Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coming Out of Hiding

Hebrews 11:6
"And without faith it is impossible to please him,
for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He is
and that He rewards those who seek Him." 
A counselor friend recently suggested I watch a You Tube video called "Two Faced Two Roads Message. I loved John Lynch's message. It caused me to think back on my spiritual journey. Sometime early in childhood I became interested in God and asked questions about him--Who is He? Where does He live? Is He is a girl or boy? Okay questions for a curious three year old. Around that same time I was fast becoming a perfectionist because I believed I had to be very good and please others to be loved. When I got old enough to go to church on my own I carried that thinking over into my personal theology. I thought early on I had to be good and as Lynch said, I had to do more good than bad to be accepted into God's family. If you asked me if I believed that I would have said no, but my life and words indicated I did. At some point I attended an evangelistic church and said I wanted to be saved and I asked Jesus into my heart as they suggested. 
I don't remember what I learned about God in Sunday School and Church as a child. I may have had great pastors and teachers and taken what they said and skewed it with my childish black-white thinking. Or I may have had some teaching that helped mold my skewed thinking. Regardless of which was true, I continued to develop a people-pleasing, God-pleasing mentality that plagued me for years. As a teen I tried so hard to be good. I did well in school, participated in every curricular activity there was, worked part time, and didn't hang out with the party crowd. I avoided drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and premarital sex. I even took it on myself to confront family members on things like racism and cursing. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to please God and my family. 

When I look back at those high school years, I notice interesting things. First, I had a very skewed view of God and His love. He says in His Word that He created us and He loves us. At the time I had this view that He loved me because he had to love me, but that did not equate into Him delighting in me as a daughter and wanting to spend time with me. I viewed Him as a distant God  waiting to zap me when I failed and as One who was bothered by me coming to Him in prayer. I went to churches that believed once saved always saved, but every time I so much as thought of a cuss word, fought with my siblings, disrespected my parents, or hurt someone with my words or my actions, I would confess it and ask Jesus into my life again and again, hoping this would be the time it would make me pleasing to God. I spent a lot of my time and energy trying please Him, because I believed it was in the pleasing I would find love and acceptance.  
Second I lived in a constant state of fear. One day I was going out the door to run an errand for my mom. The wind was blowing hard and it caught the door and slammed it on my hand. I screamed and let out a curse word in front of my mom who was standing directly in front of me. I not only expected her to slap me, I expected God to  destroy me. I looked so terrified, my mom started laughing, not understanding the fear coursing through my body, as I waited for God to slam me to the ground. That is probably the first case of spiritual PTSD recorded! 
Third, because I viewed God as distant and judgmental, I hid behind a good-girl mask, trying  to cover what was inside--so dirty, so deeply flawed, so incredibly needy, and sinful to the core. I even tried to take control of what felt out of control by over controlling food and weight until I nearly destroyed my body. I woke up early seven days a week and stayed up late exercising, studying, and going over things in my mind. No wonder I was bone tired and fell into bed, at times crying for hours until sleep would overtake me.  
A few years later my husband and I attended a church in Mississippi we consider our home church. I sat down with the pastor when he began teaching out of the book of Revelation, because I wanted to find out how to be ready for Christ's return. He had me read a book about end times, Come Lord  Jesus, that spoke of Jesus and His grace that offered such hope. We met again and the pastor talked to me about salvation through faith and the grace that was offered. At some point I made peace with salvation and understood it and haven't doubted it since. I wish that I could say that that ended the struggle with my perfectionism, but it didn't. I still hid some things from church people--things like the eating disorder that so often raised its ugly head, selfishness that showed itself when I want my way, jealousy that rose up when I see another woman who seems to trust God so easily, a judgmental spirit that judges another because the log in my own eye is so hard to take out, ugly thoughts that float through my head of their own accord, my history of sexual abuse and depression that carries such stigma in the church, an accident in high school that forever changed me, my imperfect marriage, and five precious kids that were full of energy, pranks, and bouts of rebellion which I now look back on fondly, and all sorts of feelings I was told good Christians don't feel. All that hiding and what I longed for most was to be known and to be loved for me, what ever that might be. I tried so hard to please, I had become a mixture of the people I respected and didn't even know who I was.  
After listening to Lynch's message, I think what bothered me the most is that living like that was saying something about God and that something was not true!. The way I was living said God was a hard task master whose standard was impossible to keep, making it impossible to please Him. It also said that God didn't want to spend time with me until I was perfect, and anybody who knows me well knows I am not that. A distant God indicates He doesn't want to be bothered by His children. That view is so the opposite of the Biblical view of God and the view of God that I now embrace.  
God began to chisel away at my tendency to hide. First, when my oldest child climbed out of bed after a nap and came pattering down the hall and peaked around the corner, I felt this overwhelming love flood my soul. I held my arms out and he ran into them, both of us laughing with delight. God impressed upon my heart that is the way He reacts when we approach him. That felt so good and it fed my desire to meet with Him early in the morning before the kids woke up. 
Second, God put a young youth pastor and his wife in my life who believed in transparency. I don't remember how many times I heard him tell the group, "You are just giving me a church answer! Let's get real!" One night he had asked us to stand if we wanted to make a specific commitment. I told him later I was afraid to stand because I knew I would fail. He smiled and said, "Welcome to the human race!" Not long after that, I met with his wife and another sweet lady for a prayer session. For the first time, I experienced deep prayer and transparency. I was real with them and them with me. I walked away seeing them even more beautiful than before. The person they "liked" was the real me.
Sadly, I bumped into others who said or did things that brought my old way of thinking back and I would put the mask of perfection back on. It was safer and even expected. Eventually I entered a long term counseling relationship with a Christian therapist. The first couple of years as I began to talk at a deeper level and found safety I found the courage to take the mask off more and more often. There I not only dealt with the hidden pain of my past, but I also began to look at the deeper parts of my heart--the parts I was afraid to face because they belied the good girl image. After a really rough conflict with another person, I remember processing with the counselor and she asked me what I felt. I whispered my answer, hoping not to be heard. "I think I hate her." She didn't turn away, scold me, or throw Bible verses at me. She looked at me with compassion and gently smiled. I think I followed it by saying I wondered what God must think of me now. She pointed out the truth. The truth was that He knew all along, and now that it was in the light where it could be changed. I could grow closer to Him because I was honest. I was able to taste grace because I admitted what I thought I could never say. I realized that telling God the truth in itself is an act of faith. Telling Him about my ugly thoughts, frustrations, and doubts shows I believe His blood is enough to cover my sin. Telling Him that I struggle to forgive when someone keeps wounding me shows I have believe He will help me get there. Telling Him my desire to be a grace giver is tainted by fear shows I am trusting Him to be my safety and courage. Telling Him my heart feels dry and craves intimacy shows I believe He will fill me to the brim. Telling Him about my failures to love shows I believe He will change me, bit by bit until what I know to be true is reflected in my life. 
I wish that every church was as safe as that counselor's office. I wish that men, women, and youth could share their struggles honestly and find love and acceptance I found while sharing my sinful parts. I wish they could share their deepest struggle with pornography, with lying, with drugs and alcohol, with fear, with depression, with broken relationships, with failures to love, with unresolved conflicts, and with doubts and be met with eyes that show acceptance and compassion rather than eyes turning away, rejecting the part of them of which they are most ashamed or eyes that roll in judgment and tongues that spout verses wielded to wound, not to heal.   
The closer I've become to God, the less I worry about what other's think and that is freeing. Some people like me, some hate me, and some don't think enough about me to decide one way or another. And I know some people who just don't know what to do with me, especially when I get real. That's okay, because this prodigal is home in grace and grace is where I plan to stay and grace is only experienced in the real!  
Had I known all that I know now when my kids were small. I would have parented differently. I would make sure they know I love them unconditionally and there is nothing that they can do to make me love them less-- not bad grades, not lies, not tears, not words spoken in anger, not disrespectful body language, not arguments with siblings, not outward acts of rebellion, not sneaking around--none of which can melt this mama's love. I would make sure they didn't have to do anything to please me, just learn to trust me and my love. If they learned that , then everything else would have fallen into place. I would have also told them God has captured my heart with His grace and that it's theirs for the taking by faith. I would have made sure they understood they didn't have to spend a life time trying to do things and hiding who they are living in a messy fallen world attempting to please God. All that needed to be done was done by Christ on the Cross, just believe!
"For without faith it is impossible to please God!" It didn't say without perfection. It didn't say without good works. It didn't say without going to church twenty times a week. It didn't say without doing penance. It didn't say without participating in visitation every week. It didn't say without being involved in every ministry advertised at church. Please, don't get me wrong, I love ministry and everyone is gifted for it. But doing ministry to please God or people results in us doing things for which we aren't gifted or called to do. Serving from a transparent heart filled with the love and the acceptance that God gives is refreshing and fulfilling, not draining. Can I encourage you to do some self examination to determine if you are living to please God or if you are trusting Him and basking in His grace? The cross not only makes the way of salvation, it allows us to remove masks to come out of hiding, allowing beautiful messy selves to be known. For under all the messiness is the image bearer He created us to be. Removing masks allows us to be children after His own heart--children known by the grace they give. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

This Life of Messy Faith--Thoughts from Chapter 4 of Esther

A few weeks ago I mentioned our church is going through the book of Esther. This last Sunday's sermon on Esther Chapter 4 was both powerful and practical. I encourage you to listen to it at

In this chapter Esther has become queen and her guardian, Mordecai, has refused to bow down to Haman who was second in command to the king. At this time Mordecai had chosen to make it known that his reason for not bowing was because he was a Jew. Haman, enraged, got the king to issue a  edict declaring an appointed day would be execution day for all the Jews in the land. Letters were sent to all governors in the land in the King's name, stamped with the king's seal, making the edict an irrevocable law. Mordecai hears of the law and puts on sack cloth and ashes and sits at the palace gate grieving loudly. Other Jews hearing the decree  begin to fast, grieve, and lament along with him. The people in Esther's court let her know about Mordecai's actions and she sends a servant to find out why he's grieving. Mordecai lets her know of the plan Haman connived and he entreated her to approach the king and plead for the lives of her people. She lets Mordecai know she's not been summoned by the king and that approaching him without being summoned could put her life at risk if he chose not to find favor with her.

I love Mordecai's response to Esther. He warns her that as a Jew she, too, is in danger and not exempt from the edict. He tells her if she chooses not to approach the king he is confident that relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from somewhere else. But then he poses to her the possibility that she may have been made queen for this very purpose. Her life in danger no matter what she chose to do. I imagine her fear grew as she realizes there is no safe option for her. She has come face to face with one of those life defining events that has the potential to alter the course of her life and the lives of many others as well. She considers his request and delivers some requests of her own. She asks those mourning to fast three days along with her and her ladies. Then she would approach the king ending her message with, "...if I perish, I perish!"

Life defining moments can come suddenly and instantaneously. Some examples of this type of defining moments could be the temptations we face daily. For some it might be the temptation to use pornography. For addicts it might be the temptation to take a drink. It might be the temptation to commit adultery, to lie on taxes, to fudge data on a research projects, or skim money off the company books. It might be the temptation to say harsh words that do irreparable damage to relationships.

Defining moments can also come in the form of choices. Do we move or do we stay? Do I take this job or that job?  Do I attend a local college or one far away? Do we attend the neighborhood church or the one across town? Do we go on the mission field or stay on the home field? Do I foster this friendship or look for a different one?

Defining moments can also be life events that have huge impacts upon our lives. They might be a natural disasters. They might be fires or accidents that cause injuries that alter our lives either for a season or for a life time. They might be illnesses like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, or Epstein Bar that leave us exhausted to the core. They might be the death of people we love or relationships ending in conflict or an unexpected divorce. They might be acts of abuse or violence perpetrated against us, causing emotional pain, PTSD, skewed thinking, and a hampered ability to trust or ability to connect at a heart level. They might be the problems of dealing with a special needs child who has autism or learning disabilities.

Some defining moments may alter our lives in such away that they present ongoing defining moments. For example, parents whose children are born with heart defects and have to face untold surgeries and the continuous monitoring of their children. Some come in the form of injuries that caused chronic pain that brings with it depression and frustration of living with chronic issues. Some come in the form of fertility issues and all the questions that come with that. Some are those living with family members who suffer with Alzheimer. Some moments come in the form of jobs lost or messy, broken relationships that are full of temptations and frustrations.

When we look at the defining moment that Esther found herself facing we can see it forced her to define her identity, expose what she believed both of which drove her choice to act. Originally Mordecai had told Esther wasn't to reveal her identity as a Jew. Now she was face to face with the decision to make known her true identity as a Jew or not. I can't help but wonder if those believers brutally murdered by ISIS wrestled with the same questions Esther did.

As believers, every time we face defining moments and fail, it is because we forget in the moment who we are as God's children--beloved, set apart, empowered, and gifted. I serve in a ministry that ministers to wounded women who have long defined themselves by what others have said and done to them or by what the enemy has whispered in their ear in the aftermath--you know those ugly lies that paralyze and shame--lies like stupid, ugly, invisible, unloved, unlovable, too much, not enough, and unworthy. Even though most finish our groups embracing their true identity in Christ, they continue to face defining moments only to have old messages resurface in their mind forcing them to choose again and again to believe the truth of who they really are in Him. Sadly, we sometimes make choices to hide our identities. I remember in college I played down my faith, afraid a guy wouldn't like me if he knew I was a believer. That choice burned guilt so hot in my soul that I soon repented, beginning to be more open about my true identity. If we could grasp the concept of identity, it would govern many of our decisions and our actions, especially when the flesh is in a raging battle with the spirit within who longs to do good. 

Mordecai and Esther also had to also come to terms with what they believe about God. Did they believe He was good? Did they believe He was truly Israel's redeemer and their salvation? Did they believe He had a sovereign plan for their lives in life or in death? Did they believe that it mattered to God what they chose to do? Did they believe His promise to preserve their nation?

We, too, face those same kinds of decisions. Parents who bury children have to come to terms with what they really believe about God. Is there really an afterlife? Is God really good? Does He really care about their pain? Can He really work this horrible situation and this devastation to their good?

Those who experience natural disasters will have to wrestle with their beliefs about God who allows widespread destruction as they pick through the remains of the home that the earth shook into a rubble or as they remember the children snatched from arms by a tsunami's rage. A woman who has begun to have flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse will wrestle long and hard with who God is as  she is plagued by the memory of praying for safety only to be victimized again. She will have to decide at some point if she can believe God is good and trustworthy as she grapples with His sovereignty in allowing such evil to be perpetrated against innocent children.

The defining moment that Esther faced also brought her face to face with fear. Some believe fear is sin, but I don't. It is a great emotion God gave to help us stay safe. Esther probably had a big dose of it pounding in her chest, making her hesitant to approach the king uninvited, knowing he had already banished one queen and she wasn't considered a mutually partner. It was in the choice Esther made to acknowledge her identity and believe God is who He says He is, that lead her to believe He should be glorified either by her life or by her death that gave her the courage to act. They fasted and prayed, and she came up with a wise plan. 

In looking back at my life defining moments I thought of the time a son was being wheeled into surgery after his spleen ruptured. I face the fear of possibly losing a child. I wrestled with my identify as a believer that night in the waiting room. Even with the crowd of family surrounding me, as a mother I felt totally alone. It was terrifying to realize there was nothing I could do to insure that I would get the outcome I so desperately wanted. There were  complications that kept him in ICU for ten or eleven days and then in the regular room for six. There were times I felt I couldn't handle any more thing and wondered if he could continue to fight his way back to health. But as I remembered my identity in Christ, I remembered that as alone as I felt, I was not alone! I wrestle with what I believed about God, knowing in my head He is good--but not fully trusting it in my heart. I had to decide if I really believed in His goodness down to the core of my being where my soul needed peace. For you see, I never doubted that He could heal, but for me it was a matter of seeing His goodness as our son dealt with pain, as the fluid collected around his heart, and the possibility of maybe another surgery after having been cut open wide already. The decision to remind myself of who I really am and to choose to trust God is truly good helped me to sit there and engage with my son all those long days and long nights without falling apart. Choosing to pray to God who held his life in balance gave me hope and strength when I had nothing left to give. During that time God allowed me to see my son through new eyes and it gave us sixteen days in close quarters to truly get to know each other. I gained a whole lot of respect for him as a young man facing some really tough, scary stuff. I grew compassion for other mothers and father's going though medical issues with their kids.

Another thing happened after hearing the sermon Sunday. My husband and I went out to eat. I noticed a couple in the restaurant. He was sitting beside her and feeding her. She didn't appear to be very cognizant of her surroundings, but he was so very attentive and so kind to her. When they left, he helped her stand and then took her hands in his and he walked backwards so that she could walk forward. They were face to face as she took small shuffling steps. He was looking directly into her eyes and smiling kindly at her the whole times, ignoring all the commotion of the busy place. They would go about five or six steps and then he would taker her into his arms and embrace her sweetly and then after a moment or two they would resume the shuffle. They did this repeatedly. It took them twenty minutes to get to their car. Whatever has caused her to be in the state she is in had to be a huge defining moment for them as a couple. Then every day that he cares for her, he will be faced with defining moment after defining moment. He can choose to love with acceptance, with patience, with kindness, and with endurance even when she can't give respond in kind or he can get angry over the circumstances and choose to be impatient and bitter. In watching him treat her with tenderness, I had the feeling that I was on sacred ground and was seeing him live out his true identity--his identity as a man, as a husband, and as a believer. I had the feeling I was given the privilege of seeing Jesus loving and encouraging her through her spouse. "Come on, Sweetie, just take one more step." And the significance was that it was one more step with Him!

Sometimes, defining moments are small, but, oh, they have the potential to impact life in huge ways because we have a huge God! I think most people face those "small" moments in marriage, especially after kids come, when life gets busy, when jobs get demanding, when energy runs low, when neglect of relationships happens, and when the distance between spouses is so great it stirs up loneliness that cuts to the soul allowing seeds of bitterness to be implanted. Its in these time when each longs to be seen and to be heard that hope runs low and we tend to retreat to protect our hearts. That is when the "small" defining moments come. We know those moments--the moments when God tugs at our heart to be the first to reach out and take a hand, to refill a mate's cup, or to speak a sentence of affirmation to a heart hurting as much as our own. It is in that moment when everything in us wants to wait for the other to move first to save face that humility can help us push past the fear of being hurt again. What if its in the humility and the choosing to be the first to move one tiny degree closer to the one we miss that changes everything around? What if its that hesitant touch, that thirst offering, or that kindness spoken that stirs the last ember of love so it can grow and flourish again? What if we learn to recognize that the temptation to leave is a life defining moment that gives us a chance to remember who we are as believers, as spouses, as moms or dads, or as friends? What if that moment gives us an opportunity to truly remember who God is and trust His ability to write redemption stories? What if this small act gives us a chance to move our knowledge of God from head to heart, giving us both the will and the power to act? What if its in that moment that we snatch the victory from the enemy seeking to destroy our souls and prove to ourselves and to the world that God redeems the messiest of the messes.

I would love for you to share about some of your defining moments in the comments here or on our Facebook page. Can you see how those defining moments have impacted your life, how they have brought you face to face with your belief and maybe even your unbelief? How different our stories might be if we each grab on to this concept of defining moments bringing us face to face with our identity, what we believe, and our choices.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The View from Down Here

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
1 Corinthians 13:12
Our church just started a series on the book of Esther called, Messy Faith, Finding our Story in Esther. The sermon this week left me thinking about the concept of "messy faith." Now the book of  about all the different reasons a life of faith is so messy. The book of Esther deals with believers living in an unbelieving world much like Daniel and his friends did. From the first reading of the book, I surmised that Esther and Mordecai handled living in a foreign culture very differently than Daniel and friends. As we work through the book I am sure I will write about what I am learning from the series. But mostly this week I just thought about the concept of "messy faith." It is an interesting term and I more than like will use it a bit differently than our pastor is using it in his series.

When I was a child, I was invited to church by friends and I went. I somehow developed this picture that if one did everything good (which I know now is impossible) God would be pleased and my life would be blessed and everything would make sense. Though I came to understand my sinfulness, Christ payment for sin, God's grace, and redemption through faith, I still had some crazy misconceptions of the faith walk and they left me feeling shame to the point I believed I was a second class citizen in the body of Christ. Over the course of time, those misconceptions have been corrected, which I thought would make the Christian life less messy. But it hasn't! There are several reasons for this.

First, this life we live is messy because we, as believers, are regenerated beings indwelt by the Holy spirit living in fleshly bodies that still have the propensity to sin. The Spirit reveals and convicts us of sin at its deepest level--the level of the heart. This means that we have an internal battle raging in us--a strong desire to sin and a strong desire to obey God and live worthy of our calling. The Bible says we can overcome those desires but it also uses words like "die to self" to show us it is not easy. Yet, often we are quick to judge each other when we are struggling.  Life is messy as the Spirit heightens our sensitivity to sin and causes us to sorrow over sin so we begin to recognize sin at the level of the heart--the sin that no one sees, but we know it well and we want to hide it.

The life of faith is also messy because there is an Enemy who has ultimately been defeated at the cross. Yet, he still slithers around seeking whom he can destroy. But right now his power has been reduced to lies and half truths which have the power of a whole lie. He is sneaky and he is persistent. He whispers the lies so often that they become second nature to us. That is when we fully believe them as truth and they become a part of our core system and remain a stronghold making faith messier than it needs to be. Then Satan can take a step back. Those lies run through our mind of their own accord like a broken record that keeps replaying and replaying. He smiles as he watches the lies destroy us and our relationships.

One of those lies for me was, "I am unlovable." Because I had that lie (and a few others), I didn't take good care of myself physically and lived in bondage to an eating disorder and unresolved emotional pain. I didn't have healthy boundaries and didn't speak truth in love to those wounding me. I didn't communicate my desires, needs, or expectations in relationships and found my self interpreting every action others took through the belief that I was unlovable. When I began to grasp that I was unconditionally, radically loved by God that lie began to dissipate and relational problems began to get better.

Another lie I developed was that I was invisible. This will sound weird to some, but to others it will resonate to the core of your being. When I was getting some counseling for an eating disorder my therapist asked me what word I would used to describe myself as a child. The word that I immediately came up with was invisible. I later prayed with a prayer director, who told me that she believed God wanted me to renounce something she had never heard of. It was the spirit of invisibility! We did so that day and within a week I came across the story of Hagar who was Sarah's handmaiden. She had been sent away and was crying in the wilderness. God came to her and spokes to her and she ascribed the name El Roi to Him, which means the God who sees. Then one year at a conference, I was feeling invisible. I saw a shirt I liked and would not ordinarily buy. My friends and my husband encouraged me to buy it and I wore it the next day. I had so many people compliment me that I was overwhelmed. I realized that because I believed I was invisible, I dressed in a way that no one noticed me. I sat and spoke so quietly--essentially making myself somewhat invisible to others.

Another reason a life of faith is messy is rgat a life of faith is a life of relationships. We are all messy beings and, yet, made to desire relationships with each other. We have wounds and this desire to protect our hearts from more pain rages with this desire for relationship--messiness in all of its glory. As humans we have the tendency to filter what we see, what we think, and what we hear through several lenses. The lens of past experiences, core beliefs, spiritual gifting, and past history with people. As humans, we are all growing and changing and at the same time we are filtering through years of baggage even when we try not to. Most of us don't look at our baggage and understand it as baggage. We have tendency in our wounding to develop cognitive distortions and we don't always see and interpret things accurately. We can make mountains out of mole hills. We can expect others to be all good or all bad instead of the blend of both they are, We can hold on to magical thinking and feel disappointed when it doesn't work out.

We also have a messy view of God. Children often learn about the unseen God by looking at the authority figures in their lives. If we had a fairly healthy home, we will have a fairly healthy view of God. If we grew up with parents who were perfectionists who harshly judged, we will more than like attribute those same characteristics to God and fail to see His love and His grace. We also may have had a pastor who had an inaccurate view of God whose preaching skewed our view. We have to constantly compare our view of God with the truth of His Word and have open discussions with other believers who have a strong faith.

Finally, we have a messy faith because we are human and have a very limited view of spiritual things from down here. Psalm 139:16 tells us, " your book were written, every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." There is nothing in our lives that surprises God, but there is a whole lot in our lives that shocks the heck out of us. That is because we can't see all that God sees. We can't see how the hard we experience now will be worked for our good and for His glory. There are several Biblical examples of what I am trying to say. I know if I put myself  Sarah's shoes, I would have felt like God was messing with me and I would have become very angry, First, she Abe lived in a culture where people worshiped fertility gods and they were struggling with infertility. God calls them out and promises them a child. They wait and they wait and they age well past the normal age of conception. Talk about feeling invisible and teased by the God of the universe. From the view from here they couldn't see what God was doing. Then at the right time--the time when it would truly take a miracle God raised their bodies to conceive showing Himself to be the one true God of life.

Then there is Daniel, who was thrown into the lion's den because of His faith and his friends who were thrown into a fiery furnace. Remember, they were faithful men living in a Godless culture, They could only see what you and I could see. Yet, they chose to remain faithful, even though there were no guarantees. And God, saved Daniel from hungry lions and his friends from fire. Some believers don't have their lives preserved like that. Hebrews 11 says that some remained faithful and died without having seen the fulfillment of their faith. Yet, God honors both in the hall of faith! I honestly don't know why He works one way one time and another at a different time. I do know from having been witness to 21 people slaughtered for their faith that the church is being stirred out of a dream state to live boldly for Christ.

Then there is Christ himself. What appeared to be the darkest day for his disciples and for mankind ended up being anything but. He came to earth to be the promised Messiah. His disciples had to have been confused by the events that followed the last supper. They didn't have any more insight into the events of their day than we do of ours and all of a sudden their fearless leader is washing their feet, praying so passionately He sweats blood, is succumbing to arrest, being tried illegally, and hanging on a cross as the sky darkens, ground shakes, and graves open. From their perspective that day, it looked like the Enemy won. but, we see it differently on Resurrection Day. The darkest time was when the greatest act of love was carried out and our sin was put on His body so He could impute His righteousness to us.

There are times when we look back we can see things from His view. One man from a former church shared his daughter left college for a year and moved in with him. He then lost a job and for almost a year he couldn't find one. He couldn't understand what God was doing until he later lost the daughter suddenly to illness. He had an extraordinary year with his daughter that he would never have had had he been working. What looked like a hardship was blessing.

Several years ago I went through a pretty rough time in ministry which eventually led me to a completely different type of ministry. I prayed while going through that time and felt unheard and invisible to God. But I wasn't. In the new ministry I wrote books that we use and many women here have found healing going through them. I have even had women from other places across the country contact me and tell me how much my writing has helped them heal and reconnect with God. Even this year, I have been writing a book that I have at times doubted I was to write. Repeatedly I have had people encourage me in one way or another to continue writing. About a week ago, I was really struggling with it and ready to quit and a friend I haven't seen in awhile wrote me and said she didn't know why she was writing me the things she was. I knew! I wasn't sure about the book I was writing. I wasn't sure if the chapter I was writing was even supposed to be in the book and what she was sharing with me was the very thing with which I was wrestling and her letter helped me know I was to proceed. That I knew her long ago at a time that was painful for her and that she wrote me as I was writing was nothing either of us could see in the past or now, until it played out.

We do have some advantages over the people in the Bible. We have the advantage of seeing stories  sovereignly authored by God displayed in Scripture. Knowing this, we can begin to see how He works in people's lives take notes on how He is working in ours and in the lives of those we love. These written counts can encourage us when the view from down here looks bleak and hope wavers. The accounts can remind us that though our view from here is limited by finite minds, God's view isn't. We serve a God who pens our stories whose view is from the eternal and sees all from the beginning to the end. We serve a God who lovingly knits our good from what we perceive to be bad. We serve a God with a great big view.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!