Christian, exmormon

Church is My Favorite…

It has been a crazy few weeks!  Between holidays, sickness, work, and family stressors, I am so glad to be getting life back on track. It’s been a while since I have typed a blog.  I have really struggled with my focus and with where God is taking me.  I have had a lot of change in my life over the past year and the last few weeks my life has felt overwhelming.

Last night as all the thoughts and events were going through my head and I was trying to stress myself out, God whispered to me, “It’s OK I’ve got this.”  It amazes me, how in the past, the events of my life that I am currently dealing with would have sent me into a tail spin and today, I can stop and know that God is in control and he has a lot bigger and better plans for my life than I do.

jer 29 11

I wasn’t overwhelmed about anything specific but just life in general.  The last few weeks there have just been a lot of things going on in my already crazy world and I have just been able to feel the weight of all of them.  I think the thing that stands out to me most right now is that as a Mormon life often felt overwhelming.  It often felt like I had a lot on my plate and not enough time to even think about it all.  My life as a Christian I think is more busy, just because of life circumstances, but most of the time it is not as overwhelming.

My last blog I wrote about religion and the frustrations and irritations I have with organized religion.  What’s funny about that is I have realized over the last few weeks how much I love church, or I guess my church and my church family.

Brian and I have the amazing opportunity to be a part of the tech team at our church.  Brian runs the sound and I take care of the slides and videos for the church. We are at church early on Sunday mornings, and I am usually finishing up the power point presentation when I get home from work on Saturday.  As much as I love what I do at church sometimes I really don’t want to get up on Sunday mornings.  But… it doesn’t matter how I feel on Sunday morning, it doesn’t matter, if I take the time to get up and fix my hair and do my makeup, or if I just wear a sweatshirt and throw my hair up into a ponytail, I am always grateful that I showed up at church.

church

I enjoy the people I interact with, they always ask about my adult kids and how they are doing in their lives.  And I very much enjoy Pastor Roger’s messages every week.  The worship does one of 2 things,  sometimes both at the same time.  It will bring me to tears or brighten my mood. In many ways church has become my happy place.  It is one of my favorite places to be.

I haven’t always loved church.  Growing up, I despised church, I hated going. What teenager wants to go spend 3 hours listening to how you need to be a good person, live morally, listen to the prophets, “look at all the hard choices your leaders were faced with and they still made good choices, you can do it too.”  For me they were shame and guilt filled messages that reminded me I would never be good enough.  I rarely came home from church feeling like I was loved and with my mood brightened.  I was inspired and encouraged by some of the stories, but most often, I was reminded of how big of a failure and disappointment I was to those “amazing examples of the gospel” around me.

I think there is a huge difference between church and religion.  When Brian and I first became Christians, we attended a church that had 3 services.  There were a lot of people from many different walks of life who chose to worship there.  We met some amazing people there are we are still friends with some of those people today.  God led us to our current church and from the minute I walked in I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the people. And I loved that I could be me.  I walked into our church and saw just that people in different phases of life, with different struggles, different perspectives, but all of them love God.  Even in the big church we attended people weren’t there out of obligation, to fulfill a calling, or to check mark the box on their weekly to do list.  It was about giving back to God by loving other people.

lighthouse

So, even with the struggles I have with religion, I think church is essential.  My last blog I asked 3 questions, Do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Him?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?  I think church helps me answer these questions.  My relationship with God is personal and can only be between Him and me, but it is though worship and surrounding myself with others that know Him and live according to His word that help me to grow closer to Him.  I am held accountable by being around the people who know me and challenge me to grow in my relationship with Christ. So as much as I hate religion, church is my favorite!

I’m just a Small Town Girl…loving my church!

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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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

LDS, mormonism

Family…

One thing the Mormon church is good at is teaching that family is important.  Since I was a small child one of the most important things in my world was my family.  I would do anything for my parents and my siblings.  It didn’t matter if I had gotten in a fight with them or if my siblings were mean to me, they were my family, my world.  They were who I would be with for eternity.

family

As a Christian, one of the hardest things I have struggled with is not being able to share my faith with my family.  When Brian and I first started pulling away from the Mormon church, I struggled to explain to my family why.  I had no concrete evidence or new belief system that would help me explain to my family why we had taken off our garments, why we weren’t going to church anymore, or why we didn’t believe in the Mormon church.  The only thing I knew was Mormonism is wrong, and I didn’t want to be a part of it.

There were many times my family tried to have a conversation with me and ask me why.  I would get very defensive and walk away.  It wasn’t because they were right, it was because I was uneducated and I didn’t know how to answer their questions.  As I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Bible and in my relationship with God, I have longed for those conversations.  Not for a debate or a fight, but to share with my family the love and joy that I now have in my life from knowing Christ.  I sometimes get really frustrated and think, “Can’t they see, don’t they know how broken I was?” I want them to acknowledge how far I have come and see the change that has taken place in my life.

If I could sit down and have a conversation with my family I would share God’s love and grace with them.  The words that changed my life forever were something like, “God loves you no matter what, and there is nothing you can do to change that.”  I would love to share that message with them.  I know they would say they know that, but it’s such a different message from what the LDS church teaches.

I know I’ve had my struggles in the past.  I know I wasn’t the best daughter or sister that I could have been and I still struggle to be there for my family because of the religious barrier that stands between us.  I still love my family more than anything, and although I don’t spend a lot of time with them, I would do anything for them.  It’s just so hard when I feel like I can’t be myself or share my faith with them.  I can’t talk with them or have conversations with them like I can my Christian family and it’s heartbreaking to me.  I am not a part of their world and they aren’t a part of mine.

nemeiah

 

I miss they days when we could celebrate birthdays and holidays without religion being a hurdle in our communication and connection.  I miss being around my family and just having a good time without having to be careful with my words or watching what I say so I don’t offend them.  And yet, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I can’t give up the grace and salvation that God has given me.

Someday, I pray that God will open that door.  Maybe someday we will be able to sit down and have that conversation.  Maybe we will be able to talk about God and my family will open their eyes to the true message of grace.  I want to be with my family forever.  My dream is to be in church worshiping God with my family next to me.  I am so grateful that God has given me kids who love God and are willing to worship with me.

Mercy Me sings a song called Even If.  The second verse and chorus state:

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

My hope and prayer is that God will move the unmovable and My family will open their eyes to the saving grace of Christ alone.  But if He doesn’t, I pray that He will give me the strength to trust in Him alone.

I’m Just a Small Town Girl…Living in a world of unmovable mountains.

matt 17 20

 

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.