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S y D

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Things NOT Seen -Chapter 16 (excerpt from I Can't Stop Now!)
By S y D
Friday, February 08, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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· Crossing Over, Changing Eras- Chapt 6 (excerpt from I Can't Stop Now!)
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Faith is a beautiful thing.... "the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not yet seen."

Chapter 16

Things NOT Seen

K e-e-enyha-a-a! Kenyha-a-a-a! Get out of bed. It is time to get ready for church. No sleeping in on a Sunday around here. Get up, do your chores and you better be ready when the car is pulling out of the driveway or you will walk to church.” “Hmmm! The rejoicing over my recent conversion was only good for a day or two”, I grumbled. “I’m up grandma”, I replied sleepily. The smell of bacon, eggs and toast were my only real incentive for getting up. I made my way down stairs, got everything done quickly and walked towards the kitchen. Grandma intercepted and reminded me, “around here we do not eat until we have had family prayer on Sunday mornings, remember?” I back tracked to the livingroom where granddaddy sat grinning. I had become acquainted with the routine during the summer so I sat down and waited for grandma to come in and lead the prayer. In no time at all, grandma hobbled into the livingroom, sat on the couch and blared out her prayer anthem, “Ye-e-s-s-s Lo-o-r-r-rd! Ye-e-e-s Lo-o-r-rd! Ye-e-esss Lo-o-r-r-d!” While she was singing she was scooting towards the edge of the couch working her way down to the floor to get on her knees. Granddaddy also turned around in his seat until he was on his knees facing the back of his recliner. I followed their lead and got down on my knees in front of the big armed chair as well. I dared not put my face near or my head on the seat remembering that Uncle Ronald’s butt had defiled it. Grandma prayed for every person on the planet, by name. She mentioned every insect, foul, fossil and foe. Afterwards came a long sequence of ‘thank you Jesus’ and ‘hallelujahs’. When grandma clapped, granddaddy clapped. So in the spirit of ‘doing the right thing’, I clapped too! However, the aroma of breakfast and my growling stomach posed a constant distraction. Eventually, I laid my head on the arm of the chair and fell asleep. Forty-five or more minutes later, granddaddy was tapping me on my back. “Bubble Gum, wake up. Now we are going to read the Bible and give a testimony”, he said sarcastically. I wiped the string of drool off my cheek and sat upright in the chair. These Sunday morning prayer sessions seem longer than any church service I have ever been to, I thought. I was starting to feel faint from hunger. I could hardly comprehend what we were reading from the Bible and seconds after I had testified I could not even remember what I had said. All I could think of was breakfast. Granddaddy led us in a brief closing prayer and finally it was time to eat. I was exhausted. I could not believe how much time one had to spend with the Lord to keep Him appeased. That, I would have to do this for the rest of my life was unfathomable. I could not imagine it. Maybe the Lord would show me some mercy and let me die young. Prayer took so long by the time we actually sat at the table I had lost my appetite. I could hardly finish my breakfast. Frankly, I was ready to go back upstairs and back to sleep. Now we had to go to Church, too?, I thought irritatingly. We had already had our church service in the living room. The call was made, get your Bible and get in the car. We will be pulling out in two minutes”, grandma yelled. “Oh my God! How would I ever endure all this church?” In less than a flash though I was sitting in the back seat of the car waiting with granddaddy for grandma to come out. He looked over his shoulder with his wide toothy grin and said, “don’t you hate it when the ‘battle ax’ prays for ten hours and makes you wait to eat?” I buried my face in my lap and laughed. The laughter brought a surge of life back into me. Granddaddy never ceased to amaze me. I thought he loved praying. He was the head deacon, after all. I had not detected one tiny glimmer of disapproval in him during this or any other prayer we’ve had, I thought, as I continued to snicker. Then suddenly one of the unspoken rules went into effect and we snapped back to attention. Granddaddy and I replaced our glee with gloom and silenced our laughter upon seeing grandma exit the house. At two or three strategic moments during the ride to church when grandma’s head was turned to look out her window granddaddy peered back at me through the rear view mirror and we chuckled silently again. In spite of all that I had suffered at his hand, granddaddy felt like the only friend I had in the whole cruel world. Once in church, I found a seat way in the back and sat down. Sunday school was just ending and people were milling about the building talking and shaking hands. Every one was dressed so flamboyantly with feathered hats and sparkly dresses. There was a lot to look at. I was surprised by the number of young people that were there. I guess their parents made them come too. They seemed awfully happy to be there though. In any event, I stayed occupied looking from my left to my right at all the fashions. A few people walked up, shook my hand and introduced themselves. “Praise the Lord, my name is Sister Garnett. I am glad you came today.” Still holding my hand, she bent down and embraced me with her other arm. Clumsily, I returned the gesture fumbling as I leaned into her slightly. I shook her hand awkwardly and responded, “praise the Lord back to you!” That I was a novice was rather obvious especially since I didn’t have my cousins there whose lead I followed when it came to church stuff. Two more people greeted me. The next couple of introductions I kept simple and said, “thank you.” The service came to order when the choir started marching down the aisle from the back of the church. I stood up only after everyone else did. I was completely out of my element. If it had been a party I would have known exactly what to do but sitting there in church I was at a loss. Once the choir was settled I sat there daydreaming throughout the long list of never ending announcements until it was time for the choir to sing again. That was the highlight of the service and I wished I knew the songs so I could sing along. The excitement in the air was uplifting and stimulating. I was too shy to stand up without my cousins there but I rocked, reeled and tapped my feet right there in my seat. I bobbed my head up and down like I used to when we played music in mommy’s house. A few young people in the choir looked in my direction and chuckled. It felt like a party and my movements probably resemble dancing to them. I probably was dancing since that’s all I really knew how to do. I must admit grandma’s church was electrifying. Periodically, grandma would look back at me from her second row seat. Whenever I saw her looking back everything I felt vanished and I simply stopped smiling and deflated. I never knew when I was doing something wrong so I played it safe by doing nothing at all whenever she was looking. As soon as she turned back around I was back in the groove again. The choir rocked for a long time but whined down when the guest preacher stood up. The entire church got quiet. The preacher wiped the sweat from his brow, lowered his head and started singing the same anthem grandma had sung that morning. “Yes-s-s-s Lor-r-r-d....” The rest of the church chimed in softly then he started praying. I felt my energy descending, seeping out of me. Almost immediately, I started feeling sluggish and sleepy again. He did not pray as long as grandma but, for sure, he had zapped the zing right out of the service. When he finished he just stood there looking from left to right over the entire congregation. He must have stood there looking at us for about five minutes, while we in turn, stared back at him waiting to see what he was going to do or say. He shook his head slightly and shouted, “faith!” How many of you have faith? How much faith do you have? How much faith do you need? What exactly is faith?” With every question some one shouted an answer. I said nothing because I had no clue of any of the answers. The preacher never approved nor disapproved of any of the answers. He just kept right on talking. I was starting to regain my energy again. I stopped slouching and sat up straight. I wanted to know exactly where he was going with his line of questioning. He held up something between his index finger and thumb then said, “all you need is ‘faith’ the size of this mustard seed.” It was so tiny I could not even see it. Smirking faintly to myself, I asked, “how could something that little accomplish anything?” On the other hand, I had no idea what faith was so I kept listening. As if he heard my question the preacher began delivering a profound exegesis on what faith was and what could be accomplished when it was exercised. “Faith”, he started, “is the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not seen. People who do not know Christ would call it luck or a wish. Well!, he said, that is exactly what it is. A wish with power, the power of God to execute it. Faith is the key that gets the engine to your heart started. Faith is that little God shaped vacuum within each of our hearts which truly desires to be in communion with the Father. When your life has taken a turn for the worst and you can see no relief in sight, ‘faith’ is the force that can transform your worst nightmare into a beautiful garden. It is by ‘faith’, that people who do bad things turn their lives around and do good. Faith unlocks the doors of doubt and destruction then turns it into a reality of hope, life and success. It can lift up the hung down head. It replaces frowns of sorrow with a dance of joy and gratitude. Grace, is the accessibility of undeserved love, goodness and forgiveness, while ‘faith’ is the vehicle through which it is delivered and received. Faith can take the pain, disappointment, and loneliness you feel in your heart every single day and transform it into a song of thanksgiving and praise. It can give you a glimpse of Heaven right here on earth. It is believing in Christ even though you do not see Him. The best thing about faith is once you exercise it and commit to Jesus, He is ‘faithful’ and true to His Word. He will accomplish every promise He has ever made to you. He will reveal Himself to you and stick closer than a brother. When your mother and father can not give you what you need He is there to fill the void. He will never abandon or reject you. He is like water in a parched, dry desert. He is like a shield to a soldier on the battle field or a cloak to the naked and derelict. He is alive, real and well able to meet your needs. He will love you when it seems everyone else has turned their back on you. He sees your hurt and is moved by your tears. He only asks that you unlock the door to your heart by ‘faith’ and come to Him with a receptive and contrite heart. He will do the rest. He will direct your life’s path. There is no deception or pretense in Him. He truly cares about you. Do not doubt the One who is true r than life itself. He knew your name before your father and mother ever met. He has numbered the fish and the foul so how can He not know about you? Why would you refuse a God like that? He sees your loneliness and he wants only to be your friend.” He stopped speaking abruptly. Then he wiped the sweat from his forehead and shook his head back and forth slowly as though he assumed we had not quite gotten the point. Then he spoke again, “I need to stop right here and direct an invitation to someone very specific. There is someone in our midst whom the Lord is so very concerned about. It is a young lady who has touched the Heart of God. She is very young but she has experienced a lifetime of pain. She has seen much turbulence in her few years and is struggling hard to do the right thing. She’s even struggling to believe there is a God. She has been so misunderstood for so long. Well sugar, I am hear to tell you He cares about even the tiniest of your needs. Even now, you do not believe it is you to whom He is speaking but after I pray God will reveal Himself to you. You will know that it is God who is speaking to your heart. Let us stand and bow our heads in reverence to the Father.” During the entire sermon the preacher had me captivated. My eyes were adhered to him and I could not pull them away. “What a speech” I whispered under my breath to myself. I was so intrigued with every thing he said although I still did not fully understand some of it. It all sounded so powerful. As he spoke, he answered questions that were popping into my head. His words seemed to penetrate my very flesh and lock themselves inside me. He discussed faith and Jesus Christ as if they were real life entities. His words were alive and comforting, a far cry from the overbearing, bitter, mean and condemning God that had grandma spoken about. I shifted my eyes away from him only when he started to pray. I lowered my head, stared down at the wooden bench in front of me and continued to listen to his words. All of a sudden it felt like I was dreaming. I was awake but caught up in a dreamlike ambience which settled over me like a mist. Some life form or force was infiltrating me or, at best, surrounding me. It did not hurt nor was I afraid. Actually, it felt extremely pleasant. It was soothing and refreshing, with a soft, cool, sweet smelling aroma, sort of like fresh air in the morning. It started encircling my entire body like a delicate whirlwind. It grazed the surface of my whole body and its sensation resembled a graceful wind current, spiraling over my gently dampened nude body. I clutched my skirt to be sure I was not naked. It felt like a million tiny soft haired bristles were scrubbing me clean, from the inside, out. I lifted my head slightly and looked around me to see if any one else was having a similar experience but everyone else was just conservatively standing there with their heads bowed waiting for the prayer to end. I stood there looking down while trying to figure out what was going on. I felt so vulnerable but with an overwhelming sense of peace, love and comfort, no tension or anxiety. For the first time, in a long time, I felt safe. Deep in the pit of my stomach I felt an enormous surge of emotion rising but I refused to cry. I could never allow that in front of all those strangers. I refused to let one tear cross the threshold of my eyelid, even in the slightest, especially in the presence of grandma and Aunt Rebecca. I could never show any measure of weakness around them. Suddenly, like acknowledging my own reflection in a mirror I knew... I knew what was happening and I knew exactly who that preacher was describing. I was so sure, surer than I had ever been about anything. While I tried to deny it, it was irrefutable and I could not tune it out. It was me! Oh my God! He was talking about me. I was the one who had touched the heart of God?, I asked in disbelief. As silly as it all sounded to me there was no doubt, not even the most minuscule amount, in my mind. I was the one. The enormity of that phenomenon brought with it an unfathomable sense of my own incomprehensible insignificance, by comparison. How could I ever measure up to His expectations? I was already starting out with so many strikes against me. Surely He knew about all of my nasty little secrets. Na-a-ah! There had to be some kind of a mistake. How could I be the one the preacher was talking about? But there was no denying what I was feeling, so strongly. It was inescapable and indisputable. Whenever I tried to repudiate it the feeling only intensified. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever assumed I would be the focus of a sermon. Come to think of it, that meant, God had to be thinking about me... the God in grandma’s fables... the same God I resented with such passion. Like a slap across the face it hit me. He is real. Oh my goodness! Jesus is really, real? The preacher was making an alter call for any one who wanted to accept Christ as their personal Saviour. I became alarmed when I realized I had completely lowered my emotional guard. I was so mesmerized by my thoughts I forgot where I was and all about the strangers around me. A few seconds later the preacher beckoned, “young lady sitting way in the back, can I please pray with you? The Lord sees your pain and He wants you to know how much He loves you. He knows you have been so misunderstood. He knows the secrets of your heart and sees the tears you have held back. He is aware of the hurts, compounded layer-upon-layer, within your heart. So sister, will you come up here and please let me pray for you?” I turned around thinking just maybe he was talking to someone sitting behind me but I was in the last row. There was no one behind me and all eyes were on me. I was no longer inconspicuous, blending into the crowd, he had placed me right at center stage. As I stood there cautiously studying his face, we shared a long, unbroken stare. More than likely my face bore a defensive and cynical expression but his was soft, kind and sincere. His eyes were filled with compassion. I contemplated his request for several seconds wondering if I should trust him, or flat out refuse him because his words too were a mere charade. I hated being singled out and my shyness gave way to embarrassment. Finally, I elected to go up there. What could it hurt to be prayed for? On the long journey down that aisle I felt my insides becoming pressurized. There was an overwhelming feeling, a sensation which felt like all my emotions were welling up and I fought hard to keep them down. By the time they reached my chest I was fighting a losing battle. Every hurt, every fear, my sadness, grief, disappointment, anger, frustration, hatred, loneliness, shame, anxiety... all congregated together right there in my chest and was trying to squeeze its way out through my throat. The feeling resembled a water balloon stretched to it’s capacity and I pinched my lips shut to prevent any sound from escaping. Then something gave way, just broke loose inside my heart and the dam cracked and the flood gates flung open. I fought with all my might to keep the tears back but they were stronger than me and began to run down my face like a waterfall. Within seconds the front of my blouse was soaked. While I could not stop the tears, I resolved not to make one sound. So I put my lips together and bit down as hard as I could. But I was not in control of any-thing that was happening, instead, an involuntary, heart wrenching utterance pierced it way through me. The moan originated in my stomach then seemed to resonate out through my chest. It must have come right up and out of my very soul because my mouth was still tightly clasped and it didn’t even sound like me. It sounded like someone else inside me crying out and lamenting in pain since I would not. With my fists clinched, I stared straight ahead and finally completed the long tour down the aisle to the alter. When I arrived up front to the alter the tall preacher reached out, lifted my head and looked right into my eyes. To my surprise, he too, was crying as though he knew something of my pain. I had a covert suspicion he knew my secrets without me ever having said anything. If he did, there was not a note of judgment or condemnation in his eyes. He laid his hand gently on my head and all I could do was cry. He got down on his knees to my eye level, pulled me into his chest and wrapped his arms around me like a warm blanket. It had been so long since anyone had shown me genuine affection I failed to realize how much I needed it. He hugged me so firmly, yet so gently, then laid his head on my shoulder and cried with me for a long time. His touch was neither irritating nor repulsive. He was trembling and I could feel his chest jerk as he cried. I figured he was crying for me and hearing his sobs made me cry even harder. Then I discerned something in my spirit. He, too, had experienced tremendous hurt somewhere during his lifetime. I wondered what kinds of things might have caused him so much pain because I could actually distinguish his pain from mine. That he should be so in tune with my pain, could only have come from experience. Everything around us in that moment, the whole world, came to a screeching halt and stood still, while he and I cried together. In time, he was able to compose himself and he prayed. He prayed until it felt like the Heavens shook and rained down upon me. He prayed until there was not one dry eye in the midst. He prayed until my doubt had diminished and my heart was set free of cynicism. I knew Jesus was real. I was standing in His very presence and He was glad to have me there. Underneath my closed eyelids I saw a light that shone so brilliantly it appeared I was transported through a passageway to another dimension. I could see a blacked out figure with His hand outstretched and bidding for me to come. I reached out to touch His hand and when our fingers met I knew that we had become one. By the mere touch of His hand a union had been consummated. All at once, I understood ‘faith’ and I comprehended the meaning of being born again. I had started out with less than a mustard seed of faith and yet He still honored me with His presence. I could not feel my body and, even today, I have no recollection of what was going on around me. I only knew that He was real, he was right there with me and he loved me without regard to my past state of affairs or prerequisites. The portion of the prayer I did hear was exclusively tailored to fit my life, every detail calibrated personally and was so incredibly accurate even though I had never seen that preacher before in my life. Accepting Christ as my personal Saviour and friend was no longer a transaction being conducted across a bargaining table or based on a wager. It was no longer mere fire insurance... fire, brimstone nor movie screen in the sky insurance. It was something I wanted to do more than anything I had ever wanted to do in my whole life. I had somehow acquired the faith, instantly, to believe that He truly loved me and I wanted Him to live inside my heart. And He did so, without ridicule, pretense or accusation. The best thing that had ever happened to me occurred at one of the worst times in my life. After the service had ended everyone hugged and kissed all over me. That they were strangers touching my skin... did not seem to bother me that day. I was walking above the ground and feeling high but this was a good high. Although I was physically weak and drained I sat in the back seat beaming all the way home. With grandma sitting right there beside him, granddaddy turned around and said, “I am happy for you Bubble gum, it seems like you really got blessed today.” Grandma never turned around but she shook her head up and down in agreement and whispered a shallow, “Amen.” “Thank you”, I responded, with a big smile on my face. That day was phenomenally monumental in more ways than one. It was the best of, what so far, had been the worse time in my entire life and it was also the only time I can remember that grandma did not say a word all the way home. At least now grandma would start treating me better after everything that had occurred today. After all, I am now a ‘believer’ too.   

 

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