Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Time to Pause

Thank you, Nancy Ruminski for sharing this picture from your blog, A Little Dash of Love.

Psalm 23 is perhaps the first scripture I ever memorized as a child. Back then it was only words, important words - they were in my Bible, but words. I hadn't yet been introduced to The Word who is God, who is life, who came and lived on this earth. John 1:1,4,14.

This Word is now my foundation for my relationship with God; he calls me his child. John 1:12. And this Word is full of grace and truth. John 1:14.

But grace is only grace, and truth is only truth, until I learn to trust it.

My Bible now is not merely a book of words, it is an invitation to live my relationship with God as his child. It is my opportunity to trust truth. I open my Bible to enjoy my son-ship with God, to experience the reality that is mine.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

In my single teaching days, Ellen was my roommate. She has a lovely singing voice. One of my favorites from her repertoire was Psalm 23. She voiced the first words as Because the LORD is my shepherd, I have everything that I need. Now, because the Lord is my shepherd, I am able to experience his care, his guidance, his protection, his provision, everything that I need. Words come to life.

My days have been full, wonderful, and tiring. In August my shepherd is providing a time to pause, to rejuvenate, to listen for his love. This is what I need.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul."

My green pastures are the Wet Mountains; the still waters are the gurgling brooks sliding over the rocks in Colorado streams. I look forward to soul restoration.





Our long-time friends, Jim and Sharon visited this morning. Sharon told the story of the young women she is friends with and some of the spiritual conversations they enjoy.

One day she asked them, what is the most important thing I can impart to you? There answers were many and varied. It was obvious they respected her. Then it was Sharon's turn. She said, you know, I think the most important thing I can leave with you is the you know how much God loves you!

YES! That's what I want too, a new dose of God's love!

So for the month of August, Echoes of Grace is pausing, taking its annual vacation. It will be a time of simple living, of focusing my attention on God and experiencing his gaze on me. It will be sleep-in days, reading days, hiking days, Scrabble nights or movie nights with Bill. 

Echoes of Grace will return September 1.

And it is returning with a SURPRISE! There will be hints during the month of August.
So check in each Thursday, so you won't miss anything.
Jim, Bill, me, Sharon

See you in September,
sue

"He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake."
Psalm 23:3b













Thursday, July 21, 2016

Neediness ... Weakness?

Have you seen this crazy movie? (You just learned my opinion.) Bob, Bill Murray, is pictured above with his therapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss. Bob is neurotic, phobic, obsessive-compulsive, and much more - majorly needy!  Not literally, but inside crying for attention.

Do you ever have Bob-moments? 
What is the path they lead you down?

D-
    O-
        W-
            N - an accurate word picture.

Bob experiences attention deficit that he tries to fill with the wisdom of a professional; neediness exudes. Some see, and Bob feels, weakness.

Our needs are NOT weaknesses.

"It is the nature of the soul to need." Soul Keeping, p.81. 
God created us with needs so He can be our provider, so He can meet those needs. My friend, Bill Thrall says it this way, "Love is the process of meeting needs." 

Needs invite us to experience God more deeply.

Needs are not weaknesses; they are opportunities to receive and experience love, the love of God and the love of others.

We all came into this world with a Bob complex, with the need for attention ... among other needs. When I admit it, I have the opportunity to deepen relationships. Needing attention is not a weakness.

As a young wife and full-time missionary, I didn't get this. Yes, I knew I wanted attention, but if I had been brave enough to voice that, I would have learned I was seeking the attention in all the wrong ways. I thought wanting attention showed neediness, weakness, and I sure didn't want to own those descriptors. My self-esteem suffered, I began to believe lies like I'm not good enough. SHAME! It never, NEVER occurred to me to take my neediness, my desire for attention to God. 

I'm discovering that my attention needs are met in relationship, relationship with God and relationship with others.

God created me; he knows me and the needs he put in me to draw me to him. When I pay attention and listen to the words he whispers to me, I experience his attention; his love. 

I was sitting on a sofa in front of the quiet fire reading one of Brennan Manning's books early one spring day. As I turned to the new chapter, Brennan opened with Song of Solomon 7:10, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." In those few words God's love exploded in my heart; I experienced his attention! I knew he called me beloved, but the thought that he had desires for me, WOW, that was overwhelming. And if God is for me, who can be against me? God gives attention by paying attention to the details, the desires of my life. In receiving his attention, I receive his love.

Often God meets the needs I have for attention through others, like my husband. Unlike God, he is not all-knowing. Sometimes I initiate and share my attention needs with him. In doing that I give him permission to meet those needs. And I experience his love.Sometimes I don't and the downward path begins. I experienced God meeting that need through Bill earlier this month when he publicly shared how I met one of his needs. It was humbling and affirming; God met that need through Bill.

 On Sunday mornings, our pastor often brings our time of worship to a close with the familiar words from Numbers 6:24-26, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

As I look down the pew, many are standing with hands uplifted. We want to receive this blessing.

The pronouns in this scripture are all personal. This is a blessing for us individually. And an accurate picture of this verse is of God stopping in front of you, focusing his eyes on yours, giving you his full, undivided attention, and offering his peace. Shalom, the most positive words he can offer for our well-being.

My need for attention is not weakness; it is an opportunity to experience the love of God.

How about you ... are you allowing God to meet your needs? To show you his personal love?












Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bordered By Love

I have a special treat for you this Thursday.

Please meet my good friend and writing mentor Amy Nowak. Her creative word-weaving and winsome story-telling draw you in and gently communicate truth.

In this post, you'll likely learn a bit about the history of our nation which Amy uses to lead into a piece of her history and led me to remember a scary story from my history - the day I thought I lost my GRAND. But more importantly, this all connects to us and our sometimes reality. You can find her words here.

At the bottom, Amy shares a book that has been meaningful to her. Perhaps it would be for you as well.








Thursday, July 7, 2016

Questions Begetting Questions



YES! NOOOO! Maybe???? I just don't know.

Two months ago the email landed in my inbox. With one mindless click on the senders name I needed to think about something I didn't know existed. I was invited to consider joining the group of shepherds in our Sunday school community. Invited. This invitation was not the easy type, not the quick response type. It required more information, prayer, and reflecting on the questions this invitation surfaced.


I guess age doesn't make it easier.

The question, the invitation, begged more questions. I needed to allow myself to back up and view it not as an easy yes-no option, but in light of what I've been hearing from God. 

"keep yourselves in the love of God,"
Jude 21

My mind has been swirling around God's personal, Sue-shaped love. The words of Ephesians 1:5, "In love he predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will." My life has purpose and it is soaked in his love for me. I want to follow Jude's admonition and keep myself cradled in God's love.

I glance over my shoulder at the path God has had me on. 
I look ahead and ponder what trust would look like in this situation.
I focus on who God says I am ... His beloved child. 
And
I ask ...

How does this opportunity help me to stay in God's love?
What does staying (keeping myself) in his love look like?
Will this allow me to live out of my identity as God's beloved child or be another hat to squeeze onto the hall hat tree?
Is this a people-pleasing opportunity or a God-trusting opportunity? Or both?
Who are my closest allies who might speak wisdom to me? What are they saying?
Does this opportunity fit with my values?
What is my spiritual journey needing at this juncture? Would this opportunity feed that or starve it?
Will I be able to live from my giftedness?
Will this enhance who I am?
What else does God want me to be asking?

As I sit in quiet and ponder questions like these, seeking God's guidance, I find myself experiencing peace. I find myself melting into obedience. And a light bulb goes on; I discover the answer. 


"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, 
who gives generously to all without reproach, 
and it will be given him."
James 1:5


Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Invitation - An Advertisement




"Humility is trusting God and others with me."

Three years ago the invitation arrived. Sue, we'd like you to be part of the beta group for the brand-spanking new High Trust Leadership Certificate. 

Interesting ... I'd been asking God, what are my next steps for spiritual growth. Not only asking, but researching, lots of researching; praying, lots of praying; and seeking counsel from many others. 

Honored, surprised, and neutral. My neutrality surprised me too.

But I took the plunge, paid the money, signed up ... still neutral. Was the HTLC the answer to my prayers?

YES IT WAS!

"In a community of grace, who I am in God's eyes is not questioned --
it is affirmed."

The online course started in January. Placed in a cohort with a few other new-to-me women, we started the journey together. Communicating on the online news feed gave us glimpses into the lives of each other. Sharing how we met God through the bi-weekly exercises deepened our new friendships. Truly, I have never participated in any other small group where the depth of vulnerability and humility was so well lived. Even though we never met in person, I know our friendships are life-long. 

God opened my heart in new ways as I viewed the weekly videos teaching the Bible through the lens of grace. Transformation was happening - a new Sue was emerging.

"Understanding who I am is virtually impossible
 without interacting meaningfully with others."

Now I'm inviting you to share this journey with me.  
The next course starts August 1.

In the words of Trueface Ministries who sponsor this opportunity ...

Grace can only be experienced in relationship, ... We have designed tools to help create and accelerate relationships of trust for you, because without trust: 
  •   I cannot experience love
  •   I cannot experience truth
  •   I cannot have relationship with God or man
We cannot be High Trust Leaders who build High Trust Environments without personally risking trust with people.
To learn more about the HTLC and experience a sample of the course, visit www.trueface.org/trustonecenter. I also encourage you to watch this youtube video. The Two Roads represent choices we make every day, and reveal to us our understanding of grace.

Please, let me know of your interest. I want to share a few more details with you.

"The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
Psalm 92:12-15

The quotes sprinkled throughout this post are all copyrighted by Trueface.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Privacy Behind the Hedge

Water is scarce in Colorado. And I love water. I love the waves of the oceans crashing onto the shore; I love the quiet of lakes nestled among trees; I love the sound of water careening over the rocks of the rivers. 

"He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul."
Psalm 23:2b, 3a

Not all water is still, but for me all water restores. Ahhhh. Did I say I LOVE water?! Even listening to the small fountain off the edge of our deck is a bonus these summer mornings.
Last week I headed to a small man-made lake, a beautiful spot on the south of town. Armed with my coffee, my Bible, my journal, and my camera, I was ready for a time of listening to God. The day was
warm, blue, and cloudless. Perfect! I found an empty bench at the edge of the lake and settled in. These Ducks (hoping for a hand-out) kept me company bobbing up and down as the breeze ruffled their watery perch. They made me smile.

Occasionally someone passed by - morning exercisers, or strolling with their baby, or talking with a friend. Some greeted me, some didn't. 

When the sun climbed higher in the sky, I moved in search of shade. And I found the perfect spot behind the hedge. 

My view of the lake was not as clear, but the privacy was wonderful. Hidden behind the hedge, those exercisers, mamas, and friends passed unaware of my presence a mere few feet away. 

I soaked in the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church. I journaled. I talked with God - silently, I wasn't all that far from people. It was good.

And I learned something ...

You might remember my post last September entitled The Message of The Picnics. I spoke of how beauty and quiet were key ingredients for me to restore my soul. In my mind water was another ingredient. And it is. But I learned that even more important is a place, a space to be with God that is alone. That's what the hedge offered me last week. 

What about you ...
What are the necessary ingredients to restore your soul?
Where are the places, the spaces that create the perfect environment for you?

"Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear that your soul may live;"
Isaiah 55:3a





                                                      




Thursday, June 16, 2016

Here She is To Save the Day - NOT!

A superhero, I'm not! Thank you to my friend Lisa Anderson for her insightful words the week I stepped on the plane to visit Mom. It was the first of several grace-sightings I experienced while there.

Mom is 96 and lives in her home of 55 years - by herself for the past 19. She is an amazing woman who loves her 2-story home, loves having her daughters visit, loves puttering in the yard, loves her screened-in back porch, loves her freedom.

She doesn't move quite as quickly as she used to on the basketball court. Her hearing aids are a must. She swallows several pills a day. She sold her car.

She has her routine, the newspaper every morning after breakfast including doing the daily Bridge hand often beating the one who posts. She still manages her own finances and investments. Mom cooks for herself several times a week ... although we know she appreciates her breaks from that. She has her favorite TV shows.

I have much to be thankful for.

I also wonder. Is she safe? Is this home - that I love too - still the best place for her?

We disagree. Disagreements produce tension.

And I did NOT want tension on this visit!

I invited several friends to "come" with me, to pray for my time with Mom, and perhaps text a scripture that I can think on during the day. They "came"; it was a good week - not perfect but very encouraging. 

My grace-sightings continued beyond Lisa's words and the support of my friends. 

*The first day there, the Holy Spirit whispered, Sue, you don't have to win. I needed that.
Honor who Mom is and how she feels. We'll never agree on everything.

*My friend Kathy texted, I'm praying you will be a blessing to your Mom. Immediately Philippians 2:4 came to mind. It was a turning point that week.

*I thought about how she understands love. We spent much time just being with each other and chatting. (My knitting project appreciated that.)

*We talked about Psalm 23, her favorite scripture.
I've been pondering it since and the phrase, "I will fear no evil" (verse 4) has been ministering especially as I thought about all the care Mom's house needs and the care Mom could enjoy. My sister Sara who lives in the same town admonished, Sue, you just can't worry about it. She's right.

*I can't compare Mom to Kathy's Mom who still takes regular cruises with her family.
  I can't compare Mom to Carol's Mom who lives in the local Alzheimer's facility.
  I can't compare Mom to Mary's Mom who is the family prayer warrior.
  Kathy's Mom, Carol's Mom, Mary's Mom, and my Mom are God's unique creations even now
  living in their 90s in very different places; the perfect places for each. 

Several weeks previous to our visit, I read Proverbs 30:11, "... and do not bless their mothers." That day I started praying, God, what would it look like to bless Mom today even across the miles? Mom would agree this visit was a blessing.

"and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with faith and love that are in Christ."
I Timothy 1:14