Friday, September 18, 2015

What I Learned This Summer, Part 3

PART 3 OF 4:

Okay, so we've covered some ground on what I learned this summer. I could tell you more about camp, but I'll just say this: some of it was hard, some of it was easy, and all of it was good. Ultimately. I can't say it was always comfortable, because it wasn't.

However, one of the counselors sent me a friend request on Facebook, which was waiting for me when I finished my family vacation. Honestly, that felt very good, and I'm very grateful for her. ::understatement:: **Since then, I've become FB friends with many of the counselors. Now that we're more than a month away from camp I'm learning that social media actually can aid in these friendships. After a year of getting to know one another better on Facebook, camp won't be nearly so challenging next year. We'll have gained on the issue of time, and I hope I'll be better about sharing my experience.

**A Facebook Friend Request might seem like this super small thing, but it can be huge to someone else after they've had a fairly tough summer struggling with... well, everything. Another example that small acts of kindness are often the ones that mean the most to others. So, don't be afraid to get out there and perpetuate acts of kindness!!!

I spent the entire three weeks not really wanting the other counselors to know my experience because deep down I thought they'd see me as a Lesser Christian (don't think that actually exists, but there you go). What I actually achieved was just not letting anyone in. If they don't know you, they can't like you. Or hate you. Or even feel "okay" about you. In other words, the law of thirds doesn't work if you don't let anyone know you. The irony is that I should've figured this out week one because I became very close with that group of high school girls. I'll just stop and admit to being a slow learner.

What else did I learn?

At our last fellowship dinner at church our pastor invited the Gideons to come. Frankly, I wasn't looking forward to this presentation. It cuts into our "fellowship" time and usually makes choir practice run late. Let's just say I wasn't their ideal listener.

One man did most of the talking. He began by sharing his testimony. (Does this feel familiar?)

I will do my best to not be overly wordy and get the gist of his testimony. He said that he grew up not knowing Jesus. His family didn't know Jesus. He didn't find Jesus until he was at the rock bottom of his life. He was in a prison cell after just being charged with first degree murder and kidnapping.

You didn't see that coming, right? Me either. I try to imagine what that must've been like and come up empty.

Anyway, he said that another inmate saw his despair and gave him a Gideon Bible. It was the first time he'd ever had his hands on a Bible. He started to read, and in the reading, believed. However, there was a kicker: he didn't believe that God could forgive him specifically. He didn't doubt that Jesus died on the cross to save mankind, but mankind hadn't committed murder and kidnapping... so that salvation was for other people. A pastor came to the prison and spoke with him. When he asked the pastor if Jesus could forgive a murderer, that pastor immediately said, "Yes."

That changed his life. Forever. Of course, it didn't change the consequences. We always get the consequences of our actions. He served thirty plus years of prison time. During that time he got his PhD in Theology.

After he was paroled he joined the Gideon ministry because it saved his life. Through that ministry he talks not only to churches but regularly goes to the prison and visits youth in correctional facilities.

What he says to the youth: "You are only one choice and one person away from prison."

That statement kept my brain working for weeks. One person. One choice. I began to think about my own life. I knew there was meaning in there. I had to figure out how I could apply it.

Here's what I figured out: People and choices are like Pringles. You can't make just one. Each time you're confronted with a person and/or a choice it is taking you one of two ways. Closer to Jesus or further away. There is no middle ground here. So, if you make that choice or bring that person into your life that takes you away from Jesus, chances are it will lead you to more of the same. The reverse is also true. If you bring people into your life who bring you closer to Jesus and make choices that bring you closer, they will lead you to more of the same.

That whole scenario put my Soundtrack posts into a new perspective (which are, essentially, my life). I'd talked about holes and filling them, but finally I could see it all very plainly. When I decided to turn to the world to fill my holes that was one choice away from Jesus (because every choice is closer to or further away). Of course, it led to more choices of the same. Instead of getting fuller, I just got emptier. Until, like the man leading that presentation, I hit my own rock bottom.

And, still, even after hearing this, I was still struggling with my own feelings of being a Lesser Christian. That guy didn't know Christ when he did what he did. I knew Christ when I did what I did... and I did it anyway. No, I didn't kill or kidnap anyone. The person I hurt most was me, but...

Well, I'll save the rest for my last post in this series.

Have you ever thought about how important your choices are? The people you bring into your life? Does the whole "one person, one choice" resonate with you?


  1. And what if that man had never handed him the Bible? Or he decided not to read it?
    Choices can be like steps leading us away from or to Jesus. And certainly our friends can lead us either direction. I'm fortunate that the people I hang with are all Christians and we help one another in our walk.

    1. Absolutely. Every choice we make turns us in one direction or another.

    I am really enjoying these 'What I Learned This Summer' posts.

    Yep, anytime you bring Jesus into the conversation, you're going to get less comments. (Politics can do that, too.) I figured out that it scares people. And I think I know why it scares most people.

    I almost laughed out loud when I read "...he asked the pastor if Jesus could forgive a murderer,..." Well, let's see... Uhm... as I recall, Jesus even forgave those who murdered Him, while He was still alive and suffering, hanging on the cross. ("Forgive them, Father...")

    The whole subject of Forgiveness and Salvation, and what Christ really did for us by sacrificing Himself on the cross is a very complex topic. I pondered it deeply as I read and re-read my Bible year after year after year.

    I believe I was finally given the answer to the riddle, and not surprisingly, I came away with a different viewpoint than is maintained by the mainstream Christian community. But for sure, what Christ Yeshua did was a real thing - an exceedingly important thing - and I believe that for most people, it won't really be understood until the moment they find themselves "face-to-Face" with God The Father.

    I think one of my big problems, or failings, is that I rarely take seriously into consideration that I could be dead tomorrow. I live as if I'm going to go on living for a long, long time - as if I have plenty of time and chances to get my act back together again. I'm so far off the path I once was on with God and Christ, and if I died today, I would have to say that I didn't live up to my potential and didn't come close to achieving the sort of relationship I COULD and SHOULD have with Them.

    I need to straighten up and fly right!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Well, I guess that is the beauty of relationship. Only you (and God, of course) know when you're in it and when you're not. Or if it could be better.

      I think all of us could be in a better relationship than the one we're currently in. Of course, it could be worse, too.

      I suppose the point of this bit was simply to say that every choice is pushing you one way or another. Some are large pushes, some are small.

      I was reading in Romans today. Paul said that it's sin if you think it's sin and it isn't if you think it isn't. I think that statement goes to show that God cares about Intention. If you know something is sin (bad) and you do it anyway, well then it really is sin. If you do something someone else thinks is bad (but you don't) than it's not sin. I don't know if I got all that exactly right, but it's something else to ponder.

      So, that reading in Romans leads me to say to you... only you know if you need to "straighten up and fly right." If so, get busy!

  3. I'm not sure I was able to comprehend anything after the word "Gideons."

    I just kept hearing the lyrics to Rocky Raccoon going through my heard.

    Rocky Raccoon
    Fell back to his room
    Only to find Gideon's bible

    Gideon checked out
    And left it no doubt
    To help with good Rocky's revival

    I reconnected with some old college friends using Facebook, so I see the value you'll get with your camp associates.

    Most of the music events I go to have Facebook pages if I were to spend the time.

    However, I do believe that if you're going to use the "can't make just one" tag line, you should give credit to the right chip-"bet you can't eat just one" was a Lays slogan.

    On a serious note, regarding the people you let into your life, you are so right. It is all too easy to fall in with people who lead you down the wrong path. That does not have to be a path to a horribly dark place, but as you say-away from Christ is damage enough.

    We usually know what the right path is-and I'll bet the Gideon knew even though he said he did not know Christ at the tine-it's just that the wrong path is often easier, or more immediately gratifying.

    D'do d'do d'do do do do, come on, Rocky boy


    1. I'm not going to comment on Rocky Raccoon.

      I can't believe that I got the slogan wrong. It seems like I can clearly see the Pringles commercial from when I was a kid and it being all about not being able to stop. But maybe I'm confusing it with Lays. I'm getting OLD obviously. The memory is shot.

      It is very easy to let people into your life who take you in the wrong direction. Not killing someone and kidnap someone wrong (necessarily) but just wrong. I've lived in all sorts of places (geographically and head space), and I can say with some conviction that my life works better when my choices are better (towards God rather than away).

      I don't think I can speak for the Gideon fella. I'm sure he knew he did a bad thing. Bad things. I mean unless he was raised with no moral code at all... he had to know. And I don't believe he used that as an excuse for what he did. I think it was just when he was at that really dark place that his life began to turn around.

  4. Choices are extremely important. They make us who we are, but I also try to look at life with the 'everyday is a new day' mentality. I mean you should always be careful what you do, but you can become someone new with each hour you draw breath. I look forward to the next part of your story.

  5. We who follow the Christ Jesus are "lesser Christians" when put into perspective of who God wants us to be and the potential we have to be better. Comparing ourselves to others in order to see who is the better Christian can be a destructive practice to follow. We might emulate others who we think of as good Christians, respect them, and keep company with them. Following Christ is not a contest. In our pursuit to be like Jesus we can become better, but if we are "lesser" then we must be doing something wrong.

    The choices we make are immensely important with one choice--the choice to trust in God and follow His ways--being the most important choice of all and the one that ultimately matters more than any others.

    I've posted one of my own Soundtrack posts at Wrote By Rote today. Hope you'll take a look. I'm going to start posting some of these in conjunction with some of my upcoming BOTB posts.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Wrote By Rote

  6. My son was just telling the story that someone once asked him who went to hell. His answer, which he said he regretted much later, was like the testifiers story- that someone that did "a succession of really bad things" and perhaps was put away for life was probably lost for good. He said he understood later he was wrong, that even if he was "dead to society" he wasn't dead to God.

  7. It is amazing how one person or 2 can change your life. For this man, one gave him the bible and the other showed no judgement by simply saying, fast, "Yes". One can only hope we find the right guidance and can help people even if we don't realize it.

  8. Hi Robin.
    Somehow I missed part 2... I'll find it later. This post gave me a lot to think about. There's nothing I wish to share right now, but thank you for posting this.

  9. I have worked in prison ministry before and its hard to explain to many. Its a chill bump on the arms , hair on neck tingly experience when you witness a prisoner truly accepting his forgiveness. They really struggle with fact that God wouldn't love them for all they have done. I get it because I'm not a prisoner and I condemn myself for things I have done. Just handing someone a bible is HUGE and life changing.


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