Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

On the Witness Stand

The following is an adaptation of the testimony I shared with my church on August 21, 2016. 
The top three definitions for "testimony" on are:
1. "The statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court"
2. "Evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof"
3. "Open declaration or profession, as of faith"

I think all three definitions come into play when you testify about God's work in your life. You make an unspoken promise to tell the truth, you offer evidence of God's goodness and mercy and you declare your faith openly. 

But first you have to say a prayer and take a deep breath.

Good morning!

My unspoken prayer before I write or speak comes from the Psalms, and I don't want to go any further without sharing it. It's Psalm 19:14:
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (NLT)

When Jackie asked me to speak today I told her I'd have to pray about it. That wasn't a delaying tactic; I really wasn't sure if this was something I was supposed to do. I didn't feel any clear direction until one morning as I followed Mr. Pettit to Bill & Glenn's Tire and Auto to get new tires for his car.

The Church of Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy
Let me explain..As you can imagine, we moved several times during my husband's Air Force career: 10, to be exact. And most of those times, after the moving van left, I followed Mr. Pettit in my car.

Since we were always heading into unfamiliar territory, I didn't just follow him. I drafted behind him like Jimmy Johnson. I still remember driving away from the toll booths outside Chicago. As the road narrowed from several lanes to two or three I maneuvered this way and that to keep his bumper in sight. No, not just to keep it in sight, but to stay right behind him, with no one between us.

Mr. Pettit has a keen sense of situational awareness, so I knew that he was aware of my location at all times, and if we were separated he'd slow down or even pull over if necessary. I never worried that he'd leave me behind.   

All this came to mind the other day as I followed him to Bill & Glenn's. I knew how to get there, so there was no drafting involved that time. But I was struck by the parallel between those long road trips and this big journey I'm on: Life.

When I've kept my eyes on Jesus and followed Him closely, not allowing anything to come between us, I've felt a sense of peace utterly independent of circumstances.

But when I have become distracted by the "traffic" around me---whether good things or bad---that peace has gone missing. In good times I begin to feel shaky inside, wondering when the bubble will burst. And in bad times, well, I'm simply overwhelmed.

The thing is, Jesus always has me in his rear view mirror. No, that's not accurate. He's ahead of me, behind me and beside me. All the time. And when I start to panic and slide into despair, He always nudges me---okay, maybe sometimes He has to shove---and says "Hello! Remember Me? Take a breath and rest with Me for a while."  

My relationship with Jesus Christ began when I was a child. I was raised in a Christian home and was confirmed in the Methodist church. However, my spiritual home during adolescence was the Episcopal school I attended from sixth through 12th grades.

Every week we'd have two chapel services. I loved the cadence and the rich language of the liturgy used in the formal Holy Communion service while I enjoyed the music used in the contemporary gathering---songs like "Pass It On" and "I've Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart." I still read the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer during our Communion celebrations here.

I have to admit that a review of my Christian journey includes too many instances when I've seen God more as a kindly uncle than a sovereign Creator, when my attitude was "It's okay, God. I've got this. Go take care of someone who really needs Your help." And sooner or later I'd always feel that nudge---or shove.

God has often used fellow believers to get my attention and assure me of His Presence:

Like the Sunday School class we belonged to in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which encircled us with love and support as we worked through the decision for Mr. Pettit to join the Air Force.

Or the moving company representative who conducted the household inventory before we moved from Colorado to North Dakota. My mother had passed away about a year and a half prior to this and for some reason---I don't remember why---I was suddenly overcome by my longing for her and started crying. I was terribly embarrassed, of course, and apologized. And this man, whom I had never met before that day, told me I didn't need to be sorry. "That's the nature God gave you," he said.

I had been a crier since childhood and I had always been ashamed of my tears. But I knew---absolutely, completely knew---that God was using that man to tell me I was fine just the way I was.

And as I look out over this congregation today I see the faces of those who have shared a kind word or an encouraging note at the moment I needed it most.

Then there are the times when God has spoken to me without any intermediaries, when he has decided to give me a glimpse of just how mighty and glorious and sublime He is:

Like when I was sitting in a plane in Louisiana, waiting to take off for South Carolina to attend my father's funeral. I was given a moment of total clarity, of total certainty, that Daddy was in Heaven and all was well.

Then there was the moment in Older Son's wedding to his beloved in Colombia, when dozens of folks from across the Americas started singing "How Great Is Our God." Two friends of the bride had been translating the service for us through headsets, but no translation was necessary during that song. I was struck by the fact that no language barriers exist in the presence of God's majesty.

And I'll never forget our drive back from Richmond after the birth of our first grandchild. We were wishing our parents could see her and share in our joy when an old cowboy song, "Cattle Call," came on the radio. I think Daddy fancied himself a yodeler and he loved to sing the chorus of that song on car trips. My eyes started to fill with tears when suddenly I sensed we were all part of a vast circle, a continuum of God's love extending from our little granddaughter to her parents to us and on to our late parents.

I'm a work in progress, and just when I think I've got one issue worked out God chooses to show me another rough edge He wants to polish. For example, I didn't realize how insidious and dangerous my perfectionism was until the last 10 years or so. After all, what's wrong with wanting things done right?

But I've come to see that when I pursue perfection I'm fixing my eyes on myself and what I can do in my own power, not on Christ. Several years ago God made this clear to me as I put together a presentation for the church. And He gave me four words that I try to keep at the front of my mind at all times, but especially when I come before you:

It's not about me.

It's not about stringing together words in an artful way. It's not about whether I can make you laugh or make you cry. It's not about whether you agree with or approve of everything I say. And it's not about whether you like me.

It's all about Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. His words. His approval.

I'd like to close with this passage from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Thank you and God bless you.


Life, Well Played