Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Time to Pause

Thank you, Nancy Ruminski for sharing this picture from your blog, A Little Dash of Love.

Psalm 23 is perhaps the first scripture I ever memorized as a child. Back then it was only words, important words - they were in my Bible, but words. I hadn't yet been introduced to The Word who is God, who is life, who came and lived on this earth. John 1:1,4,14.

This Word is now my foundation for my relationship with God; he calls me his child. John 1:12. And this Word is full of grace and truth. John 1:14.

But grace is only grace, and truth is only truth, until I learn to trust it.

My Bible now is not merely a book of words, it is an invitation to live my relationship with God as his child. It is my opportunity to trust truth. I open my Bible to enjoy my son-ship with God, to experience the reality that is mine.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

In my single teaching days, Ellen was my roommate. She has a lovely singing voice. One of my favorites from her repertoire was Psalm 23. She voiced the first words as Because the LORD is my shepherd, I have everything that I need. Now, because the Lord is my shepherd, I am able to experience his care, his guidance, his protection, his provision, everything that I need. Words come to life.

My days have been full, wonderful, and tiring. In August my shepherd is providing a time to pause, to rejuvenate, to listen for his love. This is what I need.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul."

My green pastures are the Wet Mountains; the still waters are the gurgling brooks sliding over the rocks in Colorado streams. I look forward to soul restoration.

Long-time friends, visited this morning. The wife told the story of  a spiritual conversations she had with some friends.

One day she asked them, what is the most important thing I can impart to you? There answers were many and varied. It was obvious they respected her. Then it was her turn. She said, you know, I think the most important thing I can leave with you is the you know how much God loves you!

YES! That's what I want too, a new dose of God's love!

So for the month of August, Echoes of Grace is pausing, taking its annual vacation. It will be a time of simple living, of focusing my attention on God and experiencing his gaze on me. It will be sleep-in days, reading days, hiking days, Scrabble nights or movie nights with Bill. 

Echoes of Grace will return September 1.

And it is returning with a SURPRISE! There will be hints during the month of August.
So check in each Thursday, so you won't miss anything.

See you in September,

"He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake."
Psalm 23:3b

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Neediness ... Weakness?

Have you seen this crazy movie? (You just learned my opinion.) Bob, Bill Murray, is pictured above with his therapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss. Bob is neurotic, phobic, obsessive-compulsive, and much more - majorly needy!  Not literally, but inside crying for attention.

Do you ever have Bob-moments? 
What is the path they lead you down?

            N - an accurate word picture.

Bob experiences attention deficit that he tries to fill with the wisdom of a professional; neediness exudes. Some see, and Bob feels, weakness.

Our needs are NOT weaknesses.

"It is the nature of the soul to need." Soul Keeping, p.81. 
God created us with needs so He can be our provider, so He can meet those needs. My friend, Bill Thrall says it this way, "Love is the process of meeting needs." 

Needs invite us to experience God more deeply.

Needs are not weaknesses; they are opportunities to receive and experience love, the love of God and the love of others.

We all came into this world with a Bob complex, with the need for attention ... among other needs. When I admit it, I have the opportunity to deepen relationships. Needing attention is not a weakness.

As a young wife and full-time missionary, I didn't get this. Yes, I knew I wanted attention, but if I had been brave enough to voice that, I would have learned I was seeking the attention in all the wrong ways. I thought wanting attention showed neediness, weakness, and I sure didn't want to own those descriptors. My self-esteem suffered, I began to believe lies like I'm not good enough. SHAME! It never, NEVER occurred to me to take my neediness, my desire for attention to God. 

I'm discovering that my attention needs are met in relationship, relationship with God and relationship with others.

God created me; he knows me and the needs he put in me to draw me to him. When I pay attention and listen to the words he whispers to me, I experience his attention; his love. 

I was sitting on a sofa in front of the quiet fire reading one of Brennan Manning's books early one spring day. As I turned to the new chapter, Brennan opened with Song of Solomon 7:10, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." In those few words God's love exploded in my heart; I experienced his attention! I knew he called me beloved, but the thought that he had desires for me, WOW, that was overwhelming. And if God is for me, who can be against me? God gives attention by paying attention to the details, the desires of my life. In receiving his attention, I receive his love.

Often God meets the needs I have for attention through others, like my husband. Unlike God, he is not all-knowing. Sometimes I initiate and share my attention needs with him. In doing that I give him permission to meet those needs. And I experience his love.Sometimes I don't and the downward path begins. I experienced God meeting that need through Bill earlier this month when he publicly shared how I met one of his needs. It was humbling and affirming; God met that need through Bill.

 On Sunday mornings, our pastor often brings our time of worship to a close with the familiar words from Numbers 6:24-26, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

As I look down the pew, many are standing with hands uplifted. We want to receive this blessing.

The pronouns in this scripture are all personal. This is a blessing for us individually. And an accurate picture of this verse is of God stopping in front of you, focusing his eyes on yours, giving you his full, undivided attention, and offering his peace. Shalom, the most positive words he can offer for our well-being.

My need for attention is not weakness; it is an opportunity to experience the love of God.

How about you ... are you allowing God to meet your needs? To show you his personal love?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bordered By Love

I have a special treat for you this Thursday.

Please meet my good friend and writing mentor Amy Nowak. Her creative word-weaving and winsome story-telling draw you in and gently communicate truth.

In this post, you'll likely learn a bit about the history of our nation which Amy uses to lead into a piece of her history and led me to remember a scary story from my history - the day I thought I lost my GRAND. But more importantly, this all connects to us and our sometimes reality. You can find her words here.

At the bottom, Amy shares a book that has been meaningful to her. Perhaps it would be for you as well.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Questions Begetting Questions

YES! NOOOO! Maybe???? I just don't know.

Two months ago the email landed in my inbox. With one mindless click on the senders name I needed to think about something I didn't know existed. I was invited to consider joining the group of shepherds in our Sunday school community. Invited. This invitation was not the easy type, not the quick response type. It required more information, prayer, and reflecting on the questions this invitation surfaced.

I guess age doesn't make it easier.

The question, the invitation, begged more questions. I needed to allow myself to back up and view it not as an easy yes-no option, but in light of what I've been hearing from God. 

"keep yourselves in the love of God,"
Jude 21

My mind has been swirling around God's personal, Sue-shaped love. The words of Ephesians 1:5, "In love he predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will." My life has purpose and it is soaked in his love for me. I want to follow Jude's admonition and keep myself cradled in God's love.

I glance over my shoulder at the path God has had me on. 
I look ahead and ponder what trust would look like in this situation.
I focus on who God says I am ... His beloved child. 
I ask ...

How does this opportunity help me to stay in God's love?
What does staying (keeping myself) in his love look like?
Will this allow me to live out of my identity as God's beloved child or be another hat to squeeze onto the hall hat tree?
Is this a people-pleasing opportunity or a God-trusting opportunity? Or both?
Who are my closest allies who might speak wisdom to me? What are they saying?
Does this opportunity fit with my values?
What is my spiritual journey needing at this juncture? Would this opportunity feed that or starve it?
Will I be able to live from my giftedness?
Will this enhance who I am?
What else does God want me to be asking?

As I sit in quiet and ponder questions like these, seeking God's guidance, I find myself experiencing peace. I find myself melting into obedience. And a light bulb goes on; I discover the answer. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, 
who gives generously to all without reproach, 
and it will be given him."
James 1:5