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There is a book that came out sometime last year called "Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First." It was written by Laura Tremaine, and while I admit I haven't read it yet, I did listen to her talk about it in an interview or two, and I think the general concept is a good one.
Whether sharing good stuff, hard stuff, or just plain weird stuff, it's definitely easier to share your stuff after someone else has shared theirs. I suppose in writing today, I'm making an attempt at "sharing my stuff" - hoping perhaps it can encourage you to share yours too, whether with me or someone else. Part of the beauty of sharing is that in the act of telling our own stories, we often find ourselves experiencing them again or perhaps even in a deeper way.
Before I share my story with you, I want to remind all of us that we never outgrow our need for God's love. No matter how long we have known God or walked with Him, we never stop needing to be reminded that He loves us. We can see this is true in the countless number of songs that have been written about how God loves us. In John Mark McMillan's song, How He Loves, he writes:
He is jealous for me Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory And I realize just how beautiful You are And how great Your affections are for me
And oh, how He loves us, oh Oh, how He loves us How He loves us so
It may not always be through a song, but isn't it awesome when God gives us experiences that help us encounter His love like this song describes? Moments when we don't just know in our heads that God loves us but we know it in our hearts? The story I want to share is about a time when I had an experience like that.
It was the summer before my senior year, and I was taking part in something called "Summer Training Action Teams", a program run by Discipleship Ministries. There was a group of about 25 of us, and we spent one month in training and then split up into teams for one month of outreach in various places around the globe. We heard from many wonderful teachers during that month of training, sharing about all kinds of topics geared toward helping us grow spiritually.
Of all the teachings, though, one of them stands out in my memory. It was a teaching about identity in Christ (which - side note - just so happens to be at the root of the ACSD theme for the 21-22 school year). The speaker talked about how our truest identity is as a child of God. Near the end of his talk, he played this song called "When God Ran" by Benny Hester. (And yes, I'm pretty sure we would have listened to the original recording from the 80's even though it's since been covered by other artists.)
Anyway, it's based on the story of the prodigal son, and the words of the chorus go like this:
And then He ran to me, took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest
And said, "My son's come home again"
Lifted my face, dried the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice, He said,
"Son, do you know I still love you?"
As I listened, it felt like God was speaking those words straight to my heart. I had heard the story of the prodigal son probably hundreds of times, but I don't think I had ever experienced it in such a real way. It's not like I had done anything that would have been considered terrible, but I knew I was far from perfect. And in that moment, thinking of God saying to me, His child, "do you know I still love you?" was more powerful than I can describe.
I cried and cried, but they were such happy tears. I still have the journal in which I wrote about the experience, and even then I knew it was significant. Here is what my 17-year-old self wrote at the end of my journal entry from that evening:
"Let's just say this is one night that I think will change me forever. To write this all in, I couldn't get it all done by lights out. So after the lights were out, I put my journal by the window and just wrote all I could remember. I never want to forget this!!"
(Picture a little smiley face under the 2 exclamation points... and please tell me I'm not the only person who has ever made a smiley face out of double exclamation points.)
Since that time, there have been other moments when God has made His love feel real to me, but there's something about that one experience that feels extra special. I bet a lot of us who have been walking with the Lord have some of those "special moments" in our lives, times when God made Himself known to us in a fresh way, or helped us understand something in our hearts that we previously only knew in our heads.
Some moments are dramatic, some are just ordinary moments. Either way though, these experiences shape us. They make us who we are. They help us grow. They change us.
This year, as we focus on the theme "We are chosen", let's pray boldly for our students - and all of us - that we would not only understand God's love but also experience it. Let's pray that story after story can be told of students, parents, teachers, and everyone in the ACSD community discovering more deeply that they are chosen and loved by God.
All right, now it's your turn. Do you have a story to tell? How have you experienced God's love in your life? Let's keep sharing and trusting God to keep giving us stuff to share.
Designed by Grace Seville
Pray with me...
... that all in the ACSD community come to know God's love more deeply!
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. Psalm 63:2-3
... Lord, embolden us to share about what You have done with others
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. Psalm 145:4-5
... that BCS and WCA would be places where God and His love are known and made known
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:17b-21
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone be the glory