Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Day I Came to Life

My senior year of high school was a depressing time. My relationship with Jason was officially over. As a symbol of my "independence," I cut off all my hair. I wanted people to think I didn't care, but I was absolutely devastated. The grief over losing my best friend was magnified by the increasing pressure to devote my life to meaningless activities, like playing the French Horn. I was talented. But if I was going to live a mere projected seventy years, I wanted my brief life to make an impact on humanity. Playing the horn would not suffice. What I really wanted be was a writer.

I once wrote a story about a very talented young girl who was admired by all, but because she saw no reason for her existence, she committed suicide. Nobody found the body for four days.That final school year I found comfort and solace in various existential writers and poets. They were able to articulate the extreme sense of despair that I felt, and gave me the sense that I was not alone in the way I was feeling. I began to record my own thoughts in a journal I was required to keep for English class. Nearly every single page of that journal reflected just how deeply in bondage to existentialism I had become. For example, I once wrote a story about a very talented young girl who was admired by all, but because she saw no reason for her existence, she committed suicide. Nobody found the body for four days. I still have that journal.

I wrote each entry knowing my English teacher would be reading. These days, the things I had written would have earned me a psych eval. But back then, my stories earned me an A accompanied by phrases like, "Brilliant!" or, "You have such an amazing talent!" It just made me more depressed.

In the Fall of 1992, I entered college as a Theatre Arts major. I figured this was the best way to make an impact on humanity. Theatre Arts allowed me writing opportunities, but also the chance to live out my pain and frustration through my characters. Plus, the greatest existentialists of the 20th century were not self-proclaimed philosophers, but rather, playwrights. I thought a good start would be to follow in their footsteps. So I started taking classes.

In January 1993, I befriended a girl in my "Musical Theatre Technique" class. Her name was Amy, and she noticed I was wearing a cross around my neck. Amy asked me if I had a Christian background. "Well," I said, "I'm Catholic." I certainly wasn't going to tell her the truth: that I was a tortured soul grieving my own mortality. Amy invited me to church, but I flatly refused, explaining that I vowed I would never set foot in a church again. So Amy backed off a bit and asked if I'd settle for studying the Bible with her. I immediately accepted her offer: "I have always wanted to see for myself what the Bible had to say about life, but I just couldn't understand it." We agreed to meet for lunch after our next class. I had no idea what was about to happen to me.

We met in the student lounge. Amy began by asking me, "Why did Jesus die?" I scoffed at the question. "That's easy!" I said. "To pay for our sins." (If there was one phrase I had memorized from my Catholic upbringing, that was it.)

"Okay," she said. "Do you know what that means?" This is where I became a bit embarrassed and admitted that I did not know what that meant. "In fact," I told Amy, "I"ve been asking that question since I was eight years old." So the next thing Amy asked me was if I had ever read the Bible.

When I was ten years old, I asked my parents for a Bible for Christmas, but I didn't get one. My Aunt Barbara had given me an illustrated Children's Bible the following year, and I began reading it from the first page of Genesis. I thought I had to read the Bible all the way through, like a regular book. Even though it was a children's Bible, I still got bogged down around Kings. I never made it to the New Testament. But amazingly enough, I had read just enough to set off a chain reaction with Amy years later.

With no prior knowledge of how much I had read, Amy asked me, "Do you remember the animal sacrifices that were performed in the Old Testament?" I said I did. Then Amy said the magic sentence: "Well, that's why Jesus is called the Lamb of God."

At that moment, something happened. I felt as though something inside my soul had burst wide open.At that moment, something happened. I felt as though something inside my soul had burst wide open. Amy kept talking. I saw her lips moving but I couldn't hear what she was saying. My mind was flooded with enlightenment. Lyrics to Christmas songs suddenly made sense. "Born to raise the sons of earth! Born to give them second birth! Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born King!" It was as though my entire life was all a bad dream, and I had just woken up. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth!" I suddenly felt as though all the secrets of the universe had been revealed to me. As my brain was making the connection between Old and New Testaments, I finally understood why it was called The Greatest Story Ever Told.

At the time, I wasn't exactly sure I knew what was happening to me. But I was born again on the spot. No Ten Commandments, no mention of what a sinner I was or my need to repent. I did not make a decision, I did not say a prayer. In fact I was quite passive the entire time. All Amy did was correlate Jesus to the sacrificial systems in the Old Testament. I had become a new creature. I had miraculously been given the answer to my most pressing question and I was filled with so much wonder I had no choice but to throw myself at His feet. Life suddenly had meaning. There was a purpose to all of this!

Later that night, I opened the Bible Amy gave me and read the New Testament until I could no longer keep my eyes open. I read from Matthew straight through Galatians. I finally turned out the light at 3am, unwillingly.

I woke the next morning, acutely aware that His presence was filling the room. He had always been there. I just didn't see Him until now. Then I remembered something I read the night before:

"Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
"Unless a man be born again, he cannot see . . . "

I can see.

I can see!

I CAN SEE!!!!!

And with that, I began Day 2 of my new life in Christ.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Teenage Romance: A Tragedy in Two Acts

In preparation for our theme of the month, I surfed the internet a bit and came across an article by J.T. Webb entitled Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals. I can pretty much stop here and just have you read the article. It describes my adolescence with frightening accuracy, particularly with regard to interpersonal relationships. Webb states: "Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone." No example from my adolescence could illustrate this concept better than my high school romance.

ACT I: 1988-1990

Jason and I became fast friends early in the 1988-1989 school year. Toward the end of that same year, Jason passed me a note. "Jen, I really like you and I want to ask you to be my girlfriend," it read. That was the start of a whirlwind romance that would continue for the next two years.

Jason was the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful, sensitive, and compassionate human being I had ever met in my fifteen years on earth. (Hands down, his best quality was his generosity.) The more time I spent with Jay, the more I came to realize what a beautiful person he was. There was also a lot of chemistry between us that was difficult to ignore. We were so deeply enmeshed. We did everything together. Life was perfect - until my existentialism started interfering with the relationship.

Despite the fact that I was incredibly happy and I would even venture to say I was in love with Jason, I was simultaneously miserable. I knew my happiness was based on conditional circumstances. It was painful to think that Jay would eventually be taken from me in one of two ways: either he and I would one day cease to be friends anymore, or we'd be together for the rest of our lives and then simply die. The heightened awareness that I would surely lose the one person who meant everything to me was unbearable. Coupled with everything else that was happening in tenth grade, I felt I was going to crack under the pressure. I didn't want to end it, but I needed out.

He never saw it coming. Tears welled up in his eyes. He asked why, but I couldn't give him a straight answer. How could I? What was I supposed to say? "I can't see you anymore because I'm having a midlife crisis 30 years earlier than expected?" I assumed if I was going to eventually lose the only person who meant anything to me, it might as well be now. I couldn't see any point in postponing the inevitable.

ACT II: 1990-1991

After about six months, I recanted my original decision. Jason was my best friend. He was also, in a sense, my only friend. In spite of my belief that everything was pointless, I wanted to restore this relationship. I didn't have all the answers, but I thought I'd figure them out along the way. I reached out to Jay in the summer of 1990. By November, we were an item again. I promised myself that this time, I was going to really let him in and be honest about my existential struggle. I just wasn't sure how to do this.There is a profound sense of emptiness that accompanies the idea that any intimacy you shared with a person was all a smokescreen to begin with.

I started by dropping hints here and there. I tried to start philosophical conversations, hoping he'd bite, but nothing. Then one day, I purchased a gift for him that symbolized everything that was festering inside me: it was a religious pendant. This was more than a gift. This was a gesture on my behalf that said, "Please see me for who I am, and all that I am wrestling with in my heart! I am desperately searching for meaning and I want you to know me! I want you to know the real me!"

When I gave it to him, he took one look at it and laughed. "This is the ugliest thing I've ever seen!" he exclaimed. He asked me to take it back. I know Jason didn't mean to hurt me, but I still felt humiliated and rejected. Looking back, I can say in Jason's defense the pendant was pretty ugly. He was just a boy of 15. He didn't understand the things that kept me awake at night. He wasn't even aware that I wrestled with such issues. At that moment, I realized he would never understand me. I feared perhaps nobody would. Webb states:
When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others' expectations. Often . . .these youngsters . . . feel isolated from their peers . . . as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.

There is a profound sense of emptiness that accompanies the idea that any intimacy you shared with a person was all a smokescreen to begin with. Jay was in love with the person who was responsible for all my high school achievements. But the person I truly was underneath was a complete stranger to him. It was becoming more and more obvious with time that we had two separate worldviews that were diametrically opposed. Then one day we had a terrible argument that ended it all, and we completely stopped speaking to one another.

EPILOGUE

Two and a half years after that awful day, I broke the silence when I approached Jason and told him I had become a Christian. He looked at me with a hint of disdain in his eyes and said, "Oh, so you're into all that religion @&#*!" My heart broke for him. I tried to explain to him that my faith was not a religion, but he didn't understand, nor did he care.

I saw him once more, six years after that conversation. His father had passed away, and God had placed me in the right place at the right time. I went to the memorial service, got up in front of about 300 people, and shared the gospel. It was terrifying, but I'm glad I did it. That was nine years ago, and I haven't seen Jason since. It may have been my last chance to share the gospel with him.

Sometimes, I believe God brings us through seasons so we can preach His Word with authority later. If I had not been so close to the family for those three years or so, I would not have been able to establish the credibility I needed to get up in front of all those people that day. I even had several complete strangers approach me afterward to thank me for what I had shared. As for Jason, he appeared both surprised and deeply touched by my compassion. After the memorial service, he could not say anything to me other than "Thank you so much for coming! I can't believe you came! I just can't believe you came!" I don't know how much of an impact the gesture had on him, but I pray God was glorified.

In my time as a Christian, I have come to learn that I do not need to work hard to be known or understood. The Bible says that God searches the hearts. My identity, meaning, and purpose is constant in Him. Friends may come, friends may go, but The Lord has never abandoned me. I have also come to learn that even though nothing on earth lasts, God has given us our blessings to enjoy while we're here, and we are not to mourn the end of those things. Still, a part of me mourns for Jason. While it saddens me to think he never knew or understood the real me, worse is the thought that he doesn't know or understand the real God. There is a desire to reach out and do more, but God has asked me to entrust Him with Jason's life and to simply pray for him instead. I still think of him every year on his birthday and pray that one day he will be born again.

I have been praying for Jason nearly sixteen years . . .

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Fool Remembered

Since this month's theme is "Testimony," I thought I'd take a break from my own story and share the fascinating testimony of a dear brother in Christ, Jim Jones. Jim had plans of starting his own coven just before The Lord saved him. Here is Jim's story, in his own words:

You've probably noticed, choosing a man that has grown up with the name of an infamous cult leader and calling him to evangelism shows our Lord has a sense of irony.

I was raised going to a Seventh-Day Adventist church, because that is what my family did. I also attended private church-run schools up through and including two years of college, where I gained a fair amount of knowledge in scripture and religion. I even studied for the ministry. However, a walk with a church as opposed to a walk with Christ wasn't enough to sustain me. Eventually, I turned away and took a path that lead into drugs, the occult and other dark shadows.

I practiced Wicca as a solitaire for about three years. I flatly tell the Christians that think witchcraft and such are just make believe, they're very mistaken. Things happened! I read Tarot cards, and from what both friends and strangers told me the readings were disturbingly accurate. Later, my wife & I joined a Druid grove where I initiated and became an understudy to the high priest. I went deeper into circle work, rituals and spell craft. When we moved to Oregon, it was my full intention to start a new coven or grove here.

Looking back, I don't dwell on it too much, because I don't want to glorify the enemy or give the demonic more attention than it is due. Praise God that our Savior redeems! I believe He permitted that experience so that I can witness and relate to a group and counter culture that most of the church either writes off or is outright frightened of. As Joseph told his brothers... "what you meant for evil, God has used for good."

God took hold of me on February 29th, 2004. I was broken and sobbing; stripped of my self-righteousness. I realized the crimes I’d committed against God’s holy law. I’d lied, stolen, lusted, blasphemed His holy name and more. I deserved His wrath and judgment, and justice meant Hell. There was nothing I could do. I finally understood what Jesus had done, and it changed everything. As I faced the Judge of the Universe, Christ stepped in and paid the fine I could never hope to with His precious blood. I stood there, undeserving at the foot of the cross. I gave it all over to Him, and He handed back mercy and grace.

When I finally surrendered and passed through the narrow gate of repentance, other doors also swung open. Christ brought a teaching called Hell’s Best Kept Secret across my path. As I listened to it, I felt a missing puzzle piece fall into place. A spark of evangelism came to life and the Lord fanned it into a flame.

With the support of my wife, Kelly, I’ve begun a ministry of street witnessing and open air preaching. I'm a graduate of the School of Biblical Evangelism, and have also become the leader of a local evangelism team. Evangelism isn’t just a priority – it’s a necessity. The more I read of my Bible, I just can’t see it any other way. People are dying and souls are going to Hell.

This is my guiding scripture...

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2nd Timothy 4:3-5 (NASB)


Evangelism is one of the values of Reformed SHEology. It is so important that we share the gospel with those who are perishing. I know I am a Christian today because someone shared the gospel with me. For this reason, I am thankful for Jim's faithfulness to the lost. In light of the stories I've shared so far this month concerning my own battle with existentialism, and the heightened awareness I have that the only work that lasts is that which is done for the Kingdom, Jim's ministry has taken on a heightened significance for me today.

You see, at approximately 1:27pm (PST) yesterday afternoon, Jim was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle. He is now at home with Jesus.

Jim leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and their two daughters, Holly and Willow. But he also leaves behind a legacy of fulfilling the Great Commission. When I think of the lives Jim has touched, and the souls who have heard the gospel as a result of his dedication to preaching the Word, I cannot help but rejoice. I will admit I am grieving the loss of a faithful brother who I could always count on to give me godly advice. But as a former existentialist, who once woke every morning wondering why I should bother with life at all, I am actually encouraged.

Yesterday, I was actually thinking to myself that perhaps my posts this month are a little too depressing for our readers. But today I am reminded that this blog is written for the audience of One. Apart from Christ, life has no meaning. In Him we find our identity. We find our consistency in a changing and uncertain world. We find our security and hope. And in Him we find our life, because HE CONQUERED THE GRAVE!!
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.(1 Corinthians 15:55-58)

Friends, we are not promised tomorrow. Let's make today count for eternity, while we still can.


PRECIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD IS THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS.
Psalm 116:15


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Young, Talented, and Depressed

Tenth grade was perhaps the greatest year of my pre-regenerate life. It seemed like everything I touched turned to gold. Academically, I was on top of the world. I got spectacular grades in all my courses (much of the time without even trying), which placed me tenth in my graduating class (of 186). I was now the head of the French Horn section in the school band, and got invited to participate in the All-County orchestra. Upon auditioning, I was named first chair French Horn player (which loosely equates to being the best in the county). The music department took notice of my leadership and talent and cast me as the lead in the school musical. The show immediately catapulted me into social renown among students, teachers, and parents. If that weren't enough, I also won a place of honorable mention in my school's Mark Twain Literary contest. It was quite a year. But it was awful.

Underneath the awards and accolades, I knew that everything I held in the palm of my hand was fleeting. And there was no way to stop the process. Being classified as one of the "music kids" gave me a sense of identity and belonging. But when I began to excel in other areas, I became extremely confused. Whereas other kids were discovering they had one talent, I had several. Other kids had the luxury of focusing on just one strength, and planned to make a career out of it. I, on the other hand, hadn't a single clue what to do with my life, because I had so many choices. In fact, I had too many choices, and knowing I only had one shot at life made the pressure to make the right decision positively frightening.

I opened to Ecclesiastes, and began reading, hoping to find some answers. But what I discovered in the pages of that book made me sick to my stomach.The only way I knew how to cope with everything was to embrace the expectations people placed on me to excel, excel, excel. As meaningless and stupid as it seemed, it provided me with a sense of structure and familiarity that gave me a taste of comfort in an uncertain world. The praise and adoration I was receiving from my teachers also supplied me with a temporary high that would distract me from the reality that each day time was running out on my life. But the high would wear off every night when I turned out the light and was left alone with my thoughts. Why am I here? Why was I born? Will people remember me when I die? What is the meaning of life? Then one day, my English teacher presented the class with a voluntary reading challenge. We were to be given extra credit for reading some of the greatest works of literature. The catch? We could only read what the teacher assigned to us. My teacher handpicked for me to read the King James Version of Ecclesiastes.

I was excited to actually sit down and read the Bible. From early childhood, I always had always had a curiosity about the Bible. I went to my local bookstore and bought a copy of the KJV for about six dollars. I opened to Ecclesiastes, and began reading, hoping to find some answers. But what I discovered in the pages of that book made me sick to my stomach:
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (Ch. 1 vs. 11)

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Ch. 1 vs. 14)

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. (Ch. 1 vs. 18)
No! I silently prayed that there had to be some hope found in the pages of that book. But with each Chapter, Ecclesiastes just got more depressing:
The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. (Ch. 2 vs. 14-16).
I remember looking up from the page and thinking, "There is no hope. Even God Himself thinks my life is meaningless!" My misunderstanding of the scripture at that time started a chain reaction. I began to devour works by Sartre and Camus. I also became completely obsessed with this song. Every now and then, I'd turn on the TV and see some news story about a high school superstar from a neighboring school district who was tragically killed in a drunk driving accident. While his death was mourned by those who knew him, my life continued, unaffected. And I knew that if I was in that kid's shoes, life would go on without me, too. All of my achievements would one day crumble with time and eventually amount to nothing. The more I thought about it, the easier it was to come to the conclusion that my life was totally unnecessary.

FAST FORWARD TO PRESENT DAY

Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible. Why? It reminds me how everything I held dear before my conversion - including my life itself - was nothing more than an idol. The book of Ecclesiastes helps me to remember that my talents were given to me by God, not for my own glory, but for the express purpose of glorifying Him.

For people who do not know Christ, there is only one truth: existentialism. All of their toil and accumulation of wisdom, wealth, and pleasure is nothing more than vanity and chasing after the wind. The world offers many suggestions for dealing with an existential crisis. But truly, there is only one solution to this problem:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

I thank God for the example of the Apostle Paul. Truly, the praise of men cannot compare to that of the King when He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Nothing is worth doing unless it is all for Him, even if it is done well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Existentialism 101

My teenage years appeared to be picture perfect on the surface. I was an academic superstar, artistically talented, and always had a smile on my face. Yet no one knew that beneath my sunny, cheerful exterior, I was hiding a dark secret. Between the ages of 13 and 18, I was a closet existentialist.

By the time I was fifteen years old, the philosophy literally dictated my every thought and deed from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to sleep at night. Upon hearing that I was once lost in existentialism, most people will look puzzled and ask, "What is that?" So before I continue with the remainder of my testimony, I thought I would take some time to address what existentialism is, and why it is so dangerous.

Existentialism is a philosophy that is not easily defined, because it has no set definition. Basically, the idea is that life has no meaning apart from the meaning that we create and apply to it. Essentially, each person is responsible for defining himself and assigns purpose to his own existence. As a result, man finds himself exposed to the futility of this exercise, and often will succumb to feelings of dread, despair, nothingness, anxiety, and absurdity. These five words accurately describe my secret life as a teenager.

The trouble arises when one desperately tries to assign meaning and purpose to one's existence, only to realize that it is nothing more than a smokescreen. An excerpt from Wikipedia explains this wonderfully (emphasis mine):
When our meaningful representations of the world break down (which they may do at any time, and for any reason - from a tragedy to a particularly insightful moment on the side of the individual), and we are put face to face with the naked meaninglessness of the world, the results can be devastating . . . the concern with helping people avoid living their lives in ways that put them in the perpetual danger of having everything meaningful break down is common to most existentialist philosophers. (Source)
When we understand that we cannot control anything beyond our circumstances, life becomes very frightening, depressing, and desperate. For example, suppose I am a talented musician. My entire identity is built upon making music. Thus, I have constructed my own meaning and purpose upon this foundation. But suppose I am involved in a horrible accident that leaves me paralyzed, so I am unable to breathe on my own or move my fingers? I would never be able to play my instrument ever again. My existence, my purpose, and my reason for living are now gone.

Now imagine I am a talented musician, and I am perfectly healthy. I am still able to operate within the confines of the meaning and purpose I have given myself. I have not been involved in any accident at all. But the possibility that I could suffer physical harm on such a grand scale remains. Although I am healthy and making music, in the back of my mind, I know this truth exists only as long as my circumstances allow. Knowing that my purpose can be taken away at any moment is terrifying. And ultimately, my purpose will die, because one day, I will die. And everything that I ever created will be lost, because I am no longer able to act as the author and finisher of my purpose.

Existentialism is dangerous because it seduces the individual into coveting God's sovereignty. The insatiable desire to create meaning and purpose usurps the authority of the meaning and purpose that was made by the ultimate Creator.Depressing, isn't it? That's not even the worst of it. Existentialism is dangerous because it seduces the individual into coveting God's sovereignty. The insatiable desire to create meaning and purpose usurps the authority of the meaning and purpose that was made by the ultimate Creator. The Bible says, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3). When we seek to manufacture our own meaning, we are rejecting the notion that the reason for our existence starts with God, not us.

A second reason why existentialism is so dangerous is because it is true (to an extent). Just read the book of Ecclesiastes and you will see what I mean. Everything will one day fade away. This is Biblical truth. But only when we take our eyes off God and look to our circumstances, only when we embrace the things of the world instead of the things of God, does this become a problem. A healthy outlook on God's sovereignty is the cure. The Bible says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). When we focus on God's sovereignty, we can channel this truth into the ability to let go of the things of the world, and instead cling to the only thing that truly matters: the Cross.

In Christianity, who you are determines what you do. In existentialism, what you do determines who you are. Perhaps you are familiar with the words of the old hymn: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!" The Christian stands on Christ, the solid rock. The existentialist, on the other hand, has staked his territory on all sorts of sinking sand. This is why existentialism results in a lifestyle of despair. When you realize that everything you hold dear will one day be torn from your hands, either by death or circumstances, it leaves you with a feeling of uncertainty about everything.

Thank God, He has delivered me from existentialism. It is a complex philosophy that I don't think many people understand, yet most have been affected by at one time or another. For this reason, I hope to shed light on the impact it has on the human soul by sharing various highlights of my testimony.

For a more detailed introduction to existentialism and its themes, I encourage you to listen to R.C. Sproul's message by clicking here. The message is approximately 20 minutes long.

Now that you have a working idea of what existentialism is all about, keep this in the back of your mind as you read the rest of my story . . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Right Place, Right Time

In the year 2006 I was blessed to be a part of Evangelism Boot camp in New York. I had that previous year heard the life changing message Hell's Best Kept Secret and had my eyes opened to many things in the faith that were not taught or revealed to me previously. One such thing was exactly what sin is and why Jesus died and rose again. Foundational truths yes! But no one told me anything about them! The only messages I heard were "Jesus loves you so much that he died for you" and that was it. There was no explanation of what sin is or the reason Jesus had to die in the first place.When I arrived I felt overwhelmed with the fact I made it through the flight alone!

Born Again.......Again!
Well, with feeling like I was born again, again (!) and my heart on fire to evangelise (see my last post) I heard of a ministry that went out, hit the streets using the principles taught by Way of the Master, a ministry birthed from the HBKS message. With nothing like it over here and feeling really lonely in my longing to evangelise I wanted to go to one of these "boot camps" to meet like-minded Christians. The only problem was it was all the way in New York and I live in England. Yet, a few months later I found myself at the boot-camp. It was surreal. When I arrived I felt overwhelmed with the fact I made it through the flight alone!

It was an amazing experience. I preached open air for the first time on the underground train!, met many good friends one of whom happens to be a certain Jennifer, creator of Reformed SHEology. But as good as it was I felt I had not really had that chance to speak one to one with anyone. Hearing all the amazing testimonies at the end of each day left me feeling disheartened. Then I would feel bad because I should be rejoicing in what God was doing. I even began to wonder if it was God's will that I even came to boot camp.

As the second to last day drew to a close and having no real conversations I was beginning to feel pretty useless especially when I saw so many in my group witnessing. I know it was wrong to compare myself to others but I couldn't help it. I decided to take one last walk alone praying to God about how I was feeling.

God-incidence!
As I made my way to the quieter part of Washington square, an area with steps and shaded by trees, I saw a woman (who I'll call Trish) sitting on the steps looking a little upset.I just couldn't believe my ears! I approached her and asked if she was OK. I could see she had been crying and was trying to hide her tears. I asked her if I could pray for her. I will never forget her heart-wrenching reply. As she reached into her purse she said, “Yes, but I'm afraid I don't have any money.” I just couldn't believe my ears! I then became overwhelmed with pity and ashamed that she had to feel that I would want money in exchange for prayer. Immediately I knelt beside her and cried “I don't want money, I want to help!”. I then explained how I was over from the UK with the church to meet like minded Christians and evangelise. Then I prayed for her. Trish then began to cry and tell me her story. Her daughter wasn't well and she was feeling overwhelmed with her circumstances. She shouldn't even have been at the square but she needed somewhere for a moment to gather herself and then we met. I told her it wasn't coincidence and she became encouraged after our meeting. After she left I realised I didn't preach the gospel to her but mentioned Christ, the fact I am a Christian, and gave her a tract. But then I knew that God was totally in control of the situation and He had answered my prayer in the most amazing and beautiful way. That one single meeting made the whole trip so worth while.

I learnt that day that as important as it is to preach the gospel, each encounter is always unique and we should never overlook an individual's needs in a desperate scramble to tell them the good news. I made sure she did have the message in the form of a tract however. I love how the Father puts us in the right place at the right time!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Tract that Came Back

This story is a bit longer than usual, but it's worth the read! If you have ever wondered whatever became of the tract you gave to that complete stranger, then let this story encourage you.

Facing my mortality at thirteen was a turning point in my life. I suddenly viewed the world as a meaningless exercise in futility. The only hope that remained was my belief in the existence of a God who knew the answers to all my burning questions. In an effort to learn more about who God was, I took very seriously the religion I was born into, which was Roman Catholicism. But after a very disappointing incident on the day I made confirmation, I became completely disenchanted with the Church. That same night, lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling, I was seething with anger at God. "I'm sick of this!" I said to the ceiling. "Why won't you tell me who You are?" I waited for a response. I had no idea what to expect, but I never got one. "You know what?" I threatened. "I'm done! I am never setting foot in a church ever again as long as I live!" Again, there was only silence from the ceiling. Discouraged, I threw myself over on my side and went to sleep.

ONE YEAR LATER

When I was fifteen I managed to get a job in a grocery store called Waldbaum's. I worked as a cashier, but there was a boy who worked over in the Bakery department that had caught my eye. His name was Steven Hutter. I had never spoken to Steven, but there was something about him that peaked my curiosity. One day, I saw Steven talking with a customer and I overheard him call her "Mom." I watched the way Steven interacted with his mom, and wondered what it was about this boy that I was so drawn to. About 20 minutes later, Steven's mom had made her way over to my register with a very large grocery order. I wanted to make a good impression on her, in the hopes that perhaps I could learn more about Steven, and try to put my finger on what was so different about him.

I made sure to be extra friendly to Mrs. Hutter. She handed me a stack of coupons and I began to ring up her order. I made small talk with her and got so wrapped up in our conversation that I never deducted her coupons. She paid for her bill and began to leave the store when I noticed the coupons still sitting on my register. I called her back and had a manager come by to give her the cash value of the coupons, which totaled over $50. Mrs. Hutter was very grateful and thanked me several times. At this time I turned on the false humility and told her, "Oh, it's nothing. In fact, I don't know what made me look down in the nick of time and notice those coupons just sitting there."

She handed me a little pamphlet with a butterfly on the cover. The title was something like "You can be saved." I had no idea what it was. I had never seen anything like it before.Mrs. Hutter looked me dead in the eyes and said, "I believe THE LORD made you see them at that moment!" I was so stunned, I didn't know what to say. On Long Island, people don't talk about "the Lord." They will refer to "God", but not "The Lord." She must have noticed the look of shock on my face, because she added, "I really believe that!"

I was pretty uncomfortable, so I just said, "Uhhh, okay." I smiled and gave her the $50. "This is for you," I said. "Thank you," she replied. "And this is for you!" She handed me a little pamphlet with a butterfly on the cover. The title was something like, "You can be saved." I had no idea what it was. I had never seen anything like it before. I remember thinking she was a little weird, but even still, I was so curious to read that pamphlet! As soon as I was able to go on break, I took that pamphlet up to the ladies' room, locked myself in one of the stalls, and eagerly went through every word to see if it would tell me the answers I was looking for.

"Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved." I thought to myself: "I already believe in Jesus. This didn't tell me anything I didn't already know." I was so disappointed, but my eyes were closed. God would not open them for another three years. Once I did become a Christian, God brought to mind how I had demanded He reveal Himself to me, and how He did reach out to me that day through Mrs. Hutter. God is faithful. He will always answer prayer. It just might not happen in our timing.

SEVEN YEARS LATER

I was late to Bible study again. I had been saved at 18 while I was away at college and after graduating, I managed to make a few Christian friends back home on Long Island. That night we were meeting for a social activity and each of us were asked to bring a snack to the event. I parked my car in the first empty space I saw and ran into Waldbaum's -- the very same Waldbaum's where I had worked as a cashier back in high school. I grabbed the first bag of Doritos I could find, and then tossed it on the express lane conveyor belt. There was only one customer ahead of me, but the transaction was taking forever. I felt myself getting irritated. "This is supposed to be the express lane!" I thought. "What is taking so long?"

Suddenly I became aware of a presence behind me. I looked up to notice a gentle-mannered woman loading her groceries onto the conveyor belt. To my surprise, I recognized her. It was Mrs. Hutter. She had absolutely no idea who I was. How could she? I was just a stranger she had handed a tract to seven years before. But I remembered her. And being a Christian now for about three or four years, I knew that if I were in her shoes, I'd want to know what had become of the tract.

My heart was pounding. I didn't know what to say. The man in front of me finally finished his transaction, and I knew it was now or never. So I cleared my throat and said, "Excuse me, Mrs. Hutter?" She looked puzzled, as if she wondered how I knew her name. I continued, "You don't know me, but I went to high school with your son, Steven."

"Oh, how nice. What's your name?" She asked me.

I saw her eyes widen and I could hardly breathe, but I blurted out, "Mrs. Hutter I didn't get saved that day, but I wanted to tell you that I did get saved.""It's Jennifer. But I doubt Steven would even know who I am. We never really had any contact in high school." Mrs. Hutter smiled and nodded, still unsure of what I was getting at, but so patient and kind as she waited for me to continue. "Anyway, uh, I used to work here with Steven, at this very same grocery store." She nodded. "And one day, you came to my register. You gave me a gospel tract that day, and I read it. That was seven years ago." I stated again, "At this very same grocery store." I saw her eyes widen and I could hardly breathe, but I blurted out, "Mrs. Hutter I didn't get saved that day, but I wanted to tell you that I did get saved."

Tears began to form in her eyes. With reckless abandon, Mrs. Hutter threw her arms in the air, right there in the express lane, and shouted, "OH PRAISE THE LORD! HALLELUJAH!" She grabbed me and embraced me tightly. Everyone in the store was looking at us like we were insane. I felt a bit self-conscious, as this is not the typical scene one might witness in a grocery store on Long Island, or the rest of New York, for that matter. But I couldn't deny the excitement and wonder of that moment.

I had paid for my Doritos as she thanked me over and over for speaking up and encouraging her. She said she never knows what happens to the tracts she gives out, and it was such a joy to see what had become of a tract she gave to a stranger seven years before. The next thing I knew, I was in the passenger seat of her car, and she was praying for me. Then I was off to my Bible study.

I think I may have run into her once or twice after that. To my knowledge, she still lives on Long Island, in my hometown. Perhaps the next time I am in town to visit my brother, I will look her up and ask if she remembers me. I know I will always remember her as the first person God used to reach out to me and make Himself known.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thirteen and Mortal

It was the summer of 1987. At thirteen, there was not much for me to do aside from having the occasional friend over, completing my assigned summer reading for school, and watching television. One of the television shows I watched religiously was A Current Affair (not to be confused with the Australian program by the same name). A Current Affair was a New York based, television tabloid show that focused on scandals. Unsolved murders and celebrity deaths were a regular topic on the program, but the Summer of 1987 was an unusually popular season for death. That's because August of 1987 marked the 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death (August 16) as well as the 25th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe (August 5).

Every weekday I watched this program. It seemed there was an endless amount of stories to report about Elvis or Marilyn: how lonely they were in life, how they both tried to reduce their emotional pain with drugs, superficial relationships, and material possessions. Both their lives ended in despair, as neither felt truly loved. Yet they both left behind millions of adoring fans who continued to grieve over their loss years after they passed. I was captivated by these stories. My interest soon grew into an obsession. Before long, I had posters of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo all over my bedroom walls.

I began the eighth grade that September. I continued to watch A Current Affair after school, and within a few weeks into the school year, I was faced with a frightening realization: I am going to die one day.

One night I had gone to bed and it just hit me. My life is going to end, just like everyone else who came before me. As I lay quietly in my bed, I suddenly became very aware of the sound of my own heartbeat. I imagined my heart stopping one day, my skin growing cold, and my body being placed in a coffin. I imagined the sound of dirt being shoveled on top of the coffin. It was dark. I would never see the sunshine again. My skin would rot, my hair would fall out. I envisioned worms crawling through my eye sockets and nasal cavity. I reasoned with myself that when I die will not be conscious of these things; that I was only feeling frightened because I was imagining my burial as though I were being buried alive. But it didn't help. I was scared. I did not want to die, but worse, I knew there was nothing I could do to stop the process.

I was literally paralyzed with fear the entire night. It felt as though there was a crushing weight on my chest and I could not breathe. I just remained on my back, staring at the ceiling, my arms pressed tightly to my side, and I stayed that way until morning. I was too tired to go to school that day, but I had no choice. So first period, I found myself in P.E. class.

My teacher came over and tried to help, but all I could manage to tell her was, "I'm going to die! I'm going to die!"As I exited the locker room, I looked across the gymnasium at my classmates practicing basketball drills. Suddenly, an intrusive thought entered my mind: "One hundred years from now, not one of these children will be here anymore." I imagined the gymnasium suddenly empty, the bouncing basketballs abandoned on the floor. The fear gripped me again, and I started to panic. My fear gave way to uncontrollable sobs and I started hyperventilating. A classmate asked me what was wrong, but I couldn't answer. My teacher came over and tried to help, but all I could manage to tell her was, "I'm going to die! I'm going to die!"

I don't remember how I got to the nurse's office. I just remember lying there paralyzed again. It was not long before I heard the sound of my mother's voice consulting with the school nurse. The nurse told me that my mother was taking me home. I was glad to be able to process this a bit with my mom. But once we got in the car, my mother became very angry with me.

"What is wrong with you?" she screamed. "You're thirteen years old and you're acting like a baby! Do you have some kind of mental problem?"

"No, mom." I squeaked.

"Well do you want everyone to think you have a mental problem?" she asked.

"No." I whispered.

"Then knock it off! Don't you dare embarrass this family!"

Before you think my mother was horribly cruel in her reaction, there is something you need to understand about Italian-Americans. We do not air our dirty laundry outside the family. (This blog, and especially this story, is an extreme violation of this cultural code of honor.) We also have a tendency to ignore problems within the family, hoping they'll just smooth out on their own. It is all part of fare bella figura, which basically means "to create a beautiful figure (or image)". We will knock ourselves out to present an overdeveloped facade to outsiders. We are a proud people. We don't want anyone to think we have any problems.

I went home that day and stuffed my feelings down as far as I could, but they kept resurfacing. In public, I was a happy, well-adjusted child. But privately, I was hiding a secret from everyone: I was mortal, I knew it, and I was terrified.

In hindsight, I now know that what I had experienced that day was a series of severe panic attacks. Obviously, this is not the end of the story, but allow me to end here for today to reflect upon my favorite, most cherished psalm, Psalm 116.

Praise be to One who conquered the grave; who died that I may live.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Mysterious Preacher

The following is an testimony of one of those amazing encounters when afterwards you ask yourself whether or not you entertained an angel. It was, for me, a life changing moment.

My husband and I travelled to Wiltshire with the children to visit my aunt and uncle in Chippenham. I often thought about the spiritual climate in the South West as it is steeped in new age. This is crop circle country and home of the famous festival, Glastonbury. It was this thought that occupied my mind as we made our way into the town centre after parking the car. The walk is a beautiful one, along the banks of the river Avon, with weeping willows draping their branches over and into the fast flowing water. My thoughts began to shift towards wondering about the church and how much of the body was in the area and what it was like for them to live in such a spiritual climate. Suddenly, I found my thoughts being interrupted by what I thought to be some kind of commotion in the high street ahead. As we approach the noise, to my surprise I found it to be a open air preacher! I knew I had to speak to this man and encourage him.It was like the questions I had just been contemplating were, to a degree, about to be answered. At this point in my Christian life I had never met a street preacher or even witnessed myself. I knew I had to speak to this man and encourage him.

After he finished preaching I introduced myself as a sister and told him what a great job he was doing. He smiled and said thank you and that was that. I then made my way to the shop where my husband and children were waiting. After paying for our goods we came out of the shop when I noticed the preacher off his box completely surrounded by a group of young teenage boys, many on bikes. Now I had never in my life witnessed so what happened next can only be described as a miracle!

My First Witnessing Encounter
After asking my husband if he would watch the children and wait for me I found myself making my way to the group of boys. On hearing one of their questions, all being asked in mockery and trying to catch the preacher out, I opened my mouth only to find I had a answer ready not only for that one question but for them all. There is noway it was knowledge I already had and was sharing with them. I couldn't have known these answers but here I was answering them. If that wasn't enough the boys began to listen intently and their questions became more serious! The one ringleader tried to lead the others astray by asking silly questions but even with him I felt compelled to to speak to him something specific. He pretended to be offended but you could see him thinking about what was said.

Matthew
One young boy in the group, Matthew, really blessed me. Never before or since have I seen such conviction and thirst in a boy of his age. I knew I had to give him my Bible. As I gave it to him all the boys eyes widened and they looked at the Bible with awe. I mean these are young teenage boys we're talking about here and they were looking at the Bible with such awe. At this point the ringleader had given up trying to get the others to do what he wanted. As Matthew opened the Bible he saw passages I had highlighted and asked why had I done that. So I proceeded to tell him how some had a specific meaning to me that he could do the same and he would know what I meant if he was to prayerfully read it. To this day I wonder how Matthew is doing and he has often been in my prayers over the years.

The boys then began to disperse and soon I find it was just me and the preacher. He told me his name was Joseph and thanked me for helping him out. But I knew it wasn't me. What had just taken place was nothing short or a miracle! From that moment on it was my hearts desire to witness and I could never make excuse: "But I don't know what to say."
do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. Matthew 10:19

I never did see Joseph again and upon enquiry no one knew him. Not many words were exchanged between us and I like to think of him as an angel sent from God. Although, Joseph, if you are reading this I want you to know how your obedience to the great commission blessed me and changed my life. Every time I'm in Chippenham I look out for you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

My first memories of religious education were in the first grade. I was raised Roman Catholic and every Monday I had to leave school early to attend CCD classes. At that age, the message is made very simple: God loves you, Jesus is your friend, pray to Him when you are afraid, etc. I happily attended those CCD classes. They were so comforting and fun.

By the time I was eight, these classes started getting complicated. I was bogged down with having to memorize prayers, learn the names of what seemed like a million saints, and obey all sorts of rules. One thing that always brought me comfort was whenever we talked about Jesus. There was just one thing that puzzled me, though. I kept hearing this phrase, "Jesus died to pay for your sins," but I didn't have a clue what that meant. Because we were often encouraged to be good little girls and boys, I had always assumed that a person enters heaven on the basis of their good works. If I was a good girl, God would then allow me into heaven when I died. So it left the Jesus question unanswered. Why did Jesus have to die?

That year my mother and I watched Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth on television during Easter Week. The evening the crucifixion scene aired, the question surfaced again, this time, from an actor in the film. An observer in the crowd muses, "He saved others, why can't He save Himself now?"

I turned to my mother after watching this and asked her, "Why did Jesus have to die?" She responded by rote, "To pay for our sins." Frustrated, I said, "But what does that mean? I don't understand! It's like that man said. He helped others, so why couldn't He help Himself? Why didn't He jump off the cross and show everyone How powerful He was? Why did He just stay there and say nothing?" My mother looked at me and simply said, "I don't know."

I was so disappointed. I was the type of child that needed a reason for everything, and at that moment I could find no reason for Jesus to have remained on the cross when He could have just escaped. Dissatisfied, I decided to come up with my own theory: the reason Jesus remained on the cross was because He wanted to "show off" just how powerful He was by raising Himself from the dead. Yes, that would certainly have much more of an impact than merely escaping the crucifixion! I was so pleased with myself, I went to school the next day and shared my theory with all my little friends. Thus, at the tender age of eight, I became the youngest false teacher I know.

Looking back on my childhood, I can see God was faithful to me. He did not leave me empty-handed. It may have taken ten years after I first asked this question of my mother, but I eventually got the answer I was looking for. The reason why Jesus remained on the cross is simple: He chose to stay there:
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. (John 10:17-18a)

Reader, no amount of good deeds will grant us entrance to heaven. If we claim we can get there based on our good works, we nullify God's grace and make the cross of Christ null and void (Galatians 2:21). Jesus had to die, because apart from His death, there is no other way for men to be saved. Think about it. If it were possible for you or me to get to heaven on our own simply by "being good," then Jesus died for nothing!

Imagine you were in a court of law, and you committed several heinous crimes, and you were found guilty, what would be your defense? If the judge posted bail at $50,000 dollars or sentenced you to life in prison, and you couldn't pay the fine, you'd go to jail for life. But let's say that at that moment, someone stood up in the courtroom and offered to post bail for you. Then, and only then, could you go free, because justice has been served.

This is what Jesus did on the cross. You see, all men are criminals in God's courtroom. All have sinned against God by breaking His law (the Ten Commandments). Only there is no sum of money will get us out of prison. Our bail has been posted at death. Jesus died to pay the fine, so we don't have to go to God's jail (hell). For further information, please click here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Love Dare - Day One

As mentioned in my previous post I have decided to take up the Love Dare. I will be sharing some of my experiences here on Reformed SHEology along the way. Now with Saturday being day one I really didn't expect to be sharing so soon but here I am eager to share what has happened! But before I do I must rewind back to the day before I began the dare:

In my prayer time with God Friday morning I prayed something that even surprised me as I prayed it. I'm not in the habit of praying for specific material things that I can quite easily go without. So I was surprised when I felt really led to pray for a laptop. We have a family computer at home and when I need to get work done I don't often get a chance to go online and when I do I can feel quite rushed. I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to be able to work in the privacy of my room and not get distracted.

Fast forward to Saturday, day one of the Love Dare. As I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee I decided to quickly check my messages online only to discover to my horror we had an awful computer virus. The night before my husband downloaded something that contained the virus that now wreaked havoc with everything we had stored on the computer. Realising just how we got this virus I was tempted to proceed with giving my poor husband a lecture. In a moment I was faced with two choices. I left my husband to fix the problem with the computer while I went upstairs to pray. I was reeling inside and the last thing I felt like doing was praying. But as I walked in my room I suddenly realised that I had not read today's dare! The first day and I almost forgot! So I picked up the book, The Love Dare and turned to day one. I couldn't believe what I read:
The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret.

Did anything happen today to cause anger toward your mate? Were you tempted to think disapproving thoughts and to let them come out in words?

After repenting I came out my room rejoicing and praising God. I knew what I had to do. Downstairs my poor husband was working hard to fix the computer. I sat down next to him and instead of giving him an earache I reassured him that these things happen and I'm sure we'll get it sorted soon. He looked at me and smiled.

Later that morning we had to go out and I shared with my husband my desire for a laptop. When I explained to him what I needed it for he explained a netbook would be more suitable for me. That evening when I found out all our family pics may be lost I couldn't hold back the tears. Seeing I was upset my husband told me not only was he able to save the photos but he had bought me a netbook which would be dropped of in the next 15 minutes! I couldn't believe it!

Dare one - check!
I contemplated how that day could have turned out had I not been patient and held my tongue. Even though I was patient I could not have done it all in my own strength. I had to continue to rely on God's grace and focus throughout the day on what matters most. It wasn't easy.

Well, here I am writing this post with my new netbook...an answer to prayer, praise God!
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. - Ephesians 4:1-2

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Reformed SHEology!

For a good, solid decade or so, I prided myself on being one of those strong, independent types who didn't need to depend on anybody but myself. Relationships were for crybabies. In fact, anything that involved feelings and emotions was a waste of my time. I had ambition. I was driven. I didn't have time for men, especially since I thought men had been given an unfair advantage. Why should I help them? What did they ever do for me? No, I was a Christian, and everyone knows that Christians don't need anyone but God. Little did I know, God was about to hold a mirror up to my face and force me to see what I had been avoiding for a long time: my pride. What you are looking at right now is the product of my repentance.

A BLOG IS BORN
When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing, and quite frankly, I was nervous to put my thoughts on the web where anybody can read them. In fact, the only reason I started this blog was because in October 2007 I had been asked to deliver a presentation to women at an evangelism conference. We ran out of time at the conference so I only had ten minutes to give a forty-five minute presentation. I didn't want all the work I had done on this topic to go to waste, so I prayed about what I should do with it. At first I thought I'd just make a resource-based website. I didn't think a blog was a good idea, because I honestly thought I'd run out of things to write about. Nevertheless, I felt the Lord impress upon my heart to open a Blogger account and just write. So I did.

OUR FIRST READERS
This site was officially lauched on November 2, 2007. (Don't be fooled by all those October 2007 posts. Those were added much later on, as web pages. I don't consider them to be real posts.) Because I was shy about putting myself out there on the internet, I only shared the link with one individual, Kurt Michaelson, our very first reader. Kurt was very supportive, so I got up the courage to share it with some others. Before long, we slowly aquired a handful of readers.

THE SITE TAKES "SHAPE"
Meanwhile, I began praying for a blogging partner. I specifically asked God for someone who is married (because I'm single), someone with children (because I don't have any) and someone who is really passionate about the subject matter. In January 2008, Geraldine Davidson found the site through one of my online profiles. She fit the criteria I had been praying for and so I asked her to come on board as a contributor. We still did not have a solid direction, but were just seeking God's face on both the site's design and content. Over the next few months, I spent hours every weekend tinkering with the code and the layout of the blog. Then one night in April 2008, I saw a movie on television that would inspire the format of our content.

The themes of the month were a gift from God on two levels. First, they guaranteed us something to write about. (We discovered this truth after temporarily abandoning the theme of the month in August. The result: writer's block!) Secondly, the theme provided us with a protective boundary. Over the last several months, much has happened in our lives, not all of it good. There were times I was tempted to vent my frustration publicly and use this site as a vehicle to discuss my personal issues. The only thing stopping me at those times was that the situations I wanted to write about did not coincide with the theme of the month. I cannot tell you how many times I've said to Geraldine, "PRAISE GOD I did not publish that!" God is so good. I find that God will give me themes up to two months in advance (we already have December's theme and film planned for you). And it helps to know in advance what we are writing about and commit to that as it prevents us from going off topic and writing as our circumstances dictate.

THE PIECES FALL INTO PLACE
At this time, we were still praying for an overall layout to tie everything together. For a while we used a flower theme (you may remember our tagline, "Biblical Womanhood in Full Bloom"). We also toyed with using the butterfly as a symbol of spritual transformation in our lives. But in my heart I knew God had something else in mind. I spent hours searching the web for ideas. In July we settled on our third (and current) template. Again, it was a gift from The Lord. The use of both moving and still pictures gave way to our current tagline, "Biblical Womanhood in Living Color." Between the layout design and the monthly theme, the blog was starting to take on a "magazine" feel. We were finally starting to see this thing take shape!

A SPECIAL THANK YOU
We want to thank everyone who has supported us and encouraged us over the past year. Thanks to all of our faithful readers (you know who you are), those of you who have linked to us, recommended us to others, and commented on our thoughts. I continue to be amazed at the positive reception we have received, especially from those of you we have never met.

I never had any intention of starting a blog, but it seems God had other plans. I have derived much joy and experienced significant growth since taking on this project, and I'd like to take this time to thank you, our readers, for your support and words of encouragement. And with that, I pray God will allow us to serve you for another year, perhaps more!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Miracle Worker

We have something very special in store for our readers this month. To celebrate our first year on the internet, we have chosen a theme of "Testimony" for the month of November. All month long we will be sharing true stories of God's grace and power in our lives. Perhaps no film would be more appropriate to accompany our theme than The Miracle Worker. And because this is a special month for us, we thought we'd do something a little different with our film of the month. For this reason, The Miracle Worker is our first ever "double-feature" (well, sort of).

STATS
Year: 1962 (Not Rated)
Directed by Arthur Penn, based on the play by William Gibson
Starring Anne Bancroft (Anne) and Patty Duke (Helen)
Setting: United States, 1890's.

Year: 1979 (Made for Television)
Directed by Paul Aaron, based on the play by William Gibson
Starring Patty Duke (Anne) and Melissa Gilbert (Helen)
Setting: United States, 1890's.

Based on the life of Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Content warning: Mild violence in the form of Anne and Helen slapping each other in the face. Otherwise, no objectionable content observed.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
I will not list point by point the themes I have noticed in this film. Instead, I would encourage you to simply reflect on God's love as you watch this movie. Many of us will most likely identify with Helen Keller on a spiritual level, as we were once without eyes to see or ears to hear. For me, the whole relationship between Annie and Helen is best described when Annie says:
I treat her like a seeing child because I ask her to see! I expect her to see!

We can expect no less from our faithful God, who treats us like seeing children because He expects us to see:
For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)


TRIVIA
Patty Duke, who won an Oscar as young Helen Keller in the 1962 version, played Anne Sullivan in the 1979 TV version and won an Emmy for it.

The 1979 version is extremely hard to come by, but highlights are available on YouTube. On the other hand, the 1962 version is easily accessible as a video or DVD rental. The 1962 version should most likely have sufficed as our feature film on its own. (In fact, I happen to think it is superior to the 1979 clips I've seen.) But I just couldn't see myself ignoring Patty Duke's wonderful double performance. For a quick comparison of Patty's talent, here are both versions of the final (and most powerful) scene of the movie side by side:

1962 film, Patty Duke as Helen Keller:


1979 Made-for-TV Movie, Patty Duke as Anne Sullivan:


Kind've reminds me of my relationship with God sometimes!