Thursday, September 12, 2013

Just Because I Don't Follow Your Version of Religion, Doesn't Mean I am Without Christ

People amaze me. They think just because my life isn't going THEIR way, because I'm not following their version of religion, or that because I'm struggling in life, it means I've strayed away from "the holy spirit" and I'm not living my life "right." I got a call from someone yesterday, who nonchalantly assumed I've tried to "push the holy spirit out of my heart"...

Well I've got news for you. People struggle - God himself puts us through struggles with good reason. The Bible is full of stories of faithful, Godly people who've struggled. I'm waiting this one out to see what it is he has planned. My faith is still strong, possibly stronger than ever, and just because I don't follow the ridiculousness of the religious right's version of religion, it doesn't mean I'm without Christ.

Just because I'm not in church doesn't mean I can't have a relationship with Christ. My temple is a gospel based temple - it is my heart, my body, my soul. It is not a bible based temple, which was eradicated when Christ came and brought forth a new covenant... Christ in the new testament compared the church to the wind -“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Life isn't perfect. "Proof" that you are living your life "right" by who ever's standards doesn't always flow in the form of bountiful blessings. God tests our faith... he tests our love. For me, that is what he is testing most now. My ability to remain faithful in the storm... during my first marriage we never really faced a lot of storms - I had the perfect house, the perfect car, everything was "as it should be"...  at least by society's standards... we had some financial struggles... we had more marital struggles... but for the most part I had it under control.

Also, he is testing my ability to love the way Christ wants us to love one another. To learn how to care for others no matter their circumstance, and not judge them based on their current trials. Instead of this "unchristian" notion that many Christians seem to have that they should shun people or judge them when their life is less than perfect.

I know I've made mistakes in my life -- but last time I checked, I'm human. Last time I checked, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but it is also how we learn... last time I checked, Christ went to the cross for our sins... and last time I checked, I've learned from my mistakes. As for my current move, I can't say it was a "mistake." Did it go as I planned? No. Do I have some regrets as far as how things happened and what has occurred? Yes.

But I keep going. I keep trusting and having faith that God is still working. Just because blessings aren't "pouring out" and I'm facing a lot of hard struggles, doesn't mean God isn't working. Just because I've taken a difficult path in my life, doesn't mean God isn't with me. I pray that whatever happens, I know I've tried my best... and that if I lose all hope and things don't go as I pray they do, that God's plans are better than my dreams.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

if he lives in my heart shouldnt i let him do the leading? it has been a minute since i posted anything on this blog. and sorry for no caps but my phone doesnt want to seem to totally cooperate so this post may not be grammatically correct. as i lay here tonight, sick as a dog and only a week or two away from a huge change in my life i reflect on what i have learned in the past 6 months... and i figure out how to apply it. to make sure im on the right path. i hear so many ppl say dont trust your heart to guide you, but lead your heart... well if jesus lives in my heart because i let him in, shouldnt i let him lead... its like brad stine said about the bumper sticker that said god is my copilot... um if gods in the car i think i will let him drive.

 i think the ppl who have been so sucked into this lead your heart theory have been so indoctrinated that they are too afraid to trust god that much. this road is not easy for me. this road meant finally coming to grips with the fact i havent been happy, in love, or physically attracted to my husband for several years. that we both have done things wrong, but the fact he would have chose to look at other women through the use of porn instead of me deadened me inside to him. i let him try to fix things, i tried leading my heart as they say back to what everyone around me has always said was right, staying married instead of seeking a divorce. but i was fooling myself. i tried every day to lead my heart but when i finally let go and followed it there was a sense of freedom. and i was taught recently that through god we are free... i didnt really understand it when i heard it and didnt feel truly free in my life. but i do now. our hearts are not free if we are trying to force ourselves to live a life that doesnt mean anything anymore. we only get 1 shot at this... and im letting god lead, im listening to my heart more intuatively than ever. 

this road will be tough. it means leaving behind my children while i get my life back home settled and established... only seeing my babies on holidays and school breaks... it has meant a lot of ppl turning their backs on me, but ive learned a true friend, christian, or someone who loves you would walk through fire with you, fight your fight with you, and stand by your side no matter what. that is the kind of person i want to be to those i love, and this has shown me who the people are who really have my back all the time, not just when im doing it their way...

im tired of people trying to change me because i didnt fit the bill. all my life i was seen as wrong or different or a problem because i wasnt pretty enough or smart enough or sporty enough.... fill  in the blank. well im done letting people try to change or fix me. i can honestly say i believe god is leading me where none of that matters.. that there is life out there and love out there.... that god has set aside one person for another... someone recently told me the love i seek can only be found through god, and basically if i have gods love my miserable life doesnt matter... that the love i seek from another person doesnt exhist... that is their belief, their theory and i respect that, but i dont have to nor do i agree... 

gods love is powerful, but i believe he shows us his love through others who really care... otherwise life would be pretty dull and lonely without others along the way to love and support us... and until a big booming voice tells me what to do, im choosing to let him reside in my heart and guide me... and i will follow.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I am a Progressive Christian - What does that mean?

First off, I want to thank Dr. Bruce Prescott for such a wonderful explanation of the Progressive Christian faith. His words are inspiring, and I will sum up my thoughts on his characteristics of Progressive Christianity...
My faith is growing daily... it is a progressive faith. I strive for depth - meaning I don't want a "shallow faith." I want a faith that includes meaning and purpose, that shows love and understanding. My faith is never finished, never satisfied with its progress - I constantly yearn for more. I am an imperfect being, striving for a strong relationship with God, that leads to strong relationships with those around me, so that others may know Him as I do.

My faith is conscientious. Meaning, I am conscious of those around me - I am aware of the fact we are not all the same, nor do we believe the same, and I understand that's okay. I try to step outside myself - I am not afraid to understand things that clash with my own beliefs. I strive to be sympathetic to the perspective of others. "Walk a mile in my shoes." Progressive faith requires an act of reflexive self-conscientiousness - the ability to put yourself in the place of others, and to look at yourself through others eyes. How do you want to be seen? And "do unto others as you would have done unto you" (Jesus) - but the Golden Rule is not unique to Christianity... The concept of the Golden Rule or a standard of respect for others is common to all religions and philosophies.

My faith is a chastened faith. I am able to, with open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart, see and acknowledge the pain and injustice that my own religion has inflicted upon others. We need to, again, look ourselves through the eyes of others, but in this case the eyes of other faiths. Christians need to see themselves through the eyes of Jews. Specifically Jews who were herded into box cars and slaughtered like cattle during the Holocaust -- if I hear one more Christian in American claim persecution, I will scream. We all need to look at ourselves through the eyes of the homeless, the hungry, those in poverty... if we can learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others, we can begin to see how blessed we really are as a Christian faith - and begin to view things as God views them.

My faith is a hopeful faith. I am hopeful that we will have peace on earth. That we could all learn to live together, to coexist and to be tolerant of one another and our different beliefs. That we would be more loving toward each other. Jesus did more than just coexist - he ate with those who were rejected and considered unclean. He healed them and cared for them. That's the Jesus Christ I know. Not the one portrayed by "fundamentalists" to be so harsh, cruel, and bigoted... I've read the bible and know the real deal, and I wonder how they can be so grossly mistaken of who Christ really is, and how we should be as Christians. I am hopeful that Christianity can be reclaimed - that we can turn it around from how it's been perceived due to the actions of the extremists, to what it is supposed to be. I strive to be aware of those around me - a sense of community, not just self. I am supportive of justice and equality for all mankind. If life is just an endless cycle of violence, conflict and strife, then there is not much reason for a hopeful future.

My faith is a strong faith. I am strong in my beliefs, I am strong in my relationship with God - I am passionate about loving others as Christ did. My faith is strong enough to demand both equal rights in civil life and genuine respect in social life for those who have other convictions and different worldviews -- while remaining firmly committed to its own convictions and worldview. I will not serve a weak faith that has to compensate for its inadequacies by scapegoating those who are different from myself and my faith. I will not judge others or condemn them based on my faith - we are taught that this is wrong through the words of Paul and Christ. I can be strong in my faith, but also considerate, understanding, and tolerant of others and their beliefs or values.

My faith is a humble faith. I understand the fallibility, the imperfections of all mankind - myself included. I make mistakes almost daily, but I strive to learn from them - and to be humble and to accept my mistakes, admit my mistakes, and take responsibility for myself before God. I understand that all forms of communication and understanding fall short of perfect comprehensibility - someone always misunderstands something that is said or written - it is about how it is perceived or interpreted. Different faiths make undenied claims for the absolute authority of their sacred texts and practices... their holy text or rituals are divinely inspired and without any error. Generally, it is not necessary to directly challenge the authority of these differing truth claims. It should be enough for all to acknowledge that no matter how sacred, perfect and privileged these texts, practices and rituals are believed to be, all historical faiths are subject to differing interpretations and understandings by adherents within their own faith tradition. Humility, therefore, is proper for people of all faiths. -Prescott. No system of communication is perfect - it is inadequate to fully express the meaning of the Divine. Thus, infallibility is an attribute best reserved for the Divine.

My faith is a questioning faith. Progressive faith welcomes doubt and raises questions because it knows they are necessary for the extension of understanding, for spurts of growth and for the testing and strengthening of genuine faith. Progressive faith questions to understand - not to reply, overturn, or trump the response with a "better one." This is hard as a human being - especially with all the political debates out there right now. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves, or a sense of "being right" about something, especially when paired against someone who has this same attitude. Like when we respond with our point of view on an issue, and then someone rips it apart piece by piece, word for word. But a questioning faith is undaunted by critical thought. It is not a blind faith that expects supporters to surrender their intellect - and even more so, it is not a blind faith that expects everyone to support them. Instead, it desires to be more than a projection of human wishes and desires, more than an stimulant for the masses, and more than merely a slave revolt by which the weak seek to gain power over the strong.

 My faith is a dialogical faith. It appreciates discussion, critical thought, and exchange of ideas... It refuses to extend itself by force. Instead it extends itself through kindness, compassion, and mercy. When it seeks to convert others it does so through example, actions and genuine dialogue. Thus, my faith is an active faith. It gives more than "lip service" to love. It seeks to show love, not just say it loves. It wages peace and seeks justice. It is faith with the courage to put itself at risk by publicly opposing injustice and by actively resisting it by non-violent means.

My faith is an interdependent faith. It is unified, harmonious, and connected. It is a faith that affirms and honors the claim that future generations have on the present by responsibly stewarding the resources that make life possible on this planet. It strives to take care of our planet, our resources, our livelihood and to care for our environment so that it will still be livable for future generations to come. We should care about our planet, the environment, and everything around us. We should do good works to care for other human beings, but also for our animals, our plants, our water, our air - because without them, we cannot feed the hungry... we cannot live and provide care for others, help the impoverished, so that they may live as well.  

My faith is not inside a box... my faith is in my heart, it is in my mind, it is in my thoughts and actions. I am pro-equality because Christ wants us to love everyone - to follow his example, and that example was to treat everyone with tolerance and respect. I am pro-choice (NOT pro-abortion) because I believe we as women are valuable and we deserve the freedoms and rights this country offers just as much as the next guy, and that things like marriage (who can marry whom) or pregnancy should not be dictated by a government. Just because Sally Jane goes and gets an abortion doesn't mean my faith is shattered, my relationship with God changes, or my life is altered in some way. Her life changes - and that is between her and God. It is her choice - God gave us freewill to make our decisions in life and we will answer to Him, and no one else! God is too divine for us to possibly understand Him through a book - and that book does not actually take a stance on gay marriage or abortion - we twist and cherry pick scripture and assume we know how God thinks, when we couldn't possibly begin to imagine how God actually works - he doesn't fit inside a theological box.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Election Time... You don't HAVE to vote for the lesser of two evils...

A lot of times, we forget about the third party at election time. It's either Dem or Republican, and a lot of times it's whichever one we feel is the "lesser of two evils." How about considering a candidate without all sorts of negative propaganda coming from his site and supporters?

 The fact that so many others say they have no idea who Gary Johnson is demonstrates the issue with the presidential election in our country. A lot of people feel like they are wasting their vote going Libertarian so they don't do it... but if enough people "wasted" that vote, the guy might have a shot. They wouldn't even let him debate - what are they so afraid of??? People might like what he has to say???

Lie #1: “This is a two-party system.”
Nothing in the US Constitution limits the number of political parties. Democracy means free participation, in the party of your choice. 
Lie #2: “Green candidates steal votes from Democrats”
Greens will continue to affect election outcomes - and sometimes win. But Greens have no power to steal votes from Democratic candidates, because no candidate owns anyone’s vote except for his or her own. 
Lie #3: “If Nader hadn’t run, everyone who voted for him would have voted for Gore!” 
According to exit polls, Nader’s support came from Democrats, Republicans, independents, and many others. Many would not have voted for Gore if Nader hadn’t run, and some voters might not have voted at all.

What is the Difference Between Baptists and Methodists?

So the other day, someone asked what is the difference between Baptists and Methodists? We were having a pretty well rounded conversation about different religions, with people from different faiths, and one who didn't really understand much about Protestant Christianity was curious... Well there are several differences between the two (like women in church leadership roles for example), but this one stuck to me because I've personally experienced it... and in order to not "call out" or deface either one I will not be specific as to which one I'm referencing as I write this post... But if you know me, you'll probably figure it out...

So a funny comparison I heard the other day was that one preaches against it on Sunday, and does it on Monday... while the other doesn't preach against it on Sunday, and does it on Monday. (hahaha) Ok this was meant for humor - we are all human and no one is perfect,  but the main thing I want to take from this point is that one "preaches against it" and the other "doesn't preach against it." What not to do, and what to do.

Personally, having been in both church's I've seen this... one teaches a more negative, what not to do, against this, that, and them sermon... extreme fundamentalist... the other is a more positive this is what we should do and here's how to apply it to our personal lives sermon... it is more progressive.

And looking to the Bible, it's ironic how these two compare, and line up with the old and new testament. In the old testament, human beings were under the mosaic law - they were told what not to do. But this didn't work very well, because people were enticed to rebel against the law. Jesus was sent to earth to die on the cross and being forth a new covenant... teaching us what to do - how to follow him. Leading us, showing us - being our example.

The deeper rooted issue with many of the church's today who use the "against it/what not to do" style is that they are teaching this way to point fingers at others, not to look inside themselves and shape their own lives... look at those atheists... those homosexuals... those liberals... those "fill in the blank." I'm not saying they ALL do this, but sadly a majority of today's church's are doing this. But what they don't realize, is that by judging others they are only making the log in their eye grow larger... as they worry about the splinter in another person's eye.

Personally, I want to learn what to do and how to apply it in my life. I want to learn how to be a true disciple of Christ... And not just to hopefully reach non-believers so that they may see the amazing love and grace of God, but to reach other Christians... who may be strapped to this other way of thinking. After personally coming over from one side to the other (the fundamental Christian to the more progressive Christian), I see how much more free and liberated I am in God's love by focusing on Him and my relationship with him... by focusing on how I can be a better person and love others... not judge them. Honestly, trying to defend the other, more fundamental side was tiring and stressful... sometimes it hurt, and it just didn't feel right. But I know now God was pushing me to rediscover him and myself through a much more positive, loving, and nurturing experience.

The love of God is supposed to be unconditional, forgiving, and forever present. He will not leave or forsake us... he loves us always. And he sent his son to share this love with us, to teach us that this is how we need to treat each other.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why I'm Proud to be a Member of Harvest - a United Methodist Church

So when I was "confronted" about my views, I was asked what kind of church is this new church we attend, and I told him Methodist... and he said "well that explains it..." First off, my "views" were established long before we came to this church, and represent my personal opinion, not the opinion of any one church - my spiritual growth is one of the reasons we left our old church and came to this one. I feel they fit best with my new-found spirituality and point of view on Christ and the Bible. I know no two people will ever see eye to eye on everything, and the same goes for me finding a church... but I have found the place that I see eye to eye with on the most important thing - positive ministry and spreading Christ's love - not using the Bible to "defend" hate.

I want to share with you what I learned in our Membership class about the United Methodist church, and why it excites me.

"You are a member of God's very own family... and you belong in God's household with every other Christian." Ephesians 2:19

The Mission of Harvest

I am extremely proud to be part of this mission. While I wasn't "unchurched" I didn't grow up in church, and I was definitely "mischurched" before finding Harvest.

Jim had a vision, to "see a tremendous harvest reaped for the Lord in Middle Georgia." He told this amazing story how him and his wife Jennifer were out one day about 10 years ago in Warner Robins, and they were just driving around, not really sure where they were, but stopped in front of a gas station by the Taco Bell off 41 and 96 because they felt God's presence strongly there. Later, they were talking with their pastor about starting a church in middle Georgia, and the pastor told them they already had surveyed a place, they probably didn't know it not being from WR, to put a new church. Jim pressed and asked him where it was... and he told him well it was near a gas station and Taco Bell off the intersection of 41 and 96 in Houston County....
It is amazing how God works. Jim's visions continues - he "wants to see thousands of people won to Christ and discipled. He forsaw home Bible studies throughout Houston County - each group taught by a qualified lay leader."

"He saw a church that is honest and genuine with people. Accepting them where they are but loving them enough to not let them stay that way. A church which does things in an excellent way. One which exalts the Lord by teaching and preaching the Scriptures. A church which equips people by teaching them the Word and helping them discover and use their gifts and talents given by God. A church with a process, a system, and a strategy to intentionally win people for Christ and then help them grow in maturity."

What makes this proposal of Jim's so amazing is that he's doing it. They purposefully dress down and use a contemporary method of worship that is joyful and full of celebration. The music is upbeat and mood lifting - making people genuinely glad to be there (I know from personal experience!) The style of worship is "seeker sensitive" meaning sensitive to people who may not know Christ. "Traditional" worship music was contemporary to the time it was written and sung... the old Hymns ministered to the people of those times. But now different contemporary music is what reaches people of this time.

Harvest genuinely welcomes and wants the seeker, the unchurched, the non-believer to come. And they show it in their worship, their ministry, their sermons, their community groups... Christ's teachings are applied all throughout this church.
Photo: "The view is better up here. Rise above hate, resentment and intolerance." — written and designed by Dodinsky's Garden of Thoughts (do check out his page).

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I now understand why I felt so much more comfortable at Union Chapel back in Muncie when we went... I now have a better understanding of the Methodist mission and heritage... and it's awesome - it represents Christ. I now understand what God has been trying to show me for so long. And I'm now in a place where I find confirmation regularly. Not in a place where I question my thoughts and the difference of those thoughts from the views of the church... but in a place where I've started learning on my own accord what the Bible really teaches, and the church matches up to it.

It is Not "Us" vs. "Them"...

As Christians it is important that we know that God loves everyone unconditionally. And that God wants us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and even love our enemies no matter how difficult. And even if that neighbor or enemy doesn't believe in God, or follows a different religion, it is not "us" vs."them."

I've been in enough church's where I've heard the preachers up in the pulpit going on about atheists, homosexuals, Muslims, or "fill in the blank"... and with that mentality of "us vs. them." I've seen it enough times to know it exists more than it should. And then they wonder why they aren't "winning" people over to Christ... why their congregations aren't growing... I've been in church's full of petty people, where it just felt like high school all over again... Ignored and shunned for my mistakes in life... I didn't "fit in" with the crowd. I've seen it so much that it was amazing to me, an absolute shock, to sit it a church where this didn't happen... where it was the total opposite...

Teaching us to apply scripture in our personal lives... to forgive over and over again, not just for the person needing the forgiving, but for our personal healing... and reaching out to the possibility of non-believers sitting in the congregation that morning, and welcoming them, expressing that they are loved and not preaching against them, but showing them what a Christian is supposed to look like. And this church is growing and people are coming to Christ. And it is because they want people to know who Christ really is. They want to reach people and let them know they are loved.

It is not up to us to choose who "belongs" - as Christ followers we are supposed to love, welcome, and accept everyone. By doing so, applying Christ's teachings to our lives, and showing through our actions what a Christian is supposed to look like, that is how others find Christ... through us.

This is one of the hardest ones to apply. God wants us to forgive, because he has forgiven us. But when people do us wrong it hurts, and it's hard to just forgive and let live. But even if you have to forgive one person 77 times, forgive them. It may take a while to forget, but eventually it won't bother you any more. And by forgiving you will be set free.

I  can hold a grudge with the best of them... but holding a grudge is like a delicious poison... at first revenge seems like it'd be so good. You go over in you head what you should of said to put them in their place... you think about how to get them back. But this only makes things worse. It eats at you. If you are still holding a grudge against someone who hurt you today, let it go and strive to forgive them. A lot of time it is just petty stuff, and even if it isn't petty, you've got to forgive because Christ forgives every one of us for every stupid thing we do.