Come and See

I’ve embarked on a journey through the gospels, reading them together chronologically. I’m just a few days in, and loving it. Scripture is packed with nuggets of truth and wisdom. Makes me think of Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Well, I can be pretty simple so this verse is an encouragement to me.

Today I was reading the story of Jesus’ first meeting of his disciple Philip in John 1:43-51. I’d read this passage of scripture before, but today it ‘unfolded’ before me in a new way. Philip, a true disciple at heart, immediately brings a man named Nathanael to meet Jesus. It’s like he can’t help it! And despite Philip’s enthusiasm, Nathanael’s first response was filled with judgment about this man from Nazareth, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, ESV) Philip’s response? “Come and see.” (John 1:46, ESV)

Jesus greets Nathanael in a very personal way, going so far as to call out where he was at the time Philip came to him. Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart, and spoke directly to him in a personal way. Isn’t that how Jesus speaks to each one of our hearts, if we allow him to? If we would accept the invitation to ‘come and see’.

Sometimes our first response is filled with doubt and judgement, like Nathanael. But once confronted with Jesus, he wasted no time at claiming that Jesus was who he said he was. As one of the first to recognize Messiah, he exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49, ESV)

I wonder what Nathanael’s faith walk was like after this encounter. Were there ups and downs? Did he pursue Jesus faithfully every day, without doubt? I believe Nathanael walked closely with his Rabbi, and had a personal relationship with him. In John 21:2 as Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, revealing himself to Nathanael. Wow. Don’t you wonder what that would have been like?!

Even if our first response to Jesus each day is not faith-filled, He still knows our heart and how to speak personally to us. The Lord knows us better than we do; we are His creation after all. To have that personal relationship with the Lord, we must ‘come and see’. Come to Him in worship, scripture and prayer. God will intimately speak to our hearts when we enter into relationship with Him. And with Nathanael’s response, we can exclaim who He is, give Him glory in worship and praise. “You are the Son of God!”

Can I encourage you to read John 1:43-51 today? Ask the Lord to unfold this encounter with Jesus’ in a new way. He is so faithful. You are seen by the living God, Creator of heaven and earth. He desires to have that personal relationship with you, His creation. Lean in close, letting your doubt become faith. Come to Him, and see.

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“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.!” Psalm 34:8 Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

 

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Belonging

Growing up is hard. Heck, being an adult is hard! My daughter has wrestled her way from Kindergarten to third grade, navigating the social bits of being a young lady. Girls can be so mean. As a mom, it’s hard to coach from the sidelines – especially when it’s similar to what you experienced. My heart breaks, knowing it’s likely she may wrestle with these same struggles for years to come, if not a lifetime. Recently we’ve talked about how God makes us all unique, and it’s hard to fit in when we’re all meant to stand out, being uniquely accepted in love together.

We want so desperately to fit in, to belong. Yet with the ‘fitting in’ to one group, we’re excluded from another. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was old enough to have an awareness about it. I’m guessing you have too. It’s not been until my mid-thirties that things started to fit within me. Oh, there have been inklings all along, but it felt a bit fuzzy and incomplete. Some days, it still does.

This week I began reading Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness. I love the work she’s doing. I’m not deep into the pages yet, but have already had so many ‘YES!’ moments. And one really big Ah-ha. One of those moments came when Brené brought attention to a quote from an interview with Maya Angelou done on public television with Bill Moyers, 1973.

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya Angelou

Yes. That quote may be hard to wrap your head around, but for me it spoke truth. Our daughter had been struggling with her enjoyment of space, friends thought she was weird for it and excluded her. But should she abandon that desire, based on reasons and opinions other than her own? That’s a high price. We are meant to hold tight to those dreams and desires placed within us upon our creation.

God has created each of us with a necessary and innate sense to belong to something more than ourselves, while being who He created us to be. It’s part of what causes us to seek Him. Yet, we sell out to the world around us in order to fit in and belong. We are each unique; therefore, we will never fit perfectly into anything other than the creation we are meant to be. We are meant to be unique and authentic, placed on the Creator’s timeline and fulfilling a unique purpose, designed specifically for each creation (you and me) – thus fitting perfectly. Denying who I am – who I BE – is denying the Creator of His creation. It’s living a life that’s not congruent or authentic to that which is within.

Being that which we are created for is imperative to ourselves, those around us, and to the Lord. He leads by example with His first direct revelation of himself in Exodus 3:14 as he appears to Moses in the burning bush, calling Moses forth to be his purpose. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” That ‘I AM’ can be translated from the Hebrew, I BE who I BE.

I believe striving ceases when we rest in our real and authentic self, a true reflection of the Creator’s Creation. I’m not sure about you, but I want to be that – a true reflection. Striving tends to wear me out, gets me turned around, and unhappy. I’d rather be happy, and rest in my Creator. Exploring who I am as a reflection of the Creator will take a lifetime, and I’m okay with that process.

I am a complete and powerful woman, made of God’s love. How about you?

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Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash 

Led & Pursued by God

I’ve known through scripture that God surrounds us. Psalm 139:5 states, “You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.” (CSB) I believe that. However, the other day while reading Psalm 23, I realized the similar sentiment of Psalm 139. In Psalm 23:2, we are being lead; therefore, He must be in front of me. Verse 6 says that only goodness and love will pursue me, as coming up behind me. Knowing that God is love, I’m going to take that as God pursuing me with his qualities of goodness and love.

It was a new understanding of how I am being encircled – lead to quiet waters and pursued with goodness and love. That is something I can really settle in to; it gives shape to those thoughts of being encircled by God. Not only will I be lead beside quiet waters, but on the right path! (vs. 3) Being led and pursued by the same person seems impossible, but not for God. Our Creator is omnipresent, at all places at all times.

When life feels up in the air, discombobulated and out of control, remembering that God will lead me on the right path and cover my rear with His goodness and love is comforting. It also carries with it the weight of relationship – to be led, I must be willing to listen, trust and follow Him.

Psalm 23 starts out with the proclamation that ‘The LORD is my shepherd’, not me. John 10 talks about the good shepherd being Jesus. “When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:4)

We get to be sheep. And sheep listen to and know the voice of their shepherd, it’s how they are led. Jesus has gone ahead of us, clearing the path before us. We see where He is leading us at the end of Psalm 23 in verse 6, “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.” We are being led to the house of the Lord! There may still be danger, valleys, and enemies present but we can trust the Shepherd, walking in faith rather than fear.

I want to challenge you in reading Psalm 23 over the next few days, read it several times. Let it be more than recited phrases, but truth to your soul. Pray it! Proclaim it!

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“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6 (ESV)    Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

In The Morning

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, but I’ve missed you! Any time for writing is being focused toward the study on Joshua. I’m so ready for it to be completed and be able to share it with you – it’s getting closer. Re-writing and edits!

For now, I’ll try and keep it short rather than quiet. That seems doable.

The verse God has me focused on and challenged with right now is Psalm 5:3, here are three different translations.

“Oh LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (ESV)

“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” (CSB)

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for you and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. (AMP)

In the morning. As in first thing – the Firstfruit of my day. In the morning, before I give my attention to anything else, flooding my mind with the waiting demands and welcomed distractions.  And why wouldn’t I want to give my heart and thoughts over to the One who hears my voice? The One who is expectantly waiting for me, in relationship.

What can I possibly offer as a sacrifice? Prayer? Worship? My thoughts? Glorifying Him, rather than myself or others? My heart? Gratitude?

I want to challenge you with this verse. What does it mean to you? What can you prepare as a sacrifice to the Lord? And then watch! Watch expectantly.

Love you ~ Amy

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

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?

 

 

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.

Marinate In Jesus

On a recent Sunday night, steak was on the menu for supper. Thinking that it was supposed to marinate over night instead of a just a couple hours, I prepped the ingredients and decided to set it all together in the fridge. But, at 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening, I realized a vitally important step was skipped. We got busy doing other things and I forgot to put the steaks in the marinade. Whoops.

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It wasn’t the end of the world, we’re used to eating late – no big deal. But it got me thinking. As those steaks just sat next to the marinade, they weren’t able to pick up any of the flavor prepared for them. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (ESV) I may be taking this verse a little out of context, but it came popping into my mind. In order to be the salt, seasoned and flavorful, we have to get in the marinade! Soaking-in the Lord.

 

We can attend church all our life or go to conferences all over this country, but unless we really dive-in to God’s word and soak in His presence on our own – we’re just like those steaks, sitting next to the marinade. It’s hard to soak up the flavor of God’s love, if we’re just getting a “talking-to” once a week. And that spiritual-high from a conference, it doesn’t usually carry us all the way through the wilderness wanderings or fiery trials. What really carries us, is a personal relationship with our Creator. That is developed over time and personal commitment, spending time in prayer and worship, being devoted to His word for you. It’s being willing to change, be refined, and learn who God is.

The next part of that verse in Matthew 5 goes on to tell of a light under a bushel basket, and letting your light shine before others for the glory of God. (Matt. 5:14-16) Whatever we are flavored with, is what will shine through to others. Just like those steaks, the saltiness and seasoning in the marinade is what’s meant to come through. (I burned them on the grill by the way…it just wasn’t my day to fix steak.)

At 5:05 p.m., I put those steaks in to marinate, and closed the refrigerator door on them for nearly two hours. Matthew 6:6 encourages us, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)

In secret, that’s where some serious soaking can occur. Don’t mistake me, I love the cooperate church body, there is no substitute for a healthy body of believers working together. But there is also no substitute for that personal, secret time with Jesus.

What are you soaking in?

How do you “marinate” and soak-in God?

IMG_6068My guess is, that just like my marinade with various ingredients – that’s what it might look like for you. Worship + Scripture + Prayer + Fellowship for good measure. Whatever the recipe is, that’s between you and the Lord. But let’s not wait and then rush at the last minute, when the grill is fired up (testing & trials). My challenge to you, today, is to not let your relationship with our Creator be an afterthought. No time spent on the Lord is wasted, especially that secret time. He is the Redeemer of all.