Tag Archives: hope

The God Who Sees

tile-floorsI was on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile floor around the toilet for the fourth time in a week. Those of you who live with boys know they sometimes miss. Jon is not a boy. He’s a man. And he still misses, way too often for my liking.

As I applied bleach to the grout again, I sighed and breathed out loud, “I hope I can still get down here and do this when I’m 80,” and felt a sudden hopelessness roll over me.

Then I heard a still small voice in the depths of my soul.

“I see you.”

My Bible reading that morning had brought me to the story of Hagar. Hagar was the slave of Sarai, Abram’s wife, obtained in one of their detour trips to Egypt. Hagar came from a culture that worshiped multiple gods. The Egyptians had a god for everything, so Abraham’s god, on her list of imaginative deities, was probably added only to appease the old folks.

Hagar had no rights. She was a nobody. Her duty in life was to fulfill the wishes of another, and when barren Sarai grew tired of waiting for the son God had promised Abram, she did what was a common practice of their culture. Sarai sent Abram to sleep with her slave to claim a son through Hagar. Hagar was forced to become a surrogate mom.

Genesis 16:1-3 “Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children, but she had a slave girl from Egypt named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Look, the Lord has not allowed me to have children, so have sexual relations with my slave girl. If she has a child, maybe I can have my own family through her.” Abram did what Sarai said.”

When Hagar became pregnant she realized she now had an advantage over Sarai. Hagar got herself an attitude and who could blame her, really? What’s Sarai going to do to her now that she’s carrying Abram’s child? Someone who’s had no control over her own destiny finally had an edge. Eventually the relationship between the two women became so intolerable, Hagar ran away.

Genesis 6:7-12 finds Hagar beside a spring of water in the desert having a conversation with an angel of God. She was told to go back home and continue to serve Sarai. But God promised Hagar her son, would become a great nation also. He gave her hope.

Not one of Egypt’s gods had ever spoken to her. Not one of them cared enough to show up and reassure a despairing slave girl. But Abram’s God did. And she was amazed.

This God knew who she was. Where she was. And what she needed. This God had eyes to see her and ears to hear her. This God cared!

Then, “the slave girl gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are ‘God who sees me,’” because she said to herself, “Have I really seen God who sees me?” Genesis 6:13

I realized that day on the floor that God sees me. He said as much.  And every time I get on the floor to scrub again, I am reassured He is pleased. What we determine to be small, insignificant, unseen and even annoying, matters greatly to God.

God sees you driving to work again, that counter you wiped, the laundry washed and folded, the dishwasher you load, the toilet scrubbed, another diaper changed, the gas tank you just filled and each time you help lift that person in and out of his wheelchair.

He sees the smile you brought to someone, the hug you gave, the ride you offered, the meal you cooked.

He sees how tired, desperate and broken you are.

It matters to Him. The unseen is important to Him. That thing done when no one watches. The mundane. The exhausting. The unappreciated. The irritating.

He sees it all and He knows.

Because my God is the God Who Sees!

And He’s your God too.

 

 

Merry Messy Christmas!

img_0047Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not at our house. Jack Frost rarely nips at our nose (nor do we ever dream of a white Christmas), since we live in Florida. A few Yuletide carols may be sung by a choir at our Christmas service, but since Trinity is a non-traditional, contemporary church, even that’s debatable.

We will have a turkey this year, but no mistletoe and no tiny tots hanging around with their eyes all aglow. Just a Jon who gets up when he feels like it and takes five hours to open ten gifts.

According to this picture perfect Christmas song, our chances for a Merry Christmas are poor indeed. We score about one and a half out of five.

Are you feeling it right now because your Christmas isn’t Hollywood perfect? Cheer up, the first one wasn’t any better:

An unwed, teenage mother.
No baby shower, but plenty of rumors.
A disgraced marriage.
An annoying, inconvenient, tax-registering trip.
A baby born in a barn (with no nurse, diapers or cradle).
Scruffy shepherds as newborn visitors.
A jealous king sending out spies and assassins.
An emergency escape by night to another country.

The truth of Christmas is that God willingly jumped over-His-head-deep into the chaos of earth’s struggles. The First Christmas was so…human. It was scandalous. It was messy. It was so earthly, many passed right on by. And because His arrival seemed nondescript to most, people missed its significance. And still do.img_0048

If it’s not “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you and a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas depiction is not happening where you are; happiness disregards you, money is tight, relationships stressed, someone deeply loved is gone and greatly missed, or possibly your only Christmas wish this year is for yourself or a sick loved one to heal, there’s no need to collapse in despair. No need to feel alone. No need to be paralyzed with fear.

Real life doesn’t stop for Christmas.

BUT!

Christmas came to invade every detail of our messy human existence and inundate whatever is occurring in our personal universe at the moment.

God came to us as one of us and He understands. He will walk with us through it all if we let Him. Stop, surrender and make room for Him this Season.

And have yourself a Very Merry Messy Christmas now!

“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!”

 
Home For the Holidays – painting by Norman Rockwell, 1950
Christmas Cottage – painting by Thomas Kinkade, 1990                                                                         “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley, 1739

Jon’s Octopus

Basic CMYKJon was fourteen years old when we visited Catalina Island off the coast of California. Our friends, Earl and Pat, had moved to the island from Maine when Earl took the job of maintenance overseer for a large girl scout camp located there.

Summers at the beachfront camp were noisy and chaotic, with hundreds of girls and camp counselors arriving constantly in one to two week shifts. But winters were long, quiet and lonely; a good time to visit, and since we were homeschooling, the boys and I planned a six week stay during the winter of 1994.

From the day he arrived, Jon decided Earl (or Pa, as the boys and every other ‘grandchild’, related or not, called him) was going to take him fishing in the ocean.

“And I’m going to catch an octopus,” he declared to all of us.

“It’s really hard to catch an octopus Jon,” Pa told him, “they live way, way down, too deep in the water to get on your hook.”

But every day Jon kept insisting and reminding us, as soon as Pa took him fishing, he was going to catch an octopus.

We were there several weeks before Earl finally had a free day for fishing. They packed a lunch and eagerly climbed into the boat along with Jon’s younger brother, David, and a neighbor, Ken, the caretaker of the yacht club located a few miles down the beach.

Jon told Pa and Ken as they left the shore, “I’m going to catch an octopus now.” Ken replied with the same explanation Pa had given.

Everyone was trying to lessen the disappointment that was coming, in spite of Jon’s insistence.

They left in the morning and in late afternoon I heard Jon running up the beach to the house shouting, “Mom, Mom, I caught an octopus! Mom! I caught an octopus!”

I went outside to meet him. He was grinning from ear to ear. Jon has always had a huge and slightly quirky imagination so I figured he was fantasizing in his head again, pretending he had caught one because it’s what he’d wanted so much.

Earl met me halfway to the dock with a giant smile on his face. “Well, you’re never going to believe it, I still can’t, but Jon caught an octopus today.”

“You’re kidding.” I was stunned and delighted all at the same time. “I thought you said it was impossible?”

“I’ve been fishing in the ocean for years and never have I or anyone I know, caught an octopus. “ Earl looked as amazed as I felt.

Turns out they were a few miles off shore when Jon felt a tug on his line. He reeled it in and to everyone’s (but his) surprise there was a baby octopus clinging to the string.

Jon got his octopus!

That was twenty one years ago.

And I’ve never forgotten it.

When I read, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7), or “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), I’m reminded of a God who cares enough about a fourteen year old special needs kid to send a baby octopus from the depths of the ocean to his fishing line.

In the hard times, circumstances and struggles of life, when you feel as if God isn’t listening and He doesn’t care about you or the details of your situation…

..remember Jon and his octopus.

God knows.

He sees.

He understands.

He cares.

Keep believing for the impossible.

Keep trusting.

You never know what could be surfacing from the depths of despair, just for you.

A Taste of Things to Come

Mike was in a large, busy place when Jon emerged from the crowd and walked toward him.Mike & Jon

“Hi Dad.”

“Hi Son.”

They embraced, then sat and chatted for a while, reminiscing about Jon’s childhood, “Do you remember the time when..?”

They laughed at the memories.

“Yes, I remember,” Jon said. “I remember everything you’ve ever done for me. Thank you.”

“Why did you do some of the things you did, Jon? We were always just trying to help you. Why were you stubborn and so mean to mom and me sometimes?

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK, I forgive you. I’ve always forgiven you, because I’ve always loved you.”

“I know Dad. I know.”

Mike woke up suddenly, filled with joy in having had a real conversation with his son, at last.

But it was only a dream.

In sleep, our heart can reveal what it secretly longs for; the subconscious can give us a taste, a tease, of how it could be. Waking up can bring disappointment or offer us hope. Depends on what we choose to believe.

I believe such a conversation will take place some day, maybe not here on Earth, but when we’re all together on the other side of this life.

There’s nothing quite as reassuring as the hope of Heaven, where all things will be put right and all things will be made new.

Revelation 21:4-5 “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”…

Unconditional Love – My Special Education, Lesson #8

Unconditional-loveJon was wandering around the kitchen before I left for Sunday morning service, taking stock of the plate I had prepared him and gathering more food from the pantry and fridge.

When I came home, he was standing next to the dinette table just off the kitchen, and had methodically arranged all his food, dishes, silverware and some treasures from his room on and around a place mat.

He’d barely eaten anything while I was gone which is typical for him. He has to have things arranged a certain way before he feels settled and his obsession will often stretch the process out for hours.

The caregiver left and I started on lunch for Mike and I, warming up leftovers, putting a meal together in about fifteen minutes and setting our places on each side of Jon’s. Our son rarely wants to sit and eat with us but it looked like he was about to settle down and I was hoping the three of us would have lunch together this day.

The unspoken Jon rule is this: he can invade your space at any time, day or night but you take a risk invading his. Sometimes you are received, many times not (read more about that here).

It’s somewhat like the kings in the Old Testament who raised a scepter to show their approval if you entered their presence without being beckoned. If approval was not granted you could quickly be missing your head (see Esther 4:11-16).

As Mike and I took our seats, blessed the food and began eating, the expression on Jon’s face tuned into a scowl. We had invaded his space and he wasn’t happy about it.

“Come on Jon,” I said, “sit down and eat with us. You did a great job setting your place here so let’s have lunch together today.”

It wasn’t happening. He began snatching his things off the table and moving them to the dining room, stomping back and forth from one table to the other until everything was moved. No amount of encouragement or pleading convinced him to stay.

It’s always his choice, never ours.

I’ve learned so much about the father heart of God from Jon through the years. I know what it’s like to feel rejected by your child and I also have a greater understanding of unconditional love.

Jon has days when he barely acknowledges my presence. But regardless of how that makes me feel, I’m aware of his social limitations and I still love him. I will always be here for him, reaching, waiting; doing everything I can to give him the best possible life.

There are many ways I want to show Jon how much I love him that he often doesn’t want or accept, so I have to meet him where he is and on his terms.

As I read the Bible, I see so many illustrations of God’s love for His people. His children.

He longs to be with them. He wants to bless them, rescue them, and shower them with love and mercy. He comes into their situations over and over, making Himself available in their darkest hour; if they would only acknowledge Him and respond to His love.

But they don’t. They turn away and break His heart.

Again. And again. And again.

So God waits.

And He’s still waiting.

Waiting for me and you to acknowledge Him.

Waiting for us to respond to His love.

Waiting for His kids to understand the Cross was the very best He could offer to exchange our wayward and distant heart for His limitless love.

He longs to be with us and waits to be invited.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Revelation 3:20)

God will not force Himself into this relationship. It’s on my terms, not His. It’s all about my willingness to open the door, set a place at the table, pull out a chair and invite Him to sit with me.

And it makes His heart very happy when I do. Just like it makes me happy when Jon decides he wants to be with me.

Unconditional love hopes.

“Maybe today will be the day.”

Unconditional love never gives up.

“Not today? OK, then maybe tomorrow?”

Unconditional love reaches.

“Whether you want me or not, I’ll always love you.”

Unconditional love waits.

“I’ll still be here when you return.”

 

Isaiah 49:15 -16 ““Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Jeremiah 3:14 “ You are unfaithful children, but you belong to me. Come home!”

Luke 3:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Saying Goodbye

We said goodbye to our dear friend, Harold, recently. He left this earth to take up residence in his eternal home.

It’s hard to say goodbye.tree

In my saddened state, I’ve been thinking about death, as we are prone to do when someone we love passes from this earth.

Why is it so hard for us? Why does it rattle us to our very core? We all know death comes. Not one of us escape it.

Yes, I understand the separation and loss, the vast empty place the removal of someone who was so much a part of us creates. But it seems our struggle with death is even deeper than those things.

And it is. Because death was never in God’s original plan for us.  He originally created man to live forever in a perfect body on a perfect earth. In the deep places of our being, we know we were never meant to taste death or experience it.

God told the first man and woman, “Don’t eat of that tree, if you do you will die.” He offered choice. And they chose to listen to the lie. They ate and the journey of life to death on this earth began (Read Genesis 2:15-3:24).

I used to wonder why I should suffer for what the first man and woman did. That was their choice not mine. It’s like the school teacher punishing the entire class for the behavior of one child.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

God hardly seemed fair in dolling out sin curses for generations to come when I never had a chance to decide whether I would take a bite from that fruit or not. If I was in The Garden I would have chosen to do the right thing.

But would I? Would any of us? Do we now?

How many times have I chosen my will over God’s, exalting my selfish desires over His, justifying what looks good to me over His perfect best? I wish I could say never, but the truthful answer is, I’ve lost count.

So God knew man would choose death. He knew it when he created us but did it anyway just as we take the risk of having a child with no guarantee of the outcome. It’s done from of a heart of love. We sacrifice for that child to have every advantage, every good choice and our heart breaks if they choose a path leading to their downfall, hurt or destruction.

But thank God, we are not left stranded, without hope, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19 & 21).

God came to our planet, took on a flesh suit and became like us to provide a way back to immortality and perfection. He became one of us to rescue us from eternal death. He made a way of escape from the ravages of sin and death through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, who was nailed to a tree. For you. For me.

Death started and ended with a tree.

The choice returns, but the subtle injection of doubt continues through time. “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). Do we believe in Jesus or do we continue to believe the lie, the illusion, the trick that we can be our own god, that we can still eat the fruit of a life apart from Him and suffer no consequences?

We all die physically and leave this planet, but believing the truth of who Christ is and what He did for us, assures us that is not the end, only a transition to a new life; the beautiful and glorious life we were always meant to have.

We’ve had to say goodbye to our friend for now, but hope comes in knowing I will see him again when it’s my turn to leave here. Maybe instead of goodbye, I should just say,

“See ya’ later, Harold. Save me a seat on that bench. Underneath The Tree of Life.”bench

1 Corinthians 15:26 ” The last enemy to be abolished is death.’

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

                                                                                                        photos courtesy of picjumbo.com