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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I'm not Charlton Heston...

...and contrary to the opinions of people you might refer to as old folks, Charlton Heston isn't God.

                            I think the Hebrews were in trouble...

I've been a Christian for the better part of eleven years. For those of you reading this who aren't Christians let me briefly share how that happened.

I remember going to church as a kid. That involved scratchy suits with constricting collars, clip-on ties, buzz-cuts and a lot of, "Sit still and be quiet!"

Our grandmother, who lived with us, took the kids to church; Mom didn't go - Sunday was her sleep-in day. I vaguely remember Sunday School; and big church, as I alluded to above, was a large, boring place where children were seen and not heard.

There are a lot of different outlooks on faith, God, religion and spirituality. Maybe the Presbyterian church I attended during my elementary school years didn't do a great job of introducing me to God and Jesus. Maybe I just didn't pay attention. But by the time I left Tampa and went to live in England with my father and start junior high school it's safe to say I had no religious convictions. And that lasted until 2001.

Oh sure, I had what passed for meaningful conversations with others about God - usually in bars. I'm not saying that God won't show up in bars; after all, Jesus was known to hang out with some pretty rough folks back in the day. In my experience, if you're looking for God/Jesus, then all I'm saying is that out of all the places on earth where you might find Him, a bar could be pretty far down the list.

Still, Jesus did tell Zachaeus that He had come to seek and save that which is lost, so you never know.

I guess the point of all this is that we all grow up as products of our environment. I loved my grandmother (except for that time I made her chase me around the bed when I had misbehaved) but just her taking me to church didn't help me find God anymore than watching The Ten Commandments on television did.

             Yul Bryner was always cool...

Besides, watching The 10 Commandments, I always thought Yul Bryner was the coolest - maybe that's because I'd seen him first in The Magnificent Seven.

Note the phrase on the top of the movie poster: The Greatest Event in Motion Picture History

I don't know from movies, but Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is one of the greatest events in mankind's history. Yet the Israelites, with all the evidence of God's existence playing out in front of them, still chose the way of the world. And kept choosing that way for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Back in Florida for high school, I went to visit my father after he'd moved to Ft. Lauderdale. We went to a theater and watched Godspell.

Sitting in that darkened theater was the first time I can remember crying for a reason that didn't involve me getting a spanking. It was an amazing evening. Yet I still didn't get the connection. Looking back, was I crying because it was a tremendous performance by the cast? There's no doubt that live theater performances can be more emotionally evocative than films. Or was I crying because the message of the Gospel of Matthew is the basis for Godspell?

Life went on.

Over the years I had conversations with all sorts of people that mostly ended with the philosophy of, "As long as I don't hurt anyone and I'm a generally good person, I should be fine getting into heaven...assuming that there is a God."

It's funny (not funny Ha-Ha, but funny peculiar) how we ascribe our human nature onto God's psyche.

                        Billions and billions of stars...

Think about it; let's accept for the moment that a Supreme Being created the universe and everything in it. Is it really conceivable that this Being would think and act like us? The Bible refers several times to the fact that God created us in His image. But that doesn't mean that us and God are the same - He wants us to be, but there is something in the way.

That's where Jesus comes in.

My father-in-law passed away in 2001. For some reason, that was a much more emotional experience than I expected. After the funeral, I began thinking about life and, I suppose, death. My wife's family is large and very close. Perhaps my thoughts and emotions were an offshoot of her deep grief over losing her father. Whatever the reasons, I began talking to God. Driving to work in the morning or driving home at night - I worked long hours so it was frequently dark by the time I was making my way home.

This went on for months. I suppose it's cathartic to have someone upon which to cast your thoughts, your rants, your innermost fears. Some might say I was just working through things myself, or maybe projecting. Others might say I was crazy. But as the weeks and months went on, I felt a growing sense of surety that, yes, there was a God and yes, He is aware of who each of us is.

                                Arthur...stop groveling!

Everything we do can be distilled down to a moment in time. The moment you were born, the moment you decided to disobey your parents, the moment you decided to skip that class, the moment you decided to hand your keys to a friend instead of driving home after the party, the moment you propose marriage or accept a proposal...our lives are stitched together with a million such moments.

One night in 2001, I had a moment, a moment where I clearly heard God asking me to accept Him, to accept that Jesus was His Son and that He had died on the cross for me. I wasn't a bad person but no matter how good I was - or am - it wasn't good enough to get me over the dark chasm yawing between me and God. Only Jesus could do that.

I think I had heard God asking for my heart before that night. And like most humans, I was busy making excuses. Even that night - the most important night of my life - I still was holding God at arm's length. He was asking me to pull over, right there in Bagdad, FL of all places, and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And I was busy being Moses, Jonah, and a host of others I was going to learn about who all said, "Why me, Lord? I'm nothing special. What do I have, what can I do, that you can't?"

I had already made up my mind but that human nature of disobedience kept me in my car seat until I parked in my driveway; then, and only then, did I get out and get down on my knees in my front yard and answer God.

Yes, Lord.

I'm not Charlton Heston. But thank God I don't have to be. I'm just me; and for some reason, God loved me enough to send His son to die for me.

Thank goodness.


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