Thursday, March 28, 2013


Thank you to my friend, Beth Vogt for allowing my to share her blog post with you this week. It is the perfect follow up to last weeks Echoes of Grace post. If you missed it, I encourage you to scroll down to Tea for Two or Fourteen and read it first.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25 NIV)

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT)

What echoes have I left in others’ lives?

Have I left a sticky mark of kind words —  a bit of verbal honey that encourages someone who wants to quit or helps someone realize they are not invisible?

It’s good — wise, even — to look back and evaluate our words and actions. It’s also good and wise to look ahead and figure out how we want to change.
But the words we speak today — now — will be echoes in someone’s life tomorrow … and the day after that … and the day after that.

Our words don’t have to be elaborate. They don’t have to be well-thought-out or polished.

Kind words.

Words that lift the anxiety weighing down someone’s else’s heart.

Words that refresh someone’s spirit, their very soul, like a sweet cup of cool water.

In Your Words: Whose words of kindness echo in your life today? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tea for Two or Fourteen

As my last friend left I floated back into the kitchen, leaned contentedly against the counter, and wondered at the goodness of God we experienced in our home that morning. My face relaxes into a smile even now as I remember the happy banter, the tears, the laughter, the safety of a group of like-hearted women, the affirmations freely given and received, and, of course,  the scones and Devonshire cream. It was truly an Ephesians 3:20 morning.

What a joy to create an atmosphere where trust and delight converged and blessed.

The Appreciation Tea for the wives of our church pastors was my idea and I sent the invitations. The success of the morning, however, rested on five of us who came together to serve our mutual friends. We got out our best silver (freshly polished) and our china; fancy food was prepared, fruit lovingly cut—the mangoes were especially good; the tea was served from lovely floral teapots—our guests never saw a tea bag; and the homemade chocolate candy was the delightful flourish.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

Our setting was a time of relaxation, chatting and catching up, around the tea tables; after we’d enjoyed the edible fare, the authentic apples of gold--the planned and unplanned verbal affirmations--were given and received.

Planning and enjoying tea with friends pictures a body of believers at work. In I Corinthians 12, Paul teaches about “varieties of gifts … varieties of service … varieties of activities”  We prepared and wrapped  presents, shared goods, initiated, invited, facilitated, cooked, shared knowledge of tea, shared words, created beauty, and the very necessary gift of kitchen service. As each contributed it was the “same Lord … same God” who empowered us all. (verses 4-6).  I love Paul’s summary in verse 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

A few verses down in the same chapter, Paul exhorts, “…God arranged the member of the body … as He chose.” (verse 18) That truth distilled in our hearts as the affirmations were shared. Some enjoyed speaking publically; some not as much. Some needed the Kleenex box as their words and tears spilled out together. Some used prepared notes; some did not. I loved the variety of personalities.

Paul continues with this insight, “… the parts of the body that seem (from a human perspective) to be weaker (less spiritual) are indispensable,” Parentheses and italics mine. One friend apologized for not wanting to speak out loud in the group; she was affirmed as a great counselor. Oh how we need counselors, and most counseling happens in private. That dear friend is indispensable to the body!

Some things I will remember from our Tea:
the importance of friends creating together;
my gifting was enhanced by the gifting of my friends;
atmosphere makes a difference;
words are powerful, very powerful;
someone needs to be behind the camera.

The familiar phrase, the ground is level at the foot of the cross, could also be communicated with these words, the ground is level when you host a Tea with your friends.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
II Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In My Neighborhood

A few nights ago while sharing dinner around our dining room table capped off with Bill's favorite cake--German Chocolate, Jen looked at me and asked, “So has your contribution in ministry always revolved around Bill's?” They are celebrating their first anniversary later this month; she and her husband work full-time; he for a Christian ministry; she as a surgical nurse. Naturally they have friends, a full life, and lots of questions.

Her inquiry caused me to reminisce.

It was one of those beautiful spring days in Illinois. The Tulips were blooming; the cloudless sky invited me outside for a walk with our new son. So I got David secured in the stroller and started through our neighborhood. As I walked I prayed for the people living there. A few blocks away I spied a portable infant swing in the front window of one home. A beginning; a connection. With David in my arms, I rang the door bell. When my neighbor answered, my first words were, “I have a baby too”. (Obviously, I’m an extrovert.) That began a friendship with Linda that eventually led to our reading the Bible together; a new path for both of us on our faith journeys was forged.

Ginny (another neighbor, in another state, on another spring day) and I were enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. I was about to excuse myself and go on to my next thing when her tears started to flow. I returned to the present. She shared about her mom who had recently died. Our conversation dived below the surface and a friendship was born. We too started reading the Bible together. Several months later sitting on her deck with iced-tea and our Bibles between us, she told me that she was using her mother’s well-marked Bible. On her death bed, her mom encouraged her to get into a Bible study. So when I posed my invitation to read John together, her response was an immediate yes. Now, besides sharing about our spiritual journeys we share grandbaby pictures too.

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28, italics mine. I memorized that scripture years ago and was recently reviewing it. I pondered Paul’s words and began to pray, “Lord, who is my everyone?”  The answer is coming. My everyones are those with whom I naturally relate: my neighbors, the women in my knitting group, our extended family; those I go to church with.

“God will give you a place to inhabit, which means that you get to become attentive to what is there where you are.” These words from the book Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine challenge me, encourage me, and affirm the answer I am hearing.

Back to Jen's question--Bill and I have the same vision. Sometimes we minister together; dinner last week was one of thos times; sometimes we teach together. Other times our gifts, and unique contributions lead us down different pathways--like when God opens a door for me to read the Bible with neighbor ladies.

“…And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Foxhole

Grace EPC, Lawrence, KS

A few Sundays ago, we sat with our son and his family in their new sanctuary. The large empty brown cross on the front wall is framed by a shield shaped structure. (In this picture the top of the “shield” is hidden by the artistic woodwork at the ceiling.)  Each time I see it I think, the risen Christ is my shield.

My tendency is to seek out other things for my shield. Sometimes it’s my business card. The title on it does sound impressive. J I have been known to use my husband and his position as my shield—my identity, my security, even my contribution seemed tied to Bill—not good! I have hidden behind my experience and what I know I am good at. This works well for a time. But eventually all these shields crumble; I crumble along with them—usually in tears.

I am also discovering that the strength of my shield is most often tested in waiting. Right now I am waiting. Really it hasn’t been long; but it is not meeting my expectations and seems long. Life is happening around me. Even Bill, who is waiting along with me, seems un-phased. My response is to crawl into a foxhole (forget the shield); to allow the foxhole to be my protection, to wait it out invisible to those around me. In choosing the foxhole over the shield, I am cramped, unhappy, and absent from life—the life God designed for me to live.

In desperation, a few weeks ago, I cried out from the foxhole to a trusted friend. My friend doesn’t mince words, and her words were an arrow to my heart.

“… Yet, I do have a strong desire to see you fully free, living in the truth of His desire for you, unfettered to be exactly the person you were created to be. No strings attached. Finding your unmet longings satiated by His pleasure in you.” 

Her words—fully free, living in the truth of His desire for you, unfettered, no strings—gave me the courage to climb out of the foxhole. Two weeks later sitting in church the picture of the cross surrounded by the shield glued God’s lesson to my heart. I heard, Sue, I am your protection. Even in waiting live out who I created you to be. Trust the desires I have given you. Live free. I am your shield.  Ahhhhh, I am breathing again.

Renowned author George MacDonald penned these words: (the underlined portion is what stood out to me)

He has an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that thou art in the dark and has no light, and His heart is glad when thou dost arise and say, “I will go to my Father.” For He sees thee through all the gloom through which thou canst not see Him. Say to Him, “My God, I am very dull and low and hard; but Thou art wise and high and tender, and Thou art my God. I am Thy child. Forsake me not,” then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in the darkness. Fold the arms of thy Faith, I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou ought to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend; heed not thy feelings: do thy work.

God’s encouragement came to me in my foxhole through the words of my friend; through the cross and the shield like structure in the front of a church; through words penned long ago by a wise saint; and through these words of Scripture, “Finally, be strong in the Lord … In all circumstances take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;…” from Ephesians 6:10-16.

“Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield”.
Psalm 33:20