Bringing Jesus to B****Fest

October 26, 2009 | 33 comments


Note to readers: This post contains references to an offensive word.

I have struggled with whether to write this post, but at the top of my blog, my tagline reads that at Getting Down With Jesus, I pledge to be: Heartfelt and Candid, though a bit Off the Wall at times. Today — perhaps more than any other time in my year of blogging — I am all three.

(I pray now, Lord, that it is received as it is intended, and that it edifies the Body.)

Here goes …

***

I returned home last night from a weekend at, a-hem, … BitchFest.

B-Fest is an annual reunion of five college buddies, born and corn-fed in Iowa. We met while working on the campus newspaper staff in the early 1990s. And aside from the fact that two of us are named Jennifer, that’s pretty much where our similarities end.

We’re distinctly different — from the cars we drive to the faiths we follow.

In the past, our conflicting belief systems have collided at our annual gathering — sometimes threatening to sever deep bonds. The differences are wide. None of us can even agree on who God is, if He is actually a She, if He/She is Three, or if He even is.

But for seventy-two hours — one time a year — we are drawn together. We’ve done this for twelve years now. We see each other only occasionally throughout the rest of the year. So it is, in those hours together, that we quickly unpack the previous 362 days of our lives. We find ourselves continually redefining who we’ve become with the passage of years.

I know that some Christians would cringe to think that God penned B-Fest into the narrative when He crafted my life story. But there sits B-Fest in the story line – jotted in clear penmanship next to other words that mark stops on my faith journey: Sunday School, my first Communion and Confirmation Day.

But it’s taken this Jar of Clay a while to figure out what do with Jesus at B-Fest.

***

A few years ago, after a spiritual awakening in my own life, everything changed, including how I’d approach my newfound faith at B-Fest. I couldn’t hide Christ — and I wouldn’t dream of it, for I owe Him my life.

But instead of taking a subtle approach, I chose to flaunt my faith and my Jesus.

In my exuberance, I was the equivalent of a street-corner evangelist with a bullhorn. I left these women with the impression that I was looking for converts — not friends.

They didn’t feel inspired. They felt assaulted.

They didn’t feel drawn to Jesus. They felt repelled and disrespected.

Gandhi once said: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Well-meaning as I was, I was so “unlike my Christ.”

Somewhere along the way, I realized that God didn’t ask me to be a bullhorn. He asked me to be an open book where people can “read” Jesus in me through my actions — not amplified through my spiritual-sounding words and my puffed-up religion.

“You yourselves are our letter …
known and read by everybody.”
— 2 Corinthians 3:2

***

At our 2009 gathering this weekend, one of my friends gave me a book with a quote from Kofi Annan tucked on an inside page: “People of different religions and culture live side by side in almost every part of the world … We can reach out and love what we are, without hating what we are not.”

I like that.

Make no mistake: I believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit living inside of those who confess Him as Lord. I will not compromise. I will not budge.

But:

God did not ask me to
look down my nose
or my wagging finger

He did not ask me to
proclaim Him with hollow words
or exaggerated promises

He did not ask me to
rescue
or save
or redeem
(For only He can …)

He did not ask me to
parade Jesus
in the name of religion

He asked me to love.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve toned down the rhetoric, and concerned myself more with attempting to exude humility, pursue justice and offer mercy. I don’t hide my faith, and I appreciate that none of these women wants me to. I am an unabashed follower of Christ, a servant for the Kingdom, a book with Living Letters.

I ask myself today: What can they read on these pages?

“Be who you are,” one of the women told me this weekend. And that was a sweet gift of peace and freedom and acceptance … and grace. (I pray I extend the same.)

I’ve come to realize, too, what each of these women is: a beautiful creation of God. They are knitting caps for sick babies, raising thousands of dollars for organ-donor research, showing their children how to care for the Earth and how to feed the hungry. They are praying, teaching, learning, growing, pressing in and moving forward.

And as much as I love them,
God loves them even more.

I find peace in that promise.

***

Photo: We pose for our annual photo of feet in a circle, bare feet on holy ground ablaze with God’s creation.

Written in honor of Helen, who used to be among our group. Helen died in 2003 of a brain tumor after she returned home to Iowa from the Peace Corps.)

Related post: Amazing Grapes, a post about our 2008 gathering.

by | October 26, 2009 | 33 comments

33 Comments

  1. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    This is deeply beautiful Jennifer. A lesson I myself needed as well.

    Reply
  2. Angie Vik

    Appreciated your thoughts. It'ss really nice that you and your friends yearly carve out time for each other. It's nice to have friends with whom you can pick up where you left off.

    Seems like as we mature in our faith we better learn when to speak, and when to listen, knowing our actions are just as important as our words. And then being ready to step through doors of opportunity whenever they open. I hope your friends see the difference having Jesus in your life makes and and want to drink from the same fountain that you do.

    Reply
  3. Bina @ Bina's Pad

    Ok, I will admit that when I saw B****Fest written out I thought "She doesn't mean what I think she means…does she???" There was no judgement in the question, but rather a desire to know why you used it.

    You left me as your posts usually do…rethinking and rechecking my own heart for Christ and my love for Him…which means you did honor Him with your words. I heard once "No one will want to know your Jesus until they see your Jesus working in you" and I have lived to discover the truth of these words.

    Your beautiful heart beats for Him…and I am thankful for the chance to tag along on the ride. Thank you for sharing…
    Bina

    Reply
  4. Pam at beyondjustmom

    Beautifully put. When I think back to times I've grown the most, it's when I've been challenged by friends with vastly different perspectives from mine. I absolutely believe God has a hand in gatherings like B****fest. Carry on.

    Reply
  5. jasonS

    I like this a lot, and just from the title, I got a smile. You're so right- it's not withdrawing that makes us like Christ, it's engaging. But we don't engage by spewing, but by loving then we trust that God gives us opportunities to share more.

    So good. Thanks…

    Reply
  6. elizabeth

    Love it…beautiful, honest, thought provoking.

    Reply
  7. Jennifer

    Love your idea of a B-fest once a year. You are blessed to be able to come together with these women year after year and 'be who you are'!

    I love how you stated this thought, "He asked me to be an open book where people can "read" Jesus in me through my actions"… EXACTLY!!

    Reply
  8. patty

    I'm so glad you risked and posted! I was smiling and knodding my head through out…thank you for being real 🙂 love you…

    Reply
  9. Candi

    Jesus confronted me with this issue just yesterday. I have a neighbor whom I deeply admire, and see many character qualities in that I'd like to see in myself. She is one of, in my estimation, the few "safe" people I can trust my daughter with. I think of her often, pray for her, chat with her. . .but I hold back my heart from her.

    Because she's Mormon.

    The question burning on my heart to ask her–the same question I heard in my spirit yesterday–is "That's all fine and good, but what do you do with Jesus?"

    I want to know where she stands with Jesus so I can feel free to share with her about where I stand with Him, and all the ways He's changing me and redeeming me and relating to me–the conversations I have with other "sisters in the faith."

    In desiring to ask her that question, God's asking me that question: what am I doing with Jesus?

    I'm certainly not sharing Him with my neighbor. I think I'm believing some sort of lie. Thanks for constantly encouraging me to "get down with Jesus" and figure it out.

    You're cool, Jennifer. And I like the photo of the feet.

    Reply
  10. Julie

    Well said, Jennifer. I love what you said about being able to "read" Jesus in you. What a beautiful thing….many times when faced with situations such as this we want to judge instead of love.

    We are called to love…
    it is up to Him to judge….
    in the meantime let Him be read within the pages of my life.

    You did that here…thank you so much for your honesty!

    Reply
  11. Denise @ A Sacred Longing

    …a book with Living Letters…I wonder what others read in me? Good food for thought…going now to chew on this for awhile.

    Shalom,
    Denise

    Reply
  12. Laura

    Jennifer,

    This makes me smile.

    Some of our beginnings reflect the changing course of our journey more than others, no? I chuckle when I think of some of the names my she-friends and I have given our all-girl gatherings over the years.

    All kidding aside, what a wonderful blessing the Lord has given you in these women. He has given you the perfect focus group for the world. And it sounds like you have found that place where you can be comfortable sharing your faith.

    Truly a blessing.

    Who knows what seeds are being planted? Keep sowing, friend.

    :)Laura

    Reply
  13. Beth E.

    AMEN…I received the same message from God a few years ago, regarding my brother. He was an alcoholic, living most of the time in a drunken stupor. I found myself criticizing him, judging him, preaching to him…alienating him in the process.

    God spoke to me very strongly one day, telling me it was NOT my place to preach to my brother. I couldn't save him. Only God could save him. It was my place to LOVE my brother. Once I took my hands off, then God was able to move. He hasn't had a drink for years, and he made a profession of faith about a year after I let God take over.

    This incident gave me an entirely different perspective about being a living, LOVING testimony.

    Excellent post.

    Reply
  14. Charity Singleton

    Oh Jennifer . . . so easy to see beyond the "word" to the words here. The words of your life, too. What a great example of how to be really real! I have often struggled to find my place betweeen the silence and the bullhorn so that there is a real message reflected, but one that is authentic and beautiful. Not loud and brash. Thanks for sharing this beautiful weekend with us. Blessings!

    Reply
  15. Lyla Lindquist

    (Insert all the wisecracks I am trying really hard to forego typing into the comment box . . . no small feat, I tell you . . . )

    Okay, that said, I wonder if your annual B-fest gathering (and your continued relationship with these amazing women) has been an even bigger stop on your faith journey than some others, though more orthodox.

    Our life in Him, it does grow in the formal and ceremonial; it's also strengthened in the stillness and the quiet. But I wonder if we realize how much of it is forged in the grit and the grace of life together.

    Thank you for coming out on top of the struggle and writing with your usual heartfelt candor to share with us the blessing of that b-word for you today.

    Reply
  16. Andrea

    Wish I could say I've learned this lesson well – but I'm still need to learn to tone it down… wish I'd read this a couple weeks ago… might have helped me with our little rendezvous.

    Thanks for writing Jennifer… may you press on toward the prize, sweet sister!

    Reply
  17. Pttyann

    Hi Jennifer
    I truly enjoyed this post and how true!Showing the Love of Jesus is all about being real instead of like the Scribes & Pharisees showing off to impress others.Jesus hung out with people we run away from and we cannot reach others by pointing to their specks,I'm taking a closer look at Jesus again for I to want to be reachable and loving like him.Wonderful post Jennifer have a good night.
    Love ya

    Reply
  18. Rosslyn Elliott

    Very interesting and inspiring, Jennifer. I wish I could sit down with some women from my past and talk to them as we are now, on very different paths. I think that kind of dialogue is enriching, but too rare in our polarized world.

    Reply
  19. Jacquelyn

    I loved this post! You so much have it together on this subject! In our exuberance of new faith, we've all made mistakes. How wonderful that your friends have shown you grace in allowing you to be who you are. And how wonderful that you have matured in the faith to know it's all about Him working through us…if we just let Him.

    Perhaps you can appreciate a dilemma I currently find myself in. A niece has just announced her upcoming wedding to her girlfriend. I need LOTS of grace to infuse me as I love these two but not what they are doing.

    Reply
  20. Jennifer

    I think sometimes the hardest parts of my Christian journey are trying to balance my wanting to be a bullhorn for Jesus with my desire to love as Jesus loved. And that means putting down the bullhorn and putting my heart to use.

    I never knew anything different than to love people, no matter their religion. I grew up with Mormon, Catholic, and atheist friends. The difficulty I've found this past year is when women not of my faith remove their fellowship from me because of doctrinal differences. And that has surprised me. Really loving like Jesus does is painful. It hurts. It leaves you raw and exposed. But it's living.

    Reply
  21. ~*Michelle*~

    Alrighty…this is now in the running for my Top 3 favorite Getting Down with Jesus posts. WOW!

    Like Bina…I am leaving here "rethinking and rechecking my own heart for Christ and my love for Him". I, admittedly so…..have been a total bullhorn at times. But my intentions were not to offend or condemn…..unfortunately I am sure I was guilty of doing just that. I was just so ON FIRE for God and wanted to gather everyone up….again….unfortunately I was chasing them away.

    Thankfully, over time,……God has taught me the old rule of "actions speak louder than words"….and I pray that I am able to shine His Light instead.

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend Helen.

    Peace
    *~Michele~*

    Reply
  22. Monica Sharman

    I just finished BLUE LIKE JAZZ which talks a lot about love, especially one of the later chapters.
    Thanks for your example.

    Reply
  23. hope42day

    How awesome to have a weekend with women!!! And how gratifying to have differences but love anyway.

    Reply
  24. travelmom

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes –
    "Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words."

    St. Francis of Assisi

    Reply
  25. sharilyn

    what a wonderful post, jennifer. so raw and real… and that's what 'getting down with Jesus' is about, is it not! i pray that your light would so shine before these women that they would see HIM and would long for Him in their lives as well…

    i LOVE the foot shot! i do those with all sorts of groups of family and friends when i visit… i think they think i'm a bit off-kilter but i love looking at the feet and remembering who i was with and where! such delight! 🙂

    thank you, also, for your encouraging and kind words on my blog! you bring such joy to my heart… i am blessed to know you! 🙂

    Reply
  26. Girl In a Glass House

    You write so beautifully and you inspire me to press on! This was a great line
    "God didn't ask me to be a bullhorn. He asked me to be an open book where people can "read" Jesus in me through my actions"

    Amen

    Reply
  27. Girl In a Glass House

    You write so beautifully and you inspire me to press on! This was a great line
    "God didn't ask me to be a bullhorn. He asked me to be an open book where people can "read" Jesus in me through my actions"

    Amen

    Reply
  28. Sarah Dawn

    Radiating God's love. A mission field. Being His hands and feet. Whatever the fest is called, the pages of your life declare the glory of the Lord.

    Oh how I would love to meet you in person. Push back the computer and share life, real, passionate, in love with our Lord. Radical abandon. Forgiven for our bullhorn episodes, but willing to boldly stand in the midst of a sea of hurting people and be His love, not just preach about it.

    Joyfully His,
    Sarah Dawn

    Reply
  29. Missy

    I am so thankful for the day the Lord pointed me in the direction of your blog. You put into words what I often am thinking or feeling and cannot voice either to myself or others. And you always do it with grace, love, transparency, and beauty.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  30. simply anne's

    I too am preparing to embark on an annual B****fest in a couple of weekends. We are all different to say the least. I share my faith with only one other out of a group of six. Years back, I used the blowhorn, a.k.a. 'clanging symbol'. But Jesus deserves to be shown who He truly is and that can only be accomplished through His love for them through me. Great story…I can relate.

    Reply
  31. Billy Coffey

    I loved this so much, Jennifer. There's so much truth here. Beautiful, beautiful words.

    Reply
  32. Faith Imagined

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I love this post! We need to love people and allow God to do the rest!

    Reply
  33. Cherie

    Oops… and btw Jennifer… This little talk I have to give is actually a long ways away in a town I don't know how to spell but it's something like Kanawa. Anyway thanks for being so sweet and showing intrest in attending. It's a couple of hours or more from me and would be even more from you but I would sure appreicate your prayers around 11am on Dec. 5 and I hope to post it at some point (if I have the courage).

    Reply

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