Armor of God, Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Spiritual, trials, Uncategorized

All the crisis demands

…and having done all the crisis demands…stand firmly in your place. Ephesians 6:13b

I love the study of the armor of God. (Kids love it too, by the way.) And I love how scripture can be new every day just like God’s mercy. Reading a passage that is so familiar can still be enlightening when we read His words with an expectation of learning something new.

I remember when I realized that the shield of faith wasn’t as I had pictured it. Think Captain America.

I had always imagined a round shield that would fit on the arm, one with which I had to move in constant defense in order to quench those fiery darts. Upon deeper study I discovered that Roman soldiers would wrap their shields in leather then soak them in water so that the fiery darts would quite effectively be quenched. The shields were also large enough that when the soldiers “turtled” (front line with shields touching side-to-side, lines behind them lifting their shields above them, also side-to-side) they were virtually impenetrable. When God equipped us with His armor He gave us faith that is sufficient to withstand the attacks. And He intended that we link our faith with others rather than fight alone.

Our world is in a crisis. Crisis: a situation that has reached a critical phase

This is not my first crisis, probably not yours either. This isn’t even the worst of the crises I’ve faced in my own personal life (and I must admit, most of them were of my own making). No matter the crisis of the moment, every single one makes demands. They demand attention. They demand action. They are relentless in these demands, unmoved by emotions, unchanged if ignored, set on a course that will result in change whether we like it or not.

Our current crisis has demanded our attention, as well it should. It has demanded that we stay home, away from friends, unnecessary errands, and for many, even our jobs. Besides the potential danger of infection, many are facing the financial crisis that the virus crisis is creating. For some the financial crisis is breeding relationship crises as tensions rise and fear takes root. The crisis has gotten our attention.

What action is the crisis demanding? For most of us: stay home and wash our hands. For teachers the demand has been to immediately develop a new way to teach outside the classroom. For our healthcare workers the demand has been extreme on the front lines, claiming their time, resources, and emotions beyond anything they’ve ever experienced. For those infected the demand is the urgency to begin treatment as quickly as possible. The demands in a crisis can push us to the breaking point.

This virus is a real thing in this natural world. But let’s not forget that for every believer there’s more to this existence than the limitations of the natural.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, contending only with physical opponents, but against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly, supernatural sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day of danger, and, having done all the crisis demands, to stand firmly in your place. Ephesians 6:12-13

What fiery darts are demanding your attention in this crisis? Fear? Discouragement? Loneliness? Financial loss? Relationship issues? Infection? Spiritual doubt and confusion? God’s given you everything you need to stand firmly in your place. You can only do your part. You can’t do mine and I can’t do yours. What God asks of you may be completely different from what He’s asking of me right now. However there’s no doubt He already knew what this crisis would demand from each of us and He’s provided a way of escape.

No temptation (trial) has laid hold of you that is not common to man, that is beyond human resistance. But God is faithful and He can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation/test He will always also provide the way out, that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Lift up your shield of faith. Quit judging yourself for all that you haven’t done to prepare for this (physically, mentally, financially, spiritually) and trust that He’s equipped you. Exercise your faith and you are sure to become stronger. And when you’re feeling weak don’t drop out, remember that I’m standing with you, shield-to-shield, because that’s how we win this battle.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Ephesians 10:13-18 MSG

 

“All the crisis demands” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, God, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Training wheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Afraid of heights

photo-1457998876167-d818b18178fc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this description of the hind:

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

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

Wanna go with me?

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

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

**http://www.hishighplaces.org

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Afraid of grace

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

Jesus did that.

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

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

f699c32815b4cc5ad07be2ed5b1127851542860453_cropped_optimized

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

But the law can’t change hearts.

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

Jesus does that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from https://conquerlife.net

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

We called you murderer

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

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

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

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

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

I am sorry.

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

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized

times of refreshing

If only it were as easy as one click.

refresh-animated   https://kayslife

…so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day…

But here I am, still processing.

Image result for processing gifI knew that healing and restoration would take time and I began the new year with plans to slow down and let it take place. But I didn’t think it would take this long. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I didn’t know it would bring my soul to a complete stall. I looked up the definition of stall: …stop running, typically because of an overload… Yeah, that just about sums it up.

I’m thinking today of the Israelites of old and how it must have been when the prophets had nothing to prophecy because God was silent. Normally, I don’t mind silence. Perhaps this time is to take me into a deeper level of listening. It is definitely a season where standing in faith has taken me to new depths. What did the Israelites do during those silent years? They kept on doing what they were doing the last time He spoke. Or they didn’t. I can understand how at times they strayed from their faith, feeling God was too distant, uncaring toward their struggles, desperate to hear His words of deliverance. I’m tempted often to throw that pity party.

It’s not that I haven’t heard Him speak. I have. But I am longing to hear something more than “be still” or “not yet”. I want “…and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting…” to shake things up a bit.

Normally, I don’t mind getting permission to take it easy either. For a little while. Being highly achievement motivated, however, makes this longer-than-anticipated season a struggle. I’ve started running again which is good and gives me momentary satisfaction in accomplishments. But I can’t outrun the sorrow that still weighs on my heart. Many days it still clouds my vision and drains my energies and I just want to move on.

There was no rush to the morning so I sat on the balcony in the sultry air to watch the sun rise above the trees and read my devotional. It began “Come to Me, My weary one…” and ended with this –

“I want you to know that I approve of you and I approve of rest. When you relax in My Presence, trusting in my finished work on the cross, both you and I are refreshed.”

And there He was, like a cool wind on a hot day, refreshing me with His Presence and His promise that more times of refreshing are coming. I hope you found refreshment in His Presence today, too.

 

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

Scripture references: Acts 3:20, 2:2, Matt 11:28

Devotional excerpt from Jesus Always by Sarah Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Spiritual, Uncategorized

What it’s not

giphy

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

 

children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, gospel, Jesus, loss, Spiritual, Uncategorized

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.

xxx-police-tape-generic-photo

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

 

Bible, Christian, church, coffee, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, peace, praise, prayer, retreat, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

Even the high places have rocks

Arkansas-12

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.

Arkansas-4

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

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, death, Faith, God, gospel, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

Led to brokenness

broken pottery*Kintsugi

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/