Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How a Survivor from a Train Wreck LIVES


  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (Crown & Covenant Publications)

A “journey” may describe a passage, expedition, flight, crossing or simply travel. Rosario Butterfield’s account of her passage from one way of life to another is an illumination of Colossians 1:13-14. The Message offers a fresher translation of the truth:

 13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

The description of her transfer from one kingdom to another –personally, spiritually and professionally is timely, reminding us that loving the lost is a better use of time than freaking out over times in which we live.    Hers is no different than any other rescue – although the back alleys through which all Christians wandered before His rescue may not seem as dimly lit as the one in which she languished, we are all headed in the same direction: away from God.

However, her relating her “conversion” to the Lord Jesus Christ to a “train-wreck” was novel – especially in light of the terrible news of a recent train crash in Paris France. People died, others severely injured and traumatized. (NYT article) In this slim volume, Rosaria deftly recounts how her character was transformed through comprehensive chaos. (Page 27)

Rosario also describes the aftermath of her personal train wreck –and she shares how she learned to worship God, and love Him and those around her.  Her discussion of right worship through psalm singing exclusively was one on which I have no comment.  What makes this book a worthwhile use of time is seeing not just God’s rescue, but how His provision and establishment of her life in His kingdom.  God took her out of the dark shadows of pride, manifested in sexual choices and helped her live as a new creature, enduring so far all the bumps, setbacks, heartaches and triumphs that life in the church can be.  

Had I met the author before she read Pastor Ken Smith’s response to her newspaper article commenting on Promise Keepers, I, too, would have described Rosaria Champagne Butterfield as an unlikely convert to faith in Christ  His response demonstrated the power of measured and kind words – something Christians have not always appropriated in the uncertain times in which we live.   

Ken Smith asked a question – How did you arrive at your interpretation? He opened a door, which invited Rosaria into a conversation. And he took an interest in her professional life, helping her – becoming as a “big brother, of sorts” – something no other Christian had done. (p. 15)

Asking good questions – rather than making good arguments – allow God to speak to the souls of those we love.  God taught her that homosexuality is but one manifestation of the pride that separates us from God – her heterosexual past was not more sanctified than her lesbianism. God showed her,
“. . . the integrity of our relationships matters more than the boldness of our words.” (p. 48) She recommended Psalm 15 as a pattern for living, esp. when shaken by others.

The church is a hospital for sick people, a pastor said. Based on some of Rosario’s experiences, some of us aren’t taking our meds.   Mercifully, the Great Physician never left her unattended – and to her credit and His, she kept seeking Him even when others in the church were unkind. 

One segment of her journey that she included in her book that I have reread is her lecture to incoming graduate students at Syracuse University, as a brand-new creature in Christ.  (pages 42-50) It helped me – hardly a grad student!

·      Real learning depends on our quest for real knowledge, not its perpetual deferment in the form of endless doubt.
·      Knowledge depends on the renewal of our minds.
·      Learn how to fall on your face and pick yourself up. Learn how to turn the train around.
·      Learn how to adjust your focus.
Old patterns were there,  waiting for her and knew her name; intentional Christian ministry was an antidote –but that too had side effects. Sometimes “church work” can blind and distract us, keeping us from the Holy Spirit’s work in us. (pages 50-52) And one question she was asked by a lesbian neighbor who watched Rosario, as a Christian, hurt, reverberated:

“I didn’t give a damn about who your God was to you in your happiness. But now that you are suffering, I want to know: who is your God? Where is he in your suffering?”

That's a question we all ask. 

God gave, and He took away – and Rosario declared it was for her good – the hard lesson she learned, one I need to master, is never confuse other people’s hopes and dreams as proof of God’s will. (Page 62)

Other aspects of her reported journey that were edifying were discussion of marriage, love and Married by God’s Design, by Pastor Doug Comin.  It never hurts to review basics – particularly since our world today is eager ignore God’s pursue in marriage and His principles for having healthy and pleasurable ones.  So, too her experiences as an adoptive mom, a foster mom, and a mom who is homeschooling her children as a pastor’s wife that Rosario describes, help me evaluate my attitudes. 

Rosario she includes sad reminders of children who fall through cracks in our foster care system – the simplicity of her experience with Jessica is a case in point:
Jessica was a child of God.
She spent time in our home.
She wanted to be adopted.
She never was.
She died alone. (page 128)

The best thing about this slender volume is that Rosaria Champagne Butterfield shared her secret thoughts and described what living through and beyond a conversion account looks like and how it feels. Her experience is a timely reminder that the fields are ripe for harvest – those with gentle words and steadfast love can expect a rich harvest.

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