Archive | February 2015

What would I do?

Videos weren’t videos back in the day; they were reel-to-reel films.  We welcomed the sight of the cumbersome projector in the classroom for it meant a break from the normal routines of our studies.  The films used for Social Studies and Geography classes were my favorites.  Real life movies that gave us glimpses into other parts of the world, a world so far away and different from the small country town that held our school.  Films that gave greater meaning to the words and pictures on the pages of our books.  Films that opened our minds to imagine what it would be like to travel and experience a different kind of life.

There was, however, a down side to this exposure.  At least there was for me.  Along with the unveiling of different cultures and lifestyles, the films often included the difficulties of those living in harsh climates and barren lands and places with limited or no medical assistance.  We saw images of those who had succumbed to sicknesses and diseases for which there were no cures.  Much to my horror, I learned of Elephantitis. Elephantitis is actually a symptom of various diseases which causes body parts to swell to massive proportions, but having heard the word and seen the images, it became to me a most feared disease.  And while I hated the spindly appendages on my body called legs, embarrassed that my ankles were so thin they didn’t stretch out the wrinkles in the cheap, crumpled pantyhose occasionally purchased for me, I could think of nothing worse that having elephantitis.  I silently added this to my rapidly growing list of fears.

Moving from elementary to junior high (now referred to as middle school) the use of educational films continued with the addition of those designed to prevent us from doing drugs.  We saw films filled with needles and pills, strobe lights, swirling colors, and strange music that was supposed to represent the hallucinogenic effects of dangerous drugs.  I cannot tell you whether or not this display was accurate as the films had the desired effect on me – they made me terribly afraid of drugs and the prospects of going to jail (new additions to the aforementioned list).

The use of this type of visual teaching aid was not limited to the public school system; from time to time they were tools of the church:

A lone Christian behind bars, his head in his hands as he sits and awaits his fate.  He’s been captured by those who oppose his beliefs and it is time to choose.  Stand or surrender.  Choose to die rather than live.  That is what he will be asked to do in a matter of days or hours.  Is his faith strong enough?  Will he renounce Christ in order to live?  What would you do?

I remember nothing else from that particular film other than this brief scene.  Permanently embedded in my mental photo album, this image was cause for great concern over many years.  What would I do?  Not mature enough to understand what God would require of me as a child, I feared the end of days would find me a coward.  The last word I would have used to describe myself at that time was brave.  I was the farthest thing from courageous that you could find.  This tortured my soul as I so wanted to please God, but was sure that I would buckle under the pressure of being thrown in jail and my life threatened.  This fear became a biggie on my list.

Looking back, I realize that this may not have been the wisest choice the Sunday School teachers could have made.  I personally would not recommend this as a teaching method for our children.  However, now that I am older and wiser, secure in my faith and confident in His ability to help me, it’s not a bad question:  What would I do?

This morning there are over 200 Christians that have recently been captured by those who oppose their beliefs, and that’s just the latest report from one country.  There are many, many more scattered across this globe.  Brothers and sisters that awaken today not knowing if they will ever see their families again, not knowing if they will be one of those chosen for the next horrific video that will be shown around the world.  As I read the report from the comfort and safety of my home, I wondered “What would I do?”

What would you do?  It’s not a bad question and it’s ok to answer “I don’t know.”  But let’s allow the question to provoke us not to fear, but to pray for those who are afraid.  To be fervent and diligent to remember them and their families that they will be strong and that their faith not fail.  To pray that they will experience His presence in a profound and powerful way today.  And to pray for those of us who live in comfort and safety that we will keep a right perspective on what is truly important.

So maybe the better question for us today is “What will we do?”

…unite with me in earnest wrestling in prayer to God…  Romans 15:30

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:10

 

What will I do?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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When God caused me to wander

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wanderers in the bible is the account of the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was a destination to reach:  the promised land.  But rather than a straight line journey, they wandered on their way there.  Ready to leave the bonds of slavery, the plan seemed easy enough: follow Moses.  Yet it wasn’t many days into the journey when it was apparent there were things that had to be dealt with.  Old habits, attitudes, opinions and emotions surfaced that revealed there would be more to this journey than arriving in Canaan.  It is clear in the story that their stubbornness was the primary reason they wandered for so long.  I can identify.  Their actions and attitudes kept them in a cycle of wandering with very little progress towards the goal.  Been there, done that, too.

Wandering by definition means to move around usually without purpose or direction.  Life teaches us that this is bad or wrong.  We make plans upon plans, we write down our personal goals, we make lists, we form business plans, we have middle schoolers and early high schoolers under the pressure of deciding what direction their education will go over the next four to eight years.  We are asked what we are going to do, what we want to “be”, and where we will be next year, in five years, and ten years from now. To answer “I don’t know” to any of these pressures is to appear lazy and lacking sufficient motivation.

While all of these strategies (minus the ridiculous notion that a thirteen year old has a clear vision of where their life is going) are very useful in the business world and in maintaining a certain order in our home lives, I wonder how much we try to carry over into our spiritual lives which becomes the very reason we continue to go round and round certain mountains.  Perhaps we stubbornly hold onto a worldly concept that  slows down our spiritual progress.  What if God wants us to wander??

“…when God caused me to wander…”  Genesis 20:13

Abraham heard the call of God on his life and he followed.  God led him to pack up all his things and begin a journey.  He didn’t know where he was going but he started walking.  He started wandering.  The Israelites wandered because of a lack of faith.  Abraham wandered full of faith.

I am not entirely comfortable with this season of wandering.  It feels foolish to not know exactly where I am headed and to resist the temptation to plan every step.  It stings my pride a bit to answer “I don’t know” when asked about my plan.  But I want to learn from Abraham.  I want to dream of the promises God has planted in my heart without taking it upon myself to make it happen.  I want to move when He says move and stay when He says stay.  I want to walk so full of faith that when God changes my direction there is no hesitation on my part.  I want to embrace when God causes me to wander.

 

When God caused me to wander” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Missing the point

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you saw a photograph I had made of my children.  I had a wonderful young photographer take two precious pictures and unite them to show that while my son is in heaven, he is still with those who loved him, particularly his sisters.  Lest you misunderstand, I do not believe that he is hovering around in a ghostly form nor does he appear when summoned.  That is a topic for another day…

Most people who’ve seen the photo get it.  They understand what it represents.  A few do not.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether others understand, I only care what my girls think.  I had it made it for them.  I know that when they look at it they completely understand my motivation and my heart.  It was an expression of love that says to them “I know.” “I know that you are grieving.  I know that you love him and miss him so very much.  I know that you hold the same hope as I that we will see him again.  I know.”

I can only imagine my anguish and disappointment if they had received this labor of intense love and simply said “Thanks.  That’s nice.”  It would have broken my heart if they missed the point, if they did not let it bless them and comfort them in some way.

In Monday night bible study we are digging deep in to the book of James.  James was writing to a fellowship of Jewish believers.  Jews who had been steeped in the Law yet had discovered Grace.  His instructions in this particular letter indicate they were struggling with the letting go of the demands of the Law they had spent their lives endeavoring to follow.  As we discuss the verses, we often allow a little speculation and imagination as we try to understand how James’ audience was responding to his words…

They knew that Jesus had died for their sins and that He taught that the Law had been fulfilled, but I wonder how many of them still quietly slipped into the temple area and continued to make the sacrifices they had always done.  Just in case.  Keeping the Law as their back-up plan in case they had misunderstood this Grace that says sacrifice was no longer needed…

I am pursuing this Grace with a determination to get it.  To understand more and more what it is and what effect it is supposed to have on my life.  Yet even while I read the words and know with my brain that Grace says no more sacrifices are required for sin, I still often find myself caught in self-condemnation or works of penance, spending hours or even days mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I have missed the mark.  Part of it is habit – I’ve spent a lifetime believing that this was the correct response to sin in my life. But I wonder how much of this is my back-up plan, the efforts put forth just in case I have misunderstood the freedom of Grace…

How this must grieve the heart of my Father!  He provided the perfect sacrifice for me, a price paid that is beyond my comprehension, so that I could be blessed and comforted and helped and delivered and free.  I want to fall with abandon into this Grace.  I want to live my life in the freedom purchased for me, not wasting my time trying to obtain something that has already been given.  Big Daddy Weave is a group of Christian artists who produced a wonderful song entitled “Redeemed.”  I love the song and it’s in my top 10 favorites because much of it speaks to me.  But there is a particular line that rings so loudly in my soul every time I hear it and I leave you with it today:

“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

 

Missing the Point” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Chiseled by trial

After weeks of rain, last week produced wonderfully mild temperatures and gorgeous days!  Now settled into the new home and rested from the intensity of the move, it was time to embark on the adventure of mapping out my new route to walk, and eventually run.  Thank goodness for maps on my phone – this subdivision is quite large and with my inability to naturally navigate, I could have been lost for days without it!  I decided on an easy loop that will provide enough distance to begin again, slowly getting back to a regular routine after months of sporadic efforts.

I was a bit over-zealous on day one of this new course, but having given my legs quite the workout during our move I fell into a familiar rhythm and delighted in the beauty of the day.  Day two was even better, cutting a couple of minutes from my finished time.  By day three, I imagined with every move of my slightly sore muscles that they were quickly becoming very toned underneath this layer I hope to shed.  It felt good to move and good to be sore, indications that my muscles are becoming stronger even if unseen by the human eye.

As I dreamed of a fit body with muscles clearly defined, the word “chiseled” came to mind.  I laughed at the thought of that particular word every being applied to my appearance again, but it had come up in Tuesday morning bible study as we’ve been looking at wisdom:

When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble – those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self – are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness.  Proverbs 11:2

Trials come to us all.  How we respond to them is our choice.  But no matter what we choose – whether we seek to find the good and embrace the hardships with hope, or we rebel and resist and fight – the chisel is at work.  It is chipping and carving and cutting and will reveal a finished work.  For those who fight, this tool of trials carves the hardship into the soul as if it can never be forgotten, a constant reminder of pain.  But for those who yield to the chisel in the Master’s hand, their form changes with every cut, the details and definition of His likeness lovingly revealed in the masterpiece He had in mind.  Wisdom is humbling ourselves before a God Who is so much more than we can comprehend.  A God so good that we can trust Him with the difficulties of this life, confident that He is working something beautiful that is yet to be seen.

While I cannot see all the muscles that are shaping up, gaining strength and definition, I am confident this work is taking place every time I work out.  In the same way, I take confidence in the fact that God is working even in the trials, or perhaps especially in the trials.  You may not be able to see it yet, but with every faith step I take His chisel at work making me what I ought to be.

 

The post “Chiseled by trial” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Nothing prepares the heart…

Stinnetfinal2

…for this kind of love or this kind of loss…

there was a time i was afraid i would not love them enough

these beautiful souls He had entrusted to me

then discovered it was a wellspring that could not be stopped

depths that could not be spoken and

bonds that could not be broken

by the mere limitations of this earth

i celebrate this love we share

i hold tightly the memories

and the wonderful hope that one day we will all be together again

in His love

in His presence

forever

“Nothing prepares the heart…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on ourpassionatepurpose.com   

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and Andi Campbell and cannot be used without permission.

When the tears will not be stopped

For the better part of my life I have been a closet-crier.  Tears did not come often but when they did I hid them.  Whether they were tears of sadness, anger, or frustration, as a child I lacked the ability to clearly communicate why I was crying and in our home tears for no good reason were tears that should be stopped. I became very good at stopping this unwanted watery overflow.  Through the years I prided myself in my ability to withstand this messy display of emotion, seeing myself as a rock of self-control.  So when the dam gave way without warning, I was caught quite off guard.  I found my previously strong will was no match for this deluge that had broken through, years of suppressed emotion flooding my life.

This most unwelcome event happened at the lowest point in my life.  Angry, sad, and depressed at the bleakness of my circumstances, the tears poured forth without mercy and I no longer had any resistance.  My only consolation was that I was alone.  No one saw the red nose and puffy eyes day after day, no one was privy to the anguish of my soul as I stayed hidden from the world.  I cried more than I believed humanly possible and I hated it.

Much occurred between me and God during this time.  In His goodness He drew me close, renewed by faith, and restored my hope.  But He left my heart more tender than it had ever been and He didn’t stop the tears.

I cry so easily now.  I won’t say that I always welcome the tears and I can’t say that I am entirely comfortable when they fill my eyes and run down my face in the presence of others.  But I have learned to yield to a heart made tender through difficulties and know that I am powerless to resist these tears that will not be stopped.  They give expression to things within that cannot adequately be described in mere words. They offer release from pain that would consume me were there no outlet.  They express the depths of the love I hold and the joy that rises from within.  They remind me of my desperate need of Him.  They usher in the Comforter and the Healer.

Sometimes they offer another a safe place to let their own tears flow with no need for explanation.

It is a difficult time of year for me and I cried as I stood at the counter of a store today.  I didn’t apologize as I would have in the past, worried that I had made someone uncomfortable and couldn’t offer them an explanation.  I simply reached for my tissues and continued with my purchase.  As I finalized the transaction, I saw from the corner of my eye that the gentleman waiting on me was wiping a tear from his own.  An uninvited, compassionate response of a stranger that will not soon be forgotten and which reminded me that we humans need tears when there are no words.

 

 

 

Where are they?

I’ve written of this woman before, but as I’ve been in this state of receiving His grace more and more, her story will not leave me.  My previous observations were more about the accusers.  Today I am thinking of her and imagining…

She had been dragged to stand before Him.  Her head hung in shame and humiliation, their accusations cut to the core because she knew they were true.  She was guilty.  She hadn’t planned her life as it was, it just happened.  One disappointment led to another and after a while it just didn’t seem to matter any more.  She was embarrassed at her lifestyle but helpless to break the cycle.  Self-worth?  She had lost that a long time ago. This man’s attention turned her way had disguised itself as hope, love, and healing, but it the end became the reason she stood accused.

The crowd who had been sitting listening to His teaching grew strangely still.  All eyes were on her.  She couldn’t bear to look up so she just stood there with here eyes clinched tight.  She certainly couldn’t look Him in the face.  She had heard about Him.  She knew He was righteous and good, unlike the men who had captured her and most certainly the very opposite of herself.  The angry men loudly announced her indiscretions, and when He did not respond they persisted.  The ugliness of her sin repeated again and again, every word a hammer blow to her soul.  She had lived with the fear of discovery for quite some time and now must be her reckoning.

What was He doing?  He hadn’t answered the angry men.  With her head still low she dared to peek.  He’s stooped to the ground.  He’s lowered Himself as she still stands.  This is enough to get her attention and still more, the fact that He seems to be in His own little world writing on the ground as if oblivious to all that is going on around Him.  How very strange!  It appears He plans to ignore their question of what to do with this sinner but then He stands.  He speaks to them and gives them permission to stone her.  IF they are each without sin of their own.  Then He returns to His strange writing on the ground.

She cowers and braces herself for the pain.  These men never see themselves as wrong.  They are the proclaimed righteous in the community, the ones who are always pointing the fingers of blame at everyone else, the ones who fill the temple courts regularly.   The seconds following His words seem like hours.  Her eyes clinched again, her own mind screaming “GUILTY!” over and over, she doesn’t notice what has taken place.  Then His voice breaks through:

“Where are they?”

What?  He is speaking to her and she looks up.  The angry men have left!  He looks her in the eyes and asks:

“Has no man condemned you?”

She can hardly grasp it and she stammers in amazement “No one!”

“I don’t either.”

How can this be??  This wonderful, pure Man is fully aware of her guilt and yet offers no condemnation.  This undeserved forgiveness found not only in His words but also in His eyes floods her entire being.  She realizes she has come face to face with true Love.  She cannot fathom why He chose this, but her desperate soul offers no argument because in this moment she knows somehow she is changed.  She feels a freedom she had believed was lost to her.  She feels strangely empowered, able to hold her head up now and experience real Hope.  She knows without a doubt that she will never be the same so His next words are not burdensome:

“Go and sin no more.”

She can’t help it – she breaks into a smile and it is all she can do not to dance in the lightness that is now hers!  The crowd that had gathered around Jesus’ teachings is still there.  She looks around and finds the faces that were stern and uncertain when she arrived have softened. For while they weren’t the accusers that had boldly approached Him, their hearts were pierced as well when He spoke to the angry ones.  They knew of their own sin and realized that the miracle she had just received was there for them as well.  A few offer kind smiles.  Several pat the ground next to them as an invitation to sit and listen to more of what He has to say.

“I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.”

This day she sits with new friends, new hope, a new life.  This day she met Grace.

(John 8)

 

The post Where are they?  was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on Our Passionate Purpose.