time seeing a homeless person on a NYC bus; I think it’s easier to get onto the trains.

New Yorkers have witnessed so much evil in human hearts: the 9/11 terror attack, the ways Wall Street has flaunted its wealth and taken advantage of people, and the segregation of people of color in our neighborhoods and schools. We’ve witnessed too much evil. Almost every day we hear about some type of terror attack or stabbing or shooting or rape or mugging or embezzlement and it just becomes exhausting.

So we disengage. We look away. We keep our money in our wallets, because we don’t believe the homeless person’s story. We are on high alert at all times, knowing that at any moment a person, homeless or not, could pull out a weapon and end our lives. A bomb could explode in the train station. So much could happen. Therefore we ignore each other, distrusting every person we see, especially the homeless.

Lord, redeem this. Ignite our hearts for the homeless. Help us take risks in the way we extend love to others. Even if we get duped while giving a dollar to someone who invents a false personal history, does it really matter? I believe the Lord looks at the heart of the giver. No matter, what we give, whether that’s money, food, a sympathizing glance, or encouraging words, we must give it all with joy and love.

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.'”  – II Corinthians 9:7

Find some practical ways that you can love your neighbor. Because that homeless person on the train or street is your neighbor. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Behold, He is coming soon. Let’s be ready to meet our Lord and regale Him with tales of our devotion and action. Jesus is calling.

 

Blessings,
Gabrielle G.

Typical “Women’s Ministry” Fails Women

Readers,

I am absolutely fed up with typical women’s ministry as it’s practiced in church settings. Typical women’s ministry is best understood as groups of women who gather together to discuss their difficulties as mothers and wives. Or, we’re subjected to Scripture study of very specific books like “Ruth” and “Esther” and the primary idea to be grasped is that we have to be Godly women, wait on the right man, and our Boaz will come along eventually. 

Too often, women’s ministry encompasses the following topics:

  1. How to best support your husband as he leads you and the family
  2. How to be a Godly mother
  3. How to balance your time and your duties in the home
  4. How to serve at the church (typically behind the scenes and with children, if there’s a children’s ministry)

In case people don’t know, not all women are wives and mothers. Some of us don’t even want to be wives and mothers. That does not diminish our womanhood or femininity. We’re not incomplete as women because we’re single and childless. We are able to offer just as much to the kingdom of God as any man, no matter our marital status or the state of our wombs. It is not the end goal of a woman’s life to be married and have children. That is a patriarchal way of thinking. Tear it down.

Let’s consider the multiple ways that the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles treated women. First and foremost, Jesus Christ is the best feminist ever. He fully supports equality between the sexes. A man is not greater than a woman. A woman is not greater than a man. Both equally reflect the image of God. Both have value and purpose in this life. We see how Jesus responds to women multiple times throughout Scripture, whether that’s saving the woman caught in adultery,  gently forgiving the woman with several husbands, showing kindness toward the Gentile woman with great faith, and healing Mary Magdalene of all of her demons and accepting her as one of His followers. By follower, I mean that she quite literally followed Jesus, right alongside Peter and John. She left everything she knew to serve Jesus and followed Him. Luke 8 tells of the several women who financially supported Jesus’ ministry. Clearly, the Lord loves women!

Now, as far as His apostles go, there is often talk of the Apostle Paul being misogynistic and backward in his way of thinking about women. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything that the Apostle Paul had to say about women must be understood in the proper cultural context. For example, when Paul said that women should “remain silent” in the church, he did not mean that women should literally never speak. He was pointing out a problem that happened during church services. Women would hear Paul preach and, during the service, ask their husbands what he meant. Paul says that this should be reserved for the home, because they were simply interrupting the service and distracting everyone.

The Apostle Paul is the one who famously said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:28. Here, Paul is not saying that the differences between men and women don’t matter, or that we have no differences, but he is saying that the old way of thinking, the patriarchal way of thinking, has been abolished by Christ’s sacrifice. In heaven, we are all equal and because we are citizens of heaven living on Earth, we must be equal here as well.

Let’s consider then how we should approach women’s ministry. What can and should women contribute to the King’s work on Earth? Well, pretty much everything. Although I agree with Scripture’s prohibition regarding women serving as senior pastors, women can serve in virtually any context. Worship leader? Yup. Small group leader? Definitely. Missionary? Yes, please! We need more of you on the mission field. Outreach and evangelism? Absolutely. Prayer coordinator? No doubt.

You get the idea.

I want to be a part of a women’s ministry that is focused on training women to be better image bearers of Christ. I want to be taught evangelism. I want someone to show me the best ways to do outreach. I want to be trained as a missionary! Let’s gather together and talk about theology, doctrine, and apologetics. Let’s discuss how we can serve the world with our incredible gifts as women of God. Let’s talk about our own struggles with pornography. Can we get into how hard it is for WOMEN to be sexually pure?

Ladies, we are not defined by a ring on our finger or a baby on our hip! We are defined by Christ Jesus alone and we have as much responsibility to bring more of God’s kingdom on earth as any man. We will be held accountable for our actions on earth and I’m not just talking about sin. When we behold the face of Jesus, the last thing we want is to ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I do more for Him?” You are a Kingdom-chaser and a warrior for Christ. Let’s start acting like that, husband or no husband.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

 

Why I Reject Santeria as an Afro-Latina

As more Latinos claim their African ancestry as a point of pride and call themselves “Afro-Latinos”, I have begun to see a resurfacing of acceptance of Santeria and other types of Brujeria (witchcraft). This spirituality is typically practiced amongst women who call themselves “Santeras”, although men, “Santeros”, practice it as well. In their opinion, they are bringing healing and prosperity to themselves and others, by tapping into the strength of their ancestors and the gods of their people. For many Afro-Latinos, to claim Afrolatinidad means to embrace the religious and spiritual practices of our African ancestors. I am here to boldly claim that I do not accept any part of Santeria or any other religious/spiritual practice other than the way of Jesus Christ. I am not less Afro-Latina because I reject Santeria. Santeria is a dangerous practice that injures its followers’ minds, bodies, and most importantly, their souls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Santeria, I’ll briefly explain what it is and what it means to its followers. You may use the beautiful resource that is Google to learn more if you’d like. Santeria, per Wikipedia, “is an Afro-American religion of Caribbean origin that developed in the Spanish Empire among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the “worship of saints”. Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language, a variety of Yoruba, is the Lucumí language”. 

Essentially, when Africans were brought to the Caribbean islands as slaves, they were forced to become Roman Catholics, as the Spaniards were Catholic. These Africans absolutely did not want to give up their religious practices, as religion is a massively important part of any culture. Therefore, they worshipped their African gods in secret, masquerading them as Roman Catholic saints. As the Catholics prayed to the saints, and still do, the Africans managed to maintain their religious practices while pretending to be Catholic.

Santeria has deep roots in my Puerto Rican family. My mother told me this summer that her mother used to force her to pray to little statues and photos of gods and to give them sacrifices and offerings, like food, money, and perfume. Also, because my grandmother often saw my mother as “bad”, which meant precocious and opinionated, my mother experienced a cleansing of sorts. An ancient ritual, intending to rid her of evil spirits, was performed on her in the bathtub and it disturbed her. As a child, my mother questioned these practices and saw them as fruitless. To her, these statues and photos were just pictures of dead or fictional people who held no power over her life. This tradition of Santeria was passed down to my mother much like the Spanish language or the practice of eating rice and beans. It was and is simply in our culture to worship the gods.

Thankfully the Lord has had His hand intensely upon my mother throughout her entire life and as a young girl, she developed a deep faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Through her knowledge of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s power, my mother became instrumental in leading her own mother to faith in Jesus Christ. My grandmother renounced all ties to Santeria. Since then, no one on my mother’s side has been connected to Santeria, to the best of my knowledge.

There is another person in my family who has practiced Santeria and has confessed to me that she saw spirits sometimes and that her daughter reported seeing spirits as well.  These spirits included an old woman and a young girl, who apparently pressed her face immediately against my family member’s when she appeared. Whenever she discussed these apparitions, she claimed that seeing spirits was “a gift.” I learned these things through her stories.

These are all personal anecdotes of how Santeria has harmed my family. You may be thinking, “Well, they just didn’t practice Santeria correctly. This doesn’t mean you have to reject it. Others can freely practice it without experiences like these.” You’re absolutely right. Every human being has a choice in what they believe and practice. God will not force Himself upon any individual; He is a gentleman. But, I hold the Bible to be the only true religious text and therefore must completely reject Santeria as a viable spiritual practice for myself and for anyone who is seeking to know the One True God.

Let’s take a look at the person of Jesus Christ. Historians agree that such a man named Jesus certainly existed. Whether or not He is the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God is the question. Many religious texts and practices agree that Jesus was a good teacher and some even go so far as to claim that He was a great prophet, but nothing more. What’s perplexing and should bring pause is that these religions feel they need to answer the Jesus question. Jesus is so singular that they cannot ignore His existence and ministry on Earth. His teachings are radical and confusing. Readers, you can reject Jesus as God, you can believe in Him as just a prophet, you can merely enjoy His teachings about helping the poor, but there is one thing you cannot do. You cannot ignore Jesus Christ as a person. If major world religions, such as Islam, have an answer for Jesus while still denying His deity, you must form an opinion about Him. Many people have said that Jesus is either Lord or an absolute nut/fraud.

Jesus Christ made some authoritative claims about Himself that have never been made by another person in history. Here’s one of them: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” – John 14:6

Wait, what? Jesus claimed to be the only way to know God, and also was God Himself. Who else has made such an outrageous claim? Mohammed claimed to be a prophet but certainly did not claim to be the Messiah or God Himself. All religions claim to point to the way, such as through a specific diet or abstaining from things like music and sex, but no one else has claimed to be God. This is a claim that we must investigate and take seriously because if He is correct, then all human life hinges upon this claim.

So let’s say that Jesus is just crazy and/or a fraud. What do we do with His other teachings and behavior? Jesus was a 1st century Jewish Rabbi. In His culture, associating with women was forbidden and a Gentile woman was like a dog. Jesus made it a part of His ministry to specifically reach out to women, even Gentile women. Two examples of Jesus showing love to Gentile women are found in John 4 and Matthew 15. To Jewish women, Jesus saved one of them from being stoned in John 8 and allowed a sinful woman to anoint Him in Luke 7, much to the shock of all of the religious leaders around Him at the time. As far as His teachings about the poor go, one simply has to read Matthew 5 in its entirety to see a man committed to societal equity and loving those who are vulnerable.

We cannot believe that Jesus is crazy while also accepting His teachings and praising His kind and forgiving behavior. The two are absolutely mutually exclusive. So if Jesus is not crazy, then who is He? He must be Lord, because He claimed no other title.

I could write for hours about why I believe the Bible to be true and why Jesus is God, but that would turn into a book. Note to self: write a book before you die.

Jesus claimed to be the only way to God and I accept that claim as the truth. If I accept Jesus, then I also accept the Hebrew Scriptures He preached from and referenced. The Bible is full of warnings against witchcraft or spiritual practices that don’t center around Christ. God warns us that we are not safe with mediums (psychics) or witches. He tells us this quite forcefully in Leviticus: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:31) and “I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people” (Lev. 20:6). Scripture clearly states that if a person is to know the One True God, the God of the Bible, they cannot have anything to do with witchcraft. It results in loss of relationship with God, which is what He wants with us. We cannot serve two masters. How can we claim to worship Jesus, who professed to be the only way to God, while also worshipping African deities? We must choose. I am not saying this. Jesus says this.

What will your choice be today? If you’ve been living life as a Santera or Santero and you want to talk more about Jesus or if you want to leave that life, please reach out to me! I’d love to talk about this more in depth and pray for you.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Rosalie Avila’s Suicide (My Story)

A few days ago, a young girl named Rosalie Avila committed suicide. She was 13 years old. According to news sources, she ended her life because of constant bullying from fellow students at her school. She documented each act of verbal violence every day in her journal. Two months before her death, she began cutting herself and was receiving therapy. In her suicide note, she apologized to her mother, knowing that she would find her dead in her room.

A young girl killed herself because other kids bullied her. I have so many questions and feelings.

  1. Why didn’t the school do more?
  2. Could the parents have done more?
  3. Why does this keep happening?

I’m left dumbstruck, gobsmacked, and disturbed. The older I get, the younger the kids are who kill themselves. When I was 13, the thought of suicide never entered my head. I don’t think I had ever thought about it, even as a concept. I had heard of ancient people who committed suicide, but I had never known someone who had committed this act of violence against themselves.

My initial thoughts on Rosalie Avila is that she did not know the ramifications of her final actions. She did not actually know what she was doing. Her mental state was not clear and she was not in control of herself. At 13 years old, her insular academic world was her entire world. She could not picture a world outside of her school. She was not able to imagine a positive future for herself apart from her situation as a bullied child.

Therefore, she took her life. Personally, I believe that she’s rejoicing with the Lord right now. As she was a child, I believe God didn’t hold her to the standard that He holds adults to. Her brain couldn’t comprehend her actions. Now, 13-year olds can definitely have a beautiful, holy, childlike grasp of the Gospel, but that’s another conversation.

Ultimately, my heart breaks for this young Latina. She had an incredible future ahead of her. God created each and every person with a specific purpose and plan. It was NOT God’s will for Rosalie Avila to kill herself at 13 years old. He knew it would happen, but He hoped the whole time that she wouldn’t do this. He created her to serve Him, enjoy the beautiful world that He created, and bring others to a loving knowledge of Himself. I wish this beautiful Latina grew up to become a freedom fighter, fighting alongside me and others as we push forward toward God’s kingdom.

 

 

Personally, I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts three times in my life. At ages 15, 17, and 23, I was tortured with unwanted suicidal thoughts. These thoughts bombarded my mind and I couldn’t free myself from them. Rosalie’s story could’ve been my story.

It took constant fighting against these thoughts to become somewhat free. But, I quickly realized that I wasn’t fighting against myself. These thoughts weren’t coming from my own brain. If my brain produced these thoughts on its own, I would welcome them. I would not be disgusted or scared of them if they were of my own creation. The human being wants to survive. We have natural survival instincts that automatically kick in whenever our lives are threatened, or are perceived to be at risk.

These suicidal thoughts came from the prince of darkness, Satan. I began fighting Satan, not just the thoughts. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12 

Clearly the Word tells us that we fight Satan, not others and certainly not ourselves! When a suicidal or negative thought came into my head, I would combat it with the truth. What is the truth? The Bible. I literally forced myself to read an uplifting verse in the Bible or to sing Christian worship songs in my head. This helped immensely. I took every thought into captivity, as the Word tells us to do.

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” – II Corinthians 10:5

Practically, there are several things you can do when you find yourself targeted by Satan with suicidal or negative thoughts. I’m not a mental health counselor, but these are the practices that have helped me and brought me further onto this path of divine healing.

  1. First and foremost, tell a trusted person about your thoughts. The number one thing that Satan wants to do during this time is isolate you and make you think you’re crazy. Fight against that desire to isolate yourself. That comes from Satan. It will make your situation worse if you isolate yourself.
  2. Bring these thoughts to God Himself. He is not surprised by these thoughts. He knew you would have them before you were even born! He wants you to ask Him for help. He will send His angels to guard you and protect you from the demons that are attacking your mind. “For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.” – Psalm 91:11
  3. Do exactly what I described a few paragraphs above. Replace these intrusive thoughts with Scripture and worship lyrics. This will truly help you!
  4. Seek therapy, spiritual counseling, and/or mentoring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with therapy. God loves it! It’s so biblical to seek help from others. It doesn’t mean you are insane or weird if you have a therapist. Honestly, so many issues around the world would be solved if every person received therapy for their problems.
  5. Don’t give up. My number one piece of advice is NEVER give up! Satan wants to make you think your life is over, you have no future, you’re crazy, no one loves you, and you’re worthless. LIES! ALL LIES! This is why we need to know Scripture because Scripture tells us the opposite. God loves us, we have a bright future in Him, and we are worth much because Christ died and rose for us.

If you ever need to talk to someone, I’m great to talk to about these things. These issues are more common than you think, so there’s no shame in coming forth about them.

 

Here’s a lifeline you can call if you feel you need immediate help (or call 911): 1-800-273-8255

They even have an online chat if you can’t talk by phone for whatever reason.

 

Be blessed. Be strengthened in Christ’s love for you. Be well.

 

Love,

 

Gabby G.

The Vietnam Vet on the 1 Train

The other night, the night before my 24th birthday to be exact, I held a piping hot cup of masala chai on the 1 train. I had just left an evening of Korean fried chicken and boy talk with one of my good guy friends. My head was full of possible solutions to boy problems (so dumb and a waste of my precious time) and, while holding the pole, my book, and my chai (no small feat), I glanced down and saw an elderly man with a Vietnam veteran hat.

Now I had just rewatched Forrest Gump, and while that’s obviously not a film solely about the Vietnam war, it does showcase the brutality of the war and the ways it mentally or physically ruined these young men. I looked at him and wondered, “Did he enlist?” “Was he drafted?” “I wonder how old he was when he served. He must have been in his early 20s.”

I had to say something. “Excuse me, sir? Thank you for your service.”

This elderly man merely gave me a half-smile, shrugged his slight shoulders and said, “Someone had to do it.”

He then went on to exhort me to join the military (not happening) and he explained that in life, you do what you need to do because it has to be done. That’s it. No discussion.

 

When he left, I sat in his spot and thought if I could ever fill that role of fighter. I definitely have no interest in the military, but God has called us to fight this fight of faith until the day He returns or calls us home. We must stick to this battle, remembering that the war has been won.

This is a battle we enlisted in when we signed up to be followers of Jesus. Jesus promised us that we would have to fight and we would often be hurt or killed for His name’s sake.

 

“Jesus asked, ‘Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'” – John 16:31-33

 

Take heart! Be brave. Be valiant. Christ is WITH YOU! We do not fight this battle alone. We are a part of a larger army than we know. Believers around the world are praying at all times, quite literally because of time zone differences, and although you do not know your brother in the Congo or in India, he prays for you. Pray for him and for your sister in Pakistan who cannot speak the name of Jesus. Pray for your siblings in Christ like you would pray for your own flesh and blood. They are your eternal family. ❤

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Cultivating Divine Gratitude

Readers,

 

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! (If you’re in my time zone, that is.) What a problematic holiday, am I right? Native and indigenous rights are being discussed more and more as each Thanksgiving passes and I love it. This piece isn’t about that, but it is about something we all need to read right now. After you read my piece, go read up on the Dakota pipeline news.

 

The fabulous Jenay, the creator of the Afro-Latina blog “HashtagIAmEnough”, asked me to write a piece of thankfulness and God. I’ve never been ASKED to write about God before so this was certainly a thrill for me! Head on over to her blog to read it and check out her other amazing posts.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

Cultivating Divine Gratitude by Gabrielle Greiner

Jehovah Rapha

God, thank You for Your unconditional love for me.
You pursue me like I’m a lost treasure.
You search me out, intentionally.
Your presence crashes over me in waves.
You bring healing to my body and soul.
When I am misunderstood, You reach out to me.
When I am neglected, You sweep me into your arms.
When I am exposed, You clothe me in Your understanding and protective care.
If I praise Your name in my deep troubles,
You make Yourself known and You act.
You rescue me because I am Your daughter.
As a Father, You discipline me because I am Your disciple.
You open doors and shut them, creating a rhythm that suits my life.
You give me life.
Abundantly.

Praise Report! I’ve been dealing with neck pain and swelling for the past week. The doctors were confounded! It wasn’t meningitis. My thyroid was fine. Bloodwork was absolutely beautiful. They resolved to put me on antibiotics. On the way to the doctor, I had a minor panic attack and had to jump off of the train for a minute! As I prayed my typical, feverish “Lord, please don’t take me! Let me stay! Please heal me and help me.”, I clearly felt God saying “I will be your healer. Not the doctors. No one but Me. I will be your healer.”

Last night, I attended my bible study meeting and had the group lay hands on me to pray for healing. My bible study leader is actually one of the church elders so he anointed my neck with oil as well. He told me that I’m the second person ever to ask for healing, although Scripture tells us to seek healing and prayer from our elders. (Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. – James 5:14).

While I was prayed over, I felt something spiritual happen. My heart started palpitating and my body flushed. This happened when they prayed against any possible demonic attack that may be causing my neck pain. I knew this was a spiritual thing!

This morning I woke up with no swelling, no heat (my neck had become quite hot to the touch), and only minor discomfort. There’s no pain! The Lord healed me in my sleep.

 

Praise God!

Why God Allowed My Ulcers? (A Theory)

I was diagnosed with large, but superficial (meaning not deep) stomach ulcers a month ago. Prior to that point I suffered from intense acid reflux, constantly throwing up acid in my mouth. Citrus fruits became unbearable and onions and garlic, although delicious, badly hurt my stomach. Every doctor I saw about this just said it was plain old acid reflux and they prescribed me acid reflux medication. Not one person thought it could be ulcers.

Well, the problem persisted. My stomach would hurt after eating almost anything. Intense nausea would randomly come upon me and it lasted for hours. Not satisfied with the “it’s just acid reflux” theory, I saw another doctor. He admitted that it perhaps could be ulcers and sent me off for an endoscopy. 

After the endoscopy, I learned that I had several large ulcers and a growth in my esophagus. Wait. What?? What’s that? My gastroenterologist did not explain why I had the growth, the ulcers, or the best course of treatment. She simply stated that taking 20mg of my acid reflux medication would be sufficient treatment.

Something in my spirit told me to seek a second opinion, so I met with another gastroenterologist. He informed me that my previous GI doctor made huge mistakes. She prescribed the incorrect dosage for my medication. Instead of 20mg, I should’ve been taking 80mg! That’s a grave mistake.

Not only did she make that error, but she neglected to inform me that while the growth in my esophagus was normal, it could turn into cancer. Let me explain.  When you have this type of growth in your esophagus, it is HPV. As a never sexually active woman, I didn’t think that HPV was a concern for me, so I was never vaccinated against it, per my mother’s wishes.

My new GI doctor told me that I will have to keep an eye on my esophagus and there’s a possibility that they could grow back. If they do indeed grow back and they aren’t removed, they could be cancerous. 

If he had never told me that, I would never have gotten another endoscopy, allowing a doctor to check for these growths. I would never have known about this cancer risk. I would have been at risk for developing this type of cancer!! Talk about medical malpractice from my other doctor.

 

Anyway, I’ve been wondering why I got ulcers at 23 years old. I’d never heard of a young person having ulcers. None of my doctors thought it conceivable for someone so young to have these issues. I think I have an idea why, apart from possible personal mistakes (taking too much ibuprofen-people, this can cause ulcers! I didn’t know that!)

 

If I had never had ulcers, this growth in my esophagus would have continued to grow and it could have turned into cancer. God essentially saved me from that by allowing me to suffer in a different way, in order to correct the esophagus issue.

 

Although my lifestyle has changed regarding food and drink and although I get stomach pains from time to time, I’m grateful to God for His wisdom and mercy in this situation.