Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, Spiritual, Uncategorized

When you hear my story

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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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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.

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

You had ONE job…

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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

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, friends, God, grace, grief, Jesus, love, prayer, sorrow, tears, trials

When faith and prayer are not enough

 

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This week my heart has been heavy for a friend.  Her plate is full and she just got served another big helping of life that has the ability to overwhelm.  Again.  While I don’t feel that I know her that well yet, what I have seen in her quiet demeanor is a river that runs deep, a strength that endures, and a life lived in the business of giving.  We had but a moment together before an event when she relayed the latest information to me and I felt that old, familiar helplessness rising as I watched her fight the tears that welled up in her eyes.  I recognized the resistance to the unwelcomed flood that threatened to pour forth, a resistance to yield for fear that the waters would rise and overtake her, drowning her in the unspoken sorrow that claimed her heart that day.

She covets the thoughts and prayers of her friends and family and I assured her immediately that I would be praying and standing with her in faith for the help and hope and healing that is needed.  And I have.  I am sure that she is confident that I will not forget to pray or speak life over her situation.  I have no actual hand in the solution, no concrete way to step in and save the day, yet I have not been able to shake the feeling that I need to do more.

God has worked in my life an openness to others and a comfort with sharing my experiences, but I am still at heart a private and more reserved person when it comes to my own needs.  I see this same characteristic in my friend.  I approach with caution not because I don’t want to help, but because I do not want to press too far or offend in any way.  So as I asked God what more could I do, He answered in His wonderful simplicity:

“You can cook.  You can clean.  You can drive.  You can listen.  You can help.”

I couldn’t wait to see her this morning just to say “Let me help.”  To tell her that I can cook, clean, drive, and listen. It’s not like I didn’t know I can do these things, but His prompting was to stop waiting for her to ask!  To probe for a little more information about the things that lie ahead and to purposefully plan to do things she would never ask me to do.  We so often reserve these acts of service for the moms who’ve come home with a newborn or the family that mourns a lost one.  So many people we know have so many problems that we can find ourselves paralyzed into inactivity, relying on our promises of faithful prayers to be enough.  And sometimes they are.  But I strongly suspect that more often our faith should have some actual muscle behind it and our prayers should be more shown than heard, because true faith produces good works (James 2).

On the other hand, in our desire to live our faith and be strong Christians we many times find ourselves unable to ask for help.  My friend needs rest. She would never ask and I’m no Martha Stewart, but I can cook a meal.  It won’t give her days of rest but maybe for that evening she can just sit for a while.  I can drive and run errands and maybe for an hour or two she doesn’t have to think about what needs to be done in her ordinary life.  I can listen and let her cry without any expectations or condemnation but simply because sometimes we just need to have a good, long cry.  I am not the answer to the problem, but I can help.

Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews  13:16

So this week and the next week and the next week and for however long she needs, I will help.  And as I stand in faith and pray for those I know who are in need, I think I’ll head to the kitchen a little more often and cook someone a meal.

 

When faith and prayer are not enough” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

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The silence speaks

If he had known the course his silence would chart, he would have spoken.  If he had known that his silence spoke to me lies of my unworthiness to be loved, he would have told me the very opposite – that he loved me more deeply than words could express.  His silence spoke his disappointment loudly and I was too young to understand that it spoke more about him and his pain than about me.  Through the pretense of the everyday as if nothing were wrong, his silence grew to be louder than any other voice my soul could hear.  And it broke my heart.

It was an excruciating pain to know that his eyes avoided mine no matter how close we stood, that his voice would not respond to mine no matter how clearly I spoke.  I stifled my cries as it was clear they would do no good nor bring about any change.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, the silence chiseled the fragile strands of any innocent childhood belief that I was good enough to be loved.

If he had known his silence would create in me a desperation that was easily wooed by sounds of false love, he would have spoken.  I had no warning that my opposition to him would cost so very much.  His silence taught me that the consequences of mistakes in love were to be feared and that I would have to work very hard to be good.  The emptiness left by the absence of the voice I adored most was mine to bear, and I while I gained sympathy from many who knew, deep inside I believed it to be just.  I believed I deserved it.

If he had known that his silence would teach me to be a pretender, he would have spoken because he despised pretenders.  But I had learned in his silence to put on a happy face and do the things before me as if it didn’t matter that I was broken.  By the time he spoke a chasm had formed, but we never talked about that either.  And in that chasm lay the belief that the key to love was to do and say and be what someone else wanted, and to keep silent about myself for no one wants someone who is broken.

I carried all that his silence taught me into the relationships I had and into my walk with God.  It’s easy to hear the message that God is angry when it is what you expect.  It is easy to believe that God can only approve of you if you do what is right.  It is easy to believe that you do not deserve His help if you do not do exactly as He commands.  It is easy to believe that His silence means you are unworthy of His love when silence is the very thing you fear.

My desperation and resulting failure at love were the very things that brought me to real Love.  Having nowhere to run and no place to hide and my pretense in shambles, my brokenness spilled out as if a mighty dam had crumbled.  Every sob I let forth was met with Tenderness.  Every sigh of unworthiness was captured by Mercy.  Every ache of unloveliness was comforted by extravagant Love.  Every effort to “do” was quenched by what was already “done”.  I found I was truly loved.

I am on a continuing journey of learning who He really is and what His love is all about.  And sometimes love is silent.  Like when a mother just looks at her child without a word because there are no words adequate to describe the love that rages inside.  She asks nothing of the child but to let her look, to not turn away.  I have learned that God’s love is like that.

I have to purpose to rest in His times of silent love because it is still easy for me to revert back to my impossible efforts and wrong ideas that I must somehow do something to deserve His love.  Just this week I was asking Him what to do with His silence, and He simply said

“My silence speaks:  Trust me.”

And I was not afraid.

 

The silence speaks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Bible, children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, prayer, Spiritual, trials

In her shoes

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I caught her eyes several times during the service.  She struggled to listen as she was surrounded by her four children and the activity that invariably ensues when two or more children are in close proximity.  The chapel is simply the dining area with most of the tables removed and only chairs in their place.  She sat at the back with the other mothers of busy children, concerned that they were a distraction but longing to hear anything that might expose a glimmer of hope.

Their faces are like open doors giving a glimpse into their hearts.  I can see some are simply there because it is a place to rest in the air conditioning, a break from the routines of responsibilities they don’t want to do in a place they don’t want to be.  They are disinterestedly polite.  Some smile and nod in agreement as my words confirm what they already know.  Others are so tired from the physical and emotional demands of the day that they nod in a different fashion.  Anger and frustration burn in the eyes of a few as there is no longer a pretense that they are fine even when they come to church.  Especially when they come to church.

She was the farthest from me but it’s as if I can see in her face a silent plea. “I’m hungry!  Feed me something that will last until tomorrow!  Give me more than empty platitudes and churchy phrases!  Please make it real.”  Across the room expressions without words reveal she is not alone in her desire.

Does she know that I see her?  Does she see in my eyes that she matters?  As I look from face to face I pray that the women who sit before me know they are seen.  I haven’t walked in their shoes on the paths they have traveled, but I see these, my fellow Egypt-wanderers.  I have no stones to throw.  We’ve traveled paths we never planned and feared we would never find our way home.  We’ve found our feet unable to move through the muck and mire of our own selfish choices.  We’ve fallen under the burden of someone else’s choices.  We’ve choked in the grips of trouble, desperate to believe there is more than this.  More to life than the struggle.  More to church than a list of do’s and don’ts and the fear of going to hell.  More to God than children’s stories and greeting card verses.

Can she hear me?  Can she fathom the depths of the Love offered her this night?  Can she imagine a life of freedom purchased through Grace where no condemnation speaks?  Can she believe the stirring in her soul is His voice compelling her to come to Him just as she is, loved and accepted?  Can she find the Hope that is her future?

I watch as she walks toward me.  She is tall and beautiful and tired and ready.  Ready to reach out to a stranger who has not walked in her shoes but will take her hand and perhaps point her toward the way out of Egypt.  We pray and hug.  She takes a bible.  There is so much I want to say but there is no time.  We smile and say goodbye.  We will probably never meet again.

God, take me to a place in prayer for her where there is no hint of opinion or judgement, no arrogance that thinks I know what she needs, no pride that considers myself any different as you have delivered me out of my own Egypt-wandering.  Remind me as I pray that I haven’t walked in her shoes.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. 

Psalm 81:10

In her shoes” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

children, Christian, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, grief, loss, love

My Father’s Day outing

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Father’s Day I went to the cemetery.  I hadn’t been since the funeral and would not have thought to go on that particular day if my sister had not asked.  She and my brother were taking my mom and asked if I wanted to go.  So I did.

On the drive out to my mom’s it occurred to me that people usually take flowers or something decorative when visiting a cemetery.  The thought of me taking flowers to my father actually amused me, as he would think that ridiculous.  A watermelon would have been more to his liking but I suspected that others who may visit the nearby graves in the following days would not appreciate a rotting melon in the Texas heat.  So I took nothing.

I wondered how I would feel when we got there.  Emotions have always been difficult for me.  Not so much in that emotions are difficult to handle, but rather the fact that I don’t experience a lot of emotion that frequently.  I have often found myself feeling simply indifferent in situations where others were overflowing with emotion.  Awkward.  I’ve many times attempted to feign the appropriate emotion for the circumstances of the moment.  Even more awkward.  Having never been able to hide my feelings well, when there’s nothing there it comes across through the blank stare, and this just seems downright rude to those who are expecting a response.

This was the first time I had seen his headstone and it suits him.  It is plain and simple as he cared nothing about aesthetics; it serves the practical purpose of indicating his name, the span of his life, and the fact that this is where his body was buried.  I stood there for a few moments waiting for even a small hint of the emotions that others seem to experience at times like these.  Nothing.  No particular memories came to mind, no stirrings of grief or love that were any different from any other day.   Daddy wasn’t big on a lot of emotion anyways.  His bones lay buried but I know he is not there, so this visitation seems a bit contrived to me.  I imagined that  he was watching us from heaven and saying “Go home!”, an image that made me smile and that only those who knew him will understand.

My mom educated us on how it came about that these were the burial plots selected for them and the relationship of my dad to a few who were buried near.  Our conversations were all concerning matters of fact, which worked really well for me.  I’m better with facts than emotion.  I loved my father very much.  A love that was a fact and most certainly an emotion, but an emotion that was more just known than openly expressed.  It worked for me and him this way.

For many years I believed I was incomplete, that something terribly important was missing from my character in my inability to feel what others feel and my incompetence in expressing the things that I did feel.   Some things can be learned and I have developed over the years, becoming a better, more compassionate listener and communicator.  I said better meaning better than before, not necessarily great.  But some things cannot be learned.  You either have them or you don’t.  The times that I have met the emotional needs of another are the times that God has intervened to equip me with a supernatural ability for the moment.  And I am always so grateful.

So this visit to the cemetery had me thinking more of myself than my dad…one more thing that seemed inappropriate.  But if there was anything in this life that my daddy wanted for his children it was that they be confident in who they are.  My battle for self-acceptance was a hard-won victory, one that he got to see before he left this life and I knew he was proud, even if he struggled to express it.

I left the cemetery assured once again that I am who I am because of God’s wonderful grace and that my dad most certainly had a happy day watching us talk and laugh and love.