My Easter Take-Away

As I write these words, I’m in the middle of a story. Mom fell and broke her hip on April 3rd. Two days later she had hip-replacement surgery. Then off to rehab, now in assisted living.

Despite what this picture conveys, Mom is 97 years old and up until now living by herself in her home of 50 years. (Doesn’t she look great?) Mom is a retired physical education teacher. Whether on the tennis court, the golf course, or at the bridge table, she wanted good competition and she was there to win. Even now some of her afternoons are spent playing bridge. Broken bones can’t break strong wills.

Mom’s situation, Easter–HE IS RISEN, and the days after the resurrection recorded in Luke 24, collided in my thinking and three principles surfaced that are anchoring these days for me.

Allow My Desires to Lead to Rest and Preparation

The women from Galilee had desires. They knew the proper thing to do for a dead body and their last love gift for Jesus was to anoint his body with spices and ointments. They prepared them, rested on the Sabbath, and then set out for the tomb. Luke 23:55-24:1.

Prepared and rested–these words capture my desire too. As I think about Mom, one way I prepared is by recording seven desires in my journal most specifically for her living situation. I also recorded a desire for me and my sisters as we journey together. We all share her genes.

My sisters and me at my niece’s wedding, January 2016

Being prepared is creating space for expectancy, it is an act of love. Resting is an act of faith.

As I lift these desires to the Lord, I’m learning to rest and live by faith. One of my desires is for Mom’s safety. But does that mean she will continue to live in assisted living, or can she return to her home (her desire)? I don’t know.

Allow Humility to Grow My God Confidence

“We had hoped …” Luke 24:21;  “Still they stood there in disbelief …” Luke 24:41. Jesus’ followers stand vulnerably, humbly admitting their (supposed) misunderstanding.

Humility – trusting God and others with me.

As I think about the women and the disciples, I’m encouraged to live vulnerably, to allow disappointment to show.

As Jesus and his followers were nearing Emmaus, he responded to their invitation to spend the night. “As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them.” Luke 24:30 The broken bread picturing his broken body communicated.  Their humility allowed them to believe.

I’m encouraged to listen well and to allow God to open my mind offering belief and understanding. I want to live humbly before God and with my sisters.

Allow Trust To Lead Me To Joy

This narrative in Luke 24 is filled with disbelief and with trust, just like my life.

In my story, I’m trusting that God is leading in paths of righteousness. Psalm 23:3
I’m trusting that the boundary lines put in place by God are pleasant places. Psalm 16:11
I’m trusting in God’s presence even in sadness. Hebrews 13:5
I’m trusting in the midst of fear. “We had hoped …” Luke 24:21
I’m trusting in God’s good plans. Jeremiah 29:11

In Luke 24, trust is preceded by remembering and understanding the scriptures. It results in joy and worship.

The two men in dazzling apparel met the women who went to the tomb that first resurrection morning. They reminded them, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you … and they remembered his words,” Luke 24:6,7,8

In verse 32, Jesus himself opened the scriptures to those on the Emmaus road. For me, the Holy Spirit opens them. The result is the same, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us …” My emotional response is often the bridge for me to trust.

Worship and joy conclude Luke’s account. “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,” Luke 24:52

“… Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them.
‘Peace be with you,’ he said.”
Luke 24:36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From My Journal

April SNOW Showers in Colorado Bring May ???
(I snapped these pictures earlier this month, really.)

A few weeks back, I was sitting in my special morning chair, coffee in hand watching the white flurries bend the branches of the beautiful evergreens. And I was reminded …

“For at the rain and snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10, 11

It was 10 years ago. I was alone sitting on the bed in the hotel room. (I’m not sure where Julia was, my roommate for the weekend.) With my Bible open to Philippians and my journal near by,  I sat conversing with God.

Six months earlier while reading Philippians, I noted in the first chapter, Paul, sitting in prison says, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (v. 22) God’s voice through the apostle Paul broke through. I prayed God, can I claim this truth for me as well? That as long as I’m alive, no matter what my circumstances, I will experience fruitfulness?

That morning in the hotel, I remembered my prayer from six months earlier. God answered, yes with a caveat. If I go on living out who God created me to be, it will mean fruitful labor for me. I rested. God’s caveat affirming my desire–to live out the identity He gave me as His child.

But there’s more.

Not only did God speak to the desire of my heart that morning, but with His caveat, He also highlighted a lie I had been vulnerable to, I need a role or a title for significance in the kingdom. NO!

Significance rests in my living out my new identity. I don’t need a seminary degree, a spiritual director certificate, or even be leading a bible study.

I need to be the me God created me to be.

That morning I added Philippians 1:22 to the page in my journal that records the scriptures I often pray for myself in my quiet times. ‘Cause I need to be reminded.

What scriptures speak the truth of your identity to you?
What helps you to remember that truth?
What difference has it made in your everyday living?

Easter-Love Displayed

Easter beauty pictured from my chair.

Easter, Resurrection
Hope springing anew.

Ponderosa’s, tall and resilient,
Black branches cross–Resurrection.
Green needles lift to the sun
protecting small pinecones.
Swaying to the nudges
of the gentlest breezes.
Sturdy trunks securely anchored
safe in the soil.

Easter, Resurrection,
Hope springing anew.

Crucifixion defeated,
O death, where is your sting?

New life, new growth,
Springing from the Son.
Tender seeds nourished,
encouraged, budding forth.
Learning the walk of the Spirit
responding to His nudge.
Abiding in His love displayed,
anchored safe, secure, eternal.

Remember Me, Jesus asked

Remember
I am with you.
I am leading you.
I am protecting you.
I am providing for you.
I am your good shepherd.
I am Easter.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Amen and Hallelujah!

An Easter gift for you. New to me, Kelley Mooney, and very familiar Kristyn Getty and Fernando Ortega share two wonderful Easter messages through song. Enjoy.

Canadian Singer-Song Writer, Leonard Cohen is well known for his work, Hallelujah in Hebrew meaning ‘Glory to the Lord’.  Kelley Mooney has written and performs an Easter version and sings it with a children’s choir. She shares her story and sings it here.

Another of my Easter favorites is above sung by the familiar artists Kristyn Getty and Fernando Ortega.

Easter Blessings to you all!  sue

 

Suicide, Brokenness, Lent

I live in Colorado Springs, considered one of the best cities in the country to live. The majesty of Pikes Peak is our backdrop. Its beauty changing daily keeps me in awe. Even snow-covered on Easter, the view is spectacular.

But we have a dark side–teen suicide. Colorado Springs is considered a suicide cluster; there are high numbers of suicides or attempted suicides, in a small geographic area, over a short time period. Suicide is contagious. It is affecting our schools, our youth groups, our friends and neighbors. It seems everyone knows someone who is hurting, scared, hopeless, grieving. It is tragic.

James is a teen, a new Eagle Scout, and the son of my friend Nancy. Four months ago James attempted suicide. Thankfully Nancy was home and found him in time.

A gifted communicator, Nancy writes vulnerably about their family’s journey on her blog, A Little Dash of Love. She does not spare their anguish, their brokenness, their hurt. It is a gift to all of us.

I never considered physical suicide.

Spiritual suicide never entered my mind.

But emotional suicide, yup, I’ve been there. The feelings of alone-ness, hurting, hopelessness,  having no purpose, brokenness very real.

As Lent draws to a close Easter offers an invitation, hope can be restored.

Emotional suicide, believing my lack of purpose is not redeemed by the cross.

But it is. The cross  is the answer for suicide. Jesus died in our place.

Will I trust the message of Easter? Will you?

Thank you Beth Cutter for sharing your picture depicting II Corinthians 4:7

I am a broken woman;
needs obvious as my insides leak out,
desires known, in need of community;
broken so his light shines;
broken to be healed.
Brokenness, a theme of Lent.

These words of Charles Martin from his novel, Unwritten, capture for me part of God’s purpose in
brokenness…

“I used to think that a story was something special. That it was the one key that could unlock the broken places in us. What you hold in your hand is the story of a broken writer who attempted to kill himself and failed who meets a broken actress who attempted to kill herself and failed and somewhere in that intersection of cracked hearts and shattered souls, they find that maybe broken is not the end of things, but the beginning ... And standing there, face to face, my bag of me over my shoulder, and your bag of you over your shoulder, we figure out that maybe my pieces are the very pieces needed to mend you and your pieces are the very pieces needed to mend me but until we’ve been broken we don’t have the pieces to mend each other. Maybe in the offering we discover the meaning and value of being broken.”
(p. 229, emphasis mine)

“There is no shame in brokenness. We are all shattered pieces of the body just trying to heal up and close the holes that sin leaves behind. replacing the darkness with light. Hope lives. Resurrection awaits.”
Holey, Wholly, Holy,
Kris Camealy (p. 28).

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and gave it to them, saying,
‘This is my body, which is given to you.
Do this in remembrance of me.’”

Luke 22:19 (bold, mine)

Easter is coming!

 

Hurling Hurts

or My Experience of Psalm 23

I wanted to hurl hurts right back! The title of the book, Hurt People Hurt People, defined me. My hurt morphed to madness. I grabbed the leash of our Golden Retriever, Lexie (her tail communicating her excitement), my scripture cards, and stomped out the door.

I knew I would hear from God … and I kind of didn’t want to; mad felt right, vindicating even.

The words of our pastor, less than an hour old from the well-known Psalm 23 came back. During church my pen could hardly keep up with his wisdom. The story I was living was close to the surface–his points provided perspective and encouragement. Breathing came easier as we left church. Thank you Mark Bates.

The story I sat with in church came alive as I read my email when we arrived home. The words in the email dredged up the hurt emotions and ignited my anger.

Lexie and I started down the forest trails encircling our home with my mind remembering Mark’s points, Lexie happily unaware of my hurt. I desperately needed the Shepherd’s rod and staff, the prodding in the right direction and the pulling me back to truth. God was faithful.

Besides Mark’s teaching on the rod and staff, three additional thoughts calmed my heart.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (verse 3) Even though my path was bumpy, God tells me it is the right path. It is the right path for Him to be glorified. My mind wandered to Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life;” It is the right path because God will redeem it. As my feet kept moving and my Fitbit kept counting, I confessed to not understanding but trusting that this somehow was a life-path.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (verse 4, underlines mine). The email was a kind of death for me, the death of a dream, a huge shadow on the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. God whispered, Sue, I’m in this valley with you. I get how important that dream was for you. I will keep my arms wrapped around you. Will you hear my love? Yes, Lord.

Mark ended with this thought, It is right for us to steward our emotions (my very raw emotions). But we also need to tell ourselves the truth. Steward my emotions AND tell myself the truth.

That made all the difference.

Lexie and I continued on. I pulled out the scripture cards I had stuffed in my pocket, reading the words, praying the truth, hearing God’s amen, and feeling His smile.

I walked in our back door humbled and ready for my Sunday afternoon nap.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understand,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

If you would like to listen to Mark’s message (and I highly recommend it), you can hear it here.

I wonder, how have you experienced the truths of Psalm 23?

 

Working Out what God has Worked In

Thank you, Larry and Kathy Lorimor

Hi Friends,

Echoes of Grace has a special treat for you this week. enCourage, the weekly blog for the Presbyterian (PCA) church published one of my blogs today. So Echoes has 2 posts this week.

“Work out does not mean manufacture. The correct understanding means to form something that already exists. In Dr. Chapell’s words, we work out what God has worked in—let the gospel fulfill its purpose, continuing to mature us.

For too many years, I looked around my Christian community to discern how to work out my salvation.” For the rest of the story, click here.

And if you haven’t read it yet, scroll down to My Ark. I need all the building help I can get.

See ya’ Thursday, sue

My Ark

Rest and Resiliency ~ What am I learning?

Needing to come up for air after two crazy years — good crazy, hard crazy, busy crazy years, God led me to focus on the words rest and resiliency for 2017. I sectioned off a new place in my journal to record what I’m learning.

Several pages are dedicated to the Noah narrative. The name Noah (in Hebrew noakh), means rest. “and called his name Noah, saying … this one shall bring us relief …” Genesis 5:29.  Like Noah, I’m building an ark, a safe place to withstand the floods of life. An ark that is fit for the next decade of my life. My guess is the floods are not going to subside; my hope is that my ark will help me live resiliently even while the storms are battering on every side. In the future I’ll share more about my ark, for now here are the pieces of the keel.

  1. Physical rest bows to soul rest. (Eugene Peterson)
  2. Pay attention to bubbles of grief that might be below the surface. (Kimberley Knochel)
  3. Steward my emotions and tell myself truth. (Mark Bates)
  4. Honor my circumstances and listen to my desires. (Dan Allender)
  5. I don’t need to lower my expectations; I need to adjust them. (Linda Bonorden)
  6. My calendar is not my decision-maker.
  7. I need to make HARD decisions (canceling our trip to Illinois, OUCH).
  8. Listen to my body. God knit it together.
  9. Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light …” Like a lighthouse warning of unseen dangers below the surface.
  10. The chains still rattle and remember those chains are lies. (Bill Tell)

Jean Fleming’s excellent work, Pursue the Intentional Life, shares much wisdom as she purposefully looks ahead to her remaining years and desires to honor God with her life. I cannot recommend it highly enough. As my husband tells the college students when he comes across an invaluable resource, “Sell your bed and buy it!”

This is one quote from Jean’s book that I copied to my journal.

“Reframing means keeping what is important but wisely reconfiguring as necessary
… Reframing, like sonnet writing,
always requires creativity, humility, and surrender to the imposed limits.”
(p. 139)

I’m looking forward to one of those mile-stone birthdays this summer.                                                      What would be your wisdom for me as I shape my ark for this next phase of life?
Do you have favorite authors, scriptures, prayers that bless you as you look to the future?          Will you share them?

 

 

A Trip to the Cabin, Our Sanctuary

“Better is a handful of quietness
than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:6

Last week Bill and I took a one-day road trip to our cabin in the Wet Mountains.

You might ask, Is the 2 1/2 hour drive worth a few hours away? A resounding yes!

The would-ofs (computer work), could-ofs (coffee with a friend), should-ofs (dusting) all left behind, bowing to the call of our sanctuary, to quietness, to rest.

It was good–very, very good.

“We are worth time set apart for rest because God is worthy of our attention.”
Rhythms of Rest,
Shelly Miller, p. 128

There was physical rest. I took that nap I never gift myself on the weekdays at home. There was soul rest, a day to breathe deeply, a day to be, the handful of quietness trumping the toil of computer work, and striving after the wind (I’ve learned the dust returns).

For a while in the afternoon I enjoyed our deck and zero-gravity chair while reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life. My underlines and margin notes testifying to the fact that God was speaking to me through Jean’s words. My soul responded.

The word invest stood out in chapter 20. When I invest time in the beauty and quietness of the mountains, in the solitude our off-the-grid cabin offers, I find my soul restored. Physical weariness not cured in one day, but somehow different; it’s a good weary.

John Ortberg in his book, Soul Keeping, reminds, “When my will is consistently, freely, joyfully aligned with what I most deeply value, my soul finds rest. That is wholeness. When I live with half-hearted devotion, my soul is always strained.” (p. 68)

In January I penned this post on Isaiah 30:15. It was the beginning of my journey of rest and resiliency, my words for 2017.

Reflecting on The Gallop

What is restful for you?
How do you feed your soul?

Shame, Control, Trust

I don’t often talk of this part of my journey. Because I remember the sting, the hurt, the I don’t deserve this feelings. And a piece of me does not want to re-live those times. But I’m compelled to share the shame of these stories. Because shame is epidemic.

My Shame

One incident led to changing our wedding plans.
A second incident led to loss of promotion and loss of salary.
A third led to loss of my perceived identity.
I was shamed.

In each case someone with ability to change the outcome was silent. And in each case, they later admitted their silence to me about the wrong that came my way. The wrong continued.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I John 1:7 (underlines mine)

My Desire

Walking in light.
Fellowshipping with you.
Cleansing from sin.

My First Response

I worked at hiding my shame. I donned a smiley-face mask to communicate this isn’t bothering me. I’m more mature than your accusations.
And
I took the responsibility of defending God. After all, He is sovereign and my response will prove I believe it. I will make sure He looks good.

I worked hard at controlling.

On the plus side God gifted me with safe friends. I confided my real me and my hurt. My words were heard; I was loved well; I experienced grace.

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

Proverbs 17:17 was lived out for me; I experienced the truth of that scripture. My friends helped carry the burden.

But what about the last phrase of I John 1:7? You know, the one about cleansing from sin.  What was the sin? What needed cleansing in me?

Inside each incident was sin. I was sinned against. My sin was in my response, my attempted control.

All my shame responses screamed control! I will attempt to control what you think of me. I will attempt to control what you think of God. Control, the polar opposite of trust.

As those three incidents unfolded, control was not part of my thinking; it was ingrained in my reactions. The shame continued for years until I released my control and learned to trust God.

As I opened my tight grip, I saw each hard incident through God’s eyes. I saw his desire that I trust his control; I knew what needed the cleansing that I John 1:7 speaks of.

Five Big Lessons

  1. God has not lost control! Sins against me don’t change the truth. God still loves me. I John 3:1.
  2. God didn’t spare Jesus from hard things. In John 17:23, Jesus prays that God would love us, as He loves him. My hards allow me to experience God in new ways.
  3. God’s plan for me is to mature by his love. Hard times grow holiness like sandpaper smoothing rough edges. “Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love”. Ephesians 4:21, The Message.
  4. I am called to “ … proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. I Peter 2:9. So I share this story.
  5. These incidents clarify ministry for me. Ministry is not living from a role or title. It’s giving up control and walking in trust. Ministry is stewardship of the story God allowed in my life.

“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,
but that with full courage now as always
Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Philippians 1:20

How has sharing your shame lightened your load?
When are you tempted to try and control your situations?
How has God developed trust in your life?

This Isn’t Something I Talk About A lot …

This Thursday, I invite you to listen to God through the words of my friend,
Emily P. Freeman. Thank you Emily for letting me share your post.

“One Surprising Way I Found Relief From Anxiety

Ten years ago this month, I was in the midst of the most anxiety-ridden time of my life. This isn’t something I talk about a lot, but I come from a long line of worriers – gentle, hilarious, kind, gracious worriers”.

Click here for the rest of Emily’s wise words.

Emily and I met in person last November at a Hope*Writers retreat. What a gift that weekend was. Besides meeting Emily in person–and several other new friends, those few days have influenced my communicating with you.

Do you have secrets – you know those things you often don’t bring into the light? I do. And next Thursday I’m sharing something I don’t talk about a lot. I’m learning that when I take off my masks, come out from my hiding that not only does it bring relief and rest to me, but it does to my friends as well. More often I’m hearing, Really? Me too! My heart is to offer relief to my friends, and I’m learning my story does that. Will you join me?

I’ve used one of Emily’s books, Grace for the Good Girl, letting go of the try-hard life,  several times as I meet with women and discuss this journey of grace. I commend it to you.

Looking forward to hearing from you, Sue