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

A scarred life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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The sweet spot

 

I like sports.  While I don’t follow much anymore other than our son’s baseball and granddaughter’s soccer teams, I do enjoy a good game.  My favorite is basketball.  I love the fast pace of the game and the incredible athleticism of the really good players.  There are many good players that have a particular place on the court from which the shot will most surely be successful.  It’s actually pretty amazing to watch them time after time hit the goal from that place.  It’s the sweet spot.  They know that if they can position themselves in the sweet spot, they will score.  Nothing builds a player’s confidence like hitting the goal over and over, so even in practice they will repeatedly shoot from that spot.  The team will work to get that player to the right spot because they know they all benefit.

The player loves the sweet spot. They love the game, they love the challenge, they love the other opportunities to participate in the play, but nothing compares to the sweet spot.  From this spot the shot is effortless and almost impossible to miss.  It feels as easy and natural as breathing.  The player has no doubts or fears of failure, even when the occasional miss occurs.  They still know it’s their spot.

We each have a sweet spot.  When we are there, things just seem to fall into place.  We are at our best doing what brings the deepest sense of fulfillment.  We are doing what we were destined to do.  We participate in many things in our lives that we do well and which bring a great sense of satisfaction, but nothing compares to the sweet spot.

Have you found your sweet spot?

God created each of us uniquely designed for His purposes.  He gave us differing talents and abilities and gifts in order to live full lives enjoying Him and positively affecting the lives of those around us.  So why do we struggle so in trying to find what He has for us?

Many of us have wandered through this world as His children without ever discovering what we have inherited from our Father.  Never knowing what He placed in us before we were ever born that would equip us to reach our greatest potential and find our deepest fulfillment this side of heaven.  Never learning how our personalities and temperaments come together with our gifts and talents to produce a full life and effective service.  Always feeling that something is missing.  Always searching for greater satisfaction.

Still unclear what I’m talking about?  Let me give you my story to help you understand…

There were two studies which played vital roles in discovering and accepting who I was:  Temperaments/Personalities and Spiritual Gifts.   In studying the four basic temperaments I learned why I am so direct, even to the point of being rude if I’m not careful.  Why I am often bossy and take charge even when not asked to do so. Why I am a hard worker with high, perfectionist expectations which can make it hard for others, and myself, to meet my standards.

Left with only that information, I would want to crawl in a hole and become a hermit in order to protect the general public!!  But the mentors I had helped to complete this study by showing me how to temper my God-given personality in order to become mature and developed, turning what could be weaknesses into great strengths.  Looking at it that way, I have endeavored to become a woman who is known to tell the truth, but with love; one willing to step up when leadership is needed; able to take on great tasks and complete them; and to relax my unrealistic expectations so that encouragement can flow in whatever is being undertaken.

In studying Romans 12 the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I have the gift of exhortation – the desire and ability to influence by words or advice; to strongly urge action.  Even before the study, I knew I had this compulsion to encourage people to go for more, especially when it concerned the things of God.  This gift has been in development for over 30 years now through many a bible study and Sunday school class I’ve taught.  God even led me into a professional sales career which provided more formal training as a speaker.  Getting a paycheck for doing what comes naturally and gives a great sense of fulfillment – THAT’s a sweet spot!!  Now I speak at retreats, bible studies, conferences – anywhere I am invited!!  And guess what I do?  Encourage others to go deeper in their spiritual lives, to be passionate about their relationship with God.

Last weekend was a great example.  When I spoke on Saturday to the precious ladies who braved the rain storms to be there, it was effortless.  It was like breathing.  I deviated from our workbook considerably, but knowing that God has developed this gift in me and that He will use it however He desires, there was no fear of failure, no worries that I would do the wrong thing.  At the end of the day I was satisfied and that deep sense of fulfillment washed over me, the confidence that I had done just what He wanted.  Was it perfect?  Not hardly.  (Let’s start with the fact that I had neglected to pack my belt and had to pull on my jeans all throughout the day….)  But I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.  The sweet spot.

You must take the time with your Father to discover what He’s given you and yield to His plans of how He wants to lead and direct you.  Learn who you are, who He made you, how he gifted you and watch what happens.  You’ll find yourself more deeply fulfilled than you ever imagined.  Why am I writing this today?  Because if I can help you get in the right position, we all benefit.  You’ll be empowered, doing the very thing you were destined for, and we will be blessed by it.  Find your sweet spot.

 

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

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, retreat, righteousness, Spiritual, worship

Her again

I had the privilege of spending this past Saturday with a wonderful group of ladies in the Brenham, Texas area.  We spent the day together seeking Him and the balance He desires in our lives.  I know it’s wrong to talk about someone, particularly when we look at their lives and judge them, but we talked about her again. You know her, too, if you’ve been in church for much time at all, especially if you’ve studied anything about what it means to be a godly woman.  She is the woman of the bible that we love to hate…

*The Proverbs 31 woman:

o She does her husband only good as long as there is life within her.
o She shops for the materials for her work.
o She shops for the groceries.
o She rises while it’s still night to prepare her household for the day.
o She manages servants and delegates the chores.
o She’s prudent in accepting more responsibilities, not neglecting her current duties.
o She manages so well that with the time and strength she has left over, she gardens.
o She stays fit – spiritually, mentally, and physically.
o She assesses her work to see its value before God.
o She prays continually for her household, especially through times of trouble.
o She sews.
o She gives to the poor according to their need – body, mind, or spirit.
o She’s prepared her family for inclement weather by making them warm clothes.
o She decorates her house with homemade cushions, coverlets and tapestries.
o She wears nice clothes.
o She’s in sales – she makes garments and “leads others to buy them”.
o She delivers the garments she’s made.
o She’s happy about the future, knowing that her family is in readiness for it.
o She speaks in wisdom.
o She speaks in kindness.
o She isn’t idle.
o She doesn’t gossip.
o She is content.
o She doesn’t engage in self-pity.
o She reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord.

Seriously, God?? She’s described as virtuous, noble, capable, and excellent. These are not typically the words that come to our minds when we think of ourselves. If we are not guarding our hearts, the enemy will use these words to condemn us, to cause us to see an image that is acceptable to God but impossible for us to achieve. Impossible goals defeat us immediately and blind us to our potential to be all that God has called us to be.

The key to this woman’s success is in the last attribute listed: She reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord. She recognizes and acknowledges that she is incapable of accomplishing anything without Him. He directs her steps. He leads her as she listens to Him. Everything she was able to do began with her worship. This is the foundation for every area of our lives.

I believe that the list above was a culmination of all the many accomplishments this wonderful woman had achieved over her lifetime.  Not in one week, one month, or even one year.  That it was written not as a checklist against which we are to measure our abilities, but a testimony of what God can do with a woman who worships.

We seek to please Him with our lives, to be used by Him for His glory, to have an impact on our world. Yet we find ourselves struggling to know His will for us.  It is found in our worship.  Not the corporate worship we experience when we gather together but rather in that still, alone time with Him when He is our sole focus.  It is here that His will becomes clear.  His only desire is that we simply do what He tells us to do.  Nothing more impresses Him.  Nothing less satisfies Him.  It is here that we find the strength to step out into the unknown with the confidence that He is directing our steps.  It is here that we hear Him and truly discover our purpose: to know Him.

*An excerpt from “unCluttered” A Workshop of Order and Balance by Kay Stinnett

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

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This hope we have

 

 

I could hardly understand what she was trying to say, her words were so choked and broken by sobs.  In the aftermath of choices that have irrevocably altered her life, she is powerless to stop the ripple effect throughout the waters of those who love her, a ripple effect that has produced their choices as well.  No doubt she will never return to the way things were.  The damage has been done.

“You have destroyed your life.”  This is the lie the enemy relentlessly screams to her as if her life is over and there is no point to her existence any longer.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  Others have even voiced those words.  It must be true.

What do I have to offer this one in the grips of despair?  Hope.  Not empty words of the sun shining again, although it will.  But a deeper hope that transcends the multitude of mistakes we make.  Hope that is the very answer to despair.  Hope that holds the future in His hands and Hope that is unwilling to settle for less than the impossible.  It is why He came to earth.

Here is a portion of a beautiful song by Kathryn Scott entitled At the Foot of the Cross that captures the wonder of this hope we have…

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

This is the hope we have:  that we can take all the ashes of our choices, our mistakes, our sin to God and He does the impossible – He turns it into something beautiful.  For this burdened friend of mine, her mistakes have brought her to His feet where her suffering meets His grace, where He lifts her head and crowns her with His loving forgiveness, and where her life will begin again.  She will grieve over what is lost, but will rejoice in what is found as she discovers the mercy that is new every morning.  She will find Hope.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of all His benefits— 

Who forgives every one of all your iniquities, Who heals each one of all your diseases, 

Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption,

Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy; 

Who satisfies your mouth – your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation – with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!   Psalm 103:1-4

 

This hope we have” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, trials

What would I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, new creation, praise, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, worship

When God caused me to wander

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wanderers in the bible is the account of the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was a destination to reach:  the promised land.  But rather than a straight line journey, they wandered on their way there.  Ready to leave the bonds of slavery, the plan seemed easy enough: follow Moses.  Yet it wasn’t many days into the journey when it was apparent there were things that had to be dealt with.  Old habits, attitudes, opinions and emotions surfaced that revealed there would be more to this journey than arriving in Canaan.  It is clear in the story that their stubbornness was the primary reason they wandered for so long.  I can identify.  Their actions and attitudes kept them in a cycle of wandering with very little progress towards the goal.  Been there, done that, too.

Wandering by definition means to move around usually without purpose or direction.  Life teaches us that this is bad or wrong.  We make plans upon plans, we write down our personal goals, we make lists, we form business plans, we have middle schoolers and early high schoolers under the pressure of deciding what direction their education will go over the next four to eight years.  We are asked what we are going to do, what we want to “be”, and where we will be next year, in five years, and ten years from now. To answer “I don’t know” to any of these pressures is to appear lazy and lacking sufficient motivation.

While all of these strategies (minus the ridiculous notion that a thirteen year old has a clear vision of where their life is going) are very useful in the business world and in maintaining a certain order in our home lives, I wonder how much we try to carry over into our spiritual lives which becomes the very reason we continue to go round and round certain mountains.  Perhaps we stubbornly hold onto a worldly concept that  slows down our spiritual progress.  What if God wants us to wander??

“…when God caused me to wander…”  Genesis 20:13

Abraham heard the call of God on his life and he followed.  God led him to pack up all his things and begin a journey.  He didn’t know where he was going but he started walking.  He started wandering.  The Israelites wandered because of a lack of faith.  Abraham wandered full of faith.

I am not entirely comfortable with this season of wandering.  It feels foolish to not know exactly where I am headed and to resist the temptation to plan every step.  It stings my pride a bit to answer “I don’t know” when asked about my plan.  But I want to learn from Abraham.  I want to dream of the promises God has planted in my heart without taking it upon myself to make it happen.  I want to move when He says move and stay when He says stay.  I want to walk so full of faith that when God changes my direction there is no hesitation on my part.  I want to embrace when God causes me to wander.

 

When God caused me to wander” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, Jesus, love, new creation, praise, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

Missing the point

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you saw a photograph I had made of my children.  I had a wonderful young photographer take two precious pictures and unite them to show that while my son is in heaven, he is still with those who loved him, particularly his sisters.  Lest you misunderstand, I do not believe that he is hovering around in a ghostly form nor does he appear when summoned.  That is a topic for another day…

Most people who’ve seen the photo get it.  They understand what it represents.  A few do not.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether others understand, I only care what my girls think.  I had it made it for them.  I know that when they look at it they completely understand my motivation and my heart.  It was an expression of love that says to them “I know.” “I know that you are grieving.  I know that you love him and miss him so very much.  I know that you hold the same hope as I that we will see him again.  I know.”

I can only imagine my anguish and disappointment if they had received this labor of intense love and simply said “Thanks.  That’s nice.”  It would have broken my heart if they missed the point, if they did not let it bless them and comfort them in some way.

In Monday night bible study we are digging deep in to the book of James.  James was writing to a fellowship of Jewish believers.  Jews who had been steeped in the Law yet had discovered Grace.  His instructions in this particular letter indicate they were struggling with the letting go of the demands of the Law they had spent their lives endeavoring to follow.  As we discuss the verses, we often allow a little speculation and imagination as we try to understand how James’ audience was responding to his words…

They knew that Jesus had died for their sins and that He taught that the Law had been fulfilled, but I wonder how many of them still quietly slipped into the temple area and continued to make the sacrifices they had always done.  Just in case.  Keeping the Law as their back-up plan in case they had misunderstood this Grace that says sacrifice was no longer needed…

I am pursuing this Grace with a determination to get it.  To understand more and more what it is and what effect it is supposed to have on my life.  Yet even while I read the words and know with my brain that Grace says no more sacrifices are required for sin, I still often find myself caught in self-condemnation or works of penance, spending hours or even days mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I have missed the mark.  Part of it is habit – I’ve spent a lifetime believing that this was the correct response to sin in my life. But I wonder how much of this is my back-up plan, the efforts put forth just in case I have misunderstood the freedom of Grace…

How this must grieve the heart of my Father!  He provided the perfect sacrifice for me, a price paid that is beyond my comprehension, so that I could be blessed and comforted and helped and delivered and free.  I want to fall with abandon into this Grace.  I want to live my life in the freedom purchased for me, not wasting my time trying to obtain something that has already been given.  Big Daddy Weave is a group of Christian artists who produced a wonderful song entitled “Redeemed.”  I love the song and it’s in my top 10 favorites because much of it speaks to me.  But there is a particular line that rings so loudly in my soul every time I hear it and I leave you with it today:

“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

 

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