The Book of Luke, 24 Days of Jesus – An Advent Experience

The Time of Becoming

Advent: arrival, appearance, emergence or occurrence, the arrival of a notable person or thing.

What are you waiting for, still?

What is the light at the end of the way that you keep pursuing, going towards?

Like the shepherds followed a star, is there a possibility you hope to see still?

My word for 2018 has been “still”. In the beginning, it represented a courageous decision to pursue a certain writing goal.

That I could still, it wasn’t too late.

I’m still writing; but, changes came my way and my book idea will never be the same.

I’m in the phase of stillness, resting and listening to know, which way God, do you want me to go?”

Tell me what to say, Lord.

Continuing in the Book of Luke today, another chapter full of guidance and illustration, historical retelling of what Jesus did before he died.

My spirit has been a little weary, thoughts around trauma trying to take over. I’m recalling today that this is the year I, with the help of some strong therapy, decided I could live healed, that I could let go and be healed.

The year it became my choice to forgive.

My friend said yesterday, that evil still comes back to try to play.

I think she’s quite right, it’s Advent, the season of light and peace, it’s only natural evil creeps in, shows up even louder, harder, mean and determined.

Has to, it is harder now than before to take my peace away. I’m no longer disabled.

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭13:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Able to seek light and freedom, to not revisit the darkness.

To God be the glory for my emergence year, still.

Becoming me.

I’m linking up with others here at Five Minute Friday, prompted by the word, “Still”.

http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/12/13/fmf-link-up-still/

The Book of Luke, 24 Days of Jesus – An Advent Experience

No Fear Now

Yesterday, the birds were gathering outside the window. I saw their shadows and the way they intersected the sun, a flash and dimming of the light coming in.

I didn’t turn to watch them, I missed their morning dance.

Instead, I was intent on the details, I was recording my fear. There were three nightmares and three pages of journal, trying to decipher the power and realistic terror of each of them.

Now, they’ve faded away, their scariness has passed and their power over my day, finally waned.

Jesus, God’s Son came to eliminate our fears. There’s no fear in love and His love came to take away our fears.

He told the disciples to fear one thing, evil, the authority that keeps us in fear, tries hard to keep our thoughts from heaven, to cast us into Hell.

To keep us kept by our nightmares, our minds pulling out the bad stuff in our sleep and it dancing dirty dances all night long. It is crazy, evil’s power making buried stuff come out to play, to mess with our peace , to derail our good days.

It is evil.

Jesus said fear is never from me, be assured, you’re worth so much to me.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke‬ ‭12:6-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s no fear in love.

Grief, like a terrible nightmare makes me afraid, a different and try as I might, unavoidable afraid.

Christmas comes with grief. It would be wrong not to long for those we lost; yet, that longing turns to sadness. We imagine times when we’d all love to just sit around and laugh and be happy over our happy times with those we miss, those we loved. It’s not that simple, that simplifying of grief.

All the more reason to draw near to Jesus, no masks are worn in His presence. He alone sees our anxious and sad, pretending not to be, hearts.

Do not be afraid. He knows grief sometimes feels like fear.

“”Fear not, little flock.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No one ever told me grief felt so like fear. C.S. Lewis

I avoided the dancing birds. I was hoping not to see the red bird. I longed to see them most days, but, for a little while I felt different than before.

The bird rushing past my work window, a flash of brilliant red or the subdued female hue, I looked away.

This time avoiding the reminder that it’s not really you, only symbolic of you, my father and my mother.

I’ll see them again I know and I’ll accept the gift of their appearing.

A gift of love, a gift that holds no fear.

If I listen closely I might hear “Stop being afraid, Lisa Anne” and I may see my daddy looking over at her before nodding a yes, quietly and simply nodding “yes”.

Always, yes.

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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

31 Days, Freely – Close

Life and God are in constant intersection.

Places you find yourself standing other than you planned and in locations you’ve become accustomed to, you are close to God, when you take stock of forgetting and finding again, what is there.

You meet a little lady by mistake who is tiny like your grandma, neat as a pin like her and she smiles and forgives you for ringing her doorbell, going to the wrong address, she tells you she wishes you’d stop back by.

And you think, now if that’s not God, I have no idea what it is.

To see your grandma when you needed her kind of gentle assurance, yes, that was God!

Being close to God, being where He wants me to be and doing what He wants me to do.

With my being mama, wife, executive, writer, painter, friend and follower.

These are things I will know clearly and eventually, adjustments like shadows of color to accentuate an angel’s waist or taking away a showy word to be simple, succinct.

It is work. It’s okay, though. God is in it.

Never an anxious seeking, always a contented watching unexpectedly yet ever hopeful wait.

I heard the geese and thought “Here they come.”, the acknowledgment of my mama, her words when she heard them.

I slowed my steps as the V shape turned away and then smiled and watched as they turned back my way.

It was a small thing, to see geese fly over and remember my mama.

Remember God’s pattern.

I forget and I forge ahead making mental and pencil note of things to try, challenges I should continue and I take some off the list, cross through their name, thick leaded takeaway, giving myself permission to let that one go.

To keep taking small, deliberate steps and to know that when I jump in to pressuring myself to join in, to hurry up and finish or to feel afraid I might not catch up,

That’s anxiety talking, that’s fear and I feel it in the place that the counselor noticed my trauma liked to dwell.

Noticing now, let that go,

That will not serve you well.

Be still.

You are close now, close to what God wants you to know.

He is close.

We are His work.

“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭111:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Closing out 31 Days with some sermon notes from myself:

Write bravely.

Write from small sweet experiences.

Try not to veer back to pitiful.

Recognize when you do.

Write what you’ve been avoiding.

Follow through.

Notice God’s answers in your day.

Pay attention, you’ll know clearly, what to say, what to paint, what to write and

Where to go.

God is everywhere. Don’t forget to notice.