Friday, April 29, 2011

Stories that Need to be Told- Easter at the Erwin

Since taking the story-telling class, I've wanted to start something new with my blog. If you haven't read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you should. It's like a shot of purpose-driven life masked in funny narrative. Aside from just being thankful that God gave the world Donald Miller, reading Million Miles taught me about the importance of story. We need stories. They inspire us to live. But one of the greatest lessons I learned from "Don" was this-

"A good storyteller doesn't just tell a story. He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story, too."

So that's what I'm going to do for a bit. I know some people with some stories. And some of those stories need more people to step into them. So I'm going to start telling, or rather, re-telling some stories that I know. And if you're reading, you're invited to jump in. I hope you'll be inspired to pray for some of these folks, or support them in other ways. Maybe you'll be inspired to take some action where you are because of something you read about here.

This is a new project for me. I don't know how many stories I know, so I don't know how long this will last, but I'm gonna give it a go. Like Donald said, the good stories go to the ones who have the courage to face their greatest fears. In my story, getting rejected is a huge fear- having you read this and think I'm wasting my time. But, a greater fear than that is the fear that I actually am wasting time. And, from where I'm sitting in Austin, Texas- wasting time is more likely to happen if I don't write anything at all.

So the first story is pretty simple. It's a follow-up to the Easter post from last Sunday.

First of all, The Austin Stone doesn't publish any info on the number of people that go to our church on a regular Sunday basis. I like that about the Stone. It doesn't really matter to them how many people are coming, I don't think. They're just glad that God is bringing people into the church. We know that there are enough people to merit eight services (4 at each campus) every Sunday, and I have heard the number 7000 floating around lately. But when it comes to a day like Easter Sunday, numbers matter. Last Easter, the Austin High Campus was so packed out that there was standing room only and parking was a challenge, but the church did its best to accommodate regular attendees and guests.

This year, there was a different plan- bring the entire church together for one service. But where can you host 7000+ people at one time? The Frank Erwin Center- where the University of Texas plays basketball and where other large-scale events are held on a regular basis. The very thought of having Easter together with the rest of this gigantic church that I love so much made my heart leap, but I initially thought that I wasn't going to be in the actual service. In order to pull off the service, the church needed a lot of people to step up and volunteer to serve in Kidstuff, and as greeters and parking attendants. Because my sweet husband is already a regular Kidstuff volunteer, I signed up to help with the Kid-o's on Easter morning. But the day I was supposed to attend training, Gatsby had a seizure and I spent the time I was supposed to be learning about kiddie care, at the vet's making sure Gats got good doggy care (Gats is okay, by the way- totally normal bloodwork and thyroid panel, for those who are interested in such things) Anyway, that meant that I couldn't serve in Kidstuff, so I got to attend the service.

It was amazing watching the streams of people pour into the Erwin Center Easter Sunday. It made me think about all the things I've learned in Isaiah this year about the nations pouring into Jerusalem's open gates in the future kingdom. But, I was excited to learn who it was that had opened the gates- or rather, doors- of the Erwin Center for our church. It was Rick Barnes, the head men's basketball coach at UT. He even prayed to open up our service. I'll be honest, I was impressed that he worked to get us into that building, but the most impressive thing to me was that as soon as he said, "Heavenly Father" that man told a house full of something like 10,000 people "I am a sinner." You can watch the prayer and a little bit of the service here. The sound is sort of bad and the picture sort of crazy but this is the best I could find on the Tube of You.

Another special guest for the service (also in the YouTube video) was the Mwangaza Children's Choir who are visiting the US from Uganda as a part of Africa Renewal Ministries. The children sang along with all of Austin Stone's amazing musical talents, but they did something we've never seen out of Aaron Ivey and Jimmy McNeal- they danced! One boy in particular did a dance that reminded me so much of David's jig for the Ark coming into Jerusalem. I cried and laughed out loud the whole time the kids were on the stage. Learn more about Mwangaza, hear their music and see if they're visiting and area near you by visiting this site:

Matt Carter delivered an incredible message about restoration that also made me cry and, again quoting Isaiah, "tremble at God's Word." The sermon is called Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus and you can check it out here:

After service, Andy and I hosted an Easter Feast at our apartment. This was, perhaps, the real reason God let Gatsby have a seizure- because if I had served in Kidstuff, I never would have been able to get everything ready for a meal for 12 people! Here are just a few pics of the after-math. My camera battery was not charged so I didn't get any pics of people shoveling deviled eggs and ham into their mouths.

Rachel & Evan

Jonathan & Lisa

My Easter Bunny :)

So I guess that story kind of rambled in different directions- this will be a work in progress. But Easter around here was about celebrating Jesus- with the nations, with friends, with Rick Barnes and with 10,000 people in a giant building in the heart of Austin. And I thought that was a story that needed to be told.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am approved. Forgiven. Beloved. Hidden in Christ.

I haven't been writing much because I've been writing a lot. On my book, that is. I've also been interviewing for a job and tutoring- but who cares about that right now? It's Easter!

Easter is my favorite day of the year, and I'll try to post some pics later of today's events. But I am about to burst for joy, and so of course I had to write to get it out or I'm going to swim out of the Erwin Center after Austin Stone's service in a river of my own joy-filled tears. Already this morning, I started crying while folding some laundry and singing the part of Wonderful, Merciful Savior that says, "You are the One that I praise, You are the One I adore." My voice cracked on adore and I was on the floor face down crying and just thanking Jesus. I would probably still be there but the timer dinged telling me that the second of today's hashbrown casseroles was finished in the oven. (We're having a huge crowd for lunch today!)

Anyway, here's why I am so outrageously joyful this morning- because I am approved of. This past year, while writing Snapshots and just living life, I've discovered a HUGE approval idolatry in my life. God graciously revealed this through allowing me to- go figure- not be approved of. It broke my heart. But what joy to have spent the past couple of weeks contemplating and writing about something I completely missed in the chapter of Snapshots about Jesus as the Bread of Life.

It's here- John 6:27- On him (Jesus) God has placed his seal of approval. I've been meditating on this verse for days. When the reminders of how some still greatly disapprove of me come up, I have prayed this verse from the depth of my heart. Jesus! I believe in you! I am made new in you! And in you, I find the approval of our Father!

So this morning, my devotion in Utmost said, "Never seek after anything other than the approval of God." I have tried so hard, worked so hard but man's approval alludes me. What a burden lifted every time I am reminded that I do not have to work for man's approval but God's alone (and I do need to be reminded!) But listen to the rest of the devotion- "always be willing to go outside the camp, bearing His reproach." Not only should I be willing to face the reproach of man, I should expect it. To walk where Christ walked, the road gets narrow and rough and people mock and spit and abuse. So the fact that approval alludes me is a good indication that I'm walking in the dust of my Rabbi.

But never mind suffering today. Today is Resurrection Day! And that's what had me crying on the floor. Because the great relief that Truth brings overwhelms me today. I am approved. I don't have to wait on that. Right now, today, because of Jesus Christ I am approved by Almighty God and it doesn't matter who doesn't like me or want me here- I am Abba's girl. And no body can take that away from me.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A witness between you and me

I kind of had a breakthrough in my book since that last post. I've written something like 10 hours and have re-written two chapters. That's a lot for me. It's great, but it comes at a cost.

Since taking the writing class, and reading Million Miles, I've heard a lot about a book for writers called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. When I finish Million Miles, I'm going to buy it and read it. Everything I hear from it is frighteningly true. Including this- every creative person faces resistance when trying to create something good. Resistance is a sure sign that you're supposed to do the thing in the first place. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be.

And in the past two days, while I've re-written, telling my own story instead of "preaching to the choir," resistance has come. Not in the form of laziness or procrastination or distraction, but pain- just pain. Old pain brought back up from memories of the story and new pain from new words that cause more confusion and heartache. A girl from the writers panel on Wednesday told us that she was writing through some things that were very deep and painful and that as she wrote, she healed. How I hope that is true here.

I thought that my story was about identity in Christ. But it turns out- it's about a longing. I guess that most stories are about a longing, aren't they? The longing is for security, that much I had right, but the longing is also about justice, and that part I did not expect at all. The longing to be claimed as His and defended. God had to give me that longing, and to be honest with you- I wish that He hadn't. I understood insecurity. I knew rejection. But injustice was something I'd barely brushed up against until this story.

We had this question in our BSF lesson that came from Isaiah 59- "How do the themes of justice, righteousness, truth and honesty go together?" And I really just wanted to answer- they are all the things that I long for in my story. You know what, though? I'm beginning to see how you can't really deeply long for those things until they are denied you. Then you crave it like no other thing, and you want to spread it all over the world, too.

The Bible has a lot of hope to offer for people who find themselves in a story where they've been denied justice, righteousness, truth and honesty because it says that when God sees these things lacking among His people, it makes Him really unhappy. And He promises to do something about that, but not until later- much, much later. And that part makes my heart groan. I mean, literally groan.

Last night I went to Chick-fil-a by myself (Andy's off doing something with the Boy Scouts) and while I was there I was so overwhelmed by the pain from the resistance that I had to toss my waffle fries so that I could rush home and groan for God. I heaved giant sobs into my pillow and reminded Him that I have still not been accepted or understood and that I am still in pain over that.

And I was mad that He didn't fix it. I was mad that a God who is "appalled" at injustice, didn't do something about my situation. I was so discouraged that I would have to wait until the end- an end that seems long in coming- for Him to explain what He was doing with me and through me. That's the thing about our stories, though. We can tell them now. We can put as much truth between us and what hurts us as possible, and that might be a good and right thing. But it's never going to accomplish what we want. Because what we long for isn't self-vindication, it's His vindication. We long for Him to tell our story, because when He tells it, that's when it will really mean something. Until then, we're a character with a longing and we're going to have to overcome a LOT of conflict to get what we long for.

God reminded me about someone from the Bible- a man who spent his time deceiving and being deceived. Jacob. And I wanted to read about Jacob wrestling with God, because that's how I felt. Only I didn't really feel like I was wrestling in the classic sense. I wasn't so much wrestling as I was just crying "UNCLE!" to the Almighty and begging Him to heal something I couldn't heal and fix something I couldn't fix. But instead of reading the wrestling story, my eyes glued on a conversation between Jacob and Laban, Jacob's father-in-law. Now, there's two guys who had plenty of misunderstandings and injustice between them. When they finally parted ways for good, Laban made a heap of dirt and rocks or something and said something really weird, "This heap is a witness between you and me today. May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me."

I had just read in Million Miles that, in the Bible, God has people build altars as a memorial. It's not so much that He likes piles of stones and that's super meaningful in and of itself, but that God allows us to build our altars to Him so that we'll remember the moment when He healed or rescued or rebuked. It's a heap of memory more than anything else. And that's what Laban was saying. He was saying, "Remember this moment, Jacob. Because this is the moment that I bring God in between us." I also like that Laban was concerned about his daughters' honor, maybe even concerned about their hearts. I like that because I know my own father is concerned about those things. And I believe that my Heavenly Father is too.

So my mind had been so anxious as I swam in my pain in my bed and the truth crashed in waves and the injustice felt like an anchor tied to my heart, pulling it agonizingly, further and further down. And I thought that I might drown because the Rescuer isn't going to cut me completely loose until Revelation. And then, I asked God to be my witness to all of these things. And He reminded me, "I already am." And I was satisfied with that. Not vindicated. Not yet. But satisfied. Because He is watching over His little girl's heart, watching as it is broken again and again- and one day, not today, but one day, He will fix that. Until then, He remains my witness to this injustice. And when it's the right time, He will do a way better job of telling my story.

Then Daisy curled up next to me and I was warm and sleepy all of a sudden. And grace came and swam me back up to the surface and reminded me to patiently endure. And then, I was asleep.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Form follows function

When I was a Biology student, I kept hearing this phrase over and over again, "form follows function." I'll be honest with you, I didn't totally get what that meant for the longest time, so I'll break it down into normal people language, not science speak. Basically form following function means that organisms have the parts they need to accomplish the stuff they do. For example, what does a bird do? Fly obviously. So what does it have? Wings, feathers, hollow bones, an innate navigational system. It's crazy how well-equipped those avians are. In college I spent absurd amounts of time studying how perfectly designed the living world is. People think that the planet is going to hell in a handbasket (and there's definitely validity in being concerned about the Earth) but, by design, it's astonishing how well-functioning our planet is.

I could write about that all day, but the Earth's homeostasis isn't really the point today. The point is this- why in the great big amazingly well put-together world did I think that I was any different from the rest of the forms following all their specifically chosen functions? Think about it. How ridiculous would it be for a bird to not fly when it's obviously made to? (penguins don't count) We look at all of the Biology around us everyday and we know that leaves spread to catch sunshine and insects carry pollen on their spindly little legs while they search for something sweet to drink and we think that we are somehow without purpose?

There are a lot of reasons we get so mixed up, and I'm not here to write about those today. Instead I'm here to write about finally connecting our form with our function.

So I've been taking the writing class, right? And it's been amazing. Every time I get home, I am beyond excited about the confirmation I've received and the fresh thoughts and the camaraderie with other writers. But last night was over the top. The evening was a Q&A session with a panel of five different writers and story-tellers who work on staff for the Austin Stone. They're all highly qualified, passionate people. And they spoke so much truth in the hour block of time that I'm still trying to sort it all out.

I knew we were having a panel, so I came prepared. As I've been editing lately, I've realized that I don't like the tone of my book at some parts. It sounds preachy. And I don't want to be preachy. It also sounds generic. Take a step back with me for a minute. Remember that a story is a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. Well, in Snapshots, the reader is the character. I'm trying to help the reader identify their own desire for security and then help them overcome whatever conflict they're experiencing in their life to get the real security that's only found in the Lord Jesus. But I was trying to get the reader to connect by throwing these random examples out- like a girl whose going through a breakup, a student who doesn't fit in, a woman who is experiencing trouble getting pregnant. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's good to see your struggle printed on someone else's page. But, to be honest, it derailed my writing and made it sound cheesy and preachy. And there's plenty of cheesy, preachy Christian writing out there. I certainly don't need to add to it.

So I asked the panel about this, "Should I keep the examples? What should I do to connect the reader to the story?" Their answer was unanimous- "Lose the examples. Tell your story." They reasoned that readers naturally insert themselves into other people's stories. Of course I know this because I do it all the time. Donald Miller is talking about road biking and hiking to Machu Picchu and connecting with his estranged father in Million Miles, and I'm completely inspired, even though I mountain bike and am kind of a daddy's girl (Machu Picchu sounds good though!) Point is, Donald's writing his story about living good stories and though Donald's story is way different from mine, it makes me want what he wants- to live a meaningful, worthwhile story. In Snapshots, the potential to do the same thing is there. I don't have to validate the girl whose boyfriend just broke up with her by writing that out as an option for why this book might be good for her, I just need to tell my story- what broke my heart and why that made me want to find out who I am in Jesus Christ. Chances are, if I tell the truth, then everyone else out there feeling lost and confused and like everything is shifting will connect and go on their own journey while they read about mine.

But this involves risk. And I expressed this to the panel last night. "But my story," I said, "is going to tick some people off." And I kid you not- all five panelists leaned forward and said, basically in unison- "Then you have to write it."

When I got in the car, I had a quiet moment with God. I felt really close to God in a new way because this class is making me see Him not just as a Creator (though He is that) But Creator is such a "safe" word. We're used to that word, aren't we? It's a Sunday school, "Answers in Genesis" kind of word. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE God as Creator, and I am not going to stop approaching Him as Creator. I'm not talking about throwing away that aspect of worship. I'm talking about adding another one on- approaching God as an Artist. An Artist who knows that the good stories, the great pieces, the memorable stuff that makes an impact is always, always, always risky.

Think about it, His own story is the riskiest ever. He told people off, flipped over tables, made friends with crooks and all sorts of nasty people, tossed His good reputation to the wind, made enemies of all the good folks, was followed around by women of ill repute, and then at the end- He died. That's a risky story. But it's the greatest story ever told. So the Artist said to me last night in the car, "You can't tell a good story, if you're still too afraid to risk telling the truth."

And that's when I thought about my form and function. And I realized that I'm the bird afraid to spread my wings and fly. Because I'm a truth-teller. Not that I was always that way. But I think that God always meant for me to become one. That's most likely the reason that I met so much resistance to the truth when I was younger, before I knew Him. But once I found it, it was like pulling the sword from the stone. And now, I've got to learn to use that truth for good. Because that's what I was meant to do. I've been trying to do that, but I'll be honest, I get scared and I back down. Don't get me wrong, you have to be careful with truth. You can't go waving swords around without people getting hurt. But to not use it at all, or to dull the edge so much that it's ineffective, means that I'm not doing what I was made to do.

I do believe that God has brought me through the precise, well-planned circumstances to give me a passion for telling His truth to other people, and I've got to embrace that, even though people aren't going to buy into it. Shoot, I didn't even want to buy into it. But, there's deeper truth here for anyone whose reading this. We've all been made to do something. And chances are your "form"- your personality, your gifts, your desires- meet that function. But are you recognizing it? And what are you doing about it?

Don't let anything or anyone keep you from thinking about that for a minute today. I'm queen of letting laundry or bills or somewhere I need to be steal my time. The captivity of activity can keep us from ever doing anything at all. I challenge you- get down to the root. What were you made to do? Are you doing it? And if not, why not?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A way to get you here

This week's story-telling class was taught by Jeremy Rodgers, Austin Stone's "Film Production Manager" which basically means that he makes incredible mini-documentary films for our church so that we can see the work that God is doing through the people of our church all over the world.

One of the stories he shared with us was about our Worship Pastor, Aaron Ivey. Aaron and his wife Jamie went though an incredible struggle to adopt two precious children from Haiti- four year old Amos and two-year old Story. Story was able to join the family in the US before the earthquake in January 2010, but Amos' adoption had not yet been completed. For a while, Aaron and Jamie didn't even know if Amos was alive. They did learn that he had survived the earthquake, but the building that held his adoption paperwork was completely destroyed. Aaron and Jamie watched and waited while the country struggled to rebuild after the earthquake, separated from Amos and longing to get him home.

Watch this music video by Aaron that really expresses his longing much better than I can in any words written here.

Finally, they got a call that Amos was going to be flown from Port-Au-Prince to Florida, and they could come and get him. Jeremy was there to document their reunion with his video camera. I wish I could find Jeremy's video on the internet, but it's a little high speed for youtube, I guess. But you can see the homecoming in this video (Jeremy's in it too- guy with the camera in a black t-shirt)

Jeremy traveled with the Iveys from Austin to Florida, so he was able to capture what happened before this video was taken. What this video lacks that Jeremy's footage didn't is a portrait of an anxious father, waiting in anticipation, desperate to be reunited with his son. His body literally shook with emotion as he and Jamie waited in the airport for hours for customs to finish their paperwork.

This week, I'll start writing about Jesus as the Way, and this story has given me fresh perspective about what that aspect of His identity really means. So many of us for so long have settled into a false belief that God is some old white grandfather sitting up in heaven waiting to zap us when we're bad or smile sunshine beams on us when we're good. Aaron & Amos remind me that God is much more than that. He's an anxious Father who is emotionally invested in His children and desperate to be reunited with them.

I love the lyric Aaron wrote in Amos' song, "I'll find a way to get you here." Isn't that just what our Father did through Jesus? He looked out over a world devastated by sin- as Aaron looks out across the ocean in his video, knowing that a chasm separates father from son- and He made a Way. Aaron's heart longs to be reunited with his boy. Are we brave enough to accept that our Father paces Heaven, waiting for the moment when we will come to Him through the Way He provided?

I can hardly watch the footage of Aaron walking toward the cameras in the airport, holding Amos in his arms without crying. To some people, who are willing to sacrifice the truth about Abba for something that is less but maybe more familiar to them, it's too much to think that this tattooed, singer-wongwriter from Austin could accurately represent a Holy God. But for me, I look at Aaron and Amos and think that they are telling the real story, a story that I'm living, too- a story about being reconciled to my Papa. Will you let yourself think about Him longing to hold you in His arms at last? He has already made a Way to get you there.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." John 14:6

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A character who wants something...

I think I've become a little obsessed with the elements of story-telling. I say this because last night, while sleeping, I edited my own dream. I was running away from a hospital that wanted to keep me against my will, and in the midst of making my escape, fighting off bad-guys and stealing get away cars, I would see characters or details in my dream and think "Is that essential to the core of the story?" and then quickly edit it from the dream. Then I'd continue escaping.

On the one hand, this is good for my writing because it has me thinking of ways to edit Snapshots and that was something I was really dreading, and now it seems like something challenging- like something I want to conquer. Before, I saw editing as the equivalent to a trip to the dentist. Something absolutely necessary, but absolutely awful because you're basically just waiting for the moment when someone will tell you that your teeth have a big hole in them and you need to floss more. Now I think I see editing as more of a gardening experience. I spent some time helping my mom weed out her iris bed while I was back home. It was hard work, but after clearing away grass and leaves, it was really rewarding to see the green stems staring back at me. They looked better, and undoubtedly their blooms will look better in a few weeks because of our work. So rather than dreading finding the rot in my story, I'm looking forward to the blooms, if you will.

However, I'm realizing that not everyone else shares my enthusiasm for story-telling. I sent an email this week, explaining that story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it, and asked the person "What is your story?" I thought this would be thought-provoking and make the person feel really invested in. I thought he'd be like, "This is something I'll need to ponder. Let me get back to you." But instead, he said, "your email was weird," and then talked to me about stationary for a while.

The good thing about being a writer is you can make all of the characters in your story as enthusiastic about the plot as you want them to be. You control how affected they are by the conflict, how they respond, how mean they are, how strong they become. But it's good because everyone involved is dealing with the same thing and you have control over the timing and the desire and the conflict and the resolution. I've heard some writers completely disagree with this type of thinking. I've been told that sometimes the character does what it wants. Like, the writer will want the character to go to the grocery store and buy coffee, but the character brings home shitake mushrooms instead. Or like JK Rowling says that Harry and Hermione and that red-headed kid are all living life in her head. She knows where they are all the time and the adventures that they're having. I don't get this. Maybe because I don't write fiction. Or maybe because I think that sounds more like schizophrenia than writing. I should watch Stranger Than Fiction again to explore this more...

In any event, it's clear that in life, characters really do go to the store for coffee and come back with mushrooms, and what I mean by that is- no one ever does what you expect them to do, and you have little to no control over the outcome. No one is affected by the conflict the way that you want. No one wants to resolve as much as you do. People can deflect and distract and argue about things that have nothing to do with the central issue and all you want to do is yell- "This is not necessary to the core!" and move on to talking about their root of fear, bitterness or unbelief- but you end up talking about stationary, politics or the weather.

So if you want to live a good story, what do you do? You know that people are not going to care about the plot-line of your life nearly as much (if at all) as you are. And you don't know if they're going to help you overcome the conflict and resolve or if they're going to create more conflict or just completely distract you from the core. I don't have a formula for what to do about this, but I have been encouraged recently. That encouragement came, oddly enough, from the book of Revelation.

So as any character in a story- I wanted something, but I was a little embarrassed by what it was. I wanted acknowledgment that I belong to God. That seemed awfully selfish and all and like it was not a good thing to want because Jesus suffered so much and was despised and rejected by men. And He was such a good sport about that. He was never like, "Dad!!! Come down here and tell all these people crucifying me that I am your Son!" But He could have. And when He was hanging there, all mutilated by human beings, they had the nerve to mock Him for not doing that very thing. So I felt like a huge wimp for wanting Jesus to say, "She is MINE!" But that's pretty much what I want. That's essential to my story. I'm a character who wants something and overcomes conflict ot get it. This might be very selfish. And I don't think that great stories come from selfish motives, but it's also very honest. I guess that the unselfish part is that I don't want to be the only person who gets to experience this. I could sound way more Christian-ey and say, "I just really want to bring the Light and Love of Christ into the world." But that's not really true. Really, I want people to get claimed. I want me to get claimed. Light and Love are a part of that, because He is Light and Love and when you belong to Him, you are that stuff too- but mostly- I just want to get claimed by Jesus, and I want other people to get claimed too. I want Him to look at all of the people who doubted and mocked and scoffed and rejected with His firey eyes and tell them all that they messed with the wrong girl. This is my greatest desire. And I'm willing to overcome conflict to get it.

So even when I still thought this was selfish and not quite Christian enough, I was fairly honest with Jesus about it. I'd pray things like, "So pretty much I want those people who blame me for stuff and who don't understand me and who question whether I'm really devoted to you to know that I belong to you and I've been working with you since I was 20. I would like for you to tell them that, because when I tell them that, they just get madder at me." And I thought that this was a lame sort of prayer, but I really wanted it, so I would pray it anyway. Then I went to BSF leader's retreat, and we studied the book of Revelation. I read Revelation 3:7-9

And Jesus said to me, "Meredith, I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who have blamed you, misunderstood you, falsely accused you- but are liars- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."

My name isn't in the Bible, obviously, and this is a little different than what is written in Revelations 3:7-9. You should read it! I'm not trying to re-write Scripture, especially because John warned that if anyone added to the book of Revelation, God would add plagues to them- which is terrifying. But I took that message from Jesus really personally because there was my goal written in red ink in my NIV- it will be acknowledged that He has loved me.

In the day to day, I'm still figuring out the "overcomes conflict to get it" part, but I was really encouraged to know that what I want is legit, even to King Jesus. I guess that other people might not really care or think that it's selfish or they'd rather just talk about the weather, but I think it's a big deal that Jesus considers that worth writing down. He told John to write it on Patmos so that people like me could read it hundreds of years later, and be encouraged.

So editing and writing and living are still a messy process, but I'm encouraged because I think that Jesus is just as passionate about all of the elements of story-telling as I am. Why else would He have told John, "Write, therefore, what you have seen..." Revelation 1:19. I'm glad John wrote what Jesus told him to. Maybe someone else out there will be glad that I am writing what He tells me to.