Saturday, October 27, 2012

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The Gift Of Faith

I, Virginia Annelie Fason Rahn, was born Oct. 23, 1942, the fourth of five children to Jim and Susan Fason. I was the baby of the family for ten years, and then we were blessed with the birth of our brother David. There was not a time in my memory that God was not real to me. Mama and Daddy always took us to Sunday school, Church, Vacation Bible School and many a revival. Daddy would place Gail on one side of him and me on the other. This was for the express purpose of being able to give us a quick, but painful, pinch should either of us choose to behave in a disrespectful way. At such times, one might see a severe grimace on our faces, but we knew we had better not make one outward sound of pain. Our Daddy did not play around, and arousing his temper or disapproval is not something that either one of us would want to do. There was no “children’s” church then. Kids were expected to accompany their parents, and mind their manners while everyone listened to the preacher’s sermon. Listening and learning, not playing and goofing off, was to be the intent of our presence. I can remember being at a revival when I was no more than four or five, and being absolutely amazed at the visual picture of the reality of choosing God and Heaven, or Satan and Hell. There was never a doubt in my heart or mind that the two places were very real, and it would be my own choice that would determine my final destination.

Before I could even read, I remember a Bible Stories Book that I had been given. It was a blue hard-back covered book with the most amazing stories and beautiful pictures that made the life and times of Jesus and His followers so very real to me. It remained my favorite book for years until it was lost during one of our many moves. One picture that I loved to sit and stare at was Jesus standing in front of a door, knocking, and waiting to be invited in. That gave me a mental vision that would, later in life, symbolize that Jesus was standing at the door of my heart, waiting for me to ask Him in to be my personal Lord and Savior.

To illustrate how real God was made to me, part of my play time when I was entertaining myself, I would imagine being able to see family members, that I had never met, as they walked along with Jesus in Heaven. I would think of how wonderful it would be when I too could be there with them. I would carry on all kinds of conversations, and it would give me such a wonderful feeling to think of my final home with them. It was out of the realm of my imagination that anyone would not believe in God. Jesus was just as real to me as one of my sisters and brothers. I know now that this does not happen just by accident. As a family, we may not have sat around talking about Jesus and the Bible, but because my parents brought me up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” from the very beginning, the seeds of faith were planted and nourished to take root and grow within me.

Jimmy, Phyllis, Gail, and I grew up in very different times than David. When we went to school, every morning was started with the pledge of allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Most of our friends and teachers were Christians also. One time, when I was in second grade, I was writing a sentence on the board and wrote Xmas instead of Christmas. My teacher quietly whispered in my ear that only those who wanted to take Christ out of Christmas wrote the word like that. That shot like a bullet to my heart for I knew I did not want to take Christ out of anything. I never did that again. For me, belief in Christ was an integral part of our lives and following the Judeo-Christian ethics was just a normal way of thinking. The teachings of Jesus were a vital part of our everyday lives. I don’t mean to say that anything was rammed down our throats. But we were blessed to live in a time when God was included, not excluded, from our daily lives at home and school.

I remember some evenings at bedtime, especially on cold winter nights like Christmas Eve, having a special time with our Daddy. Gail and I, still being the little ones, could snuggle under the covers with our Daddy. We would lie on our sides and fit into the curve of each other in the form of a chair. Or Daddy would rub down the sheets to get them warm, and then tuck the covers, or “kivers” as he would sometimes say, under our chins and along our sides. Then he would say prayers with us and say, as he walked out the room, “Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” We were taught to always say prayers before going to sleep. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take. God bless Mamma, Daddy, and so on down the whole list, in Jesus name I pray. Amen.”

Families actually had a regular dinnertime, all seated together around the table. This was always begun with a prayer before we ate. Daddy usually said the blessing, or we would all pray, “God is good, God is great. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand we all are fed, give us Oh Lord our daily bread. Amen.” Dinnertime was also a time for sharing the events of the day, talking and making jokes. It was a good and enjoyable time. Jimmy, at times would provide entertainment by doing something silly like putting celery in his nose or carrots in his ears. Those were precious times when laughter filled the air and our souls.

There was no TV then, so we all huddled around the radio and listened to stories that filled our heads with all kinds of imaginations. We would also have times to listen to a good preacher, or Christian music. Mama didn’t sing very much, but she loved to hear all of us sing. Daddy would lead us in songs like “I come to the garden alone…. And I talk with Him, and I walk with Him, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Of course, we would sing the contemporary secular songs also such as “By the light of the silvery moon, I want to spoon, with my honey I’ll croon loves tune…” Families had more quality time to just spend together. That in itself was a blessing from God.

When I was in sixth grade and Gail in the eighth, we lived on the top of Signal Mt. This is one of two mountains around the city of Chattanooga, TN. Not only did we say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Lord’s Prayer, but also a little lady would come in at least once a month to give us a lesson from the Bible. David turned one year old while we lived there. Jimmy had been at college for several years, and Phyllis was a senior in high school. That was her last year to live at home. She and Mike were married just a few days after her graduation, and they moved to Savannah, GA. Through this time, we had had a pretty solid family life. She and Mike were both believers in the Lord and continued strong in their belief and found a wonderful and supportive church family. We went to stay several weeks during each summer with Phyllis and Mike. They helped to add to my faith by their example and by taking us to be a part of their church while we were there. They had a close relationship with their minister, and he sure gave some good sermons. You always came away having learned something about the Lord.

Things were beginning to change, even in the church. It seemed as though some preachers were more interested in telling nice little social lessons instead of really teaching lessons from the Bible that would help the people really apply God’s ways to their everyday lives. It seemed that for the most part the actual reading of the scriptures was becoming less and less a part of the service. The congregation was no longer encouraged to bring their own Bibles to read aloud along with the pastor. This was the beginning of Biblical illiteracy and a diminishing in the belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God.
Scoffers were becoming more prevalent and the Bible was beginning to be viewed more as mythology instead of truth. This was only the beginning what has become a more secular and Godless culture.

By the time I was in eighth grade, Gail, Dave and I were the only kids left at home. Destructive things were coming into our family life that would tear at the fiber of every part of our lives. The Church wasn’t being the strong moral leader that it once had been. We still went to church, though now we did not always go as a family every Sunday as we once had. Jesus was still just as real to me, but I did not spend as much quality time learning of Him or just thinking about Him. He was always there and never left me, though I often set Him aside. I read a statement recently that is so very true. “We are always either drawing nearer to God or falling away. There is no holding pattern.” (book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, pg.163)

I do thank the Lord that my parents had planted the seeds of faith within me at such an early age. They taught me to respect them. If we respect our earthly Mom and Dad, whom we can see, it makes it easier to respect and trust in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whom we cannot see. You know our parents aren’t always going to be around to guide and protect us from harm. Yet, if we have God within us, He will always be there to guide, lead, and protect us from ourselves, others, Satan and all of his demons. Of course, we are not robots. We have a free will. How much influence God has in our lives depends upon whether we listen and yield to Him. When we choose to go our own way, we open the door for danger to walk right through the door. I don’t mean that bad things don’t happen to even the strongest of Christians. After all, we live in a corrupt world, and God has already told us that there will be trials and tribulations. But at least He will always be there to help us through the good and bad times of life.

I was a very na├»ve teenager and could have been very easily led astray. You know how peer pressure is, “everybody’s doing it, so why not go along with the crowd.” However, my faith had instilled within me the knowledge that I could never run away from myself or from God. Nothing is really hidden by darkness. Whatever you sow, you are going to reap whether anyone else knows what you did or not. Of course, if you keep ignoring that voice of the Lord within you, wrong (sin) will eventually seem right, making it easier and easier to accept in your life. That’s what it means when the word says, “A man’s ways are right in his own eyes.” Whenever I have put my own opinion above God’s Word is when I have strayed further and further from His will and blessings in my life. When we subject our selves to the ways of the world, we become less sensitive, or desensitized, to the truth of just what is right or wrong. We begin to live our lives as if there are no absolutes, and that everything is relative and subject to change. That’s when we become “pickers” instead of doers. What do I mean by that? Well, I simply “pick” a part of God’s Word that no longer seems to fit in my lifestyle and either ignore it entirely or pervert it to suit myself. I don’t know about you, but when I fall into that trap is just the time that I myself have opened the door for sin to walk right in and enslave me to the very thing that I should have run away from. “Give no place to devil.” “Give no appearance of evil.” “God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” He and His word never change or become old fashioned or out dated.

When I was a junior in high school, I began to date Rick, who would become my husband seven years later. He had not been brought up to believe in Jesus. His parents’ attitude was “We don’t want to warp the minds of our children. When they grow up they can make their own decisions about that.”

However, he did have loving grandparents that did believe. He was very close to them, especially his Granddaddy. Then too, a few friends along the way invited him to go to church with them and the seeds were planted. Thank you Lord!! He and I would talk about Jesus every now and then, but nothing really in depth. He would later tell me, that though he did not know Jesus as his Savior, he had always talked to God. I have always said the purpose of all the other guys that I dated was to create within me a greater appreciation for Rick. My Lord, thank you for blessing me with such a wonderful husband and father for my children!!!

I left home to go to college when I was eighteen. This was probably one of the times when I was not spending much time drawing near to the Lord, and therefore falling away. But even then, God would send His Holy Spirit, often in the form of his earthly messengers, to keep wooing me back to the love of the Lord. One such messenger was a student who came to invite me to a Christian Student gathering. I did not go to the meetings simply because I felt shy and had no one to go with. But because of her visit, I was drawn back to the Word for a time. One weekend shortly after that, I was babysitting Gail and Phil’s first son. While he was napping, I was reflecting back upon my conversation with that girl, and the vision of the picture in my childhood storybook came before me. I saw in my spirit the Lord Jesus standing at the door of my heart. I was reminded of my need to repent and ask the Lord to forgive me, and invite Him to come into my heart to be my personal Lord and Savior. I knew I had always believed in Him, and that He had died on the cross to pay for my sins. I knew that He was the Son of God and was resurrected from the dead, and went back to heaven and would come back one day. I got down on my knees and confessed my sins and asked Him to come into my heart to be my personal Lord and Savior. That is when I know I was born again. However, I stayed a babe and did not grow very much more in the Lord for quite some time. Again, I thank the Lord for the seeds that had been planted and for the good work that He had begun in me from such an early age and the work He was continuing. I may have walked away from Him, but again He had never left me. He wasn’t through with me then or now.

For a part of the time I was in college, I dated a guy who definitely did not believe in God. I was not very selective in the type of person with whom I was keeping company. Sometimes, I tried to talk to him about Jesus. It always came down to the fact that he believed that Jesus may have been a very good man, but nothing more. In reality, even then, his god was money. I think I was always trying to change or “save” him. Only God can do that. He always said, “One day I will make so much money that I wont have to kiss anyone’s a_ _.” Several years later after Rick and I were married, he called me on the phone. He had two daughters and was in the midst of getting a divorce. During the conversation, he made the same comment about money, and said that he had reached that goal. I felt so very sorry for him. I thanked the Lord that I had been saved from a godless life with him.

My brother Jimmy and his wife Joy have always been very strong Christians. Thank the Lord; they did not live very far from the University of GA, where I went to college. After my Daddy gave me a car, I was able to leave school some weekends to go visit them. Oh, the blessing of having believing brothers and sisters. I would often take my questions and doubts to them. They would fill me with good counsel from the Lord. They were helping to equip me with the armor of God to withstand all the fiery darts of the enemy. Look again and see how our loving God does provide our needs. I often feel as if I am a pitcher, and the Lord just continues to bless and fill me up. All He asks is that we have a willing heart and seek His face and He will welcome us into His Kingdom. AHHH, the wonder of being grafted into the vine to be a part of the family of God! I never did anything to deserve it. Thank God that He loved me first and bestowed His mercy and grace upon me.

Society itself was changing. Madeline Murray, an atheist, brought a case to the Supreme Court that would further facilitate America’s plunge down into the slippery slope of secular humanism. In 1963, as a result of the Murray v. Curlett case, the Supreme Court ruling ended the practice of daily prayer in American schools. God and the Bible were now, slowly but surely, being removed from a position of prominence intended by the founding fathers of our nation. Little did we known then just what a dire effect this would have upon the moral fiber of our entire nation. At the time of this writing, 2008, Christians themselves are mocked and ridiculed. The Bible foretold that all of this would happen. It is just so sad as we watch the unfolding of the fall from grace of our great country. But I must not despair for the Lord tells us not to be downhearted as we see theses things come about. We are exhorted to trust in the Lord and look up for our redemption draweth nigh.

In 1964 Rick asked me to marry him, and we became engaged that Christmas. I was a teacher and he worked as a milkman at first. Then, after we were married, he got a job as a lineman for the telephone company. We were married Sept.26, 1965. He was drafted into the army just four months later in 1966 and was eventually sent to Germany. I quit teaching in October of 1967 and was able to join him. The Lord provided again, and I was given a job teaching reading to GIs. Rick was sent into the “field” every third month for “war games.” Several years after we had gotten out of the army and returned home, I learned that during those times in the field he had been sent for covert action in Cambodia. These were very dangerous assignments, which involved hand-to-hand combat with the enemy during the Vietnam War. Had anything happened to him, I would never have been told the truth about his demise. Thank the Lord; he did return safely each time. His name came down on the roster to be sent to fight in Vietnam three different times while we were in Germany. Each time Rick would tell me that his major had removed him from the list. I was very thankful and just thought that the major must really like Rick.

I became pregnant shortly after arriving in Germany. It was my second pregnancy and miscarriage since we had been married. While Rick was away, during one of my visits to the infirmary, a Lieutenant’s wife sitting next to me struck up a conversation. As a result, she asked me to go to church the next Sunday with her and her husband. I hesitated at first, but then accepted her invitation. We did not have a car so they were going to pick me up. When I got back to our apartment, old Satan started trying to do a number on me. I began to waver and think that maybe I should not go until Rick would be home and hopefully go with me. I was bombarded with thoughts like: “Remember, God said He would change your life? Maybe, He will change it so much that you will lose Rick? Maybe you should not go if Rick won’t go with you.” I did not know it, but I was in a battle with the devil. Thank goodness, though we may loose some skirmishes, the battle is the Lord’s and He has already won it! I know it was the power of the Holy Spirit within that told me not to listen to that voice and to trust in the Lord.

I started going to church with that loving couple. When Rick returned from the field, he even went a couple of times with me. Then he announced that he did not want to go any more because he did not feel comfortable there. Of course, I got very upset. I would go to church and then come home and behave very Christ-like by slamming doors and drawers and talking like a very loving (?) shrew. Oh yes, that was certainly the way to win over my husband! I could not understand why he would not go with me, sit there, and hold my hand just to be with me. I was getting more and more upset each Sunday after returning back home. Finally, one Sunday, I went to our pastor and told him about the problem. Boy, did the Lord give him the right words to speak to me! He said, “Ginger, I’ve met Rick. He seems like a very nice young man. I don’t think he would ever tell you that you could not go to church. But if it came to that, remember that the Lord created marriage before he created the church.”

What a load was lifted from my shoulders. No longer did I have to carry the guilt of trying to control my husband. Controlling others is NOT of the Lord. No longer was it my responsibility to “change” him. Yes, I still longed for Rick to be with me. But no longer did I fear that the Lord was going to do anything to divide us. Instead, I could now go to church, fellowship with others, draw closer to the Lord, and go back home to my husband with peace in my heart. Some time later I would read the scripture that tells believers that if they are unequally yoked to an unbeliever in marriage, not to leave him, but to stay and trust that he/she may see the Lord in you and be drawn to Him. Of course, this does not mean to shrink from actively seeking the Lord in your life for fear that you may offend your spouse. If we deny the Lord before man, He will deny us before His Father, and we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. If I had chosen not to go to church and draw near to the Lord that year, I know without a doubt that our lives would have taken quite a different path. In making the right choice for myself, I allowed the Lord to work His will in both of our lives.

Sometime later that summer, our church had a revival. Wonder of wonders, Rick said he had never been to a revival. He actually wanted to go with me. I was so excited; I could hardly stand it. The first night, I just kept looking at Rick out of the corner of my eye and wondering if anything was getting through to him. I just kept praying for him, but never asked or pushed him in any way. The next night was more of the same. The third night, we were headed to the car and Rick said, “Wait here. I want to go back and ask the pastor something.” I stood there in wonderment and just said, “OK.” Shortly thereafter, he came out and said, “We have to go right home. Both of the preachers are coming to our house.” All I could say was, “They are?” But I did not question any further. Now, if you know me that is a miracle in itself. Usually, I fill the air with one question after another, but not that night. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, our apartment is a complete mess.” But then my next thought was, “Who cares?” I was filled with hope and apprehension that something good was going to come of this. Shortly thereafter, both pastors arrived, and before I knew it they were asking Rick questions like:
“Do you believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and that He is the Son of God? Do you believe He was crucified on the cross to pay for your sins? Do you believe that He arose from the dead and is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father? Do you repent of your sins?” After each question, Rick responded with a simple “yes.” They continued, “Then do you want to pray right now and ask Him to come into your heart to be your personal Savior?” Rick’s answer again was a quiet, but resounding, yes. We all bowed our heads, and they lead him in the prayer for salvation. I just stood there, watching and listening, realizing I was witnessing the miracle of my husband entering into the family of God. I was so overwhelmed with the simplicity, and yet awesomeness, of the whole process. Still to this day, every time I reflect upon watching the “rebirth” of my husband in Christ, I am filled with an overflowing love and thankfulness to our Almighty Living God for all that He is, has done, and continues to do. Finally, my husband and I were made one, not only in the flesh, but also in the spirit. What a mighty God we serve!

At a later time, Rick would share with me what had happened to him that night. When he went back to talk with the preachers, all he got out was, “Sometime when you have a minute, I would like to talk with…” It was as if they knew exactly what he was going to ask before he got the rest of it out. They told him they would come right to his home to talk with him. To this day he does not really remember what either of the preachers had talked about during their sermons. Rather, all of a sudden, a realization came over him and he thought to himself, “Oh, that’s who you are Jesus, and that’s whom I’ve been talking to all these years.”

Rick and I both went forward in that same little church to make our public declaration of our faith in Jesus. We were also baptized to follow the example set by Jesus when John the Baptist baptized him. For us, it truly marked our birth as new creations in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. As wonderful as that was, it was only the beginning of our lives in Christ. He asks us to come to Him in faith just as we are. Thank the Lord; He changes us more and more each day into His image as we learn to yield ourselves to His Holy Spirit. He promises to continue that good work within us until we meet Him face to face. He has given us His Word to be our instruction book for our daily lives.

I cannot impress upon the reader, how important it is to seek the Lord in your life now. Do Not Delay! Everyday that we do not heed the call is time lost. The kingdom of God is not some pie in the sky promise; it begins in the here and now when we receive His Holy Spirit within us. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. My sister, Phyllis, lost her first husband in an automobile accident when he was only about forty- five. Thank the Lord, Mike did know Jesus as his Savior, and we will see him in heaven with the Lord one day. The Lord does not wish that any should perish, but that all would be saved through faith in His Son Jesus. As long as we have breath, we have the choice to receive Him or reject Him. If we continue to be rebellious and reject Him, our hearts become more and more hardened towards Him just like the Egyptian Pharaoh did when Moses asked him to set his people free. We all know what happened to that man.

Some years later, Rick’s Mom would make the accusation that it was my fault, and my family’s, that he had become this “warped” person. She of course meant that to be a detrimental comment. We only laughed and chose to receive it as a great complement. We do thank the Lord for my family and all that each of them have meant to our growth in the Lord. I know that each of them have uplifted us in prayer throughout our lives. “The effectual prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” By prayer and example, each one of them has done their part in service to the Lord to help us grow. Rick and I have always spent our vacations traveling from one family member to another. Each time we came home feeling as if we had been large pitchers that were being filled more and more as we went from one loved
one to the next. It really makes this verse come alive for us. “Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?” These experiences only further exemplified what it means to “be being filled daily with the Holy Spirit.”

When Rick and I were married we thought it impossible to be able to love one another more than we did then. Now, forty-three years later, we realize that our love for one another has grown stronger and deeper than we ever could have imagined. Because God first loved us, we have also grown in our love toward Him. He surprises us daily with all that He does in our lives. We would not want to even imagine what life would be without Him. Life is a bumpy road. But the fear (reverential respect and awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and without Him there is no right thinking. Without the Lord, all would be in vain. Upon one occasion, I was feeling guilty for saying that I loved God more than my husband. I knew in my heart that it was the way I was supposed to feel. But at the same time, it made me feel like I was being unfaithful to my husband in a way. But then I realized that it is my love for God that enables me to love my husband far more than I ever could without putting the Lord first in my heart and life. Thank you Lord for promising never to leave us or forsake us. Thank you for showing me daily the true meaning of “for me to live is Christ, but for me to die is but gain.” Help me Lord to die more and more to myself that you may live within me more abundantly. Thank you for blessing my life. May I be a blessing unto you, and forever give you all the glory and honor. You alone are worthy to be praised. “Now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1) Thank you for the gift of faith in my life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Virginia Fason Annilee Rahn

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