A religious experience.

I hate being called religious. A spiritual Christian? Not so bad. Here’s a snipet of what religion has looked like in my interestingly adventurous life:

I joined a religious community for about 5 years.

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I had just quit using drugs and partying the month I showed up to my new church. My first day there was a Friday and a section of the service was open-mic. Testimony time.

I was SO excited by God intervening in my life and saving me from death just weeks before. I jumped on the opportunity. I rushed to the front, took the microphone, and began to share about how God mercifully saved me. I wore a T-shirt, had big silver hoops in my ears, had a long blingy necklace on, and wore eye makeup that was much too dark for such a gathering.

I didn’t know I stood out.

Within the next 5 years, I was squeezed and pushed into the most uncomfortable mold. All I knew was that I wanted to make God happy! My new community of people was telling me- “Anna, that make up isn’t godly. You need to wear a head-covering. You shouldn’t wear jewelry. You laugh too much. That music you listen to? It’s secular. (Which was Skillet, Red, Lecrae, etc.) Your personality? Much too rebellious. Sister, you NEED to change! In fact, you need to call girls “sisters” and guys “brothers.” You’ve also gotta stop using the word “crap.”

You see, I always needed to change. Nothing was ever good enough.

Now if you are the perfectionist type, a people pleaser, and a passionate God lover, that makes for quite the combination. It’s easy to get lost. 

I lost who I was. I traded in my identity. I gave up who Christ called me to be. I became a slave to people. I wanted to fit in, but as hard as I tried, I still always stood out!

Maybe I was never called to be part of the crowd.Image result for getting out of the boat and walking on water

I came more “Americanized” than others to the Russian community. I came with a backpack of Utah sarcasm to people who misinterpreted it as mean and cocky. I arrived too loud.

5 years and 50,000 trials later, I realize that’s the only person I want to be: I want to be that outsider who runs up before more 100+ people to share about the miracles God’s done in my life, not having a care in the world of what they might think.

Since I’ve left that circle, cult, or maybe crowd, I’ve been on a journey back to the “me” God has called me to be. As such, I’m able to love freely, and when I share Christ, I share Him passionately. I’ve learned that my outside appearance will never please everyone. (Lately, it’s my tattoos that religious folks are triggered by.) Perhaps, it’s not the outside that really matters. I’ve undoubtedly had a fair share of mistakes, and I have yet to reach perfection!

On my own, I am sinful, but in Christ, I am righteous. As long as I have His grace, I’ll stay alive. Because it’s not about what I can do, but about what He has done. HE is all we need. 

Religion squelches. Law kills. Spirit gives life.

2-Corinthians 3: 4-6: “ And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

[That’s the MSG Version- Because yes, I read a version different than KJ or NKJ. I also don’t mind NIV. P.S: Another thing I was told in the religious circle was that I have to read the “right” version of the Bible. Those folks must have missed that that the point is the message & not the vocab.]

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Oh, crap.

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Humor’s always good.

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Got this one here, since it’s realistic right?!

You know what feels good?

When God exposes another area of your heart where you’ve been judgmental before!

It’s a lot of fun.

…It freakin sucks. Usually it sucks because you’ve finally gotten yourself into a position of the very “type” of person you’ve been judging. You realize, “Wow, I’m just like them. I’m actually not ANY different. Even I’m capable of the same mistakes and problems.”  (I never thought I’d try drugs in my life, fight an eating disorder, or go through many other things.)

It sucks because you wanted to be perfect, flawless, righteous. (I tend to want that anyway…) Yet here you are, fallen short, and in need of grace.

It feels good because now your heart can be purer, although you emotionally feel much worse. It feels good because you can relate instead of look down. It feels good because now you can be at least a smidgen more Christ-like.

It’s beautiful because it’s redemptive.

At first, it’s “oh, crap.” But then it’s “oh, good.”

That Redeemer though… He’s in business for the real good.

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“Spirit Wars”

I love Bethel everything! My favorite teachers stem from there, at this point of my life anyway. Lately, I’ve been reading Kris Vallotton’s stuff & most recently I read his book “Spirit Wars.” I typically don’t buy things online besides college textbooks, but I did buy this book from their online shop! (https://shop.ibethel.org/)

My review?  I’d give it 5 stars if I hadn’t already read parts of it before, but since I have, for me it was a 4. Vallotton shares his experiences with the spiritual realm & addresses the unseen without the sometimes fanatic deliverance teachings. Below, one of my favorite quotes:

“Just as enemies fought Joshua in the Promised Land, and Nehemiah faced opposition as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, our enemy will fight us as we approach the spiritual terrain God has promised us.”

I love that! So when you’re thinking, “Why the crap is this battle sooo hard for me to overcome?!” Remember, there’s a reason why there’s such a hard fight there for you! Something seriously good is supposed to come out of it & the enemy will be put to shame. He knows it! Fight on!

A few other quotes I really liked:

1. In Romans 7, Paul “is recounting the terrible sense of bondage he experienced when he lived under a set of rules, but never knew his lover.”

  • Ah, but life in Christ is so good when you finally know Him as such. ❤

2. “Denial is the root of fear. Not the root of faith.”

3. “The battle they (you) are facing is not a sign from God that they have chosen the wrong path, but rather an indication that they have begun the process of restoring the walls and gates of their lives.” (After he talks about Nehemiah helping restore Jerusalem.)

4. OOOH I love this one: “GIRD YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH. [What the heck does that mean?!] : Every Roman soldier wore a wide, sturdy belt that he put on before any of his other armor. The belt supported his abdominal muscles & helped protect his midsection. — Spiritual ramifications: The word for truth in this passage does not refer to the Bible, although the essence of all truth is the Word of God. The word “truth” means REAL. Many people hide behind a facade, never really allowing others to get to know them… Paul therefore exhorts us to be honest, live with integrity & be real w/God and w/people He has placed in our lives. Dishonesty is an open door that will wreak havoc in our lives, especially during any kind of enemy siege.”

Isn’t that an amazingly new perspective? I always thought you’ll be safe if you’re “reading” the Bible. I didn’t realize living honestly was what this could imply.

5. “There are more people who need to get delivered from the trauma of their last deliverance than there are people who actually get delivered from demons.”

6. “The goal of any gift of the Spirit is to build trust & help people grow in God. No gift of the Spirit should be used to destroy people’s reputations, kill their passion for God or steal their identity.” (Personally, that’s one I want to remember!)

7. & Last one: “If people really knew how much the Father loved them, and if they received His love in the depths of their souls, they would never allow themselves to be oppressed or tormented in any way.”