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I remember it well. After we wrapped the movie, he called and invited me to dinner. It was my birthday, and I was away from my family, so it was extra special that someone would invite me to dinner. I had been working on location and was several hours from home. You build amazing relationships on set. You work long days, into the nights, for extended periods of time with the same people. You get to know people. Although I had been drawn to him from day one, I had no idea that our time together would conclude the way it did on my birthday. That year marks one of the best birthdays in recent memory.

He and I had so much fun together. We had a lot in common. We worked hard, we laughed, and we talked about things that really matter. It was a lovely connection. Even after the movie wrapped, we celebrated with the Director and a few others tubing on a nearby river. Good times. There was one particular day that stands out. We were relaxing by the pool, and I suddenly found myself answering questions about my life. “Tell us about you, Jodi. What’s your story?” FYI … there is not a simple – or short – answer to that question. Depending on the crowd, I typically cringe or rejoice. Yet, the Lord always leads me in the way I should go. I have learned that there are different pieces for different people. It isn’t always the time or the place for the full story. In fact, my “story” is a full-length movie script all by itself.

That day by the pool, it was the “peace piece” that came out. I shared a bit about my struggles, but the thing I sensed the Holy Spirit really wanted them to know was that I have a PEACE in my life that I never knew before I surrendered my heart to God. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, truly changed me. Even in the midst of chaos, there is peace, when He is playing the Lead role.

The thing I remember most about that day was the overwhelming presence of Peace as I spoke. I remember His tender grace on my words, and His all-consuming serenity as I discussed some pretty difficult topics. And I remember their faces. How well I remember their faces. They felt Him. They may not have been able to identify what they were feeling, but I saw Him when I looked at them. Jesus was poolside with us.

Several days later, my birthday rolled around. That’s when I received his call. The invitation to dinner was secured, and I met him at the restaurant at the scheduled time. After a warm greeting, we went inside. What happened next is something I will never forget. There was no small talk or meaningless chatter. He got straight to the point. It takes a lot to surprise me honestly, but when this man spoke, I was not expecting what came out of his mouth. The first words he said as we sat down in that booth were, “Jodi, I want what you have. How do I get it?”

Pause.

This man wanted Jesus.

And he was asking me how to enter into a relationship with Him.

He wanted Peace.

He wanted Life.

He wanted Freedom.

I was amazed at the goodness of my God. I was elated. Anyone who knows me knows that the most beautiful opportunity I could ever be given is to share Jesus with another human being. In any way, all the time. It is what I live for. So I did. I told Him about this Gospel that changed my life. I explained that it was for him as much as it was for me. I let him know how much God loves him and assured him that no sin was too big for the blood of Jesus. We are ALL sinners saved by grace. Then I led him through a prayer that helped him invite Jesus into His life. We hugged. We cried. We prayed. Right there in that Mexican restaurant while our burritos were getting cold.

He told me he wanted to get baptized in the Gulf of Mexico. I shared in his excitement. It was a glorious night together in the presence of a Living, Loving God.

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

– John 13:34

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE

 

I read the comments, and I respect the opinions of others. We are each entitled to our own. I also know that I have to discover MY truth. I cannot simply be caught up in the herd that is racing through the wide gate. There is a narrow gate that is the path to life, and few find it. If we aren’t careful, we will rush right through the wrong gate without even noticing the width of it. Are you following me? The Lord whispers in the stillness. He reveals His heart through prayer and fasting. Have you been seeking Him? Do you even know what GOD thinks about all that is going on in our world? Or are you too busy jumping on the media bandwagon to discern it? Are you studying His HEART and His WORD to hear His VOICE or are you too distracted by your own opinions to notice that He is even in the room?

I do not pretend to have all knowledge or wisdom. I only confess my own truth, a truth that is borne out of years of seeking and much introspection. I choose not to judge. I choose to love. And if God opens a door for me to share my life, journey, or belief with others, I run through it … with open arms. The Son has set me free, and I am free indeed. Freely I have received, so freely I shall give. Jesus did not shackle me and beat me into submission. He loved me and wooed me with His tender mercies. He did not yell at me, He gently beckoned me into His grace. Yes, He convicted me, but it was out of LOVE that I CHOSE to change.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

 

I refuse to allow religion to interfere with my relationship with God. I know the depth of depravity I lived in and the magnitude of sin I was buried beneath before I came to an understanding of His love and forgiveness. I also know my life did not change overnight. Nor did it change because someone abused me with Bible verses. I am who I am because JESUS LOVES ME. Period. He revealed Himself to me. I encountered Him. I experienced Him. I tasted His goodness, and I began to crave more. The more I learned about Him, the more I wanted to just be with Him. And the more time I spent with Him, the more I became aware of my own sin nature. In that place of SELF-AWARENESS, I began to WANT to change. I could see the dark and dirty parts of my heart, and I wanted them clean. I wanted His purity and peace in every area of my life. I became addicted to this LOVE. It filled and satisfied my every longing. It renewed my mind and healed my brokenness. This LOVE was everything I had ever wanted or needed, and I simply could not get enough. I am utterly convinced that the love of God is the answer to every question and the solution to every problem.

Metamorphosis happens when “it’s time.” Change “occurs.” There is no magic potion or formula. There is no “drinking the koolaid.” This is about our individuality, turning inward to see how we can each become who GOD created us to be. I am not on your timeline, nor are you on mine. Like it or not, we are ALL on GOD’S timeline. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.'” The clincher for me in that verse is the revelation that HE knows the plans HE has for me. You don’t know them. I don’t know them. Momma doesn’t know them. Boss doesn’t know them. Are you tracking with me here? God knows!!! He knows our sin – lying, cheating, stealing, sexual immorality, gossip, slander, idolatry – come on! HE KNOWS! And He has a plan.

As a Christian, as a woman, as a sinner, as a leader and teacher … I can only tell you that GOD IS LOVE. You can stand on your self-righteous pulpit and preach “To hell with the sinners,” but I sure hope you bought a “golden ticket to heaven” because the last time I checked, Jesus loved the sinners … ALL OF US.

 

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I wasn’t sure how I would address the obvious, but I can tell you that I feel free. I am at peace. My heart is full of love. I know why I believe what I believe. I don’t have to spew hatred or rage about why I disagree with opinions or laws or anything else for that matter. I can pray, and I can be joyful. I know my God is love, and I believe He is no respecter of persons. He loved me in my mess, then He lifted me out of the mud and the mire and set my feet on a solid Rock. I still don’t have it all figured out so I continue to thank Him for His mercy every day. Maybe we should show a little more mercy … and grace … and love. Maybe just maybe then people would want what we have.

Oh, by the way, my birthday dinner date was a gay man … who loves Jesus.

 

ATTN SINNERS: “As I have loved you …”

 

Please do not read this section unless you consider yourself a sinner. If you have graduated from that classification, carry on. I can never cast a stone at another’s sin. Jesus instructs us in John 13:34 to love one another. What I cannot overlook is the way He precedes that command. He says, “As I have loved you …”

We are directed to love others as He has loved usOh. My. Goodness. That’s a mouthful. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt how He has loved me. In fact, when I consider the way He has loved me, it only inspires and compels me to love others in the same way. When I read the New Testament and see how Jesus loved others, it moves me to love the ones society calls “unlovable.” I cannot reject someone because they sin differently than me.  Wait … you didn’t catch that. I CANNOT reject someone. I literally cannot. I can only accept, embrace, forgive, encourage, and comfort. This is the way He has loved me. It is all I know.

Now, I understand that some people have an issue with the law of the land. So be it. I personally see everything through the lens of love, and I realize God has a plan. I choose to concern myself with what is on HIS heart and how I can honor Him by living according to what He has shown me. I am a work in progress. We all are. I just pray we will remember that when we are tempted to criticize, judge, complain or hate. Geez, what a miserable life. God is GOOD. Let’s start talking, thinking, and acting like it. God will deal with the details in our lives as we fix our hearts and minds on loving Him and loving others. It’s all about love.

Before you have that next conversation or write that next post about your “opinion,” I encourage and challenge you to meet with God. Ask Him what He thinks. He has something to say. And when HE speaks, people listen.

Yes, there is a price to pay for sin. ALL sin. We are each responsible for our own.

Pray … for every soul in America, not just the ones who make you uncomfortable.

Lord, we love You. Help us love others as You love us. Amen.