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When you hear my story

once-upon-a-time

When you hear my story will you love me?  Will you look through eyes of mercy and give of your richest treasure?  Will you offer a kind word and a soft touch?  

When you hear my story will you judge me?  Will you withdraw in disapproval as my sins are laid bare?  Will you weigh and measure my failures and find me unworthy of your love?

When you hear my story will you see me?  Will you look deeper than my choices and experiences and see that I am more than the sum of those?  

When you hear my story will you walk with me?  Will you stay by my side as I continue this journey?  Will you step with me into uncertainty until the certain is found?

When you hear my story will you discover that you know me?  Will you throw off your pretense and find that deep within we are very much alike?

When you hear my story will you tell me yours?  Will you take advantage of my vulnerability – for good – and trust me with your joys and sorrows, victories and defeats?

When you hear my story will you find Him?  Will you hear His words of love and mercy and grace and favor spoken to you just as He spoke them to me when my life was anything but perfect? Will you see Him more than me?

When you hear my story will you love me?

It was the day to give my testimony at the end of a five-week study.  I know how important our individual stories are and I thought I was ready.  Until I began the drive to the church.  God began to speak to me about the things He wanted me to share and the tears began to flow.  My story isn’t tragic or extreme as compared to so many who have suffered greatly.  But it is marked with bad choices, difficult inward struggles, and deeper sorrow than I had ever believed possible.

My heart was so tender that particular morning that my first instinct was to guard it.  From what?  I would be speaking to ladies I’ve known all my life, a few I’ve known for many years, and those I had met only through this study.  What was I afraid of?  What we are all afraid of in the natural – what will they think of me?  If they really get to know me will they still love me?  It is the question that so often prevents our stories from ever being heard.

I knew I couldn’t resist His leading, for what would be the point?  I knew that once I opened my mouth these things would pour forth hindered only by feeble efforts to control the tears.  And so I told my story.

It was frightening and liberating and exhausting all at the same time.  I realized on the drive home that I had told them something I had never spoken to another human being.  And it was in this moment that I found new freedom.  We so often fear the vulnerability that is the pathway to the very peace we seek.  But He is there.  In the raw exposure of our lives He is evermore our Healer and our Comfort.

He may never ask you to share your story in a crowd.  But I daresay the very mission of Christ involves us telling our stories to others, be it one at the time or in groups.  Your story is someone’s answer.  Someone needs to hear how you found Him in your darkest times.  Someone needs to hear that the very Grace that has lifted you is calling to them.  Someone needs the love and mercy you have to give because you have a story that matters in this grand plan of God.

Let’s be sensitive to His leading when He says “Go and tell”.  Will they love you when they hear your story?  Some will, some won’t. But that’s not the basis on which we decide to speak because telling our story isn’t really about us.  It’s about Him.

 

When you hear my story” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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But it FEELS like…

Screenshot_2016-01-27-11-19-03

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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On being spiritual

sleeping

After a week of serious focus on a project that required all my physical and mental energies to complete, I am exhausted.  I drug myself out of bed this morning praying that the coffee would have extraordinary power over the aching weariness my body was experiencing and fill me with enough umph to make it through the lesson I had for my ladies.  I read over the scriptures and my notes several times before my brain decided to participate.  But once my mind was on track and my spirit motivated, my body picked up the pace a bit and I made it to church ready to share what He had placed on my heart.

My friend entered the room as I was waiting for another cup of coffee to be ready and making notes on the whiteboard.  She has been struggling with some health issues and it quickly became apparent that we were both weary.  I told her that I could stretch out on the floor right then and go sound asleep; she said she could join me.  We both refrained from giving in to this temptation, but wouldn’t that have been a sight when the pastor made his stop by to say hello!!

There is a God-energy that always surprises and delights me as it takes over when I stand to teach or speak to a crowd.  In those minutes it’s like an out-of-the-body experience in that I am no longer conscious of how I physically feel.  I love how He does this. This morning I taught the lesson which just made me more excited about the lessons that will follow, and my only disappointment was that the time was too short – I could have taught for hours.  But as soon as we dismissed, all I could think about was getting back to my bed!  I stayed for the worship service but must admit that God did not get my best.  He barely got my attention at all as what little remaining focus I had was fixed on preventing my head from bobbing in slumber.  Seriously, I could not get home fast enough once the service was over.

I’ve re-committed my Sundays to be a day of rest.  I know my body needs it and my soul is desperate for it.  I want to give Him time to renew and refresh and restore me.  I want to hear Him more clearly and see life through His eyes.  I want to study His word.  Really study, not just the quick, encouraging devotional reading, but the digging in with my questions and fears and doubts, journal at hand to record the things that will change my life.  I want this time to be truly spiritual.

But after the nap today that was both necessary and totally unavoidable, I just felt numb.  You know that place in-between being asleep and awake?  That.  I couldn’t shake it.  I tried to listen to a teaching video, but didn’t hear half of what was said. Pen in hand, I tried to conjure meaningful prose but the only thing that came to mind was “I got nothing.”  I picked up a book that I am purposefully reading slowly so as not to miss its many messages and I read and reread the same pages more than a few times.  It was not feeling very spiritual.

The guys were gone so I had the house to myself, everything still and quiet.  I went downstairs to refill my water glass and wondered if they had taken the dog with them on their adventures for the day.  Just about the time that thought crossed my mind I heard CJ on the back porch.  I felt no inclination to engage with him at the time so as soon as I got my water I retreated once again to the comfort of my bed, having closed the bedroom door behind me.  A few minutes after I had nestled under the covers, I heard CJ run up the stairs.  I knew he didn’t need anything but I decided to open the door and let him in.  He literally jumped with excitement.  I pet him briefly before, again, crawling back to bed. He wagged his tail as he watched me and as soon as I was settled in he ran back down the stairs and outside.  It was then that I realized he thought he had been home alone.  His excitement upon seeing me was not because he needed or wanted anything, but just the delight he experienced upon discovering that he was not alone. Then he was off to do whatever it is that dogs do when no one is watching.

My sister wrote this a couple of years ago and today it came back to my mind as it has many times:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is simply be.  Be in His presence, asking nothing, requiring nothing, perhaps even expecting nothing.  Allowing the fact that we are not alone to be our delight as we do whatever it is we humans do when no one is watching.

Today it was as if He simply said to me “I’m here.”  When I heard that, I pulled the covers up, closed my eyes, and very spiritually nodded off once again.

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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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Good form is important

badrunning

Back in the days of high school I ran track.  This was an ideal sport for me as I could still be a part of a team while participating on an individual level where a lackluster performance might not provoke the dreaded angry disapproval of my teammates. My fear of disappointing my team quickly dissipated, however, when I discovered I could run.  Fast.  And I loved it.

My first coach was tough and while I no longer feared my peers, I maintained a healthy respect toward him even when he pushed us mercilessly.  We all grumbled and complained about the unfairness of it all – the heat, the long practices, the repeats – once we were certain he couldn’t hear us, of course.  But when it came time to compete and we walked away with the medals, we loved him.  It had been worth it.

My next coach was kinder.  She was tough enough to drive us to new pr’s and prepare us for further competition while recognizing that kids still need to be kids and smiled more than she frowned.  I remember the exasperated roll of her eyes when I would cross the finish line and she would be asking me, yet again, why I was blowing bubbles with my gum as I was running…  I remember learning how to pass and receive the baton during relays.  I remember learning how to use a starting block.  I’m sure we were given other instructions and coaching on how to be a good runner but it evidently went in one ear and out the other.  I just ran.

Quite a few years later I became friends with a real runner.  He would go on 50 mile fun runs (can those words really be used together???)!  He was my boss and my friend and through the hours we spent together at work he taught me about running.  He coached me without being my coach and I learned a lot about running form and how important it is if you want to make the most of your time on the pavement.

First he taught me about breathing.  Yes, I already knew how to breathe, but not so much when I was running.  He taught me to pay attention to my breathing as I ran and to keep it rhythmic and in concert with my steps.  This took concentrated effort, especially when I was attempting to run faster or farther or uphill.  He taught me that if I couldn’t get my breathing under control that I should slow down until I could.  I didn’t want to slow down, I wanted to go faster.  But erratic breathing would only cause me to miss what I was aiming for.  Hearing myself gasping for air was not encouraging and would cause my mind to scream “I can’t do this!”.

Next he taught me to relax.  While running.  Again with the words that sound like they don’t go together! I have a strong tendency when I am pushing myself harder to tighten my shoulders, clinch my fists, and keep my arms close to my chest, all of which require more energy and actually make the run harder. Again it takes concentrated effort to drop my shoulders, loose my fingers, and allow my arms to lower. It is possible to greatly relax my upper body while engaging every muscle in my lower body in the act of running.  It makes it so much easier.

Lastly he taught me to pay attention to my feet.  This wasn’t as hard to do as learning to breathe properly and relax, but I had to apply the effort to pay attention to my foot placement.  He had previously “coached” me through race walking where correct form is to put one foot directly in front of the other.  However, should you attempt this form while running it is an invitation to kiss the pavement along with creating some serious knee issues.  I had to pay attention to where my feet were placed and to get good running shoes.  It made all the difference.

Those lessons were learned many years ago.  Now, I never hold my arms close to my chest when I run. I always wear good shoes and rarely deviate from proper foot placement.  But you know what?  Quite often I still find myself clenching my fists or tightening my shoulders.  My mind covers many things when I run and if I’m not paying attention, before long I am expending energy that is unnecessary.  Once I realize it, I lower my shoulders, shake out my hands, and relax.  Good form makes the run easier and more enjoyable (perhaps words some of you would never use together, but stay with me…) and in the end helps me accomplish the goal.

God has been coaching me in grace.  He has been teaching me the rhythms of breathing Him in and out. He has been guiding me to rest and relax as we move together in the mission of this life.  He is placing my steps as I move ahead in this life race even when I am unsure where we are headed.  But I have to pay attention.  When I’m distracted by the many things that press in on my life, I find myself very often clenching my fists and tightening my shoulders just to get through, temporarily forgetting that there is an easier way.  He calls me back every time.  He calls me away from what is natural to me into His nature, His way of doing things.

I notice when people run with less than good form.  And the world notices when the namesake of Christ move through this life with bad form.  It will not be our angry discourses or ridiculous attempts to defend God (do we really think that He needs our defense?) that will win the world to Him.  It will not be our glaring disapproval of our teammates whose performance doesn’t meet our standards.  It will not be when we hold our anger and resentment and unforgiveness tightly to our chests.  It will not be our gasping for air through the difficulties of life.  It will be when we learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  It will be when we walk in His nature displaying that we have been made in His image, free from clenched fists and stiff shoulders, free to give out what has been so lavishly given to us.  This is what will make the world hungry for Him.

“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 MSG

Grace is good form and good form is important.

 

Good form is important ” (another God speaks running segment) was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

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Do you see what I see?

2596-sunshine-1920x1080-nature-wallpaper

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?

lightning_wunder_photo_5

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

Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, Spiritual, trials

Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)

Two Woman Running by fence

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

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

Am I in pain?  no

Are my shoes laced too tight?  no

Am I running too fast?  no

Are my shoulders tense?  no

Is my heart rate too high?  no

Is my breathing labored?  no

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

Then what’s wrong?  nothing

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

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

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

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

Am I hurting?  maybe

Has the outward circumstance changed?  maybe

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.

Christian, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, grief, loss, love, praise, prayer, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, Uncategorized

Good conversations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Two Friends Young Girls Talking PAINTING BY CARL SCHWENINGER JUNIOR

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

You had ONE job…

cake fails 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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