Light Years

As I become older (I suffered another birthday recently) I have gained some understanding about what being a Christian pilgrim is all about.  With that greater understanding there has also come an even deeper conviction that I have often missed the ‘Way’ many times throughout my life.  In fact, I took the road more “traveled by” (w/nod to Robert Frost). Sadly, this had made all the difference – in the negative. Thankfully, though, course correction has happened along the way because God’s Word has been in my backpack – a backpack of memorization.

 Early in my life I believed in Jesus. I made the decision to follow Him when I was eleven years old.  I was baptized not long after my decision. My initial belief sprung from what I was hearing in God’s Word and that Word was telling me that God loved me and wanted to be involved in my life.  And, there were people around me, at home and at church, who understood and believed the same things.

 Being raised in a Christian home, my parents talked to me about Christ, brought me to church and read to me the Scriptures on a daily basis.  After most evening meals my parents would read a devotional, a missionary story or from the book of Proverbs. The Word of God became inculcated into my thoughts throughout my childhood as did the hymns and songs I learned at church.

 My childhood memories of church included gospel preaching, baptisms, people walking down the aisle to receive Christ or to recommit their life to Christ, hymns, songs, choirs and so much more. One singular memory I have is a gift, developed in me, that keeps on giving day after day:  the memorization of Scripture.

 As I mentioned, Scripture was an essential part of life in the church I attended and in my life at home.  The words of God were constantly spoken, taught, preached, sang and recited.  Sunday School teachers provided each class with a list of Scripture verses to memorize.  There would be Scripture memory contests to see who could memorize the most Scripture and recite it the most accurately.  I don’t remember what the prize was.  The challenge, to us as kids, was the best part of the contest. A prize didn’t hurt, either.

 I recall one year when another girl, Diane, and I were the only two students to have memorized the most Scripture verses during that year.  Because we had exceeded their expectations, the teachers gave us a longer list of verses to memorize in a final challenge between Diane and me –  an adolescent Wheel of Fortune Final Round, so to speak.  The list contained not less than 120 verses of Scripture.  It included verses and passages from the Old and New Testaments.  I can’t recall the exact list of verses today but I do remember Psalm 103 being on that list:

 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

As it turned out, I won the contest by just one verse.  Diane was gracious in her loss – a loss that wasn’t really a loss after all.  Scripture memorization benefits a person for the rest of their life.  I have constantly benefited from what I memorized during those early days. Having the word of God return to me at times when I was at a loss for words, when a situation was so completely overwhelming that I despaired of life itself, has kept me going on in faith. It has kept me alive.

 Later in my life I began to memorize chapters of the Bible: chapters of the letter James and chapters from Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and to the Romans. This memorization has fortified my mind and spirit.  As I would learn, my soul would need the buttressing of Scripture; hard times were ahead for me.

 I won’t go into detail about the events of my life.  Suffice it to say that I have dealt with a death of a child, a divorce, enormous physical pain from a rear-end car accident and serious financial strain due to events within and without of my control. My life has not been a walk in the park. But, I am learning to be content and to fend off the monster of self-pity.  This education has taken me many birthdays to even consider practicing contentment. I still must push away the self-importance and the ego that seeks to hold center stage in my life. Thankfully, the word of God I memorized and recited as a child did not return to me empty-handed.  It now brings with it God’s presence. And with His presence there comes joy, peace, security and a place to go to get away from myself.

 Of late, the Holy Spirit prompts me with a phrase from Scripture, a phrase I had once memorized as a child:

 “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”

“I am the Resurrection and the Life…”

“Without faith it is impossible to please God…”

“…He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him…”

“For by grace are you saved…”

“If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…”

“Seek first the kingdom of God…”

“In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path…”

“I am the Alpha and the Omega…”

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but…”

“I am his and he is mine…”

“His banner over me is love…”

“As for man, his days are as grass…”

Sometimes I hear a word from the Lord:  “fight”, “have faith” “stand fast” “by faith”.

 Most recently, I have learned to be quiet.  I turn off all noise:  phones, radios, music, TV, etc.  I seek to live in quiet most of the time. Since I am alone most of the time this makes silence readily possible.  And, because I am alone I am able to speak Scripture out loud, whether in the car, at home or as I walk to and from work (I don’t care if what people think).  In this silence, the Holy Spirit brings to my mind God’s word and then I speak it out.  It becomes a prayer. The prayer, spoken by me, then becomes part of me.  There is a deposit of Reality into my soul.  An investment is made in the Kingdom of God.  (The Reality I am talking about here is of the Kingdom of heaven and not the reality of the present world system under the control of the evil one.) With the word of God planted in me I become more REAL.  A Christian can not live in this world without the Words of God.  It is impossible and may even be deadly.

 We know from Scripture that the “word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  This word cuts right through my rigid outer self and goes right to the heart of matter.  God’s word goes to my marrow – that which makes me live.  When I remember God’s word and then speak that word I affirm God’s divine presence in that moment. It is in that moment of understanding God’s divine presence that the great Physician is able do the surgery that is needed to bring me, the patient, to wholeness.  There is no anesthesia, I might add, except for the comfort of knowing that it is God (who is Love) doing the invasive work in my soul. I have survived many such surgeries and live to tell.

 All of this is to say that God’s Word memorized, recited and spoken out loud – my practice of lectio divina – has become a lamp to my feet and a light to my way in this ever darkening world.  With my backpack filled with trackbacks to God, I now walk the narrow way and this has made all the difference for my good.  Because the path I’m taking is narrow and the way is shadowed and dark I need light for my path; “Thy Word is Truth.”

 This is the message I have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

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