Tuesday, January 17, 2017

GOD, IN MY FACE/ IN MY HEART



Written by Angeline M Duran Santiago

Life has a way of getting our attention; of getting mine. It ‘s during those alone moments where life is loud that God often decides to whisper into the noise around me. It’s when I find it the easiest to recognize His Voice. It is often during those alone moments that I send out my prayers towards Him. I’m often one to ask questions and make statements as if He didn’t already know my heart.

Such a conversation led to a debate today. Did I return to listen to the few downloaded songs I had in my possession, again for possibly the third time, or should I close my eyes and sleep during the ride? Rummaging through my purse to find my cell phone, my eyes fell upon my pink Bible and I knew then this conversation was far from over. “Yes, Lord. Speak to me. I will listen.”

Earlier today I had placed my pen in my pink Bible, not as a marker or reference, just placed it there for safekeeping. It was there, were the pen laid still in the middle that my eyes chose to stay and read. Had I not been in a crowded public place, I would have allowed my heart to cry out to God as His Word, words that I’ve read so very many times before, but words that today swished and turned around, speaking ever so clearly- to me. 


 I found myself staring at Isaiah Chapter 58. If you know anything about me, then you know Isaiah is one of favorite books. I find that God’s word often speaks to us countless times in different ways through the very same portions of scripture. God knows our deepest thoughts. How could He not reach out to us?

I began to read and stopped for a moment on verse 1. “Tell my people that they have refused to obey me.” Lord, me, You’re talking to me. I gather this is going to be personal. I’m not going to just see this as You speaking to a group of people, the time of this written piece or the historical background of this passage. No. Right now, my heart tells me to listen. This is for me. Lord, have I refused to obey you? “Tell the family of Jacob how much they have sinned.” I could see it as the literal family or lineage of Jacob but then I realized I had asked to speak to me. I am part of Jacob’s family in this present world because my youngest is named Jacob. So, I decided to see this scripture differently today. And so began the breaking down of Angie Duran.

 My eyes continued to walk through the verses and I felt the heart of God questioning me, the one with all the questions, and asking me if I truly believed I was serving Him and living right in His presence. God’s Word began to challenge my motives, my reasons and the purpose for everything I had ever done or done recently to show I was attempting to be closer to God, seek God and serve the Lord. God took a huge magnifying lens and a heavenly flashlight and put my heart on the spot. God’s Word questioned me and asked me to think about where my heart was in all I have thought I was doing for His Kingdom. Where has my heart truly been all this time?

Going through my purse, I took out some green sticky notes and I decided to write the thoughts that ran into my mind as I ventured onward into this conversation with the Lord. “On the day when you fast, you do as you please. You take advantage of all your workers. When you fast, it ends in arguing and fighting. That is an evil thing to do. The way you are now fasting keeps your prayers from being heard in heaven.” Here was the response to my earlier cry. “Why are you holding back your answer Lord? Why if your word declares blessings and promises of healing, why am I running home to care for my sick child, again?” In my mind I saw the countless times of disagreements and arguments before and after church. I saw quick videos in my mind of times past where I had been serving God, but while in my heart and mind I was living for the Lord and serving Him, at the same time, there was constant chaos in my home and inside my life. Evil. God was in my face showing me things as they were and as they are. 

 With great pain in my heart, I opened my life to the Lord and spoke to Him. Whatever you share with me on this train ride, I will accept. Lord, have your way here. So, I read on.
“Is this what you call a fast? Do you think I can accept that?”
One of the pastors at church had shared about fasting during the beginning of the year. I had made it a point to spend time before the Lord in fasting. And here I was a few days later being told by the Lord, “Girl, you got it all wrong! Let me explain things to you in a way you understand.”


 And as I allowed my heart to meditate on verse  6 and on, I had a heart to heart with Holy Spirit in a way I haven’t had in a while. “Here is the way I want you to fast.
Set free those who are held by chains without reason.”
Lord, I’ve done this? I’ve chained those in my family and I need to set them free. I need to release them? Who am I holding back, Lord? Who am I binding up without reason? The Lord showed me that the only ones worthy of chains and being bound up are those who are guilty. Had I made it my business to be self righteous and keep my loved ones feeling bound and guilty? I heard the Lord say, “Stop accusing! The Enemy of your faith is the Accuser, not you.”
“Set free those who are crushed.” Okay, Lord. Now I’ve crushed those in my home. Images of times when I have allowed my words to break and crush my children’s spirit and heart showed up in my mind and lingered for a moment. “Set them free.” Came God’s voice. “Set them free!”

I understood that those words from the past kept them captive in the hurt my words had caused and still today, my children, and my family were somehow held captive by my past words and actions.
“Break every evil chain.” Here I heard the Lord telling me that I had allowed a cycle of hurt and pain to remain in my life. I remembered Pastor Dan’s message the first Sunday of January 2017. “We can’t keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results.” Once again, here I was guilty of offense in God’s eyes.

Verse 7 seemed out of place until I read it as a personal note to me about my family. “Share your food with hungry people.” Hungry? Lord, I’ve always gone out of my way to make sure my kids have enough to eat, even when I’ve been exhausted, Lord. What could they possibly be hungry for? It was my mom’s voice that flooded my mind at this time. “Love, Angie. Your kids need love and hugs and they need you.” My heart was just breaking and how do you react to a God that is allowing your heart to be opened out in public. How do you hold back the cry that forms in your throat? Verse 7 continued, “Provide homeless people with a place to stay.” Excuse me, Lord, are you still talking to me like personally here? But, God didn’t answer. It was my daughter, Jeru’s voice that resounded with a conversation we had this morning. It wasn’t a very cheery one, but it was had. She made me see how many times I had made my own kids feel that they didn’t belong in our home, that I was anxious for them to be gone and on their own. They had been made homeless in their heart and in my heart with my words. 


 Our hurtful exchanges and our angry encounters at one point had taken me to say hurtful words. These words had marked the beginning of a neverending chain/cycle that said, “I don’t love you. I don’t want you here.” The Lord reminded me that it was my job to let my kids know they belonged in my life and in my home. Hadn’t God provided me a new life and promised me a new home with him? Here I had pushed my kids out emotionally, and they felt the pain of separation and had never told me. Oh, Lord, these conversations with you are so painful.


 “Give naked people clothes to wear.” So, who was naked in my house? I mean Christmas just passed and I made sure to supply them with warm clothes and…..The word naked went into synonyms and I saw naked, shame, filled with shame and empty. My children and my husband and my family were the naked people in my life that I had to clothe. God had clothed me with grace and His favor, and what had I give to my family? God had clothed me with his righteousness and His love. I had only left them bare and empty when I had the heavenly garments of praise and healing for their hurt and their shame.
“Provide for the needs of your family.” I went crazy placing exclamation marks around this because I knew that I knew God was having a heart to heart with me and I had better listen. What do they need Lord? {Really? I felt God ask sarcastically, Like you really don’t know?}

Broken. Have you ever fallen down and public (especially when you’re young and there are really cute guys around you and it’s so embarrassing) but have you fallen down and your pants tear at the knees or it’s just plain awful? I felt like my insides had all just fallen out of me and everyone around me saw me because God was looking inside of me and making me look deep inside of the me I thought I was, like it says in verses 1-5, but I had it all wrong. All wrong.

When God wants to perform heart surgery, He doesn’t wait until you’re on a hospital bed in the Emergency room. For God, there’s no time or appointment needed. He knows when it’s time to save your life and intervene in your life. I’ve been asking God to truly intervene for some time and it was today on that train ride that so much happened. I began to allow God to show me and minister to me. Then it all made sense.


 Verses 8 through 12 were the outcome of answered prayers and blessings that would follow if I would learn to “fast” and/or live out my life the way God truly found acceptable. It’s not that I’ve been a horrid person. It’s just sometimes we think we are well and fine and God takes out His magnifying glass and says, “My precious child, there still some junk in your life. Refiner’s fire on the way!”

“Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly. (Oh we need healing and quickly, Lord)
“I will march out ahead of you. (And you did that for me earlier today while I waited for the train and that homeless man tried to intimidate and would have hurt me.) But, I get it, Lord. You are going to go ahead of me to my home, to my present and to my future.
“My glory will follow behind you and guard you. That’s because I always do what is right.” (Oh, Lord, what a promise!)

“You will call out to me for help. And I will answer you.
You will cry out. And I will say, “Here I am” (Oh, Father in heaven, I needed to be reminded that I am not alone, we’re not alone, and that you are in control of my home.)


 And then the hammer came down again.
“Get rid of the chains you use to hold other down.” God, you know me. When would I ever chain anyone or hold anyone down? But, here was God telling me to let go and to stop holding them back.
“Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.”
Here was the message again about accusing and reminding them or what had been forgotten. If God forgives, that’s the end of it. Lord, forgive me for accusing and treating my kids and my family this way. I’ve complained and spoken ill of them. Forgive me, Lord. Help me make things right.

“Work hard to feed hungry people. Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.”
My kids are these people. My husband and my parents are these people in my life. My family and anyone God has placed in my life are those that are in need of love and encouraging words, to be lifted and healed, restored and made new. Lord, help me be that person you will use to bring healing and restoration in their lives.

And the promise came..
“Then my blessing will light up your darkness.” (And God knows there’s been plenty of darkness in my life and in our home these past years)
“And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.” (You’re going to shine on us, Lord. Thank you.



Then God began with “I will….”
“I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs….
I will make you stronger.”
His promises began to strengthen and encourage me as I felt my own guilt and shame melt away in His presence.
Then He said,
“You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.” (Imagine that? Me? You? A garden- something beautiful with flowers. “You will be like a spring whose water never run dry.” Not only something beautiful but a fountain to provide for others what God has offered to provide for me, waters of life that never run dry. So, this is how it goes, Lord. I must have been a dry well for some time, Lord. I guess I’ve been like a lake where the waters just stand still and begin to stink and everything around it dies. My family has been slowly fading away. But, I believe today you’ve done a new thing. “Your people (and I added family here) will rebuild the cities that were destroyed long ago.” My children were and are children of promise and what my words and actions had destroyed; God was promising to make a way for them to be rebuilt. God rebuilds. God restores.

Yes. God restores. He forgives and He loves us so much that He will show up on our train ride to interrupt our schedule and get us to think about where we are going in the train ride of our lives. God shows up and tells us it’s time for a heart to heart and it’s up to us to say, “Speak, Lord.” Or “Shush!” Today, I am grateful that the Lord cut through me because I thought I was fine but God shined the light on my heart and asked me to give Him my messed up self and He will make all things new. He is the One that will rebuild the city of my family. He makes all things new.

Lord, thank you for exposing me to me but allowing me the confidence to be explicit with my writing. I know there are others that will benefit greatly as they read Isaiah 58 on their own and allow You to speak to their hearts. Maybe they will not see what I saw or understand the scriptures the crazy way I truly believe you personally break the words down for me. I’m not your average reader and words take on a whole new meaning when I get into breaking words apart. Thank you Lord for opening me up and allowing me to see that my hurts were still hurting and that my words had caused great damage that You are healing and restoring. Thank you Lord because your word gave me fresh insight into fasting and living for you on a regular basis. This new way of seeing my life through your word has been hard and I ask that you help me to honor you in the changes you’ve shown me I need to put into practice. I ask you to guide me and lead me. I ask that you anoint me and use me to be who and what my children, my family and my family needs me to be. Lord, use my life also wherever I go each day.

God, thank you for your word that comes right on time. Use my study of your word to bring healing to other families and marriages that need to be restored. Thank you for your healing and your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.

My scripture references are from the NIrV Bible (New International reader’s Bible- Zondervan) and my heart shared my one on one with Isaiah Chapter 58. 

This blog is lovingly written to my children, Jeru, Aaron and Jacob and my husband, Frankie. Forgive me. Forgive me for my past words filled with hurt and anger, my thoughtless actions, and my lack of being who you needed me to be. Forgive me for telling you about God's love and being small in showing it. Forgive me for my coldness at times and for not letting God be first in my life so that I could give you my all as He poured into my life and healed my own hurts. I love you all and you are the greatest treasure in the world to me. I truly love you!
Forgive me, Mom and Dad for times of not listening and not being grateful. Forgive me, my brothers, Tito and Alex, for not being there when you needed me and for any moment in your life when I was not an example of God's love. I love you and your families fiercely. Forgive me.
With all my heart, -Angie