El Roi

There are many characters in the Bible with whom I can identify.

Moses doubted his call.
Jonah did not think life was fair.
Sarah tried to fix things on her own.
Abraham lied.
Gideon hid.

… we could do this all day.

I have a soft place in my heart for a woman in the book of Genesis who isn’t exactly heroine material. Hagar, the Egyptian handmaiden to Sarah. She’s a blip on the screen of the pages of time, and yet… in Hagar’s story we find a God who draws near to each of His children.

In Genesis 12 God promises Abraham that He will make him a great nation. One minor problem. Abraham (Abram) and his wife Sarah (Sarai) are well into their retirement and without a single child to call their own. But God not only makes a promise with Abraham, he makes a covenant. Time passes and Abraham and Sarah begin to wonder if maybe God needs a little bit of help. Read what happens:

Sarai, Abram’s wife, hadn’t yet produced a child.

She had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “God has not seen fit to let me have a child. Sleep with my maid. Maybe I can get a family from her.” Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.

So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took her Egyptian maid Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. Abram had been living ten years in Canaan when this took place. He slept with Hagar and she got pregnant. When Hagar learned she was pregnant, she looked down on her mistress.

Sarai told Abram, “It’s all your fault that I’m suffering this abuse. I put my maid in bed with you and the minute she knows she’s pregnant, she treats me like I’m nothing. May God decide which of us is right.”

“You decide,” said Abram. “Your maid is your business.”

Sarai was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away. (Genesis 16:1-6, MSG)

There are so many issues in those first six verses. Rather than trusting God in His timing, A & S move forward and make their own way. Hagar becomes pregnant, which is exactly what Sarah had wanted. So WHY is Sarah being abusive to Hagar? Perhaps jealousy, perhaps shame. I don’t know, but I do know what it feels like to be wrongly accused. Hagar was OBEYING her masters, and yet she is punished for that very obedience. Can you imagine how alone she must have felt? She was living in tents, caravanning with a family, so very far from her own people. I would have been devastated. Out of hurt Hagar fled to the desert. But notice that she did not journey alone.

An angel of God found her beside a spring in the desert; it was the spring on the road to Shur. He said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, what are you doing here?”

She said, “I’m running away from Sarai my mistress.”

The angel of God said, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.” He continued, “I’m going to give you a big family, children past counting.

From this pregnancy, you’ll get a son: Name him Ishmael;
for God heard you, God answered you.
He’ll be a bucking bronco of a man,
a real fighter, fighting and being fought,
Always stirring up trouble,
always at odds with his family.”

She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”

That’s how that desert spring got named “God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring.” That spring is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar gave Abram a son. Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave him his son, Ishmael. (Genesis 16:7-16, MSG)

The details of this story don’t indicate that Hagar lived a life where all of her dreams came true. In fact, after Sarah and Abraham finally had a son, Hagar was forced to flee to the desert. And once again, she doesn’t go alone.

One day Sarah saw the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, poking fun at her son Isaac. She told Abraham, “Get rid of this slave woman and her son. No child of this slave is going to share inheritance with my son Isaac!”

The matter gave great pain to Abraham—after all, Ishmael was his son. But God spoke to Abraham, “Don’t feel badly about the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you. Your descendants will come through Isaac. Regarding your maid’s son, be assured that I’ll also develop a great nation from him—he’s your son, too.”

Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs.

Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy and knows the fix he’s in. Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I’m going to make of him a great nation.”

Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink.

God was on the boy’s side as he grew up. He lived out in the desert and became a skilled archer. He lived in the Paran wilderness. And his mother got him a wife from Egypt. (Genesis 21:9-21)

In Hagar I learn of the God who sees me: El Roi. Look at the verbs hi-lighted above. The God who sees, hears, and answers Hagar is the same God who sees, hears, and answers each and every one of us. I don’t know if you are in a desert of hurt this week but I do know this, El Roi is with you every step of the journey. He has not forgotten you. He is on your side.

The Lord looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do. (Psalm 33:13-15, MSG)

Question: How often do I live/fear/pray as though God doesn’t see or hear me? 

Following,
Ginger

It is Good

I’m gushing this morning. I just can’t contain how high, how deep, how rich, how personal the Father’s love is for me… for you… for us. I feel like I took a deep breath and then swam the length of the pool twice and am now internally gasping. I can’t fit in any more air, but I know I need more.

Francis Chan in Crazy Love writes, If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can.

Foolish indeed.

For my can is full and I am brimming not just from feeding on the Word, but brimming from the fragments of His light that seem to pour into my life through the presence of His people. It’s been everything this week. It’s in opportunities bigger and greater than I could imagine. It’s found in the kindness of strangers, and the love of friends.

As I learn to check fear at the door I find that there is nothing, nothing that can keep us from realizing and seizing those works that He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) That power, that freedom, that belief is energizing to every aspect of life. As I drink my coffee and read a book, or speak to my grandmother on the phone, or sit in quietness as someone waits to hear about their mother in the hospital – there is seasoning to be found in it all.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message)

I can’t even put in words all that is stirring within me, but I know that He has gifted you. He has called and is calling to you. Shine on church. Let them taste and see. Open up.

I have tasted and it is good.

Following,
Ginger

Passion (not the fruit)

I spent ALL of last week on my adventure tangent.  The hope was that you would enter this fall/school year/semester/season full of renewed purpose, hope, energy, and passion!  I enjoyed reading through my old journals and remembering all of the random adventures the Lord has seen fit to take me on in these past few years.  Some (adventures) were taken willingly, while others I went crying all the way.  (For real.  Just ask my husband about the time I cried all the way through the grocery store.)

I received a pretty personal question last week.  I put off answering for a day or two because I knew the response was going to be a long one.  As much as I love writing, my head tends to work faster than my fingers can keep up.  So when I write something I’m passionate about it’s probably fairly comical to watch.  The question basically boiled down to “Do you have any practical advice on how to get started as a writer and a speaker?”

Short answer: I don’t really know how to do THIS.  I’m making it up as I go along!  I read a lot of books, blogs, watch conferences live, take notes, and say “yes” to just about every opportunity sent my way.

The long answer:  I think the first step in launching out into any dream career is determining your passion.  Identify THAT and you are already steps ahead of most of the adult world.  In my teens and early 20’s I felt paralyzed by passion.  I love and enjoy a lot of activities.  I could see myself happily employed in various avenues of the arts and education.  I didn’t know how to choose just one.  So rather than identify the outlet for my message, I began to think about the message that was burning inside of me.

Kevin East is the Senior Director of Camps for Pine Cove Christian Camps.  He is also a new voice in the blog world with great passion for leadership… he also happens to be someone I respect very much on a personal level.  He wrote a great post on blogging this summer that helped me to hone my own ministry vision in an even more specific way.  I want to encourage you to read the post and follow his blog, but I’ll summarize this particular post with one question:

What makes you angry?

Surprised by the simplicity?  I think I was.  After I recovered and read the rest of Kevin’s article I began a flurry of writing that gave me much needed direction and energy.

I answered his question [What makes you angry?] with the following:  An overwhelming number of young women seek attention from negative sources, derive their dreams from Hollywood, find identity in their appearance, and deem truth to be irrelevant.  This angers me.

THIS ANGERS AND IMPASSIONS ME.

Once I could identify my passion, I could more easily identify what my role might possibly be in God’s greater plan for redemption.

My goal/passion/mission: To encourage and sharpen young women to find their worth, identity, dreams and truth in the source of Jesus Christ.

Once that was established I considered the gifts God has given me in theatre and speaking, my high energy personality, my love for teens, and my desire to communicate God’s word in an exciting way and I knew that THAT was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

My husband and I made professional goals for each of us this year.  Mine included business cards, a website, at least 3 new speaking gigs, and a book manuscript complete by the end of the year.  These are pieces I can bite off and chew.  Since making those goals and praying over them God has somehow decided to give me even more than I could have asked for!  (He’s so good at that.)

I don’t know what next month will look like.  Sometimes writing a blog isn’t overly encouraging.  I don’t get immediate feedback.  90% of readers don’t comment.  Some days I feel like I’m speaking to no one – putting hours into something so that my family can read it.  (Hi mom!)  But every once in a while I get a comment or an e-mail that reminds me WHY I am doing this.  And sometimes, it IS one of my family members. :)  I love that God is using my ramblings to reach teens, women, and even men of all ages.  I welcome it!  But I don’t do this because I like it (although I most certainly do!), but because I am called to it and compelled by Him.

“Once God decides something needs to be done, it is never a matter of if… The issue is usually who?  Who will step forward, embrace the vision, and move ahead by faith?” – Andy Stanley

My husband said this to me sometime in May when I was feeling especially discouraged: “Church has them for one hour a week.  The world gets the rest.  That’s what you’re up against.”

I get excited and impassioned when I envision women who:
-Read the Word
-Respect their bodies
-Abandon comparison
-Find belonging, acceptance, identity, and redemption in Christ alone
-Embrace real life

I’m learning as I go.  I still fail.  But He seems content to use my failures for HIS glory.

I don’t understand why or how – I only know that once the vision is set- the rest is just details.  If you know the WHAT He is calling you to – He always has the HOW to accomplish the task.  It’s all His anyway.

With love and joy and passion (still following),

Ginger

But if I say, “I will not mention him
or speak any more in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
  Jeremiah 20:9

Choices

“Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?” – Oswald Chambers

How do you make a decision when it feels like all options are positives?

Some decisions are easy. I will always choose Chick-Fil-A over almost any other fast food establishment. I will generally choose to go to bed before midnight. I will always choose to eat lunch. I’ve never been one of those people who just “forgot to eat.”

I’ve been reading in Genesis again. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each teach me something new every time I study their stories. My most recent read thru took me straight to Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28:15 where God says to Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” I recognize that Jacob had an incredible direct encounter with God and that the promise given to the Patriarchs was very specific.

Sometimes (most of the time) I wish that I could have an audible reassurance from God that I’m making the right choice.  There have been times where I really worried that my decisions might change the plans that God had for me.  What if I missed step three of the ten step process to get me to the next big thing?

I am comforted by the knowledge that nothing surprises our Father and (like we talked about yesterday) that His plans will always succeed.  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9, NIV

I am slowly learning to see every choice ahead as an opportunity to trust, rather than a chance to worry.

“God had made Abraham a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5) before Abraham had glimpsed a single descendant. Beloved, I wonder what God has already made you. Things that perhaps you’ve not even glimpsed, Believe God! Give him your entire being and walk one step at a time before His knowing gaze and with His sufficient strength.” (Beth Moore)

One step at a time. Sounds like a good plan to me. I’m so encouraged to know that the Lord will continue to provide opportunities to grow and learn as long as I have days to live. So no matter what I’m doing or where I am, I know that He will not leave me!  He will continue to finish His good work in me. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6, NLT

Following,
Ginger

The search for a verb.

I watched the Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire for the first time roughly a decade ago. It has since become my favorite movie of all time. I was struck by the story of Eric Liddell, missionary and athlete. At a pivotal point in the film, Eric must explain to his sister why he has chosen to run in the Olympics rather than travel to China to begin his missionary work. His answer, clear and confident, has remained with me. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

My desire to serve the Lord in ministry can be summed up in the search for my verb. When I ______ I feel God’s pleasure. I have filled that empty chasm hundreds of times hoping to find how I am formed and shaped to serve.

A few years ago I was challenged to examine my life and see if I couldn’t narrow all of my hopes, dreams, and goals into a life mission statement. It actually came at the perfect time during the beginning of a life transition. I realized that I had thousands of roads I could travel. I needed a way to begin to seek direction. Ephesians would tell me that God has prepared works in advance for me to do. So I decided to take on the challenge and discover my personal mission statement.

When I communicate God’s story, I feel God’s pleasure.

What’s your verb? When I ________ I feel God’s pleasure…

Following,
Ginger