“Christianity isn’t just my religion. Christianity is my life instruction manual and has yet to give me the wrong directions.” Dr. Denise Chranowski
Mother, wife, daughter, sister, American, Chiropractor, child of the most high God, friend, optimist, enthusiast, reader, learner, Christian.
The words above define who I am and the last word defines me best, Christian. Because I consider being a Christian as a foundational principle as to why I’m very happy, I’d be remiss not to share my faith with you. Now before you put this book down because either A) you are not a Christian B) you think I’m going to thunk my bible over your head or C) you are so disappointed with the world’s religions that you just can’t stand another word about it, please, please stay with me. I promise it’ll be worth it.
I had a really cool experience not too long ago. I was taking an Uber and plugged in the wrong destination which caused me to interact with the driver, which in itself is funny, as random strangers drive us around and we barely converse. But, I digress. We had to pull over so I could put in the correct destination and reroute our drive. So this initiated a conversation. I asked the driver where he was from. He told me he was from Africa. I asked him if he was a Christian as my church does a lot of mission work in Malawi. He told me he was a Muslim. He then went on to tell me, quite eloquently I might add, about Allah, his faith and here’s the kicker, his understanding of Jesus. I enjoyed the conversation. I thought it was ironic that he knew more about my religion than I did about his. I didn’t feel threatened by him. Neither of us tried to convert the other as that wasn’t going to happen in a cab ride, or ever probably. We were respectful and the ride ended with me saying “God bless you” and he repeated it back. I will admit before writing this chapter I did ‘wikipedia’ what the Muslim beliefs are so I could better understand our religious differences. There are some commonalties and there are some pretty big differences.
We live in a world now where political correctness is preventing us from respectfully expressing our opinions. I emphasize the word, respectfully. With social media where you can say whatever you want, whenever you want and with the junk news and ‘news’casters, we are tainted to think being disrespectful is normal. It is not and is it preventing intelligent discussions in particular when it comes to talking about our faith.
At the end of our earthly existence we will find out the truth, the one true, truth. And since none of us are getting out of here alive, one day we will know if we were close to the truth. So here’s my truth. I believe there is one God. You can call that entity a multitude of things, but God, a 3 letter, one syllable word works quite well for me. I believe all religions and spiritual practices have an element of truth and I believe some have more truth than others. I believe we won’t know the complete truth until we die, or when our physical self dies because I also believe that our soul is eternal. Although you may be raised to follow a religious tradition, I believe you will be called to the spiritual practice, or religion if that’s your calling, that allows your soul to be fully expressed at the right age and at the right time. I believe some don’t hear this calling and spend their whole life in constant wonder if ‘this is all there is.’ Finally, I believe any religious and spiritual practice, where love of self and your fellow humans, is the foundation, has got it right.
And so this is how it happened for me, or in other words, here’s how I was called. My mom who took me to church. She was Episcopalian. So my brothers and I went to those services throughout our youth. I knew what a bible was, but I honestly don’t think I ever opened it voluntarily to read it. Like many, I drifted immediately after high school and followed no spiritual practice at all. After getting married, and having young children, we began going to church again. My husband and I moved a lot early in our marriage, so we went to several different Episcopalian churches. We went because we thought it was the thing to do and chose the Episcopalian denomination simply because it was all I knew.
September 11th happened. My sons were 3 and 5 at the time. During the weeks after the terrorist attacks, I felt something open up on the inside of me and with that a slew of questions. What does this all mean? Is there really a purpose to this grow up-go to college-get a job-get married-get a mortgage-have kids-raise kids-go to lots of kids activities-send kids off to college-keep working to pay mortgage and other debt-watch kids get married-have grandkids-move into an over 55 housing development-then die life? Is there a person or thing up there who is controlling or directing all of this? There were so many questions with so few answers or so it seemed at the time.
I’ve always been an early riser. My brothers and I had no choice. No matter whether it was a summer or school day, our dad did a bugle call without a bugle each morning at 7am. In hindsight this was a great thing, as you can get some great things accomplished when you wake up early. So I usually just started on my to-do list when I awoke. But one morning, around the age of 34, I put the TV on and one of those crazy televangelists spoke to me. You know those shows that you stop and laugh at and say to yourself, ‘do people really watch this stuff?’ Well not only did I begin to watch, I felt as if those words were speaking to me. I will never again be that person who criticizes the TV preachers because it was my first step to become a Christian. My televangelist was Joyce Meyer and I watched the program faithfully for many years. She came on a 6 am and that was the perfect time for me. So rather than start my day with my to-DO list, I began with my to-BE list, as the bible teaches me how to BE and not just DO. In the beginning I would hide my Joyce Meyer TV watching from my husband if he woke up early with me, less he think I was one of the crazy Jesus freaks. Then, I bought my first bible, the Amplified bible, and I began to read it. I would highlight every scripture that Joyce Meyer would reference until my bible was full of color. I no longer hid it from my husband and he would even join me every once in a while.
Then we found our church, the first church that felt like home to me. A female coach who coached a YMCA basketball team with my husband introduced us to her church. It was a Presbyterian church. The pastor was married and had four children. I could totally relate to him. There was also a female pastor! Her messages were so thought provoking. Both of their sermons were so real, so true, that I just kept growing and growing as a Christian. So each morning a 6 am I would get a mini sermon and each Sunday, another helping. I continued to learn and study. I bought the book, The Case for Christ, written by Lee Strobel, which documents how Christ lived and died and provided ‘scientific’ proof, which at the time my educated brain really needed. I also read, and have reread, Mere Christianity, by C.S.Lewis. More cement was poured into my Christian foundation. And while I could say I had a born again experience, there wasn’t any lightning bolts or face to face meetings with Jesus. Learning the bible was by no stretch instantaneous. In fact I’ve been reading the bible for over 15 years and will continue to learn and study for my life.
I find great truth in the Christian faith, or as the bible says, power in His word. Truths like, God lives in me. There’s nothing I need to do to earn His love. Jesus came so that I didn’t have to work to get into Heaven but rather Heaven is on earth because I am a part of God, as a sun beam is part of the sun or a wave is part of the ocean. Nothing can separate me from God’s love, as the sun beam or the wave is never separate from their source. Kindness, gentleness, humility, faith, love, yes, yes, yes, these are all words and actions that I can live by. So I simply decided to stop there. I had no reason to explore other faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism because I had found my truth. I felt like I was learning Judaism because I studied so much of the Old Testament. Christianity stuck. It was like learning 2 + 2 = 4 and I was satisfied with the answer. I didn’t need to search any longer. I respect other religions and certainly will continue to learn from them when the opportunity, such as listening to different podcast speakers, presents. But I’ve decided to not stray too far. Christianity just works for me educated as well as spiritual brain.
I realize parts of the bible don’t always feel right. When someone strongly states, Jesus is the only way, that sounds so divisive. Since Jesus welcomed everyone to the table, I don’t feel comfortable saying that my way is the only way for you. But I know this. It is the right way for me. I figure God made me to feel and that gut response is extremely important to pay attention to. So yes, there are parts of the bible that don’t feel right, like Jesus is the only way, homosexuality is wrong, or you must be saved to go to heaven. One day when I die, God will have some ‘splaining’ to do. But until then, I base my life on the fundamental truths in the bible. There are many more truths that feel right than there are parts of the bible that feel wrong. I enjoy going to church. While people will say that “I can find God in my living room”, that to me is like saying dancing in my pajamas alone at home is the same as dancing at an amazing and packed night club. Sure, they are both dancing, but one is so much better. I don’t see church as an obligation. I see church as an event and a way to start my week. I learn how to be a better human being at church, something I think we can all use. I enjoy my pastor’s interpretation of scripture. I take notes. I enjoy reading the bible. I read it daily. I consider it life’s instruction manual and refer to it for answers. In debt, the bible has a solution. Want to raise good healthy productive members of society called children, the bible’s got the answer. Want to speak with wisdom, the bible tells you how. Want to learn when to be quiet, it’ll tell you that. Want to be a good spouse, again the answer is there. Want to learn how to deal with disappointment, despair, grief, forgiveness, yup it’s all in there. Want to attract abundance in your life? The bible has an answer for that too.
I believe Jesus was God’s son, not just a great prophet as many other religions profess. As C.S. Lewis often stated, Jesus was a lunatic, a liar or the Lord. He was either crazy for professing what he was and did, a lunatic, or he was a liar about professing who he was, or he was in fact, Lord, the son of God. You’ve got to pick one. He must be one. I chose Lord. The last line in C.S.Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity is one of my favorites. “Let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his (Jesus) being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
I believe that God became flesh and blood to experience what humanness was and to show us we are part of Him, not some separate uninvolved entity far, far away. That gives me such amazing courage especially during hard times. I believe that this life isn’t all there is. That gives me such amazing peace when the world seems like it’s crazy. Jesus’ example of kindness, humility, miracle working, love, non-judgement, peace are all traits that I aspire to. That refreshes my soul. So this is my truth. I know there is one universal truth and I know that one day when I pass over I’ll find out whether I was right or wrong. I’d rather spend a life time believing in God and his son, Jesus, and practicing biblical principles and find out I was wrong, then living a secular, non faith-based life and find out Jesus was right.
So if you don’t know your truth yet, I implore you to start seeking and of course. I hope you’ll find your answer in the bible. And if that seems too much for you right now, I would simply encourage you to ask questions and look for answers. You will find your truth. Shhhhhhhh, just listen.