I'm currently participating in an online writer's creativity workshop, and one of our assignments was to write a piece using the bubble method (aka "brain-mapping"), using a story that we've read in our local newspaper. Well, the local G'sboro newspaper is about 2 pages long on a good Sunday, so I had to stretch to find something to work with. I have recently taken up cooking, so I do enjoy looking at the food/recipe section. And of course, BBQ is the thing here.
So, I started the bubble off with BBQ. Over the next few days, I found myself in some regional culinary discussions and found it comical how much we differ on what good food is. While we each have personal tastes, our geographical orientation really does seem to play a big part in what our tastebuds think! So, after a few more bubbles were added to the map, and after I channeled in my Erma Bombeck, this is the mess that came out.
Our assignment was to post a 300 word synopsis on the classroom message board, but I had such fun writing this, that I decided to post the piece in it's entirety here at B Complex. This is likely to get me stoned in G'sboro, so remember me well. Truly, I hope people will read it in the satirical spirit, in which it is written. Life is too short and there is no crying in BBQ!
[Psst: Totally kidding about the channeling thing! I don't believe in channeling anything except my TV to The Event on Monday Nights!]
...but don't just take my word for it,
The East Carolina BBQ Zone
by Belinda-Marie Purkey
The following is a tongue-in-cheek poke-fun at my eastern North Carolina friends and their weird way of looking at food. Just remember, I’m laughing with you, not at you!
There is an unnumbered dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as Paula Deen’s cupboard, and as timeless as Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. It is the middle ground between distilled white and apple cider, between Memphis and Kansas City, and it lies between the pit of man's stomach and the summit of his GI Tract. This is the dimension of downright weird and it’s topped with 5 gallons of cole slaw. It is an area which we call The Eastern Carolina BBQ Zone!
As a military spouse, I feel fortunate to have my palette ever at a disadvantage and ready for the next new adventure. I’ve eaten Reindeer Macs at the country’s northernmost McDonald’s. I’ve eaten calamari sashimi while sitting on the very boat it was caught on while floating in the East China Sea off the Okinawa coast. I’ve had a sirloin in Montana that was celebratorily named after the Unibomber. And despite what history may tell us, the reason we remember the Alamo is because it was chicken-fried.
Hey, it is what it! We all love our food. …and we love our food the way the way we love our food. We will fight to the death to defend our regional preferences. I mean, really! Try going north and ordering a Pig in a Blanket and ask the server to bring with Maple syrup. Then, try ordering a dish by the same with a bottle of ketchup on the Southside of the Mason-Dixon! I guarantee that you’ll get a look of disgust and just may be shown the door. Oatmeal will warm a soul on a cold winter’s day. That is unless you’re from across the pond, and then only porridge will do. San Francisco can be quite liberal with their sourdough, whereas Alaskans prefer to stay rightwing with it. While the most of the nation has pastry with their morning coffee, my friends here in the squared-off triangle will slop it down on a plate with chicken & gravy!
Variations of food are so vast that is no wonder that we have to have not one, not two, but three cable networks to help them sort it all out! But, by far, the most dangerous territory of food has to be those 3 little letter, B.B.Q! …and something has gone terribly wrong on the Eastside of the Smokey Mountains!
I hadn’t even unpacked my household goods here in Goldsboro before I was asked the 2nd most important question, after “What denomination do you belong to?” Wilbur’s or McCall’s? Just where did I stand on the great BBQ debate of Goldsboro, North Carolina? I remember asking a waitress at Ryan’s steakhouse which place we should try first. She and another server had an all and out argument in front of me! Then the manager came out to put them both in their places by telling us that we were better off at Smithfield Chicken & BBQ! I eventually did try those three (and others), and I can honestly say that it all stinks! Although, I do give kudos to Smithfield C&B for their fried chicken!
This is the first time I’ve ever known BBQ Pork to actually preserve your insides! I’m sorry NC friends, but the vinegar-to-meat ratio should never favor on the side of the condiment. On the positive side, I do believe that Eastern NC should win some type of an award for great strides forward in mummification advancement! I wonder if Mr. Disney was aware of this before he signed-off on becoming a Waltsicle?
BBQ! Three little letters that have come to define regions throughout the United States and the world! For some, BBQ is a style of cooking: e.g. open-pit, rotisserie, or broasting to name a few. For others, BBQ refers to the type of food being cooked. Pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, ribs…an Okinawan BBQ fave is crispy-crunchy pig-ears. However, the drama, my friends, comes in the sauce! While seemingly innocently contained in the pretty little bottles, BBQ sauce can cause more than heartburn. I mean, we as a nation can’t even agree how to spell it. Is it BBQ, Bar-b-q, or barbeque sauce?
As an East Tennessee-gal, I know that real BBQ is red, sweet, & smoky. Buddy’s BBQ of Knoxville will be the official BBQ caterer in heaven. We all can agree that Jesus turned the water into wine, but did you know that He served it up alongside a #5 platter from Buddy’s? Glad I could share that bit of truth.
As I said earlier, being a nomad on the government’s dollar and the fact that BBQ has no eternal value, I’ve learned to display grace for other’s opinion of what is and what it not BBQ. Mayo-based, mustard-gold, hickory smoke; real BBQ is whatever floats your ribs! If it makes you feel good to label pickled-pork between two slices of bread a “BBQ Sandwich”, then by all means, go forth and be happy! Be wrong, but be happy!
A cardiologist friend once told me that in medical school, his professor constantly pumped the audio of a healthy heartbeat during the class. ♥thump-thump thump-thump♥ He also provided each student with a looping audio recording for them to listen to on their own. He highly encouraged them to listen to the recording at least 2 hours every day, and even suggested that they play the recording during the night, while they slept. This went on for months. ♥thump-thump thump-thump♥ His class met 3 days a week for 3 hours a day. ♥thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump♥
Even though the sound was about to drive him insane, he was faithful to listen to the heartbeat as he was instructed. He played it in his car. He played on his iPod at the gym. He played it at his bedside throughout the night.
Several students inquired to the professor asking what the point was. They were there to learn to fix hearts that were not healthy. They needed to hear the sounds of hearts under adverse conditions. The professor just smiled and offered no explanation.
It puzzled my friend, as well. To his eye, all the ♥thump-thump thump-thump♥ seemed to be accomplishing was a mass change in specialties! Over half the students in the class dropped the class, and set out to pursue other areas of medicine. My friend considered a change himself, but because his father had died young of heart disease, he really felt that this is what he was supposed to be doing. He just questioned whether he was learning what he needed to know under this particular, and somewhat unconventional, instructor.
Over the course of the class, he did learn a lot. He learned medical terms and procedures, and he learned of the latest drugs and monitored data from the very latest studies in this field. His grades were quite stellar throughout the course. However, he learned the most important lesson on the final day of the class…the final minutes, really.
He was about 10 minutes from completing his final exam when it happened. ♥thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump thump- [pause] –thump thump-thump thump-thump.♥ Every student, the few that were left, dropped their pencils and looked up. They looked at each other as if to say, “What was that? Did you hear that?”
The professor stood at this time and announced that they may put away their exams, because they all had passed his class with an A+.
...but just don’t take my word for it:
I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. -Psalm 119:125
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. -John 5:3
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. –Matthew 7:16-20
When I first opened this blog, I felt as if I was following a leading from God. I am sure of that, actually. He wants me to write...those instructions were clear. And I learned from watching John Boy that the best writers write about what they know. I named my blog "Sponsor's Last 4" because I am a military spouse. I know about being a military spouse. I should write about being a military spouse. Sounds easy enough....and yet my blog layeth dormant!
It's not that I haven't had much to say. Quite the opposite. I've had too much to say. I just couldn't make it all fit under the "military spouse" genre. I don't have the time or energy to maintain multiple blogs, so I would just kind of stuff the "stuff" in the mental filing cabinet until I could find out what I wanted to do with it. Now, my brain is a literary episode of Sanford & Son.
Turns out that I'm not really a military spouse after all! That's just one of my aliases! :-) Truth is, just like everyone else, I'm not made up of cookie-cutter stuff. Lots of ingredients go into this crazy oven of mine...and no one really knows what's going to turn up on the dinner table! Like later, I'll probably blog about how I was supposed to be using this time to write a 250-word essay audition for a newspaper column and couldn't write a word....but then I come on here and just open up like a geyser!
I'm a Christian...I'm a wife...I'm a mother...I'm a pet-owner/lover...I'm a military spouse...I'm a woman...I'm an American...I'm a slightly-right-of-center conservative...I watch Fox News...I support Sarah Palin...and my earthly heroines are Erma Bombeck and that little girl on the School House Rock Noun Song! I like to read...I like to write...and most of all, I like to pass along my unsolicited sarcastic nuggets of life observations, advice, and lessons learned the hard way.
I must be up front and say that the useless knowledge to life-changing ratio currently stands at about 80/20...but that's a big gain over what it was 15 years ago! Hey? Did I tell you that I got my first stand mixer? ...See? You didn't really need to know that about me, but aren't you, on some level, glad that you do? (Say Yes!)
When I think about how to summarize my deep thinking into a short blog title, I give myself a headache. It's complicated! I'm complicated! I mean why take the interstate when you can take Route 66? Why get a pre-lit tree when it's so much fun to sit around and grumble for hours while you untangle 5 strands of lights and search for the master bulb that makes the whole string dead? Because it saves time and it makes more sense? Sense is overrated! I mean let's look at Washington! They've gotten rid of sense and looks how well that's working out? ...um...probably not the best example.
Anyway....Yes, I'm a little complicated, but at the core I have the sure thing in Jesus! As with everything I do, I aim to glorify the Lord. I fall short many times...flat on my face other times...but my foot is on solid rock of grace & mercy, which He lavishes on my new every morning, undeserving. I also try to represent my military spouse comrades well. I try to be the best mother I can be, by limiting the times I embarrass them in public to just one or two times a week. I try to participate in my country by voting in accordance to the values and principals this country was founded upon...even at the expense of being "Astroturf Tea Drinking Idiot." I also try to reach across the isle from time-to-time; for instance, I sent Chris Matthews the name of a good ointment for his leg tingle. I need to follow-up on that.
So, to make a long story short (Ha! I blew that one already, huh?) ...as I was taking my vitamins this morning, I saw the perfect name for my old new blog on the label. "B Complex!" Get it? B (me...Belinda-Marie + complicated...complex!) No? Well...sleep on it! It'll come to you later! ...and when it does, let me in on it!
Have a beautiful day!
The Container - Part Two
You see, when I opened the present and tossed the container aside, no one told me that the container is just a valuable as the gift itself! I tossed it in the trash and went on with my life! Not going to hell, but I was certainly not living a new life. I quickly returned to life as it had been.
Growing up in a Sunday Christian household, we would put on our best smiles and praise the Lord on Sunday mornings. Sometimes we’d even make it through the whole day…but more often than not, we back in our dysfunctional mess before the evening service began. My teenage years were volatile and it led to me giving away my virginity before marriage; robbing myself and my future husband the joys of a godly wedding night. Our 20’s were just days of existing, doing whatever we pleased, living for the weekends with friends. We had children and loved life, but it was pointless living. God would be nothing more than my ticket out of hell for way too long in my life.
[I do want to say that even though we went about our love journey in the wrong order, the boy I gave myself to, would be my only partner and someday my husband. God was watching over us both, even then, when we didn’t acknowledge Him. We still suffered the consequences of premarital sex, but God has restored us and has even used our misfortunes to help other couples. We praise Him for the good work He has done and still doing in our relationship.]
Many years later, I began hearing that pesky voice that would sometimes whisper in my ear, that I most likely would ignore. But this time, the whisper was more like a shout. Something about the trash. The trash? The trash!!! It’s about the trash! The garbage truck is coming and I’m realizing that there is something in there that should have never been thrown away. The container! The wrapping! The original box with receipt! Proof of Purchase!
No, I’m not about to return the gift for store credit! Its mine forever…will never lose it. But the package is very important. I had to dig through pound after pound of ugly, dirty, smelly trash; but finally, I reached the bottom of the dumpster and there it was. Torn, wadded up, and neglected…the mangled container. Was I really in need of this? Did I really need to carry this container around? After all, it looked as if it had been scared and torn and it was even bloody. It seems like it would be nuisance to have that in my life…Always having to consider its presence when I had to decide what to do or which way to go. I mean, really…who needs this? But as I took a closer look, I began to see that this was not trash at all. In fact, when closely inspected, I began to realize its beauty. Not beauty in the way the world had trained me to see, but the eyes of my heart were overriding the eyes of my flesh for the first time. As I un-crumpled the packaging, I could see a peace and a safeguard, but more importantly I could feel a love, a warmth, and a guidance that I had never known before. I’ve always had it…it’s been there all along, but until I took it out of the bin and started using it, it was no benefit to me.
God carefully wrapped the gift in the most precious package ever! He wrapped this gift of salvation, redemption, and perfect organic love in His Son, Jesus Christ! His most precious of precious, His perfect child!
Looking even closer still, I could see the container held a key. A key to the door that was in a part of my heart that I had thought was inaccessible. I took the key from the container and ran to door and opened it. There before the eyes of my heart sat The Mercy Seat! Once hidden by the Glory of God and only available to a very select few, was now sitting in the den of my heart! I heard, for the first time in a very long time, the voice I heard that day in 1985. He was asking me to come and “sit a spell” and talk to Him. It was my Father...the Father who had given the gift so very long ago; the gift that will never be taken from me. We had a lot of catching up to do over several visits. It was a wonderful reunion, although He never really left.
You see, the package, the container, had a name. Yes, the container is Jesus Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit…but I needed to realize that this container was my personal guide through this life. It was His voice that I had been hearing all along.
Every mistake I was about to make, I would hear Him calling, but I didn’t listen. How much different could my life had been if I had only treasured the container from the beginning. The Father quickly interrupted this line of thinking, this pattern of self-condemnation, and He quickly reminded me that while I had indeed made mistakes, that the gift of redemption was not a one time thing. The container has been with me all along gathering up my sin and saving them for the time that I would recognize them and repent from them. He was there the whole time, keeping step right behind me, aside of me, and ahead of me; cleaning up, walking along side keeping watch, and going ahead to prepare my future. He knew me all along. …And not only that, but He had been transforming my sin into character and experience to be used for good in some way down the road.
…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
All of this from the container! The container that I threw in the trash! I would never make this mistake again.
I would like to introduce you all to my very Good Friend, JIM. Partly because I am goofy (I guess I got a little extra goofy, where most women got maternal instinct)…I’ve named the Holy Spirit…my container…JIM. Yes, I know that I am married to James, who is sometimes called Jim (but I don’t call him that so it doesn’t count)…but this JIM is also known as, “Jesus In Me.” The name reminds me that I am to yield my fleshly desires to those of the Lord and whenever I struggle with that, I am reminded that the battle with sin was already won and I have to simply let Jesus be In Me. [Side note, if you hear me talking to myself and I refer to anyone other than someone named JIM, please feel free to call the white coats.]
So, the gift really was a three-for-one special! Salvation…the not going to hell! The most wonderful gift that I never deserved. For now, I put it on the shelf, where I can always see it, treasure it, and Thank God for it.
…Redemption is one that also lives on the shelf, but I take it down and use it more often than I’d like…but power of it is amazing! A new merciful slate wiped clean every morning!
…and then there’s the container…JIM. He is always with me! Since the day I dug Him up from the bin, I have never let Him down. I carry Him everywhere I go and try to remember to consult Him at every turn on the journey. Sometimes, I forget or think I have it all under control and I go off on my own…but I quickly run the car into the ditch.
You see, I never really was driving on the wrong side of the road [and by the way, when in Japan, please don’t say that…say “opposite” side, not “wrong” side] …I was on the right side and heading in the right direction all along, but the problem was that I wasn’t letting JIM drive. With me behind the wheel, we had to keep to stopping for gas or repairs or with the way I had been eating away at the world’s table, to take care of some digestive business. Now that JIM is driving, the path is much smoother and the trouble spots are much easier to endure. In fact, I’ve abandoned the car altogether and I just enjoy the long walk. The really cool part is that the container that held my gift of eternal life, the very same container, now contains me…and one day, He’ll present me Holy and Blameless as a gift to the Father! -Amen!
P.S. Is the garbage truck coming down the alley? Are you sure there isn’t something in there that’s worth keeping?
“The Container” - ©2010; Belinda-Marie Purkey
The Container is a story of my real-life discovery of the Holy Spirit. Although, I’ve taken creative license in recalling my story, the events are very much true.
Author’s Note & Epilogue:
I once heard a story from a Chaplain, about how he and his family were attending a Christmas party at the Base General’s house. He had been nervous because his young son was rambunctious and didn’t want him to cause any chaos. That wouldn’t be the impression he’d have wanted to leave with the General. He had a stern talking to before hand laying out exactly the behavior he expected and the consequences of not doing so. The time had come to leave and so far, so good. The boy had been well-behaved. Just before they were to leave, the boy said he needed to go to the bathroom. He tried to encourage the boy to wait until they got home (only a few minutes away), but the son made it clear that he urgently had to go. So he asked Mrs. General if his son could use their restroom and she directed the way.
More than enough moments had passed and so he became worried that maybe his son was up to no good. He knocked on the door and asked if he was almost finished. There was no answer, but he could hear crying through at the door. He opened the door to find his son standing over the toilet looking down into the bowl full of ‘poo’ with tears coming out of his eyes. He asked what in the world was going on and the son tearfully admitted that he dropped Jesus in the toilet. HUH???
As stated, it was Christmastime and the bathroom was decorated for the season, with a beautiful miniature manger scene displayed on the top of the toilet tank. I t was complete with the animals, Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men; ECT…except the Baby Jesus was missing from the troth. The boy was beside himself with tears because it had been an accident. He must’ve bumped the toilet and sent the Baby Jesus sailing into the sea of #2. The boy didn’t want to flush it, because he knew it would probably stop it up and overflow and then everyone would’ve known what he had done and then he would be in big trouble. But the alternative of sticking his hand in the ugly toilet wasn’t exactly appealing either.
Enter Super-Dad. He knew by just looking at the boy that it truly had been an accident and he wanted to bail him out. That and he also didn’t want to overflow the toilet at the General’s house. Hey, we parents do what we have to do, right? So, in Dad’s hand went to fish out the Baby Jesus.
OK, Belinda-Marie? So why gross us out? Well, the story demonstrates a couple of facts. Jesus left His glorious place in heaven and jumped into the toilet. He endured the same exact “mess” that we experience as humans on this earth and then some. He did it because He loves us. Secondly, the Father will continually keep sticking His hand in our messes, as many times as it takes. The farther along we walk the path with Jesus the less messes we are likely to make…but still we will make them.
He is always just on the other side of the door and when He doesn’t hear from us, He will knock on the door and ask if we’re alright. Some of us will say, “It’s OK. I have it under control…I’ll be out in a minute.” …but this never is the case. The harder we try, even if we have the best of intentions, we will make the mess bigger and more widespread, as it overflows. But when we recognize our need for help and admit to Father what we’ve done, whether intentional or not, He will always roll up His sleeve and stick His hand in the middle of our mess and restore us to a clean and sanitized state.
My point [and I do have one] is that I have made so many messes in my life, that the prospect of sticking my hand in a real dirty toilet seems nonchalant. My childhood, my teenage years, and most of my 20’s were a big series of messes….some of my own making and some I was the victim of other people’s choices. Regardless, God has stuck his hand in my toilet countless times. He’d pick me up and clean me off and I’d dive right back in. He’s a good and faithful God and because of that decision I made on July 4, 1985, I was forever under His lifetime love policy. Not only does He continually benefit my life with continual love & disaster maintenance, but He even paid the premium. Not even the Geico Gecko and Stanley Steamer can outdo that one!
Anyway, there is a lot of stuff that I did not disclose in “The Container”. There are very specific incidents and amazing episodes of God’s work in those incidents, that would lead to my dumpster diving. Not that it’s a secret, because the Lord requires of me transparency…But because this is blog and not an epic, I needed to skip a lot of good stuff to get to the point I really feel I’m supposed to share in this moment.
I am in the process of putting to paper my testimony. I am preparing to, at the Lord’s leading, to share my Living Letter to the World that the Lord God has written not in ink, but of spirit on my heart. (2 Cor. 3:3) I can’t very well be prepared to tell God’s story in my life, if I haven’t read it myself.
I wouldn’t dare tell others what they should be lead to do, but I feel strongly that every Christian should consider writing out their own testimony and become really familiar with it…just like scripture. You just never know when the opportunity will present itself to share all or parts of it, in any given situation. The more familiar you are with your own story, or His Story in You, the more readily recalled it will be when you need it.
Yes, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. It’s not that I’ve been too busy or had nothing to say…Quite the opposite, actually. I’ve had a variety of words swirling around in my head and they all started to bottleneck. I needed to do an inventory of my heart and separate the truths from the lies and the important from the insignificant…but most of all, seek the Lord, so that I would make sure that He is speaking through me and not Belinda-Marie’s flesh taking over.
It’s been a tough few weeks; dealing with uncomfortable and unfortunate situations and God Bless ‘em, the sandpaper people! Through it all, I could feel the Potter’s Hand working and molding the lump of clay that I am. On the one hand, to know that I am being shaped and fashioned in the hands of the Most High is a very comforting feeling; but in the process of being made perfect, there is a lot of kneading and bending that is painful…and even some tearing away of clay that has dried out because of disconnection from the hydration source. That process can be painful. Necessary, but painful.
But, I don’t want to talk about the ugly stuff, because through it all I’ve been given a transformation by the renewing of my mind. (Romans 12:2) That’s the good stuff! The good, pleasing, and perfect stuff!
I have to give a little back story to make my point. Yes, this might be a long one, so feel free to go grab that cup of coffee. Although you might want to skip the coffee cake, because you already had a piece this morning; that apple looks good! (Uh wait, that’s what Eve said…get the banana! Bananas are the perfect food!)
When I was 13 years old, I was scared to Jesus! Not scared of Jesus, but scared to Jesus! …better than being scared to death, right? You see, the church I attended put on a dramatic interpretation of Judgment Day. We were a King James solid church and there’s just something very James Earl Jones about the way that version reads…in that “I Mean It” tone! Keep in mind; I was 13, as I recall these events. The dialogue is probably not spot on, but the scripture is forever embedded in my mind. I will be using both KJV and NIV for the retelling.
“The Container” - Part One
Temple Baptist Church; Knoxville, Tennessee...July 4, 1985
The sanctuary was darkened and the most eerie music I’ve EVER heard played softly in the background. I still can hear it playing. A young girl, probably in her mid-20’s, came in the door…she was confused…she scanned cautiously as she made her way up the isle. She finally made her way to the altar when all of a sudden a bright light appeared from the baptismal. It was so bright that you could only make out a silhouette of our Pastor…who was, in this case, James Earl J…I mean, God. The choir loft was then illuminated to show lots of happy people…joyous people! They were all dressed in bright spotless robes as white as fresh undisturbed snow.
Even though it was a sight to behold, the young girl began to tremble, as the voice boomed her name. “Amy!”
…”Yes? Where am I?” she inquired? “I don’t know this place?”
…“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12)
…“What? I’ve heard that before…uh, it’s from the Bible. My Mom used to go on and on about the Bible, but I never believed it. It was just a story.”
The shadowed figure was then illuminated and Amy fell to her knees in both awe and terror, for now realized that it was not just a story and she in fact, was giving account in front of the Almighty God! Then she recalled other parts of the Bible that her Mom and others had pleaded with her to understand and accept. Something about eternal life and the wages of sin being death…oh, why hadn’t she listened!?!
…“Lord, surely you know of all the good things that I’ve done? I volunteered to help kids with special needs. I gave blood. I went to church because it made my Mom happy! I was kind to people! I gave money to the poor and I donated food to the hungry. Surely, that will get me into heaven?”
… “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves [it is] the gift of God Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
…“But Lord! How was I supposed to know? So many people believed that the Bible was just a book of morals; some believe it was even fiction. This is something that I have thought about, but I was 25 years-old. I thought I had more time. You didn’t give me enough time, Lord!”
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father …The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. … "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matt. 24:36; 24:50; 25:13)
…”But Lord! Please! I…”
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20) Amy, you yourself, blew out the candle.
“…but, there has to be another way…”
“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Now sobbing …“I remember sitting in church that one day and the Pastor said something about Jesus knocking at the door…”
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)
…”Yes! That’s the one! I remember feeling like I should come forward when the Pastor invited. I, I, just didn’t want to believe it. I needed more time.”
Just then, two cloaked dark figures approached on either side of the girl. It all happened so quickly. A woman from the choir loft [heaven] was spotlighted…it was the girl’s Mother. She was beautiful in her spotless white garments. She looked like queen…very happy…and yet, very very sad at the same time.
“Mom! Mom! Help ME!!! You have to tell him what a good girl I was. How I deserve to be in heaven! Mom! Mom! PLEASE!”
The woman tearfully shook her head and softly whispered, “Oh Baby, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you now.”
The cloaked figures grabbed the girl, one on each arm, and began to carry her away.
“NO!” She screamed! No! You know who I am! You know who I am…..!!!”
Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' …"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'” (Luke 13:25)
Out of the ear splitting screamed, as she was being slowly carried down the opposite isle that she came in, on the Judge’s left-hand side, she continued to plead her case but she her breath was waning as she began to realize her eternal destiny, “I was good, Lord, I was good…”
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23) … Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25:40)
The doors to the vestibule opened up and all of a sudden the sanctuary was filled with the most awful sounds I had ever heard. It sounded like a tormented combination of a blazing fire with moaning and crying and wailing…like someone…no, like a lot of some ones, where experiencing the most gut-wrenching, teeth-gnashing pain imaginable. Worse than any massacre horror film I had ever seen! …There were orange and red lights flickering madly, to resemble a roaring fire. The cloaked figures hoisted the girl up, while she was still sobbing, and launched her into the flames. [I assume into someone’s waiting arms, because I later saw the girl walking around and she didn’t appear to have been launched into anywhere.]
...but then, still the sounds of utter agony blaring away, a much softer sound could be heard. A softer sound, but more prominent than the others…the sound of sorrow, the sound of regret…the sound of being so close to God’s glory, and yet will never experience it in the way humans were created to experience. The joys, the perfected kingdom, the glorious sounds of worship are never to be realized by those who did not answer the door; who did not open the gift. The glory of God would be to those souls, eternal torment. The doors to the sanctuary were closed again and the sanctuary again became dark for what seemed like forever. The house lights were then turned on to find no actors, no choir loft heaven, no Pastor Charles/God with the James Earl Jones voice.
For the next 5 minutes, you could hear a pin drop. The only sound you could hear were the sniffles, the tears falling to the floor for those who didn’t think to bring tissue. The Holy Spirit was indeed present and He chose, that night, July 4th 1985, to call the name of Belinda-Marie. Independence Day became an entirely different celebration for me. I needed no time to think, because when the Holy Spirit convicted, it was not the tiny prick of a needle that perhaps I had experienced before. This was the strong hand of the Lord reaching in through my flesh and seizing my heart and He wasn’t about to let go. I don’t remember exactly, but I may have knocked down a few people in my all out sprint to the altar; I just had to get there lest the Lord came back in the next 30 seconds. I would not be left behind. I would not stand before my Lord and Master and have Him not know who I am, with my Momma standing in the choir loft! I became a child of the kingdom right on the spot.
Oh, and if that isn’t enough... Because I was sitting with my friends that night and not with my family, I wasn’t aware that while the Lord had a hold of my heart in one hand, He had a hold of my mother’s in the other. It was good to find out that we’d both be in the heavenly choir!
So, that’s how I was scarred to Jesus. I know what you’re thinking! Scared is a poor choice of words. God doesn’t want to frighten us! He wants to love us! I agree! …but it would be a little later before I would discover this part of the equation. I mean this in no disrespect, but this is where the church failed me.
When one is saved, we inherit the Holy Spirit immediately. It’s like a child at a birthday party ripping the gift open and tossing the paper aside and immediately claiming the toy as “mine”! That night a peace settled around me and I knew that I was a changed person. Salvation & Redemption aside, I now had the Holy Spirit inside me! But as with any relationship, it starts out slow…a getting to know each other (only in this instance, I am getting to know the Lord…He already knew all about me…but who knew? Not I.)
Getting to know the Lord is a daily process that the Christian will never complete on this side of heaven. Billy Graham on his dying day will learn something new about the God he has so faithfully served and walked with. We will never stop growing, unless we stop coming to the table. But see, that’s just it. I let Jesus come in and dine with me, but I never really took a portion for myself. I was safe from Hell! What else was there? The church failed to educate me on what comes next. Many churches fail at this. Being born again is just that…being born again. I was now an infant….a messy infant. I pooped my pants, spit up, burped, passed soymilk gas…and all that other stuff that only a parent can love about a child. I couldn’t walk with the Lord before I was able to stand on my own two feet.
Now, I want to go back and just say that I do not devalue the fire and brimstone methodology of delivering the Gospel. There are some hard headed folks out there that frankly, need to be scared. Their lack of fear is killing them. Hell is a very real and very scary place. If that’s what it takes to get through a hard heart, then to God be the Glory! …but after the deal is sealed, don’t deny the newborn the good stuff! The very reason that God sent His only Son to die on the cross! LOVE! Not the love that God has, but the Love that God is! The very essence of God is love and the dictionary defines essence as “a substance of which is extracted from.” God love is designed for us to draw on from its very source. Many kinds of love can be derived from different sources. But true love in its organic state can only be gotten from God. It would be many years before I would understand this part of salvation.
(to be continued, tomorrow)