Thursday, October 15, 2009

SWEET SHOP



"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us."


Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Pressing my nose against the glass, I glared at the plenty. Their presence was within arm's reach, yet untouchable through the clear, clean shield. Chocolates, pastries, cakes, candies, pies, rolls. All looked divinely created. The scent, undaunted by the glass case, seemed from heaven. The dream of taking home such sweets surged through my eight year old imagination. Jubilation!

As I peered through the glass, my heart pounded for the passing pleasure of a chocolate eclair. My favorite. And my father's. Thankfully. So, anytime a shopping trip to Rich's department store in Atlanta was deemed by my mother as a definite Saturday diversion, I knew my father would, just before leaving, stop by the store bakery and reward us for our patience and fortitude.

I loved inhaling that distinct scent that wafted through the white bakery box. I could not wait to get home, where Daddy and I would sit and enjoy our eclairs together. The taste of the chocolate icing and the flaky, fresh crust is now lodged in my temporal lobe. It seems unforgettable. Which explains my undeniable weakness for pastries, which I must presently curb, when possible.

We all have those special sweet shop memories. The delights of dining, feasting, on our favorite confection. Their tacky presence in our brains brings us blessing when we ponder their unique flavor and unforgettable smell.

We are designed, wired, by our Creator, to remember. To not forget. To absorb our experiences. To take in our perceptions. To have them unite and form in our fleshly tabernacles attitude and purpose.

Attitude of self. Of life. Of others. Of God.

Purpose. Of being. Of belonging. Of reason.

Attitude and purpose. Joined together. Come from a lifetime of moments.

Here it is that our personal "what if's" begin. What if our memories, unlike those from the Rich's bakery, are not so sweet? What if our memories are full of pain, sorrow, suffering, confusion, hurt, abuse? What if our memories hold armfuls of choice words that still echo, making us cringe, condemned, holding us prisoner in a cataclysmic state? What if our memories are our own private world of pain?

In Biblical history, one suffered such a private world. His life was an epitome of Jewish zeal and perfection. A Pharisee of Pharisees. A leader of leaders. A man setting the example for God's chosen people.

Until, . . . that bright and shining moment shocked suddenly, and his world was struck down. And destroyed. Completely vanished. Everything. Except the memories.

The Apostle Paul was never the same after his trip on the Damascus Road. He had seen Jesus. Heard Him. Believed Him. Knew the Lord's forgiveness.

And the greatest persecutor of the church of the living God was never the same again. Saul turned. Walked away. Became Paul. And our world has never been the same again.

What great doctrine, what inspired words of the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul, as he penned most of the books of the New Testament.

Yet, in Paul's still moments, agony collided with joy. Memories clung. Past sin collided with present grace. The sights and sounds of stonings, tortures, floggings of the innocent remained. Echoed. Resounded. Stood.

And were it not for Paul's great walk with God, the Apostle could have crumbled under the stress of his past.

But, . . .

God had not only saved Paul's life from sin and chaos, but also, Christ had brought healing to his harrowed mind. And though Satan longed to hold Paul in condemnation and suppress his new voice, a voice that proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul, through grace, found victory. Vicious memories the enemy meant for death, God used for life.

In Romans 8:1-2 Paul wrote, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." Paul knew the sanctifying power of salvation. Utter cleansing. Total healing. Real life.

And though the struggle and power of distressing memories were troubling, the power of Christ stood greater against their chained voices, giving Paul the liberty to proclaim, "Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us" (Philippians 3:13-14).

Sour became sweet. Grief turned peace. For Paul. For us. For we, too, deal with anguish. With the not-so-nice thoughts of our pasts. Whether we have a few unpleasant experiences, or whether our lives were, or perhaps are, full of chaos and abuse, God is able, my dear friends, to heal. The Prince of Peace can reach your heart today, right where you are, and give you joy despite the many sorrows you carry.

I have carried sorrows. My own dear father, with whom I shared eclairs, who taught me to tie my shoes, who took me to church, whose arms made me safe, whose love I knew, passed away when I was twelve. My loss sent me into a spiral of confusion and pain.

Dear friends, I am nothing but a product of God's grace. Of Christ's life-giving, nail-scarred hand that reaches down to the deepest grief and need and pulls the undeserving out of a vicious pit. How thankful I am to know Jesus! I can write not because of personal resilience. No, I write because of the work of Christ in my life!


And if today you are carrying sorrow, aching memories; if now your soul is troubled by past sin, old grief, recurring regrets, know this: God does not respect one person above another. What He has done for me and so many others, He will most surely do for you. The grace God gave to the Apostle Paul can also be yours. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).


Turn your eyes to Christ. Give your whole self to Him. Let God be the God of your past, present, and future. You, my dear friend, will never be the same again.



27 comments:

  1. Amen! I, too am merely a product of HIS grace! I stand amazed!
    Blessings and prayers, andrea

    PS: I have a prayer request on arise 2 write for my brother in law, David.

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  2. Hi: Thank you for visiting my blog. I also want to thank you for the great Bible study you just gave. It is wonderful to be reminded of God's grace. Blessings to you, Martha

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  3. Praise God for His grace! I too am certainly a product of His grace and I thank Him for it every day.
    And praise God for Paul! Oh how we need more like him today in our society.

    Blessings to you, Andrea!

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  4. Great post.You are truly Blessed. Thanks for your visit to my blog . come back anytime.

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  5. And all God's people said Amen! What a beautifully written post. You have an inspiring page here and I hope to stop back and get to know you a little when time permits.

    Kat

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  6. Beautiful message of grace, Andrea...my heart is full once again after reading your words given to you by the Master...

    Rich's bake shop...coconut cake...we always bought one when we visited our grandparents in Atlanta...never have eaten one as good as I remember those to be...thanks for the memory....

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  7. Hello Andrea,
    What a delight to have you stop by my blog today. I am so glad you did and left your lovely comments. Thank you for your beautiful teaching post today. You have a wonderful Christ-centered blog and it has been a joy to visit with you. I am glad to have 'met' a sister in the Lord!

    Blessings,
    Sandi

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  8. Praise God...
    I am always lifted by your
    beautiful words!! Bless you =)

    Love~ Jen

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  9. Hi Andrea, I am the daughter of a Parson's Wife. My mum, the parson's wife, would adore your blog. It is very beautiful. cheers Katherine

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  10. Hi Andrea!
    My husband and I were talking about God's choice of people to use and I wondered why He chose Paul. Could it have been because Jesus was so sad and grieved over the Pharisees and their power hungry, greedy hearts? Moses was so ordinary and humble. David just a child. Paul so aggressive - different. When Jesus walked the earth, did He find pride so sad and yet still wanting all to come, choose such an active opponent of the Gospel who obviously took pride in all the wrong things? I noticed that Jesus stayed away from all the shallow, small thinking image-conscious hubs, found alternative type friends in the twelve, and spoke deep into souls using earthy parables . . . hmmmmmm.

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  11. What a beautiful post... your heart is truly stunning...

    Thank you for visiting my blog and your sweet words!

    It's great to meet you!

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  12. This was a very nice and timely article!
    I enjoyed it....haven't been here in a while due to a "wedding" but that's over and now I can get on with life as usual. HA!
    Be blessed, Joyce

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  13. I harbor many sweet and sour memories; God's grace has abundantly salved the latter, but every now and again, I have moments of regret;lingering lament that sweeps over me and forces the issue of my "faith" in God's Word... the Romans 8 version which buries my condemnation in order to receive my inheritance as a daughter of God.

    I'm so thankful for an earthly father and mother who went to great lengths to show me love as a child. It has greatly helped me reconcile my sin with God's loving embrace.

    Thanks for this.

    Hope you have a great week. I hope to be back at the pen soon.

    peace~elaine

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  14. Dear Andrea,

    What a pleasant surprise to have a visit from you today~your blog is so beautiful and peaceful; what a godly treasure! I loved the memories you shared, and the lessons you have learned.

    May you be blessed today.

    Love,

    Marqueta

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  15. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. YOU, my dear, have a magnificent blog. I feel privileged to have found it. I will be stopping by frequently. God Bless and have a good week ahead.

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  16. Beautiful Andrea. God can take the most painful memories of our lives and have us view them through His eyes, showing us how they led us straight into His arms. Oh how sweet the path seems when it leads to Jesus. Love, Jennifer

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  17. How wonderful is the good news of our Lord!!! What a blessing this post is to me and to all who read it. We are washed clean from sin and past burdens through His sacrifice! Praise the Lord!!!

    Blessings,

    Kim

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  18. I can tell this came from a special reservoir in your heart. Thank you for the reminder; the summons to see everything in terms of God working it altogether for our good.

    I have come to value the ALL of my life experience. Truly some of the most difficult stretches have become to me treasured gateways to God's nurture.

    Hugs,
    Kathleen

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  19. Hi Andrea,

    I saw your comments on a few blogs, and decided to come on over here and check you out. I see Jesus is here, so I climbed on board.

    I LOVE chocolate eclairs! And I love how you intertwined your memories into a Bible lesson. You are surely gifted of the Lord!

    You are invited to join me at:

    www.heavenlyhumor.blogspot.com

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  20. Oh what a delicious blog...a feast for eyes and soul! I too remember the "distinct scent that wafted through the white bakery box" You took me right back to a happy memory.

    But you also brought it all around to good biblical truth. I was really blessed by my visit to your corner of the blogosphere

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  21. God's grace is so wonderful; can't imagine my life without His grace. Pastry shoppes are my thing, girl!

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  22. What is truly great about God is that He offers Paul's walk to all of us. It is somewhat frightening to accept that offer, but when/if we do, oh, what a walk it is!

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  23. It is a rare occasion indeed to happen upon a site that causes immediate calm and reflection and I found both here with you. What a comfort to not only read your beautiful, Heavenly-inspired words but to also look around at all of the beautiful pictures and sayings to get more of a feel for 'who' you are. I look forward to visiting you often! Blessings to you and yours, my friend.
    Rebekah Castleberry

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  24. Andrea, Thank you for leaving a comment on my humble little blog and i hope you will visit me again sometime. Your blog is very impressive and spirit filled. I hope you do not mind another follower.:-)

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  25. Dear Andrea,
    I'm praying all works out for Thanksgiving with your son being off.
    So good to hear from you.
    God bless,
    d

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  26. What a blessing to start off with first thing this morning. Thank you so much for the uplifting words.. Thank you for visiting my blog and giving your thoughts on my tray. Have a great day..

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  27. Incredible... God never ceases to amaze me. He is always in the little things; always reminding us how much He cares about us, down to the smallest detail!

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been going through some battles of my own in my mind and heart. I've been down in the dumps, if you will. So I am glad I stopped by. (I haven't been visiting my "blog" friends too much lately : (

    It's amazing how the enemy has been attacking me with condemnation and making me feel as if I was all alone. Yet that still small voice has been telling me to cling to God's word and nothing more. When all else screams out for my attention or to distract me such as my doubts, fears, insecurities and all sorts of lies, I (we) can stand firmly and securely on God's Word and find assurance, love and peace.

    May we find our shelter in the shadow of His wings.

    Blessings to you, dear one.

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Thank you for visiting. I cherish your thoughts. You are special to me, but most of all, you are special to God, who loves you with everlasting love. May your life be swept into His joy and peace.

In the Wonderful Love of Christ our Savior,

Andrea