Thursday, February 4, 2016

Believing, Receiving, Blessing

The foundation of our friend's home
I've always believed in God. Sunday school, youth group, church were all pieces of my growing up culture; it was a culture that traveled with me to college. My parents poured a strong foundation.

Believing, the foundation that readied me to receive.

"But to all who did receive him,
who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God,"
John 1:12 (italics mine)

Listening to my peers that Sunday evening in the college-aged youth group, I realized that a foundation is poured to support something greater. Believing was a foundation. That was the night my words reached to God, I opened my heart and my hands, and received my child of God identity. Something greater had begun.

It was the first step of many receivings.

D.L. Moody puts it this way, "Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water but you have to drink it." (The Way to God, p.53)

Jesus encourages, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in (receive) my love." John 15:9 (parentheses mine)

My child of God journey is a journey of receiving. Only then do I have something to offer my world. Ann Voskamp calls this the order of grace. "You will be experienced as a blessing -- to the extent you have first experienced yourself as blessed. You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself." (The Greatest Gift p.40)

As I read the scriptures, do Bible study, attend church, live in community, I'm always asking,
what am I receiving that is allowing me to bleed grace,
to love with the love I'm receiving?

Receiving built on the foundation of believing leads to blessing.

What questions do you ask to assure that you're receiving from God?
What does bleeding grace look like for you? 

"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 3:11
 

 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gospel Travels

Their plans changed with the diagnosis. She didn't anticipate that 2016 would start with her living a care-giving role for her husband as he recuperates from major surgery.

Another friend drove through the night to be with her friend at the mother's memorial service. It wasn't on her January calendar.

My niece's wedding was on my January calendar. A lovely affair in the hills of Virginia highlighted by so many of our extended family being able to attend. It was a weekend to remember.
So glad this was fake snow.
Three different realities, three similar desires. Would we live those desires being true to the gospel,  out of our friendship with God by trusting him, or would we resort to pleasing?

I know my friends. They are living well in their unexpected realities, their identities firmly anchored in the gospel, in the reality that they are daughters of God. They are trusting God to love through them. Thank you both for leading me by your example.

And I know me. My desire is to live out of my child of God identity and to trust God to love through me, but sometimes my words just don't line up.

I. so. don't. want. to. admit. this ugly! The problem? I've forgotten the gospel. My identity as a child
of God is the truest thing about me. Instead of living in that true, I get caught up trying to please by my efforts. I'm working hard to do something I'm not capable of doing. UGH!

Matthew 3 records the baptism of Jesus. This is the very first time we are aware that Jesus actually hears the audible voice of God, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Verse 17. Jesus is an adult and his public ministry is about to begin.

I appreciate Lance Witt's reminder in his book, Replenish. God's message to Jesus on the cusp of the next incredible three years is not directional, go to this place; it is not instructional, do this ministry; it is relational, This is my beloved Son.

Jesus' identity was what God affirmed. It is from that identity that the going and the doing would flow.

This is true for me. The gospel teaches that my identity as God's beloved daughter is my rock and my platform. But in the excitement of the moment I forget and I forge ahead with my abilities instead of my trust.

"It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much 
but also has put his hand on you for something special."
I Thessalonians 1:4, The Message

The gospel travels when I live out of my child of God identity and trust his work in me.

As I ponder these January realities, I realize no matter what the circumstance, in the hards and in the joys, the gospel is the same, our identity is our anchor. In trusting first, pleasing happens.
"And without faith (trust) it is impossible to please him,"
Hebrews 11:6 (parentheses mine)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Afflicted, not Crushed


Another hard.
Another opportunity for trust.
Another application, another prayer - no a plea, a BIG BEG!

Twelve Marines lost; the rescue effort suspended. Even closure is an exercise in trust.

I'm remembering the words I penned last week. Oh how I need them again.

I never met Major Shawn Campbell personally. But his mother-in-law, Lexie is a good friend; his sister-in-law, Christie is a blogging buddy; his brother-in-law, Brian I've know since his teen years.

I hurt, I grieve, I cry with my friends who are part of my extended family because of Jesus. I hang on words written on Facebook like these from Jonathan, Christie's husband ...

"To the Coast Guard and Navy. Thank you. Thank you for fighting rough seas, fatigue and hunger in order to search for my brother (in law), Shawn Weber Campbell. Your constant prayers and passionate searching have been fuel for our hope during the dark hours of this night.
To the Marines who love so well. Thank you. Thank for cooking, cleaning, washing laundry and doing the daily work that the burden of grief makes so very difficult to carry.
Major Shawn Campbell, his wife Kelli, and their family.
To friends and family. Thank you. Thank you for your constant prayers, thoughts and words of encouragement. They are fresh water for parched souls."

And I look for hope.

Ever so gently God taps my shoulder. I have a message for you delivered by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. I turn to chapter 4; these are words for my parched soul.

God knows; God is present; God cares. Even when some of the words seem harsh, their gentle truth comforts. 

Will I trust them?

Truth from verses 8 - 11 ...
We are afflicted - not crushed;
perplexed - not driven to despair;
persecuted - not forsaken;
struck down - not destroyed;
 given over to death for Jesus sake - so that the life of Jesus may be manifested 

Backing up to the words of verse 7 ...
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, 
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

I don't get it; it really shouldn't be (I almost feel guilty). The treasure of peace is settling in this jar of clay, delivering courage, and grace extending to more and more.

Will you please join me in prayer for Kelli and her children
 and the rest of the Campbell family
as they walk through the valley of the reality of death?

"So we do not lose heart. 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."
II Corinthians 4:16-18 

What scriptures minister to your heart in the midst of your hards?
What other truth encourages you from II Corinthians 4?












Thursday, January 14, 2016

Plunged Into Dependence

I read the love penned on our Christmas cards. The care, the concern jump off the card stock into my heart as memories flood back. Thankfulness overwhelmed as I remember the many, many ways we were loved during the crazies of 2015.

I also remember God. As the circumstances of life plunged us into dependence, He faithfully met us on the journey. The words of our friend, Jason Tippetts communicated well. We were living in "the peace that shouldn't be" ... at least in how the world views the hards of life.








These 5 principles from long-known scriptures came alive for me:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding." 
Proverbs 3:5
As we were reeling from the news of Ezra's failed surgery, God spoke softly to my husband,
God gives us permission to not understand.
Trust.
I don't remember God ever asking me to understand; I do know His desire for my trust.

"The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious ..."
Philippians 4:5b, 6a

Context is everything. Years ago I memorized Philippians 4:6 and 7. But it wasn't until many years later that I observed the context. Knowing God is near provides the courage to not be anxious. Praying to see God's nearness calmed the anxiety of my soul. 


"Peace I leave with you;"
John 14:27
I didn't tattoo that truth to my arm, I tattooed it to my heart. I'm learning that peace isn't dependent on circumstances; peace is dependent on focus, on trusting truth. The pleas of my prayers changed with the changing of my life, but these same verses spoke to each new reality.

The mountains and the hills captured in one photo.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1 and 2
Living in Colorado I get to see the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains almost daily. But these scriptures came alive during my 5 weeks in Los Angeles. Whether enjoying walking with my GRANDS through their neighborhood, driving the 405 to the hospital, or peering out the hospital windows, the hills surrounding the San Fernando Valley were always evident. Yes, hills surrounding the city of Los Angeles. There ever present-ness reminded me of Psalm 121:1 and 2. Now that scripture hangs above my desk as my daughter-in-law stitched it for me during her long days of hospital time. Thank you, Aubrey.

Ezra checking out his twin.
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known."
I Corinthians 13:12
Two truths stand out ...
God knows me (us) fully.
and
We don't know the big picture.
Both truths give courage. And I don't have to figure out the why. Again, another place to place trust.

What scriptures give you the courage to face the next day in the midst of hard? How do the words of the Bible become truths tattooed to your heart?




Thursday, January 7, 2016

December was December

We celebrated our 43rd at a B&B. The see-through fireplace connecting the bedroom with a wonderful sofa and the bathroom complete with a soaking tub and a comfy overstuffed chair next to the tall, well-stocked bookcase created the perfect space to sit, to ponder the Christmas story, to be.
 The cake was a hit!
Family - those precious gifts God has graced us with book-ended the month. I flew to California the first week of December to join in the fun of Ezra's first birthday and our first gift-exchange of the season. Ezra is doing well. He accepts his pokes, injections, and g-tube without complaint. Even 5 1/2 year old Judah was able to help me with a g-tube issue one morning. It's normal life for this branch of our family tree.






Jack, the Blokus champ

The last week of the month, the Kansas Tell's drove out for a few days. Besides our third Christmas gift-exchange, the snow, baking cookies together, and game after game of Blokus were highlights.

Ashlyn and her Mom

In-between Bill and I celebrated our Christmas. Church, our traditional Christmas brunch followed by our gift exchange, and later a special dinner, all capped off by enjoying our neighbors Christmas dessert pot-luck.

And a December cold took up residence in my body, the Y temporarily history.

Yes, I loved it all (except the cold).

Happy, thankful, content, full, expectant, weary - all good descriptors as 2015 faded. But the thought of a New Year's Resolution and more to do was overwhelming. Do you identify?

And then I read the words of my friend Blythe Hunt. Oh how they resonated.

Blythe is a mother of two littles. Her life circumstances are very different from mine, but we share a similiar heart; we have similiar needs. As I read her words, I breathed deeply; I relaxed; a smile crept across by weary face.

She didn't suggest a new exercise program, or the latest, greatest diet, or even a new way to read through the Bible in 2016. She offered four "be's". Be's that were not new, but be's that needed to be highlighted once again. Thank you, Blythe.

Be Loved - Reviewing God's love as part of my daily quiet time is a life-line for me. Grabbing that life-line and hanging on - trusting it - is transforming me. I smile as I pen these words. For sure, I will continue this discipline; it is truly a favorite. I John 3:1.

Be Still - and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10. I'm learning that building a friendship requires
stillness, quietness. Only then am I ready to listen for His voice. I will continue this practice as well, starting my devotional times with minutes of stillness.

Be Kind - I Corinthians 13, the well-known, oft quoted chapter speaks a lot (8 different times) about what love is not. But it only mentions 2 qualities of what love is, patient and kind, verse 4. I'm learning that when I practice the 2, the 8 automatically happen.

One area that I'm practicing kindness in lately is with my words. Psalm 19:14 is another regular prayer verse for me.

Perhaps I'll keep this up.
Be Joyful - I love this mug (below) my friend Connie gave me for my birthday. Not only because I'm a coffee-aholic, but because of the message it speaks as I sip my morning joe. I'm thinking that as I live being loved, being still, and being kind, being joyful will be a natural by-product.

So for me, January is not about a new list of do's; it is about continuing the be's that I've been learning to enjoy in my friendship with God. Thank you, Blythe; your words greatly encourage.

What are your thoughts and plans concerning New Year's Resolutions? I'd be honored to pray for you.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law."
Galatians 5:22, 23

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve - Some Thoughts to Ponder

Thank you to my friend, Theresa Thaete for sharing her story for a new year with us this week.

Theresa on one of her missionary trips to Zambia.
2010 was a year of intense dread and sadness for me.


Usually I eagerly anticipated Advent and Christmas; I loved putting up our tree and watching the faces of loved ones opening the gifts I had so carefully chosen. But not that year.

One of our sons was the cause of my misery. He was acting out and seeking to fill the pain in his life with all the things that teens do. I never knew what to expect, every day a new challenge.

I'd often run to the phone exasperated interrupting my husband at work seeking his wisdom. Or dialing a friend, a safe person, to ask for prayer ... or just plain vent.

At times I even chose to leave my home. I didn't feel safe being in the same house with my son.

On one of those occasions, running in fear, I cried again to the Lord; probably for the millionth time. My feeling of guilt (a gift from God) was real. I kind of knew I needed to be running to God first, not to my husband and my friends.

God graciously brought Isaiah 9:6 to mind. (I bet you too have been seeing this verse a lot during the Christmas season.)


Immediately these four awesome titles that God alone bears began to speak to my heart. I repented and my eyes turned from my circumstances and focused on God.

Eagerly and a bit hesitantly I leaned into my Good Shepherd, I listened for His love. The experience of relief was almost physical.

I marveled as God showed up as my Wonderful Counselor over and over. He provided clarity of thought and direction. I noticed I was growing in trust as I reached less for my cell phone. Sometimes I even heard specific words in response to the hard of my life.

I experienced the opening and closing of seemingly locked tight doors; my Mighty God assuring me of His perfect timing and sovereignty.

As my Everlasting Father, I was touched by many expressions of His love and tenderness. He knew what would speak uniquely to my heart. Sometimes I saw how He stretched and disciplined me for  my growth.

(This was one of the most challenging titles for me as I have some deep "father wounds".)

Over and over, His peace comforted me. He was my personal Prince of Peace providing comfort in the intense stresses of life.

Pondering Isaiah 9:6 has become a New Year's tradition for me. Although I cling to this passage throughout the year, it is particularly meaningful as I look back each New Year purposing to see the faithfulness of God. I also list what I'm expecting in the upcoming 365 days and ask God that these descriptors would be my reality in my unknown.

Perhaps thinking through Isaiah 9:6 might be something that would greatly encourage your faith as we start the new year like it has done for me.

Blessings to you in 2016!






Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mary Responds

Thank you again, Marcia Carole for your lovely addition to Echoes.
Merry Christmas Friends!

Instead of writing out Mary's Song of Praise, commonly known as The Magnificat, John Michael Talbot sings the first few verses at this link below.

Listen and savor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0yzZZ4e87c

Luke 1:46-49, ESV
And Mary said,
     "My soul magnifies the Lord,
          and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
     for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
          For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
     for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
          and holy is his name. 

What are you hearing from God?

Next week we conclude this series with a guest post from my friend Theresa Thaete (who partnered with me on these Advent posts) on Isaiah 9:6.