Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hemmed In!

Hemmed In!

Ever have one of those times when it doesn’t seem to matter where your read in your Bible but a certain phrase keeps jumping out at you?  Did that ever happen recently!

First as I was sharing a quiet time with a friend in Psalm 139 verse 5  jumped out at me,  ”You hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me…”  Then a few days later during my evening Bible reading, I was reading from the NET Bible and Psalm 4:1b jumped off the page at me “Though I am hemmed in, you will lead me into a wide, open place.”  And then later that week as I was spending some extended time alone with the Lord, I read in Job 3:23 “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden and whom God has hedged in?”  And then in Job 19:8 “He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass and He has set darkness upon my path.”

And to be very honest, I do feel very hemmed in by my hearing loss – and not in a positive way!  It feels like I’m constricted into a narrow place where all the good stuff is outside – and can that ever be frustrating!

But as I spent time with the Lord I shared my heart, “I know that isn’t what you do!  You aren’t a withholder!  (Psalm 84:11-12) You aren’t keeping me from things that are good, so would you please give me your perspective on this idea of being hemmed in?”

First, he brought to mind being at a friends condo on the beach.  Their place is on the fifth floor, right on the water.  One of my favorite things to do is sit out on the porch enjoying the view (I’ve even been known to sleep out there!  ;0)  But you know I wouldn’t go out there at all if there wasn’t a railing! I’d be too afraid of falling off the edge and being seriously hurt.

And then the Lord brought to mind a picture of being in Afghanistan where there are mines hidden underground all over the place.  Before going out, our troops have to send someone out to test the area.  Once an area has been determined safe then troops can occupy it but if they go beyond…!

Then what came to mind was a lush tropical area that looks super inviting, and in the center of it is a fenced in area where I’m standing.  The Lord has determined that fenced in area to be 100% safe.

Now outside the fence it may look safe, but that’s only because the mines are hidden!  You better be certain I’d be thankful for that fenced in area where I can freely enjoy being outside without danger!

And I sensed the Lord saying, “Yes, through your hearing loss I’ve established boundaries for you, and they may feel constricting at times, but it’s only because I love you and want to protect you from what you can’t see that can destroy you.  They aren’t going to get in the way of anything I have for you to do!  But they are there because I love you! Trust me!”

Then I read Job 23:8-14, “Behold, I go forward, but He is not there and backward,but I do not perceive Him; on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him.  But He knows the way that I take… He will complete what He appoints for me.”

Just because I can’t see God at work, doesn’t mean He isn’t!  And oh the joy it brings to realize that no matter how handicapped I become God will complete what He appoints for me!

Now as I art journaled this later I didn’t end up making an enclosed fence, because I feel like while I am hemmed in, I’m not staying stationary, the Lord has me on a journey, one that will end up with what He’s appointed for me being completed!

If it was up to me I’d certainly make the route straighter!  We could save so much time and get there so much quicker!  But the journey isn’t just about reaching the destination, but about me being transformed in the process.  And do all those twists and turns ever give ample opportunity for my faith to be stretched!  And through it all, especially when it doesn’t make sense, He keeps asking, “Will you trust me?”

Am I ever thankful He’s with me every step of the way!

Sue again ... Do you ever feel hemmed in? Is that constricting or protecting for you? Might be interesting to ponder this week. Another thought to ponder, How do you feel about the needs God has allowed in your life? How are you experiencing transformation as a result?

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people,
                                 from this time forth and forevermore."     Psalm 125:2                                       

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blowing My Cover

Eighty-five mph winds coming off the mountains—enough speed to earn a ticket on the interstate. 

The talk on the hospital corridors, the roof blew off last night! My husband Bill lay on the 7th floor recovering from back surgery 4 floors below that roof over the 11th; he felt the sway. I witnessed the carnage; the once beautiful park-like setting created to offer solace filled with junk.

Truth exaggerated. Reality, the ventilating system flew from the roof. The cover on the hospital remained.
Not an exaggeration, God blew my cover this week. 

Behind the Mask, a quick read exposing the three part process of sin brought the incident to mind and chiseled away my comfort.

With great clarity, I remembered a coffee date that a friend invited me to. I was un-expecting of the ulterior motive. Her words surprised; I hurt. A personal perceived strength bull-dozed. Really?

I believed myself innocent so I managed the situation with denial, blame, and control. I didn’t plan it, it just happened—an involuntary response. 

My response morphed into self-protection and pride. I fashioned a shield designed to ward off the hurt. She owns the real problem, not me. I’m the more mature, the better person. I’ll not bring it up again. I’ll smile and be friendly when our paths cross. I’ll dig in my heels and hold on to my rightness. And I’ll avoid the territory she spoke of—territory I previously flourished in. Control takes many forms.

How could I be so lambasted? I was pre-occupied with me!

As I remember that situation, in God’s amazing tenderness, he gently reminded me of a few other scenarios. 

My cover was blown. 

Another friend shared she has compulsive-reactionary patterns; she is stubbornly resistant to change. She needed to come to the place where she trusted God to mature her out of the wonderful change he already created in her years ago. 

Like my friend, I have no power to deal with sin, my own sin or sin done against me. I cannot change on my own. Sin’s involuntary responses and inevitable effects are strong, very strong. 

I must let go of unreal expectations and trust God—the only stronger one—to mature me.

I love this truth from Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind (those with blind spots) in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them” (parentheses and underlines mine).

Father, please continue to guide me to my blind spots. Thank you that you will not forsake me. Amen.

The cover on the hospital remains intact. My cover was shattered. I am thankful for both.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”                                               Romans 8:1

PS. If you are interested, here is a link to the high wind story:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hats and Identity

I picture the tall coat rack looking something like this—roughly. Instead of
coats, hats (those colorful things at the top are hats) find their home here, piled—not so neatly—one on top of another; all askew. When a new joins the existing, they jockey for position and sometimes, just sometimes, one or more falls off.

This particular hat rack is unique. Have you ever seen a hat rack with a cross planted at its foot? In the healthy soil, the roots of the cross spread, grow, and support.

The hats on the rack are unique too. Each is named … mom, wife, neighbor, sister, daughter, Navstaff, basket lady, and more. The name of each hat defines a role.

Something happens when I draw—God SHOUTS. He has my attention. This time the message was ...
Sue, with the exception of big family events like weddings and funerals, all your hats submit to your Nav hat. Ouch! But his words rang true. Not good. 
All my hats need to submit to my real, unchanging identity, not another hat. I love the description of my identity in this scripture …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
Child of God—that’s who I really am. My hats are an extension, not a definition of me.

When I ponder this child-like picture, I love the reminder that the cross is the source of the nourishment, the strength that supports the hats. As roots spread, more hats can be supported.

Sometimes a hat falls off (I no longer wear a grand-daughter hat or third grade teacher hat). That’s okay. More often a new hat is hung (editor is my newest; the root system seems to be supporting it).

Another important truth is pictured... the hats are not balanced; some perch precariously and look like they might topple. The roots carry the weight of the hats, not their perfectly placed position. I'm learning to focus on faithfulness not balance.

Three BIG lessons:
1. My real and unchanging identity is child of God.
2. The strength of my root system is the source of nourishment and support for my hats.
3. Faithfulness (not balance) is the key to everyday victory.

Visual learner might be the title of another hat for me. 

What about you? What reminders are most helpful for you remembering your identity?

"Let your roots go down deep into the soil of His marvelous love and draw up nourishment from Him"
Colossians 2:7, The Living New Testament

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Me or God?

A few Sundays ago a friend asked me about a new program at our church. I knew nothing about it.
Although her question was tinged with a bit of frustration, it was appropriate. And I too was irritated, not by the question, but that it even needed to be asked. Why didn’t we know about this program?

No problem. I knew the people to ask, the necessary connections to make. I knew how to please God. I could get the answer.

Irritation and peace—they are not bed-fellows. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives…” John 14:27 (italics mine). And therein was the problem. My clear-to-me solution was following the path of the world. Just get the answer. I knew enough to give this issue a bit of time.

Two days later in the midst of doing errands ruminating over her question and my plan, the Lord brought to mind Romans 4:20 and 21, “No distrust “made him waver concerning the promise of God…” (italics mine). I thought about God’s promises for her, those generic and specific-at-the-same-time words. God promised a good plan for her. God promised that He adopted her for His purpose. No distrust…

That left me with a question: was I going to trust those promises, those words from God? Or was I going to push ahead with my own plan?

My plan, the do-er, pleaser plan was taking the easier path of control. The way of trust is often the more difficult way.

There was a big part of me that wanted to do my plan, to quickly bring closure. But what was I going to do with that niggling lack of peace?

The do-er pleaser part of me was also a selfish part. I wanted to take control, to receive the credit. YUCK!

In the end, the peace that comes from trust won.  Ahhhh, I could breathe again.


Lately I’d been pondering the difference between pleasing God and trusting God. And as God so often does he linked together life-experience with spiritual truth.

“And without faith (trust), it is impossible to please him…”                                                                     Hebrews 11:6