“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4 ESV
Today, the sun was bright in South Carolina, the Labrador was content but it seemed wrong not to walk him.
I’d gone to church, kinda worried but masked and attended, immersed myself in the rich voices of the singers and I joined in the emotional prayer offered by our pastor.
I opened my palm to heaven in agreement. It felt weak and timid, still, I felt myself hoping …
God please help us all.
I heard the ache in the pastor’s tone. I wondered if he might cry.
A prayer about pandemic and the fears about our country.
Every one is fighting hard battles and there seems no bunker in which to hunker down til the war is done.
My walk that was supposed to be a jog in this time of resolutiondecided to be take it easy, take the dog.
On the trail I spotted the ebony berries. I remembered the sermon I heard and the one my cousin suggested.
I thought if those berries weren’t on the branches they’d be dried up, bitter and wrinkled.
I thought of the two Sunday sermons.
One about remaining and the other, flourishing.
One talking about connectedness and abiding and the other talking about planting ourselves in the place most likely to keep us growing, make us strong.
And I’m thinking now, I’m staying close, even growing closer and as odd as it may seem if it came from my very own lips.
God is still good and he’s about to become good for so many more.
And my thoughts on that?
Welcome to a life led by your Heavenly Father.
Welcome to a life that makes no human sense, welcome to God in you, a quiet sense when nothing makes sense, a whisper in the breeze, a pausing to notice simple berries against green leaves and be reminded.
God is near. I am loved.
Continue and believe.
Planted seeds are about to burst forth. The season to come is one of sweet and miraculous growth.
If you’re curious and need more of these Sunday words I heard:
Search YouTube for TrueNorth Church and Seacoast Church. You can hear both sermons.
Here we are on day 8 of the year with the number that sounded hopeful, a cadence in the sound of its number as opposed to 2020. 2020, the one step forward and one back sort of feel, stuck on the side of the road or bogged down in a farmer’s field.
A year I’d hoped to feel more confidence than persistent dread.
So, it’s gonna be slow growing, the moving into what 2021 has to offer and what I’m gonna need to acknowledge, adjustments to be made with me, within mostly.
No more of this snap of the fingers, all is well and good. No, it’s a practice, an intentional setting my intentions on growing with and at God’s pace.
Changing that leads to blooming and replanting to bloom year after year. Growth that’s not a result of impatience or self-condemnation.
And it’s in the darkness that the growth begins. Dark heavy thoughts that ask why not yet and long to shake off doubtful patterns and to be one and done with habitual self-sabotage to avoid disappointing results.
With God, I’m beginning to know myself well, the things I’m up against, the behaviors that are not for me, are against me.
And Jesus agrees with me so gently.
“Thy faith and thy love and thy hope will grow, the more thou seest the work of God with thee; thou wilt joy in sorrow, and thy sorrow will be turned to joy.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength Devotional
What feels like trudging forward with no evidence of better, quite possibly worse, causes a heaviness in me this morning.
I turn to another devotional, a popular one, “Jesus Calling” and I’m lighter from reading just one sentence.
“The weaker you are, the more gently I approach you.” Jesus Calling
I know this to be true.
I’m never corrected so harshly by my Savior as I am by myself.
I write the sentence in my journal and my thoughts go to the woman who should’ve been pelted with rocks with Jesus as the witness to her deserved punishment.
I know the passage very well. I imagine her waiting to be punished and gawked over by a large group of better than her in their minds gawkers.
Jesus surprised her, surprised the ones holding the rocks. They all walked away after being told to consider your very own wrongs. The crowd dispersed hearing Jesus tell her to go and be free.
“Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” John 8:10-11 TPT
The bulbs on my daughter’s table are covered in bright green moss. They were the same for days, left beside the kitchen window.
The expected brilliant bloom for Christmas festivities didn’t happen, maybe I’d planted them in too shallow soil, maybe over or under watered.
Then, she moved them to a more open space, she cushioned the soil with soft pillows of moss that she and her daughter collected. The moist earth caused the stems to reach up.
Two bulbs now have little baby bumps, flowers soon to burst forth.
I’m believing. Tiny white flowers will flourish. I expect to see them on Monday and I’ll tell my grandchild, look what you and mama and God did! You waited and you helped the little flowers to grow.
Never having planted the winter flowers, “forcing” their indoors blooming, my daughter and I are learning. Once they’ve bloomed, you dig the bulbs up from the dirt and you put them in brown bags.
You save them to bloom again. You anticipate the hope of beautiful future (next year) growth.
Today, when I don’t know about tomorrow and especially not next year, I’ll think of the most quiet thing I know now, these flowers called paperwhites that decided to wait to bloom in January rather than a “forced” December.
The storms of my thoughts are stilled when I remember my strength comes from unseen joy, beckoning me back to a place that is rest, is a haven for sure peace.
“God stilled the storm, calmed the waves, and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper. We were so relieved, so glad as he guided us safely to harbor in a quiet haven.” Psalms 107:29-30 TPT
God’s love is constant. His rescue is sure. His cultivation of us for His glory is patient and gentle.
“But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:33 NLT
A trusted friend with a windowsill full of orchids has told me to let it be.
It will bloom again. I’ve allowed the fallen petals to stay, evidence in some way to me that my orchid will flower again.
One morning, I’ll be greeted by the beginnings of a bloom nurtured from the strong green stem that I’ve kept watered although it does appear hopeless.
If you could see my friend’s orchids, you’d trust in her confidence too.
Today, my guide in the back of my Bible had me start again. Psalm 1 and Matthew 1 along with I Chronicles, the lineage of Jesus.
I added Proverbs 1 because I felt the need for wisdom.
Joseph is met by an angel who assures him being married to a pregnant woman does not mean shame or fear.
Rather, it is a grander thing. It is a conception by the Holy Spirit. It had nothing to do with the humanness of him.
“Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:19-20 NLT
Joseph believed the voice that assured him, God has made you a part of a long ago established promise.
Joseph listened and continued beside Mary.
He was alone, quiet, considering “cutting and running” when he heard a voice he was certain of.
Yesterday, something I thought was wonderful happened to me. A dream come true, evidence of God’s goodness, a blessed thankful answer to a deep longing. A legacy, a book for Elizabeth.
But, I misunderstood. I misread the agreement. I felt stupid, a novice, naive.
And then, I didn’t.
I listened to the Holy Spirit. I turned my attention towards the way forward. I decided to continue, just more informed and learning.
I decided to believe, not yet but soon and surely.
Like the orchid that has been bare for the same six months of dread and pandemic, the strength is in its roots, the up flow of nutrition from the hidden place within.
The leaves are bright green.
The tangle of grey in the pot is getting thicker.
I can’t see any evidence of it, I must trust the uncertainty of my part, watering it.
Much like my confidence in these days. It will topple if I’m overwhelmed by every argument towards dread. I am not capable of keeping my hope if I listen to the voices of fear, conflict, condemnation and death.
I must stay quiet, quiet enough to be reassured by the Spirit of God in me, the voice that says don’t join in the fear.
The voice that gave me the prayer yesterday, a simple one, a request for relief and assurance.
Relief and assurance.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 KJV
Listening to voices other than the voice within me, my “soulmate”, the Holy Spirit leans towards discontent, disgruntlement, dismay over a dreadful next day.
The longing of my heart begs my return to listening intently to my Heavenly Father.
I will listen today to the voice that promises new growth, a flowering of my bitter and often dried up thoughts and hopes.
I will believe.
I will continue.
“Thy longing is the faint response of thy heart to His call.” F.B. Meyer, Joy and Strength devotional
Seems like yesterday, but it was I guess, twenty or so years ago. I cut the big branches from the sycamore tree and laid them in the back seat. Leaves as big as my two hands together. I had a plan for my room. I was assigned the lesson on Zacchaeus.
The branches touched the ceiling in the tiny room where I created a scene to tell the children about how a man moved from the top of a tree hoping just to see Jesus, to having him as a guest in his home.
On the night I was to teach the lesson, the room disappointed. The church trying to save electricity had turned off the air conditioning. I was met by wilted leaves and a room that was consumed by humidity, a swampy smell. The “tree” I built in the corner was wilted, not special or impressive for the little children at all.
The tree was no longer a part of the lesson. Ten or so boys and girls sat in front of me in a circle on a rug we imagined was the tax collector’s home.
I taught them about the man who said yes to Jesus coming inside. They listened as I told them of the man up in the tree who never thought he’d meet Jesus, he just wanted to see unnoticed by others, the one who was spreading hope and love, a healer.
Then Jesus said, I’m not just passing by, I’m headed to your house today, climb down from that (ridiculous) tree.
The story continues with the criticism of others who knew Zacchaeus as a rich man, a cheater, a scoundrel you may say.
None of that mattered to Jesus. He set his sights on people unworthy from others’ perspectives.
I’m one of those.
Later, we’ll be having a big crowd at our house. We will celebrate a birthday. Children will swim in our pool, cousins will feel like it’s a reunion party. There will be noisy conversation, peach cobbler, baked beans, popsicles, etc.
My husband asked me if I was ready just now. He knows I’m an introvert, he’s familiar with the mystery of my yearning for quiet.
Almost a year ago, I began to wear this little bracelet. It’s paint covered sometimes, it’s a little soiled from my walking in this southern heat. It is stretched and weathered.
A tiny charm adorns it. One side says “faith” and the other, “my saint, my hero”. I don’t consider myself a saint nor a hero.
I do know that faith is my mainstay. I don’t need to know if the giver of this bracelet considers me her hero. I just need to continue in my faith and hope others who come around me see it. I need to remember Jesus as my hero. I need to live in a house of faith.
That when others come to my house, they might get a sense that Jesus had been by too, either in the waking prayer of morning, the first step outdoors to see the sun leave layers on the green or in the way I welcome them in.
Where I lack in hospitality, may there be the evidence of my faith.
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 ESV
Zacchaeus, a rich man met Jesus unexpectedly in his home and then carried on from there more honest, more generous, more unashamed.
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” John 14:5 ESV
When I’m not certain how to join a conversation, I sometimes don’t say anything. I linger with my questions, I gather information.
I acknowledge my lack of understanding. I tell myself this is just too much for a well meaning but insufficient response. Situations over lives lost violently and unnecessarily weigh heavy on my heart. I am not equipped with words to make a dent in the dismay.
I turned to John today, led by my ancient Roman numerically referenced devotional, “Joy and Strength”.
A drawing in the margin illustrated the question asked by Thomas, “How can we know the way?”
I realized Jesus had told them, shown them, modeled it along.
The way is love.
John, chapters 13 and 14, tell the touching story of the love of Jesus.
Jesus, confusing the disciples by sitting at their feet with a basin of water, choosing the dirtiest of their parts, feet familiar with dirt, and he washed their feet.
He was teaching that you do what seems unfitting for you to do, you take it a step farther than telling about Him or giving food or shelter or telling their own Jesus story.
No, you love others if they’re different, you love people who walk on different roads other than your own.
You acknowledge that their steps are led by God enabled feet and journeys, joys and woes.
Feet like your own.
Made by God, loved by God.
Led by God.
Led by love.
All sorts of words can be said about choosing love.
It’s the choosing that matters, not really the words we’ve known so very long and already know.
It’s the choosing to love when that’s all you know or when that’s “all you got” in unthinkable ungodly situations.
“And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:4-6 ESV
Love is the way.
Love, the way to God.
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, the washer of our faltering feet.
Here’s a granddaughter inspired post about “wonder” I wrote a few weeks ago.
Today is her 1st birthday. I call her “morning glory” among other little things. A baby who changes a day from gray to blue, a baby girl who has changed our world. Happy Birthday, sweet little curious thinker, “ELB”. We thank you for making us so much more sure of every single thing. You cause me to rest. You increase my joy. You are a gift. You are the embodiment of certain hope. You are silly, you are wise.
What We See
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12 ESV
As if our bodies were synchronized, our necks craned and faces tilted towards heaven, we stared through the sheer drapery and we tried to find the opening. We wondered if it was as tiny as the point of a pin. We longed to see and were left questioning, “What is up there, what is causing the lingering of her stare?” We were fascinated. We were perplexed.
The baby was tiny then. We decided the veil must surely be thinner between babies and heaven. Occasionally, as her mama cradled her after feeding and before sleep, she raised her tiny arm towards the ceiling in a newborn hello wave. Something was there, someone, a presence only baby girl was capable of seeing. We were captivated by her vision. We researched angelic explanations and discovered mystical and somewhat biblical explanation. My daughter and I agreed, she is in awe of her new world, she sees either angel, God or we hoped, her great-grandma.
Then, she began to grow and curiosity for other was all about what she could touch, feel, manipulate, and discover. We noticed her looking towards heaven less often. She became more fascinated with the cool earth beneath her knees and feet.
Her longing for understanding seemed to be bigger than simply seeing. I watched as she discovered discovering.
I began to discover again.
We sat together in the cool grass of Spring. I watched her fascination with leaves, pine straw, and the big dog.
We sat together.
So serene. I braided the pinestraw in a way I may braid her soft hair one day. She watched me and her chubby fingers tried the same.
“Bird”, I said and she looked at me and then towards the sky. For a moment or two she was enthralled, we looked up together. I held her hand and we sat still.
I am thinking now, posing a question, sermon to self-type evaluation, “Where will you see God today, Lisa?” because it has been something I’ve been wondering in this pandemic. I have taken stock of the things God has not stopped. Babies are born. Birds are cavorting. Even the wind seems more melodic. The flowers are brilliant. The clouds are puffed and fully inflated. I find it confusing these spectacular symbols of living in a time of speculation and dread of death.
How is there such splendor in such a time of fear? How is my wonder over such beauty so fulfilling? What is God’s intention in this juxtaposition of grief and beauty? Are we to hold both, one hand clutching uncertainty and the other, splendor? Possibly, I believe. Perhaps wonder is simply faith we see only through childlike eyes.
The baby will be here momentarily. I’ll spread an old quilt on the grass in the back corner. All the toys will be toted out and she’ll play until she is bored with blocks and colors. Then she and I will look and listen. We will mimic the crow. We will toss the ball to the dog and we may sing her favorite song, “Deep and Wide”. She’ll guide my hands because she knows the words now. She’ll remember long ago when her grandma opened her arms, deep and then wide and sang to her over and over about the fountain flowing, one full of love for her and me.
We will look together. We will listen and then have a lunch of sweet potato. I’ll be attentive to her seeing and she will be to mine. We will look in wonder for God today, the sweet baby girl, and I will remember our creator, the one who gave us our eyes and our ears and our favorite thing of all, our wonder.
Where will you see God today?
May your seeing be as mysteriously clear as a baby’s.
Happy 1st birthday, Elizabeth Lettie, we love you more than any words can express. We love you for changing our seeing. We love you for increasing our wonder.
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.