Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Carousel Painter

When I was a young girl, I had a nascent faith in God, but it failed to grow because I had a fear of eternity. I was terrified at the idea of living forever, which I know is counter to most kids and teens mindset. The book of Revelation is probably the most popular biblical book among teens who flirt with faith, because of the wild imagery of dragons and apocalypse. For me, it flamed my fears as I read about the number of the beast being marked on the Anti-Christ's followers. I knew deep within my heart that I wouldn't be called up in the rapture (yes, I'm a pretribulationist) so I would have to suffer the tribulation, and I didn't think I would have the strength to withstand all of the fiery trials. And the promise of an eternal life of peace and happiness struck a chord of fear deep within me that I couldn't put into words.

I'm sure part of it came from the stereotypical ideas of heaven I had then: white robes, harps, and singing God's praises all day every day 24/7 forEVER. I think those outdated visions turn a lot of teens away from the idea of eternal life. For your average fifteen year old that sounds like the most boring afterlife ever.

But that's not what really frightened me about living forever, and I can't downplay this fear. I remember talking to my dad about eternity once in my junior high years and nearly having a panic attack. The fear was deep enough to keep me from turning my life over to God until I was 30 years old. It's been over six years since I first embraced the idea of a wonderful eternity, but it was just recently that I figured out just why the idea of living forever scared me so much. I didn't like myself. Yes, I know that sounds all touchy-feely, but it's the truth. I disliked myself so much that the idea of living for eternity as me, Christy, horrified me. I didn't want to be me forever! All of my prayers as a child and teen revolved around one core plea: change me; make me into someone new. I prayed many nights telling Jesus that I would turn my entire life over to Him if He would just change me. The next morning I would awaken and do a mental check to see if I had changed, become a better, more loving, more obedient, nicer person, and when I hadn't, I decided that even Jesus didn't want me. The Bible does promise that when a person believes they become "born again," "a new creature," etc, and that was my most desperate prayer, but I expected overnight results without any work or effort on my part.

When Jesus did claim me as His own, I was in the middle of reading the Bible, specifically His prophetic words in Luke about the destruction of the Temple. I wasn't praying for Him to change me, but when I felt His presence, I turned control of my life over to Him, and over the course of these six years, I have been changed. I still don't know that I'm someone that I'd want to spend eternity with, but now I'm trusting that God will continue working me, molding me, shaping me until I become the person He created me to be.

Today there is no more fear in my heart over eternity. I cannot wait until Jesus arrives to take me home with Him and see the mansion He has prepared for me. One of my favorite verses in the Bible now, and one that carries me fully on terrible pain days like today, is Revelation 21:4 - He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. This is now my greatest source of comfort and the balm for all of my fears.

So if the idea of eternity or heaven bores you, read Heaven by Randy Alcorn or Heaven and the Afterlife by James Garlow. Either of these books will completely revolutionize your perception of the afterlife and make you thirst for it. But if the idea of eternity frightens you as it did me, you don't have to be afraid. Release your fears and trust the Lord to answer your prayers. While He didn't answer mine overnight as I wanted (demanded), He has answered! Cling to 2 Corinthians 5:17 - This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Make it your new prayer!

The Carousel Painter
by Judith Miller is a delightful historical romance. Carrie Brouwer has returned home to America after her father's death in France. The two of them had lived in Paris, both practicing their beloved art of painting while he taught student painters to make ends meet. She moves in with her friend Augusta Galloway, but quickly discovers that she is not a welcome guest but a unwelcome pest, so she takes a job painting horses at Augusta's father's carousel factory. There she meets taciturn foreman Josef Kraestner who makes sure that she knows she's not welcome at the factory either, as do the other workers who resent a woman taking a man's job. Throw in an accusation that she stole a valuable necklace from the Galloway home, and Carrie has plenty to keep her busy! Miller writes with a light touch, keeping scenes realistic and the growing romance between Carrie and Josef a joy to read. The main character's growth through faith is carefully written and without pretense or cliche. Carrie and Josef have plenty of chemistry and are the rare couple who I would enjoy reading more about even after their happily ever after.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book!

You still have time to sign up for the chance to win a copy of Tracey Bateman's Thirsty. Just leave a comment here or drop me an email before 10 pm on Thursday, Nov. 20th.


Marjorie said...

November 21st is my birthday and I
would love to receive this book
as a birthday gift.
I follow on google reader.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com