Bible, Christian, Encouragement, God, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Training wheels

I don’t have a memory of this but it’s been told that when the training wheels were removed from my bicycle my older brother was helping me get started without them. He helped me get balanced and gave me a little push to get me going. I pedaled all the way down the driveway and ran straight into the telephone pole. They say I immediately jumped up, turned to him in anger, and blamed him for my crash…but that’s a whole other story called “Steve did it”.

Training wheels were designed to keep us upright and somewhat safe as we learned the mechanics of riding a bicycle. Once we got the basics of force producing motion, it was time to take the wheels off so we could learn balance during this precarious endeavor. This is what I was thinking about as I was running last week.

If I learned anything from last year’s training, it’s that pushing myself to do what I can do doesn’t equate to doing what I ought to do. There’s a proven training method for running where you focus on keeping your heart rate low as you build strength and endurance. This requires monitoring your heart rate more than your pace. Consistently training at the appropriate pace will eventually result in being able to run faster while maintaining a lower heart rate.

At my age, this optimum training heart rate is really low. A brisk walk is all it takes to hit this number. This annoys me. I don’t like running slowly. Not that I’m that fast anymore, it’s just that I know I can go faster than this training pace. I like watching the pace numbers. I like pushing my body to achieve. It feels like I’ve got the training wheels back on my bicycle when I already know how to ride (insert pouty emoji).

On my last run my heart rate was all over the place. I kept trying to adjust my pace to counteract any rise over what is optimum so I was checking my watch every few minutes. This does not make for a relaxing run. (Note: I realize that for some of you “relaxing run” is an oxymoron, but hang with me, that’s not the main point.) I have a tendency to be very rigid in my expectations. My efforts to tightly control my heart rate numbers was a stressor in itself and just thinking about it too much was raising my heart rate! I had to give myself a range of numbers rather than an exact one and then make myself stop checking my watch so frequently. So then I let my mind wander and I fell into a pace that was comfortable. I was really enjoying settling into this pace only to find that it had taken me out of the range that was acceptable and I had to slow it down again. I feared at this point the young couple who were just taking a leisurely walk were going to lap me at any moment. This is killing my pride.

When I was a kid I didn’t pay that much attention to the training wheels. I knew they were there to keep me from immediately falling over once I picked my feet up. I didn’t wonder how they were going to work. I didn’t care that they didn’t touch the ground at the same time. I didn’t notice how often one side or the other was carrying the load. I just trusted they would keep me from falling, at least most of the time. However, once removed, I was acutely aware of their absence, even before getting on the seat. Fear of falling was a real thing, especially when your driveway was paved with oyster shells. I hadn’t trusted they had done their job.

What I hadn’t realized was that a good bit of the time I was riding with the training wheels, they weren’t actually doing anything. I was balancing on my on, which was the goal. In my inaugural ride sans training wheels, balance wasn’t the problem. Focus was. I was excited to be moving forward while remaining upright but lost sight of where I was going.

What feels like a season with training wheels has me focusing on different things than before while not forgetting the goal. Like my running, life has slowed down and God wants me move out of what is “comfortable” and focus on the purpose He has for slowing me down: He wants me stronger  – body, soul, & spirit – able to fulfill His purposes. There’s a new life balance to be developed and I don’t want to miss it because I mindlessly fall back into a pace that is familiar and comfortable, pushing myself to do things because I can, not because I ought.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message Bible

Isn’t that what we all desire – to live freely and lightly?? Life feels precarious right now. It’s imperative we find our balance, our strength. Let’s embrace the changes that may feel like the training wheels are back on. Let’s let go of being afraid of falling. Let’s focus on the things that He is using and doing in our lives to make us stronger. Let’s lean into and roll with these unforced rhythms of His grace and see where He takes us. We can trust Him that He will do what He says He will do: help us.

 

“Training wheels” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, praise

Selah moments

Pause, and calmly think about that.

The actual definition of the word selah is a mystery. It’s a word used frequently in the Psalms with some interpretations of its meaning being “to lift up, exalt” or “intermission”. Intermission is a good one for today. We are experiencing an intermission in the midst of our everyday lives, unexpected and unplanned. What do people do during intermissions? They pause. They take a break.

We’ve been forced to take a break from the familiar routines and many find themselves at a loss as to what to do.  Young families are having to decide how to manage their homes, perhaps while experiencing a reduction in income, while feeling the pressure of keeping the children in a learning atmosphere while missing school. Some are struggling with feelings of extreme isolation. Others are longing for the comfort friends and family would normally give as they go through difficulties unrelated to the virus among us, but there are no hugs or kisses because human touch has become a danger. The unusual, the unknown are so often the breeding ground for anxiety.

Technology and social media have been a wonderful things to have at this particular time in history, enabling us to communicate in real time. They certainly don’t take the place of in-person contact but are the next best things. Yet if we’re not careful, they’re also the things feeding the fear with overwhelming amounts of information, charts and graphs and statistics, plus multitudes of opinions. What do we really need to know??

The Amplified Bible translates selah as “pause, and calmly think about that”. Pause. Take a break. Lift Him up, exalt Him for a few moments. Then calmly think about all He’s done and all He will do. Calmly think about Who He is. Calmly think. Help calm another person’s thoughts and emotions by what you share. Be life-giving. Look for the good. Share the good. Find the helpers. BE the helpers any way you can!

Words are the most powerful tool you have every day and especially right now, whether spoken or written, so choose them wisely. Calm words will come from calm thoughts. Take a selah moment, put your mind fully on Him. It will calm your thoughts and direct your words. He is the giver of life and light, the One Who will help us understand what we need to know and help us let go of all else.

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. Psalm 62:5

Pause, and calmly think about that!

 

“Selah moments” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, righteousness

From a place of rest

Come to Me…and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Things look different from here. I’m not exactly sure when He led me into this new place called rest, it was so gradual. It’s a little uncomfortable and I often find myself frustrated at the stillness. There’s a strange emptiness I hadn’t been able to put my finger on until just recently.

Matthew 11:28 in the Amplified Bible says the purpose of this rest is to “refresh your soul with salvation”. When was the last time you felt inexpressible joy for your salvation? When was the last time you really rested in the fact He is your loving Father, your ever present help, your guide, your everything-you-need God?

There’s no chaos in His presence – no fear, no worry – only peaceful soul rest.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened by religious rituals that provide no peace…” (AMP)

How many things do we “do” in His name that provide no peace? How much pressure do we place on ourselves to perform in order to feel right with Him: Did we spend enough time in prayer today? Have we been reading our bibles regularly? Have we been serving our church, family, community enough? These things should help us learn about and desire to enter into this rest – but is the rest still there for us if we feel we don’t “measure up”?

In this rest He’s had me consider my actions with the simplicity of asking Him “Is this what you want me to do?” Many days He’s just invited me to enjoy Him, to rest in His presence with no performance of any kind. He’s shown me that even though I say I believe He’s made me perfectly right with Him, at the root of much of my performance is the attempt to make myself good enough, to check something I think I “ought” to do off the list so He will approve of me more.

We think that rest will come once we’ve done all the things we’re supposed to do or when He finally answers our long offered prayers. But that’s backwards. Rest was supposed to be the starting point rather than the end result of our performance and our prayers.

The emptiness I’m experiencing is the absence of self-effort. I’m not striving to make things happen. I’m not feeling the weight and unrealistic responsibility of outcomes unknown. I’m not allowing emotions to drive the bus (which usually takes the wrong route). I’m trusting Him. With all of it. 

This rest begins by recognizing that our righteousness has nothing to do with our performance and everything to do with entering into what He’s already done. It is finished. He knew this world’s troubles would get the best of us so He made a way for us to rest with Him in uninterrupted communion. This rest, His rest, is waiting for us in His presence. It changes our perspective. Everything looks different from a place of rest.

I actually composed this blog at the end of January but just didn’t feel it was right or ready for publication. But now is a good time to be reminded how very much we need His rest. I hope you press in to find it. 

“From a place of rest” was written by Kay Stinnett and was first published on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

death, family, friends, grief, loss, love, tears, trials, Uncategorized

So I held her hand

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I’m struggling as sorrow visits me once more. My friend is leaving this earth very shortly now and I am already weighed down with her absence, another seat empty at this table that is my life. I want so much to have the words that fully express the depth of love I feel for my friend but there are none. As I sat with her, I wordlessly prayed she would experience my love as I looked in her eyes, eyes that were already beginning to focus on things not of this world. There was nothing more I could do. So I held her hand.

For me, and probably many who grieve, there is a deep fear that the one we’ve lost didn’t really know how much we loved them. I find that a hard thing to accept and live with. Even with all the humanly possible expression through words and actions I am still left with the frustration in the inadequacies of them all. But touch has a power all its own. So I held her hand.

Her life has been hard and vibrant and beautiful and full. She is one of the strongest people I have ever known, her life a message of perseverance and success, truly an overcomer in this life. We’ve only known each other for a little over a decade but it seems like it’s been our whole lives. We’ve cried together and laughed together and traveled together and made lots of memories that I hold dear and cherish. I am grateful that I’ve had the chance for a last hug, a last I love you. I will miss holding her hand.

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So here’s to you, my friend! I know that you will soon be whole and free and full of joy unspeakable and fully aware of how very much you were loved in this life. I will see you later. And I will hold your hand.

I was blessed to see my friend a few more times since writing this, a few more chances to hold her hand and tell her I loved her before she left this world today. I miss her so.

 

So I held her hand” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Habbakuk, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Afraid of heights

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I’ve never thought I was particularly afraid of heights. For a good portion of my adult life I lived in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. While not one of its peaks makes the top 100 highest in the US, for a girl from southeast Texas it was still pretty impressive. State park areas offered vistas and overlooks from which you could take in the vastness and beauty that abounds. I loved driving the winding roads, stepping out on a flat rock jutting out over the edge, and taking it all in as if I were on the top of the world.

I recently read an article that said is not uncommon for a fear of heights to develop as you age. I haven’t had an opportunity to test the writer’s theory, haven’t visited any mountain peaks lately, but just thinking about going out on an unguarded boulder on the edge of a mountaintop (insert shiver) at this point in my life leads me to suspect this would be proven true of me. The facts upon which his theory is based have to do with our sense of balance and he states ‘As you get older, your organ of balance tends to deteriorate and you’re likely to feel more physically vulnerable.’*

I’m glad I have those physical mountaintop experiences even though I may not want to repeat them. I’m also glad for the time and vision God gave me when I was actually sitting on a mountain. And I wonder, in all the years before and since, how many times I’ve asked Him to take me higher, seeking the euphoria of His presence and the encouragement to face whatever may come. Whatever the number, it has only increased in the last few months. I’ve been asking for more. Yet it’s in this asking that He’s shown me I’ve become afraid of heights.

Oh, I’m not afraid of the euphoria, I want that excitement and delight! But He’s taken me to a new understanding of what it means to be given hinds’ feet, made able to walk on high places. Other than in the Psalms the only place hinds’ feet are mentioned is in Habbakuk.

Habbakuk lived in troubled times. He couldn’t understand why God allowed so much injustice to continue and he voiced his complaints and frustrations to Him. Then he waited for God to answer. (Note to self: this could be part of my problem…) And the Lord answered. God encouraged Habbakuk that eventually righteousness would reign again and his hope was restored. So Habbakuk began to recall the mighty works that God had done before, stirring up his own faith (another note to self), and ended with:

The Lord God is my Strength and personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk – not stand still in terror, but to walk – and make spiritual progress upon my high places of trouble, suffering, and responsibility! (3:19)

It’s the responsibility part of going higher that’s troubling me, that gives me hesitation. As a young Christian the high places were always those quick answers to prayer, the learning, the growing, the seeing God do amazing things in my life, my family, my church. Exciting stuff! But now that I am older, I see the responsibility side of going higher as I never have, that high places are now more about others than myself. And I wonder if I have what it takes to bear the responsibility.

Living in troubled times (as we do) often makes it difficult to know exactly what our responsibilities are when it comes to living out our faith. Just how much are we to do for others? If you, like me and many others, have ever gotten trapped in an overload of the responsibilities for other people so much that it sucked the life out of you, you may, like me and many others, be afraid to step back out there. After caring for and ministering to evacuees of the hurricane a couple of years ago, the idea of caring for others in crisis gives me more than a little hesitation. It kinda freaks me out. I feel as if I’ve lost my balance and I’m vulnerable, not ready to let my heart go there again.

Even as Habbakuk remembered the power of God, he still trembled at the thought of all that would occur. So to encourage himself even if/when famine would strike, he remembered God would help him be stable and secure, just like the hind.

I love this description of the hind:

A hind is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet stepped. Not one inch off! She is able to run with abandonment! In times of danger, she is able to run securely and not get “off track.” The hind is able to scale unusually difficult terrain and elude predators.**

I want to run with abandon. I want to throw off my fear of getting “off track” and run toward that next high place of responsibility. Taking sure footed steps of obedience as He leads me, making spiritual progress. Am I still afraid of going higher? Sure. But I’m reminding myself of all the amazing things God has done before and I’m more afraid of what I’ll miss if I don’t go.

Wanna go with me?

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

*Kevin Gournay, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

**http://www.hishighplaces.org

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Christian, church, Encouragement, God, gospel, grace, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Afraid of grace

I’ve been afraid of grace before. Mostly afraid that it was just too good to be true. Afraid it was for others who hadn’t made so many messes in life, but not for me. It took me a long time to get it but I finally did. Grace is mine. As mind-blowing as it is, the unrelenting favor of God rests on my life. Forever.

Jesus did that.

For me. For you. (If you haven’t yet done so, just say “yes” and take it!)

But that’s not really where I’m going with this today. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for us to give grace sometimes. This is where we are often still afraid. Afraid that if we give undeserved favor to someone who’s messed up it will be wrongly interpreted. Afraid that it will appear we approve of sin. Afraid that our love and compassion toward someone suffering the consequences of their own actions will make light of the sin that caused it all.

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I’ve been thinking about the law and it’s purpose: to alter behaviors. That was the design and intent of the Old Testament law and all the many additional laws the religious leaders attached to the original list. The laws established through governments and nations are designed for the same thing – to give permission for behaviors/actions or to prevent them; important guidelines for civility among the masses.

But the law can’t change hearts.

If our outrage at sin has it’s roots in the demands of the law, biblical or the natural world rule of law, and that is our argument to try to affect change in our world, at best we can expect a few to change behaviors because we made them feel guilty. A temporary change. No doubt the presence of horrid sin in our world grips our hearts and often leaves us feeling helpless to do anything about it. And yes, it’s important that we participate in the things we can do to make our laws better. But they will still never be able to change hearts.

Jesus does that.

Passionately believing in the high standards Jesus laid out for behaviors and loving the worst-of-the-worst sinner are not contradictory actions. But we react as if we must choose one or the other. Rather than speak the truth in love we blast them with the law and hope they change behavior. And even if we manage to redirect a sinner from a particular wrong action by our accusations, it’s not enough. The heart remains unchanged.

For the remarkable, undeserved grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (the grace of God) teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly, immoral desires, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives (lives with a purpose that reflect spiritual maturity) in this present age…  Titus 2:11-12

Truth. Truth is to be shared. The truth that the consequence of sin, ALL sin, is eternal death. The truth that sin leads to suffering. The truth that Jesus came to save us from the bondage of sin. ALL sin. But if we can’t share these truths from a heart of love for the very one who is bound in sin, we have missed the mark ourselves. We have sinned.

To be a loving speaker of truth is the goal. This requires the dying of self. Every. Single. Time. It’s not about my opinions. It’s not about my emotions. It is about obedience. It is when we take the magnificent grace given to us through Jesus and turn and give that very same grace to another that hearts are softened and they can find Him.

He’s the one who does the work of changing hearts. We can relax in that and remember that the greater joy is in the giving, not receiving. Give grace. Every. Single. Time.

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

Photo from https://conquerlife.net

Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, loss, love, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, Uncategorized

We called you murderer

You-Murderer-Font-Horror-Font              I’m so sorry. We, who proudly proclaim the mercies and love of a good, good God presume to know your heart. We think if we shout our righteous indignation loudly enough from our imagined lofty place we will drown out the still small voice that says we are no different than you. We act as if it is impossible to passionately disagree with your choice while showing compassion for why you made it and loving you at the same time. We cry for your baby but not for you.

We call you selfish as we arrogantly stand in our own self-centeredness, thinking that Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said “everyone who hates his brother (or sister) is a murderer…” or “everyone who continues to be angry with his brother (or sister) or harbors malice, enmity of heart, against him (her) shall be liable and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court…” Surely He didn’t mean us. We feign humility as we bring our gifts to the altar ignoring His words to make peace with any who have a grievance against us before we attempt to present a gift to Him. We have grieved you deeply.

I wish we had been there for you. I wish we had walked with you through the agony of your decision and shown you the true love of Jesus Christ no matter what direction you took. My heart breaks that we failed you, that you hide your hurt for fear we will only make it worse because it’s true – that’s so often exactly what we do. I wish we had held you and cried with you and let you know we love you. I wish we had been tender toward you as you struggled, remembering this world is full of trouble and none of us escape with hearts untouched by pain.

I applaud your courage to tell your story in the midst of rampant accusation. I needed to hear it. We the church, the body of Christ, need to hear it. We need to see you in the here and now as a person of worth and value, a living, breathing creation for whom the Father sent His Son to save. Just like us. We need to be reminded that God is not weighing our sins one against another. He is not comparing our righteousness or lack thereof because it’s all as filthy rags apart from Him. We are all in this same boat of humanity and we need Him and we need each other.

Your story brought me to my knees, ashamed of myself for not looking harder for you in my small part of this world, ashamed that I hadn’t considered how hard it was for you. Because you are here too. You have different names and different faces and different lives, but you are near if we will only open our eyes. As I bow my head, aware of my own life choices, I pray for us both. I pray we will both be healed and we will both raise our heads once again, unashamed in the presence of our Father. I pray we will live in the freedom of forgiveness – the forgiveness we receive and the forgiveness we give, even to our enemies. Even when the church seems like the enemy.

I am sorry.

We called you murderer” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com