Truth, as I tell my oldest, is hard to swallow. Most everyone has trouble with a truth revealed to them at some point in their lives. For many, it’s the simple realization that there is a God who created the universe and not random chance that brought the universe into being. For others, it’s hard to accept the truth that Jesus was raised from the dead. After all, dead is dead, right?

For me, however, today revealed one of the hardest truths I’ve ever had to accept…that I was wrong.

For years, I’ve been taught that The Roman Road was the way to salvation. You had to go through each individual step, really (REALLY) believe in your heart that God and Jesus are who They say They are, then pray a prayer, and then you’ll be saved. Did I mention that you really, really, really, really had to believe?

In September, I started taking a class at Fellowship Bible Church on the doctrine of Soteriology (salvation). It’s definitely been an eye-opener; let me tell you. I’ve had to accept several truths, but today was the kicker. Earlier in the class, we (me and the seventy or so other people in the class) learned that we Christians have a tendency to complicate the Bible. *dramatic gasp* The following week, we learned that the only condition for eternal life was belief (John 3:16). A five-step verse list and prayer wasn’t needed at all.

Salvation has at least three meanings – much like other words in the English language have two or three or seven different meanings, based on how we use them. Look for context clues, I keep telling my oldest during her Language Arts lessons. The same goes for searching the Bible, especially the New Testament, with regards to salvation.

Meaning #1: Eternal life
This is usually found in book of John and means just that. John was written to unbelievers in particular and focuses on how one can have eternal life (freedom from Hell and eternal damnation). (John 20:30-31)

Meaning #2: Salvation from Sin
This is a continuing, lifelong process that requires the Christian (a believer) to repent of sins committed in order to maintain a close, daily relationship with God. If sin is not repented (although Jesus has already forgiven us of it), we can fall out of fellowship with God. This means we’re not staying connected with Him. It’s kind of like when you stop talking to your husband or wife and expect your relationship to stay the same. It doesn’t.

Meaning #3: Eternal Reward
If you’re like me, you teach your children to do good deeds and not expect anything back for doing them. A good deed isn’t a good deed if you get paid for it, right? Contrary to this, Christians are encouraged to do good deeds (help others, give to missions, pray for others, help one another, and so on) and “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Basically, we get paid! (1 Tim 5:18, John 4:36)

I won’t get into our payment; that’s another post or five by itself. Suffice to say, it’s what we’re given for our witness here on earth. If you read over the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), you’ll understand a little better.

Now, back to my main point.

One of the points in class today that we focused on was Romans 10:9-10, a familiar passage to many.

“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

This passage is taken completely out of context when it’s inserted into the Roman Road plan of salvation. Confession isn’t a prerequisite for eternal life but it is a requirement for salvation from daily sin or a particular sin you can’t seem to get free of (overeating, anger, pornography, etc). And, if you take a look at Romans 10:1, this was actually written about Israel’s salvation in particular. Paul is speaking to believers in Rome to encourage them not to forget about Israel, God’s chosen nation, and the fact that Israel needs to be saved in order to enter into a close relationship with God, a relationship they haven’t had for many hundreds of years when Paul wrote this.

This actually hit me really hard. For years, I’ve always believed the passage was written to everyone and was necessary for eternal life. I even put this passage (along with four others) on my page – “The Roman Road”.

I was wrong. (Trust me, it gets easier to say the more you say it.) Although I’ve been convicted about my beliefs since I started this class, today just drove it home. I’ve come on here and removed my plan of salvation page. You won’t find “The Roman Road” on here anymore. There’s no need for it.

I know it’s a bit pointless to wish I would’ve been offered this class as a teenager since we only have truths revealed to us when we’re ready for them, but I do. I would feel more well-founded in apologetics than I think I am.

Yesterday, I caved.  I couldn’t stand the pain I was in anymore.  My shoulder’s been hurting for the last month and it hasn’t gone away.  Luckily, I have a friend (Doug Duncan) who specializes in shoulder injuries.  I picked up the phone and called his office to set up an appointment. As luck would have it, he had an opening today.

The girls went with me, just as they usually do.  Everywhere Mommy goes, so does Morgan and Mackenzie.  I enjoy having my girls with me most days, but when I’m in pain…  well, let’s just say that I’m a bit more aware of their misbehavior. And misbehave they did.  All through my appointment.  I had to call them down several times.  I’m grateful that Doug has kids too and can work around my hooligans.  Still, despite all the yammering going on, Doug was able to find out what my problem was.  I had an impingement in my right shoulder.

Doug explained that I most likely over did it one day at the gym  – probably without realizing it.  Part of the problem is because I’d forgotten to include two muscle groups in my workout – the scapula and trapezius muscles.  Because those muscles were weak, my shoulder has rounded forward and inward and, due to that happening, I had an easier chance of being injured.  He ended up giving me a shot in the shoulder, physical therapy exercises, prescribed massage and medicine to round things off.  All while the kids were acting up.

As we left, I talked to Morgan (mostly) about her and Mackenzie’s bad behavior.  Then, I had a bright idea to drive it home.  I asked her how many missionaries she knew.  She could only think of one off the top of her head – Pastor Eric.  I reminded her of all the ones we personally knew.  It came up to a pretty decent number: 15.  Morgan was surprised a little when I included Doug in the count and explained how he’s the only doctor in town who has Christian elements openly displayed in his office: music playing, prints of verses hanging on the wall, and how he prays over the patient when he’s done.  I asked her what was similar about everyone I named off.  She immediately said they were nice and not afraid to talk about God. Then I asked if she thought they were pretty strong in the Bible and if she thought they had a good relationship with God.  She said yes. Finally, I asked her if she thought I was ready to be a missionary.  She said no, because I still needed to learn stuff.

I was a bit taken aback by her answer, even though she nailed it on the head.  There’s most likely areas in my spiritual learning that I’m lacking in, just like my physical workout.  If I don’t figure out what I need to learn, I may have problems later on.  I need to talk to the Great Healer Himself and see what He wants me to do to “get back in shape”.  Out of the mouths of babes, right?

I wonder, are you going through something similar right now?  Are you missing something in your spiritual education? Do you know what it is?  If you do, have been ignoring it? I thought all my muscle groups were covered with the exercises I had been doing, but that wasn’t the case, as I learned today.  Don’t make the same mistake in your walk with God.  Ask Him to show you if you’re overlooking an area or three and what He wants you to do to correct it, then follow His checklist to get better.  And remember, don’t skip a step!

Today, I had an experience quite unlike any I’ve ever had.  It was definitely something to check off my Christianity bucket list…if I had one, that is.  I’m not exactly a fan of bucket lists since God has His own bucket list for us.  There’s no need for us to create our own.  But that aside…

Today was the first time we’ve visited another church outside of of our home church, Shenandoah Valley Baptist Church.  Now, let me stop there and say this.  It’s not a sin to visit other churches.  There should be no guilt associated with going to another building to worship with fellow believers.  All churches, big or small, are part of the body of Christ.  Therefore, since all Christian churches are part of a whole, each individual Christian has no fear about worshipping where they aren’t wanted.  Besides, it’s not the building that’s important.  It’s just a convenient place where believers can join together, be discipled and praise God.  The building isn’t necessary.  Many people around the world don’t even have a building to worship in, but they still gather together in the heat, the cold, the darkness, in homes, in barns or sheds, under trees or on the bare dirt to learn about God and lift their voices to Him.

Now that that’s been said…

Today was the first time we’ve visited another church here in our area.  We’d discussed it earlier in the week and each of us, Morgan included, had set our minds to not have any expectations beyond hearing the truth of God’s word being taught.  The reason for that is manifold.  To simplify, however…. Some churches focus solely on hymns; others on “canned music”. Some have power points; some don’t.  Some have bands or praise teams; many have either a choir or just a piano. Kidzone or no Kidzone. And so on. Basically, we didn’t want to put any false expectations on the new Christian community we were visiting.

We attended both services and, after we left, we talked about what we’d seen and heard and learned. Morgan was tickled she’d seen kids she knew from her public school stint or while she was at SVCA. Tickled so much we had to nudge her down from the range where only dogs can hear. Mackenzie wouldn’t tell us anything (she’s 22 months now) beyond, “I wan eat.”  LOL. As for Jesse, he was a bit disappointed I hadn’t let him wander around as much after the second service.  Other than that, he was thoughtful and encouraged by what he’d experienced.  I, at least, came out surprised and pleased. It wasn’t the facilities they had, the size of the church, the praise band, the song lyrics or even the message that wowed me. No, it was the simple sound of pure praise ringing throughout the sanctuary that kicked me in the gut.

Yes, I cried.  I’ve mentioned before that I cry when I hear specific songs that touch me.  You should also know that I cried while watching Season One of Glee.  I may not be able to sing on key every single time, but I have auditory perfect pitch.  And the beauty of each individual note is overwhelming at times.

Today was different slightly.  Each individual note I heard belonged to one believer in the congregation, and all those individual notes – high, low, on-key and off-key, bass, baritone, soprano, contralto, alto, etc – were joined in one accord to lift up praise to God.  I actually had to stop singing because I was crying so much.  The beauty of that pure praise was overwhelming.  It didn’t matter what trials they were facing, where they stood in their lives spiritually, how biblically educated they were, what financial situations they were in, how good their careers were, or if they had kids or not. Every single person joined in doing what they were meant to do – worship our Creator and Lord. It was glorious.

Surprisingly, the second service, although smaller, could have rivaled the first with the sound of their praise. Jesse thought it might be because we were in a smaller room, but I have my doubts. When a small group of believers wants to “flex their spiritual muscles”, mighty things can happen.  Think about the churches in Macedonia and you’ll know what I mean.  (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)

If you’ve read my previous post, “Hiatus Going-Ons”, you’ll know how busy things were for me the last few months.  It wasn’t a picnic by any means, but it was probably a lot less stressful than what some others went through during the same time frame.

I can’t really complain about the events of the last few months; it wouldn’t do any good if I did. It was hard while we were going through them, but I always knew God was with us no matter what. I even learned a few things about myself and about my family.

1. Patience: Surprisingly enough, I found out that I did have more patience with the kids, but it took learning to be flexible and stop what I was doing in order to put that concept into practice.

2. Flexibility: I figured out early on how to be flexible with regards to Morgan’s homeschooling schedule and my “need” to go to the gym every day. Later, I learned how to still get things done when Mackenzie started pretending she was a baby koala all day long. Jesse and I were able to work around Morgan’s schooling and have some us time, even if it was just to watch a movie in the living room. Finally, I learned to set my Bible reading plan up on email so it’d remind me to read and, as a bonus, email me the day’s lesson.

3. Spiritual Needs: I have a need for in-depth discussion about a range of topics. Morgan has a homeschool curriculum for Bible and it is surprisingly deep for her age. If this continues, she may outstrip me if I don’t get started now.  Not to mention, I’m curious about a few things as it is.

4. Money Issues: I have to be OCD about this if we’re going to get anywhere with our debt reduction plan. Jesse has told me ‘No’ a few times when I asked about getting this or that or going out to eat.  I was really surprised and pleased that I didn’t have to be the only one to say it.

5. Morgan:  She’s been quite a surprise these last few months. She’s grown up a good bit, I think.  When three of our billing companies took out more money from our account than they should have, she was very mature about understanding why she couldn’t participate in some activities this summer. She’s even started helping me keep track of our grocery budget spending by adding items up as we shop. She’s told me a couple of times that we shouldn’t get an extra item because it wasn’t on our grocery list.

She’s an extremely hard worker with regards to schoolwork and is learning to tell me when she needs a break rather than cutting up or turning her attention to something else. It also helps that I keep the lessons short, usually around 30 minutes. If she gets done early, that’s fine too.

6. TV: Our TV doesn’t dominate our house.  It’s typically turned off during the main part of the day while Morgan’s doing schoolwork. If Jesse wants to turn it on when he gets up, that’s fine since she’s almost done. We’ve learned to alternate days so each person can watch their particular show or shows.

7. Prayer:  We’ve learned to start each day off with prayer.  On homeschool days, this is easier since Bible is our first subject.  It’s a bit harder to remember if we’re on a break (first week of each month) or on the weekends. Having prayer each morning really sets the scope of the day for us.  If we woke up grumpy or bad-tempered, said a few things we shouldn’t have, or lost our temper, it’s wiped clean right then and there.  Once the prayer is done, the day is a clean slate again.

These are just a few things I learned. It’s not everything by far but probably the most significant.

When was the last time you examined yourself – your attitudes, your behaviors, your values, or the cohesiveness of your family? It’s not easy to do; it’s quite hard, in fact. You may not like what you see when you start digging.  In a way it’s almost like lancing a boil or cleaning mold from the bottom of your trash can. You have to get rid of the yucky stuff before the real cleaning can begin.  Why don’t you ask God to help you find out what needs to be worked on in your life?

It’s been a few months since I last posted.  In hindsight, it’s probably good that I took the time off rather than continuing to blog.  It’s been an exceedingly busy five and a half months, and not all of it I lived in the proper frame of mind.

The Bible notes in several places that we will be tested in diverse ways.  It doesn’t specify when we’ll be tested or how we’ll be tested.  But you can count it as truth that we will.  For me, the last few months was one trial after another – a few of them of my own making.

In late February, I decided to help out with our church’s yearly Global Impact Celebration (GIC) week that was scheduled for late April. During those meetings, subsequent preparation, meeting and fellowshipping with the missionaries we had invited, and aftermath, I learned a lot about myself and many of the people in our church. I really enjoyed the time with the missionaries and attending a few of the events we’d scheduled. Morgan and Mackenzie did too.  Mackenzie even had a few older girls who watched over and played with her so I could focus on helping.

But after GIC week was over, I grew disquieted and my heart was troubled.  I spoke to Jesse about it and set to searching out the answer. I knew it wasn’t due to the lack of activity or the behavior issues Morgan was having in school.  It wasn’t over money issues or Mackenzie’s seeming propensity for accidents. Our marriage wasn’t at the heart of it, nor was my lack of a steady quiet time (something I still have trouble obtaining every day). Our decision to homeschool Morgan starting this summer wasn’t the culprit either.

Other events came and went with no visible impact or insight into why I felt the way I did.  I spoke with one of my girlfriends about it, but even that offered no clues. I was comforted after talking to her about it, but that was about it.

During May, I injured my right hip so badly I ended up with a steroid pack, a muscle relaxant, and two weeks away from the gym (doctor’s orders). In addition to that, it was anniversary month and Jesse took two weeks off to spend with me for our annual staycation.  We’ve always made plans to go somewhere but haven’t ever been able to follow through. Nor have we been able to find a babysitter to “foist” the kids on so we can escape for a few hours.  (I’m sure some of our friends would if we asked, but we don’t want to abuse our friendship.  Our kids are quite vocal at times.) On top of Jesse being home, I was in pain and the girls came down sick in succession.  I spent most of May at home and was only able to attend church one Sunday out of the month.

With May aside and our annual spending spree behind us, I faced our budget with deciding dread. With Jesse being off for two weeks, our first paycheck of June was smaller than normal.  Corners had to be cut.  We discussed them, set down a plan, and immediately that plan was attacked. Again and again we reorganized, cut spending, and trimmed away activities.  Some of our bills were removed from auto draft due to abuse.  Since our credit cards were stolen last year, I’ve become increasingly OCD about anything abnormal on our accounts. As a result, even one offense of accidental auto draft is sufficient for me to remove our account from that company’s auto draft list. (I need to do it for all of them, but haven’t settled on actually doing it yet.)

We squeaked through June with a grand total of $4.56 in our account.

To top things off, I started homeschooling Morgan the second week of the month. It took a couple weeks to get coordinated and learn each other’s ticks but we got it sorted out pretty well. Near the end of the month Jesse decided it was time to go back to school and earn his degree.  We spent a feverish week filling out forms, emailing and calling around to get credits transferred, protocol for online learning and how many classes constituted full time, and choosing classes to start with on July 2, the beginning of the next Summer semester.

This month, we made it through a little easier. It wasn’t a walk in the park by any means.  Mackenzie was sick for the first two weeks of July – badly sick. I was able to go to the gym the third week but then Morgan came down sick.  This past week, it was Mackenzie’s turn again. And, finally, just two days ago, we ended up in the ER with her after she busted her chin open in the bathtub. Three stitches and four hours later, we were able to head back home and sleep.  Needless to say, I hate seeing doctors, and we’ve had our fair share of them this month. July was also the second month I was only able to attend church once. Like May, I spent that time in the nursery with Mackenzie.

My “teaching duties” increased this month.  Since Morgan was sick for one week, I had to figure out how to spread the missed lessons over the course of two weeks so she wasn’t overwhelmed with backup work.  In addition to that, Jesse asked me to help proofread his essays and papers.  Because his classes uses two different formats, I’ve learned both. Also, I’m the one he bounces his Philosophy class lessons off of.  Consequently, I’ve learned the material along with him.  To me, that’s odd since I withdrew from the class when I first started attending college almost two decades ago. (Back then, after four days, I thought it weird, circular, and very boring.)

I’d like to say I wasn’t worried during any of this but I’d be lying.  I knew God would take care of us and I asked Him no few times to help us through each week, if not each day.  Yet, still, I was concerned, especially about Mackenzie getting sick. She had no way of telling me what was wrong other than, “Mommy, I hurt.” And niggling behind each day, each event, and each issue was the discontent I felt after GIC week.

As of today, I have no explanation for it. I have theories, but nothing concrete. I’ve asked, but I guess I’ll have to wait until God lets me know the answer. If Daniel can wait three weeks for an answer, I can too.

Hopefully, I can start posting more in the near future now that things have somewhat settled down.

All of us have wondered at one time or another about different directions our lives could have possibly taken if only we’d made a different decision.  Even popular tv shows like Fringe (my favorite!) try to answer this question.  However, when you’re looking back in hindsight and ask ‘what if?’, you could possibly be doing yourself serious harm.  Marriages can end, depression can set in, or addictions can appear.  And that’s just the beginning.

For most of my married life (through both of them, not just one) I wondered ‘what if?’ a lot.  I didn’t know what it meant to be satisfied or content with my marriage, or even what it really meant to be married.  Oh, I knew all about the cooking, cleaning, and laundry that went along with it.  I knew about date nights and long talks and hard work.  But being married is more than that – much more.  I didn’t know how to solve the problems that inevitably came up or have a discussion without fighting.  I didn’t know how to compromise when it was called for or take a stand when it wasn’t.  The list goes on and on.

Plain and simple, I didn’t know what I was doing – and I kept messing up.

As a result, I grew deeply unhappy and it showed in my words and actions.  I started cursing and ended up doing a lot of yelling.  I started wondering ‘what if?’ a lot and it only made me more depressed.  What if I’d actually told someone I liked him?  What if I had gone to another college instead of NLU (now ULM)? What if I’d listened to one of my girlfriends instead of getting mad at her when all she’d done was to warn me?  What if… what if…  Needless to say, I wasted a good deal of time and energy thinking about this and grew even more bitter about my life.  Finally, I walked away from my tenuous relationship with God, and you can figure out how well that worked for me.

Just to be clear – I wasn’t aware of my state of mind or what was causing it at the time.  All I knew was that I was miserable and couldn’t seem to figure out why.  Besides, not many 18-20 year olds really sit down and try to figure out what’s going on in their own head.

After my divorce, I thought I had it together.  Jesse worked with me extensively over some issues I still had from marriage #1.  But a couple years after we’d been married I found myself doing it again.  We talked (Jesse refuses to yell back) and worked it out. However, the cycle kept repeating.  It was only after we started back to church, re-established our relationships with God and put Him first in our lives that I’ve been able to stop.

Through all of that, I’ve learned something (yes, even knuckleheads can learn!):  There is only one ‘what if?’ that absolutely must be considered.  Thinking about other ‘what ifs?’ can ruin your life.  This one can destroy you.

What if you died today?  Would you go to heaven or hell?

Take your time before answering and think about it.  Being a good person won’t get you into heaven.  Doing good deeds won’t get you into heaven.  And ‘almost’ saved doesn’t count.  That’s only good for horseshoes and hand grenades.  “I think I am” isn’t an acceptable response either.  Do you know for certain, without the shadow of a doubt that you’ve accepted Jesus in your heart and life? If the answer is yes, great.  If the answer is no, I strongly urge you to reconsider and accept Jesus’ offer of salvation.  Your earthly life will be considerably better for doing so and you’ll be spared at the white throne judgment (see Revelation 20:15).

Wouldn’t you rather live in paradise?  I do.

One thing I’ve always held true to is that if I’ve messed up in some way, I will admit it. It’s a habit I adopted years ago. I know; I’m one of the “old generation” who does stuff like that. Not many people admit their mistakes nowadays. It’s a sign that something’s dreadfully off-kilter with the world and society today.

That being said, I wanted to “own up” to a couple of things.

  • I don’t read my Bible every day like I should.  There are days where I just can’t fit it in.  I prefer to read it in the morning before taking Morgan to school.  Something about reading my Bible then helps start my day off right.  But for some reason, there are days where we’re running late (after getting up at exactly the same time as the day before) and I can’t take twenty minutes out to read it.
  • I don’t have a set prayer or a formula prayer.  Prayer should never be rehearsed or have a redundant feel/cadence to it.  All prayer should be spontaneous and come from the heart.
  • Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day.  I know I’ve given off that impression before.  I don’t believe you should have just one day set aside where you treat your sweetie nice.  That should be done all the time, every day of your life.

Ok, so that’s three things.  :P  Notice how all those started off with ‘I don’t?’

I know those probably aren’t what you expected.  They’re not earth-shaking or ground-breaking – not all admissions are.  What you have to consider is is the fact that I said them.  I admitted where I’d failed, succeeded, and/or come across as.  To emphasize my point, just yesterday I had to apologize to my nine-year old daughter about some behavior I’d displayed.  I never should have done it and she never should have had to witness it.  She told me it was ok, that she understood…which was something I had to address too!  I told her it wasn’t ok that I’d behaved like that and she shouldn’t tell me it was ok when it clearly wasn’t.  She shouldn’t accept my behavior earlier as a fluke.  As you can imagine, it took her awhile to understand what I was talking about.

Admitting a mistake is not seen as weakness but it is seen as taking responsibility for your actions or inactions (aka YOUR SIN).  Think back for a minute or three.  Is there something that’s been troubling you, keeping you awake at night, or popping up at unexpected times?  Is it an error you need to confess or ask forgiveness for?  If you can’t go to the person you’ve wronged due to distance, death, or other circumstances talk to God about it.  He’s pleased when you do.