Friday, November 16, 2007

SJP, final installment

In an ad for Garnier skin products, Sarah Jessica Parker says, "This is good, so you better pay attention.

In song and story-writing, that was what is known as a "hook." Sorry if I disappointed all of your SJP fans!

This IS a big, good thing I'm about to tell you, however. It was 1978, a time of poverty and struggle for me. Yet a time when there was much to be thankful for, even the closeness of nature and the absence of distractions.

I felt at that time that I always had some sort of faith. I remember one time working with my chainsaw in a pile of "slash," the branches left over when a tree is felled and which have been thrown into a pile. I was out alone cutting some firewood out of such a pile and the gas cap vibrated loose and fell off, down into the pile of branches.

I was so worried that I'd never find that proverbial needle in the haystack and after looking and looking for an hour, I finally prayed, "Dear God, show me the gas cap to the chainsaw, please." And I opened my eyes and looked right down at my feet, where the black cap was lying.

As I read that book that had been left in my mailbox, I not only learned more about Watergate and the actions of Chuck Colson, but I became aware of truths that had eluded me for my life up until that point. I don't swallow things hook, line and sinker, I'm something of a skeptic at heart,
so I would take the book (Born Again) and where chapters and verses were quoted, I would look them up in the only Bible I owned, a sort of teenage version called, "The Way."

I underlined scriptures and highlighted whole paragraphs. I found everything that Colson was saying to be sustained in the book which I considered special. And I remember that I felt surprised. For all of my church-going as a child, all those summers spent at Vacation Bible School, the songs sung in junior choir, I simply had no understanding of who Jesus was and why He died on a cross. I was 28 years old, and hearkened back to when I was 11 and aspired to become a minister one day. I read much of the Bible that year. But it was just a good story as far as I was concerned.

As I read Colson's Watergate accounts and I cross-referenced his writings with the simple version of the Bible I had, I came to understand that Jesus was the Son of Almighty God. That God cannot look upon sin and no sin can enter heaven. That we are all "sinners and come short of the glory of God."

Sitting at that rugged, picnic-style table in our hand-hewn cabin nestled in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest in northern Idaho, with no preachers altar lyrical music...I had nothing but the sounds of the night and my own heart and conscience to listen to. That and the pure word contained on the pages of annointed books. I don't know if I was searching, but God sure searched and found me.

With intellectual reasoning, I tried to scoff at what I'd read. I tried to find failings and contradictions. Yet every single part of the "plan" made perfect sense. And in the end, I could not refute it.

As Josh McDowell wrote in More than a Carpenter, what will we do with Jesus? We cannot say that He was a good man, or one of the prophets, or one of the ways to God. Because that is not what He said He was.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. "No man cometh to the Father but by me." So, Jesus was either exactly what and who He said He was...or He was lying...or He was a crazy. Lord, Liar or Lunatic. We can't have it any other way. We must decide. And all of my own intellectual ability and sensibility directed to me to a decision that was made almost 30 years ago and from which I have never wavered since.

I knew I needed to make a conscious pact with God about this, though. Throughout the Bible, it is written of our need to speak with God and to literally "choose" him. To choose the path we intend to take. We never would get very far down a road if we did not make choices on which way to turn, which fork in the road to take.

I knew what I needed to do, but, being a drama queen at heart, I decided it would be on my terms at a time of my choosing. I'd wait for a beautiful Fall day, when the tamarack were golden and the Aspen were glowing on the hills. I'd walk out on the ridge, sit on an outcropping and spill out my heart to the Lord. I'd make a sweeping epic, a huge memory, just like a woman planning her wedding day complete with tiered cake and organ music.

But, that "director's" day just never came...and I always was busy and kept putting it off. Maybe it started raining for a spell. Whatever it was, that "picture perfect" day never cropped up.

During this time, I had a couple of horses in to train and one was a sorrel mare named Sandy.
She was tied up in a stall in the barn on the hill. And on that same day, I was down near where our trucks were parked, talking with my husband as he "mechanic-ed" on one of our rigs.

As all couples do at times, we began to argue over something. I don't remember what the argument was about (but I do remember I was right!) but, in some way, my feelings had been hurt. I ran up the path that led to the horse barn, braids flying out and down my back, and ran in to where Sandy was tied. I cried into her long, rust-colored mane and, sobbing, I said aloud, "Dear Lord. I've really screwed up my life. I've tried to run it, but look where it's gotten me? I can't do anything right. I'm giving it to you. I believe that You are God in the flesh and that You died for my sins. If I were the only person alive, You would have died for me. And so, I'm giving my life to you."

To paraphrase Sarah Jessica Parker in that mindless TV ad: "This was BIG." I had ZERO idea how big it was, that simple prayer I prayed. I only knew that when I had tried to control my life, I only messed things up, no matter how good my intentions. I knew I needed help. And I couldn't wait a minute longer because I was at the bottom of the pit. Right where God wanted me.

A few months later, my husband prayed the same prayer and experienced a change in his life, as well. This change is not an over-night process, it's an evolution that is still taking place almost 30 years later. But if I can convince you of one thing, it would be that this is something real...big...tangible...and very, very good.

And this same Lord, this same Faith will carry me through the next year as I journey through surgeries, a halo for several months, severe pain, loneliness of having surgeries 3000 miles away from my husband, long recoveries, reliance upon strangers, angels and friends. This God will guide and comfort me all of my days on this earth, through even the valley of the shadow of death. He will never leave nor forsake me, of that I can be sure. He hasn't done so in the last 30 years.

Jesus is, in very deed, The Way, The Truth and the Life. He is the Door only through which we may come to God, the Father and to Heaven. And all else pales next to His Glory. Our pains, our sufferings, our losses and our wins, our trophies, our hobbies, passions, even horses, our loves and broken hearts, our awards and recognitions and our broken bones are nothing compared to Almighty God. He is at the very core of who I am and who you are. He searched for me like the shepherd goes hunting through the cold night for the one lost sheep. And He will search for you.

postscript: Several years later, while visiting my 70 yr old father, he asked me to tell him what the song, "Amazing Grace" meant. I told him the Good News that Jesus was searching for him, that He'd died long ago on that Cross at Calvary to atone for his, my Dad's, sins. That he could have the promise of eternal life with God by asking for forgiveness of those sins and by giving his life to his Savior.

Then I point-blank asked my father, " Have you ever done this?"

He looked me in the eye and answered honestly, "No," even though I knew he went to church every Sunday.

I asked, "Do you want to do this now, with me?"

He said sincerely, "Yes. I'm ready for it."

We knelt together on the floor of the living room of the house my father had built in 1947. I had been brought home from the hospital to that house and I lived there until I left home at the age of 19, heading for my own life and future out West. I held his hands and we together we prayed, "Dear Lord Jesus. I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for my sins. Please forgive me of my wrongdoing. I give You my life. In Your precious Name, Amen."

I gave my Dad that copy of the Bible that God had used to bring me into the fold. "The Way." With all the verses I loved underlined in various shades of ink and highlighter marker pens. I prefer the good, old King James version of the Bible, but God can bless and use any version. My Dad read from that teenaged version...and after he died at the age of 80, my stepmother gave that Bible back to me and I have it still. And I know my beloved father is waiting for me "on the other side."

And finally, God gave me that dramatic memory I was seeking, of a father and his child kneeling together on a thread bare carpet in a little cottage of a house. Planning our future.


Anonymous said...

V, That was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Thanks for touching my heart and my life. God bless you, Kim

Cleo said...

It was certainly worth the wait. Just as I am reminded of my own baptism when others are baptised, this reminded me to whom I belong.

Thank you, Cleo