Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mormon Roots?

I first learned about the Mormon religion (a.k.a. The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints) in a United States History class in college. I had never heard about Mormons or the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith before that time. When I heard about this man (Joseph Smith), my immediate reaction was that he was a lunatic or heretic (or both). It was just so incredibly unbelievable.

Over the years I have known several Mormon people. Some of them were very nice, well meaning people. Others were just ... not. I guess you could say that about the people who claim just about any religious affiliation, Followers included.

In 2012, a man from another Followers offshoot (The Church of the Firstborn), named Darren Russell shared a document with me called "ARTICLES OF FAITH OF THE CHURCH OF THE FIRST BORN KNOWN AS THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST - 1918". One anonymous commentor pointed out that the Articles of Faith were similar to the LDS Articles of Faith. Another commentor claimed that Walter White (who was the leader of the Oregon City Followers of Christ church until his death in 1969) had a maternal grandmother named Carrie, who was part of the LDS Church.

If the Followers had Mormon roots, they were quite hidden to us! We didn't read (or even know about) the Book of Mormon and the other texts the LDS church uses.

Recently, the Idaho Followers have made the news again and this time the reporter has claimed that the Followers are "fringe Mormons." Interesting. At first I dismissed this as poor reporting. But, maybe there is something to this.

If any Followers (current or former) know anything about this, would you please comment on this post and enlighten me? 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Prayer Changes Everything #prayerchangesthings #faith

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

I have recently fallen in love with the practice of prayer. I don’t know why it has taken me so many years to begin to understand the life-changing power of praying.

I have listened to sermons about prayer, read articles, and chapters of books about it. I have recited prayers by rote. I have prayed aloud, with others, and for others. I have often prayed for meals. But it has always been, well just lifeless. I don’t think I ever really believed I was communicating with God.

And I have had some really powerful experiences with prayer – answered prayers. Corporate prayers. But, for the most part, I have just not been a person who prayers every day (or even once a week).

A few weeks ago, my bible study leader encouraged us all to pray. I ignored the encouragement. Just words. The heavens are brass (see Deuteronomy 28:23).

And then I received a text from said leader asking if we’d been praying. I responded that I always forget. And she suggested I pray while driving. So I said I would, and I usually do what I say I will do, so I did.

I prayed all the way to work for my students, my students’ families, my coworkers, everyone who came to mind. And I had a really good day. I felt empathy for my students. I listened to them more closely. I started to like my coworkers more.

On the way home, I prayed for my family, church members, neighbors, and everyone else who came to mind. And the blessings continued. I pay more attention to others. To what they need and want. To their hurts and their feelings.

I continue to pray. It has completely changed my relationships.

Who knew?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Still Struggling with #Pride

I am plagued by doubts about my salvation. I cannot be good enough. I do not deserve salvation. I do not deserve grace.

I know that other people can accept that free gift, but I am convinced that I must earn it or at least be worthy. 

Maybe I am not chosen by God for salvation. 

Or, maybe I was chosen, but I have wandered too far from the straight and narrow.

Is it too late?

I am trying to believe.

I am trying to have faith.

I am trying to repent. 

I am trying to change my thoughts, words, actions, and beliefs.

I am trying to accept God's grace and forgiveness.

I really am trying to figure this out. Maybe I'm trying too hard.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I Am Smart. I Am Strong. I Am Independent. #seekinggod

I just spent an hour at the gym and I came home feeling GREAT! Thirty minutes on the elliptical, 2 sets of 15 reps on all the weight machines. I am walking on air! I can conquer anything! 

Oh, and have I mentioned in the past ten minutes my collection of advanced degrees? How many countries I've visited? My IQ? The number of books I read each week?

If you know me in real life, I probably have.

You can probably tell that I struggle, really struggle, with pride. Satan's sin of choice. That's me: SO important. SO smart. SO independent. 

And, really, to be honest: so lost.

I read the Bible, but it doesn't change who I am. It doesn't make me a better person (how could it when I already think so highly of myself?).

I go to church and Bible study, but it's more for education (or entertainment) than for worship.

And I feel so far from God.

Tonight, two people came to my mind. Two people I think are "weak" and emotionally fragile. Not me. Nope. No way - I have it all figured out. 

But, wait....maybe being weak isn't the worst thing that could happen to me...

It's time to be honest: I have hit a "wall" in my faith - well, I likely have been walking around this wall for years - and I am ready to find my way THROUGH it. 

Prayers would be welcome.

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
2 Corinthians 12:10

Sunday, January 10, 2016

What Exactly ARE The Things Above?

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Col. 3:2 (NIV)

I have always imagined that heaven is magical, peaceful, beautiful – if boring – city in the clouds. There are the requisite mansions for everyone, golden streets, and angels floating by on fluffy, white clouds. And in the middle of everything, Jesus is on his beautiful, majestic throne with piles and piles of crowns surrounding the Messiah. Millions of worshipers – with their perfect bodies – sing to the King with their perfectly melodious voices.

So, when I read in Colossians that we are to set our minds on “things above”, I wonder if this is how I should be setting my mind each day. Is this the key to avoiding anger, gossip, lying, and all the other daily temptations? Does it work? How do I live in the here and now while my mind is set on Heaven?

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that what I have been doing is not working. Someone at bible study asked the question: would the way we live change if Jesus were physically present. Yes, of course, we all agree that if we could SEE Jesus at all times we would live a lot differently. So, I am trying something new: a physical reminder of things above, of Heaven.

I’m wearing a necklace called Heaven (from Premier Designs). It has the key to Heaven, a door with a keyhole, a crown of pearls on one side and multiple colored gemstones on the other, one of the charms has a golden cross on one side and a golden road on the other, and the last charm says “Rev. 21: 18-22”. This physical object that I’m wearing is my way of reminding myself often to set my mind.

What do you think Heaven will be like? And, how do you “set your mind”?

These are not rhetorical questions. I really would like to know what others think and do.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Endless Life: Feeling Trapped

Note: I've been on hiatus from blogging for a while, but I am working on a few new entries. Thank you to anyone who might still check this blog :)


At age 20, life can drag on and on. Actually life can drag at any age, when a person feels trapped.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” – 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

When I was seventeen, the decisions of two individuals caused my social life to end within the FOC. Of course I realize that my own decisions, words, and actions over the months and years prior to this time led up to these little shunnings. But although I had said and done some stupid and hurtful things, I hadn’t committed any “unforgivables”. I just wasn’t lucky enough to be born at the right time, or into the right family, or whatever. The fact was I had suddenly become a pariah.

So for three years I lived in a state of essential, though unofficial, shunning. Almost nobody talked to me, except this one guy, J--, who verbally assaulted me every chance he got while everyone mutely watched/listened. For three years I went to the social events and talked to virtually nobody. Toward the end, I talked to a few other similar pariahs, but I never had a chance of social success after those two people decided to destroy me.

Those three years were an eternity. Can you imagine? Three years of attending church services twice weekly, without being greeted or spoken to, or in any way acknowledged. Three years of attending dances and home parties and decorating parties while being invisible. Three years of having no life outside of my family and work.

But other things happened during those three years. I went to work and had a fair amount of success in this aspect of my life. I was trained in every aspect of automotive office management: payroll, accounts payable, receivables, warranties, new and used car titling, and month-end reports. At age twenty, I was promoted to office manager, with a staff of older/more experienced employees reporting to me. Something else happened: guys asked me out all the time. Not FOC guys, of course, but worldly guys. I couldn’t believe that so many attractive, charming, successful men would want to date me after all the social silence I’d endured at the FOC. I didn't want to date the entire world, but it was just one more indication that the "reality" I experience in the FOC didn't check with reality elsewhere.

It came down to the decision to continue living as an invisible and unwanted recluse in my parents’ basement hoping that the years of loneliness would pass quickly and the reward (the possibility of salvation for all that sacrifice) would be real or bolt into unknown territory. Was this seemingly meaningless existence even worth it?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Just Keep Walking: A Lesson on Resisting Temptation

My daughter is a hoarder by nature. Sadly, she has a mother who purges her extra clothing, toys, and other nonessential items when things start getting too cluttered. Despite my best efforts, she has way too much stuff. And this is no thanks to her grandmother who likes to help her sneak stuff in the house. It's a constant battle.

One of this little girl's strongest temptations lies in those little coin-operated junk-made-in-China machines near the exit of stores. She always begs and pleads for some "cents" to put into those dispensers of worthless plastic. 

Tonight, I had to stop at Walmart to pick up a prescription (yes, I take them) and I was feeling awful, but the kids did not get that. They are little people with their own agendas. As I was waiting with my daughter at the pharmacy, she chattered about everything she wanted to look at and I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed. I finally told her that I just wasn't feeling up to walking around the store and she acquiesced to leaving all her unfulfilled shopping desires behind and heading home.

As we neared the front of the store, I saw those colorful, glimmering sentries and I sped up to get through the doors ahead of the kids. And that's when the magic happened. I got through both sets of doors and was standing outside Walmart when I turned and saw both kids standing silently behind me. I was thrilled and shocked.

I looked at my little girl and said, "I am so proud of you for walking out the door without asking for coins! Thank you for doing that."

She said, "I wanted to ask, but I just kept telling myself, 'keep walking. keep walking'."

"I bet you don't want those things now that you can't see them." I said.

It made for a good discussion with both kids. Because temptations will plague us throughout our lives. I have lived long enough to know that what is tempting to some people is not at all tempting to others. I am not tempted to eat pastries, drink soda, or use drugs. But those are very real temptations to millions of others. I am tempted to sin every single day though. Sometimes I keep walking and sometimes I fail. 

But tonight was a good illustration and reminder: just keep walking. The farther away we get from our temptations, the farther we are from them. I'm no expert on addictions, but I'm going to remember this lesson for a long time. Just keep walking. 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)