Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vinnie and I - Born Again

Here's a picture of Vinnie building sand castles in the sand with our grand children's first trip to the beach.

As promised, today's story is about how Vinnie and I came into a relationship with Christ. We were born again.
I had heard of people years ago who said they were 'born again' and I avoided them like they had the plaque. I remember one time while waiting in line for something, a mother was singing songs about Jesus to her little kids. I remember wondering why she couldn't "give it a break, already". I later became one of those mothers! Now I am that kind of grandmother! Yikes!!! How did that happen? Here's what happened... When we were first married, we could not decide what to do about church. Neither of us went to church in years, and Vinnie was from the Catholic church. I was from the Episcopalian church. Both churches were ingrained in hatred for the other (go figure!) So we never went to church until our oldest daughter was in kindergarten. Her friends went to church and she asked us what it was. She said she wanted to go to one. We visited a couple and stayed at a little mission church not far from where we lived. It was a great group of people and that was our motivation to joining. It had nothing to do with being a good Biblically based church! So when we moved to NC it was our natural inclination to attend another Episcopal church but the one in town was frustrating us. We made a few friends there but it was boring for the kids, and us too, truth be known. That summer, in spite of my dodging to become a Baptist here in the Bible belt of America, I allowed the girls to go to Vacation Bible School that summer. Hey...can you blame me? It was a week long program for the kids and it was FREE! Whahoo for me! On Thursday that week, my oldest daughter came home excited because she'd been "saved" that day. I patted her on the head and said something like, "that's nice dear". (This is a picture of Vinnie with his youngest brother and his father.)

When she started school that fall, she became involved in Girl Scouts. The troop met at a Baptist church in town. I didn't care where the girls met, but Amy was intrigued with the church sign that said, "A Fresh Approach To Knowing God". She would tell me every week that she believed God wanted our family to come to that church. I told her week after week that we were not Baptists and would not step foot in a Baptist church but God had a different plan! One Sunday morning while getting ready to go to our Episcopal church, the kids refused. They held onto the doorway in the house and said that I could not make them go...they were really refusing! Amy told me that we should go to the 'other church' and I finally, with much frustration, gave in. We visited the church with a 'fresh approach' and wouldn't you know - I loved it!

I came home and told Vinnie about it and persuaded him to go the following week.
It was the following week that I had the most amazing, almost unexplainable experience (but I'll try). During the worship time, I glanced around the room and suddenly became overwhelmed by the entire room full of people worshipping with the deepest, most sincere and genuine expression to God I'd ever seen. It brought me to tears. Then, in all my sobbing, I felt like God was speaking to me. It was in my mind but it was clearly a conversation. God said something like, "Think back about all those times you almost died." (there were three times I tried to commit suicide as a young girls, three near rapes, and a week of doing so much drugs I knew if I got high one more time, I'd die). He continued, "I am the One that intervened, I am the one who brought someone in the room when you were almost raped and when you tried to kill yourself. I have been protecting you your whole life. I've let you stray some to the right and to the left, but when you staggered too far, I am the One who pushed you back on course. I did this because you are my child. You have always been my child. I have great things for you and I needed to bring you to 'Today'. Today you must surrender to me. You may not stray anymore. I have things for you to do and I need you to stop playing around and listen to me." I was overwhelmed to say the least! I remember at one point thinking that I could run out of the church to get away from this God, but then I heard his voice again (in my head) saying, "You can run but you will be hidden in the hem of my robe so you'll never really get away from me. Why resist?" It was not for maybe another year or so that I found this verse in Scripture: "You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." (Psalm 139:5)

I was shocked to know that God really did speak to me that day - from His Word! I don't think I'd ever heard that passage before - I didn't really know much of what the Bible said. I didn't know or understand what Jesus did on the cross. I had to ask a lot of questions about all that after, but there was no question - I had given my life to Christ that day, in faith! I had become a new person, a new creation in Christ, in faith. Later on God would explain to me why this was possible through His Son Jesus but at that point, it was just clearer, it didn't change that I was a new Creation in Christ. I'd been born again! My life was never to be the same again. And it surely has not been either!

Vinnie liked the church and we continued to attend there all these years. Vinnie felt called to be a priest when he was a boy and attended Catholic seminary for something like 9 or 10 years in Italy. But he began to see too much hypocrisy and left the church. When I became a new Believer and we continued to attend this church that was teaching profound Truth right from the Bible, and encouraging us to go to the Bible too, this had major impact on Vinnie. He began to realize that though he'd known and Believed in Christ his whole life, what was missing, and now being offered to him, was a personal relationship with Christ. Vinnie's born again experience was more like the pregnancy - it was gradual, but again, there was no question.

Eventually our youngest daughter devoted her life to Christ (remember Amy was first in the family), and eventually so did Vinnie's kids, Michael and Christine. We have each had very different journeys, God dealing with each of us according to the sins we hovered in our hearts over the years. He's dealt with each of us in areas of rebellion, lust, gluttony, drugs, alcohol, and all areas of trouble but we are thankful for His work in us and for Jesus.

I like the story of the judge who charged a man during the depression for stealing bread for his family. He had to do because it was the law. But as soon as he charged the man, he recessed the court, took a donation from every person in the court room, gave the man the money so he could pay the fine for his crime. In some ways that represents what Christ did for us. We could not possibly get out of paying the penalty for all the sin that has lived in our hearts. We are born with it. Look at little tiny tots who have rebellion and selfishness. It's inherent! Knowing we could never get back into a relationship with God on our own, and wanting to be close to us again (like He originally created us in the beginning) He asked His perfect Son to come pay our penalty for us so we could become close to Him again. And because Jesus rose again to new life, it opened the way for us to have a new life too - we could be born again!

We have a new life in Christ. I am so thankful that we do now -
because I know where Vinnie is and I'd never wish him back here for his sake! He's where we all belong - where it's glorious and there's no more pain and suffering or sadness. I also know that I could not keep living, at least without joy, in this life if I didn't have some understanding that God has a purpose in me being here. He has things for me to do and I am bound and determined to find out what these things are so when it is time to leave here and join Him at Home (and with Vinnie) I can hear Him say, "well done, good and faithful servant!" It's my last prayer before going Home.


Sylvia Goode Basham said...

Gail, I don't think I ever knew the full story of your family's journey toward Christ.....thanks for sharing it.

Gailie said...

I know that we each have unique stories about how we become Believers and that is why it's important to share the stories. They are all God's stories, not ours. Those seeking to understand God's truth need to know that God is very creative! Each of the stories God writes on our lives is as unique as a snowflake but when we are all spread out together, we are one big big blanket of snow - unified and pure thanks to Jesus!

faithsong9 said...

am so very hpappy to see your blog

have been very ill w/kidneys
and extra problems never had before
(protein/white cell/ liver)
and in hospital

so have not been on computer for

and i was so blessed to get to see this / and in a "new" time frame

thank you for your consistency
thank you for your witness
thank you for stomping....
thank you for 'healing your generations... '

musch love and
ps the pictures are great!!!!!

you ARE a beautiful couple.....

much love






Gailie said...

Faithsong, thank you for your message. I a so sorry to hear that you are sick. I will keep you in my prayers...what a small return for all the encouragement and joy your comment/note is to me. God bless...and may His blessings continue to bless others! Merry Christmas. May your holiday be a true remembrance of the One who's love for us is beyond our comprehension but that we wholeheartedly embrace eternally!