Leave it All Behind…

December 17, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Over the next couple of posts, I simply want to share some thoughts about the song, “The Well” by Casting Crowns.

The opening words are haunting, especially in their repetition.  “Leave it all behind… Leave it all behind…”

Those words beckon us, weary travelers on life’s path, away from the hustle and bustle of our busy, over-crowded lives.  In them Christ, through the lyrics, calls us out, away, and apart from those things that tie us down, weigh us down, and make our lives feel so very heavy and hard.

When was the last time you left it all behind?

When was the last time you took even five minutes that wasn’t filled with thoughts of bills to pay, kids to pick up, how to fix that, how to do this, who needs what tomorrow, and how am I ever going to get that done today?

If you’re like me, it’s way too easy to wake up in the morning, sit up and start processing.  Who needs to be where today?  What do I need to get written?  Who do I need to call?  What do I need to finish?  What do I need to start?

It’s like this whole long army of thoughts and to-dos that never quite seem to end.

I think that’s why those opening words are so very powerful to me.  In a way, they call me to be Mary rather than Martha, when the truth is Martha is so much easier to be.  They call me to yes, leave the cares and worries and STUFF behind, and come and sit with my Savior.  It is a call away from chaos into peace, a call away from myself into the One Who makes everything make so much more sense.

It is easy as I hear these opening words to think of leaving everything behind, if only for a moment, and going to visit Jesus at that well.  It is so enthralling to think of Him waiting there for me, a fresh drink of Him and His love waiting for me.  Not because I got everything done on my to-do list.  Not because He’s got five other jobs I need to do.  But just because He wants to spend some time with me, and I want to spend time with Him.

I don’t know how you spend time with God, or even if you do.  But in this crazy busy, often chaotic season… the one in which we work so hard to be able to celebrate peace, take a few minutes today to leave it all behind, to just go and sit with God, to listen, to slow down, to just be.

It will be an awesome gift.  I guarantee it!

*~*

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The Well

December 13, 2012

by: Staci Stallings

Last time I had you listen to a song by Casting Crowns called The Well.  (You can go here to listen to it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLxdxw4Gj6g )

I hope you listened several times.  I know I have.

There are many truths woven into this beautiful song, but I want to take a moment today to elaborate on the wisdom of one word:  Come.

In the first video I watched of the song, there was one incarnation of this word that was misspelled.  However, I probably would have misspelled it as well if I would just have been transcribing based on the way you would think it would be said, rather than the profound truth of how they chose to say it.

This time happens toward the end when they sing about after you have come to the well and others begin to see the living water flowing in your life.  It says, “Soon all the world will see, living water is found in Me, ’cause you come to the well.”

In the first video, the lyric was “’cause you came to the well.”  That’s how I would have written it, but that’s not right.  See, we think, okay, you’re empty and broken, and you go to the well, and God fixes you.  Period. End of story.  You CAME to the well, and now you’re healed and can go on with life.  Ah, but that’s not what the actual lyric says!

In the video I gave you here, it says, “cause you’ve come to the well.”  And honestly that might be what the actual lyric says.  However, I think that too is a fundamental misinterpretation of the true lesson here.  “You’ve…”  you have… again past tense.

But that’s NOT what God wants.  And from deep personal experience, that’s not the way it works!

God truly working in you is not a one-and-done thing.  You don’t go to the well and get healed and you’re done.

Life will continually throw things at you–new challenges, new issues, new incarnations of old hurts.  And you have to KEEP going to the well.  Yes, your salvation is worked out in the first trip if you accept what Jesus is holding out to you, but your LIFE must be going back to the well.

I know for me, I can be going along great and then BAM!  I’m thrown off-track.  Maybe it’s an illness or a serious challenge, maybe it’s something with my kids, my friends or my husband.  And once again, I’m empty and scared.  I don’t know which way to go, where I’m going or how to get there.

The secret I’ve found is in going back to The Well–The Answer… Jesus.

I didn’t go to the well once.  I go every day, often multiple times each day.

I don’t shine because I came to the well once.  I shine because I COME to the well often.  I recognize my need for The Well.  I recognize how often I have asked the world to fill that need, and how poorly it has done.  We will talk about some of those things pointed out so beautifully in the song next time.  For now, know that you can go to the well any time you need, and Jesus will always be right there to let you simply rest for a moment in His arms.  Ahhh!

 

 


Come

December 10, 2012

by: Staci Stallings

I’ve found a song you just HAVE to hear.  I want you to go and listen (several times if need be).  We will be discussing this song and another over the next couple of weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLxdxw4Gj6g

 

For now, just watch.  Listen.  THIS is what I’ve been trying to tell you.

Next time, we’ll talk.

*~*

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Questions that Make You Go Hmmm… #7

November 19, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

We are, by nature, an outcome driven people.  To win the game, we will spend hours practicing.  To have a comfortable retirement, we will work and save for 65 years.  To be successful, we will go to school, then to college, then get a job and work endless hours.

Outcome is what drives us.  We want to see results.  If the prize is big enough, we will drive ourselves half crazy to get it.

So it’s no wonder that many people’s prayer life is results oriented.  We don’t pray to get closer to God, we pray to get things from God.  We pray like this:

“God, if you will just let me get that car… or that job… or that husband… or these bills paid….”

Whatever is our immediate concern is what gets prayer.  And there is always a “result” we are seeking.

Here’s the problem with that.  It doesn’t work.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you that, but it doesn’t.  You don’t pray for the result to get the thing so that you can relax, be at peace, and be happy.  You are happy, at peace, and relaxed and the blessings show up.

So our final question is this:

Are your prayers too results oriented?

This is a hard one because it’s both how we’ve been taught and how we’re conditioned.  It’s not bad to have some of your prayers be results oriented.  I mean, if Grandma is sick, you should pray for her to get well again.  God wants you to take your problems to Him.  However, if that’s all you ever do, you’re misreading the kind of relationship God wants to have with you.

Do you spend time in prayer, for example, simply “being” in the presence of God?  Listening for His voice to tell you that He loves you?  Or do you rush through memorized prayers followed by a list of “how You could make my life better if You really cared” prayers and then get on with life?

If so, maybe it’s time to rethink the role of prayer in your life.

One of my favorite prayers growing up has this line:  Thy will be done today…

THY WILL.  Not mine.  Not what I want, what You want.  I want what You want, God.  Do you?  Do you really?

Or are you a little afraid of what He might put into your life if you give Him that much leeway?

If you find that your prayers are too results oriented, I challenge you today to take one minute and just BE with God.  Just sit, and listen.  See what comes up.  Then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.  As you do this, I believe you will start to see peace return and hope spring anew in your heart.

Want what God wants, give Him all of everything in your life.  Otherwise, you will be so focused on getting what you want that you may miss completely the blessings He has in store for you.
*~*

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Questions that Make You Go Hmmm… #6

November 15, 2012

by: Staci Stallings

This was not one of my planned questions, but God planned it for me.

98% of the time, I’m with God.  I mean, we’re a team.  We drive together, write together, clean together.  There’s hardly a time that we’re not together.  Then every-so-often something happens that totally throws me into “Me Mode.”

Have you ever been in “Me Mode”?  Mad at the world or someone specific?  And your anger is justified, I tell you… JUSTIFIED!  And you are just going to be angry, and you don’t really care what God or anyone else thinks because you’ve got a RIGHT to be angry…

Well, here’s in a nutshell what happened.  Hubby called about noon to find out if I wanted to eat lunch.  He was working across the street.  I said that I could, which would mean stopping what I was doing, but he was home, so okay.

Well, they weren’t quite finished yet, but they would be in about 30 minutes if that would work.  Actually that would be better so I could finish up what I was doing.  In fact, we could then go down to the little cafe and have lunch, which we haven’t gotten to do in awhile.  Great.

So far, so good.

Thirty minutes passes.  Then forty.  Then forty-five.

Hubby calls and says his worker is having issues and it’s going to be a little bit longer, is that okay?  Yes.  That’s fine.  Just let me know.

Well, the issues don’t magically disappear, and now it’s 1:15.  He calls and says he thinks we can go.  Okay.  Great.

I finish up.  He comes home.  Now it’s 1:30.  He’s going to go separate so he can go into town and get some wood he needs.  By this point, I’m going to have to go get kids at 3:15, so I might as well figure I’m not coming back either.

So I get in my van and head to the cafe, which is about a 10-15 minute drive from our house.  When I get there, my cell phone rings.  It’s hubby.  Still back at the house.  He hasn’t left yet.  Apparently someone is emailing something that he needed in order to get the wood.  (I know, ladies, but that’s how he operates.)

Can I tell him how to print something off the email.  Now my husband can do a lot of things.  Computers are not among them.

I talk him into the email program, but there is no email.  We wait.  He hits the download button.  Nothing.  Now it’s 1:50, and I’m getting really hungry.  He calls the person who is supposed to be emailing it.  They have the wrong email address.  So finally they get the right one, and the email comes through.  Now we’re making progress.  I might get to eat before Christmas.

He gets the thing opened, and it opens in some camera application program that I’ve never heard of.  “Okay, look around and find Print.”  No print.  Can’t find it.

Finally I just decided to go home and do it myself.

Now, please picture me.  I’m hungry.  I’m tired. I’m stressed, and I’ve just wasted more than an hour.  I was NOT a happy camper!  I was MAD!  I was LIVID!

It was then on the drive home that this question occurred to me, and to be honest, I didn’t want to hear it.  But let’s see if you know what I mean….

Do I like who I am when I’m not with God?

See, I knew I wasn’t with God.  I knew I didn’t want to forgive.  I didn’t want to remember there was a reason.  I didn’t WANT to breathe and be reasonable.  I WANTED to tell someone what lake to go jump into.

By the time I made it home, the question had almost eroded my anger because the truth is, I don’t like me very much when I’m not with God.  I’m kinda mean and certainly not very nice. I think bad things and I can get really harsh with people I love.

If you find yourself in “Me Mode,” feeling like God is not there, take a moment and see honestly how that feels.  Is it fun?  Is it pleasant?  Do others want to be around you?  Do YOU want to be around you?

If being without God isn’t fun, consider going back and asking for forgiveness and starting over.  He really will let you… no longer how long you’ve been in “Me Mode.”

*~*

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Questions that Make You Go Hmmm… #5

November 12, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

So far we’ve examined some interesting questions about God and our relationship to Him.

If you’re like me, there are days I so feel God’s Presence and days He feels very far away.  I know from my studies and personal experience that when God feels far away, He didn’t move. I did.  Thus we come to this very important question:

What is between me and God?

Let’s say that you and a friend are at a party, but neither knows the other is there.  Let’s also say it’s a rather large gathering that’s divided into sections or rooms.  Now, you might, of course, get fortunate and run into your friend, but it is equally likely that you miss each other altogether.  Why?

Well for one, you’re not looking for your friend.  You don’t know they are there.

Two, if they are in a different room than you the whole day, how are you ever going to see them?

I think the same thing happens with God.  For wont of a better metaphor, we put up walls between ourselves and God and then get mad when we don’t feel Him.

What are these walls?  Oh, they can be lots of things.  Worries, doubts, fears. Activities, meetings, schedules.  Sheer busyness is often a culprit.  Stress can be too as well as impossible expectations of ourselves, our God and others.

In short, anything that separates us from God is what is between us.

The thing to know, however, is that it is never God that put up the barrier.  Once we are saved, the barrier is removed and the only way it goes back up is if we put it there.

So what is between you and God?

Maybe it’s the events of the world that plunge you into fear.  Remove them by taking your gaze off of them and putting it on God.  Spend more time in prayer and in seeking Him.

Maybe it’s personal stuff–the death of a loved one or an illness.  Again, learn to see “through” those things to God who is right there.

I know after my brother’s death, my emotions were in a swirl of chaos, never so bad as at night. I would lay there, and fear and anger and sorrow would just about overwhelm me.  It was in those moments that I learned to say over and over, “God is here and He loves me.”  When there was nothing else to hold onto, I held onto those two baseline truths.

What I did, repeatedly, was to consciously remove every other barrier between me and God.  I held onto Him, clung to Him, pulled Him close and refused to let go.

So if you’re in a state of loneliness, fear, or worry, work on consciously removing any barrier that stands between you and God.  You can remove them by casting Satan and his minions out by the Blood Jesus Christ.  You can remove them by conscious focus on prayer to God.  You can remove them by taking your eyes off of those things and fastening them to God.

Doing so is an act of will, but it is also an act of faith.

Try it.  See how much difference it makes.

*~*

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“Very moving story. Absolutely fabulous!”

Get your copy today at:

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Questions that Make You Go Hmmm… #4

November 5, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Human beings seem to be hard-wired to go for something.  It might be to win.  It might be to succeed.  It might be to be the best at something.  It might even be to grab as much pleasure as possible by doing as little as possible.

It also seems that we are hard-wired to not just want to go for whatever it is, but to be the best at it.  To be the chief of it.

Zaccheus knew all about this hard-wired human drive.  You know how I know that?  Because the Bible says Zaccheus was the chief tax collector.  That means he was over all the other tax collectors.  That would be like being the manager of the tax collectors, the supervisor.  He wasn’t just some newbie, rookie who was working his way to the top.  He was at the top.

Now you also have to understand what being a “tax collector” meant at the time to understand the depth of Zaccheus’ “top” mentality.

Tax collectors worked for Rome, and the Jews hated Rome.  Think the Boston Tea Party before there was a Boston or tea.

This was the forerunner story of taxation without representation.

The Jews pretty much paid taxes to Rome for the express reason that Rome owned the Jews and their land.  And the Jews held great animosity for Rome just taking their money via taxes.

Add to that, the tax collectors got paid by taking more money from the people than Rome demanded.  So if your tax was say $20 (I know, but let’s make this easy).  Then the tax collector would come and collect $22–$20 for Rome and $2 for himself.

But here’s the thing.  If you decided not to pay the Roman tax, you could be thrown in jail–possibly for a very long time, leaving your family, wife and children, to fend for themselves.  You couldn’t say, “Come back tomorrow.  I’ll pay you then.”  You couldn’t put it on a credit card.  You either paid it, or you went to jail.

So let’s say for a minute that you are a Jew back in this time, and the tax collector is coming.  How much fear do you attach to that arrival?  After all, you may know what Rome will charge, but what will the tax collector add on top of it?  What if you can’t pay that?  Worse, tax collectors became much like extortionists in that they began to “collect” as much as they could get away with.  Instead of $22, maybe he would charge $30.  And if you didn’t have it, off to jail.

Do you see why this man, this chief tax collector (who probably collected taxes from the tax collectors in his “downline”) was so hated?

Long story to get to this question.

What are you “chief” of?

When we become “chief” of something, like Zaccheus, we can take our eye off of people.  We put it instead on the goal–on the money or the prestige or on ourselves–what we want, what will look best for us, what will give us power.  We forget to be servants.  We forget to have compassion. We forget about love.

And this chief mentality can creep in some very subtle and sinister ways.  For example, I’ve seen it in church choirs, where a choir member is told they are not good enough to be in the choir by the chief.  I’ve seen it in schools where the chief leaves others out on the playground simply because he or she can.  I’ve seen it in organizations where the chief refuses to listen to anyone else’s ideas.  I’ve seen it in relationships–parents to children and between spouses–where one opinion always wins, and no one else gets a say.  I’ve seen teachers with a chief mentality and bosses with a chief mentality.  I’ve seen managers with this mentality–lording their power over workers who must comply risk getting fired.  I’ve even seen this mentality in esoteric situations like writing–where certain authors set themselves up as “chiefs” and dictate to others what can and can’t be written.

I’m sure you have many other examples.

I think that Jesus’ answer to the chief mentality was best displayed when He washed the feet of the disciples.  In Jesus’ Kingdom those who want to be first must serve, not be served.  You don’t acquire a high seat in the Kingdom.  You don’t get to be chief because you understand that God already is, so that is not even your goal.  Your goal is to serve as many people as possible.  Forget about being “chief.”

So the question, “What are you chief of?” should make us stop and think, “What am I pouring my life into trying to be a worldly chief?  And how can I turn that around and instead be a servant?”

In the work place, maybe the manager calls everyone in and says, “I want us to be a team.  So you tell me what you need to be able to work better?”  Maybe an organizational leader says, “Tell me your best ideas” and then listens and incorporates those ideas.  Maybe the parent says, “Let’s sit down and work out how we can make this work for both of us” rather than me dictating everything.

In fact, I just had a conversation with my 13-year-old the other day.  I said that years ago I heard someone say that when you’re a parent, you start as the hands-on worker with the child.  The child’s schedule is determined by you.  What the child eats, what they wear, everything is determined by the parent, and that power is seductive.  The problem begins when a parent needs to move from manager to supervisor and then from supervisor to consultant.  If as a parent you don’t or can’t make that switch, you will have an extremely contentious relationship with your child.  Put another way, as the child gets older, you are no longer the “chief.”

The truth is, the older you get on this cycle, the less “chief” you will be.  You will have even less of a managerial position with your grandkids than you did with your kids.  You will have even less with your great-grandkids.  Each generation, you are required to relinquish more control.  It’s a lesson I think that is woven into the very fabric of being human.  So learn to let go of being “chief.”  Let God take that position in every situation in your life.  I guarantee you, it will greatly reduce your stress level!

*~*

Sneak Peek!

For Real

The third book in

~ The Courage Series ~

Official release is Nov. 14, but you can get your copy NOW…

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“For Real will show you how you can lay those things that are preventing you from loving Jesus at the foot of the Cross.

It will inspire you and give you hope.”

—Amazon Reviewer, Myrna Brorman


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