Monday, July 26, 2010

My Story: Where it all began...

I grew up in Texas, the Lone Star State. The great big Lone Star State. When you grow up in Texas, there truly is no other state, as there is no need for anything outside the borders of the great cowboy state. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, including trucks, hair, egos, and churches. My days started in a suburb of Dallas where church was a social expectation, as it is with much of the Bible-belt South. You went to church out of fear of the fire and brimstone that was being spewed from the pulpit, or the sweet southern gossip that would tear a person down with an oozing smile, seething, "Bless her heart," in a long Texas draw.

Ah, the way of the South.

In those days, I could turn one-syllable words into 3 or 4 syllables. Just apply a slight whine and varying intonations, and suddenly "Dad" is more like du-aa-ieed. Combine that with some severe puppy dog eyes, and a sweet Southern gal will have one daddy wrapped around her precious little finger. Not that I would ever have done that. It was just an example.

I grew up in a slightly less conventional family, especially for Bible-belt standards, where long-hair and Volkswagens were commonplace, and clean cut was a phrase used for trimming flower stems. I remember for a short time there was even a Harley in the family. That one didn't last too long, but I do recall a ride or two seated quite tightly in my father's lap, a blonde-haired three year old reaching tall for the handles with a proper fear. But also remembering feeling so alive there with my daddy, wind tracing through my wispy, fine hair. If I was laughing or crying, I don't remember, but I remember knowing that I safe there with my daddy behind me. That's how it is meant to be, conventional or not.

I have vague memories of growing up around church for a short while. I even remember being baptized. I must have been about 7 or 8. We lived in Houston by then, having moved from our family roots of Dallas to a suburb of Houston for the sake of jobs. I remember Sunday School as a small child, and can even recall being chosen to be the "pastor" of our small Sunday School class when we were putting together a kid's church. It's funny to think about it now. I had created a sermon and all, ready to give a word. Unfortunately it never happened though, as the Sunday that we were to hold our church service, daylight savings struck without the clocks being properly forewarned. So we showed up an hour late for church. I remember walking into the classroom just as the "substitute" pastor kid was finishing up my message. What heartbreak and disappointment. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Our church days ended fairly shortly after that, not because my job was given to another, but because it turned out that the conventional were not necessarily comfortable with the unconventional being in any place of leadership. I tell you, it's still like that.

My folks were in charge of leading an adult Sunday School class. My dad loved to teach, and used his gifting well, but not everyone wanted to learn from a long-hair. And so they were asked to step down. Was his teaching unbiblical? No. Was he breaking doctrine? No.But he was a distraction to others because he did not conform to their ways. I tell you that they remain like that to this day, and I am so proud of them for that.

That began a slow death of church-life, disheartened and hurting from judgment and deception. I remember several Sundays in a row, I would be the first to wake up in the house. I would run to my folks' room to wake them, saying, "It's Sunday!! Can we go to church? Wake up! Let's go to church!"

And in a slow, groggy voice, one of them would say, "It's too late, sweetie. We missed it today. We'll try again next week."

Though I did not know the reason at the time, after a few Sunday of that repeated, I finally took to heart that our church days as a family were done. For a short time, there was a Sunday School teacher who would pick me up at the house and allow me to tag along with her family, but that didn't last long either.

It wasn't too long at all before the idea of church was little more than a distant memory. Verses that had been memorized, books that had been recited, and songs that were sung and acted out were filed away in the deep recesses of the memory, making way for new lessons in life.

And did those lessons ever come.

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