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Faith

A New Perspective: Is Sin Really What We Think It is?

About a month ago I came across a thread on sin. It proposed a new perspective on how we think and talk about Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. It has been mulling around in my brain since I read it. And this past Easter, as we celebrated His resurrection with our candy filled eggs and Easter baskets, I was reminded of it again.

Easter

The Easter holiday in our house is definitely more commercial than Christian. At least for our kids. We haven’t been to a church service in years. And we chose not to overtly push our beliefs onto our children, so tend to stick to the more secular traditions of holidays. A friend of mine, who is very opposite to me in that area, had started a new Easter tradition years ago. She wanted to share the beauty of the resurrection with her kids in a way that was more accessible to them. I remember the first year I saw it in action. She shared pictures of this new tradition with pride. And the comments from our mutual friends oohing and ahhing over it just confused me. I thought for sure I was missing something.

A cute idea

The night before, the family would go together on a walk and collect rocks in their Easter buckets. These were meant to represent our sins and the weight of them that we carry on the daily. At home, those buckets would be set out and covered with a red cloth, Jesus’s blood that was shed for us. That representation of Christ’s sacrifice would transform those “sins” while the kids were sleeping. And Easter morning their buckets would be overflowing with Easter treats. There would be notes sharing the good news of Christ’s triumph over the grave and what that meant for our sins.

“I have removed your sin as far as the East is from the West. You are now a new creation!”

“I have washed you clean from sin. Go and walk in freedom!”

“Your sins are forgiven! Come near to me and I will come near to you.”

For some reason the idea that kids needed to see the literal message of having their sins forgiven and washed away bothered me. What sins could a child possibly have? The notes bothered me. But I just assumed it was because I was not as strong a believer as my friends.

Sin

And then, I read this beautiful thread. And I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t believe enough or the right way. I simply saw sin differently.

It was not a list of no-nos. It went beyond the magic list of thou shalt not’s. Sin was simply a part of our nature because we are human. It is everything God is not.

I could also never understand why the Christian community could not agree on what constituted a sin. Sexuality in any non-marriage related form, drugs, alcohol, eating meat, feeling envy or anger, etc. What made something a sin for some but not for others? Why could one man drink wine during communion, but another had to drink water? Why was a marriage only allowed between one man and one woman in this church, but in another it was one man and several women? Does God really care what tattoos I may have or how I dress? I don’t think so. And it seems to me that those lists were more about control than being closer to God.

The effect on my faith

Having my eyes opened to this new perspective on sin helped me in my faith. I love being challenged (gently, because I am a big softy) on what I believe when it comes to my faith in God. And this thread coming across my newsfeed did that.

Did Christ go to the cross and bleed for my soul because I drink or smoke? Because I have sex outside of marriage? Because I have tattoos and piercings? I don’t think so. He bled for me on that cross because this world is broken. Because sin is in everything we see and do. Because sin is simply the absence of God’s divinity. He could have easily made us gods, free of sin. But He chose to make us human, like Him but not the same as Him. And He chose to give us the gift of choice, knowing full well how we would use it and where it would lead us. And so He also gave us Christ, to cover us so that we may be with Him again in the hereafter.

That’s the beauty of Easter. And for the first time this year, I think I finally get it.

Sound off!

Let me know what you think! How do you think about sin in your life? Does this new perspective challenge that? How would you live out your faith differently if you thought of sin in this way?

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Faith

New Year. New Resolve. New Bible Study.

I was recently invited to join a Bible Study with the daughters. A friend of mine had shot me a message about this new study she was excited to start. And she hoped that my girls and I would be able to join in.

Now Crumbs and Sassy are what we affectionately call “heathens”. They have no interest in faith right now. And we are raising them in an environment that lets them decide and figure it out on their own. We answer questions when they come up. We share out beliefs, and also what their grandparents believe. But we let them decide for themselves what they believe. Once upon a time we also took them to church. An activity they never seemed too thrilled about.

The Bible Study

It was to be focused on our daughters, with us moms guiding and walking along with them. To build up their faith and allow them to see it in action in us. Since it wasn’t about growing our own faith, but rather our daughters’ faiths, this wasn’t the right fit for us. I bowed out and wished them well.  Which is when she offered this: “Our church has a Women’s Bible Study on Wednesday nights that you’re welcome to join.”

I passed, and thanked her.

But Lucie, why would you pass up that invitation? Isn’t a Women’s Bible Study a perfect place to grow and learn in your faith, while also building community with others in your boat?

Let me count the whys.

First, the church hosting this group was one that Lovey and I had previously attended. Once upon a time, this had been our home church. It’s where I met this friend, and many others. This is the place that initially led me to the step of accepting Christ into my life. I found my MOPS group at this church, and I found myself.

It is also the place where Lovey and I fell apart. And while the friends we had made surrounded us with prayer and support, the church leadership did not. Leadership followed the protocol laid out in the Bible, rebuking and praying. Then washed their hands of the situation and moved on. They did very little reaching out to help our relationship heal and move forward. In fact, in one instance, they even actively tried to block me from participating in a conversation with Lovey about our marriage and their handling of it. They seemed more concerned with the repentance of one individual than with the healing of a family. That is not the church leadership I want setting an example for my kids.

A difference in beliefs

Second, Lovey and I are at a very different place in our faith than we were when we attended church regularly. We have both grown in our separate faiths, and honed in on the core things we believe in. And we slowly realized that a lot of those things are at odds with Church Life. Not at odds with the Bible, as far as we have read and studied. But certainly at odds with Church culture and the Christian Conservative views that permeate it.

We believe in religious freedom for all, which to us partly means keeping religious views out of policy making. We pray for an end to so-called conversion “therapy”. All of us are proud allies of the LGBTQ+ community and support equal rights all around. And these beliefs make finding a new home church tricky, and attending a church-based Women’s Bible Study even trickier.

I’ve been to those studies. They are usually larger groups with a handful of seasoned older women speaking louder than others. Their beliefs, as a group, don’t align with mine, at least in my experience. And if I am going to dig in to a Bible Study, to open myself up to the lessons I need to learn, I want to be my authentic self with those walking along that path too. It’s hard to grow otherwise.

Bible study during a pandemic

Third, in our neck of the woods, there is still the concern of Covid-19. Life is slowly returning to a new normal here, with shops and restaurants opening again, and gatherings being a little more common. But our family is still operating out of an abundance of caution, and limiting our interactions with new groups of people. Which means, any Bible Study group I want to attend needs to have a virtual or social distance option, something we have not found a lot of in our little corner of the world.

So what’s next for my faith?

While I am bummed I won’t be able to do this study with my friend, who is quite amazing in her own faith, I am not totally disheartened. I have recently found an amazing devotional that I can’t wait to start. And Lovey and I have also picked out a couple foundational studies to work through together. (Updates on all of these will pop up on the facebook page once we start, so be sure to like it if you haven’t already!) And once the pandemic is a little more under control, and we feel safer going out, it will be off to the churches to find our new faith community.

Let me know your thoughts: Are you a fan of the larger group Bible Studies? Or do you prefer smaller, intimate groups? What are some of your favorite studies or books that have helped you to deepen your faith?

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Faith

Using My Prayer Journal to Be Closer to God

I don’t know about you, but prayer has been one of the most challenging parts of my faith. And it shouldn’t be! The bible is littered with scriptures about prayer: its importance, how to, famous answers. It is woven into every part of the church experience, whether you are just a Sunday sermon goer or whether you are involved in all the groups. Prayer begins and ends all the meetings and gatherings. And it always seemed, to me, that everyone just automatically knew how to pray. Everyone, that is, except me.

You want me to pray… out loud?

Never one for public speaking, public praying was something I always left to the others. The ones who knew how to pray. They knew the right words to say. The right order to say them in. It was like they had access to the secret handshake and I had somehow missed that part of orientation.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t pray at all. I do. But it doesn’t look like what I used to think it should look like. It is informal. And silent. And usually in small snippets throughout the day. It is more of an ongoing conversation with my Creator.

For the longer conversations, I turn to my prayer journal.

Writing out my prayers

If you do a quick Pinterest search you’ll see a lot of how tos for a journal that pays homage to the Christian flick War Room. And while all the pictures of the beautifully decorated and organized prayer books and binders draw me in, they’re not for me. I don’t view prayer as going to war. I view it as a conversation. It is my time to commune with my Creator, to share my doubts and worries and fears with Him. To thank Him for everything He has provided in my life. It’s also a place to seek His guidance when I have decisions to make.

For this, I need something much simpler. Basic, even. A beautiful notebook and a trusty pen.

As a writer, I have a mini obsession with notebooks and pens. I will take any excuse to wander through the office supplies section of Target to browse the pretty covers and colors. So it seemed natural to turn to my writer habits to build my prayer habits.

Spending time with my Creator

Once a week at least, I try to find the time and space to sit in the quiet with my notebook and pen. I can clear away the cobwebs in my mind and just pour out whatever I need to to God. I’m able to get into the details of things, be more specific with my fears and needs. I am free to fall into the glory of worshiping without feeling oddly on display. It is private. It is between Him and me.

Sometimes, through the course of writing out my prayers to Him, He leads me to scriptures. Those times I turn quickly to my bible or bible app. And then they are copied into the notebook, written down to call forth their power.

Writing down my prayers in this way also gives me a record of His answers. Sometimes the answers are no. Sometimes they are yes. And sometimes they are a long time coming. Only when I have “forgotten” do they get answered in some way.

Leaving a record of my journey

It is a visual journey of my relationship with God. It is a love story from budding new Christian to… now. I can flip through those pages and see His influence on my life, see how He has protected me, guided me, and lead me ever closer to Him. I can see the people He has brought to me, and those He has separated.

Prayer is still something I struggle with out loud. I still feel like that young kid asked to give a report to the class whenever I’m asked to pray out loud. And maybe I always will. But that’s okay. Because I know He hears me anyway. I know He doesn’t really care about the words that come out of my mouth, or that come out of my pen. He only cares that I talk to Him.

Tell me about your prayer life. Do you use a journal to write down requests and answers?

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Faith

Why I Won’t Use This Word to Describe My Faith

Christmas is one of those times during the year where I find myself examining my beliefs a little more closely. It probably has something to do with the Christian part of the holiday. And this year, that introspection got me thinking about the language I use when I talk about my faith.

I won’t use the word Christianity very much. I will not proclaim myself a Christian. Even though others would say that I am, and I do fall under the definition. I cannot proudly say that I am one.

Is Christian a bad word?

The word has carried so many horrific crimes against humanity, so many oppressive views, so many controlling policies, that I simply can’t claim it. I cannot overlook the damage Christianity has done long enough to proudly proclaim that I am a Christian myself.

But what about the good? You may ask.

The good exists whether or not I claim the label. I can cheer for the all the positives my chosen faith community has done and is doing in this world. I can jump and shout and be so excited when I see headlines like this one: Religious Leaders Call For Global Ban On So-Called Gay Conversion Therapies.

But for me, the association with the hurt Christianity and Christians in general has done is foremost. It is the first thing that pops into my head. And it really shouldn’t be. So you will not see me use the words Christian or Christianity as much as my fellow Christ followers.

Labels aren’t everything

Let’s be clear. My feelings about the words do not have any bearing on your faith or my faith. My faith is important to me. I am constantly trying to learn and grow in it. My relationship with God is sound. My relationship with His Son is sound. Neither are in jeopardy or lacking in anyway because I refuse to call myself by that word.

I can follow Christ, read His word, pray and seek His counsel without having to say “I’m Christian.” People should be able to see it by my actions, by my love, by who I am. They should not need me to spell it out for them by saying those words. He doesn’t.

Christian? Not a Christian?

So, what does that all mean? If I’m not calling myself a Christian, what am I, what do I believe? Well, I believe in a perfect Creator, one who does not make mistakes. I believe in Christ, as the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in His Word, that he breathed life into the Bible, while still acknowledging that it was written by man. And I follow Christ’s commandments: to love God and love my fellow humans.

Being human myself, I often fail at the second one. But I try. And when I do fail, I turn to Him to help me be better.

I am a work in progress.

And part of that progress is this. Sharing myself with you all. Maybe some of you are as in progress as I am. If you are, welcome aboard! My type of Christianity may not be for you. (I am unapologetically polyamorous and bisexual.) If it’s not, that is okay! I wish you well on your own journey. Otherwise, welcome to my world. May we grow in our relationships with Christ together.

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Faith

Love God: It Really Is That Simple

It’s complicated. Yet so simple. As Jesus says: Love God. Love your neighbor.

Check and check… mostly.

I think we all struggle with that last one, regardless of beliefs. We are human after all. But that first one? Check. Simple enough. Love God.

It took me a while to get there though. I was not raised in the church. Nor in a particularly religious family. My mom is not at all religious. My dad has his faith but it’s his, and he is not one to really share unless asked. I’m sure it has guided him throughout life. But quietly.

Feeling His Influence

My grandparents and aunts and cousins (on my dad’s side) are slightly more religious. They have their bible studies and church on Sundays and prayers. Okay, so maybe more than slightly. But we moved a lot (military brat!) so their influence was from afar (if at all).

I grew up knowing who God is, knowing the important commandments, and the big bible stories. There was church and Sunday School and youth group depending on where we were stationed.

But it wasn’t until Lovey and I got serious that God and church became a real part of my life.

So we “shopped” around town for months before finding a church we both felt comfortable with. We “plugged in” to the studies and ministries. And I found a safe place to wonder and explore.

“All the questions just faded to the background and it was just peace.”

I made great new friends who were patient and loving and ready to help me find whatever answers I needed without being pushy. And then it happened, driving in the rain with Lovey, off to explore a nearby city for the day. A peace I had not felt before just washed over me. All the questions just faded to the background and it was just peace. Like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by a silence you can feel, with none of the dark and foreboding ickies surrounding it.

Since that day, I have grown and read and still sought out answers. But I also settled into a peace that those questions may always be there. That He will give me answers on His time. It has been a lesson in trust and patience. And love.

Love God. Love your neighbor.

It’s just that simple.

Tell me about your journey. Do you still have questions? How has He answered those for you?