Cost

Don’t you sometimes wish Romans 8:28 read this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the ease of those who love him”?

98% of the time I desire comfort, safety, and ease more than anything else… at times even more than God. Comfort(and not just the kind that involves good food and a soft bed) can quickly become my idol. I like feeling safe, cared for, and worry free. I want everyone I love to make the best choices that lead to the greatest level of peace and harmony. Let’s shut down conflict, stay in the air conditioning, volunteer when it’s convenient, give when asked, sleep when we’re tired, purchase when and what we want to, and above all else: let’s take it easy.

None of those items are bad or wrong in and of themselves… but anything that takes the place of the Lord is a big-bold-red-flag-neon warning sign. The end goal was never ease or even heaven. The goal has always been more of Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29, NIV

I don’t know about you, but I know that my greatest spiritual growth has occurred during some of the hardest times in my life. Seasons full of transitions, loneliness, conflict, and especially sacrifice have led me to drink deeply from the Living Water of God- His presence and His Word. During those times He caused His good to come out of seemingly bad situations. He walked with me through pain to make me more like His Son.

I know that God honors obedience and dependence upon Him. My read through the Old Testament this year finally brought me to Hosea, Joel, and Amos this past week. All three are short books that pack a powerful punch. God is faithful to use His Word to remind me of the abundance and blessing that have filled my life with joy and ease for almost two years. He has been so good to me. But rather than using this time to serve and sacrifice, I have grown inward, convincing myself that what I needed was to fill up my schedule with personal items and receive little to no input from the Lord.

“But I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Hosea 13:4-6

This verse in Hosea convicted me to my core. While the passage speaks of the history of the Israelites, I could sense the Spirit telling me that I was behaving just like God’s people!

The summer and fall of 2009 found me in an emotional desert- discouraged, opportunities removed, and with loneliness entering the picture in a very real and palpable way. I turned my hands out to the Lord and asked like the Israelites, “Have you brought us to the desert to die?” And yet, when I turned out my hands to the Lord He fed me, and I was satisfied. He led me gently and lovingly into a time of contentment.

But I let that contentment and ease become my idol. I confess it freely and openly. I’m selfish.

But I want to be like David when he cried out…
“I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24, NIV)

Sacrifice

1. A surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable

Sacrifice from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

“Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful to you, and adequate for you. You will never need more than He can supply, and what He supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present.” -James I (J. I.) Packer

Following and learning,
Ginger

Tied Up.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m stuck on images of hunger and thirst after my trip. It’s a theme in everything I’m reading, studying, preparing and learning.

Living Water
Cisterns
Portion
Hunger
Thirst
Drink
Eat
Be Satisfied
Well-spring

These words are popping up everywhere. I know they’ve been there all along, but right now they are leaping out from the page and impressing themselves on my heart and mind.

Take the story in Luke 13, for example. In preparation for our trip I read through the Gospels again.When I came across the story I was shocked that I had never read it before, or at least it felt that way.

Luke 13:10-17, NIV (emphasis mine)

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”

I don’t know about you, but I am that woman. I am the woman who has been bound by infirmity again and again… eating and body issues, relationships, deep wounds. But I watch Jesus in this story straighten everything out in an instant. He sees her, calls her forward, declares her freedom, touches her and straightens her out to praise God. He has done the same for us, my friends. He saw us tied to the stall of pain and He led us to the water source… The Living Water.

We are declared free from infirmity.

He has called to us.

He has touched us.

And now we are to straighten up and praise God.

Here’s the NLT version of that verse: “Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!”

If you’re like me, you battle with strongholds (a sin area that keeps you trapped) but you come up just short of claiming the ultimate victory.

Your battle is against the one who would convince you that you are still bound. You are not! You ARE free because of the work of Jesus. Claim that.

Reject the lies. Claim the truth.

I’m doing the same right along-side of you. I’m tired of walking back to a stall when my Living Water is within reach!

Heading for the Living Water,
Ginger

p.s. Thank you to two wonderful friends who have helped me see this story in vibrant colors of victory. Love to M & C. Claiming the truth with you!

Strainer

At the top!

On our second day in Israel we took a hike straight up the face of a mountain. I was thankful for the March temperatures and the Camelbak (TM) full of water, as we made the grueling ascent up Masada!

A scaled model of the fortress.

 “Masada was Herod‘s royal citadel and later the last outpost of Zealots during the Jewish Revolt. The citadel was a site of the most dramatic and symbolic act in Jewish history, where rebels chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman capture.”

This is a cistern used by King Herod at his palace at Masada. “One of Herod’s first undertakings was an intricate water supply system, that was of crucial importance in the arid climate of Masada. It consisted of a drainage system to carry rainwater from the two wadis west of Masada to a group of cisterns in the northwestern slope of the rock. 12 huge cisterns could hold together about 40 thousand cu.m. of water.” (Quotes on Masada from: http://mosaic.lk.net/g-masada.html) 

I couldn’t help but think of this passage from Jeremiah as we walked past one of the large cisterns:

Jeremiah 2:13, NIV
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
   the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
   broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah laments with the Lord that the Israelites have made faulty cisterns. They have spun their wheels and worked to an end that simply will not satisfy. Check out the same passage in the Message Translation:

“Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see! Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!” 
God’s Decree.”My people have committed a compound sin: they’ve walked out on me, the fountain of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns— cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves.” The Message

Do you know what a sieve is? It’s like a mesh strainer. Sounds perfect for catching water, right?

And yet how often do I turn to shopping, friendships, my spouse, food, exercise, money, entertainment, social media, and even “relaxing” hoping these things will fill what God alone can satisfy?

“Men are in a restless pursuit after satisfaction in earthly things. They will exhaust themselves in the deceitful delights of sin, and, finding them all to be vanity and emptiness, they will become very perplexed and disappointed. But they will continue their fruitless search. Though wearied, they still stagger forward under the influence of spiritual madness, and though there is no result to be reached except that of everlasting disappointment, yet they press forward. They have no forethought for their eternal state; the present hour absorbs them. They turn to another and another of earth’s broken cisterns, hoping to find water where not a drop was ever discovered yet.”-Charles Spurgeon

Oh that we would turn to the fountain of Living Water rather than trying to catch rain water with a strainer.

Thirsty,
Ginger

Water is Life

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. 
Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. 
Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer.”I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” 
There is no other stream,” said the Lion.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Silver Chair

We began our journey through Israel in the desert – Makhtesh Ramon.

Dry. Arid.

And yet every so often we spied brilliant evidences of life.

One tree.

One bush.

One flower.

Water is life in the desert.

– – – – – – – –

Where do you wet your lips?

How do you attempt to quench your thirst?

– – – – – – – –

This week is all about the Living Water.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:38, ESV

Following and Listening,
Ginger

Check the Connection

I spend much of my day typing away on a lovely little Macbook.  It’s dependable and I very rarely get upset with it.  (Don’t try and tell me that you don’t get upset with inanimate objects.)  But lately I’ve found my blood pressure rises in the following situation.

I charge the laptop overnight.  I wake up and the red charging light has turned to a refreshing shade of green.  I unplug the mac and bring him over to the kitchen table.  Over breakfast I catch up on news, blogs, and e-mails for almost an hour.  By the time I’ve finished the charge level has drifted from 100% to somewhere in the 50th or 60th percentile.  So I take plug the mac back in, pour my coffee and head to “my spot” to have some time in the word.  I return to my computer to start the work day only to discover that instead of increasing in percentage, my power is now listed as “not charging.”  I fumble with the cord only to discover that the charge level reads 21% and falling.  At this point I begin my friendly yelling match.

What’s the problem?  In my rush to move from activity to activity in the morning I fail (on numerous occasions) to take the time to make sure my computer is actually connected to the power source.  It’s not enough for the charge cord to just be touching my computer, it needs to be properly and directed connected in order for any improved power levels.

It’s the same with our relationships.  I know that I can speak from experience when I say that too often I fly through re-energizing with the Lord and find myself falling flat.  Crisis comes and I recognize that I have once again made God my roof rather than the foundation of my life.  I talk a good game.  I read blogs and share verses right and left – but I forget to make sure that I’m actually connected to the main source.  I know when I’m chasing other things to fill me up.  I may not admit it to myself in the moment, but my journals are full of laments from the last decade where I say, “Lord, why am I so far from you?  Why have I stayed away from your word?  Why am I avoiding the very thing that I need so desperately?”

The Lord says, “All you who are thirsty,
come and drink.
Those of you who do not have money,
come, buy and eat!
Come buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend your money on something that is not real food?
Why work for something that doesn’t really satisfy you?
Listen closely to me, and you will eat what is good;
your soul will enjoy the rich food that satisfies.”  Isaiah 55:1-2, NCV

It’s true – you and I were designed to do extraordinary things… but not in our own strength.  If you find yourself running out of energy and unable to make it through the day, might I suggest something stronger then caffeine?  If your connection is loose everything else will be out of order: your emotions, your relationships, your priorities.

When was the last time that you drank deeply from the Living Water?  

My laptop is only useful to me when it has the power to run all of the programs I need.  Without the power, it’s just an empty shell.

Following,
Ginger