Moments In The Story

Taking time to appreciate the journey….


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How To Be Like Mother Teresa

I’ve been deeply touched by a book I’m reading about Mother Teresa’s more private life and thoughts. The book contains some of the letters she wrote to her mentors and spiritual advisors who were praying for her as she answered God’s call in founding the Missionaries of Charity.

I have to admit – I obtained this book because I wanted to know about the heart of this woman, and how she could possibly love so much. I wanted to know what her method was. But as I read the first chapter I was struck with the answer. She didn’t want anyone to know. Apparently Mother Teresa sent multiple requests for her private letters about her life’s calling to be destroyed because she did not want any credit to go to her…but only to God. As her ministry grew, she began receiving requests to be interviewed about her ministry and how “she” developed it. Instead of granting these interviews, she pleaded through various communications with leaders in her church to destroy her letters and documents. Some complied with her request, and others did not.

Here is one of her letters, written 3 years after her original request for the documents to be destroyed.

“Your Grace,

Now that you are looking through the file of our Society – I beg you to destroy any letter which I have written to His Grace – not connected with the Society. “The Call” was a delicate gift of God to me – unworthy – I do not know why He picked me up – I suppose like the people we pick up – because they are the most unwanted. From the first [day] to this day – this my new vocation has been one prolonged “yes” to God – without even a look at the cost. My conviction that “the work is His” – is more than the reality. I have never doubted. It hurts me only when the people call me foundress because I know for certain He asked – “Will you do this for Me?” Everything was His – I had only to surrender myself to His plan – to His will – Today His work has grown because it is He not I that do it through me. Of this I am so convinced – that I would give my life gladly to prove it – “

Two years ago a dear older friend and mentor asked me a question that I will never forget. We were emailing back and forth about a wrong perspective I was struggling with. I shared with her in-depth what I was struggling with, my feelings about it, and what I felt like I needed to do to change it. In her response she gracefully empathized but asked me to look back at my email and count how many times I had written the word “I”. I didn’t need to count to see that it was about every other word of my long email! What a gift she gave me. I started thinking about all those “I” statements and I tried to reword them into “He” statements. It gave me a completely new perspective on my situation…as well as a new hope.

We like the next new book, counseling program, or real-life story. And truly, those can be wonderful things if we ask God what He has for us through them. I think the danger comes when we look for a method to follow. Why don’t we believe that God has something personal for us?

Mother Teresa’s secret was simply being with the Father and saying “yes”. There was nothing magical about her. I’ve also learned that she lived a life of saying yes to God immediately, once she knew it was His will. Some criticized her for that – they said she didn’t think things through enough.

Well, before I try to turn this post into a formula….let me just say this – it’s about Him, and not me. And it’s a relief. Thankfully, Isaiah 41:10 doesn’t say this:

“Do not fear, for you are with you;

Do not be dismayed, for you are your God.

You will strengthen you and help you;

You will uphold you with your righteous right hand”

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Settling For More

T swinging

I’ve been a Christian since childhood….but my friendship with Jesus actually began a few years ago. That is really another story, but as I write that statement, I am faced with the reality that I still long for more. No matter how much I learn, how much more of my heart I give Him – I still never obtain “it” – that elusive fulfillment we claim we can have. I have heard the following types of statements in various Christian settings my whole life: “God will meet all your needs”; “When God closes a door, He opens a window”; “Your identity has to be in God alone”; “How could God allow this to happen”? All of these statements reflect a belief in some Christian communities that when we have a right relationship with God, our lives will be perfect and we will be completely satisfied in Him.

Well after a lifetime of doing, planning and striving to be close to Him, maybe I’m alone here…but I still don’t feel satisfied. I still question whether I’m in His will or not. I still think I “hear” Him, and step out only to find a closed door. And I still want more.

A year ago I started the process of going back to school for a master’s degree in counseling. I wanted to do it really bad, but after facing the reality of the commitment, I had no choice but to put it on hold. With two small children, it was just not feasible. I was a little disappointed, but felt like it could still happen down the road. A few months later I felt stirred to pursue a ministry activity that I’ve been passionate about for years. I was excited, thinking this is what God had…and that’s why the counseling path didn’t work out. I spent weeks working on the “plan”, but circumstance after circumstance proved the timing was off.

One afternoon, around that time, I took my boys to the park and put them side-by-side in swings. As I pushed them, I was teary and almost allowing myself to be disheartened. I started asking God why…and how I had missed Him. I started feeling insecure and purposeless. Then….and no joke…I sensed a voice inside me saying, “swing them”. It’s a moment I could have easily missed as I was going through the motion of pushing the swings. I paused to delight in my 11-month-old’s fluffy, red baby hair blowing around in the wind. He smiled big, showing all eight of his teeth. And I smiled. My older son started laughing in the other swing as I tickled his legs from behind. I found myself truly engaging with my kids and treasuring this typical park outing. A man and his wife had walked by a few times. Finally they stopped – “Enjoy it”, he said. “We’ve been talking about how we pushed our boys in the swing like you are, and now they are teenagers!”

That experience has stayed with me. I was still disappointed for a few weeks. But although God said “no” to my plan – instead of a slammed door, I was faced with the intentional nature of His love for me (much more than an open window). His love allowed me to spend my energy embracing the moment before me instead of anxiously trying to figure out what “His will” for my future was. His love gave me a memory I could have altogether missed. Now my red-head is running around and saying words – not the baby he was at the park just two months ago.

I still talk to God about the longings I have, and I acknowledge that they are grounded in who He created me to be. At this moment I choose to have hope that what He put in me will be carried “to completion”…as His Word says….and in a way that will blow my socks off. My prayer lately has been, “God help me to want what You want for me”. And in that place I find a quiet trust and a quiet hope. His love compels us not to have regrets later because we missed what was important now. But our continual longing and our inability to be satisfied is also a gift. It points us to Him, with the invitation to receive more than we can ever ask or imagine. I’d rather settle for more than less.

Ephesians 3:17-21
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

boys swinging


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Driving with God in My Little Red Sports Car

It’s kind of ironic to think about the role of perfection in how we view the world and each other. I have spent most of my Christian journey focusing on my weaknesses, my sin, and my striving to be a good person (notice how many references to me were just in that one sentence – “I”, “my”). I’m not saying that all Christians do this, but for some reason the way I’m wired is to seek perfection. Even if I never achieve it, the fact that I’m seeking it somehow makes me feel better (a lot of “I’ms – goodness!).

So where has God been in this equation? “Well”, says most-of-Christian-life Kristin, “He helps me”. Oh…so he helps you be perfect, you ask? Good question. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that awhile back I saw John 10:10 in which Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full”. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life”.

I think this means that when I choose God, I choose life. He wants me to live life to the fullest, and He wants to do it with me. Umm…laugh at the things I find funny? Sit and watch that movie with me instead of watching me journal memory verses?

It’s interesting how as Christians we can be about earning our way into relationship with Him. We are uneasy about the vacuum between our efforts and His acceptance. We don’t believe He could really want us to be happy, to enjoy our lives, to relax. We fill our lives with duty and the Christian walk becomes all about what “I” do, rather than what “He” has done, can do, and will do with my little ole day changing poopy diapers.  What if all that agony over trying to figure out what He wants me to do for Him is not Him at all? What if the silence is His way of telling me I’m trying to do religion, and involve Him in something that’s not what He is about.

I’m not trying to down-play the importance of reading His Word, trying to get to know Him, and involving Him (um, finally some “Him” words). But to journey with Him means to drive on the road of life in the same car with Him. And He has to help me want to…I can sing for 3 hours, pray for 4, journal for 10…but if it’s about me earning something to feel more perfected, it’s just a waste. I’d rather have 10 minutes in the car with my rowdy boys yelling in the back… but my heart really talking with Him, like you would with a friend over coffee.

May you experience Him, laugh with Him, and drive with Him!

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, November 2012.


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Comparison: the robber of growth

I’m on a mission: to surround myself with people that make me grow. In the past I avoided this at all costs. Why now you may ask? Well, I’m not sure why it took me getting into my mid-thirties to grasp this, but I’ve begun to see people differently. Not as a competition to step up against, not as a crutch to lean on, not as a “ministry” or project that I can get some self-worth from. Ouch, it’s kind of hard to admit that I’ve held people in this regard too often in the past. And mind you, I’m not talking as one who has completely overcome this area in my life, but rather as one who is seeking to overcome it. I’m tired of it, almost a bit angry about it. How much of my time and energy has been spent orchestrating my relationships to make me feel better? How much effort has gone into evaluating, criticizing and being offended by others? Too much precious time. I have been robbed of years that could have been spent growing.

I believe God brings people in our lives who challenge us. Can’t you think of that “type” of person that drives you crazy? That makes you mad? The “type” you are always trying to squirm away from somehow – whether it is a co-worker, family member, fellow church-goer, or friend? Who makes you uncomfortable? Do you know why?

For me I have lost myself in a sea of comparison for years. It cost me so much happiness, and honestly it kept me in the same place. My striving to be better than others was to try and prove myself to myself. I thought it was a way to be better as a person in my career, as a mother, as a friend. But it was never enough! Embracing the situations and people that made me squirm would have been the pathway to becoming a more stable, solid, awesome person.

I’ve been trying an experiment for about a year now: when I come across someone I’m tempted to compete with, I stop and ask myself why. I choose to look at their strengths, and then I realize they have something I desire because they are stronger in an area than I am. At that point I can either choose to disengage or I can choose to partner with them. I can let their strengths be…I can even tell them about all the great things I see in them. I can ask them questions, try to learn from them. I can grow in an area I’m (shhhh) weak in. I can make a friend rather than an opponent. “We” can now be better together. Perhaps this could spread and more people could be a part of this. Maybe we become a great team. Maybe we can do some great things…together.

I’m convinced comparison is one of the enemy’s secret tools to keep us from freedom in Jesus. Think about how much it distracts us from growing in our own character and calling in life. Think about how much it hurts the people we come across. It creates more for us to be offended about, hurts those dear to us, and keeps everyone involved from truly living out their strengths.

Help me….help you! (silly Jerry Maguire quote) I want to stop hurting others through comparison, and I want to stop being hurt too. But the only way this will change is if one person at a time chooses to engage, and call out the strengths of someone that makes them squirm.

Will you try with me? What successes have you experienced in opening up your life to people that make you squirm?

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, August 2012.