Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rubber-band Ball

We’re all in a race
                        A complicated race
                        Where many opportunities abound
                                                Good opportunities
                                                Right opportunities
                                                Seductive opportunities
                                                Necessary opportunities
                        Opportunities like a rubber-band ball ~
                                                            Tightly wound
                                                            Criss-crossing, intersecting
                                                            Colors alluring and inviting
                                                            And sometimes
                                                                        All knotted up.
We all need space
                        and Place
                                    to ponder our rubber-band balls.
We need to meet God
                        Our Shepherd, our Friend
We need to meet God
                        Face to face.
We’re all in a race
                        A complicated race
                        Where many opportunities abound.
We need to meet God
                        Our Shepherd, our Friend
We need to experience His grace,
                                                His overflowing grace.

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.”
Exodus 33:11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

When Life Spins Out of Control

Veni; Vidi; Vici – I came; I saw; I conquered - (Julius Ceasar’s words in 47 BC reporting on his short war with Pharmaces II of Pontus) returns to my memory. Mr. Deeks would be proud of me. J

Jesus’ response to the wars or the storms of life is different from Ceasar. Jesus physical presence is not necessary for him to see. But because he sees, he comes; and when he comes, he conquers.

The story of Jesus sending the disciples across the lake without him is recorded in three of the gospels and encourages me. Jesus stays back to get time by himself in the mountains to pray. I get that. There are times when I want to send all the people away, be by myself and pray. This week is one of those times.

Actually any week when I return home from traveling is one of those times. After being with people, restoration for me is time alone. But sometimes alone times are interrupted by the storms of life. This particular time, Jesus was interrupted by a storm on the lake near where the disciples were. Jesus saw – he didn’t need to be physically present in the boat with the disciples do know about the storm – he saw. He also knew their fears. Jesus came.

Jesus is aware of my storms – this one, an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Jesus sees and he comes in the form of a letter from a friend that arrived while I was gone. Tears come as I read the words that prod me to see God in my current situation. The letter initiated a restorative alone time for me in the midst of my storm.

The gospel story continues. As Jesus walks the three miles across the lake toward the boat with his friends aboard and comes close enough for them to see him – or see something (a ghost perhaps) – they are afraid – BIG time. Knowing their fear, Jesus speaks, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. These reassuring words come in the midst of the storm. The winds cease. Jesus conquers the storm.

Oh how I need those words, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. Jesus is not only aware of my storm; he enters my storm; and he conquers the storm. I do not need to fear. In the quietness of pondering my friend’s words, the storm quiets.

There are still many questions swirling around the now smaller storm. But for now there is peace. Jesus is in the boat with me. He sees; he comes; he conquers.

“The Lord is at hand (near); do not be anxious about anything,”
Philippians 4:5,6 (parentheses mine)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Frustrated Fixers

I’m a mom; I understand wanting to fix things; I hate when my kids hurt – I just want to fix it – whatever it is. A friend articulates this well, “I just want to fix it and I can’t”.  Frustration multiplies. Moms aren’t alone in this struggle; this issue camouflages itself in a variety of relationships and in a variety of settings.

Recently my frustrated fixer quirk rears its head in a Bible study I do with friends. I so want her to understand – to capture the practical implications of the passage. My questions fail to bring the desired responses; that is, my desired responses.

Later reviewing my underlines from a recent book, the proverbial light bulb comes on; I am convicted.

“Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered. … they are known not by what is wrong with them, but by who they are, just as they are.”
Eugene Peterson, The Pastor (italics mine)

I remember another book I read several years ago.

“I couldn’t help but imagine what my world would be life if I looked at the human beings I was closest to as holy and treated them with the same sense of respect … I try to look deeper into his heart, at the human being behind the role of husband, father, educator.”
Joan Anderson, A Year By The Sea (italics mine)

My author-friends fine-tune my issue – I see my friends as people with problems that need my fixing. God sees them as holy, as mysteries – friends who need my love and encouragement. Eugene Peterson also said, “I’m learning to be a patient pastor”. Ah-ha!

Three don’ts are helping me:
·        Don’t try to solve their problems.
·        Don’t give possible solutions
·        Don’t share my personal experiences.
God, please remind me of these in the moment. I want to treat my friends as your creations.  Amen

“We are His workmanship …”
Ephesians 2:10

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It was about twenty years ago in another state. The wedding rehearsal was over and the party hadn’t started. One of the groomsmen acting like he had had too much to drink was calling attention to himself in a big way. Everyone noticed his immaturity. I’m quite sure it was not a conscious decision on his part – he was acting out of who he pictured himself to be. I wish I could say I was sad for him – but really I was mad; mad that he was taking the attention away from the bride and groom.

Every morning I wake up with needs: the need for security, the need for significance, the need for attention and more. Every morning I have a choice, will I look to God to meet those fundamental needs or will I look to others to meet them and hope they do. Recently I’ve been grappling with my need for attention; what is appropriate attention; what is non-appropriate? I don’t want to be like that groomsman. 

Understanding how I define attention helps me. For example, I am ___________; I want you to notice that I am ___________. If you don’t notice – don’t meet my attention needs – my pride is squashed.  It’s like my three year old GRAND-daughter saying, look at me – give me your attention -- as she hops across the living room on one foot. When you are three years old, the attention request is cute.

Many stories are recorded in the gospels of people calling out for Jesus’ attention, like the blind beggar in Mark 10. Jesus responds; the attention need is met; the begging stops. I am challenged – do I call out to Jesus to meet my attention needs? Does my begging cease when Jesus meets my need? Or do I look to my friends to meet my attention needs by my doing something or saying something that communicates please notice me!

I need to be asking how does God define attention? That leads to appropriate attention. God is very creative; meeting attention needs may look different every day. I am becoming aware that I need to be purposely asking God to meet my attention needs.

This summer I read Awakening the Quieter Virtues by Gregory Spencer. In his chapter on modesty – another descriptor of appropriate attention – I was challenged by these questions:
·        Do I consistently draw attention to myself in conversations?
·        Do I often judge others for not measuring up?  (arrgh – like the groomsman)
·        Do I think that others spend a lot of time evaluating my actions?
·        Do I attempt to elicit praise to shore up my insecurities?

I am convicted! Dr. Spencer points out that Jesus gave two commandments: love God and love others. When I am pre-occupied with wanting your attention, I am adding a third – love me!

Dear God, will you please meet my attention needs today? Thank you. Amen

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention …”
II Peter 1:19

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Beginnings

Eugene Peterson’s example challenges me. When he and his wife Jan planted – began – a new church in the suburbs of Baltimore they went to Acts 1 and 2 the story of the beginning of the church for guidance.

Bill and I are embarking on a new adventure – a new beginning – so I too am pondering the account in Acts 1. It is generating questions:
·        Are there similarities between the beginning of the church and our next beginning?
·        Are there principles to copy?
·        How is God’s Word about the beginning of the church informing our beginning this fall and winter?

As I’m praying and listening the guidance unfurls piece by piece.
            1.  Keep remembering God’s work in the past. That’s how Luke started.
            2.  Wait for the Holy Spirit, Jesus orders (ESV, verse 4). Ahhhh, waiting – perhaps the biggest challenge. But there is something different about this waiting. The waiting anticipates; there is expectancy; there is promise. My friend calls it energy. Energetic waiting compels me.
            3.  Be devoted to prayer – part of energetic waiting. Jesus has returned to heaven; the disciples are left behind. Along with some women (verse 14) this is the first recorded activity.
            4.  They selected the replacement for Judas – they determined their community.

The pattern in Acts 1 proposes a pattern for me. I’m anticipating God speaking AND – I don’t need answers tomorrow (wow, is this a new Sue?)! I’m reviewing God’s leading; I’m praying; I’m considering who is a part of our community and I’m waiting – waiting with great anticipation that God will reveal His will in this new beginning.

“In the beginning, God created …”
Genesis 1:1

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Carpenter's Apprentice

That’s me. J The carpenter is my husband.

We are home from vacation; a different kind of vacation.
·        Yes, we had time to enjoy the solitude of our mountain haven.
·        Yes, we had time for hiking.
·        Yes, we consumed a few books (mostly novels).
·        Yes, our Scrabble competition defined each night (Bill won).
And we also erected a shed – more accurately a mini-cabin – not quite finished.

Although not typical vacation fare, our shed documents the fact that couples working together can have fun, expand their skill sets (don’t think I’ll put nailing at the top of any future resumes), ramp up their courage, and foster their prayer lives.

As I hammered and stained, I pondered and prayed. Even while creating a shed, I am reminded of the character of God. The project highlights two characteristics in particular:

1. Bill believes in me more than I believe in myself – “Sue, you can do this” he tells me. He explains each step; demonstrates for me; and trusts me with the task. Isn’t that so like God? He trusts me with far more than I ever thought I could handle.

2. Bill unveils only the next step. That is enough. It would be overwhelming to try and grasp the whole project at its inception. That’s how I experience God; He unveils the next step and reserves the big picture for Himself. Thankfully!

Perhaps shed building should be included in the description of the Proverbs 31 woman?!

“The heart of her husband trusts in her …
She … works with willing (most of the time) hands,”
Proverbs 31:11 and 13

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jesus Loves Me This I Know?

As children we sing it with abandon; with gusto in the pre-school Sunday School class. 
Jesus loves me this I know. J
Children also sing it without conscious thought!  
For the Bible tells me so.
How do I know Jesus loves me? The Bible tells me so.

Therein lies the glitch:
What if I am not trained to hear what the Bible tells me? Will I not know that Jesus loves me? Possibly.
And if I don’t know that Jesus loves me, what will my life be like?

Last week I met a new friend. We were talking about the Bible, our lives, and what we were hearing from Jesus. She shared about pondering the story of Jesus coming to visit Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42) As she pondered she heard Jesus whispering personally to her choose me.  That’s been her mantra each morning, choose Jesus. Those words are giving direction to her day; they are the fence that protects her. 

My friend knows Jesus loves her. His daily guidance as she pays attention to his words for her is the proof. The Bible told her so as she pondered Mary and Martha’s story.

I am hindered in my understanding of Jesus’ love for me when I stop short of listening for it. I’m content to know the facts recorded in the Bible. I even make applications based on the facts. But until I learn to listen for Jesus’ personal love for me embedded in the facts, I won’t know that Jesus loves me ~ even when the Bible tells me so.

“Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you listen to yourself and talk to God.” 
David Martin Lloyd Jones

“Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. … Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken from her.”
Luke 10, parts of verses 39 and 42