There are a couple men who attended June's Summer Sabbath walk, all pursuers wanting more of God. One of them is this week's guest author. His name is Paul; and upon first meeting him a handful of years ago, he seemed a bit intimidating to me. I guess this was true on terms of his physical size and the serious demeanor he was carrying that day. Initially, it made me wonder how friendly he was. But it didn't take long for me to realize I had nothing to worry about. Very quickly it became clear he was self-effacing, hilarious, generous, compassionate, fiercely protective of those he loves, tuned to society's outcasts, a mold breaker, and a warrior in training. He is one who is not ashamed to seek the Father's heart and let that emotion show. He is very intent to pursue Christ and invests his life in young people in selfless ways. He adores his wife and is not afraid to push past fear to love deeply. I'm honored to be his friend. Hope you enjoy reading Paul in the way he shares about the exhausting burden God was prompting him to release to Jesus. May you come to the last and final event for summer to release the burden you are carrying! Sign up on the calendar page!
A Heavy Burden or a New Heart: You Choose, by Paul Stack
Many people I know get a bad taste in their mouth when the word “church” comes up, and that bad taste usually results from bad relationships. These people had an ugly experience with a church member or staff, and decided they wanted to get out and not return. Peter Scazzero, a well known pastor in New York City and author of "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality", faced this problem many times with his congregation and in his own life. In a video session about his book, he shares his struggle of leading a growing church: “People were changing, but they weren’t changing deeply. Deep beneath the surface was not changing.... Something was deeply wrong. People who called themselves ‘Christians’ were not enjoyable to be around and often judgmental.”
Overtime, he began to realize that if he didn’t develop a way for himself and the church to be deeply transformed, the church was going to die, as was his soul. He was internally spent, tense, on-edge, and dealing poorly with family and church relationships. As he became more clear of what was at stake, he came to believe that the church in America will die out if the members inside the church don’t learn to love deeply. He also came to believe that only way to learn to love deeply was to develop a rich interior life.
Scazzero’s conclusions ring true for me, and that is why I believe in the mission of the “Into the Waters” ministry. Gina’s gift of a Summer Sabbath Walk experience was a wonderful tool to help grow my connection with God and to develop my love for him and others.
During the Sabbath Walk, we began the day with a guided meditation while walking around a gorgeous park. The time in nature put me in a place to hear God clearly: I stopped thinking about what I had to do that day and that week and took in the stream, the breeze, the chipmunks, all the beautiful things I often neglect to notice (if I’d only slow down to see them!). After the walk, Gina led us to reflect further on Proverbs 20:27 from the audio recording:
“The breath of man is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.”
We reflected on God’s desire to know and transform the deepest parts of us. I thought a lot about how my past experiences shaped me to believe that I was responsible for other people’s feelings and actions. This belief has been one of the most painful and poisonous lies that has influenced my life and relationships. It can lead me to resent my wife when she doesn’t reach her fitness goals; I’ve believed that if she doesn’t accomplish those goals, it’s my fault. It can cause me to nag and pressure the students I lead in high school youth group to share the gospel with their friends, often in ways that make me and God sound like harsh, demanding task masters; I’ve believed that if they don’t take meaningful social risks and invite their friends to church, it’s my fault. It can push me to repeatedly ask my friend who struggles with depression if he’s gone to church, made any friends, read the Bible, and many other “helpful” suggestions (which probably sounded like passive-aggressive commands); I’ve believed that if he doesn’t overcome his bout with depression through my friendship, it’s my fault.
God never intended me to carry this kind of responsibility on my shoulders; his yoke is supposed to be easy, and his burden is supposed to be light. However, I’ve held on to these destructive beliefs and taken on a demanding and exhausting burden in the process. This is why I need to develop an interior life with God: if I want to be a truly empathetic, patient, stable, and loving follower of Jesus, I need to learn to let go of the ugly habits and attitudes He wants me to release. I’ve been judgmental, controlling, and manipulative plenty of times in my life. I know the cost of neglecting my inner life well.
As we continued reflecting on this Proverbs verse, I received clarity on people I needed to apologize to and relational shifts I had to make. For example, I decided to pray for and encourage my wife in regards to her fitness goals, but leave the choice up to her as to whether or not she goes to the gym. God’s light burden for me in this case is to support my wife, not to control her into good behavior. These realizations about ways to surrender my controlling and overly-responsible tendencies to God have continued. I still face regular temptation to be slip back into old habits, but I’ve made plenty of progress since the Sabbath walk. I also stopped offering “suggestions” to my friend struggling with depression and have asked more questions about what his experience has been like. I apologized for the times I’ve tried to control him, and he forgave me. Our friendship has become more honest and enjoyable for both of us.
Bottom line: when Gina invites you to something, go to it :)
All joking aside, developing your inner-life to deal with your bad attitudes, unhealthy relationships, and poisonous beliefs is one of the best decisions you can ever make. A lot is at stake. What if the first words that came to people’s minds when they thought of you was “patient” or “gentle” or “consistently loving”? A life based on the deep change that God offers will make you much more like Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I want to work with, go to church with, and be best friends with someone who is like Jesus.
This Friday and next are entries from a young married couple who attended the event on June 16th. Their words share their heart on seeking God and how time in His presence nourished their mind and soul. I hope you enjoy hearing their perspective and consider attending the next event on Saturday, August 4th. You can sign up on the Calendar page.
Today's post is from Jacqui. She is a beautiful soul, a "20 something" woman I met several years ago through her "then fiancee, now husband" Paul. It was evident in my first interaction with her that she was passionate about Christ, pursues His heart, and believes prayer is as essential as breathing, i.e. salve to her soul. Over the last couple of years, I've seen her grow and transform more fully into the child of light she is. She's clung to God and believed for more. She has a consistent trait of being vulnerable, believing in the radical life Jesus offers, and investing in God's Word. These 3 things come across as the bedrock of her life strategy. Jesus is her ROCK and she's following His Spirit by faith, pursuing "God-deposited" dreams like becoming a Certified Life Coach and investing in the lives of women coming out of sex trafficking. She would add she "believes in the power of mentoring and community, married the most amazing man in October 2016, loves Jesus with something fierce, and always wants to be eating a donut." To learn more about Jacqui, visit www.thrivelifecoaching.org. Hope you enjoy her perspective and accept the challenges she poses!
by Jacqui Stack-
“Dance on fear.” A few years ago, I received a beautiful gift of a framed piece that an artist had drawn of a little girl dressed in a light pink ballerina tutu lifting an arm in the air and extending one of her legs – an expression of complete freedom, peace, and joy! This gift was so precious to me because this is the image Jesus gives me repeatedly when I am soaking in His love for me, escaping to His presence where there is fullness of joy. There I am as a six year old girl with my two front teeth missing and those straight silky bangs that lay flat across my forehead, with my long pin-straight hair thrown into a messy bun that sits on top of my head. I’m dressed in a tutu that makes me feel like a beautiful princess, and all I want to do is laugh and try leaping across the tall grass that is almost as tall as I am. Everything has a soft, warm, golden colored filter, dressing everything around me: the grass, the sky, the trees surrounding the meadow I am playing in. And then there’s a man, gentle, with his arms fully extended – his eyes are smiling at me and gesturing for me to come dance with him. I do. He lifts me up and embraces my hand in his and twirls me around while I laugh and soak in that feeling of pure joy while the sun is setting. This is the place where I can dance with my Maker, my complete safe place, for hours. This is where I can dance on top of fear. (And boy do I have a lot of it that I have to choose to fight every day).
I am amazed with what Jesus can do in us when we seek relationship with Him with our whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13). There is something that He begins to reveal through images and words and community and silence if we begin to practice having shameless audacity to ask Him for what we need. This concept was introduced during the Into the Waters Sabbath Walk: shameless audacity to ask Him for what we need. Yikes! That’s selfish on our end, isn’t it?
I don’t remember the last time I approached the throne of my Maker in a way where I was absolutely convinced he was going to give me His absolute best. And yet, He commands that of us because he longs to be gracious to us (Mark 11:24; Isaiah 30:18).
I loved approaching Him with confidence – shameless audacity! I asked boldly for him to heal the areas of my life that feel hopeless: a painful relationship with a sister, and a desperation to fulfill the “perfect wife” role and never feeling enough. I have the fear that I will go through another suicidal ideation episode, and that I will never get out of my current job into one that fulfills me and brings me life. I fear that I only love God for what he gives me instead of loving him for who he is sometimes.
I began to pour out my heart’s desires to Jesus because through Gina’s guided questions during the Sabbath Walk, Jesus unraveled things within me that were sitting dormant in my thought life. Old memories floated to the surface, painful words from loved ones I held tight to understand my identity, and bold requests that I was afraid to pray. Shameless audacity! That is my what my little six year old self is teaching me to have.
When’s the last time you have experienced fullness of joy and complete freedom from fear? When is the last time you prayed with shameless audacity?
I can see that there is a craving for an emotionally healthy spiritual life, but a lack of knowledge of how to pursue a consistent quiet time with God where that can be discovered and developed. During the Into the Waters Sabbath Walk event, there was guided quiet time, space to hear Him with pointed questions like “ask God to reveal any lies that you believe, or thoughts that exhaust you.”
There is something beautiful waiting to be taken when we prioritize God in our lives. Life will not get slower, easier, less stressed or more convenient. If we are not choosing to incorporate him into our busy days, we will not choose to incorporate him into our lazy days. I admire my little six year old self who wears tutus, loses track of time, and dances in the golden fields with her Father. I also know that each of you have your own inner child that desires deep connection, to be parented, to be known, and to express your authentic self in a way where you are unconditionally loved. There is no love like the Father’s love – it is unparalleled to any kind of love we will dream or imagine because it does not exist in people to people relationships – only in glimpses.
So, I leave you with a challenge: Make movements to create space to practice courage and shameless audacity with your Maker. Into the Waters is a great place to start!
And being a life coach, I love to end with a question that you can unravel with yourself: What is your shamelessly audacious request that you have been holding back from the Father? Why? What does “dancing on fear” look like for you?
Below is the flyer for the next event on August 4th from 9am-11am. Download, print, and share with others! Sign up!
The calendar page has been updated with the next meditation event being held on Saturday, August 4th from 9-11am at Channing Philbrick Park. Take time to let God reveal His goodness. There is nothing better than experiencing His presence and life filling you up! Read the last blog to get a sense of God's faithfulness to minister to those who pursued His presence. Sign up on the calendar page!
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Prayer is Gift!
Hi my name is Gina; and I'm the founder of the ministry. My 25 year journey with God has been centered on immersing myself in the safe relationship God offers, learning about the power of surrender, and praying for His life in greater measure!