Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rosa came to church

We had originally planned for Rosa and her family to join us at church today - but that isn't what happened. Rosa's girlfriend broke up with her Thursday afternoon and kicked her out of her home - leaving her homeless and wondering what was going to happen to her. Between this time and today, she's had some close friends who have stepped up and allowed her to stay with them. She told me she had been praying a lot and really felt the Lord embrace her and comfort her. When I called her last night, she explained how she had been discussing God and His Word with the people she is staying with and how she could feel Him with her. It all seems very encouraging to me - that perhaps the Lord does want me to be here to help Rosa, to serve her.

As we neared Grace Point for church, Rosa began talking about her cousin and began asking how long Grace Point had been around for - I reminded her that it was a church plant - and less than two years. Grace Point is a portable church and currently worships inside a middle school, however she turned to me and asks, "Is this a Mormon church?"

I almost spit out my Mt. Dew, "Huh? This is a middle school. Grace Point isn't an LDS church. LDS buildings all look the same and are very recognizable."

She explained that her cousin is LDS and she could have sworn that this was the place her cousin brought her to and this was the area she lived in. What was Rosa talking about? Apparently, Rosa was interested in Mormonism. Really? Of course she was. Her cousin's husband and his family is LDS, her cousin converted and apparently has her life all together now and Rosa deeply envies this. She sees the religion and works and wants it.

We checked in the kids and went to the sanctuary where we were greeted with a special treat of Starbucks coffee and tea. Always awesome. :) The worship set was amazing, the band opened up with "100 years" by Five for Fighting and Rosa was impressed. But what caught her attention was Chris Tomlin's, "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)" - they sang the beginning of the song which is:

"I once was lost
But now I am found
I once was blind
But now I see"

She leaned over and whispered, "I feel like that's me," I could only whisper back, "Sweetie, that's all of us," because it is. Not matter what Jesus is freeing us from, the freedom we feel is amazing to us. Grace is amazing and there is nothing like it.

Pastor Devin has been teaching us a series called, "High Definition" - it's about getting clear on life. Today was about investing our time and resources. Now Rosa says the sermon really spoke to her, but I am finding it hard to fully believe her since she spent a good deal of time resting against my shoulder -- snoring. I'm trying really hard not to judge her since I know that when I returned to church after an extended absence (she says it's been six years since she's been to church except this time and to an LDS service) it was almost impossible for me to stay awake for the 9 am Sacrament. So I understand the lack of discipline because she seemed really into the worship service, she seemed to retain the overall message from Pastor Devin's sermon and was really excited about how it should apply to her life - but both Steve and I wonder what exactly we are supposed to be doing if anything.

While we drove her home, the discussion took an interesting turn. I debated in my head, whether I should question the LDS link - it's a tempting religion to get into. I kept telling myself, if she fell asleep after (1) such high-energy worship music and (2) during the sermon of a well-speaking Pastor who prepares for his congregation -- then Rosa would sink trying to get through a three hour block setup within an LDS ward (antiquated hymns accompanied with talks given by often inexperienced speakers that often are not prepared with the specific audience in mind). In the end, I didn't want to be lazy about anything and simply asked her if she was interested in pursuing the LDS church further. It seemed like I practiced every statement in my head two seconds before saying them so as not to sound like some fanatical anti-Mormon or fundamental Christian and yet, she still set me up perfectly, "I don't know, I'm not really sure what they believe. But I am interested. I've only been the once."

I didn't want to sound like every other anti-Mormon on the block, "Well Rosa, they believe...." so instead, I took a different approach. "Steve and I are ex-Mormons. We were sealed in the Las Vegas temple a little over a year ago with our kids."

Shocked is the usual expression we get - Rosa was no different. "Oh. Well like I said, I don't know much about it."

Somehow she did ask how we liked it, we wanted to be honest so as to - and yet I hate writing this - spare someone else the strongholds we've experienced. We told her how much we loved it and how it's so tempting to want to earn grace. I reminded her of her comments during the worship set and told her, "Grace isn't earned. It isn't after all you can do. It's a free gift from God. All you have to do is accept it Rosa." Of course, Steve says, that although in my head it was pretty clear what I was saying, it didn't come out that way. :(

We began talking about the Bible next and it's importance. Rosa only lives about 20-30 minutes aways from GP but in this short amount of time, I found myself more closely identifying with all the fundamental Christians I had ever become short with. Rosa used the example of someone saying that their "doorknob" was their "god" and for her, that was okay. She said, there was nothing wrong with this. I kept trying to think to myself, "Okay, how would Jesus answer this? How would any of my Bible yet socially able friends answer this? How would anyone with Bible knowledge answer this without being harsh?" Anyone who has spent any amount of time in at least the Old Testament knows that God is a jealous God and that idols are a big no-no. In the end, while mildly frustrated that - mostly at myself for having no clue how to talk to Rosa about any of this in a politically acceptable manner and just wanting to come right out and say it all - I offered her a Bible.

It was interesting to see her reaction to Grace Point. It was interesting to realize how much God was grown me and I wasn't even aware of it - even more interesting, was to hear Steve's comments. After Rosa left the car, we discussed the "door-knobs" discussion some more and both agreed - that was fine and dandy that someone wants to believe in a "door-knob" and call it "god" but it won't save them from hell. If they persist in believing in it over Jesus, then hell is where they will spend eternity. For us, that was a huge shocker that we were able to accept such a black and white doctrine. And that we'd rather share that than be PC. Another huge growth that neither of us had noticed - perhaps God had done this while we were more concerned with other things.

Rosa keeps surprising me and teaching me. I'll also admit - I'm a little nervous that she'll tell everyone about Grace Point - well not everyone, just Papau. But at this point, it's done. I really do have to trust that God will take care of it. I've got to stop clinching my fists so tightly. Today Rosa came to church for the second time in six years. Yep, the only other church experience is the LDS church. Two radically different experiences. It'll be interesting to see how God plays this one out.

Artichoke and Garlic

Saturday Costco grazing is always awesome - but we got to sample surprisingly amazing Aidells' Artichoke and Garlic smoked chicken and turkey sausages. They were GREAT! Steve and I have been trying to eat healthier - switching from beef to turkey, from white bread to whole wheat, and so on - so who knows if this is actually healthier - but it seems healthier. It's chicken and turkey, stuffed with some veggies and tastes - again surprisingly - great. You can buy a bulk pack at Costco for $13 or just go on a Saturday and hope that they have the yummy samples out. :) Pull out the BBQ and enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Yesterday, Friday - I was still sick. Coming up two months at this point, my parents are concerned.

While talking with Mamau earlier on the phone, she asked, "Do you want a blessing?"

"Uh, no Steve can take of it." I didn't bother to correct her that he wouldn't need to read from a manual before administering the blessing or finding the anointed oil beforehand that he was forever mixing up with our cooking oil. (Even though I labeled it, "Blessing Oil.")

"Okay, well don't forget to call and add your name to the temple list then." Oh, curve ball. Forgot about that one.

"Oh, thanks for that. Forgot I could do that." I changed the topic. Inside I could hear a little voice whispering, Coward coward.

Ugh! I missed my chance! I could have told her. But wouldn't you know it, the Lord always gives us second chances.

Later that night, we went by my parents house to see Mamau's Christmas decorations - yes, I know it's only September. Mamau loves Christmas. Usually, she waits until at least after Halloween to decorate - but she started extra early this year. As we were leaving she hugs and says, "Did you submitt your name to the temple?"

Oh! Lord why did you give me second chance? I flaked - again and simply muttered that I didn't call and left.

As I prepare for talking to my parents around General Conference - before, after, or during - unclear at this point, I've tried to prepare them in my own little way. Spirit or flesh led - I'm not entirely sure, but I can only hope God uses it. Papau, who works way too much - never takes takes time for himself. I've started packing him lunches and leaving a scripture for him. Perhaps the Lord will use it, perhaps not - but the Bible is bread from heaven, so in my heart I hope.

It's funny to me - with my parents I'm such a coward and so weak. Yet, with other LDS in my life at times it takes restraint to not share what I've found with Jesus. The freedom I've found in Truth. What really confuses me at times is that none of the normal "anti-Mormon" stuff got to me while I was LDS, it didn't bother me in my time of doubt or transition, it didn't bother me until after I left. The faith I had that all those things didn't matter suddenly had lifted and I realized that my previous answers were not just empty, but not logical or sound anymore. And even if I could still defend my previous beliefs - even if I could still defend one or two beliefs, so long as even one were false or wrong, the house of cards came tumbling down. What weighs on me is that I know more than the "average" LDS, not that I know more than MOST LDS, just the average one. On MADB (formerly FAIR Discussion Boards) as Latter Day Saints we discussed how little it seemed "chapel Mormons" knew about history, deeper doctrines, past discourses, and so forth. When I want to mention these things to my few remaining LDS friends, I know I would just sound like an angry apostate with a grudge against the church - regardless that these things are all true and verified by the church itself. (Except the King Follett discourse which cannot be found in the detailed software LDS Library or on the LDS website for some strange reason.)

Yet, I don't feel this same way when it comes to my parents. And I know them well enough to know it wouldn't matter how many "facts" I know about Joseph's evolving testimonies of his "First Vision" or his secret multiple wives that he kept from Emma, or that Brigham Young encouraged members to go searching for "truth" from other untrue religions and take the truths from them (yes go diving into the occult, that sounds Biblical) - I know that they won't care and exactly what I'll sound like. I also know that my testimony won't matter to them because they have testimonies too - and theirs are thirty plus years older than mine, plus they've "been there done that" with the Protestant "Jesus".

Coward? Sure, I'd say that. Disbelief that things will be okay with my parents? Absolutely. But you know what? It makes me that much more appreciative for grace - because without it, what am I? A doubting, coward locked in my own room without Jesus. And that's no way to live.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Survivor China

It's that time again - Survivor China made it's premier last Thursday night. Of course, this is a week later. That's because I kept putting off watching my recorded episode - don't get me wrong, I love Survivor, I just haven't had a chance lately to watch it. Today, not wanting to be now two episodes behind, I made myself sit down and watch it. In the beginning, the Survivors were taken to a Buddhist temple for a "welcoming ceremony" - now I'm sure I'm more than a day late on the various discussions that have occurred on this, but since I just watched it, I wanted to blog about it.

Three Survivors caught my attention, Christian Radio talk show host Leslie, cafeteria worker Denise, and New York waitress Courtney during the welcome ceremony that they were asked to participate in. Leslie explained that she was not a religious person but she did have a relationship with Jesus Christ and as such, she knew that it was wrong to bow down before idols and therefor she silently excused herself from the ceremony because the only person her "face would touch the floor for was Jesus" - it was so touching. In a day and age when Christianity looses it's meaning out in the secular world, it was great to see her make a stand in her faith. Denise on the other hand, explained that she was "just" a school lunch lady and to be standing in this amazing temple just felt so spiritual and that she felt like crying. The Bible tells us that God is not in temples built with hands - but in the hearts and bodies of the believers. I wanted to share this with Denise and hoped that Leslie would in their 39 day adventure - because God doesn't care that Denise is "just" a lunch lady and he doesn't care how grand a man-made temple is - He cares about us - the temples HE made. He wants us to be in a relationship with Him.

And then there was Courtney. Who just wanted to have nothing to do with any of it. She was tired and wanted to be "welcomed" with sipping lemonade and to relax. Not box down and kneel to something.

It was really interesting the three reactions - the believer knew it was wrong, the wanderer wanted the relationship but saw the idol and yearned for something she could touch because she was missing something, and the lost was simply too busy to notice anything around her at all.

What about in life? As believers, do we notice when something is just wrong and do we then take a stand or are the costs too high? In Leslie's case, Jeff Probst pointed out that she had left - so even though she had left quietly everyone knew now - and pointed out that this could damage her for the million dollars. She stood her ground though and stated that she would be who she was and if people liked her great, if not - then she'd be going home. What about when we see someone wandering around looking for truth? Are we more concerned about winning, loosing, or how we look? I know I've been more concerned about apparences - especially in more recent times - than about sharing the gospel or being true to who I am - a Christian, a sinner, saved by grace.

In the end, when faced with our Buddhist temples or the chance to look good and fit in for a million dollars, would you bow down, or does Jesus mean more to you? Leslie didn't and she made a stand on nationwide tv - good for her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

14 All over Again

I wanted to share a bit of a back-story to my life that is kind of obvious but not and is the whole reason I have been freaking over my parents and this upcoming talk about having left the LDS church.

I love Mamau and Papau dearly. My parents are amazing people and I cherish the relationship I have with them. But I'm 25 and it wasn't always this way. Since I've shared my past in previous blogs here it is in a nutshell again - I started off in as a good girl, was pregnant by 14, and became wild by college. So we'll skip details this time around - I was an angry uncontrolled person.

These things are obvious. What's not obvious are the effects it's had on my family. I was the black sheep. The outsider. I went two years without seeing my "cousins" because I was a bad influence - and I frankly can't say I disagree. I was horrible. The person I am now and the person I was then are like night and day. Even when I got married, I didn't calm down that much - I wasn't as angry, but I still drank a lot, I still dressed inmodestly, I still was in a lot of ways - the black sheep of the family. And I didn't care. Here's the kicker - when did I change? When I became a Mormon. It was the LDS church that tamed the shrew so to speak, it was then that my life started finally calming down and I started caring about the relationship I had with my parents. It started mattering to me - I began apologizing and repenting of the mistakes and all the horrible things I had done and said to and against my family. The began to matter.

I knew my family loved me, but they kept their distance because I had done some damage over the years - and my mother Sheryl had done damage and to this day continues to do damage without caring. Over the past four years I've slowly repaired the relationship with my parents. When I went through the temple, it was my parents who escorted me, it was my parents who were my wittinesses at my temple sealing, it was my parents who stood by me for in our LDS beliefs, every sacred moment. In the past year, our relationship had grown an amazing amount and I care so much. Papau had a stroke about a year ago and has become more devout because he had that touch with death and now wants everyone to know about the Restoration and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the doctrine of Eternal Families. When he was laying there in a hospital bed, his blood pressure through the roof, waiting for surgery - he wanted me to start temple work to make sure all of his family was sealed together in the temple so we would all be together in the celestial kingdom. I would go and sit with him each night and we would the halls of the hospital together and we would just talk about the Book of Mormon, and the Bible, and sharing the Restoration with people and how important it was that people believe. I had almost thought that Papau had forgotten about that until recently when Grace was baptized and then I realized he was still just as passionate about it now as he was then.

I keep thinking of how devout they have become this past year and wonder how they will react. Will they see me as an apostate? Will they simply think I couldn't hack it? Will they cut me out of the family, will I revert to the black sheep in their eyes? Will our relationship take a nose dive?

In a lot of ways, I've equated telling them about this, to when I told them about I was pregnant nine years ago. Will I in a sense, ruin Jesus for them? Will they simply see me reverting to old habits - like a "reformed" drug addict picking up a needle for another hit? Am I simply ruining everything for them and for me? My parents are converts to the LDS church - from Protestant beliefs to LDS ones, they both have brothers and sisters who oppose the LDS church. To have been LDS and leave is one thing, to have gone through the temple and leave is another - "God is not mocked" - is what is said. When I stand there and tell them of what God has done in my life, will they simply see me as 14 years old, "knocked up", and naive all over again?

And as I've pondered over all this, Rosa, who I thought I was supposed to be helping, pulled out a Chick track last night. The very first one I've ever seen and reads to me something. This angel says, "You valued your friends opinion over Jesus. And where are they now? And here you are, alone."

Returning to David's words in the psalms - my life is just a blink here, my relationship with my parents - while it's finally become important to me - is not more valuable than my relationship with Jesus. I've set the date of General Conference, and even though I struggle with belief, I have to try to believe that God will have His hand over all this and that in the end, His Will will be done in the end.

General Conference Time!

I can't believe it's been six months already! Time just flies by! Last Sunday I was really blessed to sing with seven other people from the musical RENT's "SEASON'S of LOVE" (I'll link it for you later) - I measure time by a lot of things and in a lot of ways - but it's been about two weeks shy now of six months since Steve and I first stepped foot in Grace Point. Not a lot has changed at GP since we tried it out that first Sunday - they were backwards then and there was a boat on stage, but they change stage sets with each series so that's understandable. :) Yesterday when my Visiting Teacher's were here and they invited me to this weekend's General Relief Society broadcast and dinner at the church I realized it's been almost six months. And I saw an opening perhaps to talk my parents about what the Lord has done in our lives. Each conference, Mamau and I talk about the talks and how they impact us.

Very briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with what I'm talking about here - each year the LDS church had two semiannual General Conferences - one in April and one in October - both are the first weekends of the month. Right now, the church is gearing up for their 177th Semiannual General Conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. There are two sessions each day (Saturday and Sunday) and then a Priesthood Session Saturday night that can only be viewed at a LDS church stake center (perhaps also at a ward center for branches but it's been over 9 years since I've been in a branch so please excuse me if this is inaccurate for smaller areas - the point is you can't access the Priesthood session from your home - ONLY from a LDS church). There is also a General Relief Society shortly before General Conference as well. During General Conference, there are no block meetings on Sunday (block meetings are Sunday meetings - Sacrament, Sunday School, Priesthood, Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, etc). Fast Sundays are pushed back to the following Sunday or are held the last Sunday of the month before General Conference things like that. Anyways, General Conference has speakers from general leadership prepare talks on various topics and speak during these two days. The more devout I became, the more I felt these talks applied towards my life. For example, my last General Conference - this past April, I had attended Grace Point and Pastor Devin had spoken about the storms of life and how we don't see Jesus but we have to get out of the boat if the Lord commands us to and have faith. Then we went home and listened to only three talks out of two days of conferences and those three talks discussed: Are we Christians?, This Day, and The Things of Which I know.

I remember feeling as if the Lord were telling us to stay in the LDS church - but not feeling as if it were the true church. Just to stay put. As if Pastor Devin's message was that Jesus was with us, we just didn't see Him and the messages at conference confirmed them.

And after conference ended that day, Mamau and I talked about conference and what we took from it - although, I will admit I did leave out the bit about the church we visited that morning.

I think by setting a goal of telling them around General Conference I move forward towards it instead of just waiting and waiting. I can think of reasons why this might not be the best time to do it, but it's when we always discuss our faith - so why not bear testimony of my faith?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Obediance is the catalyst for the miraculous

When I was a kid, there were the Primary lessons - when someone draws closer to heavenly Father, Satan draws closer too trying to trip everything up. Because Satan doesn't want us to be happy with God.

Yesterday could not have been more of a conflicting up and down roller coaster. Sunday I realized the unbelief in heart and sought God's help with overcoming this obstacle. Sunday night we have visit from our Home Teachers from our LDS ward - something we hadn't had since June, since we were literally walking out the door to our small group, we didn't get a chance to talk with them, and didn't really think of why suddenly after three months they were knocking on our door. Monday afternoon I received a call from my visiting teacher - also who hasn't come by since June - who stated that they (her partner and her) wanted to come by the following day (today - Tuesday). Remembering Sunday night's call to forgive others, I decided to open up my home and let them come over. Now, having had like three hours of sleep from last night and no car I'm left wondering what to pull together for snacks for their visit. My best friend Barbie is always saying something to the effect of, "Hospitality is the catalyst for the miraculous," so instead of just making sure my home is clean when they come - I want to have some yummy snacks and warm herbal caffeine free tea (this type of tea of okay with the LDS Word of Wisdom but it is very specific) or our Hommel Punch.

After making the appointment with Emily, I began wondering if block meetings on Sunday had some sort of motivational talk on either or both inactive or apostate members, lost sheep from the fold, or getting the Home and Visiting Teaching numbers up. Then, my doorbell rang. Perplexed as I get few day visitors, I went to the door and found the Relief Society President Mindy waiting for me with muffins in hand. I cracked the door and stepped outside - my hair was a mess, my eyes puffy from lack of sleep, and my house is thrashed because frankly I just don't feel well enough to clean it and when I try I feel miserable so it's progressively become more dirty. Ugh - which drives me crazy as I hate it when my house is dirty, disorganized, and not seasonly correct (ie Christmas tree up at Valentine's Day for example - or my lack of Fall decorations at the end of September). As I make small talk with her and try hard to remember if she was someone I talked with directly about my "apostasy" or if she's heard through the "grapevine" about us leaving, little Anya darts from the house, which then makes me chase her, sending me into a coughing fit. She realizes that I'm sick and starts asking, "Can we send in meals? Do you need anything?" And I feel this overwhelming feeling of longing return. The LDS church is amazing at service and taking care of "their own". The act of kindness to me - someone she hadn't seen in months was really touching to me.

After her visit I went inside and realized how easy it would be to simply "humbly" return to LDS church and never tell my parents about my little detour. I never understood why anyone would be a "cultural Mormon" - between the time, energy, and sacrifice to be LDS, why would anyone prefer this and not really believe? Yesterday, I totally understood the temptation - everything would be convenient and in a sense, much easier. Months ago, I never would have understood this - but now I'm starting to. The desire to just have an easy and simple and comfortable life and not upset the "balances".

Yesterday before going to work - I honesty began to wonder if I was strong enough to leave and really leave the church - it had occupied my mind and thoughts, I hadn't had the courage to tell my family in all these months, I hadn't removed my name from the roll book, heck my temple bag still remained neatly packed with my recommend laying inside it in my closet. I honestly began to wonder if I was one of those who would steadfastly walk with Jesus or just someone who would give up when I didn't want to become uncomfortable anymore.

I left for work that night feeling heavy. Rosa was working so I went straight into the office to start the invoices and trying to keep my mind off of God. But it was hard to do since my mp3 player is filled with downloaded sermons and favorite worship songs. "You Move Me" came on and I suddenly I was moved again and the words had so much meaning to me all over again, "I can't come with you and stay where I am."

Then Rosa knocked - she needed me to cover the front, she had a phone call. Her son had a broken collar bone. With me, there are times when I can clearly understand the Spirit's voice speaking to me - like a conversation inside my own head and other times when I'm like, "Is that You God?". Tonight was one of those clear moments. I'd like to briefly proceed the clear moment with a confession - I'm terrified of praying with and in front of people. It's not just because I went from Mormon to Christian - I was terrified of praying in front of my brothers and sisters in the LDS faith as well. There are times when I get shy in front of God when praying when it's just Him and me. Prayer is something I struggle with - I know I've mentioned this before - a long time ago - but I wanted to mention this again because it's a huge part of why obediance is the catalyst for the miraculous.

Rosa began telling me how her son had just finished at UMC and had found out that he had a broken collar bone, while she was sharing the details with me, I could clearly hear the Spirit telling me, "Offer to pray with her." Immediately my response to God was a firm no. I was not going to offer to pray for or with her. I was too shy. Plus, I would expose myself either on camera as not being LDS and I am too scared to pray with and in front of people anyways. For two hours the Spirit kept telling me that I needed to offer to pray with her - so finally, to appease my guilty conscience I asked her to tell me more about what happened, her children, anything basically to drown out the voice in my head. At the end, I began working up courage and began looking for an opening to offer to pray for her but blurted out, "After you get off work, would you like to pray together for Josh?" I was really surprised but she said yes.

My prayer was short, I felt like I was stumbling in the dark, saying things I had heard Prostestant Christians say in prayer groups I had attended after school in highschool and a few times in my small group this past year, I tried so hard to recall every phrase I'd ever heard and prayed in my mind that my palms wouldn't sweat and that I wouldn't have a death grip on her hands and that I would remember to breathe while I prayed. And then, right before we went to pray for Josh - I suddenly heard the Spirit again and asked her, "Should we pray for Alex too?" and she nodded so we did. After the prayer, the Spirit reminded me that perhaps what Rosa was looking for for her son Alex she might find within the folds at Grace Point and be fed the gospel as well. But as I realized what the Spirit had opened up before me - this chance that Rosa and I had just prayed for, this opening for her son Alex and this place for him, I realized what a position I was putting myself in. Rosa is a high energy person, she's everyones friend and she loves to talk and share everything - so I can see her telling everyone about her experience at Grace Point - which is great because she's be sharing this and hopefully others would want to come as well. But, she works shifts while my Papau works and he's devout he'd know if she'd been to a LDS service or not and the risk of "exposure" for me goes sky high by bringing Rosa to Grace Point.

This blog went from one day to write - to three. And during these three days I've realized something. When I initially began working at my parents' store I realized the Lord wanted me to serve - and I initially wrote about Rosa. My first blog about the store included her. I shared the gospel with her, we talked about the Bible and reading it at night. It was really great. Then because of issues my parents took with her, I distanced myself with her and began serving other employees in the store and the homeless - sort of a "duck duck goose" (perhaps this is Southern child's game) - because I was too afraid to take Rosa because even in the beginning when I felt a not so clear prompting to invite Rosa to church I was too scared to go for it. So I did invite her to something - to my Sunday night small group, and I'm ashamed that I canceled on her last minute because I was afraid she's somehow expose me as non-Mormon to my family.

So when I realized the Spirit was again prompting me to invite her to church I realized it was like standing at these two doors - was I going to follow Jesus and proclaim His gospel unashamedly or was I going to seek the approval of others - like my family? Was I going to hide? I asked Rosa if her family would like to come to services on Sunday and check out our church. She initially told me she'd get back to me and the following night she said yes. I was so stoked and nervous at the same time.

I'm realizing that I allowed the disbelief to mature in my heart that God is slowly taking away. Sure, He could just zap it away - but I don't think God's about that. He cares more about my growth as His child and as a Christian than about my circumstances and that's why this isn't all taken care of over night. I feel like I'm on this super fast roller coaster because the issue feels like it's resolving itself at the speed of light while I also feel like it's taking forever to work out at the same time. However, as God is unfolding all of this - even while I drag my feet terrified of prayer - I am amazed and grateful at His grace and love for me and all His children around me. I'm amazed at the plan He has around me, at the people He has placed around me. And just so grateful.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Not far from the kingdom of God 2

After yesterday's blog, I took some time to fellowship with the Lord. I took my Bible, a study I had been following but had lagged on, a pen, and went up to my closet and shut the door. Initially I was merely going to open in prayer and simply ask for the Spirit to tell me what I needed to do to let God into every place in my heart and really believe He had it handled and before I knew it I was pouring my heart out to Him and giving Him everything I had in me - my unbelief, my distrust, my inablitiy to have an intimate and steady relationship with Him as my heavenly Father, and my unforgiveness - nor desire to forgive - towards someone from my past and so much more. And then I laid there, drained emotionally and spiritually and yet, hopeful. I opened my Bible and my children's Sunday School note fell out, it relayed the story of David and Saul and told the children that with God, all things - even hard things. Then I opened my almost forgotten Bible study by Beth Moore to where I had left off a few weeks prior.

I flipped past the video discussion sheet.

I flipped past the introduction to the new unit sheet.

I began reading the new chapter and opened my Bible to Isaiah 57:14

And one shall say,

“ Heap it up! Heap it up!
Prepare the way,
Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.”

And the crying began all over again. Beth Moore explained how stumbling blocks can be very hard and emotional to remove from our paths but that we have our "matchless" King with us if only we will do it. The problem for me was I didn't believe in my heart that He was matchless. It is so fitting that we are doing this High Definition living series at church now because really, I am putting my parents on this pedestal above my King and Lord. The first sermon in the series focused on Psalm 39:4-7 where David asks God to remind him of how short his life is and Pastor Devin is reminding us of our priorities. I'm skewing - and I KNOW it - my priorities. I don't want to sacrifice my priorities even though I know my Lord is telling me to be honest with my family - He is telling me through His Word, through His Spirit, through sermons, through devotionals, through my husband and friends - yet I am stubbornly remaining in disobedience because I just don't believe good - my good - will come of it.

I continued the study, prayed and cried out again until I felt completly drained all over again. A few hours later we attended our Sunday night small group. It was a different setting though - one we never attend. Back at the beginning of the year when we realized God was calling us out of the LDS church but we didn't want to go straight into Grace Point because we didn't think it was a church He would call us to, we attended our Sunday night small group's church and it just didn't fit us for some reason so we continued in prayer and kept getting returned to Grace Point. Due to the lack of childcare and the time of night of small group, we don't attend the small group when it's held at the church because we don't want to chase our children all over the church add to it that the Cowboys were playing the Bears last night and it was almost miraculous that we attended last night. ;)

They were having Communion. My kneejerk reaction was to get up and leave. Remember, I was LDS - you only take of the "Sacrament" on Sunday within a LDS church from the Priesthood. This was my kneejerk reaction at Gracepoint, this was my kneejerk reaction last night - but God is good and even though I'm in this state of disbelief - He still soothed me and reminded me that it is not a "true church" of the LDS church or Grace Point or Discovery but the body of believers and I was there - at Grace Point, at Calvery, at Discovery - wherever I was among the body of believers I was there. I began to ponder my own thoughts on communion and how I intertwine the two with a deep, meaningful moment with God - almost a deep repenting process. I almost always connect the two with my 18 months of repenting and disfellowshippment and that Christmas morning when I was able to take of it again. As I was handed the small round wafer with the cross on it and little cup with juice, I began to silently cry in the back - I remembered God doesn't view time the same way I do so He wasn't surprised by my time with Him earlier today - He knew about it and He knew about this right now. And to me, this all fit together perfectly - the whole day, everything. And then the sermon began before taking communion - on the importance of forgiveness and I thought of my prayer before studying.

Being completly honest - I can say that I can feel God's love for me, I know that He is reaching out and drawing me close to Him - but I am still in a state of disbelief. I know it is lessening but it's still there.

Paul talked about his weaknesses and how through Christ he was made strong, I hope that this becomes the case with me.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness
2 Co 12:9b

Resident Evil - Parenthood

Steve and I are not opening night movie kind of people. Theaters are crowded and movie edict is not what it used to be - cell phones going off, people yelling at the screen, and so on.

But for some reason - we were really excited about the third Resident Evil movie and went for it Friday night when it was released. We're not huge horror movie buffs or zombie movie buffs - this is not really our genre - we've just been in a groove for the past few weeks and this just fit the "craving" so to speak. So we went.

I cannot express enough how appalled I was this night. Not at the movie - it was great, I enjoyed myself. Not at the theater - I usually enjoy myself at the Cannery. At parents. Opening nights are usually packed - and this was not an exception. Parents usually bring their kids to movies - I can understand Spiderman - I would probably allow my three year old to watch an already viewed Spiderman movie because he doesn't understand the content but he loves Spidey. Shrek, Simpsons - even the Silver Surfer will have children of all ages in it.

But we went to see the third installment of Resident Evil - where Yahoo states it's rated "R" for "non-stop violence" yet as Steve and I sat in our seats watching people move to theirs, we watched in literal shock, amazement, and yes even horror as their moved their toddlers to their seats to watch the "R" rated movie (for again "non-stop violence") to their seats. Now, even though I strongly disagree with any children regardless of memory or age coming to a R rated movie (yes even the Passion) I can stomach a position for say a newborn or an infant like maybe even six months or less coming to an "R" rated movie with their parents because they won't remember it (I am not saying I agree - I'll say again, I strongly disagree with this but I can understand). But above that I cannot for any reason why an adult would bring a child to a movie like this. Galaxy theater charges a full admission ticket for children two years and older - so it's not saving any money on a sitter.

I've read various articles on the effects of tv on children - from over stimulation, to nightmares (even things like Elmo giving my toddler nightmares if too much or at the wrong time of the day), and to imitation. After that preview, if Elmo would give her nightmares, I'd say that would for SURE give her nightmares. Our world is violent enough without parents taking 2 and 3 year olds to the movie theater to view what they (the toddler) cannot understand to be fiction and not reality and later imitate. Paul loves Power Rangers, but after a few months of imitation I had to finally wean him off of them for awhile because he doesn't realize how hard he hits with his little swords and fists while play fighting like his beloved Power Rangers - and these guys are positive role models who realize they are role models for kids. The Freddie Krueger look alikes zombies in coveralls are not trying to be positive constructive role models - nor should they be expected to be. I mean, can you see them stopping mid-fight to say something like, "Now kids, don't try this at home. Killing and eating people while they are alive is bad. Do as I say, not as I do."

Is there anyone else out there that is as frustrated when they see kids being taken to such wildly inappropriate movies? It's one thing to take your toddler to see a superhero movie another to see such a bloody, gory, "non-stop" violently horrific movie. I just don't get it, it blows my mind.

The good thing about having a few godly friends is once I'm done venting they plant me firmly back on my feet. "It's the end of days Amanda."

It must be, I can't think of any other reason why parents would be so incredibly heartless to their kids otherwise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Not far from the kingdom of God

I am purposely writing this blog after my church service but before taking personal time with the Lord. Today's sermon was exactly what I needed - it was a wake up call to alert me to my snoozing and zombie-like state that I have been in for the past few weeks. Perhaps this is why, even though for as long as I remember I've had an illogical fear of zombies, I've become very insensitive to zombie movies lately - because I am floating through life like one.

Today Pastor Devin shared the story of the man who was an expert in the law and asked the question of Jesus: which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus replied: love God with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul and your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34). The expert knew that this was the most important and then Devin pointed out something that I had become aware of in myself for quite some time but didn't realize that Jesus had pointed out in the Bible in someone else.

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." v. 34

For a few weeks now I have become increasingly aware of my own sins - even while I am committing them: I don't need the rule book to point them out. I am aware of the correct answers, I am aware of where to look in the Bible and I am aware of how to solve my problems. As aware as I am to the resources available to me, where to go for answers, how to solve my own problems, and how aware that I cannot solve them by myself - something inside me does not allow me to fully reach out to God. It's not about withholding myself some of the time - it's that I don't let go fully ever. While my head believes - at 2 am last night, I realized that my heart doesn't fully believe. A huge part of it does - but there is a tiny part that doesn't and I do not have any idea how to get past that.

My stumbling block is my parents. I love them dearly. I have never had a really personal relationship with them, so having a personal relationship with my Father God is something very radical to begin with. I know that God doesn't mind it when I ramble on about all the important things in my life, in fact He desires it because He knows my heart and who I am. Whereas my parents seem to filter me and seem to prefer that I am only brief - clearly, concisely, and quickly giving them updates on my life sans any details. I feel like they want for me to remain a bit distant. I know my parents love me - and while they are emotionally unattached I know they are deeply emotionally invested in me - it's a mystery to explain and you'd really have to just know them to understand. But really, having grown up in the home I did I have no idea how to have an intimate relationship with a parental figure in the first place. Second, I honestly have no faith that Jesus can do anything to change the hearts of my parents. I have been denying this since the moment I realized the LDS church was false because - for the first time in years - my parents and I really emotionally connected through our shared temple experiences. And I don't want to loose that. We share something that I do consider sacred. I don't trust Jesus to protect that and I feel ashamed that I don't trust Him to do that.

Today during worship, I felt as if God were really impacting me by reminding me of how holy, powerful, and truely awesome He is. I'm going to post the lyrics to Hillsong's "Mighty to Save".

Everyone needs compassion
A love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations

My Savior
He can move the mountains
My God is Mighty to save
He is Mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything i believe in
Now i surrender

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We're singing for the glory of the risen King...Jesus

I could feel my heart melting, I could feel the truth in these lyrics - I knew that this was true. But at the same time, I could feel myself shutting God out and screaming inside that I just didn't believe that He would change my parents, that He would salvage my family from the fallout that would come.

I am withholding myself from God in this area of my life, I am doubting Him and it doesn't affect just one area of my life. Now it is starting to spill into other areas of my life and I can feel myself pulling further away from God. In my head, I know all the right things to do - but I can't motivate myself to do them.

At the beginning of this blog I stated that this was written purposely after services - but before I go to God seeking fellowship and quiet time. A common word I've noticed is "surrender" and I've never known how to surrender to God. Today, I got an inside peek at what it means to surrender to Him. It's fear, it is pain, it's everything that you do not want to let go of and for the first time in my life I didn't just repent but I surrendered it.

Today at the end of services, Pastor Devin did encouraged people to ask Jesus into their lives - I've begun pondering since I was a Mormon if I had Jesus in my life - I know that He had changed me and that I loved Him, but did I have Him in my life? I realized I had so much baggage and felt called to let it all go and began giving it all to Him. All the sins I had repented of - I didn't repent again - but rather I gave all my hurt to Him, the pain from my childhood I began to give to Him, everything I could think of in those few minutes - I began giving to Him.
It's not just about repenting - it's about giving ourselves, our pain, our anger, everything to Him.

And I realized I had with held all these things and put them upon myself. I was still trying to make it myself - I was still trying to save myself. I don't know how to fully trust Jesus to save me. Grace is too easy. I get it in my head, and at times I get it in my heart - but it's so overwhelming that it's just so easy that I can't help but try to work for it. It's actually preferable to me that I be saved through work than grace.

Life is easier without Jesus - but it sure is a lot more empty.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I hope you find what you're looking for

One trend I've noticed among Latter Day Saints when I tell them that Steve and I have left the LDS church is, "Well I hope you found what you were looking for." It's as if they are under the impression we felt LOST.

Other images come to mind - Steve and I blindfolded, playing Marco Polo with God or hide and seek. That somehow, they percieve us as being disatisfied and having left the LDS church and gone out there "searching" for something out there to make us "happy".

We didn't leave to go in search of something else. The "something else" (God) found us, came knocking, and woke us up to the reality - that the LDS church is false. The reality of our situation was this:

God was leading us to His truth. Not because we were not happy enough or too happy, or too comfortable or uncomfortable - it wasn't about any of that. It was not about what we percieved about Truth - it was about actual Truth. We were perfectly fine within the LDS church, and then the Holy Spirit (God) woke us up to the fact that we were in a false church, directed us to His will about what to do about it, and we obeyed.

Just as annoying as critical anti-mormon "congrats on leaving that cult" (egh ) are the comments, "Hope you find what you're searching for" since I didn't "go" searching for anything.

I'm happy the Lord spoke to my husband and I and directed us to His Truth and Word. I'm happy He has blessed us with good fellowship and community. Perhaps now He is working on blessing us with patience and grace?

Four years ago when I was broken - I found what I unknowingly was looking for - how about you?

His ways are perfect - so are mine too?

"As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him."
2 Samuel 22:31

I noticed something I haven't noticed in awhile - I'm drawing close to the Lord again. In my "busisness" of being sick, and sort of keeping house, and trying to take of the kids and keep up with them, and not really having time for the Lord who should be number one on all my lists - He has still made time to teach me lessons even when I'm too bull headed to take time for him.

As a stay at home mother and home maker for now a little over three years, I have tried and true methods for quite a few things. I know that while throwing together a mixture of colors to make one true load of laundry might be convenient because it saves me time now will bite me in the behind later because over time, my colors will fade and bleed into one another and my clothes will look poorly. I know that if I don't take my kids outside in the morning and evening that they will fight me tooth and nail for bedtimes. I know that there are certain ways to do things that succeed and certain ways to not do things in my home because they fail. I know this because I've been home now for this amount of time and have tried them and have over time seen their results. So, it is only human when I ask my husband to do things a certain way because I've found them successful or have found the consequences of not doing things a certain way harmful to my family's finances, stress levels, and so forth.

Today as my stress level's were rising as I relised that my "suggestions" were ignored from the day before, the 2 Sam. 22:31 came to mind. God's ways are perfect. I began wondering - just in these past few weeks when I began to selfishly pull away due to my own "misery" due to illness - was God 's "stress level's rising"? In our church's First Step's class, Pastor Devin taught me about "anthropomorphism". I'll borrow Wiki's explanation:

"It is a common and seemingly natural tendency for humans to perceive nonhuman animals or inanimate objects as having human characteristics, one which some suggest provides a window into the way in which humans perceive themselves. Common examples of this tendency include naming cars or begging machines to work."

I am a mortal, a finite creature - created by a Creator, an immortal, an infinite being. I seriously doubt He feels "stress" about me straying from His perfect ways - I do know that He knows better than I do because His ways are perfect. My only comparison outside that of a parent/child relationship is that as a stay at home wife and mother, I know the ins and outs better than my husband and therefor, I like to think that my ways are perfect. My Father grants me grace when I stray, embraces me when I return, and forgives me when I erorr - shouldn't I do the same with others?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Being Guilty

Ever feel guilty for something? Steve and I got this little coupon for Outback Steakhouse - my ALL TIME FAVORITE place to eat (okay - it ties with Thai food) to have a free sample plater of various meats but only until September 30th. Our ONLY free weekend between now and the end of the month is THIS weekend. We've decided to get a babysitter and set aside some time for dinner and a movie this weekend for a very long overdue date night. Last night during small group, I decided to invite another couple to go see a movie with us. I'm going to go on a tangent for a moment.

I am terrified of zombies. YES I know that they are not real in any way, shape, or form. I know they could never be real. But for some reason, they terrify me. I won't even play zombie levels on my favorite video games. I consider myself having won the game and restart. I just won't go there. Yet for the past three weeks I have been officially in a zombie fetish - loving scaring myself sick. Watching Dawn of the Dead and gearing up for Resident Evil: Extinction which releases tomorrow (Friday 9/21/07) which for some sick reason I really want to see even though I know I'll most likely watch through covered eyes anyways.

Back on track, I've also been sick since last month - yes five and a half weeks at this point. Something I didn't think possible. Still coughing up a storm, still congested and sweaty, and frankly pretty miserable. I was planning that if for some reason I was still sick come this weekend it would work in my favor for date night. You know - in restaurants they always keep it cold so for once I would actually be perfectly comfortable since I would be overheated and sweaty from being sick. A bonus. :) Since I wouldn't feel well, I'd have leftovers from a small appetite and have some yummy food to eat the next day. I wouldn't spend any money at pricey concession stands because it'd all just make me nauseas. The theater would be comfy because again - I'd be overheated and so the usually freezing theater would be just right. And I'd just take my cough medicine before the show and I wouldn't cough through the show. Everything would be just fine.

But then, when I went to invite the other couple - she invited me about Ballon-a-palooza that is in town this weekend that our church is voloutneering for. Don't get me wrong. I love to serve - I really feel called to serve in my community and love to do it. The only reason I hadn't signed up for this particular event was my unusually long bug - really, who wants to be served by someone coughing up a lung all over them? :P

As I was verbally thinking all this aloud to Steve, he of course ruined my guilt free get out of jail free "let's still go to on our long over due movie night" thought with, "Maybe God wants us to take this weekend to serve instead. Maybe if you think about serving instead, He will heal you." Gee thanks Steve. I was looking forward to steak and zombies.

Sin is Comfortable

We had our small group again last night and we were discussing our pastor's "Shadow Sermon" and if we had "30 Days to Live" changes. Our leader, Wojo, asked the question, why don't people make these changes in their lives now instead of later. It dawned on me - the consequences. If we know that we have 30 days to live and we know we'll only have to live with the consequences for 5 days as opposed to an unknown amount of days then we'll be more able to live with that.

I've had on my heart for a long time that I should tell my family that Steve and I left the LDS church, but I always shy away from it - always with an excuse. With a little probing, I realize how much deeper it goes than just sharing the truth with my family. I realize that I'm a fence sitter, lukewarm. Secretly, I desire to still be a Mormon - I miss the comfort, the culture, the doctrine, my friends, so many things - even the apologetics at times. I have wondered if I was doubting the decision I made to leave the LDS church and I realize that I'm not doubting that because everyday I am more sure that the it is a false and untrue church. I just long for the comfort of the memories of the past. Almost my entire marriage is wrapped up in the LDS church, almost every memory is wrapped up in a ward building, preparing for the temple, a Relief Society acitivity, a potluck, or something of the sort. And so, when nostaligia washes over me - more times than not, it's connected with the LDS church. And it's hard for me to disconnect from it. At the same time, I keep telling myself that once I plug in where I'm at, I'll make new memories, new friends, and most importantly will be serving God and fellowshipping within His church. But it's so hard for me when I keep feeling this overwhelming tug from the past.

I haven't told my parents yet because I don't want to leave yet. I know the LDS church isn't true. I know all the head knowledge and I know God doesn't want me at the LDS church and hasn't for awhile, but right now - I sort of don't care what He wants and that makes me feel really ashamed. I've been supressing that for awhile, so it feels really good to finally admitt. My husband has been calling me a "closet Mormon" for awhile.

I miss being Mormon. When I was growing up in this tiny branch, I can remember every first Sunday of the month breaking the fast with a ward potluck. You just don't find fellowship and bonding like you do inside LDS churches. Between Visiting Teaching, Compassionate Service, and Relief Society - inside one maybe two months, you know people and make friends. You serve. And you're happy to be doing it. You fellowship. You slide right on in. And I miss it terribly. Even while writing this I'm remembering my first ward - the South Valley Ranch ward. I was a drinker, smoker, energy drink addict and work workaholic. I came in thinking I would never fit in, and was oddly shy. But I fit in right away. I could not cook or bake to save my life and almost killed the missionaries my first time cooking for them, but I improved with the help of my sisters - and when I decided to stay home with my son my Relief Society sisters were so supportive and helpful. I've never experienced anything like that anywhere else.

But that's the thing - while that sort of fellowship is so desirable and nice, it doesn't make the church or the beliefs true. The temple has been the hardest for me to let go. I still have my recommend, and it's been the hardest temptation to not use it. Not to "steal" from the temple by putting the ceremonies online via recordings or anything else ex-Mormons are accused of doing, but because the temple has always been a soothing, calming places aside from the world for me to retreat to. I've missed it. However, it doesn't make it real or true. I can create a similar atmosphere within my own home if I simply try and put in the effort.

I think what I've missed throughout my whole life is the effort. The effort that is put in. Putting together a branch potluck every month is not done without effort, helping sisters feel loved and needed requires effort, building and maintaining a holy atmosphere requires effort.

Sin is comfortable. Longing and missing what I've left has required no effort on my part and has done nothing for me except kept me from putting in effort that I could have. However, putting in effort in the past has shown results and fellowship. I think I have this vision in my mind that holiness cannot be achieved outside the LDS church - I know this is not true, but for some reason I cannot put it into practice. I know that through faith in Jesus Christ of the scriptures comes justification and holiness, but at times I simply forget.

Sin is comfortable and I think I've been comfortable in a state of fogginess for far too long.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The docrtrine of the "UNKNOWN GOD"

Bear with me please - I'm not in a normal mood today. I will proceed this blog with a disclaimer - I've been sick for five weeks now, I'm miserable, I land on the floor when I go into coughing fits, I go through entire boxes of tissue when my nose goes into fits, and I'm utterly miserable. So, to say the least - I'm mildly cranky. During my lunch hour, I'm still surfing the internet because I cannot take my oh so tasty and dandy new cough syrup that the doctor I finally relented and went to prescribed because it knocks me right out, so I merely stay as still as I can during my rest hour and see what the rest of the world is up to or try to nap sitting up and hope I don't start coughing.

During today's surfing adventure's I came across some (as usual) LDS/Evangelical (sprinkled with atheist) conversations about the Trinity. I've found this to be this most heated discussions with LDS usually showing the most disrespect. Today, a comment was made that I found so totally ironic that I just could not resit blogging about it in my current miserable and cranky condition.

" We mock it because it is taught as it comes right out of the bible and then you can’t explain it.

I mock it openly as the doctrine of the UNKNOWN god."

Isn't that lovely? The Trinity is mocked because it cannot be fully explained or understood? Because God is supposed (per LDS view) to be 100% understood? I'm sorry, can someone point me in the direction where it is 100% clear what exactly Jesus was while on Earth for example? Was He 100% human with merely the power of the priesthood? Was He 100% a god? Was He divine and if so, what does divine mean? Was anyone else divine? Perhaps something that clearly explains the very first God of the very first universe and how that God was created? How the God of this universe became to the knowledge He has now and exalted? Was He like Jesus or like Joseph Smith? Shall we really get into all the "unknowns"?

What was that saying about not throwing stones when you live in glass houses?

In the end, everything goes comes down to faith. Is one's faith built upon the rock of Jesus Christ - the Father of our spirits, the creator of Heaven and Earth, God the Father, the Holy Spirit - the Trinity or a man made idea of who God is? A hippie, a hate monger, or whatever that invention is? While I am ticked off - probably a fleshly ticked off and not a righteous one - at the insult to my beliefs - I see no good in the insult. I see no salvation coming from the banter that continues at all hours between some of the posters in these groups. It becomes pot shots at personalities and beliefs, not a desire to understand the other's beliefs and somewhere to reach out to God and understand Him.

Is it fair that somewhere out there someone in the name of God is waving around a pair of LDS temple garments and "dishonoring" them? No. Is it fair that LDS are fighting back by taking shots at the Trinity in forums or in General Conferences? No. We live in a fallen world. I guess that's more real to me in my ticked off miserable lonely sickely state than when I'm reading my Bible everyday and happy go lucky. Who would have figured.