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

Thursday Connections

I awake on Thursday mornings anticipating two special connections.

I connect with you through a new Echoes of Grace post. And I love when you connect with me through your encouragements and questions. You can comment publicly in the comments below, or privately by email, sue@suetell.com. If you haven’t signed up to receive these posts in your inbox each week, please do. Then we won’t miss a week of connecting.

And I look forward to Thursday mornings each week to connect with God. Thursday is my sabbath morning. It starts with sitting, coffee, a time of quiet, and enjoying whatever God decides to serve up that day outside my triple window. (In warmer weather, I take this sacred time outside).

My morning progresses. I open my Bible, my journal, often my art journal to capture with color the words I’m hearing. God and I converse through my prayers for you and for others. Sometimes words fill blank pages with verse like, Today is a SIT Day, that I share below. (Originally penned three years ago in the summer, I changed a few lines to reflect the now, the winter).

I keep these sacred few hours each week non-scheduled, following the lead of the One I enjoy. Do you have a sabbath time? What does it look like for you? I love sharing ideas and learning from others.

My friend Nancy enjoying a sabbath time at Glen Eyrie on a warm winter day.

Today is a SIT day,
A day to be,
A day to listen,
A day to ponder.

Today is a SIT day,
A day without schedule,
A day without have-to’s,
A day to follow the lead of Another.

Today is a SIT day,
A slow walk day,
An enjoy the soft snowflakes day,
A feel the cool breeze on my face day.

Today is a SIT day,
A no errand day,
A no project day,
A simple day.

Today is a SIT day,
A play day,
A Sabbath day,
An away-from day.

Tomorrow is a Martha day,
A different gift from God day,
A unique, special day,
BUT
Today is a Mary day.

“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”
Luke 10:39

 

 

 

 

Without a Niche

Niche – A comfortable place, or status, or position appropriate for a person. From google and the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Why was a niche so important to me?
What did the niche provide for me?
How did the niche develop?
Who affirmed my niche?
When did I feel most secure in the niche?

It all started with missing the early morning flight. The small airport had few passengers that day. My friend and I chatted comfortably as I waited for the boarding announcement. Every few minutes I glanced at the clock. Shouldn’t we be boarding by now? Isn’t it time to walk through the security turnstile? I waited (bad choice). No announcement. Finally I go to the desk and ask. Oh, our public address system is out of order. Your plane is taxiing down the runway right now. Without me!

I WAS MAD!

Because I missed that plane, my niche was in jeopardy (or so I thought). My significance, my role, my worth, all on the line.

There was a later plane. And the niche I was missing could easily be filled (and was) by another.

But the issue rested in why was the niche so important to me? (And the other above questions).

That niche represented my misplaced identity.

The weekend went downhill, the discouragements unrelenting.

I gave up. I didn’t care. I’d put on a mask and pretended all was well.

It was my lowest point spiritually; and a turning point.

Could I understand that pain as part of my gospel journey? How I answer that question makes all the difference.

“Come to me … my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
from Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

That weekend the burden was heavy. The come to me invitation drowned by my perception of the circumstances. The drone of my perceived reality deafening the beautiful melody God was orchestrating.

I had always had a niche, a team, a place of belonging.

God was gently (although it didn’t seem gentle) chipping away at my external support system. He wanted to be my support.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare … to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11, ESV

That weekend, the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 never entered my thinking. To jump into the deep end and trust God’s good plan was anathema. God was going to need to initiate. And isn’t that so like God? He is always the initiator.

“We love because he first loved us.”
I John 4:19, ESV

God knew his niche for me, his place of belonging, his supports, his destiny for me with my name written all over it.

This was new (for me, not for God). My known-ness had always rested in a recognizable team, had dictated my worth, was the place I expected fruit, was now resting in God’s love.

My ears were becoming attuned to God. My niche not dependent on airplanes.

Although my specifics are different from Abram, I hear God saying,

“I will make of you …
I will bless you …
you will be …”
from Genesis 12:2, ESV