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What it’s not

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Having recently radically changed my eating habits, I’ve experimented with numerous recipes in an effort to satisfy my desire for the now prohibited carbs – bread, grains, etc. Obviously, the first step was to Google low-carb recipes – I had no idea how many ways cauliflower could be used! I like cauliflower so I’ve made cauliflower bread, cauliflower pizza crust, and cauliflower muffins, roasted cauliflower, baked cauliflower, and steamed cauliflower, all of which have been quite tasty. My husband even likes most of them and he hates cauliflower. But let’s get something straight – no matter how you chop it, process it, season it, or cook it, cauliflower “rice” is not rice. Ever. It’s just not. I want it to be. I keep trying different methods but all fail to fulfill my expectations. I don’t mind the flavor of this poor substitution and would settle for even a slightly similar texture. Still a no. It can best be described by what it’s not. It’s not rice.

Looking back over the past few years it’s easy to see when I began to slack on really taking care of myself. I can blame it on many things such as an unexpected move, living a year in “temporary” mode, a new job with new responsibilities, taking care of my mom, a hurricane, etc. There are other outward factors I could list but you get the idea. Lots of changes occurred and I made it to the other side but with a bit of a dark cloud still hanging over me.

With my new year’s focus on better self-care I am striving to once again make Sundays a true day of rest – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s been challenging, but I’m determined! The plan is to come home from morning services, change into something comfy, climb into bed with my bible and journal and see what happens. Some days I just sleep. Other days are study and journaling. Some days are just relaxing and reflecting.

It was on one of those days of reflection that God led me to examine the real reason my little black cloud was still looming above: resignation. During that season of many changes that were not a part of my grand plan, I resigned myself to the belief that certain things in my life would never change. “It is what it is” became an internal mantra, a coping mechanism to just get through it all. I called it “accepting those things I cannot change” and hoped that if it worked for Reinhold Niebuhr, this acceptance would work for me. But God being always attentive to the condition of my soul wanted to take me deeper. He began by reminding me of another “what it’s not” that I’d heard many years ago:

Trust is not stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation.

Now my mom put a high importance on good posture and those threats to strap a board on my back if I didn’t stand up straight worked on me! But inwardly I saw that I was walking through life stoop-shouldered. Forward progress seems impossible when you see very little hope so foot-dragging becomes the norm (another thing that seriously irritated my mom). And sighing. There was lots of sighing.

God gave me the mental image of a teeter-totter, or seesaw, as we called them as kids. The fulcrum was my Faith and the balance point was Acceptance. One one end of the plank which lay atop my faith was Trust. On the other end was Resignation. He showed me that Acceptance can go either way and led me to look up the actual definitions of trust and resignation:

Trust – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

Resignation – the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable

At the same time I was living in my stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation I was also proclaiming my faith and trust in Him. But I didn’t really trust Him. I didn’t have a firm belief in His reliability that these negative experiences and circumstances in my life would have purpose. I didn’t really trust that He would work anything good for me through these unsatisfying conditions, so I chose acceptance. Acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable. Sigh. Living without hope, even if it’s only in certain areas of your life, is hard. I was like Solomon “So I say, “My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD”* but with a tone like Eeyore “It’s all for naught.” More sighing.

Once again God brought me to a place of choosing: trust or resignation? I can’t have both and call it faith. Trust offers hope – the expectation of good, the very opposite of resignation. It doesn’t seem like a hard choice, hope is ALWAYS better than despair, but it takes effort. It takes a willingness to return to fervent prayer over those things I’d left in my pit of self-pity. And once again, I chose to trust that He is faithful and just and has greater things in store than I can possibly imagine. He is God. He is worthy of my trust.

Quite frankly I’d rather live a life in hope with the risk of never seeing my dreams realized than to continue on in stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation, for how can I accomplish my purpose of leading others to Him? No one wants to follow resignation. And that little black cloud? Dissipated in the presence of Hope.

*Lamentations 3:18

What it’s not” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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We are they

He stood in front of me, his small frame literally quivering with energy. I knelt down so that we could be face-to-face as I welcomed him into the large group and helped him find a seat. He sat barely long enough for his feet to leave the floor before he got up, excitedly asking me if I knew who Voltron was and did I have a Voltron at my house? I told him I did not which seemed to concern him. But then, everything seems to concern or interest him. All the time. He must be the most animated and expressive and energetic young boy I have ever met!

It was about time to begin so I pulled him and his sister away from each other and toward me. Again, face-to-face, I tell them how happy I am they are there, but it’s time to take our seats and leave each other alone. Between every few words I am reminding them to look at me while we talk. This proves to be quite challenging as the ceiling, the carpet, the other children, and my bright pink nail polish are just too enchanting. I’m explaining to them that it will only be a few minutes they must sit before going to their class when he looks me straight in the eyes, completely focused. I’m feeling a measure of success as I finally have his attention and will surely have him seated soon. He’s leaned in so that we are almost nose-to-nose when I notice his expression – his brows are deeply furrowed and his eyes reveal what can only be described as alarm.

“Why are your eyes cracked???” he asked.

“What?”

“Your eyes are cracked!! I can see the red cracks!”

“Ohhhh…”

Yeah, he was focused all right. Hadn’t heard a word I’d said. I’m quite certain this little one is going to provide me a lot of writing material!

He, like many of the children I see each week, has the blessing of a good home and family that will teach him and train him to be a good person. They will invest in his character development as they eat and play ball and watch superhero movies together. He has generations of Jesus-followers who will love him and guide him, pray for him and with him. Oh, they will worry and wonder often what to do with all this energy, but they will exercise their faith, discern his gifts, and feed his soul with good.

But what about the others? The children who don’t have that.

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I am sick over the happenings of the last 10 days. Another school shooting. The news and every form of social media offer us multitudes of opinions, supposed solutions and blame. Lots of blame. Surely someone is to blame. Something is to blame. Let me blame some person, or people group, or organization, or corporation, or anyone or anything that will make me feel better, let me off the hook, because what could I possibly have done to prevent this?? THEY failed. THEY didn’t do what they were supposed to do. THEY should have stopped him!!

What if WE are THEY?

We didn’t know that shooter. We had no impact on him as a person. And that is sad. But what if we decided to influence our world proactively in an effort to thwart evil before it has a chance to take seed in the life of a young person? What if we invested in the lives of the children around us, in our neighborhoods and communities? What if we actually decided to live out the call of the gospel with a focus on young families, taking them under our wings to love and encourage them, being their “village” as they raise their children?

What if we stepped up to serve before someone came to beg for help? What if we sought out the places children gather so we could be Jesus to them, loving them and helping them become good people? What if we, God’s people, showed up in our churches and schools and community centers and civic clubs so often we would have to wait in line to serve? What if we sacrificed that hour of sleeping later on Sunday mornings and spent that time helping to teach little ones, or skipped the 2 hour movie we’ve seen over and over and invited a young family for dinner? What if we dared to volunteer in the activities hosted for teens so that we could reach that one whose family isn’t open to our offer of friendship, the one who’s afraid of an empty future? What if we actually believed that God has called us to serve, to help those in need, realizing that there is no greater need in the lives of our children, all children, than to know they are loved and that God has good plans for them?

We are they.

There are things to be done. Are you serving? There is no Jesus follower retirement plan. We are called to serve others until He calls us home. We can dare to step out of our apathy and complacency and into actions that have eternal value, here and now. This is how we give hope to the children, teens, and families of our day and time who are surrounded by the same evil reports you and I are struggling with. This is how we change our world.

…let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth – in practice and in sincerity. 1 John 3:18

We are they” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Entering empty

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It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s not even 7pm and I’m in my pjs, trying to stay awake until a reasonable time to call it quits for the day. I will not see the ball fall in Times Square. I will not watch the clock until it ticks at midnight. I will not participate in any activities involving fireworks other than trying to drown them out in order to rest. I will not welcome the new year in any other way than a good night’s sleep. I hope.

My thoughts about the new year have been somewhat void of excitement. I have plans that are good and goals to be reached, but they remain factual in nature, currently lacking the enthusiasm I’ve had in past years. 2017 has been, quite possibly, the most difficult year of my life and I am spent. David and Paul of the Bible spoke of their lives being poured out in the noble efforts of serving God and teaching others. My actions do not compare to their sacrifices for the cause of Christ, but the words poured out resonate with me in this time of reflection.

This year provoked an onslaught of emotion that I wasn’t expecting and which seems now to have sucked the energy from my soul. I began the year tired and only seemed to grow more so with each month that came and went as the duties of my new job increased, peaking with absolute exhaustion by summer’s end. But my hopes for a restful fall season were washed away by a hurricane. Literally. Experiencing the storm was profound and the recovery was difficult and exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Then Mama died. The depth of my sorrow knows no end, the vacancy in my life impossible to be filled by anything else, my mourning so heavy it is as if I can’t breathe.

However, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that my feelings do not determine what is or is not real, and certainly do not dictate what lies ahead. The emotions themselves are real and serve a purpose I may or may not understand. I had the energy in my younger years to suppress and ignore them. Besides the completely unhealthy nature of that approach, now I simply am too tired to hold them at bay. They have overtaken me whether I wanted them or not. I trust hindsight will sooner or later bring insight.

I’m not afraid of the future. My faith is intact, my confidence is not shaken, my resolve to move forward is sure. I’m simply entering the new year empty.

I’ve spent the day resting and praying, acknowledging my vast need for my Savior all the more, assured that He will come through at the right time and fill me once again with an enthusiasm for life. But for now, it’s ok to be empty. It’s enough to rest. Enough to be still and know He is God. It’s not a bad way to start a new year.

Psalm 46:10

Goodnight and Happy New Year!

 

Entering emptywas written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

A few things she taught me

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  • To say “yes, Ma’am” and “no, Ma’am” as an expression of respect, not an indication of age…
  • How to sew
  • That church was important
  • How to make a delicious pound cake
  • That good posture was important
  • How to sew a garment so that the inside looks almost as good as the outside
  • That manners are important, particularly at the dinner table
  • How to whistle loudly
  • That never saying “I told you so” is mercy in silent action
  • That just because you’re the mom doesn’t mean you are always the mediator
  • That family is important because everyone doesn’t have what we have
  • To be grateful because everyone doesn’t have what we have
  • That following Jesus means serving others even when it’s hard, inconvenient, and uncomfortable
  • To see people, not colors or culture
  • To be strong
  • To laugh at myself
  • That silent prayers are powerful
  • To live with purpose
  • To not fear death
  • To love

I expect she will continue to teach me still more in her absence ♥♥

 

A few things she taught me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Even the high places have rocks

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There are times getting away is an absolute necessity. The weariness of months of almost non-stop activity became unbearable when the hurricane blew into my life. It left me empty and broken and hurting, precariously hanging by the proverbial thread. So in the middle of duties undone and responsibilities unfulfilled, I took time off. I have family in the foothills, so in my need of deep soul healing and rest I made arrangements for a visit. And while there I went to a high place to meet with God.

Compared to living in an area that isn’t that much higher than sea level, just about any place you go is a high place. The high places of the bible, however, were not necessarily defined by elevation. They were places designated for worship, for meeting with God. Jesus changed that by giving us His Spirit to dwell within, but there’s still something to be said for finding a way to meet with God in your own high place. A place where intentional worship will occur. Worship that is free to be messy and frustrated and tearful and even angry if that’s what needs to be dealt with. I believe the greatest worship we offer God is our attention, acknowledging He is, fearlessly coming to Him with no pretense that we are anything but who we are in that moment.

I found a place beside still waters where I set up “camp” – my folding chair, my blanket, my bible and journal, and of course, my coffee. I had determined to stay until I heard God. It was a perfect day with cool temps, a bright blue sky, low mountains in the distance. I sat for a while just taking it all in. The beauty of nature has always moved me and this day was no different. Combine that with the events that preceded this escape and the tears flowed readily. I knew it shouldn’t and couldn’t be rushed, this seeking of answers from God.

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I’d opened my bible to Isaiah without a lot of forethought, flipped through the pages and stopped at the first thing I saw highlighted – “but those who wait for the Lord…” (40:31). I wasn’t even giving it much thought when I looked up and saw three bald eagles effortlessly moving above. If you are not familiar with the rest of that verse, it speaks of renewing your strength and soaring as eagles. God’s good that way, you know?

I knew this time wasn’t going to be one of lengthy bible passages or deep, wordy prayers, but rather just “being still and knowing”. I got up to walk along the edge of the water, exploring the view surrounding me. Now, if you’ve ever been in a mountainous area you know you there are rocks. Lots of rocks. To walk along a shoreline every step must be strategic lest you want to face plant on the stones or take a tumble into the waters. Honestly, I’d rather walk on pristine white sand with clear blue water washing in waves over my feet, mindlessly moving along, not having to measure every step. It’s hard to walk on rocks.

We have a tendency to think that if we’re obedient, if we’re following where God leads, if we keep our hearts right and strive to learn and grow, the walk will become smoother, easier. And it does. But there will always be rocks. There will always be people He brings into our lives that grate on our nerves. There will be responsibilities that He calls us to that are difficult and frustrating. There will be challenges as He moves us into the uncomfortable. There will be pressures demanding action and questions He seems to be slow to answer. There will be rocks.

I returned to my chair, picked up my bible, and begin to skim the next few verses. One phrase was repeated several times and caught my attention “…I will help you…”  I’ve had some wonderful times with God in the past when many words were exchanged and I was led to intense study. This was not one of those times. The four words of that phrase brought me more peace than I’d experienced in months. There were details I still wanted Him to speak to, situations for which I still needed His counsel, wounds that needed to be healed. But this day it was enough to know He would help me. This day was to worship amid the rocks in the high place.

 

Even the high places have rocks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

Led to brokenness

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Brokenness. No one wants to be there. We run from it. We try to protect ourselves. We try to hide. We often avoid those who are there, not knowing what to say or do. Human suffering is hard to see, hard to enter into with another, hard to bear. But sooner or later we are there ourselves, like it or not.

There is quite literally brokenness all around me right now – the piles of debris are slowly being removed, and what is left remains broken and empty. Lives have been turned upside down and there are no answers as to where the displaced can go, where will they work, how will they pay for their losses. Thousands of lives in limbo and I feel helpless to affect. My contributions seem but a drop in an endless sea of anguish and I am fighting the paralysis that inevitably settles in after intense crisis efforts have passed and the day-to-day tries to resume. I am at a loss as to what to do next. And I am not alone.

My frustration increases daily in this state of doing little, yet I find that I busy myself more with the mundane rather than get seriously alone with God. I know I need to. I know that is where I will find the answers I need. It is in His presence I will find joy and peace and rest. So what’s the hesitation? I know He will lead me to brokenness. I can go there voluntarily or continue an attempt to resist. But I will go there.

There is much to learn about Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord Who heals, when life leaves us wounded and broken. Psalm 147:3 assures us “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” and He calls us to Himself for exactly that. But what about those times He takes us into brokenness? We don’t hear much about that.

There is a surrender required in order to be filled. I cry out for more of Him – more understanding, more intimacy, more revelation – but room must be made for this more that I want. My will involved in any level of “self-preservation” must be broken if He is to be what others see in me. It’s not a new thing, just ask Jacob or Moses or Jonah or Peter. Or Jesus. He made it very plain –

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 16:25 (AMP)

My opinions, my emotions, my desires, and even my own heartache, all must be laid down before Him in an act of obedient surrender. Dying to self. Not allowing self to dictate the steps of my life, but rather yielding to the brokenness that will cause my every natural impulse to become secondary to His. His Spirit within me longs for this brokenness to take place because He desperately wants me to experience Him at a new level. So I will yield. I will be broken. And I will be changed, reminded once again that it’s going to be worth it all.

*Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.

Kintsugi kinda sounds like Jesus.

Led to brokenness” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*Photograph & text taken from http://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

Among the losses

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Yesterday I didn’t cry. I think it’s the first day since the hurricane I haven’t. There was no water in my home and my possessions are not heaped at the curb. I didn’t spend hours or days trying to find my mom or my siblings or my children, I knew where they were and they were safe. I didn’t even lose electricity or cell service or cable. But I endured the storm with some who did and I am heartbroken.

As they entered our doors you could see it in their faces. They were scared and angry and frustrated and in shock. They were wet and cold and hungry and lost. They were transported to a place they had never been, a town they had never even heard of, to stay with strangers they were not sure they could trust. Most came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a few with small bags, many with children in tow and families with newborns. Yes, newborns. A few were sick, really sick with kidney failure and cancer and heart disease, their bodies rescued from the waters but not their necessary medications.

We offered what we could, a hot meal, dry clothes, pillows and blankets, a safe place to stay, and what felt to me like seriously inadequate emotional support given their circumstances. Ill-equipped as we were, we settled them into every room, nook, and cranny of our buildings, trying to make them as comfortable as possible on the cold, hard floors. We packed them in like sardines and hoped they could rest and prayed they could sleep. Some did. Some did not.

We stayed up with one man who literally paced the hall throughout the entire night, agonizing over the helplessness he felt as he couldn’t find his nine-year old son. I held the newly widowed woman as she sobbed in my arms, her recent loss intensified by the loneliness of a shelter full of strangers and the uncertainty of a future without her husband and the home they’d shared. I watched a beautiful young woman crumple to the floor as she received the news that loved ones were lost. I stood on the sidewalk in the early morning hours with a precious mom, her tears mixing with the rain as she poured out her heart, struggling to find the strength to overcome the loss of everything. Again.

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Among the losses in this storm was also any notion I may have held onto that the heart of the gospel can be neatly organized from my nicely decorated office, that it can be scripted and planned and comfortable and easily implemented on my terms.

I’ve visited shelters (as it fit in my schedule) and I’ve ministered to the poor (when it was convenient) and I’ve taught the classes (from my nice, clean classrooms) and I’ve fed the hungry (when I had the $ with me that I could easily hand to the homeless person on the corner as I went on my way). My desire has been to make an impact on the world around me with the message of God’s love through these efforts, and I will continue to seek these very same opportunities.

But I have never experienced anything like this. It has irreversibly affected me. I will never be the same. I don’t want to be the same. I want to be different. I want to allow these flood waters to wash me beyond my comfortable ideas of ministry into really understanding that the hands and feet of Jesus got dirty. He touched those considered untouchable. He loved those viewed as unworthy. He walked and talked with those who were royally messed up. He changed their lives and He did it outside the walls of the tabernacle.

We are moved by the compassion of a community who showed up in the midst of the storm. Literally. Through the wind and rain they brought food and water and clothes and bedding and personal items and kennels and air mattresses and a shower trailer. And port-a-potties (yay!). They brought trucks, BIG trucks, and boats, LOTS of boats. Our first responders brought the professional medical help needed for the sick and the organization needed to send volunteers out to find those still stranded and bring them to safety. The community together brought hope and help and rescue. They brought Jesus to the hurting and the helpless.

This good news of Jesus Christ is a completely inconvenient gospel. If we truly desire to see people find Jesus, He will take us into the unpredictable where our religious platitudes will be meaningless, where our hands will get dirty, where our hearts will be broken, where we will work to exhaustion and then work some more, where we will be pressed to give grace, grace, and more grace, and where we will experience the depth of His love for humanity in a way that doesn’t feel particularly spiritual in the moment, yet is profound.

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I am still grieving for those who came to us, who experienced losses I cannot imagine. I will never forget their faces. I don’t want to. And I am grieving for those who are afraid to go beyond the security of the church doors to be Jesus to their world. I pray we will dare to be awkward and uncomfortable in the spontaneous opportunities presented to us that beg a response. I pray we’ll trust Him as He leads us into the unknown in the inconvenient and often messy business of living as His hands and His feet and taking Him to a desperate world.

 

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

Photographs by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.