Monday, December 18, 2006
I know the grace of God turned the tide. My mother went into the hospital one day, and instead of coming out looking dazed from the shots they would give her for her “migraines”, she stayed in. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had been checked into rehab for drug abuse. When I saw her again she seemed very different, looking skinny and sallow, but more alert than I had seen her in a long time. Again, though, I was told two very different stories. Dad told us that Satan was tricking Mommy, and that she was going to leave us all because she believed the lies of the doctors and psychiatrists. Hearing this, I was nearly hysterical. But Mommy tried to explain to us that she needed to get better, and she wasn’t going to be able to do it while Dad was still drinking. This began a tense time of waiting. Would my mother come back for me? Would she do what Dad said and really leave me there for good?
As the time passed, my mother realized that my step-dad had no intention of trying to get sober himself. She knew that she needed to divorce him, this man who had abused her and her child for so long with impunity. I went to live with my real father for a time, while Mommy got a job and a house for us to live in. We lived together finally in a one-bedroom apartment, and entered a time devoid of religion in any organized sense. Mom told me that I could do what I wanted, but that she was going to take a break from church for a while. As a curious and intelligent ten-year-old, I began researching all the world’s religions, looking for one that sounded right. I gathered a wealth of information on religions from Buddhism to Islam, Hinduism to Judaism. I always seemed to gravitate back to Christianity, even though it had been presented in such a skewed way to me in my formative years. I began to realize that what my stepfather and the Kingdom Hall had taught me were not what the rest of the world called Christianity. I like this “new” religion I was discovering, although for a long time I never went to church or even regularly prayed.
The change came one day when I was about to enter the eighth grade. It was summertime and I was sitting at my new best friend Hayley’s house. She was whining to me that her parents were going to send her to church camp, and she didn’t want to go alone. She begged me to come with her. When my Mom realized that it was Hume Lake that I was asking to go to, she called her own mother. My Grandma was so overjoyed at the prospect of me going, she agreed to pay for the whole week of camp. I couldn’t figure out why she was so happy, but I got the money and permission I needed to go with Hayley for a week away from home.
At camp, they wasted no time in presenting the gospel to us kids. It was the Tuesday after we had gotten there when they did the big altar call. A man was at the front of an auditorium filled with about 200 youth, and he was talking about how nothing in this world could fill your life like God. He reached into his wallet and pulled out five dollars. He held it in the air and declared, “Whoever wants this, come and get it!” Most of us just stared at him, but one kid got up and grabbed the five dollars. The man didn’t try to grab it back, he just said, “Good for you, it’s yours. God bless.” I couldn't believe he had simply given away that money!
Then, he began filling up a plastic pitcher from the mess hall. He was putting in it things that represented what we filled our lives with: a toy car to represent possessions, Valentine’s candy to represent love, report cards to represent school, and on and on. He lifted the pitcher for us all to see and said, “It’s full, right?” It certainly looked full to me. But he pointed out that there were gaps everywhere, that the things we tried to fill our lives with fit awkwardly and left holes in the pitcher. Then he took another pitcher, this one filled with water, and he began filling up the other pitcher. We gasped as he poured water on the candy, the cars, the money, the report cards…but we saw the pitcher begin to truly fill up. “This is how God does it,” he said with conviction. He kept pouring until that pitcher was full and he kept pouring even after that, as water overflowed and started splashing the kids in the first row. He seemed unconcerned by this. “A life overflowing with the love of God,” he said very simply, and something about this made me cry.
Once the first few tears escaped my eyes, it seemed that the floodgates opened. Everything that had been done to me, every lie I had told myself, all the things missing in my life, together these things swirled in my mind and nearly made me faint. I knew, for the first time, that God really loved me, and that more than anything in this wide world I needed Him, in the truest sense. That day I accepted Christ into my heart and felt a healing begin. Next year in July, it will be ten years since that day. In the interim time, God has been healing me all the more, performing small miracles every day, relentlessly pursuing me and bringing me back to the place I was in when I realized I needed Him so much. His love has guided me all over the world, as I graduated college in Australia, as I came back to the States to try to bring Christ’s love back to my real father and his friends here in Denver.
I struggle, I triumph; I pray, I fall. But to this day, I remain a Christian by the grace of God.
I grew up for ten years thinking that I was a Christian. I was told that my family was a Christian family, but little emphasis was ever put on Christ. This is because I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness: I attended Kingdom Hall on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights, and house Book Studies on Tuesdays. In addition to this, I went out in service nearly every Saturday morning with one group of people or another. Yes, I was one of those out knocking on doors; most people tried to avoid us by pretending not to be home. I had an advantage as a cute little redheaded kid, but that would only get us so far. Many times doors would get slammed in our faces, or we would be interrupted in our pitch to give away all the Watchtower and Awake magazines that filled the briefcases of the adults. All this resistance really made me feel persecuted, like we were doing something right for God.
Feeling persecuted was a sensation very familiar to me. My stepfather, the head of the Jehovah’s Witness household, was not only a man highly regarded in the church, but he also managed to be an abusive alcoholic on the side. As his step-daughter, I bore the brunt of the abuse because I was the only child in the house that he didn’t have a hand in producing. I had three sisters, and I could never figure out why I was the only one who had to get up early in the morning before going to first grade, and clean the house. I didn’t know why the rest of the family could go watch a movie after dinner, but I had to do all the dishes for six people. To my knowledge I wasn’t physically abused after the age of three or four, because by then I would be able to articulate my story to someone. However, I was emotionally and spiritually abused, and remained terrified of my father, turning me into a shy and withdrawn child.
My mother was the other one in the house who bore the abuse. For her to escape the pain of her marriage, she dulled her senses with prescription drugs. It helped her to run away in her head, but it also meant that she wasn’t really able to help me get out of that situation. For ten years I struggled to survive in my own house, a house full of the dichotomy of cult religion mixed with abuse, screaming mixed with prayer, oceans of terror defied by tiny drops of hope.
TO be continued...
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Lately I've been feeling strangely about the fact that when I want a coffee, I go out of my nice house, get into my nice car, drive to Starbucks because it has a drive-thru, and shell out $3.50 for a double tall vanilla latte. Or when I feel like I want a pizza, I get on my cell phone and order one from down the street. They deliver it piping hot to my door minutes later.
Now, these are modern conveniences that we have here in the States, and I guess there's not much that we can do (and why should we?) about deliveries and drive-thrus. It's more the idea of getting whatever my little heart desires...and fast. It makes me feel guilty somehow. But how do you alleviate the guilt of being a rich Westerner?
Well, it's not by throwing money at a charity, or giving clothes that you don't want anymore to the Goodwill, I can tell you that. I've tried. Is it volunteering? I've volunteered hours in my past to worthy causes, and I've always felt the better for it. But it's more a fleeting feeling of satisfaction because the act itself is fleeting.
So continuity in volunteering...is that the secret to a continued feeling of satisfaction? Is it smug of me to help the homeless and then go home every day? Is it pretentious of me to ask these questions? I don't know. I don't know the answer, but the one thing I'm sure of is that I'm not doing enough. I'm not doing enough in this world to help others rather than myself.
This Christmas, my goal is to rectify this, in small ways or large. If anyone has any good ideas, please pass them on. God Bless you in this Christmas time, and let us not forget the true meaning of that Holy Day.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
As you can imagine, this is sometimes very awkward for me. Does this person know I'm a Christian? If they don't I really feel like a failure. Guilt sets in. I stop listening to what the person is saying and begin a vigorous mental flagellation process.
If they do know I'm a Christian, what do they hope to gain by complaining to me?
I pondered this one.
Are they trying to get answers? If so, I feel suddenly proud! I'm a woman of the people, a real mouthpiece for Christians in the day to day world! They're coming to me in droves, seeking answers and wanting to know my opinion! Once I finish with the ticker tape parade in my mind and climb off the float, I have to actually figure out what my answer will be. Peter told us in his first epistle to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have". We are to give our answers with gentleness and respect.
Instead, to my shame, I feel I jump right in with critizing other Christians. Not myself, of course, (of course!), but the very conservative Christian Right. They are a very easy target, I think. I can get away with saying how badly they handle things, and I can say, "Don't worry! Not all Christians are like that!" And then I can go on to say how cool my church is and other great things like that.
But then a little nagging feeling sets in. I really don't think it's such a great idea to castigate the practices of other Christians in the presence of a non-believer. In the interest of getting them to understand that I know where they're coming from, I feel like a traitor in the ranks of the larger worldwide body of believers. Because truly, we all believe the essential things. I'm sure we could all recite the Nicene Creed together (and those who couldn' t would at least heartily agree with what it said). We are a brotherhood, a family, a body. We are the ecclesia.
And so the next time I get the urge to bash other Christians, no matter how bad their behavior, I will limit it to my writing, and not do it in front of a non-believer. After all, they will know we are Christians by our love, and not by our arguments...no matter how pithy they may be.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
As you may or may not know, very small pool of faithful readers, I have recently decided to really pursue a writing career. It was half a decision of desperation (aka I don't really have any practical skills outside the creative realm) and half a decision of passion (I love to write and I've been told I'm pretty good at it).
When I started out on this venture, the first thing I did was pray. Good idea, I think. I asked God to slam shut the door of opportunity, so I wouldn't be laboring under any false pretenses or illusions of literary grandeur, if this is not something that He would have me do.
Cut to two weeks later, which brings us to today. I had my day off, which I of course spent writing and researching. I formulated an idea for a book (scary, large undertaking!) and wrote the first 1000 words. I have investigated markets in the Christian arena, and I had a very good feeling overall about the whole thing. I talked to my mum, and she felt the same.
And lo, and behold! I open up my e-mail this evening and find that the first article I ever submitted to a publication (first draft, probably a bad idea, but hey...) got accepted and is going to be published!! Now, it's a tiny publication about healing ministries, a little magazine produced by the Order of St. Luke. I wrote the article about praying for healing for my mother who had lupus, and the subsequent full healing she received from our gracious God. I will receive no compensation except for a few author's copies of the magazine, I believe. But my name will be in print, and I can use that as leverage for bigger things. Clips, as samples of your work are called, are essential for some of the larger markets.
This wonderful confirmation on the day I decide to undertake an entire book! Coincidence?
I know better.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Well, it certainly has been an interesting day so far. It's funny how right on target my feminine intuition has been today.
I woke up, as per every Monday morning since I've started at Emogene cafe, and got all ready for work, but couldn't shake this nagging feeling that I should have looked at the schedule last week when I went to pick up my paycheck. Now, there is no real reason to look at the schedule since, as I mentioned, there has never been a Monday that I've not worked. However, I couldn't get rid of the feeling, and on my drive to work I must have hit every red light, and gotten caught behind every bus, street sweeper, tractor, and miscellaneous slow-moving Monday driver that the metro area had to offer. It was a bit of a nightmare!
And what are the first words my supervisor says to me when I walk in the door? "What? I don't think you're on the schedule, Cassie!" And sure enough, my schedule had been altered from its usual humdrum Mon-Wed 9-3 shift. Oh bother.
So I took this as a sign that I needed to be up and at 'em today for another reason. I decided to go home, put my writing pants on (aka pajamas! heh), and get down to my other business. And so far today I have submitted a few queries after much research, and on top of that I adopted a child with WorldVision. (Her name is Nesoli and she lives in Swaziliand. I chose one of the higher risk children for $5 more a month...I think I can swing it, right?)
It's only three o'clock now, so a lot can happen before I put my head to the pillow in nine hours. I prayed this morning for blessing, and I think I can feel a few in the works. God is a funny guy, so you never know!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
So I don't really know if it's a good or a bad thing to be called "fake" for the Gospel. I know I will be persecuted (in a wimpy, Western sense of the word), but this is certainly not the form I thought it would take! My life really IS this boring, by the world's standards. I've not done any drugs, I'm a 22 year old virgin (by choice), and I try to live my life by the basic standards of "love God, love people". No, really. That's it. I pray and I go to church every Sunday and it isn't a front. This is my heart.
I suppose it was deeply insulting for someone to imply, even indirectly, that my dedication to Jesus and the Gospel was anything but profoundly real. You base your whole existence around something and anyone could just come up and point at it and say they don't think its real or they don't think it looks the way it should. And that's the way it goes. But I have the hope that the verse below applies to me...
Mat 5:10 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I thought this was an interesting concept. I have a more lenient view of immigration, I think, because I have tried to live in another country, and I know how much red tape is involved, and what it feels like to be a non-citizen, etc... I don't necessarily think that illegal immigrants should be able to get on the dole, or necessarily get in-state tuition, but I've heard far too many Christians say some really harsh things about illegals.
I'm not trying to come off as self-righteous here, but I'm just trying to make us think a little harder about the things we say and the way we think about everything around us. It's difficult when faced with some things, but I think the author of that article had a point! These people are here...they're obviously not getting deported anytime soon...so let's be Christians. We treat them as we would any other person, perhaps even with more special care because they are far from home, working hard at trying to make a better life for themselves. I'm not saying let's fling open the gates and let anybody in...I'm just sayin', one day we might not be the most prosperous country in the world, one where many people want to emigrate to. Let's use that status in a positive way while we still can.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I think there are two or three people in this world that know me as well as my family does, and I don't live nearby any of them. Here in Denver, I have awesome friends, godly friends, a great church, a great dad, but for some reason lately I have been feeling a bit of a lack.
And I suppose the reason is that God is wanting me to draw nearer to Him; He who knows me best of all, and loves me just the same. But I know I am not alone in feeling like I would enjoy the human element once in awhile, too. I have been on my own a lot in this world because of my peripatetic lifestyle, a lot of situations when I have found myself praying, "Well, here we are again, just the two of us!"
I suppose my challenge is to either get known by the people I am around now (however one does such a thing...), or get more and more comfortable with this whole me and God thing. But I think I want both.
Nobody decided to inform me how much more difficult it is to forge deep friendships when you are not in school! And as much as I like travelling, I think that I will be having to forge new friendships more and more, each time I move and am alone again (naturally ;) ). And then that feeling of ennui comes around again when I feel lonely and it makes me feel like moving on, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Perhaps one day I will settle down and live in one place for the rest of my life, but for now I have that nagging feeling that I was just born to be a rolling stone.
Friday, September 29, 2006
It is a real pet peeve of mine when I do something and people will say, "It's
impressive, but its not very ladylike!" Who the flamin' heck cares if it's
Have I ever tried to fool anyone into thinking that I was a
ladylike kind of girl?? NO! I'm a belching, tofu-eating,
non-toenail-polish-removing girl. Guess what? Sometimes I don't shave my
legs...for weeks at a time!! Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth and I'll chew
gum instead! Sometimes I pick my nose! I don't shower every day!
here I am: an attractive, intelligent, witty girl of twenty two. I wear dresses
and heels still, but I might forget to cross my legs once in awhile. Lady,
schmady! Take it or leave it!
PS It's really horrible when people
suggest that all these things are maybe why I don't have a boyfriend. I don't
have a boyfriend because I beat boys back with a stick. That's why I don't have
a boyfriend, dammit!
The above is a blog that I was going to post on my Myspace page, but I decided to make a Daily Christian blog out of it, too. I want to know, How ladylike does a modern Christian woman have to be? Are there rules? I know a lot of you will immediately tell me about the Wife of Noble Character in the book of Proverbs, but never does it say that a single girl of noble character has to remove all her toenail polish as soon as it starts showing signs of wear. Are you seeing my point here? Is there a moral/spiritual issue here at all, or am I just making one up? I don't really know.
All I do know is that if guys can skip a shower or two, if they are allowed to be real people who have bodily functions and the like...well, I don't see why females should be forced to pretend our bowels never make noise, or that we never have any boogers. (I'm not saying you have to pick your nose all the time, but you know what I mean!) I don't go around passing gas everywhere and taking delight in it, but really...to say I don't have a boyfriend because I can burp louder than any guy I've met? Is that to say I will never become a Wife of Noble Character, just because some people think I am not a ladylike-enough singleton?
I don't think so. I refuse to think so. I'll keep refusing to think so even if I become a crazy cat lady. Because there is a principal here that I am basing all this on...women are human too! Just because we are the fairer sex, just because we make ourselves more gorgeous with makeup and hairtools and tweezers and wax and lotions and perfumes and the list goes on and on...doesn't mean we don't have flatulence.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Would that all my free time could be filled with something like that!
But this brings me to my point: What is the best way to spend my free time? Should I be worried that I'm not out helping orphans and widows? Is it selfish of me to sit and watch Gilmore Girls when I could be doing something more productive?
I remember in college my best friend Sam read this book by Moody (I think it was) that was saying we really need to watch how idle we are. He asserted that the question in our minds at ALL TIMES should be, "Is this promoting God and His kingdom?" I remember being so paralyzed by that statement...I felt like a horrible person; for about a week afterward I couldn't really do anything at all. I think I even pulled away from God and got scared out of my mind that I was living a life that was completely useless in the grand scheme of things.
After that I just said, "Screw it! I'm not perfect, I'm relying on grace." I refused to be incapacitated by the feeling of uselessness, because the truth is we don't really know how useful we are in the big picture sense.
There are things that are unwise to do with my time, sure. But I think that it is perfectly OK to sit down and sip a cup of tea and not think to myself, "How is this advancing God and His kingdom?". I can sometimes just be like the mountains, the lake, the birds in the trees; I can just be. I can be in the presence of God and not worry that I am taking a little rest. I have a necklace around my neck with a heart pendant that has the words "Be Still" inscribed in it. Maybe I should listen to my jewelry more often!
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I proved my own point to the world last night.
I had the most stressful day at work that I've ever had at any day of any work before. It was a bit of a bonding experience for those of us who worked it, so we decided to go to the bar after work to chill out and de-stress. Even at the beginning of the night, I had this flash-forward (probably a warning from the Holy Spirit) where I didn't exactly see why the night would be bad, but I knew very clearly that I would regret the effects of staying there at the pub with my work friends.
For some reason I dimissed this and decided to stay. As the night wore on, more and more alcohol was consumed (mixing is such a bad idea! Why do I do it?!), and then my stomach revolted. I'm sure I don't need to get into specifics, but it was certainly no bueno. I had to call my dad (well, actually my friend Lindsey had to call him) to come pick me up, and I'm sure I smelled to high heaven and looked a fright. Poor daddy.
Anyway, the point of all this is: I thought I was so much better than everyone in this area of my life. That's the truth. I still had a lot of pride, thinking to myself like the praying Pharisee, "Oh God, thank you that I am not like all those other people, who go out and get drunk and puke all over their friends and fathers." I had been so good of late, trying very hard to think, do I really want a drink or am I drinking because it's there?
The lesson I learned in all this is: Don't get prideful!! Because I will be humbled!! God loves me this much. He doesn't let me get away with certain things.
This has been hard for me because, of course, I don't want anyone to know this happened. None of my church friends would have had to know, the rest of my family didn't have to know...but I promised at the beginning that I would be brutally honest. So far it has worked well for me, and I think it has helped others too. This is the greatest blessing I have received from God lately: to use my horrible screw-ups to become more humble, sympathetic to the bad decisions of others, because I know sometimes how easy they are to make.
In the life of a Christian, there will be the morning-after...there will be bad behaviour and then regret. The key to all this is repentance. Just as Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." John 8:11
Thursday, September 21, 2006
...And then I woke up.
When this single Christian gets a tad lonely, it becomes easier and easier for me to rationalize starting up a relationship with someone who is not a Christian. Part of this is because I don't see any Christian prospects on the horizon, and part of it is that it seems I attract all these smart or cute or talented boys...that aren't believers. They have high IQs, they speak foreign languages, they have interesting jobs and have travelled the world... They ask me out, or what have you, and I have to shut them down. (What's the deal here!?!)
On my stronger days, I will tell you what a horrible idea it is, yoking oneself to an unbeliever, and I would tell you that I wouldn't even dream of it! But the truth of the matter is, I would. Dream of it, that is. And I sometimes do. I'll think, 'What's wrong with me being in a relationship with someone who is, in all other respects, absolutely perfect for me?? That doesn't seem fair!' I'll think, 'What if I never find a Christian man like this one?'
In reality, loneliness and hormones aside, what the question really boils down to, and what I will always do good to remember, is simply this: "Do I trust God?" Do I truly trust the Creator of the universe, who knows me better and still loves me more completely than any human ever could? Don't I think that He will know what's best for me? It saddens me to think that I would ever doubt this. But sometimes with my actions, if not my actual thoughts, this is exactly what I am doing.
I will leave it up to you to know or to find out why this type of romantic relationship is such a bad idea. I will not expound on that here, now. I woke up from my dream sad that this "perfect" person and I couldn't be. I decided that the only thing I can do is pray for his salvation, pray that he will return to the Way in which he was raised. Because if a man doesn't love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength...well, then.
I'll just have to keep waiting.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Work - 9am til 3pm
Bible Study - 6pm til 9:30pm
Going out with friends - 11pm til the cows come home (no, not us girls...it's just an expression.)
The part I'd like to focus on is Bible Study. I love it, it's a highlight of my week. But I always get anxiety because we sit in a corner of a Starbucks and because it is such a highly visible (and also quite audible) location, I spend quite a bit of time worrying about how we seem to the general public.
Please don't misunderstand me. It is not an embarrassment like, "Oh dear, we're praying in public...people might know I'm a Christian" sort of thing. I've been a believer long enough, I would hope that I am past that. No, it's more like, "We're on display. We are being obvious Christians. Should we be more intentional about the things we say and do?"
Is that fake? I'm not sure. As followers of Christ we are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), and it goes on to say that a city on a hill cannot be hidden. And so it goes, a bible study held in the middle of a corporate coffee icon also cannot be hidden. I'm always thinking:
1. Can people hear us?
2. Are they listening?
3. Are they laughing/scoffing/judging/what-have-you?
4. Are we saying anything that would be a bad witness?
5. Do we have our theology straight?
We have had Catholics come up while we were discussing the idea of purgatory. We have had Lebanese Christians come up while we were discussing the situation in Lebanon. We have had meaningful interaction with these and other people who seem to be interested in what we are doing, and so I don't think it is strange for me to be conscious of how we appear to the general surrounds.
And then there is the thought (brought up by the leader of our Sunday class): For all the time we sit in that corner, are we buying/tipping enough? Are we leaving our trash around? Are we friendly with the staff? You can't hold a bible study in a public place and then leave your rubbish lying around afterward! It might sound silly, but who wouldn't take that opportunity to make a comment about Christians in general? If I weren't us, I would certainly bash us for doing that!!
I suppose the point of all this is that we need to be on our guard at all times, and in all things, perhaps even things that seem as small as noise level in a public place, littering, language, etc..
Consider 1 Timothy 4:16
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
And so, we come to the birth of this blog. Nobody knows about it (yet). Even I might not have a fully formed idea of what I'm doing here (yet). But I intend to answer this question that grows ever louder in my mind with every passing day...I intend to think through, speak through, type through my daily experiences, troubles, and triumphs on my path back Home. And hopefully, through the mercy of my Lord, I can actually apply these meanderings in a meaningful and life-changing way.
I want to be the type of Christ-follower that puts words into action. And not just any words, but the "foolishness" of the Gospel itself. I will see this as a crash course in accountability, as I plan to be brutally honest in all of this writing, thinking, living. I pray you will bear with me, or even join me in my pursuit of godliness. A goal more noble, I could not think of. This is it.
So join me, if you will. God willing, let us become Daily Christians together.