Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Kind’ Category

All It Takes Is One

Chaos in a Midwestern town. Desperation in the mountains of Iraq. Fear in an Amish community. A politician in Kenya who calls himself Christian wants a law that stones humans of differing sexuality. It may seem odd, but what comes to mind as I read the posts and watch the news is myself as a ten-year old girl on a bright, Tennessee day going to church with my friends.

black patent shoes

It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All you need is two. We had three.

“Make sure to save seats.” Beverly reminded.

“Be sure to get behind Alicia.” Joyce added with a sly grin.

Spotting the back of Alicia’s curly blond head, I picked up the chorus book from the seat behind hers and plopped down. Stretching out my legs I made certain that my black patina shoes joggled her chair.

She turned to look back. For an instant, blue eyes smiled. To avoid those eyes and my twinge of guilt, I focused on pale, plump arms set off by silky sleeves puffed to perfection. In her lap, dimpled hands clutched a silken purse. She noticed my two cohorts taking their seats beside me and turned around in a hurry.

“How’s our proper little Southern belle?” Beverly whispered loud enough for Alicia’s ears.

“Let me hear that Alabama accent.” Joyce reached out a finger and poked the back of the new girl in town.

We giggled, smug in the strength of numbers. Then we opened our hymn books and sang about heaven.

Image of blonde girl left out

Alicia went back to Alabama, but all through fifth grade our crowd of three grew denser. So tight in fact, that cheating was a breeze. Conniving against school rules was challenging fun. After all, we had each other, a shared identity, The Three Musketeers. Together life was tight. Life was secure.

Immersed in our ten-year old mob behaviors we considered ourselves  holy, just, and good. We had no idea that “The mob takes on a spirit of its own and the satanic is generated,” Or that “The mob becomes capable of evil that would be unthinkable for most people as an individual” as Brian Zahnd writes. We had no idea that Alicia had been our scapegoat, a sacrifice made so that we could belong.

Fortunately for my crowd of three we had a summer break. We also had a Jesus who “never leads anything other than a gentle and peaceable minority.” I have lost track of  my two friends, but I’m quite certain that they have become honest and kind adult women. I don’t know what might have been their moment of truth when the Prince of Peace shone on their hearts, but I know mine. It came in the form of a story.

During that summer break I read through a bedtime story collection. When I finished reading about a girl my age who determined to break away from her crowd even if it meant being called Teacher’s Pet, I determined to do the same. Alone, with only a book and his Light shining inside, I decided to act as an individual.

Image of cross by JeriAnne

I soon learned that “To follow Christ is to differ from the crowd. To differ from the crowd is to be controversial. To be controversial by differing from the crowd is to run the risk of becoming [like Jesus] a scapegoat yourself.” I was misunderstood. I was even called Teacher’s Pet. It wasn’t easy, but I suspect it never is.

It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All it takes are powerful people bent on crusade. All it takes is a different group fighting their own holy war. All it takes are a few straight folks with an agenda against gays. All it takes is one man and one woman to close down a quiet community’s roadside stands. All it takes is a nation full of self-righteous pride to kill, maim, and destroy. All it takes are three little girls singing Jesus songs to intimidate a chubby blond.

On the other hand, all it takes is One individual willing to surrender to that crowd. All it takes is that One being vindicated through His resurrection. All it takes is that One calling us to forsake the crowd’s evil practice of turning fellow humans into scapegoats. All it takes is that One establishing mercy instead of sacrifice.

All it takes is One.

Image of easter lilies near headstone by JeriAnne

The quotes above are taken from Brian Zahnd’s book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace.  It’s radical. It’s truth and light. I highly recommend it. For your convenience here’s the link:   A Farewell to Mars

The Father’s Good Pleasure

“Fear not, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 12:32)

Image of Dad & Daugher Dance

Once upon a time, living somewhere between the Kingdom of Competition and the Kingdom of Compassion, there was a five-year old, brown-eyed girl who had an eight year old brown-eyed sister. Both little girls were pretty little girls, as little girls go, but the five-year old girl had it stuck in her brain that she might be just a teensy, weensy bit prettier than her older sister. Perhaps a careless adult, dropping a casual comment had influenced her thinking. Regardless of how or by whom this idea came to her, people called older sister a skinny tomboy. People called little sister pleasingly plump. A complement indeed, little sister decided, what with the word “pleasingly” and all.

Older sister rode with Daddy on his tractor all over their forty-acre farm. Little sister much preferred to stay indoors telling stories to her dollies. Older sister never worried much about clothes. Little sister, on the other hand, absolutely adored frilly dresses with lots of lace. Not that she had any, mind you. Most of her dresses were hand-me-downs from older sister or practical dresses that Momma sewed.

image of pink lacy dressThere came a day, however, when both sisters needed new dresses. Summer had come and last year’s dresses just wouldn’t do. Older sister was sick in bed. Momma was too busy to shop, but Daddy had time, at the end of his work, to take little sister to town. Thrilled to the core of her pleasingly plump, prissy soul, she rode off with Daddy.

As they entered the store, Daddy took her hand. “Now, honey, pick any dress you want.” His voice sounded happy and eager to please. She could scarcely believe her good fortune.

A pink dress hung in the window. It had puffed sleeves and a satin sash. It was covered in lace.

“Oh, that one, Daddy. That one!”

Delighted, Daddy asked. “And which one do you think your sister would like?”

Image of Bibbed dressHurriedly skimming over the rest of the dresses, little sister pointed to a plain blue dress with an ugly white bib and not one piece of lace.

“Do you think she will like it?”

“Yes, let’s get her that one.” Her smug little smile came deep from within the Kingdom of Competition.

Needless to say, older sister, tomboy though she was, cried in dismay when she saw her choice.

“I’m sick and couldn’t go shopping. It’s no fair! You wanted to be prettier, so you got me the ugly dress.”

Little sister knew it was true. She now owned a frilly dress that gave her no joy.

Little sister did not realize that there exists an entire world of brothers and sisters who cannot believe that their Father’s kingdom has enough of his favor to go around. They can’t believe that there is abundant love for siblings of every nationality and religion. Like herself, they want all the kingdom’s goods, all the pretty dresses, for themselves. So they spurn and hate the marginalized, the older sisters sick in bed. Driven with fear, greed, and anxiety they accumulate until they will kill to protect their territory. Sibling rivalry keeps them from the Kingdom of Compassion.

Fortunately, little sister found freedom. She began to seek first her Father’s kingdom. It took years for her to understand that the Kingdom of Compassion has no scarcity. Her Father only wants to pour out love, without measure. She is still amazed that it truly is his good pleasure to give this kingdom to her and to all her brothers and sisters. Now, because of his good pleasure, she lives happily ever after.

image of Dad & Daughter on seashore

For deeper contemplation of this concept, little sister invites you to take a few minutes to listen to this podcast.

If you have a story of how you have experienced the Father’s pleasure in giving you the kingdom, please share here.

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