May 20, 2015
This Week’s Storyteller is…
Barry Shields, First Ocala
Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me and be my disciple.” Matthew’s friends were “disreputable sinners,” yet Jesus went home with him, and when questioned by the Pharisees, Jesus responded, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Maybe I am a bit like Matthew. I was born into a family with many problems—the greatest being that we did not know Jesus. My parents did the best they could, but they were limited by their lack of knowledge of a loving God who has forgiveness and healing. I experienced isolation, loneliness, and hopelessness at a young age. At five, my mother attempted suicide. At eight, my parents divorced, and at 10 my new stepfather committed suicide. I was shuttled back and forth between parents who lacked answers to life’s greatest questions: “Why are we here?” and “What is my purpose?”
We bounced from one dysfunction to another, and I developed my own answers: withdrawal, isolation and dysfunctional life skills. As I grew older, with little or no relief for my pain and loneliness, I turned to illegal means to get what I wanted and to the numbing effects of drugs.
From youth forward, I escalated into more and more defeat, acting out inappropriate behaviors, blinded to hope. As you can imagine, I ended up with a prison sentence, and still returned to the same dysfunction.
While I strayed farther, God was with me. Looking back, I wonder why. But looking forward, I know it is His great love. At the right place, at the right time, in front of a church, I saw someone and reached out to her. She introduced me to a Godly man, and he introduced me to Jesus. Thus began a journey, a new journey. Not a destination where all was perfect, but a new journey where hope peeks through for something better, even as old life skills linger.
New knowledge came my way through Psalm 103; then through a Twelve Step Program. Three steps forward, one step back, but I ended up in Ocala and was invited into First Church. Experiencing acceptance and love, my journey with Christ continued. More reading the Bible, listening to teachings and sermons, care from others who selflessly gave, and the setbacks lessened.
Today I cherish new life skills found in the Bible and witnessed in others’ lives. I hunger to know God more and find pleasure in bringing hope and joy to others. I’m not perfect, and I know it; but I am forgiven, and I know it! I am loved by God, and most of the time I know it. I have a future with God, and I appreciate it. I am called to be a disciple, and I am proud of it!
Up Next Week…
Cheri Mangum, Community DeBary
She shares a story about turning everything over to God, unexpected blessings from a cab driver and intercessory prayer on the streets of Chicago.
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011