Sharing Christianity With Love and Warmth

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better!   This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times.  It makes me sad.   I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that).  I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him.  That can be a lonely place.  The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.

I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement.  Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him.  He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday.   He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion !   Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about?  Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me.  I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’  and comments over the years about that).  God can use anybody who is willing!  Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉

It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with.   I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community.  I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God.  I also look at the social, scientific,  and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything.  But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be.  What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away?  That isn’t the goal !  Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !).   God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental.  Matthew 7 is very clear on that.  The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love.  Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians.  Those are our standards.

God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times.   When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape.  With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better).  When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died.  I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years.  I’d like to share that comfort with others.  I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around.  When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning.  He answered all of my prayers during all of those times.  I’m still here.

I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ),  but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it.  I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !).  I believe that salvation is  a choice.  It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.  Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven.  The Bible is very clear on that.  But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him.  I believe that  Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind.  I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including  Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart.  That is more important than human acceptance.  I don’t ‘do’ legalism…  I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.

I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice.   They have the right to their beliefs as  I have the right to mine.  My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life.  But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person).  Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me.  God made it a choice, whether to believe or not.  He didn’t create us to be robotic followers.  He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions?  🙂

Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth.  The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless.  It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions.  Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus.  That’s their right.  It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will.  Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone.  God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way.   And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them.  How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?

To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian-  BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice.  It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption.   God can use ALL of us 🙂 

I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him.  He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him.  I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂  He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever.  He won’t force Himself on anybody.  He gave us free will.  And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief.  Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.

I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do.  I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection.  I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back.  I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago.  I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale.  I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal.  Just wouldn’t work for me.   I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church.  I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc).  I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.

I wish that for everyone. 🙂

Where Was God During My Cancer?

Right next to me.  That is a huge reason why I got through it without too many emotional scars.  Yes, it was a scary thing to hear I had acute myelocytic leukemia. Yes, I was nervous about chemotherapy. I thought about dying.  But it was what it was.  Without my belief in God having everything under control, I would have been a mess.  I didn’t have to understand what He was doing, or why He was allowing it.  I just had to believe it was all happening for a reason.  I’m still not entirely sure what the reason was/is- but that’s OK.  It’s out of my hands.  I’m generally happier when humans aren’t managing things.

I’d ended up in the emergency room  before being diagnosed . I’ve got an extensive medical history, and because of having had many, many blood clots in my lungs at one time, I’d been told that I should always get any sort of funky feelings in my chest or breathing issues checked out at the ER.  I’d seen my lab work and a hematologist/oncologist, who was planning to do a bone marrow biopsy the following week.  The Friday night  before the scheduled bone marrow biopsy (of course it was a Friday night after office hours) I started having some odd pressure and mild shortness of breath. I knew it could be because of the low hemoglobin, but figured I’d better get it checked out.  That may have been the difference in surviving or not.  My lab work values had fallen even more.  I later found out I may have had a week or two to live had I not gotten started on chemo and transfusions of platelets and red blood cells when I did.  That ‘gut’ feeling was something I’ve learned to listen to, and believe it can be a nudge from God to perk up and pay attention to something.

When I first got the diagnosis, I wasn’t that surprised.  I’d seen my lab work that got me referred to the hem/onc, and knew whatever was coming wasn’t going to be good.  I’d at least had that much warning.  It is different to actually hear the words confirming what sort of diagnosis I had, but at least I knew enough as an RN to know that I was in trouble.  I had time to have some sort of ‘back of my mind’ reaction.  So, the praying started in earnest before I was actually diagnosed.  My main prayers- please, God, either get me through it, or minimize the pain.

I knew where I’d end up if I died.  I’ve had very strong beliefs in Heaven since I was a kid. Some say that’s illogical, blind faith.  I believe that faith is sort of blind by definition- LOL.  If I needed proof, it wouldn’t be faith !  I did pray often, and know others were praying for me.  Several of my dad’s friends from his church came to visit me, as did a couple of the visiting clergy folks.  (I’d grown up in that church, so knew the people he knew for the most part).  A big blessing was the social work Master’s intern that was assigned to me was actually a  friend,  former neighbor, and church friend (her whole family).  I was so glad to see her, and told her that it was OK to tell her family, who also visited.  It was nice to see familiar people.

I believe that getting to Heaven is a choice.  It’s not about being ‘good’ or living a decent life. It’s about belief. In particular, it’s about believing that Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth as a man in order to die as a sacrifice for all of our sins.  Nobody who is of an age of accountability  can ‘work’ their way into Heaven.  It’s about believing in Jesus, His death and resurrection, and that He’s going to come back one day.  So Heaven is a choice. Not believing is also a choice. And, it’s all free will.  God gave us free will to decide if we believe or not. He could have designed us all to follow Him without making that decision, but what good is a relationship that is ‘programmed’?  What good is the ‘love’ of a child that is pre-programmed?  It’s not ‘real’.  God didn’t create puppets. He created us with free will.  It’s up to us to make that decision.

I’ve been told that my ‘illogical’ faith is a form of being brainwashed, or following as a puppet, but it’s actually my responsibility to continue believing what I do.  I don’t believe salvation is ever lost once it’s accepted.  However, to maintain an active  relationship with the Lord, I have to put some effort into it.  A feeble analogy is this:  a plant will still grow once it has roots- but weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning, and protecting it make for a much fuller plant with deeper roots, fuller blossoms, and  a longer life.  Am I perfect at it? Absolutely not !  I ask God to forgive me for various things all the time !  But He’s working in me, using what strengths I have.  He can use all of us. Many of the people in the Bible who had the greatest impact were train wrecks before they let God work through them !

Christianity has been described as ‘exclusive’.  Nothing could be further from the truth. There are no requirements other than belief and acceptance of what Christ did. That’s it.  There are no ‘steps’ in order to be good enough.  No amount of following ‘rules’ will get someone into Heaven.  No trips to places around the world are required.  There are no limits on the number of people who can get in.  It’s just belief and faith.  God loves all of us.  But He can’t permit sin in Heaven.   Jesus took away our sins when He died on the cross- that is the payment, and WE didn’t even have to pay it !  It was paid for us 🙂  He wants all of us in Heaven, but He won’t force it.  It’s up to each of us as individuals to make that decision.  But once we’re His, it’s forever.  He never leaves us.  Life still happens.  But it’s just a fraction of a second in the grand scheme of eternity.  For me, it’s what sustains me no matter what happens.  I’m never alone, and Heaven will be indescribably wonderful.

I pray I will see you there 🙂