Sunday, March 29, 2009

Journey to Jamaica, Day 4 (part 2 of 2)

(Jim and Cheryl)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
For a day that began so heavily, all went wonderfully well. Since I had awakened earlier than usual, I had some “free time” before breakfast was served. I took advantage of that time & talked with Jim about what was going on within my head & in my heart. As always, Jim patiently listened as I spoke & cried while guiding me back to reliance on the Lord. He understood, helped me to better understand & after prayerfully being comforted, I was ‘good to go’ join the others for breakfast which consisted of corn pudding & pineapple. YUM! The morning tasks consisted of scrubbing restrooms, & more painting.

To ‘celebrate’ the midpoint of our trip, a picnic-lunch had been planned. The adventure began with a 20-minute hike to Cranbrook Estates. When we arrived, Mrs. Barbara and Mrs. Elaine had prepared some “chicken soup” for our lunch. The soup had a good taste but the appearance (unrecognizable vegetables, a variety of bones and twigs with leaves) made it difficult for some of us to swallow but swallow we did.

The hike was mildly rough and ended in a beautifully landscaped field with humungous palm trees. After lunch we walked a small bit further headed for the river. Along the way, we saw colorful peacocks along with a white peacock, an amazing gazebo, grass/mud huts and unbelievably beautiful foliage and flowers.






The river trail began at a calm pool of water. Jim and Michael were the 1st ones in the water. As I saw them standing there in the water laughing and talking, I “heard” God whisper to me: “I just want you to be obedient and place your all in Me. That is all I’ve been asking.” The previously mentioned “wrestling” and “tug” suddenly made sense. Both Caren and Cay noticed my tear-filled eyes and asked if I was okay. I responded with “I’m more than okay. I think I’m fixing to be baptized.” I then asked if they thought it would be alright to have that done here. They ecstatically responded with a yes and simple arrangements were immediately made.




I was amazed because I hadn’t even, consciously, been considering such a thing but I knew without a doubt that was what God wanted me to do. I was overwhelmed. Jim asked if I wanted to say anything beforehand but words weren’t coming nearly as easily as my tears were.

The day continued with a hike to the mouth of the river, which no photograph could ever do justice to the beauty that was displayed. The awe-striking sound of the rushing river was amazing. Donna, Cay, Caren, and Judith chose not to swim but all had a great time. We then hiked back to camp, which was a much steeper hike than anticipated. Upon our arrival, we quickly changed back into our work-clothes and got busy with the unfinished tasks. For dinner, we were served jerk chicken, French fries, and a carrot salad.
Later that night, we all headed up to the completed tree house (YAY!!) for a devo-gathering, tree house dedication and Communion by flashlight. During this time was when my words finally came. I explained to the group that I had been baptized when I was 15 years old but I had come to realize that my heart wasn’t right with God at that time. I was not baptized because I desired to be obedient or share in a relationship with Christ. I was baptized simply out of the fear of going to hell if I didn’t do so. I didn’t believe in the power of Jesus to save me; I believed that the power of my choice to be baptized would save me, as long as I continued to be “obedient” to the commands of God. (Legalistic-thinking in its finest form!!)

(Beginning of tree house)
I am still in awe that I have been in a religion with God since infancy but not in a relationship with Him until the past 2 years. This newfound relationship hasn’t always been smooth because I can be stubbornly defiant, sinfully self-reliant, and blatantly manipulative if I felt the need of ‘survival’ kicking in. There was/is a lot of “junk” that God has been faithfully cleaning up and clearing out. I no longer feel duty-bound to serve the Lord. It’s no longer a burden but a privileged blessing. I no longer fear damnation if my “service” isn’t good enough. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve. I no longer dread coming into the presence of God because of my weaknesses, failures, and sins. I feel honored that He has chosen to always have me in His presence. I am devoted to Him because of my love towards, appreciation of and heartfelt passion for Him.
(Completion of treehouse)

I had previously considered the baptism issue but was too fearful of what family members and life-long friends would think of me because of the disapproval and disappointment that has been expressed to me within the past 3 years since in their minds, I have “left the church”. The ‘whispers of God’ to place my all in Him included that fear of what others may think…He wants my obedience, despite the fears.

To be baptized in a river surrounded by those who whole-heartedly love the Lord and have a life-changing passion to serve Him was amazing. Many in this group have been my side over the past 2+ years regardless of the ease, convenience or beauty of the moment and I have grown to love them in the depths of my heart that have rarely ever been accessible to others. Jim has been a consistent sense of security, an unconditional source of love and acceptance and I was so grateful to share in that moment with a person whose relationship began as counselor-client, to faithful friend, then a brother in Christ. I have been blessed beyond measure.

The tree house devotional time was filled with many precious moments. We had the chance to talk about the wonders of God, the bonding that had occurred with our team and the personal changes that were taking place within each of us. We took Communion, sang together and had a chance to simply enjoy each other and enjoy the Lord---a definite memorable time.

The Lord really chose to fill this day with unexpected twists and turns, moments of indescribable joy and blessing beyond rational belief and I praise Him for doing so!

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