Deliberation

It’s been almost exactly two months since I wrote this post.  I haven’t done as much reading or praying or investigating as I probably should have while I’m deciding whether or not become a Christian again, but this issue has been in the back of my mind the entire time.  The more I think about what I really want to do, the more I think yes.  But something is still holding me back.

Part of me is like, go ahead and commit already!  It’s the part of me that likes having decisions made and in the past.  I hate having to make decisions.  I don’t like being in the limbo state of deciding; instead I want to just pick something and do it.  It’s easier to pick something and say, well, it’s too late to go back now, so I have to just go with this, no matter what.  Even if it may not have been the best decision.

But another part of me still hesitates for some reason.  First, as I’ve told myself before, I don’t want to rush into this decision.  I don’t want to read a few convincing things, dive in, and then realize that there are still too many things I can’t reconcile.  It drives me crazy when people are on-again, off-again in relationships because to me, if you have that much trouble staying together, you probably shouldn’t have been together in the first place.  I refuse to be like that with Christianity — I’ve already picked it up and put it down once, so if I pick it up again I’m not going back.  That’s not something I should rush into.

Another reason is that I don’t know if I’m familiar enough with the actual teachings of Jesus.  I used to read my Bible every day, but I have forgotten a ton of stuff.  Paul, our marriage counselor, wanted us both to read through John.  I read about halfway through, and there’s so much in there I didn’t remember.  But I haven’t finished the book, either.  Part of me thinks maybe I should at least try to read the entire New Testament before I truly commit.  That way I can say I’m informed, and I can really back up my decision.

Even though I haven’t been reading the Bible much, I did read Strobel’s The Case for Christ.  (It was recently made into a movie, by the way — Christopher and I watched it, and it was surprisingly good.  I was hesitant, because Christian-made movies are usually low-budget and terrible — sorry, but it’s true.  This one wasn’t, though.  It’s an interesting watch for anyone, regardless of beliefs, in my humble opinion.)  I had tried to read the book before, when I was younger, but it was too far above my comprehension level at the time.  However, I really enjoyed it this time around.  Honestly, the evidence that Strobel put together is incredible.  He asked every question that could possibly be asked about the story of Jesus, and almost every contradiction he posed was pretty firmly shot down by science.  And he didn’t just ask random people — he went to the best and brightest of academia.  (I’ll have a more expanded review of the book in my next “what I’ve been reading” post.)  As someone who loves facts, and had recently been questioning if God is even real, it was wonderful.  It made me want to go through the Bible for myself, although I don’t think I have the patience (or the need) for the kind of investigation Strobel did.

So my dilemma is do I wait, and take a few more weeks to go through the New Testament more thoroughly?  Or do I go ahead and pray and make the commitment, and let that shape my study of the Bible?  This is an urgent decision, and if Christianity and its fundamental beliefs are true (and at this point, I feel confident enough to say I believe they are), this is the most important decision I’ll ever make.  What if I don’t make it in time, and die in a car crash tomorrow?  What then?

Experiential is becoming my new favorite word.  I’ve recently heard several testimonies from other fact-loving people about how they ultimately came to Christ, and all the testimonies I’ve heard in the past have this element somehow: everyone who is truly a Jesus follower has “experienced” God in some way.  It’s not something that can be explained.  I don’t know if I’ve had that type of experience, and I’m afraid of not ever having it.  If I never have that experience, what is wrong?  Does that type of thing happen only after you truly commit?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, either.  Maybe that’s something some people get, but not others.  Sometimes I feel like accepting Jesus will open up more questions than it will answer.  But I feel like it might be worth it.

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Revisiting Christianity

Before

In the very early days of this blog, I was still in high school.  I started it the summer before my senior year, when I still identified myself as a Christian and still tried to read my Bible every day.  I had “professed” (if you can call it that) faith in Christ at 8 years old, but had only really begun exploring Christianity in 8th grade, when I met my friend Paula.  Paula, whose dad was a pastor, moved here from Florida and was (and still is) a strong Christian.  She encouraged me to be intentional about the faith I had chosen as an 8-year-old, and I began doing the typical Christian things — I read my Bible every day and tried to pray.  But while I enjoyed the intellectual aspect of studying religion (and the friendships that came with Bible study groups), I never truly enjoyed being a Christian.  I mostly felt guilty instead.  So when this blog began, I was still trying.  A lot of my very early posts reference God or the Bible studies I was doing at the time.  But by then, my senior year of high school, trying to be a good person and a good Christian was wearing on me.  I started getting tired of it.  By the time I finished my freshman year of college, I decided that being my own, independent person did not include calling myself a Christian.

College

I know I’m only a few months removed, but my college years were some of the best of my life.  I felt more free to be completely me (and that girl really isn’t too different than “Christian” Sarah — just less guilty).  I learned to speak Spanish.  I began blogging really regularly and found that it’s not just a hobby, it’s something I want to do for a long time.  And I met my two best friends, one of whom will become my husband (in only 32 days, in case you’re curious).  It was a really fun time, and I grew up a lot.  I also fell into a more relaxed stance with Christianity, not claiming the Christian title but not completely ruling it out in the future, either.

Now

Right now, getting married is my main focus.  All the details are falling into place.  (And god, will I be glad when planning is over.)  Christopher and I, after booking food, clothes, and flowers, finally found someone to do our wedding and premarital counseling.  Part of the reason it took us so long to find someone was because 1) we are living together and didn’t think either of our home pastors would be okay with that, and 2) neither of us knew what kind of ceremony we wanted, anyway, since both of us grew up Christian but can’t really call ourselves that sincerely.

My mom (bless her) finally convinced me to talk to an old friend about doing our counseling — Paula’s dad, the pastor from Florida.  I agreed because as much as I dislike admitting it, my mom is right a lot of the time, and I was also really feeling the stress about having an entire wedding put together but no one to actually do the thing.  So a couple weeks ago, during a whirlwind of bridal showers, we sat down and talked to Paul.  As I suspected, he started out asking us both about our faith, which was a little uncomfortable.  But once he figured out where we both stand, he explained that he would be happy to do our counseling, as long as we were both open to really and truly considering Christianity again.

That seemed fair to both of us.  So now we are meeting with Paul once a week via Facebook video, where we’re doing 30 minutes of traditional premarital counseling and 30 minutes of faith discussion.  He’s given us a book to read, and also asked that we read certain books of the Bible.  He knows we are both fact-based people, and like it when we can see evidence of something, so he’s tailoring our discussions that way rather than talk about how much Christianity makes people feel.  So far, it’s been enjoyable, and it’s sparked discussions between Christopher and I.

Right now, I’m taking a school-like approach to it, because that’s what I know how to do.  I’m taking notes on what I think, and trying to look at the Bible objectively, instead of giving the “church answer.”  In our sessions, we’ve already established the fact that choosing to be a Christian shouldn’t be taken lightly — an 8-year-old cannot possibly fully understand what it is to be a Christian and truly make that commitment.  It takes more thought and consideration than what we typically tell kids in the church today (and that’s a whole other issue we may or may not discuss here later).  So, instead of completely rejecting Christianity, I am beginning to take a hard look at what real Christianity truly requires, and then I’ll decide if that’s what I want for myself.

It’s a little uncomfortable, because I’m afraid of what might happen if one of us, after really considering Christianity, decides to take it on and the other doesn’t.  But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Discussion: LifeWay’s Decision to Pull Jen Hatmaker’s Products

On October 25, this interview with Jen Hatmaker was published on religionnews.com.  In it, she talks about her views on Trump (dislikes) and Clinton (open to supporting), the Black Lives Matter movement (supports), and LGBT rights (supports).  Two days later, LifeWay pulled her materials from its stores because of her opinions on LGBT rights.

First off, let me just clarify that obviously, LifeWay is a private company.  They have every right to pick and choose what they make available to customers.  We live in a free country, and if LifeWay doesn’t want to sell a product for whatever reason, they are perfectly within their rights not to sell it.  I understand that.

That said, I think their choice was a little bit silly.  I looked through Jen Hatmaker’s website for the books she has written, and while I must admit I’ve never read any of them, none of the descriptions seem to insinuate that they have anything to do with what Christians should believe about the LGBT community.  They’re what you would expect from a well-established Christian author — devotionals for women of all ages, a 7-month plan to combat excess in 7 areas of life, and a few in depth Bible study books.  If you hadn’t read the interview, you would never know her views on LGBT people.

Second, Jen Hatmaker is not the only Christian who supports LGBT rights.  Those two things are not mutually exclusive.  By pulling her materials, LifeWay robs its customers of the freedom to choose their own Christian role models.  It’s almost as if they do not trust their customers to pick the “right” materials, even though the majority of their customers are church leaders who have had extensive training in ministry and theology.

Finally, a good friend brought up this question: if Hatmaker weren’t so high profile, would LifeWay would have cared about the interview?  Do they extensively research every single author, artist, and publisher whose products they carry, and reject them if they don’t exactly match what LifeWay believes?  If not, how do they know they aren’t carrying products by authors who are even more liberal than Jen Hatmaker?

By October 31, Hatmaker published the below post on her Facebook page in response to LifeWay’s actions.  In my eyes, she handled the ordeal with grace.

Hi, everyone.

A couple of quick thoughts on all these tender things:

1. First, regardless of what you see from strangers on the internet, our real friends and ministry partners and colleagues and fellow pastors have been across the board, carte blanche, by the dozens and dozens and dozens…kind and good to Brandon and I this week. Every one of them. We can’t even keep up with it. So know that regardless of headlines, we have very much experienced a faithful witness to Jesus through our friends in our real life this week. They give the church a beautiful name worthy of its source.

2. I’m not here to defend or explain right now. I have very open hands here. I have nothing to protect, nothing worth losing that I am not afraid to lose. I have zero agenda for myself. I don’t feel self-protective or defensive or scared or angry. I am neither trying to gain applause or start a war. Some people are throwing parades and some are burning books, but I am not motivated by either; I’m neither overly encouraged or overly discouraged. If you believe the hype, you have to also believe the hate, and neither is fully true. Some are certain I am after “the approval of people,” but here is the truth: I don’t love the approval of people, but I do love people. I love them because Jesus’ love for us is so insane and big and outside our templates and it reaches and reaches and reaches past our comforts to draw people to Him, and He does this with or without our permissions and sanctions and rules and hierarchies, and He has done it for all of time and will continue to do it for all of time. We are standing outside the city gates with people He asked us to stand with, and that is the beginning and end of it.

3. The time will come to discuss and talk about this together, but know this: we deeply, sincerely, with our minds and hearts both engaged, including perspectives all along the spectrum, in deep discussions with people we trust and respect, with prayer and careful study and deliberation moved into this space. We wrestled with and through Scripture, not around it. Our view of the Word is still very high, as is it for the hundreds of thousands of faithful believers who believe likewise.

4. Regardless of your position, please remember this as you respond, discuss, and take this conversation to both your Facebook walls and your dining room tables this week: all around you, the LGBTQ community is watching. They are listening. They are watching how we respond, how we talk about them, how we actually feel about them in our churches. They are your neighbors, your colleagues, they are in your churches already, some of them are in your homes, some of them are your children and you don’t know it. Most of them are quiet because they are scared. With good and obvious reason. But they are beautiful people loved by Jesus and no matter what, we should speak in a way befitting the way of grace, the same way that found and saved and redeemed and healed us too. Please don’t mistakenly take me to the mat in public or private and imagine it doesn’t carry weight with tender, beloved people who are bearing witness to all this.

I love you sincerely. I am always grateful to be your sister. All of you. And I hold those of you who are angry or shocked or confused with me this week very tenderly, too. I love you and I am here in the tension, committed to our little community and to all these sisters of mine. I am still here, hands open. Please remember with kindness and mercy the eyes on my page this week, so impossibly dear to God.

In Response to the Very Worst Missionary

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about why I don’t pray anymore.  And then, you know, because life and people are funny that way, I was told to read this post by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary (which you should at least go skim before you read on).  In her post, Jamie brings up some fantastic points that I’ve never heard anyone, let alone anyone in the church, voice before while still maintaining a positive attitude toward prayer.  It was extremely refreshing, to be honest, and it got me thinking.  Some of the points she made correlated strongly to my past experience with Christianity.

Initially, I was turned off by seeing so many flippant promises of prayer from people I knew wouldn’t actually follow though.

When I read this line, I just wanted to jump through my computer screen and find Jamie and look her in the eyes and say, “Yes.” Because this has been a source of discomfort for me ever since I got serious about Christianity in the 8th grade.  Although in my experience, it hasn’t been promises from other people so much as it has been my own promises that were flippant.  I have had and still have many, many friends who I know would actually, sincerely pray for any request on a regular basis if I asked.  No, it has been me who has said, “I’ll be praying for you,” and then barely followed through.  For a long time, praying for others was something I wanted to do, but it hardly ever felt sincere.  Sometimes I didn’t know enough about the situation to pray effectively, and other times I grew tired of repeating the same prayers over and over without seeing any actual change.  But telling others I was praying for them still felt like something I should do.  If I didn’t pray for others, was I really a good Christian?  So I would tell people I would pray for them in hopes that the verbal commitment would force me (read: guilt me) into actually praying for them.  It, like the rest of my Christian experience, turned into a huge cycle of guilt.

I was told to bring all my cares to God, no matter how trivial or small, because He wants to hear all of it. Right? But it felt weird to pray to God for a sunny vacation and, also? War and famine and orphans.

Again, yes.  This was another huge struggle for me.  I had so many friends whose parents were divorcing, who had terminally ill family members, who had friends with mental disorders.  I knew that there was poverty all around me and people who didn’t have heat in the winter and people who had to beg for food and shelter.  It felt so much like I should be thankful for my own trivial problems that I felt like such an asshole praying for them.  My prayers, many of which are saved forever in my journals, focused so much on myself and on my own struggles and that felt wrong.  And then, if I mentioned it to anyone, I was “given perspective” and reminded of all the other, much bigger problems in the world.

I am not trying to sound like a bitch here.  It was simply that this was another thing that made me feel guilty — I felt like I couldn’t pray for my own problems because they didn’t matter that much.  I felt like I should be happy with my life at all times because it was (and is) so much better than the lives of others.  And if I wasn’t happy, I was doing something wrong.  Again, a cycle of guilt.  Since I didn’t know how to pray for others, and I didn’t feel like I should pray for myself, I just quit.

We pray because the God who knows us and sees us also connects us.

My philosophy is that life is about people and relationships.  I’m not a people person — given the choice between a good book and a crowd of people I’ll take the book any day.  I’ve never been one to initiate friendships — all the close friendships I’ve ever had have been initiated by the other person.  However, I dearly, dearly love those I’m close to.  I really do get a lot from the times I do reach out to people, and I love to sit and discuss anything and everything with my friends.  Humans thrive on love, and to me, prayer is a tool to bring us closer.  I understand that the point is to bring us closer to God, but the few times that I have actively prayed with people, I have ended up feeling much closer to them than to Him.  For some people, growing closer to God brings them closer to other people. For me, I think it’s the opposite way around.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know whether I’ll ever make my way back into the church, or what that will look like if I do.  However, reading posts like Jamie’s and knowing that there are people in the church who aren’t completely satisfied with the “Christian” expectations makes me feel validated, and also like there’s hope.  It makes me feel like me own viewpoint isn’t so very alien, and maybe there’s a place for me where I don’t have to hide how I truly feel.  It makes me feel like I’ll actually find that place someday, rather than forever turning my back on the religion I grew up in like I thought I was going to have to do.

I remembered this song by Brandon Heath before I remembered that the Writing 101 prompt for today was “your three favorite songs.”  I’m not a huge fan of contemporary Christian music anymore (that’s a post for another day), but this song fits perfectly with my thoughts today.  I encourage you to listen through the chorus at least!

Disclaimer:  I did not respond to every single point in Jamie’s post, just the ones that spoke to me specifically.  I recommend reading her whole post even if you aren’t religious!

Forpy: No Worries

Pits

  • The out-of-town wifi issue occurred again, which means my second Forpy post is late.
  • Due to life, I was unable to go to church this Easter morning.  I really, really hated missing.
  • Just like on this day, I’ve really been rethinking my college decisions.  Rawr!!

Peaks

  • I found a prom dress!  It’s a salmon pink halter top gown, in case you were wondering.  AND I got it at a consignment sale, so it was super reasonable.  Yay for thrifting!
  • I got to do a Harry Potter-themed photo shoot with a friend.  Walking around downtown in search of wizard-esque brick walls while wearing skirts and ties is always fun.  So is sneaking around the library because photo shoots aren’t exactly condoned in there.
  • The braces are now un-sore.  Yay for taking bites of sandwiches.
  • I got to go shopping while out of town and found three new summer dresses at a consignment shop.  Yay again for thrifting!
  • Speaking of out of town, the weather down here is GAWGEOUS.  All the redbuds and azaleas are blooming.  I love spring.
  • I now have a flute student.

Prayers

  • Just about my whole extended family is having health issues, which is never fun.
  • I’m so anxious about my college choice!  Was it the right one?
  • My Chick-Fil-A interview is tomorrow.  I so hope this is the one!

Praises

  • My family is one of servants.  Dude, these are good and selfless people.
  • God is teaching me to be a servant, as well.  And to have a good attitude.
  • Literally six or seven times this week, verses and messages about not worrying have been popping up all over the place — in my Bible reading, on the radio, even framed in my cousin’s house.  God is speaking to me, and I know He has it all under control.

This week I’ve felt so connected to God despite all the mundane ups and downs.  He loves me, ya’ll!  Slowly I’m learning that life is just about doing it with Him.  And that makes me happy.

Diggin’ In

When I don’t have myself in order, I tend to get nothing done.  Including posting regularly like I should.  But I will not apologize because that’s how life rolls sometimes.  :)

The past month has been a trough for me in the spiritual roller coaster area.  I hate those troughs, and I’m trying desperately to pray through them, but Satan seems to have some kind of hold on me.  Whenever I am dragged down by business, I am dragged even farther by guilt.   I feel inadequate because I think I should be doing better; I think I should want God all the time.  In reality, I know in my head I need God, but my emotions get in my way so often and I don’t feel like I love Him.  Then when I finally come back, He showers me with such love that I can’t believe I ever left.

I’ve always wanted to do something about these troughs, and I think I’ve finally figured out what.  I have a short quiet time in the mornings and/or at night, but those are definitely short.  I read my devotion book or magazine and shoot up a quick prayer, then go about my day.

That is not enough.  To really have God on my mind all the time, which is what I want, I need to dig in to His word and really study it.  I’ve tried to study the Bible before, but I picked Jeremiah, which is a bad book to begin with, in my opinion.  It was too long and complicated for me.  This time I’m starting over  with Daniel, a much easier book, and I’m really revamping my system, which I’m going to show you.

I love to write (hence the blog and numerous journals I have stashed in the attic), and writing is how I learn.  So I made myself a big old Bible study binder, just like I do with my schoolwork.

It was fun to decorate it!
It was fun to decorate it!

Why It’s Good to Have a Bible Study Binder

You’ll be more likely to look back through it.  I used to write questions and verses from my Bible reading in my journal, but that is private and I rarely read old entries.

It’s more organized.  Having my notes in binder format allows me to reorder pages as well as go back and add more notes if I need to, like if I study the same book in the future.

It’s easier to share with others.  As I said, my journal is private, and I would’ve had to read from it if I wanted to share my notes with anyone.  Making sharing easier also keeps me more accountable; I’ve found that the more people I tell about something I’m doing, the more likely I am to keep it up.

Being the organized person that I am, I like to have a plan for everything.  I get a teen devotional magazine called ec from my church, and occasionally I’ll tear out a good article.  Last May they had a generic plan for studying the Bible, and I adapted that plan to fit my needs.  I decided to have a section in my binder for every book I study:

This just serves as an introductory/reference point.
This just serves as an introductory/reference point.

 

1.  Date – I like to date everything, so at the top I’ll write the start and end date   of this particular study.  This will also be helpful if I study the same book later; I can compare perspectives easily and won’t get my notes mixed up.

2.  Title – It’s always good to know what book you’re studying!

3.  Verse – I hadn’t really read Daniel before, so I just skimmed it and found one I liked.  If I’m studying a book I’ve already read, I might put a verse I’ve previously found, or I might wait until my study is over, leaving a space to write a verse that really spoke to me.

4.  Study Plan – I like to have the plan right on the front page so I can refer to it if I need to.  The study plan may change based on what book I’m studying.

5.  Prayer for Beginning (not shown) – This will be slightly different for every book, but  the main thing is to ask God to give me an open mind and for me to hear what He wants me to learn.

As I add book notes into my binder, I’ll probably enter them in order of how they appear in the Bible since I already have that order memorized, but you could also do it in the order that you study them.  I may eventually even add tabs for quick reference.

I’m very excited to begin studying Daniel.  I’ve already begun reading through it, and there is so much in it!  The Bible is the main way that God speaks to me, and I am looking forward to actively listening to Him.  :)

Praying in Condensation

Prayer is an interesting thing.  It takes so many shapes and forms.  I have proof.

Today I began reading my new devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.  She writes it as if Jesus is the one talking to the reader, not her, which makes sense when you learn that the book was born out of her listening to God.  Sometime in her Christian walk, she realized that she was the one doing all the talking.  So one day she just sat and listened, and she received a message from God.  The book encompasses some of the messages that she has gotten.  I was excited to start it.

However, I couldn’t really get into it today.  My prayer seemed stale, and even though I read today’s piece over and over it wasn’t really sticking into my mind.

Part of my family went out walking even though it is gray and rainy, leaving me and my mom at home.  Somehow we got to talking about my mom’s family.  No big deal, right?  Well, without going into detail, she has described her family as dysfunctional, and from what I know, it is.  Talking about it can be somewhat emotional for my mom.

Just thinking about the lives some of her family members have led reduced her to tears.  She went outside, and I got into the shower assuming the conversation was finished.

At the risk of sounding a little weird and new-age (or maybe just weird), praying in the shower can be really cool.  There’s just something about being completely exposed while talking to the one who made you.  You can hide nothing.

I tried to pray for my mom while I was in there, but just like this morning, the words were sort of stuck.  So I used a modification of a technique I’ve never really used before.  The technique is called Praying in Color — my church introduced me to it last year when we studied prayer during Lent.  You write someone’s name on a piece of paper and then pray for them as you draw or color a design  around it.  It helps you focus while allowing you more freedom than words sometimes give you.

But you clearly can’t use paper in the shower.  (Ew — soggy paper bits.)  So I wrote my mom’s name in the condensation on the walls, drew a circle around it, and began writing.  I wrote “peace•joy•love” all around my mom’s circle while visualizing the presence of God around her.  Then I drew arrows pointing to the circle labeled “memories” and “sadness” or “pain” (I can’t remember exactly which, but it was along those lines).  Finally I wrote a big “IMPENETRABLE” above the circle.  The arrows stayed out and did not break into the circle.

Then I did another one for both of us.  I wrote “Me and Mom” and drew a square around it, then labeled the four corners “patience,” “understanding,” “communication,” and “tolerance.”

I knew I had to erase them or they would show up when the next person showered, but I didn’t want to just wipe them out.  So, feeling a little silly (I am a Baptist after all), I placed one hand on each of the drawing and said to God, “Though I erase these from the walls, I know they will not erase from your mind.”  Then I wiped off all the condensation.

Climbing Out Again

Do you ever get stuck in a rut?  I know I do, especially in my walk with God.  I love to study the Bible and pray, but it takes time and concentration — two things I hoard dearly.  A lot of times I find myself having really great devotions for a week or a few days.  I’ll spend chunks of time reading the Bible and taking notes and praying, and I always feel so refreshed and motivated.  Then I get busy or tired and will hardly pray or look at Scripture for a few days.  When I come back I feel like a wreck.

I am something of a perfectionist, and when I mess up in my own eyes, I have trouble forgiving myself.  When I quit devotions, even for a few days, I feel like I have let God down.  I feel like I have to spend time getting over the hump before I can talk to God about myself or ask for His will or pray for others.

This past week was a down week, and last night I couldn’t stand it anymore.  This year I have been getting steadily closer to him, and I really needed to talk to Him.  I talked to Him for about 30 minutes, just expressing my frustration with myself and knowing that I need to just move on, but not without addressing the problem.  I spent a little time praying for someone from church (who I may write about later), but mainly I tried to address this issue which recurs so often.  Then, thinking maybe my problem was forgiving myself, I decided to look up some verses on forgiveness.

One of the first ones I found was 1 John 1:9 —

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This verse really spoke to me.  I know I need to confess my sins, and I had talked to God about slacking off on my devotions.  But I realized that perhaps I hadn’t formally confessed them.  I also know God forgives me my sins if I ask, but I had forgotten that he also “purify[s] us from all unrighteousness.”  God reminded me that He will purify me.  Not me purifying myself.  He will purify me.  And so I confessed my sin, asked His forgiveness, and claimed that promise.  Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  I believe that God has forgiven me, that He loves me, and that He will purify me and strengthen my walk with Him.  I know He will help me live for Him every minute and hour of the day.  And that’s a really good feeling.  :)