Luther SmithI had come from a childhood of attending church. I grew up in a pentecostal church starting at age 5 until I was 18 years. I spent my childhood growing up in the little white church with the steeple. In the last year, our pastor had taken another church in another town and left ours. We had a couple of fill-in preachers come in and finally a permanent. After a couple of months he realized that the travel time and the effort wasn’t worth it. I arrived to church to see several members staring at the front door with a sign that read “No Church – Pastor”. I found in the days to come that was the end of our church. A local pastor from the next town called and invited us to his church, with an explanation of what was going to happen….a closed church with assets sold to pay off any outstanding debt.

Given my background and the grudge I held against church, I didn’t see myself diving in to a church anytime soon. But, then the service started. Our lives have been full of drama and issues. While Wendy and I were very much in love, our kids had put a strain on us like no other. We have had our share of issues to say the least. We were stressed and at our wits end with life. While in the service, we were really moved by the message and during the alter call I saw that Wendy was tearing up and she felt something unlike anything she had felt before. I thought it was just me. Wendy was saved that day. I rededicated my life to the Lord as well. I was about 14 when I was saved and the closing of the church left a bitterness in me that I would carry for 20 years until that morning. I wasn’t jumping in whole hog though….they weren’t going to get me again I thought. I can serve God without a church necessarily…again…so I thought. I basically had no choice but to fall in whole heartedly. It is very seldom that you meet a bunch a people who just care about you and are so willing to open up about their own messed up and broken lives ….I knew I was somewhere special. I was somewhere where God was truly in charge and directing the scene. But….I still had the nagging abandonment feeling from 20 years ago I couldn’t seem to lose.

We attended a birthday celebration for Corene Kellough at Pastor John’s house and that night was the first time anyone had asked me about where I came from spiritually. I didn’t have a clue what that sign on that little white church had done to me until he asked. I kept saying it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t care…but I did. As I spoke with Pastor John about baptism and where I came from the more I spoke, the more I heard myself trying to deny that it hadn’t affected me but it had…deeply. I had resentment and I had 20 years of running from what God wanted for me as a result. I am not blaming my spiritual lacking from age 19-39 on anyone but me but I can look back and see a fork in the road. It took a toll of failed marriages, the unwillingness to work through and suffer through the hard times, and the unwillingness to allow God to be a part of what was going on with me. And I can see where I look back on my own personal road and see where I went off track.

But! Our God is a forgiving and merciful God. He allowed me to see his mercy and grace through the diligence of His church at Mill Road. I am a mistake prone, and by far not a perfect person. I have sinned, I ask forgiveness everyday. The difference is, now when I sin, I have the Holy Spirit coming to me and making me realize what I have done. I didn’t have that understanding as a teenager…If I sinned, and I messed things up, I just threw my hands up and thought of myself as a failure. I have come to realize that I can make mistakes, but when I make a mistake…rather than just go ahead and make more, I have the opportunity to have a “sit down” with Jesus and ask his forgiveness.

I was baptized on December 23, 2012. I never saw the significance of being baptized before then. But it felt like I was joining a fraternity…I was already in the arms of Jesus but it was an act of obedience and my willingness to serve and the next step in my walk with him. Also in December we joined the church as a couple – which to me was monumental given where I was 6 months ago.

I have just found it to be incredibly amazing what can be done in such a short time. I went from someone who wanted nothing to do with a church in September and found myself being submersed in baptism by the year’s end.

But the most impressive actions have not been by me, my wife , the pastor, or the church. Looking back now and seeing what God has done in our children’s lives as well has been awe inspiring. He has taken broken relationships, drugs, altercations, fights, and discord out of our life in the immediate family. It has been amazing to see God work in our lives and get us to this place. It makes me excited about the future and what else He is going to do. To hear my 8 year old son, Alex, singing “The Proof of your Love” in the back seat of my truck made it worth it all. He calls that “his” song…”Who am I?” is Dad’s song…and “Shout to the Lord” is Wendy’s song in his eyes…I love the fact the he is listening and seeing a better example of what life should be like…a life with God at the center. Music has always been a passion of mine…I was in choir from 6th grade into high school, and I began teaching myself Guitar back in the year 2000. But, it always seemed Alex and I were at a disconnect when it came to music…it is amazing to see what God can do with our talents and the talents of people around us…2014 should be an awesome year…but it will be hard to beat 2012-13…

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