Thursday, April 30, 2015

What do you do?

What do you do?

I'm thinking about this question a lot these days. My high school reunion is coming up.

It's another innocent question. Yet in its innocence, it leads down a path that may be true, but also is not the real answer ... at least not the answer I want people to know ... or is it?

I'm a writer. True.
I'm adjunct faculty with the TrueFaced ministry. True.
I'm on staff with The Navigators. True.

Then there is the gramma hat, the neighbor hat, the daughter hat, and many more. I do a lot!

As I pondered my dilemma, God reminded me of the Matthew 17 narrative commonly known as The Transfiguration.

But first, a bit of background.

Up to this point Jesus had been busy teaching, healing, loving those in his path. Many followed his footsteps, awed by his life. At one point, as he concluded "The Sermon on the Mount", the response of the hearers translated in The Message ...

"When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying--quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard."
Matthew 7:28, 29 The Message. (underline mine)

Obviously the crowd is awed. They heard his words. They saw his life, a life that affirmed his teaching and gave permission to his words. 

If they had been asked, what does Jesus do, the answers might have circled around his teachings and his doings. But they really did not know who Jesus was.

Skip ahead to Matthew 17 and The Transfiguration. Jesus brings only his closest friends up Mt. Tabor with him. There his appearance is miraculously changed. The friends observing this phenomena are overwhelmed. Peter, the first to gather his wits, suggests a plan of building memorials on the mountain. But before he could even finish his thoughts, God himself interrupts and identifies Jesus, "This is my beloved son..." (verse 5)

Jesus is identified; his real self revealed. Only Peter, James, and John were there to hear.

Jesus didn't identify himself; God identified him. 

It's okay to use my hats as identifiers, conversation openers. When God allows deeper, conversation with a few, that is the time to let the hats slide off. 

Sue, let God initiate.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God
and not to us."
II Corinthians 4:7

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are you busy?

The morning started; my do-list, the guide for the day, in hand. There was precious little room for error.

Breakfast with my friend--check.
Off for some fun--planned in advance--check.
Necessary errands--everything running smoothly. Phew.

And on the day went. 

That evening nine gathered around my dining room table. I was ready. The do-list worked.

But the thank you note received a few days later communicated more than the penned words. My friend spoke of what a gift the dinner was. Hmmm, I don't remember the gift--it was the next on that carefully crafted two day old do-list.

I didn't even snap a picture that night (me who loves to record everything with more than memories). And that might have been the most telling.

YES, I am busy! 

Busy, physically there, and not present! Ouch.

Understanding and conviction came via David Benner's words from his book, Sacred Companions.

"Soul hosts prepare for their gift of hospitality by cultivating a place of quiet within themselves. It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety, and love. Although I often try to pull it off, I know that I cannot really be present for another person when my inner world is filled with pre-occupations and distractions." (pages 46 & 47)

Busyness does not foster presence.

"Real people require real love if we are to give a gift of genuine presence."        (page 49)

That evening I deprived my real friends of my real presence and real love distracted by my real do-list.
________________________________________________ When Chris innocently voiced her question, are you busy, her meaning was, Sue, are you living in your desires? Is your time filled with your passions? Her question was kind and caring; she was inquiring about me.

My answer, oh yes, was totally true. And yet in the busyness of living out my passions something went awry. Busyness interrupted presence. And joy slipped away.

"As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand." The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it--it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."
Luke 10:38-42, The Message

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How are you doing?

Trisha's innocent question came naturally.

Laughter preceded my stopping and pondering.

Do I answer honestly? Yes!

My friends, my community cannot love well without knowledge.

But my on the surface response is partial truth.

On the surface, life has been busy full (sounds better).

  • Yes, I loved the guests who kept our guest beds warm ... and even spilled over to the other beds some nights.
  • The Sabbath-Living Retreat culminating months of prayer and planning was abundantly blessed by God.
  • Yes, I loved our trip to Peoria where many of my besties still live.
  • Kara's memorial celebrating a life well-lived swung my emotional pendulum from laughter to tears.
  • Yes, and who wouldn't love 5 days in Florida in April when your home is Colorado?
And of course the every-days managed to seep into the cracks. Life has been FULL.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Again I stop and ponder remembering these words from Psalm 19.
Tell the truth? ABSOLUTELY! And continue on ...

I prefer, How are you living? to How are you doing? Thank you Kara for this wisdom.

How am I living in the midst of current realities?

For me, the busyness of the now tends to influence the future; it seems overwhelming. I tend to re-act instead of decide--not good.
I'm tempted to play Eeyore.
I'm aware. Now I want my focus to embrace acceptance and gratitude.

So, how am I living?

White space dominates my calendar for a few weeks.
Decisions are being deferred.
Resting, rejuvenating, refueling are my majors
I'm giving myself grace.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4  (underline mine)

How do you compensate for busyness? What does refueling look like for you? What are your warning signs that you need to readjust for a time?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jennifer's Story; My Story; God's Story

It was Saturday morning just 7 days before our Sabbath-Living Retreat. As I sat with my friends (those making up the retreat committee) in our living room, I shared Ephesians 2:10 …

 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

I desired to affirm them. God created each with gifts and abilities that they were living out as together we brought this retreat to reality. The retreat that was God's idea. And our pace was walking as each did their part.

Then I skipped to Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Amy S.
So many importants in those few words, let peace rule … one body … be thankful.

Committee and community both originate from the same Latin word, communis. Some definitions include a social unit that share common values and are assembled for a specific purpose. That’s who we were—one body, a small community who came together for a specific time with a specific purpose. Over the course of 8 months this committee became a community of friends.

What did that look like for me?

1. Ministry is prayer; ministry is partnership; ministry is stewardship.
2. Affirming my friends with their contributions.
3. Trusting them with their responsibilities.

Jennifer shared this story with me:

Several years ago she headed up a committee to work on a similar women’s event. As with our Sabbath-Living retreat there were lots of details that needed to be attended to. Jennifer cast the vision and the committee went to work. The day of the event, one of the committee members came up to her and said, “Jennifer, step back and watch God work.” As she let go and watched the event unfold more beautifully than she could imagine, tears formed in her eyes and excitement in her heart as she observed God’s blessing.

Jennifer’s story foreshadowed my story. I am so thankful for each
of these dear friends; and I stand amazed at the goodness of God smiling on the retreat.

But there were others too, faithful ladies who prayed. Thank you so much to Janine, Susan, Mary, Mary, Joyce, Lynea, Jenny, Trisha, Jean, and Barb.

Deb and Kathleen, along with Dana shared their passions in afternoon workshops complimenting the theme of the retreat.

Nan, Lisa, Joyce, and Rachel all shared personal words of testimony about
their learning Sabbath-living.

Amy K. and her friends who led each session with their worshipful music.

Pam and Shelia and others who generously donated gifts for the women attending.

And Sally Breedlove, our speaker who made the Word come alive to all of us. Her depth in the scriptures and her down-to-earth stories were the perfect introduction to our personal reflection times. 

Like Jennifer, I was stunned by how God orchestrated the entire weekend.

“that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                                                                                                                           Romans 15:6

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's Okay to Cry

I tore into the box of tissues strategically placed on the cushion at the end of the pew before the service ever started. 

I had to. 

They couldn't have been more perfect.

The sanctuary spoke of Kara. Simple-one floral arrangement and one family picture, inviting, full, very full of friends-special friends and I'm sure some Kara never met. Her words on the big screen, a message all by themselves.

The absence of suffering in my life is not my good. The nearness of God is my great, great GOOD.

Oh how hard to grasp.

Several shared the platform; each a special friend to Kara; each with a specific message. Although often needing to pause, each directed our hearts to our good God-the way Kara wanted.

One shared ... he was 9 years old when his mother died of cancer. The older, wiser ones admonished, don't cry. Be a big boy. Now this "big boy" is a man and he communicated so well to Kara's littles, it's okay to cry.

His words rang true for me too. I've always cried easily. I remember those well-meaning-but-impossible-to-abide-by-words.

When our firstborn came home, I sat in the kitchen and cried. I heard, now what's the matter? The words stung as if my tears were unacceptable. 

I've cried at countless memorial services. And I always make sure I have a clean white lace hankie with me when we go to weddings.

I cried big, loud tears on our deck one summer day mourning a loss I didn't expect to gain ... or did I?

The tears flowed this morning as God and I spoke of Jason and the precious children Kara left behind. 

Life is hard.
God's ways are mysterious.
We don't get it.

It's okay to cry. 

But in the midst of my wet cheeks, tears blurring my vision, I need to remember, I need to trust.

"I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." 
Song of Solomon 7:10
"... If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Romans 8:31b

And I need to remember, I need to trust the love, grace, wisdom, and kindness he embodies.
from Kara's bulletin
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
I Corinthians 13:12

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Revelation 21:4