Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Core of the Christian Faith

 I am not afraid of encountering and processing human emotion.   If someone is planning a tear jerker, they are aiming at me.  I am bawling at those golden buzzer, NBA back story, triumphant underdog kind of moments.  I love getting invested in the people around me.  Here's the thing.  A lot of people out there, see religion as another talisman, emotional feelings, riding the energy wave, kind of experience.  It looks like a lot of hype without much substance.  Do they have a point?  Or are those skeptics off base?

I became a Christian when I was four years old.  I was in my Pre-K class learning about the letter I, "Itchy Ivy" was the character on the letter.  My teacher told us about Jesus and I accepted him in my heart.  I even remember going home and telling my mom all about it.

Do you want to know why I am a Christian?  I could answer that I have had a ton of encounters with Jesus in my own life.  I could answer that I was raised in a Christian home, which would also be accurate.  I could also answer that I believe in the Bible, which is correct. Even though all of those are answers I could have, they aren't the reason I am a Christian. I am a Christian because its true.  Sure I've gotten caught up in a worship night filled with Cory Asbury and Hillsong, but I've also researched beyond the feelings.

My life has had its hard times and it has forced me to question God.  At one point in my life, I even told God, "I was going to take control of my life," and I did - the results were NOT good!  Feelings aren't enough to sustain a faith in God, more specifically Jesus Christ.  You need more.  It has to be more than the overwhelming emotion after a moving set of worship music.  Without substance, it wouldn't work.  It wouldn't last.

I have studied the historical data and discovered for myself that the facts point to Jesus being who he said he was.  History proves he was a real person.  He made claims he was God and the evidence that is out there, shows, he truly was (and is) God.  If you want to know more, let me know.  I am happy to answer more questions or point you toward some resources that have helped me over the years. For now, because this month's topic is "back to the basics" I will just share some hallmarks of the Christian faith. 

We were born into a world that degenerates.  People aren't naturally good.  Just look at the news and see things are getting worse, not better.  Christians call this bad thing, sin.  Sin separates us from God. The best picture for me of this is two people trying to hug while holding suitcases.  The baggage gets in the way.  Sin is sin.

Sure, you may go to prison for more years if you murdered someone than if you stole a drugstore candy bar, but wrong is wrong.  Too often we get caught in the trap of justifying what we are doing wrong because we see the person next to us doing something we deem far worse.  Missing the mark is missing the mark.  If I jump from one cliff to another, and I miss the other cliff by a mile or a millimeter, it doesn't matter, I will be plunging to my death in both scenarios.

God (including Jesus) made us.  He wanted a relationship with us and when sin got in the way of that, he made a way for us to still have that relationship.

Christians believe in one God (its called monotheism).  We do see him in three persons that we call the Trinity.  Many look at the Trinity and think we are polytheists and that Christians believe in 3 Gods, but that isn't true.  Nabeel Qureshi, shared in his books and in this video that best way for him, a Muslim converted to Christianity, understanding the Trinity was simply about "what" and "who."  God is one being in three persons.  Being is the what and persons is the who. 

It can be hard to understand because I am Carrie and I am a human being, which means that I am one in being and one in person, but God is actually one in being and three in persons.  We call them God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was God sent to us in human person.  He was still God, and the Holy Spirit is the person of God that stays with us once we accept Jesus.  Jesus came to the world to be a sacrifice for us. He gave his life in exchange for us.   If you owe $10,000 on your credit card, and you didn't have it, someone pays the bill so you don't have to.

After Jesus died on a cross, he came back to life and wants a relationship with us, his creation.  He offers us life if we believe in him as God.  This is much like someone who falls off a boat is offered a life raft to help them swim to safety.  God didn't come into the world to condemn but to save it.

The number one rule of Christianity is love.  If you want a definition of that word check out I Corinthians 13.  We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Part of that love is sharing the good news of Jesus with others and helping them connect with him and grow closer.

Being a Christian means admitting you don't know it all and receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, which just means we will live serving and following him.  We do have to surrender our lives to him, but like I said before, doing life on my terms, actually produced worse results than when I followed God.

Baptism isn't necessary to be a Christian but its a great faith step that helps us to not only publicly acknowledge we are serving God, but also is a great symbolic act of being washed by God's sacrifice on the cross.

Its a step by step walk through life with the Creator of the Universe and beyond.  He isn't out to make you someone you aren't, but instead to show you how to be the you he made you to be.  The best version of yourself and the person who can best love the world around them.  I am in awe how God continues to reveal areas I can still grow.  I love it.  I want to be the best me, I can be.  I spent years of my life ashamed of who I was, but God actually made me with purpose.  He made you that way too!  

If you have questions on any of this, let me know.  If I forgot something, I want to hear about that too.  I tried being concise (which is not my strong suit) and also share all the basic points.  So here you have it.  If you have gotten complicated in your religious views, maybe its time to simplify.  Study why the Bible is true, get to the core beliefs and understand what God wants to unfold in your life.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What Happens In the End

Earlier this month, I was writing grad cards for those students who were graduating and even though I try to make each card I write unique and personal for that person, let's face it, the bulk of what I can say is the same..."praying for what God has ahead," "excited to see what God will do in your life," "I know there is so much you can accomplish..."

While writing a card I realized, as I stand in a place of ministry where I have seen the lives people grow into, that just because I see the potential, doesn't mean it will happen.

I can think of former students who I've seen blossom into a spiritual and professional leader.  I've seen people become some of the most amazing spouses and parents, but I've also seen the other side of the spectrum.

Some students in all appearances, threw their life away, not because they made a mistake or bad choice, but some have chosen to just quit on the life that is before them and allow their mistakes to be their life instead of learning from them.

Each of us have potential.  God created us to all be amazing in our own way, and a lot influences who we become, but at the end of the day, that final decision is up to us.  It may not feel like a choice and yet, it truly is that simple.  We can't control the circumstances we face, but we can control how we let it shape us.

The best example I have of this is my grandma and her sister.  They are both gone now, but in their life, they both experienced the same hardships for the most part, but their attitude toward life was in stark contrast.  My great aunt was the quintessential Pollyana.  Life was sunshine and rainbows no matter what day it was.  She wasn't overly optomistic, but sincere in her love of life and others.  She made the decision to filter life through a glass half full perspective.  She was fun to be around!  My grandma was an amazing women, but unfortunately she lived with a pessimistic, glass half empty filter that often resembled Eeyore.  She was my grandma so I loved being around her, but the contrast between her and her sister, was definitely notable.

I have to remind myself often that I get to tell my story and decide how to tell it.  I can look at the negatives or see the beauty in the midst of the hard times.  My family has been hit pretty hard lately, yet my son and I were just watching a video about the slums in India and I realized my worse day is better than many peoples' reality.

Its never too late to change.  Its never too late to turn the tide of your life.  Maybe today is the day for you, or maybe you have a friend you need to share this with so that she can make the critical changes she needs to make.

We are all in this life together.  Our narrative may be different but our humanity is the same.  Let's help each other step up to the life we were created to live.  You've got this!! Keeping this basic reality check in mind can fuel the exact change you were looking for! This week has been crazy for me at work so this is my first time in years that I didn't get a blog post out on a Wednesday, so Happy Friday!  God bless you all!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Just Be Basic!

This month we are getting back to the basics.  That is our theme.  Life can get complicated and sometimes we just need to simplify and take it back to the basics. Summer is a great time to do it too! The topics will be the things I can talk about.  This month I thought we'd talk essential oils one week, because their is a lot of information out there so let's simply it! I also want to discuss the basics of the Christian faith because I am a Christian, and again, a lot of stuff out there.  There are a few other areas I'd also love to share, but for today, let's talk about our basic needs.

We all need water, food and sleep (even though moms tend to ignore this one), and there are other basic needs with various nutrients, etc, but our basic needs go beyond this list.

I get easily distracted.  Like a lot! I need lists to accomplish all the stuff.  Timers work well too, a buzz or ding to bring me back to what I am doing.

I need to take care of myself in unique ways so I don't go crazy.  I am one might call an empath.  I am great at empathy and it can become overwhelming at times.  I have to build in time to regroup or I will lose it.  I need to laugh so that I stay sane.  I'm also prone toward getting into my work and forgetting life around me or getting too busy that I end up having a melt down.  I have to schedule down time so that I can recover between tasks. You may relate to my needs, but my needs aren't your needs.  You may need something entirely different.

1. List it Out -
 When we talk basics, its making a list of what we need - physically, emotionally, spiritually etc.  and working our days from that list.  So list those needs out.  What do you need?  If you aren't sure what you need, ask God. He made you so I can guarantee he will have the answers.  When we aren't aware of what we need or aren't paying attention to those needs, we can end up hurting ourselves.

One of the needs I often neglect is water.  I have to often track how many glasses I've had in a day so that I can stay on track with my hydration.  I know if I get dehydrated, I start to fall a part.

2. Calendar Priorities - 
When you calendar life, be sure you know your needs and those get put in first.  Then fill in with all the other stuff.  First things, first is a great way to live.

When you look at that list of your needs, where do they need to go in your day to day life?  I've always loved personality tests, I find the self-discovery in them fascinating, but as I've read the books of Dr. Caroline Leaf, I realize that many of my needs are even more specific.  I've learned what I need when I have to make a decision versus what I need to get a task done.  They are different.  Consider this factor when planning life.  If you know you have a big project or need to make some important choices, what you give yourself to do it, might change.

3. Question the Differences - 
Let's face it the people you are around the most, are the ones you most likely are comparing yourself to.  We each have our own individual list of needs that we often ignore with the groups of people around us.  I know I've gotten caught up in the people pleasing status quo and neglect myself in the mix.  I also compare what my husband can do with what I do, but the reality is, we are different and need different things.

So look at your spouse, siblings, friends, co-workers and ask, how am I different?  If you can see those differences, you may find the freedom to ask for what you need without the weight of judgment.

4. Live with Less - 
In doing the steps above, you may discover you need to simply your calendar and your life.  Once you check all the need boxes and responsibility boxes, you might not have time for some extras in you've said "yes" to.  Framing your life around what works best for you, is a simple recipe for success.

So go out there and be basic.  Its not a slam, its actually a good thing.  You know what's important and you are doing it! Happy Wednesday!