Jesus without a church or Religion

cinaGrowing up and attending a (public) Catholic school I really only knew one thing when it came to God and getting to Heaven. That was being a “good Catholic”. I believe I will always at the very least consider myself “culturally Catholic”, in the sense that both sides of my family came from two of Europe’s most Catholic countries and I do feel a connection that way. Scandals aside I have long respected and admire the Catholic church and it’s traditions.

However…

I simply never felt close to God. The church never brought me closer to God, as matter of fact the thought that I must attend mass weekly, pray the Rosary, confess my sins to a priest and so on was completely off-putting (I mean I’m a quiet, shy introvert so that probably is why).

I have however always felt a closeness with God while I’m in nature. One of the (many) reasons I look forward to moving to the middle of nowhere is to further my connection with our Lord. With my newly rediscovered love of God it is not a church or specific denomination that has brought me closer. It was simply prayer and the bible. I have poured out my soul and sins to God directly.

When I do move and settle in attending church is something I’d like to do more often (regular basis). A sense of being part of a community aside though, will attending church actually bring me any closer to God? Does it also matter which church I attend? Catholic, baptist, bible, Anglican etc?
With all the ‘Jesus > Religion’ posts I’ve seen lately, it’s yet another thing to add to my ever growing list of questions.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
– Matthew 6:5-6

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Religion & Thrifting!

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There is no lack of thrift stores in my city, and with an older population that is slightly more religious…the choices for different Christian related items is to be had!

These 3 crosses I picked up for $1 each. I could have had 4 but I didn’t really care for it as much. Ironically enough I just purchased one similar enough to these online (should arrive next week) for $5.

20150722_114721 Next is this beautiful picture; Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) which only cost me $3.

The paper on the back of the frame aside, it is in excellent condition…oh and it’s truly a beautiful image!

A somewhat unrelated but sort of amusing fact:
The Polish church in my city and the one I passed 5 minutes before purchasing this picture, is Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.

Not pictured are a bunch of glass jars. I am continuing my replacement of plastics around the house in favor of glass.

Also another computer monitor, this time an 18″ Dell monitor which was $15. Not as good as the other two I recently picked up (a 17″ wide for $10 and a 19″ for $6). I plan to have a computer room in my new place, so collecting working, affordable monitors now seems like a god investment.

I also picked up the box set of the Golden Compass series. Since they stopped at the first movie, I’ve longed to find out just what happens. Has anyone read it?

20150722_112916I am also collecting football/soccer jerseys, well of clubs I like of course! Last week I picked up a near mint condition Croatia jersey for a few dollars and today I snagged an Inter Milan (10/11) away jersey for $4!

It really is like a drug.

Over the past few days I have been grappling with just how personal I would like to get on here. Do I really want to share certain experience or issues I’ve gone through, especially ones I am none too proud of, in particular one such issue.

Well there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God has reached out to me on multiple occasions recently and told me that I should. Today was the real clear sign when I went to read Our Daily Bread’s daily devotional and it was about the very thing I have been debating about posting.

She began to wonder if God wanted her to write about her husband’s pornography addiction and how God was working in his life and their marriage.

Search for the story “An Exchange” (July 22) on ODB for the full devotional as it did speak to me.

While I am neither married nor dating I had an addiction to pornography (not suggesting that being single makes this better). Even knowing that this “new drug” has become such a common addiction amongst teens and adults, it feels weird and still uncomfortable to admit. With how disgusted I have become with porn now I almost wish I was admitting to a drug or alcohol problem.

I never considered this to be an addiction (of course) and even scoffed at those who suggested it as such. I always thought of it as harmless entertainment.

Eventually I grew to realize and understand the harmful personal effect it was having on my life, as well as the “dark side” of the industry. Even so I found myself still watching.
While I did try to stop, temptation always led me back. No matter how many anti-porn – #pornkillslove groups I followed and supported I never did stop, or rather never stopped for long.

It wasn’t until I embraced and fully welcomed God into my life that I stopped. The desire, that grinding feeling I often felt was lifted from. Cliche as it is to say, it really felt like the weight of the world was lifted from me.

Today I have no desire and as matter of fact am in full support of most anti-porn groups around, for the simple fact that porn is the new drug. Millions of people suffer from this addiction but since we have normalized porn and sex, there is a lack of mainstream support telling people that this is in fact a serious addiction. One that takes over your life. One that ruins marriages.

While this is something I never thought I’d admit to anyone other than God, the signs He sent me recently all pointed to admitting this publicly on here. Perhaps He believes someone that needs help, that are currently walking in my former shoes will come across this post one day and realize that porn IS an addiction and can be overcome, just with a little help from the Man upstairs!

No longer selfish in prayer

My $0.50 thrift store find

My $0.50 thrift store find

It wasn’t long ago I would only pray to God when I wanted or needed something done in or for my life. Occasionally I’d curse Him for not responding (or rather not responding the way I wanted).

With my new found faith in God I have changed the way I pray or simply speak to Him. Throughout the day I find myself talking to God more often and at nights before bed (you know, serious pray time) I am asking God to assist others I know or strangers I happen to encounter throughout the day. I then give thanks for what He has blessed me with and in the off chance I would like something (usually a change or guidance in my life, nothing materialistic) I leave it to the end.

I have simply come to realize and understand what prayer should be, at least what I feel prayer should be. Essentially God has made me far less selfish and has taught me to put others first.

While this isn’t an earth shattering change or revelation to most, personally, the way I speak and pray to God now is something I never thought I would do. The ‘power of prayer’ to me was always hogwash at best. Sometimes it takes a serious event in ones life to realize that God truly IS listening. Simply because He doesn’t always answer in they way we believe He should, he is working to guide us down the right path. It is up to us if we choose to listen to Him however, even if it means making difficult choices at time.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

The only ‘like’ I need

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What better way to show your age then to mention the social media or chat clients you once used. In my case MySpace and Bolt were the two social media websites I liked and MSN and Yahoo messengers were more common than smartphones and teens nowadays.

Having a picture or post you write ‘liked’ or even ‘reblogged’ does give you a bit of satisfaction.

“People actually read my stuff!”
“Someone actually liked that picture of me!”

Of course the opposite effect can happen when a post goes unliked. You start to question your writing skills or wonder about your appearance when a selfie sits with a 0 in the like column.

I was like this not long ago judging my self-worth based on likes and reblogs. I would allow the fact I would receive fewer then 5 likes on a selfie get to me. It would bring me down.
I had text posts (on tumblr) that had over 400 likes and reblogs and that would boost my spirits.

Social media in many ways took over my life and it effected my mood and overall health. The lack of friends, likes, reblogs, followers made me feel as though I didn’t matter in the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WAIT FOR IT~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Then I found Jesus! I began to realize it didn’t matter if I posted a picture that received zero likes or one that received 1000. The only like (approval) I require is His.

The emphasis placed on social media and the number of friends, followers, likes etc you have shouldn’t matter. If this post goes without a like I now understand that in the greater scheme of God’s plan it doesn’t matter. My self worth is no longer determined by social media.

Stop living your life to please random people on the internet. Start living life to please God.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

My Testimony

For a better part of this past decade I could be described best as an anxiety ridden, stress and anger filled ball of hate. Everything bothered me. Everyone bothered me. Truth told for no real reason either. Small minute things that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash at I noticed and they drove me crazy.

After discovering my blood pressure was high (something that also runs in the family), I knew changes needed to be made. I started to eat better, exercise more and tried to ignore the things that annoyed me. After a week I was feeling pretty good, and this lasted for a few months. Despite being a Christian I never actually turned to God during this time. You see my family weren’t the true Christian types. Oh sure I ‘prayed’, but they were empty prayers sent out to a void. I didn’t feel Christ in me as I prayed I had a firewall I think that blocked Him.

Then one day I reverted back to my old ways. Oh yes, I still ate better than before and did exercise, but those small things crept up on me. I realized that simply trying to ignore them meant they were building up inside me.

My anger grew. My stress grew. Above all else, my anxiety grew.

All of this led me to remain indoors to avoid as much contact as possible with people. When I did have to go out, my anxiety became worse, I could feel the devils hand swirling around my gut constantly. I hardly slept and felt miserable beyond belief.

Things finally became so bad I fell sick one day. The doctor never actually diagnosed what exactly it was (spin the wheel for a variety of possibilities), however I was put on two different (expensive) medications. One lasted one week while the other, two weeks.

It was at this point I knew something needed to change. I tried different lifestyle changes before and that didn’t last. Faced now with a real possibility of either being on medication for the rest of my life or having permanent damage to different internal organs, I needed something. No rather I needed someone.

That is when as a life long Christian I turned to God for what felt like the first time. I opened my entire self to Him. I called out in prayer looking for help. He responded!

Not only did I start to feel better but my anxiety and anger were no longer there. For the first time in years I actually started to get the proper sleep I needed. I went from being miserable to happy. I went from being a reluctant Christian to a proud, unashamed Christian wanting to share my undying love of God.

Allowing Jesus fully into my life and actually listening to what he has to say has been the single biggest life altering thing I have done. Thank you Lord!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
-Proverbs 3:5-6

How I came to prefer Christian fiction 

Well you’re a Christian…duh”. That of course is both the simple and easy answer as to how I came to prefer Christian fiction, however for myself it is something much bigger. It reflects my feelings toward modern entertainment as a whole.

Throw in about two-dozen F-bombs, a bunch of meaningless sex scenes with gratuitous nudity and a sprinkling of some G’ damns and you have much of what exists in popular mainstream entertainment. This is why IMDB’s parental guide has become my best friend for movies.

As TV shows increasingly became more like this, I have tuned out. I seldom watch TV nowadays (I don’t have cable, just a small indoor antenna that picks up a dozen networks) and when I do watch TV it’s usually for movies or to watch religious networks on my Roku.
My main source of entertainment are books.

As you can see from my reading list for 2015, I have not exactly read the most Christian of books thus far. Having read all 5 books in the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones), I had more than my fair share of sex and cursing to last a lifetime, however add in some Gillian Flynn, Jo Nesbo and some Paul Doiron, you get quite a few books that I’ve read that are no where close to being deemed “good for the entire family” (in no way am I suggesting these books are bad either, just too much unneeded sex and foul language).

However after reading Game of Thrones and books by the above mentioned authors, I have chosen to purchase and read books in the ‘Christian fiction’ category mostly now. The first place I head to when entering a bookstore or thrift shop is to the “religious fiction” section.

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My current collection of books consider “Christian fiction”.

My first taste of Christian fic actually came two years ago when I read two of Colleen Coble’s novels (her Rock Harbor series). Truth be told I purchased them because the covers caught my attention, and was actually taken aback when God was first mentioned. I wasn’t quite as religious then you see.

I recently purchased the rest of Coble’s books in the Rock Harbor series, which I look forward to reading soon as they are well written without all my complaints of modern entertainment.

Having just finished all the Narnia’s and now onto Andrew Klavan’s Crazy Dangerous, I can safely say Christian fiction has become my favourite genre of books. I like that they have good moral stories and above all do not inundate us with vulgar language or sexual content.

What are your favourite Christian novels or authors? Also Christian or not, how do you feel with the way cussing and sex has become so normalized in society that it’s in nearly everything we read or watch?