Tag Archive | stories

Among the losses

loss

Yesterday I didn’t cry. I think it’s the first day since the hurricane I haven’t. There was no water in my home and my possessions are not heaped at the curb. I didn’t spend hours or days trying to find my mom or my siblings or my children, I knew where they were and they were safe. I didn’t even lose electricity or cell service or cable. But I endured the storm with some who did and I am heartbroken.

As they entered our doors you could see it in their faces. They were scared and angry and frustrated and in shock. They were wet and cold and hungry and lost. They were transported to a place they had never been, a town they had never even heard of, to stay with strangers they were not sure they could trust. Most came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a few with small bags, many with children in tow and families with newborns. Yes, newborns. A few were sick, really sick with kidney failure and cancer and heart disease, their bodies rescued from the waters but not their necessary medications.

We offered what we could, a hot meal, dry clothes, pillows and blankets, a safe place to stay, and what felt to me like seriously inadequate emotional support given their circumstances. Ill-equipped as we were, we settled them into every room, nook, and cranny of our buildings, trying to make them as comfortable as possible on the cold, hard floors. We packed them in like sardines and hoped they could rest and prayed they could sleep. Some did. Some did not.

We stayed up with one man who literally paced the hall throughout the entire night, agonizing over the helplessness he felt as he couldn’t find his nine-year old son. I held the newly widowed woman as she sobbed in my arms, her recent loss intensified by the loneliness of a shelter full of strangers and the uncertainty of a future without her husband and the home they’d shared. I watched a beautiful young woman crumple to the floor as she received the news that loved ones were lost. I stood on the sidewalk in the early morning hours with a precious mom, her tears mixing with the rain as she poured out her heart, struggling to find the strength to overcome the loss of everything. Again.

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Among the losses in this storm was also any notion I may have held onto that the heart of the gospel can be neatly organized from my nicely decorated office, that it can be scripted and planned and comfortable and easily implemented on my terms.

I’ve visited shelters (as it fit in my schedule) and I’ve ministered to the poor (when it was convenient) and I’ve taught the classes (from my nice, clean classrooms) and I’ve fed the hungry (when I had the $ with me that I could easily hand to the homeless person on the corner as I went on my way). My desire has been to make an impact on the world around me with the message of God’s love through these efforts, and I will continue to seek these very same opportunities.

But I have never experienced anything like this. It has irreversibly affected me. I will never be the same. I don’t want to be the same. I want to be different. I want to allow these flood waters to wash me beyond my comfortable ideas of ministry into really understanding that the hands and feet of Jesus got dirty. He touched those considered untouchable. He loved those viewed as unworthy. He walked and talked with those who were royally messed up. He changed their lives and He did it outside the walls of the tabernacle.

We are moved by the compassion of a community who showed up in the midst of the storm. Literally. Through the wind and rain they brought food and water and clothes and bedding and personal items and kennels and air mattresses and a shower trailer. And port-a-potties (yay!). They brought trucks, BIG trucks, and boats, LOTS of boats. Our first responders brought the professional medical help needed for the sick and the organization needed to send volunteers out to find those still stranded and bring them to safety. The community together brought hope and help and rescue. They brought Jesus to the hurting and the helpless.

This good news of Jesus Christ is a completely inconvenient gospel. If we truly desire to see people find Jesus, He will take us into the unpredictable where our religious platitudes will be meaningless, where our hands will get dirty, where our hearts will be broken, where we will work to exhaustion and then work some more, where we will be pressed to give grace, grace, and more grace, and where we will experience the depth of His love for humanity in a way that doesn’t feel particularly spiritual in the moment, yet is profound.

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I am still grieving for those who came to us, who experienced losses I cannot imagine. I will never forget their faces. I don’t want to. And I am grieving for those who are afraid to go beyond the security of the church doors to be Jesus to their world. I pray we will dare to be awkward and uncomfortable in the spontaneous opportunities presented to us that beg a response. I pray we’ll trust Him as He leads us into the unknown in the inconvenient and often messy business of living as His hands and His feet and taking Him to a desperate world.

 

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

Photographs by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

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The Gospel – it’s not about me

not_about_me

I’ve spent a bit of time lately being reflective. Not in the way I did in the past when scrutiny only brought guilt and shame, but rather just an honest look at where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what is motivating me. If you’ve read many of my posts, infrequent as they may be lately, you’ve seen that I seem to circle the same wagon, making the same point again and again. Today is not much different because I just can’t get away from the fact that this enormous gift of grace, the gospel, the good news we’ve been offered came with the simplest of instructions on how to live it out. Yet this simple message seems to get lost in our focus on the magnificence of the gift we’ve received.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to put my thoughts and feelings into words in order to process the information and keep myself on track. I tend to get tunnel vision. I get focused on something I’m doing, where I’m going, etc., and can easily lose sight of all else. Many years ago I heard a man say that God gave him a word and he made it a sentence and ended up in a different place/or with different plans than God had intended. I can easily take a word from God and make it a 5 or 10 year plan, completely forgetting that my faith walk is to be step-by-step with Him!

This morning as I began the difficult task of waking enough to be functional, I turned the TV to a Christian channel. The program airing was not one I watch regularly but I quickly became interested in where the message from this world renowned preacher was going. Millions will have heard his message by the time I post this and I wonder what they will do with these words that were spoken: “Your number one priority is your happiness.”

Now I’m pulling one line from an entire message which was about not allowing others to manipulate you, being aware when it’s time to stop enabling/rescuing others, etc., which was very good information. However, the words above were in essence wrapping up the message, bringing it to his point. And those words tickled my ears. For a split second everything in my flesh wanted to shout “AMEN!” But I know better.

I went out for my run with those words stuck in my head. I was so focused on my thoughts about them that I looked up after a few minutes and didn’t know where I was. I had intended to go on one of my regular routes through the neighborhood but had inadvertently gone a different way. And being directionally challenged this was cause for concern. (I do possess a phone with gps capabilities, however I choose to run without it because I do not want any distractions…lol) I quickly realized that I was not lost but simply on another familiar path so I returned to my processing of the message I’d heard. Turning my thoughts to my own life, it was easy to see how often I’ve gotten spiritually distracted and tried to make the gospel about me.

The truth is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – that delivers and heals and saves and empowers and frees is not about me. It is for me. Jesus came for me, He bore the sins of all for me (and you), He sent the Helper for me. But the good news was never about me – it was about Him. It has always been about Him. He IS the good news. When I try to take this gift of grace and make it about me, I twist His intent. He didn’t set me free to chase my own dreams. He didn’t deliver me so that I could be more self-aware. He didn’t empower me so that I could be anything I want to be. He did it all so that I could be who and what He designed me to be.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is the gracious gift of God for all who will accept, but Jesus said that to truly receive and experience this magnificent gift one must deny self – completely surrender to His will, His way, His pleasure, His desire. Yet somehow we’ve taken the sacrifice and made the gift about us and our own happiness. We sing His praises and proclaim that we have a good, good Father, but we so often do not trust Him with His plans for our lives. It is only in this denial of self that we will find the true fullness of the good news of Jesus.

“For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake and the gospel’s will save it…”  Mark 8:35

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It is a challenging balance to maintain – to receive all the wonders of grace and find our identity in Him yet stay focused on Him, not ourselves. To live in the many blessings He pours out over us and yet be willing to hold them loosely, becoming only stewards of what belongs to Him. To exist in our human form and yet live consumed by His mighty presence within.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – when embraced, changes the perspective of our lives. He has taken a story that is full of the everyday stuff, drama, comedy, satire, mystery, and even a little romance (for this not-so-mushy kind of girl) and given it all meaning and purpose. As He’s revealed Himself in my past, shows Himself in the here and now, and gives me vision to see His hand on my future, I grow to know and trust and love Him more and more. The script of my life has humbled and honored and delighted and even scared me at times, yet I am more confident than ever that the chapters still to come will be rich and full because as long as I will allow, this story will be much more about Him rather than me.  And it will be a very good story because He is good.

The Gospel – it’s not about me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

When you hear my story

once-upon-a-time

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