I was kicked out of a private Christian school during my senior year.
While I tried my best to remain invisible those last few weeks before graduation and keep my head down, someone saw me smoking a cigarette. Off campus. In my car, driving down the interstate.
Needless to say, this wasn’t allowed. It was my third suspension for not following the rules, so I guess you could say I had it coming.
Since my grades were decent, they let me take my final exams, wear my cap and gown and walk with my class. I received my diploma and was able to move past the incident.
But those last two weeks of school where I was suspended indefinitely, I was left waiting and wondering. Would I fail 12th grade? Were my parents going to have a nervous breakdown? I think the silence was worse than the suspension, and perhaps the school intended it to be.
In my twenty years since high school, I haven’t thought much about this experience. I never blamed the school, but it was the culmination of experiences that distanced me a little further from the “Jesus Loves Me” I knew as a child.
When I got my hands on Jami Amerine’s new book, Stolen Jesus, I was reminded how much our encounters with others and their perceptions of God affect our relationship with him. Once again, I saw how I projected my anger with the church, Christian school and believers onto a holy, perfect God.
For much of my life, I thought of Jesus as a rule-maker and enforcer. And after years of being the good girl in school, making the grades and falling in line, I was tired. I was angry and trying desperately to fit in. I thought I was missing out and didn’t see how God was, in fact, protecting me.
So I tried all the things I thought I was missing. And after the senior year incident, I ran. I became what I perceived as the fun girl. Except, I wasn’t having fun. I was lonely, and my soul was restless and parched.
It took nearly a decade of running, a cross-country move and the birth of my first child before I finally had an encounter with the attribute of God I was desperately missing: his grace.
And after that, well let’s just say I was never the same.
God’s conviction may keep my path straight, but it’s his grace that keeps me in love. It’s his grace that keeps me coming back to him again and again, even when I don’t understand his plans. And it’s grace that brought author and dear friend, Jami Amerine, into an encounter with her Savior, too.
Like me, Jami spent much of her life with false perceptions of Jesus. Stolen Jesus: An Unconventional Search for the Real Savior goes through her various encounters including Mormon Jesus, 5th grade Jesus, Americanized Jesus, and more. Her book is filled with laugh-out-loud humor and transparency that made me nod my head in agreement and tear up from the sheer joy of knowing I wasn’t alone.
What Jami eventually realizes is that until we have our own personal encounter with Jesus, we will never know who he is.
Others can try to tell us, their descriptions will pale in comparison Jesus we meet when we pursue him with all our heart. In a recent Facebook interview with author, Anna LeBaron, Jami was asked how her prayer life has changed since realizing who Jesus really is. After realizing he is a good, gracious Father whose love for her stretches farther than she can imagine.
“I used to pray to Him as a beggar and now I pray to Him as a daughter,” Jami said.
Yes. And this statement summarizes what the book is about, poignantly and perfectly.
Jami is an author you want to know up-close and personal. You want the inside scoop and story behind every line, and as someone who knows her personally, I can say that her life flows as seamlessly into her writing as anyone I’ve ever seen.
It’s beautiful, and the love of our Creator shines through each word.
While the title, Stolen Jesus, is a metaphor, it is also literal. There is a real stolen Jesus who is a main character in the story. But if you want to know more, you’ll have to get your hands on this fantastic book. I can promise you won’t regret it.
I am giving away a copy of Stolen Jesus to one of my readers today! You can enter the drawing my commenting on this post, following my blog via email (below), and/ or sharing this post. If you share the post, please let me know in your comment. The winner will be announced next Thursday, October 12th.
Please make sure you follow Jami as well! She is the writer of the popular blog, Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors, is the mom to six (or more) kids and is active in foster care. Her book, Stolen Jesus is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.