Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Beginning of the Journey

As stated in my last post, I've decided to discipline myself for Lent by blogging about various reasons that I became Anglican.  I'm going to start with a few days of briefly sketching out the contours of my life.  I do this to give some context and background because nothing is without some context in life.  

And now I begin....

One of the most formative moments in my life was a night in 1988.  Sadly, I would need to ask my siblings what day it was as I haven't thought about the specific date in a long time, but the event is burned forever into my psyche.  It was the night that my mom had her stroke.

I was only 9 years old at the time and we were not regular attenders at church.  My mom never went to church, but she made it a point to teach us some rudimentary things about the faith.  I honestly don't understand why except that it was purely the providence of God that this occurred.  You see, my mom was quite the bitter alcoholic at the time.  I don't really know the details of the things that she and my dad fought about often, but I do know that there were some grave issues going on underneath the surface.

These issues were what drove my mom from the church.  She had a fear of what people thought about her (and to this day, these same fears play a role in many of her actions).  So, she never attended church, but we children did with our grandmother on occasion.  And my mom having a true fear of God and a deep recognition of her many faults knew that her children needed Jesus.  Therefore, she taught us the Lord's Prayer and who Jesus was, and why he came to earth.  Though for a brief time I often talked about a "conversion" experience (it seemed unfathomable to me that one could be a Christian without a recognizable conversion) in my life being around when I was 14 or 15, I realize now with much reflection, that the experience at that time was no conversion, but really a deep set sense of my own sin actions at that time, but not a conversion.  I realize this now because I realize that I don't know of a time when I haven't called upon Jesus for forgiveness and recognized a need for Him in my life because I am a sinner.

But I move forward too quickly...

The night that my mom had her stroke, my sister and I ran across the yard to my uncle's house to have him call the hospital (there was no 911 service in our backwoods town at that time and we didn't have a phone in our house, strange as that might sound) for an ambulance.  As she and I ran, I made a comment about a need to pray to God for mom, but neither my sister nor I knew what to pray.  But then I started praying the Lord's Prayer and we both prayed it over and over that night knowing that it was a prayer that Jesus had given us to pray.  I also commented that this experience was God's way of telling us we needed to be in church regularly, not just occasionally.

As I reflect on this moment, I know that this was definitive in my family.  My oldest brother and I have talked about it before.  He and my brother had both been attending church more regularly, but they hadn't insisted on my need or my sister's need to be there.  That night changed their view about our need.  The next Sunday, my siblings and I were all at church being ministered to by the congregation and remained there for many years to come with very few Sundays missed.

My mother survived her stroke and regained all of her abilities.  Her seeming alcoholism ended the night of her stroke and she didn't have a drink for years to come.  Not everything has been hunky-dory since then in our family, but through that night, the Lord began a great healing in us all.  For that I am thankful.

So, why this story as my introduction?  Well, I'm not totally sure...I think the primary reason is because I remember my response to God's prompting to pray so deeply.  In a moment when I knew not how to pray, the Lord put his own words in my mouth to pray.  And in reality, every stanza of that prayer has been answered in various ways since then.  Let me reflect on it for a moment:

Our Father, who art in heaven: I knew God to be a perfect Father at that time and prayed this with deep trust in him and continued trust every time I pray it, especially with my boys now.

Hallowed by thy name: We all learned that night the meaning of this phrase.  We hallow God's name by recognizing Him to be Who He is.  We hallow it by living a life in accord with that Name.  He desires to care for us and we need to receive that care, no matter how it comes or whether we understand it or not.

Thy kingdom come: He has brought His kingdom into our lives.  He has healed us greatly with His continued salvation in every area of our lives.  He has not forsaken us, but has preserved us (especially me, but more on that in another post) from falling permanently from His grace and mercy.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven:  His will has been done through that event in our lives.  He drew into His community of believers through my mom's stroke.  He used that event to put us in a place to shape us and mold us a little more into the likeness of His Son.

 Give us this day, our daily bread: He has sustained us physically in all kinds of moments.  My dad retired 2 and a half years ago from a job that he held for around 40 years.  That one job supplied all of the bread we ever needed and then some!

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us: He has done this through Christ, no matter the sin, no matter how grievous it was or wasn't before men.  He does this daily for us and we are led more fully to forgive as we have been forgiven and know His forgiveness daily.

Lead us not into temptation:  It would have been easy for us to forsake God in such a trying situation, but he protected us from the temptation of Satan to abandon our gracious God.  We have been preserved through out trials and Satan's temptations have not ultimately triumphed over us because of Christ.

But deliver us from evil: Again, God has kept us from abandoning His grace and turning from him ultimately.  He preserved my mother's life.  It has 24 years now since she had her stroke and she shows no signs of damage from it.  The evil of death has not come upon us and when it does, it will not really be evil, but will one step closer to our  complete glorification in the new heavens and earth.

This is but a snippet of my life.  One picture in the stain glass that makes up how the Lord has shaped me, but it is important I think because of the role that the Lord's Prayer played in it.  The impact will be continuous throughout my life and my children's lives as I teach this prayer to them.

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