Friday, October 24, 2008

The Road to the Cross - Part 1

Whether or not I grew up in a Christian home could probably be put up for debate. Was it in the same manner I am trying to raise my own children? No. I have some very vague recollections of attending Sunday School at Melodyland when I was a very little girl. I had a relative who would take me to church periodically throughout my younger years. I remember specifically being taken to a church in The Circle in Orange called Sonlight Church. It was a converted movie theater and in fact my folks I believe used to go on dates there when they were teens. (But I wouldn't swear to it in court.) I also remember a few uncomfortable visits to the youth group of a Baptist church when I was about 14, and I remember the youth pastor making a visit to my home to welcome me. Interestingly enough when Neal and I got married I chose to do it in that church and asked that pastor to marry us, because I had been touched by his efforts to welcome me, and although I couldn't give you a good reason "why" I wanted to be married in a church, and that was the strongest connection I had to one.

I know my parents went to church as kids, and in fact I'm pretty sure they even met in church. But going to church was never a consistent part of my upbringing. Did they hold Judeo-Christian values? Yes, I guess probably I would say they did. Did I think they believed in God? Yes, I suppose, did I know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him? No. Did we pray as a family or study the bible together? No. Did we have a "family bible" in the house? Yes, but it was for decoration not for use, I don't think I ever opened it other than to see the list of family births, marriages and deaths.

At Sonlight in January 1981 or 1982 I walked an aisle and made a commitment to follow Christ. My grandmother has one of my great-grandmother's old date books, and the exact date is noted in it. I have sensory memories of an absolute compulsion to go forward that day. I remember being powerfully moved by the words of the preacher and wanting to know Christ. My visual memory of it is like tunnel vision, I can just see the aisle going down between the theater seats and remembering I just wanted to walk it to the altar as quickly as I could.

Neal and I used to work with the youth group at our church, and attending youth group is an absolute non-negotiable with me for Jacob now (which fortunately is not an issue because he wants very much to be there,) because of my experience as a young person.

On that day in the old converted movie theater I believe I had a real encounter with the living God, and I sincerely asked him into my heart. Unfortunately no one ever took the time to seriously and consistently disciple me after that day. Like I said, I dropped in and out of other churches over the next couple years, but I never got truly plugged in. Then I spent the rest of my teenage years making decisions apart from a biblical perspective. I often wonder what choices I might have made differently had I been discipled as a young person. But I don't think it with too much regret because I know the redeeming power of God and have seen great evidence of it in my life.

Because there was no active discipleship in my life, I walked away from that commitment without a true understanding of what I had done or prayed. I went on living my life without any significant difference and spent the teenage years that followed being not just "in" the world, but also "of" it. By the time I was 19 if you had asked me who Jesus was I would have told you He was "a good man," and I called the Bible a "book of stories to be intrepreted" not to be believed as anything other than words written by man.

I lived my life my way, crossing a few lines, some farther than others, but never getting so far out of line that anyone ever saw me as out of control or in any real danger, so I skated under the radar until the summer of 1989 when I was 19.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At Your Own Risk

That phrase follows a lot of terms, "enter," "continue," "participate," all at your own risk, in other words, assuming the liability as you go.

This morning I made a truly conscious effort for the first time in a long time to really connect with the Lord. I prayed, sought, directed my heart and my mind toward Him with great intention. I know, as Christians, that's what we're supposed to do, every day, but I fail in that, a lot. And I cannot imagine I am the only one.

Somewhere when I got up this morning and made the decision to do this, there should have been a sign that read, "be purposeful at your own risk," or "seek His will at your own risk." You see, having given the Lord my attention, He decided to start speaking. Sometimes what He has to say isn't always a pleasure to hear.

Nine months ago I had a falling out with a family member. To protect both the innocent and the guilty I may have to be annoyingly vague, so forgive me if that is indeed the case. Something happened that I felt required a certain decision be made by me. I made the call but without telling this relative my reasons behind it because I didn't feel it was my place to judge her or the situation. I shared with someone I hold more obligation to the reason for my decision and asked them not to tell her. That person didn't do what I asked and this relative was extremely offended when she heard my reason behind my decision. It was about setting a righteous example for my son.

When my relative called me on the phone after my confidence had been broken she spent a mile and a half ripping me to shreds. I know it was a mile and a half because I was walking a track at the time. When she first called I tried to apologize for jumping to judgment but she told me she didn't want to hear my phony apologies and then proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes telling me I was a horrible mother, a horrible Christian, a hypocrite, it went on and on. All I said through the whole tirade was, "you should stop, you can't take these things back." To which she replied she had no intention of taking them back and that she has kept her mouth shut for 38 years (my whole life) not telling me what she really thought of me.

When I got home that night I sent her an email trying to apologize again for what I felt I had done, not addressing my initial concern with her directly. She wrote me back an email that was just as vicious as the phone call. Here are a couple of direct quotes.

"self-serving, self-righteous, legalistic, unkind, hurtful, unfair, manipulative, judgmental, reactive, immature and highly hypocritical"

Toward the end of the letter she wrote this, "From this point on, I have to take responsibility for my not speaking out and being honest with you, allowing myself to be compromised. What I said was deliberate, thoughtful and not said unintentionally in the heat of anger. My words were not meant to be forgotten or taken back."


Now, for me, I think there is a difference between saying something about something someone has done, versus who they are. This wasn't about what she felt I had done but rather who I am. That's just me.

Re-reading this letter, well, it's not good. I haven't done it until I decided to write this post, but it brings back all the hurt and pain from the venom I felt that day. There was also a lot, A LOT of criticism about my parenting, remember according to this person, I am a "horrible mother." You know I think that hurt the most, because I know I am far from a perfect mom. I fail in that are all the time. It's like an Achilles heel for me.

In the beginning I was really hurt, and for a while angry, but not as much or for as long as a lot of people suspected or accused me of it. What my eventual feeling about it was simply that the words that were said could not be taken back. They would always be between us, and although I truly feel I forgive this person, I also feel just as strongly that I could never have an intimate relationship with the where I felt safe and able to make myself vulnerable. I still feel that way.

Other things have happened in my family that have nothing to do with me, despite certain people's efforts to make them about me. The family has truly taken the "fun" out of dysfunctional.

So fast forward to today, with my open ears to God. I told you in my last post I felt like I was supposed to spend some time here blogging about things God has done in my life, sharing parts of my testimony. So I was pondering the things God has done when he reminded me something about this relative.

This was the person who gave Christ to me. That's all God said. He just reminded me that I came to Christ through that relationship. When I was a child most of my memories of being in a church were with this person. I walked an aisle and accepted Christ at 12 at Sonlight Church because this person took me there. When I was a teenager the few times I went to Rose Drive Baptist church, it was because this person took me. And when I was deep in pain and sin and desperate for God, this person took me to the church where I have remained for nearly 17 years.

I don't know what my next step is. God didn't say "call" this person, or "write" this person. He didn't say, "reconcile." All He said was "remember." I prayed a hard prayer in response to His directive. I prayed, "I'll do what You ask, Lord." And now I have made myself accountable to whoever reads this! He hasn't asked anything yet, but I know He's working in my heart. It is not a matter of unforgiveness, I have released my anger, but now I have to wonder what else God is going to ask me to let go of. But as I wait for Him to speak, for now I am just remembering.

Breaking Out

I'm a chronic struggler I think. Perhaps I have a bit of melancholy in my attitude as a whole. I do know I see the negative in things and have to try hard not to be critical. (Strongly evidenced that I lectured Jake on the way to church last night about not studying hard enough in Biology, even if he still got an A- on his test.)

At church last night during worship our pastor's wife opened up a time of ministry for people to come forward for prayer if they were struggling with discouragement, depression or other bondages. (Read my last post.) And I would have gone forward to get prayer, possibly, but she specifically called Neal and I out to come forward to pray for others. I know things don't happen haphazardly, and I trust both Carol and God that I need to be submissive in those things. And the truth of the matter is, I know my feelings are not my reality. Even if I don't feel like I am the one who should be praying, I cannot let that stop me. We cannot serve God according to our moods. (Ouch.)

I was privileged to pray for a dear friend. I was privileged to get to pray with my husband in a ministry setting. I remember back when we used to have parties here at the house and on a few occasions we walked through and laid hands and prayed over every guest before they left. I remember doing those things with the youth when we were youth group leaders too.

Carol talked about "living below the pay grade" as a Christian. About how often we live like we are paupers in this world, forgetting the vastness of eternal wealth that we hold. I am guilty of that.

This morning I got up for the first time in a while to read and pray. I'm very out of practice, and only spent a few minutes, but as our pastor preached last weekend, 5 minutes is better than nothing. And he has full confidence the time will grow. I do too, but I got up and spent a little time this morning with no obligation to meet any criteria, just to connect with the Lord first thing.

I felt led to read Proverbs 8 which talks about the importance of wisdom, and the gift that it is. It is also something I feel like I have been lacking lately. Wisdom is knowledge applied, and I have the knowledge, but I haven't been the best about applying it lately.

Then I went to Psalm 78 to find a particular scripture in verse 4.

"We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done"

I have decided for the next couple days, or weeks, or however long it develops, I want to backtrack in life a little and proclaim some of the things the Lord has done, share testimony, to pass on to my children, or the children of God's generation. The primary purpose however will be to remind myself how good God has been to me. He is faithful, even when I am faithless. So stay tuned, I plan to tell of His wonderful works.