Fall & Winter 2006 – Faith

Letter 1:
I am an alcoholic. By the grace of God I have chosen not to take a drink today. This is my story.

Approximately 33 years ago, while still in hell (which is what alcohol is), after a particularly bad night, I called a friend I hadn’t had much contact with since high school 10 years before. I was still feeling sick and humiliated so I was pretty honest with her. She listened to it all and told me very succinctly, “you need to give your life to Jesus”. We spoke for a while longer and promised to stay in touch. When I hung up the phone, I got down on my knees right there in my kitchen. There was no one there to tell me what words to say so I just poured out my heart to God…it went something like this…

“Dear God, I don’t know what You would want with my life, I’ve made such a mess of it, but if you want it, it’s yours. Please forgive me for being such a terrible sinner. I can’t promise I’ll never drink again because I just don’t know…but my life belongs to You…I don’t want it anymore…do with it whatever You want.”

I had my eyes closed and as I prayed I literally felt a physical lifting. So much so that when I opened my eyes, I really thought I was going to be standing fully on my feet…but no, I was still on my knees. I honestly believe that I was so deep in the pits of hell, God literally reached His hand into hell and pulled me out and stood me up. I wish I could say I instantly became sober but I didn’t. It took several relapses before I finally got it right but Jesus was right there with me. He promised me “His strength would be made perfect in my weakness” and it has (II Cor. 12:7). I have been sober for several years now and I know for sure I’m not going to hell…I’ve already been there and it’s not pretty. Jesus showed me the road to Heaven. It may be narrow but it’s the only road I want. Amen and Hallelujah!

Letter 2:
Thank you for our small church today. I too am a shy person and I always empathize with you when you tell something personal, like your story today. So I knew the whole hour that I needed to share my story because if you could do it, so could I. I feel very strongly that God led my husband and me to Fairview and God speaking through you has been a huge part of the changes in our lives in the past two years. Thank you! The following is my story as you asked us to write for you, even though you already know it.

When I was a freshman at church camp, I asked Jesus into my life. Truthfully though, for the thirty-nine years after that I thought that meant living a good life and doing good works. Now I realize that living a good life doesn’t mean that I will go to Heaven. In the past 2 years, since coming to Fairview , I realized the real reason I gave my life to Jesus is because he died for my sins and that is why God will allow me into Heaven. In the past year, through my critical illness, I experienced God’s power and love. I was humbled by the outpouring of prayers and love for me from every aspect of my life – my family, church, work, the medical staff, my workout girls at Curves, and the community. God worked in many ways and my trust is in the Lord daily for what he has for me to do. Jesus gave his life for me so that I may do God’s will here on earth and join him in Eternity someday.

Letter 3:
This morning I pulled my notes from Sunday services from my pocket realizing I had almost missed the opportunity to tell my story. You see I write better than I speak.

First I asked myself what can I offer as a testimony to and for Jesus Christ? The answer is: the church with God’s people is the place to be! Its security, its armor that you cannot get anywhere else in this world. Our family has experienced “grief “(the loss of two sons and a stranger); “loss” of two foster children; “health” problems due to auto accidents, open heart surgery; family “relationship” problems; the need to “change churches”; and financial difficulties. During all these things the church family has been our strength! God works through his people. Our faith has continued, as many others have said, we don’t know why but we trust God has his plan. We cherish the good, a son in ministry, a daughter serving and active in her church and thirteen grandchildren. The church is where we need to be as we experience the battles of life. Isaiah 30:15-26 promises the…..Lord binds up the bruises of his people……I thank Him for keeping us within His family “the church”.

Letter 4:
I grew up going to church twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday and whenever there was anything extra scheduled.

I was “good” until after I graduated from high school then I decided the religious life was not for me and pretty much left it.

But I got myself into trouble. I was forced to take on responsibilities that I was not prepared for. So I turned to God….and to my amazement God took me back. He even turned the result of my bad choice into a wonderful blessing!

I don’t deserve it, but I know I’m loved, and cared for by God. He has proven that to me over and over again. I’m grateful for what God has done for me.

Letter 5:
Ten years ago I lived life like some kind of comic book character in a story where I could do no wrong – invincible and immortal. Self-absorbed and overindulgent in drugs and alcohol, escape from reality through temporary euphoria became a way of life. In fact, getting high was a necessity in my daily routine. Never having to face any real struggles, life was great. That is until God decided to open another chapter in my story.

I married shortly after graduating from college in 1990, but after five years, my wife said she just wasn’t happy anymore and wanted to start over. I was devastated and decided to change my lifestyle of bondage to substance abuse. My family had never ceased praying and after reading “The Bondage Breaker”, I gave up drinking and smoking. Within three months, “separation” became “divorce”, and after selling our house, I relocated to Steuben County for a new job.

Relocation for me meant a second chance, a new job, a new apartment, new friends, and a new routine. This new life included attending Fairview Missionary Church . Although I grew up regularly attending church as a child, and was even baptized as an adolescent, I really wasn’t “born again” until after my life fell apart. God still “takes me to the wood shed” every once and awhile, as was the case with a career change last year, but He never gives me more than I can bear. As I continue my Christian walk, it becomes ever easier to view tough circumstances as opportunities to build character and make contributions to His world. Now instead of living life as I want, as the invincible and immortal comic book character, I do indeed live eternally, but only for Christ because of His grace.

Letter 6:
Last Sunday, I was reminded of an experience I had in the sanctuary that I had intended to share with you, but I guess I had forgotten about it until you read the Christmas story last Sunday as part of your sermon.

When we were reading the entire Bible in the sanctuary while it was being built, I had signed up to read a couple of times. One afternoon I realized that it was my day to read, so I hurriedly got my Bible and rushed to the building site to fulfill my obligation. I sat down on an upside-down bucket at the very back of the sanctuary, probably about where the smaller Christmas tree is in the narthex area now. I took out the piece of paper where I had written the chapter and verses I was suppose to read, quickly opened my Bible and started reading.

As I read the first words, I realized that what I was reading was the Christmas story from the book of Luke. All of a sudden, I had this enormous rush of emotion go through me as I realized that I was probably reading the Christmas story for the first time in the new sanctuary. I thought, WOW, this was how it all began. I wouldn’t be here reading this story—we wouldn’t be building this sanctuary or be preparing to worship here for years to come, if it hadn’t been for this story.

I raised my head and looked toward the front to where the opening for the door to the music area was to be, and I felt as if the Holy Spirit came in through that opening, just then. Immediately, it was all in perspective. I slowed down, relaxed, and enjoyed having the honor of reading the Christmas story to Him in His sanctuary for the first time.

Letter 7:
Nearly a year and a half ago, God brought to my attention the darkness that was consuming my life. The Lord chose to do this by shining the light of the Wednesday children’s ministry on me just moments after being served divorce papers. Because of my dullness, he prepared this brilliant contrast of his love with the emptiness of the world I chose to live in. His purpose was for me to recognize his willingness to accept me, and that life changing decisions needed to be made.

God, in working through the people of Fairview Missionary Church, has given me a sense of fulfillment unlike any. The joy I feel at each occasion I attend worship, small church, Bible study, and other FMC functions, is a wonderful source of encouragement. Beyond the hope FMC pours into my life is the anticipation I know others share in watching my son grow in Christ.

This Easter weekend I am awed by the opportunity to serve Christ in “The Resurrection and the Life,” and am confident of His love by the blessing of my Fairview family.