I love to talk. I love to share stories that bring hope to your heart and laughter to your bones. Get ready for a show, because I love to entertain and come on stage as one of my characters.
It may be that you’ll meet Annie Oakley- armed and ready to share God’s peace. Or perhaps Super Susie Christian with her hard hat and plank screwed to the side, so you can see your need to get the log of judgement out of your own eye first in order to see clearly to love others. I have God’s Word and I’m not afraid to use it and use it I will to bring God’s Good News to you.
God is not a killjoy He is a “GIVE JOY.”
Oh, the earth experience is hard, but it’s not our home. And while we are here in hard places, let’s be honest and real with one another. It’s only by admitting our weakness and humbly changing direction toward God that we are repaired by God’s generous love. Because God is holy He must punish sin, but because He is loving He didn't want to punish us. On the cross He accomplished both the holiness and the lovingness of God. Our choice is to either accept His love and holiness or reject it. In Tim Keller's book, Jonah, he writes, "The only storm that can really destroy--the storm of divine justice and judgement on sin and evil--will never come upon you. Jesus bowed His head into that ultimate storm, willingly, for you. He died, receiving the punishment for sin we deserve, so we can be pardoned when we trust Him. When you see Him doing that for you, it certainly does not answer all the questions you have about your suffering. But it proves that, despite it all, He still loves you. Because He was thrown into that storm for you, you can be sure that there's love at the heart of this storm for you."
Christ proclaims our infinite worth and His eternal love for us aside from any human standard, even our own. Remember Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Our temporary imperfection is a quality which actually connects us to others rather than a secret shame which sets us apart. Becoming transparent and vulnerable will set you free and change you as well as other lives around you.
“I loved listening to your stories. You so easily get us laughing, and then bring it back around to an important point and Biblical teaching, and then more laughs. I just loved it! I appreciate YOUR gifts! Way to take the message to the people, girl!”
As an 8th grader looking in the full-length mirror in the “smoker girls” bathroom, I hated how skinny I was. The only curves I had were curves from my scoliosis; no butt, no boobs. I was completely unaware that anyone was in the bathroom with me until I saw ninth-grader, Jenny Baker, walk out of one of the stalls. She took a look at me and said; “You don’t have to look. You know you’re pretty.” Huh?
Now it’s called bullying, but in 1980 it was called, “Don’t-get-in-the-way-of-a-mean-girl-who-decides-she-hates-you.” It was a long year of threats with Jenny even requesting I meet her behind the football bleachers so she could beat me up. Jenny liked to shove me into Minnesota snow banks as I waited for the bus.
But, when the snow began to melt that year, I saw the light; the lights of the theater with costumes, props, set designs and characters. I found I could sing, I could act, and I could look in the mirror and see someone whom I liked to look at, because I was someone else. I also met Susan, a student make-up artist. Susan liked me and I liked Susan -- who just so happened to be a smoker friend of Jenny's. She talked to Jenny and I have no idea what was said, but after that conversation took place, Susan assured me I never had to worry about bleachers or snow banks again. She was right and I was rescued.
New friends and the “smell of greasepaint and roar of the crowd” however, still did not provide the lasting rescue I wanted until I met Jesus. I was a girl with anxieties and insecurities. Outward changes and a new identity were temporal. Without Him, I would never really like what I saw in the mirror, because I knew only too well what was inside, the “pretty” image Jenny saw. He had to help me, see the way, He sees me.
It’s easier to chase happiness on the outside than on the inside, because of the immediate gratification and applause. I really believed my outer appearance; relationships and success, would bring me happiness on the inside. It is actually the reverse. Peace that surpasses understanding refers to peace, despite the outside, not because of it.
We feel our neediness when we stop our busyness and the things we do, to anesthetize the pain in and around us. Forgiveness, we all need it. Acceptance, we all want it. Purpose, we all strive for it. I think this is where God comes in. We seek a way to transcend life’s disappointments and hurts. Many religions claim to be the only way—but let’s be clear, they cannot all be right. When you study the religions of the world it is easy to see the uniqueness of Jesus. HE still lives. He claims to be the way, not just show the way. There is an enormous difference in religion and the forever-relationship Jesus offers. It’s not based on what we do, but what He’s done. ALL religions require us to do something or sacrifice to please God, so we can earn heaven. Most are very intolerant of people who disagree with them. Some even hate and want to hurt those who disagree. Jesus' message is just the opposite He says, "Let your love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." He says, "Love your enemies," not just tolerate them. What? The message of Jesus is to LOVE and forgive others, which you can only do once you have seen your bad self and accepted His forgiveness. When you think about it, Jesus’ way and teaching is much harder than any religion. It’s easy to like those who like us and think like us, but who isn’t tempted to want to direct their own life and get revenge or a quick fix, rather than wait on His method or timing? Being kind to those who despitefully use you, leaving the settling of accounts to Him and loving our enemies are not easy propositions to swallow and impossibly unrealistic without understanding the real meaning of the Good News.
I have accepted this gift, even though what I feel and see in me is often wrong, unfair, hurtful, and judgmental and to make it worse, there’s always more where that comes from. But again, that IS why Jesus died for us. He paid my debt and forgives all my sin. When He died every sin we committed was in the future so I know even what I do wrong tomorrow can be forgiven. I think this is why they call the gospel, good news.
There are those who believe too, there are many roads to God and that true spirituality is just to love your neighbor and help the poor. How then do you know when you’ve given enough to get to God? What about the people that have been taught to hate? Are the poor just virtuous? That sounds right, but it is not what Jesus said. Jesus said you cannot earn Him taking the executioner's cross for you. We instinctively know this. If a soldier drapes his body over a grenade to save his friends, we recognize it as a sacrifice. Something we honor, but not something we can pay him back for. In fact to suggest we could pay him back is an insult to his sacrifice. The same is true with Jesus.
How does the “changing” take place? Fruit only grows quickly in time-lapse photography! Truth needs cultivating. It actually starts with me knowing and playing “the CD of truth” in my mind until it becomes more prominent than the old negative CD we were all born with; “God loves me right where I am and not where I think I should be.” He proved his love and acceptance ONCE and for ALL. He knows what we are like behind the image others see. Once this truth begins to “air” regularly I cannot wait to tell others. Freedom is a magnet and others will want that “get out of jail free” card.
I am still Debbie with a slight curve of scoliosis, made less noticeable with the surgery I had as an adult. I am still Debbie who needs to look everyday in the mirror and wonder what else I can do to my hair that will change my life. I want to not care so much and there are times I don’t and I walk out in my pajamas to get groceries or record my radio feature at the station. But, if I can walk away from the mirror with the TRUTH of who He says I am, rather than what I feel or think about me, then I am more excited to talk about it to someone else, regardless of what I know that they don’t see. Everyday, I have to remember the way He sees me, despite my moral failings and missteps and bad hair days.
In life’s journey, we all want to be known and loved and Jesus knows us better than anyone and still loves us. He knows me, my pain, my ache from the loved one I lost, the cancer that came to my Dan, my anxiety attacks and depression, the lie that spread and the unrealized dream of stardom on Broadway— He knew before I knew. HE IS here, waiting to make creative, redemptive use of what has happened. He is always on the move. He isn’t wasting time thinking about all the trouble He has with us or how awful we feel about where we are with ourselves and our troubles. God loves us unconditionally. End of story.
I don't have all the answers to all the questions, but enough answers to know what will happen to me when I die and to know the difference it makes now to have peace with God and my neighbor. He gives me strength to live and love and even death won't end with my relationship with Him. He is the path to and for eternity. He is the way, truth and life and no one comes to the Father, but through HIM. I am created in His image and it’s His image I want to reflect and see in the mirror.