Looking Back to Look Forward

Aside from the fact that Wade was on duty at the firehouse, our Father’s Day began in the best possible way. As I sat in the pew holding my Emma, trying to move her head so she didn’t snore QUITE so loudly, I was soaking in this idea from Bro. JD’s sermon, this new-yet-old revelation of why I believe in sharing examples of Christian couples. I was holding my sleeping child with my heart overflowing from my morning spent with God secure in His purpose for me and this blog and just…happy. I began my morning reading the next chapters on my Bible reading plan. I read through Joshua where he was using the example Moses set for how to lead the Israelite people in order to gain the Promised Land. I read about time after time that God was faithful to fulfill His covenant with His people.  My faith flourished. Then, I went to Sunday School where Teresa led us through parts of 2 Samuel where we talked about the importance of our personal worship as King David danced through the streets leading the Ark of the Covenant. I was realizing exactly what it meant to prepare your heart for worship, and I was ready to praise God. After Sunday School, I went upstairs where I heard a beautiful rendition of “Family Bible” sang and strummed by members of our congregation, including our preacher, that tugged at my heart and made me think of simpler days or days that could be made simpler. The joy and praise and gratitude I felt toward our Heavenly Father in that moment couldn’t be contained by my eyes as that pure happiness slipped out and slowly rolled down my cheek. It was in that mind and heart space that I listened to Bro. JD’s sermon knowing that I was ready to write my next blog post with his words as my muse. Feeling gratitude and ready to leave church to see what else my day may hold, my heart, which I thought was already full to the brim, began to overflow as Maria, Bro. JD’s wife, made her way up front after the Invitation to share her Father’s Day “re-gift” to our preacher.

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Ten years ago on Father’s Day 2008 she gave this shadow box to Bro. JD with fishing lures from his grandfather, the newspaper clipping about that grandfather, and a note from her. The note talked about how JD has a motorcycle but isn’t a biker, has a black belt but isn’t a fighter, writes all the time but isn’t a published writer, has tools but isn’t a mechanic or carpenter, and has fishing gear but isn’t a fisherman. Instead, she said, he is a fisher of men. His pleasing personality is the lure I’m certain. She then recounted Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians to illustrate JD through her eyes.

1 Corinthians: 9:20-23

“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law – though I myself am not under the law – to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law – though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ – to win those without the law. To the weak, I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.”

Isn’t it lovely to look at a person through someone else’s eyes when that someone else’s eyes are loving and seek good?

I watched as Bro. JD stood behind her — seeing himself through Maria’s eyes and seeing her for all that she is to him — while his own eyes began to be rimmed in red. He listened to this other person pour out her heart concerning him. It was then that I could not wait to get home because I was ready to write my next blog post, which just so happened to already be about the two of them. Together and separately, they have inspired me in the years they have worked in their ministry at Upton Baptist Church.

Because of them, I have set out on a journey to read the Bible all the way through and use it as a guide. My goal is to read it through in a year. I’m already behind….go figure. However, summer break is allowing me to catch up.

Why am I wanting to read through the Bible in a short(ish) time frame?

It’s one thing our pastor, Bro. JD Shipp, has encouraged members of our church, Upton Baptist Church, to do for the past few years. Initially, I listened to his charge for us to read it through and thought, “Pshht! Yeah right! There’s no way I could get through the Bible in a year’s time. I don’t have the time to dedicate to reading that much everyday.” In fact, I’ve had that frame of thought since the first time he mentioned it. I have been in awe of the people who were able to read it through when he announced them each year, but I always believed I wouldn’t be able to accomplish that until I retired or my kids were much older. Then, I began listening to the Embracing a Simpler Life podcast series (GO LISTEN NOW!), and Katie, the host, had an episode in which she and her husband discussed the many benefits of reading through the Bible in a year. On her next episode, Katie had a friend who had just finished reading through her Bible with a chronological reading plan (the same one I’m currently using), and hearing her testimony and account of what the simple act of reading through the Bible did for her touched me. I’ll not go down that rabbit hole right here because it’s not really my focus, but I’ve already begun reaping the benefits of doing this. I may fail miserably at getting it done in a year, but I will get it done soonish 😉

The point of that little detour is that Bro. JD planted the seed, as he is so good at doing. He planted the seed, and though it took years, that seed did take root and has begun sprouting into what I hope is good, ripe, sweet gospel fruit for me to share with others. My heart has been stubborn and slow to catch on, but JD has planted and/or cultivated many different seeds which I’m just now beginning to realize are taking root. In fact, he cultivated the seed that led to actual action for this blog.

In November 2017, my Aunt Rachelle made a Facebook post that struck me like a sucker punch to the gut. The kind that takes your breath away and makes you tear up just a bit. Reading her words about an account from Mamaw Verne accompanied by a photo from Aunt Pam, my heart swelled with yearning. Writing about couples with photos of them was something I had never considered would be part of God’s purpose for me, but in that gut punch moment knew I wanted to do just that. I wanted to glorify God by showing couples who live for Him through their marriage. I was pretty certain God wanted me to do it, too. Then, just a few (one….maybe two??) short weeks later, Bro. JD gave the sermon in which he challenged our congregation to C2IT, see to it that no one misses the grace of God. He called on us to use our God-given talents to spread God’s love and grace and mercy and Word. God used Bro. JD to affirm my yearning.

During his Father’s Day sermon, God gave me another nugget of wisdom and inspiration through Bro. JD. Reading in Exodus 3, he pointed out one of the many times in scripture in which God is referred to as the “God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6…and so many more places!).

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In short, Bro. JD used this piece of scripture to say that faith looks in basically two directions: backward and forward. Our faith looks back, in the past, to inform itself, build itself up and give itself roots in fertile soil in which to plant itself so it can look forward, toward the Son, in strength and certainty. He went on to use part of Old Time Religion and the way it was sung in his youth group to point out why we look in the past. “It was good for Hebrew children, It was good for Hebrew children, It was good for Hebrew children, It’s good enough for me.”

You see? What his sermon spoke to me and what the song tells us is that we can look to the past, to examples in the past, to examples of Christians who were mostly getting “it” right to affirm our faith AND to inform our faith and future path. This concept is why it is important to have good examples of Christian fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, friends, mentors, and just good, Christian people in our lives. This concept is why I believe in the message of this blog. This concept is why I wanted to write about Bro. JD and Maria.

When I sat down with the two of them, I just felt at ease hearing their story. It was clear to see how their past, their personalities, their relationship, and their ministry are a testament to all that a Christ-centered life and marriage can be and do for a person, a couple, and a community.

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By looking at their past, I feel more ready to face mine and Wade’s mutual marital future with hope and faith. I pray when you read the post about them and their nearly 41 years of marriage that you feel the same hope for tomorrow that I do. Until then…

God Bless,

❤ Erica

 

 

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