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Home Columns Lesli's This & That Life's Conversions

Life's Conversions

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Lesli NolenBy Lesli Nolen

Published February 2011

I can’t believe its February 2011. Seems like just yesterday we were having turkey and dressing and making our plans for the Christmas holiday season. Now, New Year’s resolutions have been made, Valentine’s Day is here and it’s again time for the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Before you know it, the trees will be filled with green leaves, flowers will be blooming and summer vacations will be in full swing. It’s amazing how we transition from one thing to another; season to season, month to month and day to day.

We begin our journey in life as babies. And before you know it we’re walking, talking and feeling invincible. The school years begin and during the elementary years we discover the world isn’t so nice. It’s a difficult time of trying to figure out who we are and what we want to be. We then blossom into a world of chaos. We’re teenagers and think we know it all. These are the years we drift off into outer space, when our parents want to lock us in our rooms and we can’t wait to leave home. But something happens in our 20s and we return to planet Earth, we appreciate our parents (they weren’t so dumb after all) and we wish we could be a kid again.

Like a book we end one chapter to begin another. We leave one stage in our life, only to begin a new one. Just like when we become a Christian. Our old self dies and we begin anew. My favorite biblical conversion is of Saul to Apostle Paul.

Paul was the great apostle. He founded numerous churches and wrote the highly spirited book of Acts along with much of the New Testament. But initially, Paul was a cold blooded murderer.

Saul was a man who hated Jesus. He was by his own description, “the chief of all sinners.” The first time we hear of Saul in the Bible, he is both brutal and bloody. Charles Swindoll, author of “The Man of Grace and Grit, Paul,” describes the scene as, “If an artist were to render it with brush and oils, not one of us would want it hung framed in our living room. The man looks more like a terrorist than a devout follower of Judaism.”

“The Conversion of Saul,” a fresco painting attributed to the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo  Buonarroti  (c. 1542–1545), depicts Saul’s turnaround on the road to Damascus. The painting is housed in the Vatican in Rome. Saul’s first appearance in the Bible is when he and The Council or Sanhedrins are about to stone a man to death. They took this man named Stephen to the outskirts of the city where they began throwing large stones at him until he fell to his death. They murdered him because he was a man who stood up for Christ. Saul hated and despised the name Jesus. After the stoning of Stephen, Saul then went around destroying churches, going door to door imprisoning those who believed Jesus. Saul even received permission from the high priest to travel to Damascus and if he found anyone there who belonged to The Way, man or woman, he was granted permission to imprison them. But he had no idea what was about to happen.

It was on the road to Damascus where Saul had his first personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus. (Acts 9: 1- 19) And from that day his life was forever changed.

After Saul’s life changing encounter with Jesus, he began a new life. His new life began with a new name, Paul. He was later baptized and was filled with the Holy Spirit. It was Saul’s personal encounter with Jesus that led Paul to be the man he was supposes to be. He was lost, now he is found. He was blind, but now he sees.

One moment of one day changed Saul’s life forever. He thought he would always be the one imprisoning those who believed in Christ but God had a different plan for him.

If you asked me 20 years ago where I would be or what I want to be, I guarantee my answer would not have been: living in San Angelo, working for a marketing firm, married, with a 9-year-old-daughter and a 17-year-old stepdaughter. I was going to be somebody. I was going to be a therapist, living in a big city, unmarried and no children. I wanted what I thought was a life beyond the norm. Well, my life is beyond the norm. It all started the day I had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. Just like Saul on the road to Damascus, my life was forever changed that day. I guess God had a different plan for me too.

I am in the adult/parenting phase of my life where my stepdaughter is off visiting Mars and will return soon and my other daughter is finding out the world is not so nice. I don’t know what comes next for me, but I do know its all part of God’s master plan. And somewhere in that I hope He lets my kids know I wasn’t as dumb as they thought I was!

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