Us With Others

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My Bible is open for the first time in almost a week and I’ve found the scriptures’ take on an expression I went to bed with.

I had been thinking of how I’m perceived, in a crowd of strangers who don’t know me, amongst artists and shoppers, women, their children.

For the first time in the bulk of my years it wasn’t about my shoes, my hair, my jewelry, my purse, or even my perfume.

I’ve been without my favorite scent called “Happy” for a bit and so the scent on a not so clear and cool day? I’m hoping it was “Dove” laced clear and clean aroma.

Most of us want to be found “worthy” of good things, pleasant to be with, able to hold a good conversation.

We want to have comparable lives to the ones we are with.

We want to be okay being with most everyone.

Before sleep last night I followed a thought trail to the question of what it means to walk worthy of Christ.

What a life that throws out all other measurements of worth held by society and individuals and simply is focused, content, and well, really just happy to only have one assessor of worth so to speak.

Then I wondered how walking worthy would really look, not me looking at me, but others’ views.

The Book of II Corinthians has four chapters spread across two pages in my Bible.

On the left margin I’ve sketched what looks like a steep hill going up a curve and towards a tunnel. I must’ve been reading Paul’s words about how we may think we are irrevocably affected by our pasts.

But we have lives resurrected, we have hope.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There are some things I shouldn’t have survived. Before, I questioned how and why I made it through. Now, I’m quite certain my present life, the nearness of God, is the reason.

On the right hand margin, there’s a sketch of what I’ve begun calling “margin girls”.

This pencil sketch is an early one with no color and at her feet, I’ve drawn a clay pot and a beautiful rose.

As Paul continues his writing, Chapter 2 is about triumph over our pasts. This is the place where the verse lives that describes what our walk is when we believe, what our aura and aroma will be amongst others.

He also owns his own horrible and murderous past and writes that if we’ve been forgiven, the best thing we can do is to forgive others as well.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2:14-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It occurs to me now, I used the word “peddler” just last week as I described how I detest convincing, imploring someone through my own neediness that they need to purchase a painting.

” Peddlers”, I think of insincere and unconvinced vendors.

That’s not who I want to be, when I offer up my belief in Jesus as something others are open to believing.

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No, I share the meaning behind the layers in a piece and onlookers are captivated, drawn closer, decide they’d like to own what God has helped me create.

The idea of the painting, the aroma of Jesus in me, inviting curiosity, not unpleasant.

If I’m found worthy, I want to be found a gentle, confident, pleasingly consistent scent of grace and mercy, salvation through my belief in Jesus.

Years ago, two or three, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me

This is your treasure…your art and your writing.

I was thrilled to be found worthy of such a calling! Impressed that I had progressed to such a place, excited…okay, finally it’s my big break kind of thinking.

But, I’m learning slowly, a treasure is small at first and may never be grand or spectacular at all or in an earthly way.

Instead, the treasure only increases in worth when it’s given back through uncertain and timid hands to the one who made it after all.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The thing about God and His teachings through the words of people like Paul is that we don’t understand it fully all at once.

Over time we ponder what is the aroma of Christ that those around me should sense?

What does it really mean to be clay in the potter’s hand waiting to be made into a vessel in which can rest our undeniable faith?

What does it mean to discard all self and others’ assessments of our ability and worth and walk only with one goal.

I want to walk worthy of the God who gave His Son and gifted me through grace to have the Spirit of Jesus in my own very soul. I want to live worthy of this, nothing more.

I suppose if their were a new scent, maybe the Clinique scent called “Happy” I loved so much before, I’ve outgrown.

I’d wear a new aroma, one called “Content” if I owned another pretty bottle.

How are your growing, measuring your worth and your worthiness?

Are you content?

Are you learning?

Content in not suddenly complete and completed?

Content in the balance of caring for the treasure of you, the treasured things you were created to share.

Continue and believe.

You are God’s treasure.

Keep learning.

Light Remains

Has your path left a long shadow behind you of late?

When you look back at before do you see only the grey, the narrow thinning of your best days?

This is not the case.

We rarely see the places our light remains. This, I believe is always always God’s intent, we don’t have to see it, see Him to know the light in us is never dimmed.

We don’t have to know the places the light he gave us remains.

Maybe that’s grace that says this is humility.

Maybe it’s mercy that says there’s new every morning, let’s move forward.

Some days I skip the Old Testament passage my guide tells me is for today.

Not today.

Job 29 and 30 is Job’s defense, his argument with God. I suppose you might say it’s sad.

But, it’s honest.

Job is recalling his standing amongst others, the way people responded to his walking by, the commitments he made to others and followed through. Maybe you’ve been in a similar place. Yesterday, God positioned me with a woman of faith, we caught up and she assured me she’d sensed some recent changes had been uneasy.

We were in agreement, God grows us up in those seasons, helps us not fight for our reputations, to sit in silence and let Him lead.

While I’d never compare my life to Job’s, I learn something new each time I turn to his book. Today, it wasn’t the inventory of all his good he reminds God of in these chapters. It was to me a couple of verses I think may have been his lasting peace.

His memories of the way he was with others. This cherished. What Job remembered being, doing, believing it was good.

“I smiled on them when they had no confidence, and the light of my face they did not cast down.”

‭‭Job‬ ‭29:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What a beautiful thing, to have changed the environment or lessened someone’s pain by being near.

Yes, this is enough.

More than.

My friend and I talked about the enemy yesterday too.

How revelations like the one above will try to be dulled by gossipers, questioners, disputers and even our own doubts about your heart and soul’s intentions.

We are human, we get drawn towards bitterness and hurt. We learn as we go, hard times increase our faith.

It’s the soft light of our faith that will remain in the same way it did in other former places.

God’s light is ever slow to dull.

I am so thankful for Job. He teaches me every single time. God is always good.

Always.

Always faithful as we endure for the sake of His plans not our own.

Linking up with other FMF bloggers on the prompt of BACK

Five Minute Friday

#thecolorsofmybible #butforhisgrace #faithful19

On the Day Marked 29

“You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you.” Hannah Whitall Smith

Work is in progress behind my window.

Heavy machinery harvesting timber.

The wide field that welcomed a spontaneous “capture the flag” adventure on a memorable New Year’s Eve is becoming more empty day by day.

The place where the cousins cavorted, that’s a memory nothing will take away.

Memories, such beautiful yet onerous things.

We discussed the motivation behind the new landowner’s intentions.

My husband added “Yeah, they’re raping the land.”

He paused for a minute when I gave no reply and I saw in his eyes that he regretted the word.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O’ bring Thou me out of my distresses. Psalm 35:17

And that’s progress.

That knowing of me by him.

That’s progress.

This morning I opened my devotional to read and felt seen and known.

He made you and understands you, and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Hannah Whitall Smith

I move to put my books away and see I’ve been moved by words for the 29th of August rather than July.

There are no accidents with God, the truth meant for a month from now is what is needed today.

The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. Hannah Whitall Smith

Smith was an author, a Quaker, a fighter for women. She was a mother to seven children with only three who survived. Something she fought for resulted in “scandal” and I am thinking it had to do with women.

She wrote about God as a God of comfort and one to be trusted.

She died in 1911. I’m glad she left her footprint through words.

For me by accident this morning.

The lot across from my home is changing. The place that kept me feeling like I was still back home in Georgia will be nothing but vacant and leveled soon.

Empty space for consideration.

A place for new. And it’s not up to me what it becomes, only how I decide see it.

Same with struggle, with grief, with open wounds waiting to be healed.

Grief must be complete before life can be full.

Oddly, I’m grieving what’s happening with the strong and lovely trees across the way.

I love someone who’s dealing with the same, an unwelcome change in the space she felt still, felt safe.

Causes me to consider and to welcome that maybe hard consideration.

What is it that you’re not allowing in?

What is it that you’ve not fully grieved.

What do you harbor that’s only been allowed God’s peeking in for a sort of intake session, pre-intervention, taking from you?

What are you avoiding revisiting because you abhor the ugliness and truth of what it includes?

What are you not inviting a closer and clearer look at and in doing so, only prolonging the splendid healing?

Allow your knees to hit the floor, tell God your secret sorrow.

Let the tears flow.

Welcome the clearing.

Welcome the hard seeing that feels so achingly self-destructive of your wounded soul.

No one likes to cry.

But, if we’re honest it leads to better.

Embrace the joy that is waiting but cannot arrive til you’ve let the sorrow begin and be done.

Not happenstance that July 29th would also include a HWS quote and a verse about God as our maker, the Father we can trust.

And a question from Isaiah about to whom we belong and who He is…

“This is what the Lord says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One worthy of my trust.

Maker of heaven, earth, tress and me.

Continue and believe.

Sitting With Your Reply

Two men sat on the ground listening to the chaotic excited and curious crowd.

The disciples and Jesus coming into town welcomed by onlookers, critics and seekers.

Two blind men gauged the steps of the approaching healer. They shouted for his notice.

Others told them to hush their mouths!

Their shouts continued.

They were blind.

Together they must have decided it’s worth a try.

I think I would have too; taken the risk, especially if a friend said “Let’s try. I’ll ask if you will. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is our chance. Let’s do it! We might be healed! We might open our eyes and see!”

So, they likeminded, replied to the question from the mysterious healer.

“When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

They told Jesus they wanted to see.

And they were healed immediately.

We can go either way with our take on this and other Jesus stories.

We can recall prayers we prayed a long time ago that must not have made it high enough for healing, we suppose.

Or we can sit with this question, imagine ourselves in the presence of Jesus.

Hearing his question.

We can sit a little longer, we can maybe close our eyes and notice only the whirring sound of the room’s electrically run things.

We can notice the quiet as if something’s being offered and if the offering is waiting our taking or our forfeit.

We can sit even a little longer, our every day habitual journal, our little trinkets on the table lamplit, and we are still very quiet.

Settled amazement over this very question awaiting our own current answer.

We can take up our pencil and we might begin on a clean page without other requests, doodles or gratitude tracking.

We can begin this way.

Jesus, I want you to…

Then we can express our secret thing then, the thing others have no need to know or to tell you it’s ridiculous or unrealistic to request such things.

What do you want Jesus to do?

Then we can go on with our days knowing we encountered Jesus today.

When He asked, I answered in a paragraph or two and summed it up with believing.

Jesus I want you to help me believe and to follow where my belief is leading.

To continue.

“Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:33-34‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Followed him to believing.

Secrets and Growth and Peace

I believe God is pleased that we think of Him, ponder, consider His ways.

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

That’s just another example of His grace.

I believe God sees our gradual growth and celebrates rather than pontificates over why on earth has it taken her so long to arrive here, why can’t she stay in this place?

I believe God is simply happy to see our return, our return to believing that He knows.

I’m certain that morning is the most optimum time for gentle instruction.

I’ve not a clue as to why I woke up this morning with the question to myself.

How are you waking, with regret or redemption?

Why, oh why must I wake with such deep considerations?

Or maybe we all do, just keep them to ourselves.

Makes good sense, your brain filters your thoughts all through the night, transfers them to the place where the finished and important product, a lesson is delivered.

Voila’! Here you go! This message is just for you! God

Are you smiling now, imagining God saying “Voila'”?

Me too.

I think sometimes I think the oddest things and then realize there is always a reason.

A secret waiting to be revealed.

To be researched, to be determined what it is exactly God wants me to know, to hold on to as my own.

Wants me to u-turn, don’t go back that way, you were progressing, see now…stay here.

Be at peace.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:33‬ ‭ ESV

Someone called this morning by accident. Her Bluetooth dialed the wrong Lisa. I knew her voice, thought Lord have mercy, did I call her and forget I did?!

But, I hadn’t and she reminded me of our relationship which led to me telling her what I’m doing now, hoping to use my grant writing skills to work with causes I believe in.

And that led to her telling me she had “chills” now because of an idea she has to strengthen the cause she is over.

We talked about it further and even longer about our faith, about how God wakes us to new opportunities every day and how none of them are accidents.

I considered her truth.

She considered mine as I shared with her my waking thought, regret or redemption, which will you choose to frame your day?

She said “Oh, that’s wise.” “Thanks”, I said and thought, thank you God for this confirmation of my next steps and direction.

Of letting some things go unattended to give my energy to what is new, even unseen, sort of brewing.

So, what is this state of mind and heart called “spiritual maturity”?

It is waking with regret less often in light of your redemption.

It is waking with the clear and attainable path towards peace.

It is recalling the stuff you felt God telling you to do afraid even if there’s fear in the room because there’s a reason you don’t know that God wants you to go, to be something He sees as necessary for others in the room.

He has us go places we don’t understand.

It is being attentive to a nudge that becomes a lengthy pause because you are still enough to become more wise, to receive either good or disappointing clarity so that your peace is not stolen and so that you grow.

That’s redemption, my friend.

Understanding what it is that is the taker of and opposing force of your peace.

Spiritual maturity is a splendid and secretly personal gift.

It is a fervent fire inside kept alive by your yearning to learn more, know more of God.

It is an acknowledgment of better days, contented minds, and restful nights because of your redemptive choice to forgo regret.

It is knowing you are still growing. It is glimpses of the secret place, the view of you through God’s eyes.

Smile.

It is not always easy, nor is it difficult at all.

The secret for me, intentional choosing which thoughts I allow to write scary, hurtful and impossible to understand stories.

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

To set my mind on the awakening things of my mornings.

Lord, help me to stay quiet enough to know which way to stay my thoughts and which way my words and work should go. Because of your redemptive mercy towards me, Amen

Vulnerable Afflictions

I read the response of another the other day… “Who would you like meet?” His answer was “Jesus.”

And then another in a different place, oddly the same question posed. This person answered “Paul”.

Paul, the writer of, with certainty, eight books of the New Testament. Paul, who was a horrid man who was known as Saul who met Jesus and commenced with the telling of his truth from there.

At some point, I pencilled in clarification on a passage.

The verse describing the life of Jesus in me,

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We carry around in us what Jesus died to save us from, our human tendencies, our vulnerabilities, our bends towards atrocities even. We carry with us the humanity of us and we simply seek to lessen its hold.

Paul knew who and what He had been. He celebrated when the “outwardness” of him was being overshadowed, wasting away by the developing of the inner him, Jesus in him.

He was focused on eternity and driven to tell others so.

That was his story line, the telling and retelling of his rescue for a purpose story.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The words I wrote in the margin are barely visible, words forming a question about my own vulnerabilities and the display of them making me more aware of the human me… a gradual revelation, the changes to the heart of me.

I won’t say I’ve come a long way. I just know I am not the same, not who I was.

The same as Paul.

The margin as of today has a sketch of a girl in repose.

She sees how far she’s come and she knows she has a big part in how far she will go.

The coming to terms with her story being incomparable to any other.

She cares less although not quite enough yet about herself as she does others.

What’s your story?

She is accepting that her part is just to keep telling in written and painted creation, occasionally or eventually maybe before an audience or in a small circle.

Who knows?

We will not know fully unless we go, simply go forward to the places we get to glance back on and say,

I did it.

I kept going.

My story is not so scary as before, not so tinted by affliction colors.

Stronger.

Strongly, we step forward.

We leave behind us for others, through our stories.

We just prompt another to wonder.

We cause them to consider why we believe in something we don’t yet fully know, why we yearn to keep learning.

And given opportunity, we answer to tell,

We believe because believing is the closest thing to hope.

And because we our story of before, all of our vulnerabilities and afflictions only mercy references and notes for the rest of our story.

Believe and continue.

Gonna Be Okay

It may be just me.

I caught just a bit of the Billboard Music Awards last night.

Flipping channels and asking myself, why do I even watch television anymore? I’m out of so many loops, especially those about thrones and people who walk around dead.

I’ll watch “A Chef’s Table” fascinated by the stories of phenomenal cooks or HGTV, try to guess which house they choose.

I am drawn to seeing a little of people, somehow drawn to knowing them from their facial expression or their conversation.

I’ve always been this way.

So, I paused in my channel flipping.

Kelly Clarkson announced that Lauren Daigle would be next to perform her breakout crossover hit, “You Say”.

It’s a song really for everyone and I abhor conflict so I’m not too fixated on how people are angry over her crossing over in lots of ways and in places she’s been invited to sing her song.

Her song is an anthem, one meant for all.

So, I watched and listened as her voice began, coming in at the right time prompted by the crystalline sounding piano intro.

She started softly, a little reserved or nervous.

Shaky it seemed she was.

It was a live performance and it seemed to me she felt a bit hemmed in.

Awkward even as she continued.

She continued into the chorus backed by three singers who as they added their echo their reply to her “and I believe!” , their arms raised up in rhymes, like a self embrace.

They, it seemed were each owning, demonstrating and saying to the world.

I believe.

As she continued she grew stronger it seemed to me, more free, more her and more confident of her calling on this different than her usual stage.

I scanned the audience. Many were connected to her performance. Other faces seemed not to understand, either questioning what is the message of this song or

Maybe they felt a sense of being loved by her being there, her singing her song she is now known for.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

‭‭John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Maybe there were cynics. Maybe there were those who had no idea who and what she was referring to when she sang her statement lines:

Taking all I have now and I’m laying it at your feet. You have every failure God, you’ll have every victory.

Maybe some wondered what in the world does that mean?

Or wait, I thought this song was about believing in yourself or having a relationship with someone who says you should.

It does.

The song ended with an noticeable “ohh” in Lauren Daigle’s raspy tone.

It was a worthy ending as if to say, from my perspective at least, I’ve done this God.

I’ve performed the song you gave me on this huge scary stage.

I have gotten through this. I was scared as I started; but, you helped me through.

You helped me continue and finish the thing you aligned for me to do.

Maybe others didn’t see what I saw. That’s okay, I was impacted by her presence and her performance.

In case you’ve not heard or need to be reminded, here it is:

You Say

Prompted me to know I’ll be put in places I might be afraid to go.

I will go.

God will be with me.

It’s gonna be okay.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to pray the prayer for families at this evening’s National Day of Prayer event. I was asked I was told because of my lifetime of working with families.

I do not know what my prayer will be. I am imperfect in my own family experiences. I could freeze as I’m introduced, thinking what if everyone knows how I haven’t always been a prayerful girl, mama, wife or woman? I could have the words choke me when I try to summon them up. I’ve been a single mama, not always the best one at it.

But, just like Lauren, God sets the stage, we just step forward.

About a month ago, I was interviewed by a local magazine about my choice to retire. The question was posed “What do you want your grandchild to know?”

I answered

I want my grandchild to know that the most important thing is love, is loving one another.

A couple of weeks later the request came, that I pray the prayer for families. It was followed by a letter with the agenda and the header on the letter featuring 2019’s theme.

Love one another.

There are no accidents with God.

There are no opportunities brought our way that He will not equip us to carry out.

You and I are loved by a loving God. A God that takes hold of our shaking hand until we can breath without pressure and waits until we are ready to speak, to sing, to pray.

I believe what you say of me!

It’s gonna be okay.