Grace and Calling or No

I couldn’t guess if I tried how many bloggers are out there with words floating all about.

Occasional assertions like a “calling” to write or an unwavering assurance or this I must do. I must write.

Like so many other things, we’ve a sense of celebrity to it, we read what the successful ones publish, we lean in and listen, we get enthused with the possibilities or we slink away when the reality of luck and timing and perseverance cause us to crash.

I heard today that about 85% of people have ideas, believe their life contains a story that could be a book.

Yesterday, I came home from church and I read the words of Paul. I considered writing only momentarily. I rested instead and considered giving up my blog, print all of my favorite posts first and stack the stack of stories atop my desk and eventually pack away in a drawer.

But, here I am. I’ve returned.

I changed my tagline because someone skilled in blog traffic and “search speak” assessed my site last week.

Why not, I thought and then like an optimistic student hoping for a B, I was deflated, my report came back with the number 72, a D!

I added grace to my tagline, really just shuffled the letters in the line. Least I could do, the only thing I understand how to do.

I’m learning. I need to be open to the shifts, the sways, the steady steps forward. I need to grow.

Yesterday, about the time it is now, I sat alone at home with the dog at my feet.

The sun was warming the edge of the sofa and my Bible on the arm.

Today was different. 4:30 in the afternoon and it was dark and grey.

Raining, cold.

A writing task abandoned, I felt so little like a writer. Feels unlikely, this thing I thought I might do. So, I’m pushing back.

I tidied up my space, let the next tutorial pause a quarter way in.

Two sheets of lined legal pad are filled with potentially captivating titles, subtitles, notes and asterisks.

I put it away and stopped and thought again, you’ll soon be 60, you’ve been talking about this and refusing to give it up since almost three years ago.

I’ve got notes from church yesterday rewritten twice in three places today.

Most likely I’ll be writing them again.

It’s not trying harder. It’s surrender.

Share your story, yes.

Who you were and who you are.

But, mostly notice and follow what the Holy Spirit shows and tells you.

There is something in me that is greater than me.

I didn’t nap yesterday, I read Romans 8 instead.

I have no idea if a book is in me. I thought I surely knew before.

But, I never surrendered the outcome, the beginning nor the end.

I never asked God directly.

I never, in fact even asked at all.

God, is it your will that I write?

A book?

A book that I already gave a title, named and numbered the chapters, and planned the dedication?

I’m asking now.

And I’m not trying as hard.

I promise.

I surrender my words either stacked up in sheets or bound together in a book, my name across the bottom.

I pray you will help me, God, teach me to be content either way.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It occurred to me yesterday what a joy my blog is to me. I thought of the feeling when thoughts become words just descriptively fine and I’ve cherished the kind words in comments.

I thought of how sweet it’s been realizing thus far it has been all me.

I paused with the idea of what might be. What might be bolder, sweeter, truer when it’s not just me; but, the power, the power of the Holy Spirit in and through me.

Coming through my words, surrendered for his purpose.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’m curious and excited now, surrendered to his purpose.

We shall see.

Other than Dirt Road or Angelic Faces

So, because my son will be decorating a room in a Charleston home soon, next step into real adulting, he asked for art. Not a dirt road or a seascape or marsh and absolutely not an angel.

He texted me inspiration, one of the photos was an abstract, crazy and free painted Hendrix profile. I thought, “Kiss the Sky” and started laying down color like chords and finished with this.

Posted in Art

Requirements and Resistance

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Last Sunday, I said to myself, I miss the reverence of church.

I wasn’t looking for justification to just stay home.

Because the pieces and experiences I miss are not the popular way…are not really the way of our world now, the “world world” or it seems sometimes to me, the “Faith world”.

I’ve been conflicted, in a season of bending while longing to belong again.

 

There is a trend, my friend, a preacher’s daughter and I agreed.

People are not going to church.

We know it’s not good.

For us or for them.

This friend whose daddy has long passed, this friend who I rarely hear her call her daddy “daddy”, always calls him “Reverend Harper”.

I’m smiling, I see her reverence for him, her daddy and her Heavenly Father.

This morning I feel burdened because I feel so different.

Like thorns among the roses wet with rain, I’m particular in my picking of the right words to say.

I read a thread of replies on Twitter prompted by a young woman’s boasting of leaving the F***ing church of her childhood.

The church that held the memory of her favorite song back then, “They’ll know We are Christians by our Love”.

Several comments followed in agreement with her over her courage to leave the church that she felt never truly loved others, maybe encouraged judgment and hate.

I know that church, I’ve been there amongst the fear promoters and the stone throwers.

I rejected it too.

But, I’m burdened because I don’t think it’s good to use obscenities in the same sentences with God, or love for that matter.

To say so here feels bold, bold in that belief.

We can love boldly and be obedient boldly, I think this is the key.

I am bending, I am less resistant to other than what I’ve always known.

Requirements, though, I still need them.

Need them firmly spoken to me, answers when I ask for the way.

He led me here today.

“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.

They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.

Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:1-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 

I went to church last week.

I heard a gentle nudging saying, No, you need to go, you need to go for YOU.

And I thought on the way over about the loud music, how I missed the quiet days when the children never made a sound and when people weren’t sitting down with their latte cups

When you could hear the hushing sounds of mamas and the clink of the coins and dropping of dollars, tiny noises during the offertory hymn.

An atmosphere that made listening easy, pleasant, required little of me.

I thought of all of this and sat down next to my pretty girl who offered a vanilla latte and then, the lights, the loud welcome of the band, the crescendo.

Seconds before and as clear, clear as a bell, I thought.

What you resist most is what you need most.

And I was different from that moment, the way I took it in, accepted you might say.

I sang, I opened my heart and I sang, softly.

This season of un-belonging, of conflicted resistance, is changing, slowly shifting.

I still believe in requirements. I still need them to know and grow.

I’ll ask God to show me what I need, to point out my resistance, to enlarge my heart to be more willing and open, to grow.

Let go.

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“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Linking up for FMF, prompted by the word “burden” which means a particularly heavy load. I went over the 5 minutes, it took longer than that to lighten my load!

http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/11/08/fmf-link-up-burden/

Lord, help my words to honor you, not confuse others about You and help me to grow in this season, so that they will know You because of my love. Because of mercy, Amen

Grace and More

Grace is a lot of things.

It’s big rescue and big salvation and big last chance chances when we are caught before our falls.

It comes when we decide to think of ourselves less than He says we truly are.

It asks that we see others as Jesus sees them.

Like he sees us.

Like he saw the woman with the expensive oil who wasn’t showing off her efforts. It wasn’t her plan to defy the others.

She just wanted to love Jesus when all around Him was persecution, ridicule, doubt and the question of His intent and the day of deciding His death.

She was focused on worship and she poured out her worship freely.

In unashamed and unexpected worship, she gave what she could to Jesus.

She gave what she had.

When the people standing around ranted over her waste of what in their opinion could have been sold.

Jesus accepted her gift, her worship, her grace towards Him and He used it for all the others to know the power of giving, the power of humble and creative opportunities to give and receive grace.

Jesus told them all to leave her alone, that this would be her legacy, this choice she made to be bold, to give what she had and to trust God with the rest.

“And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭14:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Now thousands of years later, this passage is in my Bible marked with red.

For me to really remember grace for all it is, not just a sweet and easy sounding word.

Help me to do what I can when I can, to allow interruptions, to ignore human reasoning of my ways. To acknowledge where you place me as places you will use me, to not hide away in my introvert ways.

To do what honors God, to simply pour out what I have and leave it there.

Help me to act accordingly as if I’m listening closely to hear my Father say.

Oh, to hear Him say to me, the same!

She hath done what she could.

Mark 14:8

Forgive me, Lord, when I make less than amazing your grace, when I am prone to hiding away and when I forget to walk in it, exhibit it, simplify it, this timeless and phenomenal gift, your grace. Because of your mercy, I pray in Jesus name, Amen

Jesus, I Believe

Craziest thing ever!  My boot camp instructor told me I needed to get right!

Last night I was grouchy and told her so. I dragged myself to boot camp, told the trainer  I’m here and I know I’ll feel better afterward, so, yeah I’m here, that’s all.

If I moved I’d feel better, if I left the house I’d be less worried. My workout was intentional, I was not there for fun and games, I just wanted her to know.  Not in the mood for conversation, there to unravel my day, let my blood up its flow, let go the things needed to let go.

She responded with her usual firm motivationally cocky type retort, not allowing me to be pouty and then firmly added, “Get right with God!”

And it was odd because we don’t talk about Jesus at boot camp, she and the others if I’m honest only vaguely know of my faith, only vaguely know I believe.

So, I took it as important, her reply so important for me to hear, to adhere. I was tired of waiting for things to happen in my life; beginning to believe some things will never change and some breakthroughs have gone another direction, not coming through for me anymore.  Work stuff, work worries.

Before I even read from two different perspectives about Martha, I was wondering already this morning about how and whether I believe. Do I believe for others; but, not for me?

Like Martha, maybe,  the sister of Mary and of Lazarus. It occurs to me now,  she must’ve been the middle child, the one who kept an eye out for discord, the one who anticipated family drama, the one who got all concerned and withdrawn when there seemed to an issue. She was perpetually on the edge of coming unhinged.

But, she didn’t see it, I don’t believe. She saw herself as the keeper of control, she was one who believed in Jesus yet made it her role to be on guard against trouble, to be prepared when it came.

Jesus compared her to her sister, Mary.

He’d come to visit them and Martha was busy cleaning, preparing, ready to put on a show. She was frustrated when he noticed Mary. He told her to notice too. Mary sat in silence, she waited unworried, just wanted to be with Jesus, somehow knew nothing more was expected.  Her lack of activity, of anxiety, of frantic expectation, led Jesus to tell Martha, I’m sorry to tell you but her choice is “the better”.

I imagine Martha knew her patterns, like me, sporadic in her change, but determined to let them go.

Slowly breaking the habit of questioning everything and keeping in control.

Some time passed after Jesus sat with them in their home and they beckoned him to return, this time to perform a miracle, their brother was dead.

They believed through Jesus he could live.

Do you believe this? Jesus    John 11:26

When Martha settled into the unlikelihood her brother would be revived, she answered Jesus’ question with a yes that was sort of a but or an even though…I guess, still.

I imagine her demeanor was calm, her resignation confirming her fear that became acceptance. He would be healed and he would live, her brother would see heaven.

Belief is sometimes just acceptance and with acceptance, there is always a hint of sullen. Acceptance isn’t usually accompanied by joy;  just an okay but I really hoped it could be better.  It’s a settling for less than we believed and I believe it’s because of what we believe about ourselves.

I wonder if Martha remembered the time she spent sweeping up the kitchen instead of sitting beside her sister and Jesus. If, because of her cleaning compulsions and her less than enthusiastic worship, she had no right to believe in miracles.

 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  John 11:21-22

Jesus had other ideas.

Ideas to reveal His Father’s glory.  He kept no record of the ways she viewed herself as wrong.

I do this sometimes, sell myself short on God’s glory and greatness.  I decide in comparison to others, I’m not quite so worthy.  Like Martha, I believe in good for others, not so much for me.

And I surely believe in heaven but sometimes not so much at all, do I believe in now.

Intention, felt wrong when I wrote it, like a word that didn’t belong with the others: rest and attentiveness.

But, the day is almost done and intention has finished the sentence, is the conclusion to this morning’s story.

Believing with the intention of trusting.

Now I see.  Now I’m right in my thinking.

 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  John 11: 40 NLT

 

Right with you…God.

 Father, thank you for hearing me.   John 11:41 NLT

Jesus, I believe.

 

 

 

 

Walks Across the Country

Yesterday, I met two vivacious young women. They were dressed in athletic type shorts revealing tan lines and their T-shirts boasted of their initiative. Its front had a logo of a bicycle and the words “wheels for mental wellness”.

Tomorrow night I’ll host a gathering, a platform for them to share their why.

I’ve heard there’s a reason, it’s because of someone in their family.

Yesterday, I walked with the largest group ever as I participated in our community’s AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk. Some of them I know, they call me Miss Lisa and friend.

I thought of them last night, hoping so badly that the day had not been too draining, that they’d know they’d done their best, always.

The woman in the red shirt’s name is Rose. I’d never have known her if she hadn’t decided to come with another mama to my office, both of them military moms, both of them mothers of sons who died by suicide.

Both of them, there today, walking proudly and purposefully. Mamas who most likely moved heaven and earth for their sons when they were little boys to grown-up men…and still, they are, they’re not letting up, walking, taking up for their boys, moving heaven and earth for them in the only way they can, still. I’m fortunate to know them, moved in lots of ways I can’t describe, my being close, not really knowing; but, close to their grief.

I hope they sleep soundly tonight knowing they gave it all they had today for their boys!

Walks are happening across the country right now if you get a chance you should join in, walk alongside another.

I’m told and I know that being there is not ever enough or maybe close to anything at all. But, it is important; important for others to simply, be there, there with them.

November Like Grace

Yesterday, the tiniest of yellow leaves were dancing down around my friend and I. We were happy to be likeminded over loving the frenzied leaves falling down, likeminded in our acceptance of our imperfections and our wonderings. We didn’t say so, but now

I think we both were thinking likely, of grace.

November, I welcomed you! Hard to say clearly why. Surely it’s not the hustle and bustle of holiday coming that makes holiday so unholy, so hurried and so “un” divine.

October felt so lengthy, intense, its work , its worries and its waiting.

November, for some reason felt like corner turning, drawing nearer to the fruition of a more solid settling.

And then yesterday and later, I heard of death by suicide and I read a sister’s story of her brother’s too soon death due to addiction.

I couldn’t, can’t stop thinking of how haphazard life can be, how some of us get tripped up and fall and get back up and safely carry on.

Sadly, not all.

Some make it, find the resolve to continue, and the continuation of that resolve, in increments assures no more falls.

It’s a precarious world we’re slap dab in the middle of. My friend and I talked, yesterday because we’re aware, we’re not able to avoid or willing to turn blind eyes.

We’ve had people in our midst, their struggles are more than just speculation or someone else’s issue. We are with others and we have seen evidence.

Evidence of hopelessness. Evidence of fear. Evidence of doubt and evidence of destruction slowly through either addictive indulgence or addictive control or addictive forlorn failing feelings.

Either way, it seems hope is in high demand, kindness, persistence, refusal to avoid and if you can, when you can just demonstrate deliberately that you care.

Sometimes, though it’s not that simple. Your kindness is less than a drop in a deep ancient well.

You do what you can, keep dropping your love there.

I’m still happy it’s November despite learning of new deaths.

I’m still happy for November and Saturday and the way the cold caused my toes to curl when I let the dog out.

Happy that I spent time reading my Bible, not scanning, delving deeply in to what Paul told Timothy and what God told him to tell me.

And you.

Today.

We still have this hope. That Christ died for us so that we could live, not so that we could be perfect or withstand all our falls from grace and flat on our faces falls; but, so that we would see His face when we pick ourselves up to rise.

That we’d continue to do our best.

That we come closer to an understanding of our lives here, our lives are meant to be His, to be lived out based on our rescued from the fall, faith.

Maybe through us, others will see grace.

Maybe through others we see it too.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s an old hymn we used to sing called “People Need the Lord”. When I was a member of the choir, I’d suggest we sing it more. There didn’t seem to be a Sunday someone might need to know and believe that in these days, we need the Lord.

We’re not able on our own.

We live in a world of simply not knowing what may come, whether someone we love might fall.

Remembering now the sister’s heartbreak over her brother and another’s trauma that has her trapped in a deadly self harm cycle, I wonder if my words are unwelcome, if my hope will be a hindrance, hokey.

I understand. Grief is not a quick thing, hope is not on grief’s horizon. If it’s anywhere it’s around the bend of some crazy and unthinkable scary roads.

Hope is rarely on the mind of grief. I imagine hope as a sweet child with little words, only telling grief, I’ll come out Sir or Ma’am, when it’s my turn to join the grown up table.

And then it sits down together with grief and it sweetly adds its beauty and peace to those dining habitually over their mundane plates, changing slowly the place, the setting.

Like a hopeful child it may not be my place to add comment or conclusion at times.

Last week, I realized clearly that my insights, my intelligence and my speaking incessantly about how much I care about heartbreak and tragedy are insignificant to the person in their grief, their trauma, their fear.

I sat with the truth of that for a long time. Depleted from the knowledge of nothing I can do and the acceptance of it, I courted thoughts of giving up, of being a more silent spokesperson, of staying in the background, kind of keeping to myself what help I may know.

There’s value in that, giving what you can when you run across a need, otherwise just waiting and knowing people know you’re there.

November, it’s only day 3 and you’re really schooling me!

You’re refining my understanding of brokenness and you’ve got a steady eye on the fire that’s creating me as valuable, a vessel for pouring out my knowledge my and hope.

You through me.

Made to know you, to worship you.

To reveal my hope.

Hope that is needed.

Hope incomprehensible, hope that others need.

Farther along, we’ll understand vividly, so clearly, the why of everything.

I love so very much, this folksy rendition, this truth and song.

Farther Along

November, I see your reason, my naming you my turning of season.

Grace, November, you are feeling like grace. I’m grateful you found me again

For catching my almost fall back in to what looks like sadness that is actually fear.