In order to be confirmed at St. Dorothea’s Roman Catholic Church, you had to serve 20 hours of community service. So a few of my friends and I decided to get all of the hours done in one shot by volunteering at Vacation Bible School for one week during the summer before going into 8th grade. For four hours every day, I helped the teachers teach the four-and five-year-olds learn about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
But I was less of a volunteer and more of an active participant in the listening to and reading stories from the Bible. I also enjoyed all of the extra activities like the arts and crafts, the letter-writing and painting a “stained glass” cross out of water colors and plastic. I remember the tall, wooden blue tables everyone worked at while making them and the teacher who encourage me to make my own rather just help the little ones. The things you remember. I remember picking up the paint brush, dipping it in all the colors and feeling like I was just making a big mess of things. But my teacher told me it looked good so I believed her. I was somewhat satisfied and I remember placing the cross on the table across the room to dry. The next day when my mom picked me up in the green Dodge caravan, I remember carrying my cross in my hands, getting in the car and showing her what I had made. I asked her if we could hang it around the rearview mirror and with a smile, she let the string hang. That cross hung there, unquestioned, for at least five years, until the day we traded in the van.
And then there’s Paul. The writer, the disciple, the man formerly known as Saul who was blinded on the road to Damascus. I remember Paul because we sung a song about him. And songs are always things you remember. After learning about Paul’s story, his change of heart, his prison sentence and how he became a messenger for the Good News, I appreciated hearing about him in the sermons every Sunday. His letters for the Corinthians were just about the only thing I understood at that age. Of course, I could have never guessed that I, too, would end up sharing a passion for writing. I could have never guessed that I would create Inspired Scribble, which has, on many levels, become a place for me not only to share the Good News, but appreciate the Holy Spirit.
Twelve years after Vacation Bible School, I have been reading the Bible every single day since I’ve embarked on a new journey, down a new road. It’s my grandfather’s Bible, the one I took with me in a box of his old books after he passed. It had been three years since I opened the box but I kept it, knowing that I would one day need the books he had left behind. And perhaps the only book I would need. Inside his Bible was a note scribbled from a friend of his: Today is the first day of the rest of your spiritual life!
Having never committing myself to read the Bible before, I figured now would be a good time to start, with a new chapter to my life. So I have. And it’s great because every day has three passages: one from any of the “Books,” one usually from Psalms and one usually from a letter Paul has written. Naturally, I knew Paul from that song I sung about Damascus, thinking fondly of all I had remembered. But something much more personal happens when you actually sit down to read his words.
How natural it is that I should feel as I do about you, for you have a special place in my heart…Only God knows how deep is my love and longing for you–the the tenderness of Jesus Christ. My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for other, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight, for I want you always to see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean, no one being able to criticize you from now until our Lord returns. May you always be doing those good, kind things, which show that you are a child of God, for this will bring you much praise and glory to the Lord. –PHILIPPIANS 1:7-11
I would be lying if I told you I continued reading the rest of the passage after this. The truth is I stopped and started crying. Actually, I started crying while I was reading it. Not because I was being dramatic, but because there was something very true about those words that I had recognized, appreciated, and reread a dozen more times after that trying to grasp onto whatever it was. Unable to do so, I wrote it down in a notebook, where my own handwriting replicates a message so moving, it shook me in my seat. This is the power of words, the power of story, and the power of the Good News: it’s message is always timely.
For though I am far away from you my heart is with you, happy because you are getting along so well, happy because of your strong faith in Christ. And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems: live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done. –COLOSSIANS 2:5-7
I’d like to think that somewhere, Paul is rooting for all the writers out there. For all the great communicators of this world. I’d also like to think he was behind my trouble this past week as I tried to get new car insurance. You know, a vehicle that travels along a road. It took three times for the insurance company to get the spelling of my name right. For whatever reason, they were adamant my name was Christen.