Jesus and other things

December 8, 2008

FYI: This post is continued from the last post. You might be a bit confused if you haven’t read that one.

I thought it would be simple to answer the question, “What do you believe?” But it’s not. And now I’ve gone and said I would answer the question, so I’ll try, even though it’s hard. I haven’t gotten into detail about my faith on the blog too much in the past, and I have my reasons for that. So this is a bit uncomfortable, or at least more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

The reason for my discomfort? Well, I ask you this:

How DOES a person put into words what they believe?

It would take pages and pages! Faith is so multi-layered and individual, nearly impossible to describe. And sometimes professing faith can sound so trite or cliche. So much of the language of “believers” has been repeated so many times, it doesn’t hold much meaning anymore. Even so, I have no other words to start this off with except,

I believe that Jesus was who He said He was. (You know…God.)

That makes me a Christian, even though sometimes that’s hard for me to admit. Not because of Christ, but because of some Christians and their failed attempts to live the love of Christ. (Don’t get me wrong, I fail too, but I’m still embarrassed by fellow Christians who do more hating than loving.)

———–

There are a whole lot of reasons I’m a “believer.” Those reasons are completely personal to me, due to my experience. It’s amazing what God can show you if you take a little tiny leap of faith and seek Him out.

Here’s a little faith analogy for you:
I can’t remember much before the age of three (or sixteen for that matter), but I know I existed. I can’t remember the long days spent with my Mother as she dealt with sleepless nights and toddler tantrums, but I know she was there with me. It was in those early days that my Mom and I developed a bond. I look at my relationship with God in much the same way. Even though I can’t see Him, and I have no tangible proof that He’s been with me, I’m still so connected to Him that I’ve never been able to deny Him, even when I’ve doubted.

I don’t think professing in detail what I believe in words on a blog can speak what I’d like it to speak.

For instance, I could tell you stories from my life, of times that I ran from belief, from church, and from God, and how He plucked me out of my self-made pit. I could tell you how that makes Him very real to me, but those are long stories and many are too difficult to tell in a random public forum like blogging. Sure, if you were all sitting here in my kitchen, I’d ramble on and on and see your faces and hear your words and I wouldn’t hesitate to tell all my stories. I would love it. (Well, maybe not in the current state of my kitchen, but let’s imagine a theological discussion around a campfire, wouldn’t that be cool?) But since you’re not here, I won’t get into all those testimonial type stories today.

Let’s just say I definitely don’t have a robotic-believe-what-you’ve-been-taught- without-thinking-for-yourself kind of faith. I’ve doubted and questioned a thousand things. And every time I’ve wrestled with Him, God has proven Himself real, trust-worthy, and always loving. He rocks.

Ryan and the boys and I attend an inner-city Methodist church, but that isn’t because it’s Methodist. We go there because it feels like the right place for us to worship the God who loves us. I don’t get the feeling of self-righteousness, arrogance, and judgment that is sadly present in many evangelical circles when we’re there. Instead, the focus is on justice for the poor, sound Biblical teaching, and unconditional love. It’s diverse in every way, and the purpose of the church is to help the poverty and crime-stricken area right outside it’s doors. It rocks.

One of my favorite things in life is learning more about the BIG God that we humans have a tendency to put in a very small box. He surprises me all the time, stretching my ideas of Him and teaching me how much He loves me and everyone else in miraculous ways.
———-

Many times, when someone says they’re a Christian, people jump to some conclusions. Some of that is because it’s natural for people to assume stereotypes fit every person under a certain label. But it’s impossible for anyone to fit any kind of mold perfectly. I’m an individual with my own thoughts and beliefs separate from the next Christian. We may believe the same fundamental truths, but we most likely differ in many ways. I think God made us all so extremely unique, knowing we would each find our own unique road back to Him, long or short.

As for an example of these differences: Some Christians are very focused on lifestyle and moral issues. I’m just not. I guess I would rather not focus so much on behaviors or lifestyles (since none of us can claim perfection-I know I don’t come anywhere close-it’s just simply not my job to focus on others in that way). I wrote a post about the whole judgment topic here, if you’re interested in more of my ramblings.

What’s much more important to me than lifestyle is help for the hurting, justice for the poor and oppressed, and just plain truly loving people. (Some of my heroes are Bono (you’ve maybe heard of him), Sara Groves, Bebo Norman, and anyone from International Justice Mission or Compassion International. They’re out there really DOING something for other people rather than…not.)

I can’t help but to see every person through eyes of grace and mercy. That’s because of Jesus, not me. His are the eyes that saw me and loved me despite myself. He has taught me a lot, and I’m looking forward to a veeery long relationship with Him (like forever or so), learning more and being inspired by his awesomeness.

I fail a lot, just ask my husband, but I’m absolutely crazy about people. I can’t believe that God was gracious enough to share His eyes of mercy with me.

If I were ever able to keep it short, I would sum it up like this:
I want to see people the way that God does, since He’s the One with all the answers, and He’s crazy in love with each one of us. I think it takes a really long time to fully see with His eyes.

———–

Wow. If you read all of this, I’m seriously impressed. I doubt anyone needed THIS much information. Sorry, but it’s nap time and I couldn’t stop rambling.

(Some friends and I have another blog (same one that the post I linked to earlier is from)where we think aloud about faith and stuff. If you like the topic of faith, stop by. We don’t post often, but we’re honest when we do, wrestling with issues and sharing our hearts as openly as possible.)

The End. (finally)

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke December 8, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I love hearing what other people believe. I feel the same way as you, that, in essence, I want to be like Jesus. I want to love people like he does, accept people and all of their quirks like he does and treat them as he would have me treat them. I heard a quote in church yesterday that started out with “You are a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves you”, and it made me burst into tears because at that moment, I knew it was true. The statement is so simple, but I felt his love completely surround me when it was said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Jesus.

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Kristina P. December 8, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I second everything Brooke said. I love reading about other people’s beliefs, even more so if they don’t perfectly match up with mine!

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Kazzy December 8, 2008 at 9:56 pm

I like your goal of wanting to see people the way Jesus does. That is true Christianity.

Twenty-five years ago I was searching for a place where I got my questions answered and where I could learn more about my relationship with God. I found what was right for me, and I appreciate anyone who looks and finds for themselves.

I am the oldest of five kids. Amongst us we have a Mormon, a Catholic, a Lutheran, and two Methodists. My parents taught us love of family and God and left other decisions up to us.

Thanks for your feelings. You are awesome!

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Growin' with it! December 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm

as i read this and nodded…again and again, i finished and thought ♥she nailed it♥! so much of what you said is my heart as well. and after “growing up in the church” and now being in the ministry i have gone against the grain over and over on stereotypes and legalism. i found out what God’s GRACE meant about 5 years ago and it completely transformed my life and what i believe about who He is.

well said heather. i’m so grateful for your honesty and your genuine heart!

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Keyona December 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Thank you Heather. I like you just that much more for posting this.

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Heidi Ashworth December 8, 2008 at 10:07 pm

In spite of feeling like your words just aren’t enough (I know the feeling) it came through loud and clear. I love that you choose to go to a church that focuses on the true love of Christ by putting charity into action and helping others. I would love to hear your stories but I agree that this really isn’t the place. Sometimes when I am tempted to tell some of mine, I think, no, they are too sacred. But, having those stories are what makes you the person you are and it all comes shining through!

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Erin December 8, 2008 at 10:55 pm

That was beautiful! God is the one with all of the answers, and I want to see people as He does also. Thank you for this.

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Kate Coveny Hood December 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm

This was really interesting. And I thought you were Mormon at first too! A lot of the writers at Bloggers Annex are – and I think that’s where I first saw your writing.

Anyway – I have a bit of a Mormon following myself. This happened randomly as the result of a post I wrote about Mormons (“Mormons are Funny”) last July. I never knew anyone that was Mormon and am kind of fascinated by them… Most of the Mormon blogs I read are such happy places. It kind of inspires me to be a better person.

I didn’t get a chance to comment on the picture of Asher – but I can imagine that you do get a lot of second glances. I mean – he’s really cute.

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Melanie J December 9, 2008 at 12:08 am

I think this is beautifully said. I admire your choice of place to worship and the obvious true love of Christ that you use to see others. It’s inspiring.

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Steph @ Diapers and Divinity December 9, 2008 at 12:33 am

Heather, I love your analogy about your childhood, memories, and innate connections with God. It’s beautiful and rings so true. I also love how so many of us in many different faiths have so much more in common than we realize. You’ve captured the true Christian spirit in your post. Thanks, I really liked it.

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RosyRose December 9, 2008 at 12:43 am

me too.. I like your analogy of not remembering but knowing…I’m gonna use that with my kids. THey always want to hear about my progression of faith.
I know what you mean about so many of us “christians”…too many times its a “form of religion without a transformed heart”.
Hope all is well with Asher!

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LisAway December 9, 2008 at 12:49 am

Silly Goose! This wasn’t as long as I expected OR hoped, but very well put. Thank you for sharing.

When I was a junior in high school I had one day where everywhere I went I just felt like all the kids were beautiful. Physically beautiful, acne, wacky hair, funky clothes and all. It was the hugest breath of fresh air I’d ever had. I went around staring at everyone. I was in a bit of shock. These just seemed like the most wonderful people, not only physically, but it was like I could feel their spirits or something. I felt like I was in heaven. At one point in the day I could hardly keep myself from bawling as I was walking to one of my classes. I had to go into the bathroom and have a little cry.

I understood that this is how our Father sees his children. With this peaceful love and admiration for their virtues, and the ability to overlook (or at least ignore) their faults and weaknesses.

At home that night I thought about this for a long time. I knew it was given to me as a gift. It is so well imprinted on my mind and heart that I can use it for the rest of my life to determine if I am acting and feeling the way I should about the people I see or am dealing with. I’m so grateful for that.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and love thy neighbor as thyself. On this hang all the law and the prophets. I love that EVERYTHING we are supposed to do we will be lead to do if we follow those two.

Thanks again for this, Heather.

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Kimberly December 9, 2008 at 1:19 am

You put that so beautifully, Heather. There are tears in my eyes. Despite years of practice putting my feelings into words, I couldn’t do so half so eloquently as you have. All I can say really is, amen.

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Kristen December 9, 2008 at 1:23 am

I love it. Couldn’t agree more.

I want to go to your church . . .

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Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel December 9, 2008 at 2:15 am

I’m glad you posted about your faith. And yes, I read every word of this post. I love to know what people believe in and why. It gives you a window to the true person behind all the words. You are beautiful! And the fact that you are also humble and hilarious makes you just an amazing person. Glad I found your blog. (I actually found you through Charette. And I found Kimbely through you. Blogland is a funny place.)

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Peanut December 9, 2008 at 3:19 am

I’m so glad you wrote that. You have such a way with words… all I can really say is, me too.
God rocks!
I’m glad you have found a church that fits… it is so hard sometimes.

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Blessed December 9, 2008 at 7:55 am

It really is about loving people the way God loves them and seeing people through his compassion instead of our natural judgementalism. I too have a hard time identifying myself as a “Christian” or even more specifically as “Apostolic” because there are so many people who apply those labels to themselves that are nothing like me and what I believe God wants me to be.

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Beth in NC December 9, 2008 at 9:07 am

Hi Heather. Great blog and well written. How do we explain our beliefs? You’re right — many layers. Well done and thanks for sharing!

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Sara@ Butterville December 9, 2008 at 9:19 am

Here here Heather! Nicely done! I know people that DO stuff in the church, like look at me I’m volunteering, but they hord their money and time and don’t look OUTSIDE the church walls or even the state they live in. LOVE that you mentioned IJM and CI awesome awesome groups.
I like Bono too! actually I liked the man BEFORE I liked his music. But because I think he’s cool, I like listening for the messages of his songs. I Love ONE.anyway, enough about rocking, which by the way you do!

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Heather Smith December 9, 2008 at 9:58 am

I think you worded it very well. Faith is so much more than quoting Bible verses and spouting off a bunch of “Thou Shalt Nots.”
Faith is an everyday decision. A decision to trust in Christ’s promises to bring us through that day.
Perfection is something I could never claim, but regardless of my failures I still know I’m wrapped up in the love of Christ, and I want to share that love with others.
Thanks so much for this post!!

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a Tonggu Momma December 9, 2008 at 10:04 am

Faith is so layered, it takes courage to write about it. Because people respond and that can feel very disquieting.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The husband and I like to say that we are Christians who strive to think outside of the box, but inside of the Bible. Sometimes we get it wrong, but that is our goal.

I believe that Real Christianity is a prefect balance between truth and love. Unfortunately, we in our imperfect human states typically get too heavy on the love or too heavy on the truth. All too often now, the people most outspoken about their faith are the “too heavy on the truth” Christians. I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum… I suspect some people would say truth while others (perhaps most) would say love. But I figure that God loves me regardless and also values my process.

Hugs and love to you!

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Cynthia December 9, 2008 at 10:19 am

You bore a beautiful testimony and I’m so happy for you that you’ve found just the right fit for you. That matters. We all grow in our own ways and finding that inspiration to be more than you are is the purpose of attending a church (as opposed to being ‘faithful’ at home) and worshiping with others.

We have differing beliefs but I respect anyone who doesn’t just profess something- they do something about it. One of the things I love about the church I attend is the extensive welfare system which is frequently extended to those outside our faith in times of crisis.

I’m glad you have found the best fit for your own family. May the blessings continue to pour over your family and may God continue to watch over you all.

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charrette December 9, 2008 at 11:19 am

Such a lovely, from-the-heart post. I love your analogy about being with your mom before you were three, but not remembering that time with her, and likening that to your faith in God. That really resonated with me. I think it’s more profound than you realize.

I don’t have a robotic, believe-what-you’re taught brand of faith either. In fact, my strongest witnesses have come through some deep periods of doubt, which led me to search harder and deeper for real answers.

I would LOVE to hear some of your stories. I’m sure they’re AWESOME. So maybe someday. And in the meantime, I love knowing that MOST OF US, regardless of our denomination or faith, value compassion, know that prayers get answered, and seek for a personal relationship with God.

You made me a Bono fan. I’d always loved U2, but not paid much attention to lyrics, or to him specifically, before you pointed out some great quotes to me. I also ordered the Sara Groves CD because of you…and now my whole family loves it.

But who really ROCKS…is you. Your sincerity and faith-laced-with-humor touches so many hearts every single day. And your “eyes of mercy” are a gift straight from God.

So glad I know you…

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Melanie December 9, 2008 at 11:35 am

I’m glad you started your post with believing that Jesus is who he said He was. :) That’s the biggest thing.

When you talked about God giving you eyes of mercy for people (that’s awesome!) it reminded me of Brandon Heath’s song ‘Give Me your Eyes’ youtube it if you haven’t heard it…

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pam December 9, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Amen, amen, amen! I too have trouble putting “what I believe” in a few paragraphs, because I do believe God is bigger than words can say, and he understands our doubts, which often don’t come up in those quick and simple descriptions. Bless you for the courage to make an effort to put it out there.

I’m a Methodist too, for the very reasons you mentioned you love your church. It feels like home to me.

Have you read any books or seen videos by Rob Bell? He’s on my list of heroes, and he speaks to many of the issues you raise here.

So glad I found you in the blogosphere–I’m off to check out your other site!

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Jessica December 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

This is a beautiful post in every way. I couldn’t agree more with you, every bit of what you said. But the really cool part? I could have said all of these things about you before I even read this- your love for people, honesty, compassion, and sincerity breathes through every post you write! LOVE that about you!

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Debbie December 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm

You are just the greatest. Look at you – writing about your faith and what you believe in – without judging others or offending. I just love reading your blog every time you update.

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JustRandi December 9, 2008 at 3:36 pm

I love hearing about your faith! I’ve had lots of people over the years try to tell me that what I believe and what they believe are miles apart, but I just don’t buy it.
Great post, Heather!

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Eowyn December 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

These last two posts were great. I loved hearing of your faith. We are all so close in our love of the Savior. It’s a pity so much else divides us.

And yes, love is what it’s all about.

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Jeff James December 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I’ve wanted to sit down and write just this – but I ramble too much. I also get worried about offending people too but when it is the absolute core of your life you do need to put it into words sometime 1 Peter 3:15 tells us as much with gentleness and respect. You’ve done it wonderfully here Heather. I also appreciate your comment on Jesus said who he was ‘fully God, fully man’

It’s so sad and sometimes disturbing to see the media (TV and Movies)portraying the wrong view of Christianity. We are shown as a society of ‘holier than thou’ judgemental, bigots. Then those who have never read the Gospels assume that that’s how we are and not the true living examples of Christ that we try to be. This view is exactly the opposite of who Jesus/God is, especially when He was here on Earth. (probably preaching to the Christian choir here, huh?)
I’ve just deleted 2 paragraphs that were ramblings.
cliff notes:
regular reading in the Word: Good.
keeps Christ followers from following ‘religion’

It’s comforting to see in writing other testimonies thank you.
Yes Bebo Rocks!
Our church hosted a Leadership Summit this past August and Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission spoke. I was unaware of IJM before but it’s an amazing group of people. I’d 2nd that link.
Told you I rambled….:(

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Joanne December 12, 2008 at 11:35 am

My first time by. I guess I hit the jackpot today. I felt like I walked into the family room on Thanksgiving where the relatives are having a sensitive and deep conversation.

Glad I came over!

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Mie June 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm

loved your words! hello from Finland,

Mimosa
Mie recently posted..Incredible

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MarcusDS October 19, 2011 at 5:04 am

Hi! Love your blog.

Just wanted to point out – ” help for the hurting, justice for the poor and oppressed, and just plain truly loving people.”

This is a lifestyle. The right one. The Christ one. =) I believe it’s ok for us to be concerned about a lifestyle if this is the one we’re concerned about. It’s people who talk but don’t do that irritates me!

Nevertheless, loving holiness is obeying God and I think our focus should be pleasing God above all else! That is true religion.

Thanks so much for sharing your life here! Your kids are just lovely!

Blessings,
MarcusDS

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~Brenda November 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Yes. It does take a long time to fully see with His eyes. I don’t think we’ll fully see, until we’ve entered into His presence. But isn’t it a joy to walk with Him here, as we begin the journey of seeing more clearly every day?

I appreciated the way you shared your heart here. My sister-in-law just had a baby, and named her Elsie. :) Cute name for two really cute babies!

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