“What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say” By Lysa Terkeurst

What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say
LYSA TERKEURST

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” Philippians 4:13-14 (NIV, 1984)

I don’t understand some things that happen in life. When one of the most vivacious, fun-loving, beautiful, determined-to-tell-the-world-about-Jesus women I knew found out her cancer was back, my heart broke.

Short of a miraculous healing from God, Brenda wouldn’t make it through the end of the year.

One afternoon, I sat with Brenda talking and processing her reality. At one point she got very quiet. It was as if she could see things I couldn’t. After a few minutes of silent reflection, she leaned over and whispered, “I know in my heart I’m not going to be here much longer. And I need to know my girls will be okay. They need godly women to walk with them, speak into them and guide them into the future God has for them.”

With tears streaming down my face, I committed to being one of those women.

A few weeks later, Brenda’s feeling was confirmed as she let go of her family’s hand and walked into glory.

Paige and Philecia were 19 and 14 years old, the same ages as my oldest and youngest daughters. I had no idea how to do this right. I didn’t have a game plan or a degree in grief counseling. My schedule was crazy. My own kids made me question my sanity some days. And I was so hyperaware of all the many ways I’m flawed. But one thing I knew I could do — be a female voice that whispered often into their lives, “I love you.”

Uttering three simple words into the deep grief of two brokenhearted little girls didn’t seem like much, but God used it in profound ways.

I couldn’t take away their pain. But I could bring joy in the midst of it.

I whispered “I love you” at simple, everyday dinners at my house. I wrote “I love you” on the tops of their birthday gifts and Christmas morning surprises. I texted it when I invited them for afternoon coffee and movie dates. Nothing about it was organized or done perfectly. But just the effort seemed to be what mattered most.

And bit by bit, day by day, love is helping us all figure out this hard time together.

I wonder if you have a friend going through a really tough time. Have you wrestled like I did with not knowing what to say? Being afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing? I understand.

But I’ve learned it’s better to risk doing it wrong than to do nothing at all. A simple “I love you” said or written in conjunction with meeting a practical need is a great place to start.

In May, the girls celebrated their first Mother’s Day without Brenda. I knew they would need an “I love you” to help ease the ache of this day. So, I invited their family to join mine for dinner that night.

Halfway through the meal, I wished I had thought in advance of some wonderfully profound words to share to honor Brenda. But right as I was lamenting not being better prepared for this moment, Paige pulled out a framed letter they’d written to me. In honor of Brenda, they’d decided to give me a gift they knew she would have loved … a gold cross necklace.

I was crying so hard I could barely read their letter. But since then, I’ve read it many times. It sits on my bedside table as a reminder of how powerful love is. In the letter they included one of Brenda’s favorite verses, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13). Interestingly enough, the very next verse reads, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles” (v.14).

Yes, it is good to share in each other’s troubles. And so, with a willing but very imperfect heart, I will keep whispering “I love you” into the lives of Brenda’s beautiful girls.

I still don’t understand why this happened. And I don’t always know the right things to say in response to deep grief. But I do know love is a beautiful thing to bring into the gap of all the unknowns.

Dear Lord, thank You for showing me the power of Your great love. Help me to be a reflection of Your love to the ones You have entrusted to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (NIV)

There’s No Such Thing As A Coincidence

I have to start by saying that I really am in awe of God’s messages to me and work in my life. Once I think okay I’m good and my flesh starts getting ignorant into thinking I get the big picture, God comes in and shows and tells me otherwise. I know I should never ever have pride into thinking I know everything I need to know. I’m still human and those sinful emotions or thoughts still do come at me. I struggle like everyone else but thank God (literally) that he knows me better than I know myself. I’ll share with everyone a little something about how before I even know God knows my problem and what I need. Here’s an example, lately doubt has been creeping up at me. Doubt about my own abilities, talents, mission or path, or the gifts I’ve been given to by God. I’ve pushed those thoughts away, put my poker face on and kept trucking. Well apparently God wanted to step in because he was not going to allow me to not get the bigger picture. He takes care of his children. I know who I am yes but God wanted to remind me. See God does not sit back and let you fall away he sends you messages, signs, miracles, etc. He knows what I need, what we all need better than we do. We should all know God’s word is the truth and sometimes it doesn’t hit us right away. Well this past week I was carrying along my work week as usual when I was editing a program I do. Well I was listening but I was listening from an editor’s point of view not content so I was listening for repetition, gaps, coughing, stumbling, etc when all of a sudden I stopped dead in my tracks because a bible verse or quote hit me. There was nothing wrong editing wise, the power of it hit me. I backtracked and had to replay it this time actually listening to the content. It was powerful. A simple small statement with such power and meaning. Okay I thought interesting, I get it, alright. That was powerful. So powerful that it was the spark I needed to finish and push me to finish writing and post that article I posted about my testimony. Well I wrote it down then moved onto editing. I thought that was it. Well a day later my boss calls me into his office to listen to something a Pastor recorded with him. He goes you need to hear this one minute vignette it’s so powerful and the conviction in this Pastor’s voice. He told me it was unplanned and unscripted and they were wrapping up recording when the Pastor got emotional and asked if he could do one more thing he felt compelled to do right then and there so my boss obliged. I sat in my boss’s office and listened and right away I could hear the passion and love in this man’s voice. I was still, silent, in awe. You know what his vignette contained? The exact bible verse I heard a day before that stopped me dead in my tracks. I sat there smiling in my boss’s office because I just knew like alright, alright I’m hearing this again in the same short time period. Of all the scriptural verses… Okay it spoke to me with conviction and it got me thinking. It didn’t stop there though. Next I went to my church on Sunday. The service starts, I’m feeling good, worshipping, everyone’s enjoying themselves and the preaching starts. The sermon is about Victory. I think okay let’s see if I get something outta this message. I was engaged, enjoying the Pastor’s scriptural references and I think okay maybe this service will be a normal experience for me. I have to tell you everyone every single service I’ve attended at this church something, God obviously (haha) spoke to me in a way I understood during that time in my life. So I thought okay the service is winding down this was been a pleasant experience but nothing really jumping out at me. Well little did I know God was saving it for the end because he wants to teach us patience and I should have known better. The Pastor winds down and BOOM there it is. That verse again that hit me in the face and blew up my mind and got it racing a mile a minute. It hit me and this third and final time it hit me with such power that I got it. I heard God loud and clear and I knew with every ounce of me that God didn’t want me to just hear it, he wanted me to get it, and never forget it. Let me tell you all those times I heard this same Bible verse three times in one week was NOT a coincidence. Things happen for a reason. We are human, we are stubborn, and we do not get it the first time but lucky for us God is a God of many chances. He wanted me to hear his answer and solution to my doubt, to my struggles. He wanted me to be patient and be still. To know he is with me and for me. To know I am his and he is mine and that no problem is EVER too big for him. He wanted and wants me to know and everyone else this quote he told me three times in one week that I believe he wants me to share:

” I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13

My Testimony: One Version of It

I Pray that my Testimony reaches someone and sheds some light in an area of darkness –Marita

A lot of you who have been reading some of my material have probably by now come to know three things. 1) I’m a straight shooter and write exactly what I’m thinking to the point that my slang comes out in my writing. 2) I’m not an expert or Pastor. I’m just a member of the body of believers. 3) I like to get into detail and explain things a lot or in other words define things. Not just for people reading this but for my own personal breakdown and help with deciphering things. I find it helpful to explains things in a way where I can’t assume people know what I’m talking about. That’s not to put down anyone reading this but I want to put it as simple as I can while conveying the truth (God’s word) and what’s come to be true in my life but also my freedom to express my thoughts and shed some light on the topic.

For some people out there my recent writings on what some would call “religious” or “faith-based” writing or opinions might come as quite a shock for most people that have known me in my past. Believe me, no one is more surprised than me so the good news for you is that you’re not the most shocked person out there, I am. If you told me 2 years ago, heck let’s say one year ago that I would be saying the things I’m saying, doing the things I’m doing, and acting the way I’m acting I wouldn’t believe you. I would think it’s possible because I’ve always had that mentality that anything is possible. I’m a believer, and always have been a believer but not in the right way. I have always been a believer in the fact that anything is possible and that this world is too big and so ever-changing for me to be so simple minded into thinking that there isn’t something much bigger out there than just us as human beings. I just didn’t know what that something was yet until now (& Yes I’m talking about the fact that Jesus and or God is real and very much presently existing).

People might think to themselves, what changed? How did this Lady Gaga worshipping, swearing, gossip girl (When I picture my old sense I picture that, HAHA! I don’t know if that’s 100% accurate) go from point A to point Z. She went to work for a Christian radio station and she must have gotten brain-washed or converted. HAH! I wish it was that simple. Really I do, because that story would be a lot easier to tell than my real one but that’s not the story that God intended for me. No, he knew that it wasn’t going to be that easy for me to see or hear him. We all have our unique stories and that seems like a logical one for most people to think is true but it’s not. I can’t say that my workplace setting didn’t get me curious because it did but what I realize now is that God was setting up my environment, my support system for when he finally woke me up or when I finally had my eyes opened. Now I know this all sounds like bullshit to some people like okay Marita went off the deep end and now she has “God” (I use quote-unquote because I’m assuming that’s how people would project it when referring to me in this sense) in her life so clearly she found a new hobby or interest. Isn’t that nice for her, whatever works from keeping her from having severe panic attacks. Hey, you know I don’t blame people for thinking that because at one point I did have them and that was true but it’s not the truth in this situation. While it’s great to have more confidence and assurance in my life, that’s not why I went looking for God. Truth be told, I didn’t go looking for him no matter how many signs or signals he might have sent my way. Until my eyes were open and I was forced into seeing this world in another light and from another perspective. I was put in a situation or should I say I walked into a situation that was pretty bad. In the midst of it all things could have gone two different ways. I thank God that he swooped in and it went in the direction God wanted and he literally guided me towards help and ultimately led me towards saving my life where I was shown hope, Jesus who is “the truth, the way, and the life”, and the truth of this world and the things that no one knows exists. God took a bad situation and turned into a learning moment for me and a moment of clarity and hope. He turned the situation into the way he wanted it. I know this sounds sci-fi! I could tell you the exact moment in time in explicit detail what changed for me but to be honest now isn’t the time and I’ll spare you the details. Plus it’s a personal testimony between God and I that I don’t share very often. Not to mention my testimony changes all the time. There are so many things that have happened thus far in my journey and every time I talk to someone my testimony changes in the way I share it or in what piece of information I share. I really try to leave it up to God to help him lead me in telling parts of my story with the people that need to hear it. I like to look at it as a novel and God tells me what chapters to share with which people. Ultimately it’s not how I got woken up or how my switch turned on to what life is really about, it’s the fact that I did wake up and come around. Now some people might say okay Marita your life seemed to be going pretty well, you were not a drug addict, drunk, abuser or victim of abuse, or anything of the typical things people seem to go through and find Jesus. No you’re right but I did suffer in other ways, in ways that I didn’t know really weighed me down and controlled me. I have to tell you that God doesn’t just save people from addiction problems, he saves people from what some would think are “normal” lives; normal for this current world we live in anyway. His arms are open to anyone, not just the drunk abused, alcoholic inflicted, victimized stereotypical charity case. We may think we are living “okay” lives but seriously who wants “okay lives” don’t you want great lives? I didn’t know what I was missing in my life because honestly I thought my life was “normal”, just the way it was supposed to be. Yeah, I had anxiety but who didn’t have that these days? I was afraid of the future, of the unknown. I was afraid of change. I didn’t know my purpose in life. I didn’t know my direction. Now I didn’t have severe depression or life problems, not more than any other recent college grad trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. I was just a girl from Quincy until God told me one day that I was more than that.

This may seem like some motivational/inspirational writing that you shy away from because either one you think it’s a bunch of crap and that it may work for me but not you. Or two you might in a subconscious way be afraid because letting go and letting God in is scary. What’s God? Who’s God? I’ve never met him or talked to him. The thought of welcoming God into your life can be confusing and scary. Confusing? Yes because you might ask yourself how do I do this whole God thing? What do I have to do? Just go to church? Do you want the answer? No! What? Are you ready for this? I’m going to blow your mind. I can say this because I went through the exact same thing. Welcoming a relationship with God is not about going to church in the stereotypical sense. First off the key thing to remember that everyone gets confused on (me included when I first started my walk) is that it is RELATIONSHIP OVER RELIGION. You might think um yeah going to church is my relationship with God…no. It’s not. That might be part of it but it’s not. At least I hope that’s not all. There is a big difference between faith and religion. Religion is an organized set of ideas or beliefs that one specific group sets doctrines and rules for pertaining to what they interpret and believe in. Now that includes all the denominations like Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, 7th day Adventist, etc. There is nothing wrong with denominations but your personal relationship is what takes precedent. It’s your daily prayer time, reading the Bible, learning, and letting the Holy Spirit guide you in your life in making wise and smart righteous decisions. I am in no way insulting any of the denominations, and most would agree that your personal communion with God is what’s most important. Now I encourage being part of a church to share in worshipping your love for God but you should not let others dictate how you want to express yourself and what to do in your relationship. I highly respect Pastors, and Ministers, and Reverends, etc. and I believe they are there for spiritual guidance and teaching but remember it’s your relationship with God not theirs. God might lead you to them for guidance but God wants you to have a personal relationship with him not you him and so and so. You don’t need a middle man. If we needed a middle man Jesus’s death would have been in vain. Jesus died for us and to break that separation from God. We can now go directly to God and talk to him. We don’t need someone else to speak on our behalf. Jesus already spoke on our behalf and still does. Jesus opened up that segway for us and that’s why we praise his name. That’s what I mean by him saving us. He took on the world of sins for what? For us. Don’t you think that deserves some praise? If not maybe you should reexamine some things in your life…

Now don’t misinterpret my comments on church. I think it is important to find that church that fits you and your needs. It’s like trying on a pair of shoes. I learned this myself that the first place you go to might not be the right place for you. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying what works for one, might not work for everyone, just like shoe sizes! You have to try on the church, get a feel for it. This also pertains to denominations. One set of doctrines might work for one person and not another. It really doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you are getting there and like I said it is relationship over religion. Have that relationship and the religion aspect is your choice. I’m not saying you don’t need church and I’m not saying you do. What I’m saying is that church can be great for support and for gathering with other like-minded individuals to worship. Now sometimes you might not always agree with a sermon, other times you might find it very helpful and like it is being directed at your life. God works in many, many ways. He might have you listen to a message that you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on with the preacher and that is okay! People are going to have different opinions. I learned that too. God wants you to interpret his word in your own way. There are just teachers there spreading God’s word to get you to think. You can choose to believe God’s word but it is how you interpret it and it’s always going to be different. Let me tell you something that is going to surprise you and open your eyes in a different way. A spiritual teacher of mine told me once that church is not going to one specific place and meeting up and because I am there in this decorated house I am at church. No. Church is not just a place it’s an action. Church is two or more people coming together to talk about God, his word, spiritual beliefs, etc. I don’t have to be in a specific building to have church. I can sit in my bosses office (as I have done) and have a conversation about the Bible and converse back and forth and that right there is church. When you spend your time focusing on God with others that is church. I don’t care if you are out to lunch, in the park, in a workplace setting, it is church. Do you think God thinks “oh hold up these people are not at 103 park avenue in such and such town so this does not count.” NO! Let’s be real here people!

Each and every single one of us has a story, has a journey and I’m going to tell you this. You can chose two options. This may should blunt but it’s reality. You can use good or evil. Every one seems to agree that there is such thing as good or evil and yes there is. How is it that people can believe in good and evil deeds but not God or the devil? It’s real. I can tell you it’s real because I have seem examples of both and I’m sure you have too you just decide to brush it off as “natural causes”. The choice is yours how you want to live your life but why leave it up in the air. Do not wait until you are old and on your deathbed to accept Jesus. DO IT NOW! I’m telling you it is a powerful thing, Jesus is a powerful thing, and more powerful than anything and I mean ANYTHING in this world that tries to harm you. When you have Jesus, accept him as your Lord and Savior and believe in your heart he is who he is and it says he is, and then you my friend will have life. Eternal life. You can sit there reading this right now thinking I’m crazy but the only person who’s crazy is you if you think you can live in this world and have life after death without him because you cannot. & Let me tell you this. Jesus is not someone who only accepts whites, straight-people, clean cut non-tattoo bearing people, NO, absolutely not .I do not care who you are or where you come from, if you are gay, bi, straight, whatever Jesus died for EVERYONE. Don’t be fooled or shy-ed away by extreme cult Christian groups that project the Bible in one way and their way only because Jesus is for everyone! There are extreme groups out there and it is a shame that some of them give true Christianity a bad name or bad reputation. I’m not here to tell you that you are “going down the devil’s path” because you are gay or drink or smoke, or whatever. That’s ridiculous. We are all human and Jesus died for us because he loved us Humans and thought that we deserved another chance so why not give him a chance? It’s the least you can do for the man who gave you the option of eternal life. Accept him, believe in him, and he will show you what life really is because you think you have it now but you my friend are blinded. Declare him as your Lord and Savior and take off those blinders and stop listening to this ridiculous bullshit about Jesus and God not loving you for who you are and who you were made to be in him. I will leave you with a very appropriate Bible verse and one that I can say describes my personal testimony and everyone else’s…

“ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philippians 4:13

Freedom! It’s more than you think!

First off HAPPY 4TH OF JULY & GOD BLESS AMERICA! I hope everyone is spending it nicely despite the horrible rainy weather outside but who’s complaining when we are free right?? Something I want to touch upon and remind people of is that not only are we free from British rule but we truly are free in all aspects of the word. As all americans agree on the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world. Our country was founded on ideas and beliefs of being free but more specifically it was founded on religious freedom. Sometimes we forget that this country was founded on the ideas and principles of faith. Somewhere along the line we’ve all forgotten that or somehow been offended by that. This country was established by our forefathers because they were sick of being under British control to the point where they couldn’t even practice religion the way they wanted. Well that all changed and I think we all know the story but honestly I think we forgot those other minor details. This country has gone from God and religious filled values to trying to adhere to every single united nations country out there that wants in. Yes we know we are the best country in the world but let’s not change who we are to make others feel welcome. Now yes this is a country of immigrants and I believe that everyone has a right to practice the way that they want to and the religion that they want but let’s not change our core principles. If you are coming to this country and you do not believe in God and are offended that it says “One Nation Under God” you either need to cope with it or don’t come to this country in the first place okay. (Yes this may sound like a rant but it’s a little ridiculous when you have foreigners coming in getting offended and causing an uproar about these things when you are coming into our country. It’s like going into a guest’s home and trying to rearrange and redecorate their entire house because you don’t like the way it looks). America allows you to practice whatever religion or faith based values that you have but that doesn’t mean at our own founding expense. I am all for freedom but the truth of the matter is this country was founded on God given values so why should we change that? You don’t see us Americans going to India saying hey now we don’t agree with Hinduism or Buddhism so you need to change that right now. If you don’t like what it says on our currency about “In God We Trust” or the pledge of allegiance I suggest you send your child to a private school then or better yet a religious appropriate school of your choice because God knows that they have a variety of them around. I want to make this clear that I am in no way offending other religions I just think there needs to be some ground rules here that this country is what it is and in no means should it change. It was started with certain values in place for a reason. Those values still exist, they still pertain to every single religion that comes into this county when we as a country accept other religions but don’t forget at our core who we are and what we believe in. We all believe in a higher being or God. We just don’t all call him the same name and that’s okay. He has multiple names so let’s not take it so personal when we say “God” because I could call him Abba Father instead, I could call him Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Shalom, etc. I could keep going but the bottom line is it doesn’t matter what we call him. Heck I call him “something” HAHA legit. He is that “something” that tells me not to do something, he’s that “something” in my mind that keeps me calm and focused. Whether you call him God, Abba, something, etc. the fact of the matter is it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we get to call him at all in this country. There are other people in other countries that are being put in jail and persecuted for speaking out in their beliefs. I know some of you might not be faith filled but respect the fact that for those of us who are, we are given that freedom of expression and faith in this country.

One other quick thing that I want to end on is that while we may have been granted religious freedom, another thing that we are granted is through Christ and that is spiritual freedom. Jesus, an innocent, generous, loving son of God died for all of us to set us free from original sin that bound us to death and separation from God. When you accept Jesus, know what he did for you and I, and know that Jesus is “the truth, the way, and the life” and that you are free.

 

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” -John 8:32.

 

God Bless America and remember who you are today. You are God’s child 1st and an American second and Amen to that!

Daily Devotional: “I Called Just To Say I Love You” by Sharon Jaynes

Check out this daily devotional that I got from yesterday, Monday that I thought was really appropriate. I think we can all relate to the fact that it’s really nice to just hear from someone without them wanting something. It makes us feel wanted and loved and this author Sharon really put it in a great way relating to God and how he views this type of relationship the way that we do. It was an eye opener and helpful to me so I pray that it is helpful to you as well. Sharon Jaynes is a great thinker.

June 23, 2014

I Just Called to Say, “I Love You”
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

Call to Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:3, NASB).

Friend to Friend

It was an unusual phone call from my son, Steven. It was the second week of his second semester, his third year in college.

“Hey Mom, this is Steven. I just wanted to call and say ‘hello’. I haven’t talked to you in a while and wanted to see how you were doing.”

“Hey bud,” I replied. “How are you? How are your classes? Do you like your professors?”

We volleyed questions and answers back and forth. It was a nice intro, and I kept waiting for the request such as, “Could you put an extra $50 in my account for another Philosophy book I had to buy?” or “Does my car insurance go up if I get a parking ticket?”

But those type questions never came.

“Mom, how are you doing?”

“What have you been up to this week?”

“How’s the new book coming?”

After about fifteen minutes into our conversation, I reluctantly asked, “Is everything OK?”

“Yea,” he chuckled. “I just called to talk. Are you surprised?”

“Sort of,” I sheepishly admitted. “But it is a wonderful surprise!”

A few minutes later we said our “goodbyes” and “I love yous.” Then I sat there and savored the joy of knowing that my son had called…not because he needed anything or had a problem to solve, but just because he loved me.

Then God spoke to my heart:

Sharon, I want you to remember how you feel at this moment. Your son, who you love more than life itself, has just called to talk to you…not because he wanted anything, not because he had a question about a decision or a detail of life, not because he had a problem to solve. He called just to talk, simply to see what was on your heart—because he loves you. That, my child whom I love more than life, is the same way I feel when you talk to Me—not because you want something, not because you have a question about a decision or a detail of life, not because you have a problem to solve. That is how I feel when you talk to Me simply because you want to learn what is on My heart…simply because you love Me.

Steven’s call was a poignant reminder that the God of the Universe delights when His children call…just to say, “I love You.”

“Call to Me,” says the Lord, “and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NASB)

Let’s Pray

Dear Father, I love You. That’s really all I want to say today. I love You, not because of what You do, but because of Who You are…my Heavenly Father.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

 

Baptism: “Didn’t I Do That Already?”

     Before I begin this I want to say that this is strictly my opinion and therefore this is interpretation based. In no means am I an expert. Heck I’m still figuring this stuff out! My reason for writing this is not only to bring some explanation to those out there wondering but also bring some more knowledge to myself about this subject and what it really means to be “baptized” or “water-baptized”.

     Let me give you a little background on myself. I grew up Catholic. Well if you want to call it that…I went to a Catholic school and truth be told it’s because I live in a neighborhood where this particular catholic school was literally right across the street from me, so it was convenient. Doesn’t that sound nice? Don’t get me wrong my parents were raised Catholic and probably would have rather me go to a local private school than the local public (not to knock my neighborhood but hey things change am I right?). If it was a regular private school, I probably still would have went. My point is the Catholic aspect wasn’t the main selling point. Anyway let’s just say Catholic school wasn’t my favorite school ever…to be honest I hated it. There I said it (not that it was a secret). Now I’m not trying to knock the institution but it wasn’t for me. My parents were raised Catholic but they were what I like to call “part time” Catholics. That’s not to be disrespectful but they weren’t really the practicing, let’s go to church every Sunday type of people. That’s not to say that is horrible and that’s not to say they might not worship on their own time. It is what it is. In other words without me trying to judge or blame my parents in anyway shape or form I honestly didn’t really grow up in what some people would call a “Christian Home”. Yeah my parents were loving, yes they taught me well, but it didn’t include values based on Jesus or God at all. It was just something that wasn’t spoken about. I come from a family that didn’t really talk about religion or God or Jesus what so ever now that I think about it and that’s kind of ironic considering I went to a Catholic school… It was just something no one talked about. For what reason you might ask? I think about that myself now and again but it is what it is.

     I just told you a little about my schooling and family but I didn’t really get into how the baptism and Catholic religion come into play. I’ll answer the question people are probably wondering…yes I got baptized as an infant. Notice how I specified “infant”. While I’m at it, I might as well tell you that I went through the whole Catholic “process”. It sounds so heartfelt saying “process” doesn’t it? Hah! Okay I’m sorry I honestly in no way shape or form am trying to knock the Catholic sacraments. I did get baptized right up to confirmation. I guess what I’m trying to say is at the time it felt like a process that I just wanted to complete. That sounds so awful and impersonal but that’s the truth. It wasn’t something my parents forced me to do. It was something I felt like I just wanted to finish for the sake of going all that way that I might as well do everything and it felt like the thing to do. Now that I am older I have taken the time to really study baptism and what it actually means. I did it when I was an infant (well my parents did) and I started wondering no seriously, what does it really mean for me to be “baptized”? Am I just accepted now into the church? Was I not before that I had to go through a ceremony? Okay…what does this mean?

     Like I mentioned, I was an infant when I was baptized. Now I honestly and truly do respect my parents for making that decision to have me baptized. I do not know whether it was a generational thing that people just “did” or whether it was out of protection or both. I personally have not had that conversation with them but I probably should come to think of it…anyway let me first ask you this: what does baptism mean to you? Seriously what is it? Just something babies get done to wipe away the original sin from Adam and Eve so we can start our lives fresh and clean. Well maybe even that was a little in-depth and not your answer. Maybe you haven’t even thought about it and it is something that is just done. Well I’m going to get in-depth so buckle your seat belts. The bible gives the definition of baptism as a “Christian sacrament; a ritual washing with water, symbolizing a cleansing from sin, linked with repentance and admission into the community of faith; a symbol for being filled with the Holy Spirit” Okay so I basically mentioned the first part of this definition just when asking everyone the basic question but I bet some people didn’t think about the rest of that definition because truth be told I didn’t either until I really researched it. Now notice how it says “repentance and admission into the community of faith”. Interesting…okay correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t repentance asking God for forgiveness of sorts, basically of your sins, and therefore being admitted into the community that supports and believes in God? My main point is how am I as a baby supposed to ask God for forgiveness when I don’t even know what my name is? Yet I was baptized…okay… First off all the people out there thinking I am knocking baptism can relax, I’m not. I am however asking questions. I just think the process is a little bit weird and confusing…the Bible says it is about repenting and being cleansed of my sins. Heck how many sins did I commit already in the first month of my life?!? & How am I supposed to own up to them when I can’t talk and make that conscious decision on my own? I get that my parents were the ones stepping up to be my representatives and they probably felt it was their responsibility to protect me and do the right thing and I really do appreciate that but don’t you think it should be called something else other than baptism if baptism is asking for the forgiveness of sins by repenting? What I’m saying is baptism should be something that is decided upon on your own. I’m all for praying for me and surrounding me with holiness as a baby. Get a spritzer of Holy Water up in here and spray it on me to ward off evil. I’m into it but to fully cleanse me of my sins when I didn’t even ask? Isn’t that taking away the right, my right that God gave me of “freedom of choice”? Did I get to choose to ask him for forgiveness? No. Okay now I really have people after me now because I’m questioning baptism and it’s purpose. Hold off people I’m not a pagan okay! Let me talk about it.

     An example from the Bible is when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. First off Jesus was holier than thou. Do you really think he fully “needed” to be baptized? No, he’s the Son of God, come on now! But it was an act, a choice. He chose to make that decision and declare his cleansing from sins and do the right thing in the eyes of his father, God, and that was to publically dedicate and announce his submission to him. As soon as that happened the heavens opened up and a voice, the voice of God people said, “ This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” Man can you imagine the witnesses of that! They must have been mouths opened staring. I would be too. Now okay I’m not saying that this is what happens literally when each and every one of us gets baptized, that the skies open up and God says that for all to hear. He is definitely probably thinking that in some form and maybe in some way he speaks that to you but this is Jesus we are talking about all right! That example to me tells me that it’s one thing for our parents to want this for us and they mean well and I highly respect that but I honestly think that it should be a choice for each and every single one of us to make. Don’t you think God wanted that for Jesus as a parent? Yes he probably wanted him to be baptized but don’t you think we wanted even more for his own Son to decide that on his own? Then when he did he was probably more proud than he would have been had he done it himself for Jesus. That’s me just assuming though…I mean I think that God is very happy and proud of his children when they make decisions on their own based off of his wisdom and love that pleases him. When we are “water-baptized” or “baptized” whatever you want to call it, we are really making that conscious decision to ask God for forgiveness, be cleansed of our sins therefore separating us from the world and making that step and progression closer to God. Also when you make that decision or this is something you are called to do, I have to tell you that the Holy Spirit has already taken up in you, now you are just ready to go forward and publically confess it. It’s one thing to privately know you are a Christian and all that but to really get baptized and “come out of the closet” if you will; I like to use that expression! It really is you making that effort and choice to not only humble yourself before God but it is submitting yourself to him and all that he stands for. It’s choosing love, it’s choosing eternal life. Honestly it’s doing the right thing! That’s something that even though our parents want for us really badly, it’s something that we need to each and every single one of us chose on our own. While I love and respect my parents and thank them for doing that and honestly I would probably do the exact same thing to protect my child, baptism is something that isn’t completed until you are consciously making that decision on your own for yourself to choose God and be washed clean of the sins of this world that stuck onto you. True baptism is choosing God and consciously submitting yourself to him with your soul.

 

Faith: Seriously, What Is It?

Let me start with a bible verse:

 “The fact is, faith has to show itself through works performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty soul.” -Jam 2:20

Okay faith is a word that gets thrown around a lot and I mean a lot. I could say, hey I have faith in you, you can do it. Or have faith that that will happen. Or I have all the faith in the world in you or blah blah blah. Well you might wonder, what exactly is faith? The dictionary defines it as “confidence or trust in a person or thing” or “belief that is not based on truth” then the 3rd one that gets me “belief in God or the doctrines or teachings of religion.” Okay let me just say I find it somewhat sad and yet somehow not surprising that any mention of God is #3 on the list. Now see #2 says “belief that is not based on truth”. My next point is here comes God at #3…does that mean that God is not based on truth. Well here comes skepticism…and skeptics (just like that as they are reading this). While there is many that might argue saying what proof do we have that there is a true God and some could put up a good argument but at the same time many could put an even greater argument saying there is a God and they have proof. Proof? What proof? Uh let me think the Bible. Okay yeah you can say all you want that the Bible was written by human men, how is that the word of God? How are we supposed to believe all these old men from thousands of years ago? Faith. We choose to believe that God used and does use people in the way and ways that he wants. Don’t you think that it’s possible that God can speak to people? Believe me I’ve seen it. I bet you every single one of us has been it and I can tell you have see God work and speak through others and you don’t even know it. You know what it is? It’s called Love. Where do you think that comes from? Because it’s certainly not a human-made emotion or creation. It was a gift given to us from God that he uses through people but that’s a whole other topic. Now back to my point. God uses people to carry out his works and spread his messages. Why do you think priests, pastors and preachers get called to do what they do? It certainly isn’t because celibacy, fasting, and a lack of money are fun. It’s because God called them to do it. Ever get that feeling that “something” or your gut is telling you not to do something that might be a bad idea? A spiritual teacher of mine once told me, who do you think that “something” is? It’s God. He’s around us, we just don’t realize. So I find it very hard to accept the definition pertaining “belief that is not based on truth” because I see proof all over the place and I mean all over the place! You just need to open your eyes and see it. The Bible says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”Heb 11:1 That is exactly is. It’s hard though. Man is it hard! How are we supposed to believe in something we haven’t seen or heard? Let me tell you something that is going to blow your mind. What if I told you, you have seen and heard God you just didn’t know it? Well guess what, it’s true. Like I mentioned earlier. God is within us if we are believers and as believers and doers of Christ he works through us. The Holy Spirit works through people to bring them closer to God and carry out actions in a Christ like way and so on. When you see someone reach out to you in times of need or trouble. Where do you think they got that influence? From the person they are inside and who inspired that? Who do you think? When you hear an emotional speech or sermon that speaks to you and leaves you thinking or inspires you out of the blue. Who gave that person those words to affect you in that way? Now I’m not saying we are all robots being controlled by a higher being. No we are given the freedom of choice but when we choose love and we choose generosity we are choosing God and therefore allowing him to work in our lives. Now if you still don’t get the idea, faith is letting go of doubt. Doubt is in itself a rip tide. It will keep tossing you about in different directions and moving you further and further from where you originally were. You still want proof? I get it it’s hard. Here it is for you: Jesus. BOOM! Now here we go again with people thinking okay what proof do you really have that Jesus was alive, was a real man, and was who he said he was. Okay well first off like I mentioned earlier, the Bible, and ALL it’s examples, hello! Secondly I honestly find it really hard to believe that miraculously all these people and I mean millions of people just got behind some carpenter from Nazareth who was born into nothing just for the hell of it. Obviously he made a lasting impression and proved himself without having to practically even try. It was his very nature and aura that spoke for itself. Now yes he performed miracles and heck if I saw someone be raised from the dead when clearly they were dead I would jump on board with that faster than you can even say Jesus because obviously the devil ain’t trying to prolong people’s lives. You still might say okay seriously yeah there was a book, yeah there was word of mouth told about all these stories well let me ask you this. A teacher and spiritual father of sorts to me told me once how he asked people in doubt if they believed that George Washington was our first president and if he existed. People answered yes. Then he asked have you seen him? No they said. Have you spoke to him? No they said. So how do you know George Washington was real? A book says so? Um hello isn’t the Bible also a book? The same goes for Jesus. Bottom line: faith is indeed having that confidence and knowing within your heart and with your very soul that God or whatever you call him is indeed real and all that it stands for. The proof is there you just aren’t looking in the right places.