California Pizza Kitchen, God, and Me

California Pizza Kitchen creation

You see a crust; we see a canvas advertises California Pizza Kitchen. I love it. They desire to create pizza that not only pleases the palate but also the eyes. Their everyday work is their art.

I remember attending a tea with my friend Ginny. The setting was lovely; the food served artfully; and we knew the speaker loved what she was doing. Her topic was the many forms of beauty.

Often I look out windows to see beauty, God’s handiwork, his beauty. At home the evergreens and the Aspens capture my attention. Recently I visited Mom in NJ. The mature deciduous trees that surround her home in their early spring splendor are beautiful. The wide open spaces of the western deserts or the mid-west farmlands offer their definition of beauty. God uses his created beauty to speak his love to me.

Colorado beauty

New Jersey beauty

My friend Gary and my cousin Andrew use their paintbrushes to add beauty to our world.  I’m in awe of their art.

Artist, Gary Bradley

 

Artist, Andrew Weatherly

Driving home I ask Ginny, What did you hear? Without hesitating she responds, I need to get back to my home. Ginny’s home is her canvas, her work of art. Her response spurs my thinking. For Ginny, homemaking is a pleasure; it energizes her, satisfies her; it’s her desire, her gift to others; it’s the artist in her, the reflection of God in her life.

Creating a beautiful home, using a paintbrush or serving a pizza are a few of the ways we reflect God. It is our gift to others.

Later I receive an email from her … I was blessed (by the tea) and continue to think about how I can make our surroundings beautiful…whether with flowers, a nicely set table, music, candles, or just an attitude adjustment! Beauty takes on many forms, eh? My friend is right.

“For we are his workmanship,”***
Ephesians 2:10a

The Greek word for workmanship is poema. Paul could have said, we are his poem, his work of art.

Although I too enjoy offering a beautiful home, housecleaning will never energize me. My canvas is different.

I love how personal and creative God is! His beauty and creativity are displayed in so many ways.

“Love of Beauty is taste. The creation of Beauty is Art.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Uncovering desire is the practice of learning how to look farther beneath the surface …
It may require time, space, and solitude to allow our souls to become quiet enough
to settle into what is most true … an important step to uncovering the art
we were born to make.”
Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways

“For we are his worksmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand,
that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10

What is your art, your offering of beauty to our world?

***Click here to read some words I wrote in 2010 on Ephesians 2:10.
***I consider writing is one of my works of art.

Lies, Vows, Grace

My vow—not the good kind—was painfully clear to me. Even after the speaker finished I was rooted to my seat. I got it; and I didn’t like what I was getting. I was aware of lies I believed; but not the vows those lies led to.

The paralyzing truth, the clarity of my understanding that morning, was God’s grace toward me even though it didn’t feel like it. My friend sat with me; the rest filed out into their day, unaware. My tears flowed; I hoped they weren’t noticed.

Like everyone, I grew up believing certain things—lies—about myself. I’ve heard it said, “Children are great observers and horrible interpreters”. That was me. The twisted, warped interpretations of my life story led to a personal belief system that affected me negatively into adulthood. For several years I had been on the offensive; battling back with truth from Scripture.

But that wasn’t enough. Those lies—besides being untrue personal statements—created additional subconscious havoc for me. I  was clue-less. I made a vow (I didn’t know I made a vow); the vow was powerful. The vow, what I said to myself because of the lies I believed, controlled my behavior.

The lie I believed, I’m not good enough naturally led to the vow. I’ll prove to you I’m good enough. I’ll climb all the ladders in all my God-given contexts. And I tried. I was somewhat successful; it only led to more frustration doing nothing to combat the lie.

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death … For the mind
that is set on the flesh … cannot please God.”
Romans 8:7, 8

For the first time, I saw it; and it was very discouraging. I was trying to kill the lie by my own efforts, climbing ladders and setting my mind on my flesh. Not trusting God.

In desperation, I asked my friend, “What do I do; where do I go”? Her wisdom didn’t seem to help. She gently responded, “Awareness is huge”.

She didn’t tell me to stop living from the vow; she didn’t tell to go and ask forgiveness; she didn’t tell me to beware of future pitfalls; she just said, “Awareness is huge”. She trusted the Holy Spirit in me to lead me and to guide me.

Awareness is huge! My friend was right. It was the gentle encouragement I needed.

My awareness is leading to some ah-ha understandings.
My awareness is helping me answer some of the whys in my life.
My awareness is paralyzing some days as I ask myself, is this because of the vow?                                 My awareness is opening some very encouraging conversations.
My awareness is spinning new angles on the circumstances of my life.
My awareness is changing me.
My awareness continues to peel back more layers of my behavior and lead me to trust.

Awareness is HUGE. Awareness is a gift of God’s grace.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you (make you aware) into all truth,”
John 16:13, parentheses mine

When you think about the lies you believe, do you see them leading to vows to protect yourself?
How are you experiencing God’s grace in the midst of your lies and vows?
My friend often said, “Go on a treasure hunt for grace.” The speaker that morning was a grace treasure for me. So was my friend.

Five Lessons the Pediatric-ICU Taught Me

Ezra today, 2 1/2 years old

Two years ago this month, the text came. Ezra suffered a seizure and is in the ER. Twelve weeks in pediatric-ICU, five ambulance rides, and four hospitals later Ezra came home. Many of you continue to ask about our precious GRAND. Thank you so much. Your care and your prayers mean so much. He is doing well.

Ezra is a delightful 2 1/2 year old. His Hyperinsulinism is controlled by two injections daily. He takes them and his numerous pricks to check his blood sugar levels in stride. He has a g-tube permanently affixed to his belly allowing him to be fed during the night and keep his sugar levels steady. There were no visits to the hospital PICU this past year.

 

Naomi checking Ezra’s sugar level

I’m thinking I might be seeing the future for Doctor Naomi (4 year old big sister). She has learned how to help Mom and Dad with Ezra’s numerous blood sugar checks. She takes her job seriously often donning her white coat to carry out this important task.

As I look back at those long 12 PICU weeks, I hear God’s loving whispers. Five lessons surfaced  offering perspective and comfort.

  1. Often God’s perfect doesn’t match my perfect. Ezra was prayed for. He is fearfully and wonderfully made, perfectly knit together in his mother’s womb. I’m choosing to trust God’s perfect. The 6 weeks I spent in California with our kids I slept in Ezra’s nursery as he was sleeping in the PICU. The words on the picture on the left greeted me and reminded me each morning that Ezra is God’s answer to our prayers.
  2.  The Lord is our help in uncomfortable places. Los Angeles is surrounded by hills. As I drove those crazy LA freeways to the hospital, I gazed on the hills in the distance. As I sat in Ezra’s hospital room the view from the window was hills. Playing with big brother Judah and big sister Naomi … especially when we went to the park, the hills in the distance caught my attention. God was reminding me, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From

    Psalm 121:1, 2

    where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1, 2). As the Psalmist looked up to those hills, he knew the dangers hidden there. The wild animals and the thieves lurking there reminded him his help was from the Lord. During Aubrey’s (Ezra’s mom) long days in the hospital PICU, she cross-stitched this for me. It hangs above my desk, a reminder.

  3. There is a difference between fulfilling a role and dispensing love. It was the middle of the night in the hospital and Ezra’s cries woke me. The nurses were trying unsuccessfully to give him a bottle. I turned out of the roll-away bed, gathered Ezra in my arms, and settled with him in the rocking chair. He contentedly snuggled in eagerly draining his bottle. Ezra knew me. He trusted my gramma love. He relaxed in my arms. The nurses were trying to do their duty, fulfilling their responsibility; I loved Ezra and he knew it.
  4. Healing happens in a quiet place proclaimed the tall sign standing outside the PICU. I knew the message was requesting physical quiet, but I also recognize the spiritual implications. God asks us to be still (quiet) and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10). He tells us that our strength often resides in quietness (Isaiah 30:15). Many times my best conversations with God happen in  the quietness of the wooded paths

    The sign by the entrance of the PICU

    surrounding our home. And so one of my spiritual disciplines is to start my day in quietness, sitting and readying myself to hear.

  5. Jesus’ yoke fits well. Matthew 11:29 offers an invitation, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” As I listen to those words I hear, Sue will you respond with humility and trust accepting my will? Will you believe that this yoke is Sue sized and gentle? Will you believe that I’m carrying the heaviest part of this yoke?  I’m learning that God’s ways are always higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8, 9). And as my husband reminded me in his current blog, God gives us permission to not understand. For more of Bill’s Ezra story click here.

Next week in Echoes of Grace, I share lessons that I’m learning about returning.

Use Me or Love Me

Bill and I are doing something this week we’ve never done before. We put our home on our calendar every day and are using part of our vacation time for all those projects that kind of just get put off. You know.

So, this week I’m sharing with you a blog from another one of my on line friends. Another who I hope to meet in person some day.

May you be as blessed from her words as I have been.

Good news: God will not use you

Coming next Thursday ~ Meeting God through Ezra’s Story & an Ezra Update.

Ezra, 4 weeks old, December 2014

Till next Thursday …

 

 

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