The cardinal came and this time I paused to watch.
Bright red body perched on a leafless limb, it rested momentarily and then one, two, three little jumps, it was on the highest of the branches, facing forward towards me unmoved by the window.
Then it moved, it was on its way.
I’m now 14 chapters into the Book of Luke and every day has been a new takeaway.
A friend mentioned hope today and as God would have it, hope is what resonated in Chapter 14 for me, hope when all seems lost, hope that longs to be found, not overlooked, not less than all it truly is and can be.
Hope that we need.
Jesus gave hope to an ailing man on a Sunday although the religious leaders chastised him for doing so.
He told the disciples to take the seat that wasn’t so lofty, not to assume you deserve to be there.
Sit in the lowly place, you might eventually be called to a seat of our honor.
But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:10-12
Jesus told a parable about a master’s grand event, a banquet to which all those invited made excuses, declining the invitation. So, the master told the servants, go out and invite others.
Invite the hopeless, the hapless, the crippled, the perceived unfit.
The banquet room was filled because they came, the others went unfulfilled, their choice leading to them not being invited again.
Can you imagine what they must have missed?
He is the song for the suffering He is Messiah The Prince of Peace has come He has come, Emmanuel Light of the World Lauren Daigle
Jesus calls us to take our hope with us as we go, wherever we go.
Hope that causes question, hope that is unashamed to sit with those that look, from our sometimes lofty positions, like shame.
Those who look like less than us and those who we believe are so much more.
Hope shows no partiality.
It welcomes in the unwelcome and challenges us to have no absolutes, no presumptions or assumptions.
Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing of.
Hope is here. It has come, Jesus, the light of our world.
Listen in to a song from someone who shared her hope in a place that caused questions from some. She sang her song anyway.
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”.
I wake to have my interest peaked as I scan my emails. Try, try again or consider those kind of doors closed?
The idea of submission has captured me again.
Lord, tell me what to say.
Jesus had a captive audience. His presence caused men, women and children to be drawn towards him.
He was a teacher enthused over his lesson plan, he wanted everyone who listened to learn, to be changed by their learning.
He sat one day on the edge of a fishing boat, the fishermen must have called it a day and so Jesus perched himself on the edge and faced the crowd who had gathered on the shore.
Big crowds must have followed him all around, maybe pausing to answer others’ curious questions.
Where are you going?
Who is this man named Jesus anyway?
Why are you following him?
Isn’t he just Joseph’s son?
Do you really believe what they’re saying?
Have you actually seen him do the things people are saying he can do?
Could it be possible?
Simon thought he knew more than Jesus. Jesus told him to let down the nets, to put the boat back in the water, to go and try again.
Simon told Jesus we’ve tried all night and no luck, essentially “nary a bite” man!
Jesus told him try again.
“Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”
Luke 5:3-7 ESV
I have a paperweight on my desk that says “something wonderful will happen today”, another that says “you haven’t failed until you give up” and a solid and smooth rock engraved with one word, “soar”.
On occasion I notice them, rarely really.
Instead I recall unexpected rescues, kindnesses that correct my budgetary mistakes, staff who encourage me, endure my negativity and cynicism.
A family who supports my work, supports and stands by me.
I see God coming through in ways that come from my keeping on, keeping an even keel.
I know the bountiful catch is coming and I put down my net and maybe just wait. I do my part, I rest.
I listen to sincere encouragement, I discern in the faces and reactions and even the decisions of others.
Whether here or there or even anywhere, are the places I place my words and my art, the places I “let my net down” that came back empty before, now possibly to reap a joyful multiplication that will honor God, nudge others towards Him.
Jesus, God’s son came to earth to use earthly objects and experiences to teach us to hope.
Teachable moments like a burnt out and hopeless fisherman, expert at his trade who wasn’t having a good fishing day.
Jesus suggested he try again.
Advent, a time to prepare ourselves for the hope of Christmas.
Jesus, the Messiah.
He is our hope, the hope of all mankind.
We must do these things we think we cannot do, we must believe again in the possible impossibilities.
What will you try, try again that you thought you may as well give up?
Big things have small beginnings and small things with repetition and resolve come through.
Luke, Chapter 3 is evidence of the writer’s intellect, I decide. Luke, a physician explored and recorded the lineage of Jesus. It would be easy to avoid the 15 verses with challenging names, like skipping over the Book of Leviticus on yet another plan to read through the Bible.
But, it is relevant, this lineage, this record of ancestry.
All the relatives of Joseph and thereby Jesus, the Son of God.
“the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Luke 3:38 ESV
It matters to me, the humanity of Jesus, the lining up of people, just like the people lined up before me.
Makes me reflect on our genetics and our similarities, the ones before me, making straight my way through the memories of their own ways.
“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways,”
Luke 3:5 ESV
My grandma made the best of paths she may have thought might be straight, she made it through the crooked places and leveled her life with scripture and determination, she always made a way.
I told my “Aunt Boo” that I felt my grandma with me and in me. I’ve sold hand-painted Christmas cards this year.
I remembered her carefully designing her velvety Christmas ornaments, covered in pieces and parts of old jewelry.
She used the long stick pins and carefully created elaborate pieces. I see her now.
She’s in the room they added on, the double bed filled up the room and there was space just wide enough for her beside it. She retreated to this place, I was invited in to sit quietly on the bed.
A dresser was covered with sectioned flat containers, sparkly, metallic, extravagant and antique. She stood for hours, her tiny frame steady, her hands working constantly. No words spoken and her mouth set just so, her tongue tipped up toward the curve of her lip, peeking through, she worked with her mouth “set just right”.
She was industrious. She placed the ornaments in big flat boxes and with her little memorandum pad, she loaded her car and she made her deliveries.
I am forever impacted by her choice to pursue something so joyful, to do something that was fully and completely her choice to do.
It matters to me, this characteristic of my grandmother in me.
I’ve been selling my art again.
Luke reminds us that everything is purposeful and everything matters.
In the first verses of Chapter 3, John begins to tell of a new concept, repentance and forgiveness of sins. Isaiah the prophet had written of John, a voice that would come from the wilderness. The same John who “jumped” in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb while in the room with Mary, pregnant with Jesus, this John would baptize many and baptize Jesus.
And Jesus heard his father, God say, “you are my son”.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””
Luke 3:21-22 ESV
It’s doubtful I’ll ever be a theologian, doubtful I’ll return to any further education.
Life and God are my teachers now.
Life, the enormity of it around me, exposure to wisdom, thoughts, experiences. God helps me see the relevance of Him in it all.
I’ve just finished reading an article I’ll read again and maybe more. The wisdom of a man over why his ancestry is significant, why clarity matters, why approaching things hidden or unexplored is something we all should do.
It is never too late.
Two gentlemen, both guys who are wise and caring and ones I respect, pointed me in the direction of this piece.
We are all individuals formed by those who made us. Our heredity is more than physical, it is experiential.
It is a brave choice to consider the weaving of our ways, to look at them and say, oh, I see now this horrible or wonderful thing, how it made me, me.
Some might wonder what these thoughts have to do with Christmas. I get that.
I don’t know why; but, I said a long series of “thank you, Gods” beside my bed today. It began and then just became a spontaneous building of more and more. God kept up the conversation, brought to memory all of my before to say hey, look at now!
This life I have, this life I know.
It is absolutely a life of hope. My lineage and my life experiences at one time convinced me it could never be so.
Like Luke details the way the 30 year old Jesus came to be, it is similar for you and me.
The breath of heaven that brought Jesus is the same breath of God that created you and me.
On purpose and with purpose that life causes us to sometimes lose. I told someone yesterday I wish I hadn’t returned to art so late in life.
One of my thank yous this morning was that I am here and I have art and life and so much more.
I have hope.
Advent, the days before Christmas, these are the days to have hope.
It matters to me that my grandma chose hope, that she became independent in her pursuit of making beautiful things, that she was about my age when she began this thing that kept her captivated, made her feel significant, brought joy to so many.
It matters to me that I got to see what I didn’t understand as hope back then, but understand it now.
She prepared the way for me. I pray I’m preparing the way for my own daughter, my son and all the other children yet to come.
Luke, a Book about the life of Jesus. I’m no seminarian, I’m just sharing what he’s bringing to light …24 Days of Jesus, my Advent Experience.
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.
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.
“The monarchs are migrating.” I offered as if I knew anything at all about butterfly migration or Fall.
“It’s amazing how far they travel, they’re on the way now,” he added a foreign place I can’t remember and told me how he had read of their journey, how they were created to become beautiful and then to fly.
I know nothing about such things, I’ve only heard about this, I realize.
I sit with my feet in the sand in the place that was clear for us, a wide space, no other people in our space.
They kept flying near along with the dragonfly, landing or flirting with the possibility of resting near my chair.
I tried to capture the image, they only captured my fascination.
Walking, the next day before leaving, I saw another one there. This one, in the rubble of raked debris, just lying there.
The Lab was distracted as I bent to collect it, a small one, I kept it in my hand.
Knowing that it was landed there softly for my finding.
Knowing every little thing on my path is significant to my story.
Yesterday, we gave $5 to a woman with a sign. She reached through my window and I avoided her eyes, “God bless you today for this.” she said and then the light changed and I led us on our way towards food in the hungry and impatient line of cars.
My husband wondered about her worthiness and we both decided his observation might be right.
Then we chose to let go of our judgment, to let be what will be with her intentions, only feel sure ours were good and hopeful and done in love we certainly didn’t consider ever having for her at all.
Not her, nor the shaken young woman, mistaken somehow in her driving, causing our accident. It is best to love her although it makes no sense at all.
I woke this morning deciding not to judge her, nor the others who may have been off track, trying to get back on.
Deciding love is better, costs so very little at all.
When we choose love, people get the best of us, they get to see Jesus coming through because there’s no way we’d ever be so consistent with mercy at all.
“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19 ESV
I’m not able own my own.
When we love, we aren’t able to judge. When we really love, there’s no sense or room for judgment, at all.
“even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
Psalm 139:10 ESV
A year or so ago, my story was not the same. It was brave and descriptive and overall, the content served a purpose.
It told a few things readers might relate to, others unaware might be drawn to know more. It was about me and it was going to be about them.
Them, being the ones who brought me harm, stifled my self-confidence, my self-awareness, and my soul truly for a long time.
It would be about some who turned shielded eyes to say they’d not known, turned from my distress saying that must be where she wanted to go.
It was a hopeless story pretending to portray hope and may have caused hurt to a few.
Not necessarily an expose’, just would have thrown a lot of “shade” on a select more than few.
Today, I’m beginning 31 Days of writing. In October, along with the Five Minute Friday community, I’ll write using a prompt, today’s is “story”.
This is my story now.
Healed and Hopeful
The story I’m choosing, the one that is hopeful and intentional and is led closely by my Father, God.
By my Savior, Jesus and the Spirit saying choose this new way.
I turned my eyes from the piece about the candidate and his high school buddies and what he really meant by what he wrote in the yearbook. I turned my attention away. Because last week the news and the media’s social conversation starters stirred up three nights of nightmares just as real as the days before. For a split second, I remembered clearly then turned my thoughts from those days, those nights.
I didn’t contribute to the hashtag conversation on why I didn’t report. Even after so many strong women were, it has no bearing on me now, the conversations about before.
I love my friend who suggested we all change our Facebook profile pic to blacked out squares. It is supposed to show men what the world would be like without women. Instead, I painted for three hours, a piece not up for sale. It occurred to me to black out my face on Facebook would mean darkness, fear, hiding. Decided I’d rather show God’s glory in me and the women I have around me. My profile pic is my painting.
I planned to write “lightly” 31 Days and changed my theme. I’ll be writing “freely” knowing full well there is still slavery all around. Women who are hurting and angry and fired up and men who were who they were when they scoffed over the good old days with girls. They’re here and real. Their eyes may land here and I may never know their reaction to my choice to not join in. My choice that seems unpopular by the world’s take on this stirring up of women who will not stay silent. I choose silence because I know silence is God’s will for me staying well.
My story is freedom.
I’m sticking with it, my “freedom story”, the colors of my Bible are my Bible, of my life.
The Colors of My Bible
Healed and hopeful because of knowledge, joy, mercy, patience, love, grace, and understanding. It’s too much a burden to go back and begin carrying my hurt around again, too heavy a yoke of sad slavery.
“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1 ESV
Father, if there are readers still reeling from trauma or reminded of trauma and feeling pulled back into fear, I pray you lead them to hope and that they find counseling specific to trauma recovery. I pray they know you are near and that persistence towards healing not the pursuit of patterns that cause us to stay focused on before is your desire. I pray you will remind them and me of the woman at the well, the woman who stood before men who were ready to cast stones. She watched them all drop to the ground as Jesus told her she was free, now go and remember this day no more. I pray you will remind us that fear is not from you, only hope. That those deserving of condemnation will surely be handled by You on our behalf.
Because of mercy,
Stay tuned, or better yet, join in. Tomorrow, Day 2 is prompted by “afraid”
You may know the quote, the one about being courageous enough to grow up and be who you are.
The labels and descriptions you may have spent the bulk of your life trying to prove wrong won’t be thrown off, won’t allow your discarding.
For they know they belong.
You’re not aloof, you just understand more clearly than others maybe, the longing for and gift of alone.
You are finally you, and okay more now than then with your understanding of alone.
My son in law uses an expression quite often that makes me smile when he gets it slightly wrong.
“To each is love, Miss Lisa” , he’ll remind me when we’re noticing people who don’t look, act or talk the same as us.
Maybe he’s right, maybe to each of us “it is our own” and for each us to be here all crowded together, it is love that is required.
I dislike crowds. Some don’t believe me. Speaking in public comes with the territory of my work. Facing crowds with half-hearted expressions and faces to talk about hard things my heart beats for, is hard for me.
When I’m done, I retreat, I long to be hidden, wish I could sit in silence.
I need to be alone.
You know the story about the sheep that Jesus told the disciples in John, 10?
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
John 10:16 ESV
If I were a sheep I’d be the one close enough to the fold and keenly listening to be sure I didn’t get separated.
I’m the one Jesus keeps his eye on, knowing my need not to be sort of alone, but still close enough to know His love.
I’m the one often mistaken for aloof, sweet little “shy” one, the childhood description that stuck.
The one in the midst of the gathering either making awkward conversation or biding time until I can again be alone.
“To each is love.”
To each of us quiet sheep following our shepherd but lingering on the edge of the crowded and maybe boisterous crowd, to each of us too, is His love.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:27-28 ESV
We feel safer in our aloneness, quiet in our quiet places.
We hear our shepherd more clearly when we’re not amongst all the others, competitive or compelling the crowd might be, good crowd or just noisy crowd.
We know where we long to be. So does He.
Linking up, prompted by the word “crowd” with others for Five Minute Friday.