Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Want to Meet for Coffee?

I love coffee shops – especially coffee shops that are re-makes of older homes. I love the atmosphere; I love sharing coffee with friends; I love reading with a mug of fresh brewed jo in my right hand; but most of all I love the aroma that exudes from the freshly brewed coffee.

My sister has said, I would never pay that much for a cup of coffee!  Perhaps if it was just a cup of coffee, I wouldn’t pay that much either. But I’m buying so much more! I’m paying for the atmosphere; I’m paying for the aroma; and most importantly I’m paying for a reminder: 

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance (some translations say “aroma”) of the knowledge of him everywhere.” II Corinthians 2:14

Coffee shops are places where I have listened to God.
Coffee shops are places where I have heard truth.
Coffee shops remind me that I am the aroma of Christ to a hurting world.

Give me a call; I’d love to meet for coffee. J  

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,”
II Corinthians 2:15

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Pothole

It happened again. I hate it. My teacher mentality classifies it as a pop-quiz – and I flunked – aGAIN. 

Several were gathered that afternoon to honor a friend.  Some (not me) were asked to offer verbal affirmations.  I was hurt; I felt slighted; my words were planned and ready.

I can just see you rolling your eyes; and hear you saying get over it; no big deal! 

But for me it was a BIG deal.  It was another opportunity for me to trust what God believes about me and I didn’t do it.

Henri Nouwen talks about falling off the side of the road.  His advice, get back on where you fell off and start walking. 

As I drove home I reviewed the afternoon as I fought back my tears. The whole scenario blew up like a balloon till I was suffocating in the front seat of my car. Just when I could bear it no longer, God’s word to me popped into my mind, “God not only loves you very much, but He has His hand on you for something special …”.  Parts of I Thessalonians 1 in the Message translation.

I repented; I relaxed; by God’s grace I got back on the road.

“ … the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Psalm 92:15

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Power of a Word

“You went through hell!”  ~  the counselor’s response after we shared our engagement story with him.
“If I can help you with your pain …”  ~  one friend to another.
“What do you need me to do?”  ~  a sister’s question knowing the frustration of her twin.

The words in italics opened doors of healing ~ for us and for our friends. They are words that identify with the emotions – not the facts of the story – of the one in need. 

I remember well sitting in the counselor’s office over ten years ago. It was our first day with him. He was getting to know us and we were getting to know him. I was a bit skeptical to say the least. We weren’t there to deal with our engagement scenario which was thirty years in the past at this point; or even for marriage counseling, our engagement was just part of our story ~ a part that is totally healed, or so I thought. 

I was shocked by our counselor’s response. Hell is a swear word that I grew up hearing; it isn’t used by my Christian friends. At least until that day. But something happened when he used that word. I stopped. I melted. He touched a deep part of me that had never been touched. He was right! Even though all the factual hurt of that time is healed, no-one had ever spoken to the emotion. Identifying the truth of the emotion opened the door for in depth fellowship and additional healing that I didn’t even know was needed. 

I’m learning to respond to the emotions that I hear when my friends share their hurts. It is unlocking doors in our friendships and allowing me to love them. It is often just one word that ignites the process. 

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Eugene Peterson highlights the importance of stories in this quote from Leap over a Wall, Reflections on the Life of David ~

“Learning stories isn’t the same as learning the multiplication tables.  Once we’ve learned that three times four equals twelve, we’ve learned it and that’s that.  It’s a fact that doesn’t change.  The data is stored in our memory for ready access.
 But stories don’t stay put, they grow and deepen.  The meaning doesn’t exactly change but it matures … stories keep releasing new insight in new situations.  As we bring new experience and insight to the story, the story gathers that enrichment in and gives it back to us in fresh form.”

My life validates that.  Earlier this week I was thinking about peace.  I need peace.  My sister is struggling with lung disease and it’s scary.  My mind went to John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  When I look that verse up, I am reminded that those words are embedded in the story of Jesus promising his disciples the gift of another Helper who is going to dwell with them. 

I had never thought about Jesus’ words in light of a sick sister.  I never had to.  But in my new circumstance the promise of a Helper and the promise of peace took on new critical meaning.  The story Jesus was telling grew, matured, and deepened because of my current story. Jesus’ story released new courage and peace to me in the midst of my story. The Helper is helping.

Dan Allendar says that our faith is meant to grow through stories.  When I see my life as a story and study that story and connect it with God’s story, I learn to trust. 

This week I’ve been learning to trust the God who is with me; the God who loves me; the God who is sovereign as I walk through the valley.

What are you learning as you connect your story to God’s story?

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Psalm 56:3

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My REAL Name

Recently a friend sent me a copy of Hannah Hurnard’s classic work, Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  It is an allegory chronicling the spiritual journey of a young girl whose name we know as Much-Afraid.  Even though Much-Afraid was engaged in the service of the Chief Shepherd and greatly desires to please Him, she is hindered by her shame and her extended family who despised the Chief Shepherd.  The term “much afraid” accurately captures the fear-filled life Much-Afraid is living. 

But the desire of her heart – to go to the High Places – becomes known to the Chief Shepherd who immediately offers to take her there.  The journey is long and arduous fraught with many opportunities for Much-Afraid to live up to her name.  However with the help of her ever-present companions and the promises of the Chief Shepherd, Much-Afraid finally arrives at the High Places where she is transformed and given a new name by the Chief Shepherd ~ Grace and Glory.

I love that we get to listen in to Grace and Glory’s conversation with the Chief Shepherd as she shares with Him some of her greatest lessons of the journey.  Her third lesson made my heart leap with desire:  “… you, my Lord, never regarded me as I actually was, lame and weak and crooked and cowardly.  You saw me as I would be (italics mine) … You always treated me with the same love and graciousness as though I were a queen already…”*

I’ve known for a long time what my name was, Not-Good-Enough. However, like Much-Afraid, God is transforming me.  Hurnard’s allegory has me pondering what God’s name is for me.  It is a good pondering.  I have an idea. 

But what excites me the most is God has always known me by my real name, His name for me.  His name inspires hope and joy and is an invitation to mature into His choice of name for me. 

The Apostle Paul has a lot of names for himself, like the Least-of-Apostles.  Or as Saul, he was Jesus-Persecutor.  But God named him, Chosen Instrument (Acts 9:15).  And Paul matured into the name God gave him. 

Back to Grace and Glory, I am challenged by her heart, “My Lord, I cannot tell you how greatly I want to regard others in the same way.”*   Father, please help me to see others as You see them.  Amen.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, …”
Jeremiah 1:5

*Hurnard, Hannah, Hinds’ Feet on High Places; American edition 1975 by Tyndale House Publishing, page 230.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Latest Greatest Question

In my junior high year book one of my friends wrote, just imagine Sue without questions.  Back then my questions resulted from wanting to be in the know; who is invited to whose party, who is getting a new dress for the year-end bash.  My curiosity was flamed by my desire to be popular.  The popular kids were in the know.

I still ask lots of questions; questions of my friends; questions about what I’m reading; questions about what I’m studying.  I truly can’t imagine life without questions.  But my motivation is different.

Questions have served me well.  Recently a friend told me of a method she was using to help others learn to meditate on the Scriptures.  Her method involves a pop can, a timer, paper and pencil.  She sets the pop can in front of her group and asks them to write down at least 20 questions about the pop can in a certain amount of minutes.  All is quiet except for the scribbling of the pencils across the papers.  When the time is up, the pupils look up expectantly and my friend says, “Congratulations, you have just meditated on a pop can.”   Questions are the key to meditation whether on a pop can or the Scriptures.

For example, recently I’ve been pondering the concept of grace in the Scriptures.  I went to the book of Ephesians and circled every instance of the word grace.  I had twelve circles.  Then I asked three questions of each of the twelve times grace was mentioned:

  • What is Paul saying about grace?
  • What did Paul want the Ephesians to understand about grace?
  • Why do I get to listen in to Paul’s words 2000 years later?
The last question is my latest and greatest.  Here’s an illustration of why …

The second use of the word grace is in Ephesians 1:6 (the thought starts in verse 4) ~
“… In love he predestined us for adoption … according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, …”

What is Paul saying? 
     Because of God’s love, the Ephesians were adopted.
          Their adoption is filled with purpose.
                This is a picture of God’s grace toward them.
What did Paul want them to understand?
     Their adoption is because they are loved by God.  This is past.
          Because of the past, in the present they have purpose.
               God is glorified in that purpose.
Why do I get to listen in two thousand years later?
     I too need to know these truths.  God loves me and so He adopted me ~ past.
          My adoption is also filled with purpose ~ present.
               As I live out that present purpose God is glorified.  That is grace.

Sometimes I look around and I get jealous of another’s lot in life.  If only breaks into my thinking; I am not content.  But then I remember, God loves me, has adopted me and my adoption is filled with purpose.  When I live out God’s purpose for me, my life is an echo of His grace toward me.  That’s why I get to listen into God’s truth 2000 years after it was recorded.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12