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God, Life, Uncategorized, Up

What a Gift

This letter-turned-blog post was written to and for the women attending Mountain View Fellowship’s Women’s Retreat this past March, but it’s applicable for everyone.  The retreat focused on the book of James.

To my sisters at Mountain View Fellowship,

I have been cooking most of my family’s meals from my mom’s cookbook lately.  It’s a self-published one that she had printed when she was 75.  It contains the tastes and scents I remember from my childhood, my teenage years, and all the years I went “back home” for visits with brand new babies or for holidays that were always more special because we were together. Creating things to nurture and sustain the bodies of the ones I love out of this simple book helps me to feel close to her and like I’m doing something she’d be proud of.

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I think about my hands making the same motions hers did when I roll out the dough that should be “thin as a quarter” for Sausage Pinwheels or drop home-made dumplings“directly into the bubbles” of a boiling pot of what will become Chicken and Dumplings. I have a couple of pictures of my mother’s hands.  One is from a cooking class we took together several years ago as she’s forming a croissant, and another is much more recent. As I get older, it seems that more times than not, when I look down at my own hands it’s hers that I see. This definitely produces mixed emotions. 😉

My family lost her unexpectedly on the 29th of November.  It was unexpected because, even though she was 82, she was healthier, spunkier, and more active than most people I knew.  Early that morning, she developed a tear in her Aorta that was bleeding into her heart.  She survived two ambulance rides to different hospitals and then several hours waiting for an operating room to open up; it was such a relief to know she had made it that far. My father and sister spent several precious hours with her awake and talking, though she was in a great deal of pain.

I was at the airport by 8am, ticket in hand, thinking that I was going to help my mom recover from major surgery in which her chest would be cracked open. I wouldn’t arrive in Houston until 2pm with a change of planes and time zones. It felt like forever, and as it turned out, it was.  As my plane was descending on the short trip from Austin into Houston, my phone went crazy with alerts.  For some reason, I felt that instead of reading any messages, I should try to call Donn. I didn’t even know if the call would go through-we were still at about 20,000 feet, but it did. Through tears, he told me that we had lost her.

God in his great mercy had me sitting next to a woman who knew Him.  We hadn’t spoken a word to each other the entire flight and I was even irritated that she chose to sit next to me on a mostly empty plane when everyone on it could have had an entire row to themselves. But she heard my phone call, and she heard me say, “Oh no…” and knew something wasn’t right.  She asked if I was ok and I said the words, “I just lost my mom… I was trying to get to her.” Without hesitating, she put her arms around me and pulled me into her tightly.  The first word I heard her speak was “Jesus…”  and she began whispering a prayer of strength and mercy into my ear as I fell apart. She sat with me after we landed minutes later and rubbed my back and prayed until I felt strong enough to stand, which took about twenty minutes. She said she’d be praying for me, I thanked her profusely, and we hugged goodbye. I never even knew her name, but I love her to this day, and I think she probably feels the same way.

As James puts it in chapter 1, verse 17, she was a good and perfect gift that came down from the Father of the heavenly lights during one of the worst moments of my life.  And that is what I pray for you this weekend and beyond, my dear sisters; that you will begin to see the Good and Perfect Gifts your Father has provided for you, even in the worst of circumstances.

First of all, you are here, in this beautiful place, with these beautiful women.  What a gift.

Whether you know Christ or not, He is here, pursuing you and loving you.  What a gift.

Maybe your marriage is going through a rough patch, you’re separated, the divorce is final, or you’re wondering if you’ll ever find someone who will commit to you in the first place-there are women here who have been exactly where you’re at and can speak wisdom into your pain.  What a gift.

Maybe you’re struggling with your finances and are feeling hopeless about things ever getting better-but you still have a roof over your head, and food on your table, and people around you to struggle with and struggle for… What a gift.

Maybe all you want is a child of your own and it just hasn’t happened, or a doctor told you it will never happen.  Your heart may be broken, but know that God is doing something in the midst of your emptiness. He’s refining and comforting you and reminding you that He doesn’t give empty presents.  Your story is not finished.  What a gift.

Maybe you avoid looking in the mirror because you’re so unhappy with what you see-whether it’s too large or too small, too much this way or not enough that way.  Maybe you feel like a constant failure because you can’t control your weight, and you feel like you’ll never measure up to the impossible standard you’ve set for yourself.  But you’ve been given this body, and it’s strong, able, and healthy- and though it may not be perfect, it serves as the hands and feet of Christ and can help and serve, minister, and love… What a Gift.

Maybe your body is broken down with illness and you don’t feel good much of the time, that you’re not half as useful to God as you could be if only you were healthy.  Maybe you live under the shadow of knowing that a disease of the body or of the mind may likely come your way, as it has to others in your family… and you’re terrified.  Remember that God can use you right where you are and he wrote your story before you were born.  You are exactly who he created you to be and he is strong enough to carry you when you are weak and he can even use your weakness to rescue others.  What a gift.

Finally sisters, remember the best and most perfect gift that came down from the Father of Heavenly Lights is Christ Himself, and we are his reflection.  Your feet have walked the same earth and can carry the same good news.  Your hands can heal, whether through touch and prayer or by preparing a meal for a friend in need. He created you and knows you intimately and can use you just as you are. He loves you so much he keeps you safe in the palm of his hand. Remember that when you look down at your hands, no matter your age, it’s really His hands you’re seeing.

If it has escaped you, know that you are not too far gone to feel real joy again-whether you’re in the midst of anger you can’t shake or grief you can’t outrun.  Your spirit can experience true peace again, even in the churning storm that may be your life. And just like coming into the family of God, all we have to do is ask Him for it. 1 John 5:14-15 (NLT) says, “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.  And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”

What a gift.

I’m praying for you this weekend!

Love, Angie

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God, Up

Hollow

Lonely girl

If you’ve been attending MVF for the last few weeks you know we just wrapped up a financial message series.  So it seems like all I’ve studied out of scripture for the last couple of months has been money related.  But it’s been amazing how much money and our relationship with Jesus have in common.

Many of you at MVF are plugged into and serving on different teams based upon how God has gifted you and what your passions are.  As lead pastor, I serve on a lot of those teams but the one team I’m purposely not part of is the Benevolence Team. It’s because in some situations, I can have a hard heart towards people who are struggling financially.  I blame it on my former law-enforcement background, but the reality is it’s a flaw and I’m praying God will soften my heart.

Now that I’ve told you I struggle with a hard heart and setting aside my fear you’ll think worse of me, I want to tell you a story.  I recently had a conversation with someone who came into the MVF offices seeking financial assistance.  This person was behind on his bills, close to his electric being shut off, and facing evection.  I obviously asked a lot of questions like, “Are you currently working?” and “What are you doing to better your life by bringing in more income?”  Long story short, he wasn’t working or searching for a job but frustrated because he didn’t have any money.  He gave me the distinct impression that, although he wasn’t interested in earning an income, it was everyone else’s fault he was broke and couldn’t make his bills.

Anyone hearing this story would say it’s impossible for this man to get to a better place without doing his part (even if you have a soft heart).  It’s an easy equation: no work = no money.  No money = no house, heat, clothes, or food.  It’s so easy to see when it comes to our financial situation but I think the same thing could be said about our relationship with Jesus (you thought this was going to be about finances, didn’t you?).

The problem is this: both financial and spiritual bankruptcy lead to emptiness and desperation.  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who have told me the same story in different ways.  “Jesus doesn’t seem real in my life. I used to feel like I had a good relationship with Jesus but He seems so far away now.  I don’t feel close to Him at all.”  I ask them all the same questions I recently asked the penniless guy standing in our office.  “Are you currently working at fostering a relationship with Jesus?” and “What are you doing to better your life by bringing in more of Jesus?”  Unfortunately, the majority of the responses involve blank stares.  Apparently that equation is easy to identify in our financial life but harder to recognize in our spiritual life.  See, a relationship implies that two people are moving toward one another.  If you’re not feeling close to Jesus, guess who moved (Hint: It wasn’t him.)

There’s a song I love by Daniel Bashta from about five years ago called I Want It All.  The song is about an authentic pursuit of Jesus and not settling for an emotional experience.  The phrase in that song that haunts me for days every time I hear it played is “the stench of hollowness.”  Unfortunately, this is where many Christians live there spiritual lives; in hollowness.  And make no mistake about it, there’s a stench.  It stinks when your relationship with Jesus, something that should be the passion of your life, is just a religion.  It stinks when churches, the body of Christ who is risen, are dead.  We think we’re the only ones that know we’re hollow, but believe me, even an unbelieving world can smell it.

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We need an awakening; not just for us but for a lost world around us to see Jesus.  Instead of causing us to walk away from Jesus, hollowness should make us run to Him.  We need to develop a passion for Jesus; not just on the surface, but to the very depths of our being.  Are you satisfied with your current relationship with Jesus?  Do you desire something more, something real?  If you’re feeling tired of settling for religion, I want to encourage you with the words of this song:

My heart is cold and faith is weak
But I’m still looking for the real Jesus
Oh I know there’s more than this

It’s all just meaningless
The stench of hollowness
Unless You respond

Give me the real thing
Not just religion
Stir up my passion
With more of conviction

I want it all
Not just a portion
Give me Your presence
Not just some feeling

If you’re bankrupt, not financially… but spiritually, you have to put some effort into getting better… and that takes work.  Work to foster a relationship with Jesus.  Try to authentically pursue the things of God.  Ask for more of Jesus in your life.  Practice  developing a life of worship in everything you do.  And if you’ll do your part, I promise you, Jesus will fill the hollowness in your life.

God, Life, Out

Love Lavishly

Lavish: expending or bestowing profusely (verb); in abundance (adjective)

God loves us lavishly. He bestowed profusely His love, grace and mercy when we did not deserve it and when we should have been punished.  As believers, we just came out of a season celebrating the lavish love God bestowed upon us in the birth of Jesus. He left the throne and came down to live and die for those who profess Him as Savior, bearing the punishment our sins deserved and granting eternal life by faith in Him. It is because of this lavish love bestowed upon us, we can love others.

In John 13: 34-35 Jesus introduces a new concept, saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  What is new here is not the command to love but the command to love sacrificially. It is a deepening and expanding of the command. Jesus calls us to love just as I have loved you out of selflessness and sacrifice.

We’ve all heard of ‘The Golden Rule.’  It came from Luke 6:31, which states “And as you wish others would do to you, do so to them.” (ESV)

Initially, this might sound similar to Jesus’ commandment in the John passage, but there is a distinction. The golden rule principle is based upon the premise of reciprocity. Those who love us, we tend to love back (and the reverse: those who are harsh toward us, we tend to be harsh back). The ‘golden rule’ shows the human tendency to serve our own best interest by being kind toward others so that we receive kindness back. We gain from what we give. There is nothing particularly noble about following this principle though. It doesn’t demonstrate the sacrificial love God bestowed upon us. The golden rule is but a minimum requirement. The golden rule is not bad—it’s just not enough. Jesus goes on in verses 32 – 34 to make it clear that there is no virtue, benefit, or credit for living according to the same standard as the world. If you love those who love you, anyone can do that. If you do good to only those who do good to you, anyone can do that. And, if you lend money to only those who can pay you back, well, anyone can do that. Jesus calls us to a higher standard.

The Christian is to surpass the world’s minimum standard in the matter of loving others. The saint must also love the ‘difficult’ people and those who hate him. We are not only to give love for love, and good for good, we are to love our enemies, and to return good for evil. Love and generosity toward all; not reciprocity.

When you truly grasp your own depravity and the profuse love given through Jesus Christ, as your sin rested upon him and he hung on the cross in your place, separated from the Father to lavish grace and mercy on you, you will be able to love beyond the golden rule minimum.

You can only do the things Jesus calls you to do – love others as He loves, do good, bless others, pray for, not repay evil for evil, give without expecting a return – when you decide to follow Jesus, recognizing your own sin and need for forgiveness. You must determine you would rather be like Jesus than the ‘world.’  The world has a different standard of behavior, and the world’s way has never been God’s way. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world. The world would have you believe that rather than choosing love, kindness, and compassion, it’s okay to withdraw, retaliate, punish someone who has wronged you, withhold forgiveness, and only extend generosity if it will be reciprocated. In God’s economy, we are called to expend selfless, sacrificial, and lavish love.

So, rather than the minimum…

  • Invite without expecting an invitation back.
  • Give for no other reason than to bestow love. 

Additionally, when you find yourself in the midst of betrayals, social media attacks, and losses… when  dealing with wayward & rebellious children, unbelieving spouses and family members, absentee parents, in-laws, co-workers, difficult teachers, coaches and frenemies, in marriages hanging on by a thread, in unmet expectations, angry words, hurtful words, lies told about you, and miscommunications, in arguments and feuds that have lasted so long you can’t even remember how they began, in all types of situations and with all types of people… love others like Jesus loves you: sacrificially.

Never stop loving, never stop doing good.

Until Jesus takes you home…Love one another…Love Lavishly!

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Author Jodi Ross is the
Women’s Ministry Director at MVF

God, Life, Out, Up

Uncomfortably Comfortable

We hadn’t made it very far. We were only about three miles outside of Strasburg when Ryan asked everybody on the bus to share why they were wanting to go on this trip. Nine of us from MVF were headed to Houston to help with hurricane relief. I sat there and listened to the rest of the team’s answers and all I could think was “uhhh, I really don’t want to be on this trip.” And I even said something along those lines when it came my turn but followed it up with “…but the best way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone, I guess?” still trying to convince myself that this was a good idea.

MVF’s 2017 Houston Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Team

I had never been on a trip like that before and to say that I was hesitant would be an understatement. I even tried to back out of it once to no avail. I had been so busy up to the point of departure that I really didn’t know anything about the trip. All I knew to expect was: new place, new people, new routine, new experience. The only things I knew for sure to expect were the exact things that were threatening the comfort zone that I was so happily living in. There was nothing wrong with my comfort zone. It was where I had spent my entire life and I didn’t see any reason to ever leave it.

But then I thought of Abraham in Genesis 12 who uprooted everything he had to venture into unfamiliar territory because he trusted God’s faithfulness. I thought of Rahab in Joshua 2 who risked her own life for a God she barely knew because she recognized His power. I thought of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1 who had risen to prominence and lived a very comfortable life as cupbearer to the king but heard of the destruction in Jerusalem and left to go rebuild it’s wall because his heart broke for what broke God’s. These are only a few of the people we see in the Bible who were willing to step out of their comfort zones into God’s abundant faithfulness.

And then I thought of Jesus. Was he comfortable on the cross? Surely not. Every breath he took was a reminder of the nails that pierced him and the people that betrayed him.

For the rest of the 18 hour bus ride, I tried to justify to myself why I didn’t need to take a tiny step out of my comfort zone when Jesus willingly took something so extreme. John 13:12-15 says, “…He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” The Bible makes it evident that we are not called to just “do good” or be “better”—we are called to be like Christ. If Christ had to do things outside of his comfort zone, then why shouldn’t I have to?

Houston didn’t disappoint—it was uncomfortable just as I was expecting. I left a very comfortable house in Strasburg and walked into homes of complete devastation in Houston causing my mind to be full of some form of these questions throughout the week: What are you supposed to say to these people? How do we act? What are we going to walk into today? Is it okay that we’re having a good time? Is it even normal to be sweating this much?

Being uncomfortable was something I had planned on. What I wasn’t planning on or had even considered was the equal amount of–if not more–comfort I felt throughout the week. Houston didn’t disappoint, but neither did God. He provided comfort through the homeowners we talked to. He was evident in the joy that each one of them had despite losing everything just weeks prior. He provided comfort through New Hope Church, who we partnered with while we were there. He provided comfort through New Hope’s countless volunteers who lovingly provided every breakfast and dinner for us each day we were there. He provided comfort through a man named Bruce who showed up every morning and every evening to make sure we were taken care of and He provided comfort through each person on our team.

MVF, you sent an incredible team to Houston. This team wasn’t trying to just do good or be their best selves. They were striving to be like Christ. For an entire week, I watched this team walk into other peoples homes to bust their butts for hours on end. I watched them sweat. I watched them cry. I watched their hearts break for people they didn’t even know—some of them never having even met. I watched them love on every person they came in contact with. I watched them actively be the hands and feet of Christ. And it was a beautiful thing.

Abraham, Rahab, Nehemiah, Jesus, the volunteers at New Hope and the team from MVF. All of these people had two things in common: faith in their God and a willingness to step out of their comfort zone into something bigger than themselves. It took me longer than it should have to realize that stepping out of your comfort zone into discomfort is a lot easier when you serve a God of comfort. It’s easier when we know we cannot lose. We know the outcome because we know the Victor. What more comfort could we ask for?

Are you being asked to do something outside of your comfort zone? Do it. Move forward down that unforeseen path. It may be something as simple as walking across the lobby at church to talk to somebody you would normally avoid or inviting a co-worker to lunch to see how they’re doing. Take that step because it’s when we’re moved outside of our comfort zones into places that are bigger than us with people who are different than us, that we are able to experience not only the comfort God so freely gives, but the glory he can gain.

God, Life

Getting Connected

Today’s guest post was written by Joshua Rains, who has quite the story to tell about how God is working in and through him… if you see him at church, be sure to connect with him and ask him what God is doing in his life!  Thanks, Josh, for your perspective from a single parent’s point of view!  

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Josh, Bella, and Hunter Rains

In church this past Sunday, we learned about being connected. But that topic wasn’t what got my mind turning. It was a question posed during the Ask Anything portion of the service- and its answer by Pastor Hunter. I don’t fully recall the question, but it had to do with not knowing people and how to connect, especially if a person is shy or introverted? The answer given by Pastor Hunter was on point, but there are things about his answer that, as a single-parent, make it easier said than done. Basically, his answer was very simple and true: you as an individual need to reach out to others and engage yourself.As a widowed father of two younger children, my first thought was, “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say! Do you not know how many hoops I have to jump through to be able to do things like that?” Up to about a year ago, that was my answer every time. I recall the early days of losing my wife like they were yesterday: work, work, work, followed by an overwhelming sense of “oh no… what do I do now?” I decided to get back to church and get re-acquainted with the Lord (who, I thought at the time, may or may not get lost again down the road of my life). It happens… I mean it had happened to me.

So, here we are all brand new to church, and of course, the Pastor is real nice to you and says, “If there’s anything you need at all please call and we’ll see what we can do” (all true by the way). Other people may nod their head and say hello, or extend their hands for a handshake. Sounds pretty inviting, doesn’t it? Although there’s no problem, I still don’t know anyone well enough to trust them, do I?

Here is the trap that some single-parents fall into, andI know this because I did it: Once you start attending and meeting people, they’ll invite you to hang out and do things. Except, us single parents rarely take people up on it because it’s easier to build an excuse then to put the work into connecting with people. Excuses like “Oh, my kid isn’t feeling well,” or, “I have so much to do I can’t get away.” Sometimes these things are true; it’s hard to manage a house by yourself. I always had offers for people to watch my kids so I could go out and do things… the problem was I didn’t put the effort into doing it. So, how do we fix this? All it takes is time and a little effort-but don’t be like me and take way too long!

Some people already have a support system and if that’s the case, USE IT!  For those of us who don’t,  please don’t be afraid to build one! I know it’s difficult, and it might be easier for women than it is for men. But get plugged in and go have coffee with the guy you’ve been sitting next to for the past month, or take the ladies up on the half-day of shopping. It’s not as much about drinking coffee or buying things as it is about the conversation and the connection.

I know not everyone has had the issues I have dealt with in their past. But as a widow, divorced parent, or single-parent, you need to know that people in this church community care and are more than willing to help. I understand it takes time and effort, but it is well deserved. Paul spells out how to care for single parents in 1 Timothy chapter 5. Although it addresses widows, orphans, and elders, you will geta lot out of it if you read and apply it. Along those lines, starting in December, I’ll be hosting a program for single parents called “Single and Parenting”-watch MVF’s News at the View for more details in the coming weeks.

Single parents, you may have scoffed, laughed, or ignored Pastor Hunter’s remark about taking the initiative. I know right now you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but have faith,and know it is there. In the end, you’ll find he was right and that putting the effort and energy into connecting with others is worth it.

God Bless!
Josh Rains

God, Life, Up

There is a Bird on Your Head…

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As a little girl sitting in church several (ok, many) years ago, I really did my best to listen and learn. Much went over my head, but much also stuck. Pastor Goode had so many quips and idioms. They are lodged in my brain and now, 20 years since his death, they still inform my life.  One of my favorites was and continues to be “the one about a bird”. He always said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.

Interestingly enough, since then I have seen the same quote attributed to Martin Luther and Ancient Chinese wisdom. Oh well… in my mind it will always have come from my childhood Midwestern pastor.

You see, as a child (and to this day, if I’m not careful) I would obsess over every untrue, unkind, unBiblical thought. I would feel guilty for the initial thought, and then I would enter this vicious cycle of wondering/worrying as to why I even thought it in the first place! You can image the freedom I found in realizing that birds may circle, I have no power over that. But I can control how long they linger. Instead of worrying and watching the skies for danger, I learned to focus my energy on the “nests.” The sinful actions and patterns of behavior that were already forming in real time. The idea of doing battle with what is in front of me, not with what might come.

So fast forward several years: I am finding some victory in this area. I’m working at controlling my thinking. Things are better. In the midst of that however, I began to realize a new habit developing…that of working to control everything. It’s a struggle for me, this illusion of control.  And before I knew it, it was affecting how I viewed my Spiritual growth. “Just control your thoughts, Kelly, that’s the win!” In fact, that’s one of my favorite verses….II Corinthians 10:5 says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”

Right there! The Bible gave me a command to control! I was supposed to take every thought captive. Control my thinking. Control freaks unite! And don’t misunderstand me, there is much good to be gained by working to control our thinking, but I had missed out on the depth of meaning of the last line of the verse.

“…. to the obedience of Christ.”

And with that, I lose my illusion of control. I shatter the belief that I am sufficient in and of myself to control my thoughts and feelings, and instead I submit those thoughts and feelings “to the obedience of Christ,” the one who IS in control.

So that begs the question… what does that look like?  Capturing a thought and then submitting it to the obedience of Christ…  Though not comprehensive, here is how God has grown me in this area.

First…

Taking captive the thought: Quickly identifying the thought as negative/sinful/untrue/etc. And “quickly” is important. God doesn’t command us to “harbor” the thought; to let it stew and fester and consume our time and energy and joy before we decide what to do about it. Take captive means to seize, arrest, nab, catch. Do it quickly.

and second…

Submit it to the obedience of Christ. Step one takes work  Arresting and seizing a thought is not always easy. But the work doesn’t stop there. The pay off and the true joy and peace come with submission. Submitting that thought to the grid of what you know to be true of Jesus Christ – His person, His character.  His promises. Truths like…

He loves me.

He loves _____________ (person you might be in conflict with).

He is working all things for my good and His glory.

He allows trials to purify and grow me.

He has promised His Spirit to empower me.

He has prepared eternity for me, this life is not everything.

He is sovereign.

He can be trusted.

And the exciting thing is, He is Faithful! He shows up in the middle of our struggle and His Spirit reminds us of all we have in Him. I am so thankful that He is in the business of helping us knock the nests out of our hair…

 

Written by Children’s Director Kelly Curtis

Culture, God, Out

Telling Your Story

In 2014, my family and I moved from Lafayette, Indiana to Placencia, Belize (just south of Mexico.)  Needless to say, it was a major transition in our lives.  Ours was a story filled with un-answered questions, faith, prayer, and utter dependance on God.  Kelly and I would spend the next 12 months starting up and managing a Glass Bottom Boat tour business and simultaneously launching a house church that grew from a couple of families to over 40 people in just a matter of months.

We got the business up and running just in time for “high season” which starts right around Thanksgiving.  Now, having a group of tourists out on a boat is fun because you have a captive audience…and I love telling stories.  Right after we’d embark on an excursion, one of my favorite things to do was give some background on the boat itself (which my dad had built from the ground up) and also share a bit about how our family ended up in Belize.

Sea n' BelizeHere’s the sad thing, though: I began to realize early on that I would share a certain version of our story.  It was a version that I had adapted in my mind. It was a version that omitted the faith, prayer, and utter dependance on God that I mentioned earlier. Essentially, it was a version of my story…minus God. Needless to say, I became very convicted. “This is ridiculous!” I thought to myself. “Why am I leaving God out of this amazing story?”

My purpose in this post is not to go into all the “why’s” of why we don’t include God in our story.  I think each of us has to self-reflect and figure out the answer on a personal level.  I do hope, however, to give you some practical tips on how to intentionally include God in your story moving forward.

Recently I was having a conversation that centered on the idea that believers need to be sharing their story with those around them. It became clear that there’s a fair amount of confusion surrounding this concept.

You see, everyone has a story. Your neighbor has a story. Your co-workers have a story. And yes…you have a story, too. People love telling stories, and this is what I’ve found after years of working with people…we love telling stories about ourselves (whether we know it or not). You may not realize it, but you are constantly telling a story about yourself. Now, the details you choose to include or omit as you tell that story…that’s what I want to focus on in the next few paragraphs.

I know it can be kind of intimidating, and even confusing when we talk at Mountain View Fellowship about the importance of telling your story (sometimes referred to as “sharing your testimony”). My hope is that I’ll be able to clarify and maybe simplify your approach with a few suggestions.

TBlog QuoteFirst, you have to figure out how God is woven through your life. I tend to think of our stories in terms of a tapestry or piece of fabric. Threads and details of life, relationship, and God… all woven together.  The final product is the cloth…the fabric of our lives. But if you look closely you can see how that fabric was made. All the over and under. All the intersecting points between the individual threads. Where have the threads of God and the threads of You intersected? What has God done for you? Where do you stand in your relationship with Him?  What is he teaching you today, this week, this year? How does He play a role in your day to day actives; in the big and small decisions you’ve made recently; in the blessings, trials, and difficulty that He’s allowed into your life in the distant past or in the here and now? These are all potential intersection points between your life and God. You need to first learn how to look closely…to identify and acknowledge those intersection points so that they can become a part of the real story in your heart and mind. So that they can become part of the fabric of your story.

If you’re struggling with identifying how God is woven through your life, talk with one of your pastors or mentors and allow them to help you think through the questions I’ve asked here.

Once you’ve identified where and how God is woven through your life, the next step becomes a bit more accessible.  It still takes intentionality, but at least you have content to work with.

In my case, I could see clearly all the interaction points of God and my life… I simply needed to start including those details in my story. So from that point forward when I shared with my captive audience on the boat the details of how my family ended up in Belize, I was careful not to exclude God from my story. I use the phrase “careful not to exclude God”  very intentionally. I didn’t preach a sermon. I didn’t share scripture. I didn’t even mention directly that I was a christian (gasp!). I simply was mindful not to exclude God from my story. And that’s my final encouragement to you. Don’t exclude God from your story.

My story ended up including a lot more faith, hope, prayer, and dependance on God than it did before. And you know what, yours can too!  It wasn’t long before people were asking me follow-up questions and I was having really cool conversations with people about my faith journey. Not everyone picked up on or responded to the “God” details that I included in my story, and that’s ok. I believe that as long as we…as long as you continue to identify where you and God intersect, and are then careful not to exclude those details from your story, you’re going to be on the right track.