Read an Excerpt
from BLAH to AweShaking Up a Boring Faith
By Jenna Lucado Bishop
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Jenna Lucado Bishop
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBlah, Blah, Blah
The room was dark.
There were two catwalks.
At the end of each catwalk stood two poles.
Abby knew what they were for, and her stomach knotted. She had heard that these places exist but had never seen one up close. The room felt eerie. What was she doing here?
She had seen the woman standing outside the nightclub. And unlike the thousands of vendors selling food and tourist trinkets on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, this woman was selling something more valuable—herself. If only the woman knew her true value.
That's why sixteen-year-old Abby had decided to walk across the street to the nightclub entrance where she now stood peering in. She hadn't thought twice about it. This woman needed to know that she was worth more than the fee men paid to use her—a fee that easily could have been as little as two to four dollars an hour.
Abby, along with some others from her mission team, had walked into to the nightclub and asked the owner if they could buy a prostitute for an hour—an hour they hoped would change her life.
Abby always thought of herself as just a "normal" girl. She used to think her story was "boring"—to use her own word. Nothing drastic happened in her life. She didn't struggle with drugs, alcohol, or lots of boy drama. She grew up in a Christian home, attended a Christian school.
So how in the world did this "normal," "boring" girl end up on the streets of Guatemala in the middle of a nightclub full of prostitutes? Because of a very unboring, abnormal faith.
That faith led Abby to go on a mission trip to Guatemala, which then took her to the scene in our story—a smoke- and lust-filled room. Since it wasn't a busy time, the nightclub owner said they could hang out with one of the prostitutes for free, so he introduced them to Karen.
Karen had no idea why this group of young women was asking her to spend time with them. They definitely weren't her normal customers. She watched them warily as she walked across the street with the group and sat down on a park bench.
Through their translator, the team found out that Karen had three children and that she regularly sold her body to provide food and shelter for her family. Abby's heart broke as she listened to Karen's story of imprisonment to prostitution. Karen truly believed there was no way out. She had turned to using drugs to numb the pain.
That's when Abby shared her "boring" testimony. You see, a few months prior to the trip, Abby had lost her aunt to a drug overdose. Through tears, Abby told Karen that she didn't want her to die like her aunt, to waste her life. "God loves you," Abby told her. "And through Jesus you can have a new life." Then Abby placed a New Testament Bible in Karen's hands.
After talking with Karen about her faith—reassuring her that God loves her and has a plan for her life—Abby decided to pull out her wallet. Although Karen's "owner" had given Karen away for free, Abby, along with her friend Nancy, used up all the cash they had in their wallets to give Karen the money she needed to pay for her children's basic needs. Perhaps their money would lead to one less day of Karen devaluing her body. And maybe one day was all it would take for Karen to find the faith to leave her life of prostitution.
We don't know what happened to Karen after the group of "strange" American women said good-bye to her. Maybe that day changed her life, maybe it didn't. But we do know that day changed Abby's life—forever.
Abby came home with a new excitement about Jesus.
Although she had been a Christian a long time, through her experience in Gautemala, Abby discovered a new side of God's heart. "I saw how big God is, how compassionate He is, how much He loves His people."
Abby's faith adventure was just beginning.
Abby, along with her friend Nancy, who had stood with her that afternoon on the streets of Guatemala, sensed that God wanted to use them to build an awareness of women trapped in sex slavery. The hopelessness that Abby and Nancy had seen in Karen's eyes drove them to do something about women who have no choice, women who are stolen, women who are forced into brothels and raped multiple times a day. This devastating reality is called sex trafficking, and it's not limited to Guatemala. It has evolved into an underground, booming business all over the world. And that's why these two teenage girls created SOS223—which stands for "Save Our Sisters" and is based on Jeremiah 22:3: "This is what the Lord says: Do what is fair and right. Save the one who has been robbed from the power of his attacker. Don't mistreat or hurt the foreigners, orphans, or widows. Don't kill innocent people here" (NCV).
They hope to one day make it a legal nonprofit, but for now SOS223 is a title for their efforts. Both have spoken at their high schools about the tragedy of sex trafficking and have raised money to give to established nonprofits that work with victimized women.
Abby says the key to an adventurous faith is serving others. "I feel the closest to God and get so much joy when I'm serving others."
I don't know about you, but I want that kind of faith! A faith that isn't afraid to approach a prostitute and tell her about Jesus. A faith that plants dreams in my heart to change the world, like Abby's dream to end sex trafficking. And a faith that actually acts upon those dreams, believing that God wants to use me. He has a calling on my life. I only need to respond.
I don't know what Becky loves more—Starbucks' Frappuccinos or smiling.
Frappuccinos I can understand. She and I found out we both share that love as we sat at a Starbucks in San Antonio, Texas—home to both of us.
But smiling? Why would Becky love to smile? When I first met Becky in that Starbucks, I didn't think she had much to smile about. After all, when you are a paraplegic and have been confined to a wheelchair your entire life, wouldn't you feel a little hopeless, depressed, angry at God? Wouldn't you find it hard to smile?
Although Becky admits to questioning God about her condition at times, she chooses to trust a loving God—a God who has given her a purpose, a God who sees more than she does—and her faith outweighs the doubt.
Becky was born with a spinal disease called spina bifida. She has no feeling in or use of her legs. But although she can only move from the waist up, her disease hasn't slowed her down a bit.
At the age of nine, she began to speak in front of people about her disability. One of her first speaking opportunities was in front of the youth group at her church. The next week, a teenage boy in the youth group who had heard her story approached her and said, "If I was paralyzed, I would be miserable. But seeing you so full of joy—sharing your story and trying to tell others about how good God is while you have to be in a wheelchair the rest of your life—has now changed my life."
And that's Becky for you. Her joy is contagious. She is a girl who has found a faith so life-giving and joy-filling that—in spite of her circumstances—she changes lives all over the world, especially in the country of Romania.
As we were sipping our drinks at Starbucks, Becky informed me that in Romania, when someone has a disability, many times that person is considered cursed, kept indoors, and given no chance at finding purpose in life. That's why Becky goes to Romania every year. She and her parents go with a team to distribute wheelchairs and to tell people with disabilities that God loves them and wants to use them, despite how useless they may have been made to feel. Her love of smiling is changing lives in Romania.
For example, she told me about a Romanian man who approached her mom and asked how her daughter could smile while in a wheelchair. This gave Becky the chance to share the love and hope of Jesus with that man.
Her radiant smile has changed me as well. As I watched her share her story, I was in awe. She admitted to me that the hardest struggle has been loneliness—not many friends, no one she could relate to—especially in middle school and high school. And friends in middle school and high school are so important! Can you imagine going so many years without a close girlfriend to share life with? But no matter how many lonely weekends she has spent, how many surgeries she has suffered, or how many times she has longed to walk, Becky has a vibrant faith—a faith that gives her joy, peace, and purpose.
Don't you want that?
My favorite quote from Becky that day at Starbucks was that her "first step will be in heaven with Jesus." Wow!
Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Becky has that kind of faith. Although she can't see it, she knows that her real body and her real home await her. And they will far outweigh any of her trials on this earth.
Are you a YouTube fan? If so, next time you are on YouTube, check out a young woman named Jamie Grace.
Jamie Grace uses YouTube as a way to help others and share her faith. She lives with a neurological disease called Tourette's syndrome, or TS. Growing up, Jamie Grace suffered a lot of embarrassing moments because of TS. It causes her to randomly twitch and jolt, stutter, and make uncontrollable sounds (at very untimely moments). But instead of letting TS shame her, she trusted God to claimher-claim her heart and her disease and use them to bring others encouragement. She began to post videos to encourage other teens struggling with this illness. And the response was widespread. So many could relate to her and were grateful to know that they weren't alone in their journeys.
As a creative outlet and escape from the problems that come with her disease, Jamie Grace began to write songs. So on top of posting videos about battling TS, Jamie Grace started posting videos of songs she had written. Most of her songs were love songs to Jesus. Unlike the positive response to the TS videos, the response to her "Jesus" music was spotted with hate messages. Not everyone appreciated her songs because of the faith message. She received a lot of hurtful comments and could have easily let herself feel defeated. But just as she refused to let TS weigh her down, she refused to let the judgments of others triumph over her. Instead, because of her willingness to take risks in her walk with God, she kept on posting one song after the other—until a Christian artist named TobyMac discovered her. Now she has signed with a record label and has a hit song on the radio! And it all started with a teenage girl, embarrassed by an incurable disease.
Jamie Grace loved God too much to settle for a shamefilled story. She handed over her heart and asked Him to use her. And look at her now! What an adventure she lives, telling thousands upon thousands how good God is.
Do you want a faith like Jamie Grace? I do! A faith that rises above what the world thinks of me, a faith that boldly tells thousands of people that God loves them, a faith that is so on fire that it inspires songs to fill others with hope and joy. But the truth is, at times I feel ...
Bored, Just Bored
I don't always jump up and down about God. If I'm being real (you'll notice throughout this book that "getting real" is one of my favorite things to do), then I'll admit that sometimes I get bored in my faith.
There are times when I can be sitting in church as the preacher gives a message and all I hear is, "Blah, blah, blah." Deep down I'm thinking, I just want to go eat lunch!
There are times when the last thing I want to read is the Bible. I'd much rather get on Facebook or pick up the latest People magazine.
There are times when I fall asleep in the middle of praying, and when I would rather hang out with friends than with God.
Ever felt that way? Ever just been kind of bored with the whole God thing? If so, then it's your turn to get real. Write about a time when you were feeling blah in your faith. (It could be right now!)
Talk to any one of those girls whom I mentioned earlier, and they will admit that their faith isn't always an adventure. It isn't always on fire. They, too, sometimes feel lukewarm in their journeys with God. We are all going to have ups and downs with God—not because God is up and down, but because we are. And because of that, I need to give you some realistic expectations while reading this book.
What It's Not
First things first. I'm going to tell you what you will not get out of this book.
* The goal of this book is not to promise you a perfect, vibrant, soaring faith.
* I'm not providing you a fix-it-all formula for a faith filled with awe 24/7.
* You will not walk away from this book with all the answers to having a dynamic faith. I don't have all the answers.
* You will not walk away with all the ins and outs of what your faith should look like. We are all on unique journeys of faith.
With that being said, you might be wondering, So ... what's the point of this book? Looks like you aren't going to offer me any help here.
What It Is
All right, before you put the book down, let's talk about what I hope you do take away from this book.
The goal of this book is to shake you up a little.
No matter where you are in your faith journey—whether you are new to this God thing or you have known what a relationship with Jesus is like your entire life—when you finish this book, I want you to stop settling. Stop settling for a faith that is dull, boring, blah. So many of us get stuck in a lifeless faith and just stay there, thinking that this is what life with God is about. No! God wants more for us!
In John 10:10, Jesus says this: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Do you want a faith that is full of life? I mean soul-feeding, heart-overflowing life? I do! I want more in my walk with God. And I think that if you picked up this book, deep down you are yearning for more too.
So to find this full life, we are going to chat about some questions. Questions like, "Why do I get bored with God?" And as we uncover why, you and I will have a firmer grip on how. How can we get unbored with God? (Yes, I realize unbored isn't an actual word, but in this book it is.)
If you are babysitting a two-year-old who starts throwing a random temper tantrum, you don't know how to make him or her feel better until you know why in the world that toddler is screaming! And that's why we are going to ask why. The more we understand why we are stuck in a bored rut, the more we will understand how to get out of it.
Finally, toward the end of the book, we will answer the question, "Does God care if I'm bored with Him?" Again, I'm not promising you perfect solutions for a perfect faith. I'm just promising questions to help you search your heart and discussions to guide you into a fuller, richer season of your faith.
Okay, I've rattled on about what my role is in this book and what I hope to offer, but what about you?
You have a huge role in this book!
You know what it is? Reading. But not just reading. Active reading.
I don't want you to just flip through the pages and read the words but not apply them to your own heart. To actively read, I want you to write down your thoughts. And I offer you plenty of chances to do just that. So do it! Active reading also means that you are taking the words and applying them to your own situation. Think through your own life and ask God how the words and ideas in this book can help you right now.
Your role is also to pray. Pray that God will give you a heart that is soft, soft enough for Him to mold and shape you. Soft enough for His words to get through. Soft enough for His revelation to sink in. Only God can take your faith from blah to awe. So to kick off this journey, let's pray together.
God, give us soft hearts—hearts that are sensitive to Your voice, hearts that are in a position to be changed. Help us grow in our faith. Help us grow in our understanding of You. May we walk away from this book changed, more in awe of how good You are. Amen.
Excerpted from from BLAH to Awe by Jenna Lucado Bishop Copyright © 2012 by Jenna Lucado Bishop. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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