I was born in a home that was on one corner and there were churches on the other three corners.

Our family attended The First Baptist Church. It seemed to me like we spent almost as much time in that church as we did at home. As a child, that was kind of fun because I got to play games with other kids.

Then, when I began to understand what the preacher was talking about, all I remember was hearing a lot about “hellfire and damnation” (even though I didn’t think I had committed that many sins.) Every time an evangelist came to town, I became even more convinced that I was headed for Hell (but didn’t really understand why).

The message here is that my experience of church and God was mostly about fear of not being perfect enough. I attended church every Sunday, hoping that would count for heavenly points.

When I went to college, I decided to visit some other denominations and even took a Philosophy of Religion class. I wanted to believe what I believed because I truly believed it – not because I had borrowed someone else’s beliefs.

This exploration was very valuable to me and I decided that my basic, core beliefs were solid. But I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to be a Baptist.

When I got married, we attended a non-denominational church, and its message was very similar, but not quite so dogmatic.

Then I got divorced, and the first sermon I heard in a Baptist church convinced me that I was definitely now going to Hell.

I didn’t darken the doors of any church for the next 10 years. I knew I hadn’t abandoned God and that He had not abandoned me, but I just couldn’t handle the judgmentalism (I made that word up.)

Attempting to manage my own life created quite a mess. I moved to California and decided to try church again. This time, I “accidentally” stumbled into the church with Chuck Swindoll as the senior pastor. They had a specialized ministry for divorced singles. I learned about a loving, forgiving God that wanted the very best for me.

I learned about the Bible from this “new” perspective. I healed and flourished in this environment. I want to make it very clear that I am a “born again” Christian who loves God with my whole heart, and I trust Him completely.

Without Him, I am nothing.  I have had too many personal experiences of His loving grace to not believe in Him. My wish for all of you is that you could encounter His unconditional love in some of the unique ways that I have.

I also believe in Heaven and Hell, but I think God would jump for joy if all of us were to live with Him in Heaven for eternity. As our Father, he gets very disappointed and frustrated with us when we fail to follow His guidelines. The Bible I read says that God doesn’t want anyone to perish.

However, to me, He is the God of second, third and endless chances and doesn’t give up on us until we die.

The picture I chose is because God carries me every minute of every day. In 1996, I had foot surgery on both feet and they have never healed. That’s when all dancing (and long walks) for me stopped.

God gives me strength to endure the constant pain and to praise Him for the blessings He continues to shower on me.

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