Thursday, December 18, 2014

Treasuring, Pondering

Let your light so shine ... Liberty Springs PCA
Considering, treasuring, wondering, pondering. These synonyms sprinkled like salt bring out the best of Luke's and Matthew's telling of the Christmas story.

These words instruct ... stop, listen, question, rest here.

I want to know the narratives. I want to see the hope, the worries, the trustings of these long-ago journey mates. And then I want to hear my Gabriels, God's messenger to me ... What are my hopes, my worries, and my trustings that these holy words speak to.

Is this want possibly the best gift I can bring to the Christ child this Christmas?

Luci Shaw testifies in her intro to Sally Breedlove's book Choosing Rest, "I am a poet, and an idea for a poem may well occur to me on the fly ... to follow that image into the heart of truth, to wait for the Spirit that speaks ... requires quiet, undeviating focus, to listen for the Spirit's voice, to pay attention to the creation and the Creator ..." (page 8)

Sounds like considering, treasuring, wondering, pondering. Yes, this is the gift I want to offer this Christmas.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses Mary's pondering to speak of how we should read the Bible, "One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself ... we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them ... (letting them) linger in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love;" (page 136, parentheses mine)

Enquire, receive, linger, more synonyms. I especially respond to linger. Lingering is what I enjoy with a friend at a favorite coffee shop. Hmm, lingering with God ... I feel the desire.

My friend Janine often says about a scripture portion we're reading together, "I need to sit with this". Husband Bill encourages, "Put it in you pocket and think about it". 

I remember the 8 hour trip from Illinois to Minnesota that long ago Thanksgiving with our two littles securely strapped in their carseats behind us. And I remember the questions, the many, many questions! Littles inquiring, wondering, wanting to understand. And this mommy getting pretty tired of the conversation.

How different from God who welcomes, who desires, who loves our ponderings, our wonderings, and our treasurings, and even our questionings.

Yes, this is my gift.

What about you? What does pondering and considering look like for you? How has practicing these disciplines enriched your times with God? Which of all the words above communicates best to you? Why?

Children teach us so much about wonder. I love this picture of my oldest GRAND, Jack when he was 3 years old seeing a rainbow for the first time.

This little guy, the first GRAND of my good friend experiencing snow for the very first time.

Ahh, wonder.






"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Exalted those of Humble Estate

"Let your light so shine ..." Liberty Springs, PCA
It was the mid-1990's; we sat in the coffee shop and spoke of our common love of women's
bible study. Then the question ... Sue, what role do you want to play in the bible studies? Without hesitation I answered, I would like to train your leaders.

As I think back, I hang my head. Did my observations of the bible study make me think I had something better to offer? Why was I so bold, so confident? Was that position a need to bolster an identity crisis?

I'm not sure. But I am sure that it was a proud response, a response seeking to set myself up--exalt myself, to climb my own ladder. Arrogance.

How different from Mary.

Immediately upon learning that she was to give birth to Jesus, the son of God, Mary hastened to her cousin Elizabeth's home. Elizabeth confirmed her pregnancy. Did Mary even know that she was carrying a babe yet?

Mary's response from inside her being, from who God created her to be, was to magnify her Lord, to rejoice in her savior. It wasn't about Mary--it was about God. Every sentence focuses attention on God. Luke 1:46-55

"for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant...
for he who is mighty has done great thing for me.
and holy is his name." Luke 1:48 and 49

Mary's tender-hearted beauty, her lovely humility flowed easily from her heart to her words. Mary allowed God to exalt her.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you." I Peter 5:6

God wants to, intends for us to be exalted in his time, for his purposes, for his glory. The road to exaltation begins with humility. Mary's humility showed in her submission, her obedience, even in her willingness to suffer. And it led to exaltation. An exaltation Mary never sought; it was God's gift to her, and through her to us!

What does exaltation look like? Is it position? Is it influence? Is it living out God's design? What is the source of exaltation?

I learning that God initiates. God sends personal Gabriels my way with Sue-shaped messages in his time for his purposes. 

I learning that exaltation is what God does in me so he can work through me for the benefit of others.

I learning that in humility, a door is open for God to enter.

John Blase in his coda to Touching Wonder,

"Some would say a perspective like that leads to arrogance. Some say a lot of things. My friend, there is an "arrogance of belonging" that reveals hearts fully attuned to the moment and fully engaged in the story in which they find themselves. It looks like arrogance, I'll give you that. But upon deeper reflection, it shows that in the grand play each one has been given a part. The question is, "How will you play it?" (Page 122)

Where are your opportunities to practice humility? What have the Gabriels in your life offered? Are you listening to their messages?  What is the part God has assigned to you in his grand story? What would it look like for you to trust God with his definition of humility and exaltation for you?

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
I Peter 5:5








Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let It Be To Me



Liberty Springs PCA, Cross Hill, SC. Let your light so shine ...
Gabriel’s words shocked Mary.

But he softened his message with affirmation, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Not a mere period at the end of that sentence, an explanation point … the.Lord.is.with.you! You.have.found.favor.with.God. Mary, your life reflects God’s presence! God is well-pleased with you! 

I imagine Mary’s breath caught in her throat. Perhaps a tear fell from her eye. She was listening to an angel—God's personal sentinel—sharing a message from God himself.

“Mary … you will conceive … bear a son … call his name Jesus. He will be great … Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31, 32)

Mary had questions … wouldn’t we all? Gabriel listened and responded gently. Her questions were not of the challenging sort. 

I picture Mary’s chin falling to her chest. I see her open hands spread to receive. I hear her heart in her quietly spoken words, “… let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Let it be to me. Allow this miracle to come true through me. I think I understand a bit of Mary’s response. God is doing something very special in her life. God is the initiator and Mary is actively engaging with him.

Let it be to me, a joyful submission to the will of God. I hear in Mary a willing trust of God’s purposes. I hear a responsive heart. Mary knew it was God’s work in her not her work for God. Let it be to me.

For Mary the will of God was hard, counter-cultural even. It wasn’t acceptable to be pregnant before marriage. Engaging with the plan and purposes of God is often hard. But a let it be to me response communicates, a holy desire to participate in God’s will.

I am challenged to trust and to pray …

I may not get it … but let it be to me. God I WANT to participate in your purposes.                                                                                                                                                I  I want it to be different … but let it be to me. I WANT to partner in your will. 
                                                                                                                      
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

Kara and Jason
Norman and Katie
I dedicate this post to my friends Kara and Katie who in the midst of their HARD are letting their lights shine. They too are saying, let it be to me. Bless you my friends.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Beauty



I woke Sunday morning to this message from God,

“The king is enthralled by your beauty;” Psalm 45:11, NIV

To say, those words were like the snow flurries blowing in the brisk November wind outside my sliding glass door is an understatement! The king is enthralled by MY beauty????
Thanksgiving week sky in Colorado
I too was blown away.

This passage used to be on my UN-favorite list. Really. The verse before instructed, forget your people, forget your father’s house. Because someone better (the king) is enthralled with my beauty. I didn’t feel beautiful; and I didn’t want to forget my family. 

Although those scriptures stuck in my mind, I paid them little heed over the years. 

But four days ago, God whispered a different understanding.

Sue, what if God is saying, be present to me. Listen to me. Give space in your life for my truth. I am enthralled with you; I desire (ESV translation) you.

God created me; knit me together in my mother’s womb. Should he not be pleased with his work?

God called me; I am born of God. That birth was not a human decision or a self-willed idea. God initiated.

God consecrated me—before I was born. Amazing!

These scripture truths rushed from my heart to my head as I pondered Psalm 45:11. I could hardly wait to share it with Sue, and Susan, and Janet, and Kara, and Lynea, and Laura Beth, and, and, and. 

This is GOOD News. 

The king is enthralled with who he created me to be. The Message says, “the king is wild FOR you.” (Emphasis mine)  God is wild for the person he created me to be. And that precedes my physical birth or any ladder I climbed (and I climbed a few) to try and be someone.

Why did I hear those words so differently a few days ago? Why on that morning did it bolster my child-of-God identity?

Because of the journey I’ve been on the last 20 years.

Twelve of those years reviewing scriptures that speak of God’s love for me have under-girded my personal devotional times. I’m listening intently to God’s truth. My prayers include asking God what it would look like to trust him with that truth that day.

Interesting, there is a research study that claims that contemplatively meditating on the love of God has more healing influence on the brain than any other practice or effort we put forth to reach a goal of identity wholeness. The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life.

“Contemplatively meditating”, I call it making space for God. When I make that space, he faithfully fills it with his truth, and I am understanding scripture differently. I’m hearing that God is enthralled with my beauty.

And that is something to be thankful for!

from A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp
What blessings are you pondering this Thanksgiving?

Another one of my blessings is YOU! Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will but born of God.                          John 1:12 and 13, NIV

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas is Coming



Do you, like me, have special red socks that are reserved for December?

Or a pretty Christmas sweater that gets taken out only one wintery month?

Do you, like me, have a special recipe box filled with the family Christmas favorites?

Do you, like me, have special books that are saved for Christmas reading and re-reading?

Even this blog takes on a Christmas theme during Advent. Sneak peak … this year I’m sharing some thoughts from three very familiar lines in the gospel accounts. I hope you’ll stop by each week.

I LOVE Christmas!

Our row of Christmas books grows each year. This year I’ve added two (so far). 

Touching Wonder, (I love the title) is a journey through the Christmas story mostly from Luke’s perspective. The author, John Blase, closes each short reflection with a prayer. In his words, “The heart of each prayer is personal, but I’ve found that what is most personal is most general”.  (Page 16) I concur.

I’ve been mulling over these words in his prayer after the story of Elizabeth. “Contentment that cancels out hope is merely a mask for resignation”. (Page 33)

Yup, I’ve jump-started Christmas this year.

This beauty is changing my quiet times next month. Not one who usually reads from a devotional book, this December will be different. Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, is truly an early Christmas present. The scripture readings from the old and new testaments, her provoking thoughts and questions, the wonderful art picturing each entry all draw me to a new place. (I’ve only scanned a few entries, but I know this is going to be a rich time of enjoying the presence of God.)

Jan Karon is one of my favorite novelists. She “writes to give readers an extended family and to applaud the extraordinary beauty of ordinary lives.” Her 2003 Christmas novel is one I enjoy reading over and over. The down-home wisdom spoken through her characters always leaves me with something to ponder. 

Like this conversation between Father Tim and his wife Cynthia as he is thinking back to his fear of retirement, “I never knew how to rest or take a break, or how to refuel. I think God is at last teaching me something about that.” (Page 100) Simple and profound. I stopped to think, what has helped me learn about re-fueling?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! dates back to 1957. Although I don’t remember reading it as a child, I’ve read it many times to our sons and our GRANDS. I can’t wait for the GRANDS to arrive this Christmas and I’ll read it aloud once again. Dr. Seuss captures the treasure of the season with the Grinch’s conclusion about Christmas, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!” And yes, it certainly does mean a little bit—no, a LOT more. It will start a good conversation.

What are your favorite Christmas reads (besides the Bible, of course)? What is it about them that have captured your heart?

An early Merry Christmas to you all!  Sue

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6