Tag Archive | redemption

When meeting with God leaves you limping

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I’ve had a great deal on my mind lately. Nothing particularly eventful has occurred but my mind has been full of almost more than I can handle. I’ve written blogs on a couple of ideas that are whirling around in there, but one seems a little lame and the other a bit angry…neither of which has prompted me to hit “publish”.

Truth is, I’ve been wrestling a bit. Not the kind of faith-in-crisis wrestling that I’ve done in the past, but more of a faith-in-expansion kind of wrestling. The more I press into God, the more questions I have and the more answers I await. And while I would much prefer that God and I have a simple I ask a question and He answers kind of dialogue, this uncomfortable reaching and stretching and waiting is good. I am daring to exercise my faith in areas previously believed to be off-limits.

We are exhorted to come boldly before the throne of God and I feel as if there is nothing bolder to present in His presence than the questions we have. Especially the really hard questions. He has no fear or irritation at our asking. He holds every answer and is a good Father Who is patient and kind. But perhaps you feel as I did that our questioning presents a lack of faith. I now believe it to be the very opposite – to go fearlessly to our Father with great expectations that He will answer is to have great faith.

My thoughts have settled on Jacob this week and His wrestling with God. Different translations mention a Man or an Angel of the Lord.  Not to get ahead of myself but the new name he was given has a meaning of God-wrestler.  

This passage in Genesis 32 is so interesting. Jacob had done his brother wrong. They parted on bad terms and this chapter of the story picks up where Jacob is attempting to reconcile with Esau. Now Jacob was a God follower, a God worshiper. He’s heard the voice of God Who told him to return to his people and He would do him good. But Jacob is afraid. He’s afraid that Esau is still angry and will try to kill him. So He prays for God’s deliverance. He plans to offer gifts in a sequence of droves in order to gain favor with his brother. Finally he sends his family and all that he had across the brook and he stays behind. Alone.

It is then the Man comes and wrestles with Jacob. Now, perhaps Jacob thought it was a robber or an enemy from another camp. The text doesn’t reveal his thoughts, only that he gave this Man a run for his money! He didn’t back down and when the Man did not prevail over him, He touched the hollow of his thigh, putting it out of joint. Sometime in the midst of this struggle that lasted all night the realization set in that this was no ordinary man because when He told Jacob to let Him go, Jacob refused unless He would declare a blessing on him. Talk about bold!

Then the man asked him “What is your name?”  Obviously God already knew his name but the Amplified Bible gives insight into why He wanted Jacob to say it:

The Man asked him, What is your name?  And in shock of realization, whispering, he said, Jacob – supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler! (v. 27)

It was in the presence of God that Jacob came face-to-face with himself. He would have known the meaning of his name for many years now, but for the first time he truly saw his character. It is in this moment that God gives him a new name, Israel, changing his identity and drawing him into the plan for his life that had been there all along.

Something had been working in the wrestling. There was a reason the Man came and forced Jacob to contend with Him, forced him to engage in a surprising and confusing and exhausting exchange. And this meeting with God left him limping.

When we press in for more of God and refuse to let go it is certain that He will bring us face-to-face with ourselves. It is in these moments that pretense falls away and we see who we really are and how desperately we need Him. It is then we are ready to surrender to live out the plans He has for our lives in our new identity – the righteous, redeemed, forgiven children of God. When we examine our motives and the whys of our beliefs, stepping away from empty religious acts can be uncomfortable…kind of like limping. It is then we find that we can no longer walk the same as we did before.

He named the place of this meeting Peniel – the face of God, and was thankful that his life had been spared, so I don’t think he minded the limp. I think every time he took a cautious step, even if it hurt a bit, he remembered that he had been in the presence of God and the limp that to others may have looked like a handicap was actually evidence of his strength. Whether he had the limp for the rest of his life or not, it was sure that he never walked the same again.

When meeting with God leaves you limping” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Painting:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (detail) Eugène DELACROIX (1798-1863)

 

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When you hear my story

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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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The end of the world

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I must have tossed and turned all night.  It was one of those mornings I drug myself out of bed having felt that I had’t slept at all.  I didn’t remember any particulars of my dreams and I was frustrated to begin yet another day with an energy deficit.  As I stumbled to the coffee pot I uttered my frequent prayer of “Why, God, why??  Why does sleep evade me so?”  I longed for the days of my youth when little sleep was required…

As the caffeine began to work its magic and the fog cleared, I remembered that just before going to sleep I had been thinking about the end of the world.  Well, no wonder my slumber was disturbed!  I’m not a huge fan of the televised news but had watched an evening broadcast with my husband who is a bit of a news junkie.  Following this input of distressing information I spent a little time reading before trying to sleep.  I was reading about bible prophecy.  I do not recommend this if restful sleep is the goal.

As I retraced my mental steps of the night before, I remember that I went to sleep asking God “What do we do?”  It wasn’t a fearful question but rather a practical one.  How do we prepare if the world is going to end?

My husband is busy with preparation.  While I tease him about being ready for the zombie apocalypse, I appreciate that he is making ready as best he can in order to feed and protect his family.  He thinks of the “what to do” if we have limited or no access to things in our everyday life that we currently take for granted.  He is doing what he can do now, knowing that it will be impossible to fully prepare.

Years ago I saw a little wall hanging that said “You can’t scare me.  I have kids.”  I thought it was funny. I realize now that I have taken this frame of mind when it comes to all the trouble in the world and the doom and gloom that the future seems to hold.

End of the world?  You don’t scare me.  I’ve watched my world crumble as my heart was broken and marriage fell apart.  I wasn’t prepared.  I’ve stumbled through the rubble, falling again and again, the inevitable scars making their mark and altering my future.  Some for good.  Some for bad.  And I’m still standing.

End of the world?  I’ve loved and lost more than I ever dreamed I would.  I’ve chosen wrong paths that invited destruction into my life.  I’ve wrestled with God during these times, pulling against Him and clinging to Him at the same time, living a broken life under the guise of being a confident Christian.

End of the world?  I’ve stood to speak at my son’s memorial when I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my chest. We had just begun to find each other again.  Just a few short weeks before, we had a sweet, sweet time together at breakfast.  He left me that morning with a kiss on my cheek.  I can still feel it. There is no way to prepare for this.

End of the world?  You don’t scare me.  I’ve found that God is faithful and true and whatever may come He will never leave me.  I’ve found that my assurance of something more than this world offers is stronger than ever.   I’ve found the One who suffered more than I can imagine so that there could be purpose borne out of any suffering I may endure.  I’ve found Hope.  I’ve found Love.

Unspeakable horrors and acts of evil pervade our world and it’s hard to imagine that it will not ultimately destroy the earth.  So, God, what do we do?  We stay on task:  Tell them about Me.  What hope do we have without Him?  My heart breaks for those across this globe who face the terrors I cannot imagine and I pray for them.  I give what I can to their aid and support.  I try not to turn away from their images and become numb to their pain.  But I pray that I will also be sensitive to the woman down the street whose world just ended with the passing of her husband.  Or the man who stands begging on the corner, no longer able to sustain his world when the job ended.  Or the young person whose world has become an endless rip tide of addiction.   The mission remains the same:  Tell them about Me.

The end of the world?  Don’t be afraid.  There is so much more to life than this.  God in His magnificent love offers us a new beginning in Him, a life that will never end.  He compels us to take His offer of mercy and grace and fall into His arms.  In His love there is no fear and the end will find us still standing.

There is no fear in love…love drives out fear and dispels every trace of terror.  (1 John 4:18)

The end of the world” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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

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.

 

 

The End

 

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The End.  Two words that say “It’s over.  There is no more to this”.  Two words that have caused me to mourn for something beautiful that was lost, even if its beauty existed only in my imagination.  Two words that could make me feel like a complete failure if the ending was not what I had in mind.  Two words that could throw me into panicked attempts to revive what once was, even if it was bad for me.   Two words that would provoke others to ask questions I had no answers for.  Two words I dreaded to hear even when I was the one who spoke them.

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Beauty for ashes.  By faith I envisioned the wonderful life He had planned for me, one that I couldn’t possibly make a complete mess of.  A plan for something beautiful where fear of The End could not steal my love and my peace.  The scriptures told me it was there for me, this life of beauty instead of ashes, but when The End would come and I had no glimpse of the new beginning I did what I had always done.

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Fear distorting my vision and direction, I would take matters into my own hands and choose my own new beginning.  I never planned for it to go badly, who would do that??  And since I was confessing my belief in God’s good plans for me and what looked so perfect for me presented itself so quickly, surely it was from Him…surely it would be right…surely I could make it work this time and it would protect me from my greatest fear – that there was nothing for me at The End and I would have to face the profound emptiness of the unloved.

But it seemed always to return.  The End.  Again.  Finally, I was just too weary to fight it.  And just as I had feared, there was no glimpse of a new beginning when I reached The End.  But I fell into the emptiness of the unloved only to discover that I was extravagantly loved!  It was only in the emptiness that He had room to fill me with the very thing I had longed for – true Love.  It was only in this time between what was and what would be that I would find healing.  This Love became The End, not of itself, but of what had plagued me for as long as I could remember – the fear that I was unworthy of love.

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“…the Lord earnestly waits – expecting, looking, and longing – to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you…Blessed are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him – for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”    Isaiah 30:18

He is waiting for us to be empty of everything else, so that we can be truly filled.

Don’t be scared.  In His hands, The End is just The Beginning.

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