Sunday School on Saturday

And now, another break from my normal posts in which I give an overly detailed explanation of every feeling I have ever had.

The other day, I realized that I wasn’t trusting the Lord’s hand in the Sunday/Saturday School class that I was going to start.  Instead, I “decided” that the thing to do was to wrack my brain trying to come up with exactly the right words to say, in hopes of ensuring that none of these little ones would be led astray.  Ever.  For the rest of their lives.  As a result of my perfect teaching.

I’m pleased to report that I was convicted of this faulty thinking before the time actually came to teach the class.

So…the class:

I had four boys, aged four to eight years old.  The four year old was kind of all over the place and not really paying attention.  The other three were great, for the most part.  As I’d mentioned before, they all been in Sunday School before, so they have a decent grasp of the Bible.  And they seem to have figured out that, when all else fails, the correct answer is probably “Jesus.”

The beginning was a little shaky, but then, I started with a children’s catechism that I’d found.  We started with the first two questions and worked on memorizing corresponding Bible verses.  That took quite a while, but they seemed to enjoy it.  By the time we got around to starting the actual lesson, it was time to wrap it up.

A low-light and a highlight from the day:

Low-light – At one point, one boy said, “You know, I’d prefer to go out and sit with my mom.  I just said that I wanted you to teach us, so that you wouldn’t be sad.”  Ouch.  At the end, each of them prayed.  One of his prayers was that God would help him like Sunday School.

Highlight – The study that I was going to teach was called “Moses’ Dream vs. God’s Dream,” from the website, Ministry to Children.  The first step was to ask the children what their dreams were.  The first two boys, who grew up in Christian homes, mentioned owning a horse and being a soldier.  We got sidetracked, and the other boy said, “You didn’t ask me what my dream is.  I want to tell my dream.”  So, I gave him a chance.

He said, “When I grow up, I dream to read the Bible and know the Bible.”  Mind you, this child grew up with non-Christian parents.  His mother starting attending church about year ago, and got baptized recently.  Needless to say, my heart melted.  I hope this boy wasn’t saying that just to make me happy, cause it seemed so sweet and sincere.  Again, that’s something I will have to leave in the Lord’s hands.

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Doing the Opposite Today of What I Said Yesterday – Almost

Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich.
    Give me just what I need.
If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you;
if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name.

Proverbs 30:8-9

Yesterday at church, the pastor preached on the ideas of “expansion” and “contraction” in the Christian life.  He talked – in part – about the usefulness of times of difficulty (contractions) in our lives.  One way is that difficulty has a way of drawing us closer to the Lord than we typically are in times of great ease and prosperity.  During times of ease (expansion), we tend to fall into the trap of feeling that we have accomplished that circumstance in our own strength, and that same strength will empower us to remain in the comfortable circumstance.  Obviously, as self-reliance increases, reliance on the Lord will decrease.  Intellectually, Christians (should) know that it should never be the case that we stop relying on the Lord to supply our daily needs – one day at a time.  But does it really ever play out practically?  And for how long?

Yesterday evening, we had our small group meeting, at which we discussed the morning’s sermon.  One question asked how close we felt to the Lord during times of contraction versus times of expansion.  One person in the group said that they are going through a relatively good time right now, and don’t feel terribly close to the Lord.  They mentioned that a few years ago, there was a particularly difficult period.  During that time, they felt much closer to Him than they do now.

I answered this question from the other side of the coin.  I have had financial and job stress for a little over a year now. Month after month, God has sustained me in different ways:  a large tax return; a couple of roommates at different times; friends who allowed me to eat with them; benevolence from the church; Christmas presents of household necessities; and more.  I have also been working, but just that income has not been enough to cover my expenses.

There have also been some personal difficulties:  disappointment with my current work situation; learning how to navigate being an HSP; transitioning from one church to another; experiencing loneliness on various fronts.  All of these things have kept me pressed close to the Lord, as I try to figure out what in the world is going on with my life.

I have experienced great joy and closeness, because of the trust that I have had to exercise lately.  As part of my answer, I also said that I hope that God will allow me the chance to trust in Him and depend on Him, even when I’m not struggling so much financially.  In other words, I hope He won’t leave me without gainful – and meaningful! – employment for too much longer, just in an effort to keep me close.  (I’m sure there’s some faulty thinking on my part, but it’s just what I hope.)

Already this morning, I had a chance to “prove myself.”  And almost failed.  Not even 24 hours later!

This morning, I woke up feeling a bit ill.  So, I went back to sleep for a few more hours.  (Okay, there are some perks to just working part time.)  Suffice it to say, I got several hours of sleep in.  When I finally got up, I knew that I needed to spend some time in prayer. My first thought was something like, “Well, I’m not in any particular distress right now and don’t have any new need.  So, I guess I don’t need to pray.”

What?!

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit immediately reminded me of yesterday’s sermon and discussion on contraction and expansion, closeness to and distance from the Lord.  Thankfully, I was convicted enough to hit the ground and pray.  Admittedly, I did not pray for a considerable amount of time, but I did pray.

I praised the Lord for being who He is.

I thanked him for His free gift of salvation through Jesus the Christ.

I tried to bring to mind any un-confessed sin.  And confessed it.

I tried to recall the prayer requests of loved ones.

Let me be honest:  I’m a very lazy pray-er.  And I do get distracted easily.  Praying “on-the-go” suits me more.  Of course, prayer is not really about what suits me, and I would do well to remember that.

In any case, I’m grateful for the somewhat non-dramatic wake-up call that God gave me today.  I don’t want to ever be in such a good condition that I forget my God.  When I do find myself in more positive circumstances, my prayer is that I will continue to pray.  That I will continue to seek the Lord’s face.  That I will continue to acknowledge that it is all from Him and all belongs to Him.  That I will always find reasons to cry out to Him – even when my heart is not heavy with tears and stress.

New Year’s Eve Revelation

i started this post on New Year’s Eve, but was not satisfied with it. Truly, I still am not satisfied. However, I have not posted nearly as much as I’ve wanted to. So, here is my somewhat incomplete offering.

As I have done for the past several years, I took some time today to pray and reflect on my year with a journal entry. Usually, the entry turns out to be a list of events and changes (and more than likely, heartaches) that occurred during the year.

This year, as I writing, I noticed something different. I wasn’t describing events. I was describing lessons learned. I was charting my growth in the Lord.

This, in and of itself, became another evidence to me that God is with me and is growing me.

True, there have been many instances of deep, deep pain. (Happily, very few of them were romantic.) Still, God has revealed so much to me through this pain. Unfortunately, most of what has been revealed to me have been areas in which I have sinned and fallen short.

Later today, as I was driving, I was listening to a call-in radio show. The host was asking listeners to call in to share praise reports and give glory to God for what he had done in their lives in 2014. I started thinking of all of the ups and downs of my own year.

I thought about how every year has come and gone and has never transpired in a way that I could ever predict.

Still, through all of that, God has been there. He has been right beside me.

Today, I realized that I’ve always imagined the Lord as looking down on me from afar. I’ve (unintentionally) imagined him caring and directing what happens in my life, but also being detached in some way.

When I realized how wrong I am about that, I felt a new excitement. I felt a new motivation in my walk with God. Realizing that he is walking beside me through everything helps me know that I can handle everything! Sure, it might be through a flood of tears, but I recognize even more the extent of presence and power in my life.

I truly dislike falling into cliched-sounding statements, but fear that I have. Still, it’s very exciting to me to have finally grasped something that I have always known, but apparently have never truly apprehended.

HSP High and Praise Report

I can’t sleep! I am full of energy and wide awake. I’m in bed, but not the slightest bit inclined to fall asleep.

There is a wonderful reason for this, though! This evening, I went to a bible study within a particular immigrant community that I spend time with. There was a guy there, who the last time I saw him was at a community event. He was beyond drunk and was hitting on me. It was creepy, not just annoying.

Tonight, however, he was there as a brand new, baby Christian! I had heard there had been someone to come to faith in Christ recently, but didn’t know who it was. Since I knew the story behind it, I easily put two and two together.

He had such a peaceful countenance tonight. He seemed to be listening attentively. Actually, he used to be in religious service in a different religion. Someone else from that religion, who became a Christian a couple of years ago, brought him tonight; his first time to ever be in a church setting.

Secondly, there was a girl that sat beside me who seemed to have a kind of breakthrough. Not a breakthrough driven by loud, emotional music. But a breakthrough of the mirror of the Word of God held up to her and her seeing her reflection.

The talk was on different types of “Christians,” from nominal to truly born-again. He divided them into four groups. As he described the groups, she said to me, “I think I’m in the wrong group.”

Oh, this blessed me! This was a statement of contrition. I pray that this evening ends up being a turning point for her! Please pray for me to have grace and wisdom to guide her, as the Lord would see fit.

What does that have to do with my sleeping? Well, in true HSP fashion, I’m just totally overwrought right now. I can’t calm myself down and just go to sleep. This happens somewhat regularly, if I’m excited or nervous. The physical response lingers long after the information has been processed.

Why can’t we just put a lid on these responses, once they have served their purpose?!

I have a very long day ahead of me tomorrow. Hopefully, it will be another day of seeing God’s work in people’s hearts and lives. At this rate, I just don’t feel close to falling asleep at all.*

Do any of my fellow HSPs ever experience this?

Closer to My Lord

Today, I started out feeling fairly good.  Then, that changed.  I just started feeling down and wanted to cry.  There was a reason, but I won’t get into it, because it truly wasn’t a reason to want to cry.

With about 40 minutes left before time to leave for work, I started to cook something for lunch.  I’m horrible at just throwing ingredients together and coming out with a delicious meal.  So, I knew that whatever I concocted today would stand a pretty good chance of missing the mark.

I tried to throw together a curry, using tomato paste – from a tube – and a spice mix someone shared with me.  At no point did my bootleg curry ever taste like any kind of curry, no matter how stuff I threw into it.  Oh, and my rice turned out a bit mushy.

With almost no time left, I packed up my lunch and prepared for the disappointment of eating it later.  This made me want to cry even more.

At that point I did two things:

1.  I just begged God to help me trust Him more.

2.  I texted a particularly encouraging Christian sister and asked her to pray for me.

Sure, these are two things that I do with some regularity, but today was different somehow.  When I cried out to God today, it came from a place of really knowing that He heard me and knowing that He would be my comfort.  I would like to think that’s where I always cry out from, but after today, I could tell it hasn’t been.

The friend whom I’d asked to pray for me is a person who, after a double surgery, is praising God and praying for another community member in the ICU.  She is an amazing encouragement to me for many reasons.  Facing another possible surgery, she says, “I know my Jesus has a plan for my life.”  She always says “my Jesus,” and I do believe that she treasures her relationship with Him.

This prompted me to think about the depth of my relationship with the Lord.  How much do I trust Him?  How much do I want Him more than anything else?

When I got to work, I  saw that I’d received a reply to an email I’d written earlier.  The person mentioned the word “idol” as it related to my view of marriage, not once, but three times.  This was slightly frustrating, because I’ve never really heard an understandable, practical definition of what it means to idolize something.  I’ve only heard, “an idol is something you want more than God.”  Oh, really?  Well, how am I supposed to know whether I want marriage more than God?

This is something I may discuss further at a later time.

Anyway, this idol thing caused me to just do a Google search for “How does one know if marriage is an idol?”  I did find more frustrating definitions, but I also saw some good ones.

As I was working, I just realized that my heart was wide open and full of worship for the Lord.  It’s been like that more often lately.  And it hasn’t been like,

“Okay, now…feel worshipful.  On three.  Go!”

Believe me, there are those times.

I wondered why my heart has been feeling so much more open and excited about the Lord.

This may seem silly, but I’m sure this is why:

I haven’t been on Facebook in almost a week.  Well, I’ve been on there twice, but for a very short time each time.  I’m not doing it as a spiritual exercise; or at least didn’t start out with that in mind.  It’s just that I’ve got a lot to figure out in my life right now.  When I get on Facebook, I get sucked in fairly easily.  Then, my mind gets over-stimulated from all of the information, and I feel like I don’t have the brain power for anything else that I want and need to accomplish.  So, I thought that logging out of Facebook and Instagram for a week or so would help me refocus my mental energy.

Even the night that I made this decision, I felt more calm somehow.  My brain didn’t feel like it was going 1,000 miles per minute.  Usually, when I decide not to use Facebook for a day, I still feel like I just really, really want to check it.  I haven’t been feeling like that these past few days.

Not being on Facebook has not fixed my life.  But it sure has added a level of peace that I didn’t at all expect!  In that peace, I’ve been able to sense and appreciate God’s presence and His love in new ways.

For me, this gives new meaning to:

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.  1 Kings 11-12

God does call us to still ourselves at times.  I am the worst one of them all, when it comes to this.  But what joy and love have I found by finally making a decision to do so!

Torn: Highly Sensitive and Highly Self-Centered

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

 Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter: ‘What are you making?’ Isaiah 45:9

While reading and learning more about HSP, I have noticed that it is considered to be a gift to be grateful for.  After all, the Lord made us this way. Just days into starting this blog, however, I composed an entry in which I expressed doubt that there could possibly be anything positive about being an HSP.  The only use I could see for this trait was to make me cry or become very angry and tense at what would appear to be inopportune moments.

Much of the literature I’ve read on Highly Sensitive Persons mentions that HSPs are very in tune with other people’s feelings and thoughts.    Intuition and insight into others’ feelings and thoughts are part of the gift.  This is why HSPs often find themselves in helping/human services, I’d imagine.

In all my reading about HSP, my life has basically been flashing before my eyes.  So many aspects of my life started to make sense through the lens of my Highly Sensitive Personality.  Hurts, heartaches, mistakes, embarrassments…

There was a glaring exception, though:

The bits about being sensitive to what others felt and needed did not resonate with me.  At all.

How could this be possible?!  I am a model HSP in so many ways!  How on earth did I miss out the empathy part?

Then, it came to me.  My greatest downfall in life has been self-focus, or self-centeredness.  Let me be clear:  I never, ever had the thought, “I’m more important than everyone around me.  Therefore, I will put all my needs first and expect them to do the same.”  That may have seemed to be the case, but it simply is not true.

Looking back at my childhood, I can see some ways in which I could have become this way.  Though I am not an only child, I was one for several years before my mother had a second child.  As an only child, and after my brother was born, I was given most of what I wanted.  I was taught to think highly of myself from a very early age, with regard to physical appearance and intellect.

(side note:  if I ever have an academically gifted child, this child will not be made aware of high standardized test scores and percentiles.)

These circumstances are a breeding ground for conceit and self-centeredness.  Let’s also not forget that every, single person living on the planet is a sinful human being who, to some extent, is inherently selfish.  It’s just that some of those humans grow up in situations that teach them to think more highly of the needs of others.

I didn’t.

But can God redeem that time?  Of course, he can!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten….”  Joel 2:25

In hindsight, I only remember very few situations in which I was very open to sense another person’s feelings.  Mostly, I remember being so wrapped up in my feelings and needs that I (unknowingly) built a wall between myself and the other person.  This wall prevented me from recognizing their needs and/or intentions on deeper levels, and possibly prevented me from being able to speak life to a person who may have needed encouragement.

Again, God can and does redeem our lost time!  Even before I began to learn about HSP, I’d been working to be less self-centered and to focus more on others.  It is a work in progress, let me tell you!  Still, God has been changing me step-by-dying-to-self-step.

How can I make the most of this part of my HSP “gift”? And if you also experience the sensitive/self-centered dichotomy, how can you? 

I’ve actually composed a list in answer to that question, but I’m going to take my own advice and pray before posting it.  It just doesn’t read right; and I want to step back and think it over.  Maybe even rewrite.  Let’s see.

 

Gift or Torture? Hard to Decide

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with who there is no variation or shifting shadow.  James 1:17 NASB

One of the spiritual gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit is the gift of discernment.  So, I suppose that’s one way it manifests itself: through HSPs.  But I would like to know how some of the other aspects of HSP can be used to God’s glory, and not as personal torture devices.  Am I the only one who sees certain traits as tortuous?

From where I stand right now, I’m failing to see a lot of this as anything other than that.  I’m just sayin’….

Getting all worked up and not being able to settle down – even when I know perfectly well that there’s nothing to be worked up about?  Crying at the drop of a pin?  Feeling like I need to retreat every 20 minutes, in order to recalibrate?  It’s like the birthday gift where several boxes and a lot of tissue are nested inside of each other.   The gift is way down inside in a teeny-tiny box.  “I know that gift’s in there somewhere!!! I just haven’t dug deep enough yet.”

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh,a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NASB

Ah, ok.  Well, I guess God just answered my question.  I just wanted to include the “I pleaded with the Lord…sufficient grace…” but when I looked up the passage and read it all, I was convicted with the answer to what I had said before.  Maybe this will be my thorn.  But Lord, please  don’t render me unable to cope with life, because of this!  Being on edge and wanting to cry a lot of the time is not  conducive to functioning well in society, I’d say.

In what ways have you seen your highly sensitive personality as a gift and/or burden?

 

Unbelievable

I am completely overwhelmed right now.  At least it’s in a good, let’s-marvel-at-God’s-timing way!  Recently, I became acquainted with a young lady who reminds me a lot of myself at her age.  So, I thought I might be able to give her some valuable advice, so that she might not make the same mistakes I did.

I had a chance to speak with her again this evening.  She said a couple of things about herself that completely resonated with me.  Then, she asked about my MBTi.  We compared, and are almost the same.  Shocker.

Then, I started wondering if she could possibly be an HSP.  I have not been around her nearly enough to formulate such an opinion, but we were running parallel on some many other things.  I didn’t ask, but I did ask if she felt like was sensitive.  Just sensitive.  No bells and whistles. Just that word.

Here is what she said,

“I’m currently reading a book about HSP, so…”

Did I almost fall over!?  Yes!!!!  I think it may manifest itself differently for each of us, but I couldn’t believe how we made that connection.  Well, I guess one HSP trait is being extremely intuitive and tuned in to other people’s feelings.  A lot of times I’m not, but then, there are times like this.  Wow, Lord.