- Religion and Philosophy»
- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
Why I Became a Christian in 2013, at the Age of Sixty-One
Jesus Loves Me
When I was a very young child, 7 or 8 years old, my grandmother sent me to Sunday School a couple of times. I loved Jesus for a short time, but forgot about him when I got older, and proceeded to become a rebellious hippie teenager in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, and that meant I was able to find a lot of trouble to get into.
One day I made a pact with a friend to cut school the next day to go to the Haight Ashbury District in San Francisco. I'd never been there on my own before, so this was a big deal for me. I was 15 and this took place on December 7, 1967. Yes, I still remember the date.
While I was there I got separated from my friend, and took a walk down Haight street to Golden Gate Park. There, I met a young man who totally led me astray intentionally. By the time he deserted me back on Haight Street hours later, it was dark and I was alone with crowds of people around me.
I finally wandered into a poster store and used the pay phone to call a friend. My friend's mother called my parents. My parents came to pick me up with the police, and my angry, nearly hysterical mother drove us back to the East Bay city of El Sobrante while my father tried to talk to me.
When I got home my friend and her mother were there and I sat in the living room talking to them. Her mother said, "When you grow up, you'll want to marry Mr. Clean."
I said, "No, when I grow up, I want to marry Jesus."
I was attracted to the hippie boys because they had long hair like Jesus did. Who wouldn't be?
The Haight Ashbury - where I hung out as a teenager (later I lived there - but that's another story.)
Haight-Ashbury District, San Francisco
Ever been there?
Looking For the Truth
When I was seventeen a friend told me about his middle eastern religion, and encouraged me to look into it. I told him that I didn't believe in organized religion.
"That's okay," he said, "this religion is really disorganized!" (As it turned out the religion was extremely organized and legalistic, but I didn't know that at the time.)
I did look into the religion and became a member and was an active member for most of thirty years. This was the kind of religion that would pick and choose a few Bible verses to validate itself. I fell for that, and for the time I was in the religion I became rather adept at scanning the Bible for just the information I needed to try to prove my religion was right, especially to Christians. Somehow that never worked out well. (Now I know why.)
Unfortunately I had never actually read the Bible, and after about twenty-five years in that religious group, I decided I needed to know what the Bible said. I wanted to read it all the way through.
Our religion claimed the Bible was at least partially true, but obsolete and corrupted, and they never encouraged believers to actually read it... so I was on my own in this project, and decided to read the New Testament first. I managed to read through most of that (some books twice) and then started reading the first books in the Old Testament.
I got all the way through the book of Joshua, and then a huge life change happened - I decided to move myself and two young children from the San Francisco Bay Area into the mountains of Northern California.
We settled in a small town 20 miles south of the Oregon border, and at about the same time, I dropped out of my religion. I was just burnt out on it because it didn't provide enough love and support. I'd been told to expect mass conversions by the year 2000 and they didn't happen, and I finally realized they never would. Some very traumatic things had happened to me concerning some of the other members, and I found many members to be very judgmental. Furthermore, the laws were voluminous (literally) and way too strict for me. I was distressed and feeling guilty and hopeless because I was trying to obey those laws but always failing. So... I quit.
I had two boyfriends while I lived in the forest. The first one was a Christian who didn't act like one. He made up his own rules, was not in fellowship with other Christians, and he had some severe medical problems: type 1 diabetes, and schizophrenia. I did get along with him well, however, and so this relationship lasted six years. I finally had to break up with him because he was spending most of every day with my neighbors smoking marijuana and spending a lot of his money there.
I then had another boyfriend, and that relationship started as the most treasured experience of my life and ended as the worst. I was initially attracted to him because we both shared a desire to find spiritual truth, and during our relationship we explored multiple paths to enlightenment, for example, meditation in the pyramid on Mt. Shasta, and listening to Eckhart Tolle videos and reading his books.
My boyfriend showed all the symptoms of being a narcissist, but at the time I didn't know what a narcissist was. As narcissists are prone to do, he talked me into this relationship by promising to be the answer to all my needs and desires. He was going to help me edit my books, take me hiking in the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area so I could do research there for one of my novels, and he promised to be my Bigfoot research partner. (I lived in a tiny mountain community and Bigfoot was and is an issue there.)
Well, all those things he promised: none of that happened. It didn't take long for the relationship to start falling apart but I let him stay, living in a van on the property I rented, because he had no income. I pretty much supported him through the seven years he lived there, paying all the rent and utilities. He got food stamps so at least I didn't have to pay for that.
At the same time, he was extremely controlling and was constantly attacking me verbally with numerous criticisms - and sometimes his diatribes lasted well over an hour. It was hard to take. He was a Catholic (sort of in name only though he said the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary every day) and he believed he was inhabited by a demon that he could never get rid of. I knew that before I allowed him to move onto the property (red flag!) but ignored the information because at the time I didn't believe demons really existed (that's what my former religion had taught me - that Satan wasn't anything more than human ego.)
In retrospect I can see that there really was a demon, that he was unsaved (or the demon would have been removed by Jesus), and that he was actually a minion of Satan whose influence on my life was to make life such a living hell for me that I'd have to find and return to God. That worked just fine, and I thank him for making my life so bad I eventually was ready to be saved.
While trying to recover from the shock of one of his numerous vicious verbal attacks, one day early in 2013, I started praying for help to get out of the relationship. I felt that I just couldn't take it anymore. I thought I heard someone in the spirit realm say, "Are you serious about this?" And I answered, "Yes, I need out of this relationship!"
On the day that we were packing a U-Haul truck to move out of the small town - we were going to Idaho - he got angry at me for making too much noise while he was trying to rest, and threatened to burn down the house with me in it if I ever mentioned my son again. He was very antagonistic toward my son. They'd had an argument and he was unable to forgive.
While I was still reeling from the shock of having him threaten to kill me, even telling me how he was going to do it, he then started bullying me into getting the pink slip for my car and signing it over to him. I did as he asked, and then told him he could have the car but he couldn't have me. After a huge scene he finally agreed to get his things out of the house and U-Haul truck, and leave. This was a self-preservation move on my part; I'd had enough of his mouth and emotional abuse, and didn't want to have anything more to do with someone who was thinking up creative ways to kill me!
Thus I had to clean up the house and property by myself. I nearly died of heat exhaustion while doing that. Seriously - it was bad and in the end I could barely walk. And when I finally did make the drive to Idaho with the U-Haul, I had the clear impression that it felt like the Exodus - the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt.
My prayer painting. I started this before I left my home in the forest and finished it here in Idaho.
Welcome to Idaho
I came to Idaho without a vehicle. Before leaving the small town in the Klamath National Forest, I had to give my van to my son because it had mechanical problems I couldn't handle, and I gave the car to my ex-boyfriend... so that left me with nothing.
When I got here I wasn't prepared for the heatwave and the amount of walking I had to do. I was in serious foot pain before long. It was awful.
Added to that was the surprise problem... that the apartment I'd rented was two and a half miles from the nearest bus stop. The bus route I thought was going to be there had been eliminated due to funding cuts. So I had to walk two and a half miles just to get to town or to the closest grocery store.
I was coming home from town on July 9, 2013, nine days after I arrived in Idaho, and half-way home I ran out of water, and was again getting heat exhaustion and was feeling very weak. About that time I looked up and saw a building with a sign on it that said "Coffee" and I realized it was a church with a coffeehouse in it. I decided I had to go in to see if they could fix me an iced coffee.
That was exactly what happened. I walked into a large room with lots of chairs and a bookstore off to one side. There was a counter and a nice young woman there fixed me a delicious iced mocha. I sat down and rested, and was so grateful for that coffee. I asked the woman if the church was formal or informal. "Oh, we're very informal," she said. "You can come as you are." I decided that the next Sunday, I would do so.
Despite her assurance that the people there would welcome informally dressed women, I got dressed up in an actual dress the next Sunday, and walked back to the church. I kept thinking, along the way, that my reasons for doing so were (1) to thank God for helping me get away from the scary man, and for helping me get settled in an outstandingly nice apartment, and to thank Him for all His blessings along the way; and (2) I wanted to be in a place where God was being worshiped. It didn't matter to me what kind of church or religion it was. I thought they were all pretty much the same, worshiping the same God. (I no longer believe that; now I think that religions without the Gospel of Salvation are missing the best part.)
Also, as I walked to church for the first time, I kept thinking that this might be the right day to give my life to Jesus. I felt so bereft and empty after the break up of my long-term relationship, I felt there was nothing left in the world for me. It felt to me a bit like a Middle Ages woman might feel about going into a convent after being in a bad relationship situation. I simply didn't want anything more from life but to serve God and to be sheltered by Him.
That's me, out walking. I tend to do that a lot.
I sat in the church and a nice man approached me to shake my hand. He introduced himself as "Bob." This man turned out to be the pastor of the church.
I was very interested in his sermon because he was teaching verse-by-verse from the Bible and that was something I very much appreciated. I wanted to learn about what the Bible actually said. There was also some nice music at the church (later I learned they called it a praise band) and to my surprise there was no altar call so I didn't have to go to the front of the church to give my life to Jesus... all that action took place inside my heart. It was July 14, 2013.
After that I started going to every service the church had... there were two weekday services, and sometimes I went to both of the Sunday services too although they were identical.
When I'd left my boyfriend, I had dead feelings toward him for several months. I honestly felt no sadness, only a relief at being away from the torment he put me through. But when one becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live in your heart and it works to heal you in all ways. Part of that healing was facing the anger, the bitterness, the pain and heartache.
It says in the Bible that Jesus came to heal broken hearts... and my heart was definitely not only broken but torn to shreds. It is hard to imagine the pain of being attacked verbally and emotionally for nearly seven years by someone I loved deeply. The attacks were always so incomprehensible and uncalled for, and I couldn't understand his fault-finding and rage. I had a lot to heal from.
A few months after becoming a Christian I started attending a women's Bible study that, at that time, focused on a book about forgiveness. I learned that Jesus wants us to forgive all the people who have hurt us, and I started my own personal "forgiveness project" to forgive and get over all the pain that man had caused me.
I'm happy to say it worked. Today ... only a year later ... I am living in peace, enjoying living alone in a quiet apartment, enjoying life, and am emotionally stable and happy. No more roller coaster ride relationships for me!
Jesus is the greatest healer the world has ever known, and I'm glad I gave my life to Him.
This is the forgiveness book I used to forgive all the hurts of the past. It contains a phenomenal prayer that touches on all the important parts of forgiveness. I recommend this book to anyone who needs to forgive.
This links to a paperback version of the book. There's also a Kindle version but you have to look it up separately on Amazon.
About Bible Versions...
What is your favorite version of the Bible?
This is the Bible I bought.
This Bible has a lot of footnotes to help me understand obscure passages. I read from this Bible every morning. I find it a bit heavy for carrying to church - for that I use my Kindle Paperwhite King James Version Bible.
This is a New King James Version - but my church's bookstore also sells the Life Application Bible in the NIV - New International Version, something fondly called the "North Idaho Version" here in Northern Idaho. I bought one of those for my daughter who lives nearby.
This Bible contains biography pages for all major characters in the Bible... a small concordance, lots of charts, maps and diagrams throughout, helpful notes on each book in the Bible, plus a map section at the back.
How to Study the Bible - this is a book review video I recently posted to my BookLady YouTube channel.
This is the book I reviewed in the video above
I found this book very easy to get through, as there are only eight simple chapters. I liked Skip Heitzig's writing style. I bought this in our church's bookstore. I attend a Calvary Chapel church, and Skip is a Calvary Chapel pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico... so that's why our church bookstore carried his book, no doubt. Yes, they have a section in the bookstore with only books written by Calvary Chapel pastors! Well, there are other books about how to study the Bible, and I may buy and read them too. I would like to get a variety of opinions as this is very important to me.
My Life as a Christian
I'm so happy I was saved! The Holy Spirit lives in my heart, healing me, helping me to be happy and joyful about living again.
I study the Bible every morning. It is a great way to start the day and everything seems to go better when I start with prayer and study of the Word of God.
I have lots of friends now - all Christians. I am so blessed.
Yes, it was a long road ... from being brought up in a family without any religious training ... then going through a series of religions and beliefs that looked for truth and God everywhere but in the Bible ... but I finally found salvation and the love of Jesus Christ, and my life has become so much better because of it.
I still don't have a car, but I'm over my anger about my ex taking my car, leaving me suffering and walking long distances for survival... I forgave, forgave, forgave until all the bitterness and unhappiness left me.
Now I think that living without a car is a good thing. I get lots of exercise walking and bike riding. I need that. I also get rides from friends sometimes, especially in the cold/icy/snowy Idaho wintertime. Everything is working out fine, and my needs are well taken care of.
Thank you, Jesus!
[Update: In 2017 I got another car. Definitely an answer to prayer.]
Thanks also to all the kind Christians who prayed for me over the course of my lifetime... especially my best friend, Judy, who lives in that small town I moved out of in 2013. She is a shining example of what a Christian should be... giving love and friendship to all kinds of people no matter how lost and deluded they are. She and her husband were praying for me to find a good church in Idaho, and although I originally had no intention of attending a Christian church, their prayers worked. Thank you! God is good.
This is a painting I did while I was recovering from the shock of losing my relationship.
© 2014 Linda Jo Martin