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There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

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When you hear my story

once-upon-a-time

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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Satisfied, wanting more

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I live in a rather large subdivision on the outskirts of the metroplex area.  It’s near a lake and an airport and an often congested roadway from which the noises occasionally invade my quiet little street.  As I sit on my balcony I can see the planes as they are in their descent toward the landing strip and hear the distant sounds of traffic.  And while I have a mostly obstructed view of the golf course that runs throughout the neighborhood, I simply position my chair so as to see the bridge over the small waterway and tune my ears to the sounds of the birds.  I do enjoy getting out in nature and for me it’s always been a method of moving closer to God.  So this will suffice.  It is what I can do today.  I need Him to speak.

Something’s been bugging me.  I’ve put it off as one of the ill-effects of erratic sleep patterns which plague me so often these days.  I have been vaguely aware of a little negativity hanging around but I’ve been busy enough to keep it at bay.  I have exciting things happening this week yet try as I might, my enthusiasm over the good has not dissolved this something that is hovering.  Time to get real.  Time to be still enough to examine what’s wrong.

We humans are such slow learners some times.  It’s not just me, is it?  As soon as I pulled away from all the other things to do and got still and quiet, He made it so clear.  I am dissatisfied.  Not in a big needing-to-make-major-changes kind of way.  I’m happily married, thoroughly pleased with my home, enjoying the work I am involved in…so what is it?  I will admit my first thoughts were those of what others should be doing.  If only the people and organizations in my life would do what I think they should do, surely then I would be satisfied.

I often proclaim through word and song and thought and prayer that Jesus is enough for me.  That God is everything I need.  Yet here I sit once again finding that I have tried to place the responsibility of my own satisfaction in the hands of another, be it a person or an organization.  Herein lies the root of my discomfort, the source of the little dark cloud that has been following me.

I am reminded again of Paul’s words “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…”.  It’s not an automatic thing this learning to be content, to be satisfied with where I am and what I have and what everyone else is doing, even if I believe they are off the mark and it affects me.  It is a discipline to which I must forcefully yield because I can’t have it both ways.  I cannot stand face-to-face with God and profess that He is ALL to me and live with dissatisfaction at my side.

I want more, no doubt about it.  I want to be taught deeper things, I want more opportunities to share what I’ve learned, I want my family to passionately follow Him, I want mercy for those who are wounded and hurting, I want freedom for those who are oppressed, I want justice for those who have been wronged, I want MORE!  How can I be content when so very much is needed, satisfied while needs go unmet, still when there is so much to do??

These questions only bring me back to where I started.  He is everything I need.  Until I believe that I can be satisfied with Him alone, I will never know how to truly be content.  This makes me a little uncomfortable in its accountability.  This removes any idea that I can place pressure, whether outwardly in word or deed or simply in my thought life, on any other person to fill any void I find in my life to the point that I will be satisfied.  My flesh squirms beneath this truth.

As clearly as I believe my discernment may be in the matters of others, my taking it to Him alone just as clearly exposes my great limitations in understanding the matters of others.  He calls me to pray and to do and say only what He tells me to do or say.  He calls me to entrust my life to Him completely.  He knows where I am.  He knows the desires of my heart toward those I love and the many who impact my life.  He knows how His gift in me causes me to feel as if I am going to burst if I do not find an outlet for it!  He knows my every need at the deepest of levels even before I am aware I am in need.

And just about the time I once again find the peace that comes with surrender, the heavy clouds that had covered the sky all morning break, revealing the beautiful blue that was just on the other side and I remember –

…and your light shall break forth like the morning…  (Isaiah 58:8)

He is enough.  I pray you breathe Him in and find this satisfaction for your soul today, too.

 

Satisfied, wanting more” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But it FEELS like…

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In the sequence of our morning activities my husband is usually the first out of bed and downstairs to turn on the coffee.  While he waits for it to brew he also turns on the morning news.  Whether I follow in a few minutes or stay snuggled in the bed for another hour, whenever I get downstairs the television is tuned to the news.  This morning as I poured my own cup the weather forecast was being shown.  A cold front has blown through and the presenter of this ever-changing information was as excited about the dropping digits as if it were something never before experienced.  Now, granted, near-30 degree temps in our neck of the woods doesn’t happen that often, but there will be no snow or ice today and her enthusiasm was a little much for those of us struggling to be enthused about anything more than that first cup of coffee.  I listened for only a few minutes before changing the channel in hopes there would be something less irritating that would aid in the process of becoming fully awake.

However, as I went through my own rituals of morning, her overly enthusiastic words “But it FEELS like…” stuck in my mind.  Her stating of the actual temperature was each time exuberantly followed by the Real Feel temperature.   At one point I asked myself “Real Feel?  Says who??” and thus began my little search:

The AccuWeather.com RealFeel® Temperature was created in the 1990s… The RealFeel Temperature is an equation that takes into account many different factors to determine how the temperature actually feels outside. It is the first temperature to take into account multiple factors to determine how hot and cold feels… Some of the components that are used in the equation are humidity, cloud cover, winds, sun intensity and angle of the sun… The equation also takes into consideration how people perceive the weather…this can be debated, since not everyone perceives weather the same way, but the equation uses the average person’s perception of weather and adds that into the RealFeel equation.   http://www.accuweather.com

As God so often does, He tied that little phrase to the thing that I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks:  Christian guilt.  My last post prompted some enlightening responses from a few readers. They were each thankful that I shared my little story and their responses included:  totally resonates with me… really needed to hear this…thank you for the encouragement in freeing me to REST without GUILT…   We just slow down a bit from our ever busy schedules which include church and prayer and giving and service because we love God…and we take a nap or read a book…but it feels like we should be doing something else, it feels like it’s wrong somehow…

What I write of today is not the bold and glaring guilt that shows up when we blatantly sin – I mean, we’re supposed to experience that guilt, right?  (We’ll get to that momentarily…)  No, this is the shadowy guilt that quietly whispers words that are more frightening to us than the loud scream of sin guilt.  This persistent companion is relentless in its finger-pointing, occasionally directed outward but most often toward the mirror.  We chase it away with our offers of worship and our acts of service.  Until we are alone. It is then we discover that it never really left, we had simply drowned its voice with the loudness of our own.  And with the realization that it didn’t leave during our offers of worship and our acts of service we accept its heavier-than-ever existence.  If this guilt had a name it would simply be Not Enough.

Your prayer was not enough.

Your offering was not enough.

Your worship was not enough.

Your service was not enough.

Your study was not enough.

Your faith is not enough.

You are not enough.

When was the last time you prayed or gave or served or studied or simply sat in the presence of the Lord that you did not walk away thinking you should have done more?  This guilt of not enough is at the core of why we can’t truly rest and we don’t allow ourselves to just “be”.  And it grieves the heart of our Father.

…God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.  Romans 5:8-9

Jesus took our guilt.  He took it so that we would not have to.  All of it.  Once and for all.  Never needing to do it again.  It was enough.  We have been acquitted – found not guilty – and to seal the deal He gave us His Spirit to:  teach us all things, help us remember what He said, guide us into truth, empower us to be His witnesses, to be our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.

Never once does the scripture say that the Holy Spirit will find us guilty.  He gently exposes our sin and compels us to repent – to change our minds.  This is an act of love not anger!!  So…why do we feel guilty?  Because we have not fully believed that we have been made completely acceptable to God.  Right now.  Just as we are.  With fresh wounds and old scars, with things that we’ve already done and things still to do, with our failures and our successes, our weaknesses and our strengths, our humanity and our new nature.

One of the definitions of guilt is:  feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

Imagined offenses.  We imagine that God is offended by all our “not enoughs” and that we are guilty.  These imagined offenses are like the RealFeel temperature (you thought I’d totally lost that train of thought, didn’t you?).  The real temperature, the actual comparative measure of hot and cold, is a fact. When I took that screenshot the temperature outside was 42 degrees.  Yet if we go by the RealFeel number, to many – the average people (which evidently does not include the vast population of women of a certain age who are sitting with windows open today) – it would feel like 35 degrees.  But RealFeel is also based in perception and how they felt did not change the fact that it was 42 degrees.

The fact is that God has made us acceptable to Him.  He pre-planned to keep us in His never-ending favor through what Jesus would do!!  His Spirit will lead us and guide us and teach us and this leading and guiding and teaching will always be more about what He has done for us than what we will ever do for Him.  Once we begin to set our minds on the fact of redemption rather than how we feel, we will find rest for our souls and the ease to just “be” and guilt will have no place. Ahhhhh…..     🙂

 

But it FEELS like…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

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On being spiritual

sleeping

After a week of serious focus on a project that required all my physical and mental energies to complete, I am exhausted.  I drug myself out of bed this morning praying that the coffee would have extraordinary power over the aching weariness my body was experiencing and fill me with enough umph to make it through the lesson I had for my ladies.  I read over the scriptures and my notes several times before my brain decided to participate.  But once my mind was on track and my spirit motivated, my body picked up the pace a bit and I made it to church ready to share what He had placed on my heart.

My friend entered the room as I was waiting for another cup of coffee to be ready and making notes on the whiteboard.  She has been struggling with some health issues and it quickly became apparent that we were both weary.  I told her that I could stretch out on the floor right then and go sound asleep; she said she could join me.  We both refrained from giving in to this temptation, but wouldn’t that have been a sight when the pastor made his stop by to say hello!!

There is a God-energy that always surprises and delights me as it takes over when I stand to teach or speak to a crowd.  In those minutes it’s like an out-of-the-body experience in that I am no longer conscious of how I physically feel.  I love how He does this. This morning I taught the lesson which just made me more excited about the lessons that will follow, and my only disappointment was that the time was too short – I could have taught for hours.  But as soon as we dismissed, all I could think about was getting back to my bed!  I stayed for the worship service but must admit that God did not get my best.  He barely got my attention at all as what little remaining focus I had was fixed on preventing my head from bobbing in slumber.  Seriously, I could not get home fast enough once the service was over.

I’ve re-committed my Sundays to be a day of rest.  I know my body needs it and my soul is desperate for it.  I want to give Him time to renew and refresh and restore me.  I want to hear Him more clearly and see life through His eyes.  I want to study His word.  Really study, not just the quick, encouraging devotional reading, but the digging in with my questions and fears and doubts, journal at hand to record the things that will change my life.  I want this time to be truly spiritual.

But after the nap today that was both necessary and totally unavoidable, I just felt numb.  You know that place in-between being asleep and awake?  That.  I couldn’t shake it.  I tried to listen to a teaching video, but didn’t hear half of what was said. Pen in hand, I tried to conjure meaningful prose but the only thing that came to mind was “I got nothing.”  I picked up a book that I am purposefully reading slowly so as not to miss its many messages and I read and reread the same pages more than a few times.  It was not feeling very spiritual.

The guys were gone so I had the house to myself, everything still and quiet.  I went downstairs to refill my water glass and wondered if they had taken the dog with them on their adventures for the day.  Just about the time that thought crossed my mind I heard CJ on the back porch.  I felt no inclination to engage with him at the time so as soon as I got my water I retreated once again to the comfort of my bed, having closed the bedroom door behind me.  A few minutes after I had nestled under the covers, I heard CJ run up the stairs.  I knew he didn’t need anything but I decided to open the door and let him in.  He literally jumped with excitement.  I pet him briefly before, again, crawling back to bed. He wagged his tail as he watched me and as soon as I was settled in he ran back down the stairs and outside.  It was then that I realized he thought he had been home alone.  His excitement upon seeing me was not because he needed or wanted anything, but just the delight he experienced upon discovering that he was not alone. Then he was off to do whatever it is that dogs do when no one is watching.

My sister wrote this a couple of years ago and today it came back to my mind as it has many times:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is simply be.  Be in His presence, asking nothing, requiring nothing, perhaps even expecting nothing.  Allowing the fact that we are not alone to be our delight as we do whatever it is we humans do when no one is watching.

Today it was as if He simply said to me “I’m here.”  When I heard that, I pulled the covers up, closed my eyes, and very spiritually nodded off once again.

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Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  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 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

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

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia

 

 

 

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2015: Wrapping it up

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While I didn’t actually wrap any presents this year, I really like wrapping presents.  I like the neatness of rolled paper (never folded), straight cuts, exact folds, and of course, invisible tape.  It appeals to my ocds and I experience a great deal of satisfaction in the effort, even in the challenge of the oddly shaped items (which if at all possible will be placed in a box).  I like the idea of a gift presented in a box covered with beautiful paper and a bow.  It’s just so….neat.

While this was the most unChristmasy Christmas I’ve ever had, there were still moments of concentrated busy-ness with a few preparations.  We love Jesus.  Really we do.  We just don’t make a big deal out of the season in the sense of decorating and gift-giving.  (This takes a lot of pressure off, but comes across as a bit Scrooge-ish to many.)  We gather with family for a meal, enjoy a game or two and the conversations and laughter, and if the little ones are with us we watch as they excitedly open their gifts. It’s a simple celebration that suits me fine.

As does the gift bag.  It’s simple and easy and requires very little effort.  It’s supposed to have creases and folds because that’s what makes it a bag, and therefore, acceptable in appearance.  It comes in many sizes and colors, does not need a bow (one less thing), and the gift within is hidden from view by tissue paper stuffed in the top which is intentionally messy.  I don’t know who came up with the idea that messy is how something is supposed to look, but thank you.  I can do neat, but let’s face it, messy is much quicker and easier and seems to come much more naturally.

It’s time to wrap up another year and honestly, it’s been a weird year for me.  Not bad, just different. It’s been uncomfortable in that it seemed to have many a wrinkle that I’d rather not have been there. The corners are still crooked and the end seems unfinished.  The invisible tape that is not really invisible at all simply shows my limited ability to hold some things together so that it will look acceptable to others. It seems I am still tempted to force an oddly shaped life into a standard box.  Somewhere along the line I believed the message that our boxes may differ in size, weight, and contents but they should still look like a box.  It was easy to convince me that the standard is a box because that appeals to my nature. Neat.

But life is rarely neat.  It’s more like the gift bag.  Creases are a part of it.  It comes in many different shapes and sizes and colors and designs and the treasure within is often hidden by something that actually looks pretty messy.  It’s challenging to accept messy in our lives because we feel compelled to fix it and make it look neat because surely that’s how it’s supposed to look.   No doubt there are things we need to fix.  But there are so many things that make our lives feel messy that we simply cannot fix. Our lives have been altered by many a decision and event, good ones and bad ones, and we are left with something that we didn’t expect, some good and some bad.

This year some of us had an empty seat at the table, a seat that will never again be filled.  Some of us had family that were not present in our lives because of hurt or anger or addiction.  Some of us were fighting just to survive, to keep our heads above water.  Some of us questioned our faith and felt as if the waves of doubt would overtake us.  Some of us had difficulties behind closed doors that no one knows about.  Some of us were alone.  Really alone.  Some of us had broken promises and shattered dreams and deep disappointments and unanswered prayers.  And most of us are finishing this year with things in our lives that remain messy, things we cannot fix and make neat.

This is exactly why Jesus came.  He knew that no matter how hard we tried to be good and make our lives neat and presentable, we would still be messy.  He sees the treasure within, He sees us for who we really are and loves us all the more.  He delightedly accepts the offering of our messy lives because just like the gift bag they are reusable.  He can still do something with them.

God has been with me all year.  He never left or wavered in His love and attention toward me.  But it is apparent that I will enter the new year with some things that haven’t changed, things that are still messy. I was thinking again this morning of the serenity prayer and that this is exactly what I need to pray, especially the first phrase, as I begin a new year:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Through Grace accepting with serenity – utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude – the things I cannot change.  My messy life is His to do with whatever He will because when He looks at me He sees what Jesus has done and it is perfectly acceptable to Him.

I pray that you will join me as we enter a new year embracing the lives that we have, full of confident hope that God is working, even in the mess.  Be blessed.

2015:  Wrapping it up” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com