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