Monday, January 31, 2011

Affirmation, part 2

What a wonderful gift from God affirmation is.  Last Tuesday our couple’s group convened at our home. That meant I provided the main course and set the table.  I enjoy setting a nice table.  That day I had carefully chosen greens from the trees on our property to mingle with the pinecones surrounding the fat candle for the centerpiece.  It came out well. 

As my dear friend ~ and wonderful cook ~ walked through our front door, the aroma of my meatballs met her and she said, “Sue, you are such a good cook”.  You might remember from my first post on affirmation  that it’s often easy for me to discredit that type of affirmation with a comment something like, oh, that is such an easy recipe.   I’m learning.  I thanked her.

I’m also learning that affirmation is hidden in many different circumstances.  God, our ultimate affirmer, is pleased when I learn to recognize them.  Here are a few more places I have experienced affirmation.

  1. Affirmation is sometimes most easily recognized in times of great need.  I remember once being very angry about something.  I don’t remember what.  But I was letting anyone (and thankfully that was only Bill) in range of hearing know about my anger.  I finally looked at him with tears in my eyes and said, “Do you even believe I love Jesus?”  He came to me, encircled me with his arms and gently replied, “Of course I do”.
I melted into his embrace.  With his words and his touch, I was so affirmed.

  1. Affirmation means the most when it is a surprise.  I know you can think of many stories when a young child is told, “tell grandma thank you”.  Or “tell grandma, you love her”.  The child is usually obedient but their words are not from their heart.  As the recipient of the words, they may be appreciated but they are not necessarily believed. 
I experienced the opposite when our precious GRANDdaughter was 6 months old.  After traveling for 8 hours in the car, we finally arrived for our weekend visit with our son and his family.  We walked in the kitchen and my daughter-in-law handed Ashlyn to me.  You know what, she hugged me!  And I melted.  Did a 6 month old know what she was doing?  Probably not.  But I decided to accept that hug as an affirmation from God.

  1. God is the ultimate affirmer.  He has so many ways of being that besides using little  6 month old children.  His Word offers regular affirmations when I feel like He is speaking directly to me.  He uses other people.  He uses the great hymns of our faith. 
A few years ago I was driving into our headquarters for a meeting and the hymn, “Draw Me Nearer” came to mind.  I hadn’t sung that hymn for years.  I only remembered the first verse.  It ended up being a difficult meeting.

The next morning as I was alone and processing my experience of the day before, I remembered the hymn.  I got our hymnal from the piano and looked up “Draw Me Nearer”.  As I read the words of the second verse, my eyes filled with tears.  Those words communicated my heart to me.  Oh how I needed the consolation those words provided. I was so affirmed! 

Father, would you help me ~ and all my friends reading this post ~ to recognize the affirmation you bring our way. 

There is more.  But that’s for another time.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.   Philippians 1:3

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moving Forward by Looking Back, continued

From my last post you know that quietness is a high value for me in my relationship to God.  But there’s more.

As I sit and ponder what it is that God has for me in the new year, I realized that the best way for me to discern that was to look at what God had already said.  The best way to move forward was by looking back. 

So I asked myself two questions …
  1. What are the scriptures that God has used significantly in my life?
  2. What are the desires that God has put on my heart?

Three scriptures have been highly motivational to me the last several years.

Parts of I Thessalonians 1 in the Message translation says,  “God not only loves you very much … something happened IN you, your life is echoing the Master’s words”.  BTW, this is the scripture that the name of my blog came from.

And I love II Corinthians 2:14, “Thanks be to God … who always leads us …through us spreads the fragrance (some translations say, aroma) of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

II Corinthians 3:18 says, And we with unveiled face, reflect the glory of God and are being transformed!  Sue paraphrase.

I sum these three scriptures up with the thought that I need to live out who God created me to be.  It is who I am, not what I do that is spreading the aroma of Christ to my friends. 

Then I look at the desires God has given me.  Then I sit and listen for an answer to this prayer, “God what will it look like this year to live out who You have created me to be?”

One of my desires is to grow in being a helper to my husband Bill.  Bill’s job often requires that he travel.  To come home is to return to a place of nourishment and refreshment for him.  I desire that our home is a haven for him, for us.  I live out who God created me to be as his wife, by doing things with our home that communicate haven.  The atmosphere in our home is important. Immediate application ~ re-organize my desk in the kitchen!

Another desire is to continue to grow myself in listening to God. One way I’m doing that is by starting my times with God each morning with what I call, “sit and stare”.  For me that means enjoying God’s creation and quieting my heart before Him so I can listen well.  It often means reviewing what God has said in the past.  Philippians 3:1 encourages me in this arena. 

And related to that, another desire is to help other women grow in listening to God. So I will continue to blog.  I will continue to lead Bible study.  I will continue to make friends as I enjoy my knitting group.   I will continue to pray that God will show me what this looks like.

“So faith comes from hearing …” Romans 10:17

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Moving Forward By Looking Back - A Belated New Year's Post

It is amazing to me that many of the desires I recognize in my life today were birthed years ago in my life experiences or in my journal entries.  But I really shouldn’t be amazed for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8.  Nevertheless I often am.

It was fall in the early 80’s.  I had just taken our younger son to pre-school.  Our older son was a kindergartener.  I returned home and collapsed on the sofa in our living room.   Immediately the hymn, “Blessed Quietness” came to mind.  Ahhhhh, what a gift, a quiet morning is.  I don’t remember what my devotional time looked like specifically that day, but I’m sure it included my Bible and writing of some sort.  More importantly, that morning was a stake in the ground for me.  For the first time that I remember, I realized that quiet was important to me. 

The things that God causes us to remember have significance.  I need to pay attention to them. 

For my husband, quiet can be happening when there is soft music playing in the background.  For me, quiet needs to be quiet.  In the early 2000’s Bill and I spent a week almost every summer on the deserted beach at Ocracoke, NC.  Each morning we would part ways for our time with the Lord.  For Bill it usually meant a walk on the beach.  At first for me it meant, a cup of coffee in the front yard of the local coffee shop.  I am pretty good at tuning out the comings and goings of others around me.  And I liked feeling like I was part of the community.  But as time went on, I realized as much as I loved the coffee shop, it wasn’t the quiet atmosphere I craved. 

I not only wanted quiet, but I needed to be alone to give my attention fully to God.  So my coffee shop mornings moved to the upper deck of the home we were renting where my entire view was across the trees and the sand out to the ocean.  It was a view that God created.  It’s beauty, it’s solitariness and the quiet fed my soul. 

I enjoy my times of solitude and silence even more today.  And I’m learning what ingredients need to be present to make these times enriching for me:
·        Place is important.  If I can be outdoors, I love that the best.  If not, I love to have a view of God’s creation.
·        Space is important.  The mountains in Colorado, the desert of Utah, and the ocean all are places I love to meet with God.  Or in my bedroom facing the double deck doors that look out to the mountains.  I wonder if I’m a bit claustrophobic?
·        Simplicity.  I don’t want or need a lot of things around me.  A view, a few books, my journal and a pen are all I need.  And sometimes, my computer.

Christmas was a special treat this year with both our sons, their wives and children with us.  For two weeks the pitter-patter of the feet of our GRANDS graced our home.  We have a lot of fun memories, but it wasn’t quiet!

When our last son and his family pulled away from our driveway, I came back into our home, and collapsed in my favorite chair looking out through our deck doors to the mountains and breathed deeply of the quiet. 

“The Lord is my Shepherd … He makes me lie down …He leads me beside still waters … He restores my soul …” excerpts from Psalm 23.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hard Things, REALLY Hard Things

“As he passed by, he saw …”.  These first six words from John 9 have encouraged me greatly this week.  The “he” is Jesus.  Jesus was with his disciples and on his way to somewhere.  Perhaps they were walking along quietly.  My guess is they were talking with each other as they walked.  But either way, they were walking.  As they were walking, Jesus saw someone.  His being with his disciples did not stop him from seeing, seeing someone in need.  In this case it was a blind man and Jesus healed him.  For the rest of the story, please read John 9.

Being blind is a hard thing.  Jesus not only saw, but he healed. 

There are hard things all around us too.  It is a great comfort knowing that Jesus … even in the midst of all the other hard things … sees our hard things.  Our son is un-employed; he needs a job.  Two of my friends have prodigal sons who have not yet come home; cancer is everywhere and is no respecter of persons or age; Christmas highlighted hurt relationships.  Hard things … REALLY hard things. 

Earlier this week as I was pondering John 9 and praying over these hard things, I made a list of truths to help me through these hard things.  It seemed like rather a simple list and so I decided to keep it for me.  Then another email arrived. 

The 38 year-old “healthy” daughter of one of my best friends in Colorado suffered a major stroke while exercising on the treadmill.  She has been in a coma since.  Joanne is not only a daughter, but also a wife and mother to two precious girls. She has an extensive ministry through the books she has authored and her blog, The Simple Wife.  (over 35,000 hits in the last two days).  She is also my friend.  I decided to share my list.

My list helps me to know that Jesus sees these hard things.  And not only does he see but he is working in and through them.  My list is an answer to my question, “If I believe that suffering (hard things) is for the purpose of showing God’s glory, like it was for the blind man in John 9, what should characterize me as I live with the suffering (the hard things) around me?”  Maybe my list will help you.

  1. In EVERYthing give thanks.  I Thessalonians 5:18
  2. Pray without ceasing … Trust.   Colossians 4:2
  3. Take time to ponder, be still and know.   Psalm 46:10
  4. Get rid of my Eyore complex (poooooor me)     Matthew 6:16-18
  5. Listen to God through His word, through wise friends, through books.  Isaiah 55:1-3
  6. Record/journal even when I don’t get it.  John 12:16
  7. Review what I know is true.  Philippians 3:1
  8. Resist the devil (lies I tend to believe) and he will flee.  James 4:7
  9. Consider Jesus and his hard things.  Hebrews 12:3
  10. Replay the well-known.   Psalm 23; Romans 8:18 and following;  John 15 
We all have hard things in our lives.  I would be honored to walk with you and pray for you too as you walk through the hard things in your life.  Please, allow me to be your friend.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Teacher in Me

It was Sunday and we were visiting a town we had lived in previously.  I was sitting in church before the service began reading the bulletin.  And I snapped!  Not visibly mind you, but in my heart I was hurt, very hurt.  I’m quite sure my worship was greatly hindered that day or perhaps non-existent.

The reality of my heart collided with the reality of an event at the church.  There was a women’s retreat planned and I had not been asked to be the speaker.  My heart desperately wants to minister to women.  That was not a new desire.  And at that time my definition of ministry was pretty narrow – speaking.

One of my life lessons is that I need to continue to crucify my sinful nature.  That nature causes me to compare myself with other women.  I am never good enough.  My ministry is never as spiritual or as significant as theirs.  The place where I am most vulnerable is the place of my desire.  Wanting to minister to women is a good desire.  God put it in my heart long ago.  But that desire can also derail me. 

As I was pondering this on a walk one day, I realized my vulnerability displayed itself in primarily two general circumstances.  One circumstance I could almost always count on to bring up my vulnerability was when I was with a group of women with similar hearts to mine … like staff get-togethers for the Navs.  I could count on it, I knew I would compare, I knew I would struggle.  But there were other times when my vulnerability would show itself that caught me off guard, like that Sunday reading the bulletin in church.  There had been no thought ahead of time that day that would have helped me prepare for my sinful reaction. 

It was kind of like school.  Sometimes there are tests.  I know ahead of time that they are coming and I prepare for them.  Sometimes there are quizzes.  I don’t know ahead of time and I can’t prepare.  I need to be ready.  And then to continue the analogy, there are the final exams.  They too can be prepared for.

In my life I believe I am ready for the “final exam”.  I’ve trusted in the work of Jesus on the cross for that.  I’m becoming aware of those  “tests” that I’m walking into and I’m learning to prepare for them.  And I know too that there will continue to be “quizzes” in my life, those things that catch me by surprise.  I’m doing better on them these days too.  As I’m learning my places of vulnerability, the places where my sinful nature displays itself, I’m also learning to prepare for them by reviewing the truth of the Scriptures.  The truth is gradually becoming my default.  It feels good.

As a bonus, as I'm learning to be content with where God has me, ministry is happening.  Go figure.  :) 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely …”.  Hebrews 12:1

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  Matthew 11:28, 30

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How Many WAYS Do I Need To Tell You?

It’s been a journey.  It started in college in 1966.  At least that’s when I have memory of it.  And it continues.

In the fall of ’66, God drew me into a brand new relationship with Him.  Christianity became for me more than my religion, it was now a relationship with God.  I became His child.  “But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become the children of God”.   John 1:12

It wasn’t until years later that I realized I wasn’t only His child, but as His child, I was the recipient of His lavished love!  WOW!!!  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God and that is exactly who we are”. I John 3:1

Then I began to grasp the concept that I was chosen and adopted.  I was wanted!  How wonderfully affirming that is to me.

As part of my adoption, there is purpose.  There is direction.  There is reason.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…”.  John 15:16

About 3 years ago while reading one of Eugene Peterson’s books about Jeremiah, an amazingly wonderful truth grabbed my heart.  “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  And before you were born, I consecrated you …”  Jeremiah 1:5  Before I was even born into my family God had a purpose for me;  He had set me apart for something special!  God whispered that truth to me privately.  It was a life-changer.

About a year later, The hymn, “Draw Me Nearer” also spoke to my heart along the same lines.  The second verse starts, “Consecrate me now to Thy service Lord by the power of grace divine.  May my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine”.  That gave words to my heart.

And then God affirmed it in a public setting.  Actually I was the only one who realized the profound truth of my being anointed with oil.  But I was the only one who needed to realize it.  I was anointed because I was consecrated for something special.  I needed that re-affirmed for me. 

I imagine the journey will continue.  And that is one of my prayers for 2011, this new year ... that I will be in tune with God's affirmations for me.  They make a difference!

Ephesians 1:5,  “In love, He predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of His will”.