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Towards Life or Towards Death

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An amazing Bible professor at APU once said something in a lecture that really struck me. It went something like this: The enemy always tries to lead us toward death, and towards the things that will destroy our lives. God always wants life, and he leads us towards the things that make us more alive.

I wish I could remember his exact words, but there you have the paraphrase.

I heard these words of truth from my Bible professor at a time in my life when I was having a lot of thoughts about death. In my young adult years, before I was married, I heard the thoughts in my head almost every day:

I’d be better off dead.
My life is worthless.
No one would even care if I never existed.
They’d be better off ifjust weren’t alive.
I just wish I were dead.

I was not a super-depressed person who couldn’t function in everyday life, although sometimes I could see myself becoming that way if I wasn’t careful. Instead, I was an involved, straight-A student who enjoyed meaningful friendships and lived life to the fullest.

But I had these thoughts all the time, especially after I would get in a fight with my mom, or when I would not live up to my own expectations of myself.

I finally came to realize that I am a creature that can think about and even believe things that are not true. Not only that, but I am a creature that can hear things that do not come from my own mind or from God, but from a dark place.

If this were true, and these thoughts were false and not from God, then the world would not be better off if I were dead. My family would not be happier if I was never born. I didn’t need to die in order to solve my problems.

Lies. I could identify them as lies. Wow, I just heard a lie. That is not true. I just thought something that is not true.

In the first years of my marriage, I would hear things like this:

We are a mismatch.
We are not right together.
I’d probably be a better fit with a man like (my friend’s husband) because he is more like me.
Andy and I are too different.

Lies. For a while I listened to the lies, but soon I was able to identify them. That’s a lie. Nope, that’s a lie.

Most recently, I have been hearing things like this:

My house has to look perfect before I can invite anyone over.
I can’t go anywhere in public, I look ugly (fat and pregnant).
People probably look at me and think I’m disgusting.

Narcissistic lies.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a crazy person, because I do have a point. If you are having thoughts that lead you toward death, destruction, or isolation, you are free to identify them as lies, reject them, and claim the truth.

My life has value. I’m not worthless.
God has given me life for a reason.
I married my husband because he is a man of God, not because we are a perfect fit.
I am a beautiful person.
Life does have a purpose. Your life has a purpose.

Are we in danger because of the growing narcissism in our culture?

I watched a very sad video in May that you probably watched as well. It was the selfie video of the young college student who went on a shooting rampage in Santa Barbara. As I watched the video, I was freaked out because it was so creepy to see and hear a person talk about killing innocent people, but also because this young man believed the lies he was hearing in his head. He said things like,

“Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species. If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls, rivers of blood. You deserve to be annihilated.”

Death and destruction

and, “I have been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me.”

A very sad conclusion.

If we allow ourselves to listen to and believe the lies that bombard us, we are in danger of destroying our own lives and possibly the lives of others.

Who has the authority to discern truth from a lie?

When Jesus was tempted for 40 days, he was bombarded with things from the devil that were partially true but not from God. Jesus knew what was completely true even when he was tempted by other things that were sort of true.

If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.
Worship me, the devil, and I will give you authority over all the kingdoms on earth.
Throw yourself from the top of the temple and God will send angels to attend you–if you are the Son of God.
(Luke 4:1-13, paraphrase)

The enemy went so far as to use scripture to try to convince Jesus to listen to his voice, worship, and obey him.

Partial truths can also be totally wrong and deceptive.

The Holy Spirit, the guidance of God and the Bible, wisdom and knowledge, and the path toward life: these are the authority by which we can identify truth from lies, right from wrong, life from death and destruction.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”
2 Timothy 3:1-4

In the midst of the death and destruction we see these days, remember the life-giving truth.

Your life has value.

God has given you life for a reason

You are a beautiful person

Your life has a purpose

 

 

photo credit: marisa santiago

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About Confession

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To be honest, I am a nervous wreck right now. I am in the last phase before my book is released and it’s sort of–OK, it’s really really scary. It makes me feel very vulnerable to be sharing my story, my testimony, with the world.

But it is also one of the best, most rewarding things I have ever done. And it has changed and healed me.

Because I have been a wreck, I have been spending a lot of time in prayer. A lot of time listening to the Bible on my YouVersion app. The topic of confession has been on my heart. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what the Lord is teaching me about confession. I guess I’m not really talking about the kind of confession that goes on when I pray silently. I’m talking about the scary kind: public confession.

Confession is important. Not because my mistakes are anybody’s business. Not because people need to know. Not because others have a right to know what I have done wrong.

Confession is important because confession transforms my heart.

I will say it again because it is so awesome and exciting:  Confession transforms my heart.

The alternative is not so great. The alternative is to hide things, avoid things, tell lies, and keep secrets.

Secrets fester.

Secrets allow me to make up stories. I make up stories about what other people must think of me. What a terrible person I am. How I deserve hell. How people must really hate me.

Others who suspect that something is wrong with me also make up stories. They know that something is going on but they don’t know the details. So they fill in the blanks. Sometimes this becomes gossip or slander.

Secrets lead to deception. Lies enter in. Lies grow. Bad habits form. Bad habits grow. Secrets are a breeding ground for sin to grow. Does keeping a secret make the sin die? Never, it makes it grow.

The reason I need to confess is not because it is other people’s business to know my faults and my mistakes.

I confess because confession is a soul cleanse. Confession, even with all of its consequences, allows the healing process to begin. Confession is not easy, but that is why it transforms my heart.

Only God can bring me to the place where my heart is ready to confess. Because really, who likes to confess? No one except the person who knows for sure that God will bring healing as a result of the confession.

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I didn’t know that my book Goodnight to My Thoughts of You would be a sort of confession. I didn’t know that writing about my past would bring me complete healing.

I realized this week that my book Goodnight to My Thoughts of You is my testimony. I never looked at it that way until this week, but it makes so much sense now. God has commanded us to share our testimonies. I am so grateful for the process it has been: praying, writing, confessing, healing = humility, thankfulness, and freedom.

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I Promised Myself Big Christmases

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I know it is Christmastime and things are supposed to be merry. And they are. But it’s a sad time too, because our friend Kevin Hill passed away last night, after years of fighting cancer. You can read the Hill’s story here. It was just a few weeks ago in November that I was driving them to his birthday dinner and he was asking me about my blog. He gently put his hand on Rachel’s shoulder as we were chatting, a touch that I will always remember. He was so alive that day. He was so gentle, patient, and thankful.

So I have to acknowledge this in my post. Because even though my life goes on, the lives of my sweet friends Rachel and Kevin are changing forever. Kevin is with Jesus. Rachel lost the love of her life. She will have to raise her two small children on her own without Kevin. How could this happen?

While we always wish for a miracle, we always pray for God’s will to be done. We don’t understand his ways. But we are thankful that he knows and sees all things. He is in control. Thank you, Jesus.

Hug your husband tightly this Christmas. Thank God for a healthy strong man to care for you and your children, even though he’s not perfect, even though marriage isn’t what you dreamed it would be. Thank God for him and show your husband how thankful you are to have him today.

I Promised Myself Big Christmases

When I was a teenager, I promised myself a few things when it came to my future family.

I promised myself I would never stop reading teen magazines so I would always know what was in style.

I promised myself I would never tell my kids we didn’t have enough money to do sports and dance classes.

I promised myself I would never dress my children in what I wanted them to wear, but I would let them wear whatever they wanted.

I promised myself that I would never fight with my husband in front of my kids.

I would never put work before spending time with my kids.

I would always get in the pool with my kids when we went swimming, and I would always ride bikes with my kids.

And I would ALWAYS have big Christmases, with lots of presents piled under the tree, presents in stacks that reached the ceiling.

I laugh at these things now, but as I read through the list I realize that I have failed every single one of those promises.

Since today is Christmas Eve, I am going to focus on the last one: big Christmases.

I realize now, as a parent of four children, that the toys and games and stuff just sits around for a while and then gets tossed—or sold at a garage sale for one dollar.

Not to mention that there isn’t any room for more stuff. And even though it’s fun for a while, the joy of getting new toys and games is so temporary.

A few years ago when I was shopping for my daughters for Christmas, I realized that I wasn’t really finding what I was looking for. I was longing to get them something meaningful, something that would last longer than video games, dolls, and new shoes.

So I started a new tradition of writing a letter to each one of my kids every Christmas. The letters are words of affirmation (my love language), stories that show their personalities, and prayers/blessings over their lives.

I bought a book for each child that holds letters, family Christmas cards, and pictures with Santa. When the kids are older, I will wrap the books each year and put them under the tree with the other gifts. So each year they will read something encouraging from Mom, and they can laugh at the memories written in the old letters.

My kids still get a gift from Santa, a few gifts from Mom and Dad, and a bunch of presents from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

But with this new tradition—letters from Mom—my hope is that they will be reminded of how much I love them, and most importantly, how much Jesus loves them.

My oldest daughter found the books a few days ago and started reading through all the letters. Suddenly, she burst into tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Your letters are so nice!” she cried. “And my sister is so cute! How could I ever be mean to her?”

This year we are using a small fake tree—the same small fake tree my parents used to use when I was a kid—and we opted to not send Christmas cards to help us stay within our budget.

It’s OK. The living room still looks cozy. We will send cards next year. I am trying to practice living out what is really important. I am trying to demonstrate to my children what holds weight and value for our family, but more poignantly, I am trying to discipline my own spirit to desire Jesus and not the traditions of Christmas.

Big Christmases. In my heart I still wish I could fulfill my promises from when I was a teen. But I also have a new perspective now that I have four kids and I am in my thirties.

We don’t understand why we don’t get what we want until we are older and look back. We realize we should have been thankful for what we did have instead of wanting more.

Hold your loved ones tightly this Christmas.

God bless you. Merry Christmas from the Rotunnos.

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