Tag Archives: life

Why I Ditched Religion – by Katharine Trauger

On Monday, I asked a sincere question, and I have received some really great, honest feedback from you all in return. You can check it out on my post Truth-Seekers? Are You There? Be sure to read the comment section, because that’s where you’ll be challenged and find the best conversations.

Today, I wish to share one of those answers with you.

Guest post by Katharine Trauger at Home’s Cool!

When I was twelve–I remember it clearly–I sat in church wondering. I knew I was looking. I felt I knew what I was looking for.
I knew there was truth somewhere in the Bible because I knew there was this basically unexplainable thing that the original 12 disciples had found and were completely willing to die for. And, sorry, but I also knew it wasn’t religion. Nope. There are tons of religions and religions are what make people willing to KILL, not willing to die.
I truly sat in church and realized what I was getting was what people were willing to kill for. I had not found anything I was willing to die for. I was pretty sure those who went before in the Believing tradition had found whatever that was. All the martyrs had had something, found something, and all the Crusaders had not.
I wondered what it was and wanted to find it, if possible.
I’m a sort of scary personality in that I usually just calmly watch and listen. And when I know that I know something, I teach. But if I get pushed, I might flare up. A little bit. Maybe. Heh heh.
So I just sat in church and waited and listened and watched. For all the love I had for the history/tradition, for all the artistic beauty inherent in the average formal church setting, and for all the comfort of repetition, I could not find anything that would be hard to walk away from. At all. But I felt pretty sure whatever it was that I could not find, it was still there to be found, but I could not find it.
Eventually I left for college and ditched it all for a disobedient lifestyle. I married an atheist/agnostic who was a brilliant thinker. (Oh, and he was in the same denomination, so my parents were pretty pleased. Snowed, more like it.)
The VietNam draft and the cost of college forced us to choose the military life for a short while. Then back to college and on to married parenthood and a real job. During this time came the movie “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. We did not view it, but did purchase the soundtrack, for which, for some reason, the product insert included a Bible reference, and we opened the Bible in our home for the first time, ever. And my mostly unchurched husband had questions which I could answer, from the storehouse of Bible memory work I’d spent my childhood learning.
Ironic, no?
Eventually I began feeling guilty about not attending church and since my husband was okay with it, I went a couple of times. You know how that can make you a member, sometimes? First thing I knew, I was teaching VBS. It was 1976, the bicentennial year. I remember that, because the VBS curriculum was all “God and Country” and having just exited the VietNam/college culture, I was really having trouble teaching little children something I did not believe. Really.
I remembered things from the childhood Bible memo work, still, and I remembered that if we ask for spiritual gifts, God always says “yes”. (Or so I was taught.)
Therefore, one night, still angry at the curriculum, and also angry at God, I prayed. “God, if you’re really up there, you’ve got to do one of two things: You either have to change my brain or else you have to get me out of teaching VBS, because I REALLY cannot teach things to little children as truth if I don’t believe them myself.”
Two choices. I actually had issued an ultimatum to God that He had two choices, if He wanted me to believe He exists.
Guess which one He chose.
I was so sure He could not change my brain (because He probably wasn’t really “up there”), and still so mad that He’d let me get into the predicament (because, although He does not exist, everything is His fault, right?), that I was fuming the next morning about what I was going to have to teach to little children.
My husband noticed my agitation and asked what was wrong. I began showing him all the propaganda in the teacher’s book that had made me so angry.
And I could not find it. I could find the book and no pages were missing. But I could not find the “opinions” that had so angered me. I could not find the untruths. I could not find a. single. thing. in that curriculum that was not reasonable, not conceivable, not plausible. I was dumbfounded. I had locked horns with God and lost.
Won, actually. Because overnight, He had instilled faith in my heart. Because I told Him He had to, then rolled over and went to sleep. And He did it.
And I want to tell you what I got was NOT religion. NOT. NOT. NOT.
What I got was life. It’s a whole different thing, entirely.
Even the Bible describes religion: looking after widows and orphans, and keeping yourself unspotted by the world.
That is admirable, yes, but also SO MUCH NOT what I got. I got life in Christ. I finally found what it was that the martyrs had. I’d actually seen God at work and no longer knew He was probably real. I KNEW HIM. His fingerprints were and always are on me.
Just not the same, at all.
Yes, I’ve looked back a bit. Trouble is, He’s got my back. He is always very near. Well, actually, He is in me. In me. The Living Water is not a parable. Nope. It is reality.
It is the only reality.
I used to say, and I think it is relevant, here, that there are 3 Kingdoms:
The Plant Kingdom, which we know for sure we are not a part of.
The Animal Kingdom, which many think they are part of because they think that is the only alternative.
And.
The Kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom that invisibly coexists all around and among and within us, who belong to Him. A kingdom into which a person must be born. Again.
And that is where I am and where I have been for over forty years.
I have been young and now am old, and I’ve never seen anything I can regret about His lifting me from my slow death into this fractalesque explosion of true life.
Hope you didn’t think our answers would be short… 🙂

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Homemaking: the Difference between Love and Hate

I have discovered the primary factor that determines whether I enjoy housework or detest it on any given day.

And the secret ingredient is…TIME.

When I get up really early in the morning, I have hours to spend before my 9am or 10am piano student arrives. I teach a lot of adults and homeschoolers, so I usually start my day with a lesson (or three).

It’s a quite simple formula really:

early start=good day;

late start=bad day.

In the very beginning of each day, I try to cross as many things as possible off of my to-do list. When I finish my morning routine, I choose from any number of other pleasant things to do: play the piano, write a bit, read and comment on blogs, clean the house.

Yes, I just categorized cleaning the house  under “pleasant things to do.” Generally, I’ll read a homemaking book or a cookbook while I relax during breakfast.

This usually kicks off my day and makes me feel like being productive. After that, I’ll throw open the windows, turn up some music, and just meander around the house. Start a load of laundry, tidy up, find something new to organize, clean a bathroom or two, make the bed. Whatever strikes my fancy.

I certainly don’t do everything every day, and I’ll be honest – there are some things that I never do. For instance, I never remember to wipe down switchplates or dust ceiling fans, lol. But the things that do get done add up to make a homey atmosphere, one that my family and I are happy to inhabit.

Time.

When I have hours stretching out before me, I never feel like I am wasting it. I don’t have to hurry. I can walk into the bedroom to put away the sheets and pillowcases, and stop to make the bed while I’m there without having to worry about forgetting to put away the rest of the laundry. I’ll get to it when I get to it. For the moment, I am relaxed and enjoying myself.

When I have time, I can allow myself to get sidetracked by any number of little details.

Precious time.

It’s something we all want, but we never seem to have enough of it. And yet, how much of our time do we give away to television, Facebook, the interwebs?

How does one go about making time?

Start by going to bed early. Stop eating and drinking several hours before trying to sleep, and when you lay down, relax and know that you can think, worry, plan in the morning. If you pray before you fall asleep, stop if you can. Give the Lord a better part of your day, and give yourself the freedom to fall asleep without feeling the need to get through your wish-list. If you do need to talk to Him right then, treat Him like a real person and not Santa Clause. Tell Him about your day, ask Him for help, get your sins or your problems off your chest, worship, be thankful, but do not engage in list-making. Go to sleep.

Get up early every single day, even if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Sleeping in will only make it harder to go to bed next time. It’s a vicious cycle, and the only way to correct it is to get up early all the time.

Finish by cutting out life-draining, mind-numbing habits and activities. If you watch a movie or jump on Facebook for a few minutes, be intentional. Check your notifications, watch one episode of your favorite series, and then GET BACK TO LIVING YOUR LIFE.

How do TV and movie producers portray a pathetically boring lifestyle? By showing their character chowing down in front of the TV. Ironic isn’t it?

Believers, Do You Read Your Bible?

Bible-reading: How can I express its importance?

How can I put it into the right words?

What argument can I use to encourage you to pick up this life-giving book?

If you don’t believe it’s all that important, why not? What are the reasons that you allow it to take a backseat to the other priorities in your life? Let’s talk about it and see if we can get to the bottom of the issue here.

I have a few more questions for you, intended to provoke you to action.

How can you claim to believe something you’ve never even read?

How do you know what the Bible says about where we came from, how we are supposed to worship, what obedience entails, and where we are going to end up? If you haven’t read the Bible to glean these answers, then you are merely believing what someone told you. You are choosing a person to trust rather than the Word of God itself.

Is there anything within its pages that would surprise you? How do you know?

Is there hidden treasure inside that might be the answer to the persistent questions or problems in your life? What if you’re missing it?

His words are truth. His instructions are life. Please don’t miss out. That book over there, sitting on the shelf collecting dust – it has the power to change you, but first you have to read it.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/141324643@N05/32033909876″>Chocolate coins</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Answers for Atheists: Where Did Evil Come From?

choiceIf there is a God, why did He create evil?

Have you heard this question before? I have. Atheists ask it because they believe there is no legitimate answer. And without a reasonable answer, they believe it is the perfect question to use when trying to disprove the existence of God. Maybe, if someone could answer this question in a satisfactory manner, they would consider the existence of God? Well, maybe not, but I’m having a go at it anyway.

Here is the pat answer, and the one I have (regretfully) given myself:

What is cold? What is darkness? (In case you don’t know the answers, they are the absence of heat and the absence of light, respectively.) Therefore, it stands to reason that evil is the absence of good, and God never created evil at all.

Now, I believe all of these things are true; I only regret that my answer was too short. When I gave it, I didn’t expound on it. This is unfortunate because I believe that sometimes people are legitimately looking for answers, and mine was a non-answer. That was me, avoiding the real question.

Of course, perhaps it would have served the atheist better if they had asked the real question to begin with, which goes something like this: If God loves people, why would He allow evil?

There, now that’s something we can work with.

Evil is perhaps not best explained as the absence of good, but rather the refusal to do good. The way I see it, God could have made humans behave in one of two ways: first of all, He could have created us to do His will all the time, never questioning His authority, never thinking for ourselves. In other words, we could all be rocks. Or plants. Or…something. Is this how a loving parent raises their children? Nope.

Secondly, He could have created us in the way that He actually did, giving us the choice to obey or not to obey. In order to have choice, we must first be aware of what we should choose – what “good” is. That’s why He gave us the Law.

“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live:” Amos 5:14.

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day:” Deuteronomy 11:26-27

See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:15-20

The word “good” is not merely the opposite of evil. The Law is good for us. To stray from its path is to engage in self-destructive behaviors. (And sometimes, disobedience leads to the destruction of the peace, happiness, and lives of others as well.) We should be in amazement, overwhelmed that our God, the Ruler of the universe, loved us enough to give us His own perfect Law. The one that is so righteous, He Himself adheres to it. What do I mean by that? Here’s a short explanation:

The reason that Christ had to die is that God could not allow sin to go unpunished. The wages of sin is death, and that wage had to be meted out. If God could break His own Law, He could have provided an alternate way for salvation. This also explains why Jesus is the only way to salvation. The ransom He paid for us is the only way to meet the requirements of the Law.

Now, His Law is not some random set of rules. It is life, it is truth, it is the very definition of these things (Psalm 119). Jesus Christ Himself is the embodiment of that Law (John 1:14). Those who choose life, know how to do so, by walking in His precepts. Please, please read Psalm 119.

So how does choice work? In addition to knowing what we should choose, we must also be given the opportunity to choose something else. This “otherness” is what is meant by “evil.” If God has told us how to have life, and have it more abundantly, then any refusal of that offer is necessarily evil. It leads to death and destruction.

So is God then somehow responsible for our evil when we choose not to obey? By creating the Law in the first place, and the ability to disobey, has He in some round about manner also created evil?

Let’s consider some options here:

A) If I instruct my children not to play in the street, not to talk to strangers, or not to touch a hot burner, am I the author of their rebellion if they choose to disobey me? If we use atheist reasoning, it would appear to be so. Isn’t that the very argument we are dissecting here? Regardless of how just or unjust God may be viewed for this behavior, it is the way He interacts with His creation. This approach of a loving Father toward His children is outright rejected by those who hate God, but an atheist who loves his children surely teaches them about health and safety.

B) Would it be better to never offer instruction, so that the children can decide for themselves what is good and what is bad? Should God have refrained from giving us the Law to keep us from having the opportunity to sin against Him? Should we allow our children to discover on their own what leads to life and happiness and what leads to pain and death? That’s ridiculous, and a loving God or parent would never leave their children to their own devices.

C) So what is the alternative to A and B? Perhaps one would suggest that a loving parent would hover around the child at all times, physically refusing to allow them to become hurt. That would be the only scenario I can imagine that doesn’t involve pain, death, disobedience, or evil of any kind. Now, a human parent couldn’t pull that off, but God could. However, can you actually imagine an atheist being happier if God never allowed them to make their own choices about anything? If He didn’t give us the freedom of choice, then they would have a legitimate reason to complain. But that’s not the way He created us.

Atheists cannot comprehend God as a loving God because He tells them what right and wrong is, because He has imposed a Law, because He has labeled destructive behavior as sin. Isn’t it ironic that they would choose option B over the others? They want to live their lives as they see fit. In short, they want to live without the instruction of anyone or anything wiser than them. They wish to remain obliviously happy in their disobedience and death. They would choose for God not to love them at all.

How to Cope with a Depressed Spouse, part 1

What you can do for yourself

You may love your spouse with every fiber of your being – or you may be to the point where you can’t stand the sight of him or her. On some days, you may even experience both of these emotions simultaneously. How can you live from day to day when someone else is affecting your happiness-factor?

The short answer: you can’t.

That is, you can’t allow someone else to affect your happiness-factor.

So what can you do for yourself?

Things that won’t work:

Society tells us to focus on ourselves, since we’re the only sure thing that we have. So maybe you’ve tried confiding in friends, or perhaps you’ve immersed yourself in a hobby. Others read, meditate, or otherwise seek out “me”-time. But why is it that none of these things seem to help alleviate stress?

In extreme situations, people often turn to drugs or alcohol, or even find themselves nursing dangerously intimate relationships with the opposite sex. Those are the sorts of things that will only serve to make their situations even worse. And they certainly aren’t being helpful to their spouses.

The number one thing you can do for yourself

Develop a relationship with our Creator. You know, the One who saw fit to place you on this earth in the first place. Search Him out, seek to understand His will, and talk to him daily. Tell Him how you really feel – don’t use fancy words or try speaking in old English; God understands what the word “you” means, so you can skip the “thees” and “thous.” Ask Him questions, and listen for an answer. You’ll be amazed at how often the answer seems to reveal itself upon asking. Base your happiness on the fact that you’re connected to the most loving, most powerful Being in the universe, and also upon the fact that you’ll get to leave all of this trouble behind when we finally reach eternity.

If you’re not a believer

At least do your research, and see what you find. It’s kind of silly to be an unbeliever just for the sake of being one. The same thing goes for believers. Know what you believe, but more importantly, know why you believe it. Beg God to reveal Himself to you, if He really exists – and He will.

I know He will because that’s what He did for me. But He didn’t hit me all at once with a “sign:” I just kept asking Him to help me find Him, to help me know which religion was the true one, and eventually, because I was talking to Him so much, I just sort of got to know Him. He speaks back to us through His Word, and in other small ways. He’s impossible to miss, if you’re truly looking.

You’ve tried everything else

Why not try Jesus? What have you got to lose?

A prompt disguised as Freaky Friday

Think of someone you know well, but whose personality is nothing like yours. Write what would happen to your lives if you switched bodies for a day. You can pick a mundane day or a day that will affect the rest of your life.