Posted in Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Rock or Sand?

I hate religion!  I absolutely hate it!  Religion is judgmental and hurtful.  Religion creates a set of rules you are required to follow to measure your righteousness in life and so you can measure your salvation.  Religion is about Christianese and culture, legalism and following the rules.  And I hate it.

 

Every day, I work with people from many different backgrounds and experiences.  A few weeks ago I had a very rough week, and one thing every difficult situation I experienced had in common was religion.  Religion is a place of rules, requirements, and unrealistic expectations.

I feel like religion is a breeding ground for perfectionism, and perfectionism leads to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and shame.  I think religion takes the uncertainty out of our faith.  We no longer have to have a blind faith with religion.  We don’t have to believe in something that isn’t tangible.  Religion makes our faith tangible and measurable so we know what we need to do to win the race, to get the crown.  I think people cling to religion because we don’t like the uncertainty of faith.

perfectionism

I also think religion is a place where personal accountability to our faith is lost.  If I put on the face, go out and serve in my church, do and say the right things, then 2 thumbs up, I’m on the right track.  But where is God in what I’m doing?  Where is my accountability to God and my personal relationship? It’s lost…

It makes me think of the song “The Wise Man Built His House”

 The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

 

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

I feel like those who blindly trust in religion are the foolish men and people who have a personal relationship with Christ are the wise men.

Growing up in Mormonism the focus was so often on being a Mormon and not on God or Jesus.  It’s funny because when you ask Mormon’s if they believe in Jesus or if they teach about Jesus the typical response is, “Of course we do, it’s in our name”.  The thing is, growing up the focus was rarely on Jesus or God, it was on the religion itself.  The focus was Joseph Smith and Mormonism.  But in all reality, it wasn’t very often there was a lesson about Christ or having a personal relationship with Him.

In my experience as a Mormon, the focus was all about the current prophet of the church and following the prophet.  And don’t forget “Praise to the Man” referring to Joseph Smith.  When I left Mormonism, there were so many things I found out about God, Christ, Christianity, and religion that I never knew before.  I don’t think I had even heard of grace or salvation before becoming a Christian.  They were definitely not terms we talked about in Mormonism.

personal relationship

As a Christian, I believe the most important thing is to have a personal relationship with Christ.  That means you talk to Him, and spend time reading His word, you spend time with people who are also in a relationship with Him.  I think it means the intention behind what you do is to please God.  When you have a relationship with God and that is the focus of your faith instead of religion being the focus of your faith, the shame, guilt, and self-doubt that comes with religion, don’t have room to grow, it’s easier to embrace the uncertainty.

There are many times I struggle with my relationship with Christ, when He is not first in my life.  I know when I’m struggling in life, I need to stop and refocus.  When I struggle the most it’s because I am focusing too much on what I can do and how I can control things on my own. In these moments I know my relationship with Christ is struggling.

I do think worship is important, and I think having a church and people you can connect and fellowship with is important.  When people ask my religion, I tell them Christian without hesitation.  So, maybe it isn’t really religion that I hate.  Maybe it’s the judgmental, hypocriticalness that comes from religion.  Maybe it’s the focus on rules and works versus faith and grace.

hypocrite

What I do know is, it doesn’t matter where you go to church, what you wear, the color of your hair, if you wear jewelry or not, the size of your house, bank account, or the type of car you drive, God wants you.  He wants your heart.  He wants to interact and have a relationship with you.  Religion doesn’t matter, what matters is do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?

I’m just a Small Town Girl…building my house upon the rock.

Posted in Christian, exmormon

Twinkle Lights…

One of my Facebook memories from today was an excerpt from the book; Ending Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer it said, “The highest call on your life is to enjoy God. But you can’t enjoy Him if you are convinced He is upset with you. Jesus came to deliver you from the wrong kind of fear in your relationship with your heavenly Father. You should be relaxed in His presence. You need to have reverential fear, the kind that provokes respect, honor, and obedience. But you must refuse to believe any thoughts that the Lord is angry with you.

You are no surprise to God. Jeremiah 1:5 states that before He formed you in the womb, God knew you! He knew what He was getting when He drew you into a relationship with Himself. He already knows the things you will do wrong in the future. God is not nearly as hard to get along with as you think He is. It is not your sin that hinders you, it is unbelief!”

Oh, how often I still struggle with this concept.  It is so hard to let go of the thought, “I will never be good enough for God”.  Life is hard.  Every day is a struggle.  That’s one of the things that has been the hardest things for me to accept as a Christian.  I want God to make life easy.  I want Him to say, “Hey you’ve accepted me, here ya go… here’s an easy life”. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

gods plan

John 10:10 says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.  We are our own biggest barriers. The devil uses us as a wedge to get between us and God.  He feeds on our fears and our doubts.  We fall into that trap and we often feel worthless.

I remember growing up the struggle I had with myself and believing that God loved me.  I struggled with feeling that I was good enough.  I struggled to find happiness.  I spent a good part of my life searching for joy, for happiness, for purpose and meaning.  I really believed the mantra of; I’ll be happy when… but when those moments came, I was happy for a moment but it didn’t last very long and then I was focused on the next big thing that I wanted in my life. I had no identity and no real purpose for living other than what my religion told me.

Growing up I often struggled with the thought that God was mad at me. I struggled with believing that God could love me even after some of the things I had done.  At times I felt like God wanted nothing to do with me. I believed the more I accomplished in my life, the more God would love me.  The better chance I would have at going to Heaven.  I believed the lie that I could do enough.

When I found Christ, I was at rock bottom in my life.  I was at a point where everything I was afraid of happening was and I had lost all hope for myself and my future. I felt worthless and hopeless. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything good in my life, it was just I was so focused on the big things, I couldn’t see the amazing details of my life.

little things

As I have mentioned many times, I am a huge fan of Brene Brown.  I love her books and insights, I love watching her Ted Talks and using them to help people improve their lives.  One of my favorite Brene Brown quotes is, “Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant.  It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.  Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.  Other times were so afraid of the dark that we don’t let ourselves enjoy the light. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s, or become so afraid of doing things or afraid of the good moments that I don’t take time to enjoy them. But God didn’t create us with a spirit of fear.  God created us to draw near to Him when we struggle.  God isn’t a god of anger.  He is our Creator.  He loves us and wants us.

joy

The closer I draw to God the more twinkle lights I have in my life.  Knowing God, helps me appreciate the small moments in life. He helps me embrace the struggles and find meaning and purpose in every situation.  I think because I have found purpose in Christ and I know He loves me regardless of anything, it is easier for me to appreciate the small things in life.  Life isn’t about the big extraordinary moments.  It’s about learning to appreciate the small everyday things knowing that God has your back.

I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in a world of twinkle lights.

 

 

Posted in Christian

Heart Problems…

I’ve struggled with writing my blog lately.  Recently, I even thought maybe, I would just stop writing.  I feel God has made it very clear to me that isn’t an option.  So, as I was pondering the last few weeks, I thought about the world and all the turmoil going on right now.  I thought about a friend who is going through a really rough time, I thought about the church shooting that just happened and that mass shootings seem to be an almost regular event anymore.  I thought about my job and the hurt and pain that people struggle with on a daily basis to the point they want to take their own lives.  I remembered, my purpose in writing this blog is because people need Jesus!!

life hurts

There is so much hurt and heartache in the world today.  I sit and think about all of the yuck in this world and I remember when I was there.  Hurt, broken, feeling worthless and hopeless.  When I opened myself up to the love of Christ, when I heard that it didn’t matter to Him all of the horrible things I felt I had done, He still loved me, it changed my entire world.   In the past I would have told you I knew who Jesus was, and I believed in Him, and I tried to live a good life.  But having a relationship and opening yourself up to God’s love is different, it changes you, it changes your world.

I try not to be political in my blog.  I try to just focus on my religious experiences.  But as I think about the state of the world today, I can’t help but take more of a political stance.  I’ve seen a quote many times that says you don’t need religion to have morals, and while I don’t disagree with that, I feel as a society as we work to remove God from our culture, our morals are going by the way side.  I have worked in a school and worked in a prison and it blows my mind that we discourage kids from freely pursuing and practicing their faith in school.  We put many barriers in their way and yet if you are in prison, religion is encouraged.  I remember sitting in parole hearings and listening to inmates talk about going to church and Bible studies and how God was changing their lives.  One of my many hats at the prison was the religious coordinator, I oversaw all religious activities and made sure all religious volunteers were in compliance with facility policies.  Just imagine if we put that much energy into assisting the development of spirituality and religion for our children.  Maybe we wouldn’t have the struggles we have now.

universe

I’ll be honest, there were many different religions in prison, and several weren’t Christian based, and I could tell those who were genuine in their pursuit of a relationship with Christ and those who weren’t.  The difference was, their lives, even in prison, just seemed to go better.  They didn’t get in trouble with the jail staff, they followed the rules, and they didn’t argue.  They were accepting of their situation and if something didn’t go their way or if they felt they had been wronged, they had a conversation with the staff and tried to work it out.  They were different.  Their hearts were different.

There is truly something amazing that happens when you give your life over to God.  When you are willing to accept that He has a plan and a purpose for you it changes your perspective and changes your heart.  I know when I came to that realization, I wanted to know God more, I wanted to know everything I could, I read devotionals, Bible studies, I listened to sermons on the Radio. I began to develop a relationship with this God, who before seemed so scary and condemning, but as I learned more about Him, was loving and kind.  It blew my mind as I read the Bible and learned about the people he chose to spread his message.  The people he chose to be the ones that would represent Him.  They were not perfect people who always did right.  They were very much sinners.  But…They all had one thing in common.  They all loved God.  They had a relationship with God and they pursued Him.  They wanted to please their God.  And although they made mistakes and struggled with their sin, they still pursued Him. It wasn’t just because they believed in Him, it’s because they had a relationship with Him.

jesus heals broken hearts

In today’s world, God is a foreign concept.  Society teaches trusting in God is a weakness.  In today’s world, we want to be our own gods.  It’s heart breaking to me.  As I watch people struggle, I think, “You need Jesus!!”  And I struggle to say anything for fear that they will condemn me or make fun of me.  I can say, “You need Jesus!!” on my blog because it’s not face to face.  That’s easy.  And yet, I know that’s what I need to do.

The thing that needs to change most in this world is we need to get back to the basics.  The 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  The problems in this world are not about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, gun control, or any other social issue the media wants to glorify or criticize at the moment.  It’s about the heart.  It is what is important to us as a society and where our priorities lie.  Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  In today’s world our hearts are anywhere but with Jesus.

giraffe

I’m just a Small Town Girl… living in a world in need of Jesus!

 

Posted in Christian, exmormon

Freedom to Sin…

I’ve had people ask me if Christians are allowed to sin and do whatever they want because they believe in salvation by grace alone.  That always makes me laugh.  Grace is not a get out of jail free card.  As a Christian I know that I sin every day.  And even when I sin, I am not free from the consequences of my sin even though I am forgiven.  I also know, I have already been forgiven of my sins.  So, I guess the question is, if I already know I am forgiven, then, why isn’t grace a get out of jail free card?

sin

The real problem is that sin is everywhere.  We as humans like to think that we are “good” people and that just living as a “good” person in the world is enough.  As a Christian, I know I am not really a good person.  I do things wrong every day.  I even have days when I know I am living life not pleasing to God.  But as I grow in my relationship with Christ, I become more accepting of myself and I focus more on Christ and try to be a better person.

beloved

As a Christian, I find the more I grow in my relationship with Christ the more I recognize when I am in sin.  I am often more convicted when I feel my behavior and things I am doing are not pleasing to my God.  The biggest difference from my life before Christ and my Christian life is that I know I am already forgiven.

Growing up I struggled so hard with feeling like I was enough.  I felt the impossibility of living a life free from sin which led me to feeling very hopeless.  I just wanted to be accepted and be enough.  I often felt it was pointless to even try if I was never going to be enough anyway.

Micah Tyler has a song out right now called Different.  The Chorus is

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

I think this is exactly how I feel as a Christian.  I don’t feel that I am ever free to sin, but I sin every day.  I want to be different.  I want people to be able to see Christ in me!

 

I feel like when I became a Christian, and recognized I was saved by grace and it didn’t matter what I did, God would still love me.  I felt hope again.  Being saved by grace I have become a more willing participant in my life and the world around me (most days).  I make more of an effort to live a life pleasing to God.  I want to be different for Christ.  I want people to see what He has done in my life and I want His light to reflect out of me.  In most situations I try to do the right thing.  I focus on being positive and trying to be a positive light to those around me.  It took me a while to be able to say, “I am saved” and believe that I had truly accepted Christ into in my heart and would go to Heaven, but when I did I wanted to shout it from the roof tops and share the love and grace that I received from Christ with everyone.

contribute

As a human, I have a sin nature.  I sin on a pretty regular basis.  The nice thing about grace is, I know I am forgiven.  There is nothing I can do ensure my forgiveness other than accept Christ as my Savior.  But the best part of being a Christian saved by grace alone is at the end of the day I can say, “God, I tried today, I didn’t do too great.  But thank you for loving me any way.  I’ll try again tomorrow”.  That’s the great thing about being saved by grace.  So, as I Christian do I feel like I am free to sin?  Absolutely not!  But as a Christian am I grateful for the knowledge that no matter how bad I mess up in the day, and regardless of the consequences I face, I am forgiven?  Absolutely YES!

sin

I’m just a Small Town Girl…wanting to be different in a sinful world.

 

Posted in Christian

Is That All…

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conversation where the question was asked, “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?”  I was surprised by the question and sad for the person who asked it.

“Heaven is the dwelling place of God and the saints who are ultimately saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” (CARM.org).  In my mind, Heaven is the ultimate reward.  Heaven is where we will be with our Creator and be in continuous worship and fellowship with Him and other believers.  “We go to Heaven and that’s it?”  What more could there be? The stress and pain of this world is gone.  You’re filled with love and joy and in continuous worship.  I struggle to understand why that isn’t enough.

image

Last weekend I had the opportunity of spending the weekend at a ladies retreat for church.  We spent the weekend focused on Jesus, learning about discipleship, and in continuous worship.  It was a stress-free weekend.  Filled with fun, great food, and a focus on God and what He wants for our lives.  I don’t think we can ever understand or comprehend what Heaven will be like.  But if there is anything similar to what Heaven will be like here on Earth, I think it is things like the ladies retreat I attended.  I think spending time in community with others where the focus is on Christ.

We attend an amazing church in our little community.  Because we live in a rural area with several smaller towns, we have people from all over the valley who travel to our little church.  When Brian and I first heard about this church we were honestly, a little leery.  A church community.  People who spent their time together.  Not just on Sunday, but people who did life together.  We were concerned because we didn’t want to spend that much time doing “churchy stuff”.  It’s amazing how our perspective has changed over the years.

encouragement

Brain and I had attended a few different churches in our short Christian walk, but when we started attending our current church, everything changed.  As leery as we were to be so involved with all that “churchy stuff”, it was exactly what we were looking for.  For the first time in our lives we began to grow in God’s word.  We began to understand why we believed what we believed and we began to become who God created us to be.  That “churchy stuff” that we didn’t want was just living life with fellow believers.  It was fellowship, worship, honoring God in our daily lives and making Him the center.

People think that worship is bowing down or raising your hands in praise.  But in reality, worship is showing love, honor, respect, and praise, to what is important to you.  As a Christian one of the greatest ways to worship God is to be in fellowship with other believers.

breath

I really think that Heaven is going to be an awesome time of worship.  It will be better than anything I can fathom.  It is being in constant fellowship and worship with God without the distraction of life and the stressors we experience as human beings. “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?” Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater?”  I can’t imagine anything greater than being in eternal fellowship and worship with my Creator.  We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done?  We’re done with the challenges, we’re done with the stress.  We get to live in peace and contentment.  Isn’t that what people are searching for in this life.  Chasing the dream of contentment and happiness, only to be disappointed by the next stressor that life throws at you.  So, I guess yeah, in my view, that’s it… we’re done.  What do we do for eternity?  I think we live in worship and fellowship with our God and fellow believers for eternity. I can’t imagine a greater way to experience Heaven.

bored

I’m just a Small Town Girl…Living in a world of worship.

 

Posted in Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Broken into Freedom…

This weekend is the 187th semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Growing up, this weekend was always filled with family and great food.  Often, we would spend Saturday playing with cousins while the adults watched the Saturday Conference sessions.  On Sunday, we were able to sleep in a little and were up just before 10 to watch the Sunday morning session instead of going to church.  In the afternoon, we would again spend time playing with cousins while the adults watched the final session of conference.

As a kid, conference Sunday was my favorite; mostly because it was like a typical Sunday.  We didn’t go to church and we spent time playing with cousins.  As I got older, especially as an adult in the Mormon world, I was expected to watch and pay closer attention to all the sessions of conference.

Conference was hours and hours of the LDS Church leaders telling you how you are supposed to act and how you will get through your trials if you pray harder and read the scriptures more.  They pushed the importance of listening to and following the church leaders.  The leaders would talk about the importance of the Book of Mormon and the church.  They would bear their testimonies and vow that they were witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the truth of the Mormon gospel.

For someone who always struggled with the person I was “supposed” to be and feeling like I was someone different on the inside, these messages were hard.  I would listen to those in leadership positions and feel shame and guilt for the thoughts and feelings I had that were different from what was being taught to me. I wanted to be a good Mormon and a good person but I felt lost.

cor

I had heard about “Freedom in Christ” but never really understood what that meant until I became a Christian.  Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery”.   In my Mormon life, I was very burdened by the “yoke of slavery”.  I was bound by rules and laws that had nothing to do with God and everything to do with religion.  The yoke of slavery was trying to be the person I was “supposed” to be and fit into a mold that wasn’t made for me.  Trying to follow the LDS leadership and strive to do everything right.  I struggled with depression and low self-esteem.  I hated myself so much because I could be that person I was supposed to be.

Before I gave my life to Christ depression and suicidal thoughts were a constant in my life.  I believed everyone would be better off without me because I struggled so hard to be that person that I was never meant to be.  My life was full of chaos and frustration.  I was never calm and even when I had a good day, I would find things to be discontent about because that was the only way I knew how to function.

When I gave my life to Christ, I immediately felt the bonds that were holding me loosen.  In that moment, I began to realize what it meant to experience Freedom in Christ.  Over time I learned that being Free in Christ was being the person He created me to be and not trying to fit into another person’s perception of who I should be.

beach

As I grew in my Christian walk and grew closer to God, I became more comfortable with myself, my flaws, my scars, and my insecurities began to melt away.  As I began to learn about God and His love, I began to understand that He created me and loves me just as I am.

The song, “Broken Things” by Matthew West has recently become one of my favorites.  The chorus and 2nd verse say:

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true
You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

The pages of history
They tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect
It’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals
It’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me.

I love this song because it reminds me of although I’m a sinner, broken, a prodigal, and weak, God has a plan and a purpose for me.

This weekend as I watched the quotes of the LDS leadership fill up my FB page, I reveled in the truth.  I am so grateful that I am no longer bound by religion and I am now free.  I have true freedom in Christ.  I am no longer a slave to rules and laws of man.  Many people believe being a Christian is what binds you or holds you back from being free.  But I believe being a Christian is the only thing that truly makes you free.

dance

I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in the freedom of Christ.

 

 

Posted in Christian, exmormon, mormonism

UNCONDITIONAL…

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything.  I enjoyed a great vacation and am adjusting to new changes in my life.  But, I’m back and pray that I can continue to post on a more regular basis.

Facebook reminded me today that 1 year ago today is when I started writing my blog.  It’s amazing how fast time seems to go and how many things can change in 1 year.  One year ago, my life was so different than it is now and the changes that have happened in my life weren’t even on my radar a year ago. However, there is one thing I have been praying for, for the last 2-3 years and God finally gave me a yes and a wide-open door to that prayer.

overwhelming

For the past 2-3 years, I have struggled with my place of employment.  I have spent a lot of time pleading with God to open the doors for a new place to work.  I went to interviews and whatever the circumstance, the timing wasn’t right.  No matter how many times the door shut in my face, I knew in God’s time, He would provide what I was praying for. Although, the last several months have been very difficult, I know God is watching over me and only wants the best for me.  My answered prayer is a new place of employment and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future of my career.

I still struggle sometimes with that internal dialogue of not feeling good enough when God doesn’t give me the answers I want when I pray. I often think it’s because I’m not good enough for God or I’m not living right.  It’s amazing how quickly those thoughts can over take me when God says, “No” or “Not right now”.  I get so caught up in what I want, I forget that God loves me and has a plan for me.

In my Mormon belief system, the ongoing message was live according to what the church teaches you and Heavenly Father will answer your prayers.  One high up leader, Boyd K. Packer said, “Keep your covenants and you will be safe.  Break them and you will not.”   A more recent quote by another high up LDS leader, David A. Bednar said, “Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently, do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results”.

Romans 3 28

I feel like when I was growing up, I was never really taught about God’s love.  I believed God’s love was contingent on being the faithful, diligent, consistent Mormon; which I was not even close to.  So, how could God love me? I believed God’s love was always connected to how I was living my life and when prayers weren’t answered, it was because I needed to learn something or because I wasn’t reading my scriptures enough. I think back now about being a kid and the things I prayed for.  It’s a good thing God doesn’t answer every prayer.

As a Christian, I have learned God’s love is unconditional.  I don’t have to earn it.  I don’t have to be good enough.  It doesn’t matter what I have done in my life, God loves me.  I am His child.  It still blows me away when I stop and think about God, he created the universe and he created me.  He wants the best for me in my life.

beach

Now when prayers aren’t answered, I know it’s because God has something better for me.  When those thoughts creep into my head and I feel like I have to be better, I stop, and laugh at myself because I know God isn’t going to withhold blessings because I’m not good enough.

PSALMS 136 1 4

I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in a world of God’s unconditional love.