Sunday, October 31, 2010

One of My Security Blankets

God took a Scripture I used to be scared of and made it a favorite, Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are His workmanship” – We … and that includes me … are His (God’s ) work of art.  I understand that the Greek for workmanship is poema.   I am a beautiful poem penned by God.  I am His wonderful creation. But not only me, the word is “we”.  I am a member of a community, a family that has been fashioned by God, knit together individually and corporately into a beautiful tapestry.  There is a belongingness in this phrase that is such a gift.  This is my identity.

created in Christ Jesus for good works” – My creation has reason.  I am sometimes tempted to ask if the good works I’m involved in are important enough.  And sometimes I have wished that I could be involved in the good works I see others doing.  NOT GOOD!  When God leads me to a good work, it is HIS work for me and it is VERY important.  It is exactly where He needs me to be.  When I take my eyes off God and look at the works of others, I’m learning that that is a major act of Un-trust.  Not good!  This is my purpose.

which God prepared beforehand” – Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; …”  This is an amazing thought to me.  Although God was speaking these words about the prophet Jeremiah, I believe He was speaking them for me as well. God knew me before He formed me in my mother’s womb.  And with that knowledge before I was even born God consecrated me.  He had dibs on my life before I was introduced to my earthly family.  WOW!  This is my security.

that we should walk in them” – We should walk – not run.  How often I am tempted to think it needs to be done now.  I need to invite them for dinner this week.  I need to call her today.  I am so tempted to run.  The urgency can be overwhelming and tiring and not necessary or good.  If indeed these are God’s good works that He prepared for me to do and if He is asking me to walk, I will trust and walk.  This is my pace.

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, …” Jeremiah 29:11 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Contentment - Was it possible?

My first memories of being discontent are from my single days.  I don’t remember the specific issues, but I clearly remember thinking the marriage would solve my discontentment – wrong!  I brought my discontentment with me into our marriage.  Ugh!

Scriptures like I Timothy 6:6, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment” and Hebrews 13:5, “…and be content with what you have …” were a source of great frustration for me.  I wanted to experience the truth of those verses but it eluded me. 

The source of my discontentment was not things.  I was well cared for in that arena.  My brand of discontentment came from my frustration that I thought I was not as godly as some of my friends.  I didn’t get the opportunities others had.  I was seldom asked to speak.  I thought those public-type things were the key to significance, the sign that I had something to offer.  Because those were seldom my contributions, I was frustrated and discontent.  To make matters worse my discontentment came from comparing!  Now, I was feeling doubly bad.  I’m not only discontent, I’m also comparing.

But I had hope, I thought.  Thinking I knew the keys to growing as a believer, I memorized verses on contentment; I did Bible studies on contentment; I even prepared and presented devotionals on contentment.  But my discontentment continued.  All those good and right things didn’t touch my issue.  I was adding the good things to the top of my bad issues.  I was treating the symptoms and not the disease.  My hope was leaking.

The bottom fell out in the fall of 1997.  I was sitting in a large group meeting and another woman was on the platform.  I was mad!!! Why didn’t I have the opportunities she had?  I made a significant decision that night.  I GAVE UP!  My plan was from then on I would put on a happy-looking mask and pretend that all was ok; that I didn’t care.  In one way, it was the wrong decision. It was like taking the good desires God had created me to have and freezing them.  But it also was my first step in the right direction – although I didn’t realize it at the time.  By my giving up, I was admitting I could do NOTHING about this issue.

I lived with my mask for over 2 years.  I thought my happy mask was protecting me and fooling others.  Neither was happening and I continued to hurt. 

Because the mask didn’t allow me to see clearly, my hearing was sharpened.  I began to hear God’s voice. That was the beginning of my second significant step.

With the help of a godly counselor, I began to hear God’s personal message to me.  It spoke of how much God loved me and of the purpose He had for me.  As I meditated on those truths over the years, my contentment issue (or lack thereof) began to disappear!  One day I realized I hadn’t even thought about contentment in a long time.  Transformation was happening.  It felt so good.

“God not only loves you very much, He has His hand on you for something special … something happened IN you, your life is echoing The Masters words”.  
I Thessalonians 1, The Message.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

There is No Place Else I'm Supposed To Be

The first time I had this thought, I was sitting in a canoe in the middle of a quiet lake.  For someone who usually has a do-list going, this was an amazing revelation.  It’s ok to be quiet.  It’s ok to sit, enjoy and listen.  It actually felt really really good.  J 

Since then I have had a growing appreciation of those moments of quiet and listening to God.  Not only do I appreciate them, I NEED them.  They bring life into perspective for me.  For example,

It was mid-August.  Vacation was starting on Friday.  It was an unusually full week for both Bill and I.  And we were both tired. It was one of those weeks where it was easy to misunderstand each other.  That happened.  The misunderstanding led to hurt on my part.  Not good.  I “stuffed it” and continued to pack.

Thankfully vacation for us has become to be defined by quiet mornings alone.  This time we were camping in the mountains of Colorado.  The weather was wonderful.  It created the perfect atmosphere for our mornings of quiet and listening.   My hurt evaporated as I sat enjoying the quiet, enjoying God and listening for His voice.  

I’m an extrovert and sitting quietly alone doesn’t seem very extrovert-ish to me.  But I’m learning that not only do I “enjoy” these times of quiet, I NEED them! 

I need time to reflect, to ponder.  These are not only times of solving my issues … although that is good.  It is out of these times that I’ve come to realize who God created me to be.  I’ve listened to the desires He has put in my own heart.  I begin to get it, to understand life.  My journey makes more sense to me.  I leave these times not only rested, but also refreshed and motivated.

“O God, Teach us to see you and reveal yourself to us when we see you.”             Ambrose of Milan
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let Them Lead, LOVE THEM WELL, part 2

For many years I have prayed that I would love women well. Then I started thinking about what that would look like to love women well. I realized that when I tried to love everyone the same … kind of the way I would want to be loved … it led to frustrated relationships. Not good!

Rebecca* and I had been friends for over 30 years. I truly wanted to love her well. We are very different. And our differences could be irritating to me. I’m thankful that Rebecca taught me about loving well.

Big lesson #1 – Accept where they are and meet them on their ground. When I would extend love to Rebecca in ways she appreciated, I learned about loving well.

Big lesson #2 – Hang in there with them. Virginia* is teaching me this lesson. I can’t will my friends to be further along on their spiritual journeys than they are. In the Scriptures, I see many references about walking with God. I need to walk with God with my friends and not ask that they run.

Big lesson #3 – Loving well is to trust God with our relationship. I don’t need to create opportunities to relate. God will open the doors through my friends. I’m thankful this is happening with Pamela*. This is another application for me on letting them lead (October 7 blog post).

Big lesson #4 - What is important to them becomes important to me. To be honest, I really don’t want to hike to that pond. But my friend, Charlotte* does. And she has invited me along. I do want to love her well. I would love to see her in the Kingdom.

“We should a guest love while he loves to stay and when he likes not – give him loving way.” William Jackson Palmer’s inscription on the entrance to his castle in Colorado Springs, Glen Eyrie.

“And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and discernment”. Philippians 1:9

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LET THEM LEAD, Love Them Well, part 1

The first time this thought came to mind was last spring as my friend, Trisha, was telling me a story about a younger woman who came to her asking for some spiritual guidance. Trisha encouraged her to go to the local Christian bookstore and pick out something she would enjoy reading with Trisha. In other words, Trisha let her pick the curriculum.

What a concept, the student leading the teacher. Trisha trusted the Spirit of God in her younger friend. How affirming!

I’ve been trying to put that into practice with the opportunities that God opens up for me. Let them lead. To be honest, that doesn’t come naturally to me. But I’m experiencing it’s wisdom.

Sometimes a friend will open the door wide and invite me to be the “older woman”. But not often. Most of the time they open the door a crack and peer in. I’m invited to lunch. We become Facebook friends. It’s a baby step in a relationship. I wonder if they’re trying to determine if I’m safe. And sometimes I think they don’t know what they’re seeking as they crack open the door.

I’m learning that if I push open that cracked door, I’m running ahead of God and where He has our relationship. It can set the friendship back. When a friend “cracks” the door, I need to peer through the crack and offer crack-sized love. As our friendship grows and the door cracks open a bit wider, and trust is being established, I can offer more love to my friend. But she controls the door. I need to let her lead.

I call this my Crack Ministry.

“And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and discernment.” Philippians 1:9

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unadorned AND Anointed

I have always had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that both these concepts can describe one person.

Now, unadorned I get. That’s me. I don’t wear a special uniform. I don’t have a job title that communicates significance. I don’t carry a specter. I’m just me … unadorned, ordinary.

Unfortunately the truth in the previous paragraph, however, led me to believe an untruth.
If I’m unadorned and ordinary, I will not have a significant contribution in God’s Kingdom.

I believed that untruth until God began teaching me how He defines, “significant”. What an eye-opener. I learned things like:
… I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit …
… the righteous flourish … grow … bear fruit …
… called by His name … created for His glory …

Knowing truth didn’t change my belief system. … at least not right away. The truth needed to become part of the fabric of who I am. That happened slowly … but surely … as I prayed over the truths above asking God to make them believable to me.

Two summers ago I was celebrating with friends who had just been given a “significant” ministry role. As several of us gathered around to pray for them, another friend anointed them with oil. But he didn’t only anoint my friends; we were all anointed with oil. We all received this symbol of consecration.

As I remembered that occasion recently, God spoke gently to me saying, “Sue you may not have a title, but you are anointed. You are set aside for a special and significant role in My Kingdom.”

“We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.”
II Corinthians 4:7, The Message