Monday, February 27, 2012

Disbelief, Joy, Wonder

It seemed crazy to me when I read the words disbelief, joy, and wonder in the same sentence. Can I be disbelieving and still filled with joy and wonder?
“Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.” Luke 24:41

There were a lot of those three responses happening in the hours after Jesus’ resurrection—all at the same time.

The women who brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus and found an empty tomb rushed back to town to tell everyone what had happened. “But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.” (Verse 11) ~ Disbelief.

“However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look…” (Verse 12) ~ Wonder.

“We had hoped …” (These words were spoken during the conversation between the men on the road to Emmaus and Jesus.) (Verse 21) ~ Disbelief.

“Then some women … came back with an amazing report.” (Verse 22) ~ Joy, wonder.

And there are more instances of these responses in the account of the resurrection and ascension in Luke 24.

What about me? Do I identify with this confusion? Yes, I sure do.

“I believe; help my unbelief!”, the father cried out responding to Jesus’ words that “All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 and 24.  

How many times have I lifted these words from the pages of Scripture and prayed them over a certain situation, I believe; help my unbelief. Disbelief—definitely. Wonder—yes. I wouldn’t be asking for something if there wasn’t at least a bit of wonder; a bit of hope, a desired joy.

I want to believe God is able.
I should believe God is able.
Maybe if I quote this verse over and over (pray this verse over and over), I will believe.

Yet are God’s answers based on my belief? No, God’s answers are based on his character, his will, and our good. That’s where the wonder and joy manifest themselves.

As I ponder my prayers the last several years, I’m asking for BIG things: will you provide; will you heal; will you bring salvation? Do I believe God is able? Yes. And at the same time, I believe; help my unbelief. Disbelief, wonder, and anticipated joy all stirring around in the same pot. 
God, please help me to not be so hard on my brothers and sisters in the faith who have gone before me and walked similar paths to me. I am so like them! Amen.

“Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.”
Luke 24:41, New Living Translation

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Day I Quit

The beautiful clear blue skies and the warm air of the northern Florida coast that November mocked the heaviness of my heart. 

The place, the time (1997), even the room where the large congregation of my peers were assembled is a clear picture in my mind 15 years later. I even remember my reaction. She—it’s significant that it is she—was on the platform speaking. I don’t remember her words. Was she giving a message? Or maybe giving announcements? It didn’t matter. I was mad. She had the opportunity to be on the platform—the proof of ministry in my mind—not me. My husband remembers smoke coming out of my ears.

I desired so much to minister to women; and I was failing. I made a significant and sad decision that night—I quit! I’m going to put on a mask, no, the mask was already in place; I’m going to cover the mask and all of me with a suit of armor. I’m going to protect myself from the hurt and pain I was experiencing. I’m going to bury my desires and unmet expectations and let you think all is ok. I’m going to grin and bear it.

But there were two BIG problems with my decision:
1)  God gave me my desires.
2)  I buried the desires alive. They might have been hidden but they didn’t disappear.

I knew I had an issue with comparison. I was tutored well to use comparison as the measuring stick of success. Most of the time, I wasn’t happy with what the measuring stick revealed, but I continued on my path.

As I grew in my friendship with God, I began to learn Scripture. I memorized II Corinthians 10:12 and it was a red flag for me. I used that verse as a springboard for Bible study on comparison; I gave devotionals on comparison. I knew it was an issue—a not good issue, but for me it was reality. What I didn’t realize was my issue of comparison was really a symptom of a deeper issue, not the root cause of my unhappiness and frustration. All those good things I was doing in the hopes of curing my problem were only burying the issue deeper and deeper. I was piling good things on top of my pain compounding the issue not addressing its root cause. My suit of armor was protecting me from all that could help.

I lived that reality for over two years.

Finally, thankfully, the armor developed a crack. Like the crack on the windshield of my car, it spread and spread; the armor became weaker and weaker and could no longer protect.

It was scary to experience the armor falling away. God used a new friend, a confidant to lead me to a new place. He helped me discover the real issue (I have no memory of his speaking to my comparison symptom). But would this just be a mountain top experience and not make a difference? That’s what my history told me. This time history was wrong.

He became a safe harbor. As I told my sad painful story and allowed not only the armor but the mask to drop off, I found in my new friend a heart that felt the pain with me and a person who did not condemn; I broke in the light of his wisdom as he addressed the issue, not the symptom. He affirmed the desires God gave me—the good desire to minister to women; he imparted hope. That was twelve years ago.   

The journey continues; the trajectory is different.

About a year later, my husband and I were returning to the same place on the Florida coast. As we drove in, I commented, I wonder how this week will be. We’re returning to the place that is the low point of my life. He responded, or was it the high point?

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, …
Full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jesus Loves Me

A few weeks ago on Sunday morning in church an older couple provided the special music; he on the violin; she at the piano.

They played a beautiful arrangement of the familiar song Jesus Loves Me This I Know in a dozen different renditions. The timeless words (I sang along in my head) with their well-known message and profound truth was offered up to the Lord and to us in the congregation in a fun, artistic way. The heart-felt applause at the end communicated that I was not the only one enjoying their offering. Our hearts responded.

Yes, my heart responded to their musical gifts; more than that their gifts, I resonated with the timeless message—Jesus initiates His love toward me.

Later that afternoon, I was reminded of another timeless truth ~
Jesus Knows Me This I Love.
It is printed on a wooden plaque that hangs on our bedroom wall. My heart also responds to that message. I know He loves me; I know He knows me: He created me, He gave me desires,  He gave me gifts, He gave me purpose—He loves me.

Long ago in my journal I penned this thought—
For me, I know that I am loved because He tells me and
He gave me desires and purpose in His Kingdom.
That communicates love to me.

“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:5 and 6

My prayer for all of you reading this post is that especially today, you will the love of Jesus for you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Listening ...

…to God through the story of my life; and a special thank you to Laura.  

For the past few years I’ve been pondering how we (I) listen to God; how we hear the voice of God; how we discern the will of God; how we see and experience the work of God.

My journey tells me that God is active and leading; omniscient and wise; loving and affirming.

Often I am asked, have you always wanted to write? The answer is no. My first writing steps were assignments from mom to write thank you notes (a practice that prepared me well for my adult life). My next writing memories come after we were married; I started regularly writing letters home to my family and to Bill’s—it was part of my Sunday afternoon ritual. This was a self-assignment and also a bit of an ought.

Eventually the ought morphed into desire—a desire to more than stay in touch—a desire to be a blessing. I remember long-hand letters written and copied to friends who were in the same stage of life—young children—sharing about the books I was reading with our boys.

With the age of computers, it was easier to live out my desires. The friend letters continued and the content expanded sent via email. The family letter grew into Sunday Conversation with …(you fill in the relationship) that I mailed to everyone in our extended family for whom I had an email address. Today that goes to over 40 family members almost every Sunday.  

Then the birth of my blog. I’d been mulling over this desire to write a blog for over a year; fear kept me from starting: would I run out of stuff to say?, and the big one—technology—not my strong suit. God was persistent. It became an obedience issue. What a gift when obedience lines up with desire (does that happen more than we’re aware?). 

But my fear of technology held me back. Enter Laura. Laura is a new friend. She and her husband were coming through town and called to set up a lunch date with Bill and me. During our conversation I mentioned to her about my blog desire. She jumped in and said, I can help you get started. And she did. After lunch we spent the afternoon at my kitchen table with the computer between us. She helped me navigate the process; decide the options; choose the background; took my picture; and wha-la, Echoes of Grace was born. Laura even became my first follower.

My writing career is an illustration of leading and listening—although I didn’t realize it in the process. The Holy Spirit was guiding all along—even back to those thank you notes. After all, it is God who created me and gave me desires. Finally I heard, this is the way, Sue you need to start that blog!  Obedience became the issue. Now I’m pondering a book—YIKES!

What about you. How is the Holy Spirit guiding you? What have you been dabbling with your whole life that is possibly part of God’s message to you? I’d love to hear.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”
John 16:13
“This is the way, walk in it”
Isaiah 30:21

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Yup, it caused the retreat I was facilitating to be canceled. L
Yup, it affected the seminar I was attending this week. L
Yup, driving was not fun. L
Yup, I spent a couple of hours shoveling it today. L (Maybe that’s a “J”; think about the calories burned.  J)

And, it is a wonderful and beautiful reminder of God’s handiwork. J

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55:10 and 11

And, it is a wonderful and beautiful reminder of God’s plan. J

The snow did indeed come down from heaven for two days where I live in Colorado leaving about 20” of visible, beautiful white moisture—much needed moisture—reminding me of God caring for His earth; because of the moisture, I anticipate wildflowers this summer.

The visible snow also reminds me of our invisible God and His purposes—purposes beyond watering the earth—the words He speaks have purpose—purposes that will be accomplished. Questions pop in my mind:
  • Am I expectant of God’s voice?
  • Am I expectant of God’s activity?
  • Am I experiencing the reality of His words?
  • Am I acknowledging God’s purpose when I experience that reality?
  • Am I expecting an above and beyond God? 
  • What circumstances today does God want to speak to?

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”
Isaiah 55:11, The New Living Bible (underlines, mine)