For the record, stealing is wrong. It can change your life… forever.
My first book, Stolen Jesus: An Unconventional Search for the Real Savior is on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. Kathie Lee Gifford tweeted her adoration for it. It rages a battle with 1991 classic written by Benny Hinn for the first place spot on Amazon in Christian Inspiration and teeters in the teens for religious humor.
My agent said I wasn’t to speak of Stolen Jesus until the book launched, which wasn’t easy as I really stole Him. He hangs over my mantle. It was illegal, and it is, by all accounts wrong to steal, especially Jesuses. But He, Stolen Jesus, is a huge part of my life. He taught me something, no not about illegal activity, but the mystery of Grace.
As story after story poured from my heart onto my laptop, I knew that something good was happening, I knew this book would mean something, if to no one else… me. I sought freedom, the more I clicked away, the more I craved, the closer I got to the arc of the book the more I hoped I would see it clearly.
SET CAPTIVES FREE.
That was the note taped to my laptop.
SET CAPTIVES FREE.
A lofty goal. Little did I know, I meant me.
I was captive.
I was trapped in a miserable, Jesus-speak religiosity, fraudulent pseudo-relationship with a mean and nasty God. He was killing me. The demands were far too much, and never enough. I couldn’t keep up, I couldn’t slow down. I was terrified, exhausted, and heartbroken.
Still, little by little an unraveling was happening and it was immediately after finishing the chapter Americanized Jesus I called my sister in tears, “I am still captive. I see glimpses of something, but I can’t make it out, I can’t seem to see the freedom I am certain I am supposed to write about?”
And she said, “You have to listen to this audio sermon “The New Covenant,” Jami, I think I’m free.”
An hour and a half later I was too.
72 hours later I turned in my book.
The next weekend one of my daughter’s best friends and her mom asked to meet us for breakfast in Dallas. Freedom was still very new to me, but I promise, I was a new woman. My cheeks ached from smiling, my heart was light and although my mind occasionally wandered back to the familiar feel of bondage, I knew… I would never go back into captivity. Ever.
That rainy Saturday morning Tracy and Caroline Levison met my daughter Maggie and a few other girls at a trendy little breakfast nook in the Metroplex. Tracy and I visited about all things book, she is the author of the best selling book Unashamed: Candid Conversations about Dating, Love, Nakedness, and Faith. I eagerly told her of my new found freedom. She inquired, “What was the audio that set you free?”
Tracy and Caroline gasped.
“We know him! We have been with him for those recordings! Do you want to meet him?”
And I did, and I would the following weekend.
Still, we were undone. I was a new grace girl, Tracy was a seasoned and steeped grace girl. Chapter 6 of her sex book? The message of grace.
With cheeks hot with joy and burning with the fatigue of smile we chattered about this mysterious thing, GRACE. How had I never heard? Tracy asked to see a picture of Stolen Jesus, so I pulled him up on my phone.
Tracy and Caroline gasped.
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“We know Him! We have that same Jesus!”
And I listened as another confirmation unfolded about our meeting.
Tracy, as a young mother was an atheist, she was searching… struggling. During this time she continually prayed for God to show Himself if He was in fact real. Tracy explains she knew that there had to be a greater love, she was so enamored with her young son Josh, she suspected there had to be more. They visited a Christian church and even though they hadn’t committed to Jesus when the area they lived in was struck with a horrible flood, the church rallied around the young Levison family helping them and offering a safe haven.
Tracy continued to question the church’s kindness yet it intrigued her.
In the midst of the flooding, Tracy took little Josh for a walk. As they came around the corner of a sopping wet street Josh pointed to a “Jesus.” There among flood debris and garbage, leaning against a garbage can was a water damaged picture of Jesus.
Tracy believed it to mean something. And although it was terribly damaged she and Josh, “stole” it and kept it. It is a keepsake of the season when they came to know and love Jesus Christ. She showed me the picture of her Stolen Jesus… and I knew I had met with the Truth and I was finally free.
Perhaps, it is a coincidence.
Maybe, it is one of the most famous prints of the face of Christ.
No, I know Jesus didn’t have blue eyes and a mullet.
But I knew.
I knew my journey to that breakfast table was somehow ordained. All at once I was confident, my Stolen Jesus was the very same Stolen Jesus that lead Tracy Levison and me to this moment. She would be key in my continued growth in the true message of Grace.
Certainly, the meaning of Stolen Jesus is much grander than a pilfered print, most definitely I believe in the freedom the message has brought me. I am humbled by even just one who might find sweet freedom in anything I may pen. But I am forever undone to see glimpses of Jesus, little nods, tiny comforts, and brilliant opportunities in the culture of Grace.
This place, this God, and this journey have brought me into the loving embrace of the real Jesus.
And I have the souvenirs and friends to prove it.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
You can get your copy of Stolen Jesus by clicking on the link below! And be sure and check out Tracy’s amazing book UNASHAMED: Candid Conversations about Dating, Love, Nakedness, and Faith also linked below! Tracy is brutally and beautifully honest, her book is a must-read. Also check out all things GRACE and Freedom with Paul Ellis and his latest book AD70