Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always becomes the main focus of my writing, which for today is for an action I took that I never thought I’d take again due to all my long-standing health issues, that being to join a gym and actually work out again.

I haven’t been a member of any gym since 2013. I stopped going back then because of all the Fibromyalgia pains and sciatica and well a bunch of other life debilitating health issues too. It honestly just became too painful to go, especially on the physical level, but even on the mental and emotional level as well. Being so limited on what I could do at a gym, I just felt like it became a waste of time and money.

While I rarely missed going to the gym over the years after that, mostly because of how bad I felt in my body, I never stopped hoping I’d get back to it one day. Then, one day, just a few weeks ago now, I was talking to a friend named Jym, who told me he had just accepted a full-time position at one of the local branches of the YMCA. He suggested I check out his location sometime. Even though plenty of others have suggested I do that with their gyms in past years, I never felt the desire to do so, until that very moment. I don’t know why I felt different this time, but I did. So, a few days later, I decided to check out the JCC YMCA that Jym worked at.

Being that I don’t have any income coming in, I knew I couldn’t afford any expensive gym membership. If you can believe it, one of the last gyms I belonged to in Weymouth, Massachusetts, had a membership fee that was close to $100 a month!!! Thankfully, YMCA’s are not known for being that expensive, but even better, have been known to work with low income-based people on the monthly membership fee. So, I came prepared with my 2019 taxes and explained why I didn’t have any income. I was probably more forthcoming than most would have been in my shoes and talked about the long path of pain and suffering I’ve been on. A few days later I received a very warm and welcoming call from a woman named Chris who had my membership application in front of her.

We spoke at length about the struggles I’ve had and why I hadn’t been a part of any gym for a long time. She was truly kind and understanding to all my issues, which made me very thankful. At first, she attempted to see if qualified under any of their health programs, such as for those who have things like diabetes or cancer. Sadly, I didn’t qualify under any of them, but she told me not to lose hope and that she’d get back to me. Later that afternoon, I received another call from her with great news. They were able to do my membership for $15/month, something that was most definitely doable in my current circumstances of life! When the call ended, she let me know that my membership would be active that afternoon and I thanked her profusely for helping me so much. The real test came next though.

For someone like me, someone with chronic health issues that tend to be quite debilitating at times, the hard part is overcoming the ego and actually getting in the car to go to the gym. I’m grateful to report I successfully did that the very next day. After getting my membership card at the front desk and thanking Sue, a pretty amazing long-standing employee at this location who made me feel so very welcomed from the moment I met her, I locked my things up in a locker and headed into the Wellness center. There in front of me loomed all the equipment I hadn’t seen for so many years. I felt somewhat overwhelmed and maybe even a little nervous. I immediately headed over to the cardio machines and located the one piece of equipment I had last remembered using back in 2013, that being a Stairmaster.

A Stairmaster is really just a conveyor belt of stairs that rotate around at varying speeds. I used to really enjoy using this machine, mostly for the number of endorphins it created every time I utlizied it. So, I hopped on the machine hoping for the best, and quickly overcame the learning curve of how to use the 2020 version of it. Twenty-seven minutes later I had achieved something I never thought would be possible again. I had climbed 100 flights of stairs, the same amount I used to climb back in the day! I can’t even express how good I felt after that. I finished my workout that day with some light upper body strength-building and headed home in a pretty incredible mood. I’d return the next day, and another a few days after that, accomplishing three workouts in one week!

You have no idea how good it feels to be working out again. Even better, my body seems to be responding much better than I thought it would. I’m extremely grateful for this and am taking this as a sign that my health is improving. While I know this may seem like such a silly thing to be so grateful for, especially if happen to be someone without any major health issues, for a guy like me, who’s been on the physical exertion sidelines for so long now, achieving what I did in my first week at the YMCA is something most definitely to be grateful for.

So, thank you Jym, Sue, and Chris, for making this possible. And thank you God for allowing this as well. I truly do have an immense amount of gratitude now for all of you on this Grateful Heart Monday.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Question For The Day

Today’s question is…

What do you believe Hell is? Is it a mindset here on Earth or some fire and brimstone type of afterlife? Or something else?

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

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Daily Reflection

“Hell is just a state of mind, a radical separation from God.” (Marq de Villers, author of ”Hell and Damnation”)

Does Hell exist? This is a question I’ve often pondered in my life, ever since my United Methodist upbringing that introduced to me this fire and brimstone type of place that all terrible sinners end up going to. Many Christians have argued its existence throughout the centuries based upon how they interpret scripture, while many Theologians have profusely debated the very same scriptures and believed it’s something that human beings themselves created the existence of.

Take Theologian Micah J. Stephens, author of “Hell Is Not For Real: Re-Examining What the Scriptures Actually Say About Eternal Torment”. In his book, he writes, “The word hell in the Bible is a very poor translation of the original Hebrew and Greek words that speak of the resting place of the dead (Sheol and Hades) and a literal valley on the south side of Jerusalem (Gehenna) that became symbolic for the judgment via an invading army. We see Jesus in the Gospels speaking of Gehenna while in or around Jerusalem, not long before Rome sacked and destroyed the city in AD 70. Eternal torment of the soul in the afterlife is not a concept that is found in scripture.” On the other hand, take Brian Jones, Christian author of “Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It)”.  In his book, he interprets scripture totally different and adamantly states, “The fact of the matter is: Hell is real. Deciding or not hell exists isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s a matter of eternal life or death.”

The majority of Christians I’ve met over the years have said they’d rather not risk the chance of hell existing, even if it possibly doesn’t exist. They worry about the damnnation of their soul and because of it, they tend to live out their lives in total fear of committing some cardinal sin that may send their soul to that fire and brimstone type of place once they die.  And boy, do I know what it feels like to live in that type of fear, oh, so, very, well.

Because of modern day interpretations of the Bible stating homosexuality is a sin (even though the word homosexuality didn’t even exist back in Biblical times), I’ve frequently been told in my life by Christians that I’m either absolutely going to Hell or am risking the possibility of going there once I die because I’m in a gay relationship. Telling me this has never done anything more than leave me in this terrible fear-based cycle of a punishing God who cruelly created me with only an attraction to the same-sex that I’m not even allowed to be with, instead to spend my life in total celibacy, loneliness, or fake heterosexuality.

None of that logic has ever worked for me and I truly mean none of it. It’s never felt right within my own soul. The idea that God made me in his own image, but somehow screwed up in my sexuality, and then is going to send me to some fire and brimstone type of place if I continue to engage in the sexuality he created me with, with a same-sex person I absolutely love just makes no sense.

That’s why I have more of an inclination to believe in what Marq de Villers states in his book, “Hell and Damnation”. In it, he says, “Hell is a state of mind, a radical separation from God.” That computes a lot more with me because living with chronic pain, or formerly in far too many addictions, or all the times I’ve suffered from severe anxiety or depression, feels exactly like being radically separated from God. When you live with a condition that makes your muscles feel like they are burning and on fire for days on end, for years and years, you too might feel that Hell is nothing more than the state of your own pain-based mind.

So, do I believe hell exists? While I may be stoned metaphorically for saying this, what if Hell is right here on Earth, based upon our mindsets? And what if all of us are actually accepted home with God after we die, NO MATTER WHAT TYPE OF SINS WE LIVED IN?

This concept of living out a fear-based existence due to the conception that all chronic sinners go to a fire and brimstone type of place once they die, especially when my sexuality will probably always be thought of as a sin to many Christians, is not indicative of the unconditionally loving God I’ve come to love and worship. Choosing to believe that God picks and chooses who comes home is creation of Hell itself, which is why I choose to believe otherwise, that God loves me just as I am, gay and all.

Dear God, help me to always look to You as an unconditionally loving and accepting Father, who created me just as I am, who will welcome me home in your arms when I die, no matter what.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson