We have awesome freedom to develop our faith

I can hardly get myself to stay inside when the days are long and dry, for I prefer digging in my raised bed garden. But come fall, when the wind is blowing and the raindrops are hitting my windows, I feel an urgency to reorganize areas of my home that have gathered clutter during the summer.

This week I took on a bookshelf in my den and ran across a modest selection of books that have gone unread for years. I purchased them two decades ago when I was a newlywed and wanted so badly to be the happiest and most successful young wife on the planet. Even though my husband and I had happily dated for several years before marrying, I felt I needed to read some marriage how-to books. We were experienced sweethearts but inexperienced spouses.

As a recent college graduate, I reasoned that an intellectual approach to marriage would serve us well. I hauled myself to the local Christian bookstore and chose books written by well-known Christian therapists, writers and speakers. All provided models they believe couples should use to successfully interact with each other, order their lives, organize their homes, resolve conflict, raise their children, structure their time, manage their money and incorporate their Christian faith into their everyday lives.

I hungrily read them. Underlined key phrases. Then I reported my findings to my newlywed husband because he was interested but did not care to do the research.

After putting on a brave face, Matt dared one day to look me in the eyes and challenge me with a surprisingly honest response: he knew the advice was good and he liked some of the ideas. He also felt stifled and pinned in by some of what he heard me reading. All the books, for example, insisted it was the man’s duty to lead his family in prayer. For my husband, who is extremely private with his prayer life, this requirement only served to irritate him. He knew I felt comfortable praying out loud and realized I was the one for the job. He reasoned that he would not be a failure as a Christian husband if he punted to me when it came to corporate prayer.

My husband wanted us to look at the ways God had fashioned us as individuals. He wanted us to figure out how we could blend our talents and personalities and develop the confidence to live without guilt — even when we chose options other than those presented in the books. If we discovered our choices were not working, we would return to God and ask Him for the wisdom to make the necessary changes.

We were to develop our own style as Christians and embrace the freedom to live it. We have been doing it now for 21 years.

This week I read a fascinating article outlining the ways George W. Bush incorporates his Christian faith into his presidency. His methodology is groundbreaking, mold breaking and interesting.

Take his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two famous men met recently in Slovenia and rather than opening their talks with a discussion of democracy or the worldwide effects of a volatile American stockmarket, they both felt comfortable elaborating on their personal views of God.

According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, the president often incorporates his faith in conversations as well as the development of public policy without peppering it with Christian talk or scripture quoting. “Faith influences the president in that it helps make up his character and his judgments, and his policy decisions are based on his character and his judgments.”

Such is the case when the president began promoting his White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which seeks to ease the federal restrictions on the role religious groups can play in providing welfare and other services for needy Americans. Regardless of your view on this program, the message is clear: Bush’s faith is expressly seen in some of his policymaking.

Unlike many of his predecessors, he rarely attends public worship services. He does, however, call a pastor who serves in his home state of Texas. He also readily prays during the day as he works in the White House, as was the case when the visiting president of Macedonia, a practicing Methodist, recently knelt beside Bush in prayer.

Let’s bravely investigate our own styles this week. Let’s incorporate our faith, make it a point to learn how others live their faith, then claim the awesome freedom God gives us to live genuine, faith-filled lives — consistent with who we are and what we feel called to accomplish during our lifetimes.

Write Joan Bay Klope at

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