Hidden and Seen

Scripture is full of paradoxes, things that don’t seem to fit together in our human understanding. Like the Savior of the world, coming in the form of a baby born in a manger. Another example being in Matthew 14: 11 when Jesus states, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

One of our deepest human desires is to be seen and known by others. Yet sometimes, the first thing we do is run and hide. I desire to converse with friends and family at a gathering, having relationship, yet when I walk into the room I feel awkward and shrink away – hiding. Meet my frequent, internal and paradoxical wrestling.

Adam and Eve, after sinning, hid from God. I’m guessing that they had a desire to continue relationship with Him, but hid in shame. (Genesis 3:8) We desire to be seen by others and known, yet hide.

We hide in sin, embarrassment, uneasiness, judgment. We hide from situations, others, and ourselves. We hide from El Roi, the God Who Sees. (Genesis 16:13) In truth, with all of those things mentioned, it would make more sense to go to the Creator in full disclosure and repentance if necessary. It would make more sense to dispel the darkness (hiding), and step into the Light (being known in relationship).

Over the past few months, the word ‘surrender’ has been very present in thought. I’m learning that one of the pieces of being surrendered, is not withholding myself from God – hiding. It’s impossible to completely hide from El Roi, though I try to do a good job. In reality I’m not really hiding, but rather withholding relationship. Withholding a completely surrendered heart, willing to be held and seen by the One who created me. When I’m not surrendered, I’m not posturing myself to God’s will. It’s harder, dare I say impossible, to fully trust when my heart and mind are withholding and hiding thoughts from El Roi.

Who am I hiding from? What am I hiding? Why?

It can be scary to be known and seen. But the truth is that I don’t desire to hide from God; He sees me anyway. (I may desire to hide from others, but not God.) He sees the real me, the one he fashioned in the secret and hidden. The one He brought into the light, to be seen and known. My desire is to be fully known (seen), living freely in and with Him.

Would it change if we knew who God is? His character? Would it be easier to trust Him, and fully surrender a heart and life to Him?

He is good. He is love. He is light and life and just. God is accepting of the true me, uglies and all. God is safety and protection. I can surrender and open up to that. How about you? And when we do – we can be both hidden in Him, and seen by Him.

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 (ESV)

In that hidden place, what are you willing to surrender to God? What are you willing to trust Him with seeing? You don’t have to fully comment here – but are you with me?

 

 

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Wrap This One Up

Over the past few years Christmas has been such an interesting holiday, for me. Interesting because I’ve had a hard time really feeling the joy and excitement of the season. It’s a little embarrassing to admit. As a Christian, this time of year is holy and sacred, it’s supposed to be full of joy! But as I mature in faith, celebrating Jesus’ birth has become just as important as his death and resurrection. They go hand in hand. It’s come to the point where I can’t really think of this time of year without also thinking of the sacrifice he made for me, and you.

It’s been a while since I really took the time to posture my heart and mind towards the coming of our King this time of year. I’ve known the story most of my life, but it’s been a while since I really had a fresh understanding and revelation about our tiny Savior and fully present in the story of Who he is.

However, this year is different and I think it’s sourced in a song and the posture of my heart. Before ever hear the song, Wrap This One Up by Christy Nockles, I heard the story. It captured my thoughts. I didn’t really dive in to studying, I just sat in awe. I sat in awe at how God so delicately orchestrated the story of Jesus. He orchestrates the story of our own lives the same way, every detail purposed.

You see, not far from where Jesus was born, is a place called Migdal-eder or Tower of the Flock. As temple worship in the Promised Land was established, a field just outside of Bethlehem was designated for sacrificial lambs to be raised. With at least two sacrifices per day, there would need to be over 700 lambs each year. When lambs reached one year old, they would make their way to the altar.

Special shepherds kept watch from the Tower of the Flock, caring for these sacrificial lambs. As ewes approached birth, shepherds would bring them in close, perhaps even inside. Upon the birth of a new male lamb, the shepherds would inspect the new baby for blemishes – designating the spotless ones for sacrifice. These sacrificial lambs would be wrapped up in swaddling clothes, keeping the sacred baby safe, warm and dry.

On the night of his birth, our Savior Jesus would be wrapped up by his momma. He was probably inspected and found to be perfect, complete. This song painted a picture of what it would have been like to be Mary, wrapping up her baby boy on that very night of his birth. Mary knew. She knew Jesus was Messiah, the Son of God. You see, as Mary wrapped up her baby – she was also wrapping up our Sacrificial Lamb.

“…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:19-21 (HCSB)

Jesus would once again be wrapped up.  “So, Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb.” Matthew 27:59-60 (HCSB)

There are so many little details throughout scripture that put me in awe. As you read the story of Jesus’ birth this holiday, I pray that God’s well-orchestrated and perfectly timed plan restores a fresh sense of wonder in you. As we wrap and unwrap the gifts under our Christmas tree this year, let’s unwrap the gift wrapped up by Mary so long ago – Jesus. Knowing, believing and trusting the King in an intimate and personal way is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

For the sake of trying to keep it short, I’ve left so much out of this story. But I pray that Christy’s song, Wrap This One Up, blesses you as much as it does me. It’s a beautiful picture of the reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth – in full circle. Along with a link to the song on her lovely Christmas album, here’s a little clip of Christy’s song story.

Blessings for a joyous and holy Christmas, dear ones.

With love and gratitude, Amy

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Christmas Treasures

Do you ever sit back and really take the time to be in awe of God? His creation, and who He is? This time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus coming in flesh, so that he might shed His blood as the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a time set aside, to remember and celebrate. But it always seems like the pace of life quickens, and the time to be in awe gets cut short by the long shopping list. I know the hour’s tick by at the same rate of speed as they did when Messiah was born, but our world seems to be spinning at a dizzying pace these days.

I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and what that time must have been like for her. There weren’t 25 people to buy gifts for with various houses to visit. They settled down. It may have been in a manger, filled with the excitement of a birth, but I think they stopped. They paused, and fully enjoyed His presence.

I believe this to be true because of one little piece in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. To me, it’s become one of Mary’s ‘words of wisdom for mom’s’. Luke tells of Mary and Joseph’s traveling to Bethlehem, the shepherds and the angels. Then he writes, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19, ESV)

You’ve probably heard the saying about the minutes drag on, but the years fly by? It’s so true, and now that we’ve reached the middle school era in our family, things seems to have been taken to a whole new realm. Even our son comments on it. Be still, my heart! I think there must have been something special stirred by the Holy Spirit within Mary’s heart. She knew to treasure up all these things, that special time. I envision Mary taking the time to be in awe of God; not only this precious little Lamb, wrapped up in her arms, but the Creator.

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Mary didn’t have a cell phone to click pictures and share with her friends back home. She didn’t have the ability to rely on a picture to conjure up all the warm fuzzies. All she had was the gift of those thoughts and feelings being stirred in her heart and mind, treasured up. She may not have remembered every little detail, but I’m certain she clearly remembered the thoughts and feelings she experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, I love walking down memory lane with the pictures on that little rectangular device. And I wouldn’t trade the message, and seeing the beautiful new born face of my sweet niece today, for anything! But when I’m wrapped up in getting the right picture to capture the moments of Christmas, it’s hard to really capture it with my heart. It’s hard to simply be in awe, and let myself feel the wonder, mystery and freedom of the season.

As the days click by to the time we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I desire to posture my heart and mind towards our Savior. What would it be like, for you, to slow down and simply be in awe of Him? What would it take, to posture yourself before the Lord? What would it be like to stop, and treasure up in your heart the events of this season? What do you need from God, and what do you need to give God?

I want to challenge you, as I do myself, to stop this season and be still. Take some time to rest in Him, the gift of a little baby, treasuring it all up in your heart.

Fruit in the Wilderness

IMG_6860Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my kids and I made the easy four-hour drive to Peoria, IL. We like to take the back roads as it always makes for better scenery. This time, the trees had leafless branches and fields had been harvested. Vast acres of bare ground were the canvas for much of our journey. But on this particular trip, I didn’t peer over the blank fields with winter doldrums; rather, it was with a new appreciation and expectation.

I think much of this new perspective has come from reading through the book of Isaiah. This book of the Bible has long intimidated me, but now I’m captivated. This treasure in God’s Word has caused me to ponder and re-read portions (multiple times!) that at first didn’t make any sense. For me, this prophetic book has changed my beliefs about wilderness seasons. It also changed what I saw while peering over those bare acres of crop land.

Everyone has been through a “wilderness” season. Whether it be due to circumstances, or choices we’ve made and the consequences which follow. We’ve all had times of drought and wandering, seasons when nothing seems to be right, or fair. Seasons when our hearts are broken and shattered. Seasons of hardship, disappointment or confusion.

During these wilderness or desert seasons in my life, often I just need encouragement and support. For me it’s not about anyone ‘fixing it’, it’s having someone willing to be present with me and acknowledge that it’s hard. History tells me things will change, it will get better. But with all that said, if you’re like me, I just want the desert season to be over. I just want to be on the other side, and pray that I don’t have to go through it again.

Desiring a wilderness season is not something most people want. Generally, our flesh wants to run in the opposite direction. However, with this new understanding of wilderness I may not go so far as to desire it, but to be thankful for it and expectant in it. When we’re in the middle of a desert (and middles are often the hardest), it’s a challenge to be thankful. It’s not natural to be thankful for drought or wandering.

How can we possibly be thankful for and expectant in, the wilderness?

Take a look at these verses. “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” Isaiah 41:18 (ESV)

That ‘I will’ statement – it’s a promise from God. We have a promise that He will provide in the wilderness, there will be relief in our parched places. We

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35:1 (ESV)

There will be abundance come from our desert times. I can attest to this. Some of the biggest change in my life, has come directly after a hard and challenging season. My heart was not the same, but life was put back together in a new and beautiful way.

Throughout our drive, I looked over the empty fields and rejoiced over the coming winter. We can trust God that a barren and desert-like season, will eventually spring forth new life and become spring. The soil of our heart having been prepared, ready to receive the seed. The earth will patiently waits; but the bitter cold, wind, ice and driving sleet must come first.

“until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. And justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Isaiah 32:15-17 (ESV)

Contrary to how it feels in the middle, there can be a fruitful harvest from a desert. It seems counter intuitive. Similar to the Consecration and Wonders we considered a few weeks ago, we will receive the wonders of our Almighty in the gathering of this fruit. The wonders of righteousness, a peace that passes all understanding, and a trust in our Savior that lasts forever. I am expectant for these things! I am expectant for growth in my wilderness, a fruitful field to burst forth.

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I want to encourage you to be curious. What are your beliefs about the wilderness? How have you, and how do you experience it? What is your response to being in the middle of it?

I want to challenge you to read Isaiah 43, focusing on verses 1-2 and 15-21. Take a look at James 1:1-3. This concept is hard, but it’s so rich. And it’s interwoven throughout all of scripture. Let’s be thankful for, and expectant in the hard stuff. Tending our soft hearts for the Lord, winnowing the chaff, ready to receive the seeds and gather fruit.

Love & Gratitude,  Amy