Monday, June 18, 2018

Who Do They See~

His words broke my heart.

Partly because I have been in his shoes,
but mostly,
mostly because I could only imagine
how this whole scenario
must have broken the heart of Jesus, Himself.

Mean people and Jesus followers -
all mixed up,
professing to be one and the same.

A grown man,
he told the story of growing up in church.
How each week his Sunday School teacher
scolded him,
pointed out every wrong thing he was doing,
and told him
if he didn't straighten up,
he was going to Hell.

One day she added,
"What's wrong with you, boy?
Don't you want to be with Jesus?
Don't you want to go to Heaven?"

A mere six year old,
he lowered his face to the ground
and shook his head, "no".

The teacher was appalled.

"You don't want to go to Heaven?
How could you not want to go to Heaven?"

This young boy,
with all the innocence and honesty
his heart could muster into words,
looked up at this "woman of God" and replied,
"Well, you're going to be there, right?
I, uh well, I just don't want to be there.
I don't think I would like it there
with you and Jesus,
especially with no way to leave
or ever go home."

And, who could blame him
for coming to this conclusion,
for deciding if Jesus was anything like this woman,
he didn't want anything to do with Heaven,
or anything to do with Jesus?

as a child,
most of the people who told me about Jesus,
not only talked about Him,
but walked out the beauty and love of Him
in their lives.

as an adult, however,
this hasn't always been the case.
Those professing to be Jesus followers,
those serving in His name,
those called into ministry,
have been some of the most un-Christlike people
I have known.

If they were the only view I had of Jesus,
if they were all that I glimpsed of His character and heart,
if they were who I thought Jesus was like,
just like this young boy,
I wouldn't want anything to do with
Jesus or Heaven, either.

Especially not forever and ever and ever and ever.

Mean people and Jesus followers -
all mixed up,
professing to be one and the same.

And, I sit here thinking of me.

What is it that people see when they watch my life?

How is this Jesus I talk about
being conveyed to their hearts?

Am I truly showing them
the fullness of who He is?

Or, am I a deterrent?

Is the way I live my life
causing people to turn tail and run
as far away from God
as they can go?

Am I drawing others to God
or pushing them away?

Whether we like it or not,
whether we admit it or not,
whether we are even aware of it or not,
the salvation of others -
to a large extent -
depends on us
unwrapping this,
unpacking this,
digesting this,
pondering this,
remembering this,
and then,
living out the truth and beauty of who God is
in our day to day living
of our every day lives.

Who do others see
when they see me?

When they see you?

May it be Christ
and Christ alone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Just Passing Through~

"You just weren't made for this world, Beautiful."

each time my man would wipe my tears,
wrap his arms around me,
and say these words to me,
it always replaced some of the
feel-so-out-of-place feelings
with thoughts of
"I think you might be right, Handsome."

almost as if he knew what I was thinking
he would add,
"You know I'm right.
None of us were  made for this world.
It's just some of us
have adapted to this world
a little easier and a little better
than others.
But you - no,
you definitely weren't made for this world."

He was the one who
always stayed up-to-date with world happenings,
was constantly in the know about this and about that,
was hip,
was in tune,
was connected.
Now, without my connecting to the world
by connecting to it
through him,
I really feel out of sorts.

Tonight, as I sat in the still of our living room,
I heard myself say out loud to God,
"I'm just not wise in the ways of the world, Lord.
I'm just not.
I just don't have any interest in the things
most people are so interested about.
I just don't."

I was reminded of the words of my husband,
and as I was,
it was almost as if God came along
right behind the memory
and seconded the motion.

"It's OK, sweet girl.
To be wise in the ways of the world
isn't necessarily true wisdom.
To be investing your time and your energy
in what the world views as important
isn't necessarily a wise investment.
To be caught up in the opinions of others
and gaining the approval of man,
isn't necessarily the opinions or approval that matter.
To be rich in worldly possessions
isn't necessarily to be rich at all."

And, then
I remembered these precious words
God placed in front of me last week
as I was leaning in to hear
what He might want me to share
at an upcoming speaking engagement.

Thus says the Lord:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
exercising lovingkindness,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight," says the Lord.
~Jeremiah 9:23-24

"You know Me, sweet girl.
Each day as we walk together,
you are getting to know Me more.
This is what matters most.
Don't worry about the other.

Choose to know Me.

Make this your life pursuit.
Make this your ambition and passion.
Make this be what you
talk about,
write about,
study about,
invest in,
walk in,
live in.

And then,
share Me with everyone you meet
so they, too,
can choose to know Me."

"You just weren't made for this world, Beautiful."

No - no, I don't think I was.
And that is more than fine with me.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Mark of Time~

I'm sure you've probably seen them.
Markings on a wall,
tiny nicks on a wood pole,
the measuring of years and inches
in a child's life.

Each time it's time to "measure up" again,
there is definitely something to document.
Each year, the mark noticeably higher
than the year before.

And, I've been thinking
what it might look like,
if somehow, someway
we were to mark off our spiritual growth.

How do you measure this kind of growing up?

And I guess the greatest question of all:
If we did,
if we could,
would there be something to document?
Would there be significant space
between each of our marks?

Is our faith walk noticeably different today
than it was
10 years ago,
1 year ago,
1 month ago,
1 week ago,
1 day ago,
one hour ago?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
forgive us and redeem us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
mold us and shape us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
change us and re-arrange us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
heal us and mend us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
free us and restore us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
calm us and refresh us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
love us and fulfill us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
guide us and lead us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
empower us and equip us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
call us and send us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
consume us and overtake us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
be Jesus in every area of our life?

Does our life show it?

Does our faith reveal it?

Do our actions reflect it?

Do our choices prove it?

How do you and I "measure up"
when it comes to growing up
in Christ?

Just something God has me thinking about today.
And maybe now,
something He has you thinking about, too.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Well, That Was Awkward~

Is there anything more awkward than life?

(Even death,
with the awkwardness it brings
is really just a part of life, too.)

I don't know about you,
but anytime anyone knocks on my door
(especially when I'm not expecting anyone -
and honestly - even sometimes when I am!)
awkward usually shows up.

And yesterday,
(when only a few short minutes
after arriving home from my morning walk,
I heard someone knocking on my door),
was no exception.

Looking through the peep hole
I was more than sure
I had no idea who this "knocker" was.
And, because I didn't know him,
I had no intention of opening my door to him.

But, my not opening the door
didn't keep him from knocking.
And, waiting.
And, knocking again.
And, waiting.
Minute after minute after minute.

It was during one of these waiting moments,
that his phone rang.
After a short conversation,
he was back to knocking,
but not only that.
This time when he knocked,
he called out my name.

"S t a c y?"
"S t a a a a c y."

This was getting more awkward by the moment.

To open the door or not to open the door?
This was the huge question.

Covered head to toe in sweat
from my morning walk,
I quickly went to the bedroom,
changed into a fresh t-shirt
and came back to the door -
only to discover he was (finally!) gone.

It was at this exact moment,
I received a text from my next door neighbor
letting me know their 20 something year old son
was climbing the tree in my backyard
attempting to get a cat
belonging to the neighbors
who lived behind them.

And, that's when it hit me.

The man at my door was the owner of the cat.
This man lived behind the neighbors who live beside me.
Having recently moved into our neighborhood,
I had seen his wife and two daughters
out in their backyard,
but never him.

Yep - this whole situation
had awkward written all over it.

I made my way outside to
where all the action was -
over by the tree,
in the far corner,
where our three yards converge.

As the young man scrambled his way
around in my tree
trying to get his hands on this runaway cat,
I scrambled around in my mind,
trying to get my thoughts on the right way
to apologize to this new neighbor.

Before I could mutter a word, though,
the wife of the man who had been at my door blurted out,
"I am so, so, SO sorry our cat is in your tree.
I feel so bad about all of this."

Awkward was obviously having a heyday with her, too.

"Oh, no!" I tried to assure her. "Don't worry about it.
I'm the one who needs to apologize.
I'm so sorry I didn't open my door.
My husband always counseled me to never open
the door to anyone I didn't know.
I had no idea he was your husband."

"Well, we're sorry our dogs 
chased your cat up into her tree."
This from the neighbors who lived beside me
and had texted me about the whole incident
going down in my backyard.

Evidently, awkward was on a roll
and had scored a triple play this day.

Finally, the cat was retrieved
and handed over to his owners.
And, eventually, the young man made his way 
back out of my tree.
We all smiled, 
and nodded our heads at each other
as if to say "All righty, then"
as we all headed back inside.
No doubt, all of us relieved
this awkward incident was over.

What is it about awkward 
that makes it so very awkward?

I think it all boils down to this:
Awkward reminds us of our humanness.

Awkward catches us in the moment,
without a script,
without a dress rehearsal,
without a plan,
without a facade.

It - like almost nothing else -
levels the playing field 
and brings us face to face with
our flaws,
our insecurities,
our social ineptness,
all the while reminding us 
of the total unpredictability of life.

Awkward reminds us we are not in control -
ever -
no matter how hard we try,
or how much we think we might be.

Awkward is awkward because
it is the truest, most vulnerable times of life,
and reveals to us 
the truest, most vulnerable places of ourselves.

And, who likes or enjoys that?!

(Now, even this post is getting awkward, isn't it?)

if we let it -
awkward can be a good thing.

After all,
it was this awkward incident
that brought my neighbors and me
into conversation with each other
in the very seldom (if ever) visited
back corners of our yards.

It was this awkward incident
that reminded me
(and maybe them - 
and maybe even you, too)
we are not the only ones
going through life feeling awkward.

The whole world -
no matter how hard people try to convince us otherwise -
is struggling with the awkwardness of life.

Maybe if we stopped to realize this,
our stress level would drop significantly.

Maybe if we were more aware of the awkwardness of others,
we would be more inclined to 
offer words of compassion,
instead of words of condemnation, guilt, or shame.

Maybe is we took a minute to remember
others are feeling just as awkward as us,
we would stop competing with each other
and start working together to complete each other.

If a cat needing to be rescued from a tree
can bring three neighbors together 
(albeit in a most awkward way),
why can't a whole world 
needing to be rescued from sin
and from itself,
bring all of us together?
(no matter how awkward 
it might sometimes be
or how awkward
it might sometimes get).

We are all in this life together.
And, its awkward.

And yet,
every time we put down our facade and are real,
every time we let our humanness draw us together,
every time we come together for the common good,
we catch a glimpse of God.

We understand deeper our need of each other,
and our need of God.

Is there anything more awkward than life?

Only you and I trying to live life
as though it isn't.

The cat in the tree incident -
definitely awkward.

This post -
a little awkward, too.

Me -
from having worked my way through both, 
all the more human
all the more aware of my need of my Heavenly Father,
and all the more aware of my need to
let go of my worries,
let go of my insecurities,
let go of my social ineptness
and instead help those around me
through this awkward journey called life.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from his love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy 
by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other,
loving one another,
and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don't be selfish;
don't try to impress others.
Be humble,
thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don't look out only for your own interests,
but take an interest in others, too.
~Philippians 2:1-4

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stepping Into His~

I feel paralyzed.

I didn't state it as simply and as matter-of-factly as that,
but this -
this is was what my heart was trying to communicate,
without coming right on out and saying it.

Sitting at a table of ladies
who each had suffered loss in their own way,
we were sharing prayer requests.

My turn:
"Please pray I can find my direction
and my place in life."

No, this spoken prayer request didn't exactly cut to the chase,
but it's hard enough
to cut to the chase with yourself sometimes,
much less a handful of others.

"Without my husband here
to help me,
to bounce ideas off of,
to cheer me on,
and to pray for me and with me,
I feel scared (now this - this statement was raw, honest truth).
I feel like I don't have anyone to help me.
I really need for God to show me what to do and how to do it."

From the words of her prayer,
it was obvious the leader of our group
had heard so much more than my spoken request,
(Sometimes, I think we are only fooling ourselves,
but that's a whole different post for a whole different day),
and I left our time together
with a deep sense of peace.

And yet,
despite her prayer and the peace it had brought,
for the rest of that day,
and the day after that,
and the next two days after that even -
my mind was stuck on "repeat'.

Over and over I kept having a deja vu like moment.
I would see myself sitting at that table
and I would hear myself saying that one phrase:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

Then, last night,
while I was watching a Bible teaching on TV,
it all came full circle.
And in a matter of seconds,
it was as if the Holy Spirit took me
from lying on my couch
to lying by the pool of Bethesda.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition for a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me."

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked.
~John 5:2-9

I had heard this story ever since I was a little girl,
but for the first time ever,
here I was
in the starring role.

I was the paralyzed man.

And, here was Jesus,
precious Jesus,
standing right before me,
asking me if I wanted to be healed.

Just like the paralyzed man,
instead of replying with the obvious "yes",
I heard my own words spoken at that table:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

How precious is our Lord.

To both this paralyzed man that day,
and to me last night,
no words of rebuke
or anger or
"that's not what I asked you" or
"you should have tried harder or done more".

Only words that breathe new life.

"Rise, take up your bed, and walk."

Because, unlike any one else,
Jesus understands
the crippling,
"can't help yourself" grip of paralysis.

No doubt this man wanted to be healed.
For 38 years, (38 years!),
he had placed himself
as close as he could get
to his miracle.
Lying by the pool,
day after day,
waiting for the stirring of the water,
only to see the rippling,
than the stirring of all the other people racing to the pool,
while he was powerless to move even his big toe.

No matter how much this man wanted healing,
he physically could not
get himself up and into the water
on his own.

And, I do believe,
there are times in our life,
when we find ourselves completely unable to, too.

(and too many more to mention)

All of these can leave us
in a paralyzed condition.

All of these can leave us
feeling as though
our only hope,
our only way out,
our only escape is
through the help of someone else.

And often times,
we become so desperate
to find someone (anyone!) to help us,
we completely overlook
and totally miss
The One who is standing right in front of us.

The One who is not only near,
but who is generously and graciously
stepping right up to us and
extending His hand of help.

(Take a moment and go back a re-read this story.
The paralyzed man didn't call out to Jesus,
Jesus called out to him.)

"Do you want to be healed?"

If we do,
our healing isn't dependent 
on anything or anyone else other
than Jesus' offer
and our acceptance.

If we do,
all we need to do 
is rise.

To rise up in faith.
To rise up in His strength.
To rise up to new life in and through Him.

Notice, this man didn't waste any time
asking how
trying to figure out if,
he just immediately rose to the occasion.
Healing was finally within his reach
and he wasn't about to spend one more minute
in this paralyzed condition.

Why should he?
Why would he?

Can you imagine 
if the story line read like this:
Not sure how this would all turn out,
or if it was even possible,
the paralyzed man decided 
to forgo on Jesus' offer and opted instead
to continue waiting for the stirring of the water
and for someone to come along 
and help him get there in time.

That would be crazy.
That would be so sad.
That would be such a shame.

And, for the first time in my life,
I thanked God for this story,
and oh, how I longed to be able to thank this
paralyzed man
for choosing to step into God's strength.

And I realized,
all over again -
I didn't need
my man,
or anyone else to help me.

I had my God!

Yes, sometimes the events of life
find us pulled right out of what was normal,
and plopped down
smack dab in the middle
of a season that finds us
unusually motionless,
unusually helpless,
unusually waiting on
something or someone else to help us.

It's life.
It happens.

But, praise God,
Jesus is here.

Last night,
I had absolutely no doubt
He had seen me in this place,
in this condition,
in this paralyzed season.

I could see Him generously and graciously
stepping right up to me
and I could hear Him
offering His help.

"Do you want to be healed?

And, make no mistake about it;
He sees you, too.
He is generously and graciously
stepping up to you, too, and offering you His help.

I don't know how long you've been down for the count.
But, I do know this:
If a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years
can immediately 
rise, take his bed, and walk,
so can I,
and so can you.

It all comes down to this:

"Do you want to be healed?

rise, my child.
I will be the strength you need.
Let me do for you
what no one else can -
not even you.

Let Me set your life back in motion.

Let Me help you walk out your faith,
one step at at time.,
moment by moment,
day by day.

I am here.
I am all you need.

Rise, my child,

Friday, May 18, 2018

It's All in His Timing~

Some have his and her towels,
or his and her toothpaste,
or his and her pillows.

Here, in the Sanchez home,
we have his and her coffee cups.
And, I do mean cupS.

Not just one for him and one for me.
13 for him
and surprisingly enough -
13 for me.

(I told you - we have cupS.)

And while some might see 13
as an unlucky number,
to me -
several days ago,
13 was nothing short of beautiful.

To say our kitchen is tiny
doesn't even begin to convey
how very tiny it is.

Storage is almost non-existent.
And whenever my husband and I
were both in this little space together,
it always became a kind of two-step,
minus the music.
We would dance our way around each other
as we worked our way around our kitchen.

"So . . ."  you ask,
"Where might one keep
13 cups for him
and 13 cups for you
in a kitchen so tiny?"

It's a fair question.
And, it was a challenge, no doubt.

To help remedy this problem
(because we all know,
when you have a favorite cup -
or in our case,
13 favorites each -
getting rid of even one,
isn't an option),
my husband installed little hooks
underneath the cabinetry
above our kitchen sink area.

13 hooks to be exact.

And, it was on these hooks
that each of his cups proudly hung.

My cups found a home
which was far less than ideal:
stacked on top of each other
in a corner of our kitchen counter,
taking up precious counter space
that was already at a minimum to begin with.

Ideal or not,
this is how we rolled.
For 15 years, at least.

Until Sunday.

Dishes done,
I was wiping down the counters
when I spotted my cups.

Then this thought from out of the blue:
I sure wish I could find a place for my cups.

And for a reason I can't explain,
I turned my eyes upward to the hooks
where my husband's cups -
all 13 of them,
hung proudly still - even now,
two years after his passing,
untouched, unused,
collecting dust.

Then this thought
(that my heart could hardly believe
my mind was thinking):
I wonder if there are enough hooks
to house all of your cups?

And even more surprising than this thought,
was the way my heart chose to respond to it.
I guess we could count them and find out.

So, I did.
I counted the hooks.

I counted all of my cups.


Then this thought:
Do you think he would mind 
if we packed up his cups?
Not to give away.
Just to store away 
for a little while.

This time,
my heart responded more in character,
showing its true colors
as tears made their way down my cheeks.

Oh so gently, though, my head persisted.
What are the chances you both had 13 cups?
It seems like the perfect solution, doesn't it?
Let's go to the garage and see if we can find
a perfect box to store his cups in.

And, that's what I did.

Moments later found me
packing away "his",
and filling up the hooks
with "hers".

And in that moment,
13 became much more than a number to me.

It became a precious reminder of this precious truth:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
and a time to die.

A time to weep,
and a time to laugh.

A time to mourn,
and a time to dance.

A time to gain,
and a time to lose.

A time to keep
and a time to throw away.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
~Ecclesiastes 3: 1,2,4,6,11

Don't worry, honey.
You'll know.
When the time is right,
God will show you,
and you will know.

Words spoken to me
time and time again
over the past two years.

Words that now
are starting to prove true.

And, I'm coming to realize
there isn't a "right time"
or a "wrong time"
there is only
"in His time".

And if we will only
until it's time,
then move
when it is time,
the moving will still be hard,
but it will also feel right -
in a way that can't truly be explained.

And sometimes,
most times, in fact,
we will discover -
what starts out as something
as simple as his and her cups,
when led by the Spirit
and touched by God's hand,
turns into something
that brings healing and growth,
and a peace that passes all understanding.

And, if we let Him,
God can take all
that appears wrong in the world
(like the number 13
and even death itself)
and use it
in a most surprising and unbelievable way
to showcase His
and to remind us of His precious love.

And more than a clean kitchen,
and more than free, open space on my counter,
the blessing that blessed me most that day
was the unmistakable evidence
of a heart
continuing to heal.

All in His timing.