Humility and Courage

Last summer I sat at Dunkin’ Donuts, enjoying my mint iced tea and the company of seven collegiate women leaders.

Our conversation moved from our stories, to questions about developing our friendship with Jesus, and onto deeper more personal issues like pride and humility.

Lucy led the way. She looked at me and asked, what have you learned about humility?

Her question touched my shame.
I know about pride; I’m learning about humility.

Like just this week. Currently I’m leading a group of full-time female Christian workers, pastor’s wives, counselors, and others in a variety of ministries through a course on leadership and grace. Many I’m meeting for the first time. What a privilege; what a challenge; what a great opportunity to learn humility!

“Pride makes up artificial;
humility makes us real.”
Thomas Merton

I’m learning to be real.

One of the un-truths (I hate the word ‘lies’) I always have to counter-act is, I’m not good enough. This course offers many opportunities to believe that all over again. Twice this week (already) I’ve needed to eat humble pie and change how I was asking them to work on a specific assignment. Sue, will you never get this right? I guess I’m just not good (read, godly) enough to be leading this course. Pride wants me to always look good in the eyes of others. Humility teaches me there is a better way.

Pride triggers my shame–I’m not good enough.
My shame is always expressed in the lies I believe about myself.
That lie leaves me alone, masked, abandoned.

The gospel frees me from my opinion of myself!
The gospel is the only thing keeping me from being alone!

That’s the good news! But how do I get there? How do I experience the fruits of humility? Here’s what I’m learning.

Humility trusts God. My leadership does not depend on my expertise. It rests in believing God has called me to this place. And that his purposes are nested in his love. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.” Psalm 138:8.

Humility is stewardship. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;” Jeremiah 1:5. I believe these words spoken to Jeremiah are also true for me. My leadership is a response to God’s plans for me.

Humility is a place of safety. It is acknowledging that I am yoked to Jesus. And Jesus is the lead teacher, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Not learn what I do, not learn about me, but learn from me–experience my wisdom. I’m hearing, Sue, allow me to lead you as you lead these women.

“When Jesus calls us to take his yoke,
when he invites us to find rest through submission …
He is calling us to safety.”
Humble Roots, Hannah Anderson

Humility sees others as reflections of God’s glory. “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,” Isaiah 43:7.

“God has no desire for us to belittle ourselves in a false humility. Instead, our acknowledging God’s nature creates genuine humility. When we come face-to-face with the strength of God—not as worthless people but as people who are willing to present all our strengths, talents, and influence to the strong hands of a loving Creator—we demonstrate our trust in God’s nature and authority. Sure, we bring our needs and weaknesses too, but trusting God with who we are has nothing to do with demeaning our personal value. Trusting God has to do with accepting who God is and accepting who we are in the context of God’s plan. It has to do with receiving the protection we need to trust others. Entrusting ourselves to God is the essence of the biblical understanding of humility.”
-The Ascent of a Leader

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Philippians 2:3, NLB

My Friend Candy

We met while we were both pregnant with our first child. Candy was due in October; I was due in February.

My next memory (this is before cell phones and selfies) is of Candy and me pushing Peter and David side by side in their strollers. Both Peter and David are now 42. Our friendship is long and deep. Sharing those early years of pregnancy and motherhood cemented a bond that did not break.

Two weeks ago Candy accepted the loving and waiting invitation of Jesus, well done my daughter; come be with me. Her 11 year journey with Aphasia, a form of dementia that robbed her of her words was over. Once again she is speaking the praises of her Savior.

Accepting – As I think of Candy, this is the word that stands out.

One February in the early stages of her disease we were sitting in our living room with our husbands. I remember Candy explaining Aphasia to us. She shared how Rich (her husband) often had to fill in the blanks in her conversations when she could not come up with the appropriate word.

Psalm 112 was a favorite of Candy’s. In her Bible it was marked to memorize and meditate upon.

“Blessed is the (wo)man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
Psalm 112:1

Or, blessed is the woman who lives appropriately in the presence of God. That was Candy. She was not angry; she did not question; she trusted God and accepted, living appropriately.

The last time we actually spoke to each other was about four years ago. Her disease had progressed significantly and I remember my fear during that visit. But it was unfounded. We chatted as friends do as we walked around one of the many lakes in the Minneapolis area. Her kindness and acceptance had not waned even as her body and her mind were submitting to Aphasia. I was fearful of her disease; she was not.

Two years ago we were visiting Rich and Candy in their home. It was our last visit this side of heaven. I didn’t know when we walked into their living room that she had lost all her words and needed significant help with life skills.

Candy was laying on the sofa with her feet on the carpet. I knelt on the floor with my face close to hers so we could make eye contact. Her spirit was calm~still accepting, her eyes smiled; I think she knew me. I helped her to a sitting position. We sat on the sofa and I talked, probably about grand-children. I don’t know what or if Candy understood. It was good to be together. We were friends.

“(S)he is not afraid of bad news;
his (her) heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”
Psalm 112:7

Trusting in the Lord … or accepting God’s will.

The way Candy traveled through her life with Aphasia ministers deeply to me. More than once I remember her quipping, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Perhaps she couldn’t put the answer to her own question in words, but her life communicated. She was living God’s design, a child of the King accepting of and content with the script God had written for her.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;”
Jeremiah 1:5

“Then the King will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world.”
Matthew 25:34

Accepting – a wonderful quality.


A Winter Aspen

The stark sentinel standing tall
The winter Aspen gracing our yard.

Beautiful in its quiet grandeur
Embracing God’s ways

I take a deep breath
And enjoy
God’s picture of growth,
God’s picture of life.

My creation craves quiet places
Embracing God’s ways

I look forward to
Tiny buds
Delicate green
Fluttering leaves in summer breezes.

A story of God’s wisdom
Seasons are good
Seasons are necessary
Seasons of quiet
Embracing God’s ways

I often remind myself of these words I penned three years ago. Even in God’s times of resting, rejuvenation is happening. My desire is to embrace his ways, to be content as I dream about and anticipate and get ready for what he has in store.


Saturated with the Sacred

On this ordinary Tuesday as I glanced through Facebook, this phrase stopped me, saturated with the sacred.

My thoughts went back to last September as my sisters and I gathered around Mom’s bed. Her eyes were closed, her breathing shallow, our hands holding hers. We prayed, we sang, we told stories, we whispered scriptures into her still-hearing ears. It was a holy moment. We were saturated with the sacred.

Then my mind traveled back farther to the summer of 2015. Our precious grandson spent 12 weeks in four different hospitals. As I spent time walking the halls with him cuddled in the front pack, or many nights feeding him a bottle and rocking him to sleep before falling asleep myself on the hospital cot, God’s presence was very real.

Those were holy moments, saturated with the sacred.

But what about today on this very ordinary Tuesday? I’ll go to the dentist; buy yarn for a new project; walk the dog; and squeeze in some laundry and computer time. Is today saturated with the sacred?

YES it is! The question becomes, am I aware? Am I experiencing the sacredness of today?

Oswald Chambers puts it this way in My Utmost for His Highest,
It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God–but we do not.
We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life,
and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people–
and this is not learned in five minutes.”

In Exodus 3, Moses is having a conversation with the Lord. Part of God’s words to him are, “… the place of which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5. The notes in my ESV Bible help me understand. “The instructions to Moses are followed by a reason that emphasizes the place where he is standing. The very ordinariness of the location helps make the point that it is holy ground, not because of any special properties of the place but only because of God’s presence.”

Today is an ordinary day for me. And the place where I am standing is holy too. God has promised his presence to me as well. It is saturated with the sacred.

“… I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

“… I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

And so I prayed: Father, today, I thank you for your presence with me. I thank you for your love and trusting me with your purposes. I thank you that all of today is saturated with the sacred, that I am standing on holy ground. God, I so want to live that reality on this ordinary Tuesday. Amen.

“Nowhere” is not the conjunction of no and where but,
rather, the conjunction of Now and Here, which is actually
Everywhere and is the only spot that we can truly experience God.”
Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning


















Choose, 2018

My key word for 2017 was rest. In December I prayed asking God, what he would select for my 2018 word. The answer came before I said ‘amen’. After pondering for a few weeks, did I hear correctly, I concur. My word is choose.

“… choose this day whom you will serve,
… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

This scripture came to mind immediately. Followed closely by this one.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you
and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit …”
John 15:16

I know I want to serve the Lord. John 15:16 reminds me of his initiative and his desire. I’ve been chosen with a specific purpose. These truths are guiding my choosing this year.

Big and small choices surround me every day. It takes discernment and wisdom to move forward. Yes? No? Good? Better? Best?

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10. I’ve learned that the fear of the Lord is a bound phrase that means living appropriately in the presence of God.

So if I am going to choose well, my question becomes, What does it look like today (or this week, or month, or year) to live appropriately in God’s presence?

I’ve identified 6 keys.

  1. Choosing well builds on rest. (2018 is building on 2017.) Jeremiah 31:2,3, “… when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared … I have love you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” I need to continue to focus on God’s love for me; he will faithfully provide guidance.
  2. My heart. God created me with a certain bent. Will this opportunity be in line with my creation? As 2018 dawned, I had two significant opportunities offered. Choose! For a while I thought I could do both. Not. As I thought about how I best operate, the one percolated to the surface; the other fell away.
  3. My capacity. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my friend Karma. Her capacity for relationships awes me. I too have a large capacity for relationships. But Karma is 25 years younger than me. I cannot compare my capacity to hers.
  4. “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalm 147:10,11. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. Paul followed this caution. “When I came to Troas … a door was opened … my spirit was not at rest … So I took leave …” The rest of the story is in II Corinthians 2:12,13. And I love his next words, “But thanks be to God, who … always leads us in triumphal procession,” (italics mine)
  5. Waiting. My prayers are not always answered the same day, or the same week. Choosing sometimes means wait and live with the ambiguous; live with the I don’t know. “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength …” Isaiah 40:31. I want my choices to flow from strength, not weakness.
  6. God’s glory. This is the bottom line. My choices are not about me. They are about God’s glory, about reflecting him to my world. “Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.”
    Isaiah 60:21 (italics mine).

Will you pray for me?

Do you have a word for 2018? I’d be honored to pray for you as well.



Saying YES to the Invitations of Psalm 23!

Last Saturday, I was privileged to give the eulogy for my friend Joann at her memorial service.

The well-known, well-loved 23rd Psalm are words King David wrote from the perspective of a sheep whose shepherd is the Lord. They are a small piece of his testimony, and they are a small piece of Joann’s testimony as well.

Throughout her life, Joann said yes to the invitations Psalm 23 offers. In saying yes, it shaped who she was, defined the qualities she lived by, and resulted in blessing everyone she knew!

The Lord was her shepherd. As a young teen, Joann said yes to a life of faith. That decision influenced all the choices that came her way. She chose to attend Multnomah Bible College in Oregon, (now Multnomah University) as a way of feeding her faith.  While at Multnomah she attended the church where Jack Mayhall was the youth pastor. Upon graduation, The Mayhalls invited Joann to live with them. She said yes and it was during that time that Joann was introduced to The Navigators.

Joann’s life of faith was anchored by Hebrew 6:14, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And God faithfully worked that through her life in many ways. I’m thankful to be one who was blessed by Joann’s friendship.

He led Joann in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Saying yes to a life of faith led Joann to say yes to the sovereignty of God. Her subsequent journey took her from Oregon, to Washington, to Colorado, to California, to Germany, back to Washington, to England, to Spain, back to California, to north Africa, and back to Colorado.

Saying yes to the sovereignty of God led to full time mission work as a single woman. During the early 60’s Joann provided leadership for the women’s ministry for The Navigators in Los Angeles.

It led to her marriage to Jack in Pasadena, California in 1962. It led to having three children born in three different countries.

And it led to 17 years of ministry in the country of Spain where she and Jack raised their children. All three are bi-lingual and knew when Spaniards were in their home, only Spanish was spoken.

In saying yes to the sovereignty of God, led to saying yes to living her God-created design.

Even though I walk through the valley … you are with me. Even in difficulties, Joann said yes and God’s presence was real to her. She knew the reality of trusting God to provide food for her growing family. On one occasion in Spain when their refrigerator was bear, a neighbor came over saying they were leaving on a trip and would Joann and her family take the food that was in their refrigerator. Experiences like that cement the goodness of God in your heart. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

He prepares a table in the presence of enemies. Joann said yes to the price of hospitality. The enemies of Psalm 23 were the noxious weeds that could harm the sheep. It was the shepherd’s responsibility to go ahead and clean the table-land of the weeds.*  For Joann, the weeds she rid her home of were the weeds of her American culture. She adapted to whatever culture she was living in and learned how to prepare welcoming tables for their friends. When living in Spain, she decorated her home with a Spanish motif; when Spaniards were in their home, she served Spanish food. It was natural for her.

She was feisty and fun. She loved the games of Rook and Pit using them to invite their friends in for weekly tournaments in Spain. Joann was competitive, she always won.

Joann was an elegant lady. Her mother groomed her well in etiquette saying if she was ever invited to dine with the queen of England, she wanted her to know what fork to use. Although the invitation from the queen never materialized, during their years in Spain they were invited to dine with dignitaries on several occasions and Joann was always very comfortable.

And it was always a treat to be invited to have tea with her. She served with grace and I felt very special.

Her friendships manifested themselves in her ability to be a wise counselor. Joann said yes to speaking honestly, hopefully, and truthfully when invited to help another with life issues. She  would love enough to share truth with a another, but she would hold back from the need to fix the issue. She trusted God to speak to the other. It was life-changing for the recipient.

Joann said yes to finishing well. Although she lived with Parkinson’s disease the last 20 years of her life here on earth, she continued to love well. I often would ask for her wisdom in different situations I was facing. Her words always spoke life to me.

You could hear her conversing in Spanish with friends from their home in Colorado. She never lost her heart for the Spanish people.

She would often accompany Jack visiting Manitou Springs, a small town near Colorado Springs to talk with the people about God and to give away Jack’s books. Her gift of friendship made it easy to sit in a coffee shop and start conversations with the baristas.

“Again Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world.
Whoever follow me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

Joann followed Jesus as a wife, as a mom, as a missionary and she knew the light of life.

I imagine if Joann was here with me, she would ask me to share this testimony with you …

Surely goodness and mercy have followed me
all the days of my life,
and I am dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23:6, personalized

*A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by Phillip Keller.



Do You Have a Plan?

It was about five years ago. We’re empty-nesters. And I’m sensing a desire welling up inside.

I want to keep growing spiritually.

Recorded in my journal is Psalm 92:12-15, “The righteous flourish … and grow … still bear fruit in old age … ever full of sap and green … to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock …”

I pray over those truths regularly. They communicate my heart. I want them to describe me in my ‘old age’ (not that I’m all that old).

But what did that look like? How can I guarantee it? What were my next steps? I wanted a plan, a New Year’s resolution–kind of. (This was happening during spring and summer that year.)

I researched programs at several seminaries. I looked into spiritual direction certificates. I checked out other programs designed for spiritual growth. I did everything I knew to do. Nothing seemed quite right. I put my search on hold.

Two months later the invitation arrived in the mail. It was an opportunity to be part of the Beta program for a Certificate in High Trust Leadership, an online course designed and offered by the Trueface ministry. I was very familiar with the ministry and the leadership of Trueface and their goals which I greatly appreciated. I was not familiar with the course.

My response surprised me. I was neutral. Couldn’t this be an answer to my prayers? Wouldn’t this help me in my spiritual growth? Yes and yes, but still I was neutral.

Bill affirmed the opportunity. Sue, I think you’ll like this course. But he left me to discern God’s will. It took three weeks; I signed on ~ still feeling quite neutral.

But, I don’t feel neutral any more!

Perhaps Janet’s allegory will give you a glimpse into  HTLC, (High Trust Leader Certificate), click here.

My personal name for the course is High Trust Living or Experiencing the Reality of  Applied Grace.

The next 16 week course starts in just a couple of weeks. I’d love to have you join me on this  life-changing adventure. Click here for more information. You’ll find three great resources on this site:
1. The Two Roads Video. It is about 4 minutes long and by the way, John is one of the instructors of the HTLC.
2. The offer to download the first chapter of The Cure. Do it. This book is another piece of HTLC. 3. Scroll all the way to the bottom where the HTLC program is highlighted. There is a ‘learn more’ button and a ‘sample lesson’ button. This just might be the plan you are looking for if you want to continue growing spiritually in 2018.

Do you have questions? Please leave them in the comments. I bet others have the same ones.

Bonus: When you go to Janet’s site, on her resource page is free e-book download of the post you just read. You might want to take advantage of that and read it to the children in your life. Thank you, Janet.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5 and 6



The Invitations of Christmas, Come and Worship

Re-calibrating my heart to God’s invitations.

Our Nativity scene

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our maker!
Psalm 95:6

I’ve been pondering worship for a long time–years really. Is it merely a synonym for what I do on Sunday morning?  Is it only the part of the Sunday morning service that involves singing?

My answer is no. Worship is so much more. Psalm 95, the Garden of Gethsemane, my desire to trust, and the Christmas narrative have all given me glimpses into my understanding of worship.

When Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to accompany him to Gethsemane before his crucifixion, he had one request for them, watch and pray. He was asking them to be spiritually awake, to have the alertness of a night-time guard who does not have the advantage of light, to be hyper-vigilant. Kind of like the shepherds who were guarding the sheep the night Jesus was born.

Watching must be a part of worship. God is asking me to be awake and alert to his activity all around me, to uses all my senses, not only what my eyes see.

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.'” Luke 2:15. The shepherd’s worship started with being aware, aware that the message of the angels was a message from God. And they trusted. I’m thinking, even their journey was an act of worship.

Their worship was contagious. “… all who heard it (about the birth of Jesus) wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Luke 2:18. “… Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19. “And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God …” Luke 2:20. (underlines mine)

The wise men, those familiar with Old Testament prophecy, followed a star to find Jesus.  “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts …” Matthew 2:10,11.

The wise men also trusted. Their worship also began with a journey, and led to rejoicing, awe, and giving gifts, a great celebration.

The shepherds and the wise men hurried to be with Jesus, into his physical presence. An appropriate response to the invitation they received to come into his presence.

I too want to respond in worship to the invitation that is always there for me to come into his presence. I want to watch, to be hyper-vigilant to the activity of God all around me; I want to respond in trust like the shepherds and the wise men; I want the experience of celebration to characterize my worship on normal everyday Tuesdays and on the wonder that Christmas day brings.

I love the traditional Christmas hymn, Angels from the Realms of Glory. Click here to be reminded of the Christmas story and our invitation to come and worship.

Next Thursday, Echoes of Grace is on Christmas break. I look forward to being back with you in the new year starting January 4, 2018.

And if you haven’t read of some of the other invitations Christmas brings, please scroll down and read, Come to Me all who Labor and are Heavy Laden, November 30.
Come and Have Breakfast, December 7.
Come and Return, December 14.

May this be a Merry Christmas responding to the invitations of our savior.

The Invitations of Christmas, Come, Return

Re-calibrating my heart to God’s invitations.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins be like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18

Long before I knew anything about the Old Testament prophets like Hosea and Isaiah quoted here, and long before I was aware of an invitation coming my way, God was initiating toward me.

I’d always believed in God. Church and youth group were part of my upbringing. I’m so thankful for these traditions started in my family. My high school guidance counselor recommended Hope College because of its association with the church our family attended at the time.

But during my years at Hope, my heart was opened to another reality. Church was supposed to be more than a Sunday morning activity, more than a Christian tradition. It was not something I did just because I was Protestant.

“I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings.” Hosea 6:6, The Message

The ah-ha came during the fall of my sophomore year at Hope. That night our college-aged youth group hosted a singing group from another campus. Their message in song and story connected with me. They spoke of a personal relationship with God. Being a Christian was more than their religion, it was a relationship with God, it was their identity. They shared about the gift of Jesus who was born a human baby to pay the penalty for my misdeeds, to be the sacrifice for me. Jesus was a gift from God offered to me, a gift to be received.

The ah-ha demanded a response and so with my good friend, Shirley and a gal from the other campus, I prayed. I thanked Jesus for taking the penalty for my sin. And I told him I wanted to receive him, that gift of relationship, of friendship.

“‘Come, Sit down. Let’s argue this out.’ This is GOD’s Message: ‘If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white. If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool.'” Isaiah 1:18, The Message

Two significant things happened that night:

1. I returned to my dorm a different person. Not only did I believe in God, I had now received the gift of becoming part of his family.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12, italics mine.

This verse has been a favorite since then. It’s recorded in my prayer journal and I often allow it to remind me of my true identity.

2. Shirley introduced me to Bible study as a way to listen to God, to develop my new found relationship. My Bible was no-longer just a history book to be read.

Over the years as my new-found relationship with Jesus has grown, other Bible verses have become special to me like I John 3:1 which speaks of both the depth of God’s love for me and also the truth of my identity.

“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

And those Old Testament prophets … there is still a lot I don’t understand. But I do see their contribution to my story. Their words often express my heart. I’m thankful that because of Jesus, my sins are as “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). And as Hosea communicates, the Lord continues to come to me, to woo me to return, so I respond and come.

Like the invitation to come and have breakfast with Jesus this invitation to return is always out there for me, for us.

Gifts are only gifts when they are received. This Christmas what will it look like for you to receive the gifts offered to you by God?

If you want a fellow-sojourner to talk more about this or to pray with you like Shirley did with me, come … my invitation is for you, my door is open, the tea kettle is on.

If you missed the other invitations I’ve shared on Echoes of Grace, I invite you to visit them…

November 30, Come, all who Labor and are Heavy Laden.
December 6, Come and Have Breakfast.

Next week, December 21, Come and Worship.