Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy! Psalm 33:3
My walk with Christ by Arleta Pech
Growing up in Bonnie, Illinois early 1950’s my first memory was the tiny white steepled neighborhood church, at the end of our block. Sunday school, bible school. Learning about Jesus. In those years the style of preachers were hell and damnation at the top of their voices. Terrifying as a shy sensitive little girl, who’s only playmate was my imagination.
The revival meeting was held each summer at the Bonnie campground, many attendees had tiny little cabins that surrounded the revival tent. For a full week, preacher after preacher each evening would test the volume of their voices.
It was hard to sit in those meetings, so many of the town school kids would play hide and seek around the campground with the only lights coming from the revival tent. You’ve not played hide and seek in the dark, with hell and damnation blasting through loud speakers, knowing that the devil was behind every tree.
Life was full of farm animals, kittens, fireflies, swings in trees, an bull frogs plopping along the garden path. A sound I can still remember. My closest cousins lived on farms, a great place to grow up.
Then my father took a job with Coors and we moved to Golden, Colorado.
My Aunt and Uncle invited us to attended Fruitdale Baptist church, in Wheartidge, Co. Sunday school began again in a much bigger church, and we memorized verses and would recite them. I remember only a little of these services, the pastor was a bit quieter in his sermons, I was headed into my teenage years and still hadn’t accepted the Lord, shyness kept me glued to the pew.
My father and mother stopped attending church, I’m not sure why. They bought a camper and every weekend we would camp. I spent time walking the campground trails, lost in the beauty of the plants and trees. I graduated high school and worked as an assistant commercial artist. Training on the job, Part of my limited church experience stayed with me through my young adult years, My prayers to God when I was scared, or worried. And always in my prayers was “your will be done”.
I met my husband Bruce in 1969, we were married in 1970. As I write this we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It was also when I accepted Christ as my savior. The pastor of Fruitdale Baptist church wouldn’t marry us in the church unless we accepted Christ. Bruce and I accepted Christ in the pastors office that very day..
The next years were full of marriage, jobs, buying our first home in Edgewater, and having two boys, Timothy, and Kevin. Bruce had no interest in church, I was exploring the art world selling paintings in galleries, it was a time I let my faith drift, as we camped with my parents and raised our boys. But the lessons in church drifted into my instruction to my boys, do unto others, be kind, love your fellow man. Both boys are good men who treat others with love and respect. I sent them to Sunday school, but since faith wasn’t spoken at home, neither boys are church goers.
The art years I was chasing acceptance from art groups, galleries and shows. As my career went to an international level, I realized that there was something missing in my life. Especially as I taught artists my techniques they would ask how I became so talented. My reply was “ it was a gift from God”, and lots of practice.
There were very hard years raising a family traveling to teach, deadlines, exhausting. And I found the acceptance that I thought would make me happy in the art world wasn't it, I had nothing to complain about. So what was missing?
In one long appearance gallery tour in the early 90s, going from one state to another. Plane ride after plane ride. After a gallery show in Virginia, I boarded a plane for Cleveland, and was asked if I wanted to sit in first class. Really? Perhaps it was the flowers I wore from the last gallery opening. All was fine until we went to land, the pilot gunned the plane and we started to swing way out over the lake. The pilot was dumping fuel. They came on and told us we were going to make an emergency landing. We had a long time to think about death, with stewardess asking us to take off glasses, jewelry, stow anything loose. Handing out pillows with instructions that when the time came we should grab our knees and keep our heads down.
I could hear people crying, scared. Me? A calm descended on my heart, I knew in that moment that the Lord was with me. I started to pray “ Dear Lord, take care of my boys, Bruce, and my mother, and father. I thanked him for all the blessings in my life. And I added that if it was his will I would really like to spend more time with my family. Amen.
During this time The airport had lined up emergency equipment along the runway. We made it, but it was pretty rough landing. So once I was inside the airport I found a wall to hold me up, since I was meeting people from my publisher Mill Pond Press, to drive me to my next gallery appearance. The gallery owner joking said, “if you had died we would have sold everything!” That evening I got on my knees and thanked the Lord.
You would think that this would send me searching for a church to attend once I got home, but family concerns became critical when my dad died, and my mother wasn’t prepared to make any arrangements that December to have my dad's body flown to Illinois.
Then my mother’s health began to slip, so I moved her into my home. I was still traveling but as my mothers health in her last years I gave up traveling, and teaching painting in other states and gallery appearances. I watched my mom read her morning and evening bible verses. She passed in my home in 2011. As I revisited southern Illinois where I grew up, after my mothers funeral, the memories of those early church years played with my heart.
I realized that I was very unhappy with chasing acceptance in the art world.
In 2016 I was driving to a doctors appointment in heavy Denver Traffic, and a word entered my mind “MOVE” I believe it was the Lord wanting me to move. Bruce’s family had moved to the Western Slope of Colorado many years before, and when we visited them the urge to live there was very strong. So it seemed that was where we belonged, everything fell into place as a divine hand moved behind the events. Yes that is what I believe.
I told Bruce when we got settled I’m going to find and start going to church again. The family was surprised since I had not expressed my experiences about Church with them.
Satan loves to put stumbling blocks in your path, my nerves kicked in, what if the preachers in the area are yelling at their congregations. It took courage to get up and walk into a church again. It was the open friendly response of the choir director Roger stopping practice to welcome me. Ok, take a breath, the sermon by Dennis Scroggins, was heartfelt, informative straight from the Bible. I had found my church family.
I finally stepped up in front of the congregation to show my acceptance for my Lord and Savior. I was baptized on Easter Sunday..
It's now been several years in church, singing with the choir, playing the organ. Helping with the kids Sunday school, and art projects. I’m happy all the way down to my toes, I rejoice every day that the Lord is my Savior,
I found out what was missing in my life. God first, art second!