Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope always finds a way

Do you ever think we take our Christianity for granted? I do. Well, let me explain. I didn't grow up a Christian. In fact, I never went to church until I was twenty four or so. I didn't grow up in a Christian home. We never even talked about God. We had a huge family bible under our glass coffee table in the living room. It contained pictures and dates of births and deaths. I never seen my mom or dad pick it up. I remember picking it up in my teens. I seemed to always be curious.

See, I went to a Catholic high school. In fact we had church every Wednesday. Well, we had mass rather. I can be honest and say I never really paid much attention. I went through the motions as did others, but when I walked out I didn't feel any different. My pastor says, "You get out of it what you put into it." Such true words, but at the time I didn't understand what I was to put into it.

Maybe I should back up even further. My family isn't Catholic. They thought by sending me to a Catholic school I would gain a better education.  My mom was a Baptist and my dad, well, when he was young he was going to be a Jehovah's Witness preacher. Funny, growing up neither of them spoke about faith to me. Their thoughts were I was free to decide what I wanted to believe when I was old enough to decide. I have to wonder if my parents even knew what they believed in.

When I was finished with high school I went to cosmetology school. While there a woman asked me to attend church with her. The first person to ever reach out to me. Her name was, Alice. She didn't force her faith. She was just inviting and friendly. You could just see the love overflowing in her heart. I asked my parents if I could attend church with her. Their answer? No way. Why? She was black and I wasn't allowed to attend a church where black people attended. Yes, I too, grew up in a home filled with prejudice. I felt horrible when I had to share with her that I could not come. In my heart, I know this woman has prayed for me. After school I never saw her again, but I know one day when I get to heaven I will get to see her and I too will be witness to all her prayers.

I didn't go to church until my now husband started speaking to me about Christ. See, when we met I already had two daughters. After my second daughter was born I had a yearning to find a church. At the time I had no idea where this came from since I wasn't raised in church. I looked in phone books for churches around me. We lived in a very rural area, but there were churches on every corner. I just wanted to be part of something. I wanted my girls to know God. The God I didn't grow up with.

Coincidence? Not a chance. See, now that I look back I see the Lord has been walking with me my whole life. Even when I didn't know Him, He knew me. He was watching out for me. He knew I was confused and He too knew I was searching. He was calling. I could feel it, but simply wasn't sure what it was that was calling. I could feel my heart tug.

My teenage years were anything but easy. When I started high school I made straight A's. I could have done some amazing things, but I allowed those opportunities to pass by. I chose instead the wrong crowd. Maybe they weren't even the wrong crowd. They were just searching like me. I looked in all the wrong places for love and acceptance. I found myself making mistake after mistake and I had no one to blame except myself. Even though I wasn't taught about God I still knew right from wrong. I just simply didn't care. I didn't come from a family of talkers or huggers. I can share with you that my dad never said the words, "I love you", to me until the end of his life was near. I knew he loved me. We were close, but it was not a spoken love. I don't even remember my mom ever hugging me. Sometimes I look back and feel as though I missed something special, but at the time I thought it was normal. I didn't even know what I was searching for, but I knew my heart was not complete. Jesus completed me. He is who made me whole. Oh for I was once blind and it was He who gave me sight. I look back now and know my parents too missed out. For they didn't "feel" the love we so need as young people.

After losing my dad at nineteen my choices didn't get much better. I was now living a life in anger, but I could feel something working in my heart. I was changing. Was God preparing me to hear His call? I think He is always at work in our hearts preparing us. He wants us to find Him, to hear His call, to accept Him, and to be all we were created to be. I can tell you, accepting Him as my Savior was the best decision I ever made. For me it was simple. I knew what my life had been. I had seen the life of drinking in my family. I knew the effects all too well. But, drinking was to be in my life also. When I was younger it seemed that was what the weekend was all about. Wow, was I wrong. There is so much more. I am humbled to say I have not had a drink now for twenty years.

When we are living only for our self we miss out on so much. I wish I could go back to those younger years and do them all over. I wish I would have grown up in a Christian family and had gone to church when I was young. Friends tell stories of their youth and I find myself thinking they were so blessed. Church camp and VBS. I didn't have that. Maybe that is one reason why it is so special to me today. I was determined to teach my children how to walk in faith. I wanted my children to have all that I missed.

Today as I rocked my grand daughter to sleep I sang to her. "Jesus loves the little children...all the children of the world...red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight..Jesus loves the little children of the world.." Oh how true. He loves us. He loved me so much, He never gave up on me. He stayed, right there at my side until my heart was ready to hear His whisper. That was all it took. My life was changed forevermore.

Last night while getting ready for bed with my son right down the hall, he texted me. He shared with me how much he loved me and how blessed he was to have a mother who lived in faith. I saved that message. I read it as tears began to stream down my cheeks as I praised God for saving me and giving me the opportunity to follow Him. My children know Him. They grew knowing Him. I pray my grandchildren and their grandchildren all know Him and live each day of their lives walking with Him, never turning away.

Sometimes I find my heart angry that my parents didn't teach me about God, but maybe they taught me all they knew. Maybe their parents didn't teach them. In fact I know they didn't. Before my dad died he accepted Christ as His Savior. My mother now lives in faith. A faith that was not evident in her life while I was growing up, but a faith that has grown since I have met Jesus.

There are no coincidences in life. God had a plan all along. Friends, this is why we must pray for those who are lost. We must share when we have the opportunity and never let it pass by. We must live our lives reaching out to others and living so others see something different in us. We may pass by one while in the store and never see them again, but our prayers for them can continue. Our prayers cover the floor of heaven. God hears each one and in His time He will answer. His answer is not always as we wish, but His answer is always best. For He knows the plans He has for us. (Jer. 29.11)

Live without regret. Share your faith with all around you. Don't just assume they know. Don't just think it's not your place. It is. If your neighbor was in a burning house, would you call 911? Would you make sure they were out and safe? It is our calling to spread the Good News to ALL. We are seed planters. God will bring in the harvest in His time.

You may know a young girl who like me was not raised in a Christian home. Friends, all it takes is one person to reach out. One willing vessel to share the Lord. Lives can be changed forever just by living out the calling of being a witness for Jesus Christ. Maybe you know a young man who is being raised in a Christian home, but is having a time finding his way. Why not reach out to him? Why not show him the love that Christ showed us? We just expect others to do it. We just assume and it is that very assuming that Satan loves. Through our assuming it gives him more ground. If we would reach out and share the Christ who saved us, Christ would have more ground. When one is saved all of heaven is shouting praise. We have the opportunity to impact lives. Don't allow our assumptions to keep all of heaven from shouting.

"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." John 15:16-17

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13
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