Generations of Time

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I m sure, dwells in you as well.”  (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

Sadly…88 percent of Christians leave the church before the age of 18.  Unfortunately, I am one of those Christians who left the church before the age of 18.  My ideal Christian family was shattered by a father who fell into sexual sin and selfishness.  There was no parental modeling of authentic Christian discipleship in my home, only abandonment, hypocrisy, and rejection. But to my great fortune, in the midst of sinful darkness and human despair, Christ’s presence endured. 

          My paternal grandmother was an authentic Disciple of Christ.  As a very young child, I accompanied her to church on Sunday mornings.  She felt confidently comfortable enough to occupy a pew only a few feet away from the pulpit. My grandfather was a gentle man of few words; he would sit guarding the outside of the pew, I was safely tucked on the inside, and my grandmother sandwiched between the two of us, was the matriarch of strength and endurance.    As an adult woman and mother, I now realize the great depths of grief and heartbreak my father’s actions and behaviors must have been for her…the pangs of maternal doubt and failure she must have struggled with…  but she faithfully continued to walk according to God’s purpose and stay on mission with Christ.  This obviously included taking her newly fatherless and frightened granddaughter to church faithfully every week.  I fondly recall and delight in remembering the Sunday mornings spent in the wooden pew with her just a few feet from the pulpit.   The church service would start promptly with the congregation standing in unity to sing the doxology, as our pastor would quickly raise himself to join in praise and song,  from a red velvet upholstered gold chair which was fit for a king.

           My grandmother was aged and worn by life, warm and plump, her dresses simple and plain, her Bible tattered and torn, and her arms provided the perfect soft and fluffy pillow for my sleepy head to sneak a nap during the sermon.  My naps would not last long though as I was usually aroused violently from sleep by the screaming sermons of a fire and brimstone pastor, preaching a lot of God’s wrath and a little of God’s grace but I eventually came to know my Prince of Peace in that distant far away church and I committed my life to Him there in my weekly sheltered sanctuary. I was baptized in His living water and in the midst of uncertainty, rejection, and abandonment, Christ accepted me as I was, a young child who was just beginning the long and lonely road of a fallen humanity. And much later in life, as despair and darkness reentered like a dagger, His hand is the only one I thought to reach for when I found myself teetering at the edge of a darkened cliff.  I knew for certain I would find Him there for I found Him there many decades ago in the youthful despair of an abandoned childhood and indeed He was there …patiently waiting to welcome me back home.

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“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”(Psalm 78:4 ESV)

My husband and I were blessed with four children… all adults now… two are now happily married with children of their own; two are still living in my home and none of them currently and consistently attend church. They were not raised in church as I was then estranged from the body of Christ.   Last Christmas, my oldest daughter and my beautiful four year old granddaughter accompanied us to a Christmas musical performed at our church.  Sitting there in the wooden pew with my granddaughter planted securely and tightly on her grandmother’s lap, her sleepy head resting on my chest and shoulder, she appeared so excited by the sounds of the various instruments mixing together beautifully and the singing of a harmonious Christmas choir, the angelic sounds of beloved Christmas hymns echoing through the air.   I held her tightly and trembled as I felt myself being transported back in time momentarily to a distant time and in a distant place, and in the painful memory of my broken past where I once laid in the secure and loving embrace of my own grandmother’s arms in my weekly sheltered sanctuary of long ago, this was the blessed and sacred place I initially found my loving Savior waiting.   And in the aching conviction of His Spirit residing now within me, the painful and brutal reality…my own pangs of maternal doubt and failure became known in my present…

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV)

Two photographs capturing a moment frozen still in time… two photographs eerily similar yet profoundly different.   Two photographs representing over a century and five generations of time…linked by a familial heritage which began thousands of years ago…yet only a few days may have truly come to pass in my Savior’s eternal paradise.  So much has changed, yet so much remains the same.  And Christ endures and remains the same yesterday, today, and forever and never re-defined by the whims of men.  One loved one is now in the joyful everlasting presence of her loving Savior; and one loved one has yet to discover Him … in her fleeting and brief moment of time here on earth. 

 

          Do you have a weekly sheltered sanctuary?  Do you long to return?  Who do you find waiting in your blessed and sacred place?   Do not fear the pain of your past for He is waiting for you in your present.

 

For My Grandma:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

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A Radical Love

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“Rose from supper, He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.   Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

(John 13:4-5 ESV)

“Jesus answered; it is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.  So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.”

(John 13:26 ESV)

In the first century, people would walk all around as they traveled from place to place.  It was a customary tradition to wash the feet of your guests as they entered your home and this task was performed by a servant of the house.  It was never performed by the head of the home in which one was visiting. 

Sharing a meal was a sign of friendship and honor in the Jewish culture.  Napkins were not yet in use and forks were not invented yet.  Each guest would bring his own knife to the meal for the purpose of cutting meat, but most of the food would be eaten by hand.  Eating by hand gave one sticky fingers so servants would offer guest’s bowls of water in which they could occasionally clean their fingers during the meal.  

             Christ demonstrated not only a love for others, including one who would ultimately betray him, but a radical love throughout Scripture. We find in John 13… a display of Christ’s radical love so incomprehensible to our finite minds, it truly is difficult for me to understand.  Christ knew His betrayer, who eventually sold Him for a handful of silver, was sitting at His table yet Christ became a servant and washed his feet and in a final act of radical, unconditional love and affection at dinner shared with Judas a final plea for friendship. 

 

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Loving others can be difficult and complicated!  It is so difficult, almost impossible to love others who continually hurt and reject us.  Continuing to love someone who constantly rejects us and use hurtful words to attack us, is what I would refer to as a type of radical love.  Very few of us really love our enemies and if we do, it’s only because we have to. I’m sure we have all experienced moments where we must tolerate someone we do not particularly like.  Perhaps at work or casually in a group we find we must temporally tolerate someone who annoys or offends us.  We would much rather spend time with those we love and enjoy. 

            I think the most difficult command Christ gave to us who choose to follow Him is to practice His radical form of unconditional love.   This form of radical love which forces us to enter into the world’s darkness, removes us from our Christian subcultures, and takes us from the security and safety of our like-minded family and friends.  Can you imagine experiencing the suffering and rejection Christ endured so that we may have eternal life?  They beat Him beyond recognition, spat in His face, pounded nails in His hands and His feet as they nailed Him to the wood of the cross.  He was naked as He hung on His cross; disfigured in pain and agony they sold the clothes He once wore just beneath Him as He hung there suffering for you and for me.   What is completely incomprehensible to me, a radical love unimaginable, too difficult for me to understand, would have been standing at the foot of His cross and hearing Him mumble these words,

 “…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

(Luke 23:34 ESV)

He prayed a prayer of forgiveness for His executioners.  In the final moments of His earthly life, He finished practicing what He taught…an unconditional and radical form of love.

He practiced an unconditional radical love up to His earthly final breaths and yet we still deny Him, mock Him, curse Him, and crucify Him day after day.   He is hated and despised in a world in which He created and continues to be the only significant person in history who we desperately try to misrepresent, disprove, disclaim, and disrespect…  And yet He still calls out for you and for me!

 Today…please take the time to ask yourselves… Who do you love?  Who do you accept love from?  Is this love radical?  Is this love unconditional?

For those of you who are hurting and in despair, suffering and in pain, you have only one decision to make.  You can either walk alone in your pain, suffering, and darkness OR…. you can hold on tightly to a nail-scarred hand.

 

“—The followers of Christ have been called to peace…and they must not only have peace but also make it.  And to end they renounce all violence and tumult.  In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods.  His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others.  They maintain fellowship where others would break it off.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“God loves human beings.  God loves the world.  Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world.  What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility , namely, real human beings the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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