Monday, July 26, 2010

The Power of Story

It was pitch black as my car slowly followed Micah's along the winding mountain roads, our tires kicking up dust in our wake. My adrenaline was building, preparing both my mind and body for the next hours of our night hike up Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs. My friend Brad sat next to me in the passenger seat keeping my mind occupied on our conversation. I was sharing with him about my last year...graduation, what the Lord had been teaching me at Focus on the Family that summer, and then a thought hit me that spilled out of my mouth as Brad thanked me for sharing.

"It's not my story to withhold. God's writing it, I'm just living it."

My mind froze as I replayed that comment over and over in my head, realizing both the truth and the responsibility that came with it. Have you ever had one of those thoughts? You know it didn't come from you because there is no way that you are that brilliant, and it both hits you and spills out of your mouth in the same breath with the unmistakable ring of truth to it? I knew that it hadn't come from me. It was a Holy Spirit inspired response. Divinely inspired light bulbs are great, aren't they?

In the last year, I have begun to realize the power of story. Can you name the two most powerful stories in history?

1) The story of Jesus Christ
2) Yours!

That's right! Your story is the second most important story in history! Why?

There was a man in the Bible named Nicodemus. For those of you reading this who do not claim to be Christians, you are in good company. Nicodemus wasn't least at the time he talked with Jesus. He was seeking and confused. He came to Jesus in the middle of the night and Jesus talked with him. In John 3:11 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony." Your story is powerful because you can speak of what the Lord has brought you through.

Never mistake that Jesus has the absolute most powerful and influential story in history but because He made you and gave you life, your story is the second most influential to people in your sphere of influence. Most people do not appreciate a know-it-all. However, your story automatically has credibility because you are standing before them and telling it, physically present and accessible to them. You lived it and they can relate to it, or they have someone to ask their questions to.

People want someone they can relate to. For those going through a crisis, it is encouraging for them to see and hear of someone who went through something similar and came out on the other side. I often wonder if the Lord sends me through difficulties because somewhere down the way, He has a plan to send someone into my life who will need to hear that I made it and what God taught me.

Story is a powerful thing. We live in a culture where we want to hear what the next Hollywood star is up to now or what politician is cheating on his wife or creating a national scandal. People want to know stories. No matter how nondescript you feel yours may be, you have the ability to influence people mightily for Jesus through a willingness to share what God has brought you through. My mom has always told me, "Never forget from whence you came." Never forget what God has brought you through, no matter how painful or how joyous. It may be He wants to use that in the life of others. You don't have to have a successful career or a story worthy of Lifetime. You simply have to be willing and open to share.

What the Lord laid on my heart to share with Brad is very true. It isn't your story to withhold. The Master Author is intricately and creatively writing the story of your life and your job is to share it with whoever He puts in your path. Listen for His gentle whispers...the amazing part is He will give you the words to say when the time comes and He will use your story. The pressure is off of you! So share. You have a powerful story because it was and is being written by a Mighty God!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Choose Joy

Recently, I had a doctor appointment with a neurologist to talk about some issues I have been having in the last couple of years. During the course of the visit, he began to ask me about my psychological health, citing that nerve issues are often tied to our emotions and how we are handling our environment. He asked one question that required the most simplistic answer...and I couldn't give it.

"Are you happy?"

I long ago discovered that happiness is very different from joy. The last two years of my life, the Lord has really been breaking me, molding and reshaping me, refining me so I can reflect His image. I have the uncomfortable yet wonderful feeling that He isn't done yet. Things have been stressful. There are happy moments and tearful moments, frustrating moments, and moments of deep peace. But I can honestly say I am not happy all the time. So I answered very honestly and very bluntly.

"I am content."
"Content? That's not happy." He was very confused and looked like he wanted to write that I had an emotional problem instead of a physical problem. Trying to be patient I explained.
"I'm not happy all the time. Life is rough. But I am content with where I am at right now."

Here I believe is the difference between happiness and contentment...happiness is a feeling often based on external circumstances. It is a fickle emotion that can ebb and flow like the tides. But contentment....that is something different entirely. It is a deep set, untouchable, unemotional understanding and reassurance that:

a)God is who He says He is
b)He is in control and doesn't change despite the circumstance
c)I can rest in who I am in Him

Contentment is unshakable, and it is pure peace. Telling this doctor that I am always happy would have been a lie. But telling Him I am content, that I know that God is in control despite my circumstances, and that I can be joyful is true. Joy and contentment are choices not based on circumstances or emotion. They are based on the goodness and consistency of the God of the Universe. The very One who made YOU and desires a relationship with YOU. When you know who you are in Him - a beautiful child of the King, bought and paid for with an unconditional love - then that joy and contentment override all else.

James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you face trials of many kinds for the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

John 16:22 says, "So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."

Isaiah 35:10 says, "And the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

Life is tough. But Jesus can make the journey a beautiful time of joy, no matter how dark the circumstance. Yes, I am happy. Not always. However, I forever want to say that I am content and filled with joy because I know whom I serve and I know He is bigger than any circumstance. No, it won't be easy, but I commit to choose joy, even when I don't feel like it. My prayer is that the God of joy will fill you with His peace and His version of happiness....all-consuming, unconditional joy.

Choosing joy,