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Even the high places have rocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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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/

When meeting with God leaves you limping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do you see what I see?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see what I see?

 

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

Her again

I had the privilege of spending this past Saturday with a wonderful group of ladies in the Brenham, Texas area.  We spent the day together seeking Him and the balance He desires in our lives.  I know it’s wrong to talk about someone, particularly when we look at their lives and judge them, but we talked about her again. You know her, too, if you’ve been in church for much time at all, especially if you’ve studied anything about what it means to be a godly woman.  She is the woman of the bible that we love to hate…

*The Proverbs 31 woman:

o She does her husband only good as long as there is life within her.
o She shops for the materials for her work.
o She shops for the groceries.
o She rises while it’s still night to prepare her household for the day.
o She manages servants and delegates the chores.
o She’s prudent in accepting more responsibilities, not neglecting her current duties.
o She manages so well that with the time and strength she has left over, she gardens.
o She stays fit – spiritually, mentally, and physically.
o She assesses her work to see its value before God.
o She prays continually for her household, especially through times of trouble.
o She sews.
o She gives to the poor according to their need – body, mind, or spirit.
o She’s prepared her family for inclement weather by making them warm clothes.
o She decorates her house with homemade cushions, coverlets and tapestries.
o She wears nice clothes.
o She’s in sales – she makes garments and “leads others to buy them”.
o She delivers the garments she’s made.
o She’s happy about the future, knowing that her family is in readiness for it.
o She speaks in wisdom.
o She speaks in kindness.
o She isn’t idle.
o She doesn’t gossip.
o She is content.
o She doesn’t engage in self-pity.
o She reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord.

Seriously, God?? She’s described as virtuous, noble, capable, and excellent. These are not typically the words that come to our minds when we think of ourselves. If we are not guarding our hearts, the enemy will use these words to condemn us, to cause us to see an image that is acceptable to God but impossible for us to achieve. Impossible goals defeat us immediately and blind us to our potential to be all that God has called us to be.

The key to this woman’s success is in the last attribute listed: She reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord. She recognizes and acknowledges that she is incapable of accomplishing anything without Him. He directs her steps. He leads her as she listens to Him. Everything she was able to do began with her worship. This is the foundation for every area of our lives.

I believe that the list above was a culmination of all the many accomplishments this wonderful woman had achieved over her lifetime.  Not in one week, one month, or even one year.  That it was written not as a checklist against which we are to measure our abilities, but a testimony of what God can do with a woman who worships.

We seek to please Him with our lives, to be used by Him for His glory, to have an impact on our world. Yet we find ourselves struggling to know His will for us.  It is found in our worship.  Not the corporate worship we experience when we gather together but rather in that still, alone time with Him when He is our sole focus.  It is here that His will becomes clear.  His only desire is that we simply do what He tells us to do.  Nothing more impresses Him.  Nothing less satisfies Him.  It is here that we find the strength to step out into the unknown with the confidence that He is directing our steps.  It is here that we hear Him and truly discover our purpose: to know Him.

*An excerpt from “unCluttered” A Workshop of Order and Balance by Kay Stinnett

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

This hope we have

 

 

I could hardly understand what she was trying to say, her words were so choked and broken by sobs.  In the aftermath of choices that have irrevocably altered her life, she is powerless to stop the ripple effect throughout the waters of those who love her, a ripple effect that has produced their choices as well.  No doubt she will never return to the way things were.  The damage has been done.

“You have destroyed your life.”  This is the lie the enemy relentlessly screams to her as if her life is over and there is no point to her existence any longer.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  Others have even voiced those words.  It must be true.

What do I have to offer this one in the grips of despair?  Hope.  Not empty words of the sun shining again, although it will.  But a deeper hope that transcends the multitude of mistakes we make.  Hope that is the very answer to despair.  Hope that holds the future in His hands and Hope that is unwilling to settle for less than the impossible.  It is why He came to earth.

Here is a portion of a beautiful song by Kathryn Scott entitled At the Foot of the Cross that captures the wonder of this hope we have…

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

This is the hope we have:  that we can take all the ashes of our choices, our mistakes, our sin to God and He does the impossible – He turns it into something beautiful.  For this burdened friend of mine, her mistakes have brought her to His feet where her suffering meets His grace, where He lifts her head and crowns her with His loving forgiveness, and where her life will begin again.  She will grieve over what is lost, but will rejoice in what is found as she discovers the mercy that is new every morning.  She will find Hope.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of all His benefits— 

Who forgives every one of all your iniquities, Who heals each one of all your diseases, 

Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption,

Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy; 

Who satisfies your mouth – your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation – with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!   Psalm 103:1-4

 

This hope we have” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

When God caused me to wander

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wanderers in the bible is the account of the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was a destination to reach:  the promised land.  But rather than a straight line journey, they wandered on their way there.  Ready to leave the bonds of slavery, the plan seemed easy enough: follow Moses.  Yet it wasn’t many days into the journey when it was apparent there were things that had to be dealt with.  Old habits, attitudes, opinions and emotions surfaced that revealed there would be more to this journey than arriving in Canaan.  It is clear in the story that their stubbornness was the primary reason they wandered for so long.  I can identify.  Their actions and attitudes kept them in a cycle of wandering with very little progress towards the goal.  Been there, done that, too.

Wandering by definition means to move around usually without purpose or direction.  Life teaches us that this is bad or wrong.  We make plans upon plans, we write down our personal goals, we make lists, we form business plans, we have middle schoolers and early high schoolers under the pressure of deciding what direction their education will go over the next four to eight years.  We are asked what we are going to do, what we want to “be”, and where we will be next year, in five years, and ten years from now. To answer “I don’t know” to any of these pressures is to appear lazy and lacking sufficient motivation.

While all of these strategies (minus the ridiculous notion that a thirteen year old has a clear vision of where their life is going) are very useful in the business world and in maintaining a certain order in our home lives, I wonder how much we try to carry over into our spiritual lives which becomes the very reason we continue to go round and round certain mountains.  Perhaps we stubbornly hold onto a worldly concept that  slows down our spiritual progress.  What if God wants us to wander??

“…when God caused me to wander…”  Genesis 20:13

Abraham heard the call of God on his life and he followed.  God led him to pack up all his things and begin a journey.  He didn’t know where he was going but he started walking.  He started wandering.  The Israelites wandered because of a lack of faith.  Abraham wandered full of faith.

I am not entirely comfortable with this season of wandering.  It feels foolish to not know exactly where I am headed and to resist the temptation to plan every step.  It stings my pride a bit to answer “I don’t know” when asked about my plan.  But I want to learn from Abraham.  I want to dream of the promises God has planted in my heart without taking it upon myself to make it happen.  I want to move when He says move and stay when He says stay.  I want to walk so full of faith that when God changes my direction there is no hesitation on my part.  I want to embrace when God causes me to wander.

 

When God caused me to wander” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com