Former atheist astrophysicist, Sarah Salviander, explains her journey to Christianity.

James Bishop's Theological Rationalism

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Testimony of former atheist Sarah Salviander. She is a research scientist in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Texas.

“I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Canada. My parents were socialists and political activists who thought British Columbia would be a better place for us to live, since it had the only socialist government in North America at the time. My parents were also atheists, though they eschewed that label in favor of “agnostic.” They were kind, loving, and moral, but religion played no part in my life. Instead, my childhood revolved around education, particularly science. I remember how important it was to my parents that my brother and I did well in school.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when science fiction was enjoying a renaissance, thanks largely to the popularity of Star Wars. I remember how fascinated I was by…

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Why I Believe What I Believe

I don’t know if I’ve ever really explained why I believe what I do or if you’ve ever even wondered. I was raised in the church but a lot of people were and then they have to make their own decision about whether they actually believe in God or not. I decided I did. It’s not because I went to church and grew up Christian. It’s not because I was born and raised in the Bible Belt or that I said “God is great, God is good” at every meal.
It’s because I saw Him and I chose Him.

Like every other person I wondered if God was there and He actually heard me or if I was just talking to myself out of habit. I was about 7 years old and I said the prayer and was baptized in front of my family. Somehow, little me heard God say it was what I was supposed to do and I did it… And I believed it. It wasn’t until maybe high school that I started seeing everything differently because I was faced with so much diversity. People who professed Christianity but turned to hate others and judge people as if they themselves gave themselves the godly power to judge. I started to wonder how my faith impacted me and how I see others.

I realized that before I read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I did not know how to walk around in someone else’s skin… So I did. I saw everyone and tried to love them the way God does, not for what they have done or the mistakes that they have made, but that they acknowledge those mistakes, learn from them, and try to be better.

Hateful Christian wannabes swarm social media with violent condemnation and hateful outbursts that lead to nothing but caterwauls that you have to scroll down for miles to read. Picture a regular churchgoer who sits up front every Sunday. They have been for years. Are they a white male in his late-sixties, early-seventies who is simultaneously racist, rude, callous, and verbal hater of homosexuals and Syrian immigrants?
They could be me… A nineteen year old girl who has the capacity to be nice to everyone regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, or religion… Who has gay friends she loves dearly and who wishes Syrian immigrants were welcomed to the US.
In the past year I have grown exponentially in my faith. Having to rely on my God to carry me through the major life changes that were ahead, because relying on myself would be destructive, I noticed my dependence on Him. I believe we are absolutely not meant to do everything alone because how on earth could we? I believe we could not survive if it weren’t for some kind of intervention, some kind of divinity to say, “Oh I see you have a lot on your plate, let me take a bit of that for you.” Sure, I could rely on other people but that just puts my trust in some one that’s trying to figure out their own life, who doesn’t know your problems and cannot really fix them.
As a person who constantly worries, it is imperative for me to have the love of God and to have Him on my side. Without Him, I would not exist. I would be so very broken and in need of healing, but no healing would come.

Sometimes I wonder, “What if I were an atheist? What if to me there was no God?” Honestly I have tried to imagine my life as if I did not know my God and I could not picture it for the life of me. I could not picture a day when I did not pray at least once, be it to find my glasses or keys or safety on a long drive in heavy traffic. I could imagine it would give me a headache and make me even more frustrated to think there was no one who knew what I was thinking when I had a bad day or found my glasses or keys for me moments after a prayer.
If there were no “good and perfect gifts from God,” I would be without an education, without a job, and without a significant other. I would not have a talent for touching others and compassion would not be my strong suit. Instead, I have all these things and so much more than I could imagine! I have a whole life of blessings ahead of me. I can do with these blessings what I will and make myself better, but only with the initial strength that I received from God, does He allow me to better myself. He has given me the capacity to know what is good for me and what will make me stronger and I have become stronger in knowing this.
I do not discourage scientific developments and breakthroughs. I know that we are here and we are given these resources and these great minds to constantly figure out the world around us. We are constantly creating from the resources placed here by God. He gave us the desire to learn and we crave knowledge. He made us ask why things are the way they are and He didn’t give us answers because to depend on Him was to have all the answers.
Bonus: when you enter Heaven, you learn everything. You automatically have infinite knowledge of the world and its workings.
We were meant to have a voice and say how we feel and we were meant to welcome voicers of another viewpoint with open arms. People were made to love and grow with other people. There is a reason we are the only animal with the ability to have a religion and/or belief system. We were given a sense of right and wrong and encouraged to ask for wisdom to know the difference.
Most importantly, I believe because I believe. I see, feel, and hear God every day because one day I decided to test-drive faith and I signed on the line for eternity. Once you accept Christ, even if you stray from Him, deny Him, and reject Him, He is “a seal on your heart.” Even if you are so far from God that you no longer see Him, He never left you. He was always inside telling you the choices you made weren’t the right ones and asking you to come back to Him.
Don’t ever, ever give up.

Dear Newly in Love,

Aaaaah! Yes! You’re not perpetually single anymore! Who are you kidding? You never were doomed to walk alone. I believe love is the most powerful thing there is but, here’s the thing you didn’t want to hear, you have to wait for it. (“I did my waiting!-“)tumblr_n8dl6o8lsj1qcmptjo3_500

I hear you but you have to understand love is ancient. The world was breathed in love and, from the dawn of time, so it has been… and so it does not fit in with our I want it now!”  society. I’m about to drop a Bible quote on you guys but hear me out, no matter what you believe this is a big thing you should always strive for.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

“Gave himself up for her.” If you’re not ready to give your time, energy, strength, and patience to the one you love- get ready to. Prepare yourself to be as self-less (and simultaneously confident in yourself) as you have ever been in your life. Be ready to work for your relationship and stay up a little later for a phone call when bad days happen. Put forth your best effort to ensure the safety and comfort of the other person… it will give you peace of mind as well.

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As time goes on, your stories are intertwined like tree roots and you become stronger, the deeper in the soil you dive. You see your S.O. in all kinds of situations; from angry, to sad, to scared, you know it all… and every single day you choose them. There will be bad days. Wait and see what those are like. Have an argument and end it with nose-kisses. Those are the days you are waiting for. Guess what? You’re choosing to love them every day, not just the sunny ones.

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If they’re “The One,” you have your whole lives ahead of you. Slow down, take a deep breath and when the time comes it will… give it a couple years and appreciate your time with them now. Looking toward the future is lovely but never underestimate the everyday. Take it from an expert in waiting, it’s always worth it.

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One ridiculously cool tidbit is that now you have somebody who gets to share life with you… Someone you get to drag everywhere and say, “Look at this thing its mine isn’t it cute?” as if you don’t brag about them when they’re not around. You get to relive your childhood and try new things and even when you’re tiny old people you’ll still be, like, five.

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You don’t have to have it all together, you just have to stick together.

 

 

Dear high school class of 2019 (and everyone who’s growing)

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(Edit: some of my spacing is very off and I apologize but I’m new at this and my phone is my computer at the moment.)

Dear high school class of 2019 and anybody else who knows the pressure of growing up (so, really, everybody),

It’s hard to be sure of where you are in life. Everybody’s trying to make you figure it out when, truly, you aren’t the one to decide.      God says, “do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Secondly, it is incredibly easy to just assume that you can plan everything and predict the future according to your own plans. It doesn’t work that way. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could really truly do what we wanted – what we thought was best for us all the time? Yeah, but guess who’s plan is better? We put trust in ourselves but give no credit to the One who knows our whole lives cover-to-cover. The One who created our minds with the dreams of future aspirations is trying to tell us to hand our lives over to Him.

Personally, as I’m thinking about this, I’m starting to think He gives us gifts and expects us to use them for the fulfillment of His kingdom- but also as a kind of test, if you will. Is our faith string enough to let go of the dreams that we have planned for ourselves and go with God’s flow?
I’m an artist so I’ve had the privilege of knowing my line of work before some of my peers. Trying to find my place, I worked hard to be the best that I could and continue making pieces that I felt were up to a higher and higher standard than before. Each time there was a chance to set the bar higher, and my teacher let me know where I fell short. I take and apply critiques, appreciating the opinions of my classmates. My teacher knew we were on a level where we’d take each other seriously; like adults, if you will, and he’d tell me what he thought I should do.

I knew I wanted to be an inspiration. That was crazy. I mean; how, with my passion for art as my guide and not very much knowledge of art history or anything, was I expected to come up with lesson plans and worksheets, deadlines and tests? All the things I feared and dreaded in high school and now I was the one to be administering them. I want to be a teacher. By the end of junior year and the start of senior year, I realized that being a teacher was going to allow me to practice my passion as well as inspire others to practice theirs. If there ever was a perfect job description for me, that was it.
You’ve heard the phrase, “let go and let God?” It is more true than you remember. Being someone who likes to have her days in order, I worried about my future. I’ve always heard of starving artists who couldn’t provide for their homes and the condescending repetition of, “you need to have a real job.” It was easy to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to have a “real” income or any stability… I just knew I loved art and that was it. So, I worked hard.

In my hard work it was revealed to me- the reason I had consistently been producing diverse work was because I was inspired by my instructor to never stop making art. That’s another thing every artist should live by and is sometimes surprisingly hard to accomplish. You should never let “I’m too tired” or “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t know what to make” get the better of you because it certainly will. Never stop making work.

Here I am starting college in eight days and I think about myself four years ago. I’m reminded of making friends and long nights when I cried because somebody let me down. Thinking of the good times I had and how high school is history for my friends and I, it’s hard to imagine being an unknown again.
I still believe in my Lord and Savior. I breathe Jeremiah 29:11-13(“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”) when I am unsure of life’s actions.      In my testimony, I show how I thought I knew everything but God showed me He knew better- even though I should have known better than keeping Him as my last resort. God saved me from the hurtful place I had wound up in- He brought me to the love of my life, giving me my very own partner to do life with.
Crazy, scary, exciting, wonderful, beautiful, and so full of surprises is this life. We are just living day in and day out, thinking we know what the next day will bring. I’ve been there so I know you never want to let it get to the point where you think you can handle everything on your own. Humans were never meant to be alone in life. Our egos become inflated to the point where we can tell the God of the Universe that we know better than He does and it is so easy for us to do. Honestly, I do not always come to God first but I do try to. It should become a habit of ours to thank our Lord for His blessings and, in return, use these blessings to bring hope to a lost world.
Today, I will leave you with this:
You will not be the same as you are right now. The experiences in these years will bring the fondest memories as well as some hurt, but that’s just a side-effect of being human… We all fall short.
It’s important to forgive those that hurt you and move on. Madea refers to these people as “seasonal;” people who were meant to be in your life for a season, often to teach you something you needed to learn for a reason. They will wither with time but the lessons you learn from them were meant to share and make you better… I share my story to show that I have been there before and I know hurt can be taken away completely by God if you let Him in (or in my case if He intervenes.)
Grow. Don’t ever stop growing. Walk with the Lord and He WILL give you the desires if your heart. See new things, try new (good) stuff that you never have before. Most importantly, love one another and love God with all you have. People will take notice. People will ask you how you remain strong and smiling in times of hardship. They just WILL.
Work hard, live fully, and take each day as it comes. Tomorrow will take care of itself so cast all your anxieties on the One who cares for you and always wants the best for you.

Good luck!
Jill Edmonds:   blogging newbie and starving student-artist at Anderson University.