My Big Decision (It’s A Long Read!)

This extremely long blog post is to inform you all of an important decision I’ve made. I won’t make you wait until the end of the post to know what it is: I’m permanently moving out of New York City at the end of June. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. In fact, I did everything in my human power to stay in New York City. I’ve tried my hardest to make it work here in this city, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any stability. That wouldn’t necessarily be an issue for me if I felt that I was doing His work here. I’m not dissatisfied with my lack of material possessions, I’m dissatisfied with where I am in life, literally and metaphorically. I don’t think I am doing His work here, at least not in the fullest capacity. Allow me to explain, but I’ll have to go back to 2015.
In 2015, as most of you know, I spent a month living in India and absolutely loved it. I loved every single thing about it. I loved walking in monsoon floods and sleeping on the floor and talking to shop owners and making friends with the Indians I met. I never grew tired of it even though it was certainly a struggle to get used to my new way of living. I never wanted to go back to the US. When I came back that fall and finished up my last semester of college, I was terribly unhappy. I missed India. I lost so many friends because none could understand what I had experienced in India. I apparently changed too much for them. They didn’t understand why I would cry when people would throw out food. They didn’t comprehend why I became so strict about limiting myself when it came to material goods.
After graduating from college in January 2016, I took a wonderful job at an amazing non-profit for children’s literacy. I love children. I love literacy. It was a great fit! Yet as the months passed, I noticed that my soul was still not satisfied. I could not get India off of my mind. Every day during my lunch break, I’d walk fifteen minutes to closest Indian neighborhood and reminisce about my time in India while getting to know the shop owners. That was the best part of my day.
Later that year, I took another trip to India. Sadly this trip was only two weeks, but I went because I wanted to discern if He wanted me to live there more long-term. I’m passionate about anti-trafficking work and raising awareness about child marriage and spent a lot of time in prayer while I was there. I’d often sit up at night and cry/pray while having visions. The most tangible and reoccurring vision I had during that time is something I can still clearly picture to this day: while praying I had a vision of myself in Indian clothes, holding a child’s hand in each of my hands, and walking through a dark slum. With each step I took, more light invaded that part of the slum. I was enveloped in light. When I first had that vision, I sobbed. I knew that I was meant to do exactly what I was doing in my vision. When I left India that year, I also sobbed but for another reason. I didn’t see a way this could work out. I didn’t know how any of it would come to fruition. I sobbed because I felt like my dream was completely unreachable for me.
So I came back and invested myself in my life in New York City. I got two jobs, one of them I actually loved. While I was an English teacher, I felt like I was finally doing something I was good at. My adult students loved me. To them, I was not just an English teacher. I was their friend, their advocate, their counselor. I loved that role. But in January 2017, that position ended because it was a contract position. That loss ushered in an entire year of loss. I tend to refer to 2017 as my Job year. If you’re not familiar with Job from the Bible, please read about him. It’s powerful. Anyway, 2017 brought me many pains and losses. After losing my job, I heard that my parents were separating. Although not entirely surprised, I was still upset. In April, I began experiencing panic attacks while attending graduate school. I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be in graduate school. I felt like I had made a mistake. The panic attacks were so bad that I couldn’t even finish the semester and I dropped out of graduate school without telling anyone in the school.
Not too long after, I received word that my father was in the hospital. It was actually the weekend of my brother’s 25th birthday so we were together when we received the call. That was so gracious of Him because the phone call shook me to my core. My father had a blood clot. We didn’t know if he was going to live. I vividly recall sitting on my brother’s couch, talking to my dad on the phone, crying and telling him how much I loved him. I remember feeling cheated. “This isn’t fair! God, You can’t take my dad! We’re just now getting to know each other. Please, Abba. I’m not ready to say goodbye to my dad.” For the first time in a long time, my brother joined me in prayer for my dad. We prayed that his life would be spared. He was. Not only was he spared, but he became a believer due to this incredible supernatural experience he had in the hospital bed. Now he’s incredibly healthy and growing in his faith. I’m so proud of him and so grateful that He gave me more time with my dad.
After that, I knew that I had to leave New York City, at least for the time being. My dad, no longer with my mom, was alone and needed someone to be with him. I jumped on a flight down to Georgia and took care of my Dad for a few weeks. When I came back from that trip, I knew I had to leave New York City for a while and take care of him. I moved to Georgia with the intention of starting my life over again. During this time I was suffering from a deep depression because of all the rapid loss I experienced. Almost everything was taken from me. Me, Gabrielle, the woman who never quits or takes no for an answer lost her job teaching, quit grad school, and left her entire New York world. I lived in Georgia for a few months and found no work. My depression and anxiety hit its peak during that time. I felt like a complete failure. I have a Cum Laude college degree! I shouldn’t be struggling like this, right?
While living in Georgia, my brother came to live there as well to start his life over. So the four of us were all together again. Not long after arriving, my brother was rushed into surgery for a life-threatening bone infection in his leg. He almost died as well. At this point, I thought, “Ok Abba, You almost took two of my family members within a couple months. What’s going on?” My mind was surrounded by darkness. I had no friends around me to sit with me in my pain. My mother became my only human solace. I never told my dad, brother, or sister just how bad my depression got. I didn’t think I would make it. My mind became clouded with hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. I saw no future for myself. I had failed too much. Thankfully Abba in His great mercy didn’t leave my side and while I dealt with those issues, I also had a deep awareness that all of this was a massive test from Abba and that the enemy was trying to use this test to destroy me. The enemy wanted me dead. That was his goal. I realized that if the enemy was trying this hard to kill me, I must have some amazing future ahead of me! I clung to life although every ounce of me couldn’t see how I would ever escape this dark pit of despair.
Through therapy and medication, I did escape from that pit. Through His love, I escaped. Although I have moments of anxiety and moments of sadness, nothing really sticks to me anymore. I know that all things that happen have been allowed by Him. So I must endure them. I must learn from them. I must push through. All the greats of the faith suffered in unspeakable ways and yet did amazing things for the Kingdom.
I moved back to New York City in August 2017 and was sleeping on a woman’s couch because my roommate refused to let me move back into my own apartment, with my own name on the lease. Through a fierce battle for that apartment, I lost one of my best friends. I began passionately searching for work and found nothing. I’d get a few interviews and maybe even a couple of job offers, but for some odd reason, the employer would change their mind before I started.
I didn’t find work until January 2018. I’m currently working two jobs, both contract positions yet again. This means that my jobs will both end in May/June and I have no guarantee of work in the fall. As far as my housing situation goes, I’m currently living in an apartment in the Bronx. I have three roommates and the rent is somewhat doable for me. I was recently told that none of the roommates would renew the lease which expires at the end of June. I was initially under the impression that at least one would, but they’re not. So this means that both of my jobs end in June and my housing is gone in June. 
I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t believe that things “just happen.” I truly believe that my time in New York is over, hopefully for eternity. I hate living in this city. I absolutely hate it. It is a city without warmth, compassion, or humility. It’s a competitive place and unless you know everyone in the corporate world or have a lot of money, you will struggle or suffer here. Thankfully my church has been so good to me that they’ve helped me with rent, food, and MetroCard money when I’ve literally had no money to my name.
Knowing that my life as I know it will end at the end of June, I’ve been asking Him, “What’s next?” While reflecting over the past three years, I believe the answer is clear: India. Wherever I’ve gone in this country, I’ve met people from Kolkata (the city I lived in), whether that’s my English professor my last semester of college, or my neighbor in Georgia. I’ve randomly run into people who serve in India while walking around NYC. There are too many “coincidences” for it to be nothing.
My plans are these (they are subject to change as He sees fit): I’m leaving everything I own here and I’m going to travel around India for a couple of months at least, beginning in July. I’ll be trying to volunteer with different organizations and getting a feel for various cities, cultures, and people. Abba knows my heart is for that country. That is where I want to be. I have family there. I want to be with them. I never stop thinking about the children I met when I was there and I yearn to go back and see how they are.
I’m not asking for money, although if you want to help me get to India this summer, I’d appreciate it. What I’m asking for is simply prayer. Prayer that I’m receptive to His voice; that I hear Him correctly. Prayer that all fear and anxiety around this trip leave me. Prayer that doors will be opened and connections will be made. Prayer that His plan will come to pass. Prayer that if this isn’t His plan for me, that I accept His plan, as He reveals it.
If you have any questions about anything that I’ve written, please ask me! Clearly I’m a very open person and I’d love to talk about this more in detail with you.
Blessings,
Gabrielle G.
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2018 Goals (NOT Resolutions-I’m Human)

Readers,

I hate the concept of New Year’s Resolution lists. We never stick to them! We tend to drop them during the first week of the year. So why do we even write them? I don’t understand why but the urge to write one hangs on my shoulders every December 31st.

So, because I’m a rebel, I’m not going to write a list of New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to write about my goals for 2018 and explain them, rather than just rattle off a list of things I want to accomplish.

Alright! Here are some of my goals for this new year:

1. Work on my blog and a book I started last year. My blog is where I am free to write about whatever concerns me (and many things do indeed concern me). The book I started is about the most romantic experience I’ve ever had. It’s been difficult to write about because a part of me still yearns for that same person/experience.

 

2. Work on my Spanish. I’m passionate about ministry to all people, and I’m particularly burdened for South Asians and Latinos. I find my ministry abilities stunted in the Latino community because my Spanish isn’t at the level I want it to be. How can I preach against Santeria if I can’t explain the Gospel in Spanish? Read my thoughts about Santeria here:

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/why-i-reject-santeria-as-an-afro-latina/

 

3. Return to India. My heart beats with India. My soul yearns to taste its food, explore its landscapes, and be at home with my wonderful family over there. Each time I’ve been to India, I’ve gone to Kolkata (Calcutta), but this year I want to travel to the South. Read about my heart for India here:

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/kajol/

 

4. Spend some time in Puerto Rico. My island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. I’ve previously written on this topic and I’ll link those posts here:

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/still-dark-in-puerto-rico-my-first-protest/

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2017/12/15/the-truth-about-puerto-rico-told-to-a-white-audience/

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/self-denial-and-your-calling-puerto-rico/

https://parakajol.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/hurricane-maria-and-puerto-rico/

 

5. Get healthier (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally). SO many people say they want to become healthier as each new year ticks around. I’ve said it countless times in the past and never stuck to it. As a result, I’ve been a bit chubby most of my life. Now, I’m not focusing on losing weight for aesthetic purposes. I know that I’m extraordinarily beautiful and God made me this way. He made me beautifully. But, I know that obesity runs in my family on both sides. Diabetes is rampant on my mother’s side. I refuse to let that be my fate as well. I’ve started eating healthier and working out in a fun way! I’ll post the workouts I follow at the end of this post. They’re amazingly entertaining.

I also want to focus on my emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Last year was rough for me. I lost a lot and came out feeling like Job in the Bible. Defeated. Lost. Ready to die. Hopeless. Angry with God. Well, praise God that I don’t feel like that anymore, but I must admit that because of all of the trauma I experienced last year, I always expect that at any moment, I will receive a call with bad news. Maybe something happened to mom or dad. Perhaps my brother was in some type of accident. I never know anymore because of how many freak things happened last year. I expect the worst at all times, knowing that the worst could happen. 

This is a type of thinking I have to submit to God minute-by-minute. I cannot hold it on my own and I’m not supposed to. God wants to redeem what I’ve experienced and lost. He wants to teach me a valuable lesson (or five) from what happened to me. I just have to let it go and allow Him to be God.

I started a new book last night called Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. One passage that struck me and brought me to tears was when Lysa said that we have to ask ourselves three questions when we doubt or are afraid:

  1. Is God good?
  2. Is God good to me?
  3. Do I trust God to be God?

 

Hint: The answer to all three is a resounding and holy YES!!!

This is what I want to learn more of and tangibly experience in 2018.

 

Lord, I submit these desires and all of the hidden ones in my heart to You. Take my life and run with it. I trust you, Papa.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

My favorite workouts:

 

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

Hussain and His Mom (NYC Homeless)

I had an incredible encounter today. As I took an unusual route home, I came across a young undocumented woman with her baby, a boy named Hussain. I initially walked by but the Spirit of the Lord was thickly upon me! I bought a snack and some water for them and turned around to go back to them. Sitting on the ground with her, I learned that because she’s undocumented, she can’t find a place to stay. She can receive food stamps for her U.S. citizen baby, but nothing for herself. She told me where she was from and because of that and her son’s name, I assumed that she was Muslim.

Her precious baby, Hussain, was crying a lot, but the moment he saw me, he smiled so brightly. I called his name and he giggled, putting his finger to my lips. I kissed his finger. He reached out both of his arms toward me. He wanted me to hold him. Me! A stranger! I believe he saw the face of Christ through me.

Before giving this woman the names of some faith-based places she can go, I asked if we could pray together. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder, but she wanted to hold hands. Well, we held hands and prayed to FATHER God through Jesus the Messiah and Son of God together! This was the first time I EVER prayed to Abba, through Jesus, with a Muslim person. Please pray for her physical needs and salvation!

 

 

Photo used is for representation only. They aren’t the people I met.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.