Archives for January 2013

Thursday Tips: Work with what you got.

thursday tips

Yesterday I responded to a question from a reader by examining a parable from Matthew 25. Believe or not, we aren’t done yet. Today’s retro Thursday Tip is all about living, loving, and serving with what we’ve been given, rather than lamenting what we don’t have. Watch the video below for more.

Talent? from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

 

“Make the most of your talents, and trust God with the rest.  These words ring true… Most of the people I know, myself included, haven’t done so well with the trusting God with the rest.  Many of my friends and I find trusting, in one area of life if not another, tough.

But… what I’ve discovered is that the Talent Giver isn’t twisted; he is gracious.  His response to both our repentance over our foolish failings and our regret over our earnest missteps is surprising.  Our messed-up views of ourselves or him, our misused talents in work or life, and our quiet line crossing do not elicit harshness.  Instead, he forgives at a cost to himself, draws us near, and beckons us to continue with him.  Somehow he turns our mistakes- our stumbling blocks- into stepping -stones for the journey forward… we’re set free to do the best we can with what we have and grow to trust God with the rest.”Connally Giliam, Revelations of a Single Woman

Here’s to trusting God with the rest. Happy serving!

Ginger

Talents

dear ginger

“My best friend always gets the main character after auditions for school plays and other things. It has really hurt my feelings this time, so bad. What should I do?” – M

Dear M, I can’t tell you enough how much I feel for you right now. I have been there, and not just figuratively. I was the girl auditioning for choirs, concerts, and plays and feeling as if I would never get to take center stage. It seemed as if no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t good enough to get the lead.

But your situation is even more challenging!  You are managing your own disappointments while also having a best friend who you probably want to be happy for… but find it so difficult to do so. That makes sense. When we want something for ourselves it can make it REALLY hard to be joyful for others. So what I want you to know first and foremost is that I understand why you are hurting. But I also want you to know that this is a situation that just might repeat itself as you get older.

Gulp.

What do I mean?

Comparison is a sticky business. When I set my sights on wanting what someone else has, it can lead to all sorts of  envy and bitterness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life always hurting because someone else seems to have it made. I need you to remember something right off the bat. God has gifted all of us differently. He is telling a unique story in your life that will look different from any other story.

Did you know that there’s a parable in Matthew 25 that actually talks about comparing our talents. For real. Here’s the set up: Jesus is talking to His disciples and explaining the Kingdom of Heaven with a story. Here’s what He said…

“The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.”

Notice anything interesting so far? This translation of the Bible (CEV) uses the word “coin” while other translations utilize another term for a coin: a talent. But what I want you to be sure and see is how each of the servants was given a different amount of money to take care of. When I read that something inside of me wants to scream, “But that’s not fair!” I probably feel that way because of how easy it is to compare “coins” with my own friends. Some of them seem to have everything! They have crafting abilities, a way with words, perfect families, lots of money, trips galore, trim bodies, lots of popularity… I could go on and on. Sometimes I sit back and wonder why we don’t all seem to have the same amount of “coins”.

Let’s keep reading the story and see what happens.

“As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master’s money in the ground.

Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, “Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more.”

“Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, “Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more.”

“Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, “Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don’t plant and gather crops where you haven’t scattered seed. I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin!”

The master of the servant told him, “You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don’t plant and gather crops where I haven’t scattered seed. You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it.”

Again, I want to scream, “That’s not fair! You didn’t give him the same amount as the others and now you are getting upset with him?”

Here’s the thing: Jesus is telling us that He wants us to do our best with WHATEVER we’ve been given. We look around and it see other people with way more talents, gifts, money, or opportunities than we do. But God created you, M, to be uniquely talented, gifted, and called to live your life for HIS glory. He wired you with your likes, dislikes, talents, and quirks. I’m sure your friend is a lovely girl, but I want you to know that you are too! You are both precious daughters of the King of Kings. No matter what happens in an audition, you are always the one He picks!

This may not be your time in the spotlight. It could be that your chance to be the lead will look more like mine… I was the understudy in 10th grade and finally got to have a go as the lead character. It was so exciting. But more than my time on the stage as an actress, God is teaching me what it looks like to serve Him even in areas where I may not feel all that skilled. He wants me to love my neighbors and get to know them, even if it feels awkward. He wants me to play Jenga with high school students. He is teaching me to honor my friends by hosting wedding and baby showers, even when I’m anything but crafty! And He is leading me to open up my home and be more hospitable, something I’m not really wired to do in my own strength. It’s not my thing. And yet… it is because He is calling me to do so!

theatre

I might feel more comfortable holding a mic and speaking from stage, but God is all about stretching and growing me to be more like Him. So even if I’m a “one thousand coin” person, my calling is STILL to do whatever I can with the time He has given me. I could spend all my time wishing I had more coins, or I can do something with what I’ve got!

Each of the servants was given something, and apparently it was given to them depending on their abilities. Please note that the master didn’t expect the man with two talents to have turned in ten.  He had no control over the amount he was given, but he did have all the control over what he did with it. The master did not outline what they should do with the money, he simply asked them to make more with what they had been given.

The quote I shared on yesterday’s Imperfect post comes straight out of a book by Erwin McManus called Awaken. This section gave me a window into this parable and it has given me a lot to think about. In my own life I let the “ten thousand coin” friends get me down, rather than finding joy in their success. Comparison stole my joy. Here’s the quote in a larger context:

“Why did the third servant bury his bag of gold? He was afraid of his master; he feared he would lose his gold and then be punished. This is where many of us have been misled or at least have misunderstood. We’re absolutely afraid of God. We think if we risk and then fail, then God is going to punish us. We are paralyzed by the fear of failure because we misunderstand the character of God. Life doesn’t have a failsafe. Failure is real and can be very painful. God, though, isn’t looking at failure but faithfulness. He’s not waiting for you to fail so he can punish you or succeed so he can pillage you. He wants to celebrate your life.

Jesus loves you so much, M. He delights to see you doing something you love. Even if you struggle along the way, remember that He just wants to see you be faithful with ALL of the gifts He has given you. I’m praying that Galatians 6:3-5 in The Message Translation will speak directly to your heart today. It reads, “Live creatively, friends… Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

Keep creating joy in this world for Him. Please write again soon.

Following,
Ginger

Imperfect

faithful

I am so thankful to know that we have a God who welcomes us even as we stumble forward.

“He wants them to learn to walk and therefore must takeaway His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

More on this tomorrow.

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Peaceful Listens

finds

I celebrated a birthday this week and received many thoughtful gifts, notes, and treasures. Two of my treasures just happened to be the music that has been on repeat all week. Of course I had to share them with you.

1. Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna, etc. / Salamunovich, Los Angeles Master Chorale

My dad sent this CD with wishes for peace when life needs calming in the coming year. The music is quiet enough to accompany my writing hours, but also passionate enough to keep me from falling asleep. If you are looking for some new music, I highly recommend this album. If you only spring for one movement or song I recommend “Les Chansons DesRoses.” Listen to my favorite selection below.

2. Oak & Apple by Wilder Adkins

I’ve known Renea since 10th grade. We’ve shared a lot, even a birthday party our senior year. We also share fond memories of Taco Bell, hot gluing homecoming mums, and writing English papers. (She was so good she had to get her Masters in it… and then some.) She knows me well, which is what this album by Wilder Adkins made perfect sense. I’ve never heard of the artist or album prior to this week, but his crooning voice has been my constant companion as I cook, clean, and study. I love the hymn lyrics, the folk instrumentals, and the simple harmonies. I hope you’ll enjoy it too. Check out the fav below.

Happy Friday, Friends.

Ginger

 

Thursday Tips: Let It Go.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT

In today’s Thursday tip we talk about letting go so we can keep moving forward. Too often in my own life I have grasped at things I thought would make me happy or fill me up, only to realize that they had kept me from the real source of joy. Join me and my favorite shirt as we talk about letting go:

Let It Go. from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

 

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Letting go so we can move forward…
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Apathy

dear ginger

Hi Ginger. Lately I have been struggling with the sin of apathy in my Christian life. It has become so bad that it has started to affect my prayer life and reading of the scriptures drastically. I feel like I have tried so hard for so long to climb out of this rut, and I simply don’t feel that I have any more strength left in me. I recognize that this is a problem, but I just don’t know how to deal with it anymore. I yearn for the passion and zeal that I used to have for the Lord and I want to get back to that place so badly, I just don’t know how. Please help me!

Sincerely,
Fallen and I can’t get up

Dear Fallen…

As I read your question, I thought to myself: From one “Fallen to another “Fallen.” That’s the truth of it. If only we stayed up for the whole journey, right? But this tug and give seems to be part of the human experience, even in the life of faith.

My first hope is that you aren’t living under the yolk of a “try-hard life.” Obviously God desires us to be walking toward Him, leaning forward, drawing near on a daily basis… but at times in my life I let the guilt of my own stagnation actually push me FURTHER from Him

Imagine you and I meet up for coffee regularly. We have a 4:00pm date each and every Monday. And say I missed one Monday, just totally forgot about it. You would expect me to be apologetic. I might buy your coffee the next time and beg profusely for your forgiveness. Not that ridiculous… but imagine if I did that EVERY time we met up for the following year. You couldn’t get a word in edge wise for the first half hour of every meeting because I was talking about the guilt I feel. Guilt has a way of keeping us from an intimate relationship. Because the truth of it is, you would likely grow tired of the routine and might eventually lament, “Would you please stop apologizing? I just want to spend time with you!” 

I recently pulled out my prayer journals from high school and college and discovered a common theme at the start of every entry. I expressed so much guilt. All. the. time. 95% of my interaction with the Lord was just me apologizing. I wonder now if God ever wanted me to just enjoy my time with Him – to let Him speak to my heart and encourage me in my walk… even if it wasn’t perfect. Confession to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but I was living in the land of self-condemnation… and I just want to make sure you aren’t camped out there as well.

scene

For MANY years I spent most of my prayer time asking for forgiveness for not being focused or passionate. I began to feel burnt out and unsure of how to initiate the growth I desired. I know that I fall into thought patterns where I assume that I’m the only one who struggles. I’ve been a believer for as long as I can remember. I have lived in church all my life.  And yet, I sometimes worry that I’m the only one who’s thinking: “I don’t know how to do this… pray, fast, be spiritual, choose which way to go.  I should be better than this!”

And then I read a book that spoke right to the heart of my struggle: Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli.

“Spirituality is anything but a straight line, it is a mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes.  In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.” –Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

Amen to that.  I feel like I’m in a life-long journey of admitting my mess. I spent a large portion of my life being terrified that someone would figure out just how much of a mess I was. But the first step is admittance.

Hi, my name is Ginger and I am a spiritual mess. My time in the word is sometimes sporadic, my prayers distracted, and my heart selfish.

But thank God for grace that covers my fears… and mess. Thank God for grace that covers us both!

Now that we’ve covered that side of things, I wanted to tackle the rest of the question. How do we fan the flame in our relationship with the Lord?

Some ideas for you – as it seems like you already have some sort of a routine in place: 

  • Change up your routine from time to time.  (Sometimes I read from a different translation or at a different time in the day. Sometimes I read a book, and sometimes I take a walk outside while listening to a podcast. Watch the checklist – this is a relationship!)
  • Remember that walking is still moving! Just keep moving forward.  (Some days I can read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting and other days I only make it through a verse or two.)
  •  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or if you’re just off your game. Pick it back up tomorrow.  (Don’t let guilt keep you away from a gift!)
  • Find exciting new ways to pray. Try writing out your prayers, doodling and drawing, praying with someone else, making a prayer box… write your requests on slips of paper and then draw 1-2 a day to specifically pray for. When they are answered, post them somewhere visible.
  • Volunteer/serve/encourage someone else! Write out Bible verses and send encouraging notes to friends and family who might need a pick me up. Maybe even try it anonymously. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

Remember, if a relationship is worth growing, it’s worth pursuing even on our lamest of days. Your efforts will be rewarded!

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV

I love this reminder from Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman:

“Emotions don’t have a brain. They are reactors. They may respond to truth, but they may also respond to lies with the same passion and conviction, sometimes more so. You must decide if you will trust the feeling or if you will trust the truth.”  

It’s important to remember that your spiritual journey is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get tired, just like a runner. That’s why you need the nourishment of God’s Word, the encouragement of fellowship, and the care for your temple to see you through the tough days of training! Hang in there. Keep talking to God.  He is FOR you, and not against you!

Remember that He’s not holding out on you, waiting for you to get it together.

Remember that He sees you and He hears you. 

Remember that His promises are precious and great.

Remember that He loves you and He has given you everything that you need to live a great story and grow in His love and Word. Hang in there.

When your strength runs out – that’s when He goes to work! “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

Praying for freedom from guilt and the passion you so desire.

Following,
Ginger

College Redo

Today I’m guest posting for an old friend while he is on Sabbatical. He wrote in December and asked if I would respond to the question:

“Based upon what you know now, what are a few things you would do differently if you went back to college?”
Redo

It was a fun exercise to sit back and daydream about that time in my life. If you want to read the post and my 7 tips, follow this link: College Redo

I also recommend that you poke around Shawn’s blog for some great reading about life, leadership, and ministry.
Happy Thursday!
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Uncomfortable in my Own Skin

dear ginger

Hey Ginger!

I am struggling about my self-confidence. I know that I am supposed to love myself for who I am and everything. But I am truly stuck. Some girls at school are calling me names, and it is just bringing down my confidence in myself. I don’t cut myself or anything, but I have tried cutting, but I just won’t let myself do it. I was just wondering what would be the best way to raise my confidence in myself. I have talked to my parents, but I am just too scared to tell them that I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Have a great day.

-S

S- Thank you so much for your note and for sharing what’s going on in your heart. I’m so sorry this has been such a season of pain and sadness in your life. I want you to know that I’m praying for you especially today.

First of all, I want you to remember that you don’t have to be afraid to share with your parents about how you are feeling. I think they would care deeply about your hurts, just like they care about your successes in school. This is a tough battle for a lot of teens, and especially a ton of teen girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Bullying is a really big deal and I can understand why it leaves you feeling negatively about yourself.  I want you to really think about telling your mom or dad. I know there have been times when I’ve been scared to share things, but it’s usually because I want to protect someone else, or because I’m afraid that they will be disappointed. Trust me, your parents will love you no matter what.

Secondly, I’m sorry that you feel so STUCK.

I know that I was stuck in a pattern for a long time in my life. I felt like I was a car in the mud and no matter how hard I pushed on the gas, the wheels would just turn and dig me down further.

You see, I’ve always struggled with loving the way that I look – especially when I felt that I didn’t fit in with other girls my age. It seemed like everyone else could eat whatever they wanted and still look the same. I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop worrying about my boday and start actually be comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t try cutting, but I did make myself throw up. Sometimes we think we can do something drastic to feel differently or make a change, but the truth is I needed something stronger than myself to create change. I needed something stronger than self-esteem, self-confidence, and quick fixes. Hurting myself was only… hurting myself. I was digging my wheels deeper into the mud.

Even now, as a 30 year-old, the lie that says: You aren’t good enough because of the way you look – creeps in and wants to threaten all the confidence I have in the Lord.

So what do I do when that lie knocks on the door of my heart?

1. I claim truth. I read and remember the words that God has said about me.

2. I remind myself the value God has placed on my life.

3. I drop the lie that if I can just raise my self-esteem everything will get better.

4. I keep myself encouraged and grounded by reading the words of others who have struggled just like I do.

5. I cling to WHOSE I am, rather than who I am or how I’m failing.

6. And finally, I remember the hard road that I’ve walked and how I don’t want to go back there again. I’ve got too much to look ahead TOWARD. I want to keep fighting.

I needed something outside of ME to pull me out. In my own story, God has used His Word and Truth, books, accountability, and especially counseling to give wisdom and insight into my “stuck” situation. But more than anything, God has replaced my self-doubts with confidence in Him through a deeper relationship with HIM.

I believe that God does not desire for us to stay in that muddy place. He wants to pull us out of the pit. That’s why I want to recommend some resources for you today.

1.    Lies Young Women Believe (blog and book) by DeMoss and Gresh

2.   The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

3.   Graceful by Emily P. Freeman

4.   Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs

5.    2nd Corinthians chapter 10 (especially verses 4-5)

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that He is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways. That’s my same prayer for you.

No matter what I might infer about my looks or weight… or even what others might say – the TRUTH is what I must cling to, even if I don’t feel that it is true…

“You are a beloved creation of the God of the heavens, that created you just like you are. When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, you need to remember that the God who remade this sunset right here, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every part of who you are. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s nothing to look at and say,

“It’s not beautiful.”

You can’t look at some airbrushed picture of someone who doesn’t even look like that in real life and compare yourself to that. That’s not the reality of life. But what you are, is perfectly made by God of the heavens and He meant it on purpose.” 

― Lacey Mosley

I’ve found the secret of freedom to be different from what the world says. I haven’t learned 6 steps to higher self-esteem. Instead I am learning to reprogram my mind and know my Heavenly Father MORE. How He sees me is the only thing that matters.

Praying for your heart today, S. Please write again soon.

-Ginger

Faith

Faith Quote

“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us.”
(Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)

Faith. Trust. Confidence. That’s what we’re exploring this week in lots of ways. I hope you’ll join me.

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Joy for your Weekend

ireland joy
What a week of ups and downs. I wanted to share a video that I saw months ago, but was reminded of just yesterday by my mother-in-law. What joy the music brings. After watching again I couldn’t help but look up the English translation to Beethoven’s masterpiece. Watch. Listen. Read. Have a wonderful weekend full of joy!

 

O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!

Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.

Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;

She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!

Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!

Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?

Seek him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.

“Ode to Joy”, by Ludwig Van Beethoven (Translated)

Following,
Ginger