Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Journal Day #8 - On Religion

Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next." From Sometimes Sweet

This was a very hard prompt for me to write about. It shouldn't be. Our world is filled with different opinions & religion stories that I should feel safe to add my two cents into this topic. However, for some reason, I start to sweat when this conversation comes about and I try to put on my "dumb" face so that nobody directly asks me what I think. Horrible, no? I think my biggest problem is that I never know how to say what I want to say. Almost like I need a week to mull over the conversation, gather my thoughts, prepare my questions, and then continue on with the conversation as if the break never happened. Another part of my issue is that I have so many friends & family members with so many different beliefs and lifestyles that the last thing I want is to become that preacher within our circle that those friends no longer feel its safe to talk to me, worried that I will judge, or feel like they need to confront me because I will soon confront them. Everyone says that its a "free" world and we are all allowed to believe what we believe, no judging, no whatever, but from experience I know this isn't true. There is always someone who is offended, hurt, confused or who become hostile (I know, I have been witness to many of these emotions) when topics like this come up. With that being said, since this topic scares me, and since I know that, even with the many negative comments that happen about religion, there are the many great friendships created, stories shared and blessings that do happen, I feel like I need to just bite my lip, write out my beliefs and pray that what I say here will only be a blessing to others.

I am going to write a little about my faith journey so that my answer to "what I believe happens next" will be better understood.

I am a Christian and have a love for my Saviour Jesus Christ. When growing up, in a Christian home, there was never a question as to who Jesus was or what God's role was in my life. He was always there, always taking care of me, always watching out for me, and no matter what was going on in my life, I could talk with Him, yell at Him, and just simply be still with Him. I even remember when I was really little that I would just talk about God to my friend, just like He was my best friend. My friend told me I talked about God too much. At the time I was offended, but looking back I am proud of that innocent, never doubting, never questioning faith that I held.

As I grew older my faith went on hold as I filled my life with school, friends, boys, and the usual things preteens go through. I went to Bible Camp and I felt God there, but as far as my life went, I left Him there. At camp. I didn't realize that He was there with me no matter where I was. I just knew He was really alive at camp, but not really alive in my everyday life. I longed for those camp days. I longed for His Presences in my life and I longed a relationship with Him.

Fast forward to the summer of 2007 where many, many things changed for me. Right before camp I went through a douse of major depression,  I didn't know how to fit in my own skin, I felt ugly, dealt with some weight gain, there were a lot of changes happening with friends, I became a homebody, I just did not know how to live and I didn't know how to be happy. I was even considering not going to Bible Camp. I was too old, I didn't want to miss out on my television shows, I didn't want to spend the majority of the time outside. Any excuse to not go I tried. Thankfully, my mom talked me into going and I am so happy she did.

That summer at camp, like usual, I found God. Not realizing He was always with me, I found Him at Chapel, eyes pouring as hymnal words touched my soul. I found out who Jesus is and how he sacrificed Himself for me, Emily. That summer I felt valued, loved, and appreciated (other than just by my family) so immensely and to a much larger volume than previous camp experiences, that I began to question why I left God at camp. He became much more than a God to me, but a personal Father & Friend. With Him I found the love, the hope, the peace, the strength, and the beauty that I longed for and that I needed ever so much. With Him I became happy. My depression melted away and I began my journey to find the beauty in every thing. I finally created a relationship with Him that was amazing, my faith was strong enough for me to start questioning everything about being a Christian, and today, years later, I have never looked back. My life has changed for the better ever since I figured out how to "bring" God with me everywhere. I still have my rough days, but with God in my Now, my negative emotions hardly ever blow out of proportion, I remember to treat others with love, and I just see the world in a much different light.

Now that my story is up there, I can say this: I believe in Heaven and in Hell. I believe that because of my relationship with Jesus, I will go to Heaven. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I believe that God is a real being that we can all have a personal relationship with. I know that my gift is to not go out there and shout to the world everything that I believe, however, these are a few things that I do believe. I believe that it is my job to encourage as much as I can, to love as much as I can, to smile as much as I can, to be the best person I can be, to continually grow, to continually love, to find the joy in everything, to share the Gospel whenever possible & only sometimes use words, to forgive, to appreciate, to search out and always seek my God.

I also believe that EVERYBODY'S story is their own, that I don't have all the answers, and that I am not the one who gets to say who goes to Heaven or to Hell. That is one thing I do not care for, when somebody thinks they have the right to say who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. Someone who judges. It just kills me. We don't know what that person is going through, what there story is and, heck, we don't know what their relationship is with God. I believe in encouraging, listening, loving and sharing with them my personal experiences & opinions, but I do not have all the answers and I definitely do not have the right to judge. I get so annoyed when people think they have the right to tell others that they are not "Christian enough," that they won't "go to Heaven because of such & such," AND when others say not to do something because its not "Christian" and they go around doing that exact thing. I know there is nothing worse to the Christian name than hypocracy. I could go on, but I believe this could be a whole other post, so enough for now.

I don't call myself religious, but I have faith and this is what I believe. In God. In Jesus Christ. In the Holy Spirit. In Heaven and in Hell. In Hope. In Forgiveness. In Love. In Redemption. In Prayer. In Joy. In Peace. In Kindness. In Goodness. In Faith. In truth. In Eucharisteo. I believe that everyone is important and I believe that "...the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is." -Ann Voskamp.

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