Archive for Born Again

Thanks for the Pardon

They’ve probably arrived in Washington by now, sequestered from the media in a hush-hush location. Born and raised to be the rock stars of their generation, every detail of their lives has come together for this moment. Even their names have been kept secret. These two made the cut from the cream of the crop, but only one will carry on the proud tradition. Only one will strut into the Rose Garden. Only one will come face-to-face with the President.

The other serves as an alternate in case of disaster most fowl. Just for riding along and waiting in the wings (sorry!) he enjoys an all-expense-paid trip to DC. Oh, and his life is spared. He, too, is pardoned. While millions of their feathered friends make the ultimate sacrifice, these two birds grew fat enough and preened well enough to receive this year’s presidential pardon. Nice work if you can get it. A pardon is a gift beyond measure.

Kind indulgence or forgiveness of a serious offense? Both fall under the definition of pardon. Of course, the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Celebration, a White House event since 1947, is little more than an American anecdote. Last year President Obama joked that this tradition is “one of the most important duties I carry out as President.” We Americans love to root for the underdog, until it’s time to eat him. Pardon schmardon, pass the drumsticks, please.

Compared to the God of the Universe, we’re probably not much smarter than turkeys; however, He made us in His own image. He gave us the ability to understand our need for a reprieve from the selfishness we are born with. Unlike one or two special birds, chosen from a flock and the rest be damned, each of us is loved by God with a passion that flows through His very heart. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he says “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV) The truth is that our pardon is no kind indulgence, no American anecdote, no warm, fuzzy feeling dressed up for the holidays. Our pardon is forgiveness for all our offenses; a ransom for the redemption of our souls through the blood of Jesus Christ. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Last year’s turkey duo, Apple and Cider, are living out their retirement at the historically preserved Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, former home of George Washington. This year’s winners will join them in gobbling around the Virginia countryside. Prior birds presided as Grand Marshals of the Disneyland Thanksgiving Parade. Again, nice work if you can get it. But we who have accepted the pardon granted by God Himself look forward to our everlasting home, safe in the arms of the One who loves us most. No special privilege required; just believe, ask, and receive. Nice work, done on our behalf. Indeed.

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For more information on the love of Jesus, please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

One Ordinary Day at a Time

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.”- Mary Jean Irion

It was crazy cold that Sunday, twenty-two years ago this weekend in Aspen, Colorado. Well below zero before the sun came up, I snuck into our church’s early service, my last drink not twelve hours past. In the course of an hour on this ordinary day, God spoke to me through a passage (or rather, He thundered) assuring me He would help me get sober today, but to make no mistake: Today was the day.

Every ordinary day He’d been whispering a warning, and every ordinary morning I had wallowed in defeat. “Oh God, Oh God, I’m so sorry. I won’t drink again tonight, I promise. Please forgive me.” But the addiction was as relentless as the pain in my soul, and every late afternoon the demon demanded her due. She’d smile as I poured my first tumbler of brandy, and I caved in to the warmth that flowed through my veins.

“Don’t you feel better now?” she’d purr with each glass. And each refill welcomed the haze that sheltered my shame until the sun rose again. When I’d open my eyes my heart would break, and she’d throw back her head and laugh. Lest I lean toward the hope of a new day each dawn, she’d grab me by the bottle and dance me down the hall, to late afternoon, to the time of the dark. This was the way of my life, one ordinary day at a time.

Until this one Sunday morning. Having whispered His warnings for months up ’til now, the time of quiet prodding had passed. This morning’s thunder through the words of Isaiah left me terrified in the presence of a God I’d barely met. New to the faith game, my best intentions led me to substitute alcohol for all my other illicit substances. The seemingly perfect answer was legal, socially acceptable, and could hold the sickness of my soul at bay. Attending church on Sunday I felt I could pass for “normal”: a young wife and mother, just trying to fit in. No one need know about my afternoon retreats into the realm of the numb, in the privacy of my own home.

But sickness of the soul has a way of escaping, and she came out of hiding at the least opportune times. Refusing to remain within the boundaries I’d set for her, she’d also invite that blackberry brandy that kicked like a mule. “Come join us!” she’d say. “Take the afternoon off! You know you want to.”

So, the hazy days passed, first weeks and then months. In the fall of 1988 I surrendered the hope of a life without alcohol. I couldn’t bear the thought of living in my own skin without anesthesia, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to leave the bottle alone. She laughed as I struggled, the willing prisoner who didn’t even blame the demon; she only blamed herself.

The demon was uncharacteristically quiet this cold Sunday morning: January 15, 1989. I drove from the church to a park near my home. With the temperature still well below zero I prayed in the car.

“Okay, Lord, PLEASE help me. I can’t do this alone, and we both know it. I can’t do it at all. You’ll have to do this. God, please. Help me.”

Once more I opened my Bible to the promise He gave me; once given to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

But now, this is what the LORD says- he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name, and you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’

(Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV)

And on this bitter cold morning, on an ordinary day, the demon screamed, “foul!” as the Lord took my hand. She fled in a fury as we picked up the phone, calling a friend who would take me for help. The first lesson I learned was the gift of one day. One day at a time, I learned to live without drinking. One day at a time, He helped me recover. I began to realize that ordinary days are extraordinary days when the God of the Universe is the Lord of my life. For twenty-two years now of “one day at a time,” He has walked me through waters that have not passed me over. He’s walked me through rivers that have not swept me away. The fires of pain haven’t burned me forever, for He is the LORD, the God of each day.

On this, one of thousands of extraordinary days, I thank the Lord God Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, my husband Kevin, both of my kids, my friends and supporters for the gift of my life and sobriety. To God be the glory. Amen!

©Rachel Ophoff, 2011, Coconut Mountain Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

The Bridge to Sally’s House

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…and a time to build up.”– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3 NAS)

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within- strength, courage, dignity.”– Ruby Dee.

If I weren’t so OCD, I could find my way to Sally’s house without checking the map. My house to Denver, then Denver to Orlando. After I get my rental car it’s less than an hour to the coast, bop over a couple of bridges, and before you know it, I’m home away from home.

I know better than to argue with her over where I’m going to sleep. “The kids have to get up early for school. You take my room so they don’t disturb you.” These aren’t kids anymore- they are working their way through college and living with Mom. I may catch a glimpse of them coming or going, but I don’t see much of them. Neither does she, but they are the reason she gets up every morning and goes to work.

Not this morning, though; she’s spending the day with me. She puts on a pot of coffee, lights her first cigarette, and with characteristic directness observes, “I suppose you want to go to the beach.” I just left Colorado in the dead of winter- what do you think? She lives one bridge away from the shoreline at Cocoa, another from the Kennedy Space Center. This perfect January day is warm and sunny, so we join the crowd over by the pier. The sand is hard-packed, perfect for a long walk; but we sit and watch the water. Her right foot is a little crippled from the car accident so long ago, courtesy of a less-than-sober boyfriend. Her mom snuck me into the ICU as family when her life hung in limbo. Passing as sisters was easy; watching her recover was hard. Thirty-five years since the accident and not a day without pain. But she knows I love to walk, and my late-middle-aged brain sometimes forgets how much it hurts her. She never forgets.

To say our friendship was made in Heaven would crack us all up- me, Sally, even Jesus. We were freewheeling teenage girls without a compass, working together at the local supermarket. Our parents evicted us simultaneously so we moved in together. In retrospect, I can scarcely believe we survived. We knew a little about taking care of ourselves, but nothing about boys or alcohol or the meaning of life. I could say the Seventies were a simpler time, but in reality we just acted like simpletons. For reasons known only to Him, God gave us each other so we wouldn’t get lost.

Our twenties and thirties were a jumble of growing up and moving on. Neither of us was a good bet for becoming a  responsible adult, but God had other plans. We each married and had two children. Both of us survived addiction recovery; she survived her husband’s, I survived my own. Both of us weathered the challenges of marriage as well as the crazy demands of parenthood. Sometimes we went years without talking just because the stresses of work and family drained us dry, but eventually the phone would ring and we’d pick up as if we had never left off. To sustain a friendship for almost forty years over two thousand miles seems like a miracle, but the real miracle was that we each found Jesus Christ. Neither of us could have survived our forties without Him.

We rolled into our fifties changed women. Sally was widowed nine years ago when Bob died of cancer; she called me with his diagnosis shortly after Catherine died. Whatever childish ways we held onto vanished in the face of death. I could only keep my sanity by surrendering my all to God; she could only take on the multiple roles of mother, father, and sole provider by praying for wisdom, courage, and provision. Our conversations took on a deeper tone because we lived on a deeper level. Suffering our grievous blows gave us a shared perspective; finding faith in Jesus gave us a common hope. While the folly of our youth still gives us a good laugh, our shared faith binds us as sisters. We have built a solid house of friendship that weathers the storms of life.

These days, I see her growing in beauty even as our bodies betray our age. The vanity of her youth has given way to self-sacrifice on behalf of her kids. She hasn’t bought herself new clothes in too many years, but her kids have a home and an opportunity for education. She spends her Saturdays limping along behind the lawnmower under the blazing Florida sun, working on her house and saving her money. Someday when we’re both flush we’ll take a vacation together, provided we live that long. But whether we do or don’t, I’ll find a way to get back to Sally’s house, my home away from home. It’s just a couple of bops over the bridge, from my house to Denver to Orlando.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)

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