#5 – Remembering the Story

It’s simple, really, to dig back into the past and remember what God has done for me. How He stepped down from the heavens and made Himself incredibly, breathtakingly real in my eyes. I should do this more often, for it never fails to fill me with wonder.

I don’t have a dark, ugly past that haunts me. I was born and raised in a Christian home by parents who have done a marvelous job in teaching me what unconditional love is, and more importantly, Who unconditional love is. But while I knew all sorts of things about Jesus, I never really knew Him. I knew the Sunday School answers like I knew the answers on my history tests. Although I had given my heart to Jesus when I was a small child, I didn’t fully grasp the idea of what a relationship with Him should look like.

Then, in God’s providence, I opened a book and read the words: “In a busy, noisy world, a little girl walks onto a dark stage and begins to perform.” As her story unfolded before my eyes, I found that it was my own. And when God showed up and invited that little girl to dance with Him, I found myself accepting the invitation.

In that moment, God became so real and alive and vibrant to me. Since that day, I’ve found myself captivated by the thrill of God’s Divine Dance. There’s such a joyous freedom in knowing that I don’t have to perform or pretend any longer. God accepts me just as I am. He loves me in spite of my flaws.

God has given me a story that is completely my own, but so closely resembles what He wants to do for every other person on the planet. If your story hasn’t yet been written, check out the invitation God offers you today. And if you know exactly what story I’m talking about, I invite you to once again lose yourself in the wonder of what God has done for you.

#4 – Back to the Basics

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I scoff at the basic truths of Christianity. Not that I don’t believe them, but it can seem that I’ve heard them a hundred million bazillion times. Sometimes when I hear the words, “Jesus loves you,” I just want to shout, “Okay, I get it already! Do you really have to remind me again and again?”

As a matter of fact, yes, I do need to be reminded. Because, while I know the truth in my head, sometimes I forget to let it sink into my heart. Sometimes I don’t really believe it. Sometimes I don’t let it reach into the depths of my soul and transform me from the inside out. Sometimes I move to the rhythm of faith completely out of habit rather than passion.

But think about it. Those three seemingly simple words carry a lot of weight. Jesus loves me. Me. The God who created the universe, set the stars in the sky, and keeps the world in motion truly cares about the tiniest details of my life. That’s huge. No other religion in the world boasts a God who loves His creation. No followers of other faiths can revel in that fact. And sadly, most Christians (myself included) don’t really revel in it either. We accept it as a basic truth, a simple rule. It’s as routine as “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’.” We don’t even consciously think about it anymore; we just write.

But the Bible isn’t meant to be a rulebook; it’s God’s love letter to His children. The words “Jesus loves you” aren’t merely lyrics to that first song you learned in Sunday school; they are a reality with the potential to turn your world upside down. It’s time to go back to the basics of Christianity and allow the marvelous truth of God’s love to break through our religious routine.

#3 – Confident Humility

“Those who are sure of themselves are humble.”

The words that my missionary friend shared with me seemed almost contradictory, and yet that statement was the most accurate explanation I’d ever heard of humility. Those who are sure of themselves are humble.

When we think of one who is sure of himself, we automatically think cocky, but a cocky person isn’t truly confident in his abilities. If he was, he wouldn’t find the need to perform.

Those who are sure of themselves are humble because they’ve no need to one-up another person. They find no purpose in exalting themselves over others. Insecurity is what rears its ugly head at the sign of competition, but those who are sure of themselves are humble.

I think most people have a skewed vision of humility. We’ve somehow gotten the idea that being humble is doubting our abilities, but it’s really quite the opposite. True humility is expressed when we are confident and secure in the way God has gifted us, knowing that we have no need to impress anyone.

Check out the following passage from John 13:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (vs. 3-5)

As my friend pointed out to me the other night, Jesus knew that He had all the power in the universe. This passage doesn’t say, “Even though Jesus knew, He did this.” It doesn’t even say “Jesus knew, but He still chose to wash the feet of His disciples.” No. It says, “Jesus knew…so.” He washed their feet because He knew that all power was His under God. So you see, those who are sure of themselves are humble.

God wants you to embrace the talents He has given to you. He wants you to be confident of your ability in Him. And He wants you to walk in the humility that only comes when you are secure in the person He created you to be.

Real.

This morning, I re-read a letter that was written to me when I graduated high school. Though I knew exactly what it said, I still smiled when I got to the final five words that have impacted my life so greatly.

The letter is from my old piano teacher. Old as in, I took lessons when I was only ten, but also old as in, she was in her mid-eighties when she started teaching me. I adored her. In fact, the only reason I kept up with piano for so long was because I wanted an excuse to see her.

So there I was, reading this letter that detailed her memories of what a joy it was to teach me (even though I must have been the most unskilled student she ever had). In the letter, she talks about her life and how much God has blessed her. It’s one of those letters you would expect to end with the words “God has been so good.” But it’s a different five words that flowed from Alberta’s pen.

Jesus has been so real.

I’ve let those words carry me through the times that Jesus felt distant. The times that I’ve found it difficult to see what God was doing. And I’ve let them sing to my spirit in the times that I stand in awe and wonder of the greatness of my God. And I hope that when I’ve lived ninety plus years, they’ll be the first words that come to mind when I think back over my life.

Jesus is real. Wonderfully, powerfully, inexplicably, you-wouldn’t-believe-it  real.

And I don’t know where Alberta is now – whether she’s a ninety-five-year-old woman bouncing around a nursing home or if she’s dancing with that very real God of hers – but I know that her words live on in my heart as I pray they’ll live in yours.

May you be reminded of just how real Jesus is today.

The Word

So, I may have a slight fascination with words. (That’s why I’m a writer.) I used to think that this fascination was the reason John 1:1 jumped out at me. But then I began to wonder… Perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps my fascination with the English language is a reflection of my fascination with the Eternal Word.

I dare you to read John 1 and not be moved by it. Go ahead and try to study it without having your mind blown. It moves from creation to salvation in a mere eighteen verses.

Jesus is the Word that spoke life into being. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word that came to rebuild and restore.

The Bible says that no one has ever seen God, and yet… the Word – who came and walked among us, lived our lives, breathed our air, dreamed our dreams, and died for the sins of us all – has made God known to us.

So during this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful that the Word became flesh and stepped into my story in order to tear the veil inside my heart and speak new life into my existence.

Tell Me a Story…

Tell me a story any day, and I’ll find Jesus in it. Guaranteed.

That’s why I think it’s funny that there are people who consider fiction a waste of time. Fact is all that speaks to them. Even Christian people. People who have read the entire story of the Bible. People who study the STORIES Jesus told.

I think Jesus told more stories than He preached sermons. Or maybe I just remember the stories. Because I’m not one of those people who wants the facts. I want the story. I want to find my own truth through the eyes of a character. There are certain things you could preach to me all day, and I’d turn a deaf ear. But with a story, you’re presenting the truth in a non-threatening way.

Think of King David. After his sin with Bathsheba, God sent Nathan, not to preach a sermon, but to tell a story. (You can check it out in 2 Samuel 12.) Why? Because if Nathan would have barged in there and told David all he had done wrong, David would have gotten defensive. But Nathan didn’t start pointing fingers. He posed a “hypothetically speaking” story that got David’s blood boiling. And that’s when David acknowledges that he has sinned against the Lord.

The story and the sermon have the same message, but only one reaches the heart of the person who hears it. Because only one is capable of disarming the defenses. After all, what threat is there in a story?

I’m reading a story right now that isn’t even a Christian story. It’s mainstream YA fiction, but I see Jesus all over it. It’s a story about taking risks and finding that some things are worth fighting for. It’s about a girl who has lived all of her life in a bubble and is about to break free.

I’m not sure that I’ve lived in a bubble (leastwise, not so much as the heroine in Ally Condie’s Matched), but I’m definitely on the verge of taking a huge risk, so Cassia’s story has been as encouraging and inspirational as it is well-written.

So tell me a story… and it might just be the thing that catapults me into taking that final step and breaking out of the little world I’ve created for myself.

What stories has God used to challenge you lately?

Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat

When I was young, my cousin and I used to sit on a raft in her pool and rock back and forth, back and forth, until we created waves that lapped over the edge of the pool. It terrified me to think that if I were to slip back into the water, I would be in over my head. I hated water. I still do. But something about the waves we created fascinated me enough to make me keep rocking back and forth, back and forth.

You know what else is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time? God’s call on each of our lives.

I think back to a time that Jesus played with water, perhaps similarly  to how my cousin and I did when we were young. Only He was walking in the middle of a storm-tossed sea when He invited Peter out to play with Him. I wonder what was going through Peter’s head when Jesus told Him he really could climb out of the boat. Did he think he would drown? Did he know he would sink?

I wonder if the other disciples thought Peter was crazy for even considering jumping overboard. Didn’t he know it was safer in the boat? Didn’t he know he could drown?

Of course he knew. Of course he was afraid – probably even terrified. But Peter saw what so many of us fail to see through our fears. He saw that there was something better out there. He saw the thrill of walking on water. He saw that the risk was worth it. He saw Jesus beckoning him to play in the waves. And for a few, shaky steps, Peter lived the dream that the rest of the disciples merely dreamed because, unlike the rest of them, he faced his fears and took the risk.

Today I encourage you to rock the boat, make some waves, and take a step of faith, knowing that the One who called you is faithful to fulfill His promises.

Remember, you can live your dream, or die dreaming. As for me, I choose to live.