Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story Of My Life: Freedom

Previous installments in the Story of My Life series: Roots, Salvation, Answered Prayer, and Bumps in The Road

I left off the story in Portland, where my walk with God was vastly improving, but something was still missing. After a year in Portland, I decided to move back home. I planned to find a job and live in the Bay area, but God had other plans. I found a job here, which I couldn't pass on after 3 months of unemployment. Which I'm so glad about, because God had great plans for me.

I discovered that blogging might not just be a hobby, but something God wanted for me. From me. As a result, I signed up for the Relevant Conference in faith, not knowing how God wouldmeet me there. At the conference, He showed me that I needed to return to my first love, and put Him first in my life, in a way that I hadn't in a long long time. I didn't know how, but I knew He would show me. And He did. There was a book there at the conference called Praying God's Word, by Beth Moore. It was not available for purchase, but I couldn't wait to get home and buy it, because I knew I had to read it. I didn't know how or why, but I knew it was important.

When I got home I practically drove from the airport to the bible book store to get the book. Basically, the book is a guide for how to turn scriptures into prayers, in order to overcome sin and be transformed by God's Word. As I read it, I could literally feel the transformation in my soul. It was like chains were falling off, and my heart was finally free.

The thing that people don’t like to talk about much in church is that just as real as our God is, who loves us and is always on our side, we also have a very real enemy who wants to do anything he can to destroy us. When we come to Christ, we are set free. We are no longer slaves to sin. And there is nothing the enemy can do about that freedom, he has no power over our God. So what he does instead is exactly what he is best at doing – he lies to us. As Beth Moore describes it, we are standing in our jail cells, and the doors have been flung wide open by Jesus, but our enemy is like the jailer who stands there whispering all the reasons we still belong in the cell. And too often, we listen to him. I did, for too long. But nothing can quiet the enemy like the Word of God.

The book is separated into areas that the enemy keeps us captive, or "strongholds." Idolatry, unbelief, pride, addiction, guilt, unforgiveness, depression, etc. There is an intro into each section, and then a list of scriptures which have been turned into prayers. You can pray through one section, or all of them, as needed.

What I discovered, as I prayed through the sections on idolatry an unbelief, was that I had always believed in God, but I didn't always believe God. Who He says He is, who He says I am, the things that He promises in His Word. And as I prayed through those things, and claimed them as truth, I was set free. Free to love Him fully, with abandon. Free to be loved by Him, and trust that I am safe in His hands. Free to live the life that I always wanted.

I'm sure at this point some of you are thinking that I'm strange. That's ok. (I am, actually, but that's beside the point.) I know what separation from God feels like, and I know what intimacy with Him feels like. And I know which one I choose. So it doesn't really matter to me what other people think. It matters to me that I share my story, so that if anyone is struggling with similar things, they can be encouraged that freedom is just a prayer away.

There is one more exciting piece of this story, which I will share in the next post. I just like to leave you guys hanging. :) Thanks for being with me on this crazy journey.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Story of My Life: Bumps in the Road

Ok, here goes nothing. Remember the story of my life that I was telling you? (If not, feel free to catch up. I shared about my roots, my salvation, and an answered prayer.) I stopped telling the story in exactly the same place that I always stop telling it. Because I already shared the pretty parts. The parts that make me look good, that make faith look good. Faith is good. But it's not easy. There are messy parts, for those of us who are human. For some reason (ahem, pride) we like to paint a pretty picture of faith, and we excuse this by saying to ourselves that if we share the ugly parts, that people might be less attracted to Jesus. That is a ridiculous excuse, because A) Jesus is perfect, and B) people love stories that make them feel less alone in their own messes! We just don't like to tell them. Because of pride.

So, after that long winded intro, here comes the rest of the story. For a few years after I began my walk with Christ, things went smoothly. Storms and trials came and went, but I clung to Jesus during those times and my faith grew stronger. I went to college, and joined Campus Crusade, was always in at least two bible studies, and was pretty much doing everything a good Christian should.

I'm not sure when things started to fall apart. I had a few negative experiences with some people in my life who happened to be Christians. I won't share the details, for the sake of the people involved. Looking back, they were just some bad choices made by some flawed human beings. But somehow I allowed that to draw me away from my faith. I decided that all Christians were closed-minded and judgmental, and that I didn't want to be associated with them. I decided to try faith on my own. What a tragic decision.

I continued to go to church on Sundays, and I'm sure a lot of people didn't even notice anything had changed. Some people in my life may even be reading this right now, wondering what in the world I'm talking about. Most of the change just happened in my heart. I stopped going to bible study, or trying to have fellowship with other believers in any way. I spent the majority of my time with nonbelievers (most of whom I'm still friends with, so if you're reading this, I love you and you are still important in my life.) The problem with that is that no one was encouraging me in my faith journey, no one was keeping me accountable to my walk with God. My sister, who might have been that person, happened to get married around that time, and then moved to New York. I love and cherish my non-Christian friends, many of them have been in my life since childhood. However, it is essential for me (and every Christian, I believe) to walk through life with other believers who help them through the difficult journey of faith.

It didn't take long before my life reflected my change of heart. I became the typical college student, studying and working during the week, and partying on weekends. I made excuses about this behavior to myself. I put on my church persona, with certain people and in certain circumstances, as easily as some put on their church clothes. I was deceitful. I've always been the "good girl," even when I wasn't. In my family, among my friends, in school, at work. Some part of me was trying to uphold that image, while the other half of me was rebelling against it with every fiber of my being. A difficult balance, to say the least.

That went on for a couple of years. I became desperately heartsick for my Jesus, but I didn't know how to get back to Him. I started reading the bible again, and attempting closeness with Him. I tried to make rules and regulations for myself around drinking and going out, because I still spent all my time with people who lived that lifestyle. The rules did not hold up. I still felt unsatisfied and disconnected. I felt it was important to get away. Far away. I wanted to seek the Lord alone, with no distractions, somewhere I could start fresh. So I moved to Portland.

Things went well in Portland. The distance was good. Seminary school certainly helped. Plus church, bible study, and Christian friends. All good things. Things I needed. And I grew a lot. I fell back in love with my Savior. But sadly, something was still missing.

I'm going to leave you there, and finish the story soon, but let me assure you, there is a happy ending. I found what was missing. Stay tuned.

*If you're just tuning in, you don't have to wait! The next part of the story is here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hello Again

Well it's been awhile, hasn't it? I decided to live in the real world for awhile. And it's been grand. God has done great things in my life. I will share about the biggest things He's done in the next post.

In addition to those things, I have moved out to Salinas, I'm living in a great house with a sweet roomie and our 4 (!) doggies. I have a church family now, and words cannot express how great a blessing that is. I am on a leadership team for a group at our church that ministers to people in their 20's. I have sweet friends who support me and help me when needed, and vice versa. I am happy.

In terms of blogging, I have been preparing for something that God has put on my heart, which I will also share in the next post. But for now, and probably for good, Adventures of a Small Town Girl will go back to what it originally was - a space to share my thoughts, feelings, updates and adventures with the people who care to hear them. I'm not going to focus my energies on social networking and gathering followers and all the stuff that gets distracting and overwhelming. Because my blogging energies will be focused elsewhere. But I still love my little blog home in this little corner of cyberspace. And I know there are some people who still care to hear what's going on in my life. :) So the adventure continues. Just... differently.

Thank you to those who have been here with me through the whole journey (Mom) and to those who have joined in along the way. As I write this it sounds like goodbye, but it isn't. It's just a bit of change. Maybe one of the reasons that I hate change so much is that it feels like something is ending, as we venture into the new... the unknown. Anyway, feel free to stick around, my blog is not going anywhere. But if you aren't that interested in my little life, that's ok too.

See you all soon.

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