discernment

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

On the occasion of George Floyd’s burial today.

I have wanted to write something to help uncover our racial narrative for my Christian white friends who are asking,

“How am I a part of the racial dichotomy of America (world)? Do I have a part to play and what is it?”

These are deep questions that hold great potential, and stymies many. I have found that often the way forward is illumined when we spend some time with God in our personal past. We all have unconscious structures of felt belief that guide our choices. We must uncover our racial narrative for it is a prime place for such hidden drivers.

We are, as a nation, at a point of magnified recollection and reflection. God is shining light in dark places to do a deep work of transformation. Every one of us is a part of it, no matter how distanced we feel or think we are from the racial issues in our society. It is imperative that we non-racist whites, specifically, do some deep reflecting, allowing God’s spirit to move us into better awareness and action. It is brave and difficult work, largely unseen by the world, but its ramifications will certainly change the shape of our lives and those of our society as we remain faithful to it. Ours is to walk with God into our memories, our unconscious structures, and have our eyes opened by his healing Spirit.

Many, including maybe you, agree racism is wrong and don’t want to be a part of it, yet are unaware of how it’s been present in our lives. We are grappling with saying “This is mine.” We have not made slurs, avoided blacks or browns, preferred whites, done violence, or withheld care. Have we? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Often we aren’t aware of times we’ve participated in a racial slant toward white and away from anyone else.

I deeply believe that God is working in us always to make us whole, and to bring wholeness in our divided culture. This is necessary work. We have a special invitation at this time in our collective history to dive into our personal histories with him and partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing wholeness into fruition. Let us not give up in doing good, deep work with him, spurring one another on towards good deeds to love kindness, act justly and walk humbly with our God. I hope and pray that you will join me and the Holy Spirit in this reflection activity to uncover your racial narrative. I pray for the Spirit to bring his liberation to your being, revealing the beautiful truth he has placed in you with the eyes to see the beautiful truths of others.

 

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

Begin by reading Psalm 139 meditatively. Allow the words that stand out to you to linger between you and God. Consider why they resonate. Ask God for his light, recognize his steady “for you” presence, thank him for desiring your wholeness and the wholeness of the world, and ask to see your life with his eyes. Then ask yourself these questions about your relationship with the black experience in America:

Where do I hurt?

We might feel more pain and defensiveness at being accused of being racist simply because of our whiteness. We may feel more moved by the stories of suffering and injustice coming from blacks and browns. Perhaps the pain of guilt rises to the forefront. Acknowledge the hurt and talk to God about it. He wants to move from where you are towards healing.

Ask “Lord, why? Why do I feel this way?”

Then pursue deeper and ask again, regarding those answers, Why? Why do I feel this way? Show me, Lord, my hidden agendas, my sympathies, my protections and my hopes. See if there is any offensive way in me.

 

Have I witnessed a preference for white over black or brown, and remained silent?

It could have been a silent snub on the playground (read my friend Jen’s poignant recollection here of just such an instance), a white co-worker always given the better tasks, a joke using the n- word, the possibilities are multitude. Allow the Spirit to lead your body into the recollection, how did you physically feel then? What emotions were stirring? How do you feel physically and emotionally in this moment? Allow it to pour out to God.

 

How do I respond to others’ experiences that are different from my own?

Jesus came into our experience, to suffer alongside and know intimately the struggles we have with sin. Allow him to come into your experience of others’ experiences. When someone is telling you about theirs, what do you do internally? There is a spectrum of possible response. Consider with Jesus whether you tend towards rendering blacks and browns accounts unbelievable because it’s not your own, or if you counter and minimize theirs with your own, or if you leave their experience uncontested and you untouched, or if you try to stand in their shoes feeling and seeing what they say. Do I include and expand my views to welcome them or discount and dismiss? Talk with God about it.

 

What justifications or excuses have I given for believing I need not be involved in fighting racism?

Though yours will be your own, these were my primary ones:

  1. “I am not a racist, therefore it’s not my problem.”
  2. For the first fifteen years living in America my excuse was that I am Canadian, it’s not my story. It’s not my history, I have nothing to do with it. I conveniently disregarded my American citizenship and my residence.

Spend some time in the discomfort of examination, allowing the Spirit to reveal what needs to be revealed.

 

Where do I feel resistant regarding my racial narrative?

Resistance can often feel like boredom, avoiding, depression, minimizing, frustration, not wanting to engage with someone or something. Stay with that feeling, holding it, not judging it. Ask yourself gently, “I wonder why I’m resistant.” Listen for God’s guidance and invitation.

As you end your time of reflection, write down what you’ve learned, ask God to reveal one way to keep saying yes to his invitation toward wholeness. Commit to ongoing reflection and learning with him. I had to literally write in my rule of life, and in my monthly goals, to continue to listen to black voices mainly by reading, but also in relationships. I know it’s too easy for me to step out of the fray and back into a white bubble. 

Become better acquainted with history told from a black point of view, rather than from the dominant white narrative. Watch movies like, Harriet, Selma, Just Mercy, Remember the Titans, etc.; read the books and speeches by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr, Howard Thurman, Maya Angelou, and many others. Upon this foundation then one can better hear the voices of today. The racism of the past is different from our experience today and we need to connect the dots for the “nice whites” who agree in our heads but have trouble connecting our hearts to know how our “niceness” is contributing to the problem. Leslie Verner has extensive resources for white people to start, or continue, their journey into oneness with the blacks of America. Take a look here.

Hopefully this reflective practice we just engaged in has helped examine our personal past for non-catalyzed moments: times we witnessed racism but didn’t do anything, a time we felt something was off but couldn’t quite name it, a time we thought “that’s just the way it is”, a time we pulled away because it stirred conflict or tension.

As you do your hard work, know that the Spirit is leading us together deeply and into unity and reconciliation. Lean in and take His invitation to whatever your next step is. Grace and peace to you my friends as you faithfully pursue wholeness, right-relatedness, and faithfulness in such a time as this.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Community, Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Faithfulness 2020

What is your faithfulness?

This is a question I’ve learned from the Quakers this year in my spiritual direction training. It’s a gentle question that orients me in confusing situations, carries with it the whisper to look to the triune God for all, and welcomes me to drop into my unique selfhood. It isn’t a mandate, another link in the chain of “should” that weaves and pulls through my life. It is a question asked in trust and respect, honoring the wisdom I’ve gained, acknowledging the weaknesses and limits I have. There is space in it.

As my social media has exploded with proclamations of goals, “#oneword” inspirations, and calls to get on board with jubilant intentions, I’ve struggled to plot my way forward and declare it with confidence. I’m just not clear on it yet. I could easily take one of my numerous ideas and force feed it into production. But I wish to live intentionally into the paths and patterns, the values of God’s kingdom as they take their shape within my particular life. That is not a haphazard endeavor. At this time a settling needs to happen before I can move forward in faith.

This late fall and early winter I’ve been attracted to the gentle laying down of leaves and snowflakes that softly cover everything. Perhaps because it was a lovely counterpoint to the scattering whirlwind of assignments, family schedules, and work responsibilities that persisted week after week, I found myself often staring at a new spill of brilliant yellow gingko leaves, or the emerging tracery of  whitened tree limbs. The soft surrender of leaf and snow released new beauty. Invariably, my shoulders lowered, my breath expanded, and I’d remember God’s presence to me. Like the surrender of leaves or snow, these January days my faithfulness is to still and wait the change of the year, allowing the blanketing leaves of the previous to settle and fertilize the coming one.

 

 

Snow Tracery

By Kimberley Mulder

One of my greatest agitations disturbing this surrender has been that I have not been consistent in writing to you on this blog, and yet I have not found a way to manage it with the other claims on my time. I’ve felt guilty, troubled, and sorrowful about it. I feel my lack of consistency with shame, yet I cannot muster more.

I brought this to the Lord and we had a talk about faithfulness and finitude. As 2019 progressed, I encountered unexpected needs in my family that required my constancy and creativity. I had to make choices between taking care of my body and soul or pushing through to write another post. I chose the former out of respect for my limits–a lesson in humility. He impressed upon me that:

In each moment, I can only be faithful with one thing.

Given all the factors, I had done that to the best of my ability. And with this realization, I released the guilt. New beauty appeared as I saw my life through the loving eyes of God. Then He asked if I had found him steadfast. There were so many, I felt like Elizabeth Barrett Browning in How Do I Love Thee?, “Let me count the ways!” 

And so, as I settle under the blanket of steadfastness from 2019, I can declare my intention to keep asking “What is my faithfulness in this moment?” When I do write, it is with God, and I trust it feeds your soul. When I don’t write, it is with God, and I trust his fidelity to draw you to him to discern your own present moments of faithfulness.

Take the question with you for your new year:

What is your faithfulness?

Grace, mercy, and peace to you in 2020, friend.

Kimberley

Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Dealing with Internal Intimidation

I redirected my energies from my contemplative work into hospitality mid-April. It was to be a two-week hijacking, then a return to the regular route of days. But the pressures and demands didn’t relent. The attempts to incorporate new ideas and habits from classes, the convergence of three young lives summering with me, and some major emotional upheavals suctioned me into silence on my blog. Daily I remembered you and prayed, aching to write, yet simultaneously adding another daily granule of doubt or criticism to the weighted blanket of shame encasing me.

Shame casts imposing shadows and augments reality into mocking illusions. As a young girl I was intimidated by a rocking one-eyed shadow-giraffe glaring down from atop my curtain rod, daring me to foolishly mention it to my parents. I felt stupid for being afraid of it, and sure of being laughed at for speaking of it. So I remained silent, tense and paralyzed under the bedspread. I didn’t yet know the power that humbly laughing at yourself and sharing with others can have to dispel the thrall of fear and shame.

I’m throwing off my bedspread and padding over to you to tell you—I’ve been afraid to write again. The mocking voices inside wonder why I’m making such a big deal over this and try to squelch the importance of it. They leer at me saying nobody cares, no one needs to hear what I have to say—it won’t make a difference, and if you must say something why make a fool of yourself! Just slip under the radar and pretend nothing is happening—you just got busy, that’s all. This is how the enemy’s intimidation works on a soul whose safety is withdrawal and avoidance.

You need to hear it because I need to say it. Because you need to know there is someone else who is facing intimidation while moving forward into a big, exciting, terrifying calling with Jesus. You and I need to see light spill into this hidden dynamic of pressing on in faith and call it like it is: intimidation is real. Its expression can come in a myriad of ways depending on your particular triggers and personality, but it will come. If it silences you like it does me, raise your voice more and let safe people know what ghouls are dancing on your internal landscape. If big-eyed giraffes are ghosting through it, making you feel small and stupid, open the door to those who can provide the brilliant light of truth, hope, and grace. Its strength overpowers the shadows that loom in near-darkness.

Bright Sun

I told my spiritual director about the oppression I felt, and she noted that intimidation only works on those things you hold precious. As we explored the various circumstances where I had felt intimidated, I could see exactly what she meant. I opened the door to her and this realization swung it wide open. In the blaze, the fears have fizzled out, and I can move again. I’ve been avidly writing every day since.

Writing to you is precious to me. I marvel at how God meets me in it, feeding me, then taking it and feeding you, like miraculously feeding five thousand with two fish. His is not the way of stinginess, but the way of multiplication. His is not the way of oppression, but freedom. His is not the way of looming shadows, but of bracing light. Let’s all give our little fishes to Jesus to stretch them further than we ever thought possible—hopeful faithfulness begetting a feast of wonder in full sunlight.

 

Starting next week:

One of the things I explored in my summer class was the discipline of noticing. It’s a practice that I have found really opens my heart to encountering God. Just yesterday, after sending the boys to their school bus, I sat on the front stoop and stared at the dripping plants in our front garden. The water adhered to each in very distinct ways. I noticed how the growing things were all in arches and umbrels, no squares and straight lines. Their flexibility helped them bear the sudden weight of drops without breaking. Not only was it beautiful, but there was wisdom wrapped in the display decorated with water pearls. It encouraged me into flexibility for the day, rather than rigid accomplishment that often fractures under the pressure of unexpected changes. The day felt like a gift rather than a burden because I encountered God in this noticing.

This kind of gift exists in your everyday as well. I’m inviting you into a community exploration on Instagram of these gifts over the next few weeks. It doesn’t have to be long, deep, or fancy, just one thing you notice with a quick picture and however much you want to write about it. I’ll be posting a list at the beginning so we have a focus each day, but it’s open to whatever you notice and however you meet God. I will post the topics on IG in about a week, and thereafter anyone can join in with your posts on that topic with the hashtag #noticeGod and tagging me @writerkimberleymulder. So follow me on IG @writerkimberleymulder, and watch to join in! I will write more in my next post when I kick off this IG practice. I am so curious to see what God has waiting for us to feed our souls! Shalom to you!

Posted by k2mulder in Courage, 0 comments

How Do I Know God Loves Me, Personally? My Journey to Knowing I Am Loved

I bided my time as she squeezed me tightly to her, warmth rising at the closeness, and stared listlessly at the jumble of envelopes, scratched notes, and flyers askew on the counter, a lone pen lolling against the backsplash. Punctuating a smile on my face to meet her shining welcome as she released me back to my own presence, I felt relieved with the return of the little gulf that buoyed me to safety.

I keep to myself. It’s less awkward, less dramatic, and less demanding. I don’t feel immobilized like I do tight up in someone else’s power, even when it’s a loving power. Smothered is the word I used when I talked to myself or God. Intimacy seemed more like an oil slick spreading its sticky poison to blanket the sea’s life into suffocated death. And so I evaded, hid, sometimes flew but never far because, well, that’s just not the right way to respond to love, is it? The ebb and flow of what I was comfortable with licked at my heels, threatening to mire my feet. I could not give myself totally to the warmth, to the power, to the discomfort. It was just too much, and I was just too little.

feet running at waters edge for www.kimberleymulder.com

Photo by Genevieve Dallaire on Unsplash

The safest place that was not too far nor too close, was near. I could share a room toiling on a project or reading a book, ensconced where I had only to look up to control my participation. I loved stories because I could feel it all, yet remain outside it. When my tears rose at the suffering of a favorite character or the sacrificial love of a good father, I could close the book. There they remained, at arms’ length where I could flip the page on tenderness, sliding it into place, staid on the page.

The same was true at church. I found God in a book. His character was intriguing, complex, and so right all the time! Every page I flipped gave me something new to consider, to follow, to do. I loved how I could select a passage and tie it to another and follow God’s thoughts. How loving of God to share his thoughts with me, in a book, no less! A book I could open at will—and close. God was delivered to me in such a manageable package.

Included in this package were lessons on how to view myself. I’d use these passages as a mirror, turning it to catch the right angle to see my reflection, but instead I saw a distortion. I knew I was good—I did good things all the time, in fact, I rather thought I was pretty good at being good. Yet the mirror consistently made me look like a freak with narrow, tiny eyes and a ballooned jaw. That didn’t seem like a caring gift from this know-it-all God! I figured I couldn’t find the right angle, and carried on assuredly. Of course God loved me, how could he not? I didn’t look like that weird reflection!

The package came with a brochure, provided by my church. Each page highlighted a people group: the remote hill tribe in a jungled Asian country, the veil of hijabs across the Middle East, the bundles of poor overflowing slums, the angry youth caught in the webbed blocks of large cities. The title of the brochure was—This is Who God Loves. None of them went to church with me. And if I loved God then I would go to whom he loves! Isn’t that why he tucked the brochure in and gave me a love of travel?

It wasn’t until many years later that I could identify the empty middle in this belief. I believed God’s love was always directed away from me, to those who need it more. My church knew little of God’s love, always passing the plate on piously, in false deference to those more needy, in essence saying, “We’re good, we don’t need it, here you take it, you need it.” It fit well with my evasive shyness and my gloried goodness. Like a boulder in a stream, I diverted love to either side, believing I did not need the water myself, that it would even be selfish to take what was meant for others. 

I took this package of God’s love in the suitcase of my heart to unpack and give away. Only, when I got there I discovered they were already fed. I was merely bringing more of the same. Even worse, my prepackaged meal of goodies did not satisfy even my own hunger. For too long I had snacked on candy, getting by. I needed a meal. So God starved me.

I think it is at the brink of realizing our great and real hunger for God that we often turn away because it is terrifying to see this massive canyon in our hearts and hear echoes of our inadequacy bounce from rock to rock. For a year and a half, I stood and paced that canyon, calling and calling. I tried my books, but they did not satisfy. I tried all the good things, prayer and song, but they tumbled like pebbles into the canyon. My spirit was a starving mountain goat while my body was a rebelling animal, unable to digest food and dropping weight as if it were water in a fall. Hunger was my constant companion and my greatest enemy. I did all the right things and they did nothing.

goat looking over canyon for www.kimberleymulder.com

Photo by Harry Burk on Unsplash

My salvation came slowly through the ministration of she who had always held me close. I could not push her away, for I needed her to hold me together. She literally bound my red, pulsing side every day, touching my pain with her tenderness. A mother now myself, I know her suffering was greater than my own. My fears of being stifled by love were unfounded. Her smile was authentically warm, she did not want to stifle me, she merely wanted to love me. In my weakness, I let myself be loved.

My uncle came and prayed with me, but not the endearing supplicant, hands folded, eyes cast down to the linoleum floor as he sat in the green sterilized faux-leather chair across the room. No, he stood, two feet planted as he leaned on my bed, his warm, broad hand on my chilled shoulder, and he told God how his heart broke to see me suffering, his tears manifesting the words in real drip time, and he asked God to break in and heal me.

Though nothing changed dramatically in my body that moment, my spirit calmed and realized that it had the power to enter that canyon and go find food. It was equipped with hooves and a nose that could snuffle out nourishment even in hard places. I began the descent, at last unlocked from the paralysis at the top of the impossible. I, that is my spiritual self, started to do that which I was made for, to go find that which I hungered for. No suitcase this time, no package in my hands, just the gnawing desire in the belly of my soul.

I almost settled for fodder in a barn on the way. For a time I ate at a church like the one I grew up in. It gave me the comfortable satisfaction of feeling full, but the longer I spent there, the more I realized the food was the same and sat in my stomach like a brick. I foraged further up the valley. Right on the river’s edge, I found a wild pasture of a church. There were some familiar plants but also new ones I had never tested. I was afraid I’d eat something that would make me sick, but I also felt satisfied and alive when I ate in that spacious place. The attraction of the semi-wild place eventually corralled me. My emaciated soul nibbled, then chewed, then feasted on abundant life.

Jesus was no longer good to follow, to strive after, instead he sat with me and became real to me, even in my errors, even in my pain, even in physical ways. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me an absolutely real experience of how much he loves me, personally. We are friends, and I can honestly say, no longer embarrassed or unsure, I love him and he loves me. 

My way in to intimacy with God was through hunger, a hunger greater than fear, just like my need for loving care had to be greater than my fear of being smothered. It was only upon entering in that I could see that I was loved, not trapped.

This was a trip that goodness could not make, for goodness relies on knowing what to do and how; it’s controlled and measured like a tour guide following an itinerary. As long as I followed the guide, I couldn’t make a wrong turn, I could always turn the page and find out what’s next. I didn’t realize that I was holding the wrong guide until I stood on the rim, dizzy with my deprivation. Not good enough to figure this out, to solve my hunger, I had to off-road my spirit. I had to embrace the unknown, the frightening, the hope that there was something for me at the bottom and enough to sustain me along the way. I didn’t know how to scale a canyon wall, but I would languish and die on the edge if I didn’t try. Hunger led the way, and love welcomed me to the feast.

Posted by k2mulder in Beloved, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

New Year, New Website, New Offerings

Welcome to the new year and a new space here on the internet! I’ve crafted this new website to better reflect my heart, which is to serve your soul’s needs as you serve in Jesus’ name all around the world. As you can see, I’ve changed the name of my site to www.kimberleymulder.com (which was always the address) and encapsulated my intent in the tagline “Sustaining your soul as you serve.”

Everything I do here is a companioning with God and you so that you are more deeply rooted in Jesus. The deeper and better connected we are with the creator, lover, and sustainer of our lives, the more steady, effective, and broad is our reach as we live authentic, missional lives. Jesus says in John 10:10 that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Too many followers of Christ suffer a full (busy) life that is poor in peace, hope, and joy. But Jesus truly desires us to live abundant, satisfying lives with him. Join me as we make space together to unwrap the gift of our abundant lives and learn how to live them as he leads.

You will see that I have three main sections: Sip, Steep, and Strengthen. “Sip” is where I write mini-reflections, share insights and other soul-sustaining thoughts. These are posted almost daily on Instagram and Facebook. Follow me there to take your daily sips.

Then in “Steep” I am continuing my blog posts because the overwhelming response I got from the survey earlier this month (thank you so much for doing that!) was that you want them. This is where I offer longer forays into inspirations, meditations, and ideas. I will often teach or give examples and guidance on practices that will help your spirit grow. A few things converged for me in discerning how many posts to offer a month. The first is that the Lord has been impressing on me to collaborate with others. The second is that you, my readers, are evenly split between wanting weekly and monthly posts. And lastly, I’m still in seminary, and need time to delve into the next part of what I will be offering all of you (more on that in a moment). So, the second Saturday of each month I will be posting my own posts, and the fourth Saturday of each month I will have a guest blogger for you! These are people who have written books, have ministries, and are also passionate about keeping you, the body of Christ, healthy and connected with the head, Jesus. Next week, coinciding with the giveaway I’m doing as I unveil this new space, we have Michelle DeRusha who just released, on January 1, her book True You: Letting Your False Self Go to Uncover the Person God Created

That brings me to the giveaway! I will be opening it on Thursday, January 24 and will draw the winner on Thursday, January 31. To enter, follow me on Instagram or Facebook and watch for the posts that week. The directions will be there. It has an “Oregon” theme because I go to Portland Seminary, Michelle was inspired for the metaphor that structures her book by the Japanese maple tree at the Portland Japanese Garden, and I contribute to www.anchoredvoices.com which is mostly made up of contributors from Oregon. The giveaway includes a copy of Michelle’s book, True You, a blue leather-bound journal, and a bar of “Crater Lake” handmade natural soap with essential oils from www.elementtoiletryco.com which is my fellow blogger’s company.

Back to my new website offerings: I’ve added a Resource page on which I share devotionals, books, podcasts, and other helpful material for your spiritual formation. I will add more as I continue to learn more so check back every so often for your next step on this journey with Jesus!

Lastly, my section called “Strengthen” is not up and running yet. You all were clear on the next thing you’d like to receive from me, and that’s guided meditations. As I’ve prayed and considered how best to do this, it seems that a podcast is the best way, so I’ve been diving deep into how to do that and what shape that will take. I would love to have that up by the end of February, although I suspect that might be a tad bit ambitious! I will keep you all in the loop on the progress, so keep on the lookout for it. I am excited to do this!

For the next seven months I will focus all of the posts and podcasts (when I get them up and running) on the following themes:

February — Beloved

March — Making Space for God

April — Savor

May — Linger

June through July — Series on Hearing God

I pray that you will find these changes helpful to root and strengthen your relationship with Jesus, and that you will find your service and ministry is focused and effective. As always, I love to hear from you, how God is touching you and those you serve, and for any ways I could help sustain your soul—just email me at kimberley@kimberleymulder.com. Grace and peace to you all in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Kimberley

Posted by k2mulder in Giveaways, New Website, 0 comments

Courage Gains Strength in Stillness

Nascent courage feels much like a sprig of hope, slenderly strong in the cold earth rising to the call of the white light above. Fragile, yet powerful, in its miniscule multiplication, cell upon cell of mitochondrial factories.

Scoff not at the small beginning. Trample not the greening of an idea under the solstice of God. He rises, like the sun, for just such a reason. He bends his power, as the sun sends its rays, to this greening earth to call forth these courageous beginnings.

Sometimes a seed lies long in the dark earth, then someone “happens” to kick a clod away, just enough to make the difference between dormant dream and lifting life. When hope has lain buried for long, in order for courage to rise and respond, our hope needs to be called forth. What draws us out of our sheltered shells is, most often, love.

Without love we will lack courage. So, if you are at a crossroads and struggling to be courageous, pause and consider whether you have lost your sense of belovedness. Consider whether you have been pushing forward out of duty rather than in response to love. Are you being led by love, or pushed by fear? When we push forward because we are afraid, we are reacting, not discerning; we are controlling and manipulating, not receiving and moving in peace. This is not courage; this is fear.

Courage is refusing to react to fearful circumstances with desperate action; instead, it is rooting action to burrow into love, scaring the fear away with tenacious trust.

Suppose that, if it could, the greening tendril sprouting from the mud should react to an onslaught of icy rain by moving, or quickly throwing a shelter over itself? It would die because it was no longer in the ground, nor getting the nourishing water. That onslaught, terrifying as it is, actually feeds it. When we react in fear, we could be refusing the very water our courage needs in order to grow.

Courage is bracing our hopes with Love. It is the action of choosing to be patiently still in the storm, attentively focused on the leading of He who loves us. Uncertainty could be your storm. Attack, need, conflict, or busyness could be your storm. Regardless of the nature of the storm you are in, refuse to be swept up in it, refuse to be tangled. Set your mind and heart on agreement with the Lord – which can only be love. Focus your attention, not on the solution to your particular dismay, but on the Lord’s love for you. Dig into it and stay there. From this courageous place, dug into Love, you will receive strength and understanding of what to do and when.

If you have ever held a plank exercise, you will understand the strengthening action of stillness. In this exercise, you have only your hands and toes on the floor supporting your body stretched as if it were a straight board head to toe over the floor. It requires, and develops, a great deal of active strength to hold this still pose for very long.

So, if you are weathering a storm around your just-sprouted hopes, hold your plank! Brace yourself! Be still, knowing God.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging…

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:1-3,10 NIV)

For now, you will feel the pain of holding it, you will not notice the growth in your muscle of courage, but afterward, you will not be uprooted, you will be strong, focused, and courageous.

In my own life, I have had to do this repeatedly.

In my twenties, crisis pulled me out of the international ministry life I had just embarked upon. In the stillness of my sickness, I struggled to know God’s love in my experience. He was there, but the strain of spiritual and emotional endurance, like burning muscles, screamed for my attention and often drowned out the soft touches of love. When the assault of illness ended, I wobbled out with a weak, but healed, body, and a battered, but tenacious spirit. 

That was twenty years ago, this August. Two years before that (twenty-two years ago), I had followed Jesus out of my plans to be a musician and into his plans to put me in ministry. At the time, the shape of my ministry was teaching English in Ukraine. But after my illness, it dissolved and I could not see it. The clarity had shattered and melted into the ground where it nourished my life, but remained unseen. For twenty years I’ve known it rests there, but I’ve been unable to draw it to the surface into a solid shape.

Two years ago or so, after many efforts to draw this latent desire into life (out of fear that I had no purpose), Jesus drew me back into stillness – for a year! I dug into him, and held my plank. Unlike other times of waiting, this time was warm with joy, rich with experiences with Jesus, and had a sense of incubating new life. From it new ideas germinated from old loves that had lain buried so deeply that only the Lord knew where to find them.

Just like the plank exercise works on your core muscles, the stillness of this time developed a core courage upon which I am growing new strength. For the last year, I have looked many of my fears in the eye. Fears like, “Who cares if I write?” “I’m going to face critics; I don’t think I can.” “Am I jeopardizing my kids’ futures with the sacrifices my choices are making?” And on and on. Through many interactions, Jesus lead me forward against these fears. At one key point, I realized that I would eternally regret not trying. That was a decisive blow to many of my fears and cleared the path for me.

He is leading me into the impossible, which is another name for miraculous. That ministry which dissolved into the ground of my life twenty-two years ago, He is powerfully inviting forth with his sunshine, his call of love. And it’s not the shape of a singular plant, like I thought it would be. It is an entire field! From it, he is coaxing a writing ministry, a vocation, and one specific international opportunity.

In a month, my family of five will be going with a team from our church to central Asia to minister to ministers. There is a retreat for missionaries in central Asia where we will minister to the kids, while their parents’ spirits are encouraged and empowered in the adults’ sessions. This caring for the spirits of the “frontline” leaders is exactly what Jesus has called into life in my vocational field.

It is also an opportunity that we have prayed for, for twelve years! We adopted our oldest from this country and planned and prayed about taking her back when she was twelve to sixteen. Not only do we get to delve into her ethnic background and culture, but we get to invest in it!

To answer this call, we’ve had to exercise courage financially, by sacrificing, and by asking for help. Again, love leads us into this, and we ask that you listen to Jesus to see if He is asking you to help us with your donation and your prayers.

If so, please donate at gofundme.com using your credit card (this is not tax-deductible) or send checks (this is tax-deductible) to:

Vineyard Columbus

Attn: Jackie Williams, International Ministries

6000 Cooper Road

Westerville, OH 43081

Include a note (but not on the memo line): Mulders, Central Asia Trip.

I will be sharing here, on the blog, during the trip what God is doing, so be sure to check in for pictures and stories! We are so excited to see and be a part of what God is doing there! Thank you for being a part of our little story.

In what areas do you want to “hold your plank”, maintaining a stillness locked into God’s love? How has love called you into something scary and how are you responding? Have you been courageous because of love? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Courage, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

When Fear Holds Hunger in Its Teeth

Last week I wrote about how I discern the voice of fear and the voice of Love. This week we are starting our month-long focus on “Hunger” and how it pertains to a centered life. I am sharing from my personal experience and hope that it stimulates your hunger for God!

I have written the following in truth and love, especially for my heritage. It is not glamorous, in fact, it may be painful to some. But I am trying to illumine what God has shown me as He has wrought more freedom into my life. I pray for your freedom as you read.

I grew up in a church community that valued, rightly so, giving and sacrificing for those less fortunate. Many of us were immigrants or children of immigrants with stories of making do and frugality forming our families. There were a lot of unsung, hard-working heroes in our family tree.

But somehow, in the trenches of making a living in a new land, the hunger that everyone had come with became buried under the work of our hands, the ache of the labour, and the strains of limitation. And it was buried in our spirits too.

Though hunger for freedom, for more, for a better life had driven our grandparents across the Atlantic ocean, that hunger went underground as they built their new life. It became inappropriate to want more in life: whether in the making of money or thirsting for God. As we became guardians of the status quo, God felt more distant. Like a knot of hunger in the stomach, our spirits hardened.

We were self-righteous in our mandated contentment. There were whispers of judgment regarding other churches, born of fear. We didn’t understand what they were experiencing as we heard of healings and changed lives. We were fearful of it, fearful of the powerful hunger that drove those people, not realizing that we had the same hunger held underground by our fear.

Only through resentment did we notice our hunger: other churches were growing, why weren’t we?

To desire more was evil ambition and arrogance. Desire was a fearful thing! For those who paid attention to the hunger in their spirits, there were few communal tables at which to gather. By God’s grace, there were a few, and life grew there. I ate with them, I hungered with them, and God met us.

We must allow ourselves to feel our hunger, to stand in it, not run away from it or bury it. It is the gnawing center of life in which we receive the bread of Life. God would not have given us hunger if it did not serve His purposes. That goes for bodily hunger as well as soul hunger. As we are filled, we are empowered. Motion can follow.

Sometimes we must allow our spiritual hunger to push us to immigrate to new places.

The word “desire” has forward movement inherent within it. It is the motion of attraction, like two magnets drawing together. God gave us desire to move us toward him. Desire is a gift, not a curse.

Our fears must not be allowed to control our hunger. The only fear God gave us is the fear, the awe and wonder, of Him; all others are hounds from our enemy. When we put hunger in control of fear it will eat up obstacles in its ravenous power. Let your hunger for God loose, feed it, and fear will cower!

The truly hungry do bold things that they would never do when satisfied. Dissatisfaction can be the Lord’s invitation into the bold changes of His kingdom.

Yes, we need to develop contentment in our souls, but there is a magnet in discontent that will pull us there.  The uneasy, discontented sensation of hunger is the invitation to the soul to find its true food.

In Luke 10, when Mary dropped her duties as host (much to her sister Martha’s consternation!) to go listen to Jesus, she was giving reign to her spirit’s hunger trusting it would find its satiation in the words of this visitor, Jesus.

If you suffer a squelched spirit do not settle in a false contentment saying “This is all there is, I am okay here.” This is where our hunger helps us discern between good and best. God wants our BEST which is good for us, but we often settle for what is GOOD thinking it’s the best. Fear wiggles into power ever so subtly in this situation. Fear says to the squelched spirit: “This is good enough, who am I to want more? I am denying God’s gracious gifts if I want more.” Rather, admit your hunger, and tell God. He is delighted to meet you in your hunger! It is through our hunger that Jesus works to reconcile us to himself. For it is His great desire to be reconciled with us.

On earth Jesus’ hunger fueled his every action. His hunger for reconciliation enabled him to say “No” to temptation in the desert, endure the whips, spears and nails, fit infinity into finity, feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish, and befriend and disciple many in three years. What will your hunger enable you to do as you are filled to all fullness with the bread of life?

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Encouragement, Hunger, 0 comments

A Perfectionist’s Story Discerning the Voices of Fear and Love

“Perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.” 1 Jn. 4:18 NIV

The type of fear John speaks of is the paralyzing, cowering kind that all people feel in the face of threats, violence, abuse and other evils. It is an oppressive, jailing kind that arises from the deceitful one, Satan. But Jesus came to free the captive (Isaiah 61:1).

The deceiver tailors his language of fear to his listener. To some he speaks in soft tongues, to others in sharp. The point of anything fear says is to control and bully, to keep the hearer from knowing freedom and love.

Fear bullies with sweet whispers. Fear seduces with sharp commands. Fear persuades with half truths. Fear controls with comfort. Fear is charismatic, a force of character that draws people to follow him into bondage. And he uses content of every kind under the sun: from self-perception to global annihilation, from sore throats to getting it all done.

Nothing but the whole truth, unvarnished and blazing gently in one’s being, will conquer fear. Before it, like wax melting under a candle, our rigid prisons fall away. To each of our personal realities God’s truth of love shines deeply into our personal convictions, changing and shaping them into action, releasing the prison gates of fear.

To the perfectionist’s ear, fear speaks in “shoulds”. He holds up the beautiful goal and desire for perfection, knowing that that IS what we are destined for, and says: “Look, that’s your goal, go get it! You should do this, then that, then that. You definitely shouldn’t waste your time on unproductive things. Do this…and this…and this.” The perfectionist climbs the mountain of “shoulds”, not realizing that it is made of pebbles rolling under her feet and she is getting no closer. Instead, she is wearing out, despairing, discouraged and unsure. Fear now holds her tired heart in captivity.

I am a perfectionist, and the above is my story. However, the story is not finished.

Into this captivity Jesus stepped. His foot light, he brought water, a pillow, His presence. He sat with me in my captivity until I had rested enough that I could listen. Then He began to speak, counteracting the poisonous thoughts I had been listening to for years, and when I was stronger, He invited me to get up and walk with Him. He began to show me things I had not noticed before, He ignited joy and peace in my heart. For a time, He refused to answer my request for a purpose, knowing that that would send me back up the mountain of pebbles.

After an uncomfortably long time, in which I finally found comfort, He invited me forward with Him. He never used the word “should”, always “let’s”. As He issued His invitation to me into His purposes He said: “You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace.” (Isaiah 55:12).

I am, literally, today, starting three major things to which He has led me. One of which is the series on this blog on “Ten Attitudes of Heart to Cultivate for a ‘Mary’ Life”!

Just to show you how personal He gets as He leads you, I will share the picture He gave me this morning as I listened to Him regarding these initiatives. First off, you have to know that I LOVE snow, playing in the snow, skiing, skating, all things snow. In that, I am a true Canadian:) In the picture, I saw myself as a child getting ready to go play in the snow, and in my excitement I wasn’t putting on my hat or zipping up my coat. He, Dad, came over and put my hat on, zipped up my coat to make sure I was prepared and then blessed me with a twinkle in his eye and said “Have fun!”.

I have been listening to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast “The Next Right Thing” (which I highly recommend!) and in episode three, she asks: “Are you being led by love or pushed by fear?” Over the last year, this has been especially helpful in my discernment process. It helped me recognize that a job I almost took was motivated by my fear of our future finances, not His leading. It helped me recognize that during this time of discernment, courage means taking the hours to go deep with God, to slowly process all the things He is showing me, and trust that my not getting a paycheck will not bring us to bankruptcy.  It has been eleven months so far without my pay check and we have always had enough, even as we moved to a house with a higher house payment per month!

For me, the voice of fear says excitedly and urgently, like a happy friend: “You should do this because you are so able. You should do this to secure your future!” But if I don’t comply my happy friend’s voice slides into a menacing, condemning voice: “You’ll never amount to anything. You aren’t doing enough to bless the world. You have been given so much and you just squander it. How can you call yourself a leader? A good mom?” In both voices, the identifying characteristic is a push to perform and prove.

Whereas being led by love, the voice is a gentle friend, welcoming and pleased to be with me, regardless of what I do. Love’s voice invites, converses. Love says: “This is the way, walk in it, and I will walk with you.” If I don’t comply, love waits.

I’ve had many months now of discerning the voice of fear and the voice of Love as I have waited on the Lord to direct my steps. A desire of mine from as far back as I can remember is to get my Master’s degree. I’ve started one, I’ve tested the waters with a course for another, I’ve perused many catalogs. Every time there’s been a check in my spirit at some point on the road – a lack of peace about the focus, a revelation that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should (there’s that “should” again!).

This time the Lord is inviting me to get my Master’s in Spiritual Formation and Direction. It isn’t a should at all, but an “I get to!” I know deeply that this is the right direction, partly because I realize that if I don’t make the attempt and join the Lord I will, literally, forever regret it. All my previous endeavors I was preparing to make do when all along, deep down I knew that I was cut out for this work and had lacked the courage to try. He has been persistently showing and telling me that He wants me living abundantly with Him in the purposes He has for me. He wants the BEST for me, not for me to simply make do.

Are you being led by Love, or pushed by fear? Only you and the Lord can identify the voice of fear in your life. It will speak differently to you than me. It will take courageous, deep work to identify and admit to listening to the voice of fear. But I promise, it is so well worth it. God made you for living deeply, joyfully and truthfully, not quickly, shallowly and fearfully.

Posted by k2mulder in Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments