Thursday, October 24, 2013

Christian Decoratives

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15

I am at the point in my life where needing to have my own house where it is evident that Christ is a part of my life, is vital. This is where my problem lies.

I'm starting the adventure of attaining a second job so that I can put a deposit down on a modest-sized home. Like I said, I promise, it's an adventure. It's one I've had to pray about for the past year, and have decided it's what would be best for me. I've had to ask God to lead me towards the right path, and I think He has showed me, repeatedly, where I am supposed to go. I'm trying to figure out how to get there, but I know through God, that it will happen. I give it to God and trust.

This is where you come in! I need your help!

I'm trying to find reasonable priced decorative items that express a clear statement: Christ is the center of who I am, but without being tacky. Does that make sense? I need something that doesn't look like you just walked into the vatican. I'm starting to realize that this is about 90% of what is donated at my local goodwill - think 1990's fashion mixed with Catholic Chic, not my favorite look in the world.

I live in the middle of nowhere. Extreme decoration just doesn't make sense here. I want my house to reflect my easy going ways.

Man, I'm starting to realize how tall of an order I'm asking for, guys.

I know this is kind of odd for a blogger to ask of you, but if any of you know of any sellers or items that I should add to my blossoming "collection", I'd really appreciate it! Thank you!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Forgiveness: Why is it so hard?

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

"Forgiveness is not a personality trait I was blessed with," I used to say to my grandmother, as she would sigh and roll her eyes.

This is what I have thought my whole life; that somehow the ability to forgive someone stemmed from a personality trait I had never inherited. It would take me years to understand that forgiveness is much more than that. It is something that is so difficult, that you will think you've done it when you haven't.

Some things forgiveness isn't:

  1. Forgiveness is not forgetting.
  2. Forgiveness is not forgetting anger.
  3. Forgiveness is not forgetting sadness.
  4. Forgiveness is not ignoring.
  5. Forgiveness is not easy.
Things forgiveness is:
  1. Forgiveness is clarity.
  2. Forgiveness is acceptance.
  3. Forgiveness is hope.
  4. Forgiveness is love.
I think part of the reason I was so 'against' religion in my teenage years was because I couldn't imagine someone forgiving me of all the wrong I'd done. I wasn't the worst person in the world, but I wasn't a saint either. 

Something I still struggle with to this day is understanding how Christ can forgive every person who believes in him. I don't think it's a stretch for us to admit that there are horrible people in this world. Still, I am working on it, as I am forgiving others around me for what I have perceived as transgressions against me.

Mark 11:25

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

I am famous for forgetting rather than forgiving. I have no problem just moving on from something and acting like it never happened. I let whatever hurt me stew inside me until I can't stand it anymore, and then I explode. I could never understand the people who said that they could "forgive, but never forget". I'd frequently ask myself, "How can you forgive, but never forget? Forgetting is the easy part."

But that's just it. I'd stressed myself out for years trying to find the easy way out to forgiveness. There is no easy way out. It is one of the hardest things you will ever do. You have to look within you, and if you need to you ask Christ to help you - do it, and He will. He will remove that anger and that hurt from within you.

Forgiveness is not for them, it is for you. That is why I never understood the quote. That person will have to live with whatever they have done to you. The guilt will eat them up inside, but you? You have forgave. You have cleared your heart. You have truly moved on. You will be happy. 

The way that I look at forgiveness now is: Look at everything humanity has done and continues to do. The Lord forgives us all. He died so that we may be forgiven. If Christ can forgive millions of people who have done horrible things, I can look one person in the eye, and truly forgive them. 

Daniel 9:9

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.

I've only just understood and figured out this concept, but let me tell you all, it is truly a relief - it is like a skyscraper has been lifted off my shoulders. I want you to experience that too. I want you to know what it like to be so happy, tearfully happy even. You deserve it. No matter what you have done, you deserve to know what it feels like to forgive and be forgiven.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dream Weaver and Sign Believer

1 Kings 13:3 
"And he gave a sign the same day, saying, 'This [is] the sign which the LORD hath spoken'."

I am a big believer in signs. This doesn't always register well with my protestant peers. My Catholic friends - particularly hispanic Catholic friends - always agreed with me that signs are real. I also believe in messages through dreams. Still, I think this even might be too 'new age' for my Catholic friends. Today's post is why I believe in them, and why I think they're important in correlation with Christ.

When I was sixteen years old I was agnostic. I was vaguely aware that there was a higher power, and I let it stay that way. I want to make it very clear that I have never been an atheist.

I was, however, more Christian-aware than my Christian friends at the time. What I mean is that I had read the bible and, almost obsessively, watched every biblical show I could get my hands on. I didn't do this for the well-being of others. I did this to protect myself from every Christian who tried to tell me that my agnostic viewpoint would get me sent to hell. I threw bible verses back at them anytime they'd come to me with any judgment.

This was, of course, after I had gone to church as a child (7-14). I'm really not sure what came over me when I was a teen, but I think it was realizing that the world isn't perfect, and I had a hard time reconciling that any god would let these things happen.

I stayed this way until this past year. I went on a bit of health kick and lost some weight, and began to do yoga. I always faced my window, and outside I could see trees in blossom and the sun radiating through the glass. It was a perfect, silent, calm moment. I thought, This must be what God feels like. What a peculiar thought for someone who had fought, with every fiber of her being, against this very line of thinking. I stopped myself and immediately called one of my friends who was a Lutheran. I told him I wanted to go to church, and I wanted him to go with me.

As you can imagine, he was confused, but he went with me.

Although I am not a Lutheran, we attended that type of service, since he was. The service was amazing, and I finally felt like the pastor got me. Well, not necessarily me, but my line of thinking. He wasn't beating my head to death with a bible, he was even poking fun at some of the passages, but his joking about didn't take away from the value of the text. He was charismatic and funny. He was exactly what the church needs more of. He applied the bible in a way that actually applies to my life in modern day. That is not an easy task to do, and I am happy he was able to.

Now, I was never planning on doing yoga. This is something I had teased one of my friends about profusely when she became an instructor. Through her recommendation, however, I gave it a try. If it wasn't for this moment in time, I would never have found God again - and I truly believe that. I have many other times that signs have "saved me", but this one is one that changed the course of my life, and that's why I have chosen to share it with you.

I think even bad things can be explained away, as much as we don't like it. I am thankful for every awful thing that has ever happened to me, because if they hadn't happened, I wouldn't be where I am now. That, to me, is sadder than any of the bad things that have happened. Have I cried and been miserable? Yes. Have I been depressed? More than you can imagine. I've even been suicidal. All of these things, they happened for a reason, they have led me to this point: a point where I am happy and have found God. I couldn't imagine my life any other way. I have never been happier.

Daniel 2:19
"Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven."

Well, this title also has a Dream Weaver title in it, doesn't it? I'm not saying I'm as important as Daniel, here, but I do believe we are all given our personal messages from God in our dreams.

I'm going to try and not sound too far fetched and crazy here, but if you know anything about Mormonism, you know they believe in receiving a personal testimony from Christ. Personally, even as a Protestant, I've always thought this was a little far fetched. Did all those guys in the Ol' Testament get messages from God? You betcha. Did lots of people get messages in the New Testament? Of course. I had this thought after my own personal testimony of Jesus Christ: Why is it so far-fetched to us that someone of our time could get one too?

A few months ago, I had a dream in which I was extremely happy. I was attending church regularly, I had a family, and we were all happy. I remember specifically that our entire family was very Christ-centered. I can't explain to you how happy I was - I have never felt that type of happiness or love, and it being in a dream just made it that much more odd. I remember my shift between a waking and sleeping state and I felt as if someone was talking to me, saying Remember this is Jesus Christ. And I did remember, I ended up grabbing my phone (and, in the process, injuring myself) so I could type into the note feature everything that it said so I wouldn't forget. For the next two hours I could not sleep because over and over in my head, like a looping CD, was This is my personal testimony of Jesus Christ.

Now, you can think I'm crazy - and that's okay.
I mean it.

If one of my closest friends would've told me that prior to my experience, I would've told her she was nuts. I understand what it's like to be the person on the opposite side of this experience. Thinking she's crazy, but also questioning why it's never happened for you. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's happened for me, and now I'm sharing it with you. I hope you all get your own, because it will truly put you in awe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"I'm more Christian than you."

As I was driving home today, I began to think about some of the people I encounter on a daily basis, who say people who don't attend church weekly aren't good Christians. To which, I scoffed, and thought, "I could miss five month's worth of Church and still be a better Christian than you". WARNING: I was totally wrong in my thinking here.

I had my local Christian Radio station on, and a woman began to talk about all the links that she had available on the website about restarting your faith or growing in it. I figured I'd give it a look when I got home, and I did. I was happy and also disappointed. I am a person who is constantly seeking a 'how-to' manual for my life - reality is, there isn't one, but I'm still sitting here searching.

I think that this website was Jesus' little way of saying: 'See, Alicia, aren't you happy there isn't one?'. The answer is: Yes, Lord, I am! This 'restarting your faith' area was a section that basically told everyone: this is how you're a Christian, and this is how you're not a Christian.

No grey area, no 'happy medium', just straight-up split down the middle.

This helps no one.

I know many people are reading this thinking that these type of lists are good to have, and maybe once a list like this helped them. If it's helped you, that's wonderful. However, they lists are wrong.

You are only human, you are a sinner, you will sin. Accept it. Own it. So articles telling you if you do A, B, or C makes you a bad Christian are completely, and utterly, wrong. This, to me, puts people down, and makes them feel worthless, and in turn, turns them away from God. You can make good choices and you can make bad choices. But making a bad choice doesn't deem you unworthy for eternity.

there was also a section about how if you're gay all you need to do is ask God to help you make better sexual choices and boom you're 'cured' which is completely and totally ridiculous and being gay doesn't make you a bad Christian, God made you that way for a reason, but we'll go there some other time

That's when I realized one main thing, Church is not a competition. God is not a competition. If you are Christian, you are loved by God. Ask yourself these questions: Is a person who never attends church, but reads the bible daily/prays daily a "bad Christian"? Is a person who never misses a Church Sunday, but rarely, if ever, reads the bible a "bad Christian"? The answer is obviously: no. It doesn't work that way.

Plus, I grabbed a little bit from my online bible study week that I discussed with my mentor - John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It doesn't seem very loving to dislike other Christians, does it? Jesus says to love one another despite our faults, and while this is very difficult - and I'm no saint here either - we must at least try.

Normally I don't go all "satan this/satan that" on y'all, because for some reason I know whenever I read an article and it ends with that, I think this person is crazy and they think a pair of shoes is Satan, but competing for God's love is something Lucifer did before he fell. Look how well that turned out.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Being completely alone at "The Church"

post warning: pictures have absolutely nothing to do with subject. I just found my hometown area beautiful. 

Haven't you ever found it peculiar that no matter what denomination you are, organized religion is always called "the church"? It's something that we have that's tangible, that we can thank when something good happens, and blame when something goes awry. The church I work for has an amazing pastor who gives amazing sermons about this very topic. Organized religion isn't always what it's cracked up to be, but that's okay. Not much is. All we can do is try, fail, try, fail, and try again!

"I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me." 
Philippians 4:13

I think it's this exact 'if you fail you must try again' attitude that prevents people like myself from attending a form of worship, sometimes. You know that feeling (well, most of you). You're in a new town, you want to attend a new church, you're single - or others are unwilling to go with you - and you have to make that dreaded decision. Do I go alone or do I stay at home? You begin to feel like a failure for even asking the question, because you know you should be going, but you dread the way everyone is going to treat you at a new church. 

Let's be very honest here for a moment: going to church completely alone blows.

There. I said it. It's out in the open.

It's awful. Not only are you aware that you are completely alone, but everyone else is painfully aware that you are a total newb. The 'where is your husband, dear?'s are still ringing in my ears from a failed church attempt earlier this year. Then you explain you're single, no partner, no family with you, and gasp no significant other of any kind, either.

But there is this wonderful thing about going to a new church completely alone. Everyone sort of pities the newb. Either that or everyone wants to know you're business, but hey, at least they're talking with you. So they'll talk with you, you'll learn everyone's names (or try), and they welcome you - they help you, they smile at you, they like you.

You. That silly person who'd dreaded walking in those doors not even forty minutes prior. The one who had prayed to God, and asked Him to show you a sign that you didn't have to go that weekend. The one who had asked God to give you a sudden bout of pneumonia, so this little momentary lapse of judgement could be excused, and you would not have to be around the awkwardness that comes along with meeting new people alone. 

These people want to meet you. Yes, even that you. The moment that terrified you now brings you joy.

You come to realize, these people are just like you. They'd probably fear it too if you were in their position, and learn that this is exactly where you were meant to be. God helped you overcome your doubts and fears, and brought you here to be loved by those around you. This is what He wants for you, and you have unknowingly listened.

It does good to remember this little jem too:

"The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid; what can anyone do to me?"

Psalm 118:6

As always, I end with a picture of the greatest puppy in the world.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Romans 12:21

Sometimes, every other day once in a great moon, I become overwhelmed. I feel as if it's all hopeless, nothing is going to get accomplished, and that I should just give up. Those dogs you have to take care of? They can play with their toys instead of you. Those kids you have to help? They can watch television for the rest of the day. That dinner you have to make? Ever heard of 'Ramen'?

Now, I want to make very clear that I don't believe that these are evil things coming up in your life. To blame these things on the devil lacks reason and understanding. I do, however, believe that these stressors we put on ourselves are distractions. These distractions start out as pea-sized and snowball into mountain-sized problems. These mountains have a tendency of leading us to excuse our behavior, and eventually to sin.

So what do you do when you're stressed out, the baby is crying, the dogs are barking, you're sick, and you're late to work? You take a moment, you inhale and exhale, and you remember that in the scheme of things, this is just a blip in the radar of the plan that God has for you. You are going to do so many things that will make this moment in this day look minuscule in comparison. God loves you, and He will always make sure that you will find a way out of this.

I picked this topic today because I woke up finding myself on "the wrong side of the bed". I was irritated from the moment I woke up. Everything went wrong. So what did I do? I figured, well, Christmas is only 79 days away, might as well get started on knitting the blankets for the dogs. So I did. During the first five rows, I began to second guess my choice (and thought Oh God, what have you got me into now?), my tension was causing the knitted blanket to look odd, but I took a deep breath, and six hours later, I'm a little over 1/3 of the way done with one blanket. I ended up having a wonderful day - wonderful conversation, wonderful food, the dogs were miraculously well behaved today, and all-around, it calmed me. I am thankful for that today.

I am a big believer in finding Jesus in the small things. I don't need a huge 'JESUS 5 miles ---->' sign to make me realize that He's real. Any time the thought "this is proof of God", it's always in the small things. Overcome your doubts, overcome your anger, and overcome your hatred. I believe that in this, you will find Him.

Daily Reminder: I'm the first to admit it - there's a lot of bad in this world, and I've done my share of 'wrong', my share of 'bad'. I think we all wonder sometimes: Am I really worthy? The bible says yes, I am and you are. Enjoy that, and know that you are never alone.