5 Best in Review and some additional thoughts

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As promised, I’ve listed my five most popular posts from last year below. I love that they cover the gambit – Fun, Facts and Faith. Except for Braking-Braking, the other four were all written in the last three months. I’d like to think I’m improving at this blogging thing! 🙂

1.  https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/the-story-of-grace/

2. https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/braking-braking/

3. https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/a-cemetery-encounter/

4. https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/born-again-and-again-and-again/

5. https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/a-grand-idea-7/

If you haven’t read these, I’d love if you’d take a glance!

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I wonder sometimes if it’s ok to have fun, be funny, to laugh. In light of recent circumstances of family, friends, and well, actually complete strangers that I hear of who have been touched by various difficulties – cancer, suicide, abuse, tragedy, etc., I wonder.

God then reminded me in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to beEccle 3 born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

I pray for God to give me the wisdom to act appropriately at the right time.  You too?

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Grateful Grace

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His mother was a Baptist and his dad a Methodist. They settled into and got involved with Mayflower Congregational Church in Pacific Grove, California.

In his young life seeds were planted as Charles studied the catechism in a Membership class at church. In a 3-year hiatus from Pacific Grove, Charles and his mother moved to San Francisco while his dad was away serving the Navy. It was during this time, when Charles was about ten years old that he felt a nudge from The Lord. When the Pastor asked those to stand up if they needed prayer, Charles stood up! But no changes evolved within as he and his mother were mainly focused on “making do” in a strange place, all the while missing his dad greatly.

All was well again three years later as the war ended, Charles’ dad came home, and they relocated to their little home and life back in Pacific Grove.

During Easter vacation of his junior year of high school, Charles went to a retreat with his youth group. The place was Mt. Hermon in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the speaker was an all-American football player who shared his own story of salvation. At the end of the service, a closing song made an impression. Search Me Oh God closes with the last two verses of Psalm 139. The music itself was meaningful as it was the same tune to Now Is The Hour – a song sung near the beginning of World War II when Charles’ dad went off to war.

“Search me, Oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Charles and his best friend Ben walked back to their cabin that night with Charles in a contemplative mood. As he asked Ben questions about what he had heard, Ben explained the gospel and Charles, putting all the pieces together in his mind and heart, accepted and believed.

He was born again.

Just a few months later, as he was about to enter his senior year of high school, Charles, with his parents, moved away.

His dad had accepted a new position in a different location. The Youth Pastor, concerned for Charles and his new-found faith, gave him a copy of Haley’s Bible Handbook and tried to instill the fact that studying Scripture and God’s Word was essential for spiritual growth.

Charles finished high school in a new city and went off to college. After graduation and one year of teaching, he entered the Navy. For the next years he would experience marriage, the birth of four children and many, many moves. Although spiritual seeds were planted along the way – various preaching, Billy Graham Crusade, etc. – Charles never experienced much growth in his Christian life up to that point. He was a Christian and attempted to live in such a way, but he hadn’t been taught in any way that would instill spiritual growth.

Then he was assigned a stint of teaching at the Naval Academy.

While there, Charles went from being a Naval Reserve Officer to becoming a regular Career Naval Officer.

As he processed from being a reserve officer to a career officer, Charles was motivated to “come clean” with the Navy and wrote them a letter regarding past offenses against the Navy. A formal letter came back from the “powers that be” saying “Filed for No Further Action.” To Charles, it was an indication from God that he was on the right track.

While stationed there, Charles was befriended by Jim Wilson, a former Navy officer who ran the local bookstore and Graham Guche, a fellow teacher. Their families attended College Avenue Baptist Church together and Jim connected Charles with Officer’s Christian Fellowship. Through these two friends, Charles was mentored and taught and influenced greatly in his understanding and application of the Bible.

Throughout the balance of his full career, Charles was given many opportunities not only to grow his faith but to share it, on various ships and stints at the Pentagon.

Upon retirement from the Navy and completing his Masters of Divinity at seminary, Charles went into full-time ministry.

But sin took hold and Charles not only succumbed but was defeated. He lost everything: his family, his career, his self-worth, his testimony.

Fast forward. Slow forward. God never let go.

Through new friends and a new church and a new pastor, Charles was led back through repentance, restoration and reconciliation.

More than thirty years later, Charles can only praise God for His Grace. Although Charles knows that sin cannot be undone and consequences prevail, He is thankful to again be used by God; to be restored to his children; and for the daily opportunity to be able to speak and share God’s truth – His Love and His Grace – to those he counsels, to the individuals God brings across his path.

 

 

Treasure in the Sky

IMG_7906His name is John and he has been a flight attendant for 15 years. Because I was in the front row and it was a non-stop flight, we had ample time to strike up a conversation.

John is 55 years old. He became a Christian 42 years ago when he was 13 years old.

Having attended church with his family, he was not unfamiliar with the teachings of the Bible. When he was 13 years old, his sister’s husband was involved in a serious car accident and they both moved in with John and his parents as they were in need of extra help.

It happened that one day only John and his brother-in-law were home when an uncle came to visit. During the course of the conversation, the uncle presented the gospel in a clear, concise manor and asked if John had asked Jesus to be part of his life. John said no, and the uncle led him in the prayer of salvation.

See my previous post for the prayer of salvation:

https://pjyourfriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/reckoning-with-god/

He was born again.

Now, 42 years later, he simply beams when talking about Jesus.

He is a member of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, pastored by Andy Stanley and although he misses the “old” hymns (as I do) he loves the preaching and is motivated each week to be a testimony for Jesus. John is involved in the church as well as the surrounding community as his church teaches by example.

John has experienced much in his life and travels, stories he did not wish to repeat. But he exclaimed that he did not know how one can get through life and the ordeals it can bring without having a personal relationship with Jesus.

Amen, brother. Amen.

“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5

Tis the Season. . .

steepleThere is so much going on at this time of year – in my head! Lists, lists, lists. Yep, I’m a list person. It helps to cross off all that silly stuff that, well, that just needs to be crossed off. There is Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and all the parties and fuss and cooking in between. And don’t forget the presents! Oh my! Last year I counted who and how many gifts I give at Christmas: 35. THIRTY-FIVE!  This year I’m not counting.

But this time of year is more than about cooking and shopping. The holiday season stirs up feelings and emotions of the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s stressful. Let’s just face it.

My particular emotion is one of remembrance. I remember my dad.

His birthday: November 23rd.

His deathday: December 25th.

He died on Christmas Day. He was only 71 years of age. It will be 22 years ago this Christmas.

The first year, well it was on that day so we plowed through what needed to be done – cross country.

The second year, my mother came to visit and we had a New Year’s Eve party.  She helped clean and cook and entertain. It was a nice event – a filler to give us something else to focus on. Since then, life goes on.

Now that the kids have grown up and married and had kids of their own, I often wonder how my dad would view it all. What/who he would be critical of and what/who he would be proud of.

Thanksgiving, every once in a while, falls on his birthday. And again I remember.

I try to remember good things. He was a hard dad, a perfectionist. I failed to measure up. But we had nice memories too: many vacations, comfortable home, good friends.

My saving grace? What I hang onto when I’m sad and lonely and just plain miss him?

I know I’ll see him again. He’s in heaven and I’ll be headed that way too.

He was born again – and so am I.

 

Reckoning with God

IMG_7906In Jack’s own words:

He asked me, “If you died tomorrow, do you know for sure that you would go to Heaven?”

I tried to compose myself quickly and replied with all the ‘yes’ reasons I could think of: I had served as president of the church council, helped at the chicken suppers, and a bunch of other things I thought were relevant.

I think he figured out pretty quickly that I was not a believer of Jesus Christ.

It caused me to think though and I reflected on the previous weeks:

Our children had changed schools, from public to Christian; Judy and I were meeting quite a few new folks, other parents.

One of the other fathers had befriended me and invited me to go to a Christian Businessman’s luncheon. The speaker turned out to be an older Fraternity Brother who I knew and liked, and he was going to speak on “The Best and Greatest Investment he had made in his life.” I thought at the time, that it would be great to hear, thinking I could pick up a tip on investing. He ended up telling his story as to how he had accepted Jesus into his life and how it had changed his life.

A few weeks later that same new friend invited me to the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, where 2,000 men and women would attend. The Speaker was Colonel Heath Bottomly, a distinguished military man. During his talk, he said: “I am a sinner, you are a sinner, and we are all sinners.” As he declared this, he pointed emphatically to everyone in the room. I wanted to duck down when his finger swept by. I thought, “You might be a sinner, but I sure was not one!”

Afterwards, I thought about it and concluded to myself that if I was not a sinner then I was equal to Jesus and that certainly was not true.

Shortly after that experience, we began visiting a church that was in the same denomination as the new school our girls were attending. It was at that point that the Pastor came by to visit and get to know us, and ask that question, “If you died tomorrow, do you know for sure that you would go to Heaven?”

My life had been a pretty good one so far. I worked in the family business, traveling and hiring and training sales people. It was a growing business. I met Judy at college and we married shortly after I graduated. We raised three daughters and now are proud grandparents to 11.

I was 39 years old when my girls changed schools and we changed churches.

The day after that Pastor came to our house, I went out of town on a business trip. I was in Indiana at a Holiday Inn waiting for calls to set up job interviews. Things were strangely quiet that morning and, out of boredom, I picked up the Gideon Bible in the hotel room and tried to read. It just didn’t make any sense to me but I preserved. All that I had heard and witnessed over the past few weeks and months began to hit home, to hit me! God got my attention. I got down on my knees alone in that motel room, and prayed the Prayer of Salvation that the Pastor had shared the day before. I asked Jesus to come into my life and it was like a big load had been immediately removed off my shoulders. A peace came over me like I had never experienced before.

I was born again.

Prayer of Salvation: Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead.             I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.                       (Billy Graham)

Being a private person, I didn’t tell anyone at first because I actually didn’t think anyone would be interested or even care. I didn’t realize until later that my wife had been praying for me and my salvation for the past eighteen years!

A bit later, at a Thanksgiving service when folks were asked to share something they were thankful for, I stood up and shared my new faith. I began to attend Bible Study Fellowship and over the years have continued to delve into the study of God’s Word.

From that point on, Judy and I, in obedience to Jesus’ teachings, have taken many individuals under our wings and instructed them in the ways of the Lord, leading some to Christ and planting seeds to develop in others.

When I was a child, I can remember a radio program called “Life Begins at 40”. I thought that was the most stupid thing I had ever heard, thinking life would be ending at age 40, not beginning! Ironically, my new life in Christ started at age 40, and I am ever thankful.

“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3

Judy’s Journey Toward Faith

IMG_7906As the daughter of a German immigrant and the youngest of four, Judy seemed to receive the brunt of whatever family frustration was happening at the moment. As far as she knew, hers was a religious family since she was baptized as an infant, confirmed as a young church member and attended church regularly. But any “religious” talk within the home was strictly taboo – a house rule. The Bible verse was often quoted: “judge not and you will not be judged” whenever any “God” talk ensued, nipping it in the bud. Therefore, Judy decided at an early age that God must reside in church – on Sundays. For a while she accepted this: that God was busy running the world and if she wanted a glimpse of Him, She’d find Him at church on Sundays or other religious occasions.

But Judy’s heart was conflicted. Considering herself a Christian, she observed others who she also believed to be Christians, who, in fact, called themselves Christians. These others, her role models, even within her family, were nice to outsiders, generous to a fault and portraying the proper appearance. But inwardly, within the walls of the home, there was unkindness and downright meanness. Judy mimicked what she observed. It was all she knew.

In her own heart, however, the struggle grew and when alone, Judy would ask of God, “Who are You really? What am I about? What’s life about and why can’t I be good and loving? Why am I so afraid? Why don’t I have peace?” She admitted (to herself) that she was a sinner, and simply tried harder to be better, to no avail.

Conflicts within the family grew and when Judy was ten years old, her oldest sister married a man whom Judy’s Dad did not approve. They never spoke again. Then Judy’s other sister married, moved out of town and her brother became ill. The parents were devastated and totally focused all their energies on their son.

Judy tried to survive with minimal guidance, both emotionally and spiritually. At age 17, during Holy Week, she was motivated to attend a local movie. It was about the Life of Christ. Feeling very religious during that Holy Week, it seemed like the right thing to do.

As she watched the movie, Judy’s heart began to change, to awaken and to soften. She was beginning to hear Truth. She heard of God’s love and learned, as she watched Jesus on the cross, that He was not a victim, but willingly, willingly died for her, for her sins. Tears flowed; tears of joy and hope and peace. During that movie presentation, Judy heard, believed, and accepted the Good News, knowing her sins were forgiven.

Judy was born again.

Meanwhile, the stress at home went right on. It was Easter and Judy was experiencing worship for the first time as one who is alive in Christ! Her joy could not be contained and she carried it into the home. Her parents quieted her quickly with their disapproval.

Leaving home to attend the university, while there, she went on a blind date. His name was Jack. He was quite the catch and Judy fell in love. Shortly after graduation, they married.

It was a good marriage and they were blessed with three daughters. But Jack was not a Believer. He did not share Judy’s love for Jesus. For eighteen years, Judy faithfully prayed for him. She became a I Peter 3 wife: “. . . that they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives. . .” In other words, Judy sought to win Jack over without words, placing her hope in God.

As Judy studied scripture and grew in her faith, she became more and more troubled for Jack and his salvation. And she continued to be burdened to pray. God, after eighteen years, at just the right time, heard Judy’s prayers and intervened. On a business trip, in a hotel room, with a Gideon Bible, Jack gave his heart to God.

Jack was born again.

Judy knows God answered her prayers. Together Jack and Judy have been used by God to share the Gospel of Christ with hundreds of others; and have had the privilege to see many of those hearts touched by God and changed to follow Him.

Married 52 years now, their hearts are still bonded and their calling is sure. They continue to study God’s Word and share what they learn. Judy knows that she cannot change a heart but God can. She knows first-hand the power of the Gospel.

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel

for it is the power of God for salvation

for everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

 

 

 

Life on the Move

IMG_7906As with any child of a parent in the military, life was structured and predictable. Ann’s dad was Air Force and they basically relocated every two years. In high school, in Lakenheath, England, she lived in a boarding school during the week, coming home only on weekends. After liturgical church influence in her youth, her first notice of something spiritually different was seeing folks exiting the base chapel excited, upbeat and talking about Jesus.

Ann, out of curiosity, picked up some of the tracts geared to different faiths outside of the chapel and began to glean from them. Something began to stir deep within her. She also, during this time, took note of a friend down the hall in the boarding school beginning her day by reading the Bible. A longing was growing for something she could not yet identify.

During high school, while still in England, Ann attended a Christian concert laden with music and stories about Jesus Christ. At the end of the concert, the attendees were invited to come forward to learn more and pray with someone. Torn, she held back although she was now confident that Jesus was who she needed.

Two years later in college, Ann was involved in a work-study program and a coworker/fellow student asked her, “Do you know if you’re going to Heaven?” It was abrupt but point on and exactly what Ann had been asking herself. She admitted that no, she was not at all sure and her friend explained it to her and led her in the “sinner’s prayer”, a prayer in which a person who is convicted of sin in their own lives, and has the desire to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, prays. It is a prayer of repentance. It is the prayer of salvation.

Ann was born again.

Seven months in as a Christian and in the middle of her sophomore year of college, Ann met and fell in love with her soon-to-be husband Scott. The fact that he was also in the Air Force and, more importantly, a born-again Christian, confirmed for her that the relationship was right. Military life was not uncommon for Ann although being a Christian wife presented challenges as she had no role models. The moving every two years continued and Ann was blessed to always meet up with other wives who became mentors and role models to her.

As with all of us, life presented challenges: Ann finished college as a married woman; Scott went through 128 days of bed rest culminating in back surgery; and the most critical: Ann’s mom committed suicide. Other health issues continued for both Scott and Ann; two children were born; they were made homeless from the aftermath of a hurricane. All were major stressors of some sort. All took a toll.

Scott continued in his military life, with several deployments, leaving Ann as a single mom, bringing along with it, its own set of difficulties. Some days, through her own stressful tears, she would hear the prompting of Jesus that “children were a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3) and she was encouraged to press on.

After Scott’s retirement from the Air Force, job losses and health issues continued, as they strived to seek to become established in civilian life and raise their two children.

Ann’s faith grew and indeed was the cement in her life, the grounding she so needed. She knew that each of the events in her life was used by God to shape and mold her to be more like Him. Chaplains and mentors along the way continued to hearten and reassure her.

Now, years later, fully established in civilian life and a Gospel-preaching church, Ann enters a new phase. With one child married and the other in college, Ann and Scott are taking an active role in the care of Scott’s parents.

As she did during military days with a deployed spouse and young children in tow, she continues to rely on Jesus and goes to her Bible for guidance with everyday life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. . .” Proverbs 3:5

 

 

 

A Cemetery Encounter

IMG_7906Growing up in Michigan as the youngest of four was fine and good but at age 20, Carol decided a change of pace was in order. A friend previously transplanted to California beckoned and before she knew it, Carol was heading west.

Immediately the job hunt began and being adventurous, Carol applied to be a limo driver. As a female in a mostly male world of drivers, she became an immediate hit and established herself well. Carol raked in the tips, met celebrities, saw the sights and had loads of fun along the way!

Eventually Carol met and married Bill and his job took them clear across the country first to Boston where their daughter was born and then, after six years, it was back to California with a job change. And their son was born.  It turned out to be an unhappy, bad fit of a job so seven years later the family landed mid-country this time, in St. Louis, Missouri.

It was so much a better fit job-wise and location-wise for a young family of four and they began to put down roots, becoming involved in the schools and communities. Carol felt, however, that something was missing. Something Big! She thought back to her childhood, her own family life. Carol came from a parochial background – church and school, although church wasn’t exactly attended as much as her parents thought.

Carol tells of her and her brother riding their bikes around the parking lot during church until they could hear the service almost ending. Her brother would run in, grab a church bulletin, and they both would head for home, delivering the precious bulletin to the parents as proof of their church attendance.

Being in a parochial school at least established in Carol’s mind and heart that God was real.

As she sought to establish those roots in the family’s new community, Carol decided that maybe they needed a church – for the kids. She looked in the yellow pages; she looked in the white pages. Actually Carol had no idea what she was looking for. It became just one of those nagging ideas in the back of her mind that she hoped to act on one day. And life went on.

When her daughter was in 5th grade and on a swim team, Carol and Bill befriended other parents of those on the team. One day, one of the dad’s committed suicide. Just like that! No warning. Obviously shock and sadness took over Carol along with everyone else close to the situation.

Carol went to the funeral. Before the service, as Carol arrived early, the attendant insisted three times that Carol join the family in a room set aside. They were praying. Carol slipped in and stood in the back of the room. Pastor Kevin was praying. Carol had never heard anything like it: so personal, so real, so relational. It touched her heart and awakened her soul. Following the service, Carol accompanied the family and guests to the cemetery.

After hanging on to Pastor Kevin’s prayer prior, then hearing his message at the funeral itself about how one can be assured of Eternal Life by simply believing that God’s Son Jesus died for our sins and asking Him for forgiveness, then final sealing words at the grave site, Carol knew. At that exact point in time, surrounded by death, in her heart she had just met Jesus. She accepted. She repented. She believed. She was born again!

This was nine years ago. With Carol’s obvious change and her positive influence on her entire family, they immediately began attending that church together where Pastor Kevin was employed. Carol found, not only a place for the children, but one for her and Bill! They both observed and marveled how the church “family” came alongside the bereaved family and met just about their every need. Bill and Carol both had found a home and God. One day early on, Carol confided to a friend at church of a particular problem, and the friend responded, “I’ll pray for you.” Carol thought to herself, “So that’s how they do it!” She understood then that there is a direct connection with God. It brought joy to her heart!

Carol immediately was discipled by others as she yearned to learn more about Jesus and desired to grow in her personal walk with Him, and became involved in many  Bible Studies since then, hungry for and gleaning from the Word of God. Life evolves and brings many challenges and changes. Carol knows it’s not a journey she is taking alone. She is grateful.

Barely two months ago, Carol’s dad passed away. Through her grief, knowing that he too had a personal relationship with the Lord, she is comforted by the fact that she will see him again.

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

 

The Story of Grace

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Beginning life in the church where her dad was the organist/choir director made for solid footing for little Grace. But life can change quickly as everyone knows.

Grace’s dad passed away when she was 12 years old, leaving behind not only Grace, but her two sisters, ages 5 and 14 at the time,  in addition to their mother. In the next few years, additional deaths followed including the passing of her beloved grandfather, grandmother, and other close relatives.

How does a little girl grieve with all these losses? Grace’s mom was the stronghold of the family, until her untimely death only 5 years later. When Grace was 17, she and her siblings became orphans.

Grace and her sisters lost way too many family members and dearly loved ones in too short a span at too young an age.

By this time, Grace’s older sister was married and out on her own. An aunt and uncle moved in to the family’s home to help with the other two. This arrangement was short-lived as elder sister and her husband moved in. They persevered, leaning on each other for strength and security. Feelings came in waves: the sorrow, the anger, and the memories. But they did not allow themselves much time to dwell on their losses and their loneliness. It was not an easy life and things were not always rosy – three young sisters living together under those circumstances. They struggled. But Grace and her sisters were survivors. They had no choice. Grace remembered her mom’s last words, “Take care of your little sister.” And she did as best as she was able. Grace’s part-time job paychecks went towards clothes and other essentials for her younger sister. Little girls grew up before their time.

Two weeks after high school graduation, Grace married her high school sweetheart. Several years and three children later, they divorced. And after three years as a young single mom, she met and married Chuck. That was 32 years ago.

Grace continued to struggle inwardly, to replace somehow what she had lost at too young an age. Grace’s older sister was a born evangelist! She took it upon herself to convert Grace from her godless life to a life filled with Christ. She would “preach” Christ to Grace for hours on end during various and frequent phone calls. Grace, being respectful of her sister, would patiently listen. At some point, she was encouraged to listen to Christian radio, which she did.

For 15 years, Grace’s sister spoke into her life. The radio confirmed and reinforced what Grace had been hearing. Pretty soon, certain radio preachers began to speak into her life. Some of her favorites were Chuck Swindoll, James McArthur, and Charles Stanley. There was a common thread through the various preachers: The Gospel: “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

One day, the day Jesus picked to intervene in her life, Grace knew. She knew it was time and she knelt down by her bed. As she wept, she confessed every sin she could think of going back through her entire life, into her childhood. When she was finished, Grace asked Jesus into her heart.

She was Born Again.

Grace called her sister and shared the Good News. Being obviously elated, Grace’s sister and her husband came over to visit with Grace and Chuck. They suggested the couple might consider attending Bible Study Fellowship for some in-depth Bible Study, which they did. For years! They eventually settled in to a solid church and proceeded to bring their grandchildren with them for the next 15 years!

Life for anyone is never smooth sailing from beginning to end, and in Grace’s case it’s all too true. There have been life’s ups and downs, sicknesses and losses. Just barely four years ago, her son – in his mid-forties, died of a heart attack without any previous warning. Understandably, Grace was devastated! There is not one day, NOT ONE DAY that Grace does not think of and mourn her son’s loss. But Grace is grounded. She is steadfast in her belief in Christ and her anchor is in Him.

In her grief, Grace went to the Lord. She was comforted by His presence and His words in scripture:

“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

One thing Charles Stanley preached so many years ago that Grace never forgot was that “God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children.” Having a grandfather who was a pastor and a dad involved in church did not secure her salvation. Although Grace was fatherless and motherless at too young an age, she knows Her Father is not only in Heaven but walks beside her every moment of every day.

She is blessed!

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His Holy Dwelling.”          Psalm 68:5

 

 

Born Again and Again and Again

IMG_7906Growing up, if the church doors were open, it seemed like I was in the building. This encompasses Sunday School, church, Vacation Bible School, Good News Club, Sunday night church, Sunday night youth group, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night choir practice, Pioneer Girls and on and on and on.

In addition, I attended Christian elementary school for five years and went to Christian camps and retreats more times than I can remember.

I pretty much had a handle on “church” and “Bible” stuff. I always knew and believed that Jesus died for my sins and that unless I believed (and acted thusly), I would go to hell.  I also had a handle on legalism although I didn’t realize it at the time.  There were a lot of rules, both in my church and my home. It all seemed to fit together. My take on it was that God (and my earthly father) had lots of rules that I needed to follow before HE and he would love me. Whether that message was taught per se, it’s what I learned, amongst all the King James Bible scripture I memorized along the way.

During the elementary years, there were good memories and lousy ones.

We had sword (Bible) drills. The teacher would give us a passage of scripture and the first one to find it, stood up and began to read. I excelled in this, being of a competitive nature!

Map-PalestineBack in the day, ladies stockings (pre-pantyhose) came in flat rectangular boxes. We’d all be instructed to bring a box in, line it with blue construction paper and use that flour+salt+water concoction to make a topographical map of Palestine in Jesus’ day, leaving the blue to show for the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean (The Great) Sea.

I, for the most part, liked my Sunday School teachers. My mother was one but after having my brother in her class, decided she did not want me in hers so I was assigned to another! And I was a faithful attender. I had no choice. Do you remember Sunday School Attendance Pins? I had fourteen. FOURTEEN! Fourteen years in a row I sunday school pinsattended Sunday School with missing no more than 3 times per year. There were two Sunday School teachers I did not like – Mrs. Rush and Mr. Semisch. These were high school teachers. Mrs. Rush used me as an example of how NOT to dance with a boy. I had to stand up with her so she could illustrate. Mr. Semisch taught my senior year of high school class. It was the first co-ed class and he used to call my name a lot because he “liked” the sound of it and the boys would laugh. I managed to be “sick” a lot that year! After that, I was done with Sunday School.

Being baptized as an infant completed my pedigree.

Paul the Apostle in Philippians 3 says, “. . . If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. . .”

In all those years, in all my growing up, in all those classes, no one ever asked me if I was a Christian.

At some point, late in my elementary years, I went to summer camp for a week. Mountainbrook Camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. My counselor asked me if I had ever asked Jesus into my heart. I never thought about it before and guessed maybe I had better do this. I did and my counselor declared me born again. I wrote a postcard to my folks telling them the news but never mailed it and never mentioned it.  Life was different – for about a week.

In my high school years I attended church camp – Quarryville, in beautiful Lancaster County of Pennsylvania.  Around a campfire, the leader was asking us kids to “turn to Jesus”! My friend sitting next to me who knew my inner struggles, told me to “get the devil off my lap, stand up, and go forward.” I didn’t at that point but later that night went to one of the leaders and was with her for hours for a very emotional time before I declared I had found Jesus. She declared me born again. That change lasted longer and was obvious to those around me. I was asked to give my testimony during the New Year’s Eve service at church, which I complied.

Life went on and try as I might, I could never keep it up. I tried and failed miserably with this thing called Christianity. I failed my parents, my friends, my relationships, myself. I’d give up.

I knew how to talk the talk and knew how to appear to walk the walk.  I thought this was how it was done and just assumed I wasn’t very good at it. I always assumed I was just less of a Christian than everyone else.  It was my lot in life!

In adulthood, I continued the up and down spiral. And again, God got my attention. Again, after a major fail,  I was rejuvenated in my faith and was on board with God. I wanted to join the church I had been attending for three years.  Their requirement for membership was baptism by emersion. Ok, new thought for me, being raised a Presbyterian, but I complied.  After my baptism by emersion, the church declared me born again.

Years went by and I continued to deal with it all – the ups and downs and, well, just life. It didn’t seem any easier or safer.

Then my dad died.

I was in my mid 40’s and my “God” had just died.  It took me a year of seriously spiraling down into deep, deep depression, followed by two years of anti-depressants before I realized my dad was actually my “God”. He was God with skin on. He “carried the big stick” as I assumed God did. If I was taught Grace, I never heard it, never experienced it.

But after my dad died, I was able to “hear” God. It took quite a while. Although I was on anti-depressants, I was spiritually depressed. I actually began to “hear” God speaking to me.  It’s difficult to explain, to put into words. The dark cloud lifted oh so gradually.  It was not audible but I was gaining peace, contentment, comfort. Bible verses that I had memorized suddenly became real to me. I mean I “got” the meaning. In church, the words of hymns that, in my youth I had memorized the alto to, took on a whole new deal. The words, the WORDS were awesome and worshipful. I was communicating with God AND He was communicating with me! I remember clearly thinking that if I were on a desert island alone, that I would not be lonely because God was with me. I had always had the head-knowledge but I had missed the true relationship part. My focus had been directed wrongly.

A book I read during that time helped tremendously. It was by Charles Stanley and called The Source of My Strength.

I now know that God loves me unconditionally, He showers His Grace upon me.  I believe.

HE declared me born again.

Finally real Grace revealed!

I have never lost that confidence and belief. This was more than 20 years ago – without my dad, without antidepressants.

Life isn’t a cakewalk. But I’m not alone.