Monday, September 14, 2009

The Definition of Me (Part 9/10)

Twenty miles out in the hills of rural Louisiana stands a small white church. It’s been standing there for well over 100 years now ... a small white church with a tiny graveyard surrounding it. Chances are quite good that you’d never just happen upon it for it stands just off a dirt road with nothing else nearby for miles and miles. Yet this small white church is near and dear to my heart.

Spring Ridge Baptist Church was built in 1892, and in 1893 the church records indicate that there were 93 members. In those long ago days, church members would travel many miles by horse-drawn buggy or wagon to services. We are told that these services began on Saturday evening, and that it was concluded with a noon-time meal on Sunday. The congregation always departed by singing the old hymn “God Be With Us ‘Til We Meet Again.” It’s said that at the start of this hymn, the horses would begin to neigh for they knew it was time to head home once again.

The congregation disbanded over 60 years ago, after most people had left the hills and moved into towns. But to this day, the descendants of those original church members gather to pay homage to those who walked in the faith before us and left us a legacy of faith in Christ. The first Sunday of every May is Spring Ridge Sunday, and we gather to worship our loving Heavenly Father, as well as to remember and honor those who came before and left behind a legacy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, the congregation is so large that it fills the church to over-flowing, the wooden benches crowded with young and old. Some stand in the doorways or sit on the steps at the entrances, while others gather around the windows to listen in and be a part of the worship experience.

Perhaps my favorite part of Spring Ridge Sundays are when we take roll. The names of the founding church members are read. In response, those in the congregation that morning who descend from those names rise to their feet. In the Old Testament there is reference to the Israelites standing together by clans to be accounted for, so I think it is extremely neat that this is a part of our worship experience on Spring Ridge Sunday.

The list starts out ...

Kate Allbritton and Gus Zeagler
Mary Allbritton and Butler Lutrick
Henry Allbritton and Launa Dunlap
Ben Allbritton and Minnie Myers

A few rise to there feet here and there ...

The roll call continues ...

Nola Allbritton and Bergie Beasley
Tom Allbritton and Nettie Tidwell

And finally ... Minnie Bell Allbritton and Jim McGuffee.

It is then that I rise to my feet, for this is the pair of names for which I’ve been carefully listening. I don’t stand alone, as at least half of the packed one room church is standing up as well. We stand shoulder to shoulder, a testament to the lives of Jim and Minnie Bell McGuffee. The list of names continues to be read after that, but by far the largest number of descendants in attendance comes from this particular family line.

Why is it that Jim and Minnie Bell have so many descendants gathering on Spring Ridge Sundays? Perhaps they just had a lot of children, who in turn parented many children ... a logical answer. Maybe their descendants haven't scattered quite as far from the old homeplace ... another likely reason. However, I like to think it is more due to their legacy.

Jim and Minnie Bell were my great-great-grandparents. They were married in 1892. They had 7 children. My great-grandmother, Rita Mae McGuffee, was their 6th child. My children are the 6th generation to descend from this long-ago generation of believers. How wonderful it is that I can truly claim this scripture: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations! Psalm 90:1”

Jim and Minnie Bell left a legacy of faith in God. I never knew them, but I loved their daughter and spent many an hour with her during my childhood. Ma told me often about her parents, and how they raised her to love the Lord. I used to go and spend nights with Mat when my grandparents were out of town. When I was younger she would read the Bible to me, but later on as I grew older and her eyes grew weaker I read the Bible aloud to her. Sometimes I’d read for an hour or more. She loved to hear God’s word. Ma often prayed over me. I recall sitting next to her in church, my hand in her old, wrinkled one. Ma lived to be 91 years old. I was 21 years old when she went on to live in her eternal home, and never once did I know her to waiver in her faith in God.

My grandfather was her only child. I’ve never known a man who loved God and family quite like my Papaw. He gathers his family, which now numbers 50 and is still growing, in his home. As we eat, he often turns the topics of conversation to something regarding God and the Bible.

And then there is my father ... a faithful son, husband and dad. He’s gentle, kind and good. My father is a peace-maker and works hard to keep everyone at peace with each other. His life exhibits the fruits of the spirit in a way I don’t often see in other men. I’

Each generation has been faithful to love God and live their life in such a way that other’s notice the difference. My family is full of people who are living a victorious life in Christ, and are leaving a legacy of true faith and fellowship with Christ. This does not save me, but it rather gives me such a precious picture and guide for my own walk of faith. It has made it easier for me to see God for who He is and to come to Him on my own.

I know that I’m bless to have received the legacy and heritage of faith in Christ. I’ve had several conversations lately, with friends who either didn’t grow up with family who trusted in God or didn’t have a deep relationship with the Heavenly Father. It has opened my eyes to what a sweet gift this is .... this blessing of having grown up in a home in which the Lord was honored and revered. I’m familiar with His ways. I know the stories of faith. I was taught the importance of living out what I say I believe.

You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. Psalm 61:5

Part of my personal definition includes this heritage with which I’ve been blessed. A very large part of who I am comes directly from my upbringing and my childhood and from the incredible people who have helped to shape me into the woman I am today. So the ninth truth in my life is that I have been given a heritage of faith in Christ that has shaped my own relationship with my Savior, and that legacy inspires me to live my life in such a way that I’ll leave behind a legacy of faithfulness to God as well.

I want to leave a legacy How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering A child of mercy and grace whoblessed your name unapologetically And leave that kind of legacy
~chorus "Legacy" by Nicole Nordeman

I won’t bend and I won’t break
I won’t water down my faith
I won’t compromise in a world of desperation
What has been I cannot change
But for tomorrow and today
I must be a light for future generations
~ chorus "For Future Generations" by 4-Him

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