Why a Steady Gaze Yields Steady Feet

Fears reveal our perceived vulnerabilities.

For as long as I can remember, heights became a catalyst for a racing heart and anxious mind. It took me years to begin challenging myself to conquer my fear. For by doing so, the confidence gained carried implications to other areas of my life.

One such venue of empowerment occurred through High Ropes course elements at various camps in which my family vacationed. Ironically, my husband embraces these risk taking activities. In fact, he led groups as a paid facilitator for several summers. My kids, clamor to strap on the gear and head on up. Me? Not so much.

But, this time I refused to settle. Especially in front of my kids.

So up I climbed; helmet strapped on, baleigh secured. My gaze fixed in front of me. Feet steady. Steps taken carefully as I slowly lift up one foot and struggle to maintain balance on wobbly legs as I plant my foot in front of the other. As I complete a few steps, I marvel at my progress.

But then my eyes gaze downward. A streak of fear hit my heart. I felt paralyzed despite my body swaying to keep me steady. The distance to the ground appears daunting. Despite encouragement from the crowd, my mind becomes paralyzed but my feet lose their grip. I am dangling.

Yet I am secure.

You see, the rope attached to my belay is also hooked into a track above me. I knew it but the carabiner lies out of my vision. What I can’t see makes trust difficult.

Eventually, I planted my feet back on the beam and steadily made my way to the shortest exit route.

Though I didn’t make it to the end, I left knowing I faced my fear and caught a glimpse of God’s interaction in our lives in the process.

When our gaze becomes focused on our fear rather than the Sustainer who has our back, we find ourselves in an unsteady place.

But He has not moved. And despite any earthly consequences, we are still attached and given the opportunity again to plant our feet.

You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm. Psalm 18:33 (The Message)

What’s keeping you from walking steady?

This post is written for the Five minute Minute Friday Community. Come join us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

Disclaimer: I may have gone a bit over the five minutes 🙂

 

 

The “Let us” verses: Why We Must Resist Growing Weary Doing Good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer conjures up images of fresh produce. The bounty of hard work yields arrays of textures and colors that only God, the master artist, could create. Much of this edible art finds itself on our plates. With the heat, comes appetites for lighter fare. Lettuce: a simple ball of layers of edible crunch which adds diversity and foundation to other dishes. It’s consumption nourishes our bodies and sustains us to do God’s work. In the same way, scripture accomplishes the same feat-yet goes a step further-nourishment for the soul.

This post is the first in a series exploring the “Let us” verses. These exhortations are meant to encourage not obligate. They are found in the context of “consumption” for our well-being. May our souls find refreshment and be sustained for the walk ahead.

The joyful anticipation of the commencement of Summer break became tainted with disappointment as we walked home from school that day. My fifth grade son and his friend and I sauntered down the sidewalk in conversation as the warm breeze brushed over our bodies; a reminder of God’s never ceasing hand at work.

Our journey came on the heels of the fifth grade awards assembly. You know the drill: outstanding students in academics, athletics and extracurricular activity are recognized before an assembly of teachers, staff, students and parents. My son and his friend did not receive one. Both are smart, kind kids. But they did not fit the criteria for the awards. They understood that.  However, a dissonance remained.

“Why didn’t the volunteers for Circle of Friends get any rewards?”

Little did they understand the depth of the question.

Circle of Friends is the name of the group  in which they both participated. It’s focus is on engaging students from the mainstream classrooms with students with special needs. Normally these particular students are not integrated into the regular classrooms due to the severity of their disabilities. The group offers a community in which all learn from each other. My son and his friend volunteered for it. My son’s eyes lit up when he shared about his experiences.-building snowmen, going to McDonalds for Shamrock shakes, and enjoying parties together.

During the assembly, most every type of extracurricular activity was recognized. Except this one. Which seemed paradoxical in a sense; given the philosophy behind the group.

But here’s the rub. We don’t “do good” for the recognition.

Wrapping our heads around that reality? Well, that becomes a challenge. Especially when our hearts depend on Earthly motivation to reach out our hands.

Sometimes, the blessings appear invisible. We may not see the immediate “return” on our investment.

Serving a meal at a shelter? May not yield one thank you.

Sacrificing snacks and beverages  to the needy neighbor kid who practically lives at your house? May not immediately quench the thirst of a child longing for a safe environment.

Embracing a person in a vulnerable season of life? May not guarantee their back turns away from you at some point.

Extending an olive branch to the person with whom you butt heads in church? May not resolve the conflict instantly.

So while I understood the disappointment tugging at the hearts of my two tween companions that day; even resonated with them, I held a greater truth in my heart. One which can only be learned through experience.

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

The truth is this: sometimes we are witnesses to the harvests of our own sowing but sometimes we are privvy to  the harvests sowed by others.

The harvests visually remind us of the obedience its workers; workers who may not be aware of the abundance of the harvest’s yield. When it emerges, it may not even be in our lifetime or in our vicinity.

Ann Voskamp writes, “Believe it: Every tremor of kindness might erupt in a miracle on the other side of the world. http://annvoskamp.com/2015/09/when-you-just-want-to-know-its-all-going-to-be-okay/

So “keep on keepin on.”  When recognition fails. When fatigue sets in. When results appear far-reaching. A harvest awaits….if you don’t give up.

Monday Morsels: How to Pray When You Lack Direction

 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)

Sometimes, when presented with the request to pray for someone’s dire situation, I honestly do not know what to pray specifically. Many times, the situations are heartbreaking and my human mind simply cannot comprehend the implications of the situation. Do I pray for someone to be healed on earth even if it means suffering? How do I pray for a family at the end of the rope financially? Is a new job the answer or will someone be prompted be the Spirit to give of their finances? I know that our Sovereign God is reigning and and the object of Glory in all circumstances. And sometimes all I can do is stand on that truth. I am thankful that “His ways are higher than our ways.” And so I pray for the Holy Spirit’s intervention. It’s a simple but humble act of trusting in the providence of God.

What circumstances in your own life or in others’ are leaving you lacking direction in prayer?

Perhaps a prayer such as this is all that is necessary: Sovereign God, you are the beginning and end. You are in all things. I am without words to pray specifically for the needs of__________.

We humbly call on your Spirit to intervene for ___________. May our ears hear your groans; the groans of your Spirit coming from the Heavens to intervene in the darkened corners of our world.

Amen

Who Defines Your Worth?

“Who touched my clothes?”

The ball of condemnation began to form in her throat. This woman whose story is found in Mark 5. Years of living in the margins and questioning your worth yields a fearful spirit. Certainly, this woman was no stranger to the perceptions of her. Culturally, she was considered unclean. Her assumed place was in the tent; along with the other women who were in various stages of shedding blood. Some in their menstrual cycles. Others in stages connected to giving life. Regardless, they were to remain separated from society. “Untouched;” their worth interpreted by laws and fear.

But, for, her, when would she ever be free? Free to enter society. Free to assume an identity other than “unclean.” Freedom from a misunderstood perception that her current malady was a sign of God removing favor.

If even your Creator rejects you, how do you define your worth?

But something drew her to Jesus. What did he possess that led her to boldly venture into the public eye when she should have been isolated? To come in contact with those she was to avoid?

And to touch the “man of the hour?” What was she thinking?

Hope. The anticipation that the rumors were true. This man held the divine power to restoration-one that reached beyond her own expectations.

“Who touched my clothes?”

What if his response once again affirmed the inhumane message hurled upon her repeatedly?

But in an instant she knew differently. Her instincts correct. She receives from one human what only could come from outside humanity. Restoration. Validation. Liberation.

Jesus is never out of our reach.

Who is defining your worth?

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Community. Come join us!  http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

 

What I Experience When I Revise My Expectations of My Day

I am jostled awake by the radio blaring. The light glaring through the window announces that a new day arrived. As I struggle to make sense of my conscious state, my mind quickly scans through the moments ahead: What do I expect of this day?

I mentally check off the items that come to mind. Drive my son to school, exercise, teach my daughter, fix dinner…..

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3)

Did I ask God to show me how I might bless others today? Am I ready for answers to my prayers about the sinful areas of my life that need reshaping?

As I commit this day to its Creator, I am aware that the sacred moments that await may lead to new understandings bearing joy as well as painful reminders of brokenness. But God’s hand is woven through it all. For He called it into being.

So I Iook at the day with a renewed lens. I pray for those I pass routinely on my route to school. The man whose high school daughter kisses him good-bye as she walks across the street to the bus stop. What does the day hold for each of them?

The teacher, unlocking the door, for another opportunity to impact a squirley junior high student’s life; beyond things of the classroom. Does he carry personal turmoil with him along with the bags hanging from his shoulder?

The woman walking her dog. What’s in store for her today? Is she in need of hope?

And I commit to being inconvenienced for God’s sake. Veering off schedule and expectations doesn’t come easy to me. Yet, I am blessed as I listen to a man in the grocery store share about his experience in the war and why he’s waiting for his wife to finish shopping but he’s not with her.

When I refine my expectations of the day, I am blessed. My feet take me to new  places where I meet God in ways never anticipated. But that, I did expect.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community.  Come join us: http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

 

To My Christian Brothers and Sisters: What’s Become of Our Light?

Last night, as I watched my youngest graduate from Junior High School, my heart was torn.  While I felt joy in the celebration of these kids (many of whom I have known since preschool), I wrestled with the sadness coming from witnessing behaviors minutes before which have become the norm rather than the exception. And not from the kids.

My husband, my older son, my daughter and me came together to celebrate with my son.  I realize that this was Jr. High graduation and some areas of the country do not even consider that event worthy of a ceremony (I didn’t experience it and don’t feel I’m less the person for it.)  However, last night was about celebrating a milestone in a child’s life. As with most milestones, families play an integral part in the support given to reach it and desire to celebrate it together.

Finding four seats together became a daunting task. Although everyone needed a ticket, not everyone’s “party” arrived together. I understand the desire to include extended ticketed family with your group. However, when saved seats have morphed into rows, we need to ask ourselves what’s really at play here. 

We found seats:  I sat alone, my husband and daughter sat several rows back and my son sat in the back row by himself. Meanwhile, the two “saved” seats in back of me never filled. 

As I sat alone, I mourned. First, for the immediate grief of not sitting together with my family. We’ve been through a lot these past few years. My son has encountered the typical Jr. High social challenges, confronted the academic rigors that come with maturity, and dealt with many difficult situations experienced by our whole family. In many ways, we’ve been stretched to our limits for a decade. Last night, it would have been nice to be woven together in our celebration.

I also mourned the small rips into humanity I witnessed earlier in the day in my own community. Two different adults looked at me and continued to cut me off in a parking lot. “Just because you can does not mean you should” has become a well known mantra in our home. My kids have learned that this world is not “all about them.”  Sometimes, we sacrifice for the sake of someone else. It may involve a big act-maybe even their life. Yet, many times, the humility involves the routine moments of asking what can be done to make life better for someone else.  When we cannot even give up an extra minute, who have we become?

How easy it is to explain away those behaviors. We are all stressed. Some days, we wonder how the lists for our days will be accomplished within the 24 hours we are given. Our minds are constantly multitasking; hoping that fulfillment will be found in reaching our expectations. Whatever the cost. But maybe, we need to evaluate what it is we expect: out of our days and out of our lives. Who drives us? What imprint do we hope to leave on another? 

In the fall, I lamented the division in our nation through my post. https://stephaniejthompson.com/2016/11/14/the-hard-work-of-being-neighbors/  Since then, has anything really changed? The trespasses against our neighbors continue-some with loud fanfare; others in a more quiet “sin of omission” manner. Many times these actions are accompanied by the sight of bumper sticker theology and comments justified by the title “Christian.”

When did  loving our neighbor as ourselves become a matter of convenience or preference?

Everyday we have an opportunity to shine a collective light in the moments we have with others. It matters regardless of how big or how old the audience may be when:

treating  waitstaff (despite your frustration)

responding to the annoying neighbor kid (who ironically is perceived as a “trespasser”)

listening to a person who holds a different political view (without unfriending them or tuning them out)

tempted to financially gain from someone else’s loss (just because you can, does it mean you should?)

driving or standing in line (Is your time really more important than someone else’s)

Our natural selves will find it difficult but our transformed selves can embrace the hard. Did we not invite Jesus in to do just that?

Paul exhorts us in this way: “…Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8)

Brothers and Sisters: Can we covenant together to let our light shine brighter? 

I know we can do better. Jesus made it so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Can Navigate the Shaky Ground Leading to the Future

The ground feels shaky at the moment.

I’m attempting to maintain my posture and balance as I navigate the bumpy sensation. As I walk to my left, my routine visits with my neighbor have ceased. He passed away a month ago and changes to his homestead are in progress.  A new landscape has emerged and pebbles stream the driveway as I walk over to chat with his family.

To my right, another neighbor’s house remains uncomfortably quiet. our beloved neighbors who we regarded as family have moved away. The normal signs of life abounding around their home are absent. No toys greeting me as I stride toward the backdoor. No blades of grass crushing beneath my bare feet as I walk over to ask her a question or tell my son to come home for dinner.

And here in my own home? My feet pace the floor as I engage conversations about the future. My youngest begins the journey to high school. My oldest prepares for his second year of college and my middle tries to recognize the reality that she graduates next year. And in the midst of it all, my husband interviews for jobs. He was laid off in March.

I, myself, contemplate where I’m headed next year. My own set of decisions lie before me.

The ground feels shaky at the moment. But, I can’t complain. I prayed for it.

I prayed for my neighbor as he battled the reality of his body deteriorating.

I prayed for our other neighbors who sought discernment regarding their future.

I  pray for my kids as they develop into the new seasons that God has been preparing them for. I wait with anticipation to see how their skills and passions take flight in God’s Kingdom.

I prayed for my husband to find peace as he navigated challenging work situations. God answered. He was released to move toward a new opportunity.

The cracks in the Earth will not swallow me. My feet will remain steady. I am not alone.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

This post is written for the Five Minute Writing Community. Come join us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/