Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanksgiving Psalm

Trisha, me, Bill, Dan
Motivated again by our dear friends Dan and Trisha, I challenged our three oldest GRANDS to memorize these words with me by Thanksgiving last year. (Two of the three earned my $5 award.)

Psalm 100

"Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations."

It begs questions:
Is my serving (especially in my own home) done with gladness?
How am I experiencing God in my life today?
Am I living like one who knows her shepherd?
How is my thankfulness list coming?
What did the goodness of God look like for me today, last week, last month?
What are the circumstances that I'm currently living in demonstrating his faithfulness to me?

These familiar words invite new realities. Oh how I long to live in them. What about you?

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving day!

           "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."                         I Thessalonians 4:18

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reputation or Character?

The well-known narrative of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha nested in Luke 10:38-42 is a many faceted diamond; its beauty and blessing shine in multitudes of ways to those who listen.

Martha had her good hostess hat on. She welcomed Jesus into their home. It was important to her that the meal would be served just right. I get that. Hospitality is important to me too.

Martha had a reputation to preserve. And sometimes that is my driving motivation as well.

Mary's attention was on their guest. She sat in rapt attention. Listening.

FRUSTRATION! Mary's attentiveness to Jesus thwarted Martha's desires.

So Martha appealed to Jesus - surely he would help her cause.
"Lord, do you not care ..." 

Jesus did care; he cared a lot. 

Martha had a picture of what care looked like and in her mind, care wasn't happening. Oh, how I identify. I think I know best how care looks, how care feels.

He cared about Mary and he cared about Martha. His simple response revealed his heart for both ladies. I have a feeling Mary was listening quietly to this exchange. Would she be dismissed to the kitchen?
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled ... one thing is necessary ...
Mary has chosen the good ..."

Jesus responds to Martha first. You are ...  In those two little words, Jesus is communicating, 
Martha, I see you.
I see your serving.
I see your heart.
Listening to the care behind the words, I relax.
And, I see your frustration.

Then, he doesn't immediately turn to Mary, he transitions, he gentles his truth. 
"but one thing is necessary," 

By doing this he doesn't compare Mary to Martha. He notes Mary's heart, just as he noted Martha's.
"Mary has chosen the good ..."

Mary's concern was listening, her character.

Martha, your concern is good. But there is something even better.
I want you to see it.
I want you to get it.
I want you to have it.
I want you to listen.

Listening, in my experience, is the key to character. Not deciding to stop doing something (although sometimes that is involved); not deciding to start something; not deciding that I just don't care anymore and I pull the strings on my mask even tighter. 
All these possible goods are only good if they result from listening. Listening to God's heart for me; listening for his affirmations; listening to his truth.

And character melts away the importance of reputation. 

I will only have the courage to take off my mask if my character is more important to me than my reputation. 

Paul understood this too. He underscores his pedigree, his reputation in Philippians 3:3-6. But then he concludes that character is more important and comes from God.

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God that depends on faith - "
Philippians 3:7-9

Next Thursday Echoes of Grace speaks of Thanksgiving. Then the following Wednesday, December 2, Echoes is introducing the Advent posts for 2015. They will have a different format and I think will make your Advent celebration very special. The first Advent post is Thursday, December 3.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sabotaging and Seducing

One of the best definitions of comparison I’ve heard comes from Emily Freeman’s latest book, Simply Tuesday. “The best way to Sabotage my own success is to be obsessed with someone else’s.” (page 91)

For more years than I’d like to admit, I’ve suffered with this disease. Your ministry was always better than mine; you always had more invitations coming your way; your grasp of the Bible always awed me … and, and, and.

My feelings of success sabotaged as I looked to you for my plumb line.

A miserable place to live, especially when you really do love Jesus and love ministry.

Immediately three problems arise from the above words:

1. I should know by now that whenever the words always or never appear, the truth is being stretched.       
2. Should success be my desire, or faithfulness? 
3. My eyes leading my heart were always in the wrong place.

Another synonym for comparison is competition. I grew up in a competitive family where success (that word again) was defined by comparison and winning was rewarded.

In a foot race, you are either in front of your competition and they are looking at your back, or you are behind the competition eating the dust from their running shoes.  That perspective defines you in that moment.

But as women, more than winning, I believe our hearts crave connection; someone who will walk with us, someone who gets us, someone who listens and then says, “me too”. Someone safe enough to be insecure with. Someone we can walk with.

God is a relational God, and we are created in His image. God connected with us and invited us into His family. That’s really my heart’s desire—to invite, to relate, to connect.

This desire is stymied when I try too hard to connect. When my heart is to win (success), not to minister (faithfulness). Some personal clues for me are:

When I'm busy thinking about my next words,
I miss connecting.
When I know just who she needs to talk with,
I'm forfeiting my opportunity to connect.
When I steal a glance at my watch,
my connecting is jeopardized.
When her story triggers a memory and I start down that rabbit trail,
the connection is lost.
When my eyes look over her shoulder, just for a moment,
my desire to connect is questioned.

(Oh conviction! I think of my lunch with Denise recently—GUILTY—on at least two of the above. I’m glad that grace is allowing another opportunity.)

In my own life, I think of many times when I have met Jesus through the ears and eyes and hugs of my friends.

I’m learning to treasure the balm of connection instead of breaking from comparison. After all isn’t this an application of believing I’m created by God for such a time as this. I’m created in His image for relationship, for connection, for faithfulness.

But I'm not in this alone. "... your adversary the devil prowls around ... seeking someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8) 

My adversary has had a hay day prowling around and devouring by planting lies; and I've believed him. SEDUCED! 

He seduced; I was sabotaged. 

I Peter 5:9 offers the anecdote, "Resist him, firm in your faith,"

Review, review, review. What are the truths God has spoken to me? Review, review, review!

"But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder,"
Romans 15:15
"To write the same things to you if no trouble to me and is safe for you."
Philippians 3:1

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ezra - An Update

Ezra, 11 months on November 1, 2015
Ezra's personal reporter; Ezra's Gramma - since the beginning of summer and Ezra's diagnosis of Hyperinsulinism - these identities have been added to my hats. I'm overwhelmed and honored to have that responsibility.

There have been few days that someone - and usually more than one someone - has not inquired about Ezra. I am honored to speak for him; and I am truly overwhelmed by the multitudes who care, love, pray, and ask.

At follow up doctor visit in CA, Sept 2015
Ezra's Hyperinsulinism is being controlled medically. So far he is doing well. His parents, Jeff and Aubrey need to administer 2 injections daily, check his blood sugar multiple times during the day, and overnight hook him up to a bag of dextrose that is delivered directly to his stomach via a port.
Cubs at Dodger Stadium, Aug 2015

The learning curve is steep for the whole family. Even Aubrey, a physician, had never treated a person with this condition. Jeff, a pastor, is quite sure that he's earned the equivalent on an honorary RN.
Family hike, Oct 2015
We are so proud of Jeff and Aubrey. They are learning their new family normal and as much as possible not letting Ezra's condition change their lifestyle. He goes on the family hikes each Saturday; he has cheered at his first Cubs game; and he's loving being back with big brother Judah and big sister Naomi.

It appears that this condition is not affecting his physical development. At 11 months old, he is standing on his own, walking around furniture, and almost ready to brave that first step. He may be Jeff and Aubrey's youngest walker! He continues to be one of the happiest babies we've
known. Almost every picture has a smile.

You might remember the poem I posted earlier about our journey. Here is my continuation penned in July, August, and October. (The italics are stanza's from Ezra's perspective.)

The story continues,
Ezra's personal jet
The chapters grow and grow.
Ezra remains a source of joy to everyone he knows.

He smiles, he recognizes, he grows.
He reaches baby milestones
  inside hospital walls.
Sitting, teething, chattering with all.

Getting ready to fly, July 2, 2015
Three months,
Four ambulances,
  including one that soared the skies.
Four hospitals; two states;
Countless doctors standing by.

The nurses,
The tubes, the shots galore,
Controlling HI, not an easy chore.
On my way to surgery, July 14, 2015

Mom and Dad with me
Nana and Gramma sometimes too;
But Judah and Naomi, 
  Oh how I miss those two.

Surgery disappointed.
A new path of trust.
Keep those shots coming,
I guess, if you must.

Today is a new day (August 3, 2015),
Today I wave good bye
  to the last three months familiar
  and stare at clear blue skies. 
August 3, 2015

I meet my Great Grandma
  on the way home;
Then another airplane delivers me
  to the hugs and love of my southern fam.

The story not so young;
The chapters not so few;
And as the journey continues,
  Jesus, we keep our eyes on you.

Yoga Baby, July 2015

As I ponder these months,
  tears ready to spill,
The bond of love tightens,
  overwhelmed by family and friends
  old and new.

With another ER visit, (October 2015)
The reminder comes anew,
Gramma, keep your eyes on Jesus,
The one whose love is true.
Exploring, Oct 2015

On this 3 minute video, Aubrey does a great job of explaining what Hyperinsulinism by telling Ezra's story. And there is a bunch of fun pictures too.
If you would like to be a part of the Hyperinsulinism solution, click here to join the FUNdraiser: 

"For Ezra set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel."
Ezra 7:10
One of the scriptures I pray for our Ezra.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Creating Space for Grace to Flow

Kimberely is my friend. She is also a counselor and president of New Day Initiative, LLC. Some

counselors I connect with; some not so much. She is in the first group.

Our phone call was pre-arranged (1000 miles separate us). In a particular relationship I had hit a wall and needed her expertise. Our 30+ minute phone call was a game-changer. She is amazing.

Kimberely's habit is to start with prayer.
She listens to my current - and my plea for help.
She doesn't have solutions.
She does have questions, insightful questions.
She asks and she waits, silently.

Always - yes - always, God uses her prompts to minister deeply.

She asks again.

Her questions, not solutions create the space for God's grace to flow.

Once again I relax, smile, and breathe deeply.

One of my prayers for myself is that my questions and my silence will create space for God's grace to flow, that I would love well.

Cautiously she shared her story of her daughter-in-law, of the eggshells beneath her feet, and of her great frustration. The situation unresolved. My other friend listened quietly. Something melted in her; she got it; she'd been there. She even identified with the word "farce". Her words, "me too" bonded their friendship.

No solutions were offered; truly there were no solutions to give. There were no spiritual platitudes which would have distanced the friendship. There was only simple identification.
I get it.
I'm there too.
It's awful.
It hurts.
Me too.

It took humility.
It took vulnerability.
It took love.
And it created space for God's grace to flow.

I've heard it said that wordiness might be a symptom of not trusting God to work in the life of another.

Simple questions, or simply identifying don't require many words. And perhaps because of their few-ness, they create space for God's grace to flow.

I've experienced the other side too:

I share my story. And quickly, too quickly a solution or two is proposed. I thank my well-meaning friend and our conversation turns to the weather. Wordiness.

Or, she shares truth with me, God is sovereign. The truth is truly true. I know it and I didn't need the reminder. Did she not think I knew? Wordiness.

Or, she listens to my story and then explains the why of it to me; the obvious. I feel like a little girl, not a companion on the journey. Wordiness.

"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent."
Proverbs 17:28

I'm learning the power of silence, the power of me-too, and the power of questions. My motive is not to be considered wise, my motive is to create space for grace to flow. Would you pray for me?

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."
Psalm 19:14

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dorene, Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord

I remember the last conversation we had standing in the front of the sanctuary that Sunday morning.

Both of us had moved away from California and both were back. Dorene and her husband Clarence moved back after a ten year hiatus serving with the Billy Graham organization. Bill and I were back for the weekend and Bill was preaching that morning.

I had my wife of the preacher hat on.

Dorene and I hugged in greeting. It was so good to see her again. I think she felt the same.
But there was a sadness about her. And she trusted me with it.

She spoke words of hurt. This woman who had a big heart for ministry to other women could no longer identify her place. Involved before her move in the women’s ministry was truly only the tip of her encouraging heart. Her smile invited trust; she listened; she prayed; she led.

It seemed to her, that was all history. Younger women held the positions she once defined herself by. Who was she now? Where did she belong?

I listened—kind of—all the while formulating my response.

I cringe remembering my words.

Oh, Dorene, no. You still have much to offer; you still are a great blessing—or some platitudes along those lines.

Really, what did I know? We were visiting for the weekend.

Our perceptions of reality, our feelings ARE TRUE FOR US—whether or not they are truly true. My words tried to negate her true.

Love is kind. I wish my words had been kinder; even, Oh Dorene, that must be so hard, would have been kinder.

God’s wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, merciful, sincere. Inviting her to tell me more would have shown wisdom and true concern.

Praying with her and for her right there in the midst of the growing congregation would have communicated care and that she is still important to me.

I did none of the above.

Her recent death brought this story back. My shame is real and is also fading. 

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble" Psalm 107:1, 2.

God is redeeming this story for me. I’m learning to listen better; I’m learning to be kinder; I’m learning to let my words be prayers.

Although I can’t speak for Dorene, like I’ve been vulnerable with you, she was vulnerable with me that morning. She didn’t find an understanding soul in me, but I bet she shared her feelings with others too. My guess is that she found a community of grace who loved her well in the midst of her hard.