The Faith Of My Friend

If we are lucky, we have a friend who has faith that makes you take a step back in awe. If you are friends with Cheryl Binegar, you are lucky, because you have that friend. Cheryl has always impressed me with her reliance, her joy, her care for others and her purity, purity of intention and purity of action.

There was a man in the Bible that most are familiar with, Job, whom God credited like this, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” And to that came the response from the terrifying restless wanderer, the acceptance of the challenge “Surely he will curse you.”

My friend is going through a very tough time, helping her parents through incredibly difficult health issues. There is sense of living loss without absence that can walk beside us when we travel with our loved ones as their health fails, and it is unlike anything else I’ve known. I imagine it is unlike anything Cheryl has known either.

She has been support to so many, and my hope is that she is receiving the same measure of support in return, good support. As Job sat wishing he’d never been born after the decimation of everything he loved and valued, his friends saw him from a long way off, saw his trouble and they suffered with him. In Job 2, we read that “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

These well intentioned friends who loved Job started their attempts to comfort him, just by being with him. Just being present. And that was such a good thing. It shows the depth of their care for him, that they would sit with this man who was ceremonially unclean, covered in sores. They could have looked on and said, “I’ll send a nut and fig basket to the friend of ours who we all believed to be the best of the best, but I’m not going near him til he is recovered.” Skin afflictions were viewed as expressions of soul afflictions at that time, so the watching world, seeing Job’s family, livelihood, property, possessions and finally his health could have immediately declared him to finally be exposed for some secret sin and shame. But they don’t. They come to him and they suffer with him.

They must truly love him, but in the many chapters to follow they try talking him through his situation, but in doing so they express their own questions about Job and God, their own doubts, their own fears, and their own sorrow. We’ve all been there. In a dark place with friends who offer advice or commentary that doesn’t suit or may even sting. If you are honest with yourself, you’ve been that friend, not knowing what to say, saying something that comforted you once and seeing the other person’s face change, and you wish you could have said it better. We’ve all said, “I wish I knew what to say.”

I wish I knew what to say.

Cheryl is facing now a difficulty that is recognizable as painful. If you’ve lived what she is living, even a portion of it, then you will, as Job’s friend’s, see her suffering from a long way off and ache for her. If you haven’t experienced sickness in those you love, I know you know it’s terrible, but when I entered into my own experiences with this, I remember clearly sitting with my brother as we shared that we just didn’t understand before. It is a blessing to be outside of that knowledge.

Cheryl is in a beautifully supportive community and has built for herself with her sweet, funny love for everyone she meets a response team who wants to care for her. I’m not even there and I trust that it is so, because I know those lovely people that she has loved in action and I know that they will love her in action in return. But when anyone sits in presence with someone going through what she’s facing, it is natural to accompany commentary as Job’s friends did, with our own doubts, our own fears and our own sorrows.

And the faith of my friend, y’all….

This girl….

Her heart is not just to graciously accept the comfort given, but to share the peace and the comfort she already has.

I want to share this with you, this bit from a Facebook post she made the other day. She says…

“I will end with this. Many of my friends have really struggled with how long my family has been going through this trial. They don’t understand why God wouldn’t just heal her. I will never pretend to understand the Lord’s purpose for allowing this struggle, but I do know that I have seen so much good arise from it. God isn’t my genie in a bottle who grants my wishes. He does love me and my family and never intended for the world to end up so broken. But He has given me what He said He would. That is peace through this and the hope of a future. He doesn’t owe me a comfortable life here. I get that and honor Him through this painful season. 🙏🏼”


Cheryl has peace that passes all understanding, an incredible thing because these trials she faces are outside of reason. So many would be driven to despair, and yet Cheryl, and I believe her parents who are living this, are driven to hope. Not because they are naive, not because they are simple, not because they are fools and not because they are weak.

They are driven to hope, because they have that kind of friend one in the same as the one who they call Savior.


I will tell you, if you have a friend like Cheryl, you are richly blessed.
Cheryl will tell you, if you have a friend like Jesus, you are eternally blessed.

Pray for my friend Cheryl, and for her parents, and for her family. And pray for those supporting her, that they will have eyes that see and ears that hear, so that they too may know peace like she does.

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Invisible: Part 3

Things I ask God for….

1. To be skinny without effort.
2. To be wildly wealthy (which then I’d totally give bunches to other people, too.)
3. To travel the whole world.
4. To have my kid’s lives be free from trouble, but they develop all the qualities that come from facing adversity anyway.
5. To have a maid. Or like a team of maids.

However, here’s a nasty little truth. It’s not my favorite part of life…but I don’t always get what I want.

Before we find Hagar written about again in Genesis, we find her boy. Let’s read this short passage in Genesis 17: 17-22.

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“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”
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We see that Abraham has grown to be attached and to love the boy. When God comes and tells Abraham that Sarah will bear the child of promise in a year Abraham speaks plainly to God, saying, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Abraham loves the boy and would be happy to pass along his everything to him. God replies, recognizing his attachment to Ishmael, and assuring Abraham that Ishmael will great in his own right. God says in verse “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.”

There it is again.

Did you notice it?

Because this is so important.

God says “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.”

This is the life song for this boy. In his mother’s womb, he was named “God hears.” Abraham and Sarah wish to find a solution to their infertility. Hagar wishes to find freedom from her oppression. Abraham wants this to be his heir. God hears. He hears their concerns. He hears their wishes.

I imagine so sweetly as Hagar stands over a fire, her belly rumbling, knowing others are hungry, too. She calls out “God hears!” to let him know that food is ready. I see a pot of beans left on its side, evidence that a wild child had run by and not noticed the mess left in his wake, maybe thinking he’d just clean it up later and Hagar crossing her arms across her chest and grumbling, “God hears.” As the sun set and danger of the terrain begins to wake, she stands at the door to her tent and calls “God hears!” to come home to safety. She leans over a little boy breathing in and out, slowly, rhythmically, as he slumbers on his mat. “My sweet, God hears” she whispers, brushing his hair back and kissing his forehead.

God didn’t just send Hagar back into a difficult situation with a one time message that Hagar was seen by God, but He gives her and all the people around her a constant reminder that He cares about her, He cares about their concerns, their needs and wants. How many times a day did they hear it? How often did they really listen?

From before birth, Ishmael is a living example of what is written in Psalm 139 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” The meat of that Psalm speaks to the fact that God sees us as individuals, sees us and we are unable to hide from Him, sees our physical bodies and our inmost soul as well.

But the other message in this passage is that being seen and heard by God, having that open line of communication where He understands our desires, does not mean that we get what we want all the time. It doesn’t even mean that we get what we want in what we think are the biggest, most crucial areas of our life.

There will be a time in every parent’s life that their sick child will look at them with glazed eyes and stuffy nose and say “But Bommy, I waaaaant to go to da barty. I’b fine. I beel so buch better already.” You look at them and you ache for them, because you hear them. You understand. But you know best, you know that letting them go to the party, allowing them to skip the rest they need and getting everyone else sick, will prolong their illness and will cost everyone else at the party too. Other people will have to stay home. Other people will have to miss work. Other people will have to miss school. It isn’t a kindness to say yes to every request. When you as a parent know better, you have to say no. Tuck that child in, tell them you understand their disappointment, because you do, you’ve been there, and make the most of a tough situation which feels like heartbreak for them.

There is a lot in this life that I want, things to make me and those I love comfortable and happy in the moment. There are things in this life that I plan for, hope and dream for. There is healing that I pray for and change, too. There is this mess of a nation I live in, that I just want God to step in and solve. I pray for that. I pray for fast fixes. But I’m ready for God to say, “As for that, I hear you. Yes, but here’s what’s going to happen.”

God’s saying “Yes, but…” doesn’t change the nature of the relationship. God is in the middle of a conversation where he renames Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah to show change in who they were and the nature of their relationship. If there was a time for Him to say, “Your son who is already born, by my setting this new plan for this new plan in motion, I am changing things for him, too,” that would have been the time to do so. But God doesn’t say “I will now change God hears to God brushes off, or maybe God was distracted, or maybe God heard, but forgot and sort of doesn’t care what you have to say about this.” He says “I hear you.”

There are a lot of times in our lives where it is easy to feel ignored, to feel invisible. There have been seasons in my life where I have wondered if my prayers don’t float about in the air, knocking into the ceiling and then dropping back at my feet, unnoticed. Generally, this sense accompanies my not getting my way. But what change could there be in my life if I repeated daily the message that Ishmael carried for his family? Imagine the change there could be in your life, when you feel that God has stepped away from the conversation between you two, if you called to yourself, to your children and to others, “God hears.”

I’ll close with this as Thanksgiving approaches. At the end of A Miracle On 34th Street, the little girl, Susan, is crushed because Santa did not deliver what she’d asked for. She is in the backseat of the car and she is repeating over and over “I believe…I believe….it’s silly, but I believe.” She is sullen and a little sarcastic, but she is bolstering her decision to believe in Santa by repeating to herself a message, repetitive in nature, but designed to carry her through that big disappointment. In the end, Santa pulls through and she gets what she wants.

I do not mean to pretend that God is Santa, ready to give us our childish desires if we repeat a mantra, but I do want us to think that there are times that we can be carried through the way I imagine Hagar and Abraham were carried through because they were reminded day in and day out of this message that God had for them. The same message that God has for you and me.

God hears.
God hears.
Ishmael.
Ishmael.
God hears.

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For the next part, head to Invisible: Part 4
but first, a chance to reflect….

Reflect

  1. What do you wish for?
  2. Do you find it hard to believe that God cares about your opinion?
  3. How do you balance being submitted to God’s will in your life with the truth that God listens to your wishes, hopes and dreams?

Invisible: Part 1

Invisible.
 
Invisible boys. Invisible girls. Invisible women. Invisible men. Invisible people.

        They’re all around you whether you know it or not. You may even be one yourself. These are people that don’t want to be seen and go to great lengths to hide themselves away, to go undetected, to blend in and be grey. These are people who do whatever they can do to be noticed for one aspect of their life to distract from another. These are people who no matter how many times they reach out for help, they fall through the cracks until they learn not to reach out anymore.

       No matter if you want to be invisible or if invisibility is thrust upon you, I promise you this. There is one who sees you. He is the one who knows you at your core and who longs to comfort you. He is the one who will follow you wherever you go and will sit and stay with you wherever you hide. He sees you. He will come and find you and offer you healing and help beyond your wildest dreams.

         But there are others who walk alongside the invisible people. They are the unseeing. This is for both those who cannot be seen and those who do not notice. Read and find healing. Or read and find vision.

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   It was Hagar who introduced me to El Roi. I have for many years marveled in her story, her experiences and her bravery. She is a bit of a mystery woman who isn’t given as much text as some other people in the Bible, but what is there is so rich and full, I have gone back over and over to the content and gained from it for years.

    We first meet Hagar in Genesis 16 where the writer introduces her as Sarai’s Egyptian slave, who is the solution in Sarai’s eyes to the no children problem that has been in front of Abram and Sarai for years. If you have a copy of the Bible handy, feel free to open it up and read this powerful chapter in the life of Abraham’s family history and then click “Read With Me” and let’s read together!

Read With Me – CLICK ME!

    The first thing I want you to see about Hagar is that she is unseen by Abraham and Sarai. Certainly she is favorable enough that Sarai figures she can utilize her to get the ball rolling on producing an heir, but when we look at how Sarai and Abram speak about her it is always, my slave, your slave, her or she. She is valuable as an object, but not as an individual.

    What Sarai suggests is socially acceptable and perfectly legal at that time, when a woman could not bear children to her husband, she could give her slave to her husband and then the child would be hers. But this very act depends on one useful item, a producing womb housed in someone who can’t say no. As we meet Hagar, we are introduced to a woman who is without power over her life, her circumstance, and most basically, no power over her own body.

    Sarai most likely obtained Hagar while they were in Egypt and Sarai was given to Pharaoh by Abram who was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to have her because of her beauty. This is a woman who had limited control in her own life. And certainly having decades of struggles with infertility, when culturally that was as a woman your greatest area of contribution, Sarai must have struggled with her own sense of lack power over her body.

     Sarai exercises the small amount of power she has over Hagar and brings her to Abram who sleeps with her. When Hagar conceives what a blow that must have been for Sarai as it served as confirmation that the blame lay with her and not Abram. Abram could produce children, it was her who couldn’t.

      We read, when Hagar conceived she despised her mistress. I have to wonder what the future looked like in Hagar’s eyes, now connected to this old man who couldn’t be bothered to speak her name. I have to wonder just exactly how sullen or prideful or fowl tempered Hagar would have had to have been to break Sarai and send her to Abram for permission to respond.

      Sarai approaching Abram speaks in itself to another shift in the balance of power as Sarai had been able to bring Hagar to Abram, had been able to cook up this scheme and set it into play of her own accord, but she has to seek out permission to deal with the slave girl now. Granted permission to deal with Hagar as she deems fit, she “mistreats her.” What that means, physical abuse, withholding supplies and care, we don’t know.

      It is enough to drive Hagar to the desert, to send her away from food, shelter, water, a mat to lay on, the few comforts afforded to her in her station to set out into the wilderness, risking death every step of the journey and return to her homeland a pregnant single woman of uncertain past and uncertain future.

    One might think that invisibility existed since the garden, hiding from God in shame, and in some respects it does, but never before has one person been so utterly alone, without a partner, without a past or a future, without any power or value. Eve had Adam. Noah had his family and all of his pets. From father to son, husband and wife the Bible accounts humanity to the arrival of the slave girl.

 This is Hagar, the first invisible girl in the Bible.

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Reflect

 1. Can you identify with Hagar? Are there areas of your life that you feel utterly powerless to control? Perhaps a boss with unreasonable expectations or a power struggle within your family?

2. Can you identify with Sarai? Are there areas of your life that you feel you exercise power in not the healthiest ways? Perhaps with work teammates or over your children?

3. In 5 words, describe Hagar at this point in her story.

4. In 5 words, describe Sarai at this point in her story.

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                                  Want to read more?  Click to read Invisible: Part 2

The Next Task…

    Driving from Grottoes to Richmond and back again with God riding shotgun, I revisited the accounts of the week. I was given the opportunity to share with some people about the idea of waiting on the Lord in regards to their call on their life. I’d asked directly for someone to speak into what they saw for me, but they didn’t have an answer. When the conversation between me and God lulled, I selected a sermon from my church in Ohio and listened to Pastor Bruce speak in his old familiar tone, but the message was anything but habitual. He spoke about revival and about the new church in Acts. He spoke about his hope for that church to be a church that raises up leaders and sends them to the ends of the Earth to make disciples. I felt pleased to hear it. Surely that is just what my family has been, raised up in that church and sent out.  

     In January, when I first began this time of reflecting on what God is calling me to and ultimately how He will use me to His glory, I ask God to task me. And He did, very specifically, over and over. That season lasted about 8 months of steady intensity where each task was clearly laid out and had defined edges. Stuff Easter eggs. Sit at the front desk. Schedule volunteers. Paint a set.

    As the season came to a close, my heart ached for the approaching change. My mother used to sing “In The Garden” and the final verse reads

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.”

     It was a very recognizable sensation, like I had spent months in sweet fellowship and now I was being bid farewell and called out of the garden, but as both the song and scripture assures me, He will walk with me.

       I stepped into this new position and have been sweetly blessed by going just where I knew He was taking me, but it has left me wondering what happened to my tasks.  While I do this new work He’s brought me to, how do I continue to walk towards where He is leading me? Of course, by remaining in conversation, and by staying in the Word, doing all I can to fall not into step with Him, but to tuck myself into His shadow, placing my foot inside his steps. To strive to take hold of Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” The closer I can wrap myself in that safety, the more certainly I can trust each move.

      Pastor Bruce continued to preach and the message he felt he’d been given to deliver that day was, “There’s more.” My mind drifted to a passage, Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What He has planned for me, for my calling, is so much higher, so much more than I can imagine. Not so much more for me. So much more for Him.

      Then I remembered a task I’d been given a number of months before, one which led me set up my blog. I was standing at the front of our church here in Harrisonburg and Pastor Kerry, then barely knowing me, outside of a handful of awkward conversations where I stumbled through basic social norms, as well as some writings which I’d permitted to be passed to him through someone I trust very much. He walked about 20 feet to the right of me, made eye contact and said “Sarah Kinzer. The writer.” He took a few more steps and then added, “Keep writing.”

     There was my task, which I walked in for a number of months, at the time of that drive to Richmond left untouched for nearly a month. I’d sat down and started a number of posts, but none that have made it to that final button click to share with the world. This was my old task, brought around again, with fresh life to it. This is where the course is and where I will step as He directs, trusting His ways and His thoughts to continue to task me, post to post, letter to letter.

      I hope that you will step with me as I create this bible study, for if a writer places an X on a page and no one reads it, does it make a sound? I would love for people to follow along while I journey through this study, however if this only ever exists between Him and me, then I trust that it is for my edification and His glory, and delight in the opportunity to have spent this time in His word studying and documenting what He has to teach me hidden in His Word.

The Anniversary Of Delay

On this day, as Facebook reminds me, three years ago I loaded the big yellow truck in that picture to capacity, hugged dear friends and family, climbed behind the wheel, took a deep breath and turned the key.

To hear nothing.

Well, I think there was a binging. Bing, bing, bing. Or something of the sort. It was a not the truck is going sound.

We got out, called Penske and they sent out Ernie. He banged things and cranked things and grunted and sent my frined Libby off to Napa to get more parts. In his mumbling hillbilly dialect he said “I dunno but Penske oughtta be giving someone some money back on this rental.”   I hear ya, Ernie, I thought.

I also thought, this is confusing. God has called us to Virginia. We are packed and loaded. We are ready to go, but now…there is delay. Why? Is this some sort of sign and now I’ll have to drag everything back into our house on North North and just tell everyone at church and our family and friends that, oops, we heard God wrong?

In the days leading up to this moment, I’d prayed for provision. We’d agreed to make this move, responding in obedience to something bigger than us and we knew we’d be holding our breath and cinching our purse strings for some time. I did not put a lot of hope into the stories of people praying and money showing up. It all sounded manufactured. Never the less, I prayed for provision, suggesting ideas to God as of ways He could supply us with a little cushion. Maybe He could move in so and so’s heart and they’d just feel like they wanted to hand us 10 grand. Or the lottery, Jesus. Let’s win that.

But there I was sitting on the side of the street with a broken truck at the beginning of a journey which was going to be nothing if not financially demanding. I called Penske to get an update, which I supposed would be we would have to wait til tomorrow. The Penske representative let me know that they were sending over a new van….and a crew of guys to load all of our stuff from one truck to the other!

Then she said “And let me see what the total is after all that.”

Probably more, thought I, what with the crew. And the second van. And Ernie. “30,” she said. I was confused as to why we’d be paying….30-what? 30 hundred? That’s not even how normal people say it.

“Thirty, what?” I asked.
“Thirty dollars,” she replied.

Just like that, thousands of dollars for that move were redeemed. They once were lost, but then were found. I was in shock. I got off the phone before she could change my mind and we got on the road, somehow making it to VA with enough time to make it into our new home and more at ease handing over the first check to our new landlord.

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I drove home from Richmond last night and listed to a sermon given by Justin Siler, chosen because of the series title “Road Trip.” This summer God has done a lot of work in my heart on the drive from Richmond to Grottoes and this drive was no different.

Justin shared the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. Word comes that Lazarus is sick and Jesus replies that Lazarus’s sickness won’t end in death and what will happen will be purposeful to bring glory to God. He remains where he is and allows two days to pass. Then he announces to his disciples that they’re going to go to Lazarus who happens to live in Judea where just a few days before, those people had tried to kill Jesus. The disciples, particularly Thomas it seems, thought this perhaps was a crazy idea, but Jesus convinces them and they follow him, only to be met by Martha who is devastated and blaming Jesus.

“If only you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

Martha’s sister Mary doesn’t even bother to come out and has to be summoned to Jesus. Mary reaches Jesus and falls at his feet, weeping. She echoes her sister’s sentiment, that Jesus could have saved her brother, but he didn’t. He let her down. Something I haven’t thought of before, but this Mary, at the beginning of the chapter it notes she is the same woman who came and anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume and dried it with her hair. This is someone who has been radically changed by Christ and she is at the point of giving up. It is reassuring that even someone who physically touched Jesus, struggled to understand Him.

Then, in the sermon, Justin points out the part that I never hear anyone point out. It gets glossed over or only spoken about to show His humanity, but there’s so much more to it. Jesus wept. Not because of Lazarus and his death. Jesus is omnipotent. He already knew how that would turn out. He wept for Mary and for Martha, for his people and their pain. For their blindness, their inability to see what He could see. He felt and then he restored….he called Lazarus out.

Lazarus lived. Just as Jesus said, his sickness did not end in death. Death was just a bump on the road. And as Jesus said at the beginning of the whole situation, things happened exactly as they should to bring the most glory to God.

Justin spoke to those struggling with doubt, like Thomas and the disciples who are pretty sure going to Judea is inadvisable. He spoke to those facing a delay, like Martha who is positive from all the very clear signs that Jesus has let her down. He spoke to those enveloped in despair, like Mary, who wonder why they should show up for Jesus if He hasn’t shown up for them.

This sermon was painfully poignant for me. I was already knee deep in the reflection when Justin said these four words, words spoken to me maybe a month ago by Pastor Kerry, here in Va.

Delay is not denial.

That same spot in the journey, right at the foot of the mountain, every time this summer, I heard Him speak to me and there I was, preparing to began the upward climb. Once again, God spoke. 64West is quickly becoming holy ground for me.

I am responding to being called into ministry. It’s not unrealistic to expect that the call will go hand in hand with the complete and total revelation and fulfillment of what that all means. Or if not unrealistic, then it is at least understandable. But this passage and those words, delay is not denial, strike a chord with me.

God has spoken this message, saying what will be, and I can look here at this passage and see that my head is right when it tells me that I can trust Him even if the earthly symptoms are confusing. He will be good to His word to me as He was to His word over Lazarus. I have known these things, reminding myself of those truths while I walk through my days, holding tight to them when I wonder about starting my first class in the fall or think about suggesting to God that we get this show on the road. I truly do believe that the best path for me to ministry is His path, not my path and I am going to be amazed at what God’s going to show me in my delay. I truly am excited to see how He unwraps this.

I don’t want to spend my days sitting on the side of the road next to a dead truck or standing outside of a tomb convinced that all is lost. I want to trust that He will lead me each step at just the right time.

Death can just be a bump in the road.
Engine failure can be redemptive.
Delay can be the source of the greatest blessings.