Growing as a Christian: A Poem

God,
You call people into relationship with you.

On May 22nd, 2016, I was called into relationship with you in the waters of baptism, where
Water was poured on my head three times,
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve been on a whirlwind of a faith journey,
Where I’ve been a girl seeking to convert to Judaism,
Then investigated the LDS Church,
Then quickly baptized Lutheran,
Then baptized Fundamentalist Baptist.

Then explored the United Methodist church multiple times,
Then committed myself to the Disciples of Christ church
Even before I set foot in a DoC church.

I’ve been a potential Jew, a potential Latter-day Saint,
Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Catholic-Unitarian,
Disciple of Christ, and now Presbyterian, possibly!

Lord, I’m done moving from church to church. I’m done.
I just want to stick somewhere.

With my local DoC church’s affiliation unsure with Disciples of Christ,
I’m looking at other options, to attend to in addition with my local First Christian
(Which MIGHT become non-denominational).

Everything is so unknown right now, only known by you.
You have ordained this path for me,
But I have not always enjoyed the journey.

I wish the train would stop here, at First Christian/First Presbyterian,
Where I can set deep roots, raise a family,
And whatnot.
Yet, both Jacob and I know that we want to move
To Hasting, Nebraska, someday,
So we will be uprooted once again.

You’ve got some crazy plan for us, Lord.

Amen.

Life Update: Fighting God’s Will

Hi everyone,
These past couple of weeks have been a serious struggle. I know I’m fighting God’s will for my life, and my wrestle with Him is just causing me pain!

My Church, First Christian Church, is voting this Sunday on two things:
1. Should we leave our denomination?
2. Should we close our doors for good?

I feel a serious tug toward Reformed theology, where grace is life and election is salvation, if we leave Disciples of Christ and sell our building. Of course, we’ll still meet up informally as a non-denominational home group, but what will I do without being in a denominational church!!??

While I’m not sure what my church will do exactly with Pastor Penny leaving us (she’s transferring to a Methodist church somewhere else), and us seriously struggling financiallly, I hope God can help us and KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!

I’ve said it on my Instagram, and I’ll say it here: We’re struggling because we don’t embrace everyone. My church is incredibly close-minded and this is killing us. THIS, however, is not a matter for us to embrace heresy to grow the church. On the contrary, we are embracing the diversity of God and His love for all creation: Immigrants, single parents, women who’ve had abortions, queer folks, trans and gender-conforming folks, and/or disabled or atypical-neurological folks.

I’m always amazed at the image of God, because of His people made in His image. God must be amazing!

And while I do hope that my church will get the help it needs and grow financially and in attendance, I do now, in my heart of hearts, that we are dying. I fear nothing can stop it dying, but I’m just trying to keep my head up to God’s future. I can keep trying to lie to myself, saying “we’ll make it, we’ll stay Disciples of Christ,” but I know that is NOT true. I cannot keep lying to myself, thinking I could be a student preacher (even though I’m pretty sure my denomination won’t allow that!), or whatever.

With moving toward Reformed theology, I know this is God’s plan and will. God wants this, and has been guiding my steps in my life to get here. I could go the ELCA route, where they believe you can commit temporary apostasy, but I’ve never really been much of a fan of the ELCA or Lutheran faith, so I’ll just stick with Calvinism. I’d most likely attend our First Presbyterian Church here in York, where I would be welcomed as a future female pastor, leader, and chaplain. And yes, while I struggle with Eternal Security, I hope I can reconcile that with my faith (since fake Christians can be cut from the vine!).

JUST THINK ABOUT IT! A year ago today I was a Unitarian Christian who believed in works+grace theology! Now, I’m a Trinity-professing Christian who is all about that grace! But if I hadn’t gone through my Unitarian/Works stage, I wouldn’t understand being saved by grace as much as I do now, and I wouldn’t understand Jesus as being truly God incarnate. And I SURELY wouldn’t have thought I’d become Calvinist!

I wouldn’t understand God or his plan for my life like I do now.

So, while I struggle with being so disconnected from Seminary right now (by the very fact that they’re 400-500 miles away from me, and I HATE being an online student/laptop student!), I do hope for goodness in the future. God is a God of love and hope, not of disaster, right?

Thanks,

Leigh Todd

A Mixture of It All: Poem

It’s truly a mixture of it all,
Where faith is for me.

I am Reformed,
I am Arminian,
I believe in the Perseverance of Saints,
Yet I believe we can fall from grace as Christians,
And temporarily lose our salvation.

This is why I am Disciples of Christ. We confess no creeds,
Yet confess Christ as Lord and Savior.

We follow no confessions,
Yet we confess the Bible,
And that we are each responsible for reading it,
Interpreting it,
And living God’s Word out into the World.

I’ve checked out Lutheranism,
But as I’ve been baptized Lutheran,
Attended a Lutheran church,
I feel the Lutheran faith is too…

White, hierarchical,
Pious, stuck-up, again, white, aristocratic.

I don’t want to stick with the white stuck up old folks.

I want to stay with the struggling mom in the pews,
As her children won’t listen,
Who doesn’t put on a fake face for everyone.

I want to stick with the church that is dying, like mine.

Last Sunday, my church started the discussion about leaving our denomination,
And closing our doors.

I am in shock, and am not sure what to do next.

I am truly Disciples of Christ, but I have yet to experience Disciples of Christ.
Truly, I have just experienced a Bible-based church.
I long to experience a true Disciple of Christ church.

I’ve thought about attending the local Presbyterian USA church,
Where they preach Reformed teachings on predestination,
But they also preach Eternal Security, which is wholly unbiblical, to me.

To you, it might be your answer to faith.
For me, I’m a mixture of all three faiths: Reformed, Lutheran, and Methodist.
I am truly a Disciple of Christ, who does not fit into one easy box.

I am a Disciple of Christ, and wherever I go, I hope to stay DoC.

A Prayer: God, am I wrong? Am I right? What does the Bible really say about Eternal Security?

Dear God,
For a week now, I’ve been studying Eternal Security.

As someone who is moving from Arminian to Reformed theology, this is one thing that has been bugging me, and one thing I can’t quiet give up – Apostasy.

You see, I believe with my whole heart that we can commit apostasy. It says in Romans that “If you stop trusting, you will be cut off [from the vine] too,” (Romans 11:22, NLT).

And Hebrews talks about those who have experienced salvation and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4-8).

Yet, I also know that Reformed theology is more biblically correct.

God, I want to be secure in my faith. I want to know that while I can mess up our relationship, that you will never banish me from your sight as your Child.

But, I also want to have an honest look at what the Bible says. As it seems, the Bible says a lot of things each denomination has trouble with. For Wesleyans, predetermination and election. For Reformed Christians/Calvinists, it’s apostasy. For Lutherans, the epistle of James and works.

Lord, I know in your goodness you are putting me on a path of goodness, not of confusion and cobwebs. I feel like I’m finally starting to clear the barn (my brain) of cobwebs, and beautify it and simplify my theology. I can only hope, and I know, that I am elect of God, as is my family, and that while some of us are struggling with Christianity, you hold unto us and love us dearly. Let us see Jesus with fresh eyes and embrace others as we rejoice in our salvation.

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer. And help this last bit of confusion in my brain.

Lord, I am truly a mixture of Arminian and Reformed theology. Truly, I am a Reformed Arminian!! Or at least, I feel like, God, that the Bible is more of a mixture of Protestant theologies because Jesus does not draw lines – he just draws us to His Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Poem: If Calvinism if at least partly true…

Dear God,
If Calvinism is at least partly true,
Then we live in a paradox-like world of free will and predetermination.

If Calvinism if at least partly true,
Then we have free will, that you judge us on how we use it.
But you laid out the world’s events before the world began.
Truly, I am moving toward Reformed theology.
I believe we are free to make mistakes,
That we are to be judged by Christ at the White Throne,
But that are days are planned ahead of time.
I’m not sure why, but this is a comforting thing.

When I was strictly Arminian,
God, I felt so lost.
God, it seemed you were reckless,
That we were reckless,
That you are NOT in control.

The Bible spoke of you ordaining our days,
And that even the bad stuff was ordained from you.
Like in Acts, the Disciples realized that YOU ordained their persecution.
It was to be so. It was for their goodness and your glory.

Now, with my mixture of faith,
I feel comforted, just like David and Paul did,
That nothing escapes you, nothing surprises you.
I see your wondrous hand in all things in my life –
From the guy at Burger King giving that discount for my meal,
When I’m barely making it to payday,
To my battery on my TC-70 (Walmart Device) lasting my whole shift.
To trying out the Meats department for the first time,
And seeming to get the hang of it.
I see you all there, all creating each step by step.
God, you are there.
You are here, as I type these words.
You are here, creating the best life for me,
As I live it out, mistakes and all.
You chose me (possibly b/c I chose you).
But no matter what theology that is,
You CHOSE ME. You chose me, a sorrowful sinner,
A girl who practiced sex outside of marriage,
Who takes your name in vain nearly every day,
You forgave this girl, because you loved her and knew her.

God, love all my family members.
If you predestined me, I imagine, by the very fact
That the baptized husband, mom, Dad, and siblings,
That you chose them. Even if we choose you first,
YOU CHOOSE US, every day.

Obviously, I imagine that we can commit temporary apostasy
In this life, but since we are chosen, that we will endure to the end
And come back to faith.

Lord, you are too wonderful for us.

IN Jesus’ name, Amen.

Proper 12: A Poetic Prayer of Hope amidst God’s Judgment

Dear God,
You passed Judgement on your people,
Time and Time again.

But again and again,
You passed Salvation.

From once being called “Not God’s People,”
To “His Children,”

Us Christians passed through the waters of Salvation
To enter as Citizens of Heaven.
We clothe ourselves in Christ,
Carrying God with us.

All we have to do is knock, ask, seek.
God answers. Abundently,

Because we are His Children,
We are never forsaken.

Christ beat down all others,
Just to gain us.
He beat us body on the cross,
So we can circumcise ourselves via the Holy Spirit.

We are His, and that.is.everything.

Troubling Thought: Does God Ordain Pain, or Just Allow It?

Update: As I was taught by professors, the Jewish and early-Christians thought that God ordained both good and bad is a comforting explanation in hindsight. I just remembered that. David, Isaiah, Paul, Luke – all believed God ordained things as a comforting remark. We as Christians today, still have a habit of believing that! Signed, an Arminian Christians who believes in final perseverance of saints.

Hi everyone, First, let me add a disclaimer for my question in the title: Reasons for anything are a lot more complicated than we think. As Jen Hatmaker explains in her article, “Why does God allow suffering and pain?,” reasons for pain and suffering are a lot more complicated than “God is sovereign.” Yes, I believe God is sovereign over all of us, and that he allows pain for our good and his glory, but another question has been bugging me…

Does God actually ordain our pain, good, bad, ugly, all of the above in our lives? If so, do we have free will?

Does God ordain pain, or does he just allow it? And is there a difference, or are ordain and allow the same thing?

I’m a Wesleyan by heart; I place great emphasis on free will, our destructive behaviors, and God NOT being the root of all evil. But as I do with all things religion-related, I lean into the hard stuff and have been looking at Calvinistic theology. With Presbyterian and all Reform theology, God ordains all things in our lives and numbers the days of our lives. He is truly and honorifically sovereign in our lives. Yet, when we mess up, WE are still responsible for our mess-ups and have the deal with the consequences, in this life and this next.

Now, the reason I’ve been looking into this is because I am dissatisfied with Arminian theology of apostasy. I am a firm believer that we can fall from the faith, but I am disenhearted by the fact that there have been, there are, and there will be so many lost souls that never accepted Christ b/c they either didn’t hear about Jesus, or if they did, completely rejected Him. That seems reckless of God to predestine only those to the Kingdom that he knew would endure to the end in belief (conditonal election). To me, it feels like hardly anybody would be in Heaven or be believers at the Resurrection if that was the case.

BUT, the hard part about God predestining all believers/non-believers is that God ACTIVELY predestines some to hell. That, too, sounds absolutely un-God like. He would want everyone to come to faith. Call my a Universalist, but I believe God would want all people to come to Heaven and to leave none behind.

BUT, I also understand God respects our free will, so I’m a flux. Either God allows so many uneducated-about-Jesus people to go to Hell, or He actually ordains them to Hell. Either way, this doesn’t work. I swear, I understand where the Latter-day Saints are coming in with by-proxy baptisms for the dead!

So, what is my decision? I AM NOT SURE. I feel like it’s really an ugly mixture of both predestination, free will, apostasy, ordaining all things, choice, and all that. I feel like whenever we try to wrap theology with a bow on top, we’re putting God in a box that is WAY too small. God is surely complex, and we will likely never understand Him. I for sure know, that if God does not actively ordain all things to happen in our lives, including pain, he at least allows them for our goodness and His glory. I believe he numbers our days, also, and that he has a purpose and plan for all of us. So, a mixture, really.

I swear, this is why I was baptized Lutheran! We believed in one-sided predestination for believers, and also in free will. LOL.

Love, Leigh Todd

A Daily Reminder: A Poem

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to add a daily reminder to y’all.

God loves you no matter what.
No matter what sins lay in your heart,
No matter what you’ve done.
You are a Child of God,
Having said Yes to Him,
He will take care of You.

He will call you back to Himself,
Just as he did so many years ago
When you first became a Christian.

God loves you no matter what has happened in your life.
God is not the author of evil and disaster,
But I don’t know why God allows some things to happen…
To teach us lessons? To help us become more like Him?

I will never know.
But Christ loves us no matter what.
No matter our responses to events in our lives,
He cherishes us greatly.
Because we.are.His.

Now love him as much as He loves you.

Alleluia and Amen.

My Middle Ground: Modesty, Sexuality, and Queerness

When you think of modesty and purity culture, you think of hatred for one’s body and impossible rules.

To me, I find freedom and hope.

When I became a Christian, I didn’t just follow Jesus because his grace was liberating – I followed him because I liked his and Paul’s teachings (plus others).

I still view the Bible as a work of human hands trying to understand God and His Will, but I do see instructions in it as well. And I hope to raise my children in these instructions.

First off, I am a progressive Christian. I actively fight for queer rights in the Church and State, and (am currently) advocating and donating money to children in need at the border. But I’m also a Nebraskan, with ingrained ways of life. In Nebraska, women (AND MEN!!) are expected to be modest in appearance, but most importantly in attitude and how we carry ourselves. Humbleness is key, and kindness is expected and hoped for.

As a Christian in my First Christian Church, here in York, NE, we preach liberation from sin and hope in Christ’s salvation. We also, though, preach modesty and purity in all things. In speech, deeds, and yes, sex. While it is not talked about like it should be, all people should guard their dignity. And while I don’t believe being modest is about not tempting the other sex, I do believe it is having respect for oneself and God.

Now, for me, being a liberal Christian, I carry two mantels: Progressive, liberative theology, and modest Nebraskan values. I carry them side by side, even if they conflict with each other.

So, how do I carry these two theologies? Frankly, I believe in the queer rights, relationships, and open-ness of queer and trans folks. I believe everyone should love and be loved as they wish to be, and open about their identities. For me, (and it doesn’t have to be for you!), I believe my future (possibly queer) children still need to be modest in appearance, deed, speech, and refrain from having sex as a young teenager. I do recognize, however, that marriage just out of high school (so that they won’t have sex outside of marriage) is unrealistic, as many are just discovering who they are, what they seek in a partner (whether same-sex or not), and what they want out of life. I just hope, however, to ingrain in their hearts that they should wait to consummate any relationship at a later age, to reduce to risk of pregnancies and STD’s. I want them, most importantly, to be at a more mature age when they connect with their partner on that intimate level. Strangely, I remember the singer of Coldplay talking about how his mom told him to wait til his early 20’s to have sex, and how that actually blessed him when he was older. I want the same for my children.

I know most children, especially teenagers, don’t listen to their parents. I know at least one of my future children will have sex at 14, and possibly get an STD. Thankfully, their is forgiveness and lessons learned in all of that. I just pray that my children learn from my family’s mistakes, with having sex so early, promiscuity, getting STD’s, and teenage pregnancy. And yes, there is birth control, but there have been times when I’ve heard about a young girl’s boyfriends reject a condom mid-sex, they forget a condom, or they forget to take their pill. Birth control is a safe option, and is absolutely wonderful, but it is not fool-proof.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Love, Leigh

Post-tribulation/Pre-millennium-ism: A Testimonial Poem

God, if we were to endure,
What would that look like?

The day is far in the future,
I am sitting at home,
As the storms get worse, the earthquakes become more frequent,
Global Warming is getting even worse than before.

While I am no doomsday proclaimer,
I do see the signs,
Although they don’t mean much until Christ arrives.

THEN, when the day comes,
I see you coming in glory,
No one hushes, saying “He is here,” or “He is there.”
You come in all your glory, and all see you.

You defeat Satan, the destroyer of lives, the enticer of sins,
And you gather all your Saints in your arms,
Uplifting living believers into the Heavens,
Resurrecting the first Resurrection of all saints, as they make their journey
From the grave to You, having lived as Spirits in Heaven before,
Now living in glorified bodies, in beatified form just like You.

Now, we rule in Heaven with you, as you
Gather more Saints on Earth.
I am a firm believer that you gather as many believers as you can,
During the last 1,000 years.

Then, at the end of those thousand years,
You release Satan,
To test those new believers one more time.
And then you defeat him, once for all time.

Then we face the Judgement Seat,
Where we face all our sins,
Our terrible, and sometimes good, decisions.
You tell the good, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

To those who didn’t believe, who didn’t take the name of Christ upon them,
They endure torment, because non-believers were haters of all goodness,
All love, all appreciation, for the least of these.

This is why Jesus mentions judgement in Matthew 25,
Because believers, saved by grace, should truly love the least of these,
To show their love for Christ in their love for all.
And while we are saved by GRACE,
Jesus’ loving example of loving all should be what we should emulate.
Jesus exhorted us, really.

Then Heaven comes to Earth,
And we truly live as Saints forever.

Alleluia and Amen.

Proper 8: You are free, & don’t look back (a Poem)

Galatians 5:1, 13-25 & Luke 9:51-62

Dear Theodore, Franklin, and Emma,

Although its going to be many years before you are born,

Or at least adopted,

Please know that I already love you,

And can’t wait to be your mother.

Your father, Jacob, and I really want to be your parents.

When you are nine years old, you will be baptized.

Waters will rush over you,

And your sins will be forgiven.

You will be free from the bondage of sin,

Insomuch that you’ll have

God’s Spirit to teach right from wrong.

Your sins,

Past, Present, Future,

Will be forgiven,

But as Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke,

“Don’t look back – otherwise you can’t follow me.”

In this life,

You will face challenges beyond comprehension,

You will face challenges so great, you’ll want to

Forsake God because he is seemingly “not there.”

Children,

Please remember that God is always there,

Crying on your behalf,

Fixing a situation

Free will destroyed.

We are not the most powerful beings in the Universe,

But our free will can be just damaging enough

To change lives and futures.

But don’t fret.

Jesus asks to sacrifice everything to follow Him.

When I converted to Christianity,

I lost many friends.

People thought I was a Jesus-freak.

And in some way, I am.

When you follow Him,

I hope you don’t lose friends over Him.

I hope you sacrifice all your money,

All your love,

All you dreams,

To follow the Savior,

Because HE.IS.EVERYTHING.

Don’t be spiritually dead,

Be alive with the flame of the Holy Spirit,

Walking in His Ways,

Following His Counsel.

Seek His heart, always, dears.

Seek His love.

Seek Him.

Put off the old, sinful ways,

And seek Him.

Don’t look back,

And proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Do this by loving others as yourself.

Love, Leigh.

A Poem/Prayer: Old Mormon Faith

God,
It’s now been three years since I stopped investigating (seeking to convert) to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Three years,
In a time-span where I’ve thought more than once to return to the Church,
And get baptized once for all time.

I still read my Book of Mormon,
And follow the “Come, Follow Me” weekly readings,
But I still don’t want to commit to the church.

It means I’ll have to give up the lectionary in my church,
My praying to Jesus, God the Son,
It means I’ll have to give up coffee and energy drinks,
And praying the sign of the cross, wearing a cross necklace,
And carrying a Protestant rosary with me everywhere.

I’m still too attached to the Protestant, Trinitarian church,
To give up all that means to embark into the unknown,
Different, peculiar, other.

It means believing in something,
I’m not even sure is true or not.

I’ve tried so hard this past year to fit into the mainstream church,
By believing in the Trinity, I’ve become one with the whole Trinitarian Church.

I think I’ll stay here a little longer,
And possibly, maybe, I’ll convert after I retire as a Pastor,
Where I’ve lived this Trinitarian life long enough,
To explore something different.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.