Introduction: Sarah Stoddard


(Sarah Stoddard) #1

Hello everyone!

I’ve lived in Atlanta most of my life and have heard Ravi speak several times in the past, which is what drew me to join this discussion. Although I am a mere personal trainer working at Emory University to train their faculty and retirees, the importance of apologetics and reaching people has been engrained in me by my father since birth. It has become increasingly important to me to be actively involved in the conversation of Christianity and it’s place in the modern world. I am surrounded by every kind of person with every kind of world view. They have become close friends. My passion has become exploring other religions and world views so that I can get closer to these people God has brought into my life, while standing firm in my own faith and beliefs. RZIM seems like the perfect place to do that and continue my growth.

Sarah


(SeanO) #2

@Sarahnaomi Welcome to Connect! I think God has perfectly placed you to reach others with His love and grace. I put great sermon by Tim Keller on the beauty of every vocation below. The Lord Jesus bless your time on Connect :slight_smile:


Art Career Viable?
(Warner Joseph Miller) #3

Well, God bless you, sister and welcome to the Connect community!! I’m confident that we’d all agree that you are not only most welcomed here but also much valued in the larger Christian community. Now, more than ever, men and women who follow and name Jesus as their Lord and Savior are needed who operate within the marketplaces, ie as a personal trainer and who are able AND willing to thoughtfully, graciously and lovingly engage those who subscribe to other belief systems and worldviews. I’m so glad that you have the passion to understand and address those people and truly look forward to all that you’ll bring to this Connect community and to the larger community.

God’s every blessing to you, sister, and WELCOME!


(Andrew Bulin) #4

Welcome!
It’s encouraging to hear that you’re exploring the faiths of others. I think some people feel Christians may be all too one-dimensional, without really knowing the heart of someone else’s religion. Have you had a chance to travel outside of your cultural context much—maybe to another country—to experience a deep immersion of another culture? I personally find it a fun and enriching experience!


(Sarah Stoddard) #5

@SeanO Thank you so much for the quick response! Honestly didn’t think this would get read so quickly or at all, let alone that I would get responses. But I guess I’m already learning this is a completely different monster that I’ve just signed up for. I had a chance to watch the video you posted and I enjoyed it greatly! I am a firm believer of this, in that everyone has their role to play and is doing God’s work whether they realize it or not. Thank you very much for sharing that with me. I haven’t had a chance to look around at the topics yet, but I don’t suppose you have any videos or links as to how this might apply to women specifically? There a lot of women in my life, myself included, that struggle with their role of being a believer in the work force. Are we simply to be the quiet and gentle spirits that set the example of Christ or is our voice valuable even among a majority male audience?


(Sarah Stoddard) #6

@WarnerMiller Thank you very much for the warm welcome! =) I’m happy I finally signed up for this. I’ve been meaning to for a while. I look forward to diving deeper into the discussion topics. I was blessed to have grown up around diversity, and it has always been my desire to gain a deeper understanding of people in order to build relationships. I know I can do that no matter where God puts me, and I’m happy to say that God has me right where He wants me. Glad to be a part of the community. I hope I can add value here.


(Sarah Stoddard) #7

@andrew.bulin Most of the non-Christian friends I have believe all Christians are the same and one-dimensional. Suffice to say, I have been able to change some of their minds about Christians in general. We are all people after all with all our own flaws and shortcomings. To answer your question, yes I have had many opportunities to travel to various countries with many religions. But honestly, I experience more diverse worldviews in my own city than in my travels. The people I’m around are all young, lost, and completely confused about their beliefs. They are all trying to find their identities in this modern world while asking for approval and unconditional acceptance. It’s amazing to me that the majority of people I know haven’t ever asked themselves important questions like, “why am I here, what is my purpose, or where do get my truth?” What cultures or religions other than Christianity have you experienced most in your life?


(SeanO) #8

@Sarahnaomi That would be a great question to ask in the ‘Daily Evangelism’ category and see what others think. I have not thought deeply about that specific issue, but here are a few resources that might get you started. Perhaps if you post a question on Daily Evangelism, you could give a bit more context about the kinds of situations where you struggle to determine whether to speak out or to take a more supporting role.

Mo Anderson spoke at the RZIM Business Leader’s Conference. I would certainly say she is an example of a woman who has made a huge difference by leading at Keller Williams Realty.

http://www.moanderson.com/new/


(Andrew Bulin) #9

That is so true. It is easier to ignore those questions, but I’m so glad you are in their lives to have the opportunity to share with them the truth. Surface level living only works for so long and then when we come up looking for answers, it’s wonderful to encounter the people God has placed around us. I agree with @SeanO. It sounds like you may have encountered some interesting questions that could be great discussion posts!

I’ve been very attached to the Japanese and have been blessed to study their culture in college, along with East Asian religions in general (Shinto, Buddhism, Daoism), attended some travel studies to Japan, and helped host as well. The more I study the history of evangelism in the Japan, the more I uncover fascinating details and opportunities to learn from the past as I look toward the future.


(Sarah Stoddard) #10

@SeanO I will definitely consider that as a discussion topic. Thank you so much for the references! That was exactly what I was hoping for in asking you… a start on where to look. It is one of the many avenues I have a million questions about, so thank you for helping to get me started. I look forward to more discussions with you in the future!


(Sarah Stoddard) #11

@andrew.bulin I literally joined Connect so that I might find a place to speak freely and ask questions about my faith, as I am mostly immersed in the secular world and cannot do so there. You and @SeanO are already helping to create this for me, so thank you.

Ironically, I am mixed with Japanese. My grandmother was raised Buddhist and converted to Christianity, and my father studied both religions in school, so I guess you could say it’s part of my past, or at least history, as well. I am largely interested in Daoism at the moment because I’ve made quite a few Chinese friends in the last couple years who live by those principles. I’ve never found much on it compared to Christianity in the body of Ravi’s networks. Perhaps you have some references or books that you’ve turned to that you might recommend?


(Andrew Bulin) #12

Hey @Sarahnaomi,
I’m really excited to see the topics you will be bringing to the group!

Your background is ironic. What part of Japan is your family originally from? And do you know any other details on her conversion story that you are willing to share?

Daoism/Taoism is very fascinating. I find Julia Ching’s book Chinese Religions an easy read and helpful in better understanding basics of Daoism as it’s originally from China and later came to Japan.

In Japan, I believe it was largely implicitly impactful to the existing Shinto beliefs (and maybe a little for Buddhism), rather than an explicitly impactful as a separate religion. Japan has always been able to amalgamate things into their own. I’m not too keen if there are any specific sects of Daoism today in Japan, but I hear in China today it’s tied into a lot of ancestor worship and and general magic. (Maybe someone is more familiar with Daoism in China today.)

The basis of Daoism is “the way,” a philosophy of belief that everything is tied to nature in a mystical, spiritual way that eludes us, but we may be on it and not realize it. Sages provide insight and practice meditating on what the way is. There are a lot of interesting writings on “the way” because in essence you cannot fully comprehend the way, and if you think you do, you’ve missed it… Or something like that. Anyway, this way (we) and letting life be (wu-wei) is a philosophy that could be easily fit into existing Shinto practices and philosophy in Japan without needing to be separate. Perhaps the only iconic difference would be if someone held to any specific deities of the many that are a part of Doaism. Again, not unlike general Shintoism that worships any number of deities at any time, sometimes bound by a specific region, mountain, river, tree, etc.

Daoism has supposedly held a belief in three key elements, but this seems to take more shape in later years, likely under the influence of Christianity. There is this trinitarian idea of a Highest One, the Precious One and a “Power-of-the-Way” One. I’ve not performed extensive research on this, but I personally would not make too much of it other than borrowing ideas from Christianity (though admittedly this is just my hunch).


(Sarah Stoddard) #13

My grandmother was born and lived in Fukuoka, Japan. During the war, she worked as a translator for the US military where she met my grandfather who was enlisted. When she decided to marry him, she was completely disowned by her family, moved to the US, and never returned, sadly. I have never been, but it has been my dream since I can remember to go someday. Living in the US during those times was not ideal for a Japanese woman, so she decided not to pass down anything Japanese to her children (the language, the religion, etc.). Yet she, herself remained Buddhist, really in name only because of how she raised. My father was the first to choose Jesus in his family at the ripe age of 24. He decided to get his masters degree in religious studies with emphasis on Christianity and Buddhism. Throughout his studies, he had many conversations with his mother discussing both religions. A year after I was born, she gave her life to Christ. I don’t know exactly what my father said to her or what his approach was, but most likely it was non-judgemental open discussion in a loving way towards his mother. That and persistence. I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have about it. I’m an open book!

Thank you very much for sharing the book and the information about Daoism. Extremely insightful. I will try and get my hands on a copy of that book. What I have seen in my Chinese-American friends (and from what I hear is common place for the youth in China) is a much more modern way of thinking. They live by the principles, but also just want to enjoy their lives. It’s like the equivalent of people who go to the Christian church on sundays just to say they went, but really don’t even know who Jesus is or what the whole resurrection is about. It’s just the image of a Christian they want to uphold. My friends want to live by Daoist principles, but mainly because their family members expect them to. However, it’s more of a past time for them to pursue their religion rather than a priority. But that’s how I feel most young people in the US are regardless of their religions or philosophies. Still, I’ve seen where it impacts many decisions they make about their lives, especially the big decisions. If nothing else, I hope to learn more about it so I can respect their culture in the hopes that they will invite me in to their personal lives more. If you happen to cross paths with any articles, talks, events, etc. dealing with Daoism, please send them my way if you think of it.


(Sarah Stoddard) #14

@andrew.bulin Forgot to tag you. Not sure if you’d get the notification otherwise. Just in case. =)


(SeanO) #15

@andrew.bulin I’m actually going to give this book a read. Looks interesting.


(Andrew Bulin) #16

If you do, let me know what you think!
I find it to be a very simple read, so it lacks a little depth if you want an exhaustive study for the impacts on each of the major dynasties. But to be honest it’s really much easier for me to quickly digest in this condensed manner. I have a hard time keeping up with the detailed, multi-millennium histories of East Asian as opposed to the Old Testament! :blush:


(SeanO) #17

@andrew.bulin Haha, yes, I definitely want a high level overview. Not likely I’ll remember any super detailed history at the moment. I just enjoy learning about how ideas develop in different cultures.


(Sarah Stoddard) #18

@SeanO and @andrew.bulin: When I looked up the book you suggested on amazon, I also found these other titles, one by the same author. Think these might be productive reads?

Christianity and Chinese Religions https://www.amazon.com/dp/0334025451/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_g4H6BbZVQQ00Z
Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors https://www.amazon.com/dp/0881336211/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_D4H6BbZ109VVD


(Andrew Bulin) #19

@Sarahnaomi, oh my. I may have to buy more books. I’m not sure, but they seem pretty good. Only one way to find out! :slight_smile:


(SeanO) #20

@Sarahnaomi I literally have no earthly idea :slight_smile: