1 Timothy 1:12-16

“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our LORD, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:12-16 ESV)

Yep. This would be me, and every sinner, saved by His grace and mercy. We all think we are the “foremost.” But He does judge us faithful and appoint each and every one of us to His service.

Yes, as I said a couple weeks ago, it’s easy to say “Yes” to Jesus. But there is a cost to discipleship. When we turn our lives around, start walking with Jesus instead of away from Him, there is a price to be paid, a job to be done. It’s not a free ride or a government handout. We have work to do. We have been called into His service.

And what is this service, you ask? While there will be some variation, mostly it is to live your life for Jesus.When I was a new Christian, I heard someone scythe the Christian’s life is sometimes the only Bible a non-believer sees. People are watching you, more than you may ever know. When Jesus comes into your life and you make that 180 degree turn, and people start noticing that you are different, they will ask. “What happened? What’s changed?” And that’s when you have the opportunity to tell them, “Well, Jesus became the LORD of my life. And with His help I have given up cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs with no withdrawal symptoms, no cravings, no real problems whatsoever. The desire for Jesus just drove out the desire for all the other things.” (Yes. This is what happened to me. Over the course of about one month, I went from smoking nearly 3 packs of cigarettes a day, drinking at least a quart of bourbon a day (Yes, every day), and smoking about an ounce of pot a week, to clean and sober. I gave it all up, cold turkey. I walked away from it all, straight into the arms of Jesus.)

Before I let Jesus in, I called myself”Spiritual.” I believed there was some sort of superior being, god, if you will, but I didn’t see god as God. And I certainly didn’t get the whole Trinity thing, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t get the religion thing, the you have to believe this way, or that way, or whatever way. I was very much an individualist. One friend from high school recalls me saying, “All this religion crap is bunk,” or words to that effect. She, a very devoted Christian, (who prayed for my salvation for about 28 years – Thanks Deb – Love you!), was debating with another student, from Iran, about Jesus vs. Allah. Not only do I remember the debate, we were waiting for the start of geometry class, but I also remember telling them that I thought they were both “cracked.”

Those who knew me in my days BC (Before Christ), and who know me now, know what a great transformation God did in my life. And that, my friends, is the point to the last line in this passage, that “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to this who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” He waited, patiently, (even more patiently than Debbie’s 28 years) for me to come to the point in my life that I could say yes to Him, let Him redeem my life from the pit of hell and become an example of His great love, patience, mercy, grace, forgiveness, all of the above and even more so.

He turned my life around, and now I serve Him. Everything I do is for His glory. I work for Him, I rest for Him, I even play for Him. It’s all for Him. Thank You Jesus. His patience is for you too. He will wait for you. His mercy and His grace is for you. He will extend it to you whenever you ask. So I ask you, what are you waiting for? Just open your heart to Him, say, “LORD, I’m sorry for all I’ve done against You and Your Word. I do believe in You, Jesus, and I want You in my life. I ask for your forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Please come into my life to rule and reign. Thank You.” It’s that simple.

And when You have done this, please, let me know. It’s not required that you let anyone know, in fact, in some countries it’s safer if you do keep it to yourself. But, for the most part, it’s easier in community. God will lead you if you’re on your own, but having someone pray for you, guide you, point the way and direct you around the pitfalls, just helps.

For this week’s Scripture memory verse let’s stick with today’s theme, 1 Timothy 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”

READING PLAN

Day 36 Exodus 15-16 Psalm 33 Mark 12

Day 37 Exodus 17-19 Psalm 34 Mark 13

Day 38 Exodus 20-21 Psalm 35 Mark 14

Day 39 Exodus 22-23 Psalm 36 Mark 15

Day 40 Exodus 24-25 Psalm 37:1-22 Mark 16

Day 41 Exodus 26-27 Psalm 37:23-40 Luke 1

Day 42 Exodus 28 Psalm 38 Luke 2

 

Psalm 28:1- 5

To You, LORD, I call; You are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve. Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD and what His hands have done, He will tear them down and never build them up again.  Psalm 28:1- 5 (NIV)

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10 (ESV) 

These are the two Scriptures that have been on my heart today. There is so much polarization in the country right now, and I just don’t know what to do about it. My prayer is that I be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. 

In Psalm 28, David, the author, tells God that if He remains silent in the situation, then he will sink down into the pit with the evil doers. Basically saying, LORD, if You don’t help me out, I’m gonna go off on someone. And I think there are a lot of people in America who feel that way right now. But not all of them have a relationship with God, not all have Holy Spirit inside to help them make Godly decisions. So we who are Christian, who do have Holy Spirit inside of us, need to be especially attached to God in prayer during this time. And we, as His representatives on earth, have to do what He would do.

We, as the LORD’S representatives,  cannot remain silent. We cannot sit here and just watch any more. We need to lead the way to change. And the only thing that can bring the degree of change that is needed is love. “And they will know we are Christians by our LOVE.” 

I was discussing some of the perceived differences between the races last night. We started out somewsomewhat heated, but as we both persisted, explained what we meant, and listened respectfully to each other, we made some progress. We have a ways to go, but we took a step. What it mostly comes down to, I believe, is misunderstanding. And I don’t mean this in any sort of cavalier way, but I mean a deep misunderstanding of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even words. We need to sit down and talk, define words, what we mean when we say, whatever. We need to find the common ground and walk into the future together or we will all be destroyed.

This will still take some time, so we need to be patient with each other. I wish we could change everyone in the blink of an eye, but we can’t, so we need to keep taking the baby steps now. But we can’t stop. We need to keep moving with those steps. And just as a child learning to walk, if we fall, we can’t just sit there and cry, we have to get back up and try again. “Let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

This week’s Scripture memory verse is going to be Psalm 51:10, and let it become your prayer, not just for this week, but forevermore. “Create in ME a clean heart and renew a right spirit within ME.” Let the change begin with YOUR love!

READING PLAN 

Day 29  Exodus 2- 3 Psalm 26 Mark 5

Day 30 Exodus 4- 5 Psalm 27 Mark 6

Day 31 Exodus 6- 7 Psalm 28 Mark 7

Day 32 Exodus 8- 9 Psalm 29 Mark 8

Day 33 Exodus  10- 11 Psalm 30 Mark 9

Day 34 Exodus 12 Psalm 31 Mark 10

Day 35 Exodus 13- 14 Psalm 32 Mark 11

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 3

The last section of this passage speaks of the law. It tells for whom the law is established. 

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for this who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslaved, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted,” (1 Timothy 1:8- 11).

I work at a job where contact with the public is continuous. Many are in violation of the law when they come to my place of employment. Many are contrite, apologetic, and requesting mercy and grace. I’m not law enforcement, so there’s no problem with me.  We get their business done, and they move on. But the next year they are back, contrite again, apologetic again, asking for mercy again. And so the next year and the year after that and the year after that….

Some really don’t seem to even notice that they have been in violation of the law and just move on with their lives in the oblivion they’ve created for themselves. And then, there are those who flaunt their defiance of the law. They seem almost proud that they have gone for lengths of time without being caught. Some who have been caught are outraged that they are being punished. 

These are the groups for which the law is established. For those who feel bad for what they’ve done, yet never change, for those who are so focused on themselves that they pay no attention to anything or anyone, and those who flaunt their lawlessness, brazenly defying anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

Some may think there is a difference in the scale or measure of wrongness between these groups.  They think that those who are oblivious or ignorant of their wrongness are less seriously wrong than those who are openly defiant, and those who recognize their wrongness, admit it, and apologize, paying the penalty willingly,  even less so. But Jesus says that it doesn’t matter, wrong is wrong, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, admitted or not. And wrong deserves punishment. All sin is sin.

In Psalm 14, David says,  “There is none who does good, not even one,” (Psalm 14:3b). In the first verse of this Psalm he talks about the flaunter when he says, “The fool in his heart says “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Emphasis added) We are all in the same boat. We all fall into one of these groups, probably even all of them at one time or another. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

The 1 Timothy passage we are looking at has quite a list of wrong doings, from what we would consider little things to great big, honkin’ huge sins, from “simple” disobedience to homosexuality, immorality, murder, and “WHATEVER else is contrary to sound doctrine,” (Emphasis added). All that and more is sin. And any and all sin disqualifies us to be in the presence of God. Yes, the law of God is that harsh. And that’s what a lot of non- believers react to when they say that God is an angry God or a mean or cruel God.

But those who believe that God is mean, angry, or cruel, missed the last part of the sentence, verse 11, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” The gospel, the good news, that God, though He will punish by eternal separation from Himself, with NO chance of reprieve after out physical body dies, (a fate worse than physical death), anyone who does not accept His free gift, will grant forgiveness, grace, and mercy to anyone and EVERYONE who does accept the free gift. 

That’s a really long sentence. There’s a lot going on in it. And it’s really hard to believe. REALLY? No matter what I’ve done, all I have to do is accept the gift and God forgives me? I didn’t believe it for decades, preferring instead to try to devise my own way to get to God. I believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe that the only way to God was through Jesus. I believed that as long as I was mostly a good person and tried not to hurt others, I could still get to Heaven. OH, how wrong I was. 

The funny thing is, what I believed, (and probably nearly all non- believers think as well), that what is perceived as the hard way, saying yes to Jesus, is SO MUCH easier than trying  (and failing) to do it on your own. The perceived difficulty is deception from the devil. He doesn’t want people to know the truth. His mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, and he stops at nothing to do that. 

So, if you want grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all you have to say is, “YES.” Tell Jesus that you believe in Him, that you’re tired of trying to do it all on your own, and you want Him to come into your life and be your LORD and Savior. It’s NOT giving up control, as many believe, but finally taking control and moving in the right direction. Repenting of sin is simply turning around and moving in the opposite direction from where you’ve been going.

If you take advantage of this incredible free gift, PLEASE contact me and I’ll help you with your next steps. The reward is worth the journey.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is the most famous, John 3:16 and the less famous verse that follows it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16- 17

READING PLAN

Day 22  Gen 39- 40  Psalm 20 Matt 25

Day 23  Gen 41 Psalm 21  Matt 26

Day 24 Gen 42- 43 Psalm 22:1- 18 Matt 27

Day 25 Gen 44- 45 Psalm 22:19- 31 Matt 28- Mark 1

Day 26 Gen 46- 47 Psalm 23 Mark 2

Day 27 Gen 48- 49 Psalm 24 Mark 3

Day 28 Gen 50- Exodus 1 Psalm 25 Mark 4

Next – The Final Part to Psalm 116

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This picture is me and Robin and little Adeana worshipping during a practice at First United Methodist Church of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Adeana was so cute, coming up and simply taking my hand as I danced to the LORD. Robin couldn’t resist joining in! It was a truly magical moment.

I’ve now had several hours of frustration as I HAD started writing the next portion of post, since I couldn’t figure out how to keep going after I got the Psalm to display in columns, But it’s disappeared. I know I saved it to draft, a couple of times, actually, but I can’t figure out where it’s gone. So, now that I’ve lost my train of thought and I should be going to bed, I figured to sit here and write some more.

Okay, so I didn’t write anymore, I went to sleep. But I saved this to draft and IT didn’t disappear. I’m really disappointed. What I had written was really heart-felt and it was good,(even if I do say it myself), and it can’t be recreated. So, I guess I’ll just take a few minutes to get coffeed up and prayed up and I’ll begin again, and I’ll simply have to make it better.

SO – Why Psalm 116? It’s just the Psalm that struck me most about how I felt when Papa God (took me a long time to be able to cal Him that – more later) reached down and pulled me up out of the miry pit that was dragging me down to death. According to James B Coffman in his “Commentary on Psalm 116,” this psalm is considered by ancient Hebrew tradition to be written by King Hezekiah after the LORD saved him from death. You can read that story in Isaiah 38 if you’d like to know more about how Hezekiah’s pleas for more time after God told him he was going to die gained him 15 more years. And, while I don’t know how many more years I’ll have due to the salvation of the LORD, I know that I would be dead by now if He hadn’t saved me. My weight, my alcohol and drug consumption, my inability to hold gainful employment due to those things, all added up to a recipe for disaster.

As I contemplated my baptism and what it meant to me, declaring to all the world, out loud, that I have decided to follow Jesus, it hit me that this psalm not only expressed what I needed to do, it said it TWICE, for added emphasis. “I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people.” (verses 14 & 18). This is a psalm of thanksgiving, yet more than simply giving thanks, it’s an acknowledgement that God answered a plea for help. And I had to let people KNOW that I was thankful, and that God had answered, and because of that, I get to live and love and serve Him for the rest of my days. And I had to let the people of Gungu UMC in Kigoma, Tanzania know that their faithfulness to God was making an impact halfway around the world. They needed to know that their prayers and their devotion changed the life of someone they didn’t even know existed. This is something we all need to be reminded of, we never know when something we do will affect someone who will “pay it forward” so to speak. It’s called the butterfly effect. My friend Robin, one of the others on this trip to Kigoma and now fulltime in missions with Wycliffe Bible Translators, wrote eloquently on this phenomenon. You can find her article in the August 2011 issue of Today’s Christian Woman.

I had to let the world know that, because the LORD listened to me, actually heard and paid heed to my pleas, (hmmmm, sounds like the literary device called synthetic parallelism I learned about in class, where a second phrase completes or supplements the first as seen in verses 1 & 2 of this psalm – yes, this is still about my class!), I would call upon His name, love, honor and serve Him for the rest of my life.

There is soooooooo much more I could go into here, (such as the 8 things we should “render to the LORD” (v.12) for all He has benefitted us: love, praise, worship, fear, our bodies, service, gratitude and payment of our vows – identified by Warren E. Berkley in “Something in Return”, the Expository Files, October 1996), but if I write it all here, I won’t have anything to write about next time. (Not really, I’ll never run out of material, but it feels like a good place to leave you for now. Thanks for reading!)

Okay – Finally Got Here – Psalm 116

Okay, here it is, finally! Psalm 116 in English (English Standard Version (ESV)) and Swahili. I apologize for the formatting errors, but I've never written html code before, and I've never written code when I wasn't under the influence of mind altering substances before. (It's been a while since I wrote code of any type.) So, I'll let you read the Psalm, and I catch ya on the other side. (Actually, I'm not going to mess with things right now, so I'll continue writing in the next post. I can't seem to make this do what I want yet, so I'll play with it another time.)
1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
6 The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

1
Ninampenda BWANA kwa
maana amesikia sauti yangu,
amesikia kilio
changu ili anihurumie.
2
Kwa sababu amenitegea sikio lake,
nitamwita siku zote za maisha yangu.
3
Kamba za mauti zilinizunguka,
maumivu makuu ya kuzimu yalinipata,
nikalemewa na taabu na huzuni.
4
Ndipo nikaliitia jina la BWANA :
‘‘Ee BWANA, niokoe!’’
5
BWANA ni mwenye neema na haki,
Mungu wetu ni mwingi wa huruma.
6
BWANA huwalinda wanyenyekevu,
nilipokuwa katika shida kubwa, aliniokoa.
7
Ee nafsi yangu, tulia tena,
kwa kuwa BWANA amekuwa mwema
kwako.
8
Kwako wewe, Ee BWANA,
umeniokoa nafsi yangu na mauti,
macho yangu kutokana na machozi,
miguu yangu kutokana na kujikwaa,
9
ili niweze kutembea mbele ya BWANA,
katika nchi ya walio hai.
10
Niliamini, kwa hiyo nilisema,
‘‘Mimi nimeteseka sana.’’
11
Katika taabu yangu nilisema,
‘‘Wanadamu wote ni waongo.’’
12
Nimrudishie BWANA nini
kwa wema wake wote alionitendea?
13
Nitakiinua kikombe cha wokovu
na kulitangaza jina la BWANA .
14
Nitazitimiza nadhiri zangu kwa BWANA
mbele za watu wake wote.
15
Kifo cha watakatifu kina thamani
machoni pa BWANA .
16
Ee BWANA, hakika mimi ni mtumishi wako,
mimi ni mtumishi wako,
mwana wa mjakazi
a
wako,
umeniweka huru toka minyororo yangu.
17
Nitakutolea dhabihu ya kukushukuru
na kuliita jina la BWANA .
18
Nitazitimiza nadhiri zangu kwa BWANA
mbele za watu wake wote,
19
katika nyua za nyumba ya BWANA,
katikati yako, Ee Yerusalemu.
Msifuni BWANA .

Psalm 116 – Part 2

So, I’d been thinking about baptism, and getting dunked completely like Jesus did. The symbolism and significance are that the person you were goes down into the water and dies, and when you come up, you are a new person, having symbolically died with Christ and been risen in resurrection as He rose. Your sin is washed away. God forgives all, and you begin life anew. That thought was very appealing to me. Those who knew me before will say that my conversion was nearly of Saul to Paul proportions. I never saw it as QUITE that epic, but I will admit that it was pretty drastic.

The decision to do a full dunk was made, but then came the “problem” of logistics. Where, when, how and by whom? The church I attended at the time didn’t have a full dunk baptismal, and while there was (and still is) a nearby river, it’s not the cleanest. A local, or someone’s private pool just didn’t seem right. And then the answer came. The opportunity came to make the same mission trip to Tanzania as the friend who started this whole journey for me in the first place. I thought, “How cool would it be to get baptized in Lake Tanganyika? In Africa, man!” (Sorry, “I’m in Africa, man,” is a semi-private joke. Maybe someday that story will get told here.)

During the planning sessions for the trip to Tanzania, I voiced my wish to get baptized there and bring my whole “coming to Christ” journey full circle. My thought was that Lowell, the guy who heads up the ministry we were working with, would baptize me in Lake Tanganyika and it would be like all those really cool baptism scenes you see in the movies. — It didn’t turn out that way.

The way it ended up looking, visually, wasn’t really much to speak of, at least not compared to the idea I had in my head. But the way it was SPIRITUALLY, now that’s a whole different thing! As I said in Part 1, that little church in Kigoma, Tanzania was the only United Methodist church in Tanzania with a full dunk baptismal, but it wasn’t getting used. I don’t know if the people didn’t really understand baptism, or if they were just afraid of being first, or if it was making a public display, or what, but they weren’t getting baptized. So Lowell asked me if I would do it in the church during a regular Sunday service so that they could see what it was really like. As cool as the lake would have been, this was cooler, to be able to lead by example!

But then I realized, as cool as that was, the group of people watching would be a whole lot different, and a WHOLE LOT larger than I had planned. And now I was being an example and not just having an intimate little gathering of mission team buddies and God. There would be a couple hundred “Intimate” strangers there too. And I had to publicly declare why I was doing this – to people who don’t speak English! I prayed on it and I prayed on it, and it finally came to me, Psalm 116. It was me.

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And so one that day, with Lowell and the leader of our mission team down with a SEVERE case of food poisoning and unable to attend, I stood before the congregation of Gungu United Methodist Church and made my Public Declaration that I am a follower of Jesus Christ by reading Psalm 116 – in Swahili!!!

Psalm 116 – Part 1

So now that you have a little bit of background I can move to the middle, about the power of Psalm 116 in my life. And this is sort of the crux of my current assignment, relating something I’ve learned in my current class, Old Testament Survey, to something relevant now. As I wracked my brain ablout what to do, realizing I couldn’t really use what I had been working on when I tried to take the class at a different school, I was just coming up blank. Then I started thinking about how I really got here, to the place where I have to do such a project, and what REALLY affected me on the path. (And was it from the Old Testament!?) And I thought of my baptism.

I was sprinkle baptized as an infant, though I had to go back to the church where it happened because when I asked my Mom about it, she couldn’t remember. They found me in “The Big Book,” and even gave me a certification that it had happened. But now, in my new life in Christ, I felt the need to publically profess my faith and get the full dunk. While there is great contoversy, the form of baptism really doesn’t matter, in fact, in extreme situations, it doesn’t even need to happen. Consider the thief on the cross next to Jesus at His crucifiction. The man said, “Remember me,” and Jesus told him that by the faith of his statement he would reside in Heaven.

OK, so that was a baby bunny trail, now back to my point, a public declaration of my faith. I felt I wanted to do it, I felt I needed to do it, but where and when, exactly, were questions spinning in my mind. At my home church, the church that my Grandmother (yes, the Gramma from post number one) was brought up in, and her parents and their parents as well? (That whole story is for a different post, but quite a story it is!!) Or someplace else, sometime else?

Alright, I guess I need to go down another bunny trail to give you enough background to understand, really, where I was at during this time. You see, the whole reason I was even at this church was because a drinking buddy of mine went on a mission trip to Africa. It was conversations with him about where he went and what he did and why, that made me start questioning where I was at in life, and what was I really doing and why. And it was through those conversations, both before he left and after he got back that I started thinking that maybe I was missing out on something. Maybe, just maybe, there was something more “out there” for me. And in one of those conversations he talked about this little church that they went to in the town of Kigoma, Tanzania. It was one room, but full of happy, loving people. One of the things they did on their trip was to encourage the people of that church, worshipped with them, prayed with them, sang and danced with them. And it was amazing to me that this guy that I had known since high school would do something like that, and I was intrigued.

So now, we take a giant leap forward. Don’t worry, I’ll backtrack and fill in a lot of the gaps I’m creating, but this tme, rather than hopping down a bunny trail, we just got sucked into a worm hole and we’re catepulting ahead in time. It’s five years later, and I’m in Kigoma, Tanzania. As I said above, I’d been thinking about getting baptized so I could make my public declaration of being a follower of Christ, but I didn’t know by whom, when or where. Then it struck me, since it was my buddy’s trip to Tanzania that started my on my path, wouldn’t it be cool to get baptized in Africa?!! As I talked about it with the guy who runs the ministry we went to help, (Joy in the Harvest), he thought it would be a great idea. That little, one room church in Kigoma just happens to be the only United Methodist church in Tanzania with a full dunk baptismal!! And so my baptism was planned to be a part of that mission trip….

To be continued….

Hmmmm. Where to Begin? Beginning, Middle, or Both?

Some say that the best place to begin is at the beginning, but I don’t think that’s always true. Especially if you’re the type to get lost as you chase down rabbit trails and never end up getting to the original point you were trying to make. And I am that type. I can go down all sorts of trails, following points all over creation, and never get where I wanted to go. So I think that I’m going to start with the place my mind went when I first started thinking about this project.

As I wracked my brain for an idea to start this project off, something that would relate to the Old Testament, something that would “be a witness” to others, I realized that the only place I could go was the Psalms. One Psalm in particular, to start off. Psam 116, the one that I read as my public declaration before my Baptism. But then I continued my thinking and realized that to understand WHY this Psalm is so important to me, perhaps some background would be helpful.

So, here’s the quick version of my early childhood religious upbringing. When I was a kid, my Dad would take me, nearly every Sunday, to the local coffee shop where he would meet with his friends and talk over coffee. I didn’t give a wit about the conversations, I was excited because I got to drink either Coca Cola, or CHOCOLATE MILK! Neither were not often to be had at home.

But even better than the prospect of chocolate milk or Coca Cola was the actual drive to the coffee shop. We did it nearly every week. We would drive several bocks off course, to a particular street in town. This particular street, in just a two block stretch, had four churches. And one block east was another one. Every week we would drive down those two blocks, turn east and head back past the fifth church. Once past, we would head on to coffee and cola heaven with Dad saying, “Well, we’ve done our churchly duty.” That’s my best memory of church when I was growing up.

In contrast, the experience ofchurch that does not bring joy happened when I was 5 or 6 years old. As far as I remember, I only actually went to church when I spent Saturday night over at my grandparents house. I remember that Sunday School was pretty fun when I was there. We got to play, have story time and then a snack!

I loved snack time, cookies and Funny Face koolaid. (I know, I know, I’m showing my age with Funny Face. Goofy Grape was the BEST!!) And I loved to help make the Funny Face, it was my act of service. But really what it was, was my chance to SNEEZE! I LOVED to sneeze when I was a kid. And when you dumped the packet of koolaid in the pitcher, a very fine powder would waft up and, if snorted correctly, produce an awesome sneeze.

And therein lies the rub. That is the cause of the bad memory. The leaders told me I was a bad girl for doing that. I didn’t understand why helping out was bad. Then they said I couldn’t help anymore, and that confused me even more. I got really upset about it. I had a bit of a tantrum about it. And that’s when they said I couldn’t come back. I remember standing in the hallway when Gramma came to pick me up, and them telling her what a bad girl I had been. They said I couldn’t come back until I learned how to behave.

And so I didn’t go back. I told Gramma that I didn’t understand why helping was bad, and I didn’t understand what they wanted me to change. I keep saying “they” because that’s what they were. They were the nameless, now faceless big people who got mad at me for being a good, quiet, helpful little girl. And “they” are the ones who scared me away, kicked me out of Sunday School at the tender age of 5 or 6 for snorting koolaid! I still had to go to church with Gramma when I spent the night, but I went to big people church and drew pictures during the service.

And that’s how my 40 years in the wilderness began.