Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Answer For the Hope Within...

In a recent social media exchange, I was part of a discussion that arose in response to a posting of the identification of a number of celebrity atheists. There were various opinions offered regarding the celebrities' atheistic stances, with some answers displaying more energy than others.  At one point in the discussion, when a few criticisms were presented in opposition to theistic world view, I felt compelled to respond.  My response was largely guided by 1 Peter 3:15b which states:

"...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..."

After taking the time to allow that verse to soak in my soul for a bit, I responded as follows (with a few edits added in):

No life view should be judged on the basis of its worst representatives but rather on the actual tenets of the faith that define it.  I am unashamedly a Jesus Follower. The bottom line definition of the faith to which I subscribe based on my understanding of Scripture is this: I, Samuel D. Jackson, am an imperfect sinner who by necessity has been exposed to God's redeeming love and transformed by it. I am an undeserving recipient of God's wonderful forgiveness and grace which He calls me to consistently and enthusiastically extend to others in love and service. When I face The Lord on the great and terrible day of my passing, I will stand before Him in and by his grace alone. If by chance when my day comes and contrary to the faith to which I cling, I find that all that awaits is an empty vacuum of nothing,  I do not count my present endeavors as worthless. I yet see the enterprise to which I have devoted my life as a valuable endeavor of time well spent - an enterprise where I have sought to make the visible daily existence of others with whom my path crosses just a little better than before my involvement was enjoined. For these reasons I joyfully and and confidently press on in faith at peace with myself, with others (whether they agree with me or not) and with my God!

Monday, July 21, 2014

25 Years Ago – A Love Connection Flashback!

25 Years ago, I was spending my last two conference days searching out every opportunity to spend time with Luz to see if we might pursue a deeper relationship. I learned she did indeed have feelings for me, as I had for her, and our adventure together began. Before I left, we shared our first kiss - my very first kiss - and I thought I my heart could be heard pounding all across Manila Bay! I was sure I wouldn't need a plane to fly home, but Luz advised me to not waste my ticket and take the plane anyway! It was the beginning of a long and challenging journey to merge our lives together. I stepped onto the plane knowing I'd come back again - very soon. In fact, I would return in just over 4 months! When I stepped off of the plane back in the U.S. to visit my mom who was taking care of my grandmother in Mississippi, my mom's first words were, "What's her name?" Luz was having an effect on me I couldn't hide if I wanted too! I began what would be a daily ritual of writing Luz and planning, like MacArthur, for my return to the Philippines!

It is noteworthy that I thought of MacArthur even as I first beheld Manila Bay. I had read of his reaction upon seeing the Bay for the first time and snickered, thinking it an exaggeration. When I experienced it for the first time myself, I felt his words were perfect - "I was enchanted - spell-bound by it beauty!"...and I remain so even now not to mention, of course, that one of Manila's daughters has cast an unbreakable spell upon me as well!

But Luz wanted to test her spell. Part of the test was to prepare "hard core" Filipino dishes, designed to see if I would truly embrace deep Filipino culture. The first meal she prepared for me, for example, was breakfast, and consisted of fish heads, friend eggs and rice. I didn't get to the Filipino favorites that Americans tend to enjoy for a couple of weeks. Her Big Brother, Felipe, later informed me that had refused even one of the dishes, Luz would have called off the wedding! (Whew!) I'm glad my parents raised me the way they did! It was a saving grace in the most important food-related test of my life!

I should point out that Luz was very wise to put me through the ringer because marrying me was a HUGE risk for her! There were two precious children involved - our daughters Sittie Jackson-Cohodes and J Maris Bautista-Jackson Wallag! She had to do everything she could to test my character and she set up a "pass/fail" gauntlet that had I even fallen short on one issue, the whole deal was off. I didn't know that at the time. If I had, I could have "acted" my way through and she wanted to really know who I was. I did come very close to dropping the ball once when I got angry over a pair of stolen blue jeans. I apologized for my stupidity, and Luz mentally gave me a do over on that one! Luz also had very dear and faithful friends such as Robin Haines Merrill who rightfully expressed their concern and skepticism at the initial stages of our courtship. One friend, Charles Louvau, a former Navy Seal, had been praying for Luz and happened to attend the seminary I was attending when I met Luz. He very..."creatively" introduced himself an with very kind speech (and a VERY firm grip) let me know he cared for her and was lovingly watching me. That certainly got my attention! It comforted me regarding her character that so many people deeply cared for her and would even hurt me to protect her. I knew then beyond all doubt that she was very special!

Thankful for God's plan! Celebrating His Goodness,


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hit by a Thunderbolt - 25 Years Ago Today!

25 years ago today, I argued with a supervisor at a Mission Congress in Manila because I didn't want to do a job required of me as a steward there. After grudgingly submitting, I entered the office to carry out my duty when I was hit by a bolt of lightning - or at least that's what it felt like! Before my eyes was a woman who would change every minute of my life from that moment forward. For the first time I was face to face with Luz Bautista and nothing would be the same! That was 25 years ago, today, in Manila, the Philippines!