Losing My Religion

Maybe you’ve already seen this video. Maybe you think the guy is crazy or don’t understand what he means when he says that he loves God but hates religion. Maybe you’ve read my other blogs and have been giving church some additional consideration. If so please read on.

It’s no secret I love working out. I really enjoy running and lifting weights and if I could I would do it all day every day and I’d never get tired of it. So you can imagine my disdain when December rolls around and I begin preparing myself for all the New Year’s Resolutioners who will hop on the weight-loss bandwagon and start clogging up the equipment that was once readily available whenever I wanted it. January hits, the gym goes bananas. I try to keep my head down, do what I need to do and get out of there as fast as humanly possible. I see it every year and know by March the crowd will be gone. Most will revert to their old ways and when they feel bad about slacking they may pop in for an occasional workout or two then disappear again.

Why do so many people fail with their weight-loss / exercise resolution? Because being fit is a lifestyle – not a resolution. It’s a way of life, day in and day out. It’s something you think about at every meal and it’s something you want to do daily (maybe not as much as I do, but to some extent).

The same concept goes with Christianity.

Being a Christian isn’t something you become to feel good about yourself. Going to Church isn’t something you do every once in a while when you feel guilty because you haven’t been in a while and feel you need to put in an appearance. Being a Christian is a lifestyle. Day in and day out. Praising Him in good times and in bad. Studying the Bible in your free time. Praying with your friends and family or even alone on a continual basis. And admitting to God and those around you that you are a hopeless sinner but are dedicating your life to trying to improve and live more like Jesus, even though you know you will always fall short. You want to glorify God with everything you do. You want to go to Heaven and be with Him for eternity.

I met my husband around the same time I finished reading the Gospel. He encouraged me to attend church with him – I went one time and was turned off by the crowd – his church had thousands of members! At the end of the day I am a small town girl who was used to smaller, more traditional church services. I talked him into coming with me to my denominational church. He agreed and quietly sat by my side for several weeks. Slowly he started asking me questions about the services, such as what had I learned about the Bible from the service, what did my church believe in and what did I believe needed done in order to go to Heaven.

I couldn’t answer any of his questions. I had been reading the New Testament and realized it was good stuff. His questions made me start to think that if I was taking the time to go to church maybe I should be going to one that was actually enriching what I had been learning during my personal Bible studies. Call me crazy, but maybe I should actually know what my church believes in.

Up until that point in my life I had been going to church so that I could feel better about myself. It made me feel like a responsible adult. But I didn’t know God. I left those services no better, smarter or more spiritually capable or enlightened than I had arrived. I never felt my heart yearn to surround myself with Christian friends or to go to church to “refill my spiritual cup” each week. If I missed church, so be it. Maybe next week! I had no idea how far off track I was at living a life that was giving glory to God.

Acts 20:29-30 says, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

The wolves are the devil and sinners and they want to pull you away from Christ. Look at how Tim Tebow has been savaged by non-Christians and the media just for being open and honest about his faith. For some reason non-Christians love to attack and put us down. I believe this does scare people away from Christianity – we don’t want to be seen as the “Jesus freaks.” And, unfortunately, the “men who have arisen and are distorting the truth” are running many of our denominational churches today. Not all, but many. They’re preaching their feel-good version of the Bible instead of what it actually contains. They’re letting their congregation believe their lives are saved simply because they show up on Sunday.

Maybe you have a church you already belong to. Search your heart and honestly answer if you firmly know what it is your church believes in (without looking on their website!). Search your heart and answer honestly if you go to church to glorify yourself or if you’re going to glorify your Savior. Answer honestly – is your church encouraging you to become a Christian and teaching Biblical doctrine or pushing “feel good” religious ideas? If your church isn’t meeting your needs let the Bible be your guide and seek a new home for Sunday mornings.

If you have read George Orwell’s 1984, which was written in 1949, and regard Orwell as a “genius,” “visionary” or a “man before his time,” you will truly believe in the power, strength and knowledge of our Almighty God when you read His book that is over two thousand years old yet is still relevant today!

Resolve to make Christ your lifestyle. Attend church because you know you are broken and can’t fix yourself alone. To me Church is like a rehab for sinners. Missing a meeting is just not an option.

Realize that the Bible is the only official word of God, no man or woman should give their own interpretation of the passages that make them uncomfortable. That again is where many of today’s church’s are failing us.

Jesus is greater, more powerful and will give you more love, joy and satisfaction than any religion.

Run by Faith,

Lindsay

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Come Sail Away

Ten years ago (WOW that makes me feel old!) I took a spring break trip with my boyfriend to Cancun, Mexico. It was our first trip out of the country and we were pretty excited. Upon arrival to Cancun I remember being pleasantly surprised at how “Americanized” the resort area was and relieved because, regardless of my high school Spanish teacher’s efforts (and her magical bowl), I can speak pretty much zero Spanish. It was almost as if we had flown somewhere more tropical and warm in the United States (but couldn’t drink the water) rather than being in another country.

At some point in our trip we decided to take a cruise in which you climb aboard a teeny boat (think a ramshackle version of Gilligan’s Island) and they hand out cups of beer and play pop music on a dinky boom box while they sail you a few miles to Isla Mujeras. A few hundred yards from the island they drop their anchor and you snorkel in to shore and see the beautiful coral reef. This part of the trip was really a beautiful and fun experience.

I remember we hadn’t taken much money because snorkeling made it inconvenient to carry anything we didn’t want to get wet or potentially ruined, and I remember them telling us as we jumped in the water to snorkel to return to the boat dock area at a certain time and we’d head back to the mainland together.

Isla Mujeras was a beautiful little place but it definitely felt like another country. Not many of the locals on the island spoke English and the “housing” on the island was pretty much little huts and windowless run-down buildings. It was really hard to imagine people actually living in those conditions, in that kind of poverty. We rented a golf cart and drove around for hours marveling at both the poverty on the island and the breathtaking views of the ocean.

If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely HATE being late and/or unprepared. Which has kind of flown out the window since becoming a parent since kids always throw in the wild-card factor when trying to get out the door, but I digress. So when it seemed to be getting close to time to sail back to Cancun we headed to the boat area. We waited… and we waited. None of the boats on the dock looked like our boat. We recognized no one. I started to feel a sense of panic and tried to talk to a local who was working in the dock area but he spoke very broken English. Finally we were able to deduce from him that we had been off by an hour and our boat had left us behind.

I can still remember the fear I felt at that time, not knowing where or how I was going to get to the place I felt I was supposed to be – at my hotel, enjoying a frozen beverage, looking for Iguanas – but rather on this dilapidated island where I couldn’t speak the language and had little to no money on us to get off the island… and I was only 20 years old. It helped (somewhat) that I was with my boyfriend. Misery does love company, right? So we set out trying to find someone who was bilingual enough to understand our situation and help us remedy our mistake and get us back to Cancun.

I think about this experience and it still bothers me. Why hadn’t we listened carefully to the instructions for returning to the mainland? Were we so preoccupied with ourselves and our surroundings that we really couldn’t or didn’t want to be bothered to actually pay attention? Sometimes people are telling us exactly what we need to hear to get where we ultimately want to go and we are too preoccupied – too caught up in the “now” – to pay attention. Then we look back and wonder how things got so screwed up. At some point we have to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our lack of prioritizing or paying attention and own our lives and the decisions we’ve made, good and bad. And, in my opinion, that time certainly comes when we leave this Earth and are called to the Almighty for His judgment. At that point we do have to own up to the times we weren’t listening, to the times maybe someone tried to extend a hand to help us learn a little more about Him or to pull us out of a particular sin and we turned them down. We have to tell Him we weren’t listening. That we were too self-absorbed, too caught up in the world around us. That it was too fun, too titillating and we didn’t want to live a life that included moral expectations. When that life of sin on Earth is gone and the rest of our eternity is in His hands will we try to convince Him that we truly did love Him? You can’t fool God – He truly knows what was in our hearts. He knows what is in our hearts. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” [Matthew 10:30]

I know when I was on that boat I was caught up in having fun. I was 20 and being somewhere exotic and free from it all felt amazing. I assumed I knew all I needed to and took a chance that was supremely and incredibly foolish. Luckily for us, after hours of asking for help and countless tears, we were able to find someone who could understand us and was willing to help us out. We caught the very last boat returning to the mainland that day. And I learned a lesson the hard way.

The good thing about experiences such as mine in Cancun is that I can now reflect upon it and be smarter going forward. But one day there will be no tomorrow and whether or not you make it “off the island” and into Heaven will be based wholly on your past.

I pray that today you find room in your life and your heart to get to know Jesus. If you have a friend who has been inviting you to church, call them and tell them to pick you up on the way next Sunday. If you own a Bible, open it to the book of John and read for half an hour. It can only help you firm up your reservation for a trip to the ultimate resting place once this life is over. Don’t miss the boat.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

Safety Dance

I read this article last night about a jogger who was critically injured by pit bulls… which INSTANTLY reminded me of the pit bull attack I was part of earlier this year, thus inspiring me to write a quick blog about running (and life) safety.

About 4 months ago I was dog-sitting for my mom.  She has an ADORABLE little shih tzu, Quincy (or Q-Zilla, as I like to call him these days). Anyway, my girls were so pumped to have Q around the house and adored feeding him, walking him and petting (aka harassing) him each day.  One day the girls and I were out taking him for a walk… picture it: my 4-year old and 2-year old walking by my side in matching outfits, a 6-month old baby in my arms, and the little pup on a leash walking out in front of us.  I noticed a group of people on a front porch across the street from us and thought nothing of it.  Then suddenly I saw it – a HUGE dog – in their front yard with them.  The dog saw us and starting running FULL SPEED at us.  I froze and began screaming repeatedly, “PLEASE STOP YOUR DOG!” They just sat there.  My oldest ran and hid behind a tree.  My middle child stayed fairly close by my side… maybe only 10 feet away from me but was definitely in a danger-zone.  And let’s not forget I’ve got a dog on a leash and a baby in my arms.  Luckily (?) the pit bull went for Q.  I hate to say it, and even just typing it is making me tear up a bit, but I’d rather he go for the dog than my girls, even though we all love Q so much and it would be awful to lose him or see him hurt.  Right there, in front of me and my little girls’ eyes, was a full on pit bull attack on their doggy BFF and I was powerless to stop it.  I started spinning in circles, dragging Q by the leash to keep him out of the pit bulls reach.  I’m still screaming, “SOMEBODY PLEASE – PLEASE STOP YOUR DOG! PLEASE HELP US!”  The people were still just sitting there on their porch, lazily calling for their dog like he’d suddenly snap out of maul mode and happily trot back to them.  Meanwhile I am attempting to keep 3 children plus myself and a small dog from being killed.  After about 30 seconds (which felt like forever), the dogs owner decided to get up from her seat, walk over and grab their dog by it’s collar.  She tried to assure me that their dog wouldn’t harm us or Q, and when I attempted to test that theory her dog snapped at Q again.  I was shaking worse than I ever have in my life.  I started screaming, “What is WRONG with YOU?!? I’ve got little kids here and a BABY and you just SAT THERE?!?”  She said nothing.  I wanted to verbally tear into her – but what good would that do?  I knew I had to set the example of how to treat others, even when they are BEYOND disrespectful, and be a Christian in front of my girls.  She tried to defend that their dog had never done anything like that before.  I reminded her that there are laws in our town about having either a leash or a fence for your dog.  I took everyone home.  Q-Zilla was petrified.  I was beside myself.  I called animal control.  We were all pretty shaken… and my girls talked about that dog for WEEKS and even now at random times will bring him up.  By the grace of God we were all OK.

After that I started carrying mase.  The incident made me realize that when I’m out doing even normal daily activities, like getting groceries or taking the kids to the park, I’m truly responsible for everyone’s safety and simply can’t be defenseless.  It’s irresponsible.  Life can change in an instant and I don’t want to live the rest of my life having regrets over “couldda, wouldda, shouldda’s” when it comes to my family’s safety.  Additionally, now when I go for an outdoor run I  have AT LEAST the mase on my person.  Because you never know.  And the response, “my dog has never done anything like this before!” is a ridiculous excuse for not having your pet on a leash or in a fenced in area.  Every animal does have  a natural wild side and you never know what can set them off.  Being responsible is just showing respect for your neighbor and fellow man.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Galatians 5:14]

So when you’re out – be it with your children or on a run or doing whatever, please do it with safety in mind.  You are your (and your children’s) first line of defense.  And in some cases, you may be your only line of defense.

 

Run safely and by faith,

Lindsay

This Will Be My Year

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of a marathon. How some miles are easy, some are torture, some you run with friends or family and some you are just fighting mad chafe. The same goes with life – some years are prosperous and some are filled with struggle, strife and irritation. The nice thing about New Years eve is that it provides us a place in which we can “draw a line in the sand”… We can say, “Well, this year was really tough (insert reason here), but in the new year I’m gonna make some changes and it’s gonna be awesome!” A new year, for many, provides a new hope. A new chance. A new beginning. Just like in a race – perhaps this miles’s been a steep uphill fight but the next is a nice down hill to glide over. Both in races and in life we can’t really control whether the next obstacle is easy or hard. Our fate is predetermined by someone greater than ourselves.

In looking back on 2011 I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot, I’ve faced a lot of steep hills, I’ve taken chances after careful prayer and consideration, and thus far I’m more than OK with the results. Despite the steepest climbs life doesn’t get much better. And I believe it’s simply because I’ve surrendered my life completely to God.

1 Cor 9: 25-27 says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

That being said, here’s to you having a strong finish to 2011 and may 2012 bring you lots of joy, prosperity, and a nice downhill mile. Run each step, live each day, with purpose and strength knowing the Lord is by your side.

Run by faith,
Lindsay

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