Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, Jesus, love, praise, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized

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

 

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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

 

 

 

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That was me

We sat around the lunch table, a group of volunteer workers of which I had the title of leader.  We were a good fit as a team and were enjoying our time together.  Conversation covered a range of topics and on this particular day we had been presented a situation that none of us were quite sure how to handle.  We discussed the seriousness of it and made several suggestions on how best to deal with it.  Then comments turned toward one who was involved.  Surely they know better.  Why would they do that?   That’s just not right.  

I sat silent as I wondered what these women would say if they knew that was me.  Oh, the circumstances were different and it was long before I had met my current cohorts, but the actions of this one talked about mirrored my own at a very difficult point in my life.  If they knew this about me would they deem me unworthy to sit with them, work with them, be a leader?  Could they understand the choices a damaged soul makes in a panicked effort to find healing?  It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there.

All I could say was “When you’re really messed up you don’t know how messed up you are.”

It’s very much like someone who knows they are sick but they think it to be only a really bad cold.  They struggle with the symptoms and employ every effort to heal themselves.  Scattered among the days they feel like death warmed over, there are the good days when they feel fine.  This surely must be an indication they are healing.  They let this drag on and on until finally they surrender and go for help only to discover that what they have is not a cold but rather a very serious case of pneumonia.  The treatments needed are significantly different from those for a common cold, possibly even hospitalization, and without the help of the physician this one who is sick would continue in their misdiagnosis and all the wrong treatments, frustrated that they could not find relief.  That was me.

My mind moved from thoughts of this one in the midst of trouble to the women who sat with me sharing their opinions and implied judgement.  Before life took me through some serious trials, I was one quick to judge and quick to lack compassion when the faults of others were so clearly evident to me.  I was one weighing sin as if mine were somehow more acceptable to God than the sins of others.  I was one discussing the error of their ways, feigning concern but really just gossiping.  But I had no judgement for those who shared my table because it wasn’t that long ago when that was me.

There was a day years ago when I raged and hurled my accusations toward God until I was spent, then crumpled into sobs that poured out the weariness of my damaged heart.  The realization that all the years of trying to heal myself had only made things worse weighed heavy on me.  I was empty and alone, broken and defeated.  It wasn’t easy to admit how spiritually sick I was, but it was here that I found Healing.   The process of heart-repair seemed to move at a snail’s pace, God being unwilling to rush despite my pleas.  But in yielding to His work the good days slowly began to outnumber the bad and I began to experience the mercy and grace I had always heard about but never really understood.  That was me.

The scars in our lives should remind us that those we see who appear so messed up probably don’t know just how messed up they are.  Our opinions and judgments are simply more of the wrong kind of treatments for what ails them and will never assist their healing.  Having experienced ourselves the lovingkindness, the longsuffering, the mercy, and the grace of our amazing God that worked healing in our lives, how can we withhold it from every other who is sick from sin??  We are called to be the vessels containing the nature and character of God, vessels that pour that very nature of love and compassion on all.  This is you.  This is me. This is who we are. 

 

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

 

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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

 

 

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What would I do?

Videos weren’t videos back in the day; they were reel-to-reel films.  We welcomed the sight of the cumbersome projector in the classroom for it meant a break from the normal routines of our studies.  The films used for Social Studies and Geography classes were my favorites.  Real life movies that gave us glimpses into other parts of the world, a world so far away and different from the small country town that held our school.  Films that gave greater meaning to the words and pictures on the pages of our books.  Films that opened our minds to imagine what it would be like to travel and experience a different kind of life.

There was, however, a down side to this exposure.  At least there was for me.  Along with the unveiling of different cultures and lifestyles, the films often included the difficulties of those living in harsh climates and barren lands and places with limited or no medical assistance.  We saw images of those who had succumbed to sicknesses and diseases for which there were no cures.  Much to my horror, I learned of Elephantitis. Elephantitis is actually a symptom of various diseases which causes body parts to swell to massive proportions, but having heard the word and seen the images, it became to me a most feared disease.  And while I hated the spindly appendages on my body called legs, embarrassed that my ankles were so thin they didn’t stretch out the wrinkles in the cheap, crumpled pantyhose occasionally purchased for me, I could think of nothing worse that having elephantitis.  I silently added this to my rapidly growing list of fears.

Moving from elementary to junior high (now referred to as middle school) the use of educational films continued with the addition of those designed to prevent us from doing drugs.  We saw films filled with needles and pills, strobe lights, swirling colors, and strange music that was supposed to represent the hallucinogenic effects of dangerous drugs.  I cannot tell you whether or not this display was accurate as the films had the desired effect on me – they made me terribly afraid of drugs and the prospects of going to jail (new additions to the aforementioned list).

The use of this type of visual teaching aid was not limited to the public school system; from time to time they were tools of the church:

A lone Christian behind bars, his head in his hands as he sits and awaits his fate.  He’s been captured by those who oppose his beliefs and it is time to choose.  Stand or surrender.  Choose to die rather than live.  That is what he will be asked to do in a matter of days or hours.  Is his faith strong enough?  Will he renounce Christ in order to live?  What would you do?

I remember nothing else from that particular film other than this brief scene.  Permanently embedded in my mental photo album, this image was cause for great concern over many years.  What would I do?  Not mature enough to understand what God would require of me as a child, I feared the end of days would find me a coward.  The last word I would have used to describe myself at that time was brave.  I was the farthest thing from courageous that you could find.  This tortured my soul as I so wanted to please God, but was sure that I would buckle under the pressure of being thrown in jail and my life threatened.  This fear became a biggie on my list.

Looking back, I realize that this may not have been the wisest choice the Sunday School teachers could have made.  I personally would not recommend this as a teaching method for our children.  However, now that I am older and wiser, secure in my faith and confident in His ability to help me, it’s not a bad question:  What would I do?

This morning there are over 200 Christians that have recently been captured by those who oppose their beliefs, and that’s just the latest report from one country.  There are many, many more scattered across this globe.  Brothers and sisters that awaken today not knowing if they will ever see their families again, not knowing if they will be one of those chosen for the next horrific video that will be shown around the world.  As I read the report from the comfort and safety of my home, I wondered “What would I do?”

What would you do?  It’s not a bad question and it’s ok to answer “I don’t know.”  But let’s allow the question to provoke us not to fear, but to pray for those who are afraid.  To be fervent and diligent to remember them and their families that they will be strong and that their faith not fail.  To pray that they will experience His presence in a profound and powerful way today.  And to pray for those of us who live in comfort and safety that we will keep a right perspective on what is truly important.

So maybe the better question for us today is “What will we do?”

…unite with me in earnest wrestling in prayer to God…  Romans 15:30

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:10

 

What will I do?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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Nothing prepares the heart…

Stinnetfinal2

…for this kind of love or this kind of loss…

there was a time i was afraid i would not love them enough

these beautiful souls He had entrusted to me

then discovered it was a wellspring that could not be stopped

depths that could not be spoken and

bonds that could not be broken

by the mere limitations of this earth

i celebrate this love we share

i hold tightly the memories

and the wonderful hope that one day we will all be together again

in His love

in His presence

forever

“Nothing prepares the heart…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on ourpassionatepurpose.com   

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and Andi Campbell and cannot be used without permission.

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When the tears will not be stopped

For the better part of my life I have been a closet-crier.  Tears did not come often but when they did I hid them.  Whether they were tears of sadness, anger, or frustration, as a child I lacked the ability to clearly communicate why I was crying and in our home tears for no good reason were tears that should be stopped. I became very good at stopping this unwanted watery overflow.  Through the years I prided myself in my ability to withstand this messy display of emotion, seeing myself as a rock of self-control.  So when the dam gave way without warning, I was caught quite off guard.  I found my previously strong will was no match for this deluge that had broken through, years of suppressed emotion flooding my life.

This most unwelcome event happened at the lowest point in my life.  Angry, sad, and depressed at the bleakness of my circumstances, the tears poured forth without mercy and I no longer had any resistance.  My only consolation was that I was alone.  No one saw the red nose and puffy eyes day after day, no one was privy to the anguish of my soul as I stayed hidden from the world.  I cried more than I believed humanly possible and I hated it.

Much occurred between me and God during this time.  In His goodness He drew me close, renewed by faith, and restored my hope.  But He left my heart more tender than it had ever been and He didn’t stop the tears.

I cry so easily now.  I won’t say that I always welcome the tears and I can’t say that I am entirely comfortable when they fill my eyes and run down my face in the presence of others.  But I have learned to yield to a heart made tender through difficulties and know that I am powerless to resist these tears that will not be stopped.  They give expression to things within that cannot adequately be described in mere words. They offer release from pain that would consume me were there no outlet.  They express the depths of the love I hold and the joy that rises from within.  They remind me of my desperate need of Him.  They usher in the Comforter and the Healer.

Sometimes they offer another a safe place to let their own tears flow with no need for explanation.

It is a difficult time of year for me and I cried as I stood at the counter of a store today.  I didn’t apologize as I would have in the past, worried that I had made someone uncomfortable and couldn’t offer them an explanation.  I simply reached for my tissues and continued with my purchase.  As I finalized the transaction, I saw from the corner of my eye that the gentleman waiting on me was wiping a tear from his own.  An uninvited, compassionate response of a stranger that will not soon be forgotten and which reminded me that we humans need tears when there are no words.