Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Personal Cathedral

My Personal Cathedral
            The gift of time and space;
            The beauty of creation,
            An awe-inspiring place.

My Personal Cathedral
            Beckons, come away;
            To be, and soak in quiet,
            To wonder, to ponder, to pray.

My Personal Cathedral
            Where I desire to be;
            To sit at the feet of Jesus,
            And hear His love for me.

In My Personal Cathedral
            I hear the whispers of my God;
            The wisdom of the ages,
            Knowing where my feet will trod.

In My Personal Cathedral
            I love to start my day;
            To sit, to read, to journal,
            To listen, and to pray.

From My Personal Cathedral
            I slowly turn away;
            With renewed peace and comfort,
            To greet the duties of the day,
My Personal Cathedral
            The place from whence my duties start;
            I leave refreshed, encouraged, broken,
            I move from heart to heart.

I wrote this at “The Sanctuary”, our cabin in the mountains; summer 2012.  Sue Tell
"Come, everyone who thirts, come to the waters;"
Isaiah 55:1

Thursday, January 24, 2013


“Don’t waste time attracting yourself to hurt and pain.” These words from Joan Anderson’s blog chastised me the moment I read them—that is where I had been investing my time. Conviction!

  • Two days previous I rehearsed my hurts to my husband.
  • The following day I complained to my friends.
  • My journal faithfully recorded my slights—in case I forget. 
I set myself up to be a magnet for hurt and pain. When I allow my experiences to define my attitude, I feel unwanted, used, mad, surprised (in a negative way), scared, disappointed, discouraged. Not fun! Thankfully, Joan’s words jolted me out of my reverie.

Other words slipped into my memory, “If we can’t see God work, we think He is not at work.” Thank you to Mark Bates, our pastor.

Henri Nouwen says there are only two disciplines we need to practice: solitude and community. The words of my two friends (community) pierced my heart; my time with God (solitude) over the next several days transformed me.

For me, it wasn’t perspective—forcing myself to see my glass half-full instead of half-empty. It wasn’t “giving thanks in all circumstances”. I Thessalonians 5:18. It wasn’t reviewing truth I already knew, like God is sovereign. It was allowing my friend’s words to lead to the transforming power of God’s Word.

Jesus’ benevolent action one Sabbath was criticized by the Jews. Jesus responded, “My Father is working … I am working.” John 5:17. Because the Jews were so stuck on their religious laws—what they deemed was right—they couldn’t see the kindness of God. I  was so stuck in my pain, I couldn’t trust the kindness of God.

Another passage I pondered was Paul’s words in Ephesians 1. Some phrases from verses 15-19 caught my attention—to highlight a few, God would enlighten my eyes; I would know the hope to which I was called; I would experience the greatness of His power according to the working of His great might. God is not only working, He is working in a mighty way. Some day I will see and share it.

The circumstances that led to my unwanted, used, mad, disappointed feelings have not changed. Because of community and solitude, my heart is transformed. I relax; I trust again; I pray with hope; I experience joy. That is the attraction I want to live with.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22, 23

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Sanctuary

Our sons and their wives had a sign handcrafted from cedar for us for our 40th anniversary. The Sanctuary, established 2012 is perfect. It describes our desire for the small cabin we are building in the Wet Mountains—a place of sanctuary. We are anxious to hang it—that is as soon as the tongue and groove walls cover the exposed insulation.

In the meantime, it sits on our hearth at home; it welcomed me back after enjoying three weeks with four generations of our family. A place of sanctuary beckons me; it is the need—the best place to start the New Year.

I come with the need to be; I come to return, remember, review, reflect; I come with questions; I come with a heart for quiet; I come to listen; I come with expectation. I come with joy; I come with a desire—to meet with God; to understand His path of life (Psalm 16:11) for me. What do I trust God with in 2013?

To go to my sanctuary is a form of retreat, a holy pause in the fullness of my life. For me small retreats, an almost daily habit, leave me hungering for more—for longer retreats, longer pauses. My sanctuary is a place of solitude—that is solitude WITH God. It is a time of honoring where I have been and its meaning for where I am going. It is the way to stay present with the woman God created me to be. It is not an extra; it is a necessity.

This morning (a week ago) my 2013 retreat begins. I sit in the quietness of our great room in my favorite overstuffed chair. My legs rest on the ottoman and support my computer. Even though the snow fluffers down, there is no need for a throw for warmth—my hard-working computer fills the need. Even in the mornings, I enjoy the soft glow of a nearby candle. And of course my coffee is a perfect compliment.

Sometimes I start my retreats with my journal (I find it good to remember and review); sometimes with a favorite author who spurs my thoughts; this morning I open to Colossians. I read with new ears. I listen to God in that first paragraph (after the greeting) as if He is talking to me—not me borrowing His words to communicate to another.

We always thank God, …when we pray for you, Sue, since we heard of your faith Sue, … the love …the hope laid up for you Sue … the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in you Sue …and on it goes.

How refreshing; how encouraging. Like Cleopas and his friend who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, my heart burns as I hear God's words written not just for me, but to me. I plan to camp out in Colossians as I retreat this month. I wonder what I will hear?

How about you:  Do you have a sanctuary? Do you have times of retreat planned? How do you hear from God?

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,”
Colossians 3:1

Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Small Thing

THANK YOU, to my friend Leslie for sharing her sabbath experience from last summer.

When was the last time you had some peace and quiet? It's amazing how much noise assaults us in our busy world. Even in a quiet home, I can hear the dishwasher, refrigerator, computer, air conditioner or simple evaporative cooler on fall Indian summer days.

This summer I had occasion to visit my son in Boston. It was a highlight! One of the routines of the  stay was to visit the Boston Public Library each morning while my son and daughter-in-law were working. I caught the “T” with my son on his way to work and jumped off early to arrive at the library just as it was opening, in time for a hot cup of tea within the inner courtyard.

Imagine my delight sitting in Boston on a hot summer day, enveloped in a cool, crisp morning of peace, enjoying a cup of tea under the portico with little sparrows lighting here and there, listening to the rippling fountain, reading Scripture, and soaking up God's beauty.   

This time was a Sabbath time. A time to reflect, to slow down, to remember all that God had done in my life, to pray in gratitude, to meditate on His Word, to look in appreciation on His Beauty. It was a time to notice the details: the dewy crispness in the air,  the vivid green shrubs and white flowers bordering the courtyard, the gurgling water fountain, its shimmering droplets reflecting light. It was a time to absorb the deep truths of God's love.     

As a teacher, I can't tell you how much I enjoy libraries. My favorite stop in Washington, D. C. is the Library of Congress: the architecture, the spiraling staircases, the books! Little did I know that I would be experiencing God's handiwork through another library of rare beauty in Boston. But what is it about a library?

Here, I pull a book entitled Streams of Contentment off the shelf. I leaf through it's pages and see God's truth echoed:  Recognize that a little silence and solitude is no small thing.

Here, I can open my Bible and hear from God:

I can listen with expectancy to what God will say. (Psalm 85:8, Amplified) He tells me that in returning and resting in Him, I shall be saved; my strength is in trusting him in quietness. (Isaiah 30:15, Amplified)

And He tells me over 71 times in Psalms: “Selah” Pause and think on it. 

And here, I can better understand that the Lord is my Shepherd when He says, “Lie down in fresh, tender green pastures”.  I can see He is leading me beside still and restful waters. I can sense that He is refreshing and restoring my life. And most naturally, I believe Him when He says, “The house of the Lord (and My presence) shall be your dwelling place”. (Psalm 23, Amplified).

Yes, leafing through a book in a library with a little silence and solitude is no small thing.

(Leslie Schwager is a classical Christian educator with Evangelical Christian Academy and Collegium Study Center, Colorado Springs, CO.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lessons from the Laundry Room

Thank you to my friend Sandy for sharing with you Gods words to her at the Sabbath-Living Retreat she attended last May. When she verbalized this in front of all the women that afternoon, we were laughing, wondering, and challenged by the creativity of God.

LOL, and ponder this appropriate New Year’s message from Sandy.

Why do I consistently try to cram thirty two hours’ worth of stuff into a twenty four hour day?  Why at the end of the day do I wonder why I feel so frustrated?

The minute the Sabbath-Living pamphlet was placed in my hand, I knew God was calling me to change.

When the day arrived, my friend Laurie and I, filled with anticipation, drove to the Glen Eyrie conference center where the retreat was being held. The day was filled with thought-provoking speakers, a fabulous lunch, and wonderful fellowship with other Christian women. It was a time to learn new concepts, reconnect with my good friend, and best of all, enjoy one-to-one sessions with God.

My first session with God went well. It was exciting to experience how God used nature to speak to me and calm my anxieties. The second session for me was even more profound.

As I left the conference room heading outside again, I passed a small laundry room and heard God say, “Go in there”.  Surely not, I thought. But determined to do what He asked, I sat down in a small plastic chair facing a washer and dryer in this very tiny, unattractive, windowless room. Why did God want me here?  Maybe he didn’t want me to get distracted with the beauty of creation.

It soon became clear. God directed my attention to the sign on the wall providing the instructions for the washer and dryer. Half way down on the dryer instruction side of the sign, these words leaped off the wall. They read, “One washer load equals one dryer load and allows the clothes to tumble more freely”. God spoke to my heart, “Your life of compulsive busyness is robbing you of so many things, but mainly, a closer relationship with me! Your worth is not measured by how much you can load into a day. You need to let me help you recover your time so your life can flow more freely just like clothes in a dryer”. Suddenly all I heard and read that day jelled into one important message:  I need to feel okay with doing less; l need to heed what was written in BIG LETTERS at the bottom of that laundry room sign:  “DO NOT OVERLOAD”!

It would be great if I could report that I am now perfect since God spoke to me that afternoon in that laundry room, but alas, I am a work in progress. God continues to deal with me and my “Over-do Lists”; and I am getting better.  I can’t wait to find out what other lessons he has for me and where! 
Sandy Marthaler

My words: Being an idea person, it is easy for me to come up with ideas, many ideas, good ideas. Coming off of sabbatical a few months ago, I was once again reminded, I need to choose between the good and the best. My husband put it this way, “Sue, before you decide what to add to your life, you need to know your God-designed boundaries”. This is a good reminder for the new year. Don’t overload. Live within my boundaries. What about you? 

"The (boundary) lines have fallen for me in pleasant places:"
Some versions add the word boundary.
Psalm 16:6, ESV