. . . trusting? . . . and washing feet?

So, maybe I am not as content with confinement as I thought . . . confined . . . but free . . .

Something is wrong–just not quite right. This morning I just couldn’t bring myself to joy in the NOW moment. I wondered what had happened.  Even the birds’ chorus seemed a bit off-key.

I should be content. My cupboards are full; everything  replenished this week. Tom and  I have made great progress in ridding the gardens of  weeds. I even see humans! We seldon have walkers down this country road, but these days, people have the time to walk more miles; they wave and shout greetings. Our daughter is recovering from the virus. All is good. Right?

So what is this sense of doom, this complete hopelessness that threatens to tangle me in its web? In my ABC world (I often pray and praise with the letters of the alphabet . . . with the ABC’s), negative words tumbled onto my journal page. . . Anxious, Burdened, Confused in the Controversy, Disillushioned —– on and on so quickly— Fearful, Perplexed, Questioning, Restless in spirit, Uncertain.

Stop, stop. . . I scolded. Am I this afraid?  I began to read a Psalm for the day, then, two, then another.

It was the last Psalm I read that clinched the morning’s truth. “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10,11. I pondered this truth.  This is trust. I took a deep breath.

This Creator God delights in my trust. . .

. . . in the storm. . . any storm.

I began to relax a bit, not quite questioning as much. I picked up a book I am re-reading.  Many sentences in Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust  are highlighted, underlined, starred in some way as his words are so honest in regard to the truth of trusting.  I read this book years ago, and asked all my children to get a copy. I wonder if they did!

In the first pages, Manning shares that trust is the secret to living life.  Simple. . .  trust.  Jesus says in John 14:1—“Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Some translations say, “Trust in God, trust also in Me.”

Manning  gives us the words of the fifteenth-century theologian Angelus Silesius,“If God stopped thinking of me, He would cease to exist.” Manning believes this is a paraphrase of Luke 12:6-7. “Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.” The Jerusalem Bible.  “God, by definition is thinking of me.” Ruthless Trust  pg4.

Can I believe that this God has me— has you, each one of us— on His mind in the middle of a world health/ economic crises? Today, on this Maundy Thursday.

You may have received a message on social media to forward . . . if you love Jesus.  The idea is —  if you love Jesus, send the message to eight, ten or twelve people within fifteen minutes—or you will break the chain.  What chain? Hum . . . I wonder. . .

This God who asks that I trust Him, to believe that He loves me as I am, who says that the greatest commandment in all the world is to love Him with all my heart and the second one is to love my neighbor as I love myself . . . Mark 12:29; Matthew 22 :37. He knows my heart; He knows I love HIm.

The world doesn’t need to hear that I or you love Jesus; it needs to see this love. Hurting humanity, heartbroken people, some who feel unlovable, even some  family members. . . someone this Easter needs to know that I/you love them.  During this Easter time, I believe our precious, loving Savor would delight in me and you sending eight, ten, or twelve messages or cards, making that many calls to those we have failed to forgive and love.

I love the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet the night of the Passover supper. Only John of the four Gospels shares the servant heart of Jesus as He stoops to wash their dusty feet during dinner.  This night . . . Thursday . . .  is the time to reflect. I ask myself whose feet do I wash?   I have to be creative in this—- in this NOW 🙂

God confirmed His love for each one of us at Easter.  Now I am to spend every day proving the truth of Easter love . . .  to my world.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35.

. .  . trusting . . .  loving . . .  forgiving . . .  washing feet . . .

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A little bit of Austrian Easter memory

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. . . confined . . . but free . . .

There is a scene in the film Count of Monte Cristo that triggers fear in me . . . even now . It has been years since I saw the movie. I remember the close confines of the dungeon’s rock walls. One small window. Edmund Dantes’s 6 years of solitary confinement . . .

I can barely breathe.

What is it about confinement we dislike?

Then there are my bluebird houses.  The interior floor space is a mere 5 x 5 inches or 12.7 x 12.7 centimeters (for my European readers). That is just enough space to accommodate an entire brood of three, four or five baby birds snugly without too much excess space that would cause the hatchlings to chill.

20200325_121622(A new nest  . . .  eggs may come in a few days).

That is, indeed, a tiny space, but God’s design. The birds are restricted here, but this will enable them to enjoy freedom when they scatter on their journeys.  We, too, are limited in some freedoms at the moment.  What do we do when our freedoms are curtailed?  How do I respond to this incarceration?

I’ve been thinking about this— the house is in order–drawers and files are cleaned and organized.  Nothing remains to be done except a few pieces to iron. Oh, I just thought: I could go through all my recipes and put them in order, discarding those I will never use again. Ugh!  I have the freedom to read, write, study, call friends, do crafts, cook new dishes, bake more–Tom would love this one! — work in the gardens if rains stop — such freedom to choose my activity for this moment.

We have always been confined. Yes, but free. As Christians we are confined within the security of a loving God who constrains us to love, to serve, to give, to obey.  Currently we must find novel ways to fund this love.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I received an email this morning from a friend in Vienna, Austria, sharing how she is doing in her confinement.  I love the comment after she tells me she is well and staying active in her apartment.

“Interesting, enough people seem to be closer than ever before. Neighbors are doing the shopping for each other . . . a lot of discipline of the inhabitants of the city. That’s one of the good news.”

Interesting .  . . is it possible our home imprisonment could germinate compassion . . . across the entire planet? We can choose to embrace this crisis of staying at home in a productive, resourceful way.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

“Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. . . then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Psalm 142: 7

After Edmund’s six solitary years, mentioned in the film above, a prisoner tunnels into his cell.  For the next eight years, Abbe Faria, a brilliant man, mentors Edmund in languages, mathematics, history, philosophy . . . preparing him for his future life as a Count.

What an amazing choice in confinement?

We heard on the news this morning of an eight year old girl who is baking homemade bread with her grandmother.  She had noticed the grocery store shelves were empty of bread one day, so she decided she could do something.  Her neighbors are now ordering her bread!  We have a daughter-in- law who is making colorful masks for friends in the health care industry.

Tom and I are in a better place than many— here in the countryside of Tennessee. No cases of the virus in the county; we’re staying six feet away from all the cows.  And we have not lost a job.  I understand those concerns of others.

“Live as free men. but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16 . . . giving compassion . . . by writing, phoning, doing whatever you can six feet away!

In confinement . . . this NOW, I  am free . . .

 

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an apology is in order

To those on the journey to NOW with me,

I apologize for the inconvenience of yesterday’s blog. You, no doubt, received 2 posts— two and an half hours apart.  Our internet service was totally unpredictable and sporadic yesterday; I should have left my desk and walked away. Because it was our anniversary,  I so wanted it to post on the day!!

The blog had failed to post about 3 times, and then when service was connected again, it posted with abnormalities! I immediately  deleted the version which was out of order with triple pictures.  But it was already on its way in space, waiting to bombard your email.

I am so sorry. I had to delete all previous ones and rename it.  That’s why you have two with different names.  If you didn’t read the one . . . rewinding . . .  then please try again.

Thank you for your understanding.  What would we do without social media?

Sending thankfulness to each of you as you travel with me,

 

Barb Suiter

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. . . rewinding . . .

The clock struck an early hour. I lay still, listening to its steady whispers as time ticked away . . . one second after another. This heirloom has been ticking and chiming a long time.

The clock was Tom’s grandmother’s; the faded paper on the back reveals a date of 1907. We know she received this before she married as her maiden name is on the bill of sale holding fast with yellowed glue.

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There have been minor adjustments, but as far as we know, this family heirloom has never had a major overhaul.  Often we can hear the unhurried, almost laborious hums, as if the time piece is begging for a new burst of life. Without a timely winding, it would be silent.

As I lay there in the predawn, hearing the unbroken purr, I compared our marriage to this family heirloom. Tom and I have been married fifty six years TODAY.  That’s five decades plus six. Longer than many of you have lived!

Surely, there have been moments, even hours, when our hearts were out of tune with each other. Early years presented its difficulties when a rewinding was in order. But for most of these years, we learned that regular maintenance and a rewinding is mandatory for the continued beating of hearts together.

This clock is an eight day clock—means it HAS to be wound every eight days, or it slows until it stops. With proper care, this constant beating continues.

Normally the meaning of an heirloom is a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. I like this definition I read this week:

“A memorable contribution to family dynamics. You can create heirlooms even more valuable in the hearts of the heirs than any monetary worth could afford them. . .”  Jessica Toothman

We cannot leave our children anything  of  great monetary value. So what will we leave them.  The heirloom we leave our children and our younger friends, those couples we have married and mentored  these fifty years, is an example that  ‘two can become one’. Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4,5, Ephesians 5:31. And that it can, indeed, continue ticking and chiming into the good, possible and rewarding union the Creator designed for mankind.

When I lead women’s classes and conferences. I always stress  “you should learn something new about your man every day. Study your man.” Learn what makes him tick and how he ticks and when. And he should be learning how the wife ticks.  It is a life journey, a process of listening as time ticks away.

When the children were young, we tried to rewind  twice a year—I mean, an especially BIG rewinding.  In those early years we would go away for a night and two days—just to fall in young love again.  Those times became a strong foundation for our years then . . . for the NOW in this season on the journey. During other times, we always made time together—quality  time—to walk and talk, getting to know each other’s heart.

The ticks of a marriage are the everyday constant, even mundane kindnesses, the conversations that say, “I hear you”, the unexpected winks, the wiping away of tears. Chimes ring out in  the special events, the days of celebration, those surprise moments on the journey. Just as our clock would be silent without its regular 8-day winding, so our marriage would be silent without the proper attention given these fifty six years of learning how to become one.20200314_123306 (1)

So, to our children and grandchildren, we leave you this most valuable, cherished and exciting truth that when two hearts beat as one . . . anything is possible. We leave you an heirloom without any monetary value attached to it. We leave only one . . .  tarnished and worn, with countless mistakes, tears of forgiveness, years of love, much laughter and  thousands of hugs.

And our promise that we will always rewind . . . in order to leave you a beautiful heirloom.

 

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. . . the last time . . .

“This could be our last breakfast,” I solemnly said to Tom one morning last week. Events of the week had propelled my thoughts into last times and last things.

Last week a dear family friend had two strokes and given a poor prognosis; another friend lost an adult son, totally unexpected. Our daughter lost her aged mother-in law. Even though the family knew her time was limited, they lost someone very precious to them. At the funeral one of her sons shared his last time with her. He had helped with feeding her dinner, kissed her good night.  “I had no idea that would be my last time with her.” It had been the final good bye.

. . . the last time. . . there are many meanings for last. Final, end, ending, eventual, decisive, closing, climatic. Some of these definitions can be good, positive, expectant of something better, different. A friend had his last day of work this past week.  Retirement opens a new door for him. The last day of elementary school means your child is finally entering high school . . . that glorious time where new adventures await. Then there is the last day of that education trek and college waits.

So is life.  We find ourselves on one stage; the curtain goes down, and life opens on another.

But what about the last time . . . the very last time for life, for breath? That’s what I meant in the comment to Tom. He reached for my hand, and said, “Yes, Barb, it could be.” A tender, tearful sharing followed about living in the NOW.

Tom’s first funeral fifty one years ago was for a thirty-seven year old father with four young children. He had been mowing the lawn, a very ordinary part of life; he came in to rest on the couch as he sensed something was wrong. That death had a powerful effect on me as a young wife and mother.  Still, today, it affects how I view and have always viewed life and marriage.

I have today. . . this NOW. It has been important that Tom and I do not let anger linger, that we face and discuss our differences quickly. I have focused on loving him today, because I may not have tomorrow. We always hug (and not just a quick, generic hug.) when one of us leaves the house for the day, for a trip. It could be the last time.  This is the only way to love.  I am convinced I cannot live fully this moment without accepting the fact that I may only have this moment.

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I wear this pen one week a year. I wear it unashamedly with passion and gratitude for the man I love every moment. An older pastor’s wife that I loved dearly and from whom I learned much found this for me thirty five years ago.

Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came “that we may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows.” Amplified.  I would add that these words are more clear, more alive to me as I have learned to live in the Now, trusting the Lord, following Him in  . . . the moments I have today.

One of my favorite verses for marriage is Deuteronomy 24:5 . . . “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent off to war or have any other duty laid on him.  For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” Isn’t that an absolutely great plan!  You know what? Tom and I  forgot the part about one year. We have chosen to live out this principle for fifty-five years . . .  bringing joy and happiness to each other. Of course, we have failed many times, but this goal remains our focus.

This is not a sad or morbid post. It is a lovely way to live. Perhaps you need to begin this Valentine week to focus on the NOW . . . to live and love each moment . . . with the one you love. With your children. With your brothers or sisters.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him  . . . each moment (my  insertion)  . . .  so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Living this moment NOW . . . it could be my last . . .

 

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. . . just blind . . .

Why was the line in the post office so long? It took me a second to remember what week it was.  “This is not the week before Christmas, is it?” What is going on I wondered on this fourteenth day of January? There were at least twelve people in front of me, none of whom I considered normal.

Then every person turned in my direction, questioning me, pointing a finger. “Do you see me? What color am I?”

I wanted to run. . . they didn’t really point their fingers or even turn; they were more gracious than that. Only an hour earlier, I had posted my blog Colorblind. Secure and self-righteous in my love and acceptance of the colors of the world, I dropped in at the local post office to mail some notes . . . to those colors.

I had no idea I was self-righteous in this.  I sincerely love the colors I know. Evidently that is the secret—the colors I know, accept and see.

The thin, toothless man who had pushed past me as I opened the door to the post office was no doubt, homeless.  All indications told me so;  he had little material possessions and no genteel manners. His clothes, his hair, his perfume, the envelope he had in his hand, addressed to the left of a window envelope, which showed a folded, tiny, penciled note through the window . . .  shared his situation.

The colors of the world just happened to be here today, dressed in the latest fashion of   tattoos, bright colors of hair, multiple earrings in multiple places. Some in tight leggings, very tight, showing every available bulge. A dingy t-shirt offended me with its imprinted message.

I was stunned. Why are so many of ‘these’ here this day, this time? You know—the ones we call the fringe society.

Just as stunned, and almost immediately, I heard thunder; it sure sounded like thunder.  “Barb, do you see these colors? Each one is my beautiful creation, and I love them all. What will you do with these colors?”

I stood there, naked and condemned of my sin. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23,24. Amplified

Quickly, I headed for fresh air. Examining my heart all the way home, I sought God’s forgiveness for my judgmental attitude. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

What was surprising  is the fact my God would organize a meeting of the local fringe society at the exact time I would walk through the same doors. He loves me enough to show me who I am.

Thank you, Father, for forgiveness today.  And how grateful I am that “you do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great are your mercy and loving-kindness to us who reverently and worshipfully fear you.” Psalm 103:10,11 Amplified

A fringe society is defined as people or activities considered strange or extreme. When I looked  that word up in  the dictionary, I saw my picture.  After all, Barbara  means strange. . . even barbarian.

. . . If I know my heart at all, I desire to see and love people, all people. . .  as they are . . . on this journey to NOW.

Will you join me? . . .

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. . . colorblind? . . .

Now I remember . . . I remember what I miss most about our years in Vienna.

Color . . .  hearts painted in every shade of red, yellow, black and browns. I hugged color, laughed with color, prayed with color. And I was repaid with a richness of depth and perception that fills me, even today, with incredible joy.

While Achromatopsia, the state of total color blindness, affects thousands, a higher percentage of the population suffers milder forms of this deficiency.  One in twelve males is color blind!  According to one source, three hundred million people world-wide are unable to ‘see’ true colors.

I wonder that many of us may suffer from a Biblical form of colorblindness; we fail to see people as they were created in God’s image. In their uniqueness . . . in their color.

Tom and I  recently returned to the states after being ‘home’ in Vienna ten days this past December.

Prior to the ten years we served with the International Mission Board in Europe, I had been perfectly content in my pious, traditional religious world. I was colorblind. Our hushed hide-away allowed me to focus on the neighbor’s cows in the fields below with their spots and colors. Thousands of fire-flies in search of mates lit the woods around us on June moon-less nights, and I selfishly thanked God for His “light” to the world.

I served others, yes, in our ministry, but how smug I had been—living in my isolated retreat, feeding the birds and chatting with the rabbits and chipmunks— at the same time wondering why the rest of the world was not as contented as I.  “Don’t worry, be happy,” I smiled when I met others on the journey.

That was BEFORE the Lord invaded my peace one morning in 1998, and commanded me—in a soft whisper, “Barb, begin NOW to pray my heart for the world.”

Worshipping at the International Church in Vienna this past December 8, 2019, I was reminded of the first words the Lord whispered to me in this very same sanctuary the winter of 2000. “This is how heaven will be.” Joyful tears filled my eyes this day in December as they had almost twenty years ago.20191208_120345

I saw every face, created in the image of our Creator, colored in a perfectly tinted expression of His design. One of the first experiences I remember in 2000 is the circle of hands in every color and country, joined in worship and praise around the room as multiple dialects sang together:

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah to the Lamb,                                                                        Hallelujah, hallelujah by the blood of Christ we stand.                                                                   Every tongue, every tribe, every people, every land                                                                Giving glory, giving honor, giving praise unto the Lamb of God . . .

After a couple of years, the words of another song, “Love in any language, straight from the heart, binds us all together, never apart,” rang out clearly from the growing rainbow circle of hands.

Living in Vienna was stressful, yes.  But on Sundays, something happened.  In those hours, I forgot the cacophony of babble heard on the trains and trams; I forgot the smells, blended in sour fragrance in the markets; I shut my eyes to the graffiti drawn on subway tunnels by would-be revolutionists; I forgot how much I missed my grandchildren.

I was home. I opened the gate into the church garden, and I was home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were all ‘at home’. Each unique, different color of the rainbow present that Sunday seemed to be wrapped in the Father’s embrace, hearing a whisper, “I who created you, who formed you and redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1  Each one. Whatever your culture, your country, with your beautiful color. . . you are mine. I will be with you . . . this week. (my added emphasis)

Sunday morning, December 15, 2019, we attended another international church where we had ministered with the pastors through various events while in Vienna. I looked around and felt the same embrace of the Father.  It’s this love, this indescribable, unifying love, that brings us together. For a minute, I thought I had transferred to heaven!20191215_114847On the streets of Vienna, dark turbans cover heads; black burkas conceal feminine bodies, colorful scarves protect against the cold winds of the city, all the while hiding multiple scars and pain.  Constant reminders of different cultures surviving in a hostile world.  But a group of colorful, unified believers willing to love and be loved by a Holy Father staggers the imagination that this is possible. Differences in identity, culture, and history serve to magnify the truth of the Gospel.

And that happens anywhere, anytime, in the world when people come together with a love for the world, with a God-heart for the world.

For God so loved the world . . . John 3:16

I know why I was home.  We were together with a Father who loved all of us the same . . . every culture, every color, every heart. . .

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”    Revelation 7:9

. . . living color conscious in my world . . . NOW. . .

 

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This was a small dinner with ten people from the UN Bible study (two came after picture). Ten people, ten different countries.  Shows the colors heaven will be!!  Tom and I are the only Americans.

I wish I could post a picture of all my favorite colors of the world, my favorite people in the whole world— taken in December 🙂

. . . seeing color . . .

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. . . love these hearts.  .  .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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