Archive for the 'Holy Spirit' Category

06
Mar
17

Middle of Life Grown Up Lessons

soil and plant

I think I might almost be a grown up.  At least, I’m heading that way. I’m 45 years old, and some might think that it’s about time. But, for me, it’s been a process. And I absolutely love it, and sometimes I hate it. It’s hard, and it’s messy. But I love that I’m here, and I love that I’m learning things about myself that maybe I, personally, would not have been able to learn in my twenties. Some of my growth required time and experiences that I wasn’t looking for earlier, and some lessons I actually didn’t even know existed until now.

I get excited when I get to share what I’ve learned and what I’m learning, because, honestly, growth is not really an age thing. We’ve all seen younger people who seem to be wise beyond their years, and we’ve also seen older people who are still demanding their own way and who act like three year olds in old people bodies…it’s not pretty, but it’s a real thing. So I think growth and grown up-hood is not only a thing of grace, but it also has to do with our openness to receiving the gifts given to us. It’s having eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that’s open to new possibilities.

Lesson #1:  We all have core value because we are made in the image of God…we are God’s image bearers. That’s incredible. However, we all have core hurts that some of us live out of. And after continually walking in those core hurts, it’s hard to know and feel our own core value and virtually impossible to see other people’s value if we can’t even see our own. We are valuable, and we are worth it.

Lesson #2:  Feelings are not bad. In fact, they are helpful in how we figure out why we do the things we do. We have to be able to feel and to realize what we’re feeling, and only then, can we move towards healing and growth.

Lesson #3:  In order to know and love others well, we have to know ourselves. We have to be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate with others. Jesus said, “Love God; love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Lesson #4:  Boundaries are vital. Everyone has a “yard,” and we get to decide who comes in and out of our yards.  While boundaries don’t initially make things easier, they make things healthier, and eventually, things do get easier with use.

Lesson #5:  We all have a voice. And finding and using our voice is important.  We have to be able to use it for ourselves before we are able to use it for others.

Lessons #6:  We are all unique individuals who have different gifts, and when we grace people with our particular gift, those around us are enriched and encouraged. No one’s gift is better than anyone else’s, so we don’t have to compete and compare.

Lesson #7:  I no longer have to put people in boxes labeled: good box and bad box. If I am establishing appropriate boundaries (Lesson 4) and seeing other people’s core value (Lesson 1), then I no longer have to make people the bad guy and me the good guy. People are just people.

Lesson #8:  You only know what you know. This seems like a very obvious kind of statement. But if we really believe that about ourselves and others, we can begin to not only show people grace, but we can cut ourselves some slack, as well.

Lesson #9:  You are not alone. We are all in this together.  Your story may have different details than mine, but our stories are connected. We don’t have to do this alone.

Lessons #10:  Life is hard. It just is. There is always going to be stuff that we would rather not go through. But as I get older, I ask myself, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” I want to look for the beauty in everything, but especially in the struggle.

Lesson #11:  Everything is connected. If you start looking for the connections, you start seeing them everywhere.

Lesson #12:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” is not just a nice principle or a cute Bible verse, it’s a real, life-giving mystery. And that’s the “following Jesus” kind of church that anyone anywhere can be a part of.

Lesson #13:  Questions are good. I have a couple friends who ask questions well, and I’m learning from them. If we’re willing to ask, there will always be someone there to answer.

Lesson #14:  Things are not happening to me; they are happening for me. When hard things come my way, instead of asking “Why me?” I now ask “How do I get to grow up in this?” If I look at the world through this lens, I no longer have to be a victim. It’s the difference between knowing that God is for me, not against me.

Lesson #15:  I absolutely have to have solitude and silence and wide open spaces. I cannot breathe well without these.

I don’t usually do lists, but I thought this might be a not-so-Kim-kind-of-way to look at how I’m becoming a grown up. A lot of these lessons overlap because everything is connected, of course (Lesson 11). These lessons have not been easy, and I hope to share stories in future blogs about how these lessons came to be.

For some of these lessons, I’m at the very beginning, while others I’m somewhere in the middle, and other lessons have been long and hard, and I’ve had to endure way more than I cared to. But I have a good Friend who has walked beside me and continues to walk with me on this amazing journey. And I’m grateful for the lessons He’s teaching me on a daily basis and for the friends He’s given to walk with me along the way.

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07
Feb
14

counselors, pastors, church and growing up in God

When I was about 30, Jeff and I saw a counselor. We’d been married ten years at that point, and I was just angry. Really angry. I was there to unload. But during that three-hour session, I had a great epiphany (more like a lightning bolt in a gentle God kind of way) about Matthew 18 concerning God’s forgiveness and my forgiveness toward others (specifically Jeff). I remember hearing the Holy Spirit speak to me then for the first time. I’m sure He had before; I just failed to recognize it as His voice. But once He spoke to me at that moment, my heart softened, and my eyes became like a faucet that no amount of tissue could stop. The problems in our marriage didn’t magically go away when I heard the Holy Spirit, but I learned at that point that God was really real and that He loved me very much. And that was enough.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve been learning to trust Him gradually more and more. And over the last five years, I feel like I’ve been in God’s laboratory, and He has done some serious damage to who I thought I was and who I thought He was. Not that I have to figure out who He is and put Him in some kind of “God-box,” but I know Him to be good, and I know Him to be kind and gentle, and I trust Him with my life and with the lives of the people around me. And that is enough.

I have gone to church my whole life with the exception of about 3 1/2 years, and those three plus years were where I actually grew the most. And God did this growing thing in me. He taught me Himself. I’m not ditching or slamming church here, nor am I advocating ditching or slamming church, but what I’m trying to say is “going to church” is not the key thing. Religion is not the key thing. Jesus is. Life has to be about this relationship with Him. So what does that look like?

A few years back, I came across this Scripture that changed me or at the very least my way of thinking about how God teaches us. I John 2:20, 27 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you have knowledge…The  anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a message preached about this passage. Does this mean that we don’t necessarily need someone explaining the Bible to us? Does this mean that the Holy Spirit can really teach us by Himself without the aid of the pastor? What if we taught that, promoted that? Would that empty the pews on Sunday? Would that mean we couldn’t support those buildings and budgets because we don’t need the pastor in the way we think we need the pastor? I’m not trying to be snarky here. Jeff just became a pastor, and part of our living depends on gifts given to the church.

But I’m not worried about our living; God has shown up more times than I could possibly count. Nor am I concerned with filling pews with people who are interested in just playing church and not actually “being the church.” Because what I want more than anything is for God’s people to grow up in Jesus, to be able to see God at work in their lives, to be able to read the Bible, God’s Truth, and for Him to set them free. And I don’t think that necessarily comes from hearing what a pastor has to say on Sunday. That might be a part it, but that is definitely not the whole picture.

What if we each learn how to hear what the Holy Spirit is teaching each one of us daily? What if we believe what James 1 says about asking God for wisdom and actually ask Him and see Him teach us Himself? That could be life-changing, church-changing, Kingdom-changing.

What if we begin to view the pastor as a shepherd who, like everyone else, is led by the chief Shepherd? He (the pastor, the little shepherd) is there to point people to Jesus and hopefully teach people how to see God and hear from the Holy Spirit themselves. The pastor’s sermons are important, but probably not as important as we think they are, or rely on them to be.

This is what the Bible says for pastors to be and do: “Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”  I Peter 5:2-3 It seems like it’s not what pastors say that is so important but rather how they walk it out with their families, friends, congregations. And isn’t that true of all of us?

One day I got irritated with Jeff about him not picking up his phone and meeting whatever demands I had at the time. I usually only call when I want or need something. But anyway, he was gone; I needed something, and he wasn’t answering. I was mad but picked up my Bible anyway and the Proverbs I read that day pretty much said this…Don’t pick stupid fights… I had to laugh out loud at myself and my little tantrum. I love how God does that for me. It’s like He’s saying to me, Are you really going to take yourself that seriously? Eyes off Jeff; eyes back on Me.

We just started a Bible study on the women of the Bible that I am super excited about, and I recently did our first Bible study on Eve. I’ve read those passages so many times. And for those of us who grew up in church, we almost know them by heart and sometimes we might even be tempted to think that they are boring, but the Holy Spirit still reveals Himself in the middle of those things if we’re willing to listen.

Now, when I began preparing for the Bible study, I ordered every book from the library I could get my hands on about the women of the Bible. But I have to say, they ended up in my closet because why would I go there for information and inspiration when I have God’s inspired Word sitting in front of me? Once again, other people’s opinions are great, and I’m really glad that they had the Holy Spirit teach them, but I want the Holy Spirit to teach me without their help, without my mind being clouded by their thoughts and feelings. So I dug in myself. Just me, my Bible, the Holy Spirit. And I learned some pretty amazing things as a result.

There’s so much that the Holy Spirit wants to teach you, to teach me. Something else might be your thing; but here’s my thing: Dig in just a little…say a prayer; read a verse; take a walk; sing out loud; show up; hang on and see if God shows up in a way you can hear. There’s not a formula, but you have to start somewhere and what do any of us have to lose? And the gain? I think I’ve just barely scratched the surface.

06
Feb
14

Courage: I Can’t Do This Without You

We have huge opportunities in our neighborhood, in our community. But honestly sometimes I’m a little afraid. I’m nervous that I won’t do things right, that I will zone out when someone is telling me something important, that I will be confused and won’t have any idea what I’m supposed to do. And yet, God is opening doors and placing opportunities to go outside my comfort zone and offer myself. To show up. Are we willing to step beyond our little spaces and offer a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty? (Matthew 10)

I like the thought of helping people. I like the thought of volunteering and being useful, but for me the actual doing it is the hard part. Finding the courage to step out and maybe not do things the right way, admit my lack of common sense, admit that I have a directionally challenged brain and just be willing to do what is needed and to be able to a laugh out loud at my limitations and see what God can do with them is still hard for me. But it’s really not about me or my fear, my pain, my insecurities. But what I’m learning is to show up with open hands and an open heart and see what God can do with them.

Some of us from Trinity volunteered a couple of weeks ago to help in our local school with a vision and hearing screening. We had no idea what we would be doing going in there, and I have to admit I was nervous. I talked with one of our church people when we were at the school, and she admitted she had been nervous too, and that after she originally signed up, she thought, “What in the world am I doing?” But she showed up anyway, and she did her job well. Her courage amazed me…she’s 79.

The task that I was given for the screening is one of the things I’m no good at; I had to pay attention to what I was being told and then go find different classrooms. My brain does not work at all with directions and finding stuff. I totally freeze up and cannot even pay attention to what I’m being told. But I honestly did the best I could, and I walked around and around and up and down halls and eventually found what I was looking for. It was good for me to have to try to find my way around; it was good for me to be uncomfortable. It was good for me to have to walk around the building and “own” it.

During church last week, we talked about several more opportunities to volunteer and help in our local school, and a friend came up to me and said that she wanted to do things like that, but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do what was asked of her. And this is what I told her…I’m scared too. But what if we do this thing together? What if we face our fears and “kumbaya” it together? There’s not only huge encouragement in it being more than just myself, but there can be real community in serving together, knowing that we’re not left alone with our fears and insecurities, knowing that the people around us are facing the same fear, different situations maybe, but the same paralyzing fear to see beyond ourselves to the world around us and to actually show up in this life we’re called to live.

We’re really in this thing together. Matthew 18: 20 says, “When two or three are gathering in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two. And it’s pretty amazing when believers are gathered the things that God can accomplish through them. He works individually as well. No doubt about that. But the sense of togetherness, the courage that God can build in a community of people who are focused on Him can be pretty amazing. The energy, the strength, not to mention the excitement of being involved in something that is bigger than ourselves and not for our own glory but for His glory is just a downright “jumping up and down for joy” kind of thing.

Paul and Silas, beaten and thrown into jail, prayed and sang praises together at midnight. The result: the jailer and his family came to know Jesus. Together. There’s something about doing stuff with other people that gives us a boost of courage. A “we’re not in this alone” kind of thing.  We’re serving Jesus together. If I fall down, there’s going to be someone there to help me get back up. I don’t have to do this stuff alone.There will be someone to sing praises with to God.

Even when Jesus went back to heaven, He told His disciples that He was not going to leave them alone. He told them that He was going  to send a Comforter who would be with them always…the Holy Spirit within them, within us to give us courage to be bold and do the things that we cannot do alone, on our own. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”(Ephesians 2)  But it still takes courage to take the first step and the many steps thereafter. But we don’t have to do it alone.

So whether it’s just me and the Holy Spirit or a whole bunch of people and the Holy Spirit, God can do this thing that He’s called us to do. It’s His kingdom. He’s in charge, and I may not know the specifics of what I am supposed to be doing all the time, but I know this: God has called me to this life, and He’s called me to give this life away for Him, and this absolutely begins in my home and with my family. He may be calling me to other things as well, but it starts with the people closest to me and works its way out. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that we are to let our light shine, so the good works (you know, the ones that God created that we just have to walk in) point people to God and bring Him glory.

I don’t have a lot of courage. I don’t particularly love doing new things. But I know God can do this thing through me (whatever the thing is He’s calling me to do at the time), and it’s even more exciting to see when He does it through others. And then, when we all join hands and hearts and do it together, I almost come out of my skin with joy.

Courage bleeds neediness.

Courage sees hope in dark places.

Courage leans heavy on Jesus and moves in the middle of fear. –Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 136

03
Feb
14

when stuff unravels

Jeff and I are in the middle of something that we had not anticipated. It has nothing to do with our family or our church family or us as a couple. From our perspective, it’s huge and troublesome and overwhelming. But the crazy thing is that it’s really nobody’s fault, and for that I am grateful. I tend to be a “blamer,” just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. But this crazy, unexpected thing, I cannot blame anyone for. We could not possibly have seen this coming. We could not have prepared for it or even fixed it. We just had no idea. But here we are anyway having to deal with something way beyond our control, something that a few years back would have left me a panicky mess.

I have a few options when I get to these dark places that threaten to overwhelm me and make me want to “numb out,” freak out, and figure out someone to blame. But I’ve been here before. Maybe not exactly the same situation, but I’ve had similar feelings in my gut, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things in those dark times, so I’m trusting that this is another opportunity for growth. We don’t necessarily get opportunities like these every day.

I see God in the middle of this. I trust that He is here with me at all times and lean heavily into Him. This is not something I can make better; not something I can manufacture with an “It’ll be fine” attitude; it’s not something I can ignore or make go away. It’s something that has to be faced head on but can be faced with confidence, knowing that Jesus is walking with us through it and allowing Him to do His good work in us. And eventually when others go through this too, we will be able to comfort them in their struggle…been there, done that; God is good, especially in the middle of it because His mercies never cease. He is truly kind and gentle.

So pray for us. Not that the situation would get easier or go away, but that we would face it with God’s strength. I spent one night last week watching DVDs for hours curled up on the couch, bone-tired and burdened. Today is a new day, and I can face it with Jesus as my strength, and these are not just words that I throw around to make myself feel better or appear especially “religious.” With me, what you see is what you get, and if Jesus weren’t real to me, I wouldn’t be talking about Him or depending on Him as my very life. For me, life is all about relationships…the relationships I have with God, with my family, with friends, with those I come into contact with, and when my relationships are out of whack…any of them, I feel it deeply. Thankfully, God and God alone keeps me grounded. He tunes my heart to sing His grace.

And just as James says to rejoice in trials because they allow us to endure and then become more mature in God, I want to welcome this struggle, realizing that we will be able to see God work this out for His glory and our good, as well as see Him grow us up a bit more. And these days, that’s what I long for most, to be fully alive, completely depending on my Abba.

01
Nov
13

all too human

Worried…Restless…Dark…Doubt…Insecure…Fearful…Negative…Unlovely

Peace…Rest…Light…Trust…Safety…Love…Hope…Joy…Beloved…Lovely

Which list do I really want? Jesus says to those who are burdened to “Come, follow…” He says His burden is light. But I think some days I’d just rather go my own way than have to follow, than have to listen, even if His way promises peace. Sometimes I think I actually like the craziness of the first list. At any rate, I seem to be more familiar with it. It has a certain appeal, a certain drama to it. And some days, I just seem to be stuck in it.

On those days, when my crazy emotions and wild feelings are all over the place, I tend to want to dwell on the negative, the unlovely. I opt for the roller coaster ride of feelings. So, how do I get off once the ride has started?

There’s no how to. He speaks, and I know what He wants of me, but lately I can barely hear His voice. I know what my particular issue is…I’m not grounded. I have to be grounded in Him, which for me requires a level of time and discipline, which everything in me fights against. I extremely dislike schedules and having things on my calendar and being told what to do. And I actually can’t do it of my own accord; there’s a certain surrender in all of it.

But I’ve realized that my relationship with Him is the most important thing of all things, and I have to be disciplined about time for allowing Him to speak. Otherwise, I get muddied and clouded and distracted. And that’s where I’ve kind of been.

For me, it’s about getting back into nature, realizing that there is a bigger world out there that we’re all a part of. It’s feeling the breeze and hearing birds and leaves blow and contending with wasps and lady bugs (which really smell when they’re touched). It’s seeing the clouds, and not from inside my house looking out. It’s being a part of the beauty He created. It’s reading and praying and singing out loud and receiving. It’s being cold and sometimes getting my feet wet.

There’s no magic formula; I just know it when it is. And I’ve been missing it, trying to recapture what was, but which I’m not surrendered to at the moment. I’ve gotten distracted, and I miss Him, His voice, His beauty. I’ve tried to capture the peace that He gives without having Him infiltrate every part of my being, without giving Him all the parts of me, especially my precious time. And it’s not working. I want the benefits without having to follow, without having to die.

I know well the restlessness and doubt that have come from listening to the wrong voices in my head, and that the only way those voices can be muted is hearing from Him alone. Not trying, not striving…just being.

Be still, my soul…

Our heart is restless until is rests in You. -St. Augustine

16
Oct
13

words that float

I recently saw a friend at a soccer match. She had slipped and hurt her leg badly and was having trouble getting around, doing the stuff she normally did. She had a huge brace on her leg and might have to have surgery. She had a great attitude but was still struggling with everyday tasks like driving kids to stuff and doing laundry and walking up stairs and things that you take for granted with two good legs.

As I listened to her story, I realized that I personally had nothing for her. I had no solutions, no advice. I couldn’t fix her problems. I couldn’t make it all better, make it all go away. I found myself saying that I was sorry that she was going through this. But I know somehow that’s not enough. Even if I had unlimited time to help her in her situation, it still wouldn’t be enough.

So I keep finding in these types of situations that I hear this little voice in my head that says to pray with them. Not later, but right then, right there. Out loud. In those few short seconds, I argue with God about doing this. I argue that I can pray in my head, and I promise Him that I will pray later. But I realize that this may or may not happen since I am so out of sight out of mind. I argue that this is weird and will make the person uncomfortable, not to mention my uncomfortability in all of it. I used to think it was not okay to assert myself, and here I am praying out loud for another person to God about that person’s needs. And I worry that someone will mistake it for a goody-goody, holier-than-thou attitude.

But I do it anyway (most of the time); I pray out loud. I pray using gestures because that’s how I talk. And sometimes it’s loud and it’s long (I don’t mean to be; I just keep thinking of stuff). I pray touching them with my arms around them or grabbing a hand. I want them desperately to feel God’s arms around them, and His love for them.

I find as I pray, my prayers come back to what we all essentially need: faith, hope, peace and love in something much bigger than ourselves and our situations. And I’m no longer thinking about myself and my own insecurities or even the other person’s uncomfortability, but something happens within me, and I have this feeling of freedom and understanding and falling into hands that are much larger than my own. And I hope that the other person will fall with me.

The prayer itself is not a solution, but I’m finding that the words or sighs or groans that float up to God are more than the requests themselves or even the answers; prayer is about connection, relationship, awareness of Someone outside ourselves and also something between each one of us. Prayer is the connecting point that ties us to God and to each other. The kingdom of God truly is among us…between us.

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.




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