The God Who Sees

Moving from Lake Mary to Houston was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I experienced the  intense grief of leaving all that I knew and loved — family, close friendships, church, school, and a wonderful community.  As you can imagine, Houston, TX is quite different than Lake Mary, FL.  When they say everything is big in Texas, they are not kidding!  This little Florida girl was a bit overwhelmed to say the least.

That hardest transition for me in the move was going from a place where I was known and loved to a place where I was not known and not yet loved. I never saw a familiar face. Everything and everyone was new and unknown.  I felt unseen and very lonely.  After  being in a tight knit community for 16 years, this was quite a humbling experience for me.

This morning, my Scripture reading took me to Genesis 16. What a story! Actually, it reads more like a soap opera. Abram and Sarai are waiting and waiting and waiting on God for their promised child. In that waiting, Sarai grows impatient and comes up with a plan to help God — never a good thing by the way!

Sarai tells Abram to go to her servant Hagar so that they may conceive a child through her. Unlike Sarai, Hagar does conceive which sends Sarai into an outrage. It is hard to see others get what we so desperately long for.  Poor Abram! He had an outraged wife and a pregnant servant.  In his desperate attempt to bring some peace to the situation, Abram tells Sarai to do as she pleases with Hagar (a subject for another day).  Sarai mistreats Hagar resulting in Hagar’s desperate attempt to escape her mistress.

In the midst of Hagar’s escape, she has a divine encounter. An angel of the Lord meets her by a spring of water and asks Hagar where she has come from and where she is going. The angel instructs Hagar to return to Sarai then speaks God’s blessings over her: “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (16:10).

To say the least, Hagar was amazed at this encounter! I treasure Hagar’s exclamation after hearing this news: “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing’, for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Gen. 16:13).

“The God of seeing” — God saw Hagar. Not only did He see her, but He went after her. He had a good plan for Hagar and for the child that she carried as well as the many offspring to come. How good to be seen and known!

Leaving Genesis and going back to Houston. God saw me too. He walked with me and taught me so much during my time of loneliness and feeling unknown and  unseen. I learned that God is enough for me.  God took me a little deeper into some old wounds and applied his healing grace.  Then, he blessed me with  many wonderful new friends. These days, more often than not, I recognize some faces in Houston. I am no longer the unknown here. In the great scheme of things, I never was the unknown. Not to Him.

I wonder, do you ever feel unseen—unseen by your spouse, your children, the people at work or at church? It is a painful place to be. Acknowledge that pain then take it to the Lord. Our God is a God of seeing. He sees you; He knows you; and He has an abundant plan for your life!

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

The Joy Set Before Him

Bear with me as I may sound a bit crazy here, but I want to write honestly. I love yoga, and I hate yoga. Sounds crazy, right? Here is what I love about yoga: yoga clothes, the idea of going, seeing friends and teachers, child’s pose, happy baby, handstands and headstands, and most of all Shavasana. Here is what I hate about yoga — everything in the middle of those things. Class starts with joy, peace and expectation. Then it gets really, really hard. I get so hot that sweat is dripping all around me. There is the discomfort of the poses and the questions of how long do I have to hold this pose and how much longer is left in this class?

What I appreciate about yoga is that your practice in class is designed to empower you not only on your mat but off your mat. As I have written previously, yoga has taught me to breathe through the pain in my life and know that the pain will not kill me. It is okay to feel pain. It is a normal part of life. My hope and expectation is that the pain in yoga is not killing me but strengthening me. My hope and expectation is that God uses the pain in my life to strengthen me, to make me more like Jesus, to grow my compassion, my dependence on him and my love for him.

As we are celebrating Easter today, I think about Jesus and his past few days. He was handed over by a friend and sold for a small amount of money. He was disappointed by his closest friends who just couldn’t watch and pray as he asked. He was convicted for crimes he did not commit. He was abandoned, betrayed, spit upon, harassed, abused and physically taken to the very limit.

Jesus hung on a cross to die the most painful and shameful death. He had the ability to end it all. He could have refused to go to the cross. Why did he choose the pain? Hebrews 12:2 answers that question: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy that was set before him. That joy is you. It is me.

I love yoga. I hate yoga. I choose to practice regularly because of the hope that yoga is changing me in body, mind and spirit. I experience the Lord on my mat in such powerful ways. He is with me in the pain and so often reveals himself to me through amazing visions in Shavasana. I push through to the end of class because I know I can get to that resting place; it is my hope.

You are Christ’s hope. You are the reason he endured the pain of the cross. Today, can we look at the cross and fully acknowledge the pain that Christ endured then look to his resurrection and see why he endured? Jesus lived, died and rose again for the hope that we, too, would live and die in a restored relationship with the Father? Like Jesus, we are called to persevere through this life (and yoga class) with our eyes set on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith”.

Who Can Survive Adolescence?

Adolescence is just hard! It is hard for the kids as they go through it, for those with whom they interact and especially for their parents. Working in administration at a school for two years opened my eyes to just how challenging this time is for everyone. Even in the best school setting, we encountered bullying, hurtful words, children left out, social media issues, and lots and lots of hurt feelings.

This week, I got to be fully engaged in this struggle. My adolescent boy hurt his friend on Friday. Sadly, he hurt a very good friend. The friend felt betrayed, rejected, left out and disliked. Ouch! Even as an adult woman, those feelings are devastating to me. My boy was disappointed in himself and deeply regretted the pain he caused. Still, the damage was done. The best apologies can lead to reconciliation, but they don’t wipe out the pain. Nothing does that but time and the healing time can bring.

The beauty of the pain is that I have had some incredible heartfelt conversations with my son and with his friend’s parents. Acknowledging pain, feeling pain and working through pain can be oh so hard, but it is well worth it! Doing that hard work allows us to live authentically in relationships with others and with ourselves. True reconciliation cannot happen without the pain.

The timing of this situation is ideal. Yesterday was Good Friday. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, died the most painful and humiliating death so that we can live forgiven. Jesus died because he knew, despite our best intentions, you and I could never live a sinless life.

This morning, as I meditated on the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice there, I envisioned myself standing under the cross. I saw the blood of Jesus, the tears and the sweat. I saw Jesus look down at me, and I knew his sacrifice was for me, for my son, for all of us.  Jesus death allows for reconciliation with our heavenly Father and with each other.

Adolescence is just hard, but thank God for the cross and for the forgiveness that happens there. My son and I will make it. My son’s friend and his family will make it; in fact, the boys are out playing airsoft as I type. You will make it.  IF, we are willing to acknowledge the pain, feel the pain and work through the pain with our eyes on the cross.

Into Your Hands I Commit My Life

I am not sure I have ever done this, but I want to quote my husband’s book this morning. In THE CRUCIFIED LIFE devotion for today, Charlie writes: “The key to receiving the life of God is in surrendering our spirit to His Spirit that we might be mysteriously united in the wonderful mystery of His will.”
This week, the study has been focused on surrender. Jesus speaks these words from the cross right before he dies: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirt (Luke 23:46).” Jesus, being fully God and fully human, entrusts himself to the Father all the way to the cross, to his last dying breath.
There is nothing I want more than to fully entrust myself to the Lord. I have been wrestling with this all week in my devotions, prayers, thoughts and in my journal. In my mind, I know that God is good; His ways are good; He is fully worthy of my trust and submission. In my flesh, I want what I want. I feel like I have to make things happen, yet I find myself incapable of doing the things that I want to do. Romans 7 and 8 describe my ongoing battle.
Ultimately, I want to land into the loving arms of my Father. I want to submit my spirit, my very life to Him. I have been asking Him to show me how to do this, to make His will my will, His desires my desires. I wish I could say that after a week of wrestling and praying that I have this fully mastered. I don’t! But, it has become my daily heartfelt prayer.
Romans 8:31-32 says: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how we he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God is for us! He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I may not have this surrender thing down, but I will daily lay my life before the Lord and ask Him to help me fully commit myself and my ways before Him. I want Him. I want His life. Charlie ends the devotional writing today with these words:  “Entrust Him with your entire life today.”  Let’s do that today then again tomorrow and the next day.  He alone is worthy of our lives!

Discipline and Transformation

One of the great things about January is setting New Year’s Resolutions or goals for the year. Many of us talk about our words for the year. As I have posted previously, my word is Hope. One of my favorite friend’s word is Discipline. As I have thought about that, discipline is involved in all of our goals whether it is our word or not. It takes discipline to make changes and to follow through.
Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about discipline: “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Discipline is not easy, yet it is essential to growth. I am learning it quite well in my 40 Day Yoga challenge at Big. There are days, actually many days, when yoga kicks my tail, and I want to give up. However, the discipline is to choose to stay in it and see what God has for me there. The wonderful news is that I have experienced amazing break throughs in this 40 Days! You can experience transformation too. Choose discipline today. Choose to get out of your comfort zone and experience growth. I have never heard anyone say growth was easy, but I have also never heard anyone say growth wasn’t worth the work.
What discipline do you need to work on today? Push in, take the risk and have faith that God’s transformative work will lead you to His abundant life!

Obedience and the Abundant Life

Obedience has never been one of my favorite words.  In fact, I was the child who typically had to learn things the hard way.  My mother can speak to this quite well!  What I am learning through the years is that obedience to the Lord leads to the abundant life.  Those who know me know that abundant life is my passion and deepest desire.  If obedience leads to the abundant life, then I am ready to submit.

Priscilla Shirer teaches on obedience in her study entitled DISCERNING THE VOICE OF GOD.  She writes:  “Obedience is not a no; it is actually His best yes.  It swims in oceans of grace and leads us to freedom, wholeness, and health.  It opens us up to His unbridled blessing and abundance.”

Grace — Freedom — Wholeness — Health — Blessing — Abundance

Don’t we long for each of these things in our lives?  Yet, we also long to hold onto our personal agendas, rights, and ways of doing things.  We hear the frequent message that it is all about us.  What if it is really all about God?  And what if God is then for us?  Do we believe that His way is best, the way that leads to true life — grace — freedom — wholeness — health — abundance?

We set guidelines around our children to protect them not to rob them of joy. God does the same for us.  Walking His way is the way to all that our hearts desire.  I want God’s best yes and invite you to pursue this path of obedience with me.  It may not be easy but not much good in life truly is.


Suffering and the Road to Joy

Here are some challenging words from Ann Voscamp: “A life that wants to embrace Christ is a life that must embrace suffering.” Who wants to embrace suffering? Personally, I want to run from it with all the speed these legs can muster.

But, I want Christ. I want a life defined by Christ. I want to know Him not just with my head but with my heart. I want to be given over to Him in every way. That means I must embrace suffering.

Yesterday, I was blessed to have lunch with my college Shakespeare professor. As we discussed the study of literature and the changes in that study through the years, she made an interesting observation. Many professors and students miss the value of the literature now days — the suffering and the pain as well as the joy and redemption. People get so caught up in their personal agendas that they miss feeling the very things the author wanted them to feel. Do agendas harden our hearts?

What would it look like for us to honestly walk into the suffering that surrounds us? The suffering in a book, in our children’s school, in our church, at the neighborhood Starbucks. There is suffering everywhere. There is also joy. In fact, I don’t think we can truly embrace the gift of joy without also embracing the gift of pain.

The human experience is one of pain and disappointment. It is hard to live in those feelings. Yet, we learn resilience and hope. We learn that pain will not kill us nor can it define us. In fact, the overcoming of pain is the road to joy.

Take Delight

Words from Priscilla Shirer’s book AWAKEN: “We’re constantly gathering and producing and spending and eating and collecting and keeping and hoarding — beyond what we should, beyond what we need — instead of genuinely enjoying and appreciating what God has already done, instead of trusting that He is our ultimate provider and will sustain us when we honor His boundaries (p.108).
Shirer calls us to Sabbath rest. God calls us to Sabbath rest. What a glorious thing if you can receive it! God knows how He designed us. For 6 days we were made to work and on the 7th day, we were made to rest. Can we trust His design and His call?
We Americans have a hard time stopping. Shirer addresses this well — we constantly gather, produce, eat, keep, hoard — when is enough enough? Do we take time to actually enjoy God, to enjoy His blessings? Or, are we so busy asking Him for the next thing or chasing it ourselves that we miss Him altogether?
Friends, He is it. He is the answer. He is what you want in the deepest part of yourself. Stop. Listen. Rest. Take delight in who the Lord is, how He loves you and then thank Him for all the blessings of your life.

God’s Edits

In my devotional reading this morning, Priscilla Shirer asks a great question that I will share: “How do you typically respond to the Father’s edits on your life? And why?”

Personally, I like to have my plan then to move on that plan. Yesterday, I posted my blog on the path of life. If I truly want to walk that path, I have to be open to “edits”.

Yesterday, as I was talking with a new friend, she asked me some tough questions as to why God did not answer her prayers as she felt she wanted him to to. Obviously, I could not answer that question. However, I always go back to Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

If I truly believe that God is good, that He knows all things and that His ways are perfect then I can surrender to His ways and know that I am in good hands.

It comes down to faith. Help us Lord to believe and to surrender to you in all things, including the edits.

The Path of Life

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

A dear friend of mine, Michelle Wright, gave me a bracelet as I was moving from Lake Mary to Houston. The bracelet is called “The Path of Life”. I intentionally wear it every day to remind me what I want more than anything else — I want to walk on God’s path of life. I know His ways are the very best ways, and I long for the fullness of joy that cannot be found anywhere else.

What I have found about this path is it can feel treacherous. God gave me a picture one day of being on a paddle board. There were waters that were calm and beautiful; then there were waters that felt crazy and out of control. In all the different waters I faced on that paddle board, God’s hand was always on me, on the board. When I felt out of control, He was not.

That is the path of life. It is not safe, but with God’s presence and guidance, it is good. Is it hard to get out of our comfort zones and get onto the water? Most definitely! But, look at the benefits of walking with God: “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.”

The world offers the same blessings but so rarely provides. God is faithful! The way may be uncertain, the way may be hard; however, the joy of His presence and His plan will far outweigh any of our suffering!

Let’s take the risk and ask God daily to lead us on the path of life!