A Heart’s Cry

Talk to Jesus copy

“I want to talk to Jesus the way that Attie does.”

Oh my gosh, I’ve heard this so many times from fans of Salvaged. This statement (or statements very similar) make my heart dance but at the same time, leave me a bit tortured. Tortured because in the sweetness of the story, a truth was lost. A truth that I knew well. So well, that in my brand new world of writing and not really knowing what I was doing, I missed making the point more obvious. I felt that the subtlety of the message would still make a point, when in reality I should have shouted it from the rooftops.

If I could go back now, I would add a note at the end of the book, and this is what I would say:

Readers:

First and foremost, thank you for reading this story. The reality that you could pick up a story that I wrote from such a place of brokenness, and read it to the point that you have made it to the end – to this note – it means more to me than you could possibly understand.

The old saying goes that ‘writers write what they know’. That’s very true. But for me, writing Salvaged, was a lot of writing about what I wanted to know. What I needed to know. Questions and pains brimming from the depths of my soul that needed a clear word from a Savior that I believed in but that I didn’t truly know. A savior that I needed a true relationship with.

The questions, the fears and anxieties; the temper tantrums the “huh? Moments” – all that Attie experienced, I experienced. When she needed an answer, I needed an answer. When she felt rejection, I felt rejection. And when Jesus walked her through those things, he was walking me through those things. Many of her experiences actually happened to me in similar fashion at some point in my life.

Attie is me. I am her. And I believe that part of the reason that you have made it this far into the book is because she is a part of you as well.

One night, in the middle of my brokenness, I literally cried out to Jesus. I begged him to show up in my room and tell me what to do.

He did.

And he will for you too.

But as in any relationship, you carry some responsibility.

[Please allow me to take on more of a Tammy role and just tell you like it is. No sugar-coating.]

Jesus is there. Always. And he is always speaking to us. The question of hearing him is more about us than it is about him.

You won’t hear him if you don’t actually sit with him for a while each day.

One of the reasons that Attie was able to talk to the Lord is because she continually made herself available to him. She made time for him.

If you aren’t taking at least a few minutes out of each and every day to communicate with him, you certainly won’t be able to hear him in your most desperate moments.

Spending time with him each day isn’t a rule. It’s not something that you have to check off a list. He isn’t making you do it. He will never force himself on you. He will wait. Patiently.

You don’t have to sit with him each day but if you don’t, the consequence is not hearing his voice and that consequence is on you— not on him. He’s always there. You’re the one that won’t sit and talk. [That was harsh. Sorry, not sorry.]

You won’t hear him if you won’t shut your mouth.

He absolutely wants to hear what’s on your heart. All of it. Good. Bad. Ugly. He wants it all. The more important question is whether or not you want that in return. Are you truly willing to not only listen, but hear what he has to say? As with Attie, sometimes what he has to say doesn’t feel so great at first. But it is always said in love and it is always best for us to hear it.

He is a comforter, yes. He is a friend, yes. He is a counselor, absolutely! He is a healer. A warrior who fights on our behalf. He loves us unconditionally. He is for us. He believes in us. He has a plan and purpose for our life and he’s excited to share it with us. He wants us to take a step. He wants us to face our monsters. To be triumphant.

And he will tell us all of that… if we’ll shut up long enough to listen

[That was me preaching to me]

You won’t hear from him if you only go to him with a list of wants, needs and demands.

Our agenda isn’t his priority because he sees the bigger picture. It’s his plans and purpose that are most important. It’s about a willingness to say (and mean) “Thy will be done”. It’s about offering ourselves to be his hands and feet. Trust me, from life experience I have learned that it is through being his hands and feet and putting his agenda first that my (true) needs are met. He’s amazing like that.

Should we take our needs to him? Absolutely! But we are to take them, lay them at his feet and let them go, having completely handed them over to him.

You won’t hear from him if you’re putting on a show.

He wants you. The real you. The heartbroken, yet hopeful. The fearful, yet courageous. The lost, yet searching. He doesn’t want you to do what you think you’re supposed to do, or say what you’ve been told you are supposed to say. He wants your heart. He wants your truth. He wants your honesty. He wants you raw, he wants you real. Put down the act. Quit trying to fake it. When it feel like there’s no place else in the world that you can be the real you, at his feet is the safest to let the walls down and come as you are – a beautiful mess.

You won’t hear from him if you’re distant and angry.

When my son Caleb was little and he was mad at me, he would sit in a corner with his back to me. When I would try to talk to him he’d say: “You’re not my friend no more!” I hated it. It broke my heart.

I wanted our relationship repaired but I wasn’t willing to give in to his temper tantrum to get it. I knew what was best and I wasn’t about to give up because for the moment, he was upset.

How often do we get offended with the Lord because our (perceived) needs, agendas and wish lists aren’t met? We turn our back. Walk away. Tune him out… until we need something and then we run back to him and wonder why we have such a hard time hearing him.

Sometimes when I sit with the Lord, I literally have to start with: “I’m hurting. I’m bitter towards you right now…. I’m so sorry. Help me get over it.” And sometimes it takes a while to move on from that place but I do… with his help.

Let’s face it – life can royally suck. Big time. Life doesn’t make sense and it can down right be painful. But to harden our heart towards God not only doesn’t make it better but it puts up a wall that makes it impossible to hear him. And trust me, when the walls are up and we can’t hear him, things only get worse.

Sometimes he’s literally screaming to us, but our ears are so jam packed with crap, we can’t hear him. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you can only watch Christian stuff and listen to Christian music and read Christian books – but come on. What are you watching? Listening to? Reading? And which “voice” is louder?

Okay, now for the nicer stuff. :)

Prayer doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s simple.

Speak.

Listen.

Just because Jesus isn’t actually standing visibly in your room wearing jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean he isn’t there. And just because you can’t audibly hear his voice doesn’t mean he isn’t speaking.

If you feel something in your gut – chances are that’s not your internal organs speaking it’s the Holy Spirit. He will nudge you. He will speak to you. It may sound like yourself but of course he will talk to you in a way that you can relate to. Don’t expect to hear him speak in King James Bible form.

How do you test if you’re hearing from the Holy Spirit or talking to yourself? It takes practice. Practice takes time. A huge hint – if what you are “hearing” doesn’t line up with his Word – it’s not him.

One of the ways I trained myself was to keep a log. I literally wrote down any nudge I got. It could be a nudge to go outside and make sure the car doors were locked. Or it could be to tell a person something that I felt the Lord wanted them to know. Next to the “nudge”, I wrote the outcome. What did I learn? I talk to myself a lot.

Just kidding.

I learned that he talks to us a lot and about a lot of different things both big deal and small. And I learned that it’s sort of a fun game to play and it just so happens to be a faith feeder.

He talks to you through his Word. The Bible. Read it. Often.

He talks to you through friends, family and mentors. You know when someone says something that was a “God kiss”. You feel it in your “gut”. Call it what it is – the Lord communicating with you.

He talks to you through books.

He talks to you through journaling. Write what floods into your mind – no filter. Then, go back and read it and write the thoughts that come to you as you read it. I do this all the time. Love it.

He talks to you through music.

He talks to you through sermons.

I literally listen to sermons all the time. That’s what iTunes is for as far as I’m concerned. I listen to tons of different pastors and it keeps me in tuned to hearing his voice.

He is everywhere, which means his voice is everywhere – we just don’t see it that way. Train your spiritual ears to find his voice. As you do, you will hear it more and more.

The two most common things said to me from fans:

“I want to talk to Jesus like Attie does” and “I want a Riley Bennett”.

I hope this helped you with the first of the two. I hope you see that you can talk to Jesus and he wants to talk to you too… and does. I urge you to give your relationship with the Lord the time that it deserves… that he deserves.

And as for that second cry of fandom: “I want a Riley Bennett” – talk to the Lord about that. He didn’t give me the gift of match-making (or the time). But let me end with this – don’t settle. Wait for the guy worthy of you.

Again, thanks for reading Salvaged. I hope that it inspired you and leads you towards a REAL relationship with your creator.

Blessings,

Stefne

Questions? Comments? Rants? Leave a comment!
(Link to comment at the top of the post)

Let’s Drop Our Stones

Click photo to see it on Flickr.
Click photo to see it on Flickr.

I was on the phone with a friend when I first saw news of Invisible Children Co-Founder, Jason Russell’s arrest. I read the article out loud and was literally sick to my stomach. Not because of what he had done, but because of what it meant.

I am a huge supporter of Invisible Children. Not financially, necessarily, but I tell others about their organization, follow them closely, dedicated my novel, Collision, to them and am giving a portion of the proceeds of copies sold from my website, to them. The non-profit changed my life and I am forever grateful.

I was ecstatic when the #kony2012 campaign burst on to the scene. I was elated by the response and seeing my Twitter and Facebook streams fill with screen caps of the film and photos of Kony. I bought my kit and my family made plans to cover the night on April 20th.

Then, the skeptics started talking, casting doubt and fear onto the waters and turning some people’s excitement into more of a muddy uncertainty. I’ve spent the last two weeks defending Invisible Children to friends, family and fans that are asking my opinion about the negative press the organization has received.

And now, Mr. Russell’s arrest. I fully expected the deluge of “what do you think now?” e-mails and yes, they came. So, this is what I say:

“Put down your stones.”

Did Mr. Russell just commit an indiscretion? Yes. We all do – his just happened to be in public (and if you’re pulling out the “but I’ve never done that” card, go back and read the Bible to see what it says about placing sin on a scale of bad to worse). The indiscretion was not only public in the sense of where it happened, but public in the fact that Invisible Children has the attention of millions around the world and a lot of those people want nothing more than to see the organization fail. I can literally visualize those people salivating over this “failure”.

Part of what makes me sick to my stomach is knowing that Mr. Russell must know that too. I can only imagine what he’s feeling right now. Shame, embarrassment, disappointment in himself, fear of what this means to his wife,children and the organization he loves so much. I’ve beat myself up to the point of being bloody and it wasn’t even over stuff with such possible negative consequences.

Instead of jumping up and down at someone else’s problems, why not actually give him some grace? Realize that we have no place to judge and stop to think about what he has managed to do through his good choices.

Do his actions of a few nights ago erase the slaughter of multitudes of human lives over the last twenty-five years? Does it erase the fact that women all over Northern Uganda, Sudan and the Congo have been raped? Or thousands upon thousands of children have been taken violently from their families and forced to kill in order to live themselves? Does one man’s weakness nullify all of that? If so, then God help us.

Even the most loved Bible heroes were complete and utter failures in at least one area of their life, yet they are still held up as examples of how to live. Why? Because we’re all moral failures, ours just look different and we tend to hide that reality from others.

I urge people to keep the focus where it belongs… On Kony. He is the criminal we are after. He is the abductor, the killer, the rapist, the mutilator. He is the enemy. And when he’s caught and brought to justice, then guess what? We’re going to be called to forgive even him.

Drop your stones of judgement and pray for Jason Russell, his wife, his children and his organization. Pray that the ultimate enemy, Satan, will not win in this. Don’t let him take our focus off of doing good because we’re so busy reveling in someone else’s “failure”. And don’t let the enemy convince you to use this as an excuse to do nothing.

If you’re waiting for the perfect person to lead us into battle, you missed him. He came two-thousand years ago and he’s begging you to rise up and be his hands and feet.

Let’s drop our stones, give grace and ACT.

Happily Weird!

Weird

I hope I don’t get in trouble for this. I think we’re allowed to blog about someone else’s words as long as we give them credit, right? If not … oops. So, Craig Groeschel gets the credit for being the catalyst for this post. Being “Weird” is his concept and the branches I’m about to swing off of are totally coming from his tree of an idea. [I hope that covers the legal stuff for talking about his idea].

Anyhoo-

I’ve been weird my entire life. Weird in a good way, I’m now learning. Some of my weirdness wasn’t intentional. I was an Army brat and I moved a lot, so being the new kid in some ways makes you weird. I was sort of trained to never fully fit in. To always be looked at with a questioning eyes. To never be invited into the “in-crowd” because I either hadn’t been around long enough to wiggle my way in, or wouldn’t be around long enough for them to bother considering to let me do so. As I’ve said many times on this blog, I was never the exceptional one, the pretty one, the interesting one, the captivating one or the smart one… I was just one… among many…. and I was a bit weird.

But like I said, those situations of non-chosen weirdness have made being intentionally weird, easier. I’m sort of accustomed to being scoffed at. It still hurts, of course. Especially when it’s done with malicious intent, but I’m getting more and more used to it. As a matter of fact, I consider it a bit of a badge of honor.

Fact is, nothing that the Lord has called me to do would fall into the category of “normal”. And really, should I be surprised? God didn’t do anything normal… and his son, Jesus, most certainly didn’t. Tell me the people  on the outskirts watching him rub mud in a guys eyes weren’t standing there saying, “That dude is weird.” You find me a time when Jesus did or said something in the Bible and I’ll read it through “normal” eyes and tell ya: “Yep, he was weird, alright.” Actually, it’s one of the things I love most about him.

About five years ago, Shaun and I felt called to downsize our house. We didn’t need to. We could afford living just where we were. We just felt a pull from the Lord. Wanna know how weird that is? The mortgage lender made us write a letter explaining why we wanted to downsize. Shaun and I looked at each other with the old **huh** stare down. Neither one of us could grasp why they couldn’t grasp the concept of not wanting to spend money you didn’t have to spend. So finally he just wrote, “because we don’t need to spend this much every month on a house” and we signed it.

A few years later we would come to the realization of why God asked us to do that very weird thing. It was because he was calling us to do even a weirder thing and we would need all the extra money we could scrape together to do it. He called us to adopt. From Africa. Now, that’s not completely weird. Thankfully, there are more and more people adopting children from all over the states and the world, every single day. But it’s still not the norm. You see, we already had two children who were actually produced out of my womb. They were 9 and 11 years old at the time and people couldn’t fathom why we would “disturb” our home and take in a new child. What made it weirder? We were adopting a boy… of nine years old. Now that’s weird! It’s weird because people are afraid to adopt boys, of color, from another country, who are older. As a matter of fact, the chances of a boy over the age of five being adopted is very, very small. Guess what? That’s why God called us to do it. Because Yohannes needed a home and deserved to be loved as much as any newborn child in the world. Was it risky? Yes. Could there have been disruption in our home? Yes. Was there? A little at first. Is he one of the most amazing children you’ll ever meet? Yes. He’s going into middle school next year. He’s at grade level or above. He’s respectful. He’s kind. He’s well-behaved and he’s a blessing. So apparently, he’s weird. And for the record – my other two boys (now ages 14 and 12) are also well behaved, do well in school, are well-adjusted and they love their new brother. So, they’re weird too.

Traveling to Uganda, Africa for a missions trip? Weird. Traveling to Gulu, Uganda, Africa where they have no running water or working toilets, when I won’t even use a public bathroom or a porta-potty because I’m too scared to and they make me throw up? Very weird. Going against everything I know to be safe and comfortable, just because I believe God told me to? Weird.

Waking up at the age of thirty-and a high number, and deciding out of nowhere that I was being called to write a book? Weird. Actually believing that God was telling me what to write? Weird. Making Jesus a character in the book? Weird. Making him the relational person I believe him to be? Weird. Writing about two teenagers who are choosing to remain pure? Weird. Doing it in a way that’s realistic and real world? Weird. My husband working two jobs so I can keep trying to give this writing thing a go? Weird — and tiring.

Why be normal? It’s so boring. And if you think by being normal you’re escaping discomfort, think again. How non-painful is it to be in constant competition with everyone around you? To make a mortgage payment you can’t afford? To wear shoes that hurt your feet purely for the sake of looking “cool”? [The very fact that I used the word, “cool”, probably proves what a weirdo I am.] How pleasant is getting needles stuck in your face so you can stay youthful looking while the world around you crumbles? How fun is it to be the topic of gossip among your “friends” simply because you happen to be the one that stepped out of the room for five minutes? I mean really, that life… that life of normal, stinks. It hurts. And if you’re going to suffer, do it for some real good for Pete’s sake. Suffer for the one who suffered for you. Trust me, eventually people will accept the fact that you aren’t going to take part in their “normalness” and they’ll give up trying. This worked for me in High School. I said “no” enough times to drinking and sex, etc, that eventually my “friends” quit even trying to get me to take part. Honestly – the peer pressure stopped altogether. I was labeled “weird” and people moved on.

Weird. Weird. Weird. It’s not a bad word. It’s a lovely word. It’s like “abnormal”, it just rolls off the tongue and sounds good while doing it.

I’m here to encourage you:

Embrace your odd.

Love your quirky.

Go weird or go home.

Shout loud and proud: “I’m weird, get used to it!”

“Love me weird or don’t love me at all!”

“I’m a weirdo not fighter.”

Embrace the motto: I never met a weirdo I didn’t like.

You can also throw in that you’ve been “Salvaged” — okay, that’s too much of a self-promo, sorry. But it is true. It’s the fact that God has salvaged your life, that you get to go on that wonderfully weird journey he’s asking you to take with him.

Please don’t be afraid of being “weird”. This world needs more Christ-like weirdness. It needs more people who are willing to take a stand for what’s right… for what isn’t normal. Of course I prefer you do it in a non-judgemental and loving way – otherwise you aren’t weird, you’re just a jerk, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

So go on! Go be weird. Go be weird at school, at work, at Wal-Mart (that place is filled with odd people so you’re going to have to work at that one), at church… anywhere you can think to be weird, be weird. And love every stinkin’ minute of it because you know God is!