Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Beauty

I woke Sunday morning to this message from God,

“The king is enthralled by your beauty;” Psalm 45:11, NIV

To say, those words were like the snow flurries blowing in the brisk November wind outside my sliding glass door is an understatement! The king is enthralled by MY beauty????
Thanksgiving week sky in Colorado
I too was blown away.

This passage used to be on my UN-favorite list. Really. The verse before instructed, forget your people, forget your father’s house. Because someone better (the king) is enthralled with my beauty. I didn’t feel beautiful; and I didn’t want to forget my family. 

Although those scriptures stuck in my mind, I paid them little heed over the years. 

But four days ago, God whispered a different understanding.

Sue, what if God is saying, be present to me. Listen to me. Give space in your life for my truth. I am enthralled with you; I desire (ESV translation) you.

God created me; knit me together in my mother’s womb. Should he not be pleased with his work?

God called me; I am born of God. That birth was not a human decision or a self-willed idea. God initiated.

God consecrated me—before I was born. Amazing!

These scripture truths rushed from my heart to my head as I pondered Psalm 45:11. I could hardly wait to share it with Sue, and Susan, and Janet, and Kara, and Lynea, and Laura Beth, and, and, and. 

This is GOOD News. 

The king is enthralled with who he created me to be. The Message says, “the king is wild FOR you.” (Emphasis mine)  God is wild for the person he created me to be. And that precedes my physical birth or any ladder I climbed (and I climbed a few) to try and be someone.

Why did I hear those words so differently a few days ago? Why on that morning did it bolster my child-of-God identity?

Because of the journey I’ve been on the last 20 years.

Twelve of those years reviewing scriptures that speak of God’s love for me have under-girded my personal devotional times. I’m listening intently to God’s truth. My prayers include asking God what it would look like to trust him with that truth that day.

Interesting, there is a research study that claims that contemplatively meditating on the love of God has more healing influence on the brain than any other practice or effort we put forth to reach a goal of identity wholeness. The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life.

“Contemplatively meditating”, I call it making space for God. When I make that space, he faithfully fills it with his truth, and I am understanding scripture differently. I’m hearing that God is enthralled with my beauty.

And that is something to be thankful for!

from A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp
What blessings are you pondering this Thanksgiving?

Another one of my blessings is YOU! Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will but born of God.                          John 1:12 and 13, NIV

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas is Coming

Do you, like me, have special red socks that are reserved for December?

Or a pretty Christmas sweater that gets taken out only one wintery month?

Do you, like me, have a special recipe box filled with the family Christmas favorites?

Do you, like me, have special books that are saved for Christmas reading and re-reading?

Even this blog takes on a Christmas theme during Advent. Sneak peak … this year I’m sharing some thoughts from three very familiar lines in the gospel accounts. I hope you’ll stop by each week.

I LOVE Christmas!

Our row of Christmas books grows each year. This year I’ve added two (so far). 

Touching Wonder, (I love the title) is a journey through the Christmas story mostly from Luke’s perspective. The author, John Blase, closes each short reflection with a prayer. In his words, “The heart of each prayer is personal, but I’ve found that what is most personal is most general”.  (Page 16) I concur.

I’ve been mulling over these words in his prayer after the story of Elizabeth. “Contentment that cancels out hope is merely a mask for resignation”. (Page 33)

Yup, I’ve jump-started Christmas this year.

This beauty is changing my quiet times next month. Not one who usually reads from a devotional book, this December will be different. Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, is truly an early Christmas present. The scripture readings from the old and new testaments, her provoking thoughts and questions, the wonderful art picturing each entry all draw me to a new place. (I’ve only scanned a few entries, but I know this is going to be a rich time of enjoying the presence of God.)

Jan Karon is one of my favorite novelists. She “writes to give readers an extended family and to applaud the extraordinary beauty of ordinary lives.” Her 2003 Christmas novel is one I enjoy reading over and over. The down-home wisdom spoken through her characters always leaves me with something to ponder. 

Like this conversation between Father Tim and his wife Cynthia as he is thinking back to his fear of retirement, “I never knew how to rest or take a break, or how to refuel. I think God is at last teaching me something about that.” (Page 100) Simple and profound. I stopped to think, what has helped me learn about re-fueling?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! dates back to 1957. Although I don’t remember reading it as a child, I’ve read it many times to our sons and our GRANDS. I can’t wait for the GRANDS to arrive this Christmas and I’ll read it aloud once again. Dr. Seuss captures the treasure of the season with the Grinch’s conclusion about Christmas, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!” And yes, it certainly does mean a little bit—no, a LOT more. It will start a good conversation.

What are your favorite Christmas reads (besides the Bible, of course)? What is it about them that have captured your heart?

An early Merry Christmas to you all!  Sue

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Holy in the Ordinary

The well-worn book, A Tree Full of Angels, resting on my nightstand invited me to turn back the cover once again and listen to its now familiar message.

It was the sub-title that first captured my attention, Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary. A few pages in and I was mesmerized.
Penned by a Catholic nun, some of the language—unfamiliar to my Protestant ears—resonated with my child-of-God heart, my identity free of denominational ties. It quickly earned a spot on my 2014 list of favorite reads. I often return to my underlines and again hear the whisper of God through faded ink.

The holy in the ordinary, our holy God shining through ordinary humans like me -- and you. How encouraging! What an honor!

Experiencing the holy (or perhaps believing I’m experiencing it) in my ordinary days hasn’t always been my story. For many years my ordinariness mocked my heart for holiness, the desire dangling just beyond my grasp. I kind-of knew something was there; others recognized it in me too, but my head couldn’t grasp what simmered in my heart. My hope dulled.

But the God of hope who fills us with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13) took me by the hand and gently led me on a path that allowed truth to flow upward, from my heart to my head. My believer started believing. And the gospel of grace shone more brightly. I began to recognize God’s holy in my ordinaries. 

Some of my 2014 favorites
Funny -- it didn’t happen with my initial decision that fall evening during my college days—as necessary as that decision was. It wasn’t the years of professional ministry—although they continued to clarify my heart.

It was truly in the laying down of my striving and learning to listen and enjoy the friendship of God that created space for me to embrace the gospel and begin to experience the holy in my ordinary. 

As I pondered this post and sharing these words, it dawned … every book I’ve enjoyed this year was the story of holy in ordinary. Whether fiction or non-fiction, memoirs or biographies, novels or short stories, that holy thread in ordinary days was the theme stitching the book together. No wonder they resonated so strongly.

What about you -- how are you experiencing God in your life? How does the holy in your ordinary show up? What have been some of your favorite reads of 2014?

(To be continued next week with some of my favorite Christmas reads.)

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called the children of God (holy)! That’s who we really are”. I John 3:1, The Message (parentheses mine).