Archives for May 2011

The search for a verb.

I watched the Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire for the first time roughly a decade ago. It has since become my favorite movie of all time. I was struck by the story of Eric Liddell, missionary and athlete. At a pivotal point in the film, Eric must explain to his sister why he has chosen to run in the Olympics rather than travel to China to begin his missionary work. His answer, clear and confident, has remained with me. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

My desire to serve the Lord in ministry can be summed up in the search for my verb. When I ______ I feel God’s pleasure. I have filled that empty chasm hundreds of times hoping to find how I am formed and shaped to serve.

A few years ago I was challenged to examine my life and see if I couldn’t narrow all of my hopes, dreams, and goals into a life mission statement. It actually came at the perfect time during the beginning of a life transition. I realized that I had thousands of roads I could travel. I needed a way to begin to seek direction. Ephesians would tell me that God has prepared works in advance for me to do. So I decided to take on the challenge and discover my personal mission statement.

When I communicate God’s story, I feel God’s pleasure.

What’s your verb? When I ________ I feel God’s pleasure…

Following,
Ginger

Adventure

…”He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:26-28

Adventure is an attitude, not a behavior. A life of adventure is ours for the taking. Stop asking if only and why me and start asking what if and why not. Capture each moment and savor the present – good or bad. Let go of your regrets and embrace your dreams. Celebrate life as it is!

God wants us to live fully…and well. Jesus said ‘I have come so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’ (John 10:10) We have no idea what lies ahead or how God will open doors of potentiality when we consciously choose to get out of the ruts we’re in land start moving down new paths about which we can be excited – even passionate.

It’s daring to be curious about the unknown, to dream big dreams, to live outside prescribed boxes, to take risks, and above all, daring to investigate the way we live until we discover the deepest treasured purpose of why we are here. Life, for the most part, is what we make it. We have been given a responsibility to live it fully, joyfully, completely, and richly, in whatever span of time God grants on this earth. Jesus Christ is the master of Adventure!”

[Excerpts from I Married Adventure by Luci Swindoll]

I hope your holiday weekend has been filled with the best kind of adventure. We’ve been in Mexico working with a medical clinic.  Can’t wait to share all that God has done!

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!” Psalm 126:3

Following and adventuring,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Life, Loss, Hope

I watched these videos earlier this spring and haven’t been able to forget them.  The story of this family touched me deeply.  May it speak to you today…

The Story of Zac Smith

The Story of Zac Smith (New Score) from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

A Story: Tears of Hope

A Story | Tears of Hope from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me,In this I will be confident. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!  Psalm 27:3,5,13-14

Following with hope,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Duly Noted

This might just be the shortest Thursday Tip video ever… but there might just be something extra at the end.  Might be.  You have to watch to find out.

Notes from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

Encouragement to send said note:

“Encourage each other with these words.”  1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NLT)

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

Secondary encouragement to send said note:

I’m not kidding.  I save them.

What about you?  Do you keep letters, cards, texts, etc.?  How has the written word encouraged and blessed you?

Happy Writing and Following,
Ginger

Practically Perfect

We are talking perfection this week thanks to a thorough question from my dear friend, S.

I feel like the desire for perfectionism seeps out in just about every area in my own life.  Once I ward it off in the way I eat, I begin craving it in my friendships, house upkeep, appearance, or even in my relationship with the Lord.

I too have lived life as the good girl, even winning a “goody-goody” award in high school.  My desire to please others, especially authority, has made living life in outward obedience relatively easy.  But as you said, just because I’m rule following on the outside doesn’t mean I’m cultivating holiness on the inside.  (The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13, NIV)

I believe that the pursuit of perfection can easily eclipse our pursuit of God.

The Pharisees were the perfect example of this dilemma.  Jesus continually challenged them on the state of their hearts.  They spent so much time being self-righteous that they forgot to live righteously.

“How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You are like tombs that are painted white. Outside, those tombs look fine, but inside, they are full of the bones of dead people and all kinds of unclean things.” Matthew 23:27 (NCV)

So how do we refrain from living as whitewashed tombs?

  1. Recognize that Jesus insists that we must be more concerned for our inward reality than our outward appearance.
  2. Be willing to readily and humbly admit our mistakes.
  3. Acknowledge that any success or perfection comes from God alone and that He deserves the glory.

The truth is that NONE of us have it all together. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need grace.  The drug of perfectionism can lead us down painful paths.  My own struggle to maintain the perfect image wreaked havoc in my life through lies, dependence upon others, and a battle with an eating disorder.  I’ve watched the pursuit of perfection lead friends into detrimental relationships, bouts of depression, and other self-destructive behaviors.

“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up.  But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.” -Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

We must remember that we have been given time, energy, resources, passion and life to make much of Him.  Fortunately for us He is even able to receive glory in the midst of our mess.

But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NCV

Like I mentioned yesterday, and as you pointed out – the perfection we are to pursue is a perfect love that drives out fear!  How do I obey all the commands, all of the law?  We take our lead from Jesus.

“Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?” Jesus answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:26-40, NCV

We follow Him when we love extravagantly.

Following (rather imperfectly),
Ginger

P.S. I honestly don’t know that I’ve done this topic justice.  Please feel free to chime in with thoughts and further questions!

 

Be Perfect.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts to share about perfectionism. When I look back on my younger years and when I consider some of my perennial struggles, I think this is one theme that intersects my life at various points. When I was younger, it was a concern that I needed to at least put up a facade of perfection and strive for what is perfect and well received and admirable. The moment when I confronted my own imperfection was life changing. But I think I still struggle with how perfectionism (or perhaps “success” more so as an adult) affects my actions and self-perception. –S

Dear wonderful friend,
Thank you for another challenging topic that so many of us can identify with!  I’m going to use two days to respond – first generally on the topic of perfection and then tomorrow more specifically about the trap of perfectionism.

So how do I, as a believer and follower of Christ, respond to the concept of perfection? I know from watching, well, everyone fail that this doesn’t seem possible.

But then I read this challenge in Matthew 5:48:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” NIV

But maybe that’s just a random translation.

“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” NLT

 

OH SNAP. What about the old “nobody’s perfect” saying?

I’ve spent a large portion of my life learning that presenting a perfect image benefits no one.  And the concept of having to actually reach the perfection of my Heavenly Father sounds so defeating and impossible. In fact, any ounce of what I would consider to be “perfection” is going to be as appealing as a pile of dirty laundry in COMPARISON to the perfection of a Holy and Righteous God.


So what gives?

This portion of Scripture puzzled me for years. I know that the entire Bible is God’s Word and that it’s useful for teaching and correcting in my life, but I couldn’t reconcile this verse with so many others.

And then I wondered if the word perfect might just have different meanings in the original text.

The most frequent words translated “perfect,” are the Greek words telefos (adjective form), and teleloo (verb form).  Oftentimes the word is translated to mean complete or finished.  (I immediately thought of Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.)

“Perfect” can also have the meaning of mature or grown up. In Philippians 3:15, Paul writes to “as many as be perfect” (KJV). The NKJV translates this phrase “as many as are mature.”

Ok. So that makes more sense. But let’s get the complete picture by checking the broader chapter context of Matthew 5:48.

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (The Message Translation)

If I may humbly make an interpretation, I sense that the perfection of God  described in this section is in regards to how we love others. Love others the way God loves others. Most days this doesn’t even seem possible to me. But the fact remains that I have been loved much and given much grace. Why then should I not love others?  (“We love because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:19, NIV)  I will not reach perfection in love this side of Heaven, but that shouldn’t discourage me from desiring growth in that perfect love.  This is yet another prayer that God loves to answer: “Lord, let me love your people.  Let me see your people through the loving eyes of Jesus.”  By His grace I am sanctified and grown each day that I may one day be perfected in Him and made complete.

I know that this may be the long way to address your question, but I felt like we needed to lay some groundwork before we proceed to more specific components of perfection! :)

What do you think? This is simply my interpretation of the passage. I certainly welcome your thoughts!

Following,
Ginger

I Will Remember

I’ve written about remembering before.  The theme of remembering what God has done replays itself over and over throughout the Old Testament.  As I finished reading Psalms yesterday I couldn’t help but stop and remember how faithful He has been.

Sometimes I make it so easy to forget. I get caught up in my schedule, deadlines, needs, wants and fears.

In the midst of stress and worry I forget the ways that He has taught me, wooed me, loved me, and brought me through.  Making the move to Arizona by myself was one of the most challenging parts of my journey thus far.  I battled loneliness, wanting so badly to bloom where He had planted me.

My home in Arizona is filled with friendships born in this desert, a marriage born in this desert, and faith in my Father through experience rather than tradition. Today I chose to remember the way He has carried me through…


June 2007
The crazy thing is that I’ve spent the last few conversations convincing everyone (including myself) that things couldn’t be peachier out in the desert.  And yes, some days I might describe with a peach, however, other days are less like a peach and more like raw hamburger meat.  I’m quick to remind myself that no matter my location, my days would be varied.

As the plane left the muggy runway Tuesday evening I could not get control of my tears. I’m so glad I had the window seat because I’m sure I would have drawn lots of attention from the short woman next to me whose business suit was 4 inches too long at the wrist and ankle hems.  Instead I stared out the window at the greenery that is not the desert and reminded myself once again of Abraham’s journey from the land of Ur, a place he had called home for 90 years before he received quite a different calling from the Lord.  Surely he must’ve had a meat day every once in a while.

This distance from all that is familiar and dear has left me pretty emotional lately.  I’ve been feeling slightly less than peachy.  It all came to a head as I pulled my car into my apartment complex and a song came on a mixed cd.  I lost it.  Not just the tears, the deep wrenching sobs.  I pulled into my brightly lit spot and prayed my neighbors would not choose that moment to make a trip to Wal-mart.  (Also, do not go to Wal-mart at 6:30 pm on a Friday.  Bad Choice.) I managed to put the car in park and pull my knees up in front of the steering wheel.  It’s not that this is hard; per say… it’s just that being home would be easier.  I don’t want to live for easy…but boy doesn’t that sound… well, easier?

I could pack it all up and be home in a week if I wanted.  But I don’t really want to do that.  Things are just getting interesting, exciting even.  There are big transitions coming at work and I truly want to be a part of what is happening here.  I’m even going to take my first Seminary class in August.  Who would have thought?

So as I sat hugging my knees, the song continued to play and I heard these words over and over:

“You hold my hand, through all of my struggles, you carry me through.   You hold my hand; though dark surrounds me – You carry me through.  Patience, a thousand years and a day it’s all the same, oh to you, the God of Space and Time – I will wait on You. Do not be afraid, for I am your God.” [Song: ‘My God’ from Freedom Time by Colin Bates. ]

I let my crying subside before I took a deep breath and popped the trunk.  I had groceries to take upstairs.  And somehow, even though my arms felt like they were going to rip from their sockets because of the weight of the bags, I knew I wouldn’t be crying anymore tonight.  No guarantee for tomorrow… but I’m hopeful.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.”  Psalm 57:2

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of me on those who take refuge in you.”  Psalm 31:19

—-

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”  Psalm 130:5

Today, I remember.

 

 

“I REMEMBER the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”  Psalm 143:5

Following and remembering,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Cause

There are countless causes to which you could give your time, energy, and finances.  There are ministries, agencies, and needs throughout the entire world.

Last night I went to an event that highlighted a specific need in Bangladesh.  Women of Action, an initiative through Food for the Hungry is promoting learning and savings groups to the women of Bangladesh.  From the Women of Action website:

Transforming the lives of women and their communities

After living overshadowed by shame and fear, our learning and savings groups are providing a safe and supportive environment for women to realise their value and potential. We invite the most vulnerable in the poorest villages and slums to form their own groups and save money together. These women then meet weekly to learn basic skills and practical, lifesaving knowledge to protect and provide for their children.

Working together, they are able to develop the means and confidence to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. We currently have over 900 groups meeting across Bangladesh. With your support, we can offer more oppressed and overlooked women this life-changing opportunity.

Will you take a few moments and learn more about this project today?

Feel free to share a link of a cause that’s close to your heart!

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Your Network

The tip this week is short and sweet.  Watch the video, check out the resource, and then feel free to leave your thoughts!

Your Network from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

As always, this is just a tip.  Take it or leave it!  Here’s the network format that I fill out about twice a year.  I don’t have a way of giving credit to whomever created the format.   I would imagine that it came from a Bible Study my mentor was attending, but I’m not certain.  If YOU made this – thank you for sharing it with the rest of us!

Print this or copy it into your journal and then get to work filling it out.  Sense an area that needs some growth?  Start praying that God would give you people in your path to challenge and encourage you.

“Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.” Galatians 6:2, GWT

What do you do with your mentors/mentees when you get together?
Do you have any more advice on this topic or on the subject of discipleship?

Following,
Ginger

Doubting

Yesterday we started discussing how we “deal with doubt.”  Today I wanted to come clean with you.

I don’t really struggle with doubt.

That’s how I might have started this post five years ago. I would have been partially truthful. I don’t really struggle with believing that there IS a God, that His Son is Jesus, and that He has a plan for salvation.

But I do doubt.  I just didn’t always label it as doubt.

On Monday I confessed to worrying. I combat worry on a daily basis. One of the supreme ways that worry manifests itself in my life is through the guise of anxiety and frustration. I like those words because my translation of the Bible doesn’t have Jesus saying, “Do not be frustrated or anxious” the way that he declares, “Do not worry.”

But upon further study I realized that living with anxiety was no godlier than living with worry.  In fact, the words are interchangeable in most translations. (DRAT.)  And besides, there are plenty of verses throughout Scripture that address anxiety.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10, NASB

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and “petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

I have a piece of paper in my Bible with the following quote from Oswald Chambers, “Quiet tension is not trust. It is simply compressed anxiety.”

Anxiety and worry are distrust in God. That may be nothing new to you, but for me it has been eye-opening. I hadn’t ever associated anxiety with doubt. I think I just imagined it had something to do with my need for control rather than my doubt that His plans were really the best for me.

Let me give you an example. Just two years ago I was at a huge crossroads in my life. I was contemplating making a move back to Texas and had a ton of anxiety in regards to work, relationships, and life in general. I felt as though I had misread God’s Will and had somehow gotten off track. It was easier for me to associate pain and discomfort with discipline rather than something God might use to draw me closer to Him.  Things weren’t going my way so I felt stressed.  I didn’t see relief in sight so I became worried.  When answers didn’t come in my timing I became frustrated and anxious.  I was in fact doubting His goodness in the midst of my present mess.

For some of us it’s easy to have faith in the Almighty God who can create the world from nothingness and who orchestrates the days, the hours, and the minutes of our lives.  That’s where I generally find myself.  But if that’s you,  would you stop and ask yourself this: “But do I trust Him? Do I trust Him with my days, hours, and minutes? Do I trust Him even more with the ones I hold so precious in my heart?”

It’s tempting to let distrust remain in my heart, to try and claim that I don’t have doubts. But the truth is we all have moments of doubts mixed with moments of clarity and belief. It’s been that way since the beginning of time since the serpent asked Eve if she was certain that God really did love her.

My hope is that we would come clean in the midst of our doubts.  My prayer is that we would take steps to know and trust Him more and more each day… knowing that our faith will be perfected when we see Him face to face.

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:18-22, NIV

Following,
Ginger