Posts tagged "jesus"
Below is a speech I recently gave to my class about storytelling, our stories, and how Jesus redeems it all. As the fourth anniversary of the death of Rachel Daggett occurred last Sunday, December 9th, I’m reminded that even in tragedy, Jesus is always working.
I had a previous speech written up on why we should care about the achievement gap. But then I realized that as passionate as I am to helping inner city school children, this will be my last speech in our Comm. 100 and subsequently, this will be my last opportunity to persuade you about anything. Today I want to tell you why telling stories matters, and why being an effective communicator can literally change the course of history. I hope that by the end of my speech, you will realize that we are called to be storytellers, and that our stories matter. I will go over three points: how stories can capture attention, how stories can quickly change directions, and ultimately, how story telling can save lives.
“I once knew a girl with girl with the bluest of eyes, the brightest of smiles, and the emptiest of hearts.” Beginning a story can gain attention like no other. You can instantly gain credibility and the attentive ears of your audience. Geoff Livingstone, author and public speaker known for his book, “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” describes this as the “personification method of story telling.” He says, “Well executed, the person and their audience can share experiences together.” By starting off my story with the overture of love, most of you can instantly relate to a Jr. high or high school love story. Or Taylor Swift songs. By gaining attention for the right reasons, we can use our stories to change the direction of our audience.
“Her name was Rachel. Rachel cursed like a sailor and was thirsty for truth. She had a jolly and obnoxious laugh, and she sat next to me in my 5th period economics class.” Stories, as I just mentioned, have an usual way to change directions very quickly. In the Bible, Joseph and Mary had a pretty typical story. Joseph was to be married to Mary, be a good husband and future dad, work hard and be a good Jew. But the story changes. “The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child will be born and will be called holy – the Son of God.’” You see, just like Mary and Joseph, stories with unusual plot changes can help us realize that indeed, our personal lives aren’t unusual – and as our lives turn and twist, sometimes tragically, we can relate. As Pastor Tim Chaddick of Reality LA said at a College Conference last January, “We must realize the importance of our identity…and realize that it changed the moment we accepted Jesus into our lives.”Our stories change, and it’s important we recognize change and call it as it is in our storytelling. If we can recognize change, we can realize our storytelling can literally change lives.
“Rachel always had questions about the Bible, even saying, “I don’t know if I believe, but I know the verses you share make me feel better. Make my day seem like it’s worth it.” Indeed, story telling can change lives. You see, Rachel was a classmate of mine. We did indeed sit together in economics. The girl was a hurricane, a culture shock, and the most loveable human being I ever met. But she didn’t know Jesus. And I’m going to tell you now the rest of this story, and why my storytelling mattered and still matters. I went to a public high school with one of the worst drug problems in the state of Oregon. Rachel was a big time drug user crushing up prescription pain pills known as oxycodone and smoking them through tin foil. And every class she asked me, begged me, to send her verses and to take her to church. I could see the pain in her eyes but my own selfish pride and fear were more evident in mine. I knew my story at the time was a joke. I promised Rachel I would take her but my shame wouldn’t let me. The story Rachel needed to hear was that God loved her so much he came and died so she wouldn’t have to. She needed to see that from my life, but the truth is, my life was a wreck. I was choosing a lifestyle with my teammates and friends that didn’t show I loved or followed Jesus. I was living in sin with my girlfriend at the time, being a stupid 18-year-old boy. So instead of sharing my story with Rachel, I took her trust and put it in my back pocket. And subsequently, she became apart of my story. I remember it was November of 2008, and I told my friend Aaron that Rachel would come to our church retreat a few months later, find Jesus, and change our drug culture forever. I’ll never forget that on December 9th, four years ago last Sunday, he called me. And he said three words I’ll never forget: “Matt…….Rachel died.”
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church recently said, “The genealogy of Jesus includes Bathsheba to show that God can work through our mistakes and our sin.” just like us, Jesus’ story involved a lot of sin-filled people. But he didn’t stop telling his story. I want you guys to know as I close up, that not a day goes by where I don’t somehow think about Rachel. That I wish I had known these facts about story telling. Because instead of being apart of my story, Jesus could have used mine in hers. That my sin hindered and perhaps ultimately deterred her from knowing Him. I want to encourage you guys and let you know that no matter where you are coming from: sexual sin, sexual addictions, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, abusive parents, sexual abuse, anger, pride, anything and everything. That Jesus died for you, so you don’t have to. There is no shame in the Gospel. So don’t live in fear, but live in outspoken humility because your story matters. Thank you.
Throughout my four years at Biola U., I have found myself answering the infamous “What do I do?” question when it comes to the lovely world of complex metaphysical nature of the heart (also known as relationships and dating). These thoughts are not limited to just dating though – often they can be applied to all relationships. So, with all of that in mind, let’s dig in!
Question: What do I do if they don’t feel the same?
1. Don’t forcefully change your entire being.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5 44-45, ESV.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to try and over protect themselves. By deleting the contact number and Facebook friendship, ignoring them around town (and campus), and sheepishly and awkwardly running the opposite direction when they see their former (or never) other, we create a mindset that’s unhealthy for our heart.
We start to pin the blame – either on ourselves or on them – and create reasons why we shouldn’t or won’t be in relationship (platonic) with them. Usually this only results in anger, bitterness, hurt, and a stoic condescending attitude. Aside from the fact this isn’t healthy for our mental well-being, it’s not what Christ did nor commands us to do.
I’m going to use this Scripture in a relatively broad manner, so work with me. We may not view another person as the “enemy” like the Jews believed the Romans were, but the same Christ-led passion prevails. We need to continue to bestow Christ like love on those who disappoint or hurt us in our relationships.
2. If at first you don’t succeed…
…Trust God, again, again, and again. To use a relatively recent example, a young woman is dealing with the disappointment that a man doesn’t share the same feelings and interest she expressed in him. She asked me what she can do – does she follow up, explain that she still wants to be friends, and awkwardly force the issue? Does she ignore it and move on? What does she do?
Well, the answer is a little of everything.
First, protect your heart. Don’t put yourself in situations that create more pain (aka still invite them everywhere, text them all the time, let your mind wander towards them). Second, refer to my first point – don’t let your heart create bitterness and keep loving them as your brother or sister in Jesus. Why? Because Christ loves them and they are probably still an okay person. Third, find natural rhythms in your life to continue to let them be in your community.
In this specific instance, this young woman was a friend with this young man before her feelings interceded and intervened. They share mutual friends, interests, and commonalities. I believe it is okay to continue to invite this young man into her natural rhythms. Going to the movies with a group of people? Invite him! Going to the Café or having people over for dinner? Let him know that he and his friends are invited. Wave when she sees him around school. Be willing to allow the friendship to grow.
As a final note on this point, don’t expect that this man (or woman) will magically fall in love with you over time…but also don’t shut that door. God knows what’s best for you. One of the most over and misused passages of the Bible comes from Jeremiah 11. God, through Jeremiah is telling the Exiles that He knows what is going on. He reminds them that He “knows the plans” He has for them! He has a plan for their future and their hope. When they pray, He will listen. Finally, if they seek Him will all their hearts, they will find Him!
How great and powerful is that reminder for our lives as well! Maybe our life won’t be prosperous and perfect, but guess what, God has a perfect plan. He already started it by sending Jesus to die for our sins and to be raised from death. Patiently and aggressively seek the Kingdom, and God’s plan will be revealed to you.
3. It’s okay to be fun.
(Queue music: Some nights I…get it? No? Never mind). I once attended a conference love, relationships, and Songs of Solomon. Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church came to Los Angeles through Reality LA and his good buddy, Tim Chaddick.
Pastor Mark gave women some advice that stuck with me, so I would like to pass it along to you.
Men often get caught up looking at the top of the hill for a woman – and don’t realize that their perfect wife is right there in front of them. So, women, it’s okay to stand on your tippy toes with a plateful of cookies (or throw a football at him, play guitar, show off your Business Presentations skills…whatever you want) to get gently remind him you are still there. Guys can be stupid. We all know that. So, I’m not saying out rightly pursue a man, but hey, it’s okay to sometimes say “Dude, you’re stupid.” After all, Martin Luther’s eventual wife did it.
For you men, there is a very, very, very fine line between sweet and creepy. If you did the right thing, and asked a lady on a nice date (and not the whole, “Want to grab coffee where I surprise you and pay then claim to all my friends we are dating” ploy., and she says no, then back off. But, if there isn’t that definite no, then do nice things. Open the door. Buy her drink. Show up with her favorite candy bar when you have class with her. Just don’t be creepy about it. If you are doing things because you are selfish and not because you want to love her like Jesus does and commands you to do, then you may want to read some of my other pieces.
4. Finally, are you idolizing or loving?
This one is short and sweet, but we tend to go off too far to one side or another. I already mentioned bitterness and hate. Did you know you can actually love someone wrongly? A lesson I learned this past year is that an unbridled love someone who isn’t ready to receive or reciprocate can end up in a lot of hurt. Love as Christ does and did – and that means to love smartly. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply pray for that person and do what you can – when space and timing allows – to love on them. Don’t go to the point of idolizing another being outside of God. It never, ever, ever works…like ever. (Get it? Song reference two? No, just me?)
I hope this holiday cheerful blog provides some sort of thought provoking wisdom into your life this week! Blessings to all – and remember those who are less fortunate than yourself…check out this list for a place to donate gifts or toys to families and children in need!
I sit here, staring blankly at the blank white pages in Word. Sufjan Stevens is quietly playing over the sounds of the traffic outside, and the smell of freshly grounded coffee is eradicating itself from the coffee pot as it sits in its glory awaiting the delay brew to click in the morning.
It’s dark in my kitchen corner, with the Bible on one side, rent checks on the other, and my phone laying somewhere between. This week has been a turning point of this year. Grades are coming together, growing up took place, and a realization that I cannot even begin to comprehend the reality of the speedgame we call life.
Perhaps the greatest show of maturity is the ability to simply keep details of my life to myself. It makes for unbearable blog writing, but it does create a calming presence in my heart. In the midst of applying for jobs, suppressing ring by spring temptations (or perhaps nightmares), and connecting with people for the last time (I will use that broad stroke term for my entire Senior year), it’s nights like these that will allow me to survive.
In a few months, I will more than likely be at least 1,000 miles away from this kitchen. I may be 2,787 miles away if I get wish. Surely I cannot be the only senior who realizes these thoughts. I close my eyes and I am torn, my dreams of the future start to wash into my warm thoughts of what will become yesteryears. Snow storms and palm trees? Subways and Carmageddon? The Pacific Coast Highway and the Brooklyn Bridge? These things don’t go together except in my mind.
Pacing through campus on a daily basis causes me to stare into the people around me. I try to imagine where they are going or what they are dreaming of, especially when they are young and full of Biola and college life ahead of them.
To those who have a few months left (or perhaps weeks) and to those who might just stick around La Mirada for what seems like forever, I have important words for you.
Those scenes in the movies, the slow flashbacks with the bright sun flares and Indie music? Where Christmas romances and summer flings combine with the sights of laughing friends and bon fires? When you can remember staring deeply into someone’s eyes, and remember the time that those inside jokes and late nights to FroYo seemed like they would last forever?
That moment happens. And remember it fondly. Remember it kindly. Remember it with joy. Remember it with tears. Always remember it.
The truth is, you won’t see most of these people ever again…and I almost want to say that you should hope for that. Some friends will certainly carry for a lifetime, but you may not ever be able to walk out of your room and visit them as easily.
Realize that life is long…and realize that you are young…we are young (don’t start singing in your mind). Move around. Travel. Take that impromptu trip to the bay at midnight, ask a girl on a date, go explore Los Angeles, and whatever you do, don’t trip while skinny dipping and eat a mouthful of sand (it hurts later).
Finally…let your soul go until you find it in the hands of Someone who will always take care of you. One day, I hope to see all of you again, for a very long eternity, and I know that I probably won’t see all of you…but I sure hope I do.