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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Christian

Storms of Life…

Well, this Small Town Girl is back at it.  Before I get started I want to thank Cheyenne for writing my blog while I was out.  She did a great job.  I am so proud of her. She has such a heart for God and is a great example to me.

The last several months have been a huge struggle for me.  The end of February I fell and injured my hand and shoulder.  In the last 3 months, I have had 2 major surgeries and one minor surgery.  There have been times when I have felt as if I was being tossed around on the waves and whipped around in the wind and yet I felt God’s calming presence in the chaos.  Even though I was in the midst of the storm and most often after a moment (days) of panic and struggle God calmed me and I knew it would be ok.   Then there were times when the chaos died down and things didn’t seem to be so bad.  God would calm the storm and although, I knew the struggle wasn’t over, I knew it was God who was in charge of the storm.

storm

I’m still in the midst of the storm and have a very long road ahead.  Through it all, there were ups and downs and there are many more to come. So many days, I struggled with depression and being overwhelmed by the current life I was living.  “This isn’t how my life was supposed to go!  Life isn’t supposed to be this hard”.  I already overcame that struggle and yet, here I am struggling with many of the same feelings I have fought so hard to move past.  Life is supposed to be easier with God.  Right?

I don’t think God ever promised anything would be easy.  Actually, if you read the Bible, most of the people in the Bible that God used had a very hard and difficult road.  People like Jonah, Gideon, Moses, David, Rahab, Rachel, Paul, they all had very hard situations they had to work through.  Their situations required God’s guidance and direction.

God had great plans for their lives.  Their struggles and hardships are documented in the greatest book of all time.  God had a purpose for their struggle.  I don’t think Jonah ever thought “I bet I’m going down in the history books for being swallowed by a whale”!  He didn’t want to go through the struggle but in the end, he did what God wanted and God used his struggle to help others and we get to read about Jonah in the Bible.  Life isn’t supposed to be easy especially when we do things on our own.

Recently, I had a very important but difficult situation I had to confront.  The outcome of this situation would be life altering. I was so anxious and nervous.  Consumed with my own expectations in life and how limited I was in the situation.  I had no control.  I knew in the situation I was in there was absolutely nothing that I could do to affect the outcome.  And honestly, I was unsure of what I wanted the outcome to be.  As I was waiting for this situation to resolve its self, Danny Gokey’s song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” came on the radio and I broke down in tears.  I felt it was God saying to me, “I know things have been hard.  I know you are grieving and hurt, but you are going to be ok.  I have great things for you”.

song

My life has been altered by this whole experience and it will never be the same.  I still have a long road ahead but today is a new beginning for me.  The situation I discussed above is still unresolved.  I still have a long road for recovery.  There is a lot of unknown in my world but the one thing I know for certain is that God is in control of my future and He has bigger and better plans for me than I can ever have for myself.

Every day I still struggle with the overwhelming feelings, I fight the depression and the desire to stay in bed and hide from the world.  But when I take time to talk to God and remember He is the one who is writing the script to my life, it makes it a little easier.  I’m so glad to be back writing my blog and I’m looking forward to where this new path will lead. I hope you all will be patient and willing to continue to ride through this storm with me.

peace

I’m Just a Small Town Girl… Living in a Stormy World.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4rRCjrAyCs&spfreload=10

Christian

Tag you’re it…

I’ve known this blog has been coming for a while. I’ve been putting it off for as long as I could but I can’t put it off any longer. Tomorrow, I go in for surgery on my hand and I don’t know how long my recovery will take.

For the next few months I won’t be able to type and therefore I won’t be able to blog.
My whole purpose in writing a Blog has always been to share my story with people and hopefully help more people learn about the God I have come to know in my Christian walk.

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I’ve really struggled with the thought of not being able to blog over the next few weeks to months. But I know that God has a plan and a purpose for everything. And I know that God works everything together for his glory and his purpose.

I really struggled with a way to use my blog that it would so continue to reach people and glorify God.  As I thought long and hard about this, I realized one of the people I know who has the biggest heart for Jesus, is a great writer, and would be perfect at writing a blog, just happens to live in my home.

After talking to my amazing oldest daughter, she has agreed to take on my blog for the next little while. Unlike me, she won’t be sharing her experiences with growing up in a Mormon world, she will be sharing what God is doing in her life on a weekly basis.

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This daughter of a small-town girl is a college student, she’s in the honors program at her school, she works full-time, and she is going to be a leader Chi Alpha next year. It is an honor to me she is willing to take this on while I recover.

I want to say thank you to my baby doll for being so willing to do this. You are amazing and I love you so much. I’m proud of the person you are and the woman you are becoming.

I want to say thank you all of you that follow me. I appreciate your support more than words can express.  I would love your prayers for comfort and healing during this time.

So please stay tuned, is this small- town girl takes a break from blogging for a while.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts and theories of the daughter of just a small-town girl…

exmormon, mormonism

Perspective isn’t truth…

In this weeks blog, names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Any connection to real situations is completely coincidental.

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A few weeks ago, at our grow group there was only a few of us and we ended up having fun discussion about a conflict I’m having with someone in my personal life, I will call them Bob.  This is a situation I have been struggling with for a while.  Bob and I have had several interactions which always end up in a big conflict these happen on a regular basis.  As the grow group talked it the group leader Carol suggested we read Romans 2:1-5.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

As we read this, I was feeling the guilt and shame about how I have handled the situation.  Although, I feel like I have done everything I can to be kind and look the other way.  Carol didn’t shame me at all.  She didn’t tell me I needed to be kinder and do more.  She told me they know I am a good and kind person and they know I am trying to do God’s will in this situation.  As we read, I thought this was going to be turned on me when in all reality, the whole point the Carol was making was that God is in control and he will take care of things.  The group members all validated me and told me to just keep doing what God wants me to do.  And in the end God would take care of everything.

It was in this brief moment I realized the clutch the Mormon belief system still has on me at times.  I realized it’s all about perspective and how you look at things.  It made me stop and think about how much my thinking has changed and wonder about what I am still looking at from my Mormon lenses and not from my Christian view.

perspective

In Mormonism, people often struggle with, have I done enough.  That is because it is a works based faith where your eternal salvation is based solely on what you have done in this life.  So, it is no wonder when I read the above passage, I took on the perspective that I wasn’t doing enough, I needed to do better and make the situation better.  This was very frustrating for me because, although, there are things I could probably improve on or do better, the conflicts between Bob and I, isn’t going to change because, I am not the problem.  As we discussed the passage, Carol and the grow group members confirmed to me what I felt like God had been telling me all along.  It also confirmed what many other people who know of, and are involved in, the situation between Bob and I have told me.  Bob is the problem.  Bob isn’t going to change.  And yet I struggle with, am I doing enough?

It is so hard to change things that have been ingrained since childhood.  But just because it is something you have been told or taught doesn’t mean that it is truth. It’s all about perspective and how you look at things.

As I have grown in my new life, from the time I became a Christian until now, I have learned so much about myself.  I have learned a lot about how I look at things and look at the world.  As a social worker, I have learned a lot about people and perspective and that we are all products of our environment.  The hardest part of all of this is realizing that just because we believe something doesn’t mean that it is true.  And often, even if you can prove to someone something is true based on fact and credible evidence, most often, people will stick to their belief system because it is comfortable and what they know.  Truth, becomes unimportant.  Truth becomes what they believe.

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I have been a Christian for 16 years.  I have done a lot of studying of the Bible and a lot of research to come to my belief system.  To me there is no doubt that God is real!  I can see it in everything.  Just last weekend one of my daughters talked to me about laminin an important protein in our cells that are shaped like a cross. Coincidence or perspective? You can go on Google earth and see places in the Bible where Jesus walked and taught.  You can go to Israel and physically walk where Jesus walked.  Many of the places talked about in the Bible are still in existence today.  Lakes, rivers, towns, cities, they are all tangible, real places that you can see and visit. There are historical records that refer to Jesus.  Historical records outside of the Bible.  Verifiable, historical figures that have referred to Jesus. There is a higher chance that we are created beings over being people that have evolved. To me, that is all enough to be credible evidence to truth.  And yet, still, it all comes down to perspective.

As I have walked away from Mormonism and learned more and more things, I have realized there is no evidence of truth.  There is no historical evidence.  There is no document-able proof to show that what Joseph Smith said and what is written in the Book of Mormon is true.  Nothing!  In my view this is reason enough to believe that it isn’t true but for many they aren’t willing to consider a different perspective or walk away from their belief system.  Their perspective is, that it’s true, and there is no reason to take a step back and look at it from a different angle.

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The hard thing is, if you are willing to look at something from a different perspective, how can you know truth?  In the video, I post a few weeks ago, called Unveiling Grace about the formation for the Adam’s Road Band.  Micah talked about being challenged to read the Bible with the eyes of a child.  It’s a different perspective.  If you can’t challenge your perspective how can you know what you really believe and how can you grow.

I’m so grateful that God allowed that interaction with the few of us that were able to be at grow group.  It was one of those moments where I just stopped and said in my head “Thank you God!  I know this whole night was planned by You!”  It was one of those moments where my perspective was challenged, my truth was confirmed, and growth happened!  Those moments are the best moments.

I’m just a small town girl… living in a world filled with perspective not truth.

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Religiosity…

Another week of me thinking I was going to write one thing and God changing my mind last minute.  This week I read an article about religion in America and how “Mormons register a high level of religiosity.”  There are so many things I could say about the article and the reasoning behind the “religiosity” that Mormons have. There were so many things that I felt were wrong or misleading about the information in the article. But each point is its own blog.   But what I do want to address is the term religiosity.

Some of what the article stated is as follows:

A new and important study of religion in America has, among other things, a good deal to say about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Recently published under the title American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, the sociological study was conducted by scholars Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell and yields valuable insight to the nature and social effects of American religion.

Among the study’s findings related to Latter-day Saints are the following:

  • Mormons are among the most devout religious groups in the country.
    The American Grace study assessed a composite measure of “religiosity” that measured individuals’ levels of religious observance, the strength of their religious convictions about God and their faith, and the degree to which they feel their religion is personally important. As a group, Mormons registered a high level of “religiosity” (American Grace, 23-24).

Dictionary.com defines religiosity as 1. the quality of being religious; piety; devoutness.2. affected or excessive devotion to religion.

Wikipedia stated https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity

Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine). Another term less often used is “religiousness”.

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When you look at those definitions it’s all about rituals and practicing of religion.  No where does it mention a connection to God or worshiping God.  It’s all about showing how tied to your religion you are.

I think the reason that “Mormons are among the most devout religious groups in America” is because, in the Mormon world, religiosity = status.  The more religious you are, the more connected to God you seem to be.

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I think this is the biggest difference between my Christian life and my Mormon life.  As a Mormon my worth, my relationship to God, and how good of a Mormon I was, was all based on “religiosity”.  Everything was determined by how many church activities and functions I was attending, if I completed my visiting teaching assignments, if I was completing my church calling(s), was I a full tithe payer, a regular temple attendee, and any other things I was asked to do by my bishop or stake president, or authorities in the church.

The Mormon church is filled with ritualistic activities that, on the surface, look like you are connecting to God. But when the relationship with God is reliant on on rituals and prophets, and there is no real connection with God then do you have religion or a relationship?

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All of the “religiosity” adds to the requirement of earning your way to heaven and having to be enough.  If you do enough religious acts then hopefully you’ll be good enough to earn your place in heaven.

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Since leaving the Mormon church I have always said I hate religion.  When people ask what religion I am I say Christian in the broadest sense of the word.  I don’t want to be tied to any one denomination. I am just that, a follower of Christ.  I am not tied to a church or a religion.  I follow the Bible. Several years ago I was getting some blood work done and the lady drawing my blood and I got on the topic of religion.  When I told her I was a Christian she asked where I worshiped.  I loved that because, although I am a Christian, I do have a church I choose to worship at on Sunday’s.  I have a church home that I love and I serve in a position at my church.  Not because I was called by the Pastor.  Not out of obligation to anyone.  I worship and serve because of my relationship with my God.  It helps bring connection to my Savior.  It helps me worship.  It has nothing to do with religiosity.

I feel like religion or religiosity is all about check boxes and rituals.  Things you do to prove to the world how religious you are.  The problem is that this takes away from your relationship with God. With religion you get so caught up trying to show the people around you how religious you are, and, Jesus gets lost.

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I don’t need the world to know anything about my religious beliefs.  I don’t need the world to be accepting of me.  All I need is a relationship with my Lord and Savior.  One of the comments on the study was I love the word religiosity.  My thought was, you can have your religion, I’ll take Jesus.

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I’m just a small town girl…Living in my Jesus world.