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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This is why I love Francis Chan

This is an AMAZING sermon by Francis Chan that really puts belief into a new perspective.

Led by the Spirit

I've been hearing some amazing stories recently about what it really looks like to be led by the Spirit. This does not mean, "Oh I go to do something wrong and the Spirit tells me its wrong so I don't do it." It means that your whole life is lived by the Spirit's constant prompting and guidance.

My pastor told a story today. He has opportunity to travel sometimes, and said today that he tries to always ask God to let him know if there's someone he comes in contact with who God wants him to do something for. So, its a Monday morning, very very early, and he's kinda hoping that God is going to go, "no, its okay, you can take today off." But he gets on the tram at the airport, and right in front of him is this man in a nice business suit who looks like he's very well off. And right as my pastor's noticing this, God says, "That man has a sexual addiction and it will ruin his life if he doesn't stop."
After some internal debate, as the next stop comes close, my pastor leans forward to the businessman and says, "Sir, you have an addiction that is controlling your life, and it will ruin your life if you don't stop it. God loves you, and he wants you to come home." Right then they get up to the stop, and this man goes to get off the stop...with a tear rolling down his cheek.
My pastor will probably never know what the outcome is going to be in this man's life, but it was obviously something the man needed to hear.

Francis Chan has amazing stories. He travels a lot, and does the same thing my pastor does with trying to reach out to whoever God points him to. There was one time where he missed an opportunity to speak to the girl beside him on the plane even though he knew he should have, and when he got on the plane home only a few hours later, she was sitting right beside him again, and after they were done laughing, he was able to tell her how God made sure she was placed beside him again. He's had an opportunity to tell a Muslim how much God in involved in his life, and the Muslim admitted that God was not involved in his life the same way and he wished he could have that.

One story I really liked was when he talked to God about whether or not it was right to put some extra money towards a family vacation instead of to the poor and needy. He didn't think there was any way to resolve it, because any extra money they might get, he'd feel the need to give to the poor. God is smarter than Francis Chan, however, and a few days later an anonymous $2000 cashier's check arrived in the mail with a sticky note that said only "Francis--use this on your family" so that now he'd feel guilty about NOT taking his family on vacation. The most amazing thing was that he hadn't told anyone about his desire to go on vacation, not even his wife.

A week or so ago, I was wishing I could be taking college classes right now instead of working full time to put Steven through college. Then I remembered something called Ministry Institute offered by my church. Very quickly, I was able to determine that this was a college-level class offered at my church through an accredited four-year Christian college in Oregon, and that I could audit it if I couldn't afford to to take it for college credits. And more than that--it starts this coming Thursday, and it happens to be on the books that I've been studying on my own before I even really knew about the class. My prayer was answered, and in such a way that it will further my theological knowledge.

This stuff doesn't happen just to pastors. This can happen to anyone. This can be you. I want it to be me, and it is slowly becoming so. If you walk in God's ways, the Spirit will lead you and your prayers will be answered, and all of it will be so amazing that you can only explain your life through God.

Word of Wisdom and the Sabbath Day

One of the requirements of the LDS church that I have a problem with, especially since reading the New Testament recently, is the Word of Wisdom.

The problem I have with it is not its suggestions. Living the way it says is not bad for a person, and helps them avoid addictions or health problems caused by certain foods. However, it is not supposed to be a commandment for Christian living. In fact, even in the Word of Wisdom, D&C 89:2 specifically says that it is "not by commandment or constraint." Most of the earliest saints, Joseph Smith himself included, didn't follow it. The current day LDS don't follow the part about eating meat:

12Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
 13And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

In a temple interview, the Bishop or Stake President will ask if you follow the Word of Wisdom. Yet all of these people who eat meat on a regular basis will say "yes" because its not actively taught like the rest of it is. 

They don't even drink wine for communion (sacrament)! What's up with that?! Their Word of Wisdom says its okay! JESUS did it!! But they drink tap water! Not even grape juice, which is the same as wine but not fermented! Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! At least use grape juice, people! There's white grape juice available if you're afraid of kids spilling and causing stains!

Okay, breathe...

Furthermore is the requirements of the Sabbath. First of all, let me put out there that the commandment of "keep the Sabbath day holy" and all if the subsequent requirements in doing so was part of the Law and not of grace and freedom in Christ. This doesn't meant that we can't have a day of rest or shouldn't have it. It does mean that we are not required to do anything, but instead we do it based on what is decided between us and God. For the Christian, coming to God is the ultimate rest.

So what does the Bible say about what you eat and when you worship?

Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

1 Corinthians 10
25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?  31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Colossians 2:16
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

1 Timothy 5:23
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

Hebrews 4:
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience

Its always good to eat healthy, drink healthy, and take time to rest and focus on God. However, for the Christian, doing all these things can be done anytime, any way, and any how, as long as it is good for the individual and works between him or her and God. We choose to worship on Sundays, but this doesn't mean the whole day we have to sit at home or be involved at church, doing no worldly things. Every day can be holy for a Christian, and everything we do can be for God.

I drink sometimes. I am not an alcoholic. Neither my husband or I engage terribly often, which is why it takes so long for alcohol to disappear from our fridge after purchasing it. Its usually a social thing for us. God does not hate us for it. God does not condemn us every time we drink. We are not drunkards. For some people, they don't feel that drinking even occasionally is right for them. That's okay. Some people can drink every night and still be closer to God than someone who has never touched alcohol.

I would be more confident in the drunkard or the addict going to heaven if they knew and believed the message of God, than in a holier-than-thou I've-never-touched-drugs type of person who doesn't have God in their lives even though they claim to.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Poor and the Needy

What is it with all these people who say, "Oh, I'm a Christian!" and don't act like it once they get home from church on Sundays? Sure, maybe you do actually believe in Christ, when you stop to think about it. But what sort of impression are you making on people, especially people who don't believe in Christianity?

You can say, "Yeah, I'm a Christian," to someone who isn't, but what are they going to think about being a Christian when you're not willing to give of yourself for anything? When you then scream at your kids constantly or you're going through your third divorce because you aren't willing to allow change in your life or put in the necessary work? When you won't give to people who are in far more need more than you have ever been in? Or worse, when you have been in that much need and you're not anymore and you won't help someone else get out of it? There's so many ways to give and to show love in our lives, and people are so unwilling to put even twenty dollars to something that isn't either mandatory or for themselves.

Christians in the early church amazed people because of the love and generosity that they showed people in a world where most people thought that people who were suffering or  in need were experiencing the will of the gods and no amount of help, love, or generosity would change that. Imagine how it would be to see a starving beggar sitting at the same gate all your life, walking past him every day without caring because you thought he'd done something to deserve it, and then a Christian comes along and shows him compassion and brings him in to their circle to help find viable work for him! And more surprisingly, the Christians succeed in helping him!

Why aren't we like that anymore? How can we call ourselves followers of Christ and then close our minds to the wonders of God's world, including His own creations? Why aren't we showing love to people all around us? Wouldn't we, and in extension our beliefs, be more appealing to people if we did what our holy book says to do!?

It doesn't take a lot. A few hours at a shelter, a small amount of money every month, whatever it is. We don't have to be daunted by the amount of people that need to be helped and the amount of things that need to be done. If every Christian helped within their individual means, we'd make such a difference, and I just wish that would happen. My pastor said it well, though: "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone." It doesn't take much.

And for someone who might read this blog who isn't a Christian, whether you have faith in another religion or not: why aren't you doing good for others? What would you have to lose? It feels good to help others in a different way than doing something for yourself feels good. Its certainly something you'd never regret.

Photo courtesy of Johnny Stephenson

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Francis Chan was Right

In a sermon I recently listened to on YouTube by Francis Chan, he said something interesting. He said that when you try to give unselfishly or do something good and perhaps even radical, people will try to discourage you, even people in your own church. "Shouldn't you be saving more for yourself?" they'll say, or maybe, "You really don't have to do so much."

Today, my LDS grandmother, who prides herself in that she gives a little more than the required 10% (in offerings, though, not in tithes), tried to caution me about my finances after I told her we'd joined an inexpensive gym and that I'd started sponsoring Riziki in addition to already giving a bit at our church.

What am I supposed to do? Give up sponsoring that little girl? Give up the other positive things in our life that do not generally involve excesses or high prices? Its amazing that the very day after I start giving, someone tries to warn me about my finances.

I fully believe in good stewardship--I try to live comfortably within our means, and do pretty well keeping some extra in our checking and saving accounts except in the very tightest of times. I'm not in any notable debt. My family know that, and is proud of me for doing so well on a relatively small income while putting my husband through college. Yet the moment I start giving to a child I've never met, the worry for my finances starts.

One thing I can say that my grandma can't: I know exactly where all my giving is going. I know that every cent I give to that girl is going straight to her health, schooling, and other general care. I can look at my church's budget and know about how much of my offerings are going where. And I can feel good about every single penny of it all. I strongly believe the Lord will protect my finances in other areas so that I can continue to give to my church and especially to that little girl. The raise I received just the other day was over the minimum yearly raise, and I strongly believe that was God's blessing on Steven and I for beginning to start trying to give regularly.

Lord, protect our finances as we try to give. You blessed us greatly with my yearly raise, and I know you're able to do so much more for us. Please help us be able to continue to give within our means while still putting Steven through school with minimum debt and greatest outcome. Please help us learn to feel great empathy for those in need as we have the benefit of steady paychecks every week. And most of all, please fortify us against those that would nay-say us in giving to those people in need, including ourselves in the rough spots. I trust in you, Lord, to keep your hand on us as we do the things that we know you love seeing your followers do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sponsoring Mary Riziki (Destiny)

Psalm 91

 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”  3 Surely he will save you
   from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
 14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”

I've been thinking of sponsoring a child for a while, but things like moving kept getting in the way of finances. Now that we've settled down into our new home and gotten use to the financial changes (and I happened to get my yearly raise to make it even easier), I decided it was time to contribute to making a child's life better. I went through Rehema Ministries, as recommended by my sister-in-law. The founders and main office are located in Anacortes, WA, which isn't far from where I live.

I got on the website tonight and started scrolling through the photo gallery looking at unsponsored and partially sponsored children. I knew I couldn't do the full $150.00 sponsorship, but I knew I could give enough to make a difference in a child's life--get them vaccines and shoes, if nothing else.

I kept seeing captivating smiles and beautiful big brown eyes. All the stories are touching, some more tragic than others. A few of the children had outright been tortured before being either abandoned or taken into custody. I almost chose two of them--started filling out the form for them and everything--but kept feeling like it might not be the right child.

I paused and said a quick prayer after the second child I almost chose that didn't feel quite right. Almost immediately after I found Mary Riziki (which means Destiny), who has a tragic story of incestuous rape before she was even a year old. Her father is now in prison for it, and her mother is mentally unstable and unable to care for her, so she landed in the orphanage.

I almost cried reading her story, and I've been shaking since. I can't believe someone would do that do their own little baby, and I'm so grateful to have the chance to make a difference in her life. I pray she was young enough when it happened to her that it won't be a constant part of her life anymore than it has to be, and I hope my contribution helps keeps her healthy, happy, and educated as she grows. I hope very much to stick around to see her become a young, happy, independent woman.

She is the orphanage's 91st child, and so they say her scripture/song is Psalm 91. Considering her tragic history in her already very short life, I think the Psalm is appropriate. I hope she remembers all her life that God is her fortress and her refuge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What is the True Church?

 1 Corinthians 12
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Colossians 1:
 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Paul was addressing believers. This means that we, the believers in Christ, are his "body," which is the church. This is because we, as believers, have his Spirit within us. All followers of Christ make up the true church of Christ.

This is so simple and so beautiful in the fellowship and oneness it gives Christians that its sad that we're so unable to look past denominations and labels and just see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. All you need is Jesus in order to be a Christian that belongs to the "true church".

Good Stewardship and Paid Clergy

Just a few days ago, a Mormon tried to tell me that the church presidency wearing expensive tuxes and suits was just "good stewardship."

I could give him multiple examples of good stewardship, and the presidency and upper leadership of the Mormon church are not it.

The LDS pride themselves in two major things that the upper echelon is in direct contradiction to: unpaid clergy and good stewardship.

There actually is biblical back-up for paid clergy, beginning all the way back in the Old Testament when the priests ate the sacrifices for their meals and generally lived off of the offerings, as they were commanded to from the time Moses first had the tabernacle built. In the New Testament, while Paul doesn't say that teachers have to be paid for it, he says they deserve it if its how they choose to make a living.
1 Corinthians 9:11-14 "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? ... Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
1 Timothy 5:17-18 "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching...'The worker serves his wages.'"

The upper leadership can afford these $1000+ suits for a reason. Not only are they often retired or current successful businessmen, but they also receive a "modest stipend" when they reach a certain tier in the leadership, and most of them sit on boards for and direct companies that the church owns or takes interest in. Sitting on one of these boards just one week a year can make them more than twice the money that the average American lives on. Not to mention that many of the upper leadership have a habit of publishing books which are usually sold successfully amongst the church members through Deseret Bookstore, earning them even more money.

I don't personally know how these men live. I know they get to travel a lot, wear expensive suits, and probably have big houses, shiny cars, and whatever else they might choose to invest in. Many of them have the money to live comfortably even before they make all the extra from being church leadership. If the church published their spending (like most churches, including mine, do) the membership would probably be outraged when they realize what's really going on.

So what if they'd gone for the less expensive (and still nice) suit for half the price and put the other half towards a charity? What if they put all of their income from their books into funds for orphanages? What if they made a scholarship for underprivileged kids? The story would be much different.

Materialism is epidemic in the LDS church, like in much of America. Appearances are very important, and since a worthy Mormon already gives 10% to the church, they call it good and invest in all their wants and goods, if they're well off.

I'm not saying its bad to invest in a few personal hobbies or live comfortably. I am saying that there's a complete lack of the spirit of cheerful and abundant giving that characterizes a heart that is truly led by the Spirit. There's a lot of that lack in Christian households, too, but its far easier to find a Christian who gives abundantly no matter their circumstances than a Mormon who gives abundantly in abundance. I've never met a Mormon who made a very pretty paycheck who looked me in the eye and said, "I give more than I have to." I'm not saying they're not out there, they're just much rarer than in the Christian community.

Then I look at Christians and other church leadership I've met and know of.

There's my own pastor, who is so set on not using his church for prophet that he makes sure that the percentage that pays himself, the other pastors, and the staff is less than 50% of the income, when its as much or more than 50% with many other large churches. They also manage to give about 30% annually as a church, despite these economic times. This means my pastors live comfortably but not extravagantly, they love the church and not the money, and I know that about $3 out of every $10 I give is going towards helping people who need it.

There's Francis Chan, a successful pastor and author who does his best to make sure his church gives away 50% of their income and who didn't even touch his income from his last book, but instead put it all right into a fund to help free women and children from the sex slave trade. Its so obvious that he's excited to give and to be helping these people that its inspiring and makes me want to do something more. He said something amazing. When people asked him why he didn't even put part of the book's income away for a personal emergency, he told them, "Don't you think its an emergency that these women and little children are getting raped day after day after day and can't help themselves?"

There's Shawn McCraney, who started a television ministry to the LDS community basically out of his own pocket. He is not shy about telling curious Mormons that he makes no real prophet from it because running the show is so expensive: he does it because he wants to help Mormons become born again Christians, because he feels its his calling to do so.

There's my brother- and sister-in-law who have struggled with unemployment and poverty and yet manage their money so well that they still were able to keep a home and food on their table for their children. And despite their money troubles, they still gave! Even when they can't give monetarily, they give of their time and energy. They listen, they advise, they lend a helping hand. They're amazing with their children and always willing to mediate for other people, to contribute at church, to give love where its needed. They've certainly struggled, and not just in finances, but in the short time I've known them I see them reaping the rewards of their willingness to put it in God's hands.

These are good stewards. These are biblical paid clergy. The LDS leadership are not among them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Footprints in the Sand

Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

I think this is one of my favorite poems. It has been for years. Its been the hope for me in the hard times, the light in the darkness, the thing to cling to when there's nothing else--the Lord will carry me when I need Him the most. 

Lord, you are amazing and bigger than I could ever imagine. Your love and your mercy are awesome. Your Comforter bring peace to my spirit when I am weary. Lord, I promise you my life. It is meager and I am imperfect. I can never be good enough for you. I know you love me despite that, and I can barely even begin to comprehend such a crazy, perfect, unconditional love. I will always seek to love you and love others in return, and when I fall short, I pray you will always forgive me. Lord, I trust you to carry me when I can't walk on my own.

March 6th Sermon

I find it incredibly amazing when a simple sermon from an educated and understanding Christian crushes what I was taught as an LDS member. In one sermon, my pastor crushed two major Mormon concepts without even realizing he was doing so.

The first thing he did was describe the three heavens, based on what the Bible describes and references. The first is the heavens as in space and stars--its a physical heaven. The second is a spiritual heaven--where angels dwell, etc. The third is the abode of God, and this is our ultimate goal. Only three Biblical accounts exist of the third heaven--One in Isaiah, one in Revelations, and a very brief and vague mention by Paul where he doesn't even clarify well whether it was him or someone else who saw it and he says that's its too inexpressible to tell.

So, the three heavens do not refer to the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial glories of LDS beliefs.

Also, Pastor Nate put into perspective the dimensions of the New Jerusalem as taught in Revelations:
21: 16 "The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long."

Some versions use the word "furlong" instead of "stadia" but the equivalent is about 1/8th of a mile either way. Basically, when you do all the math, this city (the city of heaven, after the old heaven and earth has passed away, etc) is over 2 million square miles.

This is very interesting because Joseph Smith said that the New Jerusalem would be in Missouri:
D&C 57
1...in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.
 2Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.
 3And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.

D&C 84
2Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.
 3Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

 (Interesting note: Revelations also said there will be no temple in New Jerusalem, and that the city will descend already prepared {as opposed to being built  by people} Also interesting to note, the temple prophesied of was never built even though D&C 84 and D&C 115 make it clear that it was to be built in the generation of the 1830s.)

So, if we look at the size spoken of in Revelations, and then look at Joseph Smith's prophecies about it being built it Missouri, we hit a huge snag. Missouri is way smaller than 2.25 million square miles. In fact, the New Jerusalem will be about 65% of the size of the contiguous United States. There's no way that could fit into Missouri, assuming Missouri as we know it will even be around as a reference point in the new earth.

There's no guarantee that the New Jerusalem will exist as described in Revelations--John was simply trying to put into words what he saw when describing it. But perhaps it was true anyways. Though it might have surpassed his understanding in appearance, it may exist someday in the exact dimensions he described. Joseph Smith's mundane version of the New Jerusalem, while much more comprehensible (and far less amazing), is nothing like the one described in the Bible.

It just amazes me how simply reading the Bible thoroughly and with understanding changes things from the false understandings and teachings of man into the truth and wonder of God.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where is the Love?

Yesterday, our neighbors spent the day and well into the night blasting ethnic music. When it woke Steven and I up a little before 3:00 am, I tried to call in a noise complaint, but the police force was responding only to emergencies due to a lot of emergencies going on, so I would have had to call again in an hour. Steven instead went downstairs and asked them to turn the music down. The guy who answered the door very ungraciously agreed and told Steven to go away.

I just wonder what makes people so discourteous and unable to consider how their action effect others. I mean, we all do it--we're just humans. Some people are way worse than others, though.

It just makes me if that man calls himself a Christian, or a follower of any religion, personal belief, or world view that believes in showing love to people.  I don't know how people can say they follow something when they don't actually try to follow it.

The best person messes up sometimes; I'm not saying that someone has to be perfect 100% of the time in living the way they say they believe in living. I am saying that people should try. And we as Christians really need to understand that when we say we need to follow Christ, we need to actually follow him or we're not really who or what we say we are. Christ said to love others--so try to love people, even the ones that are hard to love, like my downstairs neighbors. It doesn't take much: you just have to be kind to people and follow the golden rule, even with the people that are hard to deal with. Christ said that suffering can be used to glory God and make you stronger--so don't complain bitterly, but have a positive attitude that this, too, will pass, and may even make you or someone close to you a better person for you having gone through it. Getting through the hard times with an "I can do it" attitude can be good for you no matter your belief system.

Following any belief or religion that includes loving fellow man and following a certain path--whether that's just the path of being a decent human being or the path of trying to follow Christ, or anything in between--is like a game of Simon Says or Follow the Leader. You have to actually follow it. You have to actually do what you're told to do (by scripture or by your conscience). It's not Simon Says to do something and you memorize it. Its not Follow the Leader in your heart but not in deed. Just do it!

There's always room to grow and the ability to be the type of person you say you believe in being. It very simple--do unto others as you would have them do unto you.