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Why I Am A Christian, Part 1

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I was born and raised a Christian, so I started out with one strike against me. How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven! I was better than other kids: didn’t cuss, didn’t dance, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. But I didn’t want to be defined by what I didn’t do. And I couldn’t quell the tremulous feeling that I wasn’t really better. I was fortunate that my parents were not hypocrites. They really believed in Jesus and really acted on their faith. They taught us kids to do the same, but it was hard, terrible hard.

I wanted to be like other kids. I was afraid of being different.

I didn’t want anyone to know I was a Christian. I hid it as best I could without actually sinning. I laughed at coarse jokes but never told them. I excelled at bitter sarcasm. I devoted myself to the study of arcane subjects. I taught myself how to use a slide rule. I taught myself the syllogisms of classical logic. I taught myself propositional calculus and devoured the meagre store of science fiction books in the town library. Isaac Asimov was my hero; I didn’t know he was an atheist.

During the summer of 1970 the Jesus Movement came to our town. We met in an old train depot and sat on beanbag chairs and cushions. We used discarded cable spools for tables. We drank pop and ate chips and called the place a coffeehouse because it sounded cool. We were caught up in the genuine presence of God, who was pouring out his Spirit. Everybody prayed and sang and swayed to the folksy sound of acoustic guitars. The girls wore beads and long skirts, and the boys wore chains and long hair.

I met Jesus again that summer. He was just a regular guy in sandals and dusty jeans. But he said the most amazing things:

You’ve heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemies,” but I tell you love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you, and pray for those who abuse you.

You’ve heard it said, “Do not murder,” but I tell you that anyone who hates his brother has committed murder in his heart.

You’ve heard it said, “Do not commit adultery,” but I tell you that anyone who looks with desire at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.

He kept saying, “It’s not about following rules; it’s about your attitude. Your heart matters more than your dos and don’ts.”

So I gave my soul to him again. I lost some of my fear. I gained a newfound joy. I stopped performing. I started living. I was 15.

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Achieving Dreams

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Yesterday as I was taking Nelly to a friends house for a sleepover party, she was singing a song from Disney’s Cinderella:

No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true.

“Do you belive that?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said firmly.

“But it’s not true.”

“Yes it is.”

“No,” I said. “There are people all over the world whose dreams don’t come true no matter how much they believe.”

“Well,” she said. “It’s true in Disneyland.”

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Father of Waters

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As I was driving Belinda and Nelly to church this Mother’s Day, we crossed the Mississippi River, and Belinda remarked that the water was high. Nelly wanted to know how the river could flood when there was nothing to keep the water from flowing downriver.

“Where does the water come from?” I asked.

“God?” she ventured.

“Yes,” I said, “but I was asking a scientific question, not a religious one.”

“From snow?” she said with a little more assurance.

“Yes,” I said, “and rain. This time of year there’s a lot of rain and not much snow melt.”

“Is the Mississippi the longest river in the United States?”

“I think so.” I turned to Belinda. “Isn’t it the longest?” I asked. Then I thought of the Missouri meandering over the plains states into Montana. “Unless the Missouri…,”

“No,” said Belinda. “I’m sure the Mississippi is the longest. It’s a very important river.”

“Why isn’t it called the Minnesota?” Nelly asked. “It starts in Minnesota.”

“Do you know what ‘Mississippi’ means in the Indian language it comes from?”

“No.”

“It means ‘Father of Waters.’

“Oh,” said Belinda playfully. “Then it should be Misterssippi.”

By the way, the Missouri really is the longest river at 2341 mi, 21 miles longer than the Mississippi. See here for more.

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