What’s Your Story?

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The messages that we internalize as our reality have a profound effect on the way we live our lives. If you have a miserable narrative, you often experience a miserable life. If you have an epic, amazing narrative, you probably experience an epic, amazing life.

I am going to hit on some lies I believed growing up.

  1. Perfection is something you must strive for.
  2. Father God only loves me because Jesus bribed Him with His death.
  3. When guys lust after me or act inappropriately around me, it’s my fault.
  4. God doesn’t trust women; He won’t let them lead in church except with their husbands or as a children’s pastor.
  5. My sexuality is bad, and I would be better off without it.
  6. “Left Behind” portrays an accurate representation of what God is like and what our future looks like.
  7. If I don’t confess all my sins to God—even though I prayed “the prayer”—I will go to hell. #peformperformperform
  8. God only does miracles when you are doing stuff for Him, like mission trips.
  9. When you mess up, God is disappointed in you. #performperformperform
  10. I’m a sinner.

So, add all that up . . . and crap self-esteem. Very performance-based. Up and down. Up and down. A bit misogynistic. A bit doomsday. Umm . . . anxiety, much? Talk about running day and night on a hamster-wheel of religion. I was in a relationship with a divinity with multiple personalities and narcissistic tendencies. (Jesus loves me; Father hates me, but blood appeases Him?!? Also, it’s all about Him and serving Him and doing stuff and jumping through hoops for Him so I won’t be eternally tortured. That sounds like a nice, healthy foundation for a relationship!)

I was miserable, but I was told  this was it . . . so like it.

I knew I was created for love. I knew I was created for worship . . . but dang. Not like this.

Since then, I have learned some different messages. It makes for a better life story.

  1. God really thought I was a great idea and made me perfectly; I am freakin’ awesome!
  2. Women are amazing, display a beautiful part of the heart of God . . . and are born to co-lead!
  3. People acting dumb has do with whatever’s going on with them; they’re better than that anyways and just haven’t figured it out yet.
  4. Jesus and the Father have the same heart towards me. The Father was always 100% for me.
  5. God is not a narcissist; God is relationship.
  6. God is not a hierarchy; God is a Divine Love-Dance.
  7. Holy Spirit does fun stuff like miracles because Holy Spirit likes to and is really, really good.
  8. The theology of abandonment is a bunch of satanic b. s.
  9. I am fully included; the cross was basically a giant God-hug. He used our rejection of Him and turned it into a great display of His acceptance of us. He is in no way disappointed in me.
  10. I am a saint.

My life feels a whole lot better now. I like it a lot more. Guess it matters who you let narrate your story! Now, I have this whole wide world filled with goodness to explore. I have a Trinity I can’t but help fall head-over-heels in love with. I like being a woman. I’m not scared of hell. I like who God made me, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge other people—no matter what whack-a-doodle stunts they pull! I feel happy.

Love you! Hugs!

The Joy Detective

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Who Do You Expect?

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So, I was talking with God about “The Challenge” and all the joy experiments that we’ll be running together on this blog, and I felt Him impress something quite strongly on my spirit: people need to know who they’ll be meeting.

It’s maybe a little easy for me to take for granted that everybody else on the worldwide web is on the same page as I am when it comes to the goodness and the nature of God because God’s goodness  and nature seems so obvious to me. But He started to remind me that not everybody sees Him that way. Not everybody lives with that as their reality. In fact, some people are downright scared of Him and don’t want Him to come near them.

I used to be.

I remember going to church growing up. There was this sign that someone on the church staff put up—probably halfway as joke. It stood near the entrance and said something to the effect of “Turn off your cellphones. Lightning may strike.” I remember hearing a heavy emphasis placed on God’s displeasure with any kind of sin or unrighteousness. It was understood—at least from my perspective—that if you sinned, God was disappointed in you. Angry with you, even. And He did punish. Look at the Israelites. Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. I was terrified to make mistakes. I was terrified lest some unknown sin go unconfessed. I lose track of how many times I prayed “the prayer of salvation” just to make sure I did it correctly and didn’t wind up in the hot place.

It wasn’t as if I never heard “God loves you.” That I heard a lot. But the meaning of “love” got a bit watered down under the weight of how disappointed I felt God was whenever I screwed up. And of course, it was inevitable that I would screw up. (After all, what do you expect from a sinner? Sinners sin. It’s their nature.) I felt more put up with. Tolerated. And actually . . . used. Kind of like:

“Here, I love you enough to get you out of hell and into heaven—after you die—if you believe in Jesus. Okay, now that you do, I’m going to put you to work. Go convert people. The more people you convert, the happier I’ll be with you. But if you miss just one opportunity, I’m going to sic my frowny face on you. Because they’re going to hell, and it’s your fault. Oh, and by the way, you’re still a sinner. Just ‘saved by grace’ now. I kinda expect you to fail.” 

Yeah. Way to inspire me . . .

Then one day God told me He liked me.

I remember He had this kinda lady come up to me and say, “Hey, I felt like the Lord was saying He doesn’t just love you; He likes you.” It resonated with me. I knew—I just knew—that what she was saying was true. My ears came open, and I began to hear God speaking true love to me on a regular basis, telling me how much He delighted in me and was pleased with me. And He didn’t stop saying it when I messed up. It became clear to me that His love for me was on 24/7. And it also became clear to me that His love and delighting in me were not dependent on what I did and did not do. 

So, WHO exactly am I inviting to show up on this blog? 

Jesus Christ.

Mr. Love.

Mr. I-Healed-Your-Cold.

Mr. I-Put-Sparkles-on-You-Because-I-Love-You-and-I-Can.

Mr. I-Defend-the-Cause-of-the-Orphan-and-the-Widow.

Mr. I AM.

Mr. Get-Up-Out-Of-That-Wheelchair-And-Walk!

Mr. Fun. 

Mr. I-Turn-Water-Into-Wine.

Mr. It-is-Finished.

Mr. I’m-Already-in-the-Room-in-Case-You-Didn’t-Notice.

 I am inviting the God who totally OWNS the title and the name SAVIOR. When He saves, it’s not based on human efforts—because it’s really “saving” someone if they have do it—it’s based on His being Him and actually manifesting the very meaning of the word. When He saves, He does it thoroughly and doesn’t go about calling saints “sinners” after the fact.

And He’s not saving us from some multiple personality manifestation of His who wants go all “HULK SMASH!” on everybody just because He likes to power-trip and appear the benevolent dictator when His kind, anemic, nice-guy version of Himself shows up. Typical “bad-cop, good-cop” routine.

 No, that is NOT the guy I am inviting. 

I am inviting the God who is already here because nothing can exist without Him. The God who’s everywhere. The God who’s madly in love with you. With me. With all of us. Crazy, head-over-heels madly in love. The God Who permanently interwove Himself with humanity in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. (He just overdoes Himself on our behalf. I love it!)

Yeah, I am inviting the Living God.  

The One Who embodies true goodness.

The One Who technically doesn’t even need an invitation. 

That’s Who you can expect.