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The End

 

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The End.  Two words that say “It’s over.  There is no more to this”.  Two words that have caused me to mourn for something beautiful that was lost, even if its beauty existed only in my imagination.  Two words that could make me feel like a complete failure if the ending was not what I had in mind.  Two words that could throw me into panicked attempts to revive what once was, even if it was bad for me.   Two words that would provoke others to ask questions I had no answers for.  Two words I dreaded to hear even when I was the one who spoke them.

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Beauty for ashes.  By faith I envisioned the wonderful life He had planned for me, one that I couldn’t possibly make a complete mess of.  A plan for something beautiful where fear of The End could not steal my love and my peace.  The scriptures told me it was there for me, this life of beauty instead of ashes, but when The End would come and I had no glimpse of the new beginning I did what I had always done.

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Fear distorting my vision and direction, I would take matters into my own hands and choose my own new beginning.  I never planned for it to go badly, who would do that??  And since I was confessing my belief in God’s good plans for me and what looked so perfect for me presented itself so quickly, surely it was from Him…surely it would be right…surely I could make it work this time and it would protect me from my greatest fear – that there was nothing for me at The End and I would have to face the profound emptiness of the unloved.

But it seemed always to return.  The End.  Again.  Finally, I was just too weary to fight it.  And just as I had feared, there was no glimpse of a new beginning when I reached The End.  But I fell into the emptiness of the unloved only to discover that I was extravagantly loved!  It was only in the emptiness that He had room to fill me with the very thing I had longed for – true Love.  It was only in this time between what was and what would be that I would find healing.  This Love became The End, not of itself, but of what had plagued me for as long as I could remember – the fear that I was unworthy of love.

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“…the Lord earnestly waits – expecting, looking, and longing – to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you…Blessed are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him – for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”    Isaiah 30:18

He is waiting for us to be empty of everything else, so that we can be truly filled.

Don’t be scared.  In His hands, The End is just The Beginning.

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

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She just doesn’t know it yet

He’s been watching her all her life.  He’s whispered to her time and time again but she didn’t hear.  He yearns to hold her and comfort her as she struggles.  It’s going to be all right, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She trembles with the fear of the unknown as her circumstances have stripped her of her identity.  She is strong, she just doesn’t know it yet.

The love that had been her foundation has been ripped away.  She yields to the new identity that presses in on her:  the unlovable.  She is immeasurably loved, she just doesn’t know it yet.

This roller coaster ride of choices makes her sick.  She hates herself because of her weakness.  His opinion of her remains unchanged, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Loneliness is her constant companion as no one wants on this ride with her.  She is not alone, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She goes through the motions of living while she entertains the thoughts of ending it all.  Her earthly life has eternal purpose, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Defeat hangs over her like a thick black cloud as she cannot go back and change the past.  Her knees buckle under the weight of the consequences.  She is redeemed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She grasps to find hope in the words she reads and the messages she hears, but it seems she is grasping at air.  She is full of hope, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Her tears are constant from the pain of this deep, gaping wound from which she believes she will never recover.  She is healed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She heard the words again today.  The same words she’s heard over and over, but this time something is different.  Can it really be true?  He loves her?  Something stirs inside her as she considers this possibility…something life-changing…

Her life is changing, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

She just doesn’t know it yet” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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Alterations

It’s day number three without restful sleep and I am tired.  Let’s add to it that some of the work that must be completed today is tedious.  Very tedious.  I been given several garments to alter.  Many days I delightfully approach my work as a seamstress with fresh, new fabric stretched out just waiting to be transformed into something beautiful.  Creativity flows and I am in control of exactly how the garment will turn out.  Not so much with alterations.  (You would be surprised at the mess that can be hidden in the construction of some clothing.)  I must take something that someone else has created, rip it apart, re-cut or reshape, and then piece it back together so that it will fit properly and hopefully look as if it was originally made that way, not repaired.

I’m off to a slow start as you may have guessed since I am sitting at the computer rather than the sewing machine.  I am taking this break after only minutes of work because I am already frustrated. First, there is the chain stitching that should be a simple “pull the thread and the entire seam will be undone” which is not cooperating.  This leaves me literally ripping the seam one very small stitch after another.  I finally get the triple, yes TRIPLE, chain-stitched seam undone only to discover that the fabric within the double-folded, triple-stitched seam has also been glued.  Great.  The pulling apart of the two pieces of glued fabric isn’t going smoothly either.  I’ve hit several places where the glue absolutely refuses to let go and there is no way to part the two pieces of fabric without ripping or cutting both pieces.  It’s going to be a long day so before I ruin what I am trying to make beautiful, I needed to step back, take a breather, and renew my mind about what must be done.

I realized that my frustration stemmed from not only the stubborn seams and fatigue, but also the nagging concerns about a certain relationship that is difficult. We often foolishly think that just because something new is born, whether it is very literally a new baby or the birth of a new relationship, that we are in easy control of how it will all turn out. We have high hopes and grand dreams, believing that love is enough to make it work.  And love most certainly must be the foundation to ensure the relationship will not be destroyed.  But love without action isn’t real love at all and the business of relationships can at times be very challenging, frustrating, and tedious work.  There is often the ripping away of wrong attitudes and the cutting away of bad habits.  The undoing of harsh words requires humility and a lot of time.  Exposing what is underneath may reveal a big mess.  We can choose to leave the mess alone and hidden from those who only see the surface and the relationship will remain ill-fitted and uncomfortable. We can pretend the mess doesn’t really matter as long as things look good on the outside, imagining no one will notice that it doesn’t fit right.  Or we can give it the proper time and effort combined with a willingness to persevere through the frustrations that will arise in this often slow process, so the pieces can be re-cut, reshaped and put back together, fitted rightly.  And from time-to-time, we just need to step back, take a breather, and renew our minds about what we are really fighting for – something different that what we have, something worth all the trouble, something made more beautiful.

My heart aches for those I know and love who are struggling in difficult relationships.  So as I return to the tedious work before me and the other things to be done, I will pray for them as I rip stitches and take care of business.  I will ask that God help them endure the ripping and tearing and cutting that still must be done to get that right fit.  Altered at the altar and restored to better than before, remembering…

…all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself – received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself – and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation…             2 Corinthians 5:18

 

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

 

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Separation anxiety

Year after year family photographs were captured, always with one family member absent as someone had to operate the camera.  The boys were attired in their once-a-year suits and ties.  We girls had new dresses and white shoes which embarrassed me as my spindly legs made it appear as if I had unusually large feet at the ends of them.  We were dressed up to go to church for Easter services.  We regularly attended Sunday service, so the only difference on this particular day is that we would be especially dressed and it would be more difficult to sit on our right-side, third-row-from-the-front pew if we did not arrive earlier than usual because many more people would attend this day.  The pre-service preparations involved the same flurry of activities as every other Sunday morning – the search for lost shoes and belts, the efforts to keep children clothed and still without spills or stains, and the prayer that one particular child would not get carsick on the way.  It’s a wonder my mother ever was able to relax and worship once she entered the sanctuary doors.

While we did not attend a church rich in liturgical traditions, we were taught the true meaning of Easter and what the Lord’s Supper represented.  The colored eggs and plastic grass in baskets and races to collect the greatest numbers did not detract from what I knew, even as a child, to be true.  Jesus died for my sin.  I placed my faith in Him early and throughout my struggles and challenges with life itself, this was and is the unwavering platform on which my feet remain firmly planted.  And yet, I missed a critical truth even as every year we heard the messages of His death and resurrection and the hope and victory that this act secured for us.

It is finished.

Sin is conquered, death is defeated, the veil that once separated man from God has been removed giving free and unlimited access to Almighty God to all who will enter in.  He sent His Spirit to indwell the imperfect people who would say yes to this, His invitation.  He promised to never leave us or forsake us.

So in the process of the spiritual housecleaning that I’ve done over the last few years I’ve picked up and put down a particular piece that for a while I could not determine if it fit in this temple that is me.  It is the idea that “sin separates us from God.” I’ve heard this throughout my life, continue to hear it frequently, and have been one to have said it as well.

Sin separates us from God.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  It must be true.  It was true before we came to accept this magnificent sacrifice. But as I’ve studied more deeply what Jesus said and did, I cannot find a place for this.

If Jesus paid the penalty for sin – ALL sin – how can my sin change my position with God?  How can God move away from me if He promised to indwell me and to never leave or forsake me?  Was the veil torn down only to be put up again and torn down again and put up again…?

It is finished.

Three beautiful words that cannot be reconciled with the idea that my sin brings back the veil.  Does my sin matter?  Yes.  The call to repentance remains the same, but not because it is the only way to gain access to the Father again.  We are to repent – to change our minds about sin – in order that we can live fully in the forgiveness purchased for us.  We repent so that we can receive the fullness of the blessings offered us as His children in this lifetime and beyond, to have a right mind and a soul that is free from the burdens that sin will most surely heap upon us, and to enjoy the peace that comes with a heart ready to do His will.

I have lived with a great deal of separation anxiety because of this misunderstanding, when all the while He was right there with me.  I’ve lived in fear of His absence as there were no more sorrowful words on the day of His death than “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  It was agony for Jesus to be separated from His Father.  But it was an agony He endured so that we would not have to.  He is with us, faithfully leading us in the ways of righteousness, correcting – not condemning – us when we sin.  He knew we would.  Yet He has chosen a position of unfathomable mercy and extravagant love that will abide – make a permanent home – in all who will allow it.

It is finished.  This is the truth.  This is the truth that sets us free.  Free indeed!

 

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

 

 

 

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A scarred life

I love how little boys are proud of their scars.   Oh, wait, it’s not just when they are little…many little boys grown into men are still proud of their scars.  It’s not unusual for them to offer up the story behind a scar, details of their exploits proudly woven into the retelling of the time they were wounded.  The marks on their bodies remain a kind of badge of courage no matter the size, even those that have faded with time.  The scars are a visible reminder of where they have been and what they have done and how they have survived, a beautiful (in a manly kind of way) something to be proud of.

I suppose it is our western cultural perception of beauty that teaches girls very early in life that scars are ugly.   We see them as imperfections that must be perfected if possible and hidden if not.  They carry the same kind of stories of childhood exploits or adult experiences, but we do not see them as a part of our beauty that we can be proud of.

It is a rare individual who bears no scars.  Life has a way of leaving its mark on us.  Sometimes the scars are the result of our own foolish ways or sinful choices and sometimes it is another’s choices or sin that has left us wounded and marked.  Either way, we are not proud.  Shame and embarrassment prompt us to keep our scars covered and our secrets hidden because they are ugly reminders of where we have been and what we have done and what has been done to us, nevermind the fact that we survived.

There was a time in my life when I was one of the walking wounded.  Not realizing how deep my own wounds were, I was living in turmoil and this had a direct and greatly negative effect on the two young babies I had – I was wounding them.  Afraid to tell anyone of this ugliness, I struggled in my misery until I just could not bear it any longer.  I chose a well-respected woman in our church upon which I would bare my soul in the hopes of finding healing.  I arrived at her home nervous and very afraid – the idea of being so open and vulnerable was literally making me shake – what if she judged me? condemned me for my thoughts and actions?  What if I would be labeled an outcast, no longer welcome in our ladies group?  What if God could never use me because of my mistakes?

God in His sovereignty and goodness and mercy led this woman to begin the conversation.  My discomfort was evident, so as she served me a glass of water and something to eat and without knowing the reason for my pain, she began to share what her life was like when her children were small.  In an easy and unashamed way, she told me of the struggles she had as a young mother – the exact same problems I was dealing with.  I will never forget the blanket of love that I felt had just been lain over me as I began to weep in relief.  This woman told me her story as she revealed her scars and they were beautiful to me.  She bore these scars as a great woman of God and it gave me hope.  She gently and boldly prayed over me that day and I was never the same.

I was reminded in study this week of what James wrote to the church…

Confess to one another therefore your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins – and pray also for one another, that you may be healed and restored to a spiritual tone of mind and heart…    James 5:16a

Many that are hurting and struggling need to see our scars.  They need to know that scars do not disqualify us from experiencing the greater things of God.  They need to hear our stories and know that viewed through the eyes of His Spirit, our scars are beautiful, even those that are the result of our own doing.  The wounded need to be enfolded in the love and compassion that comes from the healed as we pray for their healing and restoration.  The rest of the verse above holds a wonderful promise…

…The earnest, heartfelt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working.  James 5:16b

Tremendous, life-changing power was in the prayer of that wonderful woman who prayed over me.  Had she only listened and prayed for my situation, I still believe that it would have had a positive effect on my life over time.  But I truly believe that my healing came that day in that prayer because she spoke to me from personal experience before she prayed.  Healing came to me through her beautiful scars.

 

“A scarred life” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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

Two things

If you’ve been following the last few posts, you know that I’ve been cleaning house.  Literally and metaphorically. I’ve cleaned the mess in the corner that had been piling up, unboxed my framed photographs and hung them on the wall, and filled my Jeep to the max with things to donate to a local ministry/resale center; someone else can use the things I no longer need.  I’ve rearranged furniture and done the usual weekly household cleaning and despite the time it took and the sore muscles it produced, it feels good to have a clean house.  Things are simple again.

I shared with the ladies mentioned yesterday of a time when I was overwhelmed spiritually, frustrated that things were not going well and with all the knowledge I thought I had about God and Jesus and being a Christian, nothing seemed to be having an effect on my immediate circumstances.  There seemed to be a great chasm between all my knowledge and the application of those things in my life.  And I remember crying out to God…

What’s wrong?  I’ve been in church all my life, learned the bible stories, memorized the verses, attended the studies.  I’ve been faithful to serve.  But look at me!  My life’s a mess and somehow none of the stuff I’ve learned seems to make a difference.  I can’t seem to do any of it right any more.  It’s too much!”

Set it aside.  All that you know.”  He answered.

“What??  That can’t be right.”

I have two things I want you to do.  Can you do two things?

“But Lord, look at all the things I should be doing!  I should be studying more and praying more and teaching more and serving more and…”

Can you do two things?”  He patiently asked again.

“Yes, Lord, I can do two things.”

Number 1:  Love me.  Can you do that?

“Yes, of course, Lord!”

Number 2:  Tell others that I love them, too.  Can you do that?

With peace beginning to settle over me, I gladly answered “Yes, yes, Lord, I can do that!”

Kay, if you will do those two things, even if you never do anything else, I will welcome you in and say “Well done, My good and faithful servant*.

My heart melted with relief as I felt I fell into His arms, the heavy burden of living a good, Christian life that I was trying to carry was just made so simple that I was sure I could do it.  His mission for me had become easy and light**.  Since that time many years ago, I’ve gotten rid of some things I was taught about Him, kept some things, and accumulated more things.  My desire to know Him more is insatiable and if I’m not careful, I become over-committed and over-involved, and find myself too busy to do the basics.  However, in all of my seeking and learning, when the activity and accumulation become distractions, He gently reminds me:  “Keep it simple.  Two things.”

So if you are looking to simplify this Christian life and still know that He is pleased, love Him and tell others that He loves them, too.  Everything else can wait and will find its right place in your life.  And one day He will welcome you in, saying “Well done!”

*Matthew 25:21

**Matthew 11:30

 

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

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But why?

Any parent or grandparent vividly remembers this stage of their child’s or grandchild’s life – the incessant asking of the same question over and over and over:  “But why?”  Rarely was a simple answer sufficient for such a child.  One answer seemed only to fuel the fire to know more, even when their maturity level had not caught up with their insatiable curiosity.  Most of us reach the point of exasperation after a while and simply answer “because I said so” or “you won’t understand” or perhaps, as my husband did when his children were young, “no more questions after lunch”.  Our adult patience wears out long before we exhaust our knowledge of the matters that concern little ones.

My thoughts today piggy back those of yesterday as I clean what remains in my messy spiritual corner.  In the rummaging through various things I’ve collected, I’ve come across this notion that we should not ask God “why?”  My mind immediately goes to Isaiah 55:8…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

As God’s ways are so infinitely above our own, it must be that we can never understand.  I believe that to be true about many, many things, for we will be learning who He is and of His ways throughout all eternity.  But I also believe He is a big enough God that our questions do not frustrate and exasperate Him and that He desires to answer them even now, before heaven.  Some of the answers we may not fully understand as our maturity has not caught up with our curiosity.  But He speaks.  He answers.  He gives understanding at the right time.  Psalm 119 is replete with David’s desire to learn God’s ways and his confident expectation that God would grant his requests!

I lived many years of my life knowing that He lived in me, but in reality He was a resident stranger.  I was a child who lived in the constant presence of my Father, believing that to ask Him “why” He did or did not do anything was to insult His sovereignty, and that even if I did ask and He answered, I would not understand.  How this grieved His heart!

Jesus changed forever the relationship man could have with God.  He chose to dwell in us, not to be in hiding but to be known.  Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus his desire and prayer…

…that you may be filled through all your being unto all the fullness of God – may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself!    Ephesians 3:19b

…and to the Corinthians…

…But we have the mind of Christ and do hold the thoughts of His heart.  1 Corinthians 2:16b

He chose not only to indwell me but to make it possible for me to experience a rich measure of His presence – so that I can be wholly filled with Him!  The more I set my mind on Him, the more the more attuned I become to His voice.  I consider Him in all my ways, give Him all my efforts and He directs my thoughts to line up with His.  Then comes understanding.  I have been invited to come before Him boldly, fearlessly, and ask.  I can ask all the “why” questions I want with a great expectation that He will answer me.  And don’t have to stop at lunch time.     🙂

 

But why?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com