Follow the Man

by Stacy Sanchez

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:6 NIV

Thirty-three years ago, a young woman stood alongside her handsome groom and in front of one hundred witnesses vowed her undying devotion. The weather was perfect for an outdoor winter wedding: the sky a crisp, cerulean blue, the birds sang their melodies from the aviary, and a rainbow appeared above the happy couple as if cued by a Hollywood set designer. Could it have been more perfect?

As the naïve bride proudly announced, “I do” the vocalist began the song chosen to solidify their union: John Denver’s “Follow Me.” In this ballad, the singer beckons his beloved to take hold of his hand and follow him wherever he may lead her. If he goes up, she goes up. If down, she goes down. If he goes all around, she’s, well, dizzy? He even goes so far as to ask her to make herself a part of him so she could follow more closely. “What a beautiful sentiment for a wedding. Of course, I will follow you, my love.” she pledged.

Isn’t that the sweetest e.v.e.r.? Gag.

I promise, I tried. I dutifully followed my husband’s leading. When that didn’t work, he followed mine. When that didn’t work, we wondered why the heck we even got married if all we were going to do is argue about who to follow. It took a few years of butting our stubborn noggins together, but we finally figured out what worked for us. We weren’t supposed to be following each other, we were supposed to be following the Lord and submitting ourselves to His leading. Sometimes, God would speak through John. Sometimes, He spoke through me. Other times, He didn’t speak at all; either John or I would throw a prayer shawl over our shoulders and pray until we felt like we knew the Lord’s direction.

This took a lot of practice, and we didn’t always get it right. Occasionally, we thought we heard God’s voice, but it turned out our voices sounded too much like His to tell the difference, and we were back to leading ourselves.

“This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17 ESV).

One year we took a vacation to Canada to visit our dear friends. On a day trip to Banff, I found a souvenir Inuksuk we now use as a reminder to not follow our own leading, but to follow the Lord’s.

An Inuksuk is a statue made from stacked stones erected to look like a person. Long before Google Maps, the Indigenous peoples of North America built them as directional markers. Numerous Inuksuit can still be found across Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. The Indigenous peoples of North America used them as helpers to point the way to food, shelter, and a communal meeting place. When hunters went out into the frozen tundra to look for food, an Inuksuk was their lifeline to safety. The hunter would search for and “follow the man” on the path to find the way home.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me”(Matthew 16:24 NLT).

In thirty-three years, my husband and I have searched for and followed the man, Jesus, on our marriage journey. Like everyone, we’ve had some extremely hard ups, downs, and all arounds. Thankfully, Jesus stands on the path to show us the direction to go. His word is a light to our feet and guides our path. When in doubt, the Inuksuk sitting on my bookshelf reminds us to take hold of each other’s hand and follow the Man. Jesus will make our pathways straight. He, alone, is our hope and safety.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What works for you in your marriage?

Because You Said So

by Stacy Sanchez

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5 NIV

Critical people are THE worst!

They can hurt us, make rude comments, judge our decisions, talk about what we’re doing wrong, and rarely have anything nice to say. One way to deal with them is to stop being around them. But this is hard to do when the critical person is YOU.

Sometimes the most powerful voice we believe is the critical voice inside our own heads. And we can’t get away from us.

  • “I can’t.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’m not smart enough.”
  • “I’m not pretty enough.”
  • “My personality is too strong.”
  • “Who do I think that I am?”

These are just some of the lies that frolic freely in our minds, because we allow our brains to become playgrounds for self-defeating aphorisms. The lies could have come from our childhood. An adult may have said we will never amount to anything, and we now believe it.

The lies can be our way of sounding humble. “Oh, she is so much more (fill in the blank) than I. Let her do it. She will do it better than me anyway.”

Maybe we find ourselves defining who we are by our past mistakes. We love to beat ourselves up because of something we did a long time ago.

Whatever the source of the lies, the enemy of our souls would love to use our perceived inadequacies to keep us handcuffed to him. But Jesus came to free us from him. He wants to free us from our own self-defeating thoughts.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:14-17 NIV).

God has proven himself over and over to be faithful and true. Has he ever turned his back on us or let us down? NEVER!Why do we believe the self-condemnation over him? Probably because if we believed God’s truth, we would be responsible to act on it. Ouch! That’s scary. He might want us to step out of our comfort zones. Yikes!

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5 (NIV)

Because you said so… Those are four small words, but they sure pack a powerful punch. We can say, “Because you said in your word”:

I am loved: This is real love-not that we loved God, but He love us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10 NIV

I am beautiful: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

I am free from condemnation: So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NIV

I am never alone: God is in the midst of her; she shall not me moved; God will help her when morning dawns. Psalm 46:5 NIV

I have value: She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15 NIV

I am who you say that I am: chosen, adopted, blessed, holy, blameless, loved, daughter, redeemed, forgiven, have purpose, united and included with Christ, predestined, sealed, have inheritance, have a spirit of wisdom, enlightened, have calling, have mighty power and strength. Ephesians 1 NIV

… I will believe you.

“Now with the voice of truth and power of God—armed on the right and armed on the left with righteousness from God—we continue. 2 Corinthians 6:7 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Armed with the truth about who says we are, what will you believe today, because He said so?

The God of Until

by Stacy Sanchez

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 18:15 NIV

Some of my most beloved memories of raising my children are of our Christmas traditions. And we had a ton of them! I may overdo it a bit. Five trees aren’t over-the-top, right? My husband begs to differ, as he pulls them down from the garage rafters. But there is nothing more magical to me than seeing my children’s (now my grandchildren’s) eyes light up as the house is turned into a winter wonderland of yuletide festivity. Would he want to deprive the next generation of my Christmas crazy?

One of our traditions was to read a part of the Christmas story together before dinner. The twenty-four days before Christmas one of the children read a section from the Bible while another hung a picture symbolizing that part of the story onto a tree we had sitting on the dining table. (Oops, make that six trees.)

I’ve read the story so many times I can recite it like Linus in the Peanuts Christmas special: “And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them. The glory of the Lord shone ’round about them. And they were sore afraid…” Can anything new be found in these passages?

This year, I prayed, “Lord, please pour out your spirit and illuminate your word anew.” And he did. As I read the passages in both Matthew and Luke, I was surprised by how many times the word “until” is used. Two examples are:

“But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25, NIV emphasis added)

“When they (The Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Get up” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child and kill him (Matthew 2:13, NIV emphasis added).

“Until I tell you.” Hmmm…

When a word jumps off the page, pay attention. God may be speaking. “What do you want me to learn, Father?”

My mind recalled the years I’ve been praying for the health of one of my loved ones. I’ve cried out. I’ve believed. I’ve stood on the biblical promises of healing. I’ve pleaded with God to heal his precious child. In desperation, I even offered to trade my life for hers. It breaks my heart to watch the illness run rampant in her little body. If I were honest, my faith has waned a bit.

We are living in crazy times. (Can I get an amen!?) Like me, many are worried and crying out to God:

  • I don’t know if I can hold on until my finances are back in order.
  • I don’t know if I can hold on to my house until I have the money to pay the mortgage.
  • I don’t know if I can hold on in this marriage until our problems are worked out.
  • I don’t know if my health will hold out until there is a cure.
  • I don’t know if I can hold on until my children are out of trouble.
  • I don’t know if we are safe until the virus is gone.

The Jewish people cried out to God for centuries. They were promised a Savior; the One that God would send to deliver them from their worries and enemies. “How much longer until the Savior arrives?” they would cry. This is the season we celebrate God’s fulfillment of his promise of a Savior.

Throughout the Bible, we are reassured God will never leave us or forsake us. He is a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, when times are hard and we wonder, “How much longer do I have to hold on, until…?” Take heart. God is in total control and he will hold on to us when we think we can’t hold on any longer. “At the right time, I, the LORD, will make it happen” (Isaiah 60:22, NLT).

Is there something that you have been crying out to God about? Hold on in faith until he answers. He has always fulfilled his promises. He is the God of “Until.”

Heavenly Father, this is the season we celebrate your promises fulfilled. The ancient, long-awaited prophesies of a Savior came beautifully into fruition with the birth of Jesus. Thank you for always being faithful to us, even when we have not been faithful to you. We know no matter what is happening in our lives right now, you are at work for good. We love you, Lord. And look forward to the day that our prayers will be answered in your perfect timing.

We will hold on to you, until…

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: For what are you waiting?

Did You Hear the Pin Drop?

by Stacy Sanchez

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 NIV

So, does anyone else have a pin on Google Maps commemorating your stupidity? No? Just me? Google Maps allows its users to locate a place on a map then “drop a pin” icon on that area. Lucky Me! X marks the spot where my impulsivity is pinned for the whole world to see.

Literally. The pin is titled “Stacy’s Sinkhole.”  I’m so proud.

A few years ago, I was vacationing with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law on Ambergris Caye, Belize. The four of us were exploring a remote area of the island when I saw a conch shell off in the distance.

“Stop the cart!” Thinking there was a problem, my son slammed on the brake.

“There’s a conch shell. I want it.” And, off I ran to retrieve it.

My husband flew off the cart behind me because my poor guy knows from years of experience that he is about to have to save me from another bad idea. “Stop! You don’t need that one. There’s got to be others. You don’t know what is in the brush. Get back in the cart.”

“No. What if I don’t find another? I’ll regret not going after this one.”

The next step I took taught me the meaning of regret. My front foot landed in the middle of a wet, stinky, sinking mud hole while my back foot stayed far behind, as if I was an Olympic gymnast practicing the splits. I haven’t done the splits in forty years. Ouch! I was stuck. The more I moved, the more I sank. The more I sank, the more I was stuck in this very unladylike position.

And, what does my family do when there is a crisis? My sweet husband jumped into action to save my sorry backside, my daughter-in-law laughed hysterically and whipped out her phone to take Instagram-worthy pictures, and my son, being used to his mother’s antics, rolled his eyes and decided to drop a pin on the map to memorialize this most special occasion.

It took all three of them to get me out. I still want to find out who on ‘Team Sanchez’ suggested they tie my bum to a winch. I lost my shoes, ruined my clothes, and spent the rest of the day exploring barefoot, embarrassed, and covered in stinky mud. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the mud gave me a great facial. It just attracted flies.

But, I got that conch shell, darn it! It sits on my book shelf mocking me—I mean, as a reminder to think before acting. (Come to find out, just up the road about twenty feet stood a huge pile of conch shells. I could have grabbed one of those.)

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”(Romans 8:5,6 NIV). Next to this passage in my Bible is a picture of me covered in mud: Exhibit A.

In these verses, the Apostle Paul was teaching the church in Rome (and us) that as followers of Jesus, they were to become more like Him. Like us, even Jesus was called to not follow His fleshly desires. (Gasp! Jesus had fleshly desires? Yep.)

Jesus left glory and humbled Himself to the will of God. He said: I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me (John 6:38 NIV). John the Baptist said: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV). In Galatians, Paul reiterates the point by saying, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:29 ESV).

With Jesus as our example, we are called to humble ourselves and not follow our fleshly desires. We are to live in such a way that when the world looks at us, they see Him.

Following my desires left me stuck in an embarrassing quagmire needing a winch to get out.

Following His ways leads me to an abundant life of peace.

Heavenly Father, You want us to follow Your ways and not our fleshly desires. Help us, Lord to become more like You and less like us. It’s hard work to get the ‘me’ out of me. I can be so hard-headed and stubborn when I want something. But, Lord, our true heart’s desire should be that we are following You and Your ways so closely, that when the world looks at us, they will only see You.

TWEETABLE
Did You Hear the Pin Drop? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble by not being able to say no to yourself?

The Summer of My Disassemblement

by Stacy Sanchez

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Dude, I don’t know who lied to you, but you can pitch.”

My young player looked away from me to the pitching rubber and began wiping the dust off of it with his cleat. “Riiiight. Wanna bet?”

“Heck, yeah I want that bet!” I stuck out my hand to shake on it.

It was the first day of practice for the new baseball season. I lined up the players at the mound and had them throw to home plate to see who might have the skill needed to be a pitcher. I liked to try them out at every position to find their best fit. Who knows? I might discover a future Nolan Ryan. (A coach can dream, right?)

The young boy shook my hand, but sheepishly said, “My last coach told me that I didn’t have what it took to be a pitcher. I tried, but he said that I had too many quirks to fix, and it would take too much work.”

“Well, I don’t know about his eyesight, but I picked you for my team because when you tried out I could see in the way that you threw the ball you had the potential to pitch.”

“Usually, I get stuck in right field.” he mumbled.

I poked his shoulder. “Hey! Right field isn’t a bad position to play. Some of the best players play right field. Have you ever heard of Babe Ruth?  But I don’t think you will be there very much this season.”

He looked up at me from under the bill of his cap; this time with a little twinkle of hope in his eyes.

“You do have some habits to break and mechanics to change. We just may have to get you back to the basics to rebuild your form, but let’s give it a try. I’ll put in the work if you will.”

“Ok… I guess. Looks like this will be the summer of my disassemblement,” he mused.

I tried to mask my amusement at his misuse of the quote. But it made sense, and I went with it.

“Yes, it just might be. But, so worth it.”

You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Currently, we are in the process of renovating our home. I am up to my ears in paint, tile, contractors, and mess. We’ve had to strip the house bare to be ready for construction. My house is a disaster area, which drives my type-A personality crazy. No matter where I turn, I am bound to be in the way of one contractor or another. (By the way, why do they have to start so early? Is the sun even up at 6:30 am?)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

In order to update my home and bring out the beauty I know she has in her, I have to make peace with living in a construction zone. In order for God to make me into the person He knows I can be, I have to make peace with being a construction zone. It feels like I am in a constant state of disassemblement. Just when one project is finished, God decides that I, as His home, need a little more improving. Aren’t you glad that Jesus was a carpenter? We can be confident that he has the expertise needed to bring us to a glorious completion.

My young pitcher discovered that the summer of his disassemblement wasn’t always fun. We spent many practices together working to make him into the pitcher I knew that he could be. Neither of us gave up. I’m pleased to report that young man was elected into the all-stars that year—as a pitcher. 

Lord Jesus, it seems fitting that you were a carpenter. You know exactly how to repair the cracks in my foundation and sand off my rough edges. It may be hard and hurt sometimes as You complete the construction, but Lord, my desire is to be a home that You are proud to live in. Have Your way in me—even if it is early in the morning. Amen

TWEETABLE
The Summer of My Disassemblement – insight and encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you a construction zone right now?

Freedom: Is It Safe?

by Stacy Sanchez

Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

 (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Is he safe? No, but he is good. The first time I read these words as a child, they leapt off of the page and resounded in my being. They became somewhat of an unofficial motto that I have chosen to live by. It’s right up there with “How hard can it be?” My friends won’t even let me finish that sentence anymore. They know what will be coming next–-something very, very hard.

I am a bit of a rule breaker. If there is a sign marking a trail that I’m supposed to stay on, I see that as a mere suggestion and forge my own. Nothing was ever discovered by staying on the path.” I assert, as I grab my reluctant niece’s hand and tromp off  into the desert. (I may have got a text from her mother the next time I took her hiking, asking if we could please stay on the path.)

I could have been an explorer–-except in cold climates. I’m daring, not stupid. I’m more of a warm weather, beach explorer. More than once, my husband has had to reel me in. The echoes of his warnings still ring in my ears: No, Stacy, you can’t do that. Don’t taste that! There might be parasites. Get off of the lava!! Don’t swim after the sharks! Moray eels don’t like you all up in their face. You went where? By yourself? Are you crazy?

This dare-to-be-me personality of mine has come at the cost of other people’s judgment. When I became a pastor, I was called sinful, uppity, and a woman with an agenda to take over. That’s a lot of names for someone that just wanted to love God’s people.

As the only female to play and coach in a baseball league, I was labeled with words that would today be considered homophobic and sexist. Even now, when I stand up for a righteous cause, I learn a whole new set of words that describe how others think of me.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

In him and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 NIV

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV

I guess I just take these verses to heart. If the Bible says we are free, ’nuf said. We have the freedom in Christ to be all that He has created us to be. Why don’t we act like it?

Freedom isn’t always safe. Quite the opposite. It can be messy. It costs us something. It cost Christ everything to give us our freedom. He definitely didn’t live a life of safety. If you think about it, a safe life isn’t a free life. We’re bound to be held captive by something or someone—maybe even our own fearful desires for safety.

When we are doing what God has called us to do or be, it can be scary. People will judge us. They will make their opinions known. It can hurt. But God is much more concerned with our character than our comfort. It is scary to step out into the great unknown of his calling. Nope, it might not be safe out there, but it is good because God is good. His ways are good. His plans for us are always good. And sometimes we find out that even though scary, it can be a lot of fun.

I prefer a dangerous freedom over a peaceful slavery.” –Thomas Jefferson

Amen! Me too! We are free! We have been set free from religious laws, opinions, judgments of others, and the lies of the enemy, because of the unsafe thing Christ did for us on the cross.

No, He is not safe, but He is good! 

Father, sometimes You call us to step out into the great unknown. You want to stretch and grow us into the people you created us to be. It can be scary out there. Forgive us for not trusting You. Just like You grew a little shepherd boy into a great king, You want to make us into something great. Help us to trust that the plans You have for our lives are good and we don’t have to be afraid.

TWEETABLE
Freedom: Is It Safe? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What scary thing has God asked you to do?

How To A Hit Curve Ball

by Stacy Sanchez

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7 ESV

Hot and exhausted, fourteen sweaty (and may I say stinky?) baseball players and I sat in the outfield grass, eating orange slices and guzzling fruit juice drinks while regurgitating the details of our game.

“Wow! That was ugly.” The team’s shortstop blurted out.

“Yeah! We sucked!” The words spat out of my catcher’s mouth along with the orange seed he launched across the field.

I tried to encourage them in their accomplishments. “Yeah… that was a tough game. You boys just played your hearts out against a team that is way more experienced than you. They are older and have played as a team longer. I’m seriously proud of you all though. You guys just went up against a pitcher that knows how to throw a nasty curve ball. Until today, you haven’t even seen one. You were swinging at those pitches like you were swatting flies, but you didn’t give up.”

“How the heck are you supposed to hit a curve ball, anyway?” my youngest player mumbled, trying to mask a quivering lip.

“You wait on it,” I explained. “You can’t react to the pitch and swing as soon as you think you should, because the ball will break on you, and you’ll miss it. Don’t worry. I’ll teach you. It’s only the beginning of the season. You will get it, but it will take patience to learn, young grasshoppers. You will have to learn to wait.”

The curve ball is a difficult pitch to hit. When thrown correctly, the spinning of the seams tricks a hitter’s brain into thinking the ball is diving at a steeper angle than it is. The art of hitting a round ball with a round bat is already one of the hardest things for a young player to do, but add a spinning breaking ball into the mix? Forget about it.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV).

I don’t know about you, but waiting isn’t the easiest thing for me. When an out-of-the-blue problem comes hurling at me at eighty miles an hour, I want to jump on it right away and either fix it, finish it, or feed my face with food until it passes. Waiting is not at the top of my to-do list. I’ve had to be trained to wait.

The night Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NIV).

With his arrest and crucifixion at hand, Jesus knew the boys were about to be thrown a curve ball. The disciples were going to experience the most gut-wrenching experience of their lives and needed to watch Jesus so he could train them how to handle it. What were they to do? Wait. Not react. Wait on the Lord for direction. (As it turned out, Peter would need a bit more practice with this one.)    

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7 ESV). What should we do when an unexpected crisis is thrown at us? Wait. The enemy would like us to panic and react right away. He would love nothing more than to see a child of God in a state of worry and confusion. God has taught us a better way–to wait. Don’t react, but watch, pray, listen, and wait on Him for what to do next.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).

Like my young baseball team learning to hit a curve ball, we need to practice waiting until it becomes second nature. So when a curve ball is pitched at us we will know how to knock the snot out of it. (That’s baseball-ese. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere.)

Father, we know that we will be thrown curve balls in life. Whether it be an unexpected divorce, an illness, the death of a loved one, a rejection, a prodigal child, and now this viral epidemic, crises will come. Help us, Lord to not react right away, but, to wait on you for direction. Maybe you will have us do nothing but rest. Maybe you will have us swing for the fences. We won’t know until we wait on You for the call. Help us to wait.

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How To A Hit Curve Ball – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: When was the last time God called you to wait?

Muscle Memory

by Stacy Sanchez

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9 ESV

Practice is the best of all instructors – Publilius Syrus

“I think they are getting bored. We’ve done this awhile,” the parent volunteer said to me.

“Yep. I know,” I replied, and continued hitting ground balls to the boys. “I like to have fun, too. But, my job isn’t to make sure they’re always having fun. My job as their coach is to teach them how to play the game right and make them into better players. Right now they may be bored, but they’ll thank me later when they’re in a game and a ball is hit to them; they will automatically know what to do without thinking about it. The more we practice this, the more muscle memory they will have.”

I love baseball! I’ve played and coached baseball all of my life. Not girl’s softball. Heck no! The real thing, baseball. Many times I was the only girl on the team and even the only one in the league. I have the newspaper articles to show for it. I love everything about the game and have learned many life applications from it.

A few years ago, I had a cancer scare. Thankfully, the cervical cancer was caught early, but my doctor was very proactive because of my family’s history. The treatments for it were not fun. Eventually, when the protocol didn’t work, and the cancer continued to spread, I had to have surgery: a hysterectomy and extensive reconstruction.

The process of recovery was a long one. I was laid up in bed recovering for quite a while. I thought that this would be the perfect time for me to hear from God. Since I was forced to be still, why wouldn’t he take this time to impart to me a deep spiritual lesson? Bring it on, God! I’m ready.

As the weeks went by, I listened for God’s instruction, but, heard nothing. Crickets.

Honestly, it was a little frustrating, and I was getting angry. I prayed. I begged. I even cajoled God to speak. I’m seeking down here, but not finding. I wanted so badly to hear from God. Maybe he would download a brilliant book idea, a sermon, or some kind of teaching that I would be able to use when I recovered. But there was only silence.

When friends came to visit, inevitably one of the first questions they would ask was, “What is God teaching you in this season?” They expected a deep, profound answer about my newest insights from God regarding life and death. But instead, my reply was, “Nothing!”

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I hear anything from God?

I did recover and am healthy. But I never did hear from God during that down time, nor did I receive any insight until years later.

A dear friend of mine recently went through a cancer scare of her own. And I did what every good Christian would do, I asked her what she is learning about God in this season. Her response was the same as mine, “Nothing!” I could hear the sadness in her voice like I had in mine.

In that moment, I heard God say to me something similar that I had said years ago to my parent-volunteer: It’s not about learning something new right now. I want you to practice what you already know. You need muscle memory, so when another situation arises in the future, you will act instinctively.”

That’s when it hit me. Maybe not all of the situations God allows into our lives are about Him teaching us something new. Maybe they are so we can practice what we have already learned about Him.

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Muscle Memory – encouragement about hearing from God from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Has God been giving you a chance to practice your trust in Him?

Choose Hope!

by Stacy Sanchez

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.”                                                                                                      Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.                                                                                                                                                         ~Helen Keller

“Hope Ashley will be her name!” I decided right then and there, lying on the table as the sonogram tech wiped the gel off of my pregnant belly. She had just revealed that I was having a girl. The tech was so certain of the babies’ gender that she bet me a trip to Hawaii on it. (I should have taken that bet.)

At nineteen, I was not ready to be a mother. I was living at home with my parents without a way to support a baby. The father of my child – who had just pledged his undying love to me the week before – decided he didn’t want any part of this and left me to figure it out on my own.

“I choose hope,” I repeated over and over to myself. Probably to make sure that I believed it. “Please, God, bring hope from these ashes.”

Four months before the sonogram appointment, I sat in a doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test. As the doctor walked into the room, I could tell by the look on his face the answer. Emotionless, he announced, “You’re pregnant. Don’t make this into a bigger problem. Get an abortion and get on with your life. Schedule it at the front desk.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. Silently, I hung my head in shame. Across my chart the doctor wrote in large letters: ABORTION, and exited the room, leaving me alone to dress.

There was no sleep to be had that night. I didn’t want to have an abortion. I believed abortion to be wrong. But I didn’t know what else to do. As I tossed and turned under the embellished sheets that expressed my youth, my mind raced with what people would think of me. I was a “good girl”. It would be shocking to learn that I was pregnant. (Thirty-three years ago, there was a stigma placed on a teenage, unwed mother – especially among Christians.) And, now, I had an abortion scheduled?

Although I may have been too young to be a mother, I made up my mind that I was going to have my baby. Thankfully, I had a supportive mother and church that rallied around me. They became “Jesus with skin on” for me. They loved me through this and helped me learn to love myself again.

“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me” (Philippians 3:12-14 CEB).

God uses our mistakes and hard times to grab hold of us and not let go. He wants us to grow up into Him for his glorious purposes. I held on tight and chose to hope. Everyday? No. Was it easy? Heck no! It was crazy hard. But, I chose, very purposefully, to be hopeful. Not a Pollyanna type of hope, but one that balanced realism with optimism. A hope that recognized my present difficulty and believed that somehow, someway, God would bring good from this. And, he did!

Just like the many redemption stories in the Bible, God resurrected the ashes of my life for his glory. I not only gave birth to a precious baby BOY!—yes, boy!—but when I was eight months pregnant, God brought my husband into my life. Together, we went on to become a family of seven.

I wish that I could say that I learned all that needed to know about God’s faithfulness in those hard days. Instead, I have given God more opportunities to prove himself faithful than I want to admit. But, in turn, He has given me many more reasons to be hopeful and to pursue it.

Lord God, when we are experiencing hard times, please help us to choose hope, even when everything seems bleak and utterly hopeless. Only you can take our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. You bring hope from ashes and turn sadness into exceeding joy. Father, you have proven yourself faithful over and over. Thank you! Help us to put our trust in you – again. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Choose Hope! – #Encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: How has God proved Himself faithful to you?

How Do You See Him?

by Stacy Sanchez

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.    Psalm 103:11-13 NASB

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite Bible storybook that was beautifully illustrated by Francis Hook. I loved to look at the pictures while my grandmother read the stories to me. It is a wonderful memory that I hold dear today.

Each time we read the book, I begged her to read again the story of Jesus beckoning little children to come to Him. The illustration was of four children surrounding Jesus, yearning for His personal attention. Jesus is holding the face of one precious girl gently in His hands, looking lovingly into her eyes. The expression on her face shows her utter adoration.

That particular scene spoke to my heart even at that young age. I so wanted to be that little girl. Years later, I found the picture and put it in my office. It reminds me of those wonderful times, sitting at my beloved grandmother’s side while she taught me about Jesus’ love.

Sadly, in those days, I never pictured myself as the child being held by Jesus. I related more to the girl standing off to the side, desperately hoping He would notice her. But this was probably my fear speaking; imagining such a personal interaction with Him in light of all my faults and failures was downright scary. I was afraid of having Him look directly at me.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:61 NIV

Strong, brave, impetuous Peter had zealously sworn to Jesus that he would never betray Him. He even vowed this on his very life. But when accused by a servant girl in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter caved into his fear and vehemently swore that he “never knew the man.”

“The man”? Wasn’t Peter the first disciple to boldly proclaim Jesus as “The Holy One of God, The Christ”? Yet in the pressure of the moment, he sheepishly demeaned “The Holy One of God” to just “the man.”

How often do we do the same? Bold one moment, proclaiming allegiance to our King, then fearfully hoping He doesn’t see us disappoint Him in the next? I sure have. Many times. Just call me Peter.

After Peter’s third betrayal that terrible night, the rooster crowed, and as Jesus, battered, bloodied, and bruised, was being led out of the high priest’s court, He turned and looked straight at him.

Try to put yourself in Peter’s shoes. What if it was you who failed, then saw Jesus turn and look straight at you? What do you think you would have seen in His eyes?

Our answer reveals how we perceive our relationship with our Heavenly Father. When you imagine Him looking at you, what do His eyes portray? Anger? Guilt? Disappointment? Or, do you see love tenderness, forgiveness, and mercy in His eyes?

Spend some time today, honestly talking to Jesus about what you think you would see in His gaze. Believe me, He wants you to only see His love.

It has taken me many years; I have let God down all too often. But my acceptance to God has never been about what I do or have done. It’s Christ’s righteousness I wear. His blood has paid for every one of my sins. There is no shame in my relationship with Him. Jesus bore my shame on the cross.

Because of Jesus’ unfailing love, I now picture myself as the little girl in Jesus’ hands. I can see His eyes of love boring deep into my soul. He knows every thought, word, and deed I have ever had or done, but He loves me anyway and tenderly holds my face in His hands.

Lord Jesus, Help us to see You as the forgiving, merciful Savior and friend that You are. Help us to have a correct estimation of your love for us. Because you surrendered your life on the cross, instead of seeing anger and disappointment in your eyes, we can now only see forgiveness and mercy in your look of love.

TWEETABLE
How Do You See Him? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog: writetotheheart.org and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What would be in God’s eyes if you could see Him looking straight at you?