The Most Important Decision

When I was young I wanted to be a teacher and have a family with ten children.  I thought that was my life’s purpose.  That didn’t happen.  At the ripe old age of 21 I discovered that my purpose wasn’t something I chose.  Given to me at my creation, my purpose was something I had yet to discover.  It says in the Bible that the Lord “knit us together in our mother’s womb.”  So even though the act that begins the process is with a man and a woman, or whatever else man can come up with, it is God alone who gives life.  Don’t believe anything else.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you anything different.

At 21 I was working at the Gannett newspapers in New York and also in a parking garage next door.  Neither job was full time, but I made enough money to pay my rent and buy my groceries.  I had no idea what God was doing in my life.  To the chagrin of my parents I left the Roman Catholic Church.  I decided that if I wanted to know who God really is, I wasn’t going to find Him in rituals.  When this all began to transpire there was a rich slush of events guiding me.  I had a boyfriend who was preparing to be a minister, yet he was a terrible example.  He would say that we shouldn’t read the Bible and sin at the same time.  Yet he did.  So did I. I felt guilty and we should have known better.

There were friends I had met through work who were just plain wicked. The terrible things they did and said were for a time, alluring to me in my rebellion.  I was young and naïve and determined to embrace the culture of the world around me.  After practicing my own sort of wickedness, I decided that I didn’t want to do this anymore.  I tried desperately to change and never look back.  But I could never really shake the things I had done.  I wanted to live a right sort of life.  Of course, I had no idea how or where to get better.

My sister Margie gave me a ceramic cross that she’d made and it was in my room at the apartment.  It was beautiful but it made me feel even more guilty about my life.  So I began to truly seek God and read a Bible.  I started in Genesis.  I greedily consumed it until I got to chapter 5 and then got mired in who begat whom.  I don’t know where I heard this at the time, but someone said that I should start in the New Testament. so again I started, this time at the Gospel of Matthew and again I arrived at chapter 5.  Right there in the sermon on the mount, I got snagged by a verse about salt.  “You are the salt of the earth.”  What does that mean?  Why would salt lose its taste?

It perplexed me.  Yet it compelled me to continue to search.  I felt like I needed someone to help me understand.

At the parking garage I worked the front entrance.  A girl searching for a job approached the ticket booth where I stood.  With a smooth and buttery Pennsylvania accent, she asked, “Are they hiring here?”  I liked her immediately and directed her to the office for an application.  It “just happened” that there was an opening and as soon as she left, I went to speak to John, the assistant manager who sat reading her resume and application.

“You should hire her,” I blurted out.

He looked puzzled.  “What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know.  I just like her.”

The company hired Adrienne that week. She and I got along famously and she began to invite me to her home for a Bible study.  I was not sure what that meant but I wanted so much to understand the Bible that I said that I would do that one day.  It made sense that studying might open my eyes to something I couldn’t see on my own.  Five chapters in the Old and New Testament just weren’t enough to sustain me.

Adrienne punctuated each day with an invitation to a Bible Study.  As much as I liked her and as much as I wanted to understand the Bible, something else made me afraid.  At the time, I had no idea why fear hindered me, but it did.

They say everyone who comes to the Lord undergoes a struggle accepting His salvation.  That’s the fear that sets in.  I was, riddled with trepidation.  Finally, I promised Adrienne I would go and my own promise obligated me to her requests.  I went to a Bible study and it was on John chapter 3.  On that evening, there were two new people there who didn’t know the gospel and its power to save; a young man named Tom and I.  When Jerry, the man who taught the Bible study, explained how Jesus told Nicodemus that even though he was a Pharisee, he needed to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, I was spellbound.  He put in plain words how sin separated us from a God who is so holy that He cannot accept sin.  He described the punishment that Jesus endured on everyone’s behalf.  If we decided to accept the offering Jesus made to God, His righteousness would cover our sins.  Suddenly I felt dirty, remembering my own failures.  I wanted to accept the offer.

Jerry asked us to pray together and accept Jesus as Savior.  The tug of war in my heart was minute compared to the fear prior to entering the house.  I had already made a decision in my heart that I wanted to know Jesus. My inner resistance was nothing like Tom’s panic.  He was saying that he would much prefer to go home and think about it and decide later.  He pulled his car keys out of his pocket and started to look like he was going to bolt.

But Jerry compassionately further explained.  Life is a tug of war between God and the devil.  We think that we make our own way and our own plans but we are not your own.  Salvation is surrendering to God because the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  He explained that if Tom left then, he was giving the devil a foothold against the Lord.  He quoted verses that said exactly what Tom needed to hear.  I was so set on praying that I don’t remember much that was said.  I was just hoping that Tom would hurry up and change his mind.  Finally, Tom slipped his keys back into his pocket.  He got down on his knees.  Those gathered that evening joined him and we both prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” together.

That was the beginning of fulfilling my purpose in this life.  It was a decision I alone had to make and yet the circumstances that God put into place humble me these years later.  I see a more complete picture now than I did then.  It was one of the best and most important decisions in my life and yet He prepared my life so that I could choose no other option.  God is so good.

Free Went to the Electric Chair – Top Ten Dad Quotes

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Good sayings say everything you need to know succinctly.  I heard one recently that makes me laugh every time I think of it:  “Don’t marry for money, you can borrow it cheaper!”  We play a game where I work and the residents finish the second half of a saying.  “There’s no fool…like an old fool.”  “A stitch in time…saves nine.”  I’m sure that children today couldn’t play the game.  These old sayings are no longer a part of everyday life.

Throughout my Dad’s days, he always had a perfect quote for every occasion.  Daddy was old-school.  Like the people where I work, he lived in the days when “early to bed, early to rise” was actually said out loud and often.  People don’t talk like that anymore and I’m afraid that colorful speech has become a whole different animal in the 21st century.

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I hope that you will enjoy these quotes.  They always bring a smile to my face.  I’m afraid I’ve forgotten more than I remember.  If we don’t write them down, they will be forgotten from disuse.  If you remember any others that your parents may have used, write a reply!

1.  FREE WENT TO THE ELECTRIC CHAIR – Everything came with a price.  Any advertisement that claimed that any thing was free, came with a shake of Dad’s head.  Pity the poor door-to-door salesman who knocked on our door with a “free” gift for the lady of the house.  In Daddy’s mind, there was no such thing as free.  Free had died – thus “Free went to the electric chair” was one of his favorites.  There was no such thing as “free” in his day and age and there isn’t much free in ours either.

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2.  I’D STRETCH A MILE IF I DIDN’T HAVE TO WALK BACK – I can still picture Dad saying this after a nap on the sofa.  Dad would stand up, stretch and punctuate the action with this quote.  Have you ever heard this one before or did he make it up?  I truly don’t know.

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3.  MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES – Oh if this were true! Whenever we asked Dad for money he’d say this or something equivalent to it, “What do you think, I have a money tree out back?”  I wondered why we didn’t plant one!  Mom and Dad were frugal.  They knew how to make a dollar stand at attention and stretch!  But they grew up in the days of the depression so they remembered doing without.  Mom used to recount a time when she was a little girl that she would find a nickel and go to the store and come home with a lunch-sized paper bag full of candy that she would hide under her bed.

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4.  I BROUGHT YOU INTO THIS WORLD AND I CAN TAKE YOU OUT – This was actually more a Mom saying than a Dad.  She was always hurling threats at us, especially if we had the audacity to answer back.  I may have been the worst in the family with having the last word.  It took me years to learn to just shut up!  When I was pregnant for my son, the doctor had a picture in his office that was a cross-stitched pattern.  Underneath the picture was stitched “QUIET WOMAN” and the picture itself was of a chubby woman, standing in a full length dress with a white apron, holding her head under her arm.

5.  IF YOU LAY DOWN WITH DOGS, YOU’LL WAKE UP WITH FLEAS – This was his advice on how to choose friends.  It’s such a hard process – choosing your friends.  No matter how hard you try not to, you will always pick up the worst habits of others rather than their good habits.  It’s really a fact of life.  So be careful who you choose as a friend.

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6.  IF YOU STAND SIDEWAYS I’LL MARK YOU ABSENT – Since I’ve been on a perpetual diet most of my life, I heard this one from him often – always just after a week or two of dieting.  Another one he would say is:  If you stand sideways and stick your tongue out, you’ll look like a zipper!  I eventually learned that it was pointless to ask Daddy if my current diet was working because he would never give me a straight answer about it.  Maybe he knew that I really wanted to hear that it was working.

7.  YOU MAKE YOUR BED AND THEN YOU HAVE TO LAY IN IT – Literally this is true.  The way you make your own bed is important because at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to lay down in it.  And the way you walk through life, the mistakes that you make, are the ones with which you live.  (I am thankful every day for forgiveness – aren’t you?)

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8.  BEAUTY MAY BE SKIN DEEP BUT UGLY GOES RIGHT TO THE BONE – Beautiful isn’t everything in a daughter.  Yes, we were supposed to do the best we could with what God gave us, but that had a lot more to do with who we are as a person.  Your outside always reflects what’s inside eventually.  So be beautiful in your heart first.

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9.  WHILE THE CAT’S AWAY THE MICE WILL PLAY –  No consequences if the cat’s away, right?  I think not!  It seemed like Mom and Dad had eyes in the back of their heads.  We may have done things wrong when we were not in their sight, but we never really got away with it.  I remember my sister Debbie telling me about how she had skipped school with her boyfriend and went to a mall downtown.  As she walked past Uncle Freddie’s shop, he said, “Deb-or-ah! Are you on a field trip?”  Maybe the reason Mom and Dad knew everything about us is because they had such a big family found everywhere!

10.  I’M SELDOM RIGHT AND I’M WRONG AGAIN – Whenever he and Mom had a discussion about anything that was a strongly held belief in Mom’s opinion, Dad would resign himself to her opinion.  He would have made a great politician – but this only worked with Mom.  Anyone else – Beware!

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Dad was very wise.  He lived in a day when wisdom was important.  If we fail to remember the past we are doomed to repeat mistakes so learn a lesson!