Action Words

My mom and I are co-leading a ladies’ Bible study this fall (we’ve done it together and on our own before throughout the past ten years–sometimes with our church and sometimes from our individual homes), and we are having a cathartic time going through Kelly Minter’s study No Other Gods.  It’s a great book that includes 5 days of homework (while not as extensive as some of Beth Moore’s that I’ve done, it still requires about 30 minutes of homework a day/5 days a week) and great group discussion (it also has wonderful recipes to pull from for your group gatherings).

One of the activities in the homework from two weeks ago was to read Isaiah 55:1-9 and list out all the action words that God was asking the Israelites to do.  Mine looked like this:

Come
Come
Come
Buy
Eat
Come
Come
Buy
Listen
Listen
Eat
Give ear
Listen
See
Seek
Call on
Let

I found this to be an incredibly helpful exercise in looking at Scripture differently.  So often we walk around with internal dialogue happening in our head, but we don’t take action.  It’s easy to make a lot of good points and do nothing with them.  Yes, there is something to be said for “being still” (and it’s what we’re commanded to do in Scripture), but it is important to note that we are called to be an “active” people.  Andy Stanley wrote, “It’s much easier to make a point then to make a difference,” and I heartily agree.  The commands of Scripture should take root in our hearts first and then be multiplied through our actions.

When we were asked to read a Psalm at the end of that day’s homework, I decided to journal my Psalm out in a semi-same manner.  I chose Psalm 37 and it looked something like this…

Do not fret
Trust in the Lord
Do Good
Dwell in the land
Enjoy safe pasture
Delight yourself in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord
Do not fret
Refrain from anger

Isn’t that a neat exercise?  I was greatly challenged and very uplifted after doing so!  I would encourage you to choose a Psalm or passage of Scripture and do the same!  If you do it, I would love for you to leave a comment below and share what your words were!

Feeling empty?

The vet told me that many of Prince Caspian’s strange habits exist because he was a shelter cat (I adopted him from the Humane Society when he was 10 weeks old).

My partner in crime, PC.

My partner in crime, PC.

I try to remind myself of that fact on days like last Saturday when, at 7:00AM, Prince Caspian was keeping post outside of our bedroom door and singing the sad song of his people (my friends with small children say that he is preparing us for the times to come).  We had just come off of a busy week and were trying to “sleep in.”  Since I consider 7:00AM to be a pretty successful sleep-in time for myself, I quietly slid out of bed and opened the door to find this darling imp staring innocently up at me.

creeper cat

 

I reached down and scratched his ears and whispered, “Good morning, buddy.  Are you out of food or something?”  Normally that’s what causes the yowling and head butting against our door once or twice a week.  Sure enough, Prince Caspian purred, rubbed against my legs, and proceeded to lead me to his food dish in our mudroom.

It wasn’t empty.  In fact, it was mostly full.  Yay.

But, the bottom of the bowl was showing.  Our vet had told me years ago that shelter cats do not like to see the bottom of their food bowls.  I don’t know if it’s something that is unique to shelter cats, but this is something that PC has gotten upset about ever since I brought him home those five years ago.  So, like a good cat mommy, I sat down on the step and gently shook his bowl around so that the food was evenly dispersed over the bottom and no bowl was showing.  (Before you call the ASPCA on me, Prince Caspian is on a very strict diet to help regulate his chunk.  He constantly tries to trick Seth into giving him more food.  Sometimes it works on Seth.  It doesn’t work on me.  I’ve had his number for a long time.)  He started purring really loudly and chowing down.  If you’ve ever wondered if cats can purr at the same time they are eating, the answer is a great big YES.  Grin.

This picture was taken when PC was a baby and got himself trapped behind my bedroom blinds.  He's much bigger now.

This picture was taken when PC was a baby and got himself trapped behind my bedroom blinds. He’s much bigger now.

Do you ever feel like you’re coming up empty, too?

Maybe you are burdened by the cares of life–a health crisis, a wayward child, a job that drains you, a financial burden, a broken home….  Maybe you are carrying your own silent trials–longtime secrets, hidden struggles, deferred hopes….  Or maybe you have just continually given of yourself so much that you are feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained.  It can be a challenge to find intimacy with God in the busyness and burdens of our daily lives and work, and that quite often leaves us feeling drained as well.

But there is hope, my friends.  There is hope.  You see, God doesn’t just reach down from heaven and shake our food dishes around a little bit so that it only appears different to our small cat human minds.  He fills us up.  He takes the broken crumbs and turns them into a beautiful, lavish meal for us to savor and enjoy.

In his book Intense Moments with the Savior, Ken Gire writes:  “I’ve learned my strength is not found in how intensely I struggle…but in how completely I surrender.”  Joanna Weaver continues that with, “When we come to the end of ourselves and our abilities, when we relinquish our lives, Jesus promises to use them.  Little is much when God is in it….When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, we release the Lord of the Process to do his work.  For it in our weakness that Christ is strong.  It is in our inadequacy that we find him more than sufficient.  And it is in our willingness to be broken that he brings wholeness–more wholeness and completeness than we ever dreamed possible.”

And then there’s that paradox of the Christian faith:  The more we give, the more we gain.  The more we pour out, the more we are filled up.  The more we persevere, the more complete we become.

Why?  Because everything that was once gain to us is now considered at a loss for Christ (Philippians 3:7).  He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, He anoints our heads with oil, and our cups overflow (Psalm 23:5).  And we will receive what He has promised if we persevere in our faith (Hebrews 10:36).  It’s a totally upside-down, backwards way of life that many do not understand.

We can have faith that we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16) through our trials and low points because our God is a God who redeems and restores and transforms.  He redeems our life from the pit and crowns us with beauty and compassion (Psalm 103:4).  He crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).  One day in the future we will be sitting on a hillside in the New Jerusalem and the King of Kings will beckon us forward.

And then we will take all of these crowns and cast them at His feet.

On Faith and Sunflowers

Back in the spring I went to a scrapbooking day with my mother-in-law, and everyone in attendance received a small plastic pot with a packet of seeds and other goodies as our take-home gift.  I was really excited because my packet contained sunflower seeds AND I just LOVE sunflowers.  They aren’t quite my favorite flower (which is a tie between a rose and hibiscus), but they are pretty darn close.  I love that they are warm and friendly flowers, and their unique appearance causes my overactive imagination to run wild.  One day when Seth and I were dating five years ago, we were driving to go on a hike and stumbled on a beautiful field of sunflowers.  It was like nothing we had ever seen, so we, like countless others, pulled over to the side of the road and just stood admiring the beauty.  Here’s a picture that I snapped that day!

sunflower field

We have actually tried to get back to that place several times in the years since because it was so beautiful, but we haven’t been able to find it!  It must be in Narnia or something.  So, needless to say, I was quite excited to get that sunflower seed packet because I wanted to recreate a small version of the beauty that we had seen.  I excitedly showed Seth when I got home from the scrapbooking day, and he agreed that we should plant them as soon as the weather turned warm enough to start planting.  When the time came, we prepared our garden and planted the seeds exactly according to the instructions.  I saw these birds watching from a distance, but I shrugged it off.  This isn’t an Edgar Allen Poe poem, I thought.  They aren’t watching us plant our little garden.

But, of all the ridiculous things, they WERE!  And as soon as we went inside, they descended on our garden like it was Macy’s at Christmastime!  Oops.  My dreams of a beautiful sunflower garden were nevermore.

Seth recovered one seed from the packet that we had missed when we were planting, and so we brought it inside and planted it in the little pot, hoping for the best.  We carefully tended it and put it on our kitchen windowsill.  A couple weeks passed and, just as Seth said it was time to get rid of the seed, a tiny green shoot appeared.  It grew and grew and grew each week.  Once it was big enough to stand on its own and survive the forces of nature, we moved it outside and planted it in our garden.  And then, just last Friday, it bloomed beautifully and vivaciously and well over six feet tall.

sunflowerAlthough, taken from the vantage point of my petite, five feet-tall self, anything looks giant.  Isn’t it glorious though?  It stands alone, tall and proud, guarding the side of our house.  Seth and I came back from our morning walk and stood admiring it, and I thought about how much this sunflower represents hope.

We all begin with beautiful dreams and aspirations, things that we want to accomplish, goals we want to achieve…and then, somewhere along the way, we lose heart.  The attacks come from without, the attacks come from within, and then–just as we are ready to quit–hope springs forth from that barren soil and blooms into a beautiful flower.  Therein lies the mystery of flowers and the miracle of our faith:

It was there the whole time.

Even when we lose sight of it.  Even when we lose heart.  Even when it’s fragile.  At the very moment when all hope seems lost and we are ready to put a period on the sentence of whatever you are going through, God is still working and orchestrating things behind the scenes.  And perhaps, the most important part of our story is yet to come.

Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. -2 Corinthians 9:10 (HCSB)

Loving Him in Extravagance, Loving Him in Surrender

God, just how abandoned will You let me live?

God opens a wide door to anyone who would desire to love Him with extravagance, to respond to Him in holy passion, to feel the consuming fire of His majesty blaze from coal-like embers into a tempering blaze….  Like Mary of Bethany (John 12), who anointed Jesus’ feet with her sweet perfume–a treasured and full inheritance–, we need to love Him with that same freedom.  That kind of love is one that turns our lives into a fragrant offering for Him.  As we offer back the inheritance that He gave us first, we surrender our certainty of the future and our stability for tomorrow.  Just like Mary did.

And yet as we ask Him that question of how abandoned He will let us live, as we love Him in extravagance and in surrender, the world responds with tension, indignation, accusation, and even hatred just like those observing the scene between Mary and Jesus.  And yet, Christ Himself responds with receptiveness, identification, love, and a heart that is moved beyond measure.  He receives our fragrant offering as something eternally precious.  In that moment as we give our all, we identify with His heart–His suffering, His love, His protectiveness.

When we are thankful for the extravagant and excessive love, that which broke free when the veil blocking the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn in two, we can respond to Him with that abandonment.  We can freely love Him and others because He freely loved us first.  We can fall on our faces in worship ten thousand times ten thousand over, never wearying in wonder at this precious gift that He has given us.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” -James 1:17

I did something exciting last week…

reverence sign

Five and a half years ago I walked into the fourth bank that I had called.  Armed with trust and faith in my Lord, the prayers of close family and friends, and a binder with graphs, charts, my business plan, and presentation notes, I marched in the imposing stone fortress dressed in my snazziest suit with butterflies swirling in my stomach.  My goal was to obtain a small business loan so that I could open Reverence Studios.  Yes, I had some money saved up, but not enough to open the studio.  Dave Ramsey wouldn’t have been pleased with me.  Grin.

But God had other plans….

I presented my plan and requested the amount needed to open Reverence.  It felt like a huge amount to me, but I know in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t huge to the investors.  But still…I was asking them to borrow money that, in good faith, I would eventually pay back, and it was scary.  They voraciously challenged me with questions that would make a grown woman want to run to the restroom and cry (such as, “Like hair salons, dance studios are a dime a dozen.  What is going to set your studio apart from the rest?”), and I met their toughness with true grit of my own.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that, in sharing my story of how the life-changing power of Christ can impact lives through the mechanism of dance, that I–little Kirsten Kline–became a missionary to the higher-ups in corporate America.  And God, in His infinite grace and mercy and goodness, has allowed me and Reverence to impact so many lives for His kingdom.

The Lord stirred their hearts during our meeting.  They stood and shook my hand and said, “That was one of the best business plan presentations we’ve ever heard.  We’ll be in touch.”

After the longest two weeks of my life they called and said that they were going to give me the loan.  There was much rejoicing in the land!  I could officially move forward with opening Reverence!!  The rest is history…or should I say His story?

I wanted to get my SB Loan paid off as soon as possible.  I knew that I needed to get it paid off prior to considering expanding the studio or made any other financial decisions.  So, I started paying off a chunk of the loan each year for the last five years and then last week…

I FINISHED PAYING OFF MY SMALL BUSINESS LOAN! 

Three years ago Seth and I asked the Lord for wisdom to give us an aggressive plan to pay off our debt (student loans, my small business loan, car loans, and a personal loan) within our first five years of marriage and, by the grace of God, we are almost there!  Once we have everything paid off, I will do a blog post sharing how we were able to so quickly pay off our debt on our ever-changing salaries.  Because I understand how some folks might think, I do want to be very clear that our personal adoption savings and every single monetary donation we have received is put in a separate account until we have needed to use it for an adoption expense only.  All sacrifices that Seth and I have made to get out of debt so quickly have been purely our own–as it should be.

Now that’s out of the way, in case you missed it…

I FINISHED PAYING OFF MY SMALL BUSINESS LOAN!!

My emotions have run the full gamut over the past week.  I have grinned in delight, I have jumped up and down, I have laid face down before the Lord in my bedroom all alone, I have had tears streaming down my face, I have felt the sweet relief of enormous pressure lifted off of my shoulders, I have been thankful, I have danced around….  Five and a half years ago my loan seemed so BIG.  And it was big.  Opening Reverence Studios was the biggest thing I had ever done up until that point.

I have never once doubted that the Lord would provide for Reverence.  (He always has!)  Because you know…

Our Lord owns cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and Reverence has been His from the very beginning.  He CAN do anything.  Our God IS able.  My theme verse for 2013 is this:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
-Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)