Someone held my journal in her hand yesterday, one of hundreds gone before.
She needed to list the children’s names for Christmas drawing for gift exchange.
I found a blank page past three or four written in and I let her hold my journal, the place where my current words are dwelling.
Imagined how I’d feel if she turned back a few pages and found my mornings’ words.
Lament, praise, self-criticism and supplication to God, all script and drawings expressing my very private hopes.
I’ve just read an intimate sharing, ten or so sentences in a poem.
The poet, according to his bio, leaves his short pieces in a variety of places.
He writes honestly.
About life, love, death, a menagerie of meaningfully derived pieces.
He is a doctor, a poet, a brilliant writer.
His written wordresides in a variety of places, publications.
I paused at the call for submissions, quickly told myself no, you’re too harried in your writing hopes. Simplify, just live with one hope, to write stories of redemption, of being certain strength is the result of not giving up on hope.
If your words had a dwelling place, what would it be?
A gated mansion where people pay good money just to peruse?
A sought after invitation to be allowed a closeup view, maybe to sit amongst the words, even have an open book on their lap? A famous place?
Or would your words be in a tiny space found at the end of an overgrown field, a place that is shielded by years of unnoticed knowing?
Would the little place where your words live be a thrill to visit, your guest realizing they’re in on the discovery of a secret?
Where would you say your words would be found growing?
I read a famous person’s Twitter post offering up thanks to her thousands of followers and how it all began seventeen years ago on her blog.
I realized she’s no longer a blogger. She must be one of those who knows blogging is so over, who reads a blog anyway?
I’ve decided I can be selfish with my words, like my paintings, they’re my very own babies.
I’m inclined to keep the window closed, locked tight and curtained, the one that lets my light out to the great big world, let’s the light of others in.
I’m careful with my contributions to the writing community.
Selfish, I realize.
These words are mine that are often too heavy for even my own heart’s sharing.
I don’t jump at the chance to be chosen quite so much as before.
I’ll let my words keep living here, safe, friendly, the readers who read them.
This vague and not prolifically named place. Not easily found, not optimized for the seeker.
This quiet place emerging at a snail’s pace is the place of my writing, consistently an intimate expression.
Expression a stranger might read and decide they can relate.
Blogging may no longer be important, there may be a different set of aspiring writer rules.
I’ve grown weary of the unending advice or writing advisers.
It is hard to keep up.
I’m either naive or unteachable, stubborn or afraid of failure, uncomfortable with success.
Who’s to say?
It’s all about perspective.
My perspective, my eye for life and love, my ideas uniquely formed about redemption, about my assurance of heaven,
None of these can be duplicated and this is the reason.
Writing is selfish.
Selfish in a sweet and honest, sometimes very raw causing the reader to pause way.
I’ve read blog posts like this.
Occasionally I’ve written one.
Say your prayers, I tell myself, let your thoughts get to forming words, type them out or scrawl them down.
May they keep being true.
May you be okay with the not so famous place they settle or are shared.
May the words of my heart find the reader who needs them.
This is my goal, my prayer, my less than spectacular ambition.
Go slowly. Simplify. Keep going. Share what you know about fear, trauma and shame and now, redemption, about Jesus. Go and tell, you’ll know where. Your life is a parable only you can tell.
“And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.”
Mark 4:13-14 ESV
What’s your parable this morning?
Mine goes like this. The room this morning early is simply lit by the lights on the tree at end of the couch. The big puppy is resting his head on my lap. The coffee is strong and I’ve added real cream. I’m remembering the dream that I dreamed and how parts were upsetting and parts were reminders. I have yet to open my Bible or my journal and pen. This morning, I had a thought about blogging, about sharing and about simplicity. I sense God keeping me here, intent on that idea, write simply. I’m okay with that although it reeks of insignificance based on lofty expectations birthed by following others.
I’m dwelling in my morning spot, the place of being okay with waiting. I’ll continue my Advent readings and I’ll stop fearing not trying.
I’ll wait for Christmas now. I’ll wait patiently for God to lead my words to places He made them to go.
Here, in spoken places and in hearts changing like mine.
Content in our redemption.
Our stories becoming God’s parables of hope.
Hard stories softened because of Jesus.
Like this one I have stored up:
I watched a man be baptized yesterday morning. His expression was all his, the way the moment of his decision to live differently was unable to be kept hidden. I watched him lift his arms to hold the hands of the one baptizing him up to his chest. His forearms painted completely in ink. He said something about his decision that was so covered in his emotion no one could know. I watched the face of this man rising from the water and I watched the face of the one baptizing. I felt it all, the grandeur in their strong embrace. I saw and felt redemption and I once again, remembered my own.
This man’s story, story of redemption and the Jesus we both know.
Similar in some ways, redemptive in all.
Abiding in love.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
I will be a grandmother soon. I have a new object on my table next to my morning spot, a beautiful tiny box engraved with a grandmother and baby.
The giver of this gift understands the gift.
She’s one of many who have told me it is a joy I’ve not yet known.
On this Christmas Eve, I’m thinking about transitions, about changes that are coming with the coming year.
Yesterday and even the day before, I longed for time travel, I longed for Christmas with my children as children, the Christmases like before.
I think I miss the morning most, the mornings they’d wake up to Santa and then the excitement, the surprise, the silly and sweet expressions.
I’m in the 23rd chapter of Luke today, the one that describes the crucifixion.
My eyes are welling up, my nostrils sting with the thought, I believe in the death of Jesus, a man sent from God so that we could be with God. Thank you, God, I believe.
The same Jesus who as a newborn was laid in a wooden feeding trough, being without a safe and warm place to be born.
Mary cradled Him, awestruck over his existence, over how clearly it was God who caused him to be.
It’s not recorded; but, it must’ve been difficult not to intervene, not to come to her son’s defense when they brought him before Pilate and then before Herod who declared he’d done no wrong.
Yet, it was ultimately an angry mob who demanded him be dead.
“but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.”
Luke 23:21-23 ESV
And Mary knew this was God’s plan for her son, still I wonder how she handled it all, had she hoped he’d be spared?
Could someone hear the mercy in his voice, the forgiveness offered in his final moments…could that be enough?
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
She heard Jesus comforting the mourners who followed him. She saw her son being laid on a cross and challenged to save himself from death.
She was not surprised when she saw her son think less of himself and more of another.
She heard him tell the criminal about redemption knew he’d be remembered in heaven.
She heard him tell the women his death had a purpose, a purpose even for them. If there is to be weeping, let it be for what is to come for you, what my death will accomplish for you, for your children.
Let your tears be tears of joy, save them for the elation, the blessing of what will be.
“And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’
Luke 23:27-29 ESV
On Christmas Eve, I’m thinking of the baby, the baby born to save and the babies for me that God made.
I’m pondering last minute little things, tokens that convey my undeniable love. I’m thinking of Mary and the truth we both know, children are a gift from God.
I am certain Jesus knew he was loved, loved and let grow and go.
Children are proof to me of miracles. There’s no way no one could ever convince me that’s not so.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”
The blue of yesterday’s sky was phenomenal, like a breakthrough.
The moon at dusk already so full you believed you might touch it.
Clear and undeniable.
Last night I held up a tiny candle, listened and sang with a sanctuary of others.
We all were proclaiming “I Believe”!
And then we all left the service and went about our two days before Christmas ways.
I am prompted to pray this morning, leaning into Jesus, asking for more of Him to show in me, my request for continued transformation.
Progress not perfection
Optimistic, I am, for 2019.
Jesus foretold Peter’s denial. Peter denied he would.
The disciples were with Him as he prayed to His Father, not my will but thine. He rose from his prayer to find them all sleeping, told them get up, this is a critical time, you may be challenged to leave me, you might be tempted not to stay.
Jesus was arrested and they all watched him being led away. Peter, Luke recorded, stood back a distance away.
He sat with the ones who accosted Jesus.
“And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
Luke 22:55-57 ESV
Others asked as he sat with them. I imagine, the plan to destroy this man the rulers were all afraid, afraid he might be more knowledgeable, more inspiring, more inviting, afraid he might topple their lofty positions, afraid that they were wrong, would be proven wrong.
Peter could have told them all, it is true, I have been with Him, I have seen.
I know Jesus. He knows me.
Jesus was more than they wanted to believe, the people all sitting around the fire in the home of the high priest.
Peter was aligned with them and he denied being a believer of Jesus.
And just as Jesus foretold, the rooster crowed.
“Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.””
Luke 22:33-34 ESV
Peter allowed logic and the desire to be one with the rulers and religious leaders cause him to sit the fence of doubt and assurance.
It can be hard to believe a happening from 2000 years ago. Believing is a choice and it’s an ever increasing assurance. It’s unexplainable.
It’s a real sense of connection and it is remembering your life before and knowing your life now is lighter, enlightened and significantly meaningful because you know you’ve mattered all along, that your life and its purpose was an intricate part of God’s plan.
Lean into Jesus at Christmas, it’s the perfect time to know Him more,
The 21st chapter of Luke opens with four verses about generosity, about giving more than you might think you should or can.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4 ESV
The remainder of the chapter is like a warning, a warning of how we should watch ourselves and not grow weary. Jesus told all who would listen about how we should live in the world without him until he returns.
“There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” Jesus Luke 21:11 ESV
Verses like these often prompt sermons about our worldly life in light of eternity. Speakers and preachers ask us to look around, notice the events that could be warnings, ready ourselves for either eternity through our passing or His return.
Mysterious it is, another mystery of God’s plan in making us and earth; it’s up to us to know with all our hearts it doesn’t end here even if we can’t imagine how heaven will be.
Like the widow who gave her only coins without concern over how she might live, we are to believe in what we can’t be sure of, in what our human minds are too limited to comprehend.
We are too live with eternity in mind, both with anticipation and with self-examination.
Last night my grandson surprised me, called me over to the tree. He added two ornaments, pointed them out to me. The red and white candy canes are not at all consistent with my theme.
But, I’ll let them be, cause me to think about the red, the blood shed by Jesus for me, and the white representing salvation, peace, redemption. I’ll hum the old hymn, “Whiter than Snow”.
I want to live every moment mindful of your mercy Lord.
The rain is falling so lightly now. A minute ago, I opened the back door and there was a warm encircling wind.
Now, I’m so in love with this moment, this moment beside the Christmas tree, the rain coming down again like yesterday.
Different rain than the unceasing one of Thursday. This one, I welcome, I feel it is a cleansing rain.
The geese are flying over, my mama would say, “Here they come.”
Yes, mama I know, today is a new day.
I’m fixated on the silence now I am again serene, I am aware of God with me.
Yesterday’s morning post ended with me thinking of the name, Immanuel, a name of Jesus, “God with us”.
Last night, I told someone I just felt a “darkness” coming down. I had finally settled on what my “one more thing” gifts would be for my children. I abandoned the thought of the grandstanding gifts of excessive and chose the more simple, the needed, the essential.
I sometimes overcompensate. I worry they’re not quite completely sure of my love, or of me.
Shopping was interrupted by a crisis call, 911 had to be called and the response to the crisis and our connection to the one who disrupted our day in a violent demand went on into the night.
There was prayer, prayer alone and prayer with another and prayer coupled with setting boundaries of providing insight to the ER. That is my role.
That is all, I told another and told myself.
I’m not called to rescue, only to provide a way through which many times is to step away, not be the depended upon rescue.
I am satisfied. I’ve done all I can.
Now, I’m thinking of where God was in all of this occurring. Only after the fact am I realizing I should have slowed down, been less frantic and fearful and frustrated.
I wish I had simply paused and breathed deeply in, let my shallow air linger in my lungs and wait, wait, to let my soul override my mind and know without a doubt, He knows, He sees.
He is with us. He is in control.
Love is the life of faith; obedience the life of love. Yea, rather, Christ Himself is the life of the soul. Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength devotional
I’m nearing the chapters describing Jesus’ death. In this experience of reading through Luke, I am being reminded of the purpose of His birth, the intention of God in all His son did while he walked on earth.
In Chapter 20, Luke records the questioning of Jesus, the discussions and debates over His authority. They were worried their kingdoms might topple, that the ones they considered their rulers might lose their esteem or that they, the rulers themselves might lose their lofty positions.
“And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.”
Luke 20:26 ESV
They heard Jesus teach with parables and discerned His lesson as a criticism of them. They sent spies to pretend they believed and would follow, only to try and catch him or to convince themselves they were okay, had no need of Him, could stay aligned with Caesar.
Like today, they made complicated what God planned to be simplicity in our belief. Not all of them but some decided to accept, to stop their disbelief,even though they were not yet certain of what was to come, what would clearly justify their belief.
“Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.”
When we believe God is with us, we’re less prone to question. When we return to the places we know we have found Him before, He will still be there.
An opened hand to heaven before my feet hit the floor, the warm wind before the rain begins, yes, He was there.
I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains And I believe, I’ll see You do it again You made a way, where there was no way And I believe, I’ll see You do it again. Elevation Music
Luke, Chapter 19 opens with the account of small man with a bad reputation. He perched up high in a sycamore tree, watching for Jesus to walk by.
He must have known that either he’d lose sight of him in the big crowd or that he wouldn’t be welcomed. He was a tax collector known for greed, was avoided and avoided others.
Or perhaps, none of this mattered to him at all, he had heard of a man who changed lives, brought redemption from wrong.
He was intrigued and maybe hopeful that he could see the man who would be a Savior, hoping Jesus was everything everyone had been proclaiming him to be.
Zacchaeus, like many others kept himself at a distance, not having any expectations or demanding to be seen.
The woman with the menstrual malformation, the man with the palsied hand, the ruler who wanted his servant to live, each of them came unassuming; but, willing to believe.
Jesus saw Zacchaeus and told him he’d like to go to his home. He invited himself there.
Zacchaeus, I imagine hurried down from the tree oblivious of the critical onlookers and he and Jesus went on their way, Jesus was going to his home today!
“And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
Luke 19:2-5 ESV
I suppose it was a splendid house, Zacchaeus had accumulated wealth. But, he had a plan and he told Jesus, he was remorseful and he wanted to give it away.
“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 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 19:8-10 ESV
Jesus saw his sincerity, his commitment to live differently, to make a turn towards mercy, to begin new things, new life, to be born again.
It’s just that simple.
Everyone can have a story of when Jesus noticed our need, beckoned us to come with him, no need to hide any longer, he waits to welcome us in.
Father God, we thank you for your son born without a crib, we thank you that you receive us where we are, that you still receive “sinful men”. Tell me what to say today, thank you the gift of beginning again. Because of mercy, Amen
May Christmas bring us more clearly with you, Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
By now you might be asking, what about Advent, what about the Book of Luke?
This is where I say, God’s word and God simply blow me away.
In chronological order, I open my Bible and I see Jesus teaching about persistence through a parable about a woman who refused to give up, she is known as the “persistent widow”.
“And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’”
Luke 18:3 ESV
Jesus told a parable that included a lesson about a woman who knew she deserved justice, knew she deserved better.
Like the widow, we motivate and empower women to seek better, to justify themselves despite what led to their homelessness.
Sometimes, we ourselves are called to model traits like persistence.
All nonprofits do year-end appeals. We frame our requests for money around a story of one we served or a certain type of plea.
This year, I decided to be clear.
I asked the readers of our letter in paper or on their screen to consider how our work might resonate with them. How they may relate.
Our year-end Giving Appeal is called We Need You Now.
MHA Aiken County, nor any of our programs are “faith based”, except for the way I try to persist every day in bringing my faith to work with me.
Thank you for allowing me to talk about work, it seemed a waste to waste a true story of not losing hope to maybe peak your interest about the woman who persisted in the Book of Luke.
The woman like me, the person like you, to whom Jesus is saying:
Do not lose heart. Pray and do not lose heart.
If you’re looking to make Christmas even more joyful, more connected with Christ and others or if you’re just curious about this church with a cool and kind pastor and congregation who love people and love Jesus, visit Newspring in Aiken or just a church somewhere.