Archive | November 2015

Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)

Two Woman Running by fence

My daily run took me down a winding country road on which were scattered a few houses here and there. Beside one particular curve of the road was an empty pasture that always attracted my attention.  Not because in itself it was anything to note; it was not.  But rather because this is where the sun would meet me as it began to peek above the treetops in the early morning.  And somehow as the rays broke through and spread their magic wide, even the plain, empty pasture became a thing of beauty.  I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise and our meeting place there was an added incentive to get out of bed and go because that moment to meet would not wait.

That day was like many others in the routine of running.  I got up, had my coffee, laced up my shoes and headed out. I did the same things as always, yet before I’d even made it to the halfway mark I was struggling.  My immediate thoughts were “STOP!  It’s too hard today.  Just go home and try again tomorrow.”  I wanted to quit.  It seemed so hard and my rhythm felt off.  Something wasn’t right.  I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I went through a running checklist of sorts:

Am I in pain?  no

Are my shoes laced too tight?  no

Am I running too fast?  no

Are my shoulders tense?  no

Is my heart rate too high?  no

Is my breathing labored?  no

Am I sensing any dangers (creepy people or antagonistic animals)?  no

Then what’s wrong?  nothing

The fact was there was nothing wrong.  That was when God spoke.  He began to talk to me about how fickle our emotions are and if we listen to them they will have us stopping and starting and stopping and starting so often that we will lose heart and give up on whatever we are pursuing.  There was nothing wrong with me on that run, but my feelings and thoughts made a valiant effort to get me to quit.  Weird.

We’ve all experienced this.  We’re making progress in our love walk with someone we need to forgive. Things are going well, we’ve interacted with them without the anger and resentment of the past.  Then one day, for no apparent reason, we are mad all over again at the injustice done to us!  Nothing has changed, no further harm has been inflicted, yet our emotions are feeding our thoughts.  They scream to the love that forgives “STOP!  I can’t do this!”  And if we listen, they will take us back to the beginning and hold us captive to the pain.

Oh, it’s not just about forgiveness.  It’s in the commitments we make, the constant demands of family life, our work, our relationships with friends, and yes, our relationship with Jesus.  We read and we study and the desire to be an all-out Jesus follower is there.  We make progress in our prayer closet and determination is at its peak.  Then one day we wake up and for no apparent reason we just want to stop trying.  We want to quit on the deeper things and settle for being saved and having a home in heaven because it just seems too hard to keep going at this pace.  We feel like we are struggling too much and our life rhythm is off – surely those are the indicators that something is wrong and we don’t need to continue…

Learning the difference between being led by His Spirit in us or led by our souls (mind, will, emotions) is critical in our pursuit of becoming like Him.  I’ve learned to do a spiritual checklist of sorts when my feelings are out of kilter:

Am I hurting?  maybe

Has the outward circumstance changed?  maybe

If I change my direction, will I still be following Jesus?  oh……

Discovering that I am not at the mercy of my emotions and that they are a very poor life navigator has freed me to listen more clearly to what He has to say and to stay on course.  I pushed through that run many years ago and felt a stronger sense of accomplishment than even on many of the days I ran further distances.  It was an important lesson learned that took me into and through the much longer runs that would follow.  Sometimes you just have to ignore how you feel, focus on the facts, and push through.

And it’s the same with following Jesus.  He warned us that following Him and doing things His way would take us into areas that were uncomfortable and difficult.  Then He assured us that He would be with us and would give us everything we need to make it through.  Left to our emotions, some days we will follow Him and other days not so much.  We get to choose.

What’s He urging you to push through?  Me?  I’m still learning to push through the challenge of being still. And again I say, Weird.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but my feelings often tell me I should be doing more, be more productive, get busier.  And when I fall for it, I’m frustrated in doing things I don’t really want to do, knowing that I’ve let my emotions get me off course.  Thank you, God, for new mercies every morning!

Sitting here in my comfy pjs with a hot cup of coffee and looking out the window at some gloomy skies, I’m tempted to just crawl back into bed.  But I’ve got a lot to do today, so I need to run.  No, really, it’s time to run…     🙂

 

Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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I have quieted my soul

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I knew before I left the house that the route to my destination would most assuredly include miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic before I reached the other side of Houston.  I set my mind to enjoy my trip no matter what and made sure to leave the house early enough to avoid the late afternoon rush hour.  I must admit there were moments which threatened my deliberate peace, but I was strong and resisted with my mantra “it doesn’t matter….you have plenty of time…enjoy the journey…”  I was prepared for the trip – I knew where I was going, had adequate fuel, snacks and water.  It’s easy to enjoy the journey when you are prepared.

I had been anticipating the retreat for months and with every mile that drew me closer, I could feel the pressures of the every day falling away.  As I drove onto the grounds of my destination an even stronger sense of quiet washed over me.  The kind of peace that you can drink in with every breath. Surrounding stillness that felt as if it were an alternate universe where tight muscles and tense nerves do not exist. Beauty of nature that softly beckons to let go of everything else and simply take it in.  A setting that clearly whispers be still and know that I am God.

I happily unpacked my things in the quaint, cozy room where I would spend the weekend.  There was plenty of time to get settled in and relax before the evening’s events.  I scanned my emails and messages to be sure that nothing important was left without a response and took a moment to review the latest social media posts.  It was there I learned of the attacks in Paris.  I quickly searched the web for more details as the sense of impending doom was knocking at my door.  This is our world and the inability to be prepared for these kinds of horrific acts strikes fear in our hearts.  The threats are bold and fierce and very real and we are at a loss as to what to do.

I gathered the initial facts and put down my phone.  Seeking Him quickly is the only way to turn away the fear of impending doom.  I offered up a familiar prayer of “God, I don’t even know what to pray!”  In times past, that would be the end of a quick “God help them.  God be with them.” prayer, but I have since learned to be still and literally ask God “What do You want me to pray?”  It is not hard to understand and pray for the immediate need for safety and comfort and protection for those who remain in the wake of the horror.  But somehow it still seems lacking.

In this great mystery that is prayer, God, who knows what we need before we ask, has chosen to involve us in a supernatural process.  The more I’ve grown closer to Him and the more I’ve sought understanding, the more it has become evident that I really don’t know very much.  Perhaps He will give me deeper understanding of why He involves us in the process.  Or maybe He won’t.  But He is teaching me more and more how to pray and that with or without understanding, He requires obedience.  If the bible is true and He is God and He knows everything and I cannot do anything (eternal) without Him, then it is very clear that I must learn from Him what to pray.

We can spend much time in worrying and fretting.  We can scream our opinions and blame our politicians, publicly shaming them for what we perceive as their lack of action to keep us safe.  We can cry and moan and fear for our lives, and spread the fear to those around us.  We can beg and plead with God to do something!!  But is that really who we are?  Is that what we are called to??

We must learn to quiet our souls.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me.  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me – ceased from fretting.  O Isreal, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.  Psalm 131

Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give and bequeath to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.  John 14:27

It is clear that He intended for us to participate in this:  “I (David) have calmed…  (You) Do not let…”  We are able to bring our mind, will, and emotions into submission to His Spirit, which is the spirit of Peace. We must find that place of peace so that we can clearly hear His words to us and learn how to act in times of trouble rather than automatically react in our flesh.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence.  In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer – take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted!  For I have overcome the world.  I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.  John 16:33

There are days I ask myself why I am so surprised when trouble comes.  Duh.  Jesus plainly said there would be trouble in this world.  Our ability to quiet our souls and not be afraid comes from the confidence that we are not OF this world.  THIS LIFE IS TEMPORARY.  Perhaps it’s time for us to step back and get a new perspective.  This life has purpose and meaning and is important to God, but it is a wisp, a vapor in time compared to eternity.

What did God tell me to pray when I heard the news of Paris?  He told me to pray that in midst of the pain and chaos and grief people are experiencing that they would find Him as Savior.  He told me that the mission remains the same, Tell others about Me.  I won’t be traveling to Paris to tell others about Jesus.  But I will be putting feet to my prayers for those in my neighborhood.  It’s not just the people of France who are afraid.  It’s our families, our friends, our neighbors.  If we are afraid right along with them, we have no message of hope to share, no comfort to give.

Draw away with me.  Quiet your soul.  Pray whatever the Father tells you to pray.  Do whatever the Father tells you to do.  Find supernatural Peace in troubled times.  He is waiting…

“I have quieted my soul” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

Good conversations

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This post is dedicated to Sue Rozell – my mentor, my sister in Christ, my friend who this week went home to be with our Lord.  I will truly miss our good conversations.

Lately I have been spending most of my time at home alone, focused on work and projects that have deadlines with not a lot of wiggle room.  I very much enjoy this time alone in productivity and gain a great sense of satisfaction in the creative process, but still I often lay my head down at night feeling that something is missing.  I realized driving home from my visit with my sister last week what it is: Conversation.  Really good conversation.

My husband is a night owl and I’m a morning person (not functioning quite as early as in days past, but most definitely at my best when the sun is rising).  It is not unusual that later in the evening he will approach a really good subject that could prompt some quality exchange.  I’ll know it is a worthy topic yet my response is often a pat reply because I simply lack the mental energy to engage.  I make a note to come back to the subject another day but the thought gets lost in the next day’s activity…

We need good conversations.  You know, the kind that make you think hard or perhaps even question your position on a matter.  Conversations where we are listening as much as talking.  Discourses that put our perceived barriers into perspective because they allow for differences.  Dialogues that stir our passions and ignite us to go deeper into the meaning of our lives.  Fearless discussions that open the paths to growth and change.  Words so rooted in love that they draw others into a refuge where masks can be dropped and freedom can be found.

In our day and time it is easy to miss the value of good conversations.  Technology that allows for the faceless relay of information has crippled us.  We often mistake social media posts for conversation, text our words of encouragement rather than take the time to call or visit, or email our responses to situations in order to avoid conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities for communication that technology provides.  But I must admit, I’ve too often succumbed to the ease and efficiency of its use rather than allowing the inconvenience to my plans that real conversation may present.

I’ve known for a long time that I lack the skill to sustain chit-chat for any length of time.  I am easily bored with talk of things that are insignificant to me and that category is quite large.  I’m no fashionista, decorator, traveler, entertainer, philosopher or multitudes of other things.  I greatly appreciate the fact that God has gifted us each differently but I struggle in conversation when my very limited knowledge (and interest) of temporal things has very quickly been exhausted.  I can talk “sewing” quite well but even that only takes me so far…  Wow.  I sound reeaaaalllllyyyyy boring.

I love the opportunities I am offered to stand and speak or teach.  I am passionate about my God and my faith, ever-ready to share the things He has done in my life.  I love when the sessions allow for interaction and questions.  I no longer fear those who may disagree with my perspective because I believe in this life we have much to learn from each other. I thoroughly enjoy when someone takes the time on a break between sessions to seek me out and talk.  Really talk.

Through the years I’ve been blessed to have people in my life who have both gently led into and aggressively provoked deeper conversations.  Some have spoken truly profound things to me in the midst of simple conversations not knowing their words would have an eternal impact.  Others have come with difficult words that at the time left me speechless and feeling as if I were gasping for air, only to discover later that the painful truths exposed served to water seeds of needed change.  Many have come with exhortation and encouragement that helped keep my feet on the path that was and is mine to walk. We all need more good conversations.

I am mourning the loss of my friend and already missing the sound of her voice.  As I praise God for her life and say my goodbye, I pray that I will be half the woman of God that she was.  I want to brew more coffee and invite more people into good conversations in the hopes that some will walk away having found what I found with her – a hunger for more of Him.

 

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

Two Friends Young Girls Talking PAINTING BY CARL SCHWENINGER JUNIOR

You had ONE job…

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I had a visit with my sister last night and we talked of many things.  But we talked the most about our faith and how it has grown and evolved through the years, both of us having spent our lives very actively engaged in the church.  We’ve heard multitudes of sermons, attended countless bible studies, taught an abundance of classes, and written thousands of notes on all that we have learned.  We’ve gotten some of it right and some of it wrong and have no intentions of ever relenting in our pursuit of more of Him.  But as we talk and share where we are right now and where He is leading us, we are finding that many things we think we’ve learned have become less and less important.

Perhaps important isn’t the best word.  Perhaps it is better said that much of the knowledge we possess (or think we possess) is no longer at the top of the list of what fuels our desire for Him.  This life as a Jesus-follower is becoming clearer every day and with that clarity an uncomfortable simplicity.  No matter which way our discussion took us last night, we continually came back to the same place.  We have been given one job:  LOVE.  It is to be the root and foundation of every thought and action of our lives.

If our “one job” were visible in picture form, what would it look like??

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This last one would be funny no matter what the fortune turned out to be, but really…?  While the cookie is intact and the little slip of paper is very neatly packaged with it, it is in truth not a job well done.  Does it matter?  You still get a cookie and a fortune, right?  Ask the manufacturer.  It matters.

Are we so busy in the work of Christianity that we’ve missed the point? Does it matter if we dole out our brand of compromised Christian love, giving it only to those who are willing to be neatly packaged with us conforming to our ideas of right and wrong?  Does it matter if we rail (publicly or privately) against the sinner through our fears that their lifestyle will taint our comfortable world?  Does it matter that we drive by the homeless without a thought, much less an action?  Does it matter what we say and do toward those who are unrepentant and even antagonistic toward us, His children?  Let’s ask our Maker…

But I say to you who are listening now to Me:  make it a practice to love your enemies, treat well – do good to, act nobly toward – those who detest you and pursue you with hatred.  Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing and favor upon those who abuse you – who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you.  To the one who strikes you on the jaw or cheek, offer the other jaw or cheek also; and from him who takes away your outer garment, do not withhold your undergarment as well.  Give away to everyone who begs of you…

If you merely love those who love you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you?…But love your enemies and be kind and do good – doing favors so that someone derives benefit from them – and lend, expecting and hoping for nothing in return but considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your recompense will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful and the selfish and wicked.  So be merciful – sympathetic, tender, responsive and compassionate – even as your Father is all of these.

Make no mistake:  simple and easy are not the same thing.  The command is simple:  lacking complexity, not hard to understand, and not having many parts.  Love God, love others like He does.  This simple instruction, however, is hard in the “doing”.  It is not easy.  It is not comfortable.  It is not without difficulty or pain. To fulfill this command is to put our own opinions and feelings to death.  It is to allow ourselves to be emptied of ourselves and filled with Him.  Loving as He loved.  Unconditionally.  Extravagantly.  To the extreme.

It is the evidence to the world that He exists, that we are His, and that His extravagant love can bring to them healing and hope and forgiveness and eternal life.

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God – does not and never did know Him – for God is love.

We have been given one job.  Let’s do it well.  The greatest blessings come in doing life His way.  In the end it will not be the hours we’ve sat through sermons or the volumes of study notes we’ve accumulated that matter.  What will stand for all eternity is that we accepted the lavish love He has given and allowed ourselves to be vessels that spilled that love onto everyone we encountered.

“You had one job.”  It will be worth it all to hear Him say “Well done.”

Matthew 5 & 25, Luke 6, and 1 John 4

You had ONE job…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com