Thoughts on Baptism

Baptism is a cleansing. It is a purification. It is the shedding of the old in favor of the new and renewed. It is a promise, a sacred covenant that the old sinful spirit you once had will no longer dictate your present or shape your future. It is a commitment to be the better person you know you can be and deserve to be. It is also a promise that you will shed the old fears and anxieties and be more trusting in the God that brought you life and strength. It is a rejection of fear and loneliness and negativity and a gesture of submission and openness to God’s care.

When I was baptized, it was my statement to God that I would dedicate myself to being a sincere and honest person– an authentic person. It was my statement to God that I offer my gifts and talents and who I am to His guidance and His work. It was a gesture of thanks to God who has given me everything– I return to Him to offer myself to Him in the sense that I give back to Him for the benefit of others.

I felt baptism was in some ways a resurrection. Parts of me had to die so that a better, more renewed, more honest and sincere person could come to life. I felt my soul and not just my outward appearance or body needed a change or a cleansing and renewing.

I felt baptism was my standing up and taking a stand for the cause of peace, compassion, justice, kindness, morality. equality, and advocacy. It was not about being a self-righteous zealot or some person who would put themselves on a pedestal or pulpit and judge and condemn and play at being a martyr. I didn’t do it for attention or the approval of peers and friends and church members. I did it for God and for myself. I did to show God my investment in His guidance and my investment in making the best of the gifts He has given me.

Baptism is a sacred renewal of a connection only you and God can have. It is a personal renewal and a personal promise. Baptism is a commitment to a higher calling– not to be a priest, but rather a better human being, and a follower of peace, compassion, kindness, generosity, and love. By following the lead of Christ, you may lead others to follow… you may be a positive mentor or role model for others… you may change people’s lives as much as your own. But always remember that you follow Christ when you take on baptism. Remember Christ is the example set before you. Christ sets the moral compass.

I always felt called to help others and baptism was my way of telling God I am ready to help, ready to stand up for good causes and for those in need of me.

If you choose the Christian path and take the commitment of baptism, you honor God and honor Christ.

Of course, there are other ways to honor God and many paths to doing kind acts, being loving, being compassionate, and being an advocate for justice and peace. You are free to explore your own path. For me, baptism was a big step in finding that path that works for me.

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Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Reflections:

Where does true strength come from? Does it come from fishing for compliments from your friends and acquaintances? Does it come from someone who inspires you to be your better self? Does it come from trying to follow in the footsteps of a hero or heroine or role model? There are many things out in the world that can give us a boost of confidence or a boost to our self-esteem or self-image. There are plenty of things in our environment that might bolster our mood and lift our spirits… but what really gives us the strength we need when all else seems to fail or not be there when we really need it? What gives us the power to face the world when we feel alone in that world?

Sometimes even our greatest friends and even our family can be absent from us. Sometimes even the pep talks and inspiring speeches aren’t enough to see us through our  trials and tribulations. Sometimes the people we most rely on to save us or rescue us simply are not there to bail us out. What then?

Remember the God who gave you your heart and filled your lungs with breath. Remember the God that gave you intelligence and gave you the capacity to learn and apply wisdom. Remember the God that has always been present in your life whether you looked to Him or not. This God is present in your life regardless if you even believe or trust in Him or not. You are the product of His creation and He cared enough to bring you life and bring you into being– and He still loves you to this day, because He sent something of Himself down on this Earth to try and make that connection with you and to reassure you that you are not alone– you are not the only one who has suffered and you are going to overcome– as Jesus did. If you believe that a man can endure the torture  of crucifixion and still feel compassion and love for humanity and a willingness to forgive them, than the same God that empowered Christ can empower you. You simply have to believe in God’s work. Believe that God can work through you.

If God can make a universe and fill it with stars, moons, planets, life, and so much more… what makes you think He cannot lift you up when you are fallen? If God can summon the forces of nature, I think He can handle your stress, anxiety, depression, and fear. Give unto God your burdens and He will grant you rest and peace of mind and spirit. Because no matter what trials we may face, they too shall pass. The sun always rises. Light always overcomes darkness, and the meek shall inherit the Earth.

 

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Courage

The ability to get up in the morning knowing you may step out into a world where it seems all of society hates you. That is courage.

The ability to look for the good in people even though so many try and convince you not to try, that is courage.

The ability to claim yourself and express yourself despite how appealing “the closet” may seem to be– that is courage too. The ability to risk everything to gain authenticity and integrity, that is courage.

To face your fears, big or small or tiny, and bear a smile on your face and knowledge that something greater than yourself will see you through– that is confidence as well as courage. To believe that God is on your side and will grant you strength and blessings, that takes courage and trust in God.

Through God, all things are possible. Through faith in God, we can move mountains, change hearts, bring peace, offer compassion, open minds… we can do anything.

We just need the courage to do.

God gives us courage when we ask for it and pray on it. God knows our hearts and knows our fears and has through Christ, felt our greatest pains. God wants us to live spiritually eternal. God wants us to be strong in love and kindness. We can do this. We just need the courage to believe.

 

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For Everything There is a Season

On January 10th, I finally took a major step towards fully becoming my true and authentic self. I took my first doses of hormone replacement therapy. About ten years ago I came out of the closet and sought therapy in order to find my true, authentic self. I had to deal with a lot of fear and anxiety. I wasn’t sure if what I wanted for myself was “normal”. I wasn’t sure if people would support me or accept me or understand the inner struggles and frustrations I’ve carried for so many years of my life.

Therapy helped me to define myself on my own terms and make sense of my feelings. Once I began the process of defining myself, I then had to get used to embracing my true authentic self. I learned over the years that I have been very hard and impatient on myself. I have wanted so many things for myself but didn’t understand or didn’t seem willing to wait for these things to happen for me. I didn’t want to accept limitations either. I was basically angry with the basic fundamental reality that as a child, there was no terminology or knowledge or awareness of gender dysphoria. There was no means to address the issues I had and I had no means of explaining myself or expressing myself.

The point I see now, so many years later, as I am now on hormone therapy, is that while I struggled to see God’s hand in my life, I know now that God works on His schedule rather than mine. God knows when I can thrive and succeed. God knows what is best–whether I believe that or trust that or not. God knew that now was a good time for me to come out as my true self. God knew that the social awareness of transgender issues and the transgender community would grow and build now. God knew it was finally time for Rachel to wake up and speak out and be heard but also to finally grow and blossom.

Seeds of self-discovery and self-exploration that had been sewed years before in pain and agony and frustration and jealousy– but also in therapy and love and concern and compassion and curiosity have now blossomed. The timing was right. The environment needed to be more open to me and my support system needed to be there for me. I needed to feel certain in myself. I needed to find the right people and the right doctors to assist me. God knew that these things needed to happen in accordance with His plan for me. Special care and considerations had to be made so that success could be assured– God seemed to know this.

God also seemed to know that I would be frustrated and impatient. God knew I hurt inside and yearned to be a girl all through most of my childhood. God knew I yearned to be a ballerina and a gymnast and so on. God knew my regrets and sadness. Yet God knows and is trying to teach me that nothing is impossible through God. Today I can take ballet lessons and become a ballerina, even at the age of 42. I can also explore elements of rhythmic gymnastics if I wish and explore all other feminine adventures as I wish. And now seems to be the perfect time for me to begin this new phase of my life.

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Philippians 3:13-14

Philippians 3:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Reflections:

As we approach the New Year, I came across this piece of Scripture that I think is very fitting and relevant that I wanted to share with you all. For some of us, 2017 was a difficult year or perhaps a year of struggles and hardships. Or maybe it wasn’t just 2017 but perhaps several years or several moments in the past that changed my life in a traumatic or negative way. I think we often look back and find parts of our pasts we wish were not there or wish didn’t happen. For me, I had to endure homelessness for the last four years and struggle to get back on my feet.

I think we are mindful of tragedies and setbacks and major life altering events that have brought us pain and suffering and anguish. Yet always with the New Year, we try and look past the pain in our pasts and histories and try and inject some hope into our lives. We try and rejuvenate our souls perhaps, try and change the course we’re on, and try and renew ourselves. We make resolutions and promises and plans for new habits or new ideals or new values sometimes. We envision for ourselves a new lifestyle even. We try and look for the better, the positive, the new, the better.

This Scripture, however, sets a different goal. Thinking about the betterment of the soul. The eternal soul within me. My goal should be to live a more meaningful life, a more giving life, a more open-hearted life. My goal should be to seek God’s guidance and forgiveness. If I care for my eternal soul and put my heart, mind, and soul towards God, perhaps the tragedies and dips and chaotic events will impact me differently– or my perspective on these downturns will be different.

 

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Thoughts of the Day, Dec. 29th, 2017

I have often heard the argument, “How can there be transgender people if God is perfect?” In other words, “How can people be gender confused if God is perfect? How can there be gender dysphoria if a perfect God is responsible for your creation? God does not make mistakes. He didn’t make any mistakes when He determined your gender and anatomy.”

I have heard these arguments and statements in different forms for years and they have always got me to thinking about how we define perfection and how we define God and God’s plan.

Here’s the obvious. If God is perfect, is that to suggest that everyone who has ever been born blind, Deaf, or physically or mentally challenged are not born of God? How could that be? Why would a perfect God create so-called “imperfect” beings or allow someone or something else to create imperfect beings? Why would a perfect being allow or enable imperfections to exist? According to some, a PERFECT GOD cannot create anything that is less than PERFECT. So how do we have folks born with spina bifida or multiple sclerosis or Down syndrome and so on? If God is the only Creator, than God is responsible for each and every soul and their bodies and all their traits and characteristics.

The truth as I see it is this:

We cannot assume to know God’s plan for us.

God said after His Creation that it was good… not perfect. Just good. Perfection does not exist in the creation stories in Genesis. God does not use the word “perfect” in describing his creations.

God created all of us in His image. God is an infinite God. God manifests in infinite ways beyond our understanding and comprehension. God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

We can find beauty and good in all God’s creations if we make the effort to see past the surfaces and superficial nonsense. God put each and every one of us here for a purpose– probably bigger and greater than our own modest understanding and comprehension.

Perhaps we are perfect in God’s opinion and not our own. Perhaps God loves variety and diversity. Perhaps we are not meant to be perfect in body or perfect in spirit– just honest.

If we were all born in absolute perfection, would we have any need for salvation or forgiveness or mercy or grace? Would we even have any need for a God if we were perfect?

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On the Subject of Joy in Advent

On the third week of Advent, the theme is Joy.  The joy of knowing that God so loved the world that He gave something of Himself in Jesus Christ to rebuild the relationships we can have with our Creator. God gave us a way out of our sins and our guilt and the burden of shame.  God wants to build a bridge to us and sends us Jesus to do just that.

Christmas is also the time when we gather together to spread joy to others. It is the time of year where we can celebrate the blessings we have been given over the course of the year as well.  And for those in need and those in vulnerable and desperate circumstances, this is our time to offer help and hope and give those in need the joy they need.

I am hoping we can be inspired by Christ to spread the joy to others and uplift those who may be feeling down and depressed this winter season. The holidays can be stressful and hectic and overwhelming. It can be especially hard for those struggling to make ends meet or for those with no family and friends around them. If you can be a presence around them, try and bring some cheer and good spirits.  Fellowship and friendship is a gift we can all afford to give!

 

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