How well are you known?

Lord, You have probed me, You know me; You know when I sit and stand; You understand my thoughts from afar.  You sift through my travels and my rest; With all my ways You are familiar.  Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord You know it all.  Psalm 139:1-4

Have you ever sat in a quiet place, perhaps beneath the stars in the dead of night or under the blanket of the suns warmth near a creek or a lake and just wandered how well God knows YOU?

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite Psalms.  I could sit and meditate on this Psalm for hours, bathing in God’s presence as He probes me.  Of course, there may be days I don’t want God to probe me but He does.

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I have struggled with seeing God as a God who judges and disciplines.   Viewing God in this light and reflecting on Psalm 139, can be a little bit of a fear factor – seeing God as someone who knows every nook and cranny of my being.  Someone who knows my thoughts, my actions, and my feelings even before I do. What does He think when He sees my ugliness, my sinfulness?  Does He judge me then?  Does He nod His head and say, “there she goes again?”  When I first read Psalm 139, this was my reaction.

Oh no, God knows what I was thinking when I saw Betsy Sue take the last piece of that delicious cake and I’m going to have to go to confession.

God may see the ugly thoughts I have and all my sins but where I find the AWESOME SAUCE in this Psalm, is that God knows me so well that He guides me through life.

I think sometimes we don’t realize this until we go through something major in our lives and we see God’s hands guiding our steps and those around us.  In some cases, we may not see it in the midst of what is going on in our life but it’s revealed to us later.  Other times, it may be something simple, something we read or see.

One day, I was humored when my daughter was reading a daily devotion that spoke directly to her with something she was dealing with that day.  She paused and looked at me and said “how does He do that? How does He know what I was going to be dealing with today?  Did He swap the pages?”  I often wonder this exact thing when I read something that speaks directly to me about what I have been dealing with.  Often it is in a devotion or opening the Word of God and reading scripture.

After reading Psalm 139, I’m not sure why I am ever surprised when God speaks directly to me or guiding me.  After all, He knows exactly what is on my mind, what is in my heart.  I could give testimony after testimony on where I have seen God’s hands guiding my life.

This my dear friends is where surrender and a journey of trust begins.  It’s seeing God’s presence in your life, seeing His hands guiding you, reading something that speaks to your heart because He knows what is on your mind and in your heart.

Wherever you are in life, “even there [His] hand guides [you], [His] right hand holds [you] fast.” (Psalm 139:10)  “[Your] days were shaped, before [you] came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Are you ready to surrender and trust your God who knows you better than you know yourself?  Are you willing to allow Him to guide you along the path that He has already mapped out for you?

Tauren Wells says it so well in his song Known…. “It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known fully known and loved by You.”

Eye of the storm – revealing God’s presence

“You have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.” Psalm 71:6

Have you seen the hands of God throughout your life?  Have you seen Him carrying you in a moment, in a circumstance, through your lifetime?  Have you ever sat down and written your spiritual biography, spiritual journey, from childhood?  From the moment you first remembered God?

Perhaps it’s a good exercise.  And you may uncover moments that God was there and at the time you just didn’t see Him or feel Him.  Many of us don’t open up to an awareness of God until later in our lives.  If you really sit down and review your life, I’m sure He will reveal Himself to you in a moment when you needed Him but you didn’t realize that He was right beside you – catching your tears, embracing you with a hug, removing you from a situation that wasn’t healthy or was dangerous, or just paving a path for the successes in your life by guiding your choices in accordance with His will.

I once read a testimony written by a lady and the image she described of God’s presence is one I can relate to living in the south near the Gulf of Mexico and in my own testimony.  She painted the picture of a storm, a hurricane to be exact.  If you know much about hurricanes, you know that one side is very windy, one side is very wet and rainy and the center is calm – no wind and no rain.

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Life is kind of like the hurricane, it can get very windy and rainy.  The storm will rage but in the center, God is there waiting for us.  He never leaves the storm, never steps away from our life.  He’s there in the calm, in the center of it all.  The outer realms of the hurricane doesn’t necessarily have to be a trial or struggle your going through, it could just be the craziness of life.  God is right in the center waiting for you to meet Him there.

When I think about this center, I think about the core of my being.  Deep within me is where God is waiting for me.  This center is where His will and my will align, where my heart and His love align, where the graces are poured out upon my life, where the strength is renewed and refreshed, where my joy radiates.  There is no room for fear there, no room for anger, unforgiveness, anxiety, selfishness.  Those are on the outer realms.  They are the windy, rainy layers of my being.  The more I go to this center, the more in touch of who I truly am, who I was truly created to be before I was “formed in my mother’s womb.”

There are so many things that go on in our outer circles of us that influence where we are in a moment in time.  These environmental affects involve people, events, circumstances.  Sometimes they can really influence the winds and the rain of our being.  They can really stir up the storm.  These are the moments I think we don’t see God in our life.  It isn’t until we go to that “eye of the storm,” the core of our soul that we see God and what He has done in our life or is doing in our life.

I recently had to look back on my life and uncover a place that I never want to go back to.  Although it was painful, it strengthened my faith and my trust in God.  Looking back I could see that it was only through the grace of God, His strength present in the center of my storm, the center of my being, that brought me out of this place to a place of love and joy.

One of the things I notice when I go back to my past is that it isn’t until I was open to seeing God that I went into the center and allowed Him to align my path to the journey He had prepared for me.  Although He was there, as long as I stayed in the circumstance of the storm, the outer layers, I didn’t see Him.  It was when I was ready to go deeper within me that I became aware of God’s presence and allowed Him to pull me to a place that aligned with His will for me.  I think this is where our faith grows to a deeper level in our relationship with God.  It is this realization that opens us up to surrender and trust in God in our life.  This reality proves that He is and always has been with us and cared for us.

Have you faced your Goliath today?

“…it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.  For the battle belongs to the Lord who shall deliver you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47

I’m sure that everyone has heard the story of David and Goliath as a child. We each probably thought it was an awesome story of courage and strength and deep within wanted to be someone like David.

Have you ever asked yourself if it was David’s precision that knocked Goliath to the ground and allowed him to kill Goliath or was it David’s faith, strength and courage from God that precisely brought Goliath tumbling down so that David could kill him?

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We know the rock that David used was the impacting action that brought Goliath to the ground and we know that the rock had to hit Goliath at the precise location.  These were the physical actions that we see happen.   The underlying spiritual actions that had to take place were definitely God’s presence within David to give him the courage and the skill to accomplish His Will in freeing His people from the Philistines.

Four things David had to do to free the Israelites from the Philistines by conquering the bully:

  1. Believe God existed
  2. Trust God
  3. Surrender to God
  4. Answer God’s call by acting

There are a lot of Goliath’s in this world.  They come in many different forms.  Your Goliath may be a mountain that you have to climb, a fear you have to face, a person who is bullying you, someone who has controlled the world around you, financial debt or an illness you are struggling with?  It can be anything that is preventing you from being free, anything weighing you down, taunting you.

These Goliath’s in our lives bind us by telling us we aren’t good enough, we are weak, we are too small, we are powerless, we will never beat what we are dealing with, and the list goes on.

When we are faced with our own Goliath, we feel weak and alone.  We may even retreat into hiding just like the Israelites became frightened and retreated in 1 Samuels 17.

The good news is that there is a David within each of us that can crush any Goliath in the way.  And just like David, we are victorious through our belief in our Heavenly Father, trust, surrender and answering His call in our circumstance, for great is our glory in God’s victory (Psalm 21:6).

When you are faced with your Goliath today or tomorrow, remember that “the Lord is [your] strength and [your] might (Isaiah 12:2)” and you are never alone for God is with you always.  “When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you (Isaiah 43:2).”

“Face [your] GIANTS with confidence (Confidence, Sanctus Real)”  today with faith in a God who loves you, and trusting and surrendering to His Will.

Broken and shattered – reshaped in goodness

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

Does your life feel broken and shattered or may be it has at some point in your life?  Perhaps, you have a close friend or family member who feels broken and shattered?

It so easy to tell you there is hope.  All you have to do is trust God and He will make everything new, that His goodness will prevail.  Instead of spending one minute telling you this, I would like to share a little piece of my story that reveals this hope, this newness that comes from trusting God.

I recently took a road trip with my daughters.  I find road trips can be very awesome times with God, especially when everyone in the car is sleeping.  As I was driving along the uninteresting interstate, I found myself reflecting on my life as my playlist was rolling through.  As some of the older songs in my playlist were playing, I began to reflect on a few significant moments in my life.  I tend to like these moments of reflection on my past because they reveal how far God has carried me and how far I have grown in my faith through my past.  In some cases, it helps me to move another step forward.

As the song by Matt Maher, “Lord I need you,” began to play, my mind became very vivid reflecting on the very day I first heard this song.  This day would be one of the most difficult days in my adult life as I was driving to see my counselor with my daughters to tell them that their daddy and I would no longer be together.  I had made a decision that would change their lives forever.  My heart was broken and my life seemed to be shattered as I heard the song playing in my car that day.

When the song came on, tears just streamed from my eyes.  In that moment, I really needed God to be with me.  I needed Him to guide my heart so that I would not fall apart.  I was so broken during this period of time that falling apart seemed so easy.  This would be one of the many moments during my journey where God revealed His presence to me, giving me strength that I would need.  He knew I needed Him at that moment in the car and there is no coincidence this song came on.  He wanted me to know that I needed Him to get through this and that He was holding my hand.

This wasn’t the only song that sparked reflection for me on my road trip.  A little further down my playlist was a song by Danny Gokey, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  As a dear friend recently reminded me, this song also speak volumes to my story.  One of the hardest things I think I have had to do during my healing is to forgive myself and to love myself.  God taught me a lot about myself and He began to lead me down a path of healing as He began to mold the shattered pieces and glue my brokenness.  Sometimes I still see the scars and the broken path and I’m reminded where I have been.  This is who I use to be and it has been through the loving hands of God that I was carried through to the person I am today.  I no longer “live there anymore.”  It was His grace and companionship in this journey with me that helped me to persevere.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my adult life is that sometimes we shatter.  It’s in the shattered pieces that God reshapes our lives into something new and good.  It’s not easy being reshaped but it’s essential and possible.  It is made possible through trust, trusting God with the shattered pieces.

If you are feeling broken and shattered or someone you know is, surrender your brokenness, the shattered pieces, to God.  Allow Him to reshape you into the one He created you to be.

Beauty – hidden within

Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

What comes to mind when you think something is beautiful?  What are the aesthetic qualities that define beauty to you?  What do you think God’s definition of beauty is?

There is external beauty and there is internal beauty.  The world teaches us that external beauty is prominent.  We see this in everything – from material things to the runway.  Our society thrives on beauty.  It is in one’s desire for beauty, for ornate things, that floods the financial market of commercialism.  Many of us want more or do more to beautify our outer appearance, our homes, our mode of transportation, the list goes on. 

What is true beauty? 

What does the beauty of the soul look like?

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In 1 Peter 3:3-4, God sees us not as an external adornment, with beautiful hair, fine jewelry and clothing, but He sees the internal character of each of us, hidden in our heart.  The beauty He sees is that “of a gentle and calm disposition.”  We are “precious in the sight of God.”  We are “more precious than corals.” (Proverbs 3:15)

My daughter may define this as those people who are simply not fake.  I personally define it as those who are genuine in kindness, gentleness and love, in essence – “not fake.” 

The beauty of a woman, unlike the beauty of nature, is not revealed through her outward appearance.  She is made beautiful through her very essence of her character.  It is how she carries her crosses, how she responds to those in need, how she humbles herself, how she pours out into another with love and kindness, how she comforts another.  Her beauty is how she clothes herself internally verses externally.

This weekend, I had the greatest pleasure of being a part of an amazing retreat experience with almost 100 women.  It is amazing to see the beauty of God transform a person throughout a retreat weekend.  It is even more amazing to see the beauty of a team going above and beyond, serving and using their gifts to pour out the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit into each person as if they were the only soul at the retreat. 

I personally have struggled through the years in my life with outward beauty.  Always trying to achieve what I thought others saw as beauty.  What I have learned, through the definition of beauty defined by God and the retreat, is that my smile coupled with serving others with the gifts God has given me defines my beauty, inwardly and outwardly.  These two things pour out God’s love that is embedded within me and this love is the true beauty.  My love revealed through outward actions is the internal character hidden within my heart.  My smile is the adornment on the outside that is the inward joy as a result of my faith and trust in a God that will always deliver His goodness no matter the trial or circumstance.

Because the world tells us that beauty is defined by external adornment, we spend a lot of time, money and energy to fulfill this form of beauty.  When we feel we do not measure up to this form of beauty, we feel ugly, unworthy and not valued.  This is the lie that we are told and we believe. 

The true beauty is planted within and is waiting to sprout out through your outpouring onto others.  It is through your faith and love of God that reveals your true beauty, clothing you in His majestic beauty.

I invite you to think about your inward beauty.  Is this the beauty you are revealing to the world externally?  Let the world see your true beauty, the beauty hidden within that is waiting to sprout outwardly.