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Do you see what I see?

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It was a good service.  I think.  I have to admit I was more than a little distracted.  It’s almost Christmas and deadlines are pressing.  I have orders to fill and it will take working every day this week to get them done on time, even working this afternoon.  Focus is easier as we lift voices and hands in praise but once my body is still the after effects of a rushed-because-my-alarm-didn’t-go-off-morning set in and my eyes long to close for just a few more minutes of sleep.

All is completed in the order of service except for the final act of passing the offering plates.  It was in the stillness of waiting our turn that I saw them.  Just a few rows in front of me I could see a father holding his young son.  The boy looked into his father’s face as he quietly stroked his beard and patted his cheeks.  It was a precious moment, one that caught me off-guard as sorrow engulfed me without warning and I began to weep.  It would not be stopped and it took every measure of self-control I had not to give it full reign and wail loudly as I imagine our forefathers did when they ripped their garments and donned sackcloth and ashes.  My mind quickly assesses how this must look, a very odd time to be overcome with emotion, but the heart would have its way whether understood or not.  It would be hard to explain how in that moment I felt small hands on my face.  I suppose it’s something a mother never forgets.

She was just a young girl when the angel came and proclaimed to her and over her that she was one blessed and highly favored.  It must have been wonderful in that moment to know that God’s plan for her life was so important that He sent an angel to announce it.  I wonder if she expected that to happen again.  I wonder as she walked down the streets where her friends and neighbors turned away, embarrassed at her shame, did she look for another word from God?  I wonder as she and Joseph struggled with the newness of married life complicated by her “situation” if she spent time alone waiting for another angel to tell her they would make it through the learning how to love each other?  I wonder as she waved goodbye to her mother, climbed upon a donkey, and journeyed farther from home than she had ever been, was she watching the sky for a sign as the homesickness quickly set in?  I wonder as she cried from the pain of childbirth and fear of the unknown, did she beg Him to speak, to reassure her that this is exactly where He had planned for her to be?  I wonder if the angel’s words rang in her ears as she wept at the foot of the cross?  Sometimes this is what blessed and highly favored looks like.  Do you see?

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Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who sacrifices time with her children and grandchildren, friends and activities, as she tenderly cares for her elderly mother, wondering where she will find the energy for tomorrow.  

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who rises every day with new resolve to stay clean, determined to rebuild what was torn down, resisting the constant temptation to give up, wondering when God will bring complete deliverance. 

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one with no new goals or plans as she sits in the discomfort of the stillness, wondering why God is silent.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the young mother with toddlers at her feet, another baby on the way, trying not to be completely overwhelmed in this life she dearly loves and wondering how she will get it all done.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like a woman crying as she touches her own cheeks, enveloped in memories that overwhelm with both joy and pain, wondering what it will be like to see him again.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks more like dark, thunderous, lightning-filled skies than sunshine and rainbows.

It’s tempting to believe the message that to be blessed and highly favored is evidenced by our positions, our promotions, and our pocketbooks.  To proclaim it often to ourselves and over ourselves in hopes that our lives will be easier and more secure through our loud and upbeat proclamations of faith.  And as that may happen to some, it is still the least of it.  As I consider Mary and what it meant that she was blessed and highly favored above all women, I believe we have trivialized it and made it something it is not.

It’s been a year of getting real with God.  It’s been a year of examining faith and finding again the simplicity of the solid foundation and ridding myself of self-imposed boundaries and unrealistic expectations and mechanical worship.  I am not blessed and highly favored because all has gone well and my life has been spared the dark nights and the weeping and the difficulties and the pain.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have loved deeply enough for my heart to be broken.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have risked my heart and given my energies and failed miserably. I am blessed and highly favored because He has noticed my sorrow and saved my tears.  I am blessed and highly favored because He lowered Himself to be housed in me, never to leave me or forsake me, especially in the dark moments.  I am blessed and highly favored because I am no longer dependent on outward circumstances, people, or events to determine if I am blessed and highly favored.

Do you see what I see?

 

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

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The silence speaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My silence speaks:  Trust me.”

And I was not afraid.

 

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

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To be known

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CJ and I have a regular route that we walk and run together.  I’ve mapped this particular course #1 because it is a large circle, preferable when one is navigationally challenged, and #2 because it is exactly 2 miles and easy to calculate my efforts when I’m inclined to do so.  I noticed this distinctly marked driveway on the very first time around and it made me smile.  It still makes me smile every time I see it.  I suspect it is the result of an action without much forethought nor concern for what the local home owners association would have to say about it.   Just a young boy with a can of spray paint upon which the thought comes to mind to write his name.

I’ve wanted to photograph this signature for a while now but as it is private property and I intended to post the photo on the internet, I thought it wise to obtain permission lest I be considered some kind of creeper with a camera in the neighborhood.  I decided on my round with CJ Saturday morning that I would knock on the door and ask.  As I approached, however, there was no need to knock for the woman of the house was outside with her dog.  From the street I told her how every time I walk by her drive it makes me smile.  She warmly replied that her son had scrawled his name there years ago and while she felt she should probably do something to remove it and the now older teenage boy strongly encourages her to do so, she leaves it as is because it makes her smile, too.  She graciously permitted me to take the picture and I promised that I would drop by a copy of the blog once written.

One of my granddaughters is the age now that her son was when he made his mark.  She loves to write and gifts of paper and pen are always welcomed and treasured.  She writes her name and I love the perfectly imperfect way her letters and words form on the pages.  She writes little stories and draws pictures and writes simply for the love of writing, the strokes of the pen leaving an imprint of who she is now that will not be forgotten no matter the years that pass.  It is a bittersweet ache this grandmother’s heart feels as I watch her grow up faster than I would like.

It is not uncommon for children to write their names.  A lot.  On papers and tablets and books.  In the dirt with a stick or spelled out with rocks.  In the sand where the next waves will quickly wash it out to sea.  Carved in trees and picnic tables and more than a few desks.  And of course, the occasional driveway.

For some children perhaps it is a cry for help, a need for immediate attention.  But I think for the most part they are simply the declarations that  I was here.  This is me.  I am.   An unconscious, unemotional expression of the need to be known, a need we all have that deepens and most definitely becomes more emotional as we grow older.  We want others to know who we truly are, often before we even really know ourselves.  We sometimes seek relationships to complete us.  We enter professions where our talents and abilities can define us and accolades are our measure of who we are.  And while these things may bring a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment it is not unusual to struggle with insecurities once left alone and all is quiet.  Who really knows us?  And if they did really know, would they still love us? Are me making our mark on this world in way that matters?

I think of how we look at our own children and see things they cannot see and know things they cannot know about themselves.  To know them is so much more than knowing what they do.  It’s recognizing the briefest of looks that crossed their face when no one else saw it.  It’s understanding their joys and pains when they have no words to describe them.  It is knowing that you’ve looked at that little face so many times you have every freckle memorized and would know if one should fade away.  And yet, we are still limited by our humanity when it comes to knowing another completely.

But there is One who knows.  He knew us before we were ever created in the womb.  He knows the very number of hairs on our head.  He calls us to come to Him as His children, unafraid in His presence.  We are fearfully made and unconditionally loved not because of what we do but for the simple fact that we exist.  We are accepted through Jesus as if we have never erred, sung and danced over with unadulterated joy in the heavens.  The impact we desire to make, the peace we search for, the fulfillment we long for is founded in a truth that is ours for the taking – we are known by Him.

 

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

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

 

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Simple pleasures

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I can’t completely describe the feeling I had as I watched my 86-year-old mother ride a bicycle this week.  My first thoughts were filled with trepidation at the idea of a fall, but once she began those fears disappeared with every sure and steady push on the pedals.

She’d been telling us for several weeks that she wanted to ride a bicycle one more time.  I must admit, our first responses were not very encouraging.  We tried quite diligently to dissuade her, offering up a couple of “safer” options – what about a 3-wheeler?  a stationary?  No.  Absolutely not.  Nothing would do but that she ride a regular, old-fashioned bicycle.  (Had she not mentioned it at church where a friend provided the bicycle, I’m sure we would still be dragging our feet in order to fulfill her wish.)  Her mind made up and her plan in place, we could choose to participate or not.  Either way, she was going to ride a bicycle after church.

She is in good health and has no reason to believe that death is at her door quite yet.  But just in case, she lets us know when she thinks of something else she’s added to her bucket list.  The list is made up of simple things. Some are places she’s never been but would like to go.  We’re not talking about traveling abroad or to places of historic significance, but rather the fact that she’s never eaten at Joe’s Crab Shack, and things like that.  But others, like this one, draw from the wellspring of vivid childhood memories which bring a smile to her face at just the thought of them.

My brothers and I were there to watch and take photos.  Friends from church hung around in the parking lot and cheered her on.  She didn’t know what all the fuss was about.  She just wanted to ride a bike.

I watched her ride and the simplicity of the pleasure on her face almost brought me to tears.  (Had I cried, she would have wondered what in the world was wrong with me, so years of training prevented me from yielding to emotions I could not explain.)  Even as I look at the pictures today, I feel this strange sense of happiness and pride and love and sadness all mixed together and there are no words that adequately describe it.  Now that she has a successful bike ride under her belt, she plans to swim and roller skate.  And with all the objections my rational brain is tempted to raise, I suspect that I will make every effort to help her do exactly that.  I will see her smile and be awash once again in emotions that stir me to my core.  But I won’t cry.  At least not where she can see me.

There is beauty in the simplicity of her heart and her life, a reminder to me to open my eyes.  There are simple pleasures to be enjoyed in this life and I don’t want to miss them.  She is teaching me still.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  

I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

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

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

 

 

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In her shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. 

Psalm 81:10

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

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

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The dividing line

Some of you mothers and fathers will understand how happy I am when my daughter calls me to ask what I think, or even better, to ask me to pray for her when she has a need.  We’ve been close throughout her life, but of course there were years where she most definitely did not want to know what I thought.  I remember myself at that age.  Thinking that surely I was hiding my inward eye-rolling as I listened to and ignored my mother’s words at the same time.  (I had yet to learn that I am one of those people who simply cannot hide how she feels and that I would successfully pass this trait on to my daughter.)  When she calls (or texts), there is no matter too small or too unimportant or even too vague to be able to completely describe for which I will not immediately approach the throne of our Father on her behalf, and be honored to do so.

Last week something was troubling her but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  She had wrestled with this disturbance for several days with no real understanding.  So when I received her early morning text asking me to pray, I responded to reminded her that God’s ways are peace and love, that He gives wisdom liberally when we ask, and that He would reveal to her what the root of the problem was and let her know if it required any other action besides casting her cares. And I prayed for exactly that.  She called later the same day to share with me what God had revealed to her.  Problem solved.  Peace restored.  And a mother’s heart blessed.

She has learned to be sensitive to her spirit.  (She was listening!!)  This is the foundation of what it means to be made in His likeness, to house the very presence of God within, and the only way we can learn to yield our body and soul to His Spirit.  This is the filter through which every thought, emotion, and experience should go so that we can discern what is pleasing to Him.  This is the way we take every thought captive to obey Christ and live as conquerors in this life.

We are spirit.  We have a soul (mind, will, emotions).  We live in a physical body.

Our spirits have been made new.  We are new creations, old things passed away, all things become new. We have been made alive in Him, the righteousness of God, holy, blameless, and forgiven.  We have been given immeasurable love, unsurpassed peace, inexpressible joy, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and unbroken fellowship with God Almighty Who has chosen to overtake us and make us like Him.  Without this understanding, without truly believing this is who we are rather than just singing the praise songs and quoting the verses, we live frustrated Christian lives, constantly battling the turmoil in our souls, unable to determine which thoughts and emotions are from Him and which are our own.

So how do we tell what is from Him and what is from our own flesh or the influence of the devil?

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

There is a line that divides the soul and spirit.  The only way to discern the difference is through His word.  Studying what scripture says and allowing Him to speak to us through the written Word.  Spending time developing our fellowship with Him so that we are sensitive to when He speaks.  Agreeing with Him that He has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness and is our ever-present Help in times of trouble.  Believing that we have truly been made new and taking that as our identity rather than basing who we are on how we look or act or feel.

Have you ever struggled with a task to the point of frustration only to discover that you had simply been doing it backwards?  We’ve been trying to make ourselves into what we ought to be by attending church and reading our bibles and not doing this or that, focused on what we do rather than who we are.  That’s backwards.  We must first learn who we are in order to get what we do to line up right!  We must discover where the line is drawn between soul and spirit and learn to live from our spirits, outward changes coming from inward power.  Learning to live our lives from the inside out.**

**Inside Out is a new study available to your organization, church, or bible study group in a conference, workshop or retreat format.  A five-week study option is also available to those in the greater Houston, Tx area.  Testimonials and more information will be coming soon on the speaking and events tabs on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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

 

 

 

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Nothing prepares the heart…

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…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.