The Loudmouth Protestant

March 18, 2016

This is My Confession…

Filed under: Catholicism,faith,life — nickisym @ 5:40 pm
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I’m on the verge of becoming Catholic. This is a confession new to many of you but it isn’t the purpose of this post–I’ll fill you in soon on the impetus for this conversion. This post is about an actual confession, my first confession, also known as the sacrament of reconciliation.

I prepared for confession in the way that only a Protestant could, by making a list of my sins and checking it twice. Actually, this makes it sound easier than it was. I actually had a hard time making the list because I wasn’t sure what I thought sin was anymore.

You see, for the last few years I’ve spent time in Christian contexts that didn’t talk about sin, at least not on a personal, individual level. I attended and graduated from a United Methodist seminary, but sin was rarely a topic of conversation unless we were critiquing church doctrine on sin or talking about the fact that we weren’t talking about sin. And for all the church hopping that I did during my first five years in Atlanta, I was hard-pressed to hear a sermon about sin and repentance. So I lost sight of sin and proceeded to live life unfettered by it. I’ll admit it was liberating to live a life not bogged down by the concept of sin. Oh the places you’ll go when sin isn’t weighing you down. Oh the people and things you’ll do too. But the moment I found out that I had to go to reconciliation, the sheen of my so-called liberated life wore off quickly.

As I inched toward the day of confession I was conflicted. I spent a lot of time trying to eke out a definition of sin using the embedded theology of my Protestant background and the teachings of my soon to be faith tradition of Catholicism. I wrestled with sin as “anything that separates me from God” and how anemic it felt to me because of its highly relative nature. I studied charts on venial and mortal sin, even going so far as to access a website that had a checklist where you can quantify which category you’ve committed more sins in. I journaled about some personal understandings of sin that felt generative for me. Finally I read an examination of conscience for single young adults as well as a general examination of conscience and jotted some notes down about the ways I have fallen short before God, myself, and my fellow human beings.

The day of reconciliation arrived and I was jittery with nerves. It was advised that I attend the group reconciliation service where priests from multiple parishes join our parish for a brief service and then offer themselves as confessors for individual parishioners. I was told that the advantage of this service is that one could choose to go to a priest other than your parish priest to confess–in the case that you feel awkward about telling your sins to the guy who sees you every Sunday. I can’t lie, this was compelling to me as a first timer to this process.

The service started with us singing “Amazing Grace” and immediately I felt all of my emotions well up inside of me and go straight to my eyeballs. I was ready for the words “That saved a wretch like me” to hit me like a ton of bricks but it never did. Why? Because in “Lead Me, Guide Me: The African-American Catholic Hymnal” the lyrics are:

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved and strengthened me.

My mind was blown. I was prepared to proclaim myself a wretch and wallow in the guilt and shame of my sins but God wasn’t having it. How am I supposed to feel shamed and convicted?

The scripture reading for the service was Luke 15:3-7:

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The priest’s homily focused on the theology many of us were taught about sin, theology that resulted in us measuring our sins and carrying guilt and shame too heavy for us to bear. He encouraged us to reorient our theology around sin in light of this being the church’s Jubilee of Mercy and he challenged us to shift how we approached the moment of confession. He told us not to approach it bogged down by the sins that we are confessing but to confess with the knowledge that God is merciful and we are forgiven. And to keep in mind the parable which shows us that when the lost sheep was found, there was no moment in which the one who found it then stopped to talk about where it had been and what it had done. No, there was just celebration for its recovery and return back to the fold. “He lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.” Mind blown again. Truly I walked in that church expecting that, from the top of the service, it was going to be weeping, mourning, and gnashing of teeth and so far none of that happened.

The homily ended and the music minister played a soft refrain as the individual confessions commenced. The priest and the associate priests of my parish were located in the sacristy and behind the altar, respectively, so I knew where not to go, or did I? As I sat there reflecting on the list of sins I made and of this sacrament I was about to partake in I realized that making my confession to one of the priests in my parish was more important to me than anonymity. If I understand nothing else about confession, I understand it as an opportunity to bind myself to a community through the vulnerable act of confessing my sins to someone God has called, entrusted, and empowered to grant me absolution. Given that, I realized how important it was for me to confess to a priest at my parish as a sign of my trust in him and in the community God has called me to. A community that I fully intend to grow in for the next few years. And so I walked to the front of the room, bowed to the cross, and walked up behind the altar.

Bless me father for I have sinned, this is my first confession.

I wish I had spoken those words as clearly as they are written. Instead I stumbled over my words as the gravity of the moment hit me like that ton of bricks I wanted to hit me during “Amazing Grace.” The priest looked at me and smiled and told me I need not confess to stealing cookies out of grandma’s jar back when I was three. We laughed briefly and then I  went to start on my litany of sins until all the salty discharge that was accumulating in my body since earlier that day finally released itself. My already nervous and clipped speech became fragmented and I could only mutter my words. I managed to get out that I’m emotional because I realize the weight of the moment and it feels very intense. He told me to take my time and I calmed myself down long enough to make my confession.

The sin that concerns me the most are the lusts of the flesh.

Yes, I said “lusts of the flesh.” Don’t ask me where I got that language from. I’m sure it was embedded from my Protestant heydays. I proceeded to tell the priest all that fell under the category of “lusts of the flesh” from sexual temptation and overconsumption of material goods to the sin of comparison and not, always, believing fully in the gift of God within me. He listened carefully and patiently and told me to really think about those things I’ve mentioned, particularly, what of them are roots of joy and what are the empty calories. He provided a moment of levity by telling me that if I want a pair of Louboutins I should have them, if it is within my means, and if I would get good use out of them on a variety of occasions. (I’ll admit, I thought this was random because I didn’t say anything about shoes but maybe I look like a “Single Black Female Addicted to Retail.”) He provided me with another example of measured consumption and then he did something that blew my mind again, he converted my language. In moving toward the issuance of penance he told me that “pleasures of the flesh” aren’t all bad but I must think about the role that pleasures of the flesh play in my life. “Now that’s just some advice, here is your penance,” the priest said. Yes, here it comes, the hard blow of a thousand “Hail Marys.”

I want you to list God’s blessings in your life.

“What?!” I thought to myself.

I want you to start a journal and document God’s blessings in your life as you see them.

I thought to myself, “This is penance?” He prayed the prayer of absolution over me and dismissed me.

Walking away from the altar my mind was spinning from everything I’d seen, heard, and felt within the span of an hour. I walked in the church a mess, bogged down with my list o’ sins, and my preconceived notions of how they should be handled and I walked out reconciled with God and more tightly bound to this blessed Catholic tradition and community I’ve found myself in.

 

 

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January 29, 2016

Bread for the Journey: A Mini-Reflection on Life in a Doctoral Program

Filed under: Doctoral Days,faith,life,Vocation — nickisym @ 2:11 pm
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Clarity comes from conviction.

Thus far into a doctoral program I’ve learned that sometimes the hardest part of it is not the coursework but feeling worthy of the post and feeling capable of doing everything that is required and expected of me. I confess that more often than not I feel inadequate because of the sin of comparison and even because sometimes it feels late in the game to be on such a journey. But hearing the aforementioned quote—and a few other words over the past few weeks—is helping me push beyond those feelings.
The quote came from someone interviewing for a position within the school and he shared it as a word of encouragement to a group of doctoral and masters-level students. He told us that the work is not about having the right answers or all the pieces in place but a conviction and a passion for doing important and necessary work for our communities and the world. This is easy to forget in the midst of all of the requirements and the rigor of a doctoral program but I’m thankful for the reminder because I do have a conviction about this work which leads me to clarity about this vocational path I’m on. It’s hard work, my God it’s hard work. This work seesaws between giving me life and dealing me death in all areas of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I never want to forget what leads me to this work and the blessing or being able to do it in the first place.
So thank you to that candidate for the timely word, thank you to the professor who put the bug in my ear to be present for the candidate’s talk—and to another colleague for the invitation, and lastly thank you to God who keeps finding new ways to keep calling me to this work. I hope this is also a note of encouragement to other doctoral students. We made it this far for a reason, now it is time for us to believe in the gifts within us, trust that those gifts will make room for us, and believe that through those gifts we are bringing something particular and special to the table that no one else can bring. We’ve got this!

December 26, 2015

He Knew Me: A 35th Birthday Lectio Divina

Filed under: faith,life,transparency — nickisym @ 3:29 pm
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Him: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you a prophet to the nations I appointed to you.

Me: Ah Lord God! I do not know how to speak. I am too young!

Him: Do not say I am too young. To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you–oracle of the Lord.

This was one of the scriptures from my morning devotion, apropos because it is pretty much what I imagine a conversation between me and God would be like. God would tell me how he formed me and has chosen me for a particular role in the order of life but I would respond, “But I’m too young, too unknowledgeable, too quiet, too…” I’m good at being too logical. I can be chosen and still question my worthiness for the position. I have no problem with talking back and asking questions that I, deep down inside, already know the answers to. But the aforementioned scripture from Jeremiah reminds me that even in the midst of our doubting our capabilities, God still entrusts us with big work that someone is depending on. Even when we think we are too young–as Jeremiah felt–God wants us to walk boldly in the direction God is sending us in with the knowledge that God will be there to protect us and catch us if and when we fall.

This scripture involving Jeremiah’s doubtful response to God also reminds me of a film I saw recently called “The Giver.” The film is about people living a seemingly utopian life that is actually rather dystopian because they are living within a social system which has removed war, pain, suffering, difference, and choice. Their lives are engineered for a version of perfection down to their “family unit” in which dinner conversations include feelings moments and a phrase I found intriguing, “precision of language.” This phrase is used when a citizen is perceived as using the wrong language to describe a particular feeling and is meant to sharpen their language to exclude all unnecessary words. For me, “precision of language” means that I exclude all language that would suggest doubt and uncertainty in that which I’ve clearly been chosen for. My first response can no longer be, “But I am too…” Instead my first response will be, “Yes and yes,” casting belief in what is possible before I consider the ways it is impossible. I’m going to trust God more this year and trust the gifts of the ultimate giver, God, for God is with me to deliver me.

These are the promises I’m making to myself on my 35th birthday: To trust God more and to speak well of myself and my capabilities.

Oh yeah, and welcome to my new blog, another promise I’m making to myself to write more, for me, this year.

July 22, 2010

On Being Adopted: The Story of Two Births and the Afterlife

Filed under: faith,God,life — nickisym @ 8:00 am
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As I said I would in my last post, I am now sharing the personal essay I wrote for my application to seminary. I’ve always carefully guarded this information feeling that first it made me strange or weird, then I guarded it because I didn’t trust many with knowing about this very personal part of my life and now, finally, I recognize this as a story not for me to keep to myself but to share with as many who would read this so that some might be blessed.

The Birth

Like many traditional families, my family has a gigantic keepsake Bible. I remember seeing it throughout my childhood and watching it go from completely composed, to falling to pieces. I used to look at that Bible every so often, not necessarily to read it, but just to flip through its large-print pages. But one day I felt compelled to start from the beginning of the Bible where the family milestones were documented. I read the recording of the family marriages, which were many, and then I turned to the page listing the family births, which were much fewer. There on the page of family births, in a list of five names, mine showed up third and read as follows, “Nicole was born to adopted by _________ and ________ born on December 26, 1980.” I nearly dropped the massive Bible when I read those words. “Adopted?” I said to myself. I immediately ran into the kitchen and interrupted my mom, who at the moment was preparing breakfast. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me I was adopted? How could you just let me read it in a book without telling me yourself?” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I was going to tell you, but I wanted to wait for the right time.”

Right then and there became the right time for her to tell me:

My biological mother, a teenager about the age of 16, who conceived me in a chance meeting with a military man at a party, gave me up for adoption on the day of my birth. I would go from this young woman’s arms to the foster care system for about six months while various couples in search of the perfect little girl would come in and out of my life. My adoptive parents were initially offered twin girls, but it fell through when it was discovered that the parents of those children lied on their application. My parents discovered me in my seventh month of foster care. My mother told me that when her and my father came to see me, I ran directly to them as if I already knew that they were to be my parents, and that was enough for them. What they saw was a child, who despite her circumstances, had love in her heart and desired to be loved. My parents adopted me when I was eight months old and went forward with giving me the life that I could only be given by the grace of God.

I didn’t think that finding out about my adoption would change my life—since I didn’t know about it in the first place—but it did. Finding out that I was adopted brought with it many questions. “Why didn’t my biological mother want me? How could she give a child up and never come back for it? Should I look for her?” It was like a little fox in my life, creeping up at the most inopportune times. It wreaked havoc on my self-confidence, my friendships, and on any relationships that were in formation because I was always afraid of people letting me go and never turning back. It was both the gift and the curse. The gift being that it allowed me the freedom to not feel pressured to find my biological mother because she gave me up so early in life, and the curse being that I existed between a tension of wondering about her and the life I might have had had she never decided to give me up. Opening that Bible on that ordinary day affected my identity, but soon enough everything would change.

After opening that Bible to find out about my identity in the world, I began to open it up to find out about my identity in God. It was a process that took about 10 years and within those years I would go from being active in a large Southern Baptist church in high school, move on to be a sporadic attendee of various Baptist churches in college and then I would take a hiatus from church altogether and decide that I wasn’t ready for a committed relationship with God. But, like Jonah, I couldn’t escape God’s call on my life for long before He called me a second time.

I received his second call when I moved to New York to pursue a career in journalism. While I thought I was on the fast track to becoming a fashion and entertainment journalist, God was bidding me to draw near to Him. He gave me a thirst and a hunger for His righteousness instead of for worldly success and critical acclaim.  He changed my appetite for the things of the world and began to awaken within me a real desire to know Him. I knew then that I had to search for a church home and it didn’t take long before I found that home in the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, an African Methodist Episcopal church. (It helps to mention that I had come full circle when I arrived at the Greater Allen Cathedral because when I was a child, I attended The Allen Christian School, the school owned by the church.) It was there that my spiritual formation really began and God revealed to me the information about my spiritual adoption.

The Rebirth

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday night young adult Bible study and I was sitting on the right side of the chapel being attentive to the minister’s teaching about spiritual adoption. In the midst of his lesson he told us to turn to Ephesians 1:4-6 and he read the scripture aloud, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” As he read this, tears welled up in my eyes at the thought that not only had God planned my earthly adoption, He adopted me into the family of Christ and secured my place with Him for eternity before I was even knitted in my biological mother’s womb. It was preordained for me to be given up and adopted so that I could eventually understand the significance of my spiritual adoption and the fact that I was always kept. I had already considered myself a “born-again Christian” from my Southern Baptist days, but that night, I was given a true spiritual rebirth. I came to see my physical adoption as a small part of a bigger portrait that God was painting of me. I began to live, not just exist, in this new identity of spiritual adoption and God put me on a fast track to spiritual maturity through my involvement in various ministries in my church and most recently my work.

The Afterlife

My fast track to becoming a fashion and entertainment journalist was derailed shortly after that Bible study. It was confirmed for me that it would be as I awaited the start of the 2005 Watchnight service at my church. I was given a revelation that I would be in the number of people who were to be laid-off at Time Inc. early in 2006. Despite this news, a certain peace fell over me. Peace was with me when my boss gave me the fated news in late January 2006. Ironically, the news of my job consolidation was delivered to me exactly how the news of my physical adoption was delivered, on a fluke. I received a call from human resources about another job within the company and I immediately rushed to my boss—without tears in my eyes—to ask her why I was being offered another job. She told me my job was being consolidated but I was given four months to look for a job before my layoff would go into effect. During that time, I looked and interviewed for several jobs in fashion and entertainment journalism, but they all fell through.  In the fourth month, a job came looking for me. It was a multi-faith website started by a former Newsweek editor who wanted people to “find and walk a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness to their lives.” I had never heard of the site before, nor was I looking to become a religion reporter, but somehow I was compelled to send a cover letter and resume. In a few weeks time, I was contacted for an interview. Three interviews later, I was offered the job and became an editor at the world’s largest multi-faith and spirituality website. To many, it was a questionable career move that would throw my career off track. To others it was a strange move for a Christian to make because the site wasn’t solely Christian. But, to me, I had to believe that God positioned me there for a reason.

In the midst of many faiths and spiritual traditions, Beliefnet became the test of my spiritual maturity. I learned how to engage in interfaith dialogue in personal and professional relationships; I cultivated a love for classic theologians such as John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther; it stimulated my desire to go deeper into Biblical texts not only for my sake but for the sake of those whom I worked with so that I may be an effective minister; and it nurtured and sharpened the only gift that I am certain God has granted me—for the moment—writing. It is my experience at Beliefnet that has helped me apply the knowledge of my identity in God and has even challenged my knowledge of Him. And, for the purposes of my current pursuit of a theological education, it is Beliefnet that has stirred within me the desire to become a student of the word of God and theology so that I may become a credible leader who will effectively bridge the gap between the world and the kingdom of God.

It is my belief that I have lead a full life thus far, but there is yet more in me that I believe I must now turn over to God so that He may be glorified. He spared my life when I could have been another casualty of the foster care system or even aborted. It was Him who ensured that the strikethrough of my arrival in the family Bible was not a deletion of my importance, but a catalyst to understanding my spiritual placement in the book of life.

If I was pre-destined, then the Creator already mapped out my family, my talent, and my life’s journey.  What could have been a soul-crushing experience resulted in a deeper appreciation of God’s love for me and in turn my love for Him.  I do not know what my “natural” life would have provided.  Would I have even known the Lord the way I do now?  Who’s to say?  But I can say that I live as a whole woman, living on the benefits of my adoption—both of them, and preparing to be a vessel for other souls looking for the love that can only come from the Father above.

June 14, 2010

Getting Out of My Dreams

Filed under: dreams,faith,God — nickisym @ 6:27 pm
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I have a pretty active dream life. The kind where things happen in the dream and I wake up the next morning thinking they happened in real life. The kind that make me wake up and wonder what God is trying to tell me. Last night I had one of those dreams…

I was on a field trip with some school kids. I don’t know whether I was their teacher or a parent, all I know is that I was there. I have no idea where we were save for the fact that when we arrived at our destination we were facing a very large building with multiple flights of stairs leading to the top. We weren’t told what was at the top of that building, all we knew is that we had to climb the stairs to find out.

The first few flights were the easiest to navigate. The students and I were talking casually and breathing easily. But suddenly, all of the students I was making the journey with began to dissappear. One by one it was as if they evaporated into the air. They didn’t fall of the stairs, they just disappeared. Suddenly I was climbing the stairs all by myself. The higher I went, the more challenging it became to go to the next level. But, somehow, I was determined to always go to the next flight of stairs. I had to continuously stop myself from looking down because at the point that I was making this journey by myself, looking down would remind me how impossibly high up I was and how I had to continue climbing because making the journey back down wasn’t an option. I had gone too far to turn around.

Finally, I reached the final flight of stairs, but what separated that final flight and the flight I was standing on was a big gaping hole, a mass of air and space that I had to figure how to navigate it to ascend the last flight. There was only one thing I could do. Jump, no LEAP, to the final flight of stairs that would lead me to the “God knows what” at the top of the building. Sure, I had to contend with the possibility of leaping and missing the final flight of stairs only to plummet to my death. But, I believed that there was going to be something to propel me toward those stairs so that I could make it to the top of the building. I felt it was my destiny.

So, putting aside every random thought, I set my mind on moving forward and leaping. When I took the leap, it seemed like I spent an eternity in that time and space, but I did finally end up making it to that last flight of stairs. I was all by myself ascending the last flight to see what was in store for me at the top of that building…

I wish that I could tell you what was at the top of the building, but I can’t. I woke up before I could find that out. Suffice to say,  I’m sure that whatever was waiting for me at the top of the building was going to be a sight to behold, but what was more powerful was the journey it took to get there in the first place. The faith and perserverance that was necessary to keep going up. Even that leap and the time it took for me to float between one flight to the final is telling of our own personal journeys. We may be suspended in time for a while, God’s time, while He prepares things for us on the other side. Nevertheless, we have to continue to move forward without looking back or down. We have to take a leap of faith. We have to trust that in taking that leap, God is not going to let us fall but that He will, literally, be the wind beneath our wings to keep us in flight. All He wants to know is that we trust Him enough to keep moving forward and up in Him, even when it seems like a crazy thing to do. Sort of like climbing stairs on the outside of a building to get to the top to see something, only God knows what.

January 18, 2010

Quote of the Day: Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: faith,God,spirituality — nickisym @ 12:48 pm
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On this day, many of us are off from work because of a man who made it his life’s work to fight for our rights and equality as a people. Sometimes I feel so far removed from his legacy because of the things that I see in the world around me today. But then I look back at his body of work and the passion that drove him to continually fight for our freedom. In thinking about that it leads me to one of his great speeches, which, comprehensively was amazing, but there is one portion that was so telling and such the summary of why God put him on this earth.

“Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will and he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight, I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man, mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On this day, if you do nothing else to acknowledge the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, take the time to consider his words and his faith to do God’s will against all odds. Like the great men and women of faith in the Bible, he passed being commended for his faith, but not receiving what was promised, but God provided something better for us in that Dr. King became a modern day example of faith. On this day we celebrate your great faith Dr. King.

Happy MLK day to all!

March 25, 2009

Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?

On Thursday night, ABC will host a Nightline Face-Off series at Mars Hill for a debate on the existence of Satan. Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill, and Annie Lobert, the founder of Hookers for Jesus will face-off against alternative medical doctor, author, and New Thought guru Deepak Chopra and former Church of God on Christ bishop and current so-called heretic–for his doubt in the traditional teaching of heaven and hell–Carlton Pearson. An interesting match me thinks. But I’m just not sure this should be a “debate” set-up for public entertainment-because we all know that ABC created this for the ratings.

People love to see fanatical Christians argue against fanatical folks of other religions-I had to put it that way because I’m not clear on Chopra’s religious bent and as for Pearson, I believe he still claims Christianity, but a different, more all-inclusive branch(if that is even possible).  I watched such fanaticism in the Nightline series that aired a few years ago entitled the “Blasphemy Challenge.” It was between Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron and atheist Brian Sapient and Kelly. It was a fight to the death, it was snarky, and it was a nuisance on the parts of the interlocutors and the audience involved. I fear this will be more of the same. I envision plenty of attitude, shouting from audience members, every side claiming theirs is the right way without any true peace being in the discussion. Not sure whether it will bear any fruit, but will watch to find out.

What do you think about Thursday’s debate? Is it relevant? Did they pick the right talking heads? Does it even matter?

“Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?” Airing on ABC Thursday, 3/24/2009 at 11:35 PM on ABC.

January 27, 2009

LMP is 100% LDS!

Filed under: faith,religion,spirituality — nickisym @ 9:08 pm
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I just completed the Belief-o-Matic, Beliefnet’s personality quiz about faith and spirituality. I took it a few years ago and it turned out I was more of a Sikh than anything, but I suppose a few years makes a difference. Keep in mind that I’ve always been a Christian so the Sikh thing doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not sure the LDS thing does either, but it was fun to answer the questions and get my results. Here’s the percentage breakdown of how much of each religion I am filled with:

 

1.  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (100%)
2.  Jehovah’s Witness (88%)
3.  Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (84%)
4.  Orthodox Quaker (81%)
5.  Orthodox Judaism (79%)
6.  Sikhism (77%)
7.  Islam (73%)
8.  Baha’i Faith (73%)
9.  Seventh Day Adventist (68%)
10.  Eastern Orthodox (68%)
11.  Roman Catholic (68%)
12.  Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (66%)
13.  Liberal Quakers (56%)
14.  Jainism (54%)
15.  Reform Judaism (53%)
16.  Hinduism (50%)
17.  Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (46%)
18.  Mahayana Buddhism (44%)
19.  Unitarian Universalism (44%)
20.  Theravada Buddhism (43%)
21.  Neo-Pagan (32%)
22.  Taoism (27%)
23.  Scientology (26%)
24.  New Age (26%)
25.  New Thought (25%)
26.  Secular Humanism (25%)
27.  Nontheist (17%)

Take the Belief-o-Matic and see what your faith is made of…Then if you’re so inclined, report your results here.

January 16, 2009

Walking on Water

Filed under: faith,God,prayer — nickisym @ 4:26 pm
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This morning as I was getting for work, I saw an image of the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549. The picture depicted the passengers awaiting their rescue on the wing of the plane. Sure, that doesn’t sound interesting, but what’s incredible is that they were standing on the wing of the plane which was floating in the water–not sinking–and it appeared as if they were walking on water.

If you stopped by the site yesterday, you saw that I lent the victory of those people being rescued to God. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these people, who entrusted their lives to a pilot to fly them from point A to point B, had to step out of the plane–on faith–onto the wing, trusting that though they couldn’t see it, it was there. They wouldn’t fall into the water and drown, they only had to believe that there was something that would hold them above water. I don’t know how many people on the plane were believers, but it’s just more proof for me that God had his hand all over that plane.

From the Gothamist

From the Gothamist

January 4, 2009

God’s Grace

Filed under: death,faith,God,life,love — nickisym @ 1:12 am
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Last night on our way to dinner, a friend and I were talking about all of the unfortunate series of events that had happened over the past week, mainly the deaths that surrounded us in the past year. One of stories stood out to me. A few weeks ago, a story broke about a man who dressed in a Santa suit and went to the home of his ex-wife with intentions of killing them all. Upon ringing the doorbell and his presence being revealed, a little girl ran toward him with much excitement to see Santa only to be shot in the face. Sources say that she turned her head just in the nick of time so that she wouldn’t be shot point blank, this resulted in the bullet hitting her along the jawline. When I heard this story, I was quite convinced that the little girl died, but my friend corrected me and let me know that the little girl survived her family and now has a face that will need to be reconstructed.

I was blown away by the fact that this little girl survived. Now she will be in the position to get facial reconstructive surgery or a facial transplant, which by the grace of God was a procedure successfully performed for the first time in early December. That is God’s grace.

Many of us lost loved ones in 2008, if we didn’t lose anyone in our immediate circle, we saw the constant news of icons, legends and leaders dying at an alarming pace. With so much death around us, it’s amazing to think that God saw fit to keep some of us here. What a curious thing to be kept when you watch your loved one die. What a curious thing to know that millions of people die everyday, they never open their eyes after they shut them for the night and yet, you are still here. What a curious thing to be alive and know that if it wasn’t for God you wouldn’t be so. If you ever needed proof of God, there it is.

My father said that he thanks God every day for life because he knows without Him he wouldn’t even have made it as far as he did. This is a man of 70+ years. He knows that everyday he wakes up, it’s a new opportunity to be thankful and glorify his father. In New Year’s Eve service, a pastor remarked that there must be something very special about those of us in the room, that we were fortunate to see the coming of another year. He said that it is evident God needs us here on earth to continue His work. By those words I slumped down in my seat, feeling so unworthy of the gift of life. There were so many that died who I didn’t think deserved it. The countless numbers of little lost children who were taken at the hands of cruel parents. The celebrities who brought joy into our lives through the gift that God gave them. The spiritual leaders who lead many to salvation, revelation and enlightenment. So many have passed before us, so many that seem to have gifts that supersede our current gifts. And yet and still God saw fit to keep me alive for something. Something larger than I can comprehend. Bigger than my understanding, more grandiose than my best laid plans. God wants me here for some reason unbeknownst to me. He keeps on giving me extra days to live out His purpose.

Faced with that revelation I shudder and look forward to this year with great excitement and anticipation knowing that it is not by my goodness that I’ve been kept, but only by the grace of God. He knows exactly what He wants me to do and I only have to follow Him. I may not do it well, but everyday I will make a pledge to live my life by His standards and no one else’s, being thankful that he gave me the breath of life.

So if you are ever tempted to be discouraged about life, remember that God has you here for a purpose. He loves you and He wants you here to be the physical manifestation of His glory on this earth. He has great purpose for your life if you would only stop long enough to listen and meet with Him. You were put here to do more than chase a paycheck, make yourself famous among men or even to find love. You were created to show forth His glory. So show it and be thankful for each new day, for those days bring new mercies every time.

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