I believe in Jesus, but I am not a Jesus freak!

Did I catch your attention? If you are a faithful Christian did you think my comment was sacrilegious? Believe me, that was not my intent. I believe in Jesus and I am a Jesus lover!

I am watching “The Today Show” and Bill O’Reilly is going to be interviewed. One of the discussion topics is teaching about Jesus in the public school system. I am not against people learning about Jesus. I think he did, and will do, miraculous things on this earth. I will hold off on my comments until I hear what Bill says.

Okay, Bill just said that he wants kids to learn about Jesus as a person, not as part of religion. He explained that our government was formed around a Judeo-Christian religion and that children need to learn the background of our government. I totally agree with that.

When I was in junior high, my literature teacher used a book that would cause huge controversy now in the public school system. It was “the Bible AS LITERATURE”, edited by Alton C. Capps.  Introduction…”Modern civilization is greatly indebted to the Bible. The foundations of modern Western culture evolved primarily from two sources: Athens and Jerusalem. Western culture, particularly the English speaking word, is more indebted to the Hebrew influence than to the Greek.”

If you think about it, the school system teaches other religions as stories and cultural experiences all of the time. In my school system, Second graders are taught about Hanukkah. They read the story about the 8 days and the oil; some classes make potato latkes as part of the cultural experience. When I asked a teacher how they can teach about the Jewish faith and not say anything about Christmas, her comment back to me was that Judaism is an ethnicity, Christianity is a religion.

Greek and Roman mythology is taught in the school system. These are stories that are about the gods of their religion. As they have been known more for their story value than their religious value, it is acceptable to learn these stories in the school system.

I have often referred to “the Bible” literature book in my discussions with people about “teaching” the Bible in school. There are so many great adventures, life lessons, murder, incest, redemption, in the Bible. If people got past the “religious part” of the Book, they could read every type of genre in one book!

Now back to my Jesus Freak comment. I have always been a church goer. When I was young, even a snow storm would not stop my dad from piling all of us into the station wagon and driving the mile to church. There were times that we were the only family in church with the pastor who had to walk across the street. We were very committed to being in church every Sunday.

When I was in 8th grade, I had my first Christian re-birth. Even though I was a church goer, on that day, I really took my belief to heart and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Throughout the years I have had many re-births; when my grandmother was diagnosed and died from ovarian cancer in an 11 month time frame, the Sunday I walked into my church sanctuary holding my 5-day-old daughter and many more, small, Christian growth spurts.

As a Christian, I believe that it is just as wrong to witness to those who are not ready to hear His word, as it is to not witness to those who are prepared to open their hearts to hearing the Word of God. I am very careful with whom I speak my faith because I do not want to be “the person” that scares someone away from getting to know my Lord. But I also have the fear that maybe I miss out on an opportunity. It is through prayer and an openness to hearing what God wants you to do that you understand your walk in this life.

I think what I fail to do many times is listen, be still and listen. God speaks with me every day, I have no doubt. I don’t think I hear Him every day though because I fail to be still. If this was January 1, I would say that needs to be my New Year’s resolution. I guess that becomes my April 10th resolution.

I am best when I think of God as a parent. I look to how I have raised my children and I can relate to the expectations that God has for me because I have the same expectations for my children. I know that if I push too much, at the wrong time, I will only get resistance. But there are times when I push and my children are open to my words and I receive results; at the correct time, with the proper words, they are open to my words and actions.

The term Jesus Freak arose in the 60’s and continued through the 70’s. My definition is not a positive term but one that denotes a person who is pushy in presenting their witness. They are “out there” and are not in touch with the world around them. In my opinion, they are witnessing and not thinking about their words or actions; they are not thinking that their actions may be driving people away for Jesus, instead of drawing them near the faith.

We must live in the world. In the six years that we homeschooled, I felt it was important to be involved in the community. I did not put my children in the protective cocoon and sheltered them from the world. I believe that I have a duty to teach my children how to live a Christian life in a secular world. I cannot do that if they are not exposed to outside influences. I will not always be around to protect them. I needed to provide them with the tools to be strong in all circumstances. I needed to help boost their self-esteem and give them confidence to handle all situations.

I don’t believe that being a Jesus Freak is a positive model for them or me. I believe that living a clean life, a faithful life and teaching my children that a church family is important will help them to be able to go out on their own and stand up to the trials and tribulations of life.

I believe in Jesus and I pray that I will be open to being still and listening to know when it is my time to share my faith and the wonderful life a person can have with Jesus in their life.

 

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I believe in God – a confession on my life

I believe in God! I believe that He* is the Master of my life and that, by my belief and acknowledgement of Him, I am blessed. I have always felt that way no matter what was happening in my life. And while I believe that, sometimes it is hard for me to talk/write about. I feel that God inspires me in my writing and when this topic entered my head this morning, frankly, it frightened me. Why you ask, please let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about keeping family secrets and the importance of making sure that the family not be shamed. I also believe that you should be humble, no matter what the circumstances. So in writing this, I am making myself vulnerable. I must have faith that it is God that is inspiring me to write and that I am not being led astray by other forces. So I do write with trepidation but I think this is what I am to do. (Can you feel the hesitation that I have? Imagine me taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out…) Here goes…

As I wrote, I believe in God! I am a faithful person always; I believe in God, always; but I am not a religious person, always. I do not memorize where Bible passages are located in the Bible, although I know many Biblical stories and lessons. Sometimes I forget to say grace. And there are times when I am so tired or pre-occupied that I forget to speak with God daily. I go to church weekly and attend Sunday School and worship services. My husband and I have raised our children in knowing that Sunday is a day that we spend at church and church takes precedence  over sports, or sleep, if they were out a little too late.

To my recollection, I have never said that I hated God or been angry with God. I try to take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame God for my circumstances because I am of the opinion that God lays many paths before me. Based on the path  I choose determines my future. I rely on God to be with me if I make poor choices and available for me when I ask for guidance. I do not attribute my shortcomings to “things” that God “has done” but I do give Him praise when things are going well. Some may ask, “How can you give credit to God but not place blame?” I can’t answer that for anyone else but myself. I have free will to make decisions in my life and I believe that some of my decisions have caused my life to go in directions I did not anticipate.  When I make a wrong choice, God has the opportunity to show me the correct path, if I am open to His words. (I am still somewhat hedging. I don’t want to rock the boat, known as my life, but I think it is time. I think I am being called to share what I have not shared before. I hope you have given me a little leniency)

Coming up in two weeks, I will have been married 25 years. There have been ups and downs, as in any relationship. Having a husband who is self-employed, there were times, early in his self-employment, that we did not have income. When that happened, I would say, “Well at least we are healthy.” When someone became ill I would say, “Well at least we have health insurance.” I would always try to find a way not be angry or to get depressed. I always thought that there was someone out there that had it worse than me and tried not to have a pity party.

I think our family is where we are today because we have always given credit where credit is due. As a family, we have always praised God and made Him an important part of our lives. Our family is healthy; We are gainfully employed; We have a full food pantry;  There are no reasons to complain about anything going on in our lives. (It took a lot for me to write that. It all goes to being humble. I worry that by actually saying this to the whole world, I may affect things. I know that seems superstitious, and I like to think that I am not, but I really do not want to jinx our life)**

Why do we have the life we have, while other people of faith struggle? I wish I knew and that may be one reason why I am humbled about what we have and what we are able to do for our church and our community.  I was able to go 17.5 years and devote the majority of my time to managing the household, everyone’s schedules and was a very busy volunteer. I always said that I volunteered so much to take on volunteering for women that were unable to do so because they had jobs outside the home. We have taught our children that it is important to give back to the community; that your community is only as strong as the people who give, to make it a great place to live.

I don’t want to say that life is easy, but we are blessed. And I know that our life may seem “easy” compared to others. But I think it is how I have looked at things that make me feel like we are handling things well. And maybe things have not been easy and it is just the way I look at life that makes me feel so blessed.

BIG GULP!

I believe that my husband was meant for me. I was faced with circumstances that forced me to move back to my parent’s home. It just so happened that my husband attended the church where I grew up. We met only because I trusted too much and gave someone access to my life.

FLASHBACK…the story

It was the darkest day in my life. All I saw were stars escalating into a pit of darkness the day I found out that I had nothing! I didn’t have much, just a car and furniture and Oh Yeah, a job. That may not seem like much to you but I had just lost it all, because I trusted, trusted too much.

Standing in the phone booth, listening to every customer service agent tell me that my phone and my electricity and gas were not out because of the spring storms; they were cut off from lack of payment. Uncontrollably shaking, I dialed the number to the bank that had my car loan…my car was up for repossession! That phone booth kept getting smaller and smaller and with that, the oxygen seemed to be less and less. I thought I was going to pass out before I made that last, most important, phone call.

It was hard to punch in the phone number to my bank because I was too frightened to hear the truth. I didn’t want to hear that I had a negative balance in my account. But I knew that was what I was going to be told. And even though I could feel my life crashing down around me, I could feel the weight of all that I was being told, I was in too much shock to let my emotions burst out of my soul.

I had been robbed, financially raped if you will, by someone whom I had trusted, trusted with my life. I had to think. I had to get my act together and figure out what I could do.

I was young, in my early twenties. I had a college degree but had not earned my degree in life. I was from a Midwestern town where you left your doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about “bad guys”. I did not grow up in a small town, there were 60,000 people in this city which was near a larger city. When someone told me they were my friend, I trusted that was true. And when someone told me they wanted to help me, I took them up on their offer.

I was living in a different city about 6 hours from my hometown. I moved there for a job and basically knew where my bank was, and where the grocery store and my apartment were located. I worked long hours and my friends were people I managed. I now know that is inappropriate but they were the people I knew and my social life was my work.

I became friends with a man who seemed to know everything. He intrigued me. We began dating and then he started offering to handle mailing my bills for me since he was more flexible with his time. I thought, “How great is this. I basically have my own personal shopper and someone to take care of my bills.”

I would bring my bills to work and he would swing by my work and deliver my bills to the mailbox. (It seems strange but I don’t know that I remember where the post office was or any stand alone mailboxes. I look back now and know how dumb I was.) Within a month’s time I gave him access to my bank account. He was my friend, my boyfriend, I could trust him, right?

Fast Forward…The spring storms came and everyone lost power and phone service in my apartment complex. But after a few days I became concerned. My “boyfriend” said not to worry; it was just taking time to get everything back on-line. After a week, I decided to go to a pay phone and find out what was going on…

Every phone call I made saw me sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss. During the phone call to my bank the bottom dropped out of my life. If I remember correctly, I think I sunk to the floor of the phone booth and sobbed, deep-heavy breathing sobs.

Thank God I had(have) great parents. I phoned my parents and tried to explain to them what had happened. In between the tears I told them that I had nothing. I explained to them that I had trusted someone and he had stolen everything from me. I had to explain that I gave him my bank account information and instead of mailing my bills, he was taking money out of my account; Instead of picking up my mail, he was throwing all of my bills away and only giving me the junk mail. I had not received any late notices or anything that would give me a notion that I was slowly being robbed of my life. I was lost, alone and I needed Mom and Dad to rescue me.

They explained to me that they could not get to me right away because of commitments that they had. I needed to be strong and they would take care of things. They asked for the phone numbers to all of the utility companies and they would make sure that everything was settled up with them. They would make sure I had lights and phone by the end of the day and I would not lose my car. My dad told me I needed to get things squared away with my work and tell them that I needed to make arrangements to transfer to my hometown and that I would not be in to work for a couple of days.

I did what I was told and my company was very understanding and very accommodating . I would have a job and could start at the new location in two weeks. Thank God for a good company. Even through all of this, God was there with me. I had made the mistake of trusting someone but I put my trust in God and he took care of me with a loving family, a good company and wonderful people at the bank, the utilities, the phone company and JC Penney.

JC Penney? Yes, JC Penney. I had purchased all of my furniture through them and was on a payment plan. I had a living room set, bedroom set and dining room furniture. I phoned the sales person whom I had purchased my furniture and explained what had happened to me. Through the tears I told her that I could not afford the furniture and I needed to leave the state and really did not need the furniture anymore. Can you believe that they took it all back! Within two days a big van came out and picked up all of the furniture. My 1200sf apartment was almost completely empty. I had a television and a plastic shelving unit from college. (I still have the shelving unit in a spare room of our home) I slept on the floor, ate on the floor and relaxed on the floor. It was an empty shell, a true picture of what my life had become.

I moved back to my hometown and moved in with my parents. They had settled up all of my bills and I lost nothing except my dignity and the trust of people. Innately, I still wanted to trust, but I was vulnerable and frightened of everything. I started working almost as soon as I moved back and started going to church regularly again.

My parents wanted to help me transition to my “new” life. I was asked by a pastor to join a group of young adults that were planning a singles group for our congregation. Needing to find ways to meet new people in a protected atmosphere, I said yes. Twenty eight years later, I am so blessed to say that my first friend back then, is now my husband. He knows what happened but we don’t talk about it. After we had dated for a while, I told him what had happened. And up until the day that we started building our home, I was making payments to my father for everything that he had to pay out to rescue me. The day that we signed the papers for our construction loan, my father forgave the remaining debt.

You see, bad things, really bad things happened to me. But as I look at things now, in a more mature and as someone from the outside looking in, God was with me always. I had parents that could help me in my dire situation. I met a man who looked past my failures and loved me for me. There were companies that bent over backwards to help this poor, naive, single female.

It was not all wine and roses. There were some companies that were not as kind and I had problems with this individual, this creep that stole my life, after I moved back to my hometown. But I moved past all of that. I thank God for my life and even though it was a horrible time, it was a blessing, because I am where I am today because of the situations that brought me back to the fold of my parent’s arms.

I believe in God! I am a faithful person but not always a religious person. I believe that when I take the wrong path, God is there to help me learn and move forward. I believe that God wanted me to tell my story. I believe that I needed to tell my story, finally. I believe that you should never give up on God because He will never give up on you. You need to be willing to have God guide you and you have to be willing to struggle through the hard times and still want God there with you.

As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “Stay in love with God.” I say, “Always be grateful and find ways to stay in love with God.”

A couple of side notes below…

*When I say Him, I do not mean male, it is the pronoun that I have used all of my life because there is not a pronoun for parent.

**It took me a week to finish this. The day after I started writing this, I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal. On that same day, I found out my car had about $1,000 worth of expenses in repairs and tires that were in desperate need of replacement. You know that “jinx thing” I wrote about in the beginning, it took me awhile to convince myself that was all coincidence. I thank God that my root canal was successfully treated and my car is in good repair. And I thank God that we are gainfully employed. As the old saying goes, “You can choose to see the glass half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full.”