Each week, I write a post called Beauty & Blessings: Wonder & Awe(some) a.k.a. look what God is doing on this earth and through people.
Can you see it? Can you perceive it? His presence is all around us. His majesty is evident in every sunrise and sunset. His intelligence is within every piece of DNA. Jesus is very much alive and He’s chasing after you. He loves you. And He loves me…just as we are-imperfections, faults, and flaws. Whereas the world may throw us into the discount bin or the reduced section, the Creator of the universe takes all who have been cast aside by the worlds standards and elevates them to heavenly places (see 1 Corinthians 1:27, Isaiah 55:8-9).
“It’s the people that no one thinks of that will go on to do things that people only dream of.“-paraphrase of an unknown quote
Religion pushes people out; Jesus draws people in. You can know religion and not know Jesus. I can attest to that because that was me. I was baptized when I was 4. I could recite the Our Father. I went to church every Sunday…even on vacations. I always hoped that if we were on vacation it meant that we could skip church. It was boring to me. I would have much rather sleep in (my parents were fans of the 9am service). I went to a Catholic school all my life. I attended and lead leadership retreats including World Youth Day. I prayed…some times. I believed in God and said I believed in Jesus yet secretly I was beyond confused.
For years, I had known religion but I did not truly know Jesus. I was baptized but I didn’t really know what that meant. In the most basic terms, it meant that I could go to Catholic school and one day when I was older, have those little wafers that everyone else could have but me. I wanted the bread but it’s probably also because I was a bit hungry (9am service remember?). The parents of other kids brought snacks. My parents let my hunger grow watching everyone else eat.
And my hunger did grow in more ways than one. The appetite of my spirit was increasing in ways I didn’t even know. Jesus was knocking at my door but for a long time, I couldn’t hear it because the music of the world was playing really loud. I longed to be liked, to be included, to be loved. I wanted the world to love me yet the One who loves me unconditionally was just outside the door. If only I had opened sooner…
God is so good. He never gives up on us even though if you’re like me, you’ve definitely turned your back on Him on more than one occasion. Jesus’ love for each on of us is why He died the most painful death. He did it not for Himself but for each of us…to clearly demonstrate that you and I, are worth it. We always have been worth it and we always will be worth it. We. Are. Loved.
I had never read the Bible because I thought it was boring. Sure I heard them read from it at church but to be honest, I didn’t really remember anything. And the more I tried, the worse it was. I can remember making a commitment to really pay attention at church (this was definitely years later when I could receive the wafer and pick what service time I went to). This is basically what happened. If you’re familiar with the Catholic or Anglican service, you may be able to relate.
First reading. Pay attention Joann.
Awesome, I can remember that.
Psalm. Pay attention Joann.
Crap, what was the first reading about?
Second reading. Pay attention Joann.
Uh, I can’t remember the first reading or the psalm.
Gospel. Pay attention Joann.
Well that was interesting but can someone please remind me what the first reading, psalm and second reading were about?
Sermon. Pay attention Joann. (I can just hear the angels in heaven saying:
“We all know that you are praying that it is short. We hear those prayers a lot.”)
I’ll remember this. But what was that Gospel about again?
By the end of service.
I don’t remember anything. Well that’s just great.
I got the invite to know Jesus via church but it was Jesus Himself who drew me to His heart.
The more vulnerable and honest I was, the closer He came. I moved from having the door of my heart locked and closed to unlocking the door to finally opening the door in trust, curiosity, and deep surrender.
To this day, I believe there are many, many people like me who grew up in church yet they don’t really know Jesus.
Jesus is the real change maker. He broke the rules of how this world operated. He broke the notion that death was the end…it was and is merely just the beginning. Beyond anything, Jesus reveals to us just how much we are loved. I don’t know of anyone who would endure such pain and suffering for people including the ones He knew would betray and reject Him. And yet, Jesus took the “bullet.” He takes it every time we slander Him, deny Him and reject Him. And through it all, He is that faithful friend who is at our door knocking each and every day. No matter how terrible of a friend we are to Him, He is always there inviting us into relationship with Him. His love is unprecedented, sometimes unexplainable, often times illogical, yet utterly…undeniable. When you encounter the real Jesus (not religion), you take your first breath of eternal life.
Jesus’ love and His way of life…it’s dangerous. Dangerously Amazing.
Friends, opportunity is indeed knocking and His name is Jesus.