Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Year



Because, like many of you, Bill and I are enjoying our family over the holidays, this week I am taking a blog vacation—except to share with you one scripture I am praying over in 2013.

“You make known to me the path of life;
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.
Psalm 16:11

I am praying that in the new year, I will not only look for God’s path, but I will be aware of God’s life-giving path. I will pray the same for you.

Blessings to you in 2013,
sue



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Immanuel, God WITH Us!

My soon-to-be husband, Bill, was a seminary student in Kentucky that spring when The Navigators extended an invitation to him for a staff internship at the University of Illinois. He was surprised, honored, and intimidated all at the same time. The U of I was home to the largest Navigator collegiate ministry in those years.

A few days later while reading Exodus for one of his classes, he came across Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 3. God initiated: “I have seen …I have heard …I know … I have come to deliver … and to bring them … I have seen (again) … I will send you”. Exodus 3:7-10. God’s invitation to Moses was peppered with His presence.

Moses responds, “Who am I that I should go …?” (v. 11) The very same question Bill was asking, who am I that I should go to Illinois? God never answers his question, but he promises, “I will be with you,” (v. 12)

A similar scenario is repeated in Joshua 1: “I will be with you. I will not leave you … for the Lord your God is with you” (v. 5-9)  In the book of Haggai when the people are exhorted to return to building the house of the Lord, God promises through Haggai, “I am with you”. (Haggai 1:13)  God echoes over and over throughout the scriptures the same truth, I am with you. The well-known passages of the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, or the prayer promise in Matthew 18:20 end with the assurance of God’s presence.

Our Christmas cards this year proclaim, Immanuel, God with us. When I chose those well-known Christmas words, I didn’t know I would be so challenged by them.

I ask myself:
How aware am I of the gift of
God’s presence with me?
Do I thank him for his
presence in the midst of the
challenges?
Do I remember his presence
in my delights?

Bill accepted the invitation. We married  and spent our first 9 years together at the U of I. We are still Illini fans.
                                                                           
Merry Christmas,
Immanuel, God with us!

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joseph Listened

Ken, Denise,
Matthew and Elizabeth
God reminds me of another of his Christmas gifts—my adoption. No, my parents didn’t adopt me. I was born into their family; they gave me my name; they provided my first identity; they raised me—I was their child.

As a late teen I was given another name—my adopted name, child of God, a new identity, and a new purpose. God now relates to me differently. He is my Father; I am his child. That could have never happened unless Jesus had been born. And that could have never happened unless Jesus had gone to the cross in my place. God sees me through the lens of Jesus’ life and death; he sees his adopted daughter. 
Precious In His Sight, Greg Olsen



With my adoption, I’m given a new name.                      
With my adoption, I’m given a new family.
With my adoption, I’m given a new identity.
With my adoption, I’m given a new care-giver.
With my adoption, I’m given a new invitation.
      I love Jesus' words, "Let the children come to me"
With my adoption, I’m given a new purpose.

Jesus, the son of God, was also adopted. Like me, he had an earthly father, Joseph.

Danny and Angie introducing
their sons to the wonders of s
southern CA
Joseph listened to God. He heard from an angel that his betrothed, Mary, was pregnant. (According to the custom of the day, Joseph and Mary had a legally binding contract; sexual unfaithfulness was considered adultery. Mary faced the death penalty.) Thankfully, the word of God, coming to Joseph through a dream, was more impactful than the culture Joseph and Mary lived in. Later in Matthew 2, it is recorded two additional times when God spoke to Joseph in his dreams. Each time Joseph listened to God and obeyed.

Because Joseph listened and obeyed, Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father. In a sense, Joseph adopted Jesus. He provided for him; he raised him as a devout Jew; he taught him his carpentry skills; he cared for him; he worried about him; he gave him an earthly family—brothers and sisters.


Gina and Jason and their kids

Joseph gave us an amazing gift because he listened to God. He models adoption. I am so thankful for my earthly family. And I am so thankful to be adopted into God's family, to share his name, to enjoy his purposes.


Eric and Loretta and their fam

Although any human illustration of spiritual truth is limited, I've included pictures of some of our friends who listened to God as he whispered in their ears about adoption. These friends  welcomed children into their homes. They gave them new names; a new family; a new identity; a new future; and new customs as they celebrate Christmas. I am so thankful for my friends, who like Joseph, listened to God and adopted children.




"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we're called children of God! That's who we really are".
I John 3:1, The Message

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elizabeth's Encouragement

My Aunt Elizabeth died in July. She was 94. I miss her, but she left me with a wonderful gift—Aunt Elizabeth was a modern day picture to me of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, whose story is recorded in Luke 1.

The first descriptor of Elizabeth given to us is she is righteous before God (Luke 1:6). In the last several years I often visited with Aunt Elizabeth on my way to see our son and his family who lived nearby. Aunt Elizabeth always peppered me with questions about me and my family, and about our ministry. She challenged me with her heart to serve even in her later years. I heard about her involvement with her local church; her love for her Sunday school class; I learned of her heart for her community through Meals on Wheels—a program she was instrumental in bringing to her town. Her personal stories spoke of a right relationship with God.

Further down in Luke’s record of Elizabeth, her relative Mary—newly pregnant with Jesus—visits Elizabeth who is six months along in her own miracle pregnancy. When Mary arrives Elizabeth welcomes her ecstatically. All her attention rests on Mary and her pregnancy. Mary is carrying Jesus, Elizabeth’s Lord. Elizabeth's hospitality shined.  That is how I experienced my Aunt Elizabeth; her hospitality shined. One time in particular is cemented in my memory.

The fall leaves were golden, almost crispy; they floated on the slight breeze to their resting place on the ground. The deep blue sky and the clear, fresh air made the drive to Aunt Elizabeth’s home a gift. It was noon when I arrived. As Aunt Elizabeth greeted me with her words and a warm hug, the aroma of her homemade vegetable soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen wafted to the living room. It was so welcoming. We enjoyed a wonderful time visiting over her lovingly prepared comfort food. Like Elizabeth of old, Aunt Elizabeth was given to hospitality.

And like Elizabeth in the Bible, to my Aunt Elizabeth family was important. The last time I was with Aunt Elizabeth was Mom's 90th birthday party. (The picture above was taken at the party) She and my cousin Cindy braved the wintery roads to celebrate with us. We stayed in the same motel that weekend. When I thanked her for coming, Aunt Elizabeth responded, "Your Mom is 90 and I am 92. I don't know how many more times there will be like this to be together." I was humbled and thankful.

Elizabeth and my Aunt Elizabeth paint a picture for me of encouragement and hospitality.
I want to follow their examples.

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb … and she exclaimed …”Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
Luke 1:41, 42

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mary's Words

This is the first in a series of Advent posts on some of the best gifts I have received.

A huge artistic flare flows through my friend Mary. I use ‘flows through’ purposefully. She uses her art to bless others. It manifests itself when she sits at the piano sharing the beauty of her music, or when she excitedly tells you of her son’s mission trip while turning pages of the photo-journal she created to savor the memories. You quickly notice her standard of excellence; it is one of her motivating factors; with her art she honors God.

God also gifted Mary with a heart to serve. For many years she employed her piano skills for public school music competitions. Her music formed the backdrop for the flutist or the trumpeter to shine. She often presses through physical pain to create and to bless others. And all the while she prays for those linked to her creations.

I’m a distant cousin of Mary in my desire to create memory albums (my work does not qualify for the title ‘photo-journal’). Mine record the visits with my long-distance GRAND-children. Knowing I enjoy this, Mary has facilitated my efforts by gifting me with ideas, stickers, tools, and her time. Her gifts to me make my scrapbooks more artistic than I could have created without her help.

Mary serves in another way too. She generously serves with her words. She often uses her words to respond to my words—this blog. This gift of affirmation encourages me to keep processing, to keep writing. I appreciate this gift a lot.

With her scrapbook related gifts, Mary is gifting me with her strengths.
With her gifts of words, Mary is gifting me according to my strengths.

I know another Mary too. Her story is recorded for me in the gospels. Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave a phenomenal gift with her words in Luke 1:38, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” With these words, Mary submitted to delivering the greatest gift in history.

She did it for God.
She did it for you.
She did it for me.

Mary, my friend, your gift of words bless, encourage, and challenge. Thank you for
emulating Mary the mother of Jesus with your words—submitting to God and offering life-giving gifts to others.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer”.
Psalm 19:14


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Walk

The sky is Colorado-blue; the air crisp; the breezes gently capture the golden Aspen leaves and escort them to the ground; they skip across the road barely connecting with the surface—the perfect fall day.

My pace quickens on the downhill slope. Maggie, our Golden Retriever, enjoys the walk too, and trots contently by my side. As the slight wind caresses my face, and the aromas of this day delight my senses, I smile, I relax, I enjoy.

Thanksgiving invites thankfulness. The list forms in my mind around questions:
·        What am I observing?
·        How do my observations picture God’s character?
·        How is God’s character speaking to my current circumstances?

The anxieties of my life melt; the fears evaporate; the unknowns are livable. God reality seen from God perspective makes all the difference—at least for today. I promise myself I will take more walks.

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
I Thessalonians 5:18.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chronos and Kairos Time

Several years ago we invited a new couple attending our Sunday School class to join us for dinner. They arrived promptly on the appointed day. We enjoyed (I think) our dinner together; then retired to the living room to continue the conversation. The clock on the wall read 7:30. Several times the husband glanced up at it. Finally realizing the clock was not running, he checked his watch, jumped from the sofa, grabbed his wife’s hand, and exited with a mumbled excuse that they had another appointment. Were we just an appointment to them? Were they really with us? Their obvious obsession with chronos time did not allow them the possibility of our dinner being a kairos moment.

Kairos and chronos, two Greek words commonly translated “time” in the New Testament have different meanings. Chronos is the source of our English words chronology, chronological like calendar time and clock time.

Kairos refers to time appointed by God; sometimes translated, “the day of the Lord”. Brennan Manning defines it as “… when His love flashes into my soul and when I am overtaken by Mystery, it is kairos—the decisive inbreak of God in this saving moment of my personal history”. (Abba’s Child, p.59)

This past summer the white erase board that chronicles our month remained blank. The tan of my left arm showed no evidence of a wristwatch. A new freedom. I knew I was programmed by chronos time; I desired to experience kairos time.

When tied to the calendar and the clock, I’m so aware of what is next, I don’t live in and enjoy the moment. The word revel leaves me clueless. I crave more inbreaks of God.

Grocery shopping last week, I heard Dana call hello. We stopped and visited for several minutes. We parted ways; within two minutes Debby and I made eye-contact. I hadn’t seen her since May. We too stopped and chatted. I was living on kairos time; it felt right. With my grocery receipt tucked in my purse, I headed for the parking lot with a smile on my face.

Our sabbatical has ended; I am wearing my wristwatch again; our whiteboard calendar now reminds me of commitments. But the freedom continues. Kairos time and chronos time can work together. They are both necessary and good.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”.
Psalm 90:12

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Arranged Friendships

Hiring a match-maker or arranging for the marriage of your children (still common in some Asian and African countries) is not practiced in the US—but the concept lives all around in our culture. I call it arranged friendships.



Kappa Delta Chi, the sorority I affiliated with during college, provided an identity, a sense of belonging, fun, formals—Bills and my first big date was the KDX formal—and  friends—arranged friendships. We were loyal to each other. Forty years later I am thankful to still be friends with some of these women.

Arranged friendships are common on sports teams. Not only do the team members play together on the fields, often those are the people they choose to socialize when the game is over.

In the business culture, arranged friendships are forged around departments or projects. One of my colleagues calls these, functional friends.

Arranged friendships are forged in volunteer organizations or in a Sunday school class or a neighborhood. Arranged friendships abound in our culture.

There is security and identity—good things—in these arranged friendships. But what happens to those friendships—those relationships—when college days are over; sports no longer fit your lifestyle, the business department changes, the project comes to an end, or the Sunday school class dissolves, the neighbor moves away? Often the friendship terminates.

I wonder, was friend ever the right identifier?

For someone for whom friendship is a high value, the fall of an arranged friendship hurts. Ouch, I am there. Actually I don’t believe in arranged friendships, I believe in friendship.

How do arranged friendships morph into friendships? I’m learning that …

  1. The friendship needs to be greater than the arrangement. Friends create opportunities to be together apart from whatever it was that brought them together.
  2. If a friendship is to survive and thrive, I need to initiate. Loving hospitality works in my favor.
  3. C.S. Lewis says, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, “What, you too? I thought I was the only one”.

“A friend loves at all times, …”
Proverbs 17:17




Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire ~ Five Months Later

The calendar pages turn; the shock is history; decisions multiply; rebuilding starts; grieving continues.

The ground is soaked with rain. She struggles to walk on the dirt road. The mud clinging to her shoes gluing them to the ground at times, and other times turning them into skate boards tumbling her to the ground. Her hands now encased in mud as well. Will she ever arrive? She struggles on.

Another walks the same road. She too experiences the sucking, sloshing, muddy reality. Her progress is slow, very slow; she too falters and falls. She looks around for help. She sees hands—dry hands—at the side of the road under the protection of the tall pine trees. She reaches; they reach; they connect.

A third travels that muddy pathway. The oozing of the ground is a nuisance. It saddens her to think of the sunny days just a week ago and how all has changed in the short time in the reality of the storm—the reality of now. Life is very different but must be lived. She plunges ahead.

Three dear friends traverse the same road, three different responses to the storm they endure.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so we should walk in them”.
Ephesians 2:10

Father, help me to honor how you created each of my friends. Please help me to not try to fit them into a box that I understand. Please allow me to love them well in ways they can receive. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

You Went Through Hell

These words, “you went through hell”, conveyed our counselor’s, our Christian counselor’s immediate response to the telling of our engagement story.

His words stopped the telling; they shocked; I dissolved into tears—the beginning of the healing.

The twenty-eight year old story told many times to many friends never elicited that personal emotional response. The difference …

He didn’t mince words or truth.
He didn’t minimalize the trauma of those months.
He didn’t moralize with the response we had come to expect, God is sovereign.

Something changed that day with those four words; he earned our trust and, taught us a big lesson about connecting with others.

Life is hard. Minimalizing and moralizing experiences negates their impact.

Those months had been hard, really hard. When my friends accepted my invitation to be bridesmaids and backed out, it was embarrassing. My parents questioned the friends I chose. It put fertilizer on the lie I believed about myself, I’m not good enough. It fit the pattern of life I had come to expect—a sad commentary on me. God’s words to us faded in the words of people.

But I digress. Many of our friends currently live in their own hell. They call for my compassion, not my understanding. They need my ear, not my commentary. They need to know their story is important by itself, not compared to mine. They don’t need me to minimalize or moralize (thank you to Tullian Tchividjian for introducing me to theses verbs) their situation. Life is hard, really hard.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17





Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Psalm for Ashlyn

A new GRANDchild on the way propels me to pray, what Scriptures should I trust God for with this little one?  Those prayers continue as I get to know them.

Last June during "Mana and Pop-pa Camp", 4 year old Ashlyn and I turned her bedroom into a Noah's Ark room. I was amazed by her creativity. She then memorized Genesis 6:8, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" and turned it into a song to the tune of "Skip to my Lou". A few days later I heard her say, "I want to be a song-writer when I grow up".

Later in the summer during my time with God, He led me to Psalm 100 and I knew that that was one of the Scriptures I wanted to pray for Ashlyn. She turned 5 this week; her gift was Psalm 100 for Ashlyn, matted and framed in little girl style. My paraphrase written in 5 year old language ...

Make a joyful noise to God with your songs,
O Precious Ashlyn.
Serve God with gladness.
Come into His presence with your singing, Precious Ashlyn.
Know, Ashlyn, that the Lord, He is God.
        It is He who made you.  You are His!
You, Ashlyn, are His; the precious sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with your thank you prayers, Ashlyn.
        and His courts with your songs of praise.
Give thanks to Him, Ashlyn; bless His name.
For God is good;
        His love for you, Ashlyn, is always and forever
        and His faithfulness to all generations.
A Mana paraphrase
 October 17, 2012


"He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord".  Psalm 40:3
video

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wait ~ Trust ~ Hope

I promised in my August 16 post to share some thoughts from this scripture:

“Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:20-22

The context: Bill introduced me to these scriptures one cold wintery evening in the lounge of my dormitory. He also brought a special gift for me that night; a cross necklace with a tiny diamond in the middle. That special time is forever etched in my mind.

This gift from God, a message to Bill, passed on to me, brought goose-bumps and tears of joy—someday we would marry. Seven times the plural pronouns proclaimed this passage was for us—for Bill and me. The pronouns instructed us by the verbs they connected with: wait, trust, hope.

Wait—for God’s timing.
Trust—in God who knew the future.
Hope—not in circumstances, but in God.

We waited 3 ½ long years. Our hope did not wavier because our trust rested in God and His words to us that winter night. Trust enabled the waiting and hoping.

Waiting equates to hard work. Will the job offer ever come? Did I pass the test? Will the surgery be successful? Waiting often involves anxiety and questions.

Hoping evokes a more positive picture. I hope to get the job. I hope I got an A. I hope the surgery was successful. In each of the previous sentences, “hope” could be replaced by “expect”. Hoping focuses on encouragement; there is a bit of wonder, but it usually predisposes an expectation of good.

The pendulum of trust in God (not circumstances) reaches back to the hard waiting and swings us to the expectant hoping. This valuable lesson often repeats itself in new ways. Scripture memory awakens this truth just when I need it again.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”
Psalm 39:7


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Be Loved

The beloved child of The Father, my primary identity; it rolls off my tongue so easily.
Have I ever stopped to ponder its truth?

I hear God, say it slowly my child. Wonder about it. Dissect it. Beeeeee-loved.

I sit; I soak; I ask—how does a child know love? My grands love the attention I shower on them; they love the care I give them; they love the invitations to be with me.

Kind of like me! Beeeee-loved. I think it’s …
·        to give myself permission to be who I am with all my needs..
·        to ask God to shower me with His attention, care, and invitation.
·        to realize it’s ok to say no.
·        to linger in the freedom of childlikeness.
·        to take time to experience its reality.

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God”.
Ephesians 3:17-19, The Message



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fragile Energy ~ Top Ten Realities

I am woman; hear me roar. (I’m not sure who to credit that to). I want to do it all—my mantra that informs my decisions. Not good.

The invitation arrived in the afternoon mail. An ornament shower is planned for my friend who lost all her Christmas ornaments in the Waldo Canyon Fire. It starts at 7:00. A few hours later our couple’s group—Splendid Friends—plan our October get together for the same evening. It starts at 6:00. It’s my turn to host. No problem; I will ask our Splendid Friends to move our start time to 5:00 for this month. Time for dinner, and then I’ll take off leaving Bill with the hospitality and the dishes.

I share my plan with Bill. He catches on before me. “It sounds like you want to be two places at once”. Yup, he’s right. One of our sabbatical lessons is we’re not 40 anymore (we’re not even 50 anymore). Our limited energy demands choices. I email our Splendid Friends and ask another to host that evening. Top Ten, #1.

            2. Sometimes piano playing takes priority over counseling a    friend.
            3. My limited energy resources are interconnected. When I’m physically tired, my spiritual life suffers.
            4. I need to know and apply my personal restoration keys.
            5. The need doesn’t equate to the call.
            6. Every good idea does not need to be acted on today.
            7. Sometimes God wants me to sleep. I need the reminders of Psalm 16:7 and Psalm 127:2.
            8. Will I, can I trust God with that situation?
            9. Time and determination is required to slow down enough to listen to God.
            10. Consequences result from unwise choices.

I am sure there are more. What are some of your keys to using your energy resouces?

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.
Psalm 121:4
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places …”
Psalm 16:6

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Power Sources

Electrician’s helper; go-fer; extra hand; pray-er ~ any of those could have described me last month when Bill was installing the electrical wiring in our cabin. Yea, it passed inspection the first time!

In the midst of unrolling wire—the right way—Bill attempts to explain to me how elecrticity works. I still don’t get it. I’m just thankful that when I turn a switch, a light comes on if our generator is running or the solar system is connected. There is no power plant available for the cabin.

Three energy options: a power plant (not an option for our cabin nestled deep in the forest), a generator, or solar energy. For electricity to function one of these must be operable. Not unlike me; I too have three energy options: my natural physical energy; adrenalin;  and God-power (my personal solar—Son of God—energy).

In my twenties and thirties, my natural physical energy served me well. Those were the years of being a new wife, young mom, and partnering with Bill in a growing campus ministry. Hospitality was a big part of those years. I loved it—still do. Questions about spiritual gifts frustrated me. I was doing a lot of things. Often I fell into bed exhausted, but a sound eight hours met the need and restored my energy.

Adrenalin is a gift from God—an emergency back-up power source. It kicks into action providing additional energy when needed. There is a deadline to be met; or a child needs to go to the emergency room. Suddenly I’m gifted with new energy. After the need is met, adrenalin quickly dissipates and I’m left drained—more tired than before. Like the purpose for adrenalin, our generator is the emergency back-up power source for our cabin. 

I’m learning to depend more and more on my personal solar energy—that which I receive from my relationship with the Son. It’s not about my energy; rather it is His energy flowing through me. The important question is not, How do I bear fruit? It is, How do I stay planted? Ministry is more abiding than activity. “I am the vine; you are the branches…” John 15:5.

The Son of God energy is guaranteed into old age. YEA! “The righteous … still bear fruit in old age;” Psalm 92:12-15. That is how I want to finish my course, bearing fruit even when my hair is silver.

But like the other energy sources, it can be depleted. I ask myself, How do I develop a life-style that is powered by God? What are the necessary components? Do you have some thoughts. I’d love to hear.

I’m learning:
·        All energy sources are limited.
·        All can be zapped.
·        All need to be replenished.
·        All serve good purposes.
·        Only one is guaranteed for life.

My desire is to live within the boundaries of the life-giving energy (the power) God has provided. 

“You make known to me the path of life …”
Psalm 16:ll (bolding mine)



 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Live INside the Box, 2

This month is the second anniversary of Echoes of Grace. Live INside the Box  was the title of my first post two years ago. Since penning those words for you, I’m realizing that God has a plan for me as well as I blog my experiences.

A macro view of seven big lessons from the last two years:

  1. Be careful what I write. God will continue to develop me in those areas.
  2. The puzzle is always easier when the frame is done first.
  3. I’m learning to listen to God; solitude and silence are essential.
  4. The importance of community:
                       With my husband ~ Romans 15:5,6
                 With a few “splendid friends” ~ Psalm 16:3, The Message
                 With my larger local church community ~ Nehemiah 8:1-8

  1. I love facilitating Sabbath-Living Retreats (I’ve finally named them).
  2. I love writing this blog. It helps me organize what I’m hearing from God.
  3. I’m learning a life-style that feeds my soul.

“Individual people matter. Choice matters. However, we are meant to take comfort from being informed very carefully by God in His communication, the Bible, that He has kept a remnant alive in each moment of history. Genealogies show how much each individual mattered, yet think of the myriad people who names have never been mentioned, not only in the Bible but in any book of any sort, yet who are going to be among the ones to be honored because of being faithful in the little things. The word to each of us comes as a sweet trumpet note heard through a storm: ‘Keep on’…Keep on because you don’t have any idea what fantastic importance yours words and your actions or just your being has in the midst of history. Keep on because you have no idea of the enormity of difference your prayers for some ONE person is going to have in the midst of history.”
From Tapestry: the life and times of Francis Shaeffer, by Edith Shaeffer

“…the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,”
Colossians 1:25

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Me and God; Me and Others

I don’t remember my first thought after my physical birth. I do remember my first thought after my new birth; my prayers are reaching higher than the ceiling!

That amazing, freeing, joy-filled, simple thought spoke of me and my relationship with God with no baggage. It was complete, full, enough.

Then something happened over the years.
            Amazing turned into normal.
            Freedom turned into duties.
            Joy turned into dissatisfaction.
            Simplicity turned into complications.
Me and my relationship with God turned into me and others and what those others thought of me and God.

I know why it happened. My old baggage came with me into my new relationship. Some of that baggage wore the labels of success and popularity as the keys to life. It happened because the respect I held for some of my new friends caused me to put them on pedestals, rather wobbly pedestals. And it happened because early leadership opportunities in my new Christian community gave me a false sense of security.

Early on I knew there was a problem—discontentment plagued me. I tried to fix myself; I treated the symptoms with Bible study, scripture memory, even preparing talks to teach others about discontentment. Those good things buried my issues even deeper.

Finally I experienced my own personal volcano. God had my attention.
GOOD – I realized I couldn’t fix myself.
BAD – My plan: I don’t care; I will grin, pretend all is well, and bear my cross.

God allowed me to work my plan for a while, a long while, about two years. Then he gently began to intervene. He shattered me with his love. He told me of my identity. He whispered his desires for me in my ear. His word came alive again.

As I began to believe and receive his message, everything changed. The amazing, freeing, joyful simplicity crept back.

“You don’t see life the same. But the stories we tell ourselves can run deep. It’s one thing to have a profound experience, and it’s quite another to kill a lie that’s served you a long time. Especially a lie you’ve used to cope. Until you see God right, you’ll keep going back there”.  The Cure, page 42

“But to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—“
John 1:12


           


Thursday, August 30, 2012

E.A.R.

Three scriptures; summarized by three words; reviewed often.

Walking in the woods behind our home one afternoon, reviewing those three scriptures along with their corresponding three words, it came to me: echo, aroma, reflection—the three words that describe who I want to be—also form the acrostic, EAR.

Psalm 40:6 records, “…you have given me an open ear…” A more literal translation from the Hebrew would be, ears you have dug for me. (Thank you, Eugene Peterson)

Hearing is so important to God that He created me with two ears so I can listen for His voice; for your voice; for the voices of my other friends and family.

My friend Deb is 95% deaf. But I have learned so much about hearing and listening from Deb. She focuses her whole attention on me when I speak; she questions to help her understanding; she laughs at herself when she hears incorrectly; she appreciates repetition. Deb is a great listener.

I want to listen to God like Deb listens to me. Like Deb I don’t always hear accurately the first time; I don’t always understand what I hear; and I don’t always remember well what I hear. I need to grow in focused attention.

So
  • I journal.
  • I review.
  • I ponder.
  • I ask God; I ask others.
  • I create hooks, like acrostics, to help me remember. 
What has helped you develop your listening skills?

“…God not only loves you very much, but also has put his hand on you for something special… Something happened in you. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, …”
From I Thessalonians 1, The Message

“But thanks be to God … who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance (aroma) of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
II Corinthians 2:14, Revised Standard Version – parenthesis mine

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his likeness …”
II Corinthians 3:18, New International Version


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicken or Egg; Picture or Frame

What comes first?

For my birthday this year a friend gave me a BIG pad entitled, “Brilliant Ideas”. It was the perfect gift for me, an idea person. So far five pages remind me of my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams. It's giving me a glimpse of what my future might look like.

This summer is a transition time for my husband and me. We’re enjoying a sabbatical and pondering how best to steward who God created us to be for the rest of our lives. So the ideas are recorded on my new BIG pad, not acted on; and many will be discarded.

Two pictures help me wait patiently to see which ideas will come to fruition. One is a jigsaw puzzle. When I work on a jigsaw puzzle (which is one of my Christmas activities), I always do the perimeter first. That framework guides the placement of the inside pieces. The frame helps avoid frustration.

The second picture is the small get-away cabin Bill and I built in the mountains this past year. The framing is the essential and primary piece of the cabin that holds everything together. Without the framing, there would be nothing to guide the electric wires; to anchor the walls; to give boundaries to the insulation and much more.

The frame is essential: to finish a jig-saw puzzle; to build a cabin; to know which ideas fit best within the context of our next contribution. The frame must come first.

I can get quite excited about some of my ideas. One morning I heard God whisper, Sue, you have the picture before the frame. You won't know which ideas are good ideas until the framework is in place.

So I record my ideas; wait, ponder, pray. “God what is the big picture you have planned out for us for our next season?”  Right now I'm letting my ideas be ideas. When the frame is clear, the ideas fall into place.

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; …”
Psalm 16:6, ESV
"Now you've got my feet on the life path, ..."
Psalm 16:11, The Message

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Post for our Sons and Their Wives

And yes, for the rest of my readers, you are welcome to listen in.

“The word of God is living and active…” Once again I experienced the truth of this Scripture from Hebrews 4:12 during a recent devotional time.

Since before our marriage, two Scriptures have anchored my prayer time for Bill and me—Romans 15:5-6 and Psalm 33:20-22. Over forty years later, I heard God’s voice in a new way through these familiar passages; “the word of God is living and active”.

We received the gift of a sabbatical from ministry responsibilities this summer to rest and define our best contribution for the next season of our lives. These verses offered important parameters.

“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 and 6, Revised Standard Version

Only two relationships need to give voice to and affirm our next steps—us and God. Two relationships; highlighted two times; in two verses! Repetition signifies importance.
  • Verse 5 puts it this way: “live in such harmony with one another”. Verse 6 uses the words, “together with one voice”. Each other, one relationship.
  • Verse 5, “in accord with Christ Jesus”; verse 6, “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. God, the second relationship. 
Friends and counselors will guide us as we finalize this decision. We are thankful for their input; we will listen, eager for their wisdom. The final decision rests with God and us; the two primary relationships.

(Thoughts from Psalm 33 in a future post).

"The Law of God is in his heart, his steps will not slip".
Psalm 37:31