Archive | May 2015

Afraid of the storms

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This is CJ, our new dog.  He’s 62 pounds of solid muscle with a scary sounding bark to those who don’t know he’s really a softy who loves people.  He seriously enjoys taking me for a walk and will approach with confidence any other living thing we encounter.  But he has a secret.  He’s scared of thunder.  He’s had a difficult time lately as we have experienced week after week after week of severe thunderstorms where we live.  He paces the floor in an effort to find a safe place, his whole body shaking in fear.  This is what he chose one day last week – to stand in the corner and face the door.  I imagined he was saying to himself “Just don’t look and it will all go away…”  He stayed there for over an hour.

I’m new to this whole dog ownership thing in that this is the first time in a long time I’ve had a dog I actually wanted to interact with.  Before adopting CJ, I had never walked a dog on a leash, taken one to a veterinarian, considered whether or not the dog food was acceptable, or been willing to tolerate the hair that now seems to be everywhere.  I find myself strangely concerned about how he feels and if he is happy in his new home.  And I hate it when he’s scared.

I am there with him through the storms and I do everything I can to let him know it’s ok.  But short of learning how to speak dog, I am at a loss as to how to convince him that he is safe.  The scary sounds are louder than the truth.

I spent a great deal of my life trying to hide the fact that I was scared.  From my earliest memories, fear has been a predominant emotion, many times undefined and most certainly unspoken.  How can you tell someone you are afraid when often you don’t even know what you’re afraid of?  A vague sense of impending doom always seemed to hover near.  Through the years and some pretty major life errors, this fear grew and I became afraid of life’s storms. Past failures were the thunder that boomed of my incompetence in life and deepened my dread of the failures that were surely ahead of me.  I’ve paced when the inevitable storm was approaching, I’ve trembled during its onslaught, and I’ve crumbled in the aftermath.  And for the most part, I’ve kept it to myself.

It was easy to hide my secret because I’ve always been an optimistic and generally happy person.  But this only accentuated the inward conflict.  I was a strong and confident person in so many ways.  But when I found myself alone, particularly at night, the clouds would roll in and the thunder would sound, and I would succumb to the fears once again.

I even attempted to let down my guard and ask for help a couple of times.  The ones I entrusted with my secret found it impossible to either understand or believe as my personality and attitude were more convincing and they didn’t take my fears very seriously.  They offered simple advice and familiar scriptures and I politely walked away believing that this kind of vulnerability just wasn’t worth it.  So I stayed silent. And afraid.

CJ reminded me of these times as I watched him shake in the corner.  He was safe but he didn’t know it.  I shared a bit of these experiences with a bible study group last night and this very familiar scripture:

…and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free…  John 8:32 

Many who do not believe in God or Jesus or the bible often quote this scripture, but they only quote the second half – that the truth will set you free.  If that were so, then everyone would be living free lives because the Truth has come.  The existence of truth is not what sets us free.  It’s the truth that we know that sets us free, and this knowing is more than the intellectual acceptance.  It is truly believing the truth because it is the truth and not based on how we feel.

I’d quoted the scriptures and spoken the prayers, seemingly to no avail.  I did all that I knew to do and nothing worked because I didn’t know the truth upon which all others are based:  God loved me.  I intellectually accepted that He loved me because the bible said so and let’s face it, He is God and God is love, so He had to love me at some level.  But in the dark hours when the fear swelled, I didn’t really believe the truth of His love.

Too tired to run and hide from the storm that was upon me, and in my most desperate hours, Truth came to me:

And we know – understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and experience – and believe the love God cherishes for us.  God is love and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God and God dwells and continues in him.  In this union and communion with Him, love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment – with assurance and boldness to face Him – because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love – dread does not exist – but full-grown (complete and perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!   1 John 4:16-18b

The scary sounds were no longer louder than the truth  – God loves me and His love abides within me.  I have the power to drive fear away and to live an abundant, free life, because now I know:  God loves me.

Afraid of the storms” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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The dividing line

Some of you mothers and fathers will understand how happy I am when my daughter calls me to ask what I think, or even better, to ask me to pray for her when she has a need.  We’ve been close throughout her life, but of course there were years where she most definitely did not want to know what I thought.  I remember myself at that age.  Thinking that surely I was hiding my inward eye-rolling as I listened to and ignored my mother’s words at the same time.  (I had yet to learn that I am one of those people who simply cannot hide how she feels and that I would successfully pass this trait on to my daughter.)  When she calls (or texts), there is no matter too small or too unimportant or even too vague to be able to completely describe for which I will not immediately approach the throne of our Father on her behalf, and be honored to do so.

Last week something was troubling her but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  She had wrestled with this disturbance for several days with no real understanding.  So when I received her early morning text asking me to pray, I responded to reminded her that God’s ways are peace and love, that He gives wisdom liberally when we ask, and that He would reveal to her what the root of the problem was and let her know if it required any other action besides casting her cares. And I prayed for exactly that.  She called later the same day to share with me what God had revealed to her.  Problem solved.  Peace restored.  And a mother’s heart blessed.

She has learned to be sensitive to her spirit.  (She was listening!!)  This is the foundation of what it means to be made in His likeness, to house the very presence of God within, and the only way we can learn to yield our body and soul to His Spirit.  This is the filter through which every thought, emotion, and experience should go so that we can discern what is pleasing to Him.  This is the way we take every thought captive to obey Christ and live as conquerors in this life.

We are spirit.  We have a soul (mind, will, emotions).  We live in a physical body.

Our spirits have been made new.  We are new creations, old things passed away, all things become new. We have been made alive in Him, the righteousness of God, holy, blameless, and forgiven.  We have been given immeasurable love, unsurpassed peace, inexpressible joy, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and unbroken fellowship with God Almighty Who has chosen to overtake us and make us like Him.  Without this understanding, without truly believing this is who we are rather than just singing the praise songs and quoting the verses, we live frustrated Christian lives, constantly battling the turmoil in our souls, unable to determine which thoughts and emotions are from Him and which are our own.

So how do we tell what is from Him and what is from our own flesh or the influence of the devil?

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

There is a line that divides the soul and spirit.  The only way to discern the difference is through His word.  Studying what scripture says and allowing Him to speak to us through the written Word.  Spending time developing our fellowship with Him so that we are sensitive to when He speaks.  Agreeing with Him that He has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness and is our ever-present Help in times of trouble.  Believing that we have truly been made new and taking that as our identity rather than basing who we are on how we look or act or feel.

Have you ever struggled with a task to the point of frustration only to discover that you had simply been doing it backwards?  We’ve been trying to make ourselves into what we ought to be by attending church and reading our bibles and not doing this or that, focused on what we do rather than who we are.  That’s backwards.  We must first learn who we are in order to get what we do to line up right!  We must discover where the line is drawn between soul and spirit and learn to live from our spirits, outward changes coming from inward power.  Learning to live our lives from the inside out.**

**Inside Out is a new study available to your organization, church, or bible study group in a conference, workshop or retreat format.  A five-week study option is also available to those in the greater Houston, Tx area.  Testimonials and more information will be coming soon on the speaking and events tabs on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

The dividing line” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

I don’t know and I don’t care

Years ago I took a multiple choice test.  This particular test offered the usual assortment of possible A, B, & C answers to each question.  However, you can only imagine my delight when I discovered that the D answer was the same for each and every question:  I don’t know and I don’t care.  Sweet!  So given my hatred of word problems, each and every time I came to one, I selected D with absolutely no hesitation.  I daresay that I enjoyed taking this test solely based on the opportunity to refuse any attempt to solve whatever dilemma or equation was set before me in the dreaded word problem and declare that I simply do not know and do not care.  Perhaps this is the reason I achieved only an average score…no matter…it was so worth it!

Now I’ve decided to carry this same attitude into my life.

“What?!  How irresponsible!” you may gasp.  Let me explain…

Entering this season of life where I knew God was shaking things up, I stepped out in total confidence that I would trust Him with whatever He had in store.  But now as I look back, perhaps the more correct word is arrogance rather than confidence…  Oh, my faith hasn’t wavered.  I still stand strong knowing that God is doing a new thing.  My problem has come with my impatience.  I thought I would be further along in this journey by now.  I thought I would be full of fresh revelations and busy with the work I know I am called to do.  But I find that I continue to circle this mountain of learning to trust in the waiting.

I don’t know what’s next or how it will happen or when it will happen.  That’s easy to accept as His child because I know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen*.  I regularly exercise my faith in the not knowing.  But can I honestly say that I don’t care what’s next or how it will happen or when it will happen?

The definition of the word “care” includes regard coming from desire or esteem, and I most certainly regard the plans and dreams I have with desire and esteem.  However the primary definition of “care” is:  suffering of mind; a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibility.  I must admit, the latter is the “care” I have been carrying concerning my present and future states.  And this is exactly the kind of “care” we are instructed to cast away:

“Casting the whole of your care – all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”  1 Peter 5:7

The intention in casting is to Throw it away – forcefully!  Deliberately!  Let it go!

This is not the first time in my life that I’ve had a lesson in casting.  I can look back and see the times God revealed to me the cares I was carrying and asked me to cast them, one by one, on Him.  I would spend quite a bit of time casting over and over and over until waking up one day to realize that I had finally once and for all cast my care of that thing on Him.  Ahhhh…the rest that is found there!

So today I pick up my anxiety, my worry, and my concern for all that is yet to be revealed, and I throw them off.  And later this afternoon, I’ll probably have to do it again.  And tonight, and tomorrow, and maybe more days than I would like.  But one day soon I will awake and know that I have let them go, once and for all, and I will again find rest for my soul.

When I look at it this way, having an attitude of I don’t know and I don’t care is exactly what He wants from me!

*Hebrews 11:1

 

I don’t know and I don’t care” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

Word problems

I realized a few days ago that having written a post entitled The End without posting anything else since may have left some with the impression that I would not be writing again.  Not so, but I must admit I’ve been struggling.  Two weeks full of ball games and activities, a troubling-but-not-so-serious running injury, and sleep deprivation have most definitely hindered my time at the keyboard.  But in reality, it’s more than that.  I’ve had time.  But I kept getting stuck.  I’d think I had something to say yet struggled to find the words.  Frustration set in and I saved the drafts in the hopes that whatever was there would make sense on another day.

Life feels like one humongous word problem right now and I’ve been lost in the details.

If Jimmy was walking 5 blocks north then 3 blocks east then 8 blocks south then 2 more blocks east, the real question is not what block Jimmy finally found himself on but why was he walking this path?  Was he simply out for a walk?   Was he trying to hide?  Was he lost?  Does he even want to be found?

The angst I experience when presented with a word problem stems all the way back to elementary school.  I was a good student and made good grades but lacked the confidence to believe this pattern would continue.  I labored over the details of word problems, afraid of being unable to find the solution.  Missing one small detail would result in an incorrect answer and thus would affect my grade.

If life is comparable to a giant word problem, I must change my perspective.  I cannot get lost in the details, afraid that one wrong move will disrupt the end results. God is much bigger than that.  He has promised to direct my steps and at the same time asks me to walk each of these steps in faith.  I cannot see the end results.  He’s given me vision as to the direction I am headed, and I must cling to this vision when my steps seem to be taking me further away.  I don’t want to wander aimlessly as I strongly suspect poor Jimmy has done.

As I once again sought God for more answers during this uncomfortable state of limbo in which I find myself, this is what He said:

“And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it.”  John 1:5 

We all have times of darkness.  Sometimes the darkness is sin that we must face and deal with.  Sometimes the darkness is pain that cannot be avoided, only endured.  Sometimes the darkness is that we don’t understand why.  Sometimes the darkness is simply that we cannot see what is next.  No matter the source or the reason for the darkness, our hope is in the Light that will surely shine on us at just the right moment and the darkness will be powerless against It.

In the beginning was the Word…”*  If the Word was here first, He will most certainly be the answer to our word problems in this life.

 

Word problems” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com