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Today I changed my life forever.  No going back, it’s a done deal.  I am now tattooed.

It’s something I’ve been considering and kicking around for a very, very long time and I finally did it.  I now have a medium-small butterfly on the inside of my wrist in white ink, yay!

I drew the butterfly myself and chose white ink on purpose because the tattoo is for me and nobody else (according to the tattoo artist I had her put it on “upside down”, lol!) – I can see it, and I don’t care if you can see it or not.  I’m a pale and pasty critter thanks to my genetics and I did my research – my goal with choosing the white ink is for it to be a very subtle change in my skin tone once it’s done healing so that it’s barely noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

For me this butterfly tattoo is a reminder of how I’ve become braver and stronger and that there are still more amazing things for me to become in the future.  It’s a symbol that I am finally recognizing myself as who God created me to be – and that person is beautiful.  That I don’t have to stay locked up in the box of what other people have insisted I should be over all these years.  It is a statement to myself and to the world that I am not a doormat any longer.

My husband is not happy about my decision.  At All.  In his mind I’m already got 50 tattoos because “one tattoo leads to another and nobody stops at just one”.  He won’t believe me when I say I’m not planning to get more tattoos and become the next Tattooed Lady Circus Side Show Act.  Then he says “I don’t want a tattooed wife” and I know he’s specifically meaning he doesn’t want to be married to someone who looks like an Old Lady from a motorcycle gang but tattooed is tattooed whether it’s one tattoo or head to toe… I almost hate to break it to him but mister, ya got yourself a tattooed wife as of about 6:30 this evening!  (I know, he’s still in shock.)

He also believes that I’ve willfully sinned against the Bible because there’s a verse in the Old Testament that says not to get tattoos.  That verse happens to be right next to a verse that says “Don’t round the corners of your beard” and nobody gives a second thought about not obeying that verse anymore.  When I brought this up to him his reasoning was that the whole beard thing was not a permanent change to one’s body while tattoos are so therefore the beard verse didn’t need to be obeyed while the tattoo verse did.  Seriously?  What gives him the authority to pick and chose which verses of the Bible should be obeyed and which ones have become superfluous?  That whole announcement from him is mind-blowing to me and makes me wonder what his faith is actually based on.  My decision to go ahead and get the tattoo is based on verses in the New Testament telling us (summarized) that thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross we now live under grace, not the law.  And that if we try to obtain righteousness, or right standing with God, by following even one rule of the law that we must fulfill the entire law to become righteous that way – and it is clearly spelled out that it is not possible for any human being to keep the entire law.  Whereas if we accept the grace of God we can be saved by believing in Jesus and the rest of the world will know if we are truly disciples of Christ or not by our love for God and one another.

And there it is, the plain and simple Gospel.  Obviously different from what my husband  believes.  Our belief incompatibilities once again brought to the surface, this time because of a small, simple, nearly invisible tattoo.

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So it’s Sunday, I’m home sick and watching The Avengers.  Loki makes this statement:  “I am Loki and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”  Glorious purpose.  Glooooooooorious Purpose.  Uh huh…

In reality this is true and we should all be making this statement every morning when we look at ourselves in the mirror.  “I am BluEydButterfly and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”  because each of us really does have a glorious purpose, although the trick is to believe it… and sometimes we don’t even know what it is so discovering that glorious purpose is required as well.

Another statement Loki made a short time later also caught my attention.  Yes, I know, besides being really cute his character makes memorable statements, who’da thunk it?  But what he said this time was:  “You were made to be ruled.”, which I actually, totally, 100% agree with.  The Human Condition craves rules, boundaries, guidelines.  We want someone to lead us.  Why else would every country in the world create its own government?  This is, however, more my opinion and a lead-in to my next statement rather than trying to get everybody riled up over the ugly world of politics.  Sorry to get your hopes up but maybe another day…

OK, now let’s combine those two statements.  What if my “glorious purpose” is simply to choose who my ruler is – or another way of saying it might be, who am I going to serve?  What if it really is that basic?  Regardless of your religious beliefs almost everyone on this planet recognizes that there is good and evil in this world, although everybody seems to define them differently these days…  I personally believe in the God of the Bible and use the scriptures to define good and bad. I’m super-summarizing the verses here but the Bible says that “God is love”, 1 John 4:8; that other people will know I am a Christian “by my love”, John 13:35; and that the two greatest commandments are to love God first and people second, Matt 22:37 – 39.   These verses all define for me, in the simplest terms, good and evil.  To love, with TRUE love (which would take an entirely different blog to define), is good.  Fake love or to be unloving – either one – is evil.  This is the bare bones core of my belief, this is my heart.

We all choose, every moment of every day, what we want to think, say and do.  Are those things kind, loving and helpful?  Or are the things we think, say and do mean and hurtful?  If they are good then I am serving my God.  If they are evil then I am not.

Obviously I am not trying for any deep, contemplative discussion here.  I’m not even talking about Salvation or Heaven.  This particular blog post is to capture simplicity itself, nothing more.  Why?  Because I believe faith should be simple.  Because I believe faith IS simple and we just over-complicate it.  Let’s get back to basics people!  We’ve lost so much to complicity, we’ve fought so many wars over inconsequential details and we’ve destroyed so many relationships in the name of this god or that one… so often without even knowing what the god we serve is really, truly like.  My God is love.  He loves me.  He loves you.  And because He loves you I love you.  Because He loves you I will do my best to help you when you need help or be sad with you when you are sad or be happy with you when you are happy.  This is my faith, my “religion”, to use what feels like dirty word…

Many Christians have lost sight of this and because of their distraction have given Christianity a bad name.  A very bad name.  So bad I’m hesitant at times to say that I am a Christian or that the God I serve is Jesus Christ.  Not because I am ashamed of Christ or the Gospels, oh no!  But because I am ashamed of the people who call themselves Christians and do not love anybody but themselves.  Because those people have the loudest voices and society believes that they are Christians… but they’re not.  Not according to the Bible.  And yet I am a Christian, there is no other way to describe it because I follow Christ and Christian literally means “Follower or disciple of Christ”.

All of that to say – I AM burdened with Glorious Purpose and my choice is about whether or not I will LOVE others as God loves me.

How about you?

It really isn’t.

And now that all the people who consider themselves True Christians have armed themselves with pitchforks and gone off looking for me I can finish my thought.

If you became a Christian (or joined any religion for that matter) because somebody “helped” you decide to do so whether it be to please them, they out-debated you, gave you guilt trips and a fear of hell or you became a Christian out of a sense of obligation and duty because you grew up in the church and your entire family is Christian… then in my experience, your Christianity will only last as long as it continues to make sense.  The minute something else makes more sense you will change your mind and go a different direction.  Why?  Because your heart wasn’t changed by what you said you believed and the mind can be easily swayed to and fro without a firm, heart-held conviction of what you belive.

True Belief Changes Your Lifestyle.  People become vegetarians all the time after being made aware of the life animals destined for the meat market lead.  Did these people all of a sudden stop loving the taste of a juicy steak or Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Probably not.  But the thoughts and images of what they learned overwhelm the pleasure of eating the meat and they willingly made a change in their lifestyle because they believe in their heart that their refusal to eat meat spares animals from slaughter.  These people don’t have a problem telling others that they don’t eat meat and why.  Some vegetarians are very passionate about it and will try to sway you to become one of them while the rest just say “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian” when you offer them a slice of Meat Lover’s pizza and that’s the end of it.  They hold to their convictions without apology, without regret and without much care in regards to what you may think of them for being a vegetarian.

Most of my life I would have told you I was a pretty good example of a Christian but when I compare the strength of my beliefs to those of even a basic vegetarian I find myself coming up short…and how sad is that?  The conviction of my Christian beliefs don’t hold a candle to those of somebody who has chosen not to eat something for the good of an animal.  And honestly, how many new Christians change their lives so drastically, so visibly as new vegetarian?  How many church members will stand up to the girls at the office and say “Sorry, I don’t participate in gossip, I’m a Christian”.  How many professing Christians will give back the extra change the cashier at Wal-Mart gave them on accident?  Are those who call themselves Christians today truly any different from the average American?  Unfortunately the people typically identified as being a good representative of religion aren’t usually Christians in this day and age…

I grew up in church, at one time my parents were the youth pastors and my father was often involved with the worship team in one way or another.  I remember praying the salvation prayer at age 3 and did my best to be a good little Christian girl thereafter.  And that may be my biggest problem, I think maybe I tried harder to be a Good Girl than I did to be a Good Christian, not knowing they were different.  Please note I’m not trying to say that Good Christian Girls are not Good Girls because they most definitely are.  I’m trying to say that Good Girls are not necessarily Good Christian Girls.  In the spiritual realm A = B does not always mean that B = A.  That would be too easy…

True Belief Shares Itself.  Someone once said “Witness at all times.  When necessary use words.”  When your heart is different your life will be different.  When your life is different people will notice and you will not be shy about explaining yourself, in fact it will be easy and you will be eager to do it.  When the beliefs of your heart change your lifestyle then, and only then do you have a chance to create a convert because hearts respond to hearts.  Seeing the actions of another can inspire a heart to change but are rarely responsible for any permanent, lasting effects.

Having said all that I will once again repeat that your relationship with God is none of my business.  My relationship with God is my entirely my own business and none of  yours.  The Bible says that your relationship with God should be my concern, a topic of my prayers and even reason for my tears but each person has to make the choice to live for God – or not – on their own.  Nothing I say or do can force you to change your mind one way or the other with any lasting, heart changes.  I have no power or control over your heart save my witness, my example and my lifestyle.

I’m not perfect but I am forgiven.  I try, try and try again and trust that God knows my heart.  I choose to Believe the Bible, Love God and People, Know Others by Their Fruit but Only Judge Myself and Obey the Bible.  It is all that I can do.

While on our Christmas travels this year we drove hundreds of miles on the freeway and I couldn’t help but notice all the tumbleweeds caught in the fences that lined the roads. A simple, four strand barbed wire caught so many tumbleweeds that it appeared in places to be a solid wall of tumbleweeds, you couldn’t even see the barbed wire or the posts.

Tumbleweeds are fascinating, although annoying, plants. Oddly enough a tumbleweed is not a specific plant but rather a generic term for any plant that, once mature and dry disengages from the root and is blown about by the wind. So a tumbleweed starts out as a green, living plant but when it dies, it becomes a nearly indestructible nuisance, blown about by the whim of the wind. You can run over a tumbleweed with a car and the darn thing keeps on rolling. They’re tough, wiry, resilient and crazy hard to get rid of.

My thoughts feel like tumbleweeds rolling through my mind – I frequently wonder how do I catch them? How do I stop them? How do I change them? Which thoughts are OK to think? Why are some thoughts OK to think and some aren’t? Who decides what’s OK to think? And on and on it goes…

I think the church we attend is trying to tell us what we should think and say and what we shouldn’t. The pastor of the church we attend gave a sermon this last Sunday that defined its mission as four very Biblical steps: Win, Connect, Disciple and Send, based off of the Great Commission – Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and Teach them to Obey Jesus’ Commands (Matthew 28:19 – 20). One of the final slides of the PowerPoint was “The Chief Challenges” (to accomplishing these goals). Copied directly from the photo I took of the PowerPoint they are:

“The Obstacle: Unbelief.
UNBELIEF is doubting questions or negativity that destroy faith leads to lost joy and an unfaithful heart.

“The Challenge: Faith.
BIBLICAL FAITH is not being willing to ponder any fact of life or circumstance that opposed the revealed will of God.”

Given those guidelines what on earth can I question or think about then? I feel like any question I might raise to another church member or the church leadership will be seen as doubt or negativity and talking about my actual life circumstances without sugar-coating them will instantly label me as not trusting in God. Does anybody else get that too or is it just me and my desperation to leave this church that is seeing things that aren’t there?

Like the four-strand barbed wire fence caught the tumbleweeds on the highway I need a fence of my own.  Here, I think, are the essential principles of being a Christian and there are more scriptures than what I listed but in effort to keep this post short(er) I’m just going to put forth a few for each category:

Strand One:  BELIEVE.

A)    John 3:16 says:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
B)     John 20:31 says:  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
C)   Romans 10:9 says:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
D)    1 Thessalonians 4:14 says:  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again…

Strand Two:  LOVE.

A)   I John 4:8 says: “God is Love”.
1)  I Corinthians 13:4 – 8 says:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.   It does not
dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but
rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.
B)   Mark 12:30 – 31 says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”
C)   Matthew 7:12 saysSo in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
D)   Galatians 6:2 says:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Strand Three:  KNOW PEOPLE BY THEIR FRUIT BUT ONLY JUDGE MYSELF.

A)    Matthew 7:18 says:  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
B)    Matthew 7:20 saysThus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  1. Galatians 5:22 – 23 says:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  2. James 3:17 saysBut the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

C)    Luke 6:37 says:  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
D)    Colossians 2:16 – 19: says:   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.
E)     Corinthians 11:31 says:  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
F)     Romans 2:1 says:  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Strand Four:  OBEY

A)    John 14:23 says:  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
B)     1 John 2:5 says:  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.
1)  Titus 2:1 – 10, 12 and 15 says:  …teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.  Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of
respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way
they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to
love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their
husbands…  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you
may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  Teach slaves (or employees) to be subject to their masters (or
bosses) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be
fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.  …teaches us to say “No” to
ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, …These, then, are the
things you should teach…

2)  Ephesians 5:21 – 22, 25, 28 and 33  says:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to
your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for
her.  …   In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. … each one of you also must love his wife
as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And that is the essence of what I found while searching the scriptures today for “rules” on how to live a Christian life.  Nothing about “don’t ask questions”  or “you must sugar-coat all your problems”.  Indeed, how are we to “bear one another’s burdens” if we don’t share what our burdens are with each other?

I don’t pretend that I am a perfect Christian by any means but I do believe in Jesus, I do my best to love the people around me and I try my best to obey what the Bible says.   Can anybody give more than their best?