Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prince of Peace

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

I am thankful for my friends. You constantly amaze me with the grace and fortitude you exude in the midst of some horrific life experiences. How do you do it?

My faith tells me there is only one answer—“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:1 (italics mine)

We have peace. Present tense. Reality. Really? How do I access that reality in the midst of my life?

Isaiah 54:13 is the scripture God led me to pray for our second child while he was still in my womb. “All your sons will be taught by the Lord; and great shall be your children’s peace”. NIV   For over 30 years this scripture has led my prayers for our son Jeff. The word peace is sometimes translated prosperity—great shall be your children’s prosperity. That embarrassed me as I tend to think of prosperity as material goods. But that is not a correct interpretation here. Prosperity is used because of all the blessings none is more desirable than peace. A person at peace is a prosperous person indeed.

God is faithful. In the midst of some difficult life challenges, Jeff is a prosperous man—a man of peace. I’ve noticed three qualities in Jeff’s life that allow peace to describe him.

  • Jeff walks with God. He trusts the truth that God is sovereign and rests in that. Isaiah 32:17 says, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness quietness and trust forever”.
  • “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  Philippians 4:5, 6, and 7. Jeff is a pray-er. More importantly, The Lord is near! I think it’s the combination of those two realities that allows peace to characterize Jeff’s life.
  • Peace is a choice. I can rebel against my circumstances or I can greet them with thanksgiving and as a gift from the heart of my good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace. “give thanks IN all circumstances,” I Thessalonians 5:18.
As I pondered this post the story of Horatio Spafford came to mind. He is the one who penned the words of the familiar hymn It is well with my soul. You might want to watch this short video here.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”
Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Everlasting Father

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

Often I hear the words my earthly father informs my concept of my heavenly Father. To some degree that is true for me. However, instinctively my soul knows that something is amuck with that picture.

Sadly stories of abusive fathers or absentee fathers abound. Thankfully there are also stories of good fathers. But no earthly father truly and completely reflects our heavenly Father—our everlasting Father. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23.

To know my real Father, my everlasting Father I must go the source—the Bible and allow that to introduce me and inform my soul. And that is overwhelming! The character of God—my everlasting Father far exceeds my comprehension.

God is omniscient—He knows. God knows the aspects of His character, His everlasting Fatherhood that I most need to experience. He doesn’t dump the truck. Two qualities of my everlasting Father are very special to me—they speak to my particular needs.

My everlasting Father knows my love language, love manifesting purpose. His love for me is filled with purpose. Growing up many times my purposes were thwarted. Those purposes were what communicated significance to me. Thinking backwards, when I didn’t experience significance because my purposes were thwarted, I didn’t feel loved—YUCK! Knowing this about me (after all He created me), throughout the years, my everlasting Father has communicated His purpose for me in the same sentence He declares His love for me. I hear that kind of love.

My first memory of Him speaking love with purpose to me is with the words of Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you …”; a few years later my everlasting Father whispered these words to me from Ephesians 2:10, “… created in Christ Jesus for good works…” More recently Ephesians 1:5 has encouraged me, “In love, He predestined us for adoption …according to the purpose of His will.” I know there will be more reminders, I tend to forget.

Another quality of my everlasting Father that I need to experience is His shepherding. A good shepherd anticipates the needs of His sheep and prepares them—even before they realize their needs. I appreciate this quality. It gives perspective when everything around me hurts. My everlasting Father has often done this for me through the words of the great hymn writers. He brings a hymn to mind in a certain situation. Sometimes I don’t even remember all the words but when I open my hymnal something like scales fall from my heart and I realize I have experienced my everlasting Father anticipating my needs.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13,14

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mighty God

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Here's my GRAND-son, Jack, singing,
My God is so good,
So strong and so mighty,
There is nothing my God cannot do.
I love singing this song and doing the hand motions with him. Above he is demonstrating the second line, so strong and so mighty. I love the way songs speak truth to children. That’s who I am—a child of God.

Earlier this month I was pondering Genesis 3 and Eve’s conversation with the serpent. Eve accurately communicated to the serpent what God had communicated to her. Genesis 3:3 echoes Genesis 2:17. Eve knew the truth. Apparently she didn’t trust the truth and so she did not experience it. Her Mighty God could have rescued her from the serpent.

Jesus also encountered the devil personally when he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. He also quoted scripture to ward off the devil. He knew truth and He trusted truth. He is the Son of God and our Mighty God.

The word mighty communicates additional emphasis. Our Mighty God is an extraordinary God. Like for Eve, my enemies are too powerful for me. I need a friendship with a mighty extraordinary God when I am faced with my temptations.

Eve enjoyed a home that provided everything she needed. Why was she susceptible to that grave temptation? An apple—in the midst of all the other wonderful fruit options—seems pretty insignificant.

That’s what is so scary! In the midst of how well my Mighty God has provided for me, I look around and am dissatisfied. My desire does not match God’s desires for me. And desires are strong things.

God is stronger. My Mighty God is able to protect; He is able to save; He is able to show Himself strong on my behalf. I know truth—am I trusting truth, even in the seemingly insignificant areas of my life—only then will I experience an extraordinary Mighty God at work on my behalf.  (Hmmm, I know what God is whispering to me as I type).

Martin Luther’s words communicate well:
A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

“In that day the remnant of Israel … will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return … to the Mighty God”.
Isaiah 10:20,21

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wonderful Counselor

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Those words from the prophet Isaiah and popularized by Handel’s Messiah, are the heading on our Christmas card this year and the words I’ve been pondering this Advent Season. Each is a title for Jesus and shows who he is on our behalf.

Bill and I had the privilege of meeting with a wonderful counselor in 2000. I went in to the experience fairly nervous and in a very defensive posture. Although I’d heard stories, I had never personally met with a counselor before. Milt both lived up to everything I’d heard (please, tell me your story) and totally debunked my impression of counselors.

Milt was a phenomenal affirmer. He saw through the issues to the person God created us to be and often voiced that to us.
Milt was a great listener. He led with questions. He trusted us to hear from God.
Milt was a humble man. He knew the source of his giftedness and used it to benefit us.
Milt was an instrument God used to make a right turn in our journeys. We will forever be thankful for the two weeks we spent with him.

In many ways Milt was a reflection of Jesus, THE Wonderful Counselor. Jesus, our true, everyday, always available counselor, embodies all those qualities infused with his supernatural nature. He has inconceivable methods of assisting.

Yet often I don’t experience Jesus’ counsel. Why? I don’t take time to listen for it—I’m in a hurry. My faith slips back into my religion—instead of experiencing my friendship with God. I have my quiet time—I’m not enjoying breakfast with Jesus. I make sure I get through all my list of requests—I’m not asking what is on His heart. It’s all about me.

Three spiritual practices help me fight these tendencies:

Sit and Stare. This little phrase describes how I start my time with God. With coffee in hand, I sit quietly and enjoy God’s creation for a bit. It quiets my heart. It readies me to meet with my wonderful counselor.

Selah, the Hebrew word seen throughout the Psalms means pause and reflect. Don’t just read these words, Sue, think about them. What do they mean for today?

My Journal, the record of God’s words to me, often does not make sense on the day I write the entry. When I review the past months, I’m amazed that I didn’t see the fingerprints of God’s counsel.

“This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom”.
Isaiah 28:29

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I remember being pursued four times in my life (there are probably more).

The third time was summer 1969. I was excited about being pursued by a school district for a teaching position. They needed me; school started in two months and a third grade classroom stood devoid of a teacher.

The fourth time I was pursued was fall 1988 – when I signed on as a Longaberger consultant. Several were pursuing. In direct sales it makes a difference with whom you sign up; income is involved. I felt very wanted.

Backing up, the second time I was pursued started in the fall 1967 by Bill – my husband. He desired to date me; he desired to marry me. I reveled in this relationship. Yes, he needed me; I completed him; yes, he wanted me; a good feeling; but his desire for me communicated something very special – more important, a deeper bond than need or want.

Needed, wanted, desired – all positive experiences; all communicate worth and something I gladly respond to. But none compare to being pursued by God.

Theologically, God’s pursuit me commenced before He created me; “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I consecrated you”. Jeremiah 1:5. I believe those words are for me as well as the prophet Jeremiah. It was during my junior high years when church, youth group (the spiritual part of me) started to be important. I could not have articulated the why of that importance; I just knew it was important.

I remember Mom’s last words to me before she, Dad, and my two-year-old sister pulled away from the curb to start their long journey back to New Jersey from Michigan where they dropped me off at college, Sue, don’t get too religious. Why did Mom say that? I think she recognized a desire in me that I still could not put into words. God was relentlessly pursuing. I tucked that counsel away.

It was over a year later when I acknowledged God’s pursuit and responded. I remember the place; I remember the time; it was life changing. It was about relationship not religion. It undergirded my response to Bill; my response to the teaching invitation; my response to the invitation from Longaberger; and many responses since.

What would it look like for me to trust you today, God? This prayer-question arises almost every morning as I consider the day before me. Our relationship is growing; God and I pursuing each other.

Joseph pursuing Mary pictures God’s pursuit of me. History, culture, and the Bible relate their story well. Joseph spoke for Mary; he asked for her to be his wife. Their community acknowledged it; they knew Mary belonged to Joseph; she would take his name; she would come to his home; she was not afraid.

The Bible picks up the story as God intervenes in their plans. His messenger – the angel  Gabriel – comes to Mary and Joseph separately with an amazing announcement; Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and is going to give birth to the Son of God. Although there were fears, Mary and Joseph both listen well and respond in faith to Gabriel’s words. (Matthew 1 and Luke 1).

How like God. God waits for the perfect time; the time He knows we’ll be able to respond. God works in unlikely ways; a virgin giving birth – a college student who thinks she’s attending college to train for teaching and to meet a mate. God speaks his invitation to take his name; he knows who will respond to his pursuit.

“You did not choose me; I chose you”.
John 15:16

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So Simple, So Profound

This time, God made sure I heard his message. He repeated it twice.

The first time came during a conversation in the taxi cab as my husband and I drove to the Galt House Hotel where the once every four years Navigator National Conference was being held.

During the short commute, our friend divulged to us his communication with one of his supervisors as he started a new job. He compared his contribution to the job to the account of the feeding of the five thousand in the New Testament. Like the young boy who offered his five loaves and two fish to feed the crowd, our friend said, I communicated I could only bring what I had.

The second time came two days later as I listened to the speaker in one of the plenary sessions; Gary Haugen the President of the International Justice Mission also based his message on the feeding of the five thousand. (IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression). IJM deals with huge overwhelming problems. The types of issues that make me think how can I possibly make a difference?  Gary challenged us to bring what we have; then he said Jesus takes responsibility for the miracle. The ah-ha moment.

Of course; I know that. But this time I heard. In recent years as I skimmed that passage – I didn’t need to read it, I knew what it said – I was doing just that, skimming or reading,  not listening for the voice of God. And that makes all the difference.

Jesus takes responsibility for the miracle. It’s a steep learning curve for me. Jesus – not those with decision making powers; not doctors; not worldly authorities; not, not, not – Jesus takes responsblity for the miracle.

There is a new freedom in praying.
There is a new expectation about circumstances.
There is a new peace that passes all understanding.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,”
Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Prodigious Thanksgiving Invitation

October 1988. We moved our growing family from the Midwest to California in August – even farther from family. Everything was new; including friends. Everything felt lonely.

Growing up, holidays equated to extended family. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter facilitated occasions to celebrate together. As a young girl, I loved these days and the family time they represented.

Now we lived far away.

I remember the phone call that October from Donna. We met at church (probably the junior high welcome picnic); we both had kids in junior high – she had girls; I had boys. That constituted all I knew.

Donna invited us for Thanksgiving dinner; in October; a whole month early. Tears streamed down my face; Thanksgiving wouldn’t be lonely. (Although we live across the Rocky Mountains from each other now, that Thanksgiving invitation initiated a friendship that continues today).

Donna’s prodigious invitation started a friendship; it also pictures other surprise invitations that started and deepened friendships.

Twenty years previous, I remember an invitation from God. Sue, I invite you to be my friend. It was the first time I realized Christianity was more than my religion; it meant relationship, friendship with God.

Earlier this fall, I delighted in another invitation – f rom Zephaniah 3:17. My world was spinning and the invitation from that Scripture grounded me, he will quiet you by his love. As I purposefully pondered this invitation and God's love, I experienced my soul quieting; my world coming back into perspective.

Invitations change life; I need to listen well and be thankful for the invitations that come my way.

“… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”.
John 10:10

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at Aunt Eleanor's

A half century later, the tradition of Thanksgiving at Aunt Eleanor’s each November with most of the Fraser first and second cousins awakens special memories.

Thanksgiving afternoon started at home as my sisters and I donned our new dresses – Thanksgiving was a dress up occasion in our family and we always wore new dresses. The anticipation grew as we traveled the forty-five minutes across the George Washington Bridge to Aunt Eleanor’s home in New York. 

There were two big turkeys and all the traditional side dishes and desserts. My Mom and all the aunts helped with those. There were four tables. The adults crowded around the huge (at least to my eyes) dining room table – I never graduated to that one; and three smaller tables where us kids enjoyed our feast. Being one of the oldest of the kids, I sat at a card table in the living room with my three oldest cousins.

Uncle William (Aunt Eleanor’s husband) always had a shiny new quarter for each of my generation; Uncle William was a banker.

After dinner we would stage a play for the adults; there were always tears when it was time to leave.

As wonderful as the aroma of the turkeys as we entered the house, and the taste of our traditional holiday fare, and the fun of the other memories that surrounded Thanksgiving at Aunt Eleanor’s, something more important lingers with me. Thanksgiving at Aunt Eleanor’s laid a foundation for cousin friendships that continue today. It built a family bridge.

There are fifteen Fraser first cousins; we will be around ten different Thanksgiving tables this year. But for a moment – if even a fleeting thought – I bet all of us will recall Thanksgiving at Aunt Eleanor’s.

“Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,…”
Psalm 107:8

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving ~ Going Deeper

I was walking in the woods near our home a few years ago when it came to me – echo, aroma, reflection – e.a.r. These three words are the essence of three important principles of life for me and formed an acrostic that highlighted a fourth.

Echo is one of the words in Eugene Peterson’s translation of I Thessalonians 1:8, “your life is echoing the Master’s words”.
Aroma or fragrance is found in II Corinthians 2:14, “through us spreads the fragrance (aroma) of the knowledge of him everywhere”.
One of my favorite reflection verses is II Corinthians 3:18, “And, we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,” (NIV)
E.A.R. – My ear is the part of my anatomy that enables listening. If I am going to be an echo, the aroma, and a reflection of Christ to my world, I need to be listening to him.

I am thankful for the Word.
I am thankful that I hear God speak through his Word.
I am thankful that his words are personal.

Do I really believe them? I Thessalonians 1:8, II Corinthians 2:14 and 3:18 all are speaking about me. I am the echo; I am the aroma; I am the reflection that pictures Jesus to my world. I’m reminded of a simple poem I heard years ago,
You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do and the words that you say,
Men read what you write, distorted or true,
What is the gospel according to you?

Even more than my deeds and words (those things I do) is who I am. Is the echo of my life, the aroma of my life, the reflection of my life a picture of the gospel?

One way I answer that question is to consider what I am thankful for. Am I thankful for the way God created me? Am I thankful for my life story? Am I thankful for the message God is giving me? Am I thankful that I cry easily? Am I thankful for the times I hurt? Am I thankful for the ministry God is giving me? Am I willing to be thankful when I don’t feel thankful?

“give thanks in all circumstances;”
I Thessalonians 5:18

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I'm not sure how I did this ... ahhh, technology. 

Please scroll down past God's Tears and Mine to read, When the Silence of God is Good.

Thanks!   sue

God's Tears and Mine

My daughter-in-law texted me the words of my GRAND-daughter’s friend, Elsa.

I’m crying in my heart because I love Ashlyn so much.
(Ashlyn is my GRAND-daughter. She is 4; Elsa is 3 ½).

Immediately two Bible passages came to mind: the prophecy in Isaiah that includes, “and a little child shall lead them” and the narrative of Lazarus in the gospel of John.

Precious little Elsa led me to consider God’s love for me. I wonder if he cries in his heart over me. I bet he does.

I imagine Elsa was remembering fun times with Ashlyn and was missing her. She was crying in her heart over her perceived and temporary loss. God’s tears for me have bigger reasons.

What might God’s tears over me communicate? I have some guesses.
·        Could they mean God longs for me to trust him?
·        Could they be that God wants me to really believe his love for me?
·        Could they mean God longs for a friendship with me where we talk face to face?
·        Could they mean God longs for me to understand life from his perspective.
·        Could they be that God is crying with me?
·        Could it be all of the above and much more? Yes.

Jesus’ tears over his beloved friend Lazarus are stated simply and profoundly in John 11:35, “Jesus wept”. He is with Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters who are mourning the death of their beloved brother. Jesus’ tears clearly communicate his love not only for Lazarus but also – and primarily – for Mary and Martha.

Jesus also uses Lazarus’ death as a teaching moment for the disciples. Earlier in John 11 Jesus plainly states, Lazarus’ death is “so you may believe”. (Verse 14).  They are reminded and I am too that God able to raise the dead; if God raises the dead, God is also able to work in – even reverse – the seemingly dead ends in my life.

Jesus words encourage me in another way too – they communicate that faith exists in me – it needs to grow – but it is there. The disciples had the ability to believe or Jesus wouldn’t have said so you may believe. I hear Jesus saying that to me too. And sometimes he is crying in his heart over my lack of trust.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.
Hebrews 11:6

Friday, November 18, 2011

When the Silence of God is Good

Thank you to my friend Janine who shares her experience of God’s silence for our encouragement.
I am in a new phase in life…a new location, new relationships but most importantly I face this new phase with a new interior world that has been through dramatic transformation.  As I look at what is next in life I wonder and pray…Lord, what do you have for me?  Answers, it seems, are a long time in coming.  I am so ready to start the next part of my journey and share the fullness inside that seems to be overflowing.  I don’t want to contain it.  Yet, as I pray to the God of the Universe who set the planets in motion, the oceans rising and falling and the wind whirling, I know there is a rhythm to life and wisdom to God’s work.  So, I live in the tension of wanting to “do” something versus being prepared to move into whatever He has for me.  This tension is, at times, very strong because of this sense within me that He has work for me.  I think I’m ready but I have no clarity on what I am to do.  In my wondering, I’m reminded that the disciples were prepared for 3 years before they moved into their purpose, which brings peace to my soul.  I remember to not overlook the interior preparation for the exterior movement into others lives.  
Romans 8:24-25 (The Message)
“That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging in us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”
Ahhh, yes. I get what Janine is saying. The silence of God can seem so loud. I long for words, for direction, sometimes just the next step. But all I hear is silence. In our physical lives when one of our senses is toned down, the others often become sharper. When I don’t hear, my feeling or seeing seems more alive.
I picture an infant bundled tightly in a receiving blanket and cradled in his mother’s arms, so content, so secure, so protected. I wonder ~ can these times of silence be times of resting in the character of God; a time of being wrapped in God’s all-good, all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving character – a time to trust.
“Under the circumstances”, a common phrase, was challenged by Howard Hendricks. In one of his messages at a conference Bill and I attended years ago, in his entertaining and profound way, he challenged, “What are you doing under the circumstances?” He was exhorting us to live above our circumstances. The thought comes, perhaps I should be living beyond my circumstances – living by what I know is true about God. Trusting that in His silence, God He is hard at work on my behalf.
“But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working … and I am working.”
John 5:17

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Energetic Waiting

I want to marry this guy. The crazy thought or the still small voice that flew through my head the day I met Bill. I was a sophomore at Hope College; Bill a freshman. 1967
We were both young believers learning to follow Jesus.

“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Romans 15:5, 6. 1968.
The first time I remember hearing God’s personal Word to me during my devotions.
I am learning to trust truth from The Word.

Graduated from college, 1969; learning practical stuff – like how to cook more than a Betty Crocker cake mix.
Also was learning about how to do ministry at a large university. 1969- 1972.
Bill enrolls in seminary after college and also was learning about ministry on another large campus.

Experienced some hard stuff – a HUGE learning experience for us both; the realities of life. 1972.

Married – December 1972. All during those 5 ½ years of waiting and anticipating, we were both accumulating a storehouse of experiences that shaped and prepared us for our future together. Looking back, it was an energetic waiting. Our first 9 years of marriage we led the Nav ministry at the University of Illinois.
Many of the lessons of the past years guided us in ministry and
as we encouraged our friends along their relationship journeys.

Another Scripture that spoke to us in those days of waiting was Psalm 33:20-22:
Our soul waits for the Lord; - We were waiting on God, not circumstances.
He is our help and shield. – God was protecting us. Didn’t understand it back then.
For our heart is glad in him, - even if we didn’t like the circumstances.
because we trust in his holy name. – We were learning to trust – a biggie!
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. – We worked at keeping our hope centered on God.

Those years culminated in other practical lessons:
·        Life is not only about me.
·        Reviewing truth was so important.
·        I often need to look around and see my circumstances from another perspective. 

I continue to learn that these principles apply to many many waiting scenarios. 

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; …”
Isaiah 40:31a

Friday, November 4, 2011

How Long?

The question looms eternally. How long do I have to wait until ______________. Fill in the blank; the options are endless.

The book I’m reading and pondering poses the question this way, How long does it take for your soul to recognize your life is full?

How long does it take for my soul to recognize my life is full? My quick answer is a lifetime. I wonder if I’m normal.

I know I’m growing. J
I have times when my life feels very full. J
I still have moments – sometimes long moments. L

My more thoughtful answer … life is a journey; there have been some significant journey changers along the way for me. Each ushers me one step closer to realizing my life is full.

Up until 1996 God was setting the stage. I was learning and in some ways experiencing my passions; I was moving in right directions; but I looked around me and was unhappy. In my eyes my life did not line up with my heart. My soul was not registering a full life. How long?

I quit! I decided to put on a “happy mask” and pretend my life was full. I wanted you to believe it too – not good. Thankfully God overruled.

The twenty-first century arrived and I noticed changes in what I was hearing from God. I was beginning to identify specific reasons for my unhappiness – the lies I believed about myself. Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life…(John 14:6). I began listening to truth from Jesus. Something in me began transforming. It felt good.

The journey continues. How long? Sometimes I encounter potholes. Henri Nouwen encourages me that they are expected. He refers to these potholes as getting off on the side of the road; you know you’re there, just return to the road.

The eyes of my soul are seeing.
The eyes of my soul are trusting.
The eyes of my soul are beginning to recognize a full life.

“Do not be conformed to this world,
But be transformed by the renewal of your mind, …”
Romans 12:2a

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Communicated so Beautifully

Thank you to my friend Beth for sending this poem – a delightful summary of my posts here and here.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
                                    Robert Frost

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Fetters of a Temporary Identity

A PS to Autumn Musings, October 19.

The beautiful golden Aspen leaves of last week now sport a brown hue with small black flecks. Many released their grasp of the branches and now rest on the ground. The few that remain sway precariously in the autumn breezes; they too will soon let go and flutter down.

The lessons continue.

The first …
The green to gold to brown happens quickly. The golden dress of the mature delicate leaves shines brightly, offers much joy, and then relinquishes their color to the crispy brown state in short order. I know this is part of the life-cycle of an Aspen tree; I know this must happen; I miss the small delicate leaves.

The Aspen tree retains its identity as it grows, matures, and lives through its life-cycle, the life-cycle established by God. As I observe, the outside show is different; but the Aspen tree is still an Aspen tree.

The small golden leaves signal mature leaves. To me their life-cycle speeds by and offers a snapshot with an eternal perspective. If I wish for one part of their life-cycle to stay forever, I deny the Aspen their full glory.

Is this not true for me also? If I fetter myself to a temporary identity and wish that it never end, I deny God and myself the opportunity to live out God’s creation of me.

Another lesson …
I count the months of green, gold, and even the brown leaves of the Aspen – it is about six months each year. Huh, that means the time of dormancy is about six months too. Half and half. Aspens need as much time to renew as they do to be in leaf.

I travel often. My friends hear me say, if I am gone for three days, I usually need three days at home to recoup. Half and half. I too need times of dormancy; often equal to the times of travel.

I need to listen to the lessons of the Aspen.

“You refreshed your weary inheritance.”
Psalm 68:9b

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quiet or QUIET

The alarm clock rudely barges into my sleep; the five beeps of the coffee pot are a mixed blessing; the barking of the neighbor’s dog and the faithful garbage man seal the deal – I’m awake. My day with all its noises begins.

Romans 10:17, Faith comes by hearing. How quiet do I need to be to hear?
Zephaniah 3:17, He will quiet you by His love. Am I aware of His quieting love?

We live in the country surrounded by tall Ponderosa Pines. Our neighbors are near but the trees obscure their homes – it is private and quiet.   

Many mornings I gather my Bible, journals, mug of coffee and head to our deck - I love being outside in our quiet haven. I arrange everything and settle in – the beginning of my quiet time.

My teaching days return to instruct me. A roomful of eager third graders challenge my communication skills. I quickly learn that a soft voice controls better than a loud one; when I speak quietly their desire to hear quiets their voices.

God speaks quietly too. How important is it to me that I hear the quiet whisper – the still small voice of God? Or are the noises in my life robbing my attention?

I’m learning:
Quietness is a need; God hardwired me for quiet.
Quietness is an art; it does not come naturally.
Quietness is a skill; it is a habit to be developed.
Quietness is a gift; I must un-wrap it to enjoy.

So I sit and stare for a bit enjoying God’s creation. I ponder His words for me and remember. I pray and lay my concerns at His feet a-gain. Sometimes I read a favorite author and all the while, I listen for God. My restlessness transforms into rest – a rest so energizing I want to shout it from the rooftops – but then I interrupt the quiet of my neighbors. The quietness accomplishes its purpose – faith resulting from hearing.

“… and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
Isaiah 32:17b

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Prayer for my Friends

Dedicated to my mom friends who are hurting.

Father, we come to You tonight as needy women;
          women with tears who are hurting and clinging to your truths.

We come to You tonight as thankful women;
          women who have seen You work in very real ways in the lives of
                   our children.

We come to You tonight as expectant women;
          women who long to see Your loving and kind work in the lives of our
                   children once again.

We come to You tonight as hopeful women;
          Women who love You and know Your character.

We come to You tonight as little children;
          children who need to be reminded a-GAIN of Your care; Your love;
                   Your goodness.

Thank You, Father, for the privilege of coming.      Amen

“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
Ephesians 3:20, The Message

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Musings

A mere few weeks ago the Aspen are lemon-lime. Autumn teases. Today their golden leaves shimmer quietly in the fall breezes and delight the observers. I love autumn. Sadly, though, soon the leaves are brown, crispy, and die. They lose their grasp on the branches and slither to the ground. The trees stand naked, exposed.

(It’s time; time to dress our home for fall. Perfect. Lodge d├ęcor and fall and winter fit easily. Want to come over for a mug of hot apple cider and a pumpkin bar? But I digress.)

In their nakedness the trees wisely instruct. Just a few days previous, the brilliant colors of the leaves signal their time of dormancy is eminent. As the leaves flutter to the ground, the tree appears dead. But no – the trees are alive; healthy. They are doing what God created trees to do. They wait; they store food; they store vital energy; developmental processes are happening; they prepare for their next season of growth. (Thank you to Grant Wood, Department of Horticulture Science, University of Saskatchewan)

I listen to the lesson of the trees.

I love the light green signaling spring, warmer weather, longer days. I love the deepening green as summer progresses providing shade and a place for nests. I love the lemon-lime as the cooler days of fall approach; I love the brilliant gold a sign of maturity. But the brown, crispy, ready to drop leaves sadden. I love times of new life, growth, maturity; dying is hard. Dying is necessary. The dying leaves are the beginning of dormancy, that developmental process that allows the tree to once again be ready for new life.

Interesting, what dies is what is visible; life being renewed is invisible.

A wise friend once asked my husband, what is dying in you and what is coming alive? He immediately knew the answer. If it wasn’t for the dying, there could be no new life.

The trees instruct; the trees remind – the leaves need to die; dormancy isn’t optional if the tree is to be healthy.

I hear. Some things – those visible things – need  to die; times of dormancy are essential; I anticipate new life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
John 12:24

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Muttering or Meditating

Has the gospel taken root in my life?  My son poses the question in his sermon last Sunday. He is exegeting and challenging with the parable of the four soils recorded in Luke 8.

I need his words – especially when he speaks of the thorns! The seed is good; the thorns are not.

Ouch; thorns prick and often draw blood; sometimes they even stick in me. Been there; experienced that.

Jesus teaches that the thorns are the worries (cares) and pleasures of this life. I ponder, where am I bleeding; what are my thorns, my worries, the pleasures I'm hanging on to?  Is the gospel (the good news; the good seed) taking root in my life?

I answer that question with others: What am I listening to? Am I feeding myself Truth or feeding myself feelings and hurts? Am I meditating or muttering? Am I trusting the Truth? Am I experiencing the Truth?

I can only experience the Truth if I trust the Truth; I can only trust the Truth if I am hearing the Truth; I only hear the Truth if I purpose to feed myself (meditate on) the Truth.

I remind myself that the gospel takes root in my life when I experience the Truth – transforming how I think; transforming what I ponder; transforming me.

After Jesus speaks of the thorns, he speaks of the seed that fell into good soil; it grew; it yielded fruit – that which it is designed to do. The difference was not the seed; the difference was the environment into which the seed was sown.

Eugene Peterson in The Message says of this good soil, “But the seed in the good earth – these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what sticking with it until there’s a harvest.  

God, would you please make me that kind of person – one who seizes the Word and holds on no matter what … amen. Thank you, Jeff, for your words; I needed them!

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
Luke 8:8, The Message

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Perfect Identity Storm

First the long term forecast; then the next several days; finally, the current weather. It amazes me how accurate these forecasts are; especially when big storms approach. Sometimes all the ingredients are there to create the perfect storm – a frightening reality.

A forecast predicting weather storms parallels the storms of my life – although I don’t often see the pattern in the making quite so clearly – the pattern is there.

I am living in an in-between place; between identities – that is the identity that I voice to others. It is a hard place to be; who am I? I feel severed; I feel alone; I feel unimportant. I retain my badge; I keep my email address; it all seems hollow.

The long term forecast is over three years old; I know it is coming; I live like it is not. As the storm approaches and the signs concur, God moves in with gentle reminders. I hear,
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:8

I memorized that Scripture years ago. Why? I don’t remember; maybe for this time. Am I clinging to worthless idols? I wonder; I don’t think so – but then why these feelings?

There are other signs; they confirm the storm. I’m aware and unaware. I am unmasked – at least and hopefully, only to me – probably not.

I remember; I review; my only hope to weather the storm.

·        When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2
·        …for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
·        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 master’s words.
      I Thessalonians 1, The Message
·        And others renew my hope.

The storm arrives. Am I listening to God or am I licking my wounds?

“… you make him glad with the joy of your presence.”
Psalm 21:6b

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Remembering Friendships

My first best friend is Connie. She lives one house away in our very family friendly neighborhood. Connie’s family is Catholic and she gets to wear a uniform to school (I attend public school – no uniforms required). I remember being jealous of that uniform. Crazy, isn’t it?

My next best friend is Marilyn, my college roommate. Marilyn graciously includes me in her family’s Thanksgiving celebration. She warns me though to not take the name of the Lord in vain in her parent’s presence (“oh God” was a fairly common exclamation of mine in those days).

Then there is Liz, Barb, Kathy, Carol, Paula and many others. We raise our children together through their elementary years. We spend a lot of time together. One especially fun memory is coming home from a weekend retreat and stopping for dinner. As we consume our food, we remember, we tell stories, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

More recent best friends are my gramma friends: Kay, Louise, Mary and Melissa (the  female half of our couples group). We are doing life together and encouraging one another on the journey.

As I recall these various friends,
I realize that they parallel my journey with God.

Connie’s uniform signifies to me that God is important to her. I could not have voiced this in junior high school but I believe even back then, God is important to me too. Her uniform reflects my heart.

I mark my college years as the time when my friendship with God really begins; I am surrounded by friends who love God, I participate in personal Bible study, I attend retreats to spur on my relationship with God, and I hear God’s voice whisper in my ear for the first time. I remember the place. I remember who else is there. I REMEMBER HIS WORDS! That is HUGE! God speaks into my circumstances in His still small voice! A personal message – kind of like Marilyn warning me about my speech. 

Although the still small voice is my first remembrance of a friendship with God, more often I hear God’s voice through His Word – a certain verse or passage jumps off the page as I read and I know God is speaking to me. Romans 15:5 and 6 is one of those special passages. It is God’s word to me for our marriage. To this day, I write the words of that Scripture on every wedding card I sign.

Often I hear the voice of God through the words of my friends; sometimes as we do Bible study together, sometimes as we pray, sometimes as we take walks or share lunch together, almost always in church. What a wonderful gift friendships are! I appreciate the Truth I hear through the words and see in the lives of my friends. As we celebrate together and as we cry together, God is reflected in them and they challenge me to keep developing my friendship with God.

Thank you my friends – those who I have named and many who were not named.

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.
I was a Girl Scout once.  J

“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Precious Thoughts or ...

She said, "I really want to find something that will help me learn how to apply the Bible.  I don't just want to read it; I want to learn how to live it out." 

He said, “I don’t read the Bible; I listen to it.” Did he mean he has the Bible on his iPod? No. He means that the Bible is the voice of God speaking to him.

These two clarify my heart’s desire; as I read my Bible I want to be in tune with God; in tune with His personal words for me. I want to capture the moment; enjoy a conversation with Him. I want to listen to my Bible.

I have read Psalm 139 many, many, many, many, many times. I have been reminded about and am very thankful for God forming my inward parts and knitting me together in my mother’s womb (verse 13); I love that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (verse 14). But last week was different.

I’m not sure why I turn to Psalm 139 on this day – perhaps God is speaking before I even begin to read – because that’s where I went. God continues to speak. In the first three stanzas three similar thoughts jump off the page of my Bible that particular day and I ponder them: you hem me in (verse 5); your right hand shall hold me (verse 10); days that were formed for me (verse 16). 

I’m not sure I like these words; they sound constraining. They might affect my freedom. Do I want to be hemmed in? Do I like someone holding my right hand? Do I want my days planned out for me (sometimes I do). It sounds like I’m a little kid who needs to be held back from running across the busy street.

Two other similar phrases are magnified that morning: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; (verse 6); and How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! (verse17). I ask myself, do these phrases describe me; do I want them to be my testimony; are these really precious thoughts to me?

Then I remember, I am a little kid; I am God’s child; that is my identity. It’s not many thoughts later that I concede, I need God holding my hand; I need God hemming me in. I’m thankful my days are planned. I pray, God, please help me believe that your thoughts are precious; I know I don’t get it – your knowledge is too wonderful for me. I need to be hemmed in; I need you to hold my right hand; I’m thankful you plan my days; I need your protection. Amen.

As I say amen (so be it) and close my Bible, there is lightness in my heart; there is new energy in my step. I have enjoyed a conversation with a good friend – like Moses in Exodus 33.

“You are my friends …”
John 15:14