Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why the cross?

Where exactly does the cross play into Christian faith? As a Mormon, I didn't particularly like the cross - to be blunt, I hated it. It was a constant reminder of a dead Jesus. It made me think of the "Jesus freaks" who were "mean" to me simply because I was a Mormon and wanted to deny that I loved Jesus as much as they did. I hated the cross. To me, it was a sad idol replacing Jesus in the lives of His "believers".

Off and on throughout this journey out of the LDS church, I've wondered what part the cross plays in Christianity.

As God softened and opened my heart throughout my journey, while still LDS I purchased a cross on a necklace and in secret, wore it for months. After a month of wearing it, I showed it to Steve who was a bit disturbed that I had a cross. After the initial shock wore off, he was okay with me wearing it - so long as we were not around LDS, especially not on Sundays when we were so busy with church stuff.

I had always believed the Atonement was a three step process. It began in the Garden, it just so happened to lead to Calvary and a cross, and finally it ended with an empty tomb. I've never taken any parts of this out and have never felt comfortable with taking out any of these steps. However, I notice more and more that focus is always on "the cross". Yet, even I have been becoming more and more drawn to it. Finding it beautiful and a symbol of my faith.

It's curious to me because I don't see how or why the focus is there and not on the entire journey Jesus took. I don't get it. Even now, six months later. For someone to state that the work that Jesus was sent to do - to redeem mankind and overcome death - was finished and completed on the cross, is confusing to me.

Jesus bore the weight of our sins in the Garden (Luke 22:44) - "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." He endured God's wrath poured out upon Him and took the beating we deserved, and died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And on the third day - He overcame death and rose, leaving an empty tomb.

So how or why Christians separate all these events and focus solely on the cross, leaves me dumbfounded. If you take out the Garden - then Jesus didn't accept our sins upon Himself. Recall that when the Jews sacrificed the "sin" goat - they PLACED their sins upon that goat before killing it. If they were to simply kill the goat, but didn't place their sins on the goat - would that goat still be their cleansing sacrifice?

If you take out the empty tomb, then Jesus was just another man who made many claims He couldn't live up to.

So why the cross?

As I discussed this with my friend and mentor Barbie, she reminded me that the cross is offensive to those who deny it.

We discussed how non-Christian religions who also believe in Jesus deny the cross - they shift the focus from that moment to others. Like perhaps the Garden and the empty tomb?

I'm not sure why this is such a big deal for me - it would seem it was easier for me to accept the Trinity than it is for me to move off of this and stop meditating on it. Yet, I keep returning to this. Why the cross? Why not the empty tomb or the garden? Why focus so much on death and not LIFE or obedient sacrifice?

Finally, why would the cross be offensive to those who deny it?

Perhaps I just overthink things - but I'd love to get to the bottom of this. :P

Random Thoughts Again...

I went to my parents' house last night - no mention of religion. :) Mamau made my all time favorite dish (it greatly surpasses my beloved Mint Chicken) - Chicken and Rice. I don't know the Persian name for it - but it's a spicy stew like dish with chicken, carrots, potatoes and a great blend of spices. You bake the rice and put it all together. She also made me a HUGE batch of "Magic Bars" - yum!

Today I made an appointment with a site director at Bethany University. I'm super excited about the prospect of returning to school - especially a Bible college. It's been awhile since I've applied to school, so I'd forgotten how much work it is. It's totally worth it though - I was looking over their curriculum and if I am accepted will start in January. I can't wait!

Tomorrow is my Preschoolers Halloween party. I've invited a bunch of moms from Grace Point and a few neighbors - one of which is my LDS visiting teacher. I can't wait to see how it all goes. We've got some great activities planned and will hopefully by watching, "Meet the Robinsons" at the end.

Steve told me a story this past Sunday. His co-worker, Randy, has a brother who co-owns his own construction business. Randy's brother (let's call him Sam for this since the name was never brought up) is also a Christian and attends the same church Randy does. Sam's partner is LDS. With their buisness, there is the busy season and then the down season. During the down season, the LDS partner (let's call him Hank) always starts talking about how they need to do more stuff to bring in buisness - like advertising. Sam, however, tells Hank however that instead they should pray to God. Sam and Hank have danced this dance for three years now. Each year, they do as Sam suggests and pray. Each year, their business greatly increases. Steve and I were thinking that if that were us, we'd sit up and pay attention. We began a discussion though, about pratical faith. Where is the line drawn? To what extent do our works enable God to work in our lives or stop him from working in our lives? Can we even enable or disable God in our lives? Our understanding of this concept has been greatly skewed by what we were taught in the LDS church. Now, I'm not really sure to what is correct. It doesn't seem logical that if one prays to God for help in finding a job and then sits on the couch all day, that God would then provide. However, no one ever said grace was logical. So the jury is still out on this one.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm so OLD!

I'm a reader of our pastor's blogs and recently he wrote about how people came upon his blog (I'm guessing Google searches if memory serves me well). Curious person that I am, I began to wonder what exactly this was and how I could add it to my own blogs. Friday night our friend Kelly came over and at the end we began discussing blogging and all the bells and whistles.

I'm only 25! How can I feel so out of touch with the world and blogging and Internet? :P I hadn't a clue on how to "RSS" or subscribe to blogs and no idea what "reader" would be best for me since I don't use any of the programs they always suggest.

Since I had a day "off" (kinda) today - I decided while I waited on endless downloads and uploads, to explore this unknown world. Three hours later, wanting desperately to curse the computer and whoever invited "syndication" and gone through both Blogline and Feedburner - I was able to "feed" my MySpace and Blogger blogs. My eyes were burning and crossed and then I realized - I still hadn't "subscribed" to any blogs! Ah!

Finally I have now subscribed to one blog! (No clue on how to subscribe to the other blog - MySpace is so much easier for subscriptions!) However, I have no clue how to check these "readers" except to manually log in - I don't see how that saves me much, if any, time. :P Technology.

I get to work until 2 am tonight - I am simply dreading the day following this long and late shift. Egh!

So if anyone knows any good "reader" sites that will not be too complicated for me but will make my blog reading life easier - please recommend one!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Head Covering

" 3Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. 6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."
1 Cor 11:3-10

This is a sensitive topic for me at times, and I've really wanted to blog about it lately. Since Halloween 2006, I've been covering my head. When able, I cover it in some form or another daily. Whether that be through a bandanna, hat, or head scarf. The problem is, in our modern day culture - covering one's head, is not exactly popular or pleasing to the eye. Add to that, that as a Christian it appears odd to someone that I would be covering my head as Jesus has set me free and I'm no longer under the law.

However, as I sought God daily, I felt more and more moved upon to cover my head as I sat in devotion or prayer to Him. After beginning to attend GP - Steve requested that I simply wear a bandanna so as not to appear "odd" to anyone. I have been trying to be more initial about being submissive to my husband (another unpopular idea in a Feminist World) and so when he requested this, I wanted to be obedient. As the summer hit, I cut my hair short and cute and put aside my desire to be obedient to God with daily covering and found my hair uncovered more and more.

At times, I would feel very convicted to cover my head - and yet ignore it. One time, I was volunteering for a community event with GP and didn't want to possibly embarrass my husband so I went cover less - and ran into a Muslim woman with the most beautiful head scarf I had ever seen. I wanted to talk with her - she had two preschool aged children and her family looked friendly, yet I was uncovered, in a tank top, and shorts. Briefly - I was not dressed modestly in accordance to her standards and didn't feel able to approach her because of this. A second time, while spending my day at the Social Security office shortly after loosing my driver's license, I felt very convicted to "dress modestly" (in Jewish and Muslim standards this means at least a 3/4 length sleeve, ankle reaching skirt or pants, up to the neckline covered, and head covered). Yet I ignored this prompting as I didn't want to discomfort myself during the heat of the summer (head coverings can be very uncomfortable in already heated climates). While there, I noticed a Muslim woman covered. This time, after pacing back and forth outside a few times and regardless that I was again in shorts and a tank top with a cross hanging from my neck, I went ahead and approached her. The discussion went well and I blogged about my interaction with her earlier back in July.

Recently, I felt strongly convicted to properly cover my head before heading to work last week. Now that the "news" is out with my family, I don't fear by myself as much as I did prior to having the talk with them. With the other two times I disobeyed in the front of my mind, this time I dressed "properly" - long sleeve shirt, pants, and covered my head with my favorite long rectangle scarf.

And it was during this time, that Ron came in and spoke with me about hitting rock bottom. And for the first time ever, I was able to firmly say what had been on my mind but holding back. He always returns to his good works and how others look up to him. He keeps returning to how he is working for his salvation. I finally was able to remind him that it isn't his works that save him - it's his relationship with Jesus. His belief - or perhaps faith - in God being real and a relationship something achievable seems to be growing. At the end of the night, he tearfully prayed for God to be with him. It was quite amazing.

God has been re-establishing my faith in Him and helping me with my "unbelief". My conviction to cover my head to show obediance to God's authority in my life is renewed.

Come to Dinner

Yesterday my parents called - Steve avoided the phone fearful of what they might say to him. I returned their call and talked with Mamau. "We're having dinner Monday night. I'm making chicken and rice."

I was really encouraged by the dinner invitation. We can't go since I work Monday nights, but I did say that I would try to come pick up Anya's doll, Hern, and some leftovers.

Excited, I told Steve about the call. He began laughing - I didn't understand. "Monday night? Like Family Home Evening? Amanda, when have they ever invited us over without a reason?"

I realized, he was right. They had never invited us over without a reason. I even asked her on the phone, "What's the occasion?" because I've never known them to have dinner with us without one.

Here's hoping Steve's wrong.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Open House

Today I had an open house. It was a joint venture with an associate in lending. I had met her last summer and we discovered that we were both LDS. We've kept in touch and our faith really seemed to help us be better associates and co-working professionals.

However, once I left the LDS church, I didn't know quite how to tell her and if she would even understand. So I began to purposly loose touch with her (the coward's way I know). She even offered me a client and because I hadn't been totally honest with her, couldn't in good conscience take the referral. It just didn't seem right - especially since both her and the client were LDS and looking for a LDS Realtor.

While I was holding my very first open house, she called as usual to check on me and how business was going. We decided to have a joint open house - she would attend in hopes of finding clients in need of lending and we would work jointly on the marketing for the Open House.

The day of the open house came (yesterday) and I was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. When she arrived I was just barely changing into my business outfit and finish setting up. At last, everything was in place and all we had to do for four hours was talk. Eventually, somehow it came up that her husband had left the LDS church and it didn't appear that he would ever return. The former Mormon in me really hurt for her - especially since she had earlier shared that they had had a temple marriage. Regardless if members have temple marriages, if they do not "endure to the end" it doesn't matter and they cannot be eternal families. I wanted to offer kind and comforting words - as if I were still LDS - but darn it, God just wouldn't let me. "My husband and I left the LDS church some time ago," I confided in her.

She looked up shocked.

In a previous blog I vented how I have come to hate talking about religion or God or that Steve and I are ex-Mormons because they all react the same way. Of course God would then place me in this situation to show me that they don't.

About an hour into the conversation she finally asked why we had left. So I began at the beginning - the small group invitation, the Spirit that was always there but lacking at our ward, returning to our favorite ward to feel the Spirit, wondering if perhaps we were doing something wrong to not feel the Spirit at the LDS church - but perplexed that we felt it so strongly at small group and Christian churches. She opened up more about her husband and that he "discovered" things about the LDS church that he couldn't accept and now she is considering going inactive.

I encouraged her to join me in some outings if she felt comfortable or had time, but we'll see where it leads. The interaction was encouraging for me and hopefully planted seeds for her.

What I found most interesting wasn't the interaction itself - but God's timing. I was beyond frustrated and felt so overwhelmed - then He placed me in this situation with her. It was incrediable and refreshing and such a reminder of God's sovereignty.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Random Word Vomit

Ever seen "Mean Girls"? If so - you know what I mean when I use the phrase, "word vomit". :P

Anyways, tomorrow is a crazy busy day. I have an open house, have to distribute flyers, clean a condo and sometime - do backed up laundry and possibly mop my floors and grocery shop. Needless to say - I'm swamped tomorrow.

But I wanted to share a few thoughts and then be on my way to snooze land.

Today I found out I can research my blogs - who has been visiting, how they came upon my blog - I am TOTALLY excited! Because I am a blog nerd. Which brings me to word vomit - I'm trying so hard now to be more social and conversational in a manner in which I don't - egh, either talk over the conversation or bring it back to a dead horse subject (because it's a subject I'm comfy with) and well, tonight during our Zombie movie night - at the end I fear I might have alienated a younger couple we were trying to fellowship with. In reality, they're in my peer group (only 5 yr difference) and they're new parents so we want to make friends with them. :) However, at the end of the night - another new friend of mine and I were talking about blogging and I think I played a bad hostess by picking her brain about everything I don't understand. I'm only 25 - my generation is a tech savy generation - and yet I cannot figure out for the life of my how to do a simple Google search or RSS (whatever that means) subscribe to blogs I want to read. Or heck, even search sites like Blogger for other blogs that may be of interest. I am so tech unsavy. :P

Our zombie night was a ton of fun. Kelly made carmel covered apples which were totally yummy and we all watched 28 Weeks Later -- a great GROUP movie, not so much a couple movie.

I realized through tonight's experience and my lack of discipline to delve selfishly into what I don't get about something, that I need more control over my tongue. I find that having been home so much, I forget how to make polite small talk or the like and so I am uncomfortably honest or probing at times. I don't mean to be - I am trying to be socially correct but have really lost my "touch" over the last few years.

We also visited "King's Faire" by Canyon Ridge (a Christian mega church here in Vegas). It was awesome! It was a last minute choice to go - so I wish we had planned it better and to be there longer but it was really great. I wish I knew how many people attended their services after visiting their event - Steve and I were discussing checking them out one Saturday evening - should we ever have another free. :P On the radio they referred to their building as a "campus" - and it sure fits. The place is huge and STILL building. One person from my small group told my the King's Faire is like Disneyland - which I just didn't believe. It's a church event after all. Nope, I was wrong. Except Disneyland has Fast Passes. ;) The kids had a blast and I wish I could have explored it more - but we had a blast too. I hope they interest people in attending their services and reach people with the Gospel through their efforts.

Approaching the entrance. Thinking, "So this is what a mega

They brought in six TONS of snow for a snowball fight.

Here is a portion of one of the lines for one of the 10 bounce houses.

When I have more time I want to share some new experiences with Ron - the homeless man God is drawing close to Him. We had an amazing conversation last night and he actually prayed at the end! It was awesome. More later.

Finally, while adding captions to my Dropshots account - I stumbled upon this older video. It was taken in August (not that old) or September and I'm still sick at this point so you hear my coughing occasionally. But Steve and I laugh so hard we're crying.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Share Photos - Free Video Hosting

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scandalous Grace - Vent

Recently, our pastor touched upon what he called, "scandalous grace". He was referring to Jonah who hated the Assyrians and didn't want God to have grace upon them.

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:1-2)

I never thought I would be guilty of this - of wanting to with hold the gospel from anyone. And yet, I realize that I avoid a certain group - not because of not wanting them to experience God's grace, but because of my own selfishness. (On a sidebar, I uploaded a sermon from Manna recently for a friend of mine on Selfish People - very convicting, if you get a chance I highly recommend taking a lunch break and listening to.)

Latter Day Saints. Who would have guessed it? ;) Brigham Young taught the following:

"they will not be trusted either for good or evil; and if they go to hell they will be despised by the damned. That is the condition of apostates. Why? Because they are traitors, and having lied about one thing they will lie about another; having lied once they will lie again. " --Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 13:, p.218 - 219 (Another sidebar - this brings into question when Brigham Young began teaching about the "lie" of an eternal hell and when this particular doctrine evolved and what particular in history was surrounding these events.)

Of course, as sharp tongued as Brigham Young was - the meek and humble Prophet Joseph Smith was surprisingly as well. Even when "evil men" weren't crashing through the doors in the middle of a service (see the apologetic answer for why Joseph "boasted" he was better than Jesus).

"I testify again, as the Lord lives, God never will acknowledge any traitors or apostates. Any man who will betray the Catholics will betray you; and if he will betray me, he will betray you."
1844-June 16-DHC 6:473-479
SERMON by the Prophet-The Christian Godhead-Plurality of Gods.
Meeting in the Grove, east of the Temple, June 16, 1844

(What happened to grace? Forgiveness?)

I'm not sure when perhaps the LDS church became politcally correct - but these type of remarks have continued well into the 20th century. The message handed down to each generation of members.

"Apostates, liars, and deceivers may write and speak untruths, but so persecuted they the prophets in all ages." (quoting Bruce R. McConkie in Improvement Era 1946)

Apostate = liar = deceiver = the same people who persecuted (and remember slaughtered) the prophets of the Old Testament. How lovely.

I know - even before I heard BY's teachings on the "apostates" (those vile evil creatures! :P ) I never trusted ex-Mormons. If they were trust worthy, why on Earth would they be ex-Mormons?

Reap what you sow - I will have that verse and reference memorized soon.

As now an ex-Mormon, I now also carry this stigma. No one seems to hear a word I say! When I blog or post about my journey and how God is working in my life - it must surely be a lie since, after all, I am an ex-Mormon. When I explain LDS doctrine to active "Chapel Mormons" then I must surely be lying or ignorant or fooled by those darn "anti-Mormons" because I am after all, an ex-Mormon. I want to bash my head against a wall.

And so, I hesitate now about sharing my story upon request. It's almost as if after all these months I went from this shy girl sharing her story to finally being able to say - face to face to Latter Day Saints WHY I left and why I remained out of the church.

Why share one's story when asked when all that's going to happen is that one receiving the story is going to say the following:

1) LDS: "Well I hope you find what you're looking for."
Me: "I didn't go looking for anything."

2) LDS: "I'm sorry that Satan has won you over. Please know you can return to God's true church at any time. God is always waiting with His arms wide open for you."
Me: "It was God who told me to leave. I triple checked my Bible - it fit the Spirit and not the devil. It's God."
LDS: "Sure it is."

3) LDS: "You've damned yourself to hell."
Me: "The LDS church doesn't even believe or teach about an eternal hell. You do realize that don't you? The BIBLE does - because Hell is real, but the LDS church doesn't."
LDS: "That's not true."
Me: "Yes it is. Read the following by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young."
LDS: "No, you're wrong. You misunderstood."
Me: "Go ask your Bishop."

4) LDS: "I'm sorry you're having a hard time with church." (Or the standards.)
Me: "I'm not and I wasn't."

5) LDS: "So you've sinned?"
Me: "You do realize we are all sinners only saved by grace? But to answer your question, no I wasn't breaking any of my temple covenants, the Word of Wisdom, or any other "major" commandments. No I wasn't sinning like you imply."

6) LDS: "So you were a jack-Mormon or a cultural Mormon?"
Me: "No, I was pretty hardcore. I centered my life around the church."

And yet - nope, I'm still assumed a liar. I don't want to share my story with any of them anymore because I'm sick of the same lines every time. Nothing I say from the Bible is going to reason with them - there is no reasoning with them because everything is based on what they "know to be true" via feelings or distorted definitions of Biblical terms like eternity, beginning, end, created, and so forth. There was no reasoning with me. I'd have none of it. Why I expect others to be more movable than I was is beyond me.

I am surrounded by Latter Day Saints - my family, remaining friends, and community at times (depends on who is moving in and out lately) and yet I have come to tango with sharing my story - just as I did with my parents - because I am tired of the same old rejection over and over and over. The assumptions. I don't see how sharing my story, my journey, or what God is doing in my life is at all productive when it's simply turned around and credited to Satan anyways. So, do I want to share with LDS? NO.

God has moved my life, yet I still have LDS friends who leave Book of Mormon thoughts for me. The LDS family I babysit for talks with me as if I'm simply sick or ill and will return to the ward shortly. My Visiting Teachers talk to me as if I still believe the Book of Mormon or other two standard works are true and assume I'll be joining them for activities. I've been gone for six months, I'm removing my name from the rolls, I'm not coming back. The most rational one in my whole life so far has been my former Bishop, who so far has been pretty awesome about removing my name and helping me through the process.

I have become so disillusioned that anyone will ever reach practicing Latter Day Saints with the freeing, liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. Then God reminds me that no one reached Steve or I with the gospel either. The Holy Spirit did it all through several interactions. While others in our lives totally gave up and never thought we'd leave the LDS church - others who we would have never expected to, were praying "without ceasing" for our salvation. Steve's twin brother, Dan, and his wife Jessica are Christians and prayed for years that we'd come to Christ. They shared the Bible, they put themselves out there - only to be shut down by us.

" Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" - Gal 6:7

When Dan and Jess shared the gospel with us, tried to warn us about the LDS church, and stood firm in their convictions - we didn't honor them in a Christian behavior but did what we felt we had been taught in the church to do. We cut them off. We left them in the dust. We went off and on for 2-3 years without talking or interacting with them unless needed. We wouldn't have anyone who was so "anti-Mormon" around us or endangering the spiritual welfare of our children. So while I hate that I feel like I'm sowing what I've reaped, I totally and completely understand their (my parents) mindset should our relationship mirror that between Steve and I and Dan and Jess.

I look at their example and am very impressed - especially with as badly as we behaved towards them anytime they would bring up "anti-Mormon" literature and our reoccurring resentment towards them for bringing it up in the first place.

In the midst of this frustrating time in my life, I have to wonder - which is more difficult - parting the Red Sea or changing the hearts of the hardened and deceived?

Family Makeup

Over the past few weeks I've been leaving lunches for the next day for my Papau and included in these lunches are scripture passages.

My family makeup includes my parents (Mamau and Papau), their daughter and my Aunt Melanie and her family - husband Bryan and two children, from that there is my Uncle Jim - Mamau's brother, and his wife Grace. I have second or third cousin named Angel who is amazing and is actually planning on coming to our movie night this week and will be meeting some of our friends from Grace Point which I'm totally pumped about. :)

Out of these family members - all of them are LDS except Angel, who is spiritually searching at the moment. She attends a Protestant church with a friend here and again with a girlfriend and Mamau has been inviting her to some Young Women events and activities in hopes of getting her interested in the church. Ironically enough, just a few weeks ago Mamau was trying to enlist my help in getting Angel interested in the church.

I call Mamau and Papau my parents because they raised me - and my Papau has been a father figure to me almost my entire life. He is the one member of my family whom I haven't had any type of discussion about the church with. We talk everyday, and we used to discuss church all the time together. Now, we simply discuss the business - what I need to do at work during the week, what invoices have come in or slowed down, and so forth.

Monday night when I left him a bowl of stew, I left him a passage that had just recently been shared with me during my Sunday night small group.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4:16

At the bottom of this I wrote in Grace Point's web address and left it in the fridge for him. The next time I talked with him - he shared with me that he had enjoyed the stew I left. I know that he knows, I suspect that he knows that I know - but we just don't talk about it. To me, this is understandable. I haven't heard from Mamau all day today - which I'm hoping has nothing to do with what is going on.

If my parents visit Grace Point's website, then they'll find a church dedicated to the Gospel of Christ. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Radical Obedience

This term was used in the sermon at our church this past Sunday and it really stuck with me. Radical obediance. The pastor spoke about not needing more "convenient Christians" but Christians who would be radically obedient. I thought back over the past six months and then thought to the future and wondered what "radical obediance" would look like in my own life. Who knew that within 48 hours time it would include finally submitting to God and telling my family about leaving the LDS church?

But what else does it include? I've been thinking about my life right now and what needs transformation and what seems to be the same as it was yesterday and six months ago and even a year ago. I've been wondering how much I'm willing to sacrifice for God and have been really blessed to hear some great sermons and discussions that I've recently downloaded on just this topic.

For example, as a woman I am constantly told that I have the right to go out and work any job that I want. That as a woman I don't have to stay at home, that I don't have to cook and clean and take care of babies, that as a woman - I can be whatever I want to be. That as a woman, I have rights and privileges and gosh darn it - they are mine mine mine mine. However, how healthy is this world perspective for a Christian woman? Is radical obedience in the small things? When the day has just been devestating because all the kids I watch act like they are either hopped up on Red Bull or on downers, I'm exhausted, and then Steve comes home and totally ticks me off or offends me - is radical obedience present when I hold my tongue and submit to my husband? Is it present when everything inside me wants to simply be slothful the rest of the night or the following day and yet I don't?

When I heard the phrase, "radical obedience" I immediately thought of my best friend Barbie who has moved across country dropping everything to heed God's call in her family's life. Who holds her tongue with a rough around the edges husband and who has so much more grace in her family life than I can ever imagine having in mine. Yet that's when it hit me - she didn't wake up one morning and suddenly become this radically obedient Christian by moving across country a few times.

She became a radically obedient Christian by - being obedient with the small tasks put before her. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and be this completely obedient Christian - but I can intentionally be obedient and when I stumble, pray, repent, and try again. Obedience is a continual walk - otherwise I'd never need Jesus. Yet I do. Desperately. I with hold and continue to with hold - as Max Lucado shares in 3:16 - I'm the cow with the paint can on her head running from those who will save me.

In a recent children's Bible video I watched, Samuel says to King Saul, "Obedience is more important than sacrifice." I may not be giving all my possessions away and moving to the East coast or a foreign country - I may not be giving this great sacrifice, I may not even always be discomforted by my obediance - but obedience is the key to my walk with God. Through it, I learn, I grow, and I fellowship with Him. It's amazing. Obedience - it's such a simple concept and yet, such a hard concept to practice.

Heaven or Hell Bound - Expect the Expected

That darn house phone. I lost it again this morning. It was outside by the grill - I've gotta start replacing it to it's hook at night. I had heard it ringing this morning, but couldn't find it. Curious as to my mystery caller, I scrolled through the missed call logs. My parents called.

I breathed deep and hit redial. Mamau explained that she had had time to think about the news I had shared with her yesterday and had some questions if I didn't mind answering them. I guess God was going to keep this ball rolling pretty steadily. It's sort of like a band-aid - do you pull it off slowly so it won't hurt so much or fast so it's over quickly?

Either Melanie had shared with her that we were now attending a new church (which I had shared in a reply email to Melanie yesterday) or she finally understood from our conversation yesterday that I was attending another church because it was the first thing she asked about. Followed closely by assuming that Grace Point was either influencing me or instructing me to get rid of my Mormon books, movies, and other items. I wasn't prepared for this question. It should have been a question I should have expected - but it wasn't. First, I strongly clarified that GP had never asked or directed me to remove LDS items from my home. So the follow up question was, "Well then, why are you doing it?"

I was silent for awhile. She assumed this meant I didn't have an answer. I did have one - but I didn't want to fight with her, I didn't want to hurt her feelings by saying, "Because, God has convicted me to clean my home of all false doctrines and teachings. That means I'm cleaning house." But I couldn't say that to her. This conversation she was upset - explaining to me that I cannot discern between God and Satan's guidance and I'm leaving the one True church. She shared her fear that I'm going to hell - which shocked me. The LDS church doesn't even teach of an eternal hell - a spirit prison for bad people until the Savior comes, but not an eternal hell. There's also Outer Darkness - but that's for a handful of people who have certain KNOWLEDGE of God and then turn and deny Him and work against His church and thirst for the blood of His prophets. Finally, according to LDS doctrine, the worst I would get (should I utterly refuse the church still in the Spirit World and no one redid my temple work) would be the telestial kingdom (bottom kingdom) - which technically I don't qualify for since it's for those who rejected Christ as their Savior - in which Brigham Young taught that people would kill themselves to enjoy this kingdom. I reminded Mamau of this and she didn't believe me!

Now, I know that Brigham Young taught that all apostates are liars (about their spiritual condition) - but to see this going into effect with my very own parents was very grounding. I couldn't believe it. I would testify of how powerfully God was changing our family, how Grace Point had been a vessel that God had been using - all these things and all my Mamau could hear was "stress" in my voice. The stress she was hearing was having this discussion with her, not because I wasn't sure of what god to follow.

I was trying so hard to hold ground for the Lord, to glorify Him, and yet not fight or debate with her. Apologetics would get me nowhere with her. And I knew if I brought one item up she'd immediately see me as an "anti-Mormon", although she might already view me this way since I'm cleaning house (and have been) of my LDS materials.

Without a doubt, I KNOW that God has been guiding me and teaching our family and that we are "heaven bound". I know without a doubt that God is working to create in us "radical obediance" to Him and that's why this darn "Band-Aid" of sharing this with my family has become such a huge thing to me and for some reason I cannot seem to convey that to my family.

Envision a person beating their head against a rough brick wall until it is a mangled, bloody mess. That's me right now. All my parents take from this is that I'm Satan led, stressed out, unhappy, and wasn't able to cope in the LDS church. But ANYONE who knew me when I was LDS knew how devout I was, knew how the Church was the CENTER of my life, knew that sure I had happy and frustrated times - but that will occur anywhere and I knew that. I likened myself to Nephi time and time again, telling myself that he never complained and neither would I. I embraced my bumps in the road with callings, scheduling, or Visiting Teaching assignments or late night Temple visits. Because I was passionatly in love with my "Savior" and the LDS church because with every part of my being I KNEW it was true.

Yet, that's not what my family hears when I tell them that. When I share that no we weren't having a hard time, no we weren't searching elsewhere, no we weren't stressed out, and no we weren't having problems coping with the standards they just don't seem to believe us. When I say, "The Holy Spirit was not at any of the meetinghouses - we went to our old wards seeking Him out and He was not there, but then we'd go to these other Christian churches because we enjoyed observing other religions different from our own and He was overpowering. He was present and I couldn't figure out why." When I shared that we prayed for so long for an answer about the missing Spirit in action, and finally were directed to GP and the Spirit manifested itself in our lives like never before, the reply, "It must have been Satan," or "You weren't patient enough,"

Of course, my tounge slipped then and some apologetics did come out, "Why wasn't I patient? Because I prayed all the time? The BIBLE says to PRAY WITHOUT CEASING."

I love my parents dearly, and I do not expect this to be over anytime soon. I should expect that the same responses I've received for the past six months would of course be the same ones I'll receive from them. Just for some reason, I had hoped that it wouldn't be.

In Pastor Devin's newest sermon, "The Flight", he asks the question - how many of us (Christians) are asleep in the hull of the ship while those around us are calling out to their false gods? I love my parents, after so long I finally obeyed God in honesty. Honestly, I don't want to be the one to tell them that the church is false. Plenty of people told me it was false and it never phased me - that's not how God reached me.

He showed me overwhelming Truth outside the LDS church first, then opened my eyes later. I don't want to fight or debate or argue with my parents. I can't wait until this Band-Aid is finally off.

Heaven Bound - thank God for grace.

Under the Authority of the LDS church -- AGAIN?

I emailed my former Bishop earlier today - well I guess yesterday at this point, to begin the process of name removal from the LDS church. From the research I have done on it - it is supposed to be in this "day and age" a much easier process. It used to be a very painful process, at times (according to exmormon.org as well as other biased sources) at times requiring legal aid in order to remove one's name from the records of the church. At this point due to the voices of upset exmormons, the road is supposed to have been paved for those like me to simply be able to send in a letter and receive a letter back within 45 days that my name is removed (and I'm no longer in Christ's church or in the book of life and so on and so forth).

However, imagine my surprise when the Bishop's reply email - while as usual polite and kind - contained the possibility of a disciplinary council. Now, these councils are really nothing to be scared of. You go in a room, you sit with either the Stake or Ward Presidency and you "confess" your sins and then you are either ex-communicated or disfellowshipped from the church for a set amount of time before you are up for review to come back in again. This doesn't bother me so much, it's the idea of submitting myself to the authority of the LDS church as if I had sinned and was in need of correction. I haven't done anything wrong. I'm simply following God's will in my life. Egh, here's hoping I'm misunderstanding or that there is some way to bypass this if I'm not. If they still do these I totally understand why some people wait 12 years or so before making it "official".

Monday, October 22, 2007

On the way to Ninevah

This morning I stumbled around looking around for my house phone which was oddly missing from it's base. I found it and saw that I had a missed call at almost 10 pm last night - from my parents. My heart skipped a beat. Except on Christmas Eve or when babies are being born - I've never known them to be up that late at night. Well, couldn't avoid them - called them back.

Anya forgot her beloved baby doll at Jim and Grace's house. Ah my heart rate returned to normal. Wasn't there supposed to be some peace somewhere in this whole thing?

We hung up the phone. But later I called her back to schedule let her know I could take her to a hair appointment. And guess what came tumbling out? "Mamau, there's something I've been meaning to tell you... we've left the LDS church..."

"What?! Steve's left the LDS church?! Oh sweetheart, we'll keep him our prayers..."

God has quite the sense of humor. He just didn't want to make it easy on me. While the conversation was painfully slow it was also incredibly fast at the same time. It seemed over all too quickly and like slowly pulling teeth at the same time.

Was this God's time or my own? It seemed everything we discussed we had to go over two and three times and still she didn't seem to understand what I was saying. I thought I was being clear that we had left the LDS church six months ago, that we had discussed it with the Bishop, and that we were being obedient to God now.

The theme was the same throughout the entire conversation - she assumed we must be going through a hard time. That I was under too much stress and that Satan was attacking us during this hard time - I had to remind her that we had left the LDS church six months ago - when we were in callings we loved and were totally excited about (Steve was in the Young Men's presidency - totally pumped about it and I was in charge of getting the women to the Cannery and working with our Emergency Preparedness Specialist) . I have a really hard time standing up to my parents about the things that are important - I can argue with them about politics and child rearing but not about important things like say religion which until now, we've never disagreed on. Mostly, I think it's because when I was so rebellious before, I "stood up to them" and was so wrong on everything - so I've swung the opposite direction and become a doormat in some respects.

I didn't want to debate them in doctrine but I didn't want to "wimp out" for the Lord either, so I tried my best to have wisdom and hoped that the Lord would simply give me the words that I needed and the courage that I knew I lacked.

I'm not sure they understand that we are attending a different church and I'm not sure they understand yet that we are going to remove our names from the church rolls (in fact - I sent the request off for my named removed just this afternoon) - Mamau was very emotional about this - understandably so. One moment she was almost directing me to remove my name from the church rolls because I boldly told her, "I don't believe it's true" and in another moment telling me to keep my name on the roll list because I won't be able to be in heaven with her if I don't accept the truth on the other side.

God is in control from here on out - I'm just hoping I don't fumble the ball. I guess I'm on my way to my own "Nineveh" now. Where's that rockin' vegetable rock band to keep me entertained for the trip?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taking the PLuNge

Tonight was my Uncle Jim's birthday. Time flies. His wife, my Aunt Grace, just was baptized into the LDS church in August. A few Christmases ago, my parents got my kids the Living Scriptures Animated Book of Mormon series - it's about 13 DVDs with Activity books. Christians perhaps are more familiar with their Old and New Testament series that also have activity books. Knowing that I might tell my family about leaving the LDS church, I've decided to bring the dvds with me to give to my Aunt Melanie's family.

At the end of the night, I offered Melanie the DVDs - I didn't offer an explanation - but simply asked her if she wanted them. When I brought them into her, she asked why I was giving them to her. Here I came to my crossroads - should I sidestep the question or should I be honest? "I don't need them, and Mamau is always talking about how your videos are getting worn out."

Of course God wasn't going to let me off the hook that easy. I'd invited the door to be opened, so here it was and it was opening. "Why don't you need them? Do you have copies?"

Is there a rewind button on life? "No. I'm cleaning out our house and wanted you to have them. Steve and I left the LDS church and we don't want them anymore."

Oh crap - did I just say that? Did I really just say that? Pinch yourself Amanda - you do realize you are speaking with Melanie right? Melanie is my biological mother's sister, she's Mamau's daughter and best friend, and devout, hard core - extremely knowledgeable LDS. If I had a question about Mormonism - she'd be the one I'd ask. Attended BYU so has college level religion classes under belt. Indoctrinated for decades at this point. I don't think I've ever asked her a question she couldn't answer. Fiercely protective of her family and someone who (as a rebellious teen) I used to passionately hate and now sincerely love and care for. And I just told her that I left the LDS church.

It came up that I hadn't told Mamau and Papau yet and then the topic changed.

This next week will be interesting. Right now, our Pastor is presenting a series about Jonah. Steve says in comparision to today's sermon, I'm in the storm and was just thrown overboard. Perhaps God forgot that I don't swim very well? And what will be my whale? :p

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Adullam

Over the last week or so - I have had this cleaning "obsession". Finally, I've been motivated enough to go through every room and begin cleaning out what needs to be cleaned out. I've began separating the kids' items into piles - give away, throw away, storage (rotate the toys), and keep. I love giving things away - but with few exceptions, rarely know of anyone who has a need for something. So I store away - in hopes of giving it away to those in need.

Finally, I've begun to sift through our things and have found people who need them. Encouraged, I've continued through each room in hopes of being able to clear out my home. As I fill a new trash bag or box of stuff to give away, I feel lighter and better. Until the past few days.

There have been three "sermons" that have hit me pretty hard this week. This past Sunday, our pastor finished his High Definition living series with a sermon entitled, "Epitaph". As he speaks, he looks around the congregation - and as he said the following, he was looking in our section of the congregation so it felt as if he was speaking directly to me. God surely used him to convict me further in my disobedience to what He has been directing me to act upon.

"There's someone you know you need to talk to about your faith. God's changed your life in the last three months and there's someone you haven't told, they have no clue that you're different, that God's working in your life and God's been speaking to you to tell them and say it. Say it."

Thursday night, as I was driving to work, I listened to a discussion on Family Life Today about" Parenting with Kingdom Purpose" - which I've heard the slogan, "kingdom agenda" thrown around tons of times, but have never stopped to think about what it meant. Even when I was LDS, in the temple, I covenanted to commit everything I was and had to the furthering of the Lord's kingdom here on Earth - in retrospect, a bit creepy - however, it's the same thing I'm committing to as a Christian, so no real difference there - except I make that commitment straight to God and not a third party. During this discussion someone on the show makes the remark, "Christianity is not a spectator sport." And it hit me - even though six months ago I obeyed God and left the LDS church with my husband - somewhere along the lines I'd ended up back in the sacrament pews, quietly seated, entrapped in motions with no real heart again. How had I ended up even further back than square one?

While going through all my old stuff - it hit me. My house was still filled to the brim with so much Mormonism - and so am I. Tonight, I finally emptied my drawers of my garments. My initial reaction was to store them - in fact, that's the first thing that I did. I began neatly folding them and putting them away as if I'd be using them again. Then I realized what I was doing, so I began thinking it over in my mind. Why was I keeping them? I should know how wrong keeping them should be from both a Christian and Mormon perspective - yet here I was, wanting to fold and store them. Half an hour later, and still battling inside - a comment from Wednesday night's small group came to mind. Each small group is discussing the sermon given each Sunday - so this discussion had the question at the end asking if God was leading anyone to "say it, do it, live it"? I kept my mouth shut - but Steve volunteered my whole parental situation which lead to an in depth discussion. One member stated that faith is not knowing if everything will be okay, not knowing if I can really trust God, but still doing it anyway. So tonight, with that in mind for some odd reason - even though I still had a ton of "good" reasons in my head to keep my garments, I promptly threw them into a trash bag.

While clearing out other items, I found last year's calendar - littered with dates from temple prep classes, a trip to Utah, dinners, temple recommend interviews, and of course - our endowment session and our sealing.

As I flipped through the last year of our lives (2006) - I felt this immense longing and thought to myself how I almost wished that God had just left us in the LDS church. Life was more simple. Was easier. More comfortable. I just wanted that back.

A year ago - when we sat down together as a family - we were all praying to the same god. Now - we're not. Now, everyday I know that God is telling me to tell my parents about what He has done - to glorify Him. Yet I disobey. And it's not just here that I've disobeyed. I've kept my temple bag, my garments, I still have LDS books littered throughout my house - and so forth. I have not disentangled myself from the thought process. I have not stopped "mourning" for the times I lost - I cannot seem to separate the memories with the religion.

Which brings me to the final sermon I heard this week. While at work Thursday night, I listened to Manna's latest sermon - Adullam. It's the cave David seeks refuge while Saul is seeking to kill him. It is here, where God grows him and prepares him for being king. It's an amazing sermon and it hit home pretty hard. The basic message of the sermon (at least for me) was that God puts us through hard times, to mature and grow us. We cannot go from the fields to the "palace" without being overwhelmed so He makes sure we are ready for His best. The Bible tells us that God has a plan for all of us - I am so obsessed with the here and now, the temporal, the meaningless really - that I have failed to see the eternal. I do not see the "end goal" - to live eternally with Jesus and worship at His feet, but rather only see the here and now and paralyzing fear of loosing my family whom I've only come to appreciate in recent years.

This now is my Adullam. David was MUCH better at it than I am - I do not praise God every day, I do not have faith that God will get me through it, and I do not believe He will conquer my parents hearts. But you know what I learned last Wednesday night? Our small group leader, Donny was there. He's been such an inspiration to Steve and I - and his group was something that God used to really open our eyes to the Truth OUTSIDE the LDS church and he shared something that really shocked me, "You know, I never believed that you or Steve would ever leave the LDS church. And here you are."

Faith is about the unseen - that's what Hebrews tells us. I've been really struggling with this. Perhaps that's why this is my cave. And when I finally emerge - I'll be a better and changed person for it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Church Rolls

Tonight on my drive home, I realized how many changes God has been placing on my heart. He's placed in my life pretty amazing people and really preparing me to move into further obediance to Him. I'm freaked out beyond belief but I think the Lord is really moving me to really severe all my LDS ties.

I've slowly moved out of my former ways - cleared out 98% of my books, movies, and such. But I've denied who I am to my family and I've kept my name on the LDS church rolls.

Perhaps it's time to prayfully consider to remove my name from the rolls of the LDS church. With the removal of my name comes some pretty heavy consequences in the eyes of the church - my "eternal family" will no longer be eternal, I will no longer be baptized, and my name will be blotted out of the book of life. At least, according to them that is.

I think the reality of the situation will be anything from a burden lifted from my shoulders that perhaps I don't fully understand is there to more spiritual freedom than I can imagine due to obediance to God's direction in my life.

Honestly, I can't rationally explain why I've kept my "membership" for so long anyways. The only reason I can is irrational fear - that once I've removed my name I'll be like those poor people in Jeremiah and God will strike my family and I down.

Next will come the research mode on this - I'll have to acquire my Bishop's home address and mail him a formal letter requesting the removal of my name from church rolls and then await my letter from Salt Lake headquarters.

On the parental front, God has also been prompting me in an unexpected friendship within GP. Tonight, I finally let me barriers down and found we had more in common than I knew - it was amazing and such a blessing to get to know this sister in Christ. I feel so much more prepared to discuss my faith with my parents - still terrified - but more prepared. God is so awesome. I've felt so horrible about my continued disobedience to His Will about my life in this area - questioning how He could still love me while I daily disobey Him, and yet He still provides such amazing, supportive, and loving friends to help me through this. He truly is a loving and amazing Father who does only want us to mature spiritually.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


One of the families I babysit for is LDS. Originally, when I began babysitting for them, I was LDS as well. Their financial situation has always been up and down and even while frustrating for my family on the receiving end for payment, I've also felt sympathy for them.

Most recently, they've hit a larger than usual bump and the LDS church has had to step in again to help them meet their bills. The LDS church has a welfare system for it's members in which it will pay certain bills for it's members should all other avenues be exhausted. Today I discovered one bill that is included as payment is also child care. Which meant, I received a check made out in my name from the LDS church. I've received them before - usually reimbursements from activities that I had purchased items for.

Since my apostasy, I've been pretty straight forward with them. Out of my LDS associates and/or "friends" - the most honest and straight forward with them than anyone else. When asked why Steve and I left, I didn't butter it up, "it's a false church" came right out. Yet, they've remained our "friends" - if that term really applies to the relationship we seem to have.

Today, when I received that check - I was speechless. I placed it on my fridge and began to ponder it. Did I really want to accept it? This check was written from the funds of honest tithe payers who were writing checks to a false god - to an idol. This was worship, sacrifice given to a god outside my own - should I really be willing to accept it when I've been so strongly convicted of idolatry in my own life with my own parents and other areas of my life? Is money so important to me that I am willing to take it no matter the source or how tainted it is?

At this point in our lives, Steve and I are in a pretty tight spot financially. Babysitting and working three nights a week isn't a hobby, it's something that we need for me to do.

Not taking the check is a risk because the family is already behind in their payments by two weeks at this point and I risk simply loosing this money. However, what is really more important to me - the eternal or the temporal? Perhaps this is a moment to impact the eternal by making a statement and simply trusting God to take of my family should we end up without being paid by this family. I can't help but be scared by all of this and how it could (temporally) impact my family.

Birthday Cake

Yesterday was Steve's birthday and our neighbor's Greg and Jamie invited us over for a taco dinner. Jamie and I have been excited to try Jessica Seinfeld's recipes from her new book, Deceptively Delicious which was previewed on Oprah (not a fan myself - but I recorded the episode to see what the whole fuss was about on this book). Jerry Seinfeld referred to this particular cake recipe as a "last meal" - he could eat this and be ready to have the switch flipped. :P

So I decided to try it out. I made the family the chocolate cake that was fortified with beets. I took some pictures along the way. Along with the end results. I've ordered Jessica's book from Aliante library (I'm number 21 on the waiting list) as well as The Sneaky Chef. If anyone wants to join me some Saturday in trying out multiple recipes, let me know.

Slowly melting the chocolate for the cake.

Just added the beet purree to the batter.

Added the melted chocolate and now baking.

The finished cake.

All the kids wanting to just dig in!

Paul wants the cake now.

Paul having a slice of "Daddy birthday cake".

This morning, the first thing the kids asked for was more birthday cake. Two adults - Jamie and I, both knew what was in the cake and we loved it. The men - Greg and Steve, had no idea until they had almost finished their first slice and they both enjoyed it. Overall, it was a hit. The beet chocolate cake is a healthy alternative that my kids and my big kid loves. I loved being able to pull out my dusty cake decorating kit that I purchased almost two years ago and make Steve's cake look all "pretty" (okay, pretty bad, but it's the effort that counts right?).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

God First

While driving out to Pahrump this weekend, Steve and I had a chance to have at length adult conversation. Something we have been struggling with has been our time management. I work three nights a week at my parents' store, we attend two amazing small groups, and only have two nights and one whole day left to ourselves. During the week, I have anywhere between 2-5 children in my home, make dinner, kiss Steve goodbye and head off to work until midnight.

Bonus, we've been fellowshipping with other Christians - having NFL nights, trading dinners, and tons of play dates. It's so awesome. But again, taking away time for one on one time as a couple.

It seems that God is always opening my eyes to untrue beliefs I hold and never even knew it. For example, as a Mormon my faith was all about works. What could I do to enable God to work in my life and change me? What works would hinder God from my life and for "thwarting" God's plans? If I had a problem with sin, it was all about practical application (with of course reminders to pray). Right now, I'm really stuck on what exactly God is showing me - but through the confusing fog of it all, I do recognize that He is showing me that it is not about practical faith, but utter and complete dependence on Him.

Right now, our schedules are so swamped that God has been really laying on my heart how best to overcome the feelings of distance between one another - and as an ex-Mormon, it's not what I expected at all.

First I need to actively seek Him. This means a lot of things for me - bringing myself into not only submission to His authority in my life, but also obediance to it. Saturday night after Steve had passed out from exhaustion after his reunion, I opened up my Beth Moore study and was completely convicted. I've acknowledged that my parents are my "trophies" and I have allowed myself to put their feelings and my desire for their approval before God in my life and heart. Beth Moore directly spoke to this Saturday night and gave it a name - idolatry. I realized how much idolatry was in my heart and over the past few days have been trying to follow Oswald Chamber's sound Biblical advice to "renounce" all of these things (2 Cor 4:2) as I recall them. It's not easy since it's also a battle of pride, "Really, was that so bad? Was it a sin?" And then, ironically, I must bring myself back to that Law - yes, it was so bad; yes it was a sin; and yes I need to repent and renounce it and move forward to become more like Christ.

Also, in seeking God first and setting idolatry out of my heart, it means I need to intentionally remember everyday to put Him before both spouse, children, and self. For the first time in ages, I actually woke up at 5 am and spent time in devotion with God - it was awesome and I know the only reason I didn't fall asleep and droll all over my Bible was because of God. He sustained me and kept me awake, He gave me energy to get the morning started, and have the home ready for my family as the each woke up. It was amazing.

God also placed on my heart service and that it shouldn't be based around comfort or convenience. A wise mentor of mine reminded me that service in the body should not substitute for daily time spent with God. Since I tend to forgot to manage my time and submit to God rather than my flesh when it comes to sleeping in, I know I have to actively remember this. Steve and I plan to serve together in the children's area of Grace Point - not sure what we will do yet, but whatever we can to further the kingdom or at least help it move more efficiently is fine with us. I've felt such peace about adding yet another item to our schedule, because I know that through serving God (and of course daily time with Him) we will draw closer as a couple and family.

I'm learning that it's not about practical application, but rather putting God first, keeping Him there, and dependency on Him. Still struggling with the conflict about how much works plays into our relationship with God, because I do believe our disobediance or obediance to Him does play a part in our connection with Him - but to what extent I'm not sure yet. Romans (5:6) says that Christ died for us while we were still ungodly, in effect, still in rebellion against God. He loves us so much, He died for us while we willfully rebelled against Him. How "ungodly" can we be as believers and still expect God to back us? Less and less of me says we can't - and more and more of me is coming to believe, that regardless of how we behave, God loves us. He loves us when we are obedient to Him and when we're not. When Iserael was completly faithless - to the point God likened her to a prostitute - He still remained faithful. With the eternal covenant of lasting salvation, with the completion of our faith in Jesus who redeemed us when we didn't even know we need redeeming, it appears that God is always faithful to us - even when we're not faithful to Him.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is fast approaching and my kids could not be more excited. :) I have Christian friends who both do and do not celebrate the "holiday", my husband and I have decided to continue on in our celebration of it. I have always loved Halloween, from the scary movies, changing seasons, and costumes - it's been my favorite time to decorate and socialize. We've finally gotten our decorations out, the kids have their costumes and are totally excited. Now we're just scouting the community events for fun things to do around town that won't break the bank. Paul will be a Transformer. (Not a picture of Paul - I keep missing him when he's dressed up - thanks Steve :P ).
Anya will be Pablo from Backyardigans.
Everyday Paul talks about being a robot and asks if tonight will be the night to go "trick or treating", if tonight will be Halloween. When we decorated for the house, he surely thought that today was the day.

I wonder, as Christians, do we have Jesus on the mind as often as my three year old has candy, trick or treating, and his Transformer costume on the mind? Or as much as I love Dorito's Fiery Habino's chips drenched in Dill pickle juice? Mmmmhhhmmm! Yep, I love the fall - it brings out all my favorite things and reminds me with all my toddler's quirks that I need to keep my focus on God - even if that means putting my favorite foods second. :P

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Apologetic General Conference

Why didn't they cover apologetics during General Conference when I was hardcore devoted LDS?! Isn't it interesting that the weekend that I had planned on telling my parents that I'm not LDS anymore so many things are happening - first the bombshell of test results, second I just spent hours at a LDS Ladies Night at Deseret Book (I admit, I was tempted by the apologetic books "Setting the Record Straight" series..), and now I'm listening to a few clips from today's conference. And wouldn't you know it? It's APOLOGETICS!!!

Okay, frustrated? Yes. Is God lighting some hoops on fire and asking me to jump through them? I'm starting to think so. Just a day before hearing about Mamau's results I had read from Jeremiah 1 and felt that the Lord was encouraging me - telling me He would put the words into my mouth to speak to my family and I didn't need to be preparing or stressing out so much about it. Simply, have faith. Then the test results came in and I felt immense guilt and didn't want to burden them further. Since then, there's has been chance after chance to simply say, "You know Mamau, I don't know if the ward is doing a trunk or treat because I don't attend anymore." But since I did know, I answered - just omitted the part about not attending. Everyday since Thursday night there has been a direct question about my ward or us watching General Conference. Today I was honest that I didn't watch it and wasn't going to but that was about it. I wore my cross to Deseret (the only one in the whole store) but I think my parents just think I'm a weird Mormon girl.

The talk I listened to online was from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - not sure of the title since it's not posted online yet - and he slammed the Trinity. Sure, most of it seems out of context if my memory serves me well. It's been a few months since I've read up on Trinity history - but I don't recall it taking 125 years to form the original Nicene creed - it took 56 to work the kinks out - from 325 to 381 and then if you want to count the language barrier controversy (Filioque controversy) then you could then stretch it and say it took 122 years, but not 125.

I still feel this incredibly and overwhelming sense to speak to my parents about this new part of my life - yet I feel like these unmovable boulders have been placed in the road. The talk was well written, well delivered, and to one who hasn't had a Spiritual confirmation of the Truth of the Trinity - right on the target. Heck, after listening to it - I found myself agreeing with his points. But I listened again and realized what he was saying, doing, and twisting and how wrong it all was. Mormons apologetists often accuses Christians of lying for Christ - yet it seemed, Elder Holland, my once favorite apostle, was doing just this himself in order to make sure Mormons and all those who heard his voice knew, Mormons are Christians - but Christians are not.

Mamau told me that this has been the best conference in awhile. Is God setting up for a miracle or something? Because really, this just seems so impossible to overcome.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Results are In

For as long as I can remember, I've known that Mamau has had Hepatitis C and that it was affecting her health. I knew that it was passed to her through a blood transfusion from one of her earlier bypass heart surgeries and that it was because they didn't know enough to test blood for it. Until last night, I didn't realize that "they" (medical science) didn't know to check blood for Hep C for blood transfusions until 1992. When I was middle school or perhaps about to enter high school, I vaguely remember my parents whispering to one another about her health becoming steadily worse. Then we moved to Vegas, of course there was a new baby and her health seemed to improve radically. I hadn't really thought of it much since then.

Mamau had a biopsy performed and went in for the test results on Thursday morning. I called to check up and see what they said, but never heard back from her. Finally, I was able to reach her Thursday night. In Hep. C there are 4 phases of the disease and they are measured by the scarring and condition of the patient's liver. The forth phase is obviously the last and final phase which leads to liver failure. Mamau was informed that this is where she is at now - at most, with an experimental treatment she might get five more years. The treatment however, is especially risky for her because it could cause a massive heart attack so she meets with her cardiologist next week to discuss this option - especially since she's had multiple bypass surgeries, a stint, and uses Nitro to control her heart as it is.

The message that David shares with us in Psalm 39 is suddenly much more real to me right now and yet, I don't even want to think about the eternal because I can't get my mind out of the temporal right now. About my Papau and my Aunt - how are they taking and dealing with the news? And now when Mamau passes away - no longer an "if" in my mind but now slowly becoming a real "when", how on Earth will my children deal with it? How can they grow up and not have memories of her? How can I squeeze in every possible minute with her so my kids can have that time with her and so I can have that time with her? She explained that the treatment, should she decide to try it, will leave her sick like a chemo patient, so she won't be able to be around any of the grandkids for up to a year (the max amount of time the treatments will run for, or 6 weeks the least amount of time they will run for). And I don't want her to risk the treatment because it's such a gamble, it'll leave her sick and will waste the time she has left sick in bed instead of with her family.

And admist our conversations with my questions and trying to stay calm and strong, she bears her testimony to me about trusting Heavenly Father. As if to remind me that there was something eternal I had been meaning to discuss with her. Yet, I feel so reluctant now to share this with them when I feel they are burdened enough as it is. At the same time, I see them clinging more now to the church than ever and with eternity fastly approaching, I'm scared to death for them even more.

In Max Lucado's book, "3:16 Numbers of Hope" he reminds us how the Iseralites turned to a golden calf to worship because they needed a god they could touch and how as Christians today we think to ourselves how foolish they were. He shows us how as Christians, we haven't changed much - instead of a golden calf there are eating binges or shopping sprees and we are running from a God of comfort and help. I never felt that this was more true than I do now. I know this is all in God's hands - but on one hand I simply want whatever time is left with Mamau to be good and for everyone to be happy. On the other, I love her dearly and I really do want her to put her trust in Jesus - not in a "religion" or denomination. I want her to have real and everlasting peace. I never consciously thought she would live forever, but I never thought she'd die. She's my Mamau - she can't die. She'll be around to nag my babies at their weddings about proper edict. That's who she is. That's Mamau.

And suddenly, she won't be. Beth Moore's study deals with loosing heros by highlighting a passage from Isaiah.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1 NIV)

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in the Bee-Attitudes of Matt 5:4 of those who mourn are comforted, because they draw unto God? Perhaps our family will draw closer to God through this. For Isaiah, it was when his boyhood hero Uzziah died that he had an encounter with God. I know all things are in accordance with God's Will - but I'm still having a hard time accepting all of that.

Pray Alot = Sin Alot

Last night on Survivor, James from Fei Long tribe made the comment (in reference to "Christian Mama" Leslie), "You know people who pray a lot sin a lot. They know they're going to hell."

At first, the comment bothered me - but as I thought about it, I realized how true it was and how it captured the simple message of the gospel, yet it was totally lost on the speaker since he merely laughed off the notion of an eternal hell.

When we come to Christ, we realize that yes we are sinners, and yes without Jesus we are going to hell. So yes, we pray. And through prayer we deepen our relationship with Jesus. We also realize that our sins are judged by worldly standards of what is and is not okay, but by a just and holy God who doesn't see certain sins as "sexy" and some sins as "acceptable" by circumstance but as all sins as just that - sin.

Yes, for those of us who pray to God - we do realize we are sinful creatures who are supposed to go to hell, but that we're not going to hell simply because of Jesus.

It's an easy message - maybe that's why it's so hard to accept.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

C-Store Lessons

It's past 1 am right now and here I am blogging like a crazy woman. :P Foolish me for drinking an energy drink at 9 pm to make it through my shift.

Working at the convenience store and not being sick anymore is awesome! I've really missed the people and the opportunities to talk about Jesus. Yet, as much as I think and like to talk about God - I didn't do much of the talking tonight. I realized, that with my new found "fundamental thinking" (scary for me) I feel lost on how to respond to those around me. Suddenly, I am very aware that these people need Jesus - for more than their temporal needs, but for their eternal salvation as well.

I can tell that the Lord is using the store for various purposes in my life right now. I have time with Him in the cooler. Tonight, I was finally able to get back in there for the first time in months. While inputting invoices I can listen to sermons and feel so spiritually fed and uplifted from them. And through the people at the store - it seems I'm always able to put into practice at least one new habit or practice that was discussed or taught in a sermon I was listening to.

The Lord is working on patience in me. If I perceive anyone as being "like" my mother, Sheryl - then I will run as fast as I can away from them. Huge red flags are waiving all around Rosa that she is like Sheryl - deceptive, manipulative, and so forth - but I keep reminding myself that she is a creation of God's and that Jesus can change anyone. That I am simply called to love and serve others, not always like them. Now, I've got someone to build me in that area. Just because she drives me crazy, doesn't mean that I'm supposed to shun her, but rather develop patience and turn to God with my frustrations.

Motivation. Since having kids my motivation has slowly dwindled to all thought and less and less action. Tonight, Jimbo came into the store and told me about how his jacket was stolen. Apparently, he has taken in a dog and the missions around the store won't allow dogs in. I've been so grateful for the cooling weather here in Vegas, able to finally open up the house and turn off the ac for most if not all day, go outside and play or just walk, it's been great. The nights are perfect for me. But I hadn't thought about what they must be like to sleep on the pavement all alone. He explained that it was starting to get cold. God stirred me to serve the homeless months ago and all I've done is brought dinners and Bibles. What good am I doing? When I show up with a plate of food in one hand and a Bible in another, am I really serving or self serving? Pastor Devin wrote in a recent blog of his that "churches must be aggressive with the gospel" - in my mind I immediately envisioned Christians distributing tracts, air preaching, and door knocking. I've learned - and had a great example set through the community service at Grace Point - that "aggressive" doesn't mean that the bullhorns come out and the boxing gloves go on. For GP, it's about serving without an agenda. But what will it look like at the mart where I work? What does God have it planned out to look like? I have a friend who came to Christ, because people offered to pray with or for her for needs and other things, even when she didn't believe. Does God want me to pray with people? I really hope not. :( Do I bring meals to the men and leave the Bibles at home?

Finally, the Lord is bringing me to a new level of "brokenness" (I use this to mean to change my way of thinking). While LDS, I believed that if someone died without the restored gospel, they would get a second chance of sorts and the gospel would be preached to them in the Spirit World. However, now that I realize there is no waiting room Spirit World to teach everyone about Jesus between the time they die and judgement, that there's physical death and then heaven or hell - I'm realizing that saying to an atheist, "Hey that's cool," or "You're in your own place right now. But God's watching over you" just isn't going to cut it anymore and to me, just isn't acceptable. Really, I can't look at an unbeliever and smile and say, "Great, you don't believe in Jesus. That's wonderful. Have a great day." Because they don't have the make believe safety net there that I always believed was and their life won't be judged on how "good" they were according to the world or their own standards but simply on if they accepted Jesus or not. Which brings me to tonight's conversation and rewinds me a year ago.

The store was packed - a usual during swing shift, and the cooler was empty. Rosa rushed in to fill the cooler, and I took care of the register and customers. There was a lull in the customers and I noticed a lady waiting for Rosa. She stated she was Rosa's sister (later found out just close friend). During the lull, she leaned on the counter and asks, "Do you smoke?"

"No, sorry." I wasn't sorry - but I was trying to be polite.

"Ah, what's wrong with you?" She shuffled back to the slot machines and looked back to the cooler for Rosa.

Feeling as if the mood were lighthearted, I said, "I guess I value my lungs,"

Taken aback it seemed, "Well that's hypocritical. You live in Las Vegas - there's more smog here than in California and it's worse than smoking."

"Well, I can't save the ozone layer by myself. I can't stop pollution by myself. But God did give me this body which is His temple to dwell in and how I treat it is how I honor Him." I could not believe I just said that.

Earlier, when I thought the mood was lighthearted - I was wrong. "It's good that you believe in God, because I sure as hell don't."

Then of course, the next rush of people flooded into the store and she left. Before, atheism hadn't really bothered me (or any other false religion) - because sooner or later God would reach them with the restored gospel, this life or in the "Spirit World". Now, I realized, this woman could walk out in the street, get hit by a car and if she really didn't believe in Jesus, really didn't call Him Lord and Savior - then the Bible says she would go to hell. Yes, the gospel transforms lives - but really, is it temporal lives we're trying to reach and change or is it eternal salvation we are trying to share? Both, but in the scope of things, eternity will always outweigh the temporal.

It reminded me of a year ago because it might have been one of the early "core shakers" that God was doing something in me. I had stopped in a Christian bookstore, really for directions but for some reason just hung out checking out the books and flipping through their apologetics section. It came up that I was LDS at the time and the store owner spared no time trying to save me. At the time, I was in my Bible daily, was in LDS apologetics daily - both discussion boards and books. I felt confident. So, when the storekeeper began down his road of Biblical contradictions, I listened enough to make a mental list of what to address and began thinking of my response. And then he stopped talking and looked at me, waiting for my reply. I smiled, I knew what I was going to say, I could practically see it as if I were going to type the reply in a blog or a discussion post - and then all of sudden, I couldn't say a thing. I was speechless, my memory was blank - was the passage I wanted Job 1:6 or Jude 1:6? As I stood there, blood rushing to my cheeks, my throat felt sealed shut - all the answers to his questions and rebuttals to his criticisms suddenly locked away in my mind, the only thought that I could lay a hold of was one word, "God".

Throughout the book of Proverbs, it discusses the wisdom of holding one's tongue and thinking about a response. Tonight, God knew I had no reply to give and so everything worked as it should. A year ago, God knew I was defending a false religion and that not even His Word was getting my attention on it's falsehoods, so He got my attention by freezing me. He gets my attention when I don't even know that He is lacking or in need of it. He never ceases to amaze me.