Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, peace, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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When meeting with God leaves you limping

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I’ve had a great deal on my mind lately. Nothing particularly eventful has occurred but my mind has been full of almost more than I can handle. I’ve written blogs on a couple of ideas that are whirling around in there, but one seems a little lame and the other a bit angry…neither of which has prompted me to hit “publish”.

Truth is, I’ve been wrestling a bit. Not the kind of faith-in-crisis wrestling that I’ve done in the past, but more of a faith-in-expansion kind of wrestling. The more I press into God, the more questions I have and the more answers I await. And while I would much prefer that God and I have a simple I ask a question and He answers kind of dialogue, this uncomfortable reaching and stretching and waiting is good. I am daring to exercise my faith in areas previously believed to be off-limits.

We are exhorted to come boldly before the throne of God and I feel as if there is nothing bolder to present in His presence than the questions we have. Especially the really hard questions. He has no fear or irritation at our asking. He holds every answer and is a good Father Who is patient and kind. But perhaps you feel as I did that our questioning presents a lack of faith. I now believe it to be the very opposite – to go fearlessly to our Father with great expectations that He will answer is to have great faith.

My thoughts have settled on Jacob this week and His wrestling with God. Different translations mention a Man or an Angel of the Lord.  Not to get ahead of myself but the new name he was given has a meaning of God-wrestler.  

This passage in Genesis 32 is so interesting. Jacob had done his brother wrong. They parted on bad terms and this chapter of the story picks up where Jacob is attempting to reconcile with Esau. Now Jacob was a God follower, a God worshiper. He’s heard the voice of God Who told him to return to his people and He would do him good. But Jacob is afraid. He’s afraid that Esau is still angry and will try to kill him. So He prays for God’s deliverance. He plans to offer gifts in a sequence of droves in order to gain favor with his brother. Finally he sends his family and all that he had across the brook and he stays behind. Alone.

It is then the Man comes and wrestles with Jacob. Now, perhaps Jacob thought it was a robber or an enemy from another camp. The text doesn’t reveal his thoughts, only that he gave this Man a run for his money! He didn’t back down and when the Man did not prevail over him, He touched the hollow of his thigh, putting it out of joint. Sometime in the midst of this struggle that lasted all night the realization set in that this was no ordinary man because when He told Jacob to let Him go, Jacob refused unless He would declare a blessing on him. Talk about bold!

Then the man asked him “What is your name?”  Obviously God already knew his name but the Amplified Bible gives insight into why He wanted Jacob to say it:

The Man asked him, What is your name?  And in shock of realization, whispering, he said, Jacob – supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler! (v. 27)

It was in the presence of God that Jacob came face-to-face with himself. He would have known the meaning of his name for many years now, but for the first time he truly saw his character. It is in this moment that God gives him a new name, Israel, changing his identity and drawing him into the plan for his life that had been there all along.

Something had been working in the wrestling. There was a reason the Man came and forced Jacob to contend with Him, forced him to engage in a surprising and confusing and exhausting exchange. And this meeting with God left him limping.

When we press in for more of God and refuse to let go it is certain that He will bring us face-to-face with ourselves. It is in these moments that pretense falls away and we see who we really are and how desperately we need Him. It is then we are ready to surrender to live out the plans He has for our lives in our new identity – the righteous, redeemed, forgiven children of God. When we examine our motives and the whys of our beliefs, stepping away from empty religious acts can be uncomfortable…kind of like limping. It is then we find that we can no longer walk the same as we did before.

He named the place of this meeting Peniel – the face of God, and was thankful that his life had been spared, so I don’t think he minded the limp. I think every time he took a cautious step, even if it hurt a bit, he remembered that he had been in the presence of God and the limp that to others may have looked like a handicap was actually evidence of his strength. Whether he had the limp for the rest of his life or not, it was sure that he never walked the same again.

When meeting with God leaves you limping” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Painting:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (detail) Eugène DELACROIX (1798-1863)

 

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Satisfied, wanting more

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I live in a rather large subdivision on the outskirts of the metroplex area.  It’s near a lake and an airport and an often congested roadway from which the noises occasionally invade my quiet little street.  As I sit on my balcony I can see the planes as they are in their descent toward the landing strip and hear the distant sounds of traffic.  And while I have a mostly obstructed view of the golf course that runs throughout the neighborhood, I simply position my chair so as to see the bridge over the small waterway and tune my ears to the sounds of the birds.  I do enjoy getting out in nature and for me it’s always been a method of moving closer to God.  So this will suffice.  It is what I can do today.  I need Him to speak.

Something’s been bugging me.  I’ve put it off as one of the ill-effects of erratic sleep patterns which plague me so often these days.  I have been vaguely aware of a little negativity hanging around but I’ve been busy enough to keep it at bay.  I have exciting things happening this week yet try as I might, my enthusiasm over the good has not dissolved this something that is hovering.  Time to get real.  Time to be still enough to examine what’s wrong.

We humans are such slow learners some times.  It’s not just me, is it?  As soon as I pulled away from all the other things to do and got still and quiet, He made it so clear.  I am dissatisfied.  Not in a big needing-to-make-major-changes kind of way.  I’m happily married, thoroughly pleased with my home, enjoying the work I am involved in…so what is it?  I will admit my first thoughts were those of what others should be doing.  If only the people and organizations in my life would do what I think they should do, surely then I would be satisfied.

I often proclaim through word and song and thought and prayer that Jesus is enough for me.  That God is everything I need.  Yet here I sit once again finding that I have tried to place the responsibility of my own satisfaction in the hands of another, be it a person or an organization.  Herein lies the root of my discomfort, the source of the little dark cloud that has been following me.

I am reminded again of Paul’s words “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…”.  It’s not an automatic thing this learning to be content, to be satisfied with where I am and what I have and what everyone else is doing, even if I believe they are off the mark and it affects me.  It is a discipline to which I must forcefully yield because I can’t have it both ways.  I cannot stand face-to-face with God and profess that He is ALL to me and live with dissatisfaction at my side.

I want more, no doubt about it.  I want to be taught deeper things, I want more opportunities to share what I’ve learned, I want my family to passionately follow Him, I want mercy for those who are wounded and hurting, I want freedom for those who are oppressed, I want justice for those who have been wronged, I want MORE!  How can I be content when so very much is needed, satisfied while needs go unmet, still when there is so much to do??

These questions only bring me back to where I started.  He is everything I need.  Until I believe that I can be satisfied with Him alone, I will never know how to truly be content.  This makes me a little uncomfortable in its accountability.  This removes any idea that I can place pressure, whether outwardly in word or deed or simply in my thought life, on any other person to fill any void I find in my life to the point that I will be satisfied.  My flesh squirms beneath this truth.

As clearly as I believe my discernment may be in the matters of others, my taking it to Him alone just as clearly exposes my great limitations in understanding the matters of others.  He calls me to pray and to do and say only what He tells me to do or say.  He calls me to entrust my life to Him completely.  He knows where I am.  He knows the desires of my heart toward those I love and the many who impact my life.  He knows how His gift in me causes me to feel as if I am going to burst if I do not find an outlet for it!  He knows my every need at the deepest of levels even before I am aware I am in need.

And just about the time I once again find the peace that comes with surrender, the heavy clouds that had covered the sky all morning break, revealing the beautiful blue that was just on the other side and I remember –

…and your light shall break forth like the morning…  (Isaiah 58:8)

He is enough.  I pray you breathe Him in and find this satisfaction for your soul today, too.

 

Satisfied, wanting more” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But it FEELS like…

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In the sequence of our morning activities my husband is usually the first out of bed and downstairs to turn on the coffee.  While he waits for it to brew he also turns on the morning news.  Whether I follow in a few minutes or stay snuggled in the bed for another hour, whenever I get downstairs the television is tuned to the news.  This morning as I poured my own cup the weather forecast was being shown.  A cold front has blown through and the presenter of this ever-changing information was as excited about the dropping digits as if it were something never before experienced.  Now, granted, near-30 degree temps in our neck of the woods doesn’t happen that often, but there will be no snow or ice today and her enthusiasm was a little much for those of us struggling to be enthused about anything more than that first cup of coffee.  I listened for only a few minutes before changing the channel in hopes there would be something less irritating that would aid in the process of becoming fully awake.

However, as I went through my own rituals of morning, her overly enthusiastic words “But it FEELS like…” stuck in my mind.  Her stating of the actual temperature was each time exuberantly followed by the Real Feel temperature.   At one point I asked myself “Real Feel?  Says who??” and thus began my little search:

The AccuWeather.com RealFeel® Temperature was created in the 1990s… The RealFeel Temperature is an equation that takes into account many different factors to determine how the temperature actually feels outside. It is the first temperature to take into account multiple factors to determine how hot and cold feels… Some of the components that are used in the equation are humidity, cloud cover, winds, sun intensity and angle of the sun… The equation also takes into consideration how people perceive the weather…this can be debated, since not everyone perceives weather the same way, but the equation uses the average person’s perception of weather and adds that into the RealFeel equation.   http://www.accuweather.com

As God so often does, He tied that little phrase to the thing that I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks:  Christian guilt.  My last post prompted some enlightening responses from a few readers. They were each thankful that I shared my little story and their responses included:  totally resonates with me… really needed to hear this…thank you for the encouragement in freeing me to REST without GUILT…   We just slow down a bit from our ever busy schedules which include church and prayer and giving and service because we love God…and we take a nap or read a book…but it feels like we should be doing something else, it feels like it’s wrong somehow…

What I write of today is not the bold and glaring guilt that shows up when we blatantly sin – I mean, we’re supposed to experience that guilt, right?  (We’ll get to that momentarily…)  No, this is the shadowy guilt that quietly whispers words that are more frightening to us than the loud scream of sin guilt.  This persistent companion is relentless in its finger-pointing, occasionally directed outward but most often toward the mirror.  We chase it away with our offers of worship and our acts of service.  Until we are alone. It is then we discover that it never really left, we had simply drowned its voice with the loudness of our own.  And with the realization that it didn’t leave during our offers of worship and our acts of service we accept its heavier-than-ever existence.  If this guilt had a name it would simply be Not Enough.

Your prayer was not enough.

Your offering was not enough.

Your worship was not enough.

Your service was not enough.

Your study was not enough.

Your faith is not enough.

You are not enough.

When was the last time you prayed or gave or served or studied or simply sat in the presence of the Lord that you did not walk away thinking you should have done more?  This guilt of not enough is at the core of why we can’t truly rest and we don’t allow ourselves to just “be”.  And it grieves the heart of our Father.

…God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.  Romans 5:8-9

Jesus took our guilt.  He took it so that we would not have to.  All of it.  Once and for all.  Never needing to do it again.  It was enough.  We have been acquitted – found not guilty – and to seal the deal He gave us His Spirit to:  teach us all things, help us remember what He said, guide us into truth, empower us to be His witnesses, to be our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.

Never once does the scripture say that the Holy Spirit will find us guilty.  He gently exposes our sin and compels us to repent – to change our minds.  This is an act of love not anger!!  So…why do we feel guilty?  Because we have not fully believed that we have been made completely acceptable to God.  Right now.  Just as we are.  With fresh wounds and old scars, with things that we’ve already done and things still to do, with our failures and our successes, our weaknesses and our strengths, our humanity and our new nature.

One of the definitions of guilt is:  feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

Imagined offenses.  We imagine that God is offended by all our “not enoughs” and that we are guilty.  These imagined offenses are like the RealFeel temperature (you thought I’d totally lost that train of thought, didn’t you?).  The real temperature, the actual comparative measure of hot and cold, is a fact. When I took that screenshot the temperature outside was 42 degrees.  Yet if we go by the RealFeel number, to many – the average people (which evidently does not include the vast population of women of a certain age who are sitting with windows open today) – it would feel like 35 degrees.  But RealFeel is also based in perception and how they felt did not change the fact that it was 42 degrees.

The fact is that God has made us acceptable to Him.  He pre-planned to keep us in His never-ending favor through what Jesus would do!!  His Spirit will lead us and guide us and teach us and this leading and guiding and teaching will always be more about what He has done for us than what we will ever do for Him.  Once we begin to set our minds on the fact of redemption rather than how we feel, we will find rest for our souls and the ease to just “be” and guilt will have no place. Ahhhhh…..     🙂

 

But it FEELS like…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity.  Matthew 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia

 

 

 

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Do you see what I see?

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It was a good service.  I think.  I have to admit I was more than a little distracted.  It’s almost Christmas and deadlines are pressing.  I have orders to fill and it will take working every day this week to get them done on time, even working this afternoon.  Focus is easier as we lift voices and hands in praise but once my body is still the after effects of a rushed-because-my-alarm-didn’t-go-off-morning set in and my eyes long to close for just a few more minutes of sleep.

All is completed in the order of service except for the final act of passing the offering plates.  It was in the stillness of waiting our turn that I saw them.  Just a few rows in front of me I could see a father holding his young son.  The boy looked into his father’s face as he quietly stroked his beard and patted his cheeks.  It was a precious moment, one that caught me off-guard as sorrow engulfed me without warning and I began to weep.  It would not be stopped and it took every measure of self-control I had not to give it full reign and wail loudly as I imagine our forefathers did when they ripped their garments and donned sackcloth and ashes.  My mind quickly assesses how this must look, a very odd time to be overcome with emotion, but the heart would have its way whether understood or not.  It would be hard to explain how in that moment I felt small hands on my face.  I suppose it’s something a mother never forgets.

She was just a young girl when the angel came and proclaimed to her and over her that she was one blessed and highly favored.  It must have been wonderful in that moment to know that God’s plan for her life was so important that He sent an angel to announce it.  I wonder if she expected that to happen again.  I wonder as she walked down the streets where her friends and neighbors turned away, embarrassed at her shame, did she look for another word from God?  I wonder as she and Joseph struggled with the newness of married life complicated by her “situation” if she spent time alone waiting for another angel to tell her they would make it through the learning how to love each other?  I wonder as she waved goodbye to her mother, climbed upon a donkey, and journeyed farther from home than she had ever been, was she watching the sky for a sign as the homesickness quickly set in?  I wonder as she cried from the pain of childbirth and fear of the unknown, did she beg Him to speak, to reassure her that this is exactly where He had planned for her to be?  I wonder if the angel’s words rang in her ears as she wept at the foot of the cross?  Sometimes this is what blessed and highly favored looks like.  Do you see?

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Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who sacrifices time with her children and grandchildren, friends and activities, as she tenderly cares for her elderly mother, wondering where she will find the energy for tomorrow.  

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who rises every day with new resolve to stay clean, determined to rebuild what was torn down, resisting the constant temptation to give up, wondering when God will bring complete deliverance. 

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one with no new goals or plans as she sits in the discomfort of the stillness, wondering why God is silent.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the young mother with toddlers at her feet, another baby on the way, trying not to be completely overwhelmed in this life she dearly loves and wondering how she will get it all done.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like a woman crying as she touches her own cheeks, enveloped in memories that overwhelm with both joy and pain, wondering what it will be like to see him again.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks more like dark, thunderous, lightning-filled skies than sunshine and rainbows.

It’s tempting to believe the message that to be blessed and highly favored is evidenced by our positions, our promotions, and our pocketbooks.  To proclaim it often to ourselves and over ourselves in hopes that our lives will be easier and more secure through our loud and upbeat proclamations of faith.  And as that may happen to some, it is still the least of it.  As I consider Mary and what it meant that she was blessed and highly favored above all women, I believe we have trivialized it and made it something it is not.

It’s been a year of getting real with God.  It’s been a year of examining faith and finding again the simplicity of the solid foundation and ridding myself of self-imposed boundaries and unrealistic expectations and mechanical worship.  I am not blessed and highly favored because all has gone well and my life has been spared the dark nights and the weeping and the difficulties and the pain.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have loved deeply enough for my heart to be broken.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have risked my heart and given my energies and failed miserably. I am blessed and highly favored because He has noticed my sorrow and saved my tears.  I am blessed and highly favored because He lowered Himself to be housed in me, never to leave me or forsake me, especially in the dark moments.  I am blessed and highly favored because I am no longer dependent on outward circumstances, people, or events to determine if I am blessed and highly favored.

Do you see what I see?

 

Do you see what I see?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, trials

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.