26 October, 2015

I See You

Recently, I've been looking through old family photos and laughing a lot!  Yikes, we all thought we looked SO good back in the day.  Organizing old photos is a never-ending project and as life has become a bit hectic I've been delayed in completing this task.  However, in the last few weeks some of these photos have come into my mind at the strangest times.  And one in particular has captured my minds eye.  (You have my permission to laugh!  And yes, that's me.)
Kathy with neighborhood friend, circa 1965 

I was a little girl full of laughter, joy and mischievousness, it seems.  And a little girl with a really bad haircut! (Thanks Mama).  Anyway, I was a bit overweight as I grew up, I was never the most popular girl or the most accomplished.  My grades were average, my talent minimal but I knew my family loved me.  There were the usual pains of growing up.  There was a bit of unusual family dynamics perhaps but it was just my little life and all I knew to be true.

So why, oh why, would my mind's eye reflect back to this photo in recent days?  I'm a very middle-aged woman, years removed from childhood but yet....my mind's eye still sees this little girl as 'me'.  An awkward, often silly, not-too-cute, overweight girl...how can this image still be alive inside me? 

Years ago, I attended a Walk to Emmaus.  The weekend experience is one of soul-searching, laughter and new friends.  In one exchange, a new friend told me, "I wish you could see yourself as others see you".  And today, I say to me and to you....I wish we could see ourselves as Christ sees us. For I daresay, some of you reading these words have your own pictures in your head.  You have words and images trapped inside your mind that define you today.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”Genesis 16:7-10, 13 (NIV)

How can we apply this story of Hagar to our today lives? 

We are Hagar and on the run.  Yet, the angel of the Lord seeks us out of our hiding places.  The God of the Universe seeks you and me.  Did you read that?  The God of the Universe seeks us out!  He finds us in our places of hiddenness, those places we go when we hurt the most whether they are inside our heads or a physical location like Hagar chose.  He comes looking for us.  And upon finding us, he asks the most gentle and compelling question of us, 'where have you come from, and where are you going?'

He knows the answers to the questions he asks.  So why ask?  He knows the pictures we hold in our heads.  He knows the lies we tell ourselves.  He knows the hopes and dreams inside each of us...yet, He asks.  Why?  Is He asking so that we realize why we run?  Does He ask so we will speak aloud our own hurts and distorted images?  Is this the way healing can begin?

For me, He asks so that I realize again that He alone knows my past and my future going.  He alone SEES me and has me...and you.  And He seeks us in order to redeem, reframe and renew us.  He sought out Hagar to comfort her, love her and set her on her path to blessings and mission.  And so He does for us.  I feel like He's saying....I see you, I see your pain and questions.  I know your heart and I know the blessings that await you.  Get up, I see you.  Get up, and walk with Me where the blessings are too numerous to count.  And oh yes, open your eyes and see Me.

08 October, 2015

Light In Her Words

In the last few weeks, I've been up early and exercising.  For me this is a huge accomplishment as early mornings and exercising are not on my favorites list.  My list would be something like mid-morning and pancakes...but I digress!  This morning Ray and I were leaving to walk at 5:30 a.m. with flashlight in hand as its pretty dark at this hour.  This morning as we were walking down the driveway the sky was brilliant with the light of the moon and one very bright star.  We commented on it and the beauty.  But soon put on our headphones and begin the 30 minute route.  As we walked, the streetlights gave us a lot of light and the flashlight was turned off.  But well into our walk it was still quite dark and I was very focused on my steps, my feet, curbs, newspapers, sidewalk bumps and the like.  It was important that I keep my eyes downcast to guard my steps.  I didn't want to fall or trip or in anyway hurt my body as I've had my share of broken arms, injured knees, feet and back....so yes, I'm oh, so careful on dark mornings (and honestly, I was thinking 'Ray, turn on the flashlight!!').  I need to see.

I have a friend from China who sees clearly.  We've grown close through months of just being friends - sharing meals, sharing tea, attending English class, learning together in Bible study - just living life.  She arrived in Tuscaloosa with limited knowledge of God.  She's a scholar, she's a searcher and she recently became a Christ-follower.  And she's not looking down and trying to find her safe path but she's looking up!  Read her recent Facebook post about temples in China. (Use grace as you read and remember that English is her second language).
"These fabulous temples are located in several different cities of China. As you see, they are all very historical beautiful gorgeous standing in the most pretty places of the cities. People believes there is someone are blessing their life in somewhere.So they humbled their self and worshiped every temple when they met and heard in China. But they really confused about which temple is the real one who blessing them all the way. What they can do is stop by every single temple to appreciate and thank as well as donate in every way they can. They are eager to connect and approach to God in their deep soul, more like Jesus never let one go a wrong way. We pray for these who never have a chance to know God and HIS words. Praying God keep working on them and giving them the opportunity to have eternal life."
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light." Luke 8: 16-18 

I need to see up and out! I need to see a larger world,  I want to have eyes that see past my own feet.  I want to see past my own road. I want to see past my own hurts but so often I'm focused on my needs, my fear, my way of life.  But today in the darkness, I heard a whisper that nudged me to look up.  Look up to the bright sky.  Look up and see those around you.  Look up and away from your own life, your own pain, your own path.  You don't need others to turn on the flashlight for you.  The Light shines in you and through your pain!

And regarding those idols mentioned above, China is not the only country with idols.  What are our idols?  What do we look to that offers a false light and a temporary hope?  Is it our children?  Is it our grandchildren?  Are we living for them and their needs and happiness?  Is it a career?  Is it past success and social importance?  Maybe the message I heard this morning was to look deeply into my own light-needing life and truly SEE; then take that sight into the world of those truly hungry and searching.

Isn't this Light I crave above and beyond my little path?