Gratitude Chain Day 7

Late by two days, but here it is, first from my FB status:

My late Day 7 of the Gratitude Chain post:

I thank God for new beginnings.

Yesterday, I “reported” to the beautiful lady under whom I will be training as I go through the Volunteer process of New Life the Fort. And she was willing to give me the orientation on Thursday next week (before the midweek service), instead of this Saturday. I consider that grace and favor.

A friend had a quietly puzzled look on his face when I told him that in New Life The Fort, the “Volunteer Process” takes a total of at least one year: attending the church regularly for at least 6 months, followed by around 6 more months of “training” in all the ministries before finally “graduating” into the ministry of choice — God’s choice for you, which may not be what you had originally planned when you started.

The trend, I believe, in some churches, is: get them in, then get them working. We need people for the ministries ASAP!!

After hearing, from at least 3 churches, the words (or variations thereof): “Oh, you’re a musician? You should join the music ministry!”, in one case being told to LEAD WORSHIP on my third week of joining the ministry (good thing I had a great reason to say no: my mother was going on an out-of-town conference in Palawan \o/, and she required me to be her personal assistant/photographer), it was a welcome relief to NOT be rushed into the ministry.

I think I’m even seeing a Levitical parallel in my own life…

In the bible, active national service for Israelites begin at 20. In 2 Chronicles, there’s a more detailed schedule given to the Levites: enter the temple at 20, start “specialized” training at 25, begin active service at 30, retire at 50.

Okay, smartypants, where’s the parallel? You’re 46! That means you only have 4 years active duty left!

Maybe…but that’s not my concern right now. For now, let’s go by “spiritual” birthday — mine was September 3, 1984. Which makes me 30.

Ten years ago, after Jesus took my mother home to be with Him, and our daughters turned 4, I was finally able to join the music ministry. We had been attending another church at that time, and we’d been there 2 years before family duties progressed to the place where I could now also give “time and talent” to the local church. (2004)

But the activities weren’t just in church. Whenever and wherever we could, we gave what we could.gave what I could: I sang, I trained, I taught, I led bible studies, I wrote, I took pictures, I blogged, I hosted, I stage-managed, I sound-teched, I assisted, I chauffeured, I…

Oh, My. Gosh. Reading what I just typed just dilated my pupils. All these, while being a wife to Irl, a mom to Jodie and Roni, taking over my father’s business, and trying to help out my sister-in-law take care of my brother who had had his third stroke.

So that’s why, I guess, about 5 years ago, I began to feel this tugging in my heart — and these were the words that came with that tug:

Stop giving away what I have not told you to give away. (2009)

For a year, each of the involvements (except family, of course) got stripped away, one by one. The last one was removed literally on the week of my 42nd birthday. I thought it was just going to be a “Sabbath” year. Looking back now, I realize God had moved me into “specialized” training. (2010)

The next year, I just focused on getting my physical strength back, and even finally got myself down to 120 pounds, which was my personal target. A month before my 43rd birthday (2011), I started asking God when and to what I’d be going back — and I was made to realize, quite definitely, that I wouldn’t be going back.

Tim Keller’s sermon, Everyone With A Gift, was a painfully devastating but ultimately liberating confrontation (it’s a free download. I hope you can take the time to listen to it). In it, he shares a story shared by Dr. John Gerstner:

She had an idea of a noble, heroic life, and she was telling God, “that’s the life You’ve got to give me…and here’s how You’ve got to get it for me.” And she was doing everything she could to basically put God in her debt so He’d HAVE TO do it! And she began to realize: “I’ve never taken my hands of my life…I’ve been using God! I wasn’t serving God, I was telling Him what He had to do!” And then she says, “that night, for the first time, I took my hands off my life. I said, “You know where I should go, You know what I should do…You know best.” 

And Dr. Gerstner closes that part of the sermon by looking at all those young people, and saying,  “If that girl, who spent a third of her life being ready for missionary service, saying goodbye to everything – saying goodbye to fun, to safety, to comfort, to EVERYTHING! – and thought she had taken her hands off her life, and that night she realized she never had done it, do you think YOU have, then? I doubt it.”

I remember my knees giving way when the realization hit me…I had been living in exactly the same way. I also remember being able to quip, “Ten years? A third of her life? Try 22 years, and half of her life!” before I finally gave in to the anguish I felt. “Twenty-two years, Lord! WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME BEFORE NOW?!?!”

But He is faithful to His word. There was no condemnation. I thought I had been broken before, but this breaking had sapped even my physical strength. It took effort to haul myself up from the bathroom floor and finish my bath so I could go on with the day. In that anguished grieving, I could almost feel an actual embrace, gentle hands wiping my tears, a quiet voice shushing my sobs. Because I’m a writer, one of the verses that has always challenged me was “All the days of my life were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16 NIV, I think)

Every millisecond of those 22 years, somehow, were never beyond His control. He knew before I was born the choices I would make, and He let me make them, anyway, because He knew, as any author knows, how the end will be.

I’m still learning to trust that.

So – specialized training, huh? In what, exactly?

In resting, and trusting, and just following His lead. It took another two years before we made the move to finally settle down in New Life The Fort (2012). But even then, all we did was listen, meet people, listen, make friends, listen…

Sit and receive. Stay, let yourself heal, then go where the Lord leads you.

From December 2013 to August 2014, we simply let ourselves be led. Sure, we made plans, but I began to recognize God’s sovereignty, not just in the things that went smoothly, but more so, in the things that didn’t push through. He seems to have taken a bit of a roundabout way, but basically, the step we started in December 2013 finally got completed in August 2014.

We finally completed the Membership Class. 🙂

Wow —  that’s seven months of my “spiritual foot” hanging in mid-air before I got to put it down…hehehe ^_^

And now, at the beginning of my 31st year since Jesus took hold of me, I think He’s calling me to begin my active service.

AND it just occurred to me: my first venture into the music ministry was an audition for Windsong in August 1992. In August 2014, I auditioned for the music ministry. Can you believe it? I was asked to audition! I wasn’t just thrown into the ministry on the basis of my credentials, I had to audition!

I still had my eyes closed, but at least, I was able to stand this time. 😀

Talk about a do-over! New beginnings are COOL!!!

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of voluntary submission when He says in John 10, “No one takes My life from Me, I lay it down of My own accord.”…Why did He offer Himself, as not a living sacrifice, but a destroyed sacrifice? Why did He do that?! Why did He take his Hands off His life?!



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