Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Okay, not so much, really

Of course I wasn't BORN Baptist. But here, in the buckle of the Bible belt that I am blessed to call home, people nod and chuckle knowingly when you say that. I really don't hear the same allusions made to being "born Methodist" or "born Catholic." Hmm. Wonder why. I guess being "born Baptist" explains a lot. Haha.

What I mean by that -- and what most of us mean by that -- is that my family, on both sides, was Baptist as far back as anyone can reckon. My earliest memories of my Christian heritage begin with my grandparents on both sides. My mother's father was a Baptist preacher. His wife, who is but a single angel's breath short of sainthood in my eyes, was the ultimate picture of a preacher's wife. She grew flowers and made the arrangements for the tiny little churches. She cooked meals and visited the sick. She taught Sunday school, VBS, Sunbeams. What sweet, sweet memories for me. I still have some of the little flannel board kits she used in those classes, and some hand-made activities she created back in the day before the slickly packaged kits churches use today. Precious.

My father's parents weren't involved in that way but were of the "whenever the doors were opened" ilk. They were involved more in fundraising, donating, etc. In their small church were a stained glass window and a pew both bearing a brass plate engraved with our family name to represent donations given for the building of the church. Whenever I went to church with them, I couldn't understand why we didn't sit in OUR bench. How can you have a bench with your name on it and NOT SIT THERE???? Well, my grandmother had HER PLACE in church. Everyone had THEIR PLACES in church. (Now I know what that's like. We were not in Sunday service most of this past summer, and when we went back in the fall we parked ourselves back in OUR PLACE. If anyone else had gotten comfortable there over the summer, they have since relocated with nary a sideways glance. And hubby and I are weird for Baptists -- out of some 50-60 rows of pews three wide, we sit on the right hand side, fourth pew from the FRONT, middle of the pew, me on the left and hubby on the right. Nerdy Baptists, I guess -- like we always like to sit up front in classes.)

Well, as you can see, both sets of grandparents were greatly involved in church and my parents, as children, were necessarily involved as well. My mother was forced to play the piano in church, which she hated. I think that when my parents both got to be teens (they hadn't met at this point) they complained enough to be relieved of mandatory church attendance. And that they liked. Church activities had become a chore and a drudgery for them.

Preview to the next installment: The sixties were not kind to families. The sixties were not kind to faith. The sixties, I believe, were pretty much single-handedly responsible for much of the family breakdown and societal mayhem with which we wrestle today. Women's lib? Pffft. No friend of mine, let me tell you. Also, let me tell you how NOT to raise a child: "Oh, we were so unhappy with organized religion; let's just let her find her own way." Pardon my French but "finding my own day" literally damn near got me killed, certainly spiritually if not practically physically. I am NOT passing that legacy to my child.

Proverbs 22:6 -- Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Was Born a Baptist

Let me digress to say, "Really?" Over three months since my last entry? Gee, school must have started back in the meantime. Life is a blur.

I'm feeling compelled to write something here that will necessarily arrive in installments. I'm actually preparing for something I have to do in a few weeks. At school, every morning, the teachers meet for prayer/devotions. Thursdays are always teacher-led devotions, and this year we were given a theme: our testimony. I am actually looking forward to doing this. My day is about a month away and I have to start now, sorting out my thoughts. There is so much I want to say, but I need to see it all written down so I can prioritize. I mean, I'll only have twenty minutes. In a class that my husband and I used to teach for new Christians, we instructed the participants to develop an abridged version of their Christian testimony, short enough to give while crossing the street, so as to be able to tell their story succinctly. But me? Ha.

I do know how I'll start out. It's the same way I intend to start out here. Many who haven't known me for a long time probably assume, based on my zealousness regarding some moral and social issues, that I was born and raised in a Christian family. I truly was not. My story is one of coming to a saving relationship with Christ at a relatively late age and of the many abrupt, distinct changes that decision brought to my life (all good, by the way).

I have previously been envious of those who can claim to have been born to devoutly Christian parents, who were raised in church and with a knowledge of God and His Word, and all the other beautiful blessings that go with that heritage. I have recently, however, come to appreciate the unique perspective that my own delayed salvation has brought me. This is in no way to say that I wish this experience for anyone, for we never know when Jesus will return to settle the score once and for all.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day.

But, my experience regarding my late-coming relationship with Christ just cements the fact that I am blessed and protected by God and I always have been. This has given me, I think, a very different perspective on grace and God's faithfulness than many who knew Him from an early age. Oh, how I do wish I would have made a decision for Him when I was young, but He knew all along that I would be His. He even knew how I would fight Him along the way, and that makes His grace that much more precious. He did not give up on me, even when I gave up on Him. I know I do not deserve to dwell in His presence, but He created me out of a desire to be with me and He pursued me relentlessly for 33 years to have that relationship. I was caught, blessedly caught, and in being caught I was set free.

2 Peter 3:9-10
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Grace. Grace. Amazing, sweet, flowing, abundant grace.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.