A Constant God

by Becca Christensen 

We will call my four years of college ‘the wilderness years’ of my faith.  I took an Israelite approach, forgot what the Lord had been doing in my life for the thirteen years of faith prior and spent four years serving myself.  I was the definition of lukewarm.  I was never fully in the world, but I wasn’t committed to or growing in my faith either. After losing a close childhood friend to suicide, I started to wake up.  My life felt empty and I realized that all the success I had achieved academically, socially, financially, and in my career journey wasn’t fulfilling.  The loss of my friend stole my feeling of being invincible and reminded me that life is fleeting.  I wasn’t sure how much time I had.  I had bought into the lie that I could always ‘return to my faith when I was ready’ but what if I didn’t have as much time as I thought?

As I neared the end of my senior year of college in the Midwest, I determined that what I needed to get my ‘fresh start’ was a clean break.  Over Christmas break I applied to jobs in Tampa, seventeen hours from where I was attending school at the time.  I spent spring break interviewing, and I eventually accepted a position, as well as setting up my future housing.  By the time May rolled around I was ready! I packed the last week of school and left 12 hours after finishing my last final exam, with strict instructions for them to mail my degree straight to Florida. Three days later, I was starting a job in a Christian non-profit.

For an entire year I turned down every leadership and serving opportunity, and honestly admitted I needed to fill my cup up. I was attending Grace (again), I plugged into a small group, and invested in Christian friendships.  I was honest about the journey that had brought me to this point and the wilderness I’d just been through.  I was met with acceptance, love, and a whole lot of truth.  I am grateful now that the Lord placed people in my life that weren’t afraid to push and challenge me.

It has been an incredible five years now of growing in knowledge and love of scripture and thriving in my  relationship with my Savior.  I have since made Tampa home and in recent weeks made Grace Family Church not just my church home but my employer!  Once I got that cup full I couldn’t wait to plug in leading a small group, sharing with others the joy I’ve found from forfeiting ‘my way’ for His.

God is so good. When I look back now on the driest season of my walk I still see His hand of protection and His quiet, constant pursuit of me in every moment.  What an amazing God we serve that even when we turn our backs on Him, He is constant.  His grace has been sufficient for all of my weaknesses and every mistake.  The ones that happened in that desert season and the ones I still make to this day.

I hope if you take anything away from my story it is this: we don’t have to ‘fix ourselves’ before we follow Christ.  He’s ready and willing to take us at our worst. He can handle it.  No sin is too great, no mistake too big, no desert season too long.  This is my prayer for you:

‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ – Ephesians 3:17-18

 

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her blog, Oh, the Places You’ll Go.


A Desirable God

by Debbie Altman 

My religious upbringing consisted of going to a Catholic church, mostly on Christmas and Easter. My parents would drop me off to take the appropriate catechism classes to qualify me to participate in the Catholic ceremonies of First Communion and Confirmation.  Although I have since seen and become aware of many true and vital Catholic Christians, my initial experiences in the Catholic Church caused more doubt than faith. The form of worship appeared shallow and ritualistic, and I deduced that if this was all that God was, or required, then He either did not exist, or if He did; that our experience with Him would be more relevant, meaningful and constant.  I was unaware that other churches or approaches to God even existed.  

As a result, my teen years found me vacillating between agnosticism -doubting God, and atheism. My high school years were characterized by analysis and intellectualism. I could not accept even the basic premise that a God existed that was all-knowing and all-pervasive.  I remember when a friend had invited me to church and the message was about “God taking control of your life.”  I thought to myself, “ I can control my own life! I don’t need anyone else to control it!“  

My home life was becoming rather shaky with parents who had been married for nearly 28 years, and were on the verge of divorce. My mother, who although is a loving and beautiful person, was succumbing to alcoholism.  On the outside, I was the perfect child; I did everything right, and I was in control. I never did drugs, drank or lost my virginity.  I graduated Salutatorian of my high school.  Although everything seemed perfect on the outside, within me, there was a growing dissatisfaction.  I realize now, that my perfectionism was a way for me to cope with the instability in my home.  But there was also a sense of my own “falling short.”  Despite how “together” I looked on the outside, I knew my own thoughts and imperfections.

Late in my junior year, I met a girl who seemed so “good!” She always made me feel uncomfortable, but not because she did anything to try to make me feel that way. But, somehow we ended up becoming best friends.  We loved each other and had great times together until the subject of God came up. She tried to tell me how wonderful Jesus is, and I tried to tell her how naïve and simplistic she was to believe in Him! And we would both end up in tears.  

My friend would continue to invite me to church, but I refused to go. Finally, a year and a half later, due to a funny circumstance, I succumbed and went to church. I would not have gone back, but I met her really cute and friendly male cousin, and decided I would go back to see him! What I heard and read in the Bible over the next few months was that Jesus was a real and intimate God that desired to know me, love me, forgive me, and to work in my life and to help me become all that I wanted to be.  And I wanted that! At first I hesitated in accepting Him because I knew there were some parts of my life that were not perfect, and I did not want to be a hypocrite! The pastor visited me one day and explained that I did not have to clean myself up, that Jesus loved me as I was, and that He would take care of everything else.  I was skeptical, but I trusted Him, and he was right!  

I have been a Christian now for 36 years and there are not enough pages to describe how wonderful God is and how He has transformed my life!  I now understand what my friend meant when she shared with me, Psalm 34:8,”Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  He can’t be described…you have to “taste” Him.  

One last thought; my intellectual concerns were not tossed aside. Much reconciliation exists between science and the Bible, if only you will take the time to investigate.  If anything, the beauty, diversity, complexity and sophistication of all that exists, can only shout the probability of a Divine Creator!   

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious  granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.