Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, peace, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, trials

I have quieted my soul

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I knew before I left the house that the route to my destination would most assuredly include miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic before I reached the other side of Houston.  I set my mind to enjoy my trip no matter what and made sure to leave the house early enough to avoid the late afternoon rush hour.  I must admit there were moments which threatened my deliberate peace, but I was strong and resisted with my mantra “it doesn’t matter….you have plenty of time…enjoy the journey…”  I was prepared for the trip – I knew where I was going, had adequate fuel, snacks and water.  It’s easy to enjoy the journey when you are prepared.

I had been anticipating the retreat for months and with every mile that drew me closer, I could feel the pressures of the every day falling away.  As I drove onto the grounds of my destination an even stronger sense of quiet washed over me.  The kind of peace that you can drink in with every breath. Surrounding stillness that felt as if it were an alternate universe where tight muscles and tense nerves do not exist. Beauty of nature that softly beckons to let go of everything else and simply take it in.  A setting that clearly whispers be still and know that I am God.

I happily unpacked my things in the quaint, cozy room where I would spend the weekend.  There was plenty of time to get settled in and relax before the evening’s events.  I scanned my emails and messages to be sure that nothing important was left without a response and took a moment to review the latest social media posts.  It was there I learned of the attacks in Paris.  I quickly searched the web for more details as the sense of impending doom was knocking at my door.  This is our world and the inability to be prepared for these kinds of horrific acts strikes fear in our hearts.  The threats are bold and fierce and very real and we are at a loss as to what to do.

I gathered the initial facts and put down my phone.  Seeking Him quickly is the only way to turn away the fear of impending doom.  I offered up a familiar prayer of “God, I don’t even know what to pray!”  In times past, that would be the end of a quick “God help them.  God be with them.” prayer, but I have since learned to be still and literally ask God “What do You want me to pray?”  It is not hard to understand and pray for the immediate need for safety and comfort and protection for those who remain in the wake of the horror.  But somehow it still seems lacking.

In this great mystery that is prayer, God, who knows what we need before we ask, has chosen to involve us in a supernatural process.  The more I’ve grown closer to Him and the more I’ve sought understanding, the more it has become evident that I really don’t know very much.  Perhaps He will give me deeper understanding of why He involves us in the process.  Or maybe He won’t.  But He is teaching me more and more how to pray and that with or without understanding, He requires obedience.  If the bible is true and He is God and He knows everything and I cannot do anything (eternal) without Him, then it is very clear that I must learn from Him what to pray.

We can spend much time in worrying and fretting.  We can scream our opinions and blame our politicians, publicly shaming them for what we perceive as their lack of action to keep us safe.  We can cry and moan and fear for our lives, and spread the fear to those around us.  We can beg and plead with God to do something!!  But is that really who we are?  Is that what we are called to??

We must learn to quiet our souls.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me.  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me – ceased from fretting.  O Isreal, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.  Psalm 131

Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give and bequeath to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.  John 14:27

It is clear that He intended for us to participate in this:  “I (David) have calmed…  (You) Do not let…”  We are able to bring our mind, will, and emotions into submission to His Spirit, which is the spirit of Peace. We must find that place of peace so that we can clearly hear His words to us and learn how to act in times of trouble rather than automatically react in our flesh.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence.  In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer – take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted!  For I have overcome the world.  I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.  John 16:33

There are days I ask myself why I am so surprised when trouble comes.  Duh.  Jesus plainly said there would be trouble in this world.  Our ability to quiet our souls and not be afraid comes from the confidence that we are not OF this world.  THIS LIFE IS TEMPORARY.  Perhaps it’s time for us to step back and get a new perspective.  This life has purpose and meaning and is important to God, but it is a wisp, a vapor in time compared to eternity.

What did God tell me to pray when I heard the news of Paris?  He told me to pray that in midst of the pain and chaos and grief people are experiencing that they would find Him as Savior.  He told me that the mission remains the same, Tell others about Me.  I won’t be traveling to Paris to tell others about Jesus.  But I will be putting feet to my prayers for those in my neighborhood.  It’s not just the people of France who are afraid.  It’s our families, our friends, our neighbors.  If we are afraid right along with them, we have no message of hope to share, no comfort to give.

Draw away with me.  Quiet your soul.  Pray whatever the Father tells you to pray.  Do whatever the Father tells you to do.  Find supernatural Peace in troubled times.  He is waiting…

“I have quieted my soul” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

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

A good question

3D Character and Question Mark

I noticed the car in the parking lot with the hood up.  I assumed it was some poor soul having to stand out in the noon heat waiting for help to arrive.  I was on my way home for lunch and had slowed in preparation to stop at the red light, giving me time for a second glance his way.  I saw him moving and talking and it took a few seconds before I realized he was holding a microphone.  The light turned green and the few cars ahead of me began to move, but not so quickly that I couldn’t see his set up.  He had an amplifier and the microphone connected to his car battery and was passionately preaching.  Surrounded by cars with other hungry drivers, I had no opportunity to pause and listen and no openings to enter a different lane that would allow me to turn around.  So I drove on.

The first patient to be seen by the doctor after the lunch break was a close friend of mine.  When her appointment concluded she hung around for some conversation.  We moved quickly from talk of the everyday activities into current world events as she is passionate about the prophetic and keenly aware of things connected that escape the notice of many.  We are anxious to resume our weekly bible study which has been suspended during summer break.  Before leaving she began to describe something she had seen on her way in…a car with the hood up and a man preaching.  She was unable to hear what he had to say as well, but we were equally impressed with his courage to act on what he believed to be his purpose on that day.  “What did I do today?”  A rhetorical question she left hanging in the air as she departed.

It’s a good question.  One that in the past would have sent me spiraling into guilt, overwhelmed with the complexities of the problems and needs of our world, sure that I was not doing my part.  My studies into what it really means to be a Jesus-follower, however, have led me to examine my motives in all of my “doing”.  Am I acting out of guilt or pride or peer pressure?  Have my emotions been swayed by a passionate cause that screams “Do something!!”?  Have I moved from living by the leading of the Spirit into reactions lead by the compass of my opinions?

So let’s make the question better:

“What do You want me to do today?”

I’ve struggled with this question a lot lately because His answer seems too simple.  If you’ve followed me very long you already know that resting and waiting are relatively new to me and quite a challenge.  Quite frankly, I’m bored with my level of inactivity.  I am absolutely sure that I am right where God has led me to be and yet I am uncomfortable with my comfort.  It is hard not to feel guilty for the life of ease that I live when so many struggle for even the basic necessities of life.  I fear that I will be lulled into complacency by having an easy life.  Surely God wants more from me!

As I ponder these things, He reminds me “You are right where I have you.”  This does not require my understanding, only my surrender.  He takes me a simple path:  “When you lie in the comfort of your bed, pray for those who sleep on the ground.  When you submerge yourself in the tub for a bath, pray for those who need water.  When you are trying to find enough to do during your workday because your load is light, pray for those who are overwhelmed at work, and those who have no work.  Love those who cross your path today.  When I have more for you to do, I’ll let you know.”

To be a Jesus-follower is to do as He did.  He only said what the Father told Him to say and He only did what the Father told Him to do.

…I have never spoken on My own authority or of My own accord or as self-appointed, but the Father Who sent Me has Himself given Me orders concerning what to say and what to tell.  John 12:49

…for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way, in His turn.  John 5:19

There is only One that I need please with my life today.  And tomorrow I will begin the day asking  “What do You want me to do today?”

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, righteousness, Spiritual, tears

Peeling the onion

I love how God orchestrates the details of our lives.  I had no intention of returning to work beyond the walls of my home but I knew when He was leading otherwise.  Once I determined to search for a job, my criteria was very simple and specific for the “right” position.  First, it had to be part-time.  I wanted to continue my business as a seamstress and I wanted to have time to write and speak and teach.  Second, I didn’t want to have to go through a great deal of training.  I know it sounds a bit lazy, but I just wanted a no-brainer kind of job.  Something easy.  In sharing this new direction with a friend, she suggested that I go by her chiropractor’s office as she thought they were looking for someone.  I did and they were and it was exactly what I was looking for.  Sweet!

So for the past few months I’ve been working part-time for a chiropractor whose practice expands into the scope of wholeness – treatments and consultations that go beyond structural adjustments and into the areas of nutrition and health.  (Talk about accountability in what I pack for my lunch on work days!)  His knowledge of how the body works (or doesn’t work) physically, mentally, and emotionally is vast and I am learning a great deal from our conversations. Being of a certain age and dealing with the challenges and frustration of this certain age have proven more than I’ve been able to manage as well as I’d like on my own, so finding this position is simply one more revelation of His perfect leading in my life.  I am finding answers.  Slowly.  One by one.  This is not my preferred method to arrive at solutions.

The doctor says that it’s like peeling an onion.  There are many layers and the only way to see all that is in the onion is to peel back the layers one at a time.  (He didn’t mention that there would be tears…) And while he is helping me uncover the real reasons my knee hurts and my arm aches and the extra pounds just will not budge, God is still peeling away as well…

And He’s uncovered a layer of discontent.

I truly am in the best time in my life, but I’ve found myself more irritable and frustrated lately than usual.  Some days I haven’t wanted to look deeper than the outer layers, so I’ve blamed my grumpiness on being tired.  A lot.  And I am tired, but God is peeling away whether I like it or not and showing me that this layer of discontent is one of the things that is making me so tired.

As I’ve taken the time to look at this layer, most of the things I am discontented with are small things.  A few are bigger things with which I am frustrated because there seems to be no progress.  And of course, last but not least, I am discontented with myself.  Again, nothing major, but a clinging dissatisfaction with my own personal progress.

As I turned to scripture to see what it had to say about contentment, a familiar statement by Paul first came to mind.  But then I came across another that I’d never given much attention:

Godliness accompanied with contentment is great and abundant gain.  1 Timothy 6:6

We can be saved and redeemed and forgiven and still be discontent.  However, this godliness that we’ve been given needs to be connected to contentment, for our good and everyone else’s.  It’s not easy to live with a discontented person…

Now the more familiar words:

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…  Philippians 4:11-12

There is a secret to being content in any and every situation and it must be LEARNED.  This is the secret:

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

and …Apart from Me – cut off from vital union with Me – you can do nothing.  John 15:5b

The Greek word for content is autarkes.  It means “sufficient in oneself, adequate, needing no assistance”

If I will learn that I am in vital union with Him – I cannot be separated from Him – and I draw my strength from this knowledge daily, sometimes breath by breath, I will be content.  He is enough that I need no other assistance.  He is in me and I am in Him and this fact alone makes me sufficient for whatever lies before me.

There have been a few tears in this peeling of the onion that is revealing my areas of discontent, and there will likely be a few more before it is all said and done.  But I will continue my education.  I will learn to be content.

 

 

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

I don’t know and I don’t care

Years ago I took a multiple choice test.  This particular test offered the usual assortment of possible A, B, & C answers to each question.  However, you can only imagine my delight when I discovered that the D answer was the same for each and every question:  I don’t know and I don’t care.  Sweet!  So given my hatred of word problems, each and every time I came to one, I selected D with absolutely no hesitation.  I daresay that I enjoyed taking this test solely based on the opportunity to refuse any attempt to solve whatever dilemma or equation was set before me in the dreaded word problem and declare that I simply do not know and do not care.  Perhaps this is the reason I achieved only an average score…no matter…it was so worth it!

Now I’ve decided to carry this same attitude into my life.

“What?!  How irresponsible!” you may gasp.  Let me explain…

Entering this season of life where I knew God was shaking things up, I stepped out in total confidence that I would trust Him with whatever He had in store.  But now as I look back, perhaps the more correct word is arrogance rather than confidence…  Oh, my faith hasn’t wavered.  I still stand strong knowing that God is doing a new thing.  My problem has come with my impatience.  I thought I would be further along in this journey by now.  I thought I would be full of fresh revelations and busy with the work I know I am called to do.  But I find that I continue to circle this mountain of learning to trust in the waiting.

I don’t know what’s next or how it will happen or when it will happen.  That’s easy to accept as His child because I know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen*.  I regularly exercise my faith in the not knowing.  But can I honestly say that I don’t care what’s next or how it will happen or when it will happen?

The definition of the word “care” includes regard coming from desire or esteem, and I most certainly regard the plans and dreams I have with desire and esteem.  However the primary definition of “care” is:  suffering of mind; a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibility.  I must admit, the latter is the “care” I have been carrying concerning my present and future states.  And this is exactly the kind of “care” we are instructed to cast away:

“Casting the whole of your care – all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”  1 Peter 5:7

The intention in casting is to Throw it away – forcefully!  Deliberately!  Let it go!

This is not the first time in my life that I’ve had a lesson in casting.  I can look back and see the times God revealed to me the cares I was carrying and asked me to cast them, one by one, on Him.  I would spend quite a bit of time casting over and over and over until waking up one day to realize that I had finally once and for all cast my care of that thing on Him.  Ahhhh…the rest that is found there!

So today I pick up my anxiety, my worry, and my concern for all that is yet to be revealed, and I throw them off.  And later this afternoon, I’ll probably have to do it again.  And tonight, and tomorrow, and maybe more days than I would like.  But one day soon I will awake and know that I have let them go, once and for all, and I will again find rest for my soul.

When I look at it this way, having an attitude of I don’t know and I don’t care is exactly what He wants from me!

*Hebrews 11:1

 

I don’t know and I don’t care” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, prayer

Word problems

I realized a few days ago that having written a post entitled The End without posting anything else since may have left some with the impression that I would not be writing again.  Not so, but I must admit I’ve been struggling.  Two weeks full of ball games and activities, a troubling-but-not-so-serious running injury, and sleep deprivation have most definitely hindered my time at the keyboard.  But in reality, it’s more than that.  I’ve had time.  But I kept getting stuck.  I’d think I had something to say yet struggled to find the words.  Frustration set in and I saved the drafts in the hopes that whatever was there would make sense on another day.

Life feels like one humongous word problem right now and I’ve been lost in the details.

If Jimmy was walking 5 blocks north then 3 blocks east then 8 blocks south then 2 more blocks east, the real question is not what block Jimmy finally found himself on but why was he walking this path?  Was he simply out for a walk?   Was he trying to hide?  Was he lost?  Does he even want to be found?

The angst I experience when presented with a word problem stems all the way back to elementary school.  I was a good student and made good grades but lacked the confidence to believe this pattern would continue.  I labored over the details of word problems, afraid of being unable to find the solution.  Missing one small detail would result in an incorrect answer and thus would affect my grade.

If life is comparable to a giant word problem, I must change my perspective.  I cannot get lost in the details, afraid that one wrong move will disrupt the end results. God is much bigger than that.  He has promised to direct my steps and at the same time asks me to walk each of these steps in faith.  I cannot see the end results.  He’s given me vision as to the direction I am headed, and I must cling to this vision when my steps seem to be taking me further away.  I don’t want to wander aimlessly as I strongly suspect poor Jimmy has done.

As I once again sought God for more answers during this uncomfortable state of limbo in which I find myself, this is what He said:

“And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it.”  John 1:5 

We all have times of darkness.  Sometimes the darkness is sin that we must face and deal with.  Sometimes the darkness is pain that cannot be avoided, only endured.  Sometimes the darkness is that we don’t understand why.  Sometimes the darkness is simply that we cannot see what is next.  No matter the source or the reason for the darkness, our hope is in the Light that will surely shine on us at just the right moment and the darkness will be powerless against It.

In the beginning was the Word…”*  If the Word was here first, He will most certainly be the answer to our word problems in this life.

 

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

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, new creation, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, tears

In between

I woke this morning thinking of the followers of Jesus many, many years ago who awoke on this day in between.  They had walked with Him and talked with Him and believed in Him and now He was dead. The fullness of understanding had not come to them yet and they find themselves striving to put the pieces together.  I imagine what it was like as they recall and discuss with one another the things He said as they openly share their grief for this Beloved One who is gone.  Some silently grieve over the hope they feel is dying as doubts and fears begin to creep into the sacred place of their broken hearts.

The mighty work being done was invisible to them, as are all things of faith in the beginning.  Some found strength in numbers, remaining with their fellow believers.  Others pull away searching for clarity in the solitude where no one can touch their pain or expose what they are afraid is their faithlessness. Still others cannot be still, pacing as they try to find something to do that will ease their sorrow and clear the fog of the unknown, not realizing that nothing they could ever do would impact the outcome of His marvelous plan.

In between they wait.

They cling to the words of promise uttered from His lips but they do not see the fulfillment.  The frustration of things left undone is ready to overwhelm if they will let it have its way.  Emotionally and physical exhaustion cause the hours to pass slowly.

Three days.

There is no way around it, this day in between.  Tomorrow there will finally be something to do, rituals to observe which are in themselves the symbols of finality.  Once His body was prepared and the tomb was sealed again, they would be expected to return to their lives.  But how could they?  They have been forever changed and nothing is the same as it was before He came and the question hangs in the air “What will we do now?”

Sometimes the waiting in between is hard for us also.  We find Him and His promise that sin is conquered and that we will be free from its grip and destruction.  We know from the depths of our spirits He is real and His promises are true.  But we look at ourselves and it appears we are unchanged.  We cannot always see the work He is performing in our own lives and if we are not careful the frustration of things that seem undone can overwhelm us.  Fears and doubts stand ready to creep in and convince us that we are not really changed after all.

In between we wait.

Oh, sometimes there are obvious things that we need to do.  We need to read and study and fellowship with those who will love and encourage.  We need to recall and discuss the things we were taught of Him.  But when we understand that it is by faith that we receive Him and by faith that we receive the victory over sin, we can learn to stand in faith while we wait, our faith placed in His power to change us from within and work out this wonderful salvation in our every day lives.  Faith that one day our transformation will be evident on the outside.

Those believers many years ago stood in between the cross and the resurrection and they waited.  We stand in between the power of the resurrection and the perfection that heaven will be.  There is no way around it, there is time in between.  This time of our existence on earth is important and He will make it significant in His way and His time.  But let’s not forget that this is not the end goal.  One day we will be with Him after the in between. 

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