#MyCreed

#MyCreed

Here’s a picture of me and my 5th grade Sunday School class sometime around 1965 at Southport Methodist Church in Southport, Indiana. This was the church our family went to while I was growing up in central Indiana. It was during this time period that I hold some of my fondest memories at this church, and it was here that I first came to faith in Christ around age 12.

Around 3 years after this picture was taken, the church changed their name to include “United.” I continued my membership there into my young adult years, with increasing periods of inactivity on and off during my late teens and early 20’s, and then a resurgence in the early 1980’s. God got my attention one night after listening to Billy Graham speak on TV. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all the sin in my life and cried out to Him in repentance and faith. I began reading my Bible and started going back to my old church.

I enjoyed being back in the church I grew up in, especially the people, but a couple of things started bothering me. My Sunday School class studied books that seemed more philosophical than biblical, and many of the pastor’s sermons were light on Bible verses and heavy on modern day stories. Around this same time, I was listening to a Baptist preacher out of Atlanta on the radio, Charles Stanley. His sermons were jam packed with Bible verses and Bible stories. This style of preaching was new to me and I found myself very drawn to it. While I really enjoyed my old church and probably would have stayed there a long time, God had different plans for me.

In 1988 I broke tradition in our family and became a Baptist, by full water immersion at age 33, at Providence Baptist Church in Riverview, Florida. It was a series of events that lead up to my change in church membership and in my relationship with God. I wrote about this experience in a previous blog, Another Gospel. In short, God wanted me to grow closer in my relationship with Him.

So now, some 32 years later, my favorite teacher is Jesus, and my favorite book is the Bible. I’m still a Baptist although I do lean more toward Reformed Theology now, which makes me more of a Reformed Baptist I guess. I very much respect the hero’s of the reformation such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. While I’m not quite a 5-point Calvinist, I do particularly like the writings of the puritans, such as John Bunyan and Jonathan Edwards. I also like Charles Spurgeon. While I don’t agree 100% with his views, I believe most of his writings are 100% spot on. For example, I don’t agree with his position that baptism is essential to salvation, but I do agree with his viewpoint that Baptismal Regeneration, the practice of baptizing unbelievers and infants, is not biblical and does not save. I also find Charles Spurgeon’s background fascinating. He was born into a family of Congregationalists, saved in a Methodist Church, became the greatest Baptist preacher in history, and also the most well know Calvinist of the Victorian era.

At the same time, I still like Arminian preachers such as John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, Charles Stanley from First Baptist in Atlanta, Greg Laurie from Riverside California, and of course, the late Billy Graham, who is probably the most well known evangelist of the 20th century. I believe God uses both Arminians and Calvinists to preach the gospel message and to teach us about the Bible. I like this quote from Arminian pastor Leonard Ravenhill, “Think like a Calvinist, live like an Arminian.”

I find debates between Arminianism and Calvinism interesting to a point, but it bothers me when soteriology becomes more of an argument between believers than the mission God intended it to be. Those who find themselves in frequent debates on this subject would make better use of their time by instead sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world, as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission. Our job is telling. God’s job is saving.

If I were pushed to choose a side in the Arminian-Calvinism debate, I would choose Calvinism. I believe God is Sovereign and ultimately in control of everything, whether we think so or not, including, and not limited to, free will. Regardless, our salvation is based upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross and our coming to Him in repentance and in faith, believing that Jesus is who He says he is.

I like the response that Charles Spurgeon once gave to someone who asked him about his theology. Though he preferred to think of himself as a “mere Christian” he also said “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist,” and “I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist, but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”

#GameSetMatch

Game, Set, Match

They say that friendship is a lot like tennis. It’s fun and you both take turns playing off of of each other’s volley. You have to volley into each other’s court to play; much like the back and forth interaction we have in friendships. I still have fond memories of my first friends:

Annette 

Annette was cute and bubbly, the same age as me, and full of mischief! We were born just a few days apart from each and in the same hospital. We were also neighbors until she moved away in 1st or 2nd grade. I was so sad when she moved! My funniest memory of us was when she convinced me that it’d be fun to put apples in our shirts and then go show her mom. I remember thinking it probably wasn’t a good idea, and I was right; her mom wasn’t too happy with us and I was so embarrassed! And what made it worse, I think Annette told her mom it was my idea! Ha!

Lynn

Lynn was also a neighbor; she lived two doors down from our house and although Lynn was a couple of years younger than me, we got along good. Her house was warm and inviting, filled with antiques and the tick-tick of an old clock. We almost always played indoors so I guess that’s why I remember her house so much. Lynn was quiet and small for her age and she was super sweet. I remember her mom telling me that Lynn’s health was fragile and that she couldn’t play outdoors or as often as I wanted to. As life would have it, and I guess because of our age difference, our friendship faded. Years later, I was so sorry to hear that she’d passed away in her late thirties.

Carla

Carla and I met in 3rd grade at our elementary school. She had the prettiest smile and such a beautiful complexion. Most of my memories of our friendship consisted of spending the night with each other and playing Barbie dolls. Our friendship was short lived though as she also moved away. Several years later I was surprised to see her at high school, but so many years had passed, we really didn’t know each other anymore.

Judi

Judi lived next door to our grade school and I remember thinking that was so cool. We were friends from the 4th through 6th grade. She was creative, fun to be around, and we had something in common: The Beatles! We used to sing Beatles songs, dance, practice cheers, play Four-Square, and tetherball. She was so athletic and was almost always better than me in whatever we did! I remember her mom would drop us off downtown Indianapolis to go shopping all by ourselves. I felt so grown up. I think we were only 10 or 11 years old at the time. I also remember going on a trip with her family to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. I thought that was such a cool place. We lost touch after 6th grade when we went to different junior high schools for 7th – 9th grade. We ended up going to the same high school but it wasn’t until the end of our sophomore year that I realized who she was. She had grown about 6 inches taller than me and I hadn’t even recognized her. It was sad though because we didn’t know each other anymore. Puberty made us into different people; we weren’t little girls anymore.

Donita

I met Donita in 7th grade junior high and we were such such kindred spirits. Our common interests were boys and fashion. We’d talk on the phone for hours! I remember my dad getting so annoyed because we’d be on the phone almost every night with each other. And this was back when we only had home phones, and of course they were attached to the wall. I would lay on the floor in the living room and stretch the cord out of shape, and my dad would complain that the cord was stretched out of shape and that I was always on the phone and nobody else could get through if they were calling. For the benefit of anyone born in the last 30 years, home phones would give just give a busy signal to the caller if you were already on the phone. Eventually I got a phone with a long cord installed in my room but we still only had one line.  My favorite memories were spending the night over at each other’s house and when she came with me on a family vacation to Indiana Beach:

 

Then one day Donita told me that her dad was being transferred to Georgia and that she had to move too. We cried for hours – both on and off the phone! We kept in touch by writing letters for the first few years of years (which I still have) and when I graduated from high school, I flew down to Florida and met her in Atlanta on a one hour stopover at the airport. As the years went by we lost touch. I thought of her often, and then a few years ago I remembered a picture that she had sent me of her baby girl with her name written on the back of it. I did a Facebook search and found her daughter, who then gave me her email address.  We connected up again and I got to visit with her, again in Atlanta, but this time we met for lunch. It was good to see her and to be back in contact after all those years.

Penny

Penny and I met in Junior High and our common interests were shopping, Janis Joplin, rock bands, and boys. I don’t know how, but somehow we managed not to get into too much trouble. One night we took her brothers car out for a drive (she drove, not me!) and we were probably only 14 years old. We loved going to parties, singing Janis Joplin songs, hanging out with friends, and dancing at Sherwood Country Club. We also went to rock concerts to see Three Dog Night, Chicago, and Iron Butterfly. Here we are in 1969 with my brother who had just graduated from Navel training:

And some pictures of us at Indiana Beach:

I remember Penny always had a beautiful tan (even in the winter!) and I tried so hard to get a tan like her. One day, after laying out for several days in the sun, her mom told me, with a serious face, “Elaine, you should get out in the sun more.” 😳

Here we are at our 40th high school reunion in 2012:

 

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24b

I remember the first time I read this verse, I assumed that it referred to friends. Later I learned that the “friend” in this verse is referring to Jesus. He is actually my closest friend today.

It’s interesting how you can hear or read a Bible verse several times and then, it’s as if you’re hearing it for the first time. In the late 1980’s I remember hearing this next verse in a sermon and it really caught my attention. Interestingly, it’s the first half of Proverbs 18:24:

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly,”  Proverbs 18:24a

I’ve thought about that verse often over the years, as throughout most of my life, friendships have been difficult for me. First of all as an adult, I think it’s easy to get “out of the practice” of friendship. We get busy with kids, work, and just the busyness of life. But personally for me and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable around other people. I enjoy solitude. In retrospect I think that God has used that to help me draw closer to Him, which of course is a good thing. But friendships are also a good thing.

So this blog is both about me and for me. I need to be continually reminded to stay in the game; not to drop the ball or quit; to serve; to return the ball whenever it lands in my court; to seek common interests with others and to take time to invest in friendships. This blog is also for anyone who finds themselves with similar feelings. I’ll close with this quote from C. S. Lewis:

“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

 

#DancingWithTheScars

Dancing with the Scars

Nobody escapes problems in life. I know I haven’t. I’ve had hardships throughout my life, up to and including now. And while I’d much rather focus on the absence of trouble and the things that make me happy, I write about troubled times, because I know that it’s in and through the dark times in my life that I have been made able to trust God. I have learned to trust in His goodness, even in the bad times. I believe He’s allowed my struggles and difficulties to mold and make me into the person He wants me to be. He has an eternal perspective and long-term plans in mind when He allows both the good and the bad circumstances in our lives.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Green

I’m not sure how old that quote is, or if that’s even the correct author, but I believe it’s still true today. I would summarize it as “Dancing with the Scars.” While scaring is a natural part of the healing process, dancing is good for the soul, regardless of what scars one may have. Life is a gift.

As I mentioned in my first blog, I was sexually abused when I was young, sometime between the ages of 6 to 8. To those who have not gone through this sort of thing, I understand where you might think, “Get over it already!” But to those who have, I say, “You’re not alone. It is traumatic. It does affect how you think and feel about yourself and how you relate to people. It affects how you relate to God.”

I never told anyone about the abuse back when it was happening; I was afraid and I was a child. My mind blocked the memories of it until I was an adult. When the memories of it returned in adulthood, I went through a series of faith growing periods in my life, which also included forgiving those who had abused me. While I choose not to go into details of the sexual abuse, I will share about another bad experience that I went through when I was around 11 years old:

While babysitting a toddler and a baby, I was held at knife point over a bloody bowl of dead rabbit that was being cut up. I was forcibly held and made to watch for what seemed like eternity; I was basically scared out of my mind and was afraid to tell anyone about it. That experience alone was frightening enough but it was made even more scary to me when I learned that within a few months of what he did to me, a woman’s remains were found under the floor board of the very same kitchen where he had traumatized me. He fled the state and within a few months, was caught and convicted of attempted murder of a woman in another state. I was told that he was suspected of murdering several other women while he was on his 18 month run from the police. He went to prison, where he later died, while on a work-release program there.

In retrospect, I absolutely believe that God placed His hand of protection over me on that day and protected me from being murdered. This and the sexual abuse was all prior to me coming to faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I believe God had plans for me and my life even before I was born. His sovereignty and providence is nothing short of amazing.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5

 

I believe hardships in life, in the right perspective, have a purpose; they develop our endurance, strengthen our character, give us hope, and shape our thoughts about God.

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph told his brothers,

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

 

“And we know that in all things

God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.” 

Romans 8:28

God uses the troubles, sorrows, heartache, and trauma in our lives to get our attention, shape our perspective, and ultimately to make us more like Him. While we may not understand why He allows some things in our lives, we are to trust Him, nonetheless.

I have long ago forgiven my abusers, all of them, and it was because I asked God to help me forgive them. When I asked him to help me forgive, He gave me the gift of forgiveness in my life. It changed my perspective radically. God’s word tells us to forgive:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,

forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 

Ephesians 4:32

Regardless of what sins were committed against me, there came a time in my own life where I realized that I too was guilty of sin. It was at that point, that my life began to change; and when I came to understand that:

We’re all born with a sin nature.

We’re all hopeless without Christ.

We’re all sinners in need of a Savior.

Jesus took the penalty that we deserve and offers us a new and eternal life in Him, when we come to Him in repentance and faith.

I also believe it’s wrong to see yourself as a victim. While it’s true you may have been a victim, I’m saying it wrong to see yourself in that way. See yourself in the light of God’s word:

“For all have sinned

and fall short of the glory of God,

being justified freely by His grace

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
Romans 3:23-24

“All” includes the most vile person you have ever known – all the way to the sweetest person you have ever known.

“None is righteous, no, not one.”
Romans 3:10

And when you receive God’s free gift of salvation through faith and trust in Christ alone, God sees you and receives you, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. That offer includes you and me, and it includes my abusers.

“For God so loved the world

that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him

should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

So dance, because:

Dancing is good for the soul, regardless of what scars one may have. Life is a gift.