Saturday, December 2, 2017

end of semester (spring)

she was not meant to harbor the dissimilation of all she thinks, doubts, feels, sees, and she is harming more than just herself if she tries

This is a post, caught deep in my layers of post "drafts" that I stumbled upon today. It was written at the end of a semester that was packed with so many good things that my schedule, my life, my brain was packed right up to overload, and I came close to overloaded burnout. The draft date was May 14, 2017, and I have more thoughts to be added as the months have been added between that day and this day. I considered leaving it in drafts, but decided not to. Here, then, is a finally-sit-down-and-pour-out heart plea of deep exhaustion but deep desire from months ago.
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God, this semester, I've tried.

I tried to figure out what it meant to live a life worth living. I tried to see the meaning tucked inside each minuscule moment. I tired to push for a powerful existence. I tried to do ever more than ever before.

And I had some results.

I found out that I have a limited capacity, but I serve a God who is unlimited.
I found out that following my own "wisdom" is not always the wisest decision.
I found that I can perpetually doubt (everything) and questions (everyone).
I found out that I can make wrong assumptions and not be able to solution everything.

I discovered that maybe I am much more of a coward than I would like to admit, that maybe I play my life safer than the safest sailor and that I would rarely rarely rarely take a risk (ever) -- my abilities just allow me to do "more," to do more that people would consider risks. But they aren't. They just aren't for me.

I've discovered that I'm afraid of love (or maybe) that I may really not know what love means. I've realized that I really don't like making up my mind but that I am, at the same time, incredibly stubborn.

I've realized that some non-decisions are really decisions, and that safety at the expense of comfort can mean a comfortably miserable existence and that time is an illusively gifted responsibility.

I've realized that I need people, and I need truth. I need facts outside of my mental reality, a mental place where I am both creatively whimsical and calculatingly analytical.

I've realized that sometimes I try to evaluate my own self from a self removed from self. I intellectualize my way away from where the Spirit is leading me, and I hold onto my head to the degree that I lose hold of my heart.

I second-guess my ability to second guess, and I choose the comfortable, easy best over what may actually be the really best.

I deceive myself when I cease spending time with the Son. I search for truth, but if I don't ever come to the truth, how am I supposed to find it?

I think that I know better or can figure it out, but maybe I really need to figure out that I need others to do the figuring with me. Maybe I need to cease so much figuring and start more of the acting. Maybe I need to stop so much internally musing and just muse on the fact that I can delight in the One who delights so much in me and so much in the people and in this world that He has crafted. Maybe I need to craft my life after the Crafter of Life and lay down my existence to with obedience as my heartbeat.

Maybe I must trust.

Trust that I am not enough but I serve the God who is way more than enough.
Trust that I do not understand but I am actually understood.
Trust that I do know what I must -- I know the One who does know, and that's exactly where I need to go.

I'm afraid, Abba; afraid to move in a direction because I do not want to be judged (by man), but I must realize that there is only One whose judgment holds weight, and I want to be faithful into that judgment day.

Do I trust you to write that story?

I'm trying,
and I know I've tried but can try harder still.

I'm being conformed into the image of You, Christ, and who am I to be impatient in the process. I must simply be faithful, but I must be a fired faithful: relentless.

I want that, Abba. I want to come back to not asking what I want or need or think is a good idea but asking--and not just asking but seeking--your desire for my next step, for I do not even need to see more than simply that.

Lord, please keep me from my self and from my selfish, flesly ways. Grant me grace when I need it but grant me truth when I need to preach it and be preached by it.

I crave freedom and peace and trust and truth and gloriousness un-burdened by burdens that I was not meant to carry but only burdened with what burdens Your heart. I need to be channeled into You. I need to lose more and more of myself to ever find what it means to be found in You and to be truly alive.

I need to come back; I need to come back to what you've told me since the beginning, to come back to the (non-complicated) and oh so simple truths. I need this truth maybe most of all, a heart guarded by the beautifully simple and simply beautiful reality.

Lord, please keep me from the reality that is so focused on myself and which is introspecting myself to death, instrospecting it farther and farther away from you. Keep me from pursing things that smell of the fragrance of death. Inspire me with your vision. Infuse me with your hope. I want to be found freed in the fullness of You, forever thankful. Lord, Your favor is so undeserved that you give to us. Thank You, oh Abba, thank you.

Refresh me, revive me. I need You.

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nothing Is Wasted | Internship Stories


He sat in the tall, black conference room chair. Through the multiple windows behind him, I could see the apartments which the three other summer interns and I called home.

“It’s God orchestrated…”

After two others had already shared how God brought them to the Voice of the Martyrs, he was emphasizing the theme apparent among the ministry: God is at work in a unique way, bringing people together in a manner only He could orchestrate.

From paintings and college connections, the stories of how employees came to VOM are varied, but as we interns heard more and more stories, I was increasingly amazed. From the daughter of a missionary whose parents interacted with Nate Saint to a fumbled choir audition leading to sporadic missions trip and ensuing Oklahoma introduction, VOM’s staff is comprised of unique individuals with unique stories.

Even more, the conference room conversation further emphasized the experiences each unique individual had gained. Sometimes, it didn’t seem like previous experiences related to anything the employees could foresee. However, each experience taught something. It may have built character or given a skill set. Later on, they were able to see how it was used.

I drummed my fingers on the table, thinking of the questions I’d brought to the table as I left from college and headed to this internship.

What does it mean to live like God is working out His ultimate plan?
What does it mean to trust God when you don’t understand how the pieces are fitting together?

I’d heard about so many of our persecuted family members forced to grapple with ideas of God’s sovereignty and the tangible realities of trust. Forced out of homes, tortured, and even killed, I heard this truth ring out among their testimonies:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

This internship was showing me much.

We can plan; we can go in a life of service to the King, but ultimately, the best place we can go is straight to the truth of the Bible, to a trusting surrender to Christ and a daily picking up of our crosses, and to a reliance on His promises.

My persecuted family spoke of forgiveness and joy, despite not being able to always clearly understand the “why” of His plan.

My new VOM friends spoke of trusting in God’s plan despite unforeseen challenges along the way because they know they are obeying the one who is the Way.

For, nothing is wasted.

Each difficult situation we are faced with is an opportunity to choose to rejoice always and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Each experience we don’t understand is a time when we can choose to love those around us more deeply (Mark 12:30-31).

Each day is our choice to come, follow Jesus as we praise Him for what He’s doing in His-orchestrated plan – bumps, failures, triumphs, and all.

For, nothing is wasted.

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Regardless | Internship Stories


“There was a deep inside of me, a happy of Jesus.”

Brown couch against my black notebook, so much of my American surroundings suddenly seemed trivial as the persecuted believer’s heartfelt words emerged in the video curriculum. Barely noticing the syntax, I absorbed the concept: a deep place inside, a joy only allowed because of Jesus.

It was week four of eight in my summer internship, and I felt like I was experiencing a crash-course in Christian life and ministry.

Within my department, I saw how strategy of spreading the word about persecution is seasoned with trust in God’s plan. "I had no idea." Comments issued as I introduced believers to the reality of persecution while exhibiting at a national conference: convicted and inspired. "Equipping to be storytellers of the persecuted." The words for the new program's booklet to engage the American church emerged, and I further read of people being impacted through those willing to give their life because of their commitment to Christ.

I was seeing, hearing, and reading about what God was doing in nations with unique challenges for Christians, and I was now watching the video testimony of one of such believers: “There was a deep happy because of Jesus.”

What does it meant to delight in the Lord, regardless?

The internship kept bringing this to mind, and my persecuted family shows me this: mind.

So much starts in the mind.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

When believers are faced with imprisonment, torture, and even death, they rely on the truth of the Bible. They cling to songs bringing to mind the sweet truths of Christ and His resurrection.

They engage with truth deeply, and their deep commitment to Christ is evidenced by a deep delight in the very character and essence of who He is. They delight in the reality of a God who is good, just, and holy. They fix their mind on this, despite externals.

Looking up at the persecuted believer on screen, I thought of how our external situations might be different but how we have internal similarities: we both may struggle with doubt, pride, anger, jealousy. We question.

However, just as each other, we each have a choice to fix our mind on praising the Delightful one, our Savior, despite not only external situations but internal thoughts. And this mental fixation? It compels us to action, for his love does not let us sit passively (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; James 1:22).

Entering the last days of my internship and looking into continuing in a life surrendered to Christ, I make it my prayer: Lord, let obedience to fix my mind on you be my heartbeat; let delighted praise of you be my speech.

There can be “a deep” inside of us, a joy because of our Savior – regardless.
© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Real Persecution | Internship Stories


Pink and white airplane display still yards away, I faltered as I gazed at the pond surrounded by prayer stones emblazoned with regions and Bible verses.

Words reached my ears through Nik Ripken’s audio version of The Insanity of God.

He told. He’d heard persecution-familiar Asian believers crying, tearing their clothes, and speaking in loud voices. The believers had listened to Nik’s stories of Middle Eastern persecution, and they had committed: committed to wake up an hour earlier to pray for those facing “real persecution.”

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

This summer hadn’t brought me from Asian or Middle Eastern nations but from over six hundred miles “up north” to the hundred (plus) degree heat of Oklahoma that had more heat than just weather: a hub of “on-fire,” dedicated believers serving the Lord through an organization while representing numerous “on-fire” persecuted believers throughout the globe.

Coming for an eight-week internship, I didn’t realize how much I would come away with. Sitting across from multiple International Ministries workers, we talked about Bible smuggling and America’s cultural Christianity. Perched on the couch’s edge at my host family’s home, I heard stories about decades spent among Muslims. Pulling up the edge of a banner at a conference, we discussed methods of spreading His Word.

I’d seen the faithful service of co-workers in the office, some serving for over twenty years. I’d listened to the interworking of meetings discussing missiology. I’d heard about my persecuted family who were obedient even till death. I’d tasted and seen the work the Lord is doing globally, and I’d been convicted.

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

As Asian believers cried in prayer, I asked hard questions: what does it really mean to be a part of such a global family of Christ?

As I read my Bible and thought about believers dying to get the Word to others, I asked: who am I to keep asking the Lord to “fill me up” if I am not being “poured out” for the sake of the gospel?

Amar's eyes lit up as he talked about sharing the love of the Father even though he was a refugee. Hannah's passionate voice echoed as she urged believers in the west to simply read their Word of God. Lives filled up and poured out. Lives poured out and refilled.

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

Wow, Lord, You are working a plan so much bigger than any of us can see (Proverbs 16:9; Psalm 138:8; Job 42:2).
Wow, Lord, You’ve given us each a piece in your story (Ephesians 2:10).
Wow, Lord, open my eyes to the ministry that is here, in front of me as they are being faithful there, with what's in front of them.

Wow, Lord, grant us each strength to be faithful to obedience – to the daily surrenders of our everything for the greater reality that we—a global family—are joining in the work of Him who is everything.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Obedience


The green and white blanket supports my black socks, black pants, and grey tee as I sit, head against the hotel headboard, staring at the silver-handle on the seven-foot smooth door.

I rarely cry.

It's not something I proudly champion (unfortunately, my pride just takes other forms).
It's just something I've observed.

"Deborah, do you even have a soul?" 

Holding the "I-Heart-Oklahoma" T-shirt with bright green, edgy succulents and gold-edged vases behind her, my summer roommate looked at me so sincerely I laughed. She'd asked if I was going to buy anything this summer for sentiment, and I'd told her that nah, I wasn't very sentimental. Combined with our internship "professional development" results (I had no Clifton Strengths Finder "themes" in the "relational" category and scored a zero for "mercy"), she genuinely wondered.

I rarely cry. And I've struggled with having tendencies of a creative executive with a poetically analytical mind yet rock-steely core.

But I teared up, here.

My prayer list, complete with long lists under lots of categories, blinked open at me.

where should I go what should I do who should I talk to how to I keep moving forward what about learning this going there trying that

A frenzy of frenzied questions had inhabited my mind for almost two years, and I had recently turned to (consistent, intentional) prayer about them. Mind used to darting, my heart was learning what it means to be still: to be still focused on the one thing that matters so (so) much:


Lord, how can I obey?


Since OneNote holds my (many) notes, I'd made a new section: people. I'd started starting there: Lord, help her to have wisdom. Lord, bring him to you. And this? It got my eyes off of me and onto a bigger perspective.

My decisions no longer begin with "what do I want out of life?" but with simply "Lord, how can I obey?"

And this? It makes me tear up because I see that I mess it up so (so) often. I get consumed by my own ideas, desires, thoughts, ambitions. I get so caught up in the technical, minute details of how to "obey best" because I've held this so tight that I've actually gotten tightly tied to its idolatry. I get so caught wanting to please the Lord that I try try try to figure it all out best and make me a thriving Christian.

I lose sight of it.

It's about coming to the Savior, being saved from sinful uses of the way God has made us, and being committed to simply this: obedience.

The biggest success of how I live my life? The best decision I can make? If I obey what the Lord calls me to. The biggest success for anyone? Obeying, so that, in the end, we hear: well done, my good and faithful servant.

And this obedience? It isn't mystical, or hard. It starts incredibly simply. From this start, then we have wisdom for all the rest of the choices we make.

Rejoicing always (Philippians 4:4). Praying without stopping (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19). Putting others above ourselves and don't do things from selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3). Bearing one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Welcoming each other (Romans 15:7). Remembering those who are persecuted (Hebrews 13:3). Loving enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

It's not hard; it's in the Word. The hard part, sometimes, is that we hardly take the time to read it and then do it (James 1:22).

Lord, keep us from over-complication.
Lord, make us people whose heartbeat is obedience.



© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Being

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As seen on The Rebelution
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"We are not human doings, we are human beings."

Sitting across from three leaders (having years more of life experience which I wanted to honor), I couldn't help my visceral reaction: I wanted to gag.

I know. I know I know I know. People realize that human busyness is an issue and we need to spend more time on soul-care. I've heard. I do know this need is valid (very valid).

Sometimes, though, it seems like soul-care and self-discovery are the most common advice people give. Deep in my soul (and actually right on the surface), I just want someone to challenge me, to call me out on my sin, to tell me I need to repent, to push me to have more discipline and to be more committed to simple (and often less experiential disciplines): serving, praying, reading the Word.

Maybe I'm the only one who is a little sick of the soul-talk. But I just can't help it. I find hard truths in the Word: love my enemies and pray for persecutors (Matthew 5:44) and pick up my cross (Matthew 16:24-26) and count trials as joy (James 1:2) and give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Who is calling me beyond soul-care to do these things?

Instead, I often hear I need to "look inside" and "create space" so that we all have "safe places" to share without our feelings getting hurt.

Reality: my feelings need to get hurt more often.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).

B e i n g | yes, I am a human being prone to burnout, tempted to measure success by a checklist, and neglecting sleep in productivity's name.

B e i n g | but, I've seen what's behind this flawed way of being: a lack of truly being, being present in each moment to the truth - ultimately, to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life and to what He says about how to live this life (John 14:6).

This "being present to truth" isn't mystical; it's having your whole being, your whole focus centered on Jesus, on worshiping and obeying him. I can choose my sin of making an idol out of my productive obedience (and then wallow in perpetual soul-care to try to fix my mess). Or, I can spend my life in worship of the supreme Being: my Lord and Savior.

I sit in my cubicle and feel myself being pulled to overly-productive thoughts making me want to wallowing in "soul-care:"  I'm not being extroverted enough, I'm not being caring enough like a Christian should, I should really be doing something else to advance my future. I am caught being inside my head. The present isn't something I often live within.

B e i n g | when I try to maximize my life, I am left in the grips of my own ability. (News flash, it's not as much as I think it is sometimes.)

And I can stay there. I can be the best version that Deborah creates herself to be. I can focus on soul-care and on doing this being better.

What if I went another way?

I can be most fully in the present when I realize that being is not about me. It's about being obedient to Christ, to lifting His name high, about preaching Him and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and counting all else as loss for the sake of knowing him (Philippians 3:8). 

It's about being able to lose my tight-grip on myself to ever really find what my personal "being" is all about.

I've been in the search of how to be present. To be present, I don't necessarily need more soul-care.

I must present myself before the Lord (Romans 12:1) and focus so wholly on who He is, His being. 

Then, I must pray (Isaiah 55:6). I must rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16). I must serve (Luke 17:33). I must go (Matthew 28:16-20). (Yes), I must even do.

How can I ever be without the doing of obedience, the doing of repentance, the doing of surrender?

Lord, give me the humility to let go of me and to grab hold of You and all that you make life to be - to be in each present moment.



© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coming


Gray and white PUMA hat pulled over my bronze-tinted aviators, I sat, back to the water and face to the bench I abandoned for the pavement. I didn't realize redness silently invaded my shoulders because ninety-five degrees felt more like a blissful coating than a crisper.

Lord, I am a sin-sick sinner in need of a Savior.

The dark wood reaching far beyond the balcony in the Oklahoman Baptist church still seemed before me. The pastor's powerful exegetical work in Psalms was affecting me deep, despite my joking claim to already have interned in church for seventeen years (pastor's kid perks).

The sick just need to come to the physician. They simply must come, and the physician is the one who then does the work to make them well.

Well, I know. I've grown up hearing this from camp-side fire and red-couch church basement youth group discussions. Well, I know, but what have I done? The pastor's prayer had echoed my verse, James 1:22: Lord, make us doers of your word and not hearers only.

Come, come.

(a u g u s t   t w e n t y   f i f t e e n)

Lord, I want to go for you.
Lord, I want to do anything and everything you want me to.
Lord, just show me. I am fully yours.

I wrote the words in the pink and yellow and blue and orange stripped journal as they had been the words filling pages since my eleven year old journals. Go, go.

(a u g u s t   t w e n t y   s i x t e e n)

ερχομαι | "to come, to go" in koine greek

The blue greek text book was all it took to make me a little blue at how much I still had to learn and yet how quickly I figured I'd forget it.

But my heart still pulsed: go, Lord, I need to go I need to do I need to be I need to find your will and do it with all that's in me.

The Bible, penned in koine, has the word, the word to go, so mustn't I? Better yet, shouldn't I have already?

(p r e   a u g u s t   t w e n t y   s e v e n t e e n)

But ερχομαι holds in it a dichotomy: a coming but yet a going. Post Oklahoma Baptist preacher, I was face to face with the sin that the Lord had already been tugging and showing me that was within. Good intentions? Likely, but also a lot of distrations of pride, jealously, and selfish ambition and a lack of faithfulness. I was caught needing to come, come.

To come straight to the Bible and to be a sin-sick (yes) but Savior-soaked sister in the process of sanctification.
To come straight to prayer to pour out my heart but also to be still and know He is God.
To come straight to praising and thanking Him no matter what I'm thinking of feeling.
To come straight to serving and to loving.
To come straight to Jesus.
Faithfully. 

To ever go, I must first come. To simply go into this day with the ability to love requires me first to come to the one who is love. To go and change the world requires me to come with my sin to the physician and plead for the change regardless of the pain of recovery.

Going requires coming (repeatedly).
Simple, so so simple.
But oh how simple to go (repeatedly) in my own strength and to miss it.
And to miss so much more.

So help me, Father.



© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

D e s i r e


 My black, size eight nike shoes hit the pavement just as my white headphones emitted sound on my ears.

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an “extra” that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. It is not simply a way to “enhance” your walk with the Lord."

With John Piper's words audible thanks to Amazon's Audible app, my (yearly) spastic relationship with running (and not running) stabilized through these sunset runs. Oklahoman sky vast, my nikes paused. I soaked it in: the green, short blades beneath me; the vast sky with lingering, painted pink-orange clouds haloing the open, brown-flowing field beneath.

Breathe.

I was coming as close to PTSD as I ever wanted, but it was more like PSID: post self-stress induced disorder. I hadn't realized how much the last semester had really done me in.

Flashback.

Wakeup at 7:20 class at 7:50 back to back class till 12:30 then change and work by 12:45 then not off till 3:10 then meeting at 3:25 till 5:00 then seminar at 6 till 7 then group project at 7:15 till 9:30 then random crisis hallway conversation till 10 then homework till 2:30 (and no component work or writing or dishwashing or devo time or laundry or guitar or even friend convo)   

Maybe most vivid was the mental tension.

Updates popping up on my computer | oh that's right another thing I am behind on
Planner with notes to look back at the previous week's notes | another mental note I'm not getting it all done
Gmail with over 2,000 unread (and needing to unsubscribe) messages | messages clouding my consciousness 

Sometimes, you only know you love her when you let her go (thanks, Passenger).
Sometimes, you only know how deep you were in when you finally begin the trek out.

Breathe.
Piper.

"Saving faith is the confidence that if you sell all you have and forsake all sinful pleasures, the hidden treasure of holy joy will satisfy your deepest desires.”

Each pound of my nikes pounded my mental tension away, coming off like a refreshing Oklahoman gusting breeze.

What does it mean to desire God?

To really, truly, run after him with all: heart, soul, and mind? To desire Him that I could care less if my desires to have a clear mind ever came true? To desire Him that I didn't idolize my own achieving-obedience-mental-stress-chaos where my priorities (purportedly on Him) were actually on me?

Breathe.

“But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.” 

Known unknown. I could feel the mental tightness coming again.

Breathe.

"To enjoy him we must know him." Simple. God's word. A starting place. My foot pounded down; my prayer pounded up.

God, I don't even know where to start, so show me. I desire to desire you more. I want to know you more. Give me conviction to make a change, grant me the contentment with the simple truths: your word, your character, your plan.

Simple, really.

I stared at the cloud-haloed Oklahoman relieving bliss and kept pounding as I knew it was He who was really doing the (gentle but firm) pounding in my heart, something only He can do.

Peace.




© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Friday, June 30, 2017

Conviction



The light blue waves mirrored the blueness of the cool bench imprinting my sunburned legs with small circles. I spoke.

"And fast forward two years, and I guess here I am today.."

He looked back at me, but I was still looking inside, realizing it had actually been two years since I'd moved to a new state and (somewhat) neglected my soul's state.

Straight rewind.

The past two weeks | neon shirts, lawn mowing and weed pulling with nine other grounds-care coworkers.

The past two months | eighteen credits, five activities for zero credits, three jobs, two honors component research projects, and an average of four hours of sleep per night.

The past two years | too much of a self-centered, introspective dive tainted with good intentions and my questions' questions.

Straight forward.

The next two weeks from that bench-sitting dusk | a move to another state and an awakening to the true state of things, the state of the reality of these past two years.

I've actually been realizing some things.

I haven't written a post solely for this blog in over a year.
I haven't been faithful with reading my Bible.
I haven't prayed like (I've realized) we humans actually need.
I haven't been focused on doing and moving and going.

Actually, I've been so focused on doing and moving and going that what I've done a lot of thinking about it, thinking at the expense of action.

And that's just the beginning.
(It's been a good, good first month of my two-month relocation since that blue-bench conversation).

What I'm seeing is that when we have these relizations, we have two options: to continue in the same direction or to move in a slightly different one.

I'm not saying I've been heading in the wrong direction (because that's honestly not accurate). I've been on this wonderful path God has laid before me; I've just found a spot in the shade and have been chillin for a little too long.

Here's the thing, though. I want to move again, to move in the direction God's planned.

But something is different about this choice inside.
I'm not choosing to gather up my willpower and to go with all my might.

I'm choosing to say that I do not have the sustainable motivation to go or the clarity to always know where to go or the wisdom to always go most effectively. But I do have something: a knowledge.

I know that I must keep my eyes on Jesus and delight in Him.
Then, I have to humble myself.
I have to ask.

Jesus, I need you to go anywhere, and I need to stop caring so much about the details of this "anywhere" and the "how wells" of how I'm getting there, and simply care that I'm going - I'm going with You.

So help me, Lord.




© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Young and Pressured | idolatrous obedience

For this series' introduction, see this post. For more posts in the series, here's post one, two, three, and four. For background of where this idea came from, read my Rebelution article.  


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | five >>


7:50am seemed to come too soon each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (although I actually am a morning person).

It was the penultimate class session of Honors Systematic Theology, and if you thought your mornings were unusual, try discussing the intricacies of Calvinism, the problem of evil, and human freedom with about twenty other about twenty year olds when you've hardly been awake for half an hour.

It was my turn to lead discussion. White paper crinkling with my page flip, I read my fourth question aloud:


"The author gives Abraham as a positive example of living: "he was willing to risk everything, in order to be in obedient communion with God, having faith that God would provide a sacrifice (Gen. 22:14)" (190). We're further told to live a "given over" lifestyle of self-sacrifice, following the example of Jesus (193). Has the concept of "risking everything," being "sold-out for Jesus," and being tapped into the Gospel's power grown out of proportion?


Her hand immediately shot up from the back of the room, and my blue-squared-glasses, black-brown long bobbed (not) Calvinist candor-spewer spoke up: This is something I'm really passionate about. I think this concept has gone way out of proportion.

Red Christmas-sweatered, orange haired graphic designer spoke up, too. Do we have the wrong concept of obedience?

You see, if we are so frustrated that we're not living "sold-out," what's behind this frustration? Do we think that, if we are not "sold-out," then we are not pleasing God -- that this "sold-outness" is what obedience must look like?

This seems much more likely.  

Not sold-out "enough" (not going to that foreign country, not talking about Jesus profusely to every person we meet, not having "profitable enough" quiet times), we are not obedient enough. Lacking obedience, we are displeasing God (the last thing we want).


You see, our desire to obey and please God may be taking away our ability to actually do precisely this. We desire obedience to the point that our "obedience" isn't what it could be. 


Instead of speaking kindly (and thanking the One who is the most kind), we chastise ourselves over how we could have spoken more kindly and then maybe we would have had that conversation that would lead us to our ultimate, "fulfilled" destiny of moving abroad and helping orphans (because this is the destiny most pleasing to the Lord).

We are never "good enough" in our obedience, and it keeps our obedience from being focused on the Savior as we focus on us, the sinner.

To put it bluntly, our obedience is becoming our idol.

We can become more concerned with achieving the God-pleasing level of obedience that we neglect being focused on the God we are trying to please.

To put it bluntly, in our idolatrous excuse for obedience, we are loving ourselves more than we are loving the Lord.

"If only we served him more deeply..." "If only we lived a life a little more 'sold-out'..." What's in those questions? We. We is central.

Our idolatry requires repentance, and it requires a change in the way we think. What if we stopped keeping such close tabs on ourselves to the point that all we see is us and our tabs? What if we decided to simply commit each day to the Lord and trusted that, as He knows our hearts are set on obedience, He's going to continue to guide?

What if we simply accepted the idea that God has placed us where we are for a purpose, and maybe the biggest "missing it" with our lives is when we miss Him and what He has for us in each moment?

  • What if we chose to obey in our minds? Obey by thinking of what is right, excellent, and worthy or praise (Philippians 4:8)? 
  • What if we let our "good enough" or "not good enough" actions take a secondary role?
  • What if we let the reality of His goodness give us peace despite our "striving"?
  • What if we accepted we are not perfect but this gives us a perfect opportunity to be perfectly dependent on Him?

I don't know exactly what this would look like, but I say let's find out.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Young and Pressured | false start

For explanation of this series, see this post. For more background on this idea, see my Rebelution article.



<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | four >>



Maybe the inclination has always been here--here, within me: to question the meaning out of life and to question the life right out of myself.

Questions.

They've been fodder to the fire of my life, sometimes fueling dreams, goals, and actions and (other times) burning thoughts, attitudes, and choices that were meant to remain.

I asked more this week.

The Student Government meeting went shorter than usual, and we cared to spread the care of the school's care packages. Over a hundred KitKated, trail mixed, and gatoraded boxes later, we moved upstairs and grabbed orange plates and dinner food. We then sat, and the conversation led to a place I'm all too familiar. In the context of having the desire to do something for God but taking on the pressure to do something for God, I asked.

What is the meaning of life? What is the guiding principle that influences the choices you make?

  • We talked about pressure: self-put pressed that's made all the weightier through twisted-biblical basis
  • We talked about self-condemnation: of hanging onto the pressure so much that you are never enough but pressured to do more better faster.
  • We talked about decision: that we can continually go in circles without ever finding a way out because there's always more factors we could use.

The end of the conversation exposed one concept, a concept that may be the beginning of the key to freedom from the twisted pressure to make a difference and change the world.

Jesus.

"Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
 
I have so (so so so) many thoughts of the implications of this one word and am honestly not even sure where to start.

But maybe that's just it. We are prone to starting in the wrong place in this discussion of world-changing pressure.

What do we start with? We start with the commands to go, do, surrender and apply them to our individual existences. How do we apply these ideas? What do they make us think? What do they mean for us?

Yes, these questions can be healthy. Analysis can lead to very good results. However, they betray a deeper reality: an anthropomorphic worldview, a man-centered way of viewing reality.

It's self-centered.

"Then Jesus said to all of them, if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).

We put the pressure on ourselves to figure out how we need to best serve the Lord to the point that we forget to honor the Lord of whom we are trying to serve in everything--even in our questions.

We allow the questions to pile up as we think that we're actually doing some higher calling, as we're just "figuring out what the Lord wants," as we are just seeking to serve Him more.

But this can lead to disobedience: to sin.

We get so stuck in wanting to please the Lord that we get suck in our minds in places that aren't pleasing to Him: as we are consumed with all things about how we are doing and not enough with what's He's already doing and the privilege it is to follow Him.

We can neglect joy that's totally unrelated to our performance.
We neglect thankfulness for what the Lord's given.

Perpetually exploring the unknown of how to better, best, perfectly do our lives, we forget to honor God, the giver of life. We forget this: that we know who He is. His majesty. His greater purposes beyond the individual.  

Maybe we need to start with re-evaluating what we think we know (these commands that give us such pressure) and start with what we actually do (Jesus, and the humbling reality of who He is).

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Young and Pressured | the picture

For explanation of this series, see this post. For more background on this idea, see my Rebelution article.


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | three >>


Young people feel pressure to change the world for Jesus, and this is actually keeping them from acting to change the world (see post one).

Yes, they feel such world-changing pressure, but they don't know how to do it. This means that they are not only often living much more inactive than they could but also feeling purposeless (see post two).

However, these ideas aren't coming from crazy sources: hints of them are actually found within the pages of the Bible itself.

Isn't that how these things often go? Just enough truth is packed into the powerful punches of thoughts and makes for a pile of thoughts that starts to lean the wrong way (and lead the thinker down the wrong path).


Truth comes out: truth is being twisted and forming the basis for a lot of these thoughts.

I NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10). Shouldn't we have to find all of these good things that God has us to do? What if we don't find them? Then aren't we wasting our lives? So we'd better hurry up and find them and do them so we can do the next and the next so the world can be changed more and more.

"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature'" (Mark 16:15). We need to go into the world with the message that can change the world. We've been commanded to do this! What are we waiting for? Is our not going (since we've been commanded) disobedience even if we are doing other good things? We need to finish up and go, go go.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). We've been commanded to go. There's good things in store for us to do. We can do anything through Him. Why are we holding back and not going, doing, changing the world?

 I NEED TO SURRENDER EVERYTHIG

"Then Jesus said to all of them, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).  We must surrender everything. What if we are still holding back? Is He just waiting for us to surrender more? to surrender more deeply? What if we don't know how?

"More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). What if we still feel torn? What if we still want these things though we want Christ, too? How can we choose them more?

Don't get me wrong, I believe that striving to make a difference in our world for Jesus is a very good thing. In fact, I think acting from our faith is healthy and a sign that our faith is real (James 2). Surrender is so necessary! We need less of us and more of a knowledge of God.

Bible verses tell us the truth of difference making and a surrendered lifestyle. However, twisted, they can twist our view of who we are, who others are, and what it means to live a life following after Jesus.

This is what makes this pressured, purposeless situation all the more dire: it is finding a foundation in a twisted version of scripture.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)
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