God grant you the light in Christmas, which is faith;
the warmth of Christmas, which is love;
the radiance of Christmas, which is purity;
the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice;
the belief in Christmas, which is truth;
& all of Christmas, which is Christ.
--Wilda English

Monday, October 14, 2013

Matthew 5:44

When I came to God, I had a thorn in my flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).  My thorn was & continues to be my perfectionism.  If I'm cross stitching something, I want it to look exactly like the photographed model because, after all, that's what it's supposed to look like.  Or if someone else's project has inspired me, then I want it to look exactly like what they've done.  The same holds true when I knit something, or crochet something, or quilt something, or when I do any other type of craft.  It must be perfect.  Even something as silly as stacking my dishes in a kitchen cabinet or the cans & boxes of non-perishables in my pantry.  It all has to be perfect.

After my conversion, the friends who led me to Christ, Gene & Brenda, instructed me to buy a Bible, begin reading it, & join a good church.  As ridiculous as this may seem, I went to the local Christian book store & nearly fainted.  This was probably when the seed was planted for my current need for Xanax.  Buy a Bible?!?!?  Good grief!  What kind of Bible?  There on the shelves before me were study Bibles, amplified Bibles, chain reference Bibles, & life application Bibles ... just to name a few.  Then I saw that these Bibles were all broken down into different translations ... KJV, NASB, NEB, NIV, RSV, TLB ... AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!  I had to "do it right."  I had to read "the right Bible."  I had to have "the right translation."  I just had to!

I went home empty-handed, called my friends, & told them of my stressful experience.  They instructed me to go back to the store & buy the simplest translation which at the time was the TLB (The Living Bible).  Back to the store I went & back home I returned, happily clutching my TLB. Then I sat down to begin reading, but uh-oh. Where was I supposed to start?  What was I supposed to read first?  Once again I called my friends who I'm sure by that time thought they had helped to bring a real loon into God's kingdom.  The told me to start reading the Book of John.

I then needed to "join a good church."  I looked in the Yellow Pages & found that there were more churches listed than there were Bibles displayed at the Christian book store.  Once again I called Gene & Brenda who were undoubtedly considering changing their phone number at this point.  They just told me to visit a few churches where the Word was preached & join the one that was a good fit.  I remember visiting a few but not really feeling at home in any of them.  One day I was walking back from the grocery store, praying about finding a church home, when suddenly God ... yes, it was God ... simply said "Go to Northeast Park Baptist Church."  It was not an audible voice.  It was a voice inside my head.  A real voice.  Not my mind thinking something.  It was His voice. This was the first of two times when God spoke to me like this.  No one can tell me there isn't a God.  He spoke to me!

The following Sunday I went to Northeast Park Baptist Church & became an active member.  I grew closer to God.  I made many friends.  I worked with two of these friends teaching Sunday School for second graders. I joined a witnessing team.  One Mother's Day the pastor asked me to speak during the church service about the loss of my first two children & how God took the pain away. How I knew that they were not really lost to me ... that I would see them again one day.  

There have been times in my Christian life when obstacles sprang up in my path & I am ashamed to say that I allowed these obstacles to take my focus away from God. During one very long, very painful time, I actually turned my back on Him!  Can you believe it?!?!?  But you know what?  He never turned His back on me.  He was always watching over me.  This particular time in my life, you just can't imagine how horrible it was.  However, it taught me about the grace of God.  To have a time in your life that you can look back on & actually see God's grace, it's a wonderful gift.

God has been the top priority in my life for a long time now.  I will soon be 60.  Age, no matter what the media tells us, is a blessing. Those of us who have reached this milestone & gone beyond have had many life experiences which have taught us many things.  That's really what life is ... a series of learning experiences.  For example, when I was in my 20s, I was quick to retaliate if someone hurt me in some way.  Now, approaching 60, I am quick to pray for for them.  Matthew 5:44 is a challenging verse.

Bless people who hate you?  Pray for people who use you?  Really?  But this is what God tells us to do.  We can't just become Christians & claim the "nice" verses in the Bible ... the ones that, for example, tell us that God gives us a future & a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) or how He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).  No, God asks us to do some pretty difficult things sometimes. Things that we might think are humanly impossible.  Humanly, they probably are. However, as Christians our lives are not governed by our humanity.  Our lives are governed by the Spirit of God.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).  

I don't know about you, but when I look at life right now, I don't see it with my physical eyes.  I see it with my spiritual eyes.  Wealth, fame, popularity, losing great-grandma's wedding ring, overhearing someone say we're ugly, our breasts getting caught in the waistband of our pants when we aren't wearing a bra ... it all means nothing.  The only thing that matters is our relationship with God.  Our only goal should be to grow closer to Him.  

My prayer for you today is that you will grow closer to Him. 

Be blessed! 

21 comments:

Vickie said...

Spot on Shirlee! Absolutely, positively perfecto! Amen sister! You are doing it and I am SO proud of you. BIG HUGS

Colleen said...

Amazing journey :) Sounds a LOT like my own journey. What's MORE amazing is God's love for us...no matter what we do or don't do. I've also had a difficult time finding a church that I feel like I "belong" there. I've visited over 12 churches in our town and haven't found what I'm looking for. Maybe I need to be listening for God's voice instead of listening to any other voice.

Vicki said...

What a beautiful post, Shirlee! I enjoyed reading your testimony. I can identify with most of what you wrote, but the one thing that gave me goosebumps was when you talked about hearing God's voice. I've heard God's voice too. It is an actual voice and once you hear it, you recognize it immediately when you hear it again. I appreciate your optimism, your faith, and most of all, your boldness is sharing the Lord. Thank you!

Dawn said...

Beautifully said.

Lola said...

Thank you for what you have written. I believe that God was talking to me thru you!

FN said...

What a beautiful post today--just what I needed to read! Thank you for sharing your story. (I also enjoy your beautiful stitching!)
Frances

PamE said...

Thank you for sharing today. Maybe God put you there for me today. We're going through a very rough time right now. My husband lost his job after 32 years with the same company. I'm so scared but what is bothering me now is the fact that I know all the right verses for comfort and support. I know all the right things to say in a prayer but do I really believe in them and trust in them?? Do I really take God at his word right now??? Please remember me in your prayers. Pam

rosek1870 said...

Amen

Carolyn said...

Shirlee,
Thank you for sharing this post.

I love God and all that he has shown and continues to show me.

Sometimes he talks to us even when we least expect it.

I needed to hear these words today.

Hugs!

Pamela said...

thank you for sharing, Shirlee! I always feel God has spoken through you. I am praying for you, as well!
Pam

Stitchy Mc Floss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine said...

Beautifully said.....

Kevin said...

I enjoyed reading this post, Shirlee. Kind of hard to imagine you'd have any enemies, though. The person I've been getting to know is such a kind, thoughtful person - who could be an enemy to someone like that? Hope today is a great one for you. Kevin

Julie said...

My late mother-in-law was a very religious lady and bought me a beautiful leather bound bible that sits on my bedside table with little markers in it at certain places.

Simply Victoria said...

This is quite lovely! Thanks for sharing your story and your continuing walk.

Kaisievic said...

Shirlee, you are an exceptional woman with a price beyond pearls (I think that is the bible quote).
Love you.

Blessings, Kaye

Theresa said...

What a lovely entry and story of your walk in faith.

Thanks for the reminder to act maturely, pray for others, and trust in Him
through hard times, even when we don't think we can do it...

and the reminder of what is most important in life!

Pam in IL said...

Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing with us and just what I needed today.

Trace4J said...

Wooohoooo you go girl.
Loved this post.
So funny my first church was Northeast baptist Church.
Growing in Him
Woolie Hugs

Sally said...

Lovely post Shirlee. Bless you my friend.

La Petite Gallery said...

God Bless you Shirley,
Enjoyed the read.
yvonne