Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stop Living in Fear

Jenny, one of the readers of this blog asked: "How can we change things so that people are not so worried about what others will think and will seek help when neccesary? I don't think the church ever intended for this to be the mindset and to leave people in suffering!"

I know certainly that a loving God would not intend that. I would like to believe that no particular person or persons ever intended that either. Perhaps the reason we have come to this point is because there has been more faith placed on what we have heard from the pulpits and from the mouths of men, than in God and in the Word and in the earnest seeking of Truth?

These portions of the New Testament came to mind:

John 16:13 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come."

We need to seek the Spirit of truth and do all things in truth, not in tradition. What would be more important to God, the traditions of men, or truth?

We need to allow ourselves to think about the most important matter of our lives. We need to assess ourselves and our lives with an open heart and mind:

Matthew 7 "Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Do we have a beam in our eye? We need to work on ourselves first instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing. We have heard, faith is personal. We need to walk and live in that way.

We do not need to be fearful in our seeking of truth if we are not seeking for ourselves and our own opinions and biases. We can feel free if we seek Truth for the goodness of all and with the guidance of the Spirit.

Truth cannot be exploited, it cannot die. The truth doesn't always feel good, especially when we discover we may not be right, but if we try to hide from it, we remain blinded. How can we know the truth if we blindly accept without consideration, the things we hear from other men and do not seek it for ourselves? Most of us cannot say that we have even read much of the Bible. When we have, I am not doubtful that it was only to research a small portion we heard, or the one on the church calendar and we do not venture much into it. If the Word is the pillar of Truth but we not even read it, how do we know that what we are taught is truth? Are we trusting our own feelings and the preaching from the pulpit above God's word? We should read His word, seeking truth and light.

Matthew 15: 8 "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?

13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

If do not seek the truth and do not pursue it earnestly how do we know that we are not blind following/leading the blind? Why are we so afraid of everything "on the outside?" Do books and music and movies, "unbelievers" and our flesh hold more power than Christ? Why do we give them so much power? If we are planted by the Father why are we so afraid to be rooted up? If our faith is in Him, nothing can take it away or destroy it.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

We do not need to fear the world because Christ has already overcome the world. We can feel free to seek the truth because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, especially not truth. God loves truth, knowing truth will only bring us closer to Him.

Romans 8:35 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

All we need to do is simply pray that the truth would be revealed and that we could accept it, trust God, and view Him as our Highest authority. We do not need obey Him out of fear, but we WANT to obey Him because we love and revere Him. He sent His son as atonement for all because He loves us. He is a God of love and has forgiven us for our weaknesses already. We only need to accept that. The message does not need to be repeated over and over and over, we simply need to believe it and accept it. When we do accept it and hold it in our hearts, it does not go away. All of our sins, past present and future are washed away forever. We may make mistakes, but we realize it is ok and we move forward and learn from our mistakes. We can do all things through Christ. We can move forward, we can heal, we can stop making such big mistakes, because we believe in Him and His power.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Until Death Do Us Part: Experiencing Infidelity

One of the things about our particular sect that I've always admired is the very low divorce rate. When I was younger I thought it was particularity beautiful because I had the illusion that people not only stayed together, but that they had wonderful, healthy, beautiful relationships and unconditional love for each other. As I got older I started to hear more and more about the kinds of things that went on behind the scenes. Abuse, control, neglect, apathy, and.. Infidelity. I began to wonder why these things happen if our faith is so great? If Jesus is walking with us, why does He allow these things to happen? It began to be obvious to me that not all people stayed together because of their love and commitment to each other but perhaps because of the social pressure to do so. If they had such deep love and commitment to each other surely these things wouldn't happen, over and over and over. Yes, forgiveness is important but the Bible also tells us "Let us not love with word or with tongue but with deed and with truth." -John 3:17-18

The following posting is from a person who watched her mother suffer from her fathers repeated infidelity.

"I didn't ask to be raised the way I was. In fact I had no say in any of my childhood that just wasn't the way it was. You did what you were told and you believed what was preached high on the pulpit. It was a sin to question whether the things taught were right or wrong. Questions were not welcome. most of us didn't question anything aloud, silently we battled our doubts and fears and just prayed that we would over come them and move on with our lives. I wasn't much of a person to pray, I didn't really understand how to do it. We didn't pray very much growing up. Every now and then my parents would remember to say the Lord's prayer before tucking us in, but between all the kids and their own personal life that usually slid under the radar. We always made sure we said the gospel daily, however. Blessing each other and forgiving the others sins that had been committed that day so we could go to sleep with a clean slate but never once talking to God. I sometimes wonder if we were just so scared of God we didn't dare to ask him directly for forgiveness in case he would deny us of it, thinking our sins were too great.

Actions however, do speak louder than words. I love you is such an easy thing to say. To actually show it and mean it and live by it well, that's a whole other thing. I remember when I was younger my dad would get home from work and would give my mother a quick kiss as soon as he'd walk through the door, I don't remember if he did it every day but I'd like to think he did. As I got older that stopped happening. Looking back with what I know now, I understand the reluctancy to embrace someone who had become a stranger. My mother never taught me about relationships, never taught me about the importance of things like trust, communication, and all those things that are needed to make a relationship work. I watched my parents interactions and thought that was how it was suppose to be. I knew somehow they had a good marriage because they never fought in front of us kids. Whatever was wrong with their relationship they hid very well. As I grew older, it became incredibly obvious to me that something was amiss.

Once I turned 18 and started experiencing life for my own I took a good hard look at my upbringing and realized I had never actually experienced unconditional love, the kind of love you don't question. I guess I was under the impression that if you are with someone, you love them and you should stay with them no matter what unimaginable thing the other person has done. Because everything is forgivable right? I thought love was about staying together, even when both people were not happy. Have your sins forgiven, don't talk about it anymore. That's the vibe I got from my parents.
When I learned the truth of my fathers infidelity I was crushed,.confused, heart broken and extremely angry. How could he do that? How could my mother let him back into her life? How could he raise us the way we were raised, teaching us of "important things" like avoiding music, movies, and unbelievers while he himself is leading a double life; one of adultery? I felt betrayed and I was disgusted by the hypocrisy. I know he is human and we all fall down and sin, but when that same sin happens more than once well, now its a repeat offense and it gets pretty hard to keep forgiving. Is that really what love is?!? How could he do that, not only once to my mother, but repeatedly, after she had accepted him, and loved him anyway, after a complete betrayal. Is this the kind of love they would want for their children!?

Its not a big surprise then, using my parents relationship as a guideline for my own, that the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with would end up cheating on me: completely shattering my world all over again. I'm not saying I blame my parents for my screwed up relationships, but I am saying they didn't help. It's the only model I had for what a relationship is all about.

I believe they didn't know any better. They married at a very young age without experiencing life before getting married and having children. To hear them give relationship advise would just have been comical. Marriage advise? Please! If my dad is even invited to my wedding, which I've debated many times, there will be no microphone time for him!"

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Lone Laestadian in a Public School

Disclaimer: Due to the personal and sensitive nature of this topic, some details of this experience may have been altered.

For all of us, our school years present a distinct set of complications. We are exploring the world and who we are, trying to find our little niche in this complex society. Those of us sheltered under the all encompassing wing of Laestadianism, often experience particularly difficult challenges.

A reader started a comment about the potential damaging effects Laestadianism can have on one's self esteem and security when being the only Laestadian in the school they attend. After realizing it was far too long to be posted as a comment, the reader contacted me with their experience and suggested I do a post on this subject. I agreed that it would be particularity good to touch on as I am certain there have been many and still are many out there who could relate. Here is their experience:

"I've recently started to consciously observe the behavior and characteristics of Laestadians who were born and raised within the church; particularly those who, like myself, might be naturally a bit more on the reserved end of the spectrum.

All of us respond differently to each situation and complication we face in life, according to our personality, instinct and how we have learned or been taught to respond. None of us can say another "should have done that, or this" in any situation or "I had that experience but turned out just fine" for those reasons.

That being said, I'm wondering if anyone has ever considered the long term psychological and emotional effects of forced exclusion from peers at a young age? I'm not talking within the LLC but in the public school system. More specifically being a lone Laestadian in a public school. If it wasn't forced exclusion, it might as well have been for some of us considering the things we are taught from the beginning. Questions like "when you die, do you want to burn in hell for eternity or do you want to go to heaven?" Don't give the mind of most youth much of a choice. Of course they are going to say heaven! So what does one need to do to go to heaven? Avoid the things "of the world" which include; movies, music, pop culture, sports, school functions (dances, football games, proms, ect), many of which are the base of starting friendships during those years. So how could I find a way to connect with my peers? I couldn't! Considering I was the only one (as far as I knew) with these perculiar beliefs, one can imagine the challenges faced in those years.

K-12 were some of the hardest years of my life. I was shy, and I'm still not sure if that is just the way I was born, or if it was a result of the early fear of my unusual beliefs being discovered by my classmates/teachers. It started early in elementary school. I can clearly recall 3rd or 4th grade and being afraid of questions like 'How many TV's do you have in your home?', when learning about averages in Math. I would lie with my heart pounding as I raised my hand to count myself among those with x amount of televisions, praying that the teacher wouldn't randomly ask me to elaborate on the locations or the size of our TV's (We had none) I was filled with fear of discovery and my stomach was in knots much more often than a 3rd grader's should be.

I was a kid then. Just a little 10 year old, not having a real clue why I was so different and not really even thinking about it too much. I just knew life was pretty complicated for some reason. School was an obstacle course of potential 'faith situations. Birthday parties were a nightmare, seeing as how complications like movies and music were bound to come up, and then the inevitable sleepover which was never good. I had basically no friends all through elementary school, and it was a very confusing time for me, to say the least.

This obviously worsened into middle school. I was now somewhat of loner/floater, or at least that's how I categorized myself. I didn't belong to any particular group because I really didn't fit anywhere. I was frozen with fear although I never even revealed my faith. Maybe I once or twice ashamedly and briefly admitted some small part when I couldn't beat my way around the bush like I usually did, and those were some of the worst, and unfortunately the most memorable moments of my entire life. Questions of music, sports, movies, shows, etc.. I absolutely dreaded the topics coming up in the rare conversation I was in. My heart was in my throat with fearful anticipation of the passing mention of one of those topics well over half the time I was inside that school.

All I wanted was to belong somewhere, like most kids do. I wanted to be normal, but I couldn't. Every time I went to church all I heard was how difficult it was to be in the world and not of the world. Pray to God for strength to make it through. Be a light in the world.

Some of the worst times were the movie days I would SO look forward to, that is until we got the dreaded permission slip. I was too afraid to forge a signature so I had to bring it home every time. Mom and dad would have a discussion and most of the time it was decided I would sit them out. Sometimes they asked me what I thought but I would always say what I was supposed to and agree with them. The same sort of situation came up in sex ed, when we learned about birth control. Before the class session started, the teacher would escort me out of the room and up to the library in front of the whole class, my face beet red trying to keep my heart from pounding of my chest and the tears escaping my eyes. There I would silently prepare myself for a barrage of questions that would no doubt follow, that I would have to somehow slalom through. I'm sure without going into too much more detail you can understand how mortifying and potentially damaging these scenarios were for an 11-15 year old.

On a side note, I was a loner among the Laestadians around this time, as well. My confidence and self esteem were shot into the ground before even being given a chance to rise. I barely dared say a word to anyone. Everyone else seemed so cool, and in my eyes I was the farthest thing from that. I felt like a ghost through many youth camps and events. I had extremely few people I considered friends, whatever a friend was. I barely even knew what the word meant back then. This was primarily because I didn't partake in any spiritually dangerous extracurriculars like music or movies. I literally belonged NOWHERE.

Back in school, I connected with no one besides the social outcasts and 'losers'. It was an odd hodge podge of outcasts like myself, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to besides each other, and that was the only thing we had in common. I couldn't connect with them either but at least it was somewhere to sit at lunch.

Somewhere in this time frame, I entered high school. This was a time of pretending for me; I had my lies all rehearsed and a smile to paste on my face. People started to show me a little more respect perhaps for that reason, or maybe just because it was easier to not care about me, seeing how most kids were too busy thoroughly enjoying their high school years. I, however, stumbled through them, never participating in a single event outside of school or having any real friends. I have no way to describe who I was through those years because I felt like I was nothing. I longed for at least some sort of label, anything to describe me as a person. I felt almost non-existent, I just lived and breathed, and tried to make it through the day. At the end of it, I would put in my headphones and walk home alone.

Presently, I got confirmed and nervously exposed myself to the haps world, and found a group I belonged to. I immersed myself in it and completely disposed of the couple friendships I had made in the world. I finally had people I really connected with, on some sort of level. I found activities I was interested in and somehow found the confidence somewhere in the depths of my broken self when talking to people of the opposite sex, or I guess just people in general. I had some real friends and discovered that I could actually make others smile! It was a perfect 4 or 5 years. I wasn't too different and I was accepted. I went ahead and left the rest of the world behind.

Years and years later, friends have moved on and/or married. Those friendships disappeared much quicker would be expected considering the strong base we supposedly had of the same spiritual belief (which never showed in any fruit of faith of my peers or myself). Looking back, things are becoming more clear to me. Recently, life got very real very quickly. Old forgotten memories of mine are rising to the surface, and now I have the mental capability to look at myself now, from then, and compare and contrast the two people. I can determine what made me the person I am today.

I've passed the honeymoon phase of the Laestadian. I'm sure many can relate to what I'm time frame I'm talking about. I was someone for a few years, and I was happy, but now that's over. That's how it is for me..I'm not saying that's how it is for you or maybe anyone you know. But I know there are others out there who feel like me. The church does not make me happy, or make sense anymore. Those ties that bind are gone; those ties being my close, temporal friendships.

Today, I can easily see the effects from my youth in the my confidence in interactions with anyone I don't know well. I see them in so many of my thought processes, I am a tortured individual..I find myself struggling to stand up for myself even today, years and years down the road, because I still deal with that irrational, but deeply rooted, fear of rejection as a PERSON. I have struggled to maintain too many noticeable values and/or opinions about things, or at least voicing them, because conflict of any form, big or small, is my enemy. I still fear being on anyone's bad side because I don't want to lose anyone, no matter how important or trivial they are to my success in life, because I had no friends for so long. But at the same time, that is no way to live your life. I'm working on changing, but it's a lot easier said than done.

There is no doubt in my mind that these traits are a direct result of those dark years spent as confused outcast from the people I spent 3/4 of my life around as a child and teen. If you've read this whole post, please take some time to think about what I've written. This is highly personal, and it took a lot for me to post this. I'm not speaking for the enemy or the devil, I know that for a fact. I'm speaking from my heart, and this has been bubbling at the surface far too long. If I went through this as a child, others must have. It is no way to grow up.. every person should have the opportunity to discover themselves as individuals from the earliest age. Some may have no problem making that happen despite a tough childhood, but we are all not that strong. I am still struggling to find out who I am and where I belong. What is my place in the world? My life is a sad and confusing puzzle, and for myself, the missing pieces do not lie within the LLC. The church concealed them early on and I have to find them now, years later, by myself.

Take a look at your family, friends, kids if you have any; or even yourself, for that matter. There have got to be people out there who are like me..these people are quietly living the worst days of their life, and it might not get any easier. For an organization that preaches so much love and forgiveness, there sure is a lot of pain below the surface. Pain, isolation, confusion, loneliness.. these are things that can cause severe depression, which can potentially lead down worse pathways, which I thankfully escaped. At what point do you put religion aside and take a look at real issues that people are having as a result of a certain way of life? I am one of those people have and continue to suffer the consequences of this, and in my opinion one is one too many, even if there are no others.

Is this the price some of us really must pay? Is this what God really wants for us? I have a really hard time believing that. Someone else in that position may have been able to take it and forget it..but others may not be so strong.

These are questions that have to be addressed. They cannot, in my opinion, be discarded as personal trials. That is so unfair to those who are struggling to even just keep their head above water..There are very simple solutions to make life much easier for these people, and they deserve that opportunity.
Of course, over those years I didn't give my situation much thought beyond some very basic feelings. How could I? My mind had been closed to the possibility of another truth since childhood, before I could even form my own ideas about what might be best for me in the long run. Now later on, I finally have some perspective. It brings tears to my eyes today when I picture this little kid, lost and scared, battling his way through school every day. I walked on eggshells for a decade of my life. No one should ever have to feel that way a result of a religious group or upbringing."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love That Binds- Not Another Heresy

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Galations 5:15-16)

12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
(2 Peter 2:12)

We can see that things are changing. I know there has been talk of heresies and for many, including myself such talk is frightening. It has frightened me since the first time I heard of such a thing and even now my heart aches at the thought of the families torn apart and the relationships ruined over these things I now realize are rather petty. I don't think that God would wish us to be torn apart because of a few differences in opinion. We must remove the beam from our own eye before trying to remove the speck from our brother's. We must not judge, lest we be judged. We are commanded to love above all things and heresies are not born of love. If we are Children of God, no man or thing on earth, not even satan can tear us apart. We are one in Christ. Christ defeated the enemy and through Him we can also. I found some verses that are good for us all to keep in mind, especially myself.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39)

We should love God above all things and revere Him with our heart, souls and minds. God's law and God's will comes before the law and will of men or ourselves. The second commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Everyone. This means we should love every person whether they be rich or poor, believing or not, black or white, child or adult, the mailman or the McDonald's clerk. we should respect them as we respect ourselves. God has made them too.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)

We should love each other as Jesus loved us. That is a hard example to follow! Jesus died on the cross for the sake of the sins of all people. We need to love each other in this way. This is how people will know Jesus disciples. Anyone walking into church or anywhere we are gathered; believing or not, visitor or member should know immediately that we are filled with love for one another. 

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

We should do to others as we would have them do to us.if we want to be respected, we should respect others. If we do not want to be judged, we should not judge others. We should think about the way we are treating others if we want others to think about the way they are treating us.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
(Luke 6:35)

We are told to love even our enemies. Who is our enemy? Those who may hate us, those who would fight us and wish to overcome us. Those who do not yet love us, even them we should love and do good and lend to; asking nothing in return ad we will be Children of the Highest: for He is kind even to the unthankful and evil.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:9-21)

Losing My Faith

Losing My Faith

I was starting to feel dead inside. The world was all around me, trying to suck me in. Satan and his army were hunting me. I was his prey. I was getting weary from the chase and running out of places to hide. Everywhere I looked, I saw danger, sin, evil, wickedness. I wanted to escape it, but my flesh wanted to join it. It jumped out at me from every corner, every billboard, from the lips of every person I met. It was if I was trapped in a tiny confined space, everything was closing in on me, the end was near. The only way to escape was to cease existing. If I just gave up, I wouldn't have to fight anymore. Perhaps allowing the beast to ravish me would set me free. Any joy or hope seemed nothing but a distant memory. The tiny Light I had once followed had been long replaced with fear. Questions of what I could and couldn't do congested my heart. I cleaved desperately to the forgiveness of sins, going to church only to silently will the minister to get to those few little words so I could feel some sort of relief and get out of there. My plan of action; Avoid the people wanting to say hi, avoid the meaningless conversations of work and the weather, paste on a plastic smile, sing the hymns as if I feel them, look interested in the sermon, try not to fall asleep.
 "Keep fighting the good fight, put away sin, put away doubts, the end is near, satan is working overtime, beware of false prophets, beware of satan's army, the world is getting more and more evil. Be a light. Believe onto peace, freedom and joy." 
How could I believe onto peace, freedom and joy when I had none? I was too busy fighting, my heart was not filled with Light, so how could I be one? What was I supposed to believe in? How could I be happy and free when all I saw was danger. Everywhere I looked were movies, makeup, music, dancing. Even worse; fornication, adultery, greed, selfishness, anger, gluttony but I saw those things in myself too. I had tried to fight them but the harder I tried, the more they seemed to appeal to me. I was quick to anger, quick to judgement, selfish, gluttonous, I had not one good thing in me. I craved the chantings of the forgiveness of sins like it was a drug. I wished to carry it in my pocket to pop a little pill every time I stumbled. Slowly it started to have less and less effect on me until it gave me no strength at all. I had fallen off the straight and narrow and was now on the wide path that leads to destruction. It was dark, yet I felt strangely free. It was an empty freedom though, one with no Light, no warmth. Not that I had seen much before, but at least there has been a little flicker of light in the horizon and it had seemed then, that if I ran fast enough, tried hard enough, confessed my sins and doubts enough, prayed often enough, maybe one day it would shine in my heart. 
Now, it was as if my soul had frozen over. I sought pain and destruction just to feel something. Anything, to know I was alive. My thought was, if I was indeed going to hell (of which I was rather uncertain of its existence) I might as well enjoy my time here. I didn't have any reason not to do the things I had been taught were sins, since I didn't believe they were sins anymore. I hadn't been taught any other reasons why To avoid them. I had lost my shaky, unstable foundation and now I had none. I didn't know how to navigate in this crazy tumultuous world. I was alone, I was stone cold. I had no where to turn. I had my friends, but those friendships were based on nothing more than attending the same parties. In order to keep those friendships, one had to continue in their certain conforming ways. Any one who was different was cast out. It was simply another form of the same thing I had experienced since childhood. 
I lived in this sort of surreal bubble and many days passed where I would look back and not remember what I had done all day. I was nothing more than a weather vane on a roof, changing with the wind. I tried to put myself back in that small box, just to hang on to something, but I found no comfort. Despite not being able to pack myself properly back into it, I wasn't ready to let go of it. I couldn't face the possibility that all I had known from birth may not be the truth. So I ignored it.

Very quickly I was drawn into something I thought I would never do. This was beyond the petty things of movies, makeup and music I had experimented with before. Those were so insignificant. I felt I could not fight it. Had been taught to avoid these extremely unimportant details but I had never been warned of things such as these. I didn't know how to fight it. The devil had taken my finger and soon would devour me entirely. There was nothing I could do. I was weak, poor, sinful, and worthless. I stopped caring about the consequences of my actions on my self or others. It was too exhausting to fight anymore. It was too hard to change and I had no idea where I would even start. At least I felt free in some way. 

One night lying bed, it was as if the flood gates had opened and all the thoughts I had tried to run away from were pouring out like a rushing river. I admitted my doubts, my fears, everything I had tried to repress for the much of my life. I felt free. The things that had been so hard for me to avoid were now like tiny insignificant specks in a whole universe of possibilities. 
I decided to contact a fellow former believer and began to express my doubts and thoughts in writing. It came furiously, passionately, as I explored everything I had pushed down for so long. I was able to find a way to freely express myself. I found myself wanting to do what was right and started to pray.

I was led to the Bible. It opened up to me like ray of sunshine through clouds of gray. It was the Living Water I had longed for but never attained; God is with me, He is in me and around me. Beauty and Light are everywhere. He loves me because He created me. I am free from the bonds of sin through His Son. I could lay my cross upon Him. I had heard that before but had never understood what it meant.

My ever changing storm-tossed heart was stilled and I was free. The danger that had consumed me is now a distant memory, I do not need to fight anymore, I am a Child of God. My God is Good, He is Love, He is Wisdom, He is Truth, He is Hope, He is Light and Life. He is beyond what I know, what anyone knows. He dwells where no man has ever gone. He is Greater than imaginable. I can do all things through Him and I am free. 

Losing my faith, which I now realize was not faith but was fear, was the greatest gift I have ever received, for through it I found a new kind of faith. The faith I have now is a Light to guide my way. It is something far greater than what I have learned in the past and beyond what I can explain in words, deeds or anything else. It is beyond my small mind and beyond my reasoning, beyond my practices, beyond my material world, beyond a list of do's and don'ts and it feels right. Yes, the way is narrow, but it is good. I know, no man can take it away. It lives in me. I do not need to live in fear. Faith IS personal. It is not a battle, it is refreshing, joyous and bubbling like a springtime stream. It is truly a gift and for it I am so grateful. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fruits of the Spirit

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in thestatement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if youbite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh [g]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you[h]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry,sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [k]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also[l]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Is this not a clear portion in how we should live our lives? These words seem so simple yet ring so true. This does not speak of earrings and makeup, music and movies, dancing and sports. It says it is the condition of the heart that matters. 

Perhaps the practice of the forgiveness of sins has only served as a tool to have us not think of these things and consider them. Do we mindfully pursue the Spirit of The Lord or are we mindlessly doing as we have been taught, by man?

Could it be that the forgiveness of sins is a learned ritual, practicing the release of guilt? Perhaps the relief we hear from "the gospel" is only a learned behavior, indoctrinated in us from childhood. Is it not natural for us as humans to feel guilt when we have done wrong and to then seek relief from this guilt? Perhaps it has only served us as a wine, tempering our foundational problems for a moment, but never healing us. 

I implore also, perhaps the speaking of the end of time has only served as a control mechanism, keeping us in fear? Perhaps the increase of this topic is due to our fear of change. 

Reflect also on the possibility that our traditions are not born of The Lord but of men. They are not truth but the twisted perceptions of men, leading not with the spirit of Truth or the wisdom of The Lord, but with the faulty, erring wisdom of man. We have heard rumors and whisperings of such things, have have been told stories with many cracks, different every time, but no one daring to speak of the truth. We have been told, do not doubt, doubting is a sin. I say to you now, Thomas doubted Jesus but Jesus did not reject Him, He only said, blessed are those who have not seen but have believed. If Thomas had done wrong by doubting do you think perhaps Jesus would have admonished him?
  Do you seek to know Jesus Christ as your own and accept and pursue the Holy Spirit, or do you seek honor the empty traditions of men? Perhaps this "forgiveness of sins" has only alienated us more from Christ. The book says, "For the kingdom of God does not consist in [j]words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?" 

 "I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking[a]like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not meremen?

Why are we called Laestadian Lutheran? Do we follow the teaching of these men more than Christ? Why can we not simply be called Christian? Is the Holy Book and the teachings of our Lord not our highest authority?