Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Knot in the Pit of My Stomach

Sometimes I call them “mental arguments”.  I have a decision to make and I just don’t know which way to go.  Or I’m thinking I really should do something and I really don’t want to do it.
I’m confused or frustrated or worse yet, I’m battling what I think I should be doing.

That happened last week.  The knot was rather large.  I didn’t want to even consider the implications of my decision.

I have three current journals.  One is where I record underlines and quotes from books I read and messages I hear.  The second is my writing journal.  I often think with my pen and my thoughts are recorded in this journal.  The third is a beautiful leather bound journal that Bill gave me for Christmas a year ago.  This is a very special journal to me.  I use it as a prayer journal and I only record the scriptures and other request in it that I pray regularly for me and for those closest to me.  It is also a picture of my spiritual journey.  It is often this journal that I turn to when the knot makes itself known in my stomach.

And so I went to my leather bound journal first last week.  As I once again began to ponder and pray over the Scriptures that God has impressed on my heart over the years, I began to relax.  On the fourth page of that journal I have recorded several lies that I had come to believe about myself over the years as a result of the culture I was brought up in.  Immediately after each lie, I have recorded the truth of what God says about me.  These scriptures have become foundational and timeless for me.  They seem to apply to many of my life situations.  And that was true this time. 

As I considered the decision that was causing my knot and as I considered each lie and its corresponding truth recorded in my leather journal, it was obvious to me that making the decision one way was living out of the lies that have defined me for so long.  Making the decision the other way was living out of the truth of who God says I am.  I want to trust God.  I want to live out of the truth of what God says about me.

My decision was made.  The knot is melting as I pray in the light of the truth.

Do all things … without questioning …that you may be blameless …in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Philippians 2:14ff


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unscrewing My Big Toe

My friend used that descriptor once to explain what she and her husband did when they spent their week in Vail each fall.  Her words were, “sometimes I have to unscrew my big toe and let it all flow out”. 

I need to do that too.

In 2003 I wrote in one of my journals, “I need to be more intentional about quiet and solitude”.  Life is busy.  The needs of people are always present.  I love visiting our GRANDS.  I’m an extrovert by design so I love to show up for everything.  But my physical, emotional and spiritual batteries run low and I need to recharge.  That starts with unscrewing my big toe.

Sometimes I call it “sitting and staring”.  I just allow myself to be.  I’m not reading; I’m not writing; I’m not praying.  I don’t think I’m necessarily even waiting, I just am.  I’ve discovered this is good. 

Beyond that I’m also discovering that for me to recharge, five ingredients are necessary:  beauty, quiet, reviewing and listening, reading and sometimes writing.

For Christmas last year Bill gave me a deck heater.  Our deck is surrounded by old evergreens.  I love the beauty that is out there and the deck heater allows me to extend the days I can meet with God outside.  When the weather is too cold even for the deck heater my favorite place to meet with God is from an overstuffed chair in our bedroom that faces a sliding glass door that looks out to our deck.  These are places of beauty for me.  There are others, but these are my regulars.

I do enjoy music.  But to recharge, I’ve learned I prefer quiet.  I love listening to the “Sounds of Silence”. I know, that dates me.  The sounds that God has created, like the wind through the trees or water flowing from a nearby creek … or even the small fountain next to our deck are gifts from God to me. 

Paul says in Philippians 3:1, “…to write the same things to you again is no trouble for me and is safe for you”.  Reviewing is a safety net for me.  I have favorite scriptures that God has impressed on my heart that I often (sometimes daily) go back to and review, think about and pray over.  There are certain quotes that speak deeply to my heart that I need to hear again and again.  And as I review, I listen.  What might God be saying to me in these circumstances?  David Martin Lloyd Jones has said, “Most of our unhappiness in life is due to the fact that we are listening to self”.  I’ve added and talking to God.  I need to listen to God!  Listening sometimes is even more important than praying.

A big way I listen to God is through reading.  Reading my Bible for sure.  But also reading my journals and reading favorite authors.  I hear God through what He has whispered to me in the past and realize the truth is still true.  I hear God through the writings of others.  My current favorite is Sally Breedlove and her book, Choosing Rest.

Finally sometimes writing helps me to unscrew my big toe.  As I listen to myself through my pen I hear the affirming or the directional or the calming voice of God.  I leave with new perspective and my big toe back in place. 

“The Lord is my shepherd …He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul…”  Psalm 23:1,2,3

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kudos in the Elevator

I sell Longaberger baskets.  It’s been a good match for me allowing me to earn a bit of money and to do it around my passion – encouraging women in their walks with God.

Like all good sales companies, Longaberger has a yearly “pep-rally”, better known as a convention.  As consultants we are encouraged and empowered to be the best sales people on planet earth.  Every attendee is given ribbons to hang from their nametag.  Some of the ribbons mark certain achievements.  They have been earned.  Other ribbons are not earned.  They signify which group the consultant is a part of and other un-earned realities.  They want us to feel important.  It usually worked.

At one of the conventions in the late nineties, I was proudly wearing all my ribbons.  They fanned out like an upside down peacock from my nametag flowing down to my waist.  In the hotel elevator one afternoon, a stranger and fellow consultant seeing my many colorful ribbons congratulated me on my “achievements”.  I smiled and “humbly” said, thank you.  I knew I hadn’t earned all those ribbons but it felt good to be noticed.  I kind of liked the identity those ribbons gave me.

Fast forward a few years.  I was talking with a friend and describing my office to him.  My desk faces a wall that was full from top to bottom with framed Longaberger certificates.  The certificates, like the ribbons, were sometimes earned but often represented other true but un-earned realities.  However, anyone else looking at the wall would be impressed.  I guess I was trying to impress myself too.

But that impression was a source of confusion to me.  It was not a picture of my primary identity – the beloved child of God.  It was not a picture of what I was really passionate about – encouraging my friends in their walks with God.  Yes, Longaberger is a part of my life, but it is not the most important part. 

My friend asked, “Is that wall encouraging and reminding you of who you really are?”  I knew the answer to his question right away.  I went home and took down the wall … or at least the meaningless framed certificates that hung there.  I left one along with a few decorative pieces.  The one was a reminder of our group’s contribution to the American Cancer Society.

I’ve learned over the years that I need to remind myself regularly of my true identity.  I often review scriptures that speak to that in my devotional times.  This is so life-giving to me.

Yes, Longaberger is still part of my life.  But I have learned to keep it in its rightful place.

“Set your minds on things that are above (and true), not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:2 – parentheses mine.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Of Course I Love You

I was stomping around the kitchen and complaining loudly.  I was not happy and anyone who was in our home knew it.  My husband was standing near and letting me vent.  Finally I looked at him and challenged, “Do you even believe I love Jesus?”
He stretched out his arms to me, took me in his embrace, smiled down on me and gently said, “Of course I do!”  His love broke through my childish behavior and re-affirmed to me my real identity.

In that moment, I not only melted, but I learned a huge lesson about love, my husband’s love and God’s love.  To this day I do not remember what I was so angry about, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the depth of the love I experienced in that anger.

God through Bill accepted me right where I was that day.  He allowed me to be.  In that acceptance I realized what was really important.  My perspective returned.  I felt rescued.  I felt delighted in.  My behavior that afternoon was not a reflection of who God created me to be, my true identity.  It was a bad reaction to a frustrating situation.  But I was still a saint … a saint who was sinning at the moment, but still a saint.  The love I experienced in that moment allowed truth to flow to me.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else (even my stomping around the kitchen in anger) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38,39

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm not Good Enough, or Am I?

I grew up believing that I was not good enough.  I had plenty of evidence to support it.  From not being invited to the elite Girl Scout camp in junior high to trying out for the color guard in high school and not making the cut and into college and my adult years, circumstances led me to believe the lie that I was not good enough.  It was very hurtful, but I knew nothing else.

During my college years I was introduced to reading and studying the Scriptures in a new way, as if they were a personal message from God to me.  I remember hearing John 1:12 and learning that I was a child of God.  I was part of the family.  Christianity was about a relationship, not just a religion.  And Psalm 139 said I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  WOW! 

These were great thoughts.  They were true thoughts.  I loved what they conveyed.  But they didn’t touch that BIG lie that I was so trained to believe, I am not good enough.  Actually for many years I didn’t even think that there was a connection between their truth and my lie.

About ten years ago all that began to change.  Transformation began as I learned to TRUST that truth!  When I realized that God was speaking the truths of His Word to me to change my life, something began to happen.  My default was slowly becoming, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and other Scriptures that speak of God’s picture of me. 

Every morning one of my prayers became, “God what would it look like for me to trust this truth today?”  … to live like I really believe it?  The lie was beginning to slip away.  God was doing something and it was “very good”.

But there was the shadow side.  As I was learning to believe that I am good enough … after all I am God’s creation and part of His family, there were contexts where I knew I was good enough.  I had a contribution to make and I was blessing those I was involved with.  Ahhhh, do you hear the pride?

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.  I experienced God’s faithfulness to me as He exposed my proud heart to me.  It all began one spring when I volunteered to be involved in one of those contexts where I knew I was good enough.  I was flabbergasted when my offer was turned down!  I was hurt.  I was embarrassed.  It was their problem, or so I thought. 

Light dawned slowly over the next years as I pondered that situation.  I began to realize that this was the other side of the same issue.  In situations where I was feeling I was good enough, I began to realize that this too was a trust issue.  I was trusting in myself for my ministry; I was trusting in my gifting; I was trusting in my training.

Just as I need to trust God for who He created me to be, I also need to trust God for how I live out that creation, trust applied to ministry as well as my personal life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”   Proverbs 3:5,6

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Affirmation is about who a person is.
Compliments are about what a person does.

Recently I attended a two-day conference where we were asked to do an affirmation exercise.  We were divided into groups of two and given of list of over 150 affirming words.  We were asked to circle all the words that would affirm our partner and then choose five to verbally share with stories to back up our choices.

I experienced three big lessons about affirmation that day.

Jay* was my partner.  Jay and I have a fairly new friendship.  We met only three months ago.  There are many of those new friendship details that I don’t know about her.  But, I found it easy to affirm her.  What a delight.  First affirmation lesson, I don’t need to know a person well to affirm them. 

Later in the day on one of our breaks I was visiting with a young wife.  Her words were, “my husband is not good at affirming me”.  I felt sad that that was her experience.  And I also wondered if she was missing some of her husband’s affirming ways.

I have experienced words of affirmation voiced by my husband Bill at times.  But more often I experience his written words of affirmation.  I love the cards he chooses for me and writes on.  My birthday card from five months ago is still standing on my dresser.  I wish I had saved those early letters he wrote when we were just beginning to know each other.  I need to be more of a romantic!
Second affirmation lesson, affirmation takes many different forms.

A third lesson on affirmation is a hard one.  It also displayed itself during the weekend.  Another friend was sharing about her experience with the affirmation exercise over a meal.  The affirming words had ignited her shame.  She shared when her friend affirmed her artistic bent, she heard that as “I’m not organized”.  Every word used to affirm her, she had a “not” for. 

I do that too sometimes.  Many times others have recognized my strength in hospitality.  Often I have put that down with this sentence, “No big deal, that’s easy for me”.  How dishonoring to God who created me hospitable and who is delighted when I use my home to minister to others.  Third affirmation lesson, even a positive thing like affirmation can ignite shame and feelings of unworthiness.

I enjoy affirmation.  I need affirmation to help me live out who God created me to be.  God is the ultimate affirmer.  Because I desire to grow in godliness, I need to grow in affirming the good things I see in others. 

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”.  Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LET THEM LEAD, Love Them Well, part 3

This afternoon as I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with my neighbor, God whispered in my ear … “Sue, I have more to teach you”.  Sandra* was telling me about times when she has heard the whisper of God.  I wanted to encourage her.  I wanted to share a verse with her.  I wanted to correct her understanding of OT history.  I wanted to talk!

A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with a group of women on the subject of confidentiality.  The specific confidential topic was prayer requests.   It was suggested that when a friend shares a prayer request, my total responsibility is to pray. 
***That means not share it with another so they can be involved in praying. 
***That means not even come back to her and ask about how it is going. 
***That means to not discuss it with others who also heard the request.
The request is her story and I need to let her lead if she wants to bring it up again. 

Yikes, that was a new thought for me.  Isn’t it showing concern to ask about the situation?  Isn’t it showing love to let her know I’m remembering to pray?

Letting them lead was just drilled down to a new level for me. 

As the conversation continued, it was mentioned that there are times when a follow-up question is appropriate and kind.  But there are also times when the only appropriate thing is prayer.

As I pondered that I realized that this is about trust.  Do I trust that God is big enough and His hearing is sharp enough to not only hear my prayer but also to act?
And do I trust that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in my friend and that they too can hear the voice of God?  My responsibility is to pray and trust.

Letting them lead in any follow-up conversation about the prayer request is one way to love and honor my friend.

Letting them lead is about being silent.  Let their story be their story.  Let their prayer request be their prayer request.  Silence just might be the best encouragement I offer.

I have a feeling my prayer life will never be the same!

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us”.  I John 5:14