Saturday, June 25, 2011

Answered Prayer: Day 19 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge Part 3

After a year of traveling with Mr. Not-So-Intense-As-Everyone-Else, I was pretty much a goner. And now he was 21. I had not been able to stop the clock, and was still almost five years older than him.

I promised more on the atmosphere in which we found ourselves. We were surrounded by ideas about healthy relationships, things like keeping a clear conscience, mutually respecting one another, staying out of debt, and listening to the Spirit of God so He could lead you.  These were all good things, and we saw living examples of people following these principles with great success. We saw families healed and transformed when they changed their attitudes and behavior to match up with God's plan for the family. We saw people lifted out of addictions and destructive behavior. It was very powerful, and in this maelstrom of change, we had a small part. We sang, performed drama and choreography, listened to people's stories as we stayed with them in their homes, set up, and tore down, set up and tore down. You get the idea. It was all-nighters and few days off, all the way from Rhode Island to Texas. Exhausting and exhilarating. During it all, I fell in love with the truck-driver/piano player who loved chocolate chip cookies.

He proposed on his 23rd birthday.

Reader, I married him.

He has only improved with age. His love of working has supported our family and blessed countless people. His drop-everything-to-help attitude has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, if not the greatest. Twenty five years later I realize that I could not have possibly have known how valuable he was, nor could I have had the insight to see that I had enough intensity for the two of us, and could use some lightening up!  But God did. And He answered my prayer with "No, I do not want you to be single."

Thanks, God!

PS. I've added his website link in case you want to hear his beautiful piano playing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Answered Prayer: Day 18 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge Part 2

I was rather taken with the young man. There was a girl too, who stood out from the group and embodied a godly spirit, at least as far as I could tell. I was drawn to the two of them like a moth to the light.

I found out they were joining a new group in Michigan and I knew that I wanted to go there too.

So, I did. My commitment with the college was up, and I packed everything I owned in a large trunk and left school never having seen or heard of this group till that summer.

The ministry they belonged to was not tied to any college, but was founded by a man with an intense desire to see America experience spiritual revival. He led teams of young adults in innovative and creative multimedia events.

I was to train to be in one of these groups, and raise my own support to pay my way.

The training was intense, and the people were just as intense.(more on this later) However, the young man I had taken an interest in seemed (for lack of a better word) monk-like. He just wasn't looking for a girlfriend.

I was assigned a mic partner - we sang in pairs - who was probably the least intense sort of personality on the team. He was 19, and his diet consisted of chocolate chip cookies and french fries, when he could get them. He usually found a way to get them, and sometimes he would get the girls to make cookies for him. He kept showing me his go-cart license and telling some story about getting stabbed in high school in a fight. He was young enough that I thought of him as a little brother, one that needed a bit of tending, and although I thought he was cute, I had my eye on a much more driven personality.

Meanwhile I was thinking all sorts of intense thoughts about God and my life, and trying to fit in with this almost cult-like group.  (In defense of the organization, which shall not be named here, it was not a cult, but just very focused, and often adopted a lot of peer pressure to induce a following.)

I took myself and my spirituality very seriously, and it seemed I had come to the right place. We were prompted to pray, give sacrificially and read our Bibles, even though we were in church 24-7. Did I mention it was intense?

My mic partner kept himself busy in his off time with painting fences, and doing airport pickups for incoming guests and teammembers, and he got his class A so he could drive the semi's which housed all our sound and light equipment. He also tended a lone rose bush  on the property; we discovered that we both loved roses. He didn't like to read or study, but loved working with his hands, and he could play the piano like nobody's business!

When we finished training and went on the road, I would occasionally ride with him in the semi truck and he'd tell me stories about back home in Ohio. I was a little worried that I was becoming attracted to someone so young and  'not intense'. I searched the Bible for his name, and sure enough it was in there, but not with specific instructions about whether or not it was okay to marry him. Apparently I was left on my own for this momentous decision. By now he was 20 and I was just turning 25. This was not exactly how I had planned things.

I went home for a vacation and from my mother's recollection his name came up a lot.

-Tune in tomorrow for part 3.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Review for a free book I picked up on the street in Santa Cruz compliments of Campus Crusade for Christ

Imaginary Jesus

By Matt Mikalatos

At first glance this book appears frivolous. It is anything but.

Mr. Mikalatos tells the story of a very personal experience with pain and suffering, and adds in a touch of fantasy to expose the rather human tendency to craft a Jesus of his own imagination.

Some of the “Jesuses’ that appear in the book are Political Jesus, King James Jesus  and Testosterone Jesus. As the story progresses, Mike realizes that his view of Jesus is, among other things, rooted in a feeling of anger he harbors over a grief in his life.

After several time-traveling adventures with a talking donkey, he discovers, finally, the compassion and love of the real Jesus in the depths of a labyrinth during a communion service that begins with just him and God. Others, witnesses of the sacrificial love of Jesus join him in encouragement and admonition.

I read the final chapter in tears as Mikalatos had touched the depths of the most poignant issues of my faith.

The Mount Of Olives Prayer Answered: Day 17 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge Part 1

This next blessing will take three posts, because it affects and outshines, with the exception of my children, (getting ahead of myself!) every other blessing I have received in my life so far.

I told you yesterday that I stood on the Mount of Olives and prayed that the Lord's will would be done in my life. What I didn't tell you was that I believed I was telling Him if He wanted me single, I was willing. I had had several unfortunate relationships and the current heartbreak was just ending. I was an aging 22! I had gone to Bible College with a hidden agenda (well maybe not so hidden) of finding a husband.

I was graduating soon, and there was no one in sight!

 I actually stayed on another year longer even though I had finished enough courses to graduate (hence the $1500 of unnecessary debt) in case God's timing was off with mine. Maybe He had Mr. Right coming to the school and *gasp* I'd be gone?!

Turns out, Mr. Right was only 17 when I was on the Mount of Olives, and it was a little too soon to meet him.

My school was close to the east coast, and home was on the west coast. I loved California, but I wasn't ready to come home after graduation. It would have felt like defeat. So, I joined the college's traveling singing group for the last possible summer (I had been on it several times before) and toured the East Coast and the Midwest.

When we arrived in Holland, Michigan, we had a stop in Hope College. We met up with some other singers from another college, and performed with them, as we had been practicing some of the same songs.They were delightful people, and their student leader was an inspiring, bright young man.

I know what you're thinking...Mr. Right was in that group, right? Tune in tomorrow for part 2!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Education: Day 16 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

Somehow I made it through college and earned a bachelor's degree with only $1500 in student loans!

When I look at the maze of difficulty it takes for my kids to get their education it astounds me that I even finished college. But what a great blessing it is to have completed a leg of the education journey! I am so thankful for those who helped along the way.

One aspect of my education was 'off site', and I am still in awe of this blessing. A woman, whom I only knew as Mrs. Gilmore had taken an annual trip to the Holy Land and had  become too ill to take the trip one year. She asked the college staff to choose a student to go in her place. For some reason, I was chosen! My entire way was paid!

How can one begin to measure the value of this gift?

I stood on the mount of Olives overlooking the Gate Beautiful of Jerusalem, and breathed a prayer much like the one Jesus had verbalized in the very same spot, "Not my will for my life, but Yours, God."

I also saw that in other parts of the world they do not feel compelled to have front lawns made of grass or to change their outfit every single day. These were things I always thought were compulsory. Hmm. My mind was blown open in more ways than one.

I saw another part of the world that I never would have been able to experience any other way. As a Christian, I was in awe of the fact that the much glorified Middle East is 'just a place' and that Jesus had chosen  rather ordinary geography to come to earth. That meant He was more 'human' than I ever dared believe. That meant He might as well have come to my home town. For all practical purposes, He did!
Mrs. Gilmore, thank you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I have a Job: Day 15 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

My first job was washing dishes at a locked facility. That means that the residents were either too dangerous to be let out, or too fragile.

We had to puree whatever was for dinner to give to those who couldn't chew. Have you ever seen spaghetti after it's been blended? The dirty plates were frequently covered in mucus.  Yeah. I got paid four-something an hour to do this.

The upside was: I got a paycheck.

On top of that, I had a great boss, I made friends. I got out. It was good for me.

In retrospect, I feel everyone ought to start out washing dishes. The wedding venue where I now work has the most servant-like dishwashers I have ever met. And I should know!

A job is a blessing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Experience God: Day 14 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

Today is a hard day.

The last thing I want to do is count a blessing.

The troubles seem so heavy, and seem to outweigh the blessings


I promised. I believe that there are so many blessings I haven't yet counted, and that many of the troubles may even be blessings in disguise. Who can see ahead?

So, I must tell you about the time when the Bible became real to me.

It was right after I gave my whole life in surrender to God, when I was a teenager. The scripture became a letter of God to me. It seemed everything applied to what I was going through. The verses I'd memorized as a kid were now 'mine'. And I walked in communion with God through prayer and Bible reading daily.

This was my experience, and even now, when life seems dry and difficult, I know He is with me, making all things work for His glory, and my ultimate good, which I may or may not experience in this life.

The blessing of that time will be with me forever, and is the thread of faith I cling to to this very day.

Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1 -The Bible

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Life-Unplugged: Day 13 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

I was a teen during the seventies, and a young adult during the eighties.

My children sometimes idolize these decades and long to imitate them. It's funny, really. When you consider that there was no internet, no cell phones, it seems they were almost the dark ages for communication. They wouldn't have survived, given the action on the computer and cell phone I observe in their daily lives.

It was a blessing NOT to have internet and cell phones, because these things, lovely and convenient as they are,  take time and money that I wouldn't have been able to afford. Come to think of it, I can hardly afford them now! Sometimes, too, they can distort or obstruct real personal communication.

So the blessing? Knowing what it's like to have to write a letter, speak in person, and speak on the phone (only if I was home) to get to know someone else. I consider myself very old fashioned, and blessed.

But I'm certainly happy to live in 2011 with all it's benefits.  Perhaps that's why I appreciate them more!