Your story

Niequist quote

 

We all have a story. A story of where we have been, where we are going, and how we get there. Our stories are as unique as our fingerprints. No one has lived life the way you have. Your life speaks to someone.

So tell your story.

As Christians we often think our story has to lead people to Christ. It is like an elevator pitch to convince someone of something they don’t want to be convinced of. To sell to someone who isn’t buying.

Your story isn’t a marketing tool, your story is a road map to transformation. Not everyone will understand your landmarks, construction zones, or detours. But the ones who need to read it will. That is who your story is for, but you won’t know who it’s for

Unless you tell it.

All of us has a story. They all start different. They all have different forks in the road.

They are all worth telling.

The thing about stories is you don’t know who needs to hear it. So you have to tell it, because no one will ask for it. It may not seem life changing for you, but it is life changing for the listener.

So open your mouth and breathe life into your story.

I have a story that I told to my church. When I was asked, I didn’t think I had anything to share. But I did. If you want, you can hear my story. (starting at minute 14:20, but the stuff before that is good too. It’s just Israel’s story)

Catalyst_06Oct2013 from Catalyst Worship on Vimeo.

Tell your story. Because it matters. It matters to you, to the people who hear it. It matters to God.

Like Shauna says, when we tell our stories, lives change. Share yours. You can start today, in the comments below or simply saying it out loud to God.

Your story matters.

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A guest missing from the table

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a part of a conference that brought together Doctors and literacy organizations to help start a dialog about how each of these sectors of our city can work together to ensure the success of every child in Cleveland.

I came as a volunteer in a medical center literacy program, but also as a person who is considering dipping her toes into the non-profit world and combining a love for literacy with a love for the kids of Cleveland.

I listened to speaker after speaker discuss the programs they have to ensure school readiness for children who are often ignored, and I listened to doctors who want to make sure they get parents the information they need so their kids can succeed at school.

And then one of the speakers said, we have representations from the business world, non-profit world and healthcare industry,

But where is the faith community? 

I looked around me and saw everyone nodding their heads in agreement. There is a partner who hasn’t shown up in Cleveland and for a second I wanted to scold that group as well.

Until I remembered I was one of them.

I didn’t go to that meeting representing my church or my faith. I went as a community member. Someone who sees such injustice in this city that I want to do something about it.  But I have that feeling despite being a part of the church.

Not as the church.

And much like Kristin Welch who went into the darkest parts of Kenya and asked God why he isn’t doing anything, I looked up and started to mutter the same words. And God answered me the same way he did Kristin.

Why aren’t you doing anything about this Jessica?

At the end of the day I walked away feeling disrupted. I thought I was going for one reason, and like God always does he lifts a sheet and I see the world completely different. It’s not that there aren’t churches doing good things, but they aren’t a part of the dialog of change. Its unique and precious voice isn’t being heard in the city. Its voice is hidden behind doors and programs that wait for people to come to them.

The church doesn’t need to make the community louder with programs. It needs to make the community loud with love.

The keynote speaker said  the biggest problem facing kids in poverty is toxic stress and it is one of the reasons poverty is passed through generations. It’s a stress that impacts development, learning and outcomes. It’s a stress that despite the best learning techniques possible is difficult to overcome. It’s a stress that is produced when a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t have food, doesn’t have a home.

Other stress can be overcome because a person feels a part of something bigger. And then I thought is toxic stress a stress,

from not being known, loved, or chosen.

That is the phrase that keeps rolling through my mind as I think through all the dialog from yesterday. It mixes with all those kids I knew from my days as an inner city librarian. The ones who came to me everyday just to check in, because they knew I cared where they were. It reminded me of an 11 year old girl who I taught to knit, who always had a smile on her face, who was killed by a stray bullet when she walked home from the corner store with a bag of candy. It reminded me of two brothers who were always in trouble, but always at the library because they had no where else to be and an empty stomach. It reminded me of the boy who once asked me why I was so nice to him, why did I care about him.

And all I could say was because I just did. It wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do. I just did. All those kids I knew and interacted with. All they wanted was someone to know them. To care where they were and who they were with. Someone to tell them they mattered in this world.

I think that is what the church brings to the table when we show up. Because we understand what it means to be loved when we don’t think we deserve it. The confidence we have to get through pain and suffering when we know we don’t walk it alone.

If the church showed up, could we show these kids that they are known, they are not forgotten, They are loved, even though they don’t always see it. That they are chosen to be who they are. And who they are is important.

They matter in this world. They are not insignificant.

My heart aches when I think about all those kids out there who don’t think they matter.

I went into that conference yesterday hoping to make a connection to start the literacy organization I’ve always dreamed of starting. But today, I’m wondering how I can get the church at the community table, spreading the circle of love wider and wider.

The one commandment we Christians are supposed to live out everyday, every breath and with every person is love. Isn’t that the best antidote to the toxic stress that keeps kids from experiencing transformation.

That is what we bring that other organizations don’t. We wrap all those good things they do up in love.

That’s how lives are changed.

That is how the world is changed.

So church? How are you going to show up today?

 

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Friday Encouragement: What we do matters

1JohnI read this verse in two separate places today. And I just finished a book called Love Does.

All right. I’m listening.

Our world is about saying things. The universe is loud with people’s thoughts, words, speeches, bumper stickers, blog posts :) But words are only words. It can’t be the only way we show people love.

I can say I love my kids, but what I do matters.

I can say I love my husband, but what I do matters.

I can say I love my neighbor, but what I do matters.

The church can say it’s a place for broken people, but what it does matters.

If we believe what we say, then our words become action. Love puts on a face, hands, feet and goes out into the world and does. It doesn’t just hide behind words. We need both to make this world a better place.

Today I encourage you to go out and do. Love the people you are with like its kingdom changing, and it just might be for that person. Don’t just tell them you love them, show it. To the stranger on the bus, the children in front of you, maybe, even yourself.

Show someone they are known, loved and chosen.

That is how we Christians should live.

Bob Goff, love like a sign language

 

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Choosing the eternal

We all have a choice everyday on how we are going to live. We can skim the surface, be distracted, and live life the world says it’s okay to live.

Or we can live every moment like it matters.

Sometimes I think we Christians get it wrong. We equate eternal life with a reward for living the “right way.” More and more I am seeing that eternal life can be lived right now. It is a life that takes every interaction, every breath, every movement as an act of the divine. A meal is no longer just a meal. A conversation with a loved one is no longer just a conversation. Waking up is no longer just getting out of bed.

Because all of those moments are lived  like it matters.

For a long time I lived life in the shallow end. Only tiptoeing through the waters instead of diving in deep. I can do cool tricks in the shallow end, but they are only distractions. Diving in deep isn’t fancy, but it is transforming. Diving in deep takes faith that you won’t get lost. It takes courage you will make it back up. It takes belief that you are anchored to a force that doesn’t let go.

It keeps you tethered to the present.

How are you going to live today? Will you bob along in the shallow end, or will you take a deep breath and plunge into the eternal?

Love Does

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Sunday Reflection: A different kind of worship

Today I am not at church. I am celebrating 9 years without cancer and I’m going into the big one, ten years cancer free healthier than I’ve ever been. To celebrate I am running, like I do every February, with my sister in Florida. Running is a place I feel most alive, most grateful, and most in tune with the God nudging I received all those years ago.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was scared waiting for the test results. Unsure of how my life was going to change. And my life changed in a big way, just not the way I expected.

I finally woke up.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized how dry my bones had become. How much I took life for granted. How much I took life with God for granted. It has been a nine year journey of grace. A hard road, an uphill battle, but I keep climbing and keep running.

Now I know where I’m heading.

When I line up for the race I will go not to beat my time, not to beat the person next to me, but to breathe deep and let God carry my legs. If you have ever run long distances you know the first 3/4 is grit and the last is all grace.

I am thankful I have an opportunity to taste a different life. One that is less frantic, less worried, less bitter, less angry, less hurt, less alone. When something unexpected and unwanted happens we have a choice, to roll over in bitterness or fling ourselves into joy.

I chose joy.

Most days are still hard. I still struggle with anxiety and I still brush with bitterness, but everyday I am learning I don’t walk this life alone. There is always someone right here with me.

Loving me. Knowing me. Choosing me.

This Sunday I am not in a church building, but I sure am worshiping God.

Psalm40

 

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Friday Inspiration: A little more Henri Nouwen

When-others-stop-loving

It is hard to give love not knowing how it will be received, or if it will be received at all. But love anyway because you are loved. And the love you have you give to others knowing you have a love that doesn’t fail, doesn’t leave, that doesn’t cost anything.

When you believe that. Really believe that. Your love grows without bounds.

Grow your circle of love wide today because you have a deep well to draw from.

Don’t you just love Henri Nouwen?

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Lent: Should you give something up?

Lent is one of those seasons where we try too hard. We give up, we deny, we purge ourselves of bad habits. Not that those things we give up shouldn’t be given up, but is that what God wants from us?

To my surprise a Facebook friend posted a link to an article called, “Ummm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee or chocolate. I asked you to surrender your life.” Reassuring me I’m not the only one thinking about that this season. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving up something for Lent. It helps a lot of people draw closer to God. But like the author of the above blog post, I know for me it leads to a religious practice that doesn’t have a lot to do with God.

This Lent I’ve decided not to give up, but to spend time with God. I think that is what he really wants me to do in order to prepare for Easter and the Resurrection. Just spend time with him.

In the process of spending time with him we naturally will give up something, but the motivation comes from being with God, instead of trying to do. This Lent I’m trying not to self help my way into God’s grace but realize I’m already there.

And now I’m going to spend some time remembering that. So every morning when I sit in the car and wait for my youngest to get out of school. I’m going to do a little communing with God. It will be different every week. I’ll try meditation, lectio divina, and examen prayer. But the end result is I hope is to pray like Mother Teresa who likened prayer to “me listening to God and God listening to me.”

This morning I was reading Hebrews and came across a passage it references from Psalm 8.

What-is-mankind-that-you

This Psalm reminded me the harder I try to understand God the further away from him I feel. There is no way I can ever figure out why he thinks about me? Why I am known by him. Chosen by him. Loved by him.

I just am.

This Lent I am going to rest in that certainty and see how it changes my life. Not by doing Lent but by being with God.

This-Lent-Im-trying-not

 

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