Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday Service Recap- "With Eyes Wide Open"

Welcome to Vegan Faith!  If you are new, namely hopping over from my good friend Heather's blog,  I hope that you will take a look around.  If you would like, here are some of my MVPs (most valuable posts).  Check out my Meet Tanya page to get to know me a little better!  And enjoy my deep and detailed thoughts below...

This Sunday in church, Doug (pastor of Lake Norman Fellowship) touched on a topic that really got my writing juices flowing.  Sometimes during sermons, I find myself "writing" (in my head) blog posts related to what I'm learning.  I actually do this while I'm running, biking, swimming, eating, standing, sitting, talking...you get the idea.  Well Sunday's message really encouraged me to share my thoughts on conversion.  Namely, my own, but also some details about conversion. 

To me the word conversion or convert sounds bad.  I think perhaps people shy away from that word because it sounds harsh and dangerous.  I would have to gather most people like the way their life is and even if they don't, they are afraid of change.  When we speak of converting someone, it sounds perverse, strange, and maybe even just a little crazy.  Hesitant to change, and afraid of the lunatics wanting to convert them, most people will run in the opposite direction when the "C" word gets tossed around.  Thus, why I didn't title this post "Conversion!"

"With Eyes Wide Open" is in reference to John 9:13-34 where the Bible discusses Jesus healing the blind man on the Sabbath.  For a little background, the Pharisees (Jewish leaders of the day) didn't like Jesus so much and wanted to find fault in Him, even if it was for performing miracles and healing people.  The blind man was led to defend Jesus and his sight and he was asked to lay claim to how it came to be, and this is where Doug found truth about the conversion process. 

First of all it is just that-- a process.  It is a shift that occurs.  Life is changed.  Just as the blind man's life was forever changed.

Then of course it is personal.  Many people believe in the "I'm a Christian, life will forever be awesome" theory.  If they are looking for awesome as in lots of money, clothes, food, and possessions with little heartache or pain, they are misled.  While living for Christ is always awesome in my opinion, it does come with its own set of challenges and it gets personal.  The blind man in this story was finally able to see, yet still excommunicated by the church!

Conversion is preventable.  It is a choice.  Conversion is also ongoing and day by day we have the choice to continue to worship God and be changed.  The blind man gave praise to Jesus despite his parents turning their backs and the church giving him the boot.

Being a Christian isn't easy.  It comes with many tests and trials.  I remember the day I first realized I had been converted.  While I was raised in a Christian home, I never recognized Christ as my savior and openly gave my life to him until much later.  Namely, when we moved to North Carolina. 

I found myself working for the YMCA and taking my lunch breaks in the chapel where it was calm and peaceful.  I would pray a little, and read a little, and eat a little.  Then I started attending a bible study at work and I could feel the Holy Spirit begin to tug at my life.  At first it was small things such as "don't take the piece of candy that isn't yours" to the really big stuff like "you really shouldn't be living with your boyfriend outside of marriage."

One day during my lunch break I was in the chapel and picked up a book to read.  Here was the prayer on the first page:

Today and forever, Lord
I'm letting you be God in me- in action!
I'm bowing out
I'm letting you bow in.
I'm going to let you think through my mind, 
react through my emotions 
and make decisions through my will.
Here Lord, my body is available to you.  
I've tried so many times
in my own strength
to be like you- to copy,
to imitate the good I saw in You.
But I'm finished with that now.  
come, take control of my life-
I want to be available, dear Jesus
to be what you want me to be.
And do what you want me to do.

I read this prayer over and over and to myself I thought, "This is it. No more. I'm giving in."  At that moment I quit fighting against the pull and decided it was time to give it all up. 

At the time, if you asked me if that was my conversion story, I probably would have said no.  It was just a prayer, not a big deal.  But later that day, I realized just how important that prayer would become in my life.

My boss approached me after that lunch break and asked me to meet with her.  She notified me that my schedule was going to change, without warning.  I would begin working the afternoon/night shift.  The timing was awful.  I was getting ready to marry Forbes, looking forward to living together again, cooking dinners together, sharing life together.  And now, we would be working opposite schedules and rarely get to see one another.  I had worked the late shift before and despised it. 

I went home in tears that day and Forbes came over to comfort me.  I read the prayer in that book over and over to myself and kept questioning what God's plan was.  When Forbes arrived he reminded me that God will occasionally call us to Nineveh (reference to Jonah and the Whale which we were studying in church at the time).  I realized God was trying to teach me obedience, patience, and self-control.  This was the first time that Forbes ever referenced the Bible to me and in many ways I could hear and see the Holy Spirit working in our lives that day.  I committed graciously to the new schedule.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2 

At this point I wish I had some amazing story to share about how I helped save a person's life, or changed someone and I could see clearly why God sent me to work the evening shift.  Alas, all of that may well have happened and I may be oblivious to it, but that isn't my story.  My story is that I was changed.  My life was forever saved, and I was taught how to recognize the Holy Spirit working through me. 

Since that day (and even before that day) conversion has been a process.  It is a daily choice to read that prayer and truly believe it.  To allow God to reign over my life and take control.  To allow His decisions to be mine.  Conversion continues throughout our entire lives.  It is because the place we are destined for is perfect, and we are not.  And we have an awful lot of work to do to fit in in Heaven.  God is molding and shaping me into the person he knows I can be.  The change is good.  Not scary anymore.  Difficult, but not crazy. 

Despite being introduced at an early age, I think it took me so long to become a Christian because I was focused on the How and not the Who.  If you question how to be converted there really is not an easy answer.  This story tells you how I was converted, but everyone's story is different.  However, the constant in each story is Jesus.  When I recognized Jesus as more than just a man and rather the master over my life, I was forever changed. 

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis

I feel inclined to say here: "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

If you are interested in reading another very telling story about my life, you should hop on over to Running With Sass where I wrote a guest post about some more recent changes in my life.  I suppose today is all about discovery and disclosure.  Enjoy!

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