Archives For Story

I love Jesus, but if God is handing out spiritual report cards, I’m probably getting an F when it comes to getting excited about Heaven.* The Apostle Paul—who tells us to imitate his faith—says, “I desire to depart and be with Christ” (Phil 1:23), but when I try to rev my enthusiasm for that place after death, my battery sputters.

Over the last five years at seminary, I had the chance to study the Bible as one big story, from the garden to the city. Revisiting the edges of God’s story gave me a new lens for understanding why I have a hard time getting excited about heaven. Here’s three of my top reasons:

I find it hard

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

1. Worship songs aren’t really my thing. 

After three repetitions of the chorus from “10,000 Reasons” at church, I’m ready to call a time-out and connect with the maroon cushions, not stay on my feet for another four songs. I’ve never been a good stander. And despite my laser focus when it comes to reading and writing, singing turns my mind into seven-year-old with ADD. Music time at church deteriorates into twenty minutes of hand-slapping my brain back to attention. 

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I tried to peel myself off the alley as the Spanish words got louder, men’s voices, but my Columbia pants stuck to the dirt. My bones ached and bowels churned. Montezuma was mounting his revenge and it was one of the worst hours of my life.  

 

It was also one of the best days of my life, but you have to widen the edges of the story to see it. Zooming out, you’d see the alley I lay plastered in, tucked high up on a jungle mountain. You might see that–by a miracle of nature–later that day I’d steady my limbs and force them up ancient steps until I could look back over the green and grey city of Machu Picchu.  

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

One day, but two different stories depending on how wide you set the frame. In a similar way, Christians can cut the edges off God’s story. Sometimes we zoom in so tight on the cross, sanctification, and getting to Heaven when we die, that we crop the storyline. The Great Commission looms so large in our minds, that we almost forget about the first commission, the one God gave us in the Garden of Eden.  

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Dead Saturday

smgianotti@me.com  —  March 31, 2018

 

I have a hard time with Holy Saturday. A Good Friday service promises to weigh me down with my sin, the wetness of Jesus’ blood, and the distress in his voice as he cries into the darkness, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” And I can wake up Easter Sunday knowing that the planters filled with lilies, church goers shouting “He is risen indeed,” and a steaming plate of ham will draw me into a celebration of resurrection. But Saturday slips quietly in between and I’m tempted to wake up to the world as I know it, the world as normal.

 

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But the silence of Saturday ripples with paradox and grief. If we take the time to venture in, we can see the chaos our sin creates and feel, if just for a moment, a heaviness that makes us long for Resurrection Sundayboth Jesus’ and our own Continue Reading…

Last week I posted about the imaginary critics and how, thanks to them, I found myself shelling out my hard earned cash for a subscription to Eharmony.com. And it was all true, but it was only part of the story. God, as he likes to do, had his hand in the mix too. Thankfully, while I was spiting the world and spending my money to prove the imaginary critics wrong, God wasn’t critiquing my lack of faith or my failure to ask his opinion before I signed-up for online dating again. Instead, he was concocting a new dose of grace.  

 

About a month into my Eharmony subscription I met a man who has turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. A man who, when reading my article on the imaginary critics, pointed out how I failed to mention the end of the story, the part about meeting the love of my life.

 

This is one of the challenges of being a writer. You pick out one aspect of life and hold it under the microscope to get a really good look at it, to try to crack it open and see why exactly you let things like imaginary critics influence you. You can’t always tell the whole story, it would distract from the point you’re trying to make. I told this to my man, Jay-Michael from Colorado, but I’m not sure I convinced him. 

 

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Over this past week, though, it did seemed like I ought to tell you the other half of the story, if only for practical reasons. Since meeting Jay-Michael, the days have unravelled into a wonderful mess of months in which I find that having a love life is rather unproductive. My perfectly manicured schedule, with just enough time to see a day’s worth of patients at the office, finish my eschatology homework, and go for a run, has gotten all hob-jobbled by late night conversations, daydreaming, and spending more time than I like to admit looking at pictures of our last weekend together Continue Reading…

Thanks to Sarita Fowler for sharing how God cares about the little stuff at work. This blog is part of the Finding God at Work series. 

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At nine weeks pregnant I felt nauseated every morning. But when my agency asked me to interpret on stage for a 9:00 a.m. program, I thought, I can do this. After all, the assignment will only take an hour and I’ll get paid for two. No-brainer. I didn’t stop to consider that nearly every day my stomach began its lurching and heaving around that time. 

 

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The night before the assignment, I started preparing—deciding on my clothes had become a chore. I had started gaining weight and I didn’t fit into my go-to black slacks. I opted for another pair of pants that were a little too long and a little too snug. No worries. I’ll just wear heels, and I’ll suck in my stomach. I hadn’t worn heels or sucked in my stomach for over two months. 

 

I arrived early for the assignment and saw the stage where I would interpret for the deaf audience. No chair. It doesn’t matter, I’ll only be interpreting for an hour Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

Thanks to Kate Knapp, LMHC, for contributing to my Finding God at Work series on how she experiences God through her work as a therapist. Check out her free counseling videos or follow her on Facebook.  

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Although I’m therapist, sometimes I feel in danger of being the bull in the china shop. I can see the damage in my clients’ lives, the hurt, and the likely reasons for it all, and I want to tell them where they went wrong and how to fix it. But even if I can diagnose the situation accurately, I can’t repair it. That’s not my job—not the job I’m paid for or the one God calls me to.

 

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Hank and I sat down for our eleventh session. We’d spent the first ten wading through the issues he’d presented for while I waited for the real issue to surface. We’d talked about his faith, low level depression, and pending life choices. We discussed doctoral programs and his wife’s thoughts about what he should do. Then, during that eleventh session, out of no where—whamoo—an affair. For the past 6 months. His wife found out when a friend saw Hank with the other woman, who was a part of his education circle. His doctoral options were now looking limited and, more importantly, his marriage was a mess Continue Reading…

I almost hate to admit it, but every time I pick up a new book by C. S. Lewis, after the first chapter, I check the cover to make sure Amazon mailed me the right book. By the end of the second, I’m questioning the cultish love that Evangelicals hold for Lewis when his writing style is so vague and drab. By chapter three, I’m hanging on for dear life, just based on the principle of the thing—I mean, I love Narnia after all. Fifty pages more and I’m confessing my disappointment to a friend like it’s some sin. As the pages keep turning, I nearly give up hope. But then it happens: the one line that changes everything.

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I last suffered through this emotional roller coaster while reading, for the first time, Till We Have Faces. As I plodded, then dragged, myself through the book, I began to lose faith in Lewis all over again. But, then, in the final chapter, at the end of the first paragraph, in a single sentence, his genius overwhelmed me again. With a handful of words, Lewis turned a disappointing bedtime read into a life-transforming, leave-me-gasping-and-flipping-back-to-read-it-again book. That one sentence made all the difference. 


Life is like a Lewis book


It strikes me that life often works like a Lewis book. We’re trudging through some page in our story, disappointed. The writing feels dull. The plot seems to be going nowhere. The tragedies break our hearts Continue Reading…

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had days where work makes us angry. Thanks to Chris Dortch for being honest about it for the Finding God at Work series. 

 

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Blasted crape myrtles. I know most people wouldn’t describe them so, but their pretty, pink posies fall in droves, faster than my net can skim them off the water. I know I should enjoy the hot sun on my back, the cool breeze fighting back against the warmth, and the freedom for my mind to wander—from Aslan’s bright shore beyond the Great Sea all the way to the bloody streets of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution, from the emeralds of Oz to the dark stage haunted by the Phantom.


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The strong smell of chlorine wrenches me from the worlds whispered into my ears, and I have to step back before the fumes overpower me. I really should pay more attention to my job. This daydreaming landed me in the pool last summer. I pull out my headphones and focus on the plague of pink that has now consumed the pool. How is this even possible? There are more flowers now than when I got here half an hour ago Continue Reading…

I’m thrilled to have Annette Uza, a friend from church, kicking off a new series of blogs about how people find God in their work. These guest posts will run on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. Subscribe on the right to get these posts delivered directly to your inbox. And, if you have a story to share, I’d love to hear it

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On my fifty-third birthday I realized that my dad was only four years older than me when he died. As I faced the possibility of meeting Jesus than soon, my position as Director of Productions in a flavor company suddenly lost its appeal. I wanted my life to matter for eternity, so I decided to resign and find a job where I could really serve God.

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I applied for a chaplain residency program and for the next two years clocked fifty hours a week at the hospital before dashing to both of my part-time jobs, one at the flavor company. I worked every weekend and holiday without a single day off. The schedule nearly consumed me, but as I sat in the emergency room with family members, holding their hands and praying with them while their loved one lay on the trauma table getting bullets extracted and head wounds stitched up, I believed my work mattered to God in a way that my old job never could Continue Reading…