Tantalizing Tales of Salvation

Do you have one? Can you tell it with drama and intrigue? Throw in a little suspense and there you have it- a tantalizing tale of salvation. Everyone who comes to Christ has a story to tell. And everyone’s story is as unique as they are unique. Yet everyone’s story is not tantalizing.

I’ve heard great stories of people coming to Christ from really dark places. Some folks were heavy into addictive lifestyles. Others were headed down roads that were going to lead them to self destruction or destruction of those that loved them had they not decided to turn and follow Jesus. I remember stories told during revival “testimony time” that would curl your toenails. Drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, and gang bangers all turning their lives over to the One who died so that they could live.

I remember feeling slightly jealous that I would probably never be asked to share my dullsville conversion story.

Why couldn’t I have been an alcohol abusing/drug using/reprobate turned Christ follower? But it just wasn’t my story. It is true that through salvation we all turn from darkness to light, from death to life, but we don’t all have racy stories.

Can you name the time and date of your redemption? Those are helpful to solidify in one’s mind the blessed event, but what if you can’t? What if all you have is the distant childhood memory of believing? Of trusting that Jesus was who He said He was, and knowing that you needed Him so desperately.

I’ll just bet that the Apostle Paul could mark his salvation day down to the second! Talk about a titillating story! He had just witnessed the stoning of Steven, and was headed to celebrate that event by persecuting and murdering more Christians. It was on the road to Damascus that Paul’s story of redemption took place. It is recorded for us in Acts 9.
Saul (Paul’s pre-Christian name) was struck blind by a great light as he traveled. I suppose that got his attention. Then the voice of Jesus himself spoke to Saul, and told him that he had been chosen to be the mouthpiece of Christ to the very ones he intended to do harm. In that moment, Paul’s life was forever changed. I doubt there has ever been a more tantalizing salvation story.

What if you can’t even recall the day of your conversion? What then?

But what if your story just doesn’t hold the same intrigue as Paul’s? What if it’s downright anticlimactic by comparison? What if it happened so long ago it’s but a warm fuzzy place in your heart? That’s my story. It’s simple. I can’t even tell you the exact year, season, or day of the week. Yet I remember the moment, and I remember the place.
It was not a fancy place at all. The situation was not exciting. There was no blinding light. No audible voice of Christ. No directive to go and do anything as a result. I didn’t even tell anyone it had happened. Not my parents, best friend, or my pastor. The person who led me into a relationship with Christ didn’t even know he had. Still, I was forever changed in that moment. In that moment, I realized without a doubt that Jesus died for me, wanted desperately to know me, and for me to know Him.

My daughter recently had the misfortune of encountering some well meaning, yet misguided, folks who challenged the validity of her salvation experience simply because it was not exciting enough. My daughter accepted Jesus at an early age in the comfort of her own bedroom, gently led by parents who love her. She wasn’t walking out of a life of debauchery. The details of that day are even a bit blurry for her. She was just a mostly obedient, yet self-centered kid, who desperately wanted to follow Jesus. Those well-meaning folks nearly caused her to discount that most precious moment. That is, until I introduced her to a young man in the Bible named Timothy.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul states- “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

There was no apparent fanfare when Timothy came to believe and trust in Christ.
Timothy’s experience was one of faith handed down from his grandma, to his mom, and then to him. Some would even say his story is rather mundane. Yet it was grand enough for Paul to mention, and for God to place in the Bible. Laura comes from a long line of believers. Her story, like mine, would fall more easily under the Timothy category than the Paul category, yet I am no less thankful for it.

I think Timothy’s story of belief is included in scripture for people like Laura and me. It points to the fact that, racy or not, one’s salvation story is evidence of the truth of Christ. Important enough to share with others who need so much to begin their own story of faith and regeneration.

What’s your story?

Jesus Was a Teenaged Boy

I write a lot about teen boys. I have two, and they are curious creatures, and by curious I mean odd. First, teen boys just don’t understand girls at all. I didn’t know that when I was fifteen. It does make me feel a bit better now as I look back. For example, recently we sat in the den as a family to talk about the new upcoming school semester. There were some things to go over like bedtimes, grade expectations, friend choices, grade expectations, after school activities, and grade expectations.

In the middle of our family meeting, a call came in for one of our teenaged sons. My husband answered, after a moment he handed the phone to my son, and simply said, “It’s Sarah”.

Okay, I’m wondering who’s Sarah? My son barely uttered four words during the brief conversation with Sarah. Afterward he hung up and sat there, silent. My husband and I together asked, “Who’s Sarah?”

While girls are a primary concern for parents of teen boys, they aren’t the only concern.

Other worries constantly vie for top position on my anxiety scale. Where are they going, who are they going with, and what are they doing when they get there? Are they studying hard enough to get into college, and studying hard enough for someone to offer them money to go? Also high on the list: are they being responsible, kind, respectful and considerate of others? How is their thought life right now? What music are they listening to, what shows are they watching on TV, and maybe worst of all, what are they seeing on the internet? Truly, it’s enough to strangle a horse.

So as I read the passage in Luke about Jesus when he was near that age I find reassurance. My first thought is that even Jesus had his parents freaked out, and even Jesus wasn’t where He was “supposed” to be, or where His parents expected He would be, at least once. Yet mostly what brings me comfort from this passage is that Jesus existed as a teen boy at one time. Not in exactly the way mine do, but as close as can be considering He is God and all.

I mean when His poor, panicked parents finally found Him and confronted Him they weren’t all that impressed with His apparent wisdom. They knew who He was, and what He was capable of already. I’ll just bet Jesus was about to be grounded. It was Mary who jumped first, demanding to know just exactly where He had been (For three days!), and did He know how worried she had been? I love Mary. Can’t you just see her, a little Jewish woman, standing there with her hands on her hips and her feet firmly planted?

Can’t you just see her, a little Jewish woman, standing there with her hands on her hips and her feet firmly planted?

In typical teenager form, Jesus countered right back. “Why were you looking for me?” Doesn’t that just sound like a teenaged boy? He might have even rolled His eyes and sighed really loudly! I’m sure Mary thought, “Oh, no reason. Only we thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere back there!” Isn’t that what we always think? That ditches are piled full of foolish dead kids who aren’t where they said they would be?
Sadly, Jesus leaves regular, ordinary teens behind at this point for He went on to explain exactly what He had been up to. No hemming. No hawing. He went straight to the point.

Still reeling from their fear, (after all they had misplaced the Savior of the world) His parents still didn’t grasp it all, but Jesus did. Jesus was being all He knew to be. He was imparting wisdom and speaking truth. Truth. Getting the truth out of most teens can be like pulling teeth.

So as the mom of two teens, this passage actually makes me smile. I can empathize with Mary and Joseph. I can feel their worry, their panic, and I can feel the flood of relief they must have felt at finding Jesus safe in the Temple. I also know that amidst this relief, Mary still wanted to ring His neck. Yet mostly I smile because I see, once again, how as Christians we serve a God who has walked where we walk and lived as we live. I have never been a teenaged boy, and I don’t always understand mine, but thank heaven Jesus has and does! Maybe knowing that will help me, as I parent these two boys, to rest easier and freak out less. Well, maybe.

Doubting Dork

God recently answered a prayer of mine. If I were to be totally honest, I would have to say I was just a tiny bit surprised. I’m not sure why I was surprised except that, while I have great faith, I am still a bit of a doubter sometimes. I think God likes us doubters. That may seem a convenient thing to say. Yet one of Jesus’ closest friends was one. Remember him? “Doubting” Thomas? Poor guy. His uncertainty is revealed one little time, and he’s forever given that embarrassing nickname.

Why do I think God likes doubters?

I think God likes to say, “See? I can do that.” He uses it as a building block for faith. I can relate to that a bit. I used to be a nurse on a vascular access team. That meant I was the one who showed up to start the IV when no one else could find a vein to stick, or they’d turned the patient into the human pincushion, and still they had no IV. Usually by the time I showed up on the scene, the patient had become a doubter. They doubted that I’d be able to do what others before me had been unable to do. I’d do my best to put them at ease, but I could still see the skepticism in their eyes.

Reluctantly they’d extend an arm for me to have a look see. More often than not, I’d get their IV started on the first try.

Now I’m not bragging, rather I’m what my Dad calls a “one trick pony”. You see I started IV’s. That’s it. If you have a vein to be found I could find it. So I really enjoyed the moment when my skeptical patients said, “You got it? Really?” I looked up, saw the doubt was gone, and had been replaced with surprised relief. They believed. Made me smile.

So God recently answered a prayer of mine. A couple of years ago, a dear friend of mine confided that she and her husband were separated. This was not her desire but his. It was a terrible thing. I hurt for her, and I was mad at him. According to my friend, it was as if he had lost himself somehow. I told my friend that I would pray with her for her relationship to be restored. I truly believed that God wanted this family to be whole again. We talked occasionally, and it seemed that things were going from bad to worse. I would pray some more. Still, she never gave up on him. She was so strong, and yet so terribly hurt.

Now more than a year later he is home, and they are together. Really together. She is so happy, and she still believes in him. Somewhere along the way he found God, and he found himself again. So God said yes to my prayer. I began to think about why. The answer is not so profound really. He said yes to my prayer because it was what He wanted all along. There’s more to it of course, but in the end that’s the main ingredient.

So why was I surprised to hear about their reconciliation? Well I must admit it is because I had doubt. I had doubt that God could fix this terribly messed up situation. I still believed I should pray, but did I truly believe that God could unravel the tangled mess of my friend’s life? Well I thought I did, but if I truly did believe it, why was I so pleasantly surprised to hear He had? The only thing I can come up with is that I am a dork.

Most of the patients I saw at the hospital had never had to put their trust in my abilities before. I was a stranger to them. On the rare occasion that I had a returning patient, the relief shown on their face when I walked through the door. Why? Well they knew me. They knew of my wonderful skills with a needle. Hey, everyone should be good at something. But the new ones, the ones who had never had to place their trust in my abilities before, had doubt.

I am not in this position with God. I am like the returning patient. I have seen His work, and I know Him. I know of His great love, and for His capacity to heal broken relationships. So I felt guilty when I received the news of His great work. Once again, God had to prove His ability to me. I really am a dork. A Doubting Dork. How’s that for a nickname? But I am not who I was before. My faith has grown after seeing, once again, His limitless power and love. I had to say, “Oh yeah, I know You.” I suppose I did know He could do it; I just wasn’t so sure He would do it.

I was able to share lunch with my friend recently. She looked fantastic. Radiant really. She talked about her husband, their relationship, and the things they are doing to build it up and make it strong again. There was real joy in her eyes. There are still struggles in her life, but she has seen God at work in the midst of strife, and she has felt God’s hand lead her through some dark days. I’ll bet her faith has increased lately, too. I won’t call her a doubter. No, she never gave up.

It’s hard to believe that someone who actually knew Jesus could ever doubt his ability to conquer death, but poor old Thomas did. He had to see it for himself to believe. Thankfully for Thomas, Jesus was all too happy to comply. Thankfully, He still is. Seems like he’d get tired of proving Himself to us time and again. But I think He might just like the looks on our faces each time we see what He is capable of!

What has He done in your life to show His faithfulness lately?

Mid-Teen Crisis

The day my oldest son turned fifteen was a big deal in case you didn’t know. It’s one of those “5” birthdays. Mid-decade. Fifteen also means that he would soon be driving my car. I’m not sure who decided fifteen was the appropriate age to teach a kid to drive. When I was fifteen I thought it was just fine, but now I have my doubts. I like my car. But looking on the bright side, fifteen was not sixteen.

Driving home that day from guitar lessons my son said, “Do you realize that in five years I will be twenty years old?” I thought, “Do you realize in five years I’ll be forty six?” Ick. But I said, “Yep!” After a pause he said, “I think I’m having a mid-teen crisis.” Funny boy. He gets that from me. I think all the stuff his dad and I kept feeding him about how high school grades matter, and how the decisions he makes now will influence his future, was sinking in just a bit.

It was just another sign that he is indeed growing up.

Not so long ago, he didn’t have these thoughts. Kids don’t think about time in the way adults do. Kids have all the time in the world. Yet we adults recognize there is a limit. We can hear that clock ticking. Adults know we have only so much time in which to accomplish what we feel we are supposed to accomplish in this life we’ve been given. I think my son is realizing that his hazy lazy days of childhood are numbered. That before too long high school will be history, and he’ll be off to college to begin doing whatever it is God has for him to do. I see him grasping at what is slipping away. He is finding that holding onto time is like trying to hold onto sand as it falls through his fingers.

I think one of the rules of childhood is you can’t appreciate it until it’s done. It is generally not until you are faced with adult responsibility that you can recognize those childhood freedoms for what they are. It’s too bad that we don’t value this freedom until its no longer available to us. Isn’t it funny how kids long to grow up so they can have freedom when there’s never more freedom in life than the freedom of childhood?

I don’t long to be a child again.

Spare me some of that.

I don’t long to be a child again. Spare me some of that. While I had what I consider to be a stellar childhood, there are still those things I would not want to do again. Learning to swim, braces, catty “friends”, middle school dances, and long division to name a few. Do you know they don’t even teach long division anymore? What’s up with that? But then there were those blissful summer days, loyal friendships, visits to Granny and Pawpaw’s house, and first love. (Or in my case, dreams about first love.)

As I watch my son struggle to grow up, one moment embracing it and racing ahead, and the next moment fighting with all his might against it, I feel for him. He is undoubtedly in a tough place. I can only imagine his internal struggle. I have my own internal struggle with his growing up. As I look up into his eyes now, I remember his birth and how completely overjoyed and overcome with the miracle of his birth I was. His very existence was incomprehensible to me. That I held a tiny person in my arms, when before there was none, was more than my brain could fathom. It was an absolute God thing.

I had to do some growing up of my own back then.

He was completely reliant on my husband and me for his survival. Little by little as the years marched on, he learned more and more about how to take care of himself. Still, I was always there to help with a button, to cut up his food, to caution against foolishness and danger, and help with fractions. So as the years have passed by, he has learned much. While there are still days when I think, “Have you learned anything?” (Especially when he forgets his lunch or his homework for school.) I realize he has.

Yes, in a few years he will be twenty. Ouch. We’ll try to make the most of the next few years with our son. There will be struggles for him and for us. He will get angry with us and think we are holding him back, and we will be with all our might sometimes. Yet at other times we will let him stretch his wings and fly. Those will be the toughest days of my life. It will take extreme faith. Not faith in my son’s ability, although I pray for his abilities to grow, but trust that God will indeed be faithful and just to complete His work in my son; the work that began years ago. No, the work that began when He first knew my son before the foundation of the earth. Before God knit him together in my womb. You see, God has known my son much longer than I have; has loved him and planned for him for eons. I’m coming into the game rather late, actually.

So I am going to try to settle my nerves a bit, and turn my son over to God once again. I am going to yield my plans and my desires over to God’s. And I am going to trust Him to bring about the future He has in store for my son in His perfect timing. As I watch these plans come to pass over the next several years and beyond, I will marvel again at God’s handiwork just as I did years ago. And as we struggle through these tug-of-war teen years, I will try to cherish each moment as I watch the sands of time trickle through my own fingers.