Easy ~ A Soul Word

“Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word … The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.” (p. 126 Soul Keeping, John Ortberg)

For over 25 years I worked with a national sales company. The products fit my life style and extrovert that I am, I loved the party plan.

My achievements led to my significance. Sustaining that significance offered acceptance by the company and by my peers and ultimately for me.

But oh the burden. If I didn’t keep it up, my acceptance floundered.

Achievement > Significance + Sustenance = Acceptance. 
Climbing the ladder of Works.

Do you see it? WORKS!!! When I stopped performing, my acceptance dwindled. For an extrovert  that is devastating. And exhausting. Circumstances ruled. My soul un-involved, life not easy.

For a while I could do it. The new relationships, the fun of the party, the income fueled my motivation. The acceptance followed. But it depended on WORKS! Eventually the paradigm crumbled.

A good thing. After 26 years, I hung up that hat.

Reading Soul Keeping last summer, this story came to mind illustrating again how diametrically opposed works is from grace.

As the meeting that evening at our church drew to a close, and the sanctuary emptied of hundreds of ladies, I sat rooted on the pew, tears streaming. I got it. I realized I had made a sub-conscious vow that caused me to live with the goal of proving I was good enough. The Holy Spirit through the speaker brought awareness. My ladder of success was leaning against a wall that could not support it. I worked hard to achieve and was somewhat successful; my significance glowed when others noticed.

Grace starts with realizing my acceptance, my child of God status that is never in jeopardy. As I meditate of my acceptance (sustaining it), my significance is secure. And as I live out my significance, there is achievement fruit (in Bible words). My child of God identity (my acceptance) yields the achievement, not the other way around. My soul thrives; the yoke easy.

Acceptance + Sustenance > Significance = Achievement.
Experiencing the ladder of grace.

My achievements rest on knowing my acceptance. I breathe more easily just typing those words.

When Jesus was baptized, before his earthly ministry began, the Spirit affirmed his identity,
“You are my beloved son.” Jesus heard these same words right before the cross on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”

His beloved-ness, his identity (his acceptance) ushered him into ministry and was God’s affirmation at the end of his life. It fueled his life. His significance secure in the love of his Father.

But sometimes I get tired … really tired! If Jesus’ yoke is easy, why is life feeling so heavy?

I’m forgetting. The temptations the devil offered Jesus all depended upon his forgetting his acceptance as the beloved. It didn’t work. Unlike Jesus, sometimes I forget my identity and believe my achievements depend on my works, not grace, not living out my acceptance as a beloved daughter.

Sometimes it’s my calendar. I let my times of solitude and listening get squeezed. Or white space takes on a hue.

Sometimes it’s my thinking – you know, it’s all up to me.

Sometimes it’s forgetting those other things that are life-fulfilling … like Scrabble with Bill, my walks with my dog, coffee or a good movie with a friend. These keep my yoke easy.

An easy yoke communicates grace and that my achievements rest on my acceptance. My soul breathes holy air. It is good.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:1-3 (bolding, mine)

 

 

 

 

Rocks, Ruts, and Roadways

January – a bumpy ride with glorious vistas.

Not one to make new year’s resolutions, the thought of one word for the year intrigued me. Although the word rest kept surfacing, when my friend mentioned resiliency, it clicked. My life resembled a rubber-band stretched taunt, no resiliency, lacking the ability to snap back. I seems I’d forgotten my own wisdom.

With my understanding of resiliency entrenched in my thinking, my decisions, and my prayers, I walked into the new year. Already, I’ve tripped on rocks; I’ve stumbled in and out of ruts; I’ve been encouraged by some glorious vistas along the road. And I’m re-learning the truth of Isaiah 55:8.

Rock-shaped Invitations

Traveling is part of my reality. Visiting family most often requires airports. Ministry opportunities abound. Sometimes I travel alone, often Bill and I go together. I’ve heard myself say, As much as I love each trip, I wish they were a bit spread out.

As December turned to January airports were curiously missing (not completely) from my calendar. It felt good, space to build resiliency.

Then the invitations started; I dug in my heels as I perceived the invitations as rocks. The still small voice whispered, Sue are you willing to trust me with these rocks? Will you allow me to define resiliency for you?

I have not RSVP-ed to all the invitations yet. I have RSVP-ed to God, Yes, I know I cannot protect myself. Thank you for taking that responsibility.

Ruts, some good, some not

I’m an initiator. That’s part of my creation – a good thing. Inviting flows naturally: a friend over for lunch, another to meet for coffee, ask the neighbors in for a Valentine Tea – it’s a rut that easily happens. One summer about five years ago, I sensed God wanted me to put that piece on hold for June, July, and August. I’m sensing the same now. I need to climb out of this good rut for a bit.

Sometimes I just can’t help myself. Here’s an invitation for you.
If you have not already signed up for the Echoes of Grace community, please do.
In a few days I’m sending those in the community, a copy of my S-C plan,
a spiritual habit that has transformed my devotional life.
You can print it out and stick it in your Bible or journal.
But I need your email.

Back to my thoughts on ruts …

One of my not good ruts is a lie that haunts me, I’m not good enough. I’ve known this for a long time and I also know how to defeat it with truth. I am very good. I have the DNA of godliness. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My guess is because you are reading this, you are too. But our enemy is alive. As new opportunities come, my default isn’t always truth. Lies drain. Truth fills.

Resiliency rests on my recognizing my good ruts and my not good ruts.

Roadway Vistas

Thank you to my nephew Greg for this beautiful view.

Beautiful vistas are life giving.

Paul reminds me in Ephesians 2:10, that God has prepared me for his purposes and I’m to walk in them. Ahhhh, walking, breathe deeply, enjoy the visitas – so life-giving.

Jeff, my son offered this understanding of Psalm 16:11, our boundary lines are in pleasant places, not because of where they are, but because of who put them there.

Often comfort food novels bring times to enjoy the road. Jan Karon is one of my favorite authors in this category.

I find sitting by the side of the road enjoying vistas fosters resiliency.

Vistas along the roadway happen in many forms: words, views, quietness, and more. Each offers hope, space, resiliency.

I’m learning. What about you? How do you snap back? What offers resiliency to you?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
Isaiah 55:8

Anecdote, Antidote and Anger

On August 1, five months ago (it’s written in my journal), I woke up disappointed ANGRY at Bill. I don’t remember why … I’m glad I didn’t write that part.

Before my feet touched the floor, I prayed, God, what would it look like to trust you today?

The prayer I voice almost every day was especially needed that day.

About an hour later, I sat on our swing with John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping in hand. The chapter titled, The Soul Needs Gratitude was my reading that morning. I learned the Hebrew term for gratitude literally means, “recognizing the good” and involves three factors, three bene’s (the Latin word meaning good). Hmmm, why didn’t I remember that from my high school Latin? But I digress.

  1. Benefit – “Bless the LORD, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits,” Psalm 103:2. Good springs from God.
  2. Benefactor – do you almost see the word factory? A benefactor is one who does good. As a Christian, I believe that it is God’s factory creating the good that comes my way. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above …” James 1:17
  3. Beneficiary – that’s me, the one who receives the good gifts from God who always has my best interests in his heart. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God graciously allowed my anger to be reformatted, realigned, and dissipate that morning as I remembered the goods I was experiencing.

One of my goods that came to mind was a conversation with Diane last spring. She and I were getting to know each other during our annual mission’s conference. As we shared our stories, we were amazed at how our journeys were intersecting. It was the beginning of a deepening friendship which is growing through texting prayer requests and scripture to each other. Diane’s friendship is one of my gifts.

A few weeks ago we received Diane and Bill’s Christmas letter. Between April and December 2016, Diane kept a thankfulness list recording a whopping 4360 entries! (Move over Ann*) I knew the circumstances of Diane’s life; I did not know of her thankfulness list. She tells me her list, born out of a daily wrestling and need to reformat and realign her thinking, was like putting on corrective lenses, clarifying her focus, and enabling her to see God and his grace more clearly.

Her entries spanned the death of her dad, the continuing saga of her mom living with progressive dementia, and their 35 year old daughter’s episode with cardiac arrest. A BIG thank you is that God spared her life and she is now back at work.

Diane’s journey fleshed out Ortberg’s teaching.

  1. Thankfulness reformats our thinking. We remember God’s benefits.
  2. The source of our thankfulness is God, our benefactor, not our circumstances.
  3. The habit of recording our thankfulnesses, recognizing we are the beneficiary, is the reason we can rest in peace that passes understanding. Philippians 4:7

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:16-17

*Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts spent 60 weeks on the NYT’s Best Seller List and has ministered extensively around the world.

Wiggle-Room

Rachel celebrated her 30th milestone last July.

She connected with several of us (older, ah-hem) friends asking for a gift – our gift of words written on a card and delivered by snail mail. How old-fashion.

I loved it. Rachel is a wise woman. She hunts wisdom and listens well.

How would I respond?
What scripture would I share?

One concept kept re-surfacing – wiggle-room. Guarding space for the unexpected; planning for the unknown.

Spiritually speaking, wiggle-room is a necessary ingredient of Sabbath-living*, my designated time for enjoying the friendship of God.

But there is more … three lessons I practice to preserve wiggle-room (and my sanity).

  1. White-space on my calendar is as much of an event as the doctor appointment, or lunch with my friend. It is my designated time for rest and re-fueling. I keep a weekly white-space day. One of my goals for that day is to not need car keys. And Bill and I reserve a white-space month every summer for time at our small cabin in the mountains. We call it our Sanctuary.
  2. I don’t need to create ministry. God whispered those words to me almost 15 years ago. I love ministry to women! Creative ways to live that out abound. As God fleshed out his meaning for me, I learned that my most significant context is my normal world. Ministry surrounds me. Live inside my God-created boundaries and ministry will happen. Psalm 16:6.
  3. The need is not the call. I could do that, but should I? I’m learning that the word should is a yellow-flashing light. I need to slow down and look both ways. Look back to how God has been speaking; look forward to how this need might effect my now. The needs will always exceed my capacity.

Two scriptures I regularly pray over, John 1:12 and I John 3:1 both call us children. Children need protection. After Noah, his family, and all the creatures were safely inside the ark, Genesis 7:16 (NLT) records, “… then the Lord closed the door …” It is frightening to think what might have transpired, if God had not closed the door on his children. God closing doors is a good thing. It preserves wiggle-room.

I don’t always follow my own wisdom well, but referring back to and praying over these principles provide guidance as new opportunities come.

Last summer I invited Jo and Kathy to a course on living in the reality of applied grace (my name for the High Trust Leader certificate. Please ask.) Both intrigued, both drawn, both prayed.

Jo signed on the dotted line.
Kathy declined … but please ask again.

Both considered wiggle-room. Jo opted out of another small group to make space; Kathy is one semester away from finishing another online course. It was easy to affirm the decisions of both my friends. They were living the way I want to live, considering wiggle-room.

The scripture I shared with Rachel was from I Thessalonians 1 in The Message, “God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special … Something happened in you … Your life is echoing the Master’s Word …” (I changed it to the first person.)

What helps you from becoming overwhelmed by opportunities?
Do you have scriptures that provide guidance for you? Please share. You’ll encourage us all.

 

*To learn more about my Sabbath-Living retreats, and how I facilitate the opportunity for my friends to grow in enjoying the friendship of God, scroll back to the top and click on Sabbath-Living (the third offering on the pink line).

 

Reflecting on The Gallop

As many other of you were stashing ornaments, considering New Year’s resolutions, 2017 goals, or perhaps your one word for the new year, our Christmas celebration was just gearing up – the first of our GRANDS arriving on December 29.

In the midst of joyful chaos, kid-friendly fun, loads of laundry, and even more trips for groceries, the Holy Spirit continued to whisper – his still, small voice discernible even over the galloping of little feet.

His four (not new) words he whispered to me reminded, directed, and comforted.

“For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy one of Israel,
‘In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'”
Isaiah 30:15a (underlines mine)

ReturningMy early-in-the-day habit of pondering and celebrating God’s love waned as my new alarm clock now had two tiny feet and wanted to cuddle while watching the antics of Mickey Mouse.

Two year old Ezra often reminded me of God’s heart as he came close and put up his hands and begged, “I hold you?” Ezra speak for, Will you pick me up and hold me tight? What a great picture of God’s desire for me. He wants me to be close and held tightly by his love. I’m returning to this habit of celebrating his love.

RestI need physical rest; I also need spiritual rest. While physical rest is easier to define and measure, I’m finding it is connected with spiritual rest. I practice spiritual rest as I take time to review the words God has spoken to me in the past and listening for how the speak to my now. I often ask myself questions like, How might today look if I believe these words? Shelly Miller reminds me in her book, Rhythms of Rest, quoting Jan Johnson, “When there is Sabbath rest in my life, I find ministry springs forth from a spiritual place rather than a frantic, flesh-driven place” (p. 85). This is my heart; rest is essential.

QuietnessOh how I need this! I start my early-in-the-day habit in the quietness of my special room. My favorite chair facing the triple window and with coffee in hand I sit and stare at the beauty God created for that day. It’s a time of enjoying and just being.

At other times, our Golden Retriever, Lexie, is a good companion for me in this area. She looooooves her walks. And the paths through the woods behind our home offer daily life-giving doses of quiet. Inside or outside, quietness restores my soul.

TrustEvery time our kids planned outings for their littles, they invited me along. I so wanted to go and be with them! But sometimes my wise husband suggested not. Sue, take advantage of a few hours of quiet. His protection was right; it was what I needed. Trust – protected – the way I want to live.

As I contemplated these four nouns, for the first time I believe God chose a word for me for 2017 that encapsulates returning, rest, quietness, and trust. I’m not planning how to live this word; I’m trusting God to show me how to experience this word. I’m excited. My word is rest.

The kids are back to their homes; no more bed-time books and songs. The gallop they brought is history. But life still gallops – now my gallop travels a different landscape. I’m looking forward to learning to rest in the reality of this gallop.

As you look forward to this new year, what are you anticipating?
Have you made goals for 2017, or possibly heard a word from God?
Do you want to partner together by praying for each other as we experience God this year?
Answer in the comments, or email me at suetell.com. I’d love to journey with you.

A GRAND-kid Pause

CA kids, me & Bill, KS clan

Trust you are enjoying (like we are) or have enjoyed the Christmas season.

Christmas for us this year came a week late. Our 3 CA GRANDS and their parents came a week ago. And we’re not sure they’ll fly out tomorrow with the winter storm warning. On Monday our 2 KS GRANDS and their parents arrived for about a week. We have a full and happy house. And “Oh the noise, the noise, the noise, noise, noise noise” to quote the Grinch … which I’ve read about a hundred times in the last 7 days.

Yesterday was presents. We’ve been to the electric safari at the zoo, played in what little snow we have, been riding the ATV, drinking hot chocolate, and creating memories.

Ashlyn, Ezra, Judah, Naomi, Jack

As I type, they are enjoying a Colorado winter hike, and Bill and I are enjoying a rare few minutes of quiet.

Although my ideas for Echoes have been simmering, there has been little time to write. So I decided to enjoy the present of the present and love on our GRANDS. Ezra still loves to cuddle.

Echoes of Grace will return next Thursday, January 12.

Love, sue

Experiencing the Prince of Peace

theresa-thaete-2-2Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century monk and founder the Jesuits left us with a method of reflecting on a day, week, month, or year known as examen, a way of listening to and discerning God’s presence in our lives. It invites us to slow down and pay attention. Examen is a practice between you and God, done in silence.

Thank you to my friend, Theresa Thaete who broke from her silence to encourage us. Although she doesn’t refer to examen, as she meditated on Isaiah 9:6, she was experiencing it.

2010 was a year of intense dread and sadness. Usually I eagerly anticipated Advent and Christmas; I loved putting up our tree and watching the faces of loved ones opening the gifts I had so carefully chosen. Not that year.

One of our sons was acting out and seeking to fill the pain in his life with all the things that teens do. I never knew what to expect, every day a new challenge.

I’d often run to the phone exasperated interrupting my husband at work seeking his wisdom. Or dialing a friend, a safe person, to ask for prayer … or just plain vent.

At times I even chose to leave my home not feeling safe in the same house with him.

On one of those occasions, running in fear, I cried again to the Lord; probably for the millionth time. My feeling of guilt (a gift from God) was real. I kind of knew I needed to be running to God first, not my husband and friends.

God graciously brought Isaiah 9:6 to mind. (I bet you too have been seeing this verse a lot during the Christmas season.)

isaiah-9-6-2Immediately these four awesome titles that God alone bears began to speak to my heart. I repented and my eyes turned from my circumstances and focused on God.

Eagerly and a bit hesitantly I leaned into my Good Shepherd, I listened for His love. The experience of relief was almost physical.

I marveled as God showed up as my Wonderful Counselor over and over. He provided clarity of thought and direction. I noticed I was growing in trust as I reached less for my cell phone. Sometimes I even heard specific words in response to the hard of my life.

I experienced the opening and closing of seemingly locked tight doors; my Mighty God assuring me of His perfect timing and sovereignty.

As my Everlasting Father, I was touched by many expressions of His love and tenderness. He knew what would speak uniquely to my heart. Sometimes I saw how He stretched and disciplined me for my growth.

(This was one of the most challenging titles for me as I have some deep “father wounds”.)

Over and over, His peace comforted me. He was my personal Prince of Peace providing comfort in the intense stresses of life.

Pondering Isaiah 9:6 has become a New Year’s tradition for me. Although I cling to this passage throughout the year, it is particularly meaningful as I look back each New Year purposing to see the faithfulness of God. I also list what I’m expecting in the upcoming 365 days and ask God that these descriptors would be my reality in my unknown.

What circumstance from 2016 might you put through the grid of Isaiah 9:6? What are you hearing from God?

Or reflecting on this past year (examen), how would you answer these questions?

Where have you noticed God’s presence in your life?
Where have you noticed weariness, or fear, or resistance?
How have you experienced God’s love?

Perhaps thinking through Isaiah 9:6 might be something that would greatly encourage your faith as we start the new year like it has done for me.

May you be aware of God’s presence in 2017!

I’m thrilled to partner with Sally Breedlove, my friend and author of Choosing Rest to offer you a lovely printable and a very generous excerpt from her book. Possibly the best advice you will receive heading into 2017. To receive this gift, make sure you are signed into the Echoes of Grace community. On the top right is your invitation to join with your name and email address. I will be sending your gift out between Christmas and New Years. You won’t want to miss out AND yes, you are welcome to share this with your friends.

Yikes, A Christmas Glitch ~ FIXED!

A quick note …

I just learned of a glitch which is preventing you from joining the Echoes of Grace community (subscribing). And you do want to subscribe because …

My Gift for you …

I’m thrilled to partner with Sally Breedlove, my friend and author of Choosing Rest to offer you a lovely printable and a very generous excerpt from her book. Possibly the best advice you will receive heading into 2017. To receive this gift, make sure you are signed into the Echoes of Grace community. On the top right is your invitation to join with your name and email address. I will be sending your gift out between Christmas and New Years. You won’t want to miss out AND yes, you are welcome to share this with your friends.

Please email me (sue@suetell.com) with the email address you want to use and I will add you from my end. Hopefully this glitch will be fixed this week.

Scroll down for this week’s Echoes post, A Christmas Prayer, A Blessing, and A Gift.

Merry Christmas weekend!  Back to the wrapping.  sue  

 

A Christmas Prayer, A Blessing, and A Gift

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Make sure and read all the way to the bottom ~
for a message you won’t want to miss.

The wooden manger sat in the front of our church. During worship we quietly wrote our concerns on pieces of hay (yellow paper) and delivered them to the manger, to Jesus who says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  The symbolic gesture reminded, the overwhelmings quieted even in the midst of another 2016 hard.

 A few weeks ago a dad and two of his kids met Jesus face-to-face when their small plane went down in Alaska on their way to a volleyball tournament. Although I don’t know this family personally, he was the cousin of one of our friends. I hurt with their family. Will they experience the peace Jesus came to bring this Christmas?

Christmas, the season of joy, hope, peace on earth … and not isolated from hards.

“I have said these thing to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Peace resides in the DNA of Jesus, the gift of Christmas, the one who overcomes.

“For he himself is our peace …”
Ephesians 2:14

My Christmas prayer for you …

Father, this Christmas week, my friends who have walked the reality of hard hards this year are much in my thinking; their faces and their realities parade through my mind, their names written on pieces of hay, a reminder to pray. I ask for each that thy would experience the peace that emanates from you, Prince of Peace. Peace I cannot fathom apart from you. Father in your overflowing grace, I ask for them, I ask for us all …

That your peace that defies explanation, will be our reality.
That your peace that is the blessing of your presence, will be our reality.
That your peace that comes from a mind stayed on you, will be our reality.
That your peace we are invited to experience, will be our reality.
That your peace promised the righteous, will be our reality.
That you, Prince of Peace, born in a manger, will transform our hard realities.
Amen.

Please enjoy this Christmas Blessing, thank you to Keith and Kristyn Getty.

My Gift for you …

I’m thrilled to partner with Sally Breedlove, my friend and author of Choosing Rest to offer you a lovely printable and a very generous excerpt from her book. Possibly the best advice you will receive heading into 2017. To receive this gift, make sure you are signed into the Echoes of Grace community. On the top right is your invitation to join with your name and email address. I will be sending your gift out between Christmas and New Years. You won’t want to miss out AND yes, you are welcome to share this with your friends.

Next week, one of my good friends is sharing her story of meeting the Prince of Peace in the midst of her reality.

 

Blessed is She who Believed

“And blessed is she who believed …” the words that Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, greeted Mary with that long ago day in a town in Judah.  I wonder if a hug accompanied them?

 

What was it that Mary was believing?

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

With nine little words, Gabriel offered two HUGE truths … Mary was favored; and the Lord was with her.

“Favored” the Greek word charis often translated grace speaks of Mary’s identity and reality. In a sue paraphrase, the text could read, Good morning, dear Mary, you who are experiencing the grace of God.

Have you heard the Lord call you ‘favored’? Jesus, the incarnation of grace, calls us favored too. Although his word might sound more like loved, as children of God, we are favored recipients of grace.

Mary’s favored status led to confidently thinking about and questioning what she was hearing. I get that. Her considering not challenging, allowed her to respond, “let it be to me”. Mary was alive to God.

“So you also must consider yourselves … alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:11

Paul penned those words, the first imperative in Romans, as the way to walk in newness of life (6:4). I ask myself, do my questions demand or trust? Do my questions validate my identity? Am I considering myself alive to God?

AND, “the Lord is with you!” Right now, you are experiencing the nearness of God.

The same greeting that wowed Mary that long-ago morning is for us, we who are loved by God — he is with us.

Gabriel’s message supporting the words of the prophets, was familiar to Mary, but I wonder, did Mary ever put herself in the story?

Isn’t that true of us as well?
Would we not be amazed if we knew God’s plans for us?

God not only speaks of our now reality, he also gives hope for our future.

Jesus speaking to his closest friends near the end of his life says in John 16,
“I still have many things to say to you …” (verse 12)

And I believe Jesus still has many things to say to me, err, us.

Are we listening?
How do we hear?
Are we, like Mary, pondering what we hear?
I wonder, what are the gifts God has for us in this new year?

I want to hear God’s affirmations.
I want to experience God’s nearness.
I want to believe that God has more words for me.
Like Mary, I want to consider his words and respond, Let it be to me.

I bet you do too.

And I’d love to walk boldly and expectantly into the new year hand in hand. Are you in?