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Separation anxiety

Year after year family photographs were captured, always with one family member absent as someone had to operate the camera.  The boys were attired in their once-a-year suits and ties.  We girls had new dresses and white shoes which embarrassed me as my spindly legs made it appear as if I had unusually large feet at the ends of them.  We were dressed up to go to church for Easter services.  We regularly attended Sunday service, so the only difference on this particular day is that we would be especially dressed and it would be more difficult to sit on our right-side, third-row-from-the-front pew if we did not arrive earlier than usual because many more people would attend this day.  The pre-service preparations involved the same flurry of activities as every other Sunday morning – the search for lost shoes and belts, the efforts to keep children clothed and still without spills or stains, and the prayer that one particular child would not get carsick on the way.  It’s a wonder my mother ever was able to relax and worship once she entered the sanctuary doors.

While we did not attend a church rich in liturgical traditions, we were taught the true meaning of Easter and what the Lord’s Supper represented.  The colored eggs and plastic grass in baskets and races to collect the greatest numbers did not detract from what I knew, even as a child, to be true.  Jesus died for my sin.  I placed my faith in Him early and throughout my struggles and challenges with life itself, this was and is the unwavering platform on which my feet remain firmly planted.  And yet, I missed a critical truth even as every year we heard the messages of His death and resurrection and the hope and victory that this act secured for us.

It is finished.

Sin is conquered, death is defeated, the veil that once separated man from God has been removed giving free and unlimited access to Almighty God to all who will enter in.  He sent His Spirit to indwell the imperfect people who would say yes to this, His invitation.  He promised to never leave us or forsake us.

So in the process of the spiritual housecleaning that I’ve done over the last few years I’ve picked up and put down a particular piece that for a while I could not determine if it fit in this temple that is me.  It is the idea that “sin separates us from God.” I’ve heard this throughout my life, continue to hear it frequently, and have been one to have said it as well.

Sin separates us from God.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  It must be true.  It was true before we came to accept this magnificent sacrifice. But as I’ve studied more deeply what Jesus said and did, I cannot find a place for this.

If Jesus paid the penalty for sin – ALL sin – how can my sin change my position with God?  How can God move away from me if He promised to indwell me and to never leave or forsake me?  Was the veil torn down only to be put up again and torn down again and put up again…?

It is finished.

Three beautiful words that cannot be reconciled with the idea that my sin brings back the veil.  Does my sin matter?  Yes.  The call to repentance remains the same, but not because it is the only way to gain access to the Father again.  We are to repent – to change our minds about sin – in order that we can live fully in the forgiveness purchased for us.  We repent so that we can receive the fullness of the blessings offered us as His children in this lifetime and beyond, to have a right mind and a soul that is free from the burdens that sin will most surely heap upon us, and to enjoy the peace that comes with a heart ready to do His will.

I have lived with a great deal of separation anxiety because of this misunderstanding, when all the while He was right there with me.  I’ve lived in fear of His absence as there were no more sorrowful words on the day of His death than “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  It was agony for Jesus to be separated from His Father.  But it was an agony He endured so that we would not have to.  He is with us, faithfully leading us in the ways of righteousness, correcting – not condemning – us when we sin.  He knew we would.  Yet He has chosen a position of unfathomable mercy and extravagant love that will abide – make a permanent home – in all who will allow it.

It is finished.  This is the truth.  This is the truth that sets us free.  Free indeed!

 

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

 

 

 

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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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That was me

We sat around the lunch table, a group of volunteer workers of which I had the title of leader.  We were a good fit as a team and were enjoying our time together.  Conversation covered a range of topics and on this particular day we had been presented a situation that none of us were quite sure how to handle.  We discussed the seriousness of it and made several suggestions on how best to deal with it.  Then comments turned toward one who was involved.  Surely they know better.  Why would they do that?   That’s just not right.  

I sat silent as I wondered what these women would say if they knew that was me.  Oh, the circumstances were different and it was long before I had met my current cohorts, but the actions of this one talked about mirrored my own at a very difficult point in my life.  If they knew this about me would they deem me unworthy to sit with them, work with them, be a leader?  Could they understand the choices a damaged soul makes in a panicked effort to find healing?  It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there.

All I could say was “When you’re really messed up you don’t know how messed up you are.”

It’s very much like someone who knows they are sick but they think it to be only a really bad cold.  They struggle with the symptoms and employ every effort to heal themselves.  Scattered among the days they feel like death warmed over, there are the good days when they feel fine.  This surely must be an indication they are healing.  They let this drag on and on until finally they surrender and go for help only to discover that what they have is not a cold but rather a very serious case of pneumonia.  The treatments needed are significantly different from those for a common cold, possibly even hospitalization, and without the help of the physician this one who is sick would continue in their misdiagnosis and all the wrong treatments, frustrated that they could not find relief.  That was me.

My mind moved from thoughts of this one in the midst of trouble to the women who sat with me sharing their opinions and implied judgement.  Before life took me through some serious trials, I was one quick to judge and quick to lack compassion when the faults of others were so clearly evident to me.  I was one weighing sin as if mine were somehow more acceptable to God than the sins of others.  I was one discussing the error of their ways, feigning concern but really just gossiping.  But I had no judgement for those who shared my table because it wasn’t that long ago when that was me.

There was a day years ago when I raged and hurled my accusations toward God until I was spent, then crumpled into sobs that poured out the weariness of my damaged heart.  The realization that all the years of trying to heal myself had only made things worse weighed heavy on me.  I was empty and alone, broken and defeated.  It wasn’t easy to admit how spiritually sick I was, but it was here that I found Healing.   The process of heart-repair seemed to move at a snail’s pace, God being unwilling to rush despite my pleas.  But in yielding to His work the good days slowly began to outnumber the bad and I began to experience the mercy and grace I had always heard about but never really understood.  That was me.

The scars in our lives should remind us that those we see who appear so messed up probably don’t know just how messed up they are.  Our opinions and judgments are simply more of the wrong kind of treatments for what ails them and will never assist their healing.  Having experienced ourselves the lovingkindness, the longsuffering, the mercy, and the grace of our amazing God that worked healing in our lives, how can we withhold it from every other who is sick from sin??  We are called to be the vessels containing the nature and character of God, vessels that pour that very nature of love and compassion on all.  This is you.  This is me. This is who we are. 

 

That was me” 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

 

 

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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

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Where are they?

I’ve written of this woman before, but as I’ve been in this state of receiving His grace more and more, her story will not leave me.  My previous observations were more about the accusers.  Today I am thinking of her and imagining…

She had been dragged to stand before Him.  Her head hung in shame and humiliation, their accusations cut to the core because she knew they were true.  She was guilty.  She hadn’t planned her life as it was, it just happened.  One disappointment led to another and after a while it just didn’t seem to matter any more.  She was embarrassed at her lifestyle but helpless to break the cycle.  Self-worth?  She had lost that a long time ago. This man’s attention turned her way had disguised itself as hope, love, and healing, but it the end became the reason she stood accused.

The crowd who had been sitting listening to His teaching grew strangely still.  All eyes were on her.  She couldn’t bear to look up so she just stood there with here eyes clinched tight.  She certainly couldn’t look Him in the face.  She had heard about Him.  She knew He was righteous and good, unlike the men who had captured her and most certainly the very opposite of herself.  The angry men loudly announced her indiscretions, and when He did not respond they persisted.  The ugliness of her sin repeated again and again, every word a hammer blow to her soul.  She had lived with the fear of discovery for quite some time and now must be her reckoning.

What was He doing?  He hadn’t answered the angry men.  With her head still low she dared to peek.  He’s stooped to the ground.  He’s lowered Himself as she still stands.  This is enough to get her attention and still more, the fact that He seems to be in His own little world writing on the ground as if oblivious to all that is going on around Him.  How very strange!  It appears He plans to ignore their question of what to do with this sinner but then He stands.  He speaks to them and gives them permission to stone her.  IF they are each without sin of their own.  Then He returns to His strange writing on the ground.

She cowers and braces herself for the pain.  These men never see themselves as wrong.  They are the proclaimed righteous in the community, the ones who are always pointing the fingers of blame at everyone else, the ones who fill the temple courts regularly.   The seconds following His words seem like hours.  Her eyes clinched again, her own mind screaming “GUILTY!” over and over, she doesn’t notice what has taken place.  Then His voice breaks through:

“Where are they?”

What?  He is speaking to her and she looks up.  The angry men have left!  He looks her in the eyes and asks:

“Has no man condemned you?”

She can hardly grasp it and she stammers in amazement “No one!”

“I don’t either.”

How can this be??  This wonderful, pure Man is fully aware of her guilt and yet offers no condemnation.  This undeserved forgiveness found not only in His words but also in His eyes floods her entire being.  She realizes she has come face to face with true Love.  She cannot fathom why He chose this, but her desperate soul offers no argument because in this moment she knows somehow she is changed.  She feels a freedom she had believed was lost to her.  She feels strangely empowered, able to hold her head up now and experience real Hope.  She knows without a doubt that she will never be the same so His next words are not burdensome:

“Go and sin no more.”

She can’t help it – she breaks into a smile and it is all she can do not to dance in the lightness that is now hers!  The crowd that had gathered around Jesus’ teachings is still there.  She looks around and finds the faces that were stern and uncertain when she arrived have softened. For while they weren’t the accusers that had boldly approached Him, their hearts were pierced as well when He spoke to the angry ones.  They knew of their own sin and realized that the miracle she had just received was there for them as well.  A few offer kind smiles.  Several pat the ground next to them as an invitation to sit and listen to more of what He has to say.

“I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.”

This day she sits with new friends, new hope, a new life.  This day she met Grace.

(John 8)

 

The post Where are they?  was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on Our Passionate Purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mushy oatmeal and another hard-to-swallow thing

As a child I often found myself the overnight guest of my best friend.  She was an only child and I the middle of five.  She lived with her parents and her maternal grandparents and I saw her as the center of their world. I so enjoyed my time in the midst of their love and laughter.  While I very much felt at home there, I was still bound by the rules of my upbringing, one of which was very difficult to follow on a particular morning.

My friend had fixed my breakfast.  Instant oatmeal.  My mother often made oatmeal for us but it was the real kind – old fashioned Quaker Oats that had to be cooked on the stove.  I don’t believe I had ever tasted instant oatmeal prior to that day and I must admit I found it awful.  It was mushy and flavorless and no matter how much milk or salt or butter or sugar I added, it still tasted terrible.  And while I could hardly swallow it, I stuck to the training of being a good guest, determined to eat what was served.  I certainly did not want to hurt my friend’s feelings and made a valiant effort not to let my face show that I found her oatmeal disgusting.  I failed.  One look from her Granny and she exclaimed “Get her something else to eat!  She’s gagging!!”  Granny rescued me and I was ever so thankful.

This morning I read an article that made my heart hurt.  It was just one of the many stories and posts so prevalent in today’s culture that I find hard to swallow – the public shaming of a child.  A child’s photo posted on the internet for all the world to see, their actions recounted for all the world to read, their souls most surely wounded.  I ache for them.

I confess, I used methods of correction with my children that I now see were too harsh.  I was a very strict disciplinarian who now wishes she had been gentler and kinder.  I’m sure every parent looking back would change quite a few things.  But I was a mother raising children quite a few years before the internet.  The disciplines done in the privacy of our home were not events that were broadcast to the world.  Oh, we young mothers talked among ourselves about what our children did and how we handled it.  But it was never with the intention to humiliate them into obedience.   We didn’t use shame as a method of correction.  We didn’t publish their sins.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].  1 Peter 4:8

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that correction is absent.  As parents we correct.  As teachers and employers and friends there are times that actions must be confronted and redirected.  But living in the kind of love just mentioned will lead us to deal with the issues at hand while also protecting the one who has erred, giving them mercy instead of shame.  This love refuses to broadcast their mistakes.  This love is full of grace.

I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.  Hebrews 8:12

Jesus gave His life to provide our absolute, complete forgiveness and promised to remember our sins no more!!  His forgiveness doesn’t mean correction is absent.  But He bore the shame and humiliation of our sin and therefore He will never use those as a method to correct us.  He gently leads and corrects and guides.  His love covers ALL our sin.

He rescued me and I am ever so thankful.