Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Can't sleep so I thought I'd post...

I'm supposed to be taking a nap - but of course the Amp energy drink finally kicked in and I cannot fall asleep. So I'd thought I'd share some stuff...

First, I don't recall if I blogged about this, but in August I believe, Lyndon Lamborn was ex-communicated from the LDS church - his ex-communication letter announced that this would then be announced in EIGHT wards on Sunday. Yes - that is rare for the LDS church. I assume recently, Mr. Lamborn agreed to do a Q&A and share his "testimony" of sorts with a local Christian church. It's very interesting. Videos are below (end of blog.)

Second, on the CC board, a poster named Jeremiah likes to post the latest and greatest advice from Gramps - an elderly LDS writer who gives advice to people via internet or podcast. Most of them are for sure bigoted, but the most recent one tickles me pink - being a vile, sinful, hell bound apostate and all. ;-)

How can I help my friend who is falling away from the Mormon Church without hurting his feelings?

Dear Gramps,

I have a friend who I am afraid is falling away from the Mormon Church. I have heard him bear his testimony many times, but when I talk to him in a small group setting he isn’t the same. I recently heard him say he doesn’t really have a reason to come to church anymore, and I think he is attending in order to impress his parents. How can I help him without hurting his feeling and pushing him over the edge’ so to speak?

Concerned, from Canada

Dear Concerned,

If your friend is falling away from the church, he no longer has the companionship of the Holy Spirit. If he no longer has the companionship of the Holy Spirit, he has committed some sinful act from which he has not repented. Without the companionship of the Holy Spirit, he cannot know that the church is true. Paul tells us—But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God (JST 1 Cor 2:9-11).So, about the only thing that you could do would be to remain as his friend and pray for him. If you try to convince him of the truthfulness of the gospel, it will fall on deaf ears until he qualifies himself to receive the witness of the Holy Spirit.


Why do I ever wonder why my former LDS friends think I'm engaged in some sleezy sin? Gee.. I wonder.... :-P

Since we know that this reply is based on teachings about apostacy from the "one true church", then we of course know that the LDS church is not judgmental about those who leave at all. Bad ex-Mormons - you sinners you! :P But in all honesty, it just reminds me that the LDS church isn't really about Jesus after all the bells and whistles and horn blowing - it's about, the LDS church.

Exhaustion = Sin?

Does anyone else go through this? When I am physically exhausted, my disobedience to God seems to shoot through the roof. I'm cranky and don't control my tongue (James 1:26), I'm exhausted so I don't do anything around the house (Proverbs 6:9, 31:27), and let's not get started on the overflow of my heart. :-P

I connect with Paul's words in Romans 7: (using the Message so not sure which verses these would be considered)

The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

Paul goes on to write that the answer is Jesus and what he writes after this, sums up everything I feel right now:

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. *bolded italics mine*

As soon as I decide to follow Christ, as soon as I decide to die to self - as soon as I try to be obedient to what God lays on my heart - I feel so pulled the other way that I feel like two totally different people in one body.

Because I've been trying to work at least all my scheduled shifts at my parents store, the kids haven't been sleeping, and I am wired when I come home that I'm up until at least 2 am before I can start winding down - I am now consistently exhausted.

And I'm frustrated - there are so many things I want to be doing right now - from working on homemade gifts like frames, scrapbooks, etc for family and friends, to in depth theology study, to activities for the kids, and any volunteer work I can make time for at GP - and yet I cannot do them. My exhaustion is getting the better of me.

Last night, as I watched over the register while Eric went to assist a customer with car troubles, I pulled out my "Shepherding a Child's Heart" book to read - and was frustrated by what I read. The author, Pastor Tedd Tripp reminds parents that this season is short and precious and therefor everything else must be sacrificed during this season - from tv, hobbies, and even volunteer work at your local churches. I was aghast - I can totally work on less tv, even try not to blog as much so that I can either sleep, do chores when the kids are asleep rather than blogging, but to stop volunteering at GP or in general for good things? That crushes me - besides the fact that God instilled within me this need to serve others (yes even when exhausted) - my legalistic heart crushes me with overwhelming guilt. I must serve - and because I'm not always the most decisive, I must serve in like 20 different areas (lucky for me, I'm not serving in many areas right now - but more than 2 is really in all logic too much for me if I want to give min 100% to each one).

So my disobedience grows. My discontentment with myself grows. My frustration grows. And finally, I realize it's been awhile since I've studied my Bible - not just opened up a devotional and read it, or read my 15 minute reading in the One Year Bible - but really studied to investigate God's message for my personal life in His Word.

And of course, there is the guilt. In my head, I know that when people go through times that are uncomfortable, they need to keep their focus on Jesus and they will grow and stretch. Yet, I fail and I get so mad at myself. You know, like when you get that pop quiz back and see that you missed that one question you know the answer to, yet somehow put down the wrong thing? I know that when I hit hard times, to cling to Jesus, focus on Him, immerse myself in His Word and heed His guidance - yet I continue to miss the mark. Then I think to myself and God, "Give me a retest! Let me try again!" and of course because of His goodness and grace, whether it be the next minute, hour, day, or month - He gives me that millionth chance to get it right and still I screw it up.

I can only take comfort from Romans 3:24 (thanks Oswald Chambers for bringing this verse to my attention this morning!) "and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." I hate that I continue to fail my pop quizzes - but I can only have faith, that eventually Christ in me will get it right, and my little bit of self that keeps tripping me up will finally be dead - at least for a little while - maybe I can get a nap in? ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

†Bring it to the cross†

†Bring it to the cross†

I have an amazing mentor and solid leadership to help me out in our church (they are ever so patient with me, amazing). In a sermon I listened to on child rearing, the pastor makes the statement, "bring it to the cross". Confused by this, I made a point to speak with Barbie about it the next time we talked. She explained it to me, made perfect sense, and didn't have any questions about it.

Yet, as I've pondered this, I can't help but still be slightly confused. Not about the concept - makes sense, and she explained it well. But how on earth to enable this or put it into action? Prayer comes to mind (as that's what she explained) but really, it still goes beyond me on how enable the cross and leave things at the cross in my personal life. I don't know why I'm not getting it - it sounds very simple, but I just don't get it. How can my head totally understand the logic but the rest of me still be standing there, "duh... huh?" open mouth, slack jawed...

So, for those of you who read this blog, would you be so kind as to leave scriptures, links to sermons, personal stories - whatever you have or care to share about enabling the cross. I'm sure I must have enabled it in order to begin walking with Jesus, but since the line has become blurred about whether that was when I was LDS or not I am doubtful I understand - really understand how to enable to the cross. Or maybe, it's just my legalism coming into play thinking, "Prayer? That's it? Perhaps a certain prayer or maybe a particular ritual?" I want to wrap my head and heart around this, but just can't seem to. Help please!

Rocks First...

A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon where the Pastor discussed a jar of sand and some rocks. The question was, how would one fit both into the jar? He then explained, that if one emptied the jar, then put the rocks in first and then the sand, then both would fit. That this is likened to our walk with God each day - if we put the rocks in first: prayer, scripture study, etc - and then the sand - TV, emails, blogging etc - then we would have enough time in our days for God.

Over the past few weeks, I've asked God to help me improve my prayer life, my devotionals, my study, my daily walk with Him. I've also committed to studying theology more, and trying to only read one book at a time (I'm only reading two right now - next step is to drop one ). And of course one of two things (min) occur when I ask for help - the door is opened for me to improve in these areas. Such as, countless opportunities to pray for people. Or I am challenged/tested in this area of new commitment - for example, I want to spend more time with God but then over-commit and find myself exhausted and dependent upon myself to conserve my energy instead of spending time with God and trusting Him to supply me.

Recently in my Sunday night small group, we discussed our greatest fears. I realized I had a few of them - I fear heights (but it seems so does everyone in my group so we can just all stick together on this one!), I am obsessively afraid of someone breaking into our home and harming our kids (and I do mean obsessive), I am afraid of my parents dying without a saving relationship with Jesus and not seeing them in heaven - but my constantly pondered over yet rarely spoken about with those outside my "circle" is my constant fear of becoming a clone of my mother. In a sense, I've kind of cursed myself. Perhaps not in the Biblical sense - but as Stephen Covney says, "Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits." Yikes!

I've mentioned before, that due to my mother's negative effects in my childhood I've worried about my own parenting. As such, I swung to the other extreme - I coddled and spoiled my children - almost wanting to double the love in order to make up for my own feelings from childhood. Recognizing that now, I've created a messed up relationship and standard for my children. No wonder at the ages 2 and 3 they don't comprehend that when Mommy says "no" it means no. Because I've always given them their way before. Now over the past year and a half of searching for a long term parenting plan, I've finally been reading Tedd Tripp's book, "Shepherding a Child's Heart". It came highly recommended.

As I've read this book - I've realized the level of refinment needed in my life to truly be a godly mother. The Proverbs 31 wife continued to come to mind. I realized that while in this season of motherhood, I have to make sure my rocks - all my rocks are getting the jar first. I realized I had falsely thought I was making progress in breaking free of my ever extensive legalistic heart and realized I had just created new ways to be legalistic. I realized - that while on this walk, I seem to be getting more messed up and dirty than I was before. Or perhaps, I'm finally digging beneath the surface to get myself cleaned up and trying to walk more in line with Christ.

I have to forget what I know and rely solely on God. Which is hard for me - I want so bad to earn favor, to earn change, to earn more knowledge - that it at times eludes me that obediance to what God asks me to do instead of what I think I'm supposed to be doing. A relationship is not one sided talk - it's active and open communication. The best part about this relationship with God, is His everlasting patience for me - I would have long past lost it with me, but yet, He is so good, He continues to patiently wait for me to have my "duh" moment.

Tonight, I felt the Lord peel away some more scales and give me clear direction for my life. Obediance is really my only option for change.

1. Daily reading of the Proverbs - Tedd Tripp continues to make references to how his teenage children were able to survive and thrive in highschool because of the wisdom they imparted from Proverbs. I see this being a disaster with the kids - but habits take time to develop. I recently picked up the Veggie Tales Nativity scene- I've wanted a Nativity scene for awhile, but didn't want the kids to break it. Seeing their reaction to this made me decide to pick it up and read the gospels with them as often as possible (preferably daily) as we act this out using the Veggie Tale characters that they love so much. How did it go on Day 1? Horrible, no one listened, no one cared, and they cried almost the whole time because they wanted to be elsewhere.

2. Rich communication. I never realized how many facets of communication there were until reading this chapter on it.

That's a lot of communication - and knowing when to apply encouragment instead of correction or rebuking. And that this didn't stop at just conversations with my children, but in my own daily living and my own daily interactions with those above two feet tall as well.

God is so good that He directs us - regardless of where we are, how close or far away we think we are.

Finally, I'm learning comfort (for me) is a red flag that I'm not actively walking with the Lord. When I'm challenged and stretched - I'm usually uncomfortable. I'm outside my limits and boundaries, and I must rely on the Lord or run back inside my comfort zone or become frustrated by trying to do it myself. Sometimes I catch myself looking back to my past - my comfort as an ignorant agnostic, my security in legalism, and now my two sides discomfort and joy in a relationship with God.

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
-- Proverbs 31:10 --

Monday, November 26, 2007


Recently, I refered to a Christian blogger writing about the Golden Compass. We've communicated in emails and I've found his reactions very interesting. In our communications two points were of great interest to me:

He didn't seem to understand why I was not offended by the author, Phillip Pullman wanted to undermine Christianity or kill God in his books. If anything, the most I could even be shocked by is that there is an implication that kids have sex at the end of the book (but since I've not read the book, I don't know for sure or how old these kids are - they could be teens for all we know, not as disturbing). But where in the Bible does it state that we are to hold non-Christians to the same standards as Christians? In fact, I think the Bible says something completely different doesn't it?

Rom 2:14
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

So why would I purposly try to behave in an un-biblical manner? Of course a non-Christian is going to attack Christianity and our beliefs (NOT saying all do, but it's no surprise when non-Christians do) - why wouldn't they? They do not have the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit inside them, they are still slaves to their flesh - the better question is why would they behave in a Christian manner when they are not Christians? And as fellow sinners, why are we surprised when they sin? The only difference between them and us is that we are saved sinners, they are not. Blows my mind.

Second, he assumed that I didn't understand the politics and "hardships" of blogging on MySpace. After the past few months of angry emails from family, former LDS friends, and even attacks from fellow Christians - I have to say this was a bright spot in my day. No of course I don't understand the mud slinging from posting on MySpace. He's got me nailed. What I've learned from going from Mormon, to Christian is huge - I do my best not to make assumptions about people. While LDS, I made tons of assumptions about Christians and especially ex-Mormons (vile heathen! ) but once on the other side I realized how wrong I was. Of course, my flesh didn't stop there - I began to make assumptions about Mormons - and felt confident in doing so since I was just a Mormon and knew my own way of thinking and the culture and ways of the LDS people. Yeah... the Lord knocked me down and reminded me how bad assumptions are. I think He gave us all a warning in Proverbs:

He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.
(Proverbs 18:13 NIV)

Having loved and married an atheist, I've been privilaged with insight into an atheist mind - and have really loved it. However, it's also burdened me with extra care for an atheist - I listem to my mother in laws stories of Christian behavior (in her Christian church) that drove her to atheism and my heart just bleeds for her. How can I then just ignore that or the stories of my husband and just be quiet when I see such midleading statements made about atheists and their agenda overall? To me, that is equal to listening to a non-Christian stating that the Westboro Baptist church was the symbol and standard for Christians in general. No way would I stay silent through that either.

But what has been the most curious is that this blogger was on my friend's list and I've left him subtle comments on his blogs - a call for references for example or on one blog where he asks if he is intolerant in other blogs - an answer. Yet, he has removed me from his friends and has declined to publish any of my comments. What happened to the Biblical precdent to correct a Christian brother and sister?

Matt 18:15-17
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

In Matthew 18:15 "trespass" (Greek: hamartano) means, "to err, be mistaken;" I have been rebuked in private from fellow believers - and it's an honor (now watch I'm going to be tested in that area ) to know that other believers are watching out for me and my well being. Proverbs goes a little further with this:

Prov 12:15
15 The way of a fool [is] right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel [is] wise.

Prov 17:10
10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

Prov 26:5,12
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.

Prov 29:11
11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise [man] keepeth it in till afterwards.

We may not always receive reproof the best - I know I haven't always and the posters at AIC can attest to that - but what matters is that we learn from it, move on, and accept it better in the future. The Lord uses anyone for His message - even a donkey - and He only disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12) so in reality, shouldn't we delight in reproof? I used to not think so - mostly because I didn't know the Biblical standard for it - so when "anti-Mormons" like A Voice or Jenny would leave challenging comments on my blogs, I fumed because they weren't someone I wanted reproof from - but that didn't make their messages any less valid. Shouldn't we seek God in prayer to grow from it? Or should we simply ignore the message simply because we don't like it or the messenger?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Merry Go Round with Atheists and Rabid Christians

It seems lately that the movie, The Golden Compass, is getting a lot of buzz from concerned Christians - and I don't mean ministry Concerned Christians (CC) but Christians from all over within the body of Christ.

I took the bait this morning, and read two more blogs about this movie. It was a bit shocking - not the book, but the Christian blogger. After my years of hating Christians and now being one, I am surprised that I am still surprised - after all, there was a reason I hated Christianity and those within it's membership.

While the blogs do seem to discuss the shocking points of the books - children killing God, ex-nuns supposedly stating that Christianity is a mistake, kids possibly having sex with one another - all these are shocking and I am grateful to know about them so as not to expose my children to them. However, since the author is reported to making statement like, "My books are about killing God," the blogs I've read seem to shift their focus from just the author's statement to atheists in general - even one blogger stating that it was atheists who crucified Jesus.

Granted - I've known angry atheists - but I don't assume they are angry with God, but rather angry with tangiable people - Christians. I can recall during our time in the LDS church - Christians ourselves - were nervous when visiting other churches of letting others know we were LDS. Why? Because of the more vocal Christians who alienate anyone who is different from themselves or their beliefs. In a podcast, Winsome Witnessing, one of the guests quoted states, "It would seem this Jesus in who you believe, would affect your behavior." How sad that non-believers don't see the transformation in Christian lives because they cannot get past the glaring contradiction of generalizations and fleshly behavior. Sure, we know that even Paul battled with this (Romans 7) but it's like this rolling ball of craziness that attacks non-believers. We can't just go around telling people what to do, holding them to Christian standards (when they're not even Christians!), and then making such wild assumptions ("Atheists hate God"). Just as apologetic Christians will forever attack Joseph Smith, Jr's character, prophesies, and history of events because they believe it will bring an end to Mormonism (which it won't - another blog another time) atheists have no other choice than to reason from science and secular logic in order to perhaps bring an end to Christianity (which it won't). Why? Because they hate God? No, probably because they had some rabid Christian offend them in some shape or form. While we believe they are foolish for denying the cross, they believe we are foolish for being so illogical. It's a never ending circle and one of us has to get off this merry-go-round and try to be understanding instead of seeing who can shout the longest and the loudest.

I don't see how pounding out blog after blog, article after article, and even condemnations from the Pope himself is going to do any good. The massive amounts of media dedicated to this movie - from Christians condemning it - has probably been a great amount of free publicity. The line is fuzzy since we want to make sure our brothers and sisters in Christ are aware, but not put up too much of a stink about and end up promoting it in a weird sort of way.

I recently heard someone say that if Christmas is being attacked, it's because Christians didn't protect it in the first place. The overall message in content with the sermon made perfect sense and I greatly enjoyed it. Yet, looking around it is easy to see how Christians have in turn made an all out war on secular "winter holidays" just as they seem to be on this movie.

There has to be a way to convey the Gospel and protect what we hold dear without being the crazy, foaming at the mouth, rabid Christian. And I don't mean this image is portrayed to just non-believers, but to even other Christians. I'm passionate, I love my Lord, I try to center and focus my life around Him and all that He taught. I am not an apathetic Christian who just goes to church on Sundays. And yet, when I read these blogs that seem to direct so much anger, bigotedness, and generalized ideas about atheists for example, the first thing I envision is a rabid dog. This isn't the image Christ Himself portrays. We can shout to the hilltops, "Let us pray for someone!" at the same time violently bashing their head into a wall until it's bloody.

Will I go see the Golden Compass? Maybe. My husband still loves "The Fountainhead" which gives atheists a positive PR and the author, Ayn Rand - I believe an atheist.

Perhaps it is the fact that I went from Mormon - a religion so hotly debated and even (percieve) "persecuted" by Christians in some instances - or perhaps it's because I married an atheist. Or maybe it's simply because the behavior surrounding some Christians is simply wrong on this matter, whatever the reason - I hope I never forget those who are apart from God and instead of condemning them or thanking God I am not them - instead of exalting myself, humble myself and serve them. They are creations of God who deserve to be loved and treated with respect. We live in a world that steadily becomes more corrupt everyday - but that doesn't mean we have to succumb and be apart of it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving on Transformation

As the holiday approaches, I've been seeing these blogs centered around Thanksgiving. I began to wonder - what am I thankful for or rather, is there anything that I'm not thankful for?

I realized, that I am deeply thankful for all the people in my lives. Specifically, those on the Christian walk with me right now. As I look back over the past year, I am in awe of how God has strategically placed certain people in my life that have helped shape me. At the beginning of the year, I only have one passionate Christian friend and she always lived in another state than me - whether that be NC or Southern CA. Now, I am surrounded by passionate people for Christ. I am in awe and really humbled.

Looking to those in my life - it's very easy to become almost intimidated by their passion and obediance to Jesus. I look to NC and see this amazing mother, wife, and daughter who is so genuine in her walk with Jesus and so amazing - today I realized she's more than a mentor, she's in every sense my "spiritual mother" (yes I've always thought it odd that Protestants use this term, but I really understand it now). She's been my best friend, my mentor, someone who patiently allows me to vent and always has given my sound advice. She's prayed for me, she's counseled me, she's been there. I am so grateful for her friendship and most of all - her example. It's a true living testimony to God the way she lives her life and the attitudes that she has.

The leaders within Grace Point - many of them have really helped shape my walk. From our small group leader and his amazing wife who is just so awesome. They are so down to Earth, understanding, and even thought they don't acknowledge it - compassionate. Shh - don't tell anyone. ;) To our Pastor and his wife who have been so welcoming to our family (even when our kids misbehaved during small group), patient with my endless emails with questions and confusion, and most importantly - just allows God to use them in such incrediable ways. And the example they set - knowingly or not - on the dynamics of a godly family.

For those in my Sunday night small group - who God used to get the ball rolling over a year ago. They are amazing and so loving and they really are family. Manna Church - who I listen to every week and their convicting, funny, meaty sermons that I have grown to love so dearly.

Jesus. Ah - without Jesus none of it is worth it. I can't not cry when I think of His ultimate sacrifice for me when I was still so ungodly.

My husband - I know he seems a bit low on the totempole doesn't he? But out of everyone, he's my biggest hero. Because I may see the victories in others lives - but I see his stumbles everyday. And yet, to see where he was just even seven months ago to where he is now, just blows my mind. Men seem to keep everything close to their "vest" I suppose, so perhaps I'm the only one who has really noticed so many vast differences in my husband. From the way he drives, to the desire to share the gospel, to the man he is at home. He makes me a bit jealous in all honesty - he's transformed so amazingly and God works more and more on and in him everyday. He is an inspiration to me. He is my best friend, my soul mate, my second most important companion on this journey. I cannot imagine what life would be like had I been the only one under conviction from God to leave the LDS church - but he's been so faithful to God. Letting go even when scared. (Shhh - he likes to pretend he never gets scared.) Trusting, even when I think everything in him doesn't want to. And serving in the most mind blowing ways. And I'm blessed to be married to him. God surely most have made a mistake, I don't deserve such an amazing husband and friend.

My parents - I love them. I can't claim to know their hearts or walk with God, so I simply hope that their on it. Hand in hand with Him.

And while thinking of these amazing people, during small group tonight the question arose - paraphrasing here, what does an authentic and passionate Christian look like to you (or something like that). And I began to think about all these people. Our pastor and his family are inspirational to me. They came here to Vegas without any real knowledge that GP would succeed - and it seems to me that church plants are a risky venture. That's frightening obediance to God's call right there. Barbie - she dies to self daily, DAILY. I don't think she'll ever fully understand what an example she sets for me - or how much she gives me just in our daily conversations. Jean - she didn't even really know me that well, but came to the rescue when I thought I was drowning in my sin and disobedience to God. She let me cry, she comforted me, she allowed God to use her. Donny - my small group leader and his wife Wendy. Amazing amazing people. I can't even begin to list all the amazing things they've done or poured into our family and our lives. So I stand in the shadow of these amazing and obedient people and for a moment, I forget that they're sinners just like me. That they have struggles and ups and downs, and I just bask in my own shortcomings.

I don't know my Bible like Barbie, I don't submit like her. I'm not good with kids like my friend Kelly (even if she denies it), or a patient friend like Jean. I'm not fearlessly obedient like the Hudson family, or a tireless sacrificial servant like Donny and Wendy. I'm not any of these things. And then, I'm grounded and realize that while I'm not any of these things - I am so grateful that they all are. And I can only pray, that perhaps a little of what I admire most about them, will rub off on me so to speak and transform my life a little bit more to the image of Christ.

Thank you God.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Random Thoughts

- A little while back, our Bishop informed us that in order to resign membership from the church we would have to submit an official written letter. For whatever reason, we've put off typing one up and sending it in. However, Sunday night, we typed up an official letter and put it in the mail on Monday morning.

- Loving this new book, "Systematic Theology" by Wayne Grudem. A recommendation by two leaders in our church I greatly respect. The highlighters are out and I'm taking notes. :) I'm learning to put aside what I think I know and listen to what someone else does actually know.

- Built a cave of Adullam for the kids yesterday and read to them Psalm 61. Today we'll dress up as best we can and play out David hiding in the cave from Saul. The lesson here, is that regardless if it is November - the month of Thanksgiving - or not, we should always give praises and thanksgiving to God. And that God always provides a place of grace for each of us. In this case, the cave Adullam.

- Not exactly looking forward to Thanksgiving simply because we're doing it at Steve's parents' house. Which is not a bad thing - I'm very grateful that I don't have to assemble the meal (although my turn is Christmas), or prepare my house for guests, or anything else that comes with hosting Thanksgiving Dinner - however my kids love their grandparents and whenever we visit we enter this fantasy land where rules are thing of myth. Not real. And therefor, for us - the kids seem to be harder to handle - especially since they refuse to take naps and then harder on us after we leave because they expect the world not to have any rules. But, eh, isn't that what grandparents are for?

- Might get to check out two churches soon. First one is Canyon Ridge - the church that hosted King's Faire. Another member of GP and I want to go check out their service, their store, and other stuff to get ideas for things we've been asked to do. The second one is ICLV - International Church of Las Vegas. This one comes highly recommended by NC Manna goers who have come to Vegas and I recently discovered that someone from GP came from ICLV. I'm totally stoked to go on a Wednesday or something for a women's Bible study (of course I never have those days off from babysitting so it might have to wait until Steve's long break during Christmas).

- I recently was shown a video by the Christian band, "Big Fish" - not sure how I feel about it. At first, I was bit put off by their lyrics and forceful nature of the presentation and almost mocking tone towards other religions. Now, I'm pondering over the message and totally ignoring the messengers or presentation. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

- My grandpa loves audio tapes - specifically books on tape. I was thinking of collecting a few neutral feeling Christian books on tape for him for Christmas. For example, he LOVES Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life" - so I don't think it'd be completely rejected so long as it wasn't an anti-Mormon audio tape. :P Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Christian Rearing - and children too

I'm a mom. I have two children - Paul and Anya. Love them to pieces. Of course, they drive me equally as crazy - but God uses kids to grow us too. :P

Anyways, over the past four years - I've really struggled with being a mom. First, I wanted to continue working and be a mom - until I held that little bundle we call Paul in my arms for the first time, and then the very idea of leaving him alone with someone else just tore me apart inside. All the LDS mothers seemed to have it all together, so when there were times when I'd be so lonely for adult conversations, so unprepared for each new stage, and naive about everything - I felt like a complete loser. I think personally though, every mom goes through this regardless if she's Mormon, Christian, atheist, or any other religion or lack of.

Since my mother was physically abusive to me as a child - I have been VERY much against spanking. I've also battled with the feeling of being incapable of being a mother for fear of repeating my own mother's mistakes or the mistakes of my parents - whom I love dearly, but do acknowledge that there are some things I wish they had done differently with me. I've read books about how to properly discipline children and keep their self esteem high. From the "What to Expect" books to a faith based book called, "Ephraim's Child" geared to LDS parents with children from the tribe of Ephraim (which ours are since Steve is from this "tribe" according to his blessing). "The Baby Whisperer", "To Train up a Child" and finally to the my unfinished read, "Shepherding a Child's Heart". And yet, I still feel incapable of getting my children under control. I feel no closer to breaking their will than a year ago, two years ago. And I constantly look back to when they were babies and wish I had broken their will when they were babies instead now when they are almost 3 and 4.

I've been blessed to listen to sermons at work at night, and was recommended this sermon series from Manna Church - a favorite now. On a sidenote, Steve and I want to try to travel to NC in March 2008 and a MUST for us will be attending Manna. Why airline tickets are SO expensive is beyond me. :P

Back on track, I've been listening to a 10 part series called, "Fix the Leak and Repair the Floor" - the last three sermons in this series is dedicated to child rearing and is subtitled, "The 10 Commandments of Child Rearing". They are AWESOME! Feel free to listen to them - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

They are in favor of spanking - something I've only recently begun to support and still am not consistent with it because my kids are very willful so I hate having to spank them so much. However, this series really made me question my own discipline methods, my attitude towards discipline vs God's view of it, and finally my understanding of being a Christ follower. Yep, all that from three sermons about child rearing.

First, my understanding of being a Christ follower. God has been using this series to bring me to the realization that my prayer life needs CPR. While I love God, love His Word, and do enjoy praying to Him when I make the time in accordance to how I see fit - I don't pray often enough and personally, not properly. As I was listening to the sermon, in part two, the pastor says something along the lines of how some of us listeners had been abused by our parents and therefor are very against spanking - that we need to admit that and admit that we won't take it to the cross and just be honest. I found myself wondering, "What does this phrase, 'take it to the cross' mean? And why do people always refer to it?" Even our Pastor here in Vegas makes references to taking things to the cross. This morning, I asked Barbie - "What does this mean?" I think I surprised her that I didn't understand.

She explained to me it's about calling out to God that we can't handle something and giving it to Him. Simple enough. Then she explained that some churches (like hers for example) have large crosses at the front of the sanctuary where people can go and sit at the feet of the cross and pray. Made sense to me - much better than when I was a teenager and I thought Christians were hypocritically engaged in idolatry - worshiping a cross during church services. I didn't get the significance.

While listening to her, I realized I was thinking to myself, "That's it? Just prayer?" Just prayer seems too easy to me. I keep forgetting the the gospel itself is easy. It's simple. It's not complicated with secure feeling rituals and practices. Prayer is easy, but for someone like me - I make it complicated and hard. :P

I realized I need to get a Biblical perspective on prayer, and meditate on that instead of what I think prayer should be about or how I think I should engage myself in it. In the sermons Pastor Fletcher keeps referring to the manual (ie the Bible) and I need to stop trying to redesign the wheel and start looking to the instructions God has already left me.

Secondly, I realized that even though I knew the Biblical attitudes of discipline - that even God disciplines us ONLY because He loves us, I still have a bad attitude towards it. I see the short vision - my kids crying because I have disciplined them, instead of the long term on where they have self control and qualities that will help them not only survive but thrive in society because they will be set apart from society's lower standards.

Finally, I realized that while I've been thinking I was discipling my kids properly, as one person was quoted, I "spank too much". The Pastor instructed that it needs to be an event. If the child is debating in their heads a smart on the bottom and they can steal the cake - they'll steal the cake. Because the discipline doesn't capture their attention and make them overcome their own will. This is going to be challenging for me because simply put, I can't imagine spanking them like this. But as a parent, I can't imagine letting Satan utterly destroy my children's lives either like Job or allow a king try to destroy my children like with David and Saul - BUT God did and His children grew because of it. (And just to be clear - I'm not saying that either of these are my goals BUT rather comparing how insignificant a spanking on the bottom is compared to what Job and David went through.)

Having a godly and Biblical perspective is not easy. And I think that as soon as I buckle down to do something - whether it be to not complain about an aching back, to serve my husband more, save money, or try to view child rearing from a Biblical perspective - I am immediately challenged by it. I want to go buy a new book or cd, I want to take time away from everything to nurse my back, I want Steve to serve me and not take time to serve him, I want to just put them back in that stagnant time out corner - I want to coast and submit to my flesh. I want to do my will, not God's. Notice the consistent phrase, "I WANT". But when I say, "no" to myself, when I discipline myself (which I'd rather do than God) I find it's easier the next time. I find I feel a little more dependent on God and acknowledge it more.And I think, that's what sanctification is all about.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today was an awesome Sunday. We had Kelli and Jon over from Grace Point for lunch and a movie. We watched Amazing Grace - very good movie.

And I loved having company for lunch. Granted, at one point I fell asleep during the movie (I had seen it before and had a belly full of lunch and a microwave cake!) so that was embarrassing. Steve really hit it off with Kelly - she has a ton of the same ideas and beliefs that he does, so I think he has a new political friend. :) Can't wait to have them over to watch Joshua - a must see movie. Maybe next time we can even squeeze in a board game or something. Fellowshipping totally rocks.

Steve has a social experiment idea - he wants to tape instructions into our copy of Amazing Grace and passing it around to the various people in Grace Point. It's also a must see, very inspiring movie.

I pinched a nerve or threw out my back or something - bottom line is my back is in pain - at the end of my service in the nursery. :P Now I can't roll over in bed without some sharp pain shooting through back. It hurts - but I'm going to try to see God through this - what's He teaching me? What does He want me to hobble (hehe - er walk) away with from this? Instead of simply complaining about how my back hurts - I want to challenge myself to grow in all things that I can.

Pastor Devin shared the vision Grace Point in 2008. It's online here - check it out! :) I've written an email to my family and included a link to the mp3 sermon of the 2008 vision - currently meditating on whether or not to send it to them. I think it'll help them understand GP and our new "faith" better, but not sure if this is a "good move". I recently listened to Pastor Melissa Scott break down the Aramic, Hebrew, and Greek from the Bible and break down the story of Noah and the Ark. First, how pastors catch all these daily applications and segues to grace is beyond me - but I was left in awe of how much God squeezed into what seemed a somewhat boring Bible story (because of the building of the ark with the cubits and whatnot). For example, daily application - God knew that the instructions He gave Noah for building the ark would work. Because God's ways are perfect - so it's a good idea to be obedient. So while I personally don't see any good in sending my family the link to Vision 2008 - I know that if it's God's Will - then it's perfect and that's all I need to know. I don't need to analyze it, I don't need to second guess it, I need to just obey.

Also, Pastor Devin has the goal to raise $25k for 2008 by Christmas. I was blown away by this number. Then he shared how the staff - either part time or unpaid - had already committed to $5k of this number. I was floored - because that's just five people. Whoa. I began to wish that Steve and I could contribute - but didn't see that being possible. So when we got home, we ran a detailed budget for December to see if we had any spare money to contribute. I was shocked at what God has provided for our family. I realized that Steve and I could contribute to this cause - and we can contribute much more than I thought we could. We've assembled a tight budget, still have a workable budget for Christmas. I am FLOORED! God is good. Here's hoping we reach our goal.

Looking forward to this week with Steve's family. Still praying over Ron - ALL prayers to help this be clear and to recieve assurance of God's will in this matter are appreciated.

Finally, I spoke with the LDS family I babysit for. I was so excited about serving this family - and yet, the mother - the one who seems the most stressed out - doesn't even seem interested in us giving her a break at all. I'm so confused. Part of me wonders if we were all LDS if she'd allow us to serve her - I wonder, does she think we are serving with an agenda?

And finally, one of our favorite songs right now. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Serve and serve some more....

A comment was made last night during small group, "serve and serve some more - that's what Jesus did."

It's such a short, small comment but very significant. I've had some issues recently laid upon my heart - but in all honesty, just don't either have the energy or courage to follow through with them.
However, as I listened to that comment - I realized that dying to self is about service and about trust.

Two issues - one with Ron and one with the LDS family I babysit.

Ron has become more scarce at the store, and with the holidays quickly approaching - I'm worried about him. He's severely depressed and longs simply for his family, of whom he is too ashamed to return to in Utah. Recently, as I swept the floors at the c-store, a small voice whispered in my head to invite him to Christmas dinner and Christmas Eve services at Grace Point. In all honesty, it makes me very uncomfortable. Not to bring him to Grace Point - but rather to have in our home. It's something that Steve and I need to ponder in prayer and discern that this really is from God.

Second, the family I babysit for. They are always seemingly in the middle of one crisis or another - usually financially. Yet, today I was exposed to just how frail and shattered their lives are becoming. I was amazed at how many hours they are working - the mother works 12 hours a day due to new stores opening, visiting corporate big heads, and so forth. The dad is working from 5:30 in the morning until he picks up the kids from scattered locations around town, takes care of them, and returns to work for a few hours when the mom comes home around 10:30/11 pm. In short - their lives have rapidly deteriorated due to the lack of sleep, overworking, and martial stress. These are just to name a few. Add into the pot, the mom is pregnant - not due until Feb and is contracting already. And I thought I was overworked? Yesh! I don't know how either of them do it. So after listening to her vent session and trying my best to comfort someone who had long ago, stopped really being my friend she left, tired, and still discouraged for work. My first thought was to contact the RS President and Compassionate Service Leader and inform them briefly and generally of the situation and ask that they serve this family - as are their "callings" in the LDS church.

However, as I was pondering "passing the buck" so to speak, that small voice clearly laid a new idea on me. "Why ask the LDS church? That simply reaffirms her faith in the LDS church and not Jesus. Why not gather the various Christian women you know and serve her yourself?" I'm tired almost all the time - almost fell asleep during small group last night - and now I am called to serve a family I've been at odds with for months now? Eh! Why?

But as the idea unrolled in my mind more - I realized that the Holy Spirit was right (of course). As I've been reading in my Ensign and discussed in past conversations - the draw of the LDS church is community, organization, and service. Everyone knows these things about the LDS church. The Mormon missionaries will mow your lawn and not ask for anything in return. Even now, my best friend who just had her baby back in NC jokes about how in times like these, she wishes she were a Mormon. The RS would have meals prepared for her, someone would be watching her toddler so her husband could have been with her while she labored, and even clean her home for her. Yet, I've not really seen a Christian church that can even shadow this kind of community, organization, and service within their folds.

So, if a Latter Day Saint is really only a Mormon because of the cultural perks - service, community, great way to raise a family, and so forth - then what hope really is there of withdrawing someone from the temporal perks to the eternal benefit of Jesus as one's companion? And to be clear, I feel very strongly after knowing this family for a year - that they are simply cultural Mormons. They don't seem to incorporate Jesus into their daily living, they don't seem to have a dependency on Him, and they never discuss the LDS church - even when I was Mormon.

Regardless if they are LDS or Mainstream Christians - when life gets crazy, if you don't have Jesus as your Rock - you're bound to go crazy with it. While listening to her story, I just kept thinking over and over - "You need Jesus". There is no problem too big for Him.

Timidly - I sent out an email asking for help to serve this family. My ideal is that someone babysit their three kids so that Mom and Dad can have an afternoon to themselves, some of us clean their home and possibly do their laundry, and bring in at least one meal - preferably two or three. This gives the family the weekend to recoup, possibly spend time together, truely rest from the world. And in the fashion I've learned from the LDS church itself, and Grace Point by amazing example - leave it at that. I'd want to invite them to church - but I don't want them to think that getting them to GP is my ultimate agenda.

I want them to simply feel God's love for them, to see Jesus in other people, and possibly - just maybe, want to experience Him in their daily lives. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised - I was really worried no one would reply to my mass email explaining my idea and almost begging for help - yet already I've received 2 replies from women who have said they will help.

Here's hoping we can get a few more women on board and really bless this family. Now, hopefully God will make it more clear the "prompting" about Ron... and maybe just maybe, give me some courage with it?

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Time to Practice what I pray

While driving home today, I listened to Crown Financial radio show. I began thinking of one of the parents of the kids I babysit and how she is a small group leader for CFM. I wanted to look further into the small groups and look into getting plugged into one for a 10 week course and learn some nifty new budgeting skills based on sound Biblical advice and perhaps find fincial freedom.

So I went to the website and looked into their Budget Planner. I decided to run over to my bank account and get exact numbers and figures to input into a budget and see if I came near the percentages that were given. That was almost two hours ago. When I logged into my bank account, I found that over $600 was missing! Immediantly I called the bank, then the source for the over $600 withdrawel, and back to the bank again. Someone *might* have our account number (yikes!) and someone might be using it on accident. Don't know so now we have to go through the pain in the behind paperwork to cancel all our EFTs and give them all the new account information, make a trip to the bank, and blah blah blah.

As I was wrapping up re-arranging my week (recall that I babysit three kids so I therefor have to find a day that won't inconvienent both sets of families and mine as well) the Spirit queitly whispered, "Shouldn't you be more concerned about the person who may be committing this fraud?"

Well of course I should. I've been praying to be less selfish - perhaps this is a wake up call to pratice what I pray for - forgiveness and praying for this other individual (whom I've learned is named Michelle). So, any prayers for this individual would be appreciated. Thank God for humbling me and reminding me to put others before myself.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Little Introspect

Today we had the pleasure to have an after church lunch with some fellow Grace Point attendees. It was a real pleasure and really taught me some new insights. First, the couple is from the South and the lunch was in traditional Souther spread supper style (what a tongue twister!). Complete with a long wooden table and kids playing in the background I felt like I was back home in Tennessee. It was so awesome, I felt oddly homesick which is a rare feeling for me since I've been in Vegas now ten years. Whoa - time sure does fly. They also made me appreciate real fellowshipping. Steve and I used to have another family or couple over - goal was once a month, actual reality was once every couple of months, throughout our time in various wards. We always loved it and after being treated so wonderfully, we're determined to bring back this sort of tradition and begin fellowshipping with someone perhaps we don't know yet. :)

My blogs seem to have reached people I never would have guessed to know I blog.

I can actually relax when I'm in a home that is one hundred percent (or as close to 100% as one can possibly get) child friendly. I didn't feel the need to shadow my kids at all while fellowshipping with this amazing family - which was so nice since I was loving talking with everyone around.

Did you know you can make an amazing Lava Cake with a Pampered Chef rice steamer in the microwave in NINE MINUTES?!?!?! It's true!! I watched it myself and then tasted the results. I must find one now.

Ty recommended an amazing book that is something so up my ally. I'm awaiting an email back from him with the title - but it's basically an in depth book about Christian theology, the objections and the apologetic response. I'm still reading Derek Prince's Spirit Filled Believers Handbook (really I'm not a slow reader - I just have reading ADD and NO time anymore) but I'm drooling over the very idea of this book. I cannot wait to read it. In my tic-tac-toe mind, I thought of Lee Strobel's books, "The Case For..." (insert the particular book title). Currently I have a great interest in his book, "The Case for the Real Jesus" - gee I wonder why. ;) Between my past religious history, my love for Bart Ehrman, and The Da Vinci Code (yes I was one of those Mormons who believe Jesus was married and had three wives - possibly and most likely but not sure, with children - BEFORE the movie or the book BTW).

We had a couple of political talks - Steve and I just watched Michael Moore's newest documentary, "Sicko" and loved it as usual. We love his work - of course we are far left liberals although some political aspects are beginning to change as we let go of our flesh and give more to God. A little disturbing but awesome to notice as well. Because while we would think it would bother us - it oddly doesn't as much as we thought it would. We do worry though, about becoming cold, insensitive Christians who never take into account the feelings of unbelievers (like for say some the people in one of these five videos - I forget which one, but very interesting watch). I shudder at the thought.

Of course, we talked about Steve and my past. Steve shared his military life growing up a bit, that he is a scientist for a local project, and that he is a converted atheist. At one point, Ty asked us, "So you went from Mormon to uh, Protestant?" I think he was trying to be polite and not imply we weren't Christians before. He inquired what the term would be from a Latter Day Saint, and we informed him we were "fallen apostates into Christendom".

As our conversation unrolled into Mormonism, I began to realize again that what most people seem to know is the PR image of the LDS church and not much about the doctrines or practices. For example, we spent a good amount of time talking about the community within the church which is such a blessing and comfort - something I really miss. And we talked a lot about the structure of the church rather than on doctrines. Which was different and brought back a flood of great memories. It was ironic that as I've been reading this past month's Ensign (which in and of itself is a blog) that I just read about the conference talk about the structure and community of the LDS church. It really is amazing and the way the members within come together is nothing short of faithful Christian service.

However, at one point, they inquired about how we began to move out of the LDS church. Steve started sharing how we were reading the Bible and it greatly assisted us in coming to the Truth - however this wasn't the only factor. Yet, when this comment was made, there was laughing from around the table. I'm not saying this is wrong - it is somewhat comic that the Bible was very instrumental in God's Will for us, yet at the same time, it says a lot about the image that is in the minds of people when they think of Mormons. This isn't the first time I've received a reaction in this manner - so I want to take a moment to blog about it. The LDS church teaches from the Bible for two years in a four year rotation during their second block meeting (Sunday School - particularly the Gospel Doctrine's class). One year is spent in the New Testament and one year on the Old Testament. Also, the Bible is used in talks, in Gospel Principals class, in Relief Society (and I assume Priesthood sessions), Nursery - it's used within all areas of the LDS church. Now, in culture - say in visits from Visiting Teachers or Home Teachers, it does seem that the other three standard works are stressed - particularly the Book of Mormon, however to be clear - the LDS church does teach from the Bible on a regular basis in comparison with the other standard works.

Now, also as a Latter Day Saint - I enjoyed greatly reading my Bible. I had been reading my Bible for quite some time before I took notice to God's calling and prompting in my life (recall that I made a "confession" to Steve that I didn't believe in the Book of Mormon and felt God calling me elsewhere to which he surprised me by sharing that he had felt the same but didn't know how to tell me). Also, with sites like FAIR or Jeff Lindsey - I was already aware of particular verses that could possibly shake my faith and already knew the apologetic reasoning for it. If by chance, I didn't know the response, I had a long list of resources to find commentary to help me navigate possibly "dangerous" waters for me as a Latter Day Saint. And if there was still any shaky ground - I could always rely on the basic, simple teaching of the LDS church, "that plain and precious truths were lost from the Bible" - which I felt was echoed in section E of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The only "red flag" I had in regards to the Bible and the LDS church before I left was the fact that scripture studies in a group (in the fashion of a small group as an Enrichment Activity) was expressly forbidden by my Bishop and Relief Society president. (See below - names have been protected.)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: RS President
Date: Oct 23, 2006 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: Groups?
To: JD
Jane Doe,

Bishop has said ABSOLUTELY NOT for any groups that are studying the scriptures or anything like that! He said that that is what institute is for, and that he doesn't want any groups forming and then going into their own deep studying of doctrine, and ending up apostasizing from the church. It has also come down from the Stake. So, any groups of that nature are out.
We can, however, start groups for walking, book clubs, dessert nights, quilting, scrapbooking etc etc. Those are ok, but not anything to do with the scripture aspect. If you want, you can have those sisters who are interested in those groups call me if they have any questions. Or, just let them know what the Bishop thinks!!!

RS President

However after my own investigating and a talk with my Bishop - I accepted this as reasonable and totally fine (in part, I still don't see anything wrong with this - but mostly I do).

So with all these resources on hand - if something confused or bothered me, I had plenty of places to go to understand what the LDS church taught that these meant and totally accepted it. LDS read their Bibles all the time - one of the Elders who came to visit with Steve and I with the Bishop was into apologetics and a passionate student of the NT - even studying in Israel for a time - and read his Bible regularly as well. It's not uncommon for Latter Day Saints to read the Bible and have no doctrine issues or questions. Especially if they've been indoctrinated for some time.

But as we explained this - I began to wonder what type of picture of the LDS church do I paint? I like to think I am accurate in my descriptions in doctrine, theology, culture, practice, and so forth. But if someone who had possibly been reading my blogs thought that by simply reading the Bible I would leave the LDS church - even the temple - what sort of image am I really giving? Or is it simple misunderstanding? Am I doing more harm than any good?

If anyone inquires about LDS doctrine - "milk" or "meat" - I'll gladly share it with them, but what sort of impression am I leaving with them? I'm going to ponder on this because while I want to educate anyone interested in Mormonism (to either stay out of it - not to say there are not LOTS of temporal benefits within LDS membership - or to help bring others to the real living Christ - the only eternal benefit worth ever having) but I never want to paint an inaccurate portrait of the LDS people.

Also - I'm not sure to be "proud" of myself or possibly concerned. Tonight, while explaining the different levels of the LDS church (five levels of "heaven" - glory, structure, and so forth) - we explained what the temple was. Now while I've been more lax in what I share about the temple - I've never revealed that which I "covenanted" to keep "sacred". There's a website ex-Mormons and Mormons alike are always sent to - where it informs LDS and others, that this principal is simply unbiblical. Then goes on to either link to or itself reveal all that LDS consider sacred. With sites like CARM, Rick Ross, even Concerned Christians - they simply unveil everything LDS consider sacred. To me, it's distasteful, horrible, unChristian behavior. It's ugly and it's a great example of why someone would want to choose to be an atheist. Much like this video I recently stumbled upon. I almost threw up in my mouth at the vulgar display of unChristlike attitude. However, on the other hand - I can understand why some groups feel they should reveal these practices - in the Old Testament we see God having no respect for false gods, their temples, and their altars. His Kings utterly destroy the priests of idol worship and the altars, high places, and temples (if any). Not to mention how "similar" critics claim the temple rituals are to Mason rituals - which many Christians consider to be demonic. However, having been through the temple - I can ground much of it from the Bible - which made it even harder to abandon when I left the LDS church. However, I've never studied in any depth whatsoever Masonry - so I have no clue if what apologetic writers claim is true. For any interested for an LDS apologetic view, a recent release called, "Mormons and Masons" is available at Desert Bookstores (a former personal favorite).

Anyways, back on track - someone asked us today to tell them about the temple. For a moment, I actually considered telling them, but just couldn't. I didn't feel it was right - or respectful. I explained that I had made a covenant to not reveal the things of the temple and while I didn't believe them to be of God anymore (only a recent transition I've made but still struggling with) I just couldn't in good conscience share it with them. They asked a second time, and I surprisingly remained strong. Even Steve did. I wonder if this is good or regression?

All in all - the Sunday was amazing. It made me really evaluate myself and my dealings and speakings of Mormonism. Lately, I've been reading about the tongue - especially from James 1:26:

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."

For sure something to remember.

Great food, great introspect for thought, and got to fellowship with amazing people and hopefully cultivate a friendship with them. Awesome people, dynamite kids - daredevil like our Paul!

Now, who can we invite for an after church Sunday and hopefully bless and serve? Volunteers? :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A few seperate thoughts on faith and refining

Last night I had my appointment with the site director at Bethany University. First, I had no idea that private university could be so costly. Gulp! This morning's devotional was centered around the second half of John 11:26, "Do you believe this?". Oswald Chambers pointed out that our belief in Jesus translated from a program of belief into personal belief when a personal problem arises. I'd say that lately God has been walking me through this with my parents, slowly building my personal belief in Him and in the unseen. However, in what seems impossible right now - I am oddly enough having a strange sense of peace and faith - if God really wants me to go to this Bible college, then He'll get me there. He'll provide the money. After all - He is the Creator, the Maker, the Provider. If it's His Will - then that's where I'll be. So what that I lost almost $9000 in scholarships because I waited too long to return to school (yeah I cried a little when I heard that one) - He's bigger than that. And yet, part of me cannot believe I've come so far.

I really really want to go to Bethany. I've picked out my major - I've reviewed the courses and I'm so pumped!

Of course, after leaving Bethany I went to work and listened to a great podcast from Family Life Today about the Bible being taught as an elective course in public schools. The course sounds fantastic, very academic. It's really sad that today's generation is missing such basic knowledge of the Bible but it sounds like from these stats - it's invaluable knowledge - even for non-believers from a secular standpoint.

Finally, in past blogs I've discussed my difficulty with my prayer life. It's uncomfortable at best. It was uncomfortable as a Latter Day Saint - I didn't have those twenty minute elaborate prayers, "Please Lord, bless us as we continue on towards our meetings, bless those who are not with us that they may be with us in spirit and perhaps will be with us next Sunday..." - even though I had almost every lengthy prayer memorized, they just weren't me. And so the few times I was asked to pray, my prayers were always the same. "Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for this Sabbath Day. Thank you for those gathered here today to worship You and learn about you. Please allow Your Spirit to be with us and teach us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." As a "Christ Follower" (aka Christian, aka Evangelical, aka Protestant, aka whatever other labels I fall under) I now feel torn between LDS prayers and the seemingly effortless prayers I've heard other Christians pray. It seems so easy for them and I fear anyone asking me to pray.

When I'm alone in my prayer closet, yoga style, head covered - it's not always so paralyzing because it's just me and God. But always making that time is hard. When I'm in my car and I just have a conversation with Him - a bit easier, but then I have this guilt that I wasn't reverent enough and so my prayers aren't honored.

Some Christians hold hands, some put their hands together, some hold their palms up - what is an ex-Mormon supposed to do when they've always been taught to fold their arms and they were told that this is a Masonic ritual and it's hindering their prayer life? :P

Throughout the past months, I've tried to not fold my arms, but rather place my hands together as I've seen other Christians do.

But I wasn't quite comfortable (outside of "worship" during singing time) of the other positions I had seen other Christians doing.

(Below is actually Barbie's BIL)

Top it off, two days ago Beth Moore took me through the obstacle of "prayerlessness" (eh - long word!) and how it affects our relationship with God. I can tell that God is growing me and refining me - it seems every message I listen to, read, or the Word for that day in devotion is speaking about obediance, lack of obediance, and refining. Praise God! How far I've come to realize that He's refining me and praise Him for it instead of gnawing my nails and nervously thinking, "But why God why?!"

So while I've had this on my mind off and on the past few months, I've also been complaining (but not praying) about my "adventures in babysitting". I'll detour from my present train of thought for just a moment - it'll all make sense in a moment, I promise. I've been babysitting since Anya was just a few months old. I've had three "charges" now. The first one, Paris. Her mom was always late picking her up. Drove me insane. Could never make solid plans. The second one I still sit for - baby C - parents never discipline him, they are still LDS (pay me with LDS checks), always seem to be behind and are like pulling teeth to get paid. And my most recent charges come from my GP small group. I was totally excited when I took the two kids. Their mom is a Christian, believes in discipline, pays me on time without being asked or coerced, is polite and kind and serving - she's like a dream. But there are some issues - I won't name them here - mostly with some behavior issues I've had between one of my kids and hers. Instead of praying (like I should have) I complained to two of my closest friends, worried, fretted, and began resenting the whole situation. Weekdays became my nightmares.

Today, she sat down with me and counseled me in prayer. It was simple counseling but I realized that every charge I had, had taught me a lesson that God wanted and needed me to learn. In deed, my devotional just the day before had been about how we suffer with Christ - how God puts us in situations to be able to emphasize with those around us. Even though I felt I was getting progressively worse charges each time, God is blessing me each time with a new life experience and a new preparation for however He will use me in the future. How amazing is that? He's placed this mother in my life to help me in my constant struggle in prayer. Today has been the best day with the kids in a long time. All because of her counseling on prayer. No one has ever taken the time to counsel me on prayer. Why would they? It seems like a pretty straight forward thing doesn't it? And I'm too prideful to really let on to anyone how in need I was in this area.

God is good.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Aren't you from Mars?

At GP, there is "The Crew" - volunteers who setup and tear down the sets for service (GP is a portable church plant right now). Steve's on the Crew and he works setup for an entire series. During the series he works, I get the kids up, dressed, and to church. This morning, as I putting things in the car and preparing to take the kids to church, two people walk up my driveway. One was an adult man, and the other a young man. There were both wearing button up shirts and ties. Immediately, I knew they were from the LDS church - but couldn't for the life of me figure out why they were here.

"Good morning sister. We're here for Fast Offerings." I wanted to laugh - are you kidding me? We've lived at this house for 18 months and not ONCE have they ever come by for our fast offerings (which can be either money or food for the Bishop's storehouse). Of course, now that we're removing our names from the roll book they come by.

"Hello Elder. I'm sorry, you must have the wrong house. We're no longer apart of the ward." Trying to be friendly (as most ex-Mormons are perceived as anything but friendly) I smiled at them.

"Uh - not a part of the ward? Are you moving out of boundaries?"

"No, we've left the church."

Puzzled and now looking at me as if I were from Mars he continues, "Wait, but aren't you the Hommels?"

He says this as if we had signed up for this month's offering - yet we haven't been to a block meeting (with one exception) for almost seven months now. I wonder - as we navigate this hopefully final stage of our exit - how many surprise visitors should we expect and will they all look at us like we're nuts?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pics from Halloween Party

Thought I'd post some pics from the party. :)

The goodie bags I stayed up until 3 am sewing. The yellow ones are for decorating.

The path to our Trick-or-Treat Street (aka the upstairs hallway).

Our spooky trick-or-treat street. Jamie cut out a pumpkin, a ghost, and a candy corn to put on the doors of our "houses". We put candy in these rooms and an adult would duck in before the kids reached it and would close the door. Then another adult would encourage them to knock on the door and say, "Trick or treat!" It was a safe and fun environment for the kids to practice for the big night.

The front of the house. We blew up tons of balloons and then placed large cones (thanks Jamie!) in the driveway so as to create a "wall" so the kids wouldn't go past it during our parade.

Anya and Maddy in their costumes.

Paul showing off his "racing" lizard.

We set up a face painting and craft table for easy access. Sabrina brought a friend with her (Ryan's mom) that was very gifted with face painting. So the kids all flocked to her.

Jamie's son Caleb. Very happy.

Ryan's mom's artwork. Paul wanted a green spiderweb.

Maddy wanted w

All the kids lined up after our little driveway parade.
(From left to right - Anya as Pablo, Paul as a Transformer, Caleb as a monkey, Maddy as a poodle, Bridgette as a duck, Ryan and Braden as casual and comfy pumpkins.)

The spread! The plan was for the kids to get really tired, then eat a picnic style lunch in the living room and relax watching Meet the Robinsons. Didn't quite go as scheduled.

Ryan's mommy brought the most creative food!

There are more pics here if you want to see the video from our little parade. All in all, it was a great time.

Huh - Observations

I've mentioned before that I am in a few online "ex-Mormon groups" or discussion boards. It's interesting to me to see how everyone reacts to leaving the LDS church, why they left, and what they are doing now.

In one of my groups, they have posted a link to Belief Net to help one understand what organized religion they more closely identify to. I took a few of these while I was LDS out of fun, and one shortly after leaving the LDS church and always ended up with the LDS church as number one or top three spots. Curious, since I knew God had been really growing me in areas that I hadn't noticed until after I had grown, I took the quiz again. My results:

1. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (100%)
3. Eastern Orthodox (91%)
4. Roman Catholic (91%)
5. Seventh Day Adventist (88%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (77%)
7. Islam (56%)
8. Orthodox Judaism (56%)
9. Hinduism (51%)
10. Liberal Quakers (51%)
11. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (49%)
12. Bahá'í Faith (44%)
13. Jehovah's Witness (44%)
14. Unitarian Universalism (39%)
15. Reform Judaism (37%)
16. Jainism (37%)
17. Sikhism (36%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (32%)
19. Mahayana Buddhism (31%)
20. Theravada Buddhism (30%)
21. Scientology (27%)
22. New Age (22%)
23. New Thought (21%)
24. Neo-Pagan (19%)
25. Nontheist (15%)
26. Secular Humanism (15%)
27. Taoism (11%)

At least it's not in my top three anymore. ;) In the group as they discuss their results and what they believe in now - I'm noticing a trend. A large majority of them seem to either shy away from organized religion (who can blame them? They are subscribing to the, "once bitten, twice shy" mindset) or there are a few who don't believe in the LDS church and simply stay because of comfort. I understand both points of view - when we were aware that God was calling us away from the LDS church, we would attend GP services in the morning and our ward's meetings in the afternoon. Once the Lord showed me through His Word that the church was not true, then I stopped attending. The temptation though, to continue attending was pretty strong. I want to say I had more self control than that though, but really, GP had grown on us by that time and attending almost five hours of church - not counting our 2-3 hour small group - was just exhausting.

Organized religion - I can understand their mindsets on this as well. Frankly, if it wasn't God who had guided us out of the church and we just stumbled over anti-Mormon material, or took offense or any of the other secular/fleshly "reasons" (given by LDS church leadership - not by ex-Mormons themselves) that ex-Mormons supposedly leave, then I don't believe Steve and I would have attended another church. Steve would have lapsed back into atheism as he did after our stint in Pahrump and I would have eventually given up and returned to enjoying a full two day weekend as opposed to a one day weekend to do all my chores so as to observe the Sabbath properly.

In another group I'm in (created to "Help the Protestants" - created by a passionate LDS apologetic in order to shame doctrines like the Trinity for example) I noticed a recent thread entitled, "Do you have any self worth?". I don't always jump into these conversations but rather enjoy observing. I always learn a new thing or two that should be obvious to me about what I used to believe, but at times, simply go unnoticed. I found one post really interesting and began to think it over in my head.

Self = Unabridged (v 1.1) –noun 1. a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality: one's own self. 2. a person's nature, character, etc.: his better self. 3. personal interest. 4. Philosophy. a. the ego; that which knows, remembers, desires, suffers, etc., as contrasted with that known, remembered, etc. b. the uniting principle, as a soul, underlying all subjective experience worth = Unabridged (v 1.1) –noun 4. excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem: women of worth. 5. usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose: Your worth to the world is inestimable. Self-worth = the realization of, or understanding of; who or what we truly are, the value we are to ourselves, and those around us us, ... Self-worth = coming to the realization, or understanding, that we, each and everyone, are living breathing children of our heavenly Father, that we are loved, that we are so loved and valued, that our Heavenly Father sent his Son Jesus Christ, to be born of him, on the earth, that we may return to live with him, our Heavenly Father. Self-worth = the belief and/or knowledge that we are special; that we are unique; that we are children (literally) of God, and that he knows each and everyone of us by name, he knows the number of hair on our head We must love ourselves, as he loves us, and love him, as he has loved us. If we love him, and choose to serve him in everything, our self-worth will become evident to us, as he will reveal to us, who we are in him. (Do you have any self worth?)

It dawned on me what exactly was being stated - or rather what was not being stated here as all the other LDS posters congratulated that author on his post about self-worth. What is not stated is that God had to send Jesus to reconcile us to Him because we are sinners. I began to think over in my mind how many times I had been taught that I was a sinner while in the LDS church - I couldn't put my finger on an exact time. I knew that I was and still am a sinner. That was never vague. But the teachings never put together that Jesus had to come and die because we are separated from God BECAUSE we are sinners. Recall, that the Fall was God's will and plan - so why would God come to fix what was never broken? And those crazy Protestants (I kid) and others like them who like to discuss how we are all sinners worthy for hell have self-worth issues. It hit me that another "Christian" doctrine that I had hated was this sinners worthy for hell - and now not only did I accept and understand it, but I found it helps me remain focused on Jesus and His sacrifice for me. I find that my self worth comes from knowing that while I was "ungodly" (Romans 5:6) God died for me. God loves mankind so much, that He died for us. Even when, technically, we weren't worth dying for.

I mean, just look at the very lengthy modern day, set in stone list of sins we committ everyday according to Prophet Spencer W. Kimball is his reknown book, "The Miracle of Forgivess" (I recently learned that Bishops keep this book on hand in bulk quanities for members going through a repentance process.)

Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness , p.19

As we read the scriptures quoted or referred to above, we observe that they list virtually all the modern transgressions, though sometimes under ancient names. Let us review the lengthy list:
Murder, adultery, theft, cursing, unholiness in masters, disobedience in servants, unfaithfulness, improvidence, hatred of God, disobedience to husbands, lack of natural affection, high-mindedness, flattery, lustfulness, infidelity, indiscretion, backbiting, whispering, lack of truth, striking, brawling, quarrelsomeness, unthankfulness, inhospitality, deceitfulness, irreverence, boasting, arrogance, pride, double-tongued talk, profanity, slander, corruptness, thievery, embezzlement, despoiling, covenant-breaking, incontinence, filthiness, ignobleness, filthy communications, impurity, foolishness, slothfulness, impatience, lack of understanding, unmercifulness, idolatry, blasphemy, denial of the Holy Ghost, Sabbath breaking, envy, jealousy, malice, maligning, vengefulness, implacability, bitterness, clamor, spite, defiling, reviling, evil speaking, provoking, greediness for filthy lucre, disobedience to parents, anger, hate, covetousness, bearing false witness, inventing evil things, fleshliness, heresy, presumptuousness, abomination, insatiable appetite, instability, ignorance, self-will, speaking evil of dignitaries, becoming a stumbling block; and in our modern language, masturbation, petting, fornication, adultery, homosexuality; and every sex perversion, every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure practices.

And this observation, in my Tic-Tac-Toe mind - leads me right back to "practical" and active faith. Ever play the game "Apples to Apples"? Self worth to me, brings to mind the words, "pride" or "selfish". To a point, we do have to have self worth - when we accept Christ, we are new creations, we were so valued that God died for us (although we do also need to know why He had to die for us), and we must hold ourselves in enough esteem not to allow others to treat us badly. However, where is the line drawn? Where does humility and understanding of God's great sacrifice for us come in? Where exactly is the line drawn between valuable self worth and a stumbling block of pride and selfishness?

I think the Lord is trying to teach me something with all the questions building up in me - but I'm not sure what yet. He should know that I hate puzzles. :P