Blind Attraction

I want to tell you about the day when I met my best friend. This encounter is nothing like you might expect. You may be thinking that I met him or her at a school playground, church event, or other kid-friendly activity, and by assuming this, you are somewhat correct. I met my best friend at summer camp, but we were not introduced in the conventional sense. We met one night in a cabin at Lake Beauty Bible Camp in Long Prairie, Minnesota, and it is a time and place I will never forget.

Time brings change and the sharpness of childhood memories fades, and this is somewhat true of my experience that night at Bible camp. But I will never forget the way I felt upon meeting the One— my best friend— and how He changed my life forever. You see, my best friend was not a fellow camper, but my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I was struck by a question posed in a book I read recently, and it started me thinking about that night nearly 20 years ago in that cabin. “What attracts you to Jesus?” asked the author. It made me consider what it was that drew me toward my Savior, and I found it didn’t take long for the words and feelings to start flowing, hence why I am sharing with you, my readers, today.

To say that I was drawn to Him that night is absolutely a reality. I couldn’t deny what my camp counselor was saying. Jesus came to earth to die for me, a sinner. I could spend eternity with Him in Heaven if I accepted Him as my Savior. In nine-year-old terms, this meant accepting Jesus into my heart. I had grown up going to church and knowing what it meant to pray and sing songs to Him; my parents raised me to believe and grow in my knowledge of Him. But it wasn’t until that night that my child-like faith became real to me.

I have to admit that my first reaction to the Gospel message was that I would be in Heaven with Jesus when I died if I asked Him into my heart. There was a little bit of fear when I thought about Hell and spending eternity in pain, separated from my family and Jesus. I wanted to know where I was going when my life came to an end. But beyond that initial fear, I knew immediately that Jesus loved me and that He had come to save me.

Even at a young age, I was aware that I was a sinner who needed His grace to cover my many wrongs. I think it was easy for me to cling to His grace and compassion because I craved that assurance. I spent a significant amount of time trying to measure up to others as an adolescent. I knew my visual impairment made me different and I was aware that I didn’t quite fit the mold of normalcy. As an adult, I know that there is no such thing as “normal,” but to a young girl who doesn’t seem to fit in, faith in Jesus was a huge comfort. I could talk to Him and communicate my doubts and fears; I knew He was always listening.

But beyond being attracted to His love, grace, acceptance, and comfort, I found a constancy in His presence. He never left my side through the ups and downs of life— through challenges in school and relationships, seeking to find my place in independent living and career, and trusting Him through health trials and frustrations with the presence of my visual impairment. I can honestly say that it has always been easy to believe in a best friend/ savior who is largely unseen in the physical sense. My blindness has taught me that just because something can’t be seen, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Jesus has been a constant in my life, and I know He exists without a doubt.

His faithfulness and provision have always been proof that He is always here, holding my hand and bringing me through the best and the worst that life has to offer. There are times, however, when I find myself slipping away from Him, somehow thinking that I have things under control. But it isn’t long before I realize that I am nothing without Him, and I reach out blindly to find that He has never left my side. His patience and persistence in pursuing me has never gone unnoticed, and I am beyond amazed at the way He loves me.

I could go on and on about the One who has been at the center of my life for twenty years, but I find that words are somehow limiting when it comes to the Lord of All. So I’ll just sign off with a grateful heart, overwhelmed with the knowledge that I have the best friend in the entire world… Really, I do!

Beyond Self

I was upset and didn’t know what else to do. I knew there was only one other person who could possibly understand my emotions at that moment, and I longed to hear her voice. I wanted her to tell me that I was overreacting and needed to calm down. But yet, I also wanted her to understand that I had been treated unjustly and to take my side in the matter.

I have made it my point not to jump into anything when my emotions are all over the place, but that day I had to talk to someone despite the tears streaming down my face. So I picked up the phone and called my friend. I was disappointed when she didn’t answer, and I hung up the phone with a resigned sigh. I figured I wasn’t meant to talk to her, so I sat alone in my misery until my tears abated and I finally found some perspective.

Five minutes later, I went back to work and tried to concentrate. But I was interrupted by the ringing telephone. The caller ID told me that the incoming call was from my friend’s cell phone— the same friend that I had just called a few moments before. As I reached to pick up the receiver, guilt washed over me. Surely, my friend was only calling because she saw she had missed a call from me. I felt terrible for having interrupted her day.

“Hey,” my friend said when I answered. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” I responded, doing my best to hide my true feelings.

“Really, are you sure? You don’t sound like yourself.”

“Well… I—”

“I had a feeling something was up,” my friend interrupted. “I got this strange feeling that I needed to call you… that you needed to talk.”

“But I just called your house a few minutes ago. I figured you were just calling me back.”

“What? You called my house? I had no idea. I’m driving home now and decided to call you from my cell. So what’s wrong?”

My friend’s concern was genuine, and it was incredible to know that she called me because she figured I would need a listening ear. She knew nothing about my day before she called— only sensed that I needed to talk.

I was reminded of her impeccable timing as I immersed myself in some reading over the weekend. I have made it a point to explore the subject of mentoring and discipleship as much as possible so I can be an effective spiritual leader in my church and community. Often, I find that my efforts could be more intentional and focused in service, so I look for avenues to improve in this area of my life. I find that I am taking people and things for granted, and I need to remind myself to turn my attention to those around me.

Frequently, I am on the receiving end of others’ time and assistance. Just last week, a friend drove me to a medical appointment and waited patiently while I was evaluated. Then we went shopping, and again, she waited patiently while I tried on clothes and looked for hair accessories. I didn’t want to take advantage of her time, so I found myself apologizing for taking so long. She told me she didn’t mind, but all the while I wondered what it would be like to give back to those who have blessed me so richly in return.

As I seek to make a renewed commitment to others, I consider the ways I can serve through the promptings that can only come from God through the Holy Spirit. A few nights ago, I had the sudden urge to call a friend— someone I hadn’t heard from in weeks. She didn’t answer, but somehow, I knew it wasn’t a wasted opportunity. Sure, I could bake cookies, pay for someone’s lunch, or lead the Bible Study, among other things. But none of that really results in reaching someone.

I want to be more intentional about speaking truth into others’ lives, having a heart for their stories, giving my time and attention at the times when they need a listening ear. I want to be a leader who’s not just leading in the outward sense but inwardly as well. I want to invest in the lives of others so they know their inherent personal value. It is a lofty and difficult goal to attain, and surely it will take a lifetime. But above all else, it is getting beyond self and truly loving with the eyes and mind of Christ.

Captivated

One summer day almost two years ago, I was sitting at my desk as I completed an afternoon of work at my volunteer internship. The phone had been ringing nonstop, so I was a bit frazzled. During a lull in calls, I got out my Tablet and logged onto the wireless network. I found K-LOVE Radio and decided to listen in. It was then that the DJ announced a new song by Natalie Grant.

As the song began, I began to rearrange my desk, putting away excess pens and paper and generally just tidying up. But suddenly, I was gripped with the opening lyric, and I froze. There was something about the way Natalie sang: “Who but You/ Could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies/ And dream of me…” I was instantly captivated as I got lost in the melody and story within the song, for I quickly realized that this song called “Alive” was from the point-of-view of Mary Magdalene.

Many of you might be aware that Mary Magdalene was among some of the women present at the tomb when they realized Jesus had risen from the dead. “Alive” speaks of her awe and wonder at the fact that her Savior had risen and had done everything He had promised. As I listened to the song for the first time that afternoon, I couldn’t help but give in to tears. Music often touches me in a deep way, but there was something about “Alive” that gripped me to the core. As the song built to the chorus, chills came over me: “Alive, alive/ Look what mercy’s overcome/ Death has lost and love has won/ Alive, alive/ Hallelujah risen Lord/ The only One I fall before/ I am His because He is alive.”

As the song drew to a close, I signed onto Facebook as fast as my fingers could type and posted the Youtube link so my friends could hear the song too. I can’t remember what I said to describe what I had just heard, but I think I typed something like: “Just heard this amazing song… Wow, chills!”
It wasn’t long before some of my friends started to comment as well, and it seemed many were just as affected as I had been. I knew that some day I had to find a way to incorporate this incredible anthem into Easter worship at church.

Well, this year, I had that opportunity! I can remember the day when I found out “Alive” was part of the “Music Inspired by the Story.” Many of you might be aware that my church family and I are going through The Story, which is a chronological way to read the Bible. The music that came along with the curriculum is some of the best work I’ve heard in terms of giving life to the Scriptures. To know that “Alive” was a part of that set of music was incredible.

Easter, at least on the calendar, passed in late March, and on that day, our church celebrated the birth of Jesus in addition to looking at the entire scope of His ministry and purpose. So it was like Christmas on Easter, which was pretty amazing since I love both events on the church calendar. I knew our Easter celebration would come in May, and I was ready to share all kinds of new music, including “Alive.”

As I immersed myself in rehearsal, I quickly found that the song was far from easy to sing. The highs and lows of the melody soar above a comfortable range, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But I pushed forward.

When the day arrived, I was shaking with nerves. To top it off, I wasn’t feeling well either, and I was almost certain there was no way I could sing under the circumstances. But as I stood on the platform and sang the story of Mary Magdalene, I found myself in her shoes. I imaged her awe and wonder at seeing her Savior alive, and I considered how joyful yet terrified she must have been.

As Pastor Tim launched into His sermon, he kept my thoughts focused in this direction. He asked the congregation to consider what event in Jesus’ life they would most like to witness: the birth of Jesus, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. Although I would have liked to witness all of these elements, I had to admit I would have most liked to be there at the resurrection. True, I probably would have reacted in terror at seeing something so miraculous, but I think the sheer joy and wonder of that first Easter morning would have been incredible beyond words.

Pastor Tim asked the congregation if we truly believed that Jesus was alive that first day. “Yes,” many people responded out loud. “How do you know this is true?” Pastor Tim asked. “Because the Bible tells us so,” someone responded. “Our faith tells us it’s true.”
“Do you believe He’s alive here today” Pastor Tim asked. “Yes,” came the answer again. “How do you know this is true?” Pastor Tim questioned once more. The consensus seemed to be that we see Him at work today— that we talk about Him and His story in our lives.

I thought of recent encounters in my life where I knew without a doubt that Jesus was near and a part of my everyday life. There was the day that I stepped out in faith and paid for a copy of The Story for someone who couldn’t afford it. I really didn’t have the extra money myself, but I bought the book anyway. Hours later, an acquaintance paid me back for the money she had owed me for a long time. Then there was the day that God reminded me of His abounding love for me even as I sought to show love to someone who had been less than responsive. And then there was the moment in church when I sang “Alive.”
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t been feeling well that day. I was able to sing and my voice was strong, but I was experiencing some pain. As I began to sing, putting myself in the place of Mary Magdalene, I thought of the pain that Christ endured on my behalf on the cross. To know that He conquered death and rose again gave me such great hope and a new perspective. As I sang and gave the song my all, I felt my pain slowly dissipate until the final chorus started to build. The pain was gone and I was physically free from this brief moment of earthly suffering. What mattered most was my testimony to the risen Christ. To date, this is one moment in time where I will remember His faithfulness in the midst of my frailty.

Mystery

I was listening to the radio recently and caught a brief meditation from pastor and teacher Greg Laurie. He was talking about the incredible sacrifice that Christ paid for our sins on the cross through the backdrop of a courtroom scene. Laurie asked the listener to imagine that they are on trial for the most grievous act of all: the incredible weight of the many sins committed throughout life.

Just as Laurie asked, I imagined myself in that courtroom.

The prosecuting attorney, Satan, stands in the front of the courtroom and proceeds to list each one of my sins. Minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days, and days turn to years. When he finally finishes recounting my many sinful deeds, he says: “As you can see, Your Honor, Cassie has not followed God’s laws; in fact, she is the most sinful of them all.”

It is then that Jesus, my defense attorney, stands and faces the judge. “Dad,” He says, looking up at God the Father as Judge. “We all know that Cassie is guilty as has been recounted and the wages of sin is death. But I have come to save her and offer her the gift of eternal life. So with that being said, her debt is paid in full.”

“You are right, my Son,” God the Judge says in response. He bangs His gavel and declares, “Case dismissed!”

I have paraphrased the proceeding illustration to bring into focus one very important truth: Christ did come to save me. He came to save you as well when He gave up His life on a cross more than two thousand years ago. To think about that incredible sacrifice is humbling and often brings tears to my eyes.

The emotion was overflowing for me on Sunday morning as we as a church congregation explored the next chapter in our journey through The Story. We heard the Words from the Scriptures, saw the crucifixion scene played out for us on the screen, sang songs about His atoning sacrifice, and finally participated in the Lord’s Supper. All the while, I was reminded of the court scene relayed above.

How could God, through His Son, look down on me— a terrible sinner— and have such compassion and love that He would willingly go to the cross to redeem me? I look at the cross on which Jesus died and feel incredible grief and joy at the same time. I think of how He endured such pain and suffering on my behalf, and it pains me to think that my Best Friend experienced such sorrow. But at the same time, I think of the price that was paid for me, and my eyes fill with tears of gratitude. There are simply no words to adequately explain a love like this.

I think the writers of the song “Mystery,” performed by Kari Jobe and Gateway Worship, portray this mystery of grace in a way that poignantly identifies with the worshipper and listener. As I think about how God pursues His people throughout His story despite their brokenness and sin, I cannot find a better way to describe it, for it is simply a mystery. I would like to close with the lyrics of this song as a means of reflection for you, my readers.

Mystery

George Thomas, Thomas Miller
© 2010 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

God Eternal here today
Moving in unchanging ways
Far beyond the highest high
Closer than can be defined
You’re a mystery

Common human, clothed in splendor
Unending strength yet heart so tender
Born to die to free this slave
The beauty of amazing grace is a mystery

I see You move in unseen ways
Hear Your voice in the quiet place
I feel Your peace steal my breath away
You’re simply a mystery

So unlovely, still You love me
Needing You yet You pursue me
Loving me since time began
Such love I’ll never comprehend
To me the greatest mystery
Is You in love with me