Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Being Seen

"She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her. 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" Genesis 16:13

“Was who she was, who she really was, really enough?  This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take:  To be seen as we truly are. “  Cinderella (2015) 

The sun began setting in the distance with the warm spring air shifting to cool as the sun said its goodbyes and the night sky arose.  Two friends met outside exchanging words as light faded.  One of these friends expressed her heart—in it a cry or a plea from the depths—a desperation to be seen.  In this moment, I saw my friend. I saw the depths of her heart and her innermost longing. For a brief period of time, she was seen, a cry of the heart met like the satisfaction of a sunset at the end of the day.

Isn’t this the longing of all human hearts—to be truly seen, to be truly known. Not known for what they do.  Not known for their status or occupation or position, but to be just known—personally, innately, intimately.  What their favorite color is, favorite movie or song.  If they like ketchup or mayonnaise, the warm weather or cold.  What makes their hearts dance and sing and what makes them cry. How they have been hurt or are still being hurt and to know that someone cares and sees and wants to know them.  There is no greater gift than to give the gift of knowing another.

The other side of this knowing comes with risk.  The risk is if I let another in, will they accept me?  Will they love me?  Will just who I am be enough?  With no applause, no accolades, no accomplishment.  Will I be loved and accepted for just being me?  For me, that would mean, will you love me—Sue—whose favorite color is blue, whose favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice, who loves to spend time with my family, taking walks, running with friends, and basking in the warmth of the sun on a clear day.   One of my joys is cuddling with my husband feeling the warmth of his strength as we embrace.  My children make my heart sing and hurting people wreck me.  The Lord’s goodness undoes me and I long to see His people set free. 

In fear of being known or risking knowing others, we self-protect.  We don’t let others too close nor do we get too close to others.  As a result, the human condition is in dire straits.  Our hearts long to be known but at the same time, we fear the risk is too great.  We suffer from the pretense of it all while longing for more.  But what if we risked?  What if we threw caution to the wind and risked being known or risked knowing others.  What could happen in our churches, in our communities if we stepped outside of our comforts and took a step of faith across the aisle or across the street into the life of another to know them, truly know them?  I ask because I truly wonder and I need to be better at this as well.  I think it would change our churches, our communities and possibly eventually our world. 

In our quest to become like Jesus, this is one aspect of His character that we must choose to embrace or discard.  He sees. He stops. He tarries. He waits. He looks deep into our hearts and tends to the places that need a touch, that need Him. I pray I can be more like Him, unafraid of intimacy, daring to love with the risk that love will not be returned. He risked most of all, giving His life knowing there would be many who wouldn't receive the gift. If He risked that, perhaps we can risk as well. The question is will we risk loving and risk being loved, risk being seen, with the knowing He sees, and He says we are enough.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being the God who sees. Thank you for the gift of seeing us and loving us even in our flaws and weaknesses, even when we were enemies of the Cross of Christ. Your love is amazing and enough. Lord, will you help us risk being seen, risk loving others and risk being loved. Give us courage to love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Missing the Music {Keeping a Record of Wrong Thoughts}

"Love is patient.  Love is kind.It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."  1 Cor 13:4-5 (emphasis added)

Every other Monday, I help lead a women's Bible study group at my church home.  The past few months, we have been dissecting 1 Corinthians 13 ("the love passage").  The study is "Freedom is God's Love".

A couple weeks ago, my friend, Kerri Sagraves, wrote and taught a lesson on how love keeps no record of wrongs.

When reading this passage in the past, I always thought of love keeping no record of wrongs as not holding onto grievances against others and forgiving those who have wronged you.  This is truth and should be applied from this scripture.  However, the Lord showed me something new a couple weeks ago while studying this passage.

The past month has been stressful.  Nothing beyond typical everyday stresses with work and life, but it seemed to overwhelm me.  Anxiety pushed at my door and began to seep in.  Anxious thoughts consumed me as fear gripped tight on the recesses of my mind.  There were moments I felt paralyzed by this fear.  I am not one to usually feel anxious or fearful.  Therefore,  this new overwhelming sense of feeling stuck intensified the fear.   All what was wrong kept playing over and over again in my mind.  Then the Lord intervened, pressing pause.

The pause began at a concert.  During the concert, instead of enjoying the music, my mind raced with thoughts of how I should have done this or should have said that.  Tormenting and torturing me with regret and fear.  Then the Lord spoke in his gentle and quiet way,

"Sue, you are missing the music...Your thoughts are drowning out the music causing you to miss what is beautiful."

His words woke me from my stupor and sobered my mind.  Yes, I was missing it.  I could choose my thoughts.  Of course, I know the importance of thoughts and choosing right thoughts and casting down wrong thoughts.  However, there are times when in the middle of a situation I am bombarded with wrong thoughts one after another like repeat fire.  Sometimes it can be days or weeks before I realize what has happened.  I'm sure I'm not alone.

At the concert, I quickly took my thoughts captive and made them obedience to Christ and enjoyed the rest of the show.

A few days later, I was at the Bible study on 1 Cor 13.  That night's talk was on "Love Keeps No Records of Wrongs."  While listening intently to the teaching, the Lord again spoke directly to my heart,

"Love keeps no record of wrongs.  You have been keeping a record of wrongs.  You need to keep a record of rights.  Keep a record of what is right in your life.  Keep a record of rights."

The "record" we play over and over again in our minds, can be a "record of wrongs" or a "record of rights."

We can choose positive thoughts.  We can cast down every imagination and pretense that sets itself against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.  We can.

When we choose to keep a record of wrongs, we aren't loving ourselves.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.

What are some record of wrongs in your thought life?  Are wrong thoughts causing you to miss the music in your life?

If you are keeping a record of wrongs, how can you replace the wrong thought with a right thought based on God's truth?

Take captive your thoughts.  There may be some things wrong in your life, but there are right things. Choose to keep a record of rights.  Choose love.  He loves you.

Truth for Today:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Cor 10:5

[Love] keeps no record of wrongs."  1 Cor 13:5b

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Life Becomes Overcast and Windy

The past week or so, my heart has been downcast.  An unspoken sorrow.  Something was wrong, but the source was hidden.  Negative thoughts filled my mind and emotions ruled in an unkindly way. Friends prayed for me and the sadness lifted briefly but then like an unwanted visitor, returned and lingered.

Last night the Lord led me to Romans 12: 10-13...

"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality." (emphasis added)

Christianity 101 in short.  My eyes focused on "rejoicing in hope."  My faith is usually strong filled with optimism.  However, the past couple of weeks hope had been masked, hidden from my sight. Hope was replaced with heaviness, and my sunny view of life turned to overcast.

This morning, I read Jesus Calling (as I do most every day), and the verse on the page jumped off the paper into my heart causing it to start beating, bringing life. It was a verse I have read many times and know well.  However, today the verse seemed new and fresh.

"Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But, when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord save me!' " Matthew 14:29-30

Some background:  Last year (2016), the Lord gave me the words, "Step Out" as a word for the year.  It was indeed a year of stepping out and He did wonders over and over.  Like Peter, I experienced the miraculous of stepping out of the boat onto the water.

The word the Lord gave me for this year is "Move forward".  I think after Peter stepped out of the boat and began to move forward, he must have realized, "Oh my word! I'm getting farther from the boat!"  He began to think about what he was really doing. It does take great faith to step out of the boat, but to keep moving on the water takes even more faith.

As I read Matthew 14:29-30 this morning, the words, "when he saw the wind"  grasped my attention.

"When he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord save me!'"

What drew me to this was that he "saw" the wind.  We can't see wind.  We can feel wind and see the effects of the wind, but wind cannot actually be seen.  What Peter saw were the waves being caused by the wind.  The waves frightened him.

There are things I feel, but cannot actually see.  For example: When I feel stress, fear or discouragement, temptation comes to look around at my circumstances instead of fixing my eyes on the Source of faith.

Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked around him.  If Peter would have felt the wind, but kept his eyes on Jesus instead of the waves, he wouldn't have begun to sink.

Jesus knew it was windy.  He knew about the waves.  At any moment, He could have rebuked the wind and waves and made the water calm, still. Why didn't He?   Did Jesus leave the wind and waves to show Peter that He is always there and will hold him up even in the storm?  The wind and waves remained with purpose--to prove to Peter that Jesus will keep him and us up even in the storm.  When we move forward toward Him and His purpose, there will not always be calm waters, but as we focus our gaze on our God, we will not sink.  

What is your wind? It is easy to allow what we feel to affect our faith.   Focus on the one who can guide you through the waves.  If He has not rebuked the wind on your behalf, perhaps there is purpose in the wind.   He calls us out but He never said there wouldn't be any wind.  He only said to keep our eyes on Him and He will perfect our faith.  Moving forward takes faith.  Move forward with confidence toward our God and look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith.

Truth for Today:  Hebrews 12: 1b-2a  "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."  (emphasis added)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

You are Already Loved

These words hang imprinted on a baby picture of my middle son in his room.  It is where he can see it every day.  The first thing he sees in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. 

These words are precious to me not because they are true about how we (his mom and dad) feel about him, although we do, but because they were spoken directly into his spirit from the Lord.
Last year our son went through a time when he struggled with knowing he was loved.   He feared losing love. He seemed to think he needed to earn our love and his heavenly Father’s love. 

Through a prayer, our son heard the Lord speak these words to him in his spirit, “You are already loved."

The words spoken to him were perfect.  Yes, he is already loved.  I showed him a picture of him as a baby and told him that we loved him before he was even born.  We loved him before he ever did one thing right or before he ever did one thing wrong and that there was nothing he could do that would make us love him more or less.  We loved him just because he is our son. 

The same is true with your heavenly Father.  I believe the Lord wants to speak these words to you today. 

You are Already Loved

“And the glory which You have given Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father!  The word has not known You, but I have known that You sent Me.  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. “ John 17:22-24 (emphasis added)

The Lord loved you before the foundations of the world.  Before you did one thing right, or before you did one thing wrong…He loved you.  There is nothing more you can do to earn His love or for Him to love you more.  And there is nothing you could ever do to lose His love.  He loves you just because you are and you are His.

This is a truth I pray penetrates deep down inside our being and takes solid root anchored securely in the soil of your heart. You are already loved my dear friend.   

Father, help us to know your love more and more.  Lord, may we be rooted and grounded in your love.  And that we would know the length, the height, the depth, and the width of your love for us. May we know we cannot earn your love nor can we lose it when we fail.  Lord, help us rest in your love.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Remembering My Why

It's summer!  In summers past, my days were filled with trips to splash pads, wade pools in the front yard, trips to the local zoo (which rocks, by the way!), and running through sprinklers with neighborhood friends.  How I treasure these past time memories with my littles!  But, as all things do, this too has changed.  My kids, no longer toddlers, but teens and preteens, no longer care for wade pools or runs through sprinklers.  Now filling our carefree summer days can be something of a creative challenge at times.  Last week, we all agreed on a day at the mall with some friends.  While roaming through various square-sized stores packed with sales and pleads to buy, I came across a sign with a message that spoke straight to my heart.

For a few months now, I've lost my why.  I love to write, but somewhere along the way, discouragement set in, time became sparse, and my passion had gotten lost in the middle of tiredness and time-constraints.  These obstacles weren't necessarily an issue in the past when my passion was full-course.  However, my passion had bopped to below eye making it difficult to see the reason behind my writing.

That day at the mall, God used Claires, a store full of overpriced trinkets for preteen girls, to speak to me.  For a brief moment, my eyes gazed upward.  On the top shelf there was a sparkly sign that said,

"When you want to give up, remember why you started."

Why did I get started? Why did I start writing that one random day in February 2011?  It was almost an after-thought.  Some people have asked me if I just woke up one day and said, "I think I'll write today."  Well, yes!  That is pretty much what happened!  But why?  Looking back, my why has always been about freedom.  On this Fourth of July, it seems fitting to me that I would remember my "why".

I see women, who are caught in captivity from a past sin or sins of those closest to them that have caused them much pain and bondage.  Feelings of unworthiness and insecurity haunt and taunt.  It makes me plum mad (to use a Southern term)!  Mad at the enemy for his accusations, lies, and torment.  My heart aches for these lovelies to know how dear they are to the King, to know who and Whose they are, and to know freedom.

This, my friends, is my why and has always been my "why".  Somehow along the path, I had forgotten and had bought into a lie myself, the lie that what I write isn't helping and no one needs to read it.

Today I read a post a friend had written on Facebook.  In it, she stated how because of people in her life who had sinned against her, she feels insecure and inadequate.  Oh, my sweet friend, you are not alone.  So many feel this way and it breaks my heart. Her post reminded me of my why...so my friend and others can hear the truth of God's love and find hope and freedom through the love of Jesus Christ.

I know what it is like to feel insecure.  Oh boy, do I! I know what it is like to feel inadequate and unworthy. But, these are all lies of the enemy.  Lies. Every. Single.One.Of. Them.

I am fed up (another Southern term, I believe!) with all of it!  Fed up with the enemy and his lying to my lovely sisters in Christ!  I tell you, fed up!

Through a sparkly sign at Claires and a Facebook post written by a friend today, I was reminded.  Thank you Claires and K (I'll just call my friend "K") and thank you Lord for reminded me of my why.

Lord, I pray I would obey you and write only the words you have for me to write to speak truth to your beloved daughters and sons.  Father, thank you for reminding me of my why and I pray that everyday I would wake up on fire for You, to live our Your purpose in my life and help set the captives free.  I pray for this place to be a conduit for freedom.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Today's truth:

Zephaniah 3:17  The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]!  HE will rejoice over you with joy;  He will rest [in silent satisifaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In the Waiting

For many years, we have been waiting.  It has been an ongoing struggle.  I won’t go into details, but I will say it has been a battle that for me has been emotionally exhausting at times.  And it has to do with the health of someone in our family. (Nothing life-threatening. ) 

We are finally getting some answers and are at a place of peace with what we must do.  Last week we sat in a doctor’s office waiting to see the doctor.  I was sure she would confirm what we felt the Lord was leading us to accept and the step to take next in this journey. 

Glancing at my phone, I read the prayer request responses from a few faithful prayer warriors I knew would pray during this appointment.  Then I opened a book to pass the time and began to read.  Within the first paragraph, tears splashed onto the pages below.  My hand reached into my purse and waded through a variety of items in order to find the soft package of travel tissues.  Finding my tissues, I wiped my eyes, temporarily slowing the leaking. 

I again, turned to my phone and quickly texted a prayer request,

“We are still in the waiting room.  I just started tearing up while reading a book.  Please pray. I don’t know why I’m crying.”

As I typed the above request, my eyes fixed on the word “waiting”.  I couldn’t look away from it.  “We are still in the waiting…”

Still in the waiting.   For years, we have been in the waiting.   Perhaps I was emotional because I could sense we were almost done waiting.  Or perhaps it was because the wait has been long. 
Yes, we would have loved for the Lord to choose to heal our family member quickly and supernaturally.  Yes, and amen!  However, it doesn’t appear that is the road the Lord has chosen for this particular journey.  We have been seeking the Lord and praying about this particular issue for years, waiting and then moving when led, and then waiting some more.  We have seen God move and have seen progress.  However, we have not seen complete deliverance.  What we have seen, though, is our God being faithful to answer what the next step is, directing and guiding us every step of the way and helping us prepare our hearts for His next leading. 

At the doctor’s office that day, what we felt the Lord saying to us was confirmed by the doctor and we do have a clear path forward as we follow the Lord in His next step. 

Are we still in the waiting?  Yes.  But I have a peace that passes all understanding knowing we are in the waiting room of the Great Physician.  He is altogether good, loving, and trustworthy. It isn’t that He is too busy or doesn’t care or just wants us to wait.  If we are in the waiting room, there is always a higher purpose in it.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.” Ps 130:5

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.  Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart belfore Him; God is a refuge for us. “ Ps 62:5-8

Are you in the waiting room today?  The Lord is with you in the waiting. 

Father, I thank you that you are right in the middle of the waiting.  Lord, it is in Your Word that I hope.  I wait silently for You alone, O Lord!  My expectation is from You.  You are my rock and salvation, my strong defense and I shall not be moved.  I trust in You and I pour out my heart before You, O God.  You are my refuge, strength and shield.  Deliver by Your mighty hand.  Lead and guide me in your path of deliverance, healing, and restoration. And if waiting is part of the journey, I ask to see You in the waiting and for your full and perfect plan to be fulfilled.  I ask for complete healing, body, soul and spirit, In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Help! I Feel Like Quitting

My writing has been sporadic lately.  Can I be honest?  I sometimes question if I should continue writing.  Sometimes I think I should quit.

Are there dreams, passions, or pursuits that you sometimes feel like maybe you should quit?

I'm just being honest with you today.  I pray you will give me room to share my humanness with you. People need encouragement and without it, pressing on can be hard.

Thankfully, I am about to start a Bible study with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies called 5 Habits of a Women Who Doesn't Quit.

Since I am beginning this study, I figure I can wait until after the study and decide whether or not I should quit.  ; ) As usually is the case, I think this study is happening at just the right time!

If you would like to join me, you can go to http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/ to sign up today!  This study begins April 18.

Let's pray about this today:

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Lord, you know me.  You know my faults, weaknesses, and strengths.  Lord, I ask for you to direct my steps.  Father, I ask for wisdom and perseverance to continue on in what You would have me do and for release to let go of what you are done with.  I don't want to continue anything in my flesh that you are not in, but I also don't want to abandon any work that you have for me to continue in.  Lord, I ask for you to show me what is you and what is me.  My desire is to only be in your will.  Stir up in me a passion for the things you want me to press on in and give me peace in the things you are wanting me to let go of.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.