Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Ways Hurry Hurts Me ... and You!

Memorial Day - the first picnic and parade and celebration of summer. Enjoy.

Summer is the beginning of a different schedule for Bill and me. Since I was 5 years old, my calendar rotated with the traditional school year.

Summer always brought a slower pace, a time for family, a time for camping, a time for rejuvenation.

Three Ways Hurry Hurts Me…and You!

Performance driven Christians live in a continual state of anxiety and fear. How? By hurrying. We have so much to accomplish so God is pleased with us we push the accelerator to the floor. We live by the lie that busyness equals importance…that my accomplishments create my identity and my value to God lies in my usefulness.
I learned the hard way the destructiveness of busyness. Here are three lessons living at warp speed taught me. I have more I will share later.
  • Busyness is the enemy of my soul. Lance Witt says, “You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul.” Not only do I desperately need time with God, Jesus wants time with me. He tells me he no longer knows me as his servant, but as his friend. He has made a fire on the beach and wants me to come sit with him (John 21), and just “Be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
  • Busyness is the enemy of friendship. Hurry always hurts relationships. Always. Hurry is a “Hi, how are you” without stopping where you are going. Hurry is texting while listening. Hurry is scheduling five minutes between appointments. It’s not building in a buffer to have time for people. It creates resentment. It demeans and hurts. Hurry believes there is no meaning in the present, only in the next thing I have to do for God.
  • Busyness is the enemy of love. A common closing blessing in many churches is taken from Numbers 6:26, “The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” This means he takes time to stop and look right at us…full in the face. He takes time to pay attention…to our joys, our hurts, our concerns, our anxieties. In His stopping we know we are important – we are loved…and in His stopping we find peace.
“God takes the time to do everything right – everything” (Isaiah 30:18, The Message). May we do the same.

QUESTION: Where do you need to slow down? How will you do that? Is there someone you need to turn your face toward?

ACTIONS: Become a part of our blog family and become a subscriber – it will help you slow down. Then share this with a busy friend.

NEW!  Starting this coming Monday, visit my “Monday Quotes” page. I’ll share with you the best of the best quotes I have journaled over the years that help me live in the freedom of the gospel and that I regularly take time to review.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

He Holds My Hand

2016 opened a new chapter of my journey. Friend after friend after friend met Jesus face to face. My wonderings, my curiosity, my trust about heaven was stirred, a good thing.

Jerry Bridges titled his memoir, God Took Me By the Hand. Apt words for me as I've pondered familiar scriptures expanding my thoughts of heaven.

I'm overwhelmed a-GAIN by the love of God

His nickname is Doubting Thomas. His faith challenged when his friends tell him they have seen Jesus after the resurrection. He retorts, "I won't believe unless I see the nail wounds in his hands ..." John 20:25 NLT

Jesus submits to his request.

Jesus has visible wounds AFTER his resurrection! Doesn't the Bible teach that our resurrected bodies will be new, whole, healed, well? It appears Jesus is an exception.

Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology says, "The scars from Jesus' crucifixion are unique ...The fact that he retains those scars does not necessarily mean that we shall retain ours" page 616.

I wonder, if Thomas was the only one to ever want proof of Jesus' crucifixion by seeing the scars, would those scars have remained just for Thomas?

Yet those scars testify to us as well of God's amazing love, love big enough to send his son to the cross so we could have a relationship with him.

Inner Renewal

My friend Larry met his Savior face to face on March 6. As a result of a horrendous car accident 39 years ago, Larry suffered a closed head injury that defined the rest of his days. Although his physical capacity (his outer self) was forever changed, it was obvious that his inner self was the same and being renewed. He loved God and his family and because of the few words he spoke, I believe he knew God loved him, his inner self not hampered by his broken body.

II Corinthians 4:16, 17, "... though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Jesus never leaves us ... He takes us by our hand

Psalm 23:4 speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Physical death, our doorway to heaven. The Psalmist declares, "I will fear no evil," Why? "Because you (God) are with me."

Hebrews 13:5 referencing Joshua 1:5, "I will never leave you ..."

God never ever leaves His beloved children! Never!

In the opening verses of John 14, Jesus tells us that he is preparing a place for us in his Father's house. When that place is prepared he will personally escort us there. (verse 4)

Even in those moments as we pass from our earthly life, Jesus has our hand. Never are we away from his presence.

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you blameless
before the presence of his glory with great joy,
Jude 24

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Forgiveness and the Child of God

(The sentence I cannot agree with in the above quote is "the forgiving free spirit of children is our true nature." If it said that forgiveness is part of our nature as children of God then I would agree.)

It happened in the '80s. I remember the feelings it conjured up as if it were yesterday. We carpooled together, my friend and I, their two daughters, our two sons. Most of the time without incident.

But then there was this one day, and one disagreement leaving two estranged friends. Oh, it takes so little.

I laid on my bed and sobbed. She was a good friend; friendship is important to me. But I couldn't get past the hurt. Left up to myself, the pit was too deep.

Thankfully, God did not leave me up to myself. He brought another along side; another who was un-involved; another who loved enough to get involved and lead me to truth. This time it was my husband.

Sue, is this hard worth losing your friend over? His simple nine word question was the beginning of the turn.

Finally, repentance came, forgiveness happened, and a friendship was restored.

Why is it so hard to repent and forgive?

My identity is at stake. Is this how a child of God behaves? My behavior and my incorrect theology are in conflict. As a beloved child of God, I still sin.

Pride. Repentance calls for me to agree with God for my piece of this mess. Asking forgiveness puts me at the mercy of the other. I forfeit control to God and my friend - that calls for humility.

Fear. that my asking for forgiveness will not cure the issue. What if this wrong is held over my head? Will this incident always defines our friendship?

Shame. Admitting my wrong means to admit something is wrong in my thinking or in my perspective. Is our friendship worth being the wrong one?

Stubbornness. Faulty thinking gets faultier and faultier the more I try to make it look different.

Trust. In my pride, my fears, my shame, and my stubbornness the common thread is I am not trusting God!
    And the question became, how can I invite God in and trust him with this mess?


"O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you."
Psalm 69:8

Author and blogger, Ed Cyzewski writes, 

"Perhaps this Psalm comes as bad news to some. Some may read this as a kind of “surveillance God” peering into our lives, seeking any kind fault or reason for judgment or exclusion.

However, what if God’s awareness of our hidden faults is the best kind of good news, the good news we all need. Jesus spoke of himself as a doctor who has come to heal, and the prophets are filled with accounts of God mourning that Israel will not turn back to him.

What if God is a lover who sees our foolishness and faults and still remains enamored with us? God sees our secret sins and wants nothing more than our healing and redemption.

There is grace and mercy for us before we even acknowledge our failings. In many ways, confession is more for us than it is for God. Confession convinces us that God has known who and what we are all along and still wants to call us his beloved."

Me and my good friend Barb, April 2016.

"Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
James 5:16

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Mother's Heart

Mom and Me, May 2016

Views in Mom's neighborhood
 My Mother's Heart knows no age,
Inside she's still the same.
Her 96 years may show their ware,
But who she is does not change.
Mom loves her daughters, all 4 of us,
And wants the best for each.
She still wants to spoil; she still wants to treat,
Her strengths even stronger through the years.
As Mother's Day comes again this May,
I pause and ponder in wonder ...
My Mom is special.
My Mom is unique.
She lives who God created her to be.
So, Mom my prayer for you these days
is summed up in Moses's words ...
"May the LORD bless you
and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor 
and give you his peace."
Numbers 6:24-26, NLT 

My personal favorite

Barbara, me, Sara, Mom, Penny


Thursday, April 28, 2016

One-Upping and The Gospel of Grace

My friend Carolyn
Welcome to a special Echoes of Grace. My friend Carolyn Eden and I collaborated on this post.Thank you Carolyn.

And thank you to Julie Breuninger and her words in Velvet Ashes on one-up-man-ship that stretched my understanding of this concept. 

Our words were friendly enough.
The conversation flowed easily - perhaps too easily.
It was subtle; not until I left and thought about it did I realize the one-upping.

An opportunity to affirm turned to competition. Woe to me!

(Not the real conversation, but similar. You'll get the gist).
Hey Carolyn, thank you for dropping this off at church for me today.
No problem. I'm going to an important leadership meeting anyway.
I'd do it myself, but I need to bring lunch to Sandy.
I'm busy too. My year end Bible study brunch is this week. Twelve ladies is a squeeze even in my dining room.
Oh, and I was asked to help with a reception at church on Saturday. It was already a full weekend, but ...
We're hosting a missionary couple who are coming to town. They always stay with us. Clean the guest room again!

One-up-man-ship - the art or practice of outdoing or keeping one step ahead
of a friend or competitor. 
Do you see what is happening in the above exchange? We both are set on being the important one. The conversation overflowed with one-upping. We were not trusting Proverbs 11:25, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." When I bless, God is able to enrich. One-upping not necessary.

This imaginary conversation could have been true. Both of us are committed to our friends and our local church. Both of us have strengths in hospitality and keep our guest rooms ready and clean towels in the bathroom.

Because we have much in common, we are more susceptible to one-upping.

Stewarding our gifting in serving ... even with words ...  is living God's grace. Thank you Peter for that reminder. I Peter 4:10.

Instead the conversation highlighted our insecurities. We spoke as though our involvements equaled our significance. NOT TRUE!

We needed  to cast our gaze on God to affirm our significance, the very significance he created in us, but we were silently begging the other to notice and affirm. BAD IDEA!

The unspoken desire actually accomplished the opposite - igniting the neediness of the other.

Paul reminds of the words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Acts 20:35. Most often I hear this reminder in terms of monetary giving. But could it not also refer to the giving of words of blessing and encouragement?
We don't need to one-up to prove our worthiness
or highlight our significance.
We were significant enough for Jesus to go to the cross for us.

And because of the cross, "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand ..." Romans 5:2. 

"When I am living in God's grace,
I receive all the validation I need from Him."
Julie Breuninger 

Our listening was thwarted. Instead of blessing the serving of the other, we felt the need to insert ourselves into the story and be the important one.

We were acting as though our reputation was at stake in our doings. 

Our reputation is God's responsibility. Our part is to live out who God created us to be. Perhaps we were doing that with our serving and our hospitality. But the emphasis in our words highlighted the one-upping.

Do you hear the pride? Reading even the pretend responses was mortifying!

God exhorts through Peter to humble ourselves and allow Him to exalt. Never are we called to exalt ourselves. I Peter 5:8. One-upping is exalting self.

"If you want to really experience the flow of love as never before,
the next time you are in a competitive situation,
pray that the other around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and
more used of God than yourself."
Dallas Willard

"Grace liberates us to serve one another without the burden of competitiveness."
Julie Breuninger 

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up ..."
I Thessalonians 5:11

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, 
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
Philippians 2:3 

When do you find yourself vulnerable to one-upping?
What helps you experience God meeting your significance needs?
What does living in the environment of grace look like for you?


Thursday, April 21, 2016

David's Story

My friend David is one of the directors of the Certificate in High Trust Leadership. CHTL is an online course for which it is my great privilege to be an adjunct faculty. I invited him to share part of his story on Echoes this week. Thank you, David.

You'll be so glad you invested 5 minutes and 54 seconds to watch this video.

Are you interested in living in the freedom of applied grace? I think this is one of the best definitions of CHTL

"Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand ..."
Romans 5:2

Grace is more than a doctrine, it is an environment in which we stand, in which we can live.
Men are welcome too.
In this graduate level course, you are exposed to excellent teaching videos covering blocks of scripture helping you learn how grace works; regular exercises putting these principles into practice leading you to an increased ability to apply grace in all your relationships; stories (like David's) and practical illustrations enhance it all. I encourage you  to check out the CHTL link above.
The next course starts in August. And YOU are invited. The value is both in the content and in the
interaction with the others in your cohort.
What questions do you have?
I'd love to talk.  sue

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Temptation, Shame, Community

Because of a course we're taking together, our conversation revolved around shame. She said, it's so hard to dig out. And when my shame is so obvious to me, it is so hard to connect to the grace of God.

I agree. 

Later, praying over our interaction, God brought Paul's words nestled in I Corinthians to mind, the way of escape.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
 God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,
 but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape,
 that you may be able to endure it."
I Corinthians 10:13

I noted:
     * Temptation is a common issue.
     * God has a fence around temptation.
     * God provides a way of escape.
     * It won't overpower me.

A friend once commented that holiness is living with nothing hidden. Holiness is living in the light. I'm thinking that is the message of I John 1:5-10.

Then my thoughts circled back to Paul and his testimony in Philippians 1. In verses 19 and 20, he declares, 

"through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ
 this will turn out for my deliverance,
 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed ..." 

Paul was living in the light with his Philippian community. He was asking for their prayers. And his hope was, he would not be ashamed. 

Community was one key to him not being ashamed. Living in community involves humility.

Questions began to swirl ...

What is more important to me my reputation (or what I think it is) or living in the light?
What is more important, victory from the sin that is causing the shame, or living with it?
Who is my community?
Will I trust them with me, with my humanity, with my shame?
Do I believe there is a way of escape?

What questions do these scriptures bring to your mind?
What is the shame you are in the midst of? 
Will you believe your community can help?
Will you risk living in the light?

If you would like, I'm glad to be a trusted community for you.

Next week my friend David shares his story in a powerful 5 minute video. You won't want to miss hearing this.