Just a thought, if there were not in us, this inner spark, a fervor to run farther, a desire to see little things that set our souls to trust once and so we go looking again…would there not be a source of that motivation?
How can we say we were not purposefully created when we seek, despite all this fear and all encompassing strife, to feel that fire again?
I added color to the somber piece I called melancholy. Changed its name again. Now, it is finished and the name is settled, “Returning to Rest”.
Seems like yesterday, but it was I guess, twenty or so years ago. I cut the big branches from the sycamore tree and laid them in the back seat. Leaves as big as my two hands together. I had a plan for my room. I was assigned the lesson on Zacchaeus.
The branches touched the ceiling in the tiny room where I created a scene to tell the children about how a man moved from the top of a tree hoping just to see Jesus, to having him as a guest in his home.
On the night I was to teach the lesson, the room disappointed. The church trying to save electricity had turned off the air conditioning. I was met by wilted leaves and a room that was consumed by humidity, a swampy smell. The “tree” I built in the corner was wilted, not special or impressive for the little children at all.
The tree was no longer a part of the lesson. Ten or so boys and girls sat in front of me in a circle on a rug we imagined was the tax collector’s home.
I taught them about the man who said yes to Jesus coming inside. They listened as I told them of the man up in the tree who never thought he’d meet Jesus, he just wanted to see unnoticed by others, the one who was spreading hope and love, a healer.
Then Jesus said, I’m not just passing by, I’m headed to your house today, climb down from that (ridiculous) tree.
The story continues with the criticism of others who knew Zacchaeus as a rich man, a cheater, a scoundrel you may say.
None of that mattered to Jesus. He set his sights on people unworthy from others’ perspectives.
I’m one of those.
Later, we’ll be having a big crowd at our house. We will celebrate a birthday. Children will swim in our pool, cousins will feel like it’s a reunion party. There will be noisy conversation, peach cobbler, baked beans, popsicles, etc.
My husband asked me if I was ready just now. He knows I’m an introvert, he’s familiar with the mystery of my yearning for quiet.
Almost a year ago, I began to wear this little bracelet. It’s paint covered sometimes, it’s a little soiled from my walking in this southern heat. It is stretched and weathered.
A tiny charm adorns it. One side says “faith” and the other, “my saint, my hero”. I don’t consider myself a saint nor a hero.
I do know that faith is my mainstay. I don’t need to know if the giver of this bracelet considers me her hero. I just need to continue in my faith and hope others who come around me see it. I need to remember Jesus as my hero. I need to live in a house of faith.
That when others come to my house, they might get a sense that Jesus had been by too, either in the waking prayer of morning, the first step outdoors to see the sun leave layers on the green or in the way I welcome them in.
Where I lack in hospitality, may there be the evidence of my faith.
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 ESV
Zacchaeus, a rich man met Jesus unexpectedly in his home and then carried on from there more honest, more generous, more unashamed.
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:1-2 ESV
Before I felt the truth of belonging there, I observed the setting. Twice in my life, a very long time ago, it was offered to me, possibility.
The high school art classroom, the teacher who spilled her very own love of painting all over the room, she started my believing.
She was less instructor, more demonstrator of art as a comfort, as a passion. She was evidence of the balm of creativity.
The English Honors professor who was a tiny force of expectation, a petite woman
She refused to accept my errors.
I remember the desk I arrived early to take, first row, third seat back. I hated my poor appearance, I avoided the walking across any classroom.
The room was so small, desks barely able to allow my thick to me frame. Classmates so close, it was uncomfortable to have another’s skin so near. But, my grades categorized me as Honors and I had no idea why, only that this class was significant, I was taken seriously. This exclusive group now included me.
The professor scared the mess of out of me until she convinced me, it was my writing that got me there, that qualified me. Not my parents, not my appearance. My writing was my how.
Four decades in between the idea of belonging and possibility are hard things, heavy losses and other type accomplishments.
Chronicling the years between what could have figuratively and literally killed me, the question of how is not of importance.
The answer of now is the result of believing I belonged in both classrooms and in what life and God knew were my possibilities.
“…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV
Hope and possibility, words we value so vaguely, minimizing their power.
Think of someone, some thing in your history that pulled you close enough to listen, to believe that tiny voice of ideas and dreams unsought, unfulfilled, set aside would always be there. Then, pick it back up again, unconcerned with how, knowing you’ll treasure the day in the very near future when you decided on the possible.
In us, is the glorious hope of heaven because of Jesus. When we will fully believe, the details of our how are no issue.
Only today will matter, the day of grabbing hold of our set aside possibilities.
I’m linking up with others in a time when the “how” question is heavy and complex. How did we get here? How can we fathom it ever getting better? How can I be a difference maker? I don’t provide answers to things I don’t fully know. I can only hold fast to hope and possibilities and to be more like Jesus in all my encounters.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” Job 24:13 ESV
I could easily stay in my soft cushioned chair, feet propped and fan creating a breeze overhead. The worn quilt from many washings is as soft as a feather and cool against my feet.
I could stay here all day. It would be no matter, and maybe I should.
Stay in this morning spot that is the place where I’m met by mercy and reassured it has no end.
The place of the promise, begin again. The place that is quiet. The place where God informs me through my Bible or the words someone else has recorded.
Or just through the allowing myself to stay, just through my patient sitting.
Job answered his friend’s advice to agree with God and be at peace (Job 22:21) with bitter honesty. He was exhausted over not knowing why or when.
Job was confused over how God would allow his condition, how it seemed to him God was not looking or worse, looking away.
“From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.” Job 24:12 ESV
The chapters of the Book of Job continue with Job’s debate with God, relentless in both his longing to understand and his commitment to believe in the majesty and knowledge of God.
Job stayed and God answered with redemption and life again.
He listened to his friends’ advising and rebuking and he implored them in his own defense.
Then, he listened to God.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 ESV
I’m letting that truth linger, lessen the pressure of overthinking or demanding quick answers. I don’t need to have nor am I able to have every answer.
I’ll move from my morning place to other things God is calling me to finish.
Paintings and stories of birds and marshes and laundry.
I could easily stay in this quiet spot with God. No television and no habitual social media checking. No news debates and no high pressured conversations nudging my thoughts to write catastrophic stories.
Instead, I’ll continue.
Job gives us permission to be honest with God. To ask how long and still believe.
To continue and believe. To know the light, keep coming back and staying as long as you are able.
Linking up with others with the prompt “stay” from Five Minute Friday’s Kate Motaung
The sound of a riding mower doesn’t obstruct the birdsong. The birds in the big high palm outside the window with my view have done their daily thing.
They’ve made sure that I have seen them before they go their way.
Off kilter because of allowing myself to go back to slumber, my mind is struggling through the mud it seems my soul is in.
Not quick to journal or to read my dailies, I just sit with coffee heavy with cream and honey.
That sitting, I allow myself to see, that sort of sitting is not idle.
Sitting in slow silence with God and morning.
It is joy.
“You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!” Isaiah 55:12 NLT
The birds in the back are now excited. The lawn mower has moved to the far corner of the next door yard.
I step out to do what my mama taught. On hot days I water the plants before the sun is high in the sky and later, just as it fades.
I love the little things she gave me.
The man on the lawn mower is from one house away. He is cutting the widow’s grass perhaps unrequested. It seems an unspoken agreement that began when her husband got suddenly sick and then sooner than expected went to heaven.
We all were together in communication through texting as he grew closer to passing away.
The neighbors who are black and have two spunky twin girls and are expecting a third baby I believe very, very soon.
The mama watches out for me as I walk towards the safer place. She cautions me on the sharp curve knowing people avoiding the main road use our road as a hidden cut through.
Occasionally, the little girls will wave as they see me. Then they’ll wave again and again as if our waving towards each other is the happiest part of our days.
It always feels that way to me at least.
Excited, we are, to encounter each other. The mama and I talk about our children. We talk about our city. We talk about God. We talk about how we’re glad in a crisis that we know it’s mutual, the phone call away if we need anything.
It had been a while since I’d heard the giggling, the girls playing in their backyards on the fort their daddy built them. I hadn’t seen them at the driveway nor had I walked by and seen the mama taking care of her flowers.
I thought of walking to the back door. I’d done that before when the puppy got out or to drop off something.
I wanted to see my neighbor.
I longed for connection. Told myself, I’d stop that day, the day when most people changed their screens to just black.
Instead, I sent a message and I asked for her honesty. I asked just one question and said take your time with your answer.
I wanted to ask this of someone and I knew I could trust you to be honest.
I asked, “Have you ever felt my kindness to your family to be insincere?”
She answered that I should continue to be the person I’ve shown her, kindhearted and spiritual.
Then, she thanked me for being open minded and willing to have a candid conversation.
I felt she was thanking me to care enough about our differences of which neither of us had any control, to ask an honest question and then accept her answer.
You won’t find me joining in political dialogue. You won’t find me following the bandwagon of others. You won’t find me defending myself in an argument that doesn’t include a perspective I know.
Because none of us can ever know fully the heart of another.
Yesterday, I arrived early for grandma duty. I was worried my daughter would notice I’d been crying. I was serenaded by a song all the way down the long road before her road.
It’s a song about how I want to be remembered, to be remembered that I knew nobody on this earth had or would be able to love me like Jesus.
It’s a song about a legacy of that being enough. I’m so very far from that but so much closer to it than before.
Watering the plants this morning with the kind neighbor circling the widow’s yard, I notice the bright bloom stretching up from the grey leaves I only added to the pot on a whim. Brilliant yellow little flowers have grown from the hard soil of a given up on plant.
What good will come?
What good can come from all of this halfway through 2020 distress?
Maybe, we should change the question slightly.
What good has already come?
I pray you find all sorts of little evidences of that.
I pray you know you’ve been cared for by Jesus all the way, his faithful hand.
I pray you find your joy alone in Him. I pray it for me too.
Continue and believe.
We are one in Jesus. No one here on earth will ever love us His way, only be our example to follow.
I heard a familiar tune from the hallway. Must’ve been stuck in his head from the Sunday service we watched on the TV in the den. Neither of us sang along. Church at home still weird.
I told him, I heard you can’t be sad or angry if you’re humming or whistling.
No response really.
But, he did resume his whistling as he walked away.
“Nobody loves me like you love me, Jesus!” Chris Tomlin
I woke up with this lyric. God wakes me up with songs some mornings. I think it’s sweet. I’m not a singer except in my car or the shower. I’m not even one to sing loud if someone’s in the car with me. I’m too self-conscious to raise my hands in church but I have found myself lately walking through my neighborhood with my palm to heaven, have driven down the road with one hand lifted in praise.
Maybe it’s God saying I know you’re longing to sing and you’ll be singing very soon. Maybe it’s just a truth I need.
Truth is, nobody knows me and loves me like Jesus. I can tell him my deepest regrets and He is gentle, not a harsh critic or a negative reply.
More importantly I can tell Him the sweetest possibilities I hope for and He knows the significance. He’s not surprised by my surprise over me being blessed in some way, chosen for something that is a deep deep longing, so deep a desire it’s kept secret.
But, He knows.
I stand in awe of His amazing ways.
“Nobody loves me like You love me, Jesus I stand in awe of Your amazing ways I worship You as long as I am breathing God, You are faithful and true…”Chris Tomlin
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” John 14:5 ESV
When I’m not certain how to join a conversation, I sometimes don’t say anything. I linger with my questions, I gather information.
I acknowledge my lack of understanding. I tell myself this is just too much for a well meaning but insufficient response. Situations over lives lost violently and unnecessarily weigh heavy on my heart. I am not equipped with words to make a dent in the dismay.
I turned to John today, led by my ancient Roman numerically referenced devotional, “Joy and Strength”.
A drawing in the margin illustrated the question asked by Thomas, “How can we know the way?”
I realized Jesus had told them, shown them, modeled it along.
The way is love.
John, chapters 13 and 14, tell the touching story of the love of Jesus.
Jesus, confusing the disciples by sitting at their feet with a basin of water, choosing the dirtiest of their parts, feet familiar with dirt, and he washed their feet.
He was teaching that you do what seems unfitting for you to do, you take it a step farther than telling about Him or giving food or shelter or telling their own Jesus story.
No, you love others if they’re different, you love people who walk on different roads other than your own.
You acknowledge that their steps are led by God enabled feet and journeys, joys and woes.
Feet like your own.
Made by God, loved by God.
Led by God.
Led by love.
All sorts of words can be said about choosing love.
It’s the choosing that matters, not really the words we’ve known so very long and already know.
It’s the choosing to love when that’s all you know or when that’s “all you got” in unthinkable ungodly situations.
“And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:4-6 ESV
Love is the way.
Love, the way to God.
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, the washer of our faltering feet.
My friend chastised me gently when I shared how I despise the money part of being an emerging artist. I underprice my work because in my mind at least I’m not giving it away.
Although I have before.
My friend, the same person who told me my gift is “mercy”, corrected me when I told her promoting my work felt uncomfortable, not godly.
She believes my art and writing are talents God gave me to impart hope to the kingdom. She told me my work is “kingdom work” and so it should be as big and impactful as possible.
I have battled big time the skills to build a website. WordPress is not the right platform, others overwhelm me.
“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.” Elisabeth Elliot
God has blessed me with many things. Paintings that touch lives and are sold, art on a gallery wall, art in a featured magazine article, art that is influenced by strength and hope.
Still, I have a hard time with some parts of it all and God tells me to just keeping creating even if your steps feel bogged down, incapable or slow.
Crawl before you walk kind of thinking. I need a website but before I take that step, I need more of a business perspective on my Instagram… So follow my art page on Instagram if you haven’t already. Numbers of followers and prices that represent the hours of work are a thing and as my dear friend told me, if you’re doing kingdom work, you want to touch a big wide kingdom with your work!
For now, I’m inviting others to follow my art page on Instagram. lisa_anneart
Happy Monday, Memorial Day, another week towards better, y’all!