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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Birthdays and Beyond

My Natal Birthday


I've had two of them.

Well, technically, I've had 57, since I was born in 1963 and, well, you can do the math.

I celebrated my natal birthday recently. According to my parents, I came home from the hospital with a cold, due to the frigid weather in which I made my arrival. The Lord saw fit to have me recover, so that I could live to see my spiritual birthday.

My Spiritual Birthday

This latter event occurred during my early years, somewhere between ages 10 and 12, as best I can recall. The story is simple. My mother had to have minor surgery that summer, and my aunt graciously took me off Mom's hands while she recovered. A local church in my aunt's neighborhood was offering a vacation Bible school for kids to attend, so my cousin and I were sent there for a few hours each morning, likely to keep us busy while Aunt Harriet tended to chores around the house.

One day during a craft activity, an adult leader casually asked if any of her rambunctious students needed to ask Jesus into their hearts. I had never heard of the idea, so raised my hand. She took me aside and presented the gospel in a way I could understand. She used a tool called the Wordless Book, which is something I have used many times in my own ministry with kids over the years. The leaflet is comprised of nothing but five colors: black, symbolizing the darkness of the sinner's heart; red, showing the blood of Christ which, when applied to that sinful heart, renders it w h i t e as snow; gold, depicting the streets of gold the transformed sinner can look forward to in heaven; and green, representing the growth the new believer can achieve through Bible study and prayer.

I believed the book's message of salvation, and kept the tiny felt pamphlet she gave me as a memento of my spiritual birthday.

My Spiritual Journey

Although I wasn't raised in a Christian home, the Lord planted a number of Godly influences in my life to help me along. My Aunt Edith took me to a Bible-believing church as a youngster. Somehow, I found my way to other church and para-church offerings, which taught me many basics (the names of books of the Bible in order, the Christmas and Easter stories, Psalm 23, and important church doctrines).

As years passed, I went through periods of spiritual stagnation and even rebellion, I'm sorry to say. However, time and maturity have kicked in (not completely - do any of us ever totally grow up?), and I feel hopeful about the spiritual course my life is on.

I've been blessed to sit under some exceptional teaching over the years. When my husband attended Dallas Theological Seminary's extension program at a local Bible college, the staff granted me the unparalleled privilege (well, except for God's gift of salvation!) of being able to audit his courses at no charge. I will always be thankful for that time of rich learning, even though my wise husband often had to practically drag his shortsighted wife to our weekend classes. I wanted to kick back on Friday nights and sleep in on Saturdays, both of which seemed more important at the time than studying the Scriptures. The foolishness of youth!

Various local churches have also added to my understanding of God's word. As a young teen, I attended a sound Presbyterian church and its youth group, which gave me the basic underpinnings of what it means to follow Christ. After my marriage, Rev. Dr. William Maurice Fain of Rockland Baptist Church in New York kept pestering a pair of newlyweds who had stopped in to visit his tiny church one day. Every Thursday following our visit, without fail, Pastor Fain showed up at our apartment to see how we were getting along. Finally, I asked why he kept stopping by when he could see we weren't coming back to his church! That quiet, sincere man donned a sly grin and replied that, when we told him we had found a solid church to call home, he would stop "bothering" us! Needless to say, we became regulars at his church until we moved to Pennsylvania two years later.

Over the next few years, I benefited greatly from the teachings at Spruce Street Baptist Church, Faith Reformed Baptist Church and Bethany Evangelical Presbyterian Church, all in southeastern Pennsylvania. In these fine institutions, I received instruction in the word and learned how to present the message of salvation to others.

Currently, I attend Bible Baptist Church in Upper Darby, PA, which is led by Rev. Steve Lyon, as humble and knowledgeable a shepherd as I've ever been blessed to know. I would be remiss not to mention the ministry of Rev. David Frampton and his wife, Sharon, whose loving example and outreach helped nurture my faith through some very difficult years. Finally, I owe a great deal to Jean Glatfelter, my spiritual mentor, whose "sola Scriptura" approach to the Bible has rubbed off on me and continues to inform my ministry to this day.

Musings: My Hope, My Goals and My Boast

Many wished me well on my special day, for which I'm most thankful. It's always nice to be remembered on one's birthday, and made to feel special.

However, no one ever celebrates my spiritual birthday. For one thing, as I've indicated, I can't be certain of the date, or even how old I was when my "second birth" occurred. But I suspect it's been recorded in heavenly annals, and when I enter the Lord's throne room, there will be celebrating beyond anything I can imagine.

As I take stock of my life thus far, I ponder what I have to show: a) for the 57 years I've been drawing breath on this planet; and b) for the nearly 50 years I've been following Christ.

My life has been enriched by two sons and their darling companions, and a beautiful grandson who will soon become a big brother to twin siblings! These folks and my family of origin are, without a doubt, my most cherished earthly resources.

Regarding professional accomplishments, I wandered many years trying to find a vocational home. The Lord's hand finally landed me in the field of education, which both challenges and fulfills me in many ways. My outside calling, writing, has produced a handful of works that have been published in print, but the vast majority have found their home online or reside on my hard drive. My magnum opus, Belabored, remains unread by most of the world.

On the subject of authorship, I've outlived my writing inspiration, Louisa May Alcott, who died at 56. She, however, had made a name for herself as a prestigious author before turning 40. While I can't boast of such a renowned career, neither could Alcott avail herself of social media to peddle her wares. She scurried hither and yon, seeking outlets for her work. I feel blessed that, while my readership may not be large, each and every person who checks out my blog gets the best I have to offer, and is part of the audience God has assigned me. I take that charge seriously, remembering that He does not despise small things.

I wonder how Alcott would have tackled the immense obstacles of modern-day publishing, with its mega-proposals and ad nauseam rewrites that serve as rites of initiation. Would she have continued to play the game, hounding agents and publishers, shelling out hard-earned dollars to attend conferences that often lead nowhere? Would she have scraped up the money to self-publish?

I ask myself these things only because Alcott's tenacity and pluck inspire me as much as her books did when I read them as a young girl. The real question is, what would God have me do with the novel that took four years to write? And what does He plan for some of my pieces for which a blog isn't the ideal forum?

I'm wrestling with these issues, realizing their resolution will come only through prayer and commensurate effort. Thankfully, my spiritual life is in reasonably good order, and I feel blessed to have a team of like-minded believers interceding for God's future plans for me.

So, in the wake of another birthday, while pondering the possibilities for this new year of life, I find peace in the fact that following the Lord is my most important calling, and sharing His gospel the best accomplishment I can boast.

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." 
~ Galatians 6:14

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