You Can’t Change the Beginning… But You Can the Ending

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Submitted by Bill Crider, Chaplain at Minden Medical Center

The older I become, the more I find myself thinking of that statement. C.S. Lewis, in one of his many books, wrote those words to describe his early life when he was a world-known atheist in his younger life. But he became one of the most well-known of modern popularizers of the Christian faith. He wrote books for readers of all ages. Some of his books topped the ‘best sellers’ list.’ (The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Grief Observed.  The ‘grief’ book recorded the bereavement of his beloved wife, Joy Davidman. They married late in life and had a special celebrated marriage. She was already a well-known scholarly writer. Smoke on the Mountain is a required reading in Old Testament History in seminaries. 

Lewis and fellow writer, J.R.R. Tolkien were members of a literary group – The Inklings – that transformed scholarly literature of their day with great emphases on fantasy and fairy-tale writing. Then, and more so now, their writings are viewed through their Christian experiences and have found a larger circle of readers and fans than ever before. Many of their books have been formatted for movies and the stage, playing to great number of folks who would never pick their books to read.

C.S. Lewis is a good example of what his ‘quote’ reflects. He was middle-aged before he had his ‘true conversion experience’ and embraced the Christian faith. As is with many atheists and agnostics, it seems they are warmed and drawn slowly toward the echoes of the Cross through inquiry and truth-hunting. We all have marched with them and sought after the lures and promises of the world. 

Whether you became a Christian at an early age, in young adulthood or later in life, we all have brushed shoulders with sin. (Romans 3: 23 –“ We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.)”  And how well we know the consequences of such sin!  (Romans 6: 23 – “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.)” So each person’s life is divided into two parts: before conversion and after conversion. A glimpse of my own life looks like this:

I grew up in a family of 7 children, my parents, and my grandmother. The year I was born, my Grandpa Crider died, thus Grandma came to live with us…becoming our second mother. We did not attend church. I never heard my parents pray. As a child, I attended VBS only once. Boring I thought…all about Jesus, church, and such! Seldom did I attend church. I was about 15 when I first sensed a ‘special feeling working in my life.’ I was at a summer revival service, sitting with other kids my age – on the back row. During the invitation song, for  “seekers” to come forward to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior – I froze. Inside, I felt a strange feeling; I was afraid to move. I held on the pew, thinking, “if I get out of here, I’m not coming back.’  And I didn’t! 

As a college freshman, my roommate and I began attending the Baptist Student Ministry (BSU) on campus. His sister (a senior) encouraged us to attend the BSU activities and a local church with her. More and more, the shell of resistance softened. I was greatly influenced by several others who were involved in both ministries. On Easter morning, 1959, I opened my heart and life to the invitation for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. That night I was baptized into the fellowship of the church. I began attending Bible Studies. Membership training  and began growing in my faith over the next three years of college. My life truly was changed; I have never been the same. (That was ‘life before Christ’ –BC).

What has happened since then (AC) is nothing but one miracle after another. Many of you have the same testimony. My grades reflected a renewed commitment to my college experience. I was asked to serve as Chairman of the Men’s Residence Dorms – on the College Board. Serving on the BSU Council and coaching Intermural basketball gave me experience and confidence in those areas of leadership. 

 As a young single teacher at Doyline High School, I endured my growing pains as a young Christian. Not only was I learning how to ‘face those students daily’, but I was also growing in my Christian faith. I began to study my Bible more, reading it all-the-way-through, teaching Sunday School and working with junior-senior high boys in the mission education program. As time passed, I was asked to assume more responsibility at school and in the church. After several years, the church asked me to serve as a deacon. This was another giant step of faith – what a monumental responsibility. I read, I studied and tried to practice what the leadership books suggested. It worked, I grew in knowledge and understanding, which led to measures of wisdom in time. The Lord blessed and opened new doors – I was growing.

I learned to tithe; yes, on a $350 a month salary! It can be done! The more of myself I released to the Lord, the more He blessed me. In my sixth year of teaching, Sondra came to teach music. That began, what has become, a long-time, life-changing experience in itself (53 years and counting.) Sondra came from a strong Christian background, well-grounded in the Baptist faith and doctrine. I was still a babe-in-the-faith. Some transferal concepts I learned in teaching helped in my spiritual growth, such as:  patience, empathy, listening to a child’s heart and not just his words, understanding the child’s home-life (relating that to individual needs), etc. 

So, years later, after teaching 9 ½ years and 3 years with a major publishing company, the Lord began whispering to me, “come, follow me and I will show you other ways to serve Me.’ We responded! After some 46 years, we still are learning how to better serve Him. Sondra has mainly served in areas of teaching Preschoolers and directing music – and has been the strength of my support system. We have served together, encouraging each other. The Lord has allowed me to serve 5 churches in volunteer capacities while working in secular assignments. She has served on church staff in 7 churches along the way. My life has been blessed to serve churches as Associate Pastor, Minister of Education, Administration, Missions, Senior Adults, Bereavement, and Homebound Ministries, plus several other areas.. We both have been blessed to serve on state leadership teams in LA, MS, and IL – leading age-group training conferences.  We’ve been blessed to serve on teams for national conferences in 14 states, mission teams in 6 other countries, and church teams throughout the USA. This has not happened by our own ‘doing’, but God leading step-by-step.

After retiring from active church ministry, I had no idea if the Lord had further ministry opportunities in mind for me. But in a few short months, He opened the door for me to serve in the community as Chaplain in Minden Medical Center. And believe me: THIS IS THE ICING ON MY MINISTERIAL CAKE! I am blessed each day in so many ways as I pray with/for the staff, the patients/families, and others in need. What a blessing is mine!

So for the past 60+ years, I can see ‘how the Lord has changed the direction of this share-croppers’ son, after he left the cotton patch with three pair of jeans and headed to college only with ‘a hope, a prayer, and some hand-me-downs.’  What He has done for me, He surely can do for anyone who is willing to ‘let Him take control.’ Proverbs 3: 5-6 has been my watchword ever since I located it in the Bible. What a promise from a ‘Promise Keeper.’ The message is clear: No matter where you are in life, you can stop, turn around, embrace God and His Son, Jesus. He will open doors for you to serve in a step-by-step faith relationship. You will see mountains moved, disappointments turn into Divine Appointments, the unbelievable will become a reality, and the word – impossible- will disappear from your vocabulary. With Him in control, you will begin to discover  “The best is yet to be”….and each new day is filled with His mercy, grace, love, and blessings. 

Having just turned 80, I am still learning that He wants more and more of me. There is still much more He wants from this old man. Bet He has the same designs for you!

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