No Apology Apologetic

Yesterday a Facebook memory pop-up showed a quote I’d posted several years ago by world renowned Christian Apologetic, Ravi Zacharias. He was one that encouraged and challenged me in my faith and the many natural (and also the not-so-natural-OCD-induced) doubts that arise. To hear the news of his exposed dark secrets was startling and heavy. It felt so disappointing and not so much because I expected perfection as a leader, but because I feel betrayed by someone that I thought was living a challenging life while holding tightly to the grace of God. He never gave me a sneaky, prosperity gospel feel. He seemed humble. Little did many people know, he was covered in darkness and temptation. Did he feel remorse, guilt, shame? Who knows. He died before making any sort of confession or repentance. You may not be one that believes in this sort of thing, but I feel that evil is permeating through this world and this is a prime example. Evil oozes and creeps about much like a broken jar of molasses.

When a public failure occurs from a Christian, it tends to give doubtful people more ammo to disregard any inkling of curiosity about the faith in Christ. I certainly don’t blame that tendency. It’s often how I feel when heartache occurs through cancer, accidents, etc. When a well-known, often mocked leader of the faith fails in tacky ways, I feel such an annoyance that they’re damaging the reputation of the core of the Gospel; the truth that we are all failing on a daily basis in some way or another, that we are hopeless without grace, and that Jesus Christ provides that love and mercy at the start of every day for those that faithfully trust in Him. That trust may look like a drunk donkey or a toddler just learning to walk, but He loves us no matter what. When Ravi’s reputation crashed and burned, it felt different, like a punch in the gut; similar to how I felt when our beloved Cliff Huxtable, AKA Bill Cosby, fell from his lovable spot in America’s hearts.

Why am I even writing about this disappointment? I don’t know. I don’t do it in defense of anyone or the faith to which I’m clinging. I reckon it’s just a way to remind us that pain, failure, temptations, bad habits, and sadness are inevitable on this side of heaven. It’s a fact. It’s a reminder of the benefit of honest friendships, accountability from our trusted relationships, and hopefully, a opportunity to remember that we can share our failures and temptations in those safe, loving spaces. I’m praying right now that you, dear reader, find such a space.

“While it is fair to call out Christians for hypocrisy, the hypocrisy in no way negates Christianity, but rather establishes it. In the same way that it would make zero sense to call Beethoven a substandard composer because a six-year-old plays a Beethoven piece sloppily and out of tune at a piano recital, it makes zero sense to call Jesus a substandard Savior because his followers imitate him poorly.” – Scott Sauls, A Gentle Answer

Legit Letters

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) once a week, which is an international program for women and they do a study of one book of the Bible each year. The program includes an absolutely amazing children’s program and my littlest one was able to learn a mini version of what I was studying each week. Another gift was the interaction and support from the small group of women you meet with each week. We had a beautiful woman as our leader who encouraged us and prayed for us. Although I have not participated since, it is something I highly recommend and look forward to doing again as things settle and both of my children are in school.

I happened to land on the year that they were studying the book of John, which I feel was just perfect for me. It allowed me to hear the clear basics of the Gospel in such a helpful way. I was encouraged in many ways, but the most valuable piece to me and what kept shining through is the validity of this Gospel message. There were several times that I found myself thinking, “this just sounds so real” or “you just couldn’t have made this up” (P.S. I tend to naturally approach my faith from a skeptic’s view. I wish I were more of an easy believer, but I also know doubts can strengthen faith, too, so it’s not all bad).

As I recently looked back in my notes, several tidbits jumped out to me, but a common theme I love is how cool it is that the patterns and traditions (albeit seemingly strange to us) of the Old Testament were some of the ways God prepared people to understand the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion. He was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” and Jesus died at Passover as the Passover Lamb.

I love the genuineness and humanness of the people mentioned in the book of John; especially Nicodemus and Peter. Nicodemus was a fancy-pants religious leader at the time, but was so curious and knew there was more to life. He suspected great truth in Jesus and risked his high status by going at night to visit Jesus in order to learn more. He’s become one of my favorite biblically historical figures. I can’t help but love and have compassion for Peter because of his passion and humanness. I can very often relate to him and look forward to meeting him in eternity.

I’ve heard it numerous times, but if you are a new believer, a wonderful place to start is the book of John. I still have very simple bible basics because I continue to prioritize many other things above scripture reading, but each time I’m given the opportunity to really dig into a book of the Bible, I find myself both challenged and soothed by what I learn. I’m finding that opportunity through recent bible studies within my church’s women’s studies and I’m incredibly thankful for the hope and encouragement it provides.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Knock, Knock

Death is one of those things that we generally don’t like to talk about. When it comes to visit, besides being awfully sad and emotional, it also has the power to stop time and give everyone a proper shake in their boots for a bit. Depending on the closeness of the loss, it can be debilitating. Sadly, I think for many of us, the daily grind of life and striving for happiness seeps back in rather quickly and we no longer have death at the forefront of our minds. Not that I think we should be morbidly thinking of the Grim Reaper every morning, but the preciousness of life is something we too easily forget. I was skimming back through Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, and found a quote from Frederick Buechner where he writes, 

“Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

I just attended a funeral of one of my high school classmates this past weekend; a death of someone far too young. She was delightful and shining in so many ways. I saw the effects of this loss in her family and friends as they were mourning and it was heartbreaking. A couple weeks back, we celebrated the life of my grandmother-in-law and although I knew her fairly well for over the last 15+ years, it was so beautiful to hear the words of her grandchildren as they recalled how impactful she was for the duration of their lives.

As most would agree, I hate death. I hate the uncertainty of when it will come knocking. It’s one of my earliest fears as a child; wanting to have all the people I love in one room with me so I could keep them safe. As I heard the pastor say several times during his message at this most recent funeral, “We just don’t know”. We don’t know the time or place of our deaths and those we love. I’m re-reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and there’s a time when as a young girl, Corrie is exposed to the reality of death.

She cries out to her father, “You can’t die! You can’t!” In reference to their weekly train rides to Amsterdam, he asked her “when do I give you your ticket?” Corrie says, “Why just before we get on the train” and her father replies, “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”

We have a vet appointment for tomorrow afternoon to put down my dog, Millie. Although I’ve been thinking of it for a while now and I know it’s time, the reality of it makes me sad. I don’t like the finality of it. I’ve been wanting to do all I can to make these last couple of days really comfortable and trying to make sure she knows I love her. Death is hard. Life is hard, too, and we can work at a furious pace trying to keep all of our ducks in a row and strive to be “social media happy”, but I sure hope for a deeper and more grateful style of living. At least for today while it is louder than normal, I will try and recognize who is here and hug them a little tighter. After all, we just don’t know. 

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

Are You There God? It’s Me, Emily

I’m in the midst of reading Tim Keller’s book called, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God. I’m enjoying it because it’s both speaking down to my level on this sometimes tough topic and doesn’t sugarcoat what prayer can be “in just three easy steps”. One piece Keller addresses is how The Lord’s Prayer, as it was intended by Jesus, can be a guide for our own prayers as simple humans. As I’ve been reading I keep thinking, “Aha! My pastor must have read this book!” because we were emphasizing The Lord’s Prayer in church for a while where we took the basic outline of the prayer and filled in or elaborated with what that realistically looks like in our current world and community. To me, this practice in corporate worship has given it meat and more substance than we stereotypically give it since it’s become a rote memory version for many people. This prayer came directly from Jesus Christ in response to the question of how to pray. It’s not long, yet is deep and covers a lot of ground. Keller says, “Prayer in all its forms-adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and petition-reorients your view and vision of everything.”

I’ve written on my struggles with prayer in a previous post, and one of the refreshing and encouragingly honest reminders I read was that prayer is often hard work and that we should do it even when we don’t feel like it. Keller says, “We sometimes have to wrestle even in order to pray. We often wrestle in prayer just to concentrate” and he quotes Austin Phelps (nineteenth-century theologian): “When those hours of the day come in which we should be having our prayer sessions with God, it often appears as though everything has entered into a conspiracy to prevent it.”

Not only have I found it challenging to establish consistent quiet time, but I have also felt like I rarely “hear” from God (at least not like I’ve been thinking I should). When I do pray through the day or sometimes write out my prayers, I’ve been focusing on specific people that need help, circumstances, etc., but often about how to best use my time or I’ve asked to be guided by Him on decisions and how I can both glorify and rest in Him. I also spend a lot of time asking God to help me see how He loves me, to settle my mind and heal the broken parts that alter my thinking and outlook. With all of that asking, I have been hoping to really sense direction or “hear” it in my mind, so when it doesn’t come like I think it should or as often as I think it should, I bop around in a bit of doubt, frustration, and loneliness. However, I was reflecting recently on my frustration with myself and God on this issue of prayer and wrote this in my journal:

“I’m finding myself upset with God because I don’t think He’s making himself evident or close to me, but my definition of Him being accessible is that I would also feel good each time; giddy and peaceful, knowing He’s there. That can’t always be the case though, I wouldn’t think. How do I feel uneasy or unsettled inside, but also sense God? I don’t know. But, I don’t want to have a silly expectation that frustrates me with God and even possibly miss Him in other ways He reaches out to me.”

Realizing that I have misguided expectations was good for me. I’m hoping it will continue to help me let go of the efforts to try and pray just the right way in order to get Him to hear me. It doesn’t work like that. He does hear us. I have just recently seen encouraging reminders of that, too. After a rather honest journal/prayer entry about my frustrations, I ended it with, “I want you to change and heal me. I also want you to blow me away with supernatural direction or insight; to have certainty that you hear me or want to use me in some way. I know that doesn’t have to be spectacular, but I guess I want and desire affirmation from you that my issues and struggles aren’t for naught.”

A couple weeks after writing that, I was honored with the opportunity to encourage a dear friend’s child who is having an incredibly tough time with anxiety. Although his mother is one of my favorite friends and is devoted, loving, and tender, she couldn’t relate to many of his obsessive worries. I could though and I knew how his little brain was wracked with icky thoughts. I have had enough “practice” of my own with it to send him encouragement and tips that have helped me find rest along the way. I feel like God gave me just the right words, too. You should have heard his response and gratefulness! What a joyful treat it was for me to feel as though I have finally been able to use my own mess to bless another. I feel like God heard my prayer and that He gave me a gift of encouragement, too. Even though I had tangible evidence that He heard me in that situation, the truth is that He always hears us.

Tim Keller, using the wisdom of John Calvin as inspiration, says, “Cry, ask, and appeal-you will get many answers. Finally, where you do not get an answer, or where the answer is not what you want, use prayer to enable you to rest in his will.” He also directly quotes Calvin as writing, “Though cast down and overcome by true humility, we should be nonetheless encouraged to pray by a sure hope that our prayer will be answered.” 

I hope this can serve as an encouragement to you that even though it may seem as though you’re not being heard or if you’re feeling frustrated with God or worried you’re not good enough for Him and avoid prayer as a result, our prayers are not empty or unheard.  Ask Him to help you to pray and KEEP GOING. Tell Him everything and be open to the many ways He may respond, whether it be His word, others around you, opportunities, etc. You are heard and can rest in that truth.

Bashing Bondi

It’s been almost a week since the devastating massacre in Orlando. What emotions this has stirred up across the globe and especially on social media. I have Facebook friends on all sections of the political and spiritual spectrum, so that leads to an array of posts on the issues that stem from such an awful event…guns, Muslims, radical Islam, LGBT community, Obama, Trump, etc. It can make your head spin and cause us to lose focus on what has really occurred. Human beings, hated for their sexual preferences and lifestyle and/or race, were blatantly murdered by an angry, distorted man. It is wrong in every single direction and no one, regardless of their personal beliefs and personal choices, deserves such hatred.

The other night I watched a bit of “I Am Jazz”, a show about a young child struggling with gender-identity and her journey through the transitional period that started at a very young age with hormone-altering drugs, etc. It was disturbing to see, but an additional takeaway for me was the honest portrayal they gave of the backlash and straight-up bullying this and other trans kids endure as a result of their decision. I don’t agree with such extreme measures at that young age, but no matter what decision they and their parents have made, NOTHING is deserving of ugly, hateful, judgmental words.

With SO much information coming from many different directions and sources, it is confusing to know truth. What news channels or websites are accurately and responsibly sending out information and opinions? Should I be for or against gun control? Does it really matter if Obama refers to it as “Radical Islam” or not? It’s what keeps me from regularly really diving into the political arena or keeping up with the news. It’s why I generally play devil’s advocate to a great deal of my husband’s conservative perspective on issues (and I’m a touch stubborn). Another social issue that this recent trauma has brought up again that I continue to struggle with is my personal opinion on homosexuality. I go back and forth on what I think. My faith plays a major part in my thoughts on this matter. I read about it. I have asked questions of people on both sides. I’ve prayed about it. No matter where I fall on it at any given moment, it will always be my personal opinion. I am allowed to still have that, right?

There are obviously way too many people, some claiming to be followers of Christ, that are plain ol’ ugly, mean, judgmental, and critical of others that they deem sinful (forgetting the log in their own eye! Matthew 7:3). But not everyone feels and acts that way! There are Christians who may not agree with someone’s lifestyle, but still show love. I don’t hate someone because they have a different lifestyle than me. I know many people that don’t speak aggressively or ugly towards others that have different beliefs. I would certainly never think someone, like a person in the LGBT community, would ever be deserving of brutal murder for their lifestyle. I feel terribly that anyone would feel threatened, bullied, or in fear of their life for a lifestyle preference. YET, even though I feel heavy-hearted over how they must be feeling and want to support them as they recover from the Orlando massacre, I’ve somehow been led to feel that I’m not allowed to still disagree with their lifestyle. Why would I not be able to hold a personal belief that stems from my own personal faith? There are articles like these that imply Christians are inadvertently being held accountable for the Orlando massacre and that is very disheartening to me.

If I do decide that I don’t believe homosexuality is what God intended for his creation, then I could be “de-friended” on Facebook and thrown into the pit, like Florida State Attorney Pam Bondi was during her interview with Anderson Cooper. On my newsfeed I saw friends thrilled that he tore into her, implying she is a hypocrite for now supporting the LGBT community when previously, she adamantly fought against their right to marry in the state of Florida. Remember when I said I don’t often engage in politics or tune in to the news? Please hear me say that I know zilch about Pam Bondi, besides her job title and from the interview I watched yesterday, it’s obvious she fought against gay marriage to, as she said,”uphold the constitution for the state of Florida”. I have no clue if she’s a Christian.  I have no idea if she’s a big Meany-pants in real life. However, what I did hear her saying in that interview is that she was appalled by the atrocity that happened in Orlando and that she supports human life and wants to help the LGBT community. I do not personally feel strongly opposed to gay marriage or civil unions, but this lady is entitled to her opinion (and her designated career responsibilities) and that does not automatically discredit her seemingly heartfelt efforts to support the LGBT community after such a scary event. I believe someone should be able to sympathize and support another, even if they may not agree with their lifestyle.

Like I said, emotions can reach an all-time high at times like these. With folks on polar opposite sides of political and social issues, it can lead to aggressive words. What I want is the freedom to respectfully hold my personal beliefs and I currently don’t feel like that’s the case. This does not mean I have the right to belittle and aggressively torment those that don’t hold the same beliefs. It would also mean that just because I may not agree with you, it does not mean I should be treated as ignorant or heartless. I believe living in this country affords us the right to hold our own opinions, whilst still respecting mankind and being able to gently encourage and love other human beings through such painful times as these.

Isn’t It Ironic?

I just put another bumper sticker on my car that might take me over the cliff where I’ll secretly be called a Jesus Freak. If you knew how my insides have actually felt about this idea, it would really shock you that I even consider it.  I don’t like to draw attention to myself in a religious way in that I never, ever, ever want to be pushy about religion, faith, etc. I don’t bring the fire and brimstone attitude or try to scare people into believing in God. Eek. However, my bumper sticker decisions are a big deal in my little life. I put great thought into them and have had one of them personalized to make my point. Even though I shy away from being pushy about my stances, once I do feel deeply about something, I want to confidently express it and sometimes I wonder if something as simple as a bumper sticker could get brains stewing as they spend so much time in the car.  P.S. I only have 3 total; not like pieces of flair at Chotchkie’s (see clip for Office Space reference). 

Now to my point. My most recent sticker, as seen here, is a picture of a little sea turtle and when you look closer, you see that it’s holding a sign that says, “Save the Baby Humans”. A friend of mine from church had it on her car and after seeing it, I had a huge “aha!” moment and then kept thinking on this idea for the last month or so. It is yet a new way that I see the issue of abortion and how it’s distorted in our society. It’s similar to the fact that millions of dollars were probably pulled out of North Carolina over the transgender bathroom bill (I am still stewing on that topic as I try to figure out where I stand) whilst millions more US federal dollars keep flowing into foreign countries that execute people with any alternative lifestyle. Another day, another blog…

If you’re from Bradenton or I imagine any other beach community, you know about the potentially over-zealous sea turtle patrol. They wake up before dawn to stake out sea turtle nests along the shore. In turtle season, they are clearly marked with stakes and bright orange surveyor’s tape. You don’t mess with them unless you want major trouble. We’re not allowed to have any lights at night shining towards the gulf. It’s a big dad gum deal. As a young girl, I myself wanted to be a marine biologist (Let’s be honest and say that 8 out of 10 children wanted to have the same profession or something else related to animals) and used to read about sea turtles, so I can understand the passion that many have. BUT, what is going on with this picture when we have people fighting for the women’s right to end a HUMAN life, yet don’t connect that to the fight to passionately protect a sea turtle’s precious life? They are cute, for real. They need to travel and have more turtle babies like in Finding Nemo, but why are we not, as a society, thinking in similar terms when it comes to human children? 

This post was triggered by similar thoughts from one of my favorite fiction authors, Francine Rivers. Although I may not agree with every nuance of her tone in this blog (i.e. when she questions Planned Parenthood’s motives in providing women’s health, because I do believe they bring a lot of good), it hits the same nerve thats been pressing on me since stumbling onto this sea turtle idea. In her writing, she references the same newspaper printing two different articles; one about a new abortion clinic opening and another about the great lengths taken to care for a newly discovered panda’s fetus at the local zoo. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think? 

Why are you breathing today?

I had someone recently ask me why I used the tag line, “Why are we breathing today?” on my blog header. My first response was that it ties into the mystery that inspired the main title, “Life Is So Curious…” Why are we here? How does it all work? I also realized that it’s two-fold; I want people to wonder why and how they were created which could then make them dig a bit and find hope in a Creator, but I also want to encourage other believers with the reminder that God has us still here on Earth for a specific reason. How is He using you? How is He stretching or pruning you? How is He helping and loving others through you? And like I mentioned in my last post, are we using our time here wisely?

I don’t imagine He creates us and then forgets about us for chunks of time (although it does feel like that to me sometimes…). We’re not like the plants on the back porch that we keep forgetting to water. He’s purposeful and all-knowing. He is not constrained by time and space. He knows you.

I often forget and need this reminder to keep me going and to approach life with my head up. Do you? I hope you know that you are loved and valued, whether you feel like it or not; whether you sense it from others or not. I know how scary life can feel. It’s encouraging to me to think about life in a different way and to consider that I’m here today to do something specific. It may be to simply speak kind or patient words to someone I talk to during my day, to look my son in the eyes to tell him how much I love being his mommy, or quite frankly, it may be a day for me to cling to Him every other minute because I feel awful or frightened. I don’t like to think that there’s any good in lousy times like that, but by asking Him, “what do you want me to do in this?” or “how can I glorify You today?”, I can seek purpose. It may feel like you have to drag yourself through the day or force the prayer out of your mouth, but I want to hope that He is proud of us when we try. Here’s a quote I love by an author named Angela Thomas: “I am going forward even when I cannot see. My worries are becoming trampled under the feet of my obedience. I sense the pleasure God takes in this offering.”

I just recently completed a bible study series by Matt Chandler with my 8th grade students and something that stuck with me was his reminder that, “God knows it’s scary to be us.” I’m so glad to hear that. Sometimes I tell Him that it’s scary down here and that I wish Jesus would come back already. But all in good time, I guess. In the meantime, I will keep at this life, not simply because I don’t have any other choice, but because I want to make the best of this time while remembering that this is not all there is. 

Why Do I Believe What I Believe?

Through a combination of my stubbornness, fears, striving, and doubt, I have done my fair share of questioning. One of my favorite quotes that someone shared with me that has stuck is: “Doubt is the soil of faith”. It’s given me a sigh of relief to know that it’s ok for me to dig around and challenge my faith a bit. My anxiety has gone through the roof at times over worry about how little I am and how overwhelming life seems to be; wanting to know the purpose behind it all. I’ve wanted proof to know that I’m safe and that there really is a big God that loves me.

Life is big. HUGE, really. I am truly amazed at how easy it is for us humans to live life without much thought to the greater meaning behind it or how the heck we even came to be. It’s just so natural to think about ourselves and creating as delightful a life as possible. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this struggle that I imagine many may not think about much at all. As one of my favorite friends Nikki told me when we were young, “you think too much!” Oh, how true that is!

So, with all of the wonderings I’ve had, it’s led me to think about why I believe and put my trust in the Jesus of the Bible. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s becoming less and less “cool” to be a Christian; Kelly Minter says in her women’s bible study called What Love Is, “I know it’s avant garde to hold nebulous beliefs that are open ended and that allow for pretty much whatever is comfortable for you and the people around you. But the Christian faith is preciously more defined than that. And this is actually wonderful news.” I want to be confident if there ever comes a time for me to defend my beliefs and most importantly, to know deeply why I’m safe in this big, big world.

Although I think I’m at a much more confident place in my faith, that doesn’t mean I don’t get waves of doubt that still come my way when something awful happens in life. That’s unavoidable. But it helps when I can recall the things that make the doubt less than the clear truths. Now, mind you these are not fancy pants, technically-written reasons like that of an apologist, but just rather some of my top reasons for relief in knowing there’s more to this life and what that means for me.

Here is my list of reasons why I believe what I believe:

1. Historical evidence of Jesus’ presence on Earth. Even non-Christians of the time (Thallus, 52AD and several others) wrote about this man from Nazareth that did miraculous things.

2. History that lines up with biblical recordings and the craziness of how many prophecies that have come to pass from the Old Testament.

3. The bible itself is an astounding book that weaves one greater story in it from start to finish. The way things line up like they do, it would be impossible for someone to make it up.

4. There is evil in this world. No one can deny the atrocities that have stormed the globe over the span of history. I don’t think you can have evil without good. There’s something bigger than us if we’re able to feel and act on both ends of this spectrum.

5. Every popular tv show with mediums/psychics, stories of witchcraft, etc. Although some is clearly just for show, I have no doubt some spooky revelations are going down, too. This makes me believe there’s a bigger war, so to speak, going on in an unseen world. It doesn’t make sense for us to dismiss a bigger creator or mystery if these things occur.

6. Miracles…the man who died and came back to share about it, the numerous healings or the almost-too-amazing-to-be -true stories from all over the world.

7. Muslims that have seen Jesus in their dreams or had their own unexplainable revelations that have led them to risk their lives and their families in order to devote their lives to Christ.

8. If I believe that Jesus really was alive and did some of the things that it’s historically proven he did, then that opens up a whole category of things I then can’t help but believe: he quoted the Old Testament and made numerous startling claims about who He is and why He came.

9. The apostles that followed Him, even after doing their fair share of doubting or denying before he was crucified, completely devoted their lives to declaring His name after Jesus was resurrected and revealed Himself to not only them, but hundreds of others. Many of these disciples died horrible deaths themselves and all the while continued to share the Good News of the Gospel until their last breath. Who does that unless they really, truly saw what they saw?

10. I am a mother. I’ve experienced the sheer joy of holding my babies. How is this possible if there is not a greater Being alive and active in this life? How does a creature like us, with the intricate details of our brain, emotions, moral compass already instilled, how are we possibly created without a Creator? If then there’s a Creator, then how can he possibly not be connected with all we know about the man Jesus that was certainly alive on our planet?

I’m sure there are a million more reasons, but these jump out to me and often soothe my fears. I came to the conclusion several years ago that I either believe it, or I don’t. The facts stack up pretty high and the arguments against faith in Christ are just too weak. It does seem to actually take more effort to disbelieve. The problem I think that’s plaguing us is that many are not giving it enough thought in order to make a real decision that’s not based solely on previous experiences (i.e. what you heard in your childhood, stereotypes of Christians, etc.) What do you believe happens after you die? Are you confident of why you believe it?

Do you believe in life after love?

Why I titled this post with a line from one of Cher’s songs, I’ll never know. It’s just what has been in my mind for a few days now as I’ve thought of this topic. Seeing that no one really consistently reads this blog except for my husband, I can get away with things like that. This post’s theme is a “religious” one, which may be why the song lyric came to mind; except with the word “death” as the last word. Get it? “Do you believe in life after death?” (sung like Cher) Is it now singing in your mind?

As I’ve shared before on my previous abortion post, I tend to shy away from hot topics and highly controversial issues on social media. Facebook can be an obnoxious collection of posts, articles, & comments that I really assume not many people pay attention to; especially when it argues your own beliefs, but sometimes I feel lead to add my two cents. I’m not scared to per say, but don’t want to give someone a reason not to like me (which I tend to care about more than I should).

A Facebook friend recently posted this article. It’s titled, “How Secular Family Values Stack Up” and focuses on a growing American demographic that include families raising kids without religion. The research shows that the children from these families generally have moral values intact and not any less than that of a religious-based family. This group demographic refer to themselves as “Nones” as they believe in “nothing in particular”. The article goes on to show that a significant number of these families are as close, if not closer, to their children and passionately provide moral direction and were goal-oriented. A reference to the “Golden Rule” was mentioned as one common, simple principle. All of that information makes complete sense and does not surprise me in the least. There are genuinely good, beautiful, and well-adjusted kids being raised by loving, supportive, and nurturing parents and they are coming from both secular and faith-based families. It’s a fact.

 It seems to me that America is becoming more nonreligious by the minute and less likely to cling to an often-considered archaic, legalistic, sometimes seemingly close-minded, systematic type of crutch like Christianity. To a lot of circles, Christianity in particular, is not appealing and certainly not on trend. Most Christians do not believe homosexuality is approved, are not fans of women’s right to choose abortion, and are not generally open-minded towards other religions of the world. Christianity seems to be at the bottom of an uphill battle with the ways in which it has been typecasted for so long. If you are open-minded and a free-thinker, why would you be weighed down by religion and furthermore, why would you raise your kids under the confines of such a belief system? It generally goes against what is roaring these days, and that is one’s freedom to express themselves and live for today. Seek happiness. YOLO mentality. I get that big time. Sometimes it seems super appealing to me to throw caution to the wind and do whatever the heck I want; to live life freely and not think of anything but the here and now. Not that a Christian lifestyle doesn’t allow freedom (because that is essentially what the Gospel does give), but it’s a different type of freedom.

A problem I see with the referenced article is that there is so much more to someone’s faith than just checking off the box of “religion”. I am personally a believer in Christ, but I came to that decision after much digging and doubt. I mentally debated a lot of the aforementioned issues on Christianity and my natural stubbornness encouraged me to not simply lie down and believe something just because it’s what I’m supposed to do. I hope to never raise my kids to just have a “religion”, but rather encourage them to think on all the evidence for and against a Creator and know why they believe what they believe. The article seems to dismiss the fact that a “Nones” family may be subconsciously encouraging their children to actually not be free-thinkers and open-minded, but rather the opposite, if “religion” (as it tends to be stereotyped) is dismissed as illogical or unworthy of researching. Which leads me to what I’ll be writing in my next post…why I believe what I believe.

Wherever you lie on the spectrum of faith, be anything but ignorant. Research and know what you believe (and give your children the gift of true open-mindedness to explore all avenues, no matter what you may declare as truth).

Abortion, abortion, abortion!

Abortion, abortion, abortion! There. I said it. I’m fascinated that this word, which my own vocabulary has been devoid of for many years (since it’s a hot topic), is now out and about and even posted on my Facebook page. I would have never thought I’d get the guts to publicly voice my changing opinion on the matter. But I have. I actually felt I had no choice. While growing up and becoming an adult, I would call myself pro-choice. I agreed with my mother, who has been very active and supportive of Planned Parenthood, that it was up to the individual woman what they do with their body. I didn’t think much further on it. In fact, I did not feel any of the emotional tugs when friends or others would use phrases like, “killing babies” or would support their local pregnancy centers. I was never against those programs because they did great things and loved young women going through difficult times, but I was not in support of them. To be quite honest, I did not want to be tied in with stereotypical “ultra-conservative Baptists” with their pro-life platform.

As I worked my way through my late twenties and early thirties, my faith in God formed and took root (not without great struggle as I crawled my way through hardship as noted on previous posts). I also gave birth to my son and began hearing more from Psalm 139. I never shifted to pro-life, but stayed neutral and what I thought was “open-minded”. However, during the summer of 2014, I had a personal event that altered my perspective of what goes on inside a woman’s pregnancy.  I made a trip to the ER while 17 weeks pregnant with complications. I remember being alone in the middle of the night and whispering to the little baby in my belly; hoping and praying for everything to be ok and dreading the idea of having to see my baby if I were to miscarry. I knew that it looked like a tiny growing human in my body and the idea of seeing it lifeless would have been overwhelming. Fast forward to 8 months ago when I gave birth to that sweet little girl that has brightened our life. I now reflect back to that night in the ER and realize that it was her in there; moving and growing. I had already given birth to my son 7 years ago, but this experience shed a new light on it for me.

Then the videos started coming out on Planned Parenthood. My first thought when I saw the headline was that it was probably an over-zealous pro-life group trying to smash abortion supporters. Then I watched. My stomach tightened and my heart fell because all I could think about was my little baby girl in my belly last summer. I couldn’t even watch the whole first video. I watched some of the videos to follow and heard myself saying, “What are we doing!?!” I want to cry out thinking about what is actually happening during an abortion. And I never saw it like that! How many people have been blind to the reality of what really happens? Yes, the selling of body parts seems a bit alarming and needs investigation, but there is more from this exposure that has much greater value and that is the light that has been turned on that has people (like me!) talking about abortion in a different way. Teenager? In college and don’t want to mess up life plans? Already have a couple kids and don’t want anymore or can’t afford it? No longer can we see it as an easy way out if it just doesn’t fit into our lifestyle. Blind to its realities, we act as though it’s no big deal!

You may be one that can relate to my previous view of abortion: “should be up to the woman”, “it’s not even a real baby”, etc. You may have been a bit grossed out by the first video, but have avoided the remaining videos and chalked it up as a distorted video by an crazy group of right-wingers. No matter what comes of the investigation on PP and regardless of whether they have been illegally selling the body parts, we have no choice but to see abortion as what it is: ripping up, sucking out, and destroying a tiny human life. Those are not eye-rolling, dramatic verbs I just used; they are fact. I just never knew it before and now I have no excuse. I will now pray for others to see it; that the blinders will also fall from their eyes and that this will cease to be common practice. I will also pray for the women (some of whom I know and could have easily been me, too) that have had abortions because now their own hearts may be feeling the heavy burden of that choice in a whole new way. If we have put our trust in Him, God forgives us, loves us, and has compassion on us. How do you play a part on this issue? What can you think, pray, or do?