May 31, 2007

Saving Souls or Serving?

July 6, 2007 - I wrote the following on May 31 and have more to add, but I want to get this on, so I'm just going to post it now.

So, just what IS our primary purpose as The Church?

It's always been my belief that my purpose on Earth is to glorify God. Period. I'm to glorify God in whatever I'm doing, whether it's in a paid job, as a mom, a wife, a daughter, a worker, a citizen, a taxpayer, a consumer, a steward, and on and on. But in the last several (or more) years, I've been wondering. Is there a PRIMARY primary purpose? Are we supposed to be out there witnessing and "saving" souls and spreading the news of "salvation" as the pastors of my church believe? Or are we supposed to be out there in the world, serving and loving others and "witnessing" without necessarily using words. According to at least one of the pastors of my church, if you're not out there saving souls for Jesus, aggressively spreading His message to everyone you meet, then you're not living as a Christian. But then I look at one of my greatest heroes, Mother Teresa, and I don't see her out there being the great evangelist in that way. She loved people and served them at their level. She said that when she saw a sick or thirsty person, she would say to herself that that was Jesus and she would help that sick or thirsty Jesus. Everyone knew WHY she was serving. It was because she loved Jesus. She wanted people to know that whatever she did, it came from God. She did it for God.

I want to be a part of a church that loves Jesus and serves Him in the world without going around belting people about the head and shoulders with a Bible and a message of damnation. The older I've become, the more I've come to really hope that the mainstream Protestants have it all wrong and that we've bastardized the original message so much that it's now completely wrong. I think the whole "ask Jesus into your heart and then you're saved" is all wrong. I don't think that we HAVE to "ask Jesus to come into our hearts." I believe that what we are supposed to do is make a day by day effort to live as Jesus would want us to live, to glorify God in all we do, to put His needs first and ours second. Putting His needs first means putting your needs second. Jesus wants you to love others more than yourself. That's (in my little brain) one of his needs and you do that first. I think that's what it means to work out our salvation. It's not a one-time thing. It's an entire life, a day by day effort. You don't just do it once. You do it over and over again.

May 20, 2007

We Meet, We Court, We Marry OR . . . What In The Hell Are You Thinking?

Dad suggested that we take the time to put some of our thoughts to paper so I thought I would start with this one. (It's also probably the most interesting story I "own.")

Almost 26 years ago, on August 8, 1981, Mike Scofield and Melodee Sherman met. In my mind, it wasn't your typical "boy meets girl" kind of meeting. Patty and Pete were engaged and their wedding was just a month away. Pat and her dog, Benson, were going to move from the house she shared with another girl into the little house in Willow Glen that she and Pete would be living in after they were married. Pete was still living with a bunch of guys in a house in Cupertino (I think). I told Pat I'd help them move her and Pete was going to get some guy from his work to use one of the work trucks to get all of Pat's stuff to the new house.

Imagine a beautiful summer day in San Jose. The sky was a vivid blue, the mountains were crisp and clear and the air was warm enough to wear shorts, yet cool enough to still be comfortable. It was one of those perfect San Jose summer mornings that make me miss living there.

I was living alone (another story and one I wish everyone could have) and got up that morning to head on over to Pat's "old" house. It was out somewhere off Camden and I told them I'd meet them there. So there I am, toodling down San Tomas Expressway, past Bubb Road but not quite to Camden. There's this annoying truck that's driving too slow so I pull alongside it, rather than follow behind. It's in the center lane and I'm in the slow lane. Then the annoying person driving the annoying truck starts honking at me. What a jerk. I figure it's just some weirdo. After a few minutes, though, I glance to my left and there are Pat and Pete waving at me through the annoying truck's window. Ah! That explains the honking. I follow them to Pat's house and hop out of my car and into Pat's house before I see the driver of the truck.

Pat and I meet up her in room and she starts telling me about this really cute guy who's helping Pete. She tells me that when they first drove up alongside me, he looked down at my car and said something along the lines of, "Nice legs!" Pete looked over to check out what Mike was checking out, looked back at Mike and said, "That's her sister." Uh-oh. Mike's in trouble. Smooth move oogling your boss's future sister-in-law with your boss's future wife sitting in your truck. Pat tells me all of this so I ask her how old he is. He's 21. Darn. I'm 25. He's a bit young for me. At least that's what I thought until I saw him. Up Pat's sidewalk walks this really cute, muscley-armed, wavy-haired, muscley guy. Did I mention he was really cute and had muscley arms? And that's when all the playful banter started. It didn't end until after we had lunch (Wendy's on Bascom) and he'd left. In between all the playful banter, I found out he was a Christian. I also found out that we seemed to get along really well and, in my mind, would make a good couple. He told me that he joined the Air Force and was due to leave in about nine days. Seeing as how I currently had a boyfriend and he, according to him, had a love interest in L.A., it didn't seem as if there was a future. Because I was such a good citizen, though, and I knew someone who'd been a cop in the Air Force (his chosen field), I told him I'd write him. Not sure why because I certainly didn't have his address. At least not at that point. I did give him my phone number, though. We said our goodbyes and I figured that was the last I'd see or hear of him. It was really unfortunate, though, because he seemed like such a nice guy.

That night, Pat and Pete were at my apartment helping me put up a waterbed. I think it had been Pat's and she gave it to me. Anyway, they were there, along with my boyfriend du jour. When the phone rang, I really didn't give any thought to the chance it might be HIM. It was. Du jour was not happy. Know what? Who cares. We were on the way out and whether cute muscley guy worked out or not, du jour was headed for the scrap heap. It took me a week to come to those conclusions, though, and to get the guts up to call cute muscley guy. I finally get the guts to make the call and who answers the phone but his step-mom . . . only to tell me he'd left THAT DAY for Texas for his four-year commitment to the Air Force. Oh well. Wasn't meant to be.

Fast forward a few weeks. I finally break up with boyfriend du jour and figure, what the heck, I'll send a letter to cute muscley guy (let's call him Mike) in Texas. Trouble was I didn't have his address. Oh well. How many Mike Scofield's could there be at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas? How big could the base be? How difficult could it be to get a letter to him? I wrote a very nice short letter and addressed it to: Mike Scofield, Basic Training, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. That should get to him, right?

So I completely forgot about him and went about my daily life not giving the letter, or him, a second thought. Right. Can you see ME doing that? No. I went to work and dated a little but kept thinking about him and if he'd write me back. After a month of no word, I figured he was more interested in his love interest in L.A. and not in me. Darn. He really seemed like a nice guy. And a Christian. And cute.

Right around mid-October I caught a nasty bug and stayed home from work for a few days. Because I felt so sick, I didn't get out to my mailbox every day. When I was finally feeling better, I made the long trek from my apartment down to the mailboxes and OH MY GOODNESS! I had a letter from HIM! I immediately called one of my best friends, Scott Prewett. Scott and I had been friends since the ninth grade and had sort of latched onto each other in the last year or so. He was my self-appointed guardian and "steady date." We hung out a lot and generally supported each other. "Scott! I got a letter from him! I got a letter!" I was very calm and totally in control of myself. Scott and I got together that night at Harry's Hofbrau so that he could read THE LETTER, too. It was your typical "I'm in the air force and I'm writing a letter to a girl I just met" letter. Except that the very end went something like this, "P.S. Oh yeah, wanna get married?" It was totally tongue-in-cheek but lifted my spirits beyond anywhere they'd been for several years. It appeared that someone really nice LIKED ME.

Here's where my memory is a little fuzzy and may have events reversed. Doesn't really matter. It all happened around the same time. Either right before the letter, or right after the letter, or the same day as the letter, Mike called me. I remember I was sick at home so it was probably right before or after I got his letter. It was the first of many phone calls and he warned me that he might not be able to write again for a while because they were so busy. He was right. It was another few weeks before I heard from him again. That was just the beginning, though. Over the next few months, he called and we would talk for hours late at night. We wrote countless letters. Seems like there was always one in transit. I still have them all, from me to him and him to me. This was how we got to know each other. We talked and wrote about everything that was going on, that had been going on, that we hoped would be going on. It seemed almost too good to be true.

This is when the opposition from the family began. Mom and Dad were opposed to me being in any relationship because I'd been married for a short time and was divorced. Where Mom and Dad went, everyone else usually followed. (Except Aunt Madelynne. She never said anything negative. I think she just left it up to me and kept her opinions to herself. My guess is that it was because she'd been where I was.) That was back in the unconditional day of no remarrying, for any reason, any time, anywhere. Period. No grace. "You had your shot. You blew it. That's it." It sounds harsh, but Dad was a pastor then and in a different place from where he is today. Mom, too. I think Justice was more important back then than Grace. I like it better now. Suffice it to say, it definitely put a damper on things. It was hard to share my happiness with those I loved the most when those I loved the most were not happy with my happiness. Oh well. It was how things were and they turned out ok. We are all responsible for ourselves and, as Dad used to say, "you reap what you sow." Everyone had to be responsible to themselves and God for their own convictions. I accepted that and, as Forrest Gump said, "That's all I'm going to say about that."

Through October, November and December we wrote letters and called each other. He was due home just before Christmas for two weeks of leave before he started his next training so all of our energies were gearing up for that time. I really didn't know what to expect and we kind of left things open, just in case we really weren't meant for each other. Fortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case and we had the best two weeks I could have imagined. Because we'd talked so much and written so many letters, we already knew each other even before we actually got to spend time with each other. The two weeks went much too quickly and before we knew it, January 6 was here and he had to go back. We'd spent some time talking about our future, but things were left up in the air when he left.

On January 9, I was at his parent's house for something and he called there looking for me. We chatted a bit about inconsequential stuff and then about marriage and the future. Still nothing decided. Then he changed the subject, "Ok, enough about all of that. Now I want to change the subject. Will you marry me?" Was he kidding? He even had to ask? Of course I'd marry him! His parents must have thought I'd gone wacko with all the screaming and yelling on the phone. They must've thought we were nuts, too, but they never said anything. His little sister was thrilled, I was thrilled, he was thrilled.

The folks, though, were not so thrilled. My Dad's response was, "I don't know who is more stupid. Him for asking or you for saying yes." Sounds harsh but I don't look at it that way any more. I have a much different perspective now that I'm a parent of marrying age daughters. We must have been insane. Good Lord, if one of my kids did that to me, I think I'd about have a heart attack. What am I saying? One of my kids DID put me through that and I did everything I could to talk her and her fiance out of getting married. In looking back, I'd say my folks' reactions were pretty mellow compared to mine. : )

Mike and I started to make plans for how we were going to do all of this. Our original plan was for him to come home in the summer and we'd get married then. Mom and Dad, though, were really trying to make me think about what we were doing and to at least spend some time together before we got married. This was probably not what they were thinking of, but we decided that I would quit my job and move to Texas to be around him before we married. We decided the date of my leaving would be in early April and started to get ready. I put in my notice at my apartment and moved out the first of March and moved in with Aunt Madelynne. That was one of the best things I ever did. That, too is another story. I found an apartment in Arlington, Texas, about half an hour from Carswell AFB in Fort Worth. My friends at my job gave me a letter saying I had a job with our office in Dallas so that gave me the credit I needed for my new apartment. I figured I would get a temp job when I got moved in. Mike arrived in early April and he, Scott, Kevin, Pat and Pete and I got all my stuff from storage moved into a big U-Haul truck. On April 6, 1982 I left the only home I ever knew and headed off to somewhere I'd never been with someone I was hoping would be the love of my life. Through the grace of God and a lot of hard work, it's turned out to be true. I remember Dad telling me shortly before I left, "Don't feel like you have to go through with getting married. If you get out there and it's not what you thought it would be, just come home. Don't feel like you HAVE to do it. You can back out."

Just three days after arriving in Arlington, I was driving Mike back to the base and my car died. I had it towed to a friend of a friend's only to find out the engine was fried because all of the oil drained out of the engine while it was being towed from California to Texas. Oh joy. I don't remember how I paid for it to get fixed because it cost me $1000 to have the engine rebuilt. I remember I used my American Express card and I started working temp jobs immediately. Dad also helped me out by sending some money. Boy, I really didn't want to ask for that help, but I needed to. Mike, of course, was pitching in his measly paychecks, but the government didn't pay A1C's very much.

About a month or six weeks after I got moved to Texas, Mike got new orders. He'd been accepted to Bomb Dog School in San Antonio! The school was three and a half months long and he was starting in early June! Wow. That kind of put a change in our plans. He was going to school for three and a half months. I was going to be in Arlington alone without a safety net. At this point, I felt as sure as I felt I needed to be that he was my future. Because of that, the plan we came up with seemed a natural one. We decided that we'd get married BEFORE he went off to school so that I would be a military wife and would have that as my safety net. If he got orders before he got out of bomb dog school, which was a sure thing, I would be included. I wouldn't be left stranded in Texas if he got sent somewhere else. I would have medical coverage. I would have an additional income because his pay would go up as a married person. On June 1, 1982 he practically dragged me up the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse (I was still scared, even though I was sure) where we were married by Justice of the Peace Morris E. Howeth. Our friend, Bobby Brown, was our witness and photographer. Unfortunately, though, it was a brand new camera and he didn't have it properly loaded so the only photo from our wedding day is my military ID card taken later that afternoon.

We decided not to tell any of the family about getting married because we were already working on wedding plans for that September. It wasn't until August that we finally told everyone. Mom and Dad were somewhat relieved but his folks were not so happy. His folks wanted to be there when we got married and it was kind of a letdown for them that they felt we'd just be going through the motions when we were home in September. For Mom and Dad, it took the pressure of approving whether or not we got married off because it was already a done deal. We went home in September and were married in front of our friends and family on September 25, 1982.

That's the story of us. If any of you had done the same, I'd have said you were crazy. When Cherlyn and Rob did it to us, I said they were crazy. Like I said before, through the grace of God and a lot of hard work, we're where we're are today. The race isn't finished yet but we are persevering. It's constant work. You don't just get to 25 years and say, "Whew, we're here. We've arrived." We haven't arrived yet. We're still working. We will still be working at 26 years, 30 years, 37 years, 43 years, and on and on. Until we arrive in Heaven. Then we'll know it worked and we've arrived.

For the record, it's my opinion that marriage is not just here on earth. In my opinion, it's eternal. I figure that God made Adam and Eve and intended the Garden to be eternal. It was supposed to be Paradise but they screwed it up. Because the original plan was meant to be eternal, I figure Adam and Eve's relationship was supposed to be eternal. That, I think, was the original plan. If that is all true, then, in my opinion, marriage was intended to be eternal. If marriage is an illustration of Christ's relationship with the Church, then it is eternal, because Christ's relationship with the Church is eternal.

Each of your parents has their own story of how each of them became a "we." I hope that you will learn it from them and be able to pass it along to your own kids. It's a part of you and your family, and of all of us.

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