Tuesday, August 14, 2018

breaking basic


"People may teach what they know, but the reproduce what they are" ( j o h n   c   m a x w e l l )

We all have a role in each other's lives as women. To the girls coming after me, I want to say I'm sorry.

I was scrolling through Instagram tonight. I'd been sitting at the lingeringly sticky, mahogany tinted table at Starbucks (yes, I'm at a chain in a city renowned not only for its festivals but food. Don't judge. They're open late).

I saw the caption. "Sweet 16, baby." She was by her new sedan. High waisted jean-mini skirt, legs tan and posed, hair billowing, blush pink crop top emphasizing her womanly features, she reclined on the hood. Swipe right and you got another downtown lean, long legs sliding towards you from the screen, eyes to the side, slight smile sitting on the pronounced lips.

Did we do that to you?

The thought came without me trying to put it there. Did we do that to you? Did we teach you that the way to be, the way to be happy and to fit in and make it was to make yourself basically like every other basic girl out there?

The body. Did we teach you that sliding out a leg was the way to be selected by the girls, the guys? To enter the inner ring? That the best way to find happiness was through making other people happy to see (and happy to want to have) your body? That the best love comes when he pushes the heart on your photo that all your friends say makes you look so hot? Did we model this for you? Did you see it in us?

We didn't tell you, and I'm sorry.

We didn't tell you that sticking that leg out could get you selected (yes). But it's seductive. You can be at a concert and find that guy, beer in hand, who is more than happy to have you. I've seen, now.

We didn't tell you that getting their eyes on you can make you happy (yes). But it can mean they are looking at you with lust not for your heart but for your flesh. You can be walking through Target and feel their stares. You can be sitting at Panera and notice the garbage near you is being visited. Every three minutes by a man who noticed. I've seen, now.

We didn't tell you that people can push the heart on the screen and push your heart into places it was not meant to be. That beauty is a game girls play and never feel like they win.

We didn't tell you, and I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that we get caught up in this game ourselves and neglect our responsibility, our responsibility to warn you, to show you through not just our words but our actions that this game is bondage when we've been offered freedom.

You see, we really didn't tell you. We didn't tell you about holiness. We didn't show you in our actions. And I'm sorry. We didn't get lost with you in the wonder of what it means to be a true woman, what it is like to live knowing you are pursued by a divine redeeming love. We didn't tell you what you are actually made of, that whose you are is more important than who others (and even yourself) say you are.

Instead, we just heart your Instagram stories, becoming numb to our own blindness. That we don't see where we are leading you. That we don't see that we are the leaders. That with every heart we are affirming this illusive reality that this hearted way is the way to life. That you are not missing anything but have actually found it all.

Because we get too caught up in it ourself. We are lonely and want your affection, too. We want you to come running to us and squealing our names because we want to be wanted.

What do I really wish that we wanted?

That our hearts burned, were beyond restless, couldn't settle until we'd told you:

You are so worth loving, not only for what you look like.
Stop obsessing over what you look like and who likes how you look.
You're missing out.
You're missing out on these crazy free moments where you break the basic norm and sing a little more loudly. love someone who others avoid. take extra long on helping with something less than glamorous.
You're missing out on giving.
You're missing out on so much laughter.
You're missing out peace.

There is truly so much more. 

Please, forgive us.
And please, those of us who are are responsible. It starts with us. So let's start.

Let's start calling people to a higher standard.
Let's start calling ourselves to a higher standard.
Let's break basic, basically pledging to live so in love with Jesus that we are so in love with life. So in love with life that His way is contagious.
Basically breaking our shallow self-obsession and chasing to pursue faith, love, and holiness (1 tim).

There truly is so much more.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

suspended


The light blue mesh meshed against my pale, Minnesotan-sunless legs which held the tan, slighlty sparkled journal that had come with me when I'd come to Israel.

"I feel like I'm living suspended. Suspended between the end of college but in the tension between that ending and the beginning, the beginning of 'what comes next.'"

You see, it's summer.

Thirty four days ago, I walked across a stage to receive a diploma (cover). A cover symbolizing so much more: how I'd covered my college days with my commitments' overcommitments, covered my dreams with a much more healthy surrender to God's dreams for me, covered some relationships with way too little care, covered new ground and evermore appreciated the ground that God already been faithful to cover for me.

Now nineteen days ago, I'd packed up silver bullet Mazi and drove the hours (compounded by two more hours in which I'd gone three miles because of stop-and-go-traffic with suddenly malfunctioning air-conditioning in the Kentucky heat) to Music City. My sweat covered body arrived at the teal and white home to the first-time-meeting soccer loving roommate, welcoming yellow bedroom lights, and a session of unpacking: unpacking the car, unpacking my many thoughts, unpacking so much of the sorrow of leaving Minnesota, leaving the people and places I'd come to love so dearly. The last three weeks had been some of the most painful of my life, feeling like what I loved was stripped away, stripped clean off, leaving me raw.

Raw, I'd arrived.

Arrived at a nine-week stay at a company that I, three weeks in, have come to love. A nine-week period that is not so much a definite period or inquisitive question mark but more of a space, a deliberate and much needed pressing of a long key into the keyboard. The space motions to an emptiness. Without the space, what comes before and what comes next will be unreadable, but the effort to push through space when what follows is still unknown, when it is pushing straight into a vast whiteness. Not complete. Very unknown. But still moving, spanning each day between what is towards what will be.

Suspended, I sit in the space. No, I live the space.

The only way through is to do.
The only way to go is where He shows. 

I know.
I know the suspended space is a place where I can be receptive to so much of what the Lord is doing like I cannot when the space has moved to the filled forming of the next letter.
I know I can soak in frustrated suspension, or I can dive right into the discomfort of not knowing, of being unsure of six weeks from now and right into the doubt, the doubt that I've done it all wrong I am missing it I will miss it things might come crashing down.

I'm learning that the space actually is the best place, for me, for now.
Because it's right where God has me. Maybe better, it's right where God is with me.

I know.
I know the only way that I'm going to make it through my suspended space is through surrendering to grace.

He's faithful.

And He's calling us to be, too. He's calling us to what He always calls.
You see, my tan journal holds more questions than the question of suspension.

How can I live more radically today?
How can I flee selfishness and the evil desires of youth and spend my life for Christ?
How can I be faithful to what's in front of me, today?
How can I invest in people and be a difference maker?
How can I see the needs around me?
How can I get my eyes off of myself? 

A life surrendered to His grace: His grace for our moments of suspension as we can do nothing more than take one step trusting that He's laid the path in front of us, His grace to remind us of our calling to love Him and love others, His grace to equip us to remember that it's not so much about figuring out "our perfect plan" and "the right move" and "making it all happen." It's just not about us, period. No space. It's about Him, His glory, His Gospel. We are called to surrender to that, to Him, to losing ourselves in making Him known.

In the space, I see He is faithful.
In the space, I see I need to not question why I'm in the space but use other questions to get my eyes of me and onto helping, serving, delighting in Him.

For I am suspended between an end and a beginning, but I know the one who is the beginning and the end. My best end, our best end, is beginning with that, beginning with Him. What simple, sheer, solid grace.

Suspended, I sit in the space. No, I live the space, the place of grace.

© 2018 Deborah Hope Shining
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Semi Circle


The spacebar blinks up at me.

I've opened blogger, maybe for the fifth time in a year. I don't look at it much anymore. I don't want to (or maybe), I want to so badly that I can't bring myself to do it. Too painful.

You see, it's coming not full circle but semi-circle, right now, sitting on the mahogany-tinted tall chairs by the window hightops, staring out at the blue Happy Wok sign contrasting the My Place Bar and Aaron's Furnishing Store with white letters reading com uters. The green and white grande cup just accosted my lips as the barista told me my order was a winner, maybe the best he'd heard in a while (I don't mess around).

It's January, not June. June, almost two years ago, when I had this same order, day after day, studying page after page of an ancient language for a summer class. June, when I was questioning my question's questions, trying to discern why I was made such a way, desperately seeking and seeking and seeking what I was made for.

January, now. January, when I'm four months away from walking across a university stage and receiving a diploma. January, where that June seems like a lifetime ago but at the same time when the end seems closer than my brain can actually comprehend. January, when I've seen the growth but also the decline. January, when I'm in my hometown for an extended period of time for potentially the last time, ever. January, when four months will chew and release me to an unknown place, an unknown job, and unknown future.

I stopped writing.

Back in July of 2015, I made an (in)decision about what I thought about writing: how valid the medium really is, how successful I actually was in the pursuit, (ultimately) how deeply I believed I was called to continue. Not landing in a decision, I simultaneously began my college career and became inundated with the seventeen thousand things buying for my time, taking on seventeen thousand and one of them, for better or for worse.

Do I regret it, this not writing?

My initial response is I simply don't know. I can understand why it happened. I can see what the time was filled with: growth upon growth upon struggle upon realization upon growth growth growth. I'm not the same as those June and July days, and I don't want to go back to some elements that filled them. I've changed, and I've needed to do so.

But was it right to cease the writing? In very tangible ways I won't describe here, I've been faced with the reality with what might have been if I would not have stopped. Very tangibly.

And would that littler version of me be proud of where this me is today? In some ways, 100% yes. In others, 80% no. She wouldn't have guessed the cease-fire of writing, the total blank page, the turing over to other things and new things. Yet her dreams from where she thought she might be and where I am today are a little different.

But is the different bad?

I was sitting on the faded green, floral and wicker rocker that my hallmate turned RA turned roommate had brought. Feet propped up on the firmly soft cube foot-rest, I leaned my head against the cool wall, and my eyes landed on the flimsy papered, fake window view into New York City, framed by the entry way into the kitchen in where it hung. I was struck.

Lord, I want your dreams for me, and not my dreams for myself.

Evermore, it'd been my prayer. Have a conversation, breathe out the prayer. Finish a class challenging my ideas, breathe out the prayer. Leave the car and come back in saying i dont know i dont know i dont know in desperate prayer, still breathe out the prayer. I now had sat, staring through doorways into windows of where I wanted to be and being evermore fervent in prayer that it's His will (not mine) I seek.

The spacebar blinks up at me.

For better or for worse? I think for both, but ultimately for necessary. It's what happened. My deepest concern: was it disobedience to my Lord? In some ways, yes: I think it was. In other ways, no: I think it was not. Dichotomy there? Yes. But I cannot explain more here, more now.

You see, I have come semi-circle.

I'm not completely through my college career. I'm not completely back to a June, seeing the sun and the summer months and sometimes the Son more clearly. But I'm in the end of my newest beginning, the growing, developing, refining, and ultimately not falling down but falling into the arms of my Savior, evermore aware of the need for His grace and the (magnificently) glorious reality of His name, for He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (thanks, J. Pipes).

Semi-circile, I sit. Semi-complete with some of my dreams, semi-discovering what my true dreams truly are. Seeing that I make (much, much) too many semi-decisions. Discovering that I may evermore feel semi-ready, caught in semi-ideas and facing the reality that I am only semi-free of my sinful tendencies on this earth, waiting for ultimate deliverance through my Savior.

But what has come fully? A full knowledge that I serve the Lord who is not semi, who calls for (much, much) more than semi-obedience. He is what completes our circles in the first place, and I am safe: safely within the circle of this divine plan He is sovereignly weaving.

And there is no place I would rather be, no dream I would rather pursue. It trumps my incessant figuring-it-out, pushing for more, holding on sometime too tightly to the things that I even wish I could improve.

The spacebar blinks up at me, and questions are not totally gone. I know growth still hasn't come full circle and simply won't until we are fully made like Him. But it blinks, and I type one word after another. I take one step before the next. For I know that He is writing a story, He is the one who fills the pages of history.

I must seek this, seek the Word who is life, one word, one spacebar blink at a time.

© 2018 Deborah Hope Shining
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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.
__________________________________________________________________


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
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Let's Talk about Sin

_______________________________________________________  
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
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

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
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

D e s i r e


 My 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
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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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
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

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