Notes from the Road

Hello from 35,000 feet in the air! This flight marks the halfway point of my full travel schedule for this autumn. I realize that this post is about 3 months post due. I must ask your apologies for stepping back from blogging (yet again) without so much as a “see you later.”

This four-hour flight without a baby has provided the longest window of time to process than I’ve had in a long, long time. Who cares how long the layover might be, the freedom is glorious! (Can I get an Amen?)

Since July I’ve had my gaze locked on seven upcoming speaking engagements. The variety of the groups keeps me on my toes and also necessitates hours of prep work. Thus any free time – aka baby-napping time – was devoted to study and preparation, leaving zero time to even think about blogging.

With almost all the work behind me, I feel like I can slowly start to bring writing back into my regular routine.

I realize I wrote last week about my new venture, WITH JOY RETREATS, but this week’s post sat like a blinking cursor. I don’t want to write just to fill up another page on the internet. If I get to choose what I speak about, my most favorite thing to share is whatever God is teaching me in that moment. I sat through my first flight just trying to summarize and think about all the most recent things God is teaching me and working through my life. I hope you find one or more of these tidbits to be challenging or encouraging.

road

A FEW LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

  1. My abilities, although God-given, do not have the power to change hearts. Only God has that power. Lest I forget and make my calling about what I say or communicate, Paul reminds me in 1 Corinthians 3:7, So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 

Whether I speak to 250 Jr. High School Students or 50 women, obedience looks like offering up what I have and trusting God to give the growth. This freedom keeps me from negative self-talk or the tendency to feel puffed up by the compliments and encouragement of others. This truth reminds me to keep God’s Word at the forefront and my words and stories for the background. I still fail, often my motives are not pure, but I cling to the promise that God’s Word will not return void.

 

  1. I should seek God, not comfort, ease, or safety. I should seek God, not adventure, experiences, or a bucket list.

I can allow the Western story of culture be the lens through which I view scripture… “I can do all things. God has a happy plan for me. Delight yourself in the Lord and you get what you want. God makes everything easy for those who love Him. Following God is a great adventure, #as long as its not too hard.The mantra of my generation tells me I don’t deserve to be unhappy. I’m learning not to put those words in God’s mouth.

“What does this world need: gifted men and women, outwardly empowered? Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed?” Gene Edwards

 

  1. I know God desires obedience over sacrifice but I forget that often obedience requires sacrifice. I am on the road 17 days out of 31 in October. Thankfully my daughter and husband were able to join me for a large portion, but saying good-bye is still difficult. Through tears I broke down and told my husband that this is just hard. It’s hard living out of a suitcase, keeping all of the topics straight. It’s hard not getting to choose what I eat, when or if I exercise. So much of life on the road means things are out of my control. My husband, David, was gracious to remind me that there is a cost to following the call. The Bible is full of story after story where obedience means sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is miniscule in the grand scheme, and other times obedience feels impossible because of the sacrifice required.

 

  1. I am compelled to love because I have been forgiven so much. I’m praying that my heart would continue to change. I want to be the one to volunteer when someone needs help picking up his or her kids from school or a ride to the airport. I long for my heart to stop trying to defend my sin to others, but instead respond in grace and readily ask for forgiveness. I’m reading the book “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller (HIGHLY recommend) and this definition of the gospel has been working itself out in my head and heart since chapter one: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” – Tim Keller

 

  1. Look for Jesus in everything. When I release my grip on my need for control and my definition of success and instead turn out my hands and say, “Give me what you want me to have,” something monumental shifts in my day. The peace that I can’t explain apart from Jesus, it’s at my disposal all the time. I boarded my plane this morning as one of the last passengers. Although my seat is in the front of the plane, my luggage is in the very back. When we touch down I will have to wait for the entire plane to empty to get to my luggage. Oh how I prayed to have overhead space right about my seat so I could exit and make it to my connecting flight with plenty of time. God was gracious to remind me of the question He asks me in moments just like this, “What if I’m writing a different story than the one you had planned for your day? Do you trust me?”

“Move toward God. In all things see Jesus. In all circumstances, whether success or failure, questions or answers, beauty or ashes, acceptance or rejection, look for Jesus.” Emily Freeman

  1. Hospitality is not the same thing as entertaining. I attended the Allume Conference this past weekend and the theme of hospitality is still ringing in my ears. Something Shauna Niequist said (or ALL of what she said) keeps pressing around my heart.
  • True hospitality is giving people a place to be when they would otherwise be alone.
  • True hospitality is a sacred space big enough to let God move in and through us.
  • True hospitality leaves people feeling better about themselves (rather than me) when they leave.

hospitality

All of the speakers were quick to remind us that there is something out of control and messy about hospitality- and that’s a beautiful thing. I want my front door to open more. I want to invite others in – not just the bits I choose to tell on social media or while speaking on a stage. I must get better about bringing people into my life rather than standing at arm’s distance. There’s so much stirring in me now, I can’t vocalize it all, but I’m excited- and terrified- and excited.

What has God been teaching you in this season of life?

Following,
Ginger

P.S. I just finished reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. It is not just for married people – lots of great truths for everyone in any kind of relationship or friendship. Also – it is hands down my favorite book on marriage, and I’ve read a lot of them. Put it on your list!

Step #3: Limit Distractions

season

I sat staring at the screen for several minutes.

The boxes were doing their little dance as the dark xs taunted me. Surely deleting the apps wasn’t THAT big of a deal, but the longer I took to make them vanish, the more I realized I was addicted to distraction. Sitting in waiting rooms, that two minutes before the oven timer goes off, while rocking my daughter to sleep… anything that could be a mindless activity begged for the glow of a small screen and updates from the world around me.

 distractions

I’ve been thinking about making a big technology change for the past month. Conviction about the amount of time spent pinning, scanning, and promoting took root in my heart and wouldn’t let go . The dinner table and church have always been technology free zones for me, but I began to wonder why I wasn’t willing to carve out sacred spaces in every area of my home and life. I don’t want my daughter growing up staring at the back of my phone.

It’s easy to talk about wanting to make changes, but so much harder to do. When I first started journaling about this series, 12 Steps to Keeping our Hearts in Tune, I listed out “limit distractions.” I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but I knew it definitely involved less screen time. A majority of my work requires time on the computer and posting through social media, so the practical how to make this happen appeared nearly impossible.

There is nothing wrong with social media at face value. I’ve just watched it become an area of temptation in my own life. It can keep me from prayer and time in the Word. It would have me substitute deep friendships for casual connections, compare my life with others, and ignite jealousy, worry, self-righteousness, and the need to please. Why do I turn to this thing, this technology like a drug?

I have to post this!

I wonder what I’ve missed in the past 3 hours?

My food looks amazing. People should see this.

My Bible Study on Nehemiah hit the nail on the head.

Making changes in our lives can be hard, but it’s our refusal to change the places God is asking us to change that keeps us stuck on the dismal merry-go-round we’re too afraid to jump off yet too sick to stay on. We hold on tightly only to pass by the same old stuff exactly where it was at the last time we swirled past… Reading through the Jew’s public confession and their commitment to do things differently has reminded me of how vital follow-through of obedience is to our repentance. (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah: A Heart that Breaks)

I knew what I had to do when I read Kelly’s words and the response of the Israelites in Nehemiah chapters 9-10.

stepStep #3. Limit distractions.

I can tell you with conviction that  following through in obedience is already tuning my heart only five days into the process.

I deleted them.

Good-bye Twitter. Good-bye Facebook. Good-bye Pinterest.

They still exist on my computer, but there’s something SO freeing about not having them on my phone. I’m not forbidden from checking or using them, I’m simply removing the distraction that was affixed to my hand. Now my phone is a camera and a telephone. My time with my daughter is WITH my daughter. I don’t read a passage thinking about which verse I’m going to stop and tweet.

These 5 days have been WONDERFUL. I wonder why I was too scared to try this sooner… the fear of boredom? I was addicted to distraction.

I just pulled up Facebook for the first time in three days. I scanned for 4 minutes, liked a few things, and then I was done. I closed my computer and got back to living my life … not so I could post about it or Instagram it, but just so I don’t miss out.

I talked to my husband about this distraction craving. We’ve determined to keep the TV off completely at least 2 nights a week. We spend our time relaxing and decompressing in a different way. The appeal is already wearing off and I couldn’t be happier.

Those are some of the ways we are actively removing distractions this season. I know this could look differently for each of us, but the challenge remains: if you want your heart to be tuned to sing His grace, limit the distractions that keep you from experiencing your own life and hearing from the Lord. This time is too short and too precious to spend it living vicariously through anyone or anything else.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

 

Drained

Here’s the truth: I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour trying to write ONE blog post. Sometimes I do spend that much time on a post, but usually I have something to show for it. Right now, I’ve got nothing. I’m drained and empty… but not in the down and out sort of way. I feel as though I’m letting go of a bunch of junk in order to get filled up with something better.

I am being drained for good.

I just googled “What is it called when you drain a swimming pool and then refill it?”

Guess what? It’s called: DRAINING AND REFILLING and thanks to many of the search results I now know that pool water and the chemicals within can go bad after a few years. The pool needs to be emptied of the old water and refilled with new, setting all the chemical levels again. If you simply continue to treat the old water you will never achieve the pure balance that fresh water can give.

God is draining me this summer, and He’s insisting that HE be the one to do it, not me. Ordinarily I would rush in and take over, wanting to do the work. Gently but firmly He is telling me to sit down and let Him drain and refill. He wants me to rest.

He wants US ALL to rest.

Somehow over the past few years I taught myself that resting looks like trying harder to pray, read, and listen. Resting was a lot of work. Those elements can certainly BE restful, but not when they live on my to-do list and prompt condemnation in my heart. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines REST.

rest

verb

  • to refresh oneself, as by sleeping, lying down, or relaxing.
  • to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion or labor
  • to be at ease; have tranquillity or peace
  • to repose in death.
  • to be quiet or still.

So why should we rest?

1. Resting demonstrates an obedient heart. (God told us to do it!)

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

 

2. Resting demontrates trust that HE will finish the work He has started in us.

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me, your love, O LORD, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.”  (Psalm 138:8)

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15)

 

“Be still – The word used here – from רפה râphâh – means properly to cast down; to let fall; to let hang down; then, to be relaxed, slackened, especially the hands: It is also employed in the sense of not making an effort; not putting forth exertion; and then would express the idea of leaving matters with God, or of being without anxiety about the issue…” From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

 

Resting leaves the work to Him.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

 

Following,

Ginger

Does good = easy?

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

More on the story of David and his sacrifice tomorrow…

Following,
Ginger

Ninevah

Confession: I recently tried to pull a Jonah. Check out the video for full details…

Directions. from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

Swim?

 

Sometimes I tell God that I want to know His Will for my life… but what I really want is for Him to sign off on MY will for MY life.  I’m slowly learning that delayed obedience isn’t really obedience.  But thankfully, His love is deep and His grace is wide.

Following & stumbling,
Ginger