Saturday, March 26, 2016

Can You Hear Me?

"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." ~Mother Teresa

"Hello God, are you there?  Can you hear me?"  How many times have you called out to God in this manner?  I will honestly say that I have heard myself asking this a few times throughout my life. Especially when things seem to be spiraling out of control.  You see at one point in my life I felt like God wasn't keeping watch over me.  I was a single mom with three babies that depended on me to meet their every need.  I clothed them, bathed them, fed them, taught them, and the list went on.  And just like Hagar, the single mom in the wilderness, I cried out in despair.  The food supply was running low.  My pockets were empty.  And I gave my portion to nourish and provide for my loves.  I felt overwhelmed, alone and rejected.  I just needed to be heard, seen and have my needs taken care of.

We all have this deep rooted desire to be seen. Not just by God but others.  And there are times when my desire is so overwhelming that instead of looking up I leap into the arms of another.  And so goes the story of my life.  I often look to "others" to affirm, value, assure, appreciate, connect, desire,  care, include and love me.  After all God did create me this way.  And all I really truly desire is to be loved. And the sad thing is I often define love by how others affirm, value, assure, appreciate, connect, desire, care and include me. Pretty twisted if you think about it.  Because that certainly isn't the way God defines love (1 Corinthians 13).  Lucky for me.  Because if He did I would really be in big trouble.  I fail to affirm, value, assure, appreciate, connect, desire, care and include God in my life on a daily basis.  I suppose this is why I often find myself at His feet asking for forgiveness.  I am constantly seeking the approval of fellow sinners.  It's easy to only let the world around me see the characteristics I pick and choose to reveal.  There is this fear of letting people see the whole package. I have to protect my heart from getting hurt. So I save the deep down dirty truth for an elite few.  But wait, hold the presses, El Roi.  Yes,God sees me anyway.  I don't have to reveal the ugly "naked" truth to Him.  He already knows the disgusting details.  Unlike the world around me I can stand naked and ashamed before Him.  He longs for me to come before Him.  Just so He can say,"I am the God who sees you.  I see you as beautiful, valuable, I desire to connect with you.  I appreciate what I have created in you.  But most important is this, I LOVE YOU!"

During the years of being a single Mom it was difficult to allow anyone into my heart.  I even struggled, at times, to let God in.   I was rejected, unappreciated, cheated on, broken, battered, afraid, and felt unworthy and unwanted.  It took a lot for me to trust God when He said that He would never leave me or forsake me.  But God was patient.  He knew that He had to reveal His promises slowly and in some pretty magnificent ways.  In the midst of my loneliness He was intricately paving the way for my future.  In retrospest, as I reflect back to those days, it is very clear that God had His eyes on me.  He was just giving me room to grow in His grace.

A few thought provoking questions for this week:

Can you think of a little gift God blessed you with in the past few months that reminded you that He does have a watchful eye on you? What happened?

What are some ways you could be more aware of God's presence?

Look up the names of God.....  What additional names would you give God based on your life experiences?

Reflect on a time when you saw God's handy work in retrospect.

Read 1 Corinthians 13.  Who is God to you?  How do you feel about the knowledge that this is the God who sees you?

I pray that as we prepare to celebrate Resurrection Sunday that we would take a moment to reflect on the amazing grace that God lavishes on us.  We are truly blessed.  I pray that He gives us eyes to see the glory that is around us.  The flowers are blooming and the once bare trees are being decorated with leaves and fruit blossoms.  As winter turns to spring I lift each of you up in hopes that your love for the Lord will be renewed. And that we would take time to affirm, value, assure, appreciate, connect, desire, care and include God in our lives.  But most important let His love fill your heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Okay Honey if You Insist.

A few weeks ago I asked if anyone wanted to join me in reading a book.  And I dropped the ball on that for sure.  I found myself being still and not in a way I would have asked for.  I had asked a few beautiful sisters-in-Christ to pray that the Lord would give me stillness.  And little did I know God was already in the process of stilling me.  I found out that what I initially thought was back pain, from sitting on a very comfy sofa during my Tuesday evening women's study, was actually the beginning stage of kidney stones and shingles.  Yes, the Lord stopped me in my tracks.  I found myself pacing the floors and calling out to Him in the stillness of the night.  The pain was so intense that I wasn't able to comprehend the words on the pages of the book I had suggested for us to read together.  But it would be His words that would comprehend and would give me peace. "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10.  And that is exactly where I have been sitting for a few weeks.  I found myself breaking this verse down night after night as I paced around the house.  Do not fear.  I have to be honest.  I was terrified.  The anxiety would build as the pain increased.  I thought for sure I wasn't going to be able to handle it.  I cannot even begin to explain the level of pain I felt.  I don't think my scale registers that high.  I thought childbirth was intense.  But then the Lord would swoop in and remind me, "I am with you."  He saw me in my weakness because He is El Roi, the God who sees me.  And He reminded me that His promises are true.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit I am feeling better with each new grace filled day. He has been faithful and I am actually okay with being still.

Now, about that book. I am not sure if anyone has purchased the book or downloaded it on to their Kindle or iPad.  But I am happy to say that I plan on reading the rest of chapter one tonight!  And I am ready to join you all on the journey of reading, "The God Who Sees You."

Chapter one begins with us reading Hagar's story in Genesis 16 and 21.  I don't know about
you but I think this was quite a juicy story.  Sarai wanted so desperately for her husband, Abram, to have a son that she did the unthinkable.  She gave him a maid servant to have intercourse with in hopes that she could start a family this way.  What the what??? This is insane.  And the crazy thing is Abram agreed.  "Okay Honey if you insist."  And guess what Hagar, the maid servant, conceived.  And instead of being a humble servant Hagar rubbed it in Sarai's face.  "Look at me I am pregnant with your husbands baby.  You know, the one you weren't woman enough to bear for him.  And it's mine all mine."  Sarai wasn't willing to wait for God to fulfill His promise.  So she took matters into her own hands.  And boy oh boy did she get burnt.  She was so hurt that she wanted to hurt Hagar in return.  She ran to her husband like a raging bull and stormed into the room shouting, "It's all your fault Abram.  You slept with her and got her pregnant.  How could you do this to me?  And now she's running around rubbing it in my face that I cannot give you the child you so desperately need to have.  You need to do something about this.  Do you hear me Abram?  I said this is all your fault!"  And Abram responded by softly saying, "You decide what to do.  She's your maid servant."  So, Sarai did just that.  She was abusive and as mean as mean could be to the pregnant Hagar.  So awful that Hagar couldn't take anymore and ran away.  And this is where Hagar meets El Roi.

As Hagar ran off she must have felt tired and alone.  She was pregnant.  And on top of being tired and alone she had to be afraid.  Where was she going to go?  How would she be able to support herself let alone this baby.  She didn't sign up for this.  After-all this whole debacle was Sarai's grand plan.  Hagar was just an intricate piece.  There Hagar sat alone, forgotten, ignored, rejected and invisible.  Or at least that's what she thought.  Until she heard a voice calling her by name, "Hagar, Hagar what are you doing here?"  She responded, "I am running away from the mistress Sarai.  She is horrible to me."  And the voice gently said,"Go back.  Just put up with her shenanigans for a little.  God has something pretty amazing in store for you and this bundle you are carrying." He continued, "I'm going to give you a big family, children to numerous to count. The baby you are carrying is a boy.  You are to name him Ishmael; for God heard you, God answered you.  Ishmael will be as stubborn as a mule, a real fighter, fighting and being fought, always stirring up some kind of trouble.  And he will be at odds with his family.  Hagar answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her.  "You're the God who sees me! El Roi Yes! You saw me first and then I saw you!"

Hagar went back and put up with Sarai.  She gave birth to a son and life went on. Eventually Sarah (name change) conceived a son for Abraham (another name change) because God is faithful and keeps His promises even when we are impatient, Sarah aka Sarai.  And gave birth to Isaac.  And just like God said to Hagar; Ishmael was acting like a mule and poking fun at his half brother Isaac. Sarah saw this and got mad as heck and ran to Abraham saying, "Abraham, that servant's son is mocking Isaac.  You know who I am talking about.  And I am telling you right now no servant's son will share my son's inheritance.  Now you go take care of this.  They need to go."  This put Abraham in a bit of a pickle and caused him great pain.  After-all Ishmael was his son.  God spoke to Abraham and told Him not to worry and to listen to Sarah.  God had great plans for Ishmael.  So, Abraham got up the next morning, gathered some food and water and sent Hagar and Ishmael on their way.  Hagar found herself once again on her own.  And eventually out of food and water.  She was certain that she and her son would die.  And she wasn't strong enough to watch her son die.  So, she laid him under a bush and walked a few feet away and began to cry her eyes out. God heard Ishmael crying.  The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, "What's wrong, Hagar? Don't be afraid.  God has heard the boy and knows his condition. Get up and go to your son.  Hold him tight.  I am going to make of him a great nation." Just then God opened her eyes. She looked up and saw a well of water. She filled up her thermos and gave her son a drink.  God was with her and her son as he grew up.  They lived in the desert and he became a skilled archer.  And eventually Hagar found her son a wife from Egypt.  And God's promises were fulfilled.

Wow!  In her loneliest and most vulnerable moment God showed Hagar that He was with her.  And that He planned on staying with her for the long haul.  And she knew Him and called Him by name. How many times have you felt alone, forgotten, ignored, rejected and invisible?  We all have those moments when we are shouting, "Look at me. Listen to me. Please just let me know that you know I exist and need to be embraced."  But then there are those, I just bit the forbidden fruit, moments.  When we would rather hide and not be seen.

I am going to leave you with a few questions to think about this week as you read or don't read the book.  Like I said you don't need to buy the book to follow along.

Is the idea of "God sees me" comforting or reassuring to you?  Why or why not?
Can you recall a time when you knew, really knew, that God saw you?

Looking forward to this journey with all of you.