Sunday, February 22, 2015

Letters to a friend, part four

#4   Leap, and the net will appear!

As you said, We are created in the image and likeness of God. It all began ( and sort of ended) in the Garden of Eden.   God sought fellowship and made man.  It was perfect for a while.  When Adam and Eve fell, and were cast out,  the woes of the world began.   Since that time, the Old Testament recounts the multiple attempts God made to return us to Grace.  Noah and the flood, The atonements of blood sacrifice in the law, and eventually the prophets.  Lots of unsuccessful trials to restore fellowship.  Man continued to do his own thing, ignoring the call. 
It is that sin that keeps us apart from Him, God cannot look upon sin. Finally, as a last resort, He figured The only way to get 'er done, was to do it himself....through Christ.  God became man, dwelt among men, and lived without sin.  He became the atonement, the sacrifice for any and all men. But only if we acknowledge and accept a gift.  It is a gift, that of Eternity in the presence of God.  
By accepting Jesus' death and resurrection as the atonement for our personal sins, we are restored to fellowship and a personal relationship with God.  It ain't Eden, but it's as close as we will get in our lifetime! 
It doesn't mean there won't be any more sin or problems or doubt or fear, but that there is a direct line to Him and the opportunity to fulfill His plan in our lives.  The point here is that there is a plan and a purpose for your life.  You are called to this and it is up to you to step out and answer the call. 
I can't tell you how it's done, there are a ton of folks to keep track of, that's for sure.... But the bible says that He knew me before I was born and has counted the hair on my head and numbered my days.  This is for each of us.  We don't need to understand the "how", just believe it to be so.
There's a verse that says " obedience comes first, understanding later". We are not privy to the mind of God, especially when we are out of fellowship.  We see " through a glass darkly". Once we restore that relationship, " the scales fall from our eyes " and  we begin to put it all together.  Faith builds faith. Just a little bit will grow and more of the mysteries are revealed.  I do have a long list of questions to ask when I get to Heaven, though! 
All I can say, is that I wouldn't trade this in for anything, even if I could.   This has been one hell of a ride! I have a peace and a hope that carry me through good times and bad.  Things make more sense this way, my path is lit.... If only a little bit in front of my feet!  I guess you have to take the leap to know what I experience.   Just leap, and the net will appear!  
I do think you are being called.. I am a poor messenger,  and am not as articulate as I'd like to be.  But I know that you grew up with all the same teachings I did, good bible verses that are locked in our minds waiting to come to life when you take that step.  Until then they are only nice words. 
It's pretty silly, but what pushed me over the edge on that day I asked Jesus to come into my heart and I accepted that gift of salvation, was the thought "What if they're right!?!?" 
So, I say to you...... What if I'm right? There's nothing to lose, and everything to gain.   

Love ya', Bro.   

Letters to a friend, part three

#3 Driving along the Highway

The story of my spiritual growth is analogous to taking a long trip in an old car. There have been smooth roads, deep valleys, and  steep hills it could  barely climb. Sometimes wind, rain, or fog that made it difficult to see ahead, and many breakdowns  have stalled the Journey....sometimes for months.  Occasionally,  I get lost or miss a turn, accidentally or on purpose, and end up on a dead end. Never the less, I continue.  There is no other option, no turning back.  
The Bible is the fuel, it is high grade, premium, and free!  It is also the map or GPS.  It's the vehicle that has the issues, needing constant maintenance and repair. These come through prayer, counsel, and studying the Word.  Sometimes, simply sitting quietly and waiting for direction is all that is needed.
I seem to learn lessons the hard way, maybe that's just human nature, maybe it's me. Some lessons need repeating, over and over and over..... Like being stuck in a traffic circle.  Instead of   " exit second right", I keep going round and round. Free will can be a nightmare for a strong willed child of God.  He shakes His head, and waits for me to come back around to the second right.   
The kids have taught me many lessons, thereby sparing a great deal of car trouble. Their faith is strong and true, never a hint of doubt, sure in God's love, Grace, and power.  They pray expecting the prayer to be answered...... And it usually is!  When Jesus said we must come as children, He was talking about my kids.  They have a simple " God said it, I believe it" faith, they sing and praise and worship, they pray for others, they have a solid hope of Heaven and look forward to reuniting with family and friends.  They seem to be driving a sleek new car with all the bells and whistles, no slow downs or stalls.  I hitch rides with them when I'm parked on the side of the road in my old beater, steam rising from the radiator....
People have said they admire what we have done for these kids.....little do they know how much these kids have done for me.  The stories of miracles, faith, and answered prayer are countless. They keep my faith alive and well.  They also reinforce the message of God' s love for me. As a parent, I not only provide their needs, but their wants and desires, I love them unconditionally, and would give my life for them.  Oh, there are behaviors I don't like, and then consequences they don't like..... And, it's true that it " hurts me as much as it hurts you".  But, they will always be my children, I will always love them, we are bound together, parent and child, forever.  
This is a picture of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. His love is constant and consistent.  It doesn't change if I am on a straight away, in a traffic circle, or in the ditch...  Jesus loves me. 


Letters to a friend. Part two

#2 The Journey

It hasn't been all peaches and cream, there are no angelic choirs singing in the background.  Life is hard,  for everyone. I think it goes double for Christians because we have an enemy, " like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."  They say that the more opposition you encounter,the more you are in the center of God's plan for your life. 
The fact that God had a plan for my life, and that by accepting Jesus as my lord and savior I filled that " God-shaped void", I  was ready for whatever and wherever He led.  I had visions of pith helmets and and jungle tribes or teaching Bible lessons in prisons or far away lands.    Ha, He laughed.  That would be in my own strength, He prefers His to mine, and I agree.  
We embarked on a short-term Mission trip to the Navajo Rez, Michael, four kids, and me. We were laborers; painting ,remodeling an old trailer into a radio broadcasting station, visiting prisoners at the Tribal jail, and helping in a daycare center.  A good experience, but not where we were supposed to be
Our true calling came to us as we travelled home, and saw our family being brought together through adoption.  Our hearts desire was to bring home the children that nobody else wanted..... This had to be God's doing, I had my tubes tied after two kids when I was twenty.  I didn't see myself as much of a parent, and knew that I was much to selfish to devote a lifetime of care,  not to mention the expense, to very needy children.   But, that's how He rolls! 
The lesson here is that I only needed to be a little willing and obedient, He would take care of the rest.....and He did.  I am a broken vessel, on my own I am not worthy, I stumble and fall and backslide and turn my back on Him all the time.  But  God views me through my redemption in Christ and calls me His child through adoption ( of which I have a better than average understanding!)  I hold onto the promises He has made to me, and to all who call on Him.  
Since we are " In the world", there  are the same trials that anyone faces... Sickness, death, turmoil, financial hardship, natural disasters, and on and on.  The only difference is that I have an anchor, I have God's words in scripture, and I hear a still, small voice ( if I really listen) that guides and comforts me, even in the worst hours.  Those are the times when I feel His presence more than ever, like the Footprints poem..... I have a deep abiding joy on the darkest days.  He carries me to higher ground.  
I hope this doesn't sound all holier-than-thou, because I'm not.....  I still yell at the kids when they bug me, fight with Jim, swear like a sailor, watch dirty movies, eat the wrong foods, and skip my vitamins.   I am in the palm of His hand, saved by Grace, and He knows my heart.  All any of us need is a tiny bit of faith, and the slightest move in His direction, and He comes to meet us more than halfway.  He's been waiting, like the father of the prodigal son, and will throw a big party, kill the fatted calf ( or the tofurky for vegans) ,h ire a band, sing and dance, and rejoice.   He will do the work, all you have to do is turn toward home, just as you are.  

Letters to a friend

I wrote  a series of letters to a friend who asked me about my belief system and my faith in Jesus Christ. He was going through hard times and knowing that I had been through similar experienceswondered how I kept my positive attitude and remain peaceful in spite of circumstances.
And posting them to preserve them for myself to share a bit of my faith with anyone who would care to read them.

#1 The Beginning.  

On a hot summer night, on vacation with family in Iowa, of all places, Billy Graham asked those responding to his altar call out in TV land to stand up and put their hand on the television set and he would pray. I felt silly, but went ahead and wondered if this small act would secure my place in heaven.  I was probably 12 or 13 years old.  An act forgotten by the next morning. Years later, we met some folks that shared a similar "mother earth news" lifestyle, and became friends, I was initially skeptical, seeing a bookshelf full of Bibles and other books that led me to label them Jesus Freaks. I remember saying, " i like them fine,as long as they don't lay that stuff on me".  
Our friendships grew, and we spent some fun Friday nights at the little country church down the road, watching family friendly movies and eating popcorn. There were no movie theaters within fifty miles of little Shoestring Valley in Western Washington.  We saw comedies and classics, like Swiss Family Robinson. 
One particular night, the film was a fictional account of the Rapture and ensuing events, like planes crashing and important politicians
 missing.  Quite an eye opener, since I had never heard of this Rapture business.  It seemed pretty far fetched at the time, but the discussion backed it with Biblical chapter and verse, and our friends all seemed to believe it to be so.  My thought was, what if they're right??  The movie had ended with a prayer, similar to the one ol' Billy had prayed years before, and on the way home in the car, I said That little prayer to myself....."Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins,and come into my heart and life.....I accept your gift of salvation, provided for me by your sacrifice on the cross."    Well, no lightning bolt or harp music, so I figured I got it wrong.  I tried it again, remembering as many of the words and phrases as I could..... Still nothing.  At that point, the kids were fighting in the back seat,and I had to threaten them with dismemberment or extra chores, and forgot all about the Rapture, God, and  my little prayer.  
The next day, as I was cleaning and vacuuming, I became aware of a smile on my face,  joy in my heart,  and a peace I couldn't explain.  The grass and trees were greener, the sky bluer, the day brighter.  I know now, it was because I was seeing with new eyes, I was renewed, reborn, if you will.... And didn't have a clue!
My faith has become a part of me. I trust God's word completely, and am sure of His love and His grace.  I'm not churchy, like to go to the local evangelical church on occasionally, and sometimes a little Catholic parish, and sometimes Cowboy church.  But, it isn't about church, it's about a personal, real relationship with Jesus Christ.  
There are so many things I could say, but it boils down to answered prayer, miracles, guidance, and correction ;  a real presence as I walk this road.  Whatever comes my way,  Gods grace is sufficient.  I have buried four children, my marriage ended because of Michael's terrible illness, multiple sclerosis kicks my butt,  and we have the day to day stresses and problems that everyone else has. There are days that I am angry, depressed, sad, or bitter, even then I am  aware of His comfort and care.  
I picture God as a  loving father, the Abba of the Bedouin camps..... This is how He describes himself, to give us something to relate to.  Those Bedouin lords were responsible for all in their tents ......wives, children, servants, stockmen, and livestock. Children ran to him with joy, never fear,  and he held them on his lap and loved them for who they were.  This is the image our God wants us to have of Him and his deep, unconditional love for each of us.  
This is the story of the beginnings of my faith.  It continues to grow, I continue to grow, as well. I'm not perfect, but a work in progress.  I can't imagine life without this lamp to light the way.  
I know that I am assured a place in Heaven, and that no matter how far I might stray in this life, that as soon as I turn toward Him, my sins are wiped away, and I run to His arms and jump into His lap..... he gives me a noogie, laughs, and tells me that I am His favorite black sheep.   

Stay tuned.......