“There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas ). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.” Acts of the Apostles 9:36 NLT
Last night, I saw the writing prompt, “Now” and thought there’s so much that word could inspire in this time, this time that feels like now is an open-ended question or complex algebraic word problem I’d likely give up on. So, I thought to write about the difficulty of now, the tough realization that we’re running out of distractions to fill up the time called now that feels so far away from “then” and even farther from “when”.
Instead, after making a very good to do list to help me feel a purpose, I lingered over a quote on my “In Touch Ministries” devotion, knowing this was pressed prior to Co-Vid and meant to turn us towards Easter.
“In loving with His whole heart, Jesus was willing to be turned down.” Dr. Charles Stanley
I turned back to my daily Bible guide and returned to Acts. The story of Tabitha, I missed before. She became ill and died and was surrounded by friends who wore garments she had sewn for them. Peter prayed and she was healed and because of her healing, many others believed.
But, I couldn’t stop thinking about the women who surrounded her, the lives that would remain in the room and that many would carry with them, wearing tunics made by their friend and remembering her acts of charity, her love for them.
I thought of the quilts my grandma and aunt made that lie folded across our beds. I thought of women everywhere who’ve learned to make masks for medical workers and others.
Love remains. The love we give, the love we’ve given. The love we decide to give today, regardless of it being well-received or going unnoticed. Jesus is our example of love giving, love that will remain.
We’re beneficiaries of His choice to love mankind through dying not knowing who or when or if we would receive it.
So, the prompt called “now” that caused me to be frustrated over its lack of borders led me to a story of a creative and what she left for others, love and beautiful garments.
Her love remains even today because of my discovery of her “story” and the way it made me feel worthy, feel hopeful, inspired.
What’s your story? How have you loved others, how can you continue elaborately even unknowingly in this time of openness in time despite closed doors?
I watched the soloist in worship, saw timidity in a way that led to her being brave. Fairly new to the stage, I’ve been attentive to her growing. I long to know her story.
Has she always sang so bravely, was it a thing she knew she’d always do? Was it a path that opened before her and at last she agreed she was able?
I watched as her hand held the microphone in its stand. I listened as she told me it’s God’s breath in me that led and leads to my breathing. She opened both hands towards the ceiling as her voice was elevated, “Great are you Lord!” I joined in agreement.
I’d still love to know her faith story. I’d like to know her journey as a woman.
I sat in the white chair later, the chair that was yellow when my mama got it. She had it in her den and I don’t recall her ever sitting there. It was positioned in front of her place for sitting, a place she could simply see it.
It faced the wide windows that opened the view to the field, the skinny lane that announced visitors. My mama lived alone for a bit and her yellow chair is only one of a few things she gave me. The others, ceramic roosters and a bracelet, now broken and not really jewelry, “costume” the jeweler said, “not worth anything”.
The yellow chair now recushioned and covered white, the little roosters and the bracelet, all yard sale discoveries.
My mama had very little.
Her legacy is wisdom. Wisdom and spontaneity, gifting herself with an occasional treat!
I thought of her as I drifted into a nap on Sunday. The yellow chair now creamy white facing my own wide windows.
I found solace in the soft chair, curled like a baby in my mama’s not made for sleeping chair.
I rested in the certainty of her joy when she found the fancy to her yellow chair. I celebrated her deciding she was worth it, something her life had never told her.
No wonder I find comfort in my mama’s yard sale chair.
It’s a side of her story she really didn’t tell. Her story of strength, of being worth something other than what life had shown her. A story of the bravery in believing, to wake to your very own beauty.
To believe in yourself because of God’s plan. I sit in my mama’s humble chair and feel the softness of her wisdom, I feel able to keep believing I am more than what my hard years have told me.
Continue and believe.
There is wisdom in quiet joy. There is wisdom in pursuits that are tentative.
There is safety in remembering another’s very own wise path, as far back as when the writer of Proverbs called wisdom a “her”.
“When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” Proverbs 4:12-13 ESV
I hope to ask her one day, the new solo singer in worship, “How did you get to this place of using your voice to strengthen my faith?” There is wisdom in her journey I’m certain. I long to know why.
Who are the wise women in your life? The humble ones, the overcomers, the singers, the confident business owners, the young mamas, the elderly still with us, the teachers, the artists, the singers?
Life makes us either hard or wise. Stay soft if you can, wisdom comes not from hardening.
A few days in a row I fixated on the idea of a bluebird landing in my palm. I imagined being able to get close enough before it flew away.
I set out with the plan that if I asked God to let that bird make a nest in my palm, I’d believe even more strongly in a God I can’t see.
I would see faith in a whole new way.
The fencepost is marked by a blue ribbon! Trickery to my vision even today.
If I clutched that resting bird, I’d go back home or sit on the front steps and I’d make a call. “Cousin!” I’d say with a loud happy voice, to my cousin who believes bluebirds mean hope.
“Cousin, you’ll never believe it! I have just held a little bluebird in my hand!” And she’d reply in her southern strong voice with either,
“What???? …Get outta here, no way!!!”
I love the way she always gets excited over my revelations.
Or, she’d say “Oh, Lisa, I can’t believe it, isn’t God so good?”
She might find my behavior odd, that I long to see a bluebird sit still in my hand.
That this crazy idea born of seeing a bird near the fence for me is a metaphor for faith, for sustaining it.
For me to be honest with me. Holding a bird in my hand would just lead to me longing for more. I’d love the way God answered my crazy request; but, what next?
Would I ask God to bring a cardinal indoors to live next to my bed? Would I have no fear of flying and ask to soar on an eagle’s wing?
Outlandish thoughts! Really elaborate tales I write in my intricately woven head.
God made me this way.
Last month I was more focused on the birds than ever. Crows all over the country field and a gathering of blue birds in the yard. Several cardinals seem to time it just right and I am turning my face towards the sky and they unravel themselves from the branches and hover over my walk on the trail. Bright red, soft and luminous blue, even the omenous charcoal black buzzard sitting atop the falling down house.
I noticed them. I thought about how God made them all. Thought about God telling us we mean more to Him than birds, than sparrows.
We are more intricately made. A blessing and a worrisome thing is a mind, a complex and compromised by life on earth brain.
Maybe that’s why I love the birds, love the idea of flying from place to place with my little flock. Being able to simply know my nest will be strong and safe if even for just a season.
Knowing there’s a pattern to life, there is a path for safe transition to Heaven.
Birds stay in that pattern undaunted by earth.
The coldest and most wet winter and I still hear the new bird in the tall pine singing its newly acquired noisy song. It sounds like anguish to me. Who am I to say? It’s most likely excitement.
It is a birdsong of faith.
As I type, the sound of a bouncing off the tall window has occurred. I don’t look up soon enough to see it, to know its color, brown, blue or rich red.
I know it may have been off course or maybe, just maybe it felt my longing and it thought it could come inside. Most likely not land in my hand, only let me truly see up close.
That’s faith that accepts our complexities. It’s faith in the God who made me who makes me unconcerned over writing this post, a crazy essay type story about how a bird not in my hand is leading me to deeper faith.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalms 139:13 ESV
My thoughts are known and they are unique, one of a kind wonderings and at times quite woeful.
I am thankful I am loved completely by a God who knows me so well, who knows me because He knew me.
Who’s watching over and is satisfied by my longings over bluebirds.
Who is satisfied that I am coming into me as a work of His hand. A God who sees me testing Him to give me a bird as a measure of faith and is understanding of my ways and compels me deeper, deeper into His view of me.
God is okay with my oddities.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalms 139:23-24 NLT
None of us are the same.
We don’t see one another’s inward parts. For me to write about birds is a risk; a risk I pray gets others thinking. We can never understand the mind of another. We can only accept that as truth. We all have hidden vulnerabilities. Some of us overcome them. Others show and then regret showing because they’re met by the very different thoughts of another. Some brains have fought back with resilience.
Others still have little corners and crevices that have stored up fear. Some hearts don’t appear to be broken but are quite broken. They are not beyond repair. No, not at all beyond resilience sustained by faith. Some are not healed yet; but, they are closer to believing they will be, closer to the possibility of coming into God’s own. The place of rest.
So, from the perspective of one who ponders birds and skies, let’s all join together, separately and yet wonderfully made and believe together.
Faith makes us well, may we not need earthly evidence to believe it.
I don’t think Jesus would have told us to look at the birds if we couldn’t grow by looking. So look up today. Look for the birds, imagine if you like, being allowed to hold one gently for a minute.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26 ESV
Heavenly Father, thank you for making us so individually well and reminding us that we are so very fragile. It is you that makes us strong. Help us remember you through a flash of blue against a winter field. Because of mercy, in Jesus name, Amen.
I’d love to tell you the favorite part of my day was my morning thought of how faith is like the elusive bluebird. Of how I told myself that God uses birds throughout the gospels to teach us most everything, tell us to be light, not to worry. I thought that was a worthy thing, the way I pulled it altogether, the idea of faith requiring recall, not being dependent on the recurring miraculous. I’ll blog about this faith revelation later I decided. And I’d pull it altogether with a fascination with bluebirds I hope would allow me a photograph, even land and make a nest of my open hand. If I asked God for that and He gave it would that mean always and forever my faith would more likely be certain?
That even though it’d be an uncommon miracle type thing to have a bluebird land and settle in my hand, I might want something more, something one might call a miracle. Something sort of like today. I’m a serious one and yet, I laughed in a silly way today. I laughed unprompted by another or just to go along.
I stretched out across the playroom floor, the baby coralled by my extended legs. She sat still at my waist and over and over I positioned her little stuffed kitten on my middle. She was still.
“Ready?” I asked and she watched wide eyed and attentive as I pretended the little kitten was walking to the edge and then “Uh-oh!” the little grey kitten fell and fell again. My torso blocking her view, it would seem the little kitten flew!
I laughed at the thought of my play and she laughed along with me, eventually, not right away. No, not until at least six or seven tumbling kitten games.
It occurred to me she was seeing a new thing. She’d never ever seen her grandma laugh so spontaneously and I saw her smile widen and then as she held the little kitten in her tiny hand, she laughed with me. We laughed together.
Then I lined up the other animals and she crawled to chase the dog towards her little nursery.
Then, I called “Elizabeth” and she turned to see me once more letting the little toy kitten dance to See ‘n Say music and she bounced her little butt and she smiled and clapped her hands.
The thoughts about the elusiveness of faith, the blog I’d planned to write. Noble and true and realization that matters.
But, I’m still thinking about the kitten I bounced off my tummy then gave it a special spot in the window. The clouds were bringing cold tonight, the meteorologists were wrong, God had a different plan. The wide uncovered window upstairs kept the gloomy skies where they belonged. Inside, warm and dry we laughed and laughed again.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NLT
When God gave this word to Solomon, He was thinking of Mary, of Martha. He was thinking of Peter, of Paul, of John, of the Woman caught in adultery….too many to tell. He was thinking of me, Lisa and of you, of you as well.
I believe this.
I missed the part about the meeting of their faces until I read the passage. A familiar passage, I remembered the telltale rooster crow and skimmed over the way Jesus saw it all. Jesus saw it all.
I can’t stop thinking how Peter must have felt the next morning. Did he experience a hangover of sorts? Here I am again letting doubt takeover? Maybe not because these hours were the deadly ones, the tortured crucifixion. Sorrow over self had no place then. Only the reality of sacrificial and loving death.
Peter, a man who was the brother of John, the one who was able to step from a stormy boat to walk on the top of the ocean because he trusted God, was sure of Jesus.
His denial to others of his belief is a captivating story.
Jesus told him as he prepared them all at the Last Supper and before. Jesus told Peter, you will deny me.
“Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”” Luke 22:34 ESV
Peter was adamant that he wouldn’t.
But he finds himself sitting around a fire outside a high priest’s house that held the captured Jesus. Peter has followed the throng at a distance from Jesus. Not so far that he didn’t appear to be associated with the Savior. Just far enough to avoid the reactions of the ones who’d be making the crucifixion decision.
The onlookers build a fire, like concert-goers in line for a sell out I suppose. Fireside conversation begins and three separate people spread the word, this man here, hey you, we saw you with him. As if to say, why are you sitting here when you’re known to be a friend of Jesus?
Peter told all three, “not me”.
“And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” Luke 22:58 ESV
Then a rooster crowed three times. Peter met the eyes of the watching Jesus. He wept. He wept at the realization of a Savior who knew him so very well.
“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62 ESV
Peter’s story doesn’t end here. He encountered the resurrected Jesus and he continued his life proclaiming all he had learned from his experiences with Jesus.
I’m thinking about the fireside scene. How in the world did Peter succumb to peer pressure? Why was it so hard for him to believe without being afraid of consequence or opinion?
I believe it may have been just a fear in general in believing good things could actually come true.
But, this is probably just my takeaway. That we believe what we can count on based on our histories to be true, to be certain, to be what we can count on.
Our humanity causes our hearts to draw the map for our minds to follow. I don’t think Peter was unsure of Jesus. More than that, he was unsure of himself. So, he placed himself with the accusers, the deniers, the cynics and the intellects.
He felt more at home that night with the ones who chose to believe a sure thing, not life changing, miraculous or unseeable.
Jesus knew he would. Peter’s behavior was forgiven. The account of Peter tells the undeniable truth for me and you.
Jesus knows we’re prone to doubt, afraid to speak out, that we dumb ourselves down at times when it comes to our faith.
Jesus knows we’re afraid to be bold on occasion. Knows we’re quite tentative in stepping into his promise of better, of complete.
Yesterday, I heard a statement.
You will be as safe from sin as you are close to Jesus.
What I believe and whether I believe completely is fully known by God. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. His denial leaves a compelling story for us all.
The regret of Peter over distancing himself from Jesus. The realization and tender repentance when met with the gaze of Jesus.
A repentance, loving and open because of mercy we all can know.
Again and again.
What we believe makes the difference. Believing with an uncertainly over God or believing with all our hearts.
“The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9 NLT
This is my space, the place my feet take heavy steps now, more slow, less driven. This arena of sky all around me. I’m known, she keeps walking. The neighbors don’t interrupt only nod. I keep walking under God’s massive and ever fascinating sky. I take photos with a not up to date phone. I continue to chronicle my notice of God. Birds all in a cluster. Oddly, one, only one, a lonely goose flew over. I wondered why.
I noticed the birds all together and then separate. I wondered if the ones on the borders of the wide expanse were afraid they might lose the others.
I wondered if birds are that way. If they compare their flights to the flight of another.
Then I said to myself.
“You don’t notice the way you did before, don’t write quite as often about emotion stirred by evening walk, birds or feathers or the breeze that brushed your cheeks.”
Perhaps, there’s a lull or a rest or better yet.
Yes, better yet. You’ve grown.
The story that you’re writing now is not nearly as melancholy.
Not heavy. Not as hard to hear I’m hoping.
It’s more melody.
Still honest. Maybe just busy with the grandbaby and too tired to notice feathers…
No, not that at all. Maybe your soul has settled. Either way. It is good. You’re still writing. You thought of a new title just last night.