“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalms 23:1 NLT
I let my granddaughter run a distance ahead of me when we walk. There’s freedom in her feet, there is an overabundance of curious independence in her thoughts.
Taking care to watch her and yet, letting her be, letting her grow.
Letting her become full grown.
Watching her thrive.
My daughter has a plant called either “snake” or “mother in law’s tongue”. She asked my wise aunt, how to keep it alive.
My aunt quickly replied,
“Get up every day and tell it good morning and walk away.”
I suppose whatever it needs to thrive is somehow either inside its stiff leaves, woven together roots, or maybe it’s in the air around it. Maybe it is the home.
A parable in Ezekial, a rarely read book in my Bible was happened upon this morning. The clean page had a faint underlined place,
“Will it thrive?” Ezekiel 17:9
The parable was written to compare the ways of two leaders, a warning about the king of Babylon coming to Jerusalem and the importance of honoring The Lord’s covenant. History often confounds me. Still, the three words “will it thrive” caused me to sit with this passage.
A riddle to be understood, I sat with these several verses on this quiet Friday morning. I read and read again, God’s Spirit assuring me there’s a truth for you here.
Two vines planted from the branch and seed of a twig transported by an eagle.
One grew and spread near the abundant water and rich soil, it grew outward, freely, vines spreading and branches putting out new boughs.
The other wrapped its young roots around the eagle and became dependent upon it for water and its hope to become a noble vine.
Yet, when it needed to be transplanted, free to grow, the roots would be found weak, easy to be blown away, bent by the wind and eventually wither.
I think of my attention to things God has given me to contribute my part in their growth.
Naturally, I think of my children.
A daughter who’s a wife and mommy, a leader in vocation and learning, outspoken and deeply caring.
A son who is Colorado and lives near a park known for its majestic cedars. A son, who subtly agreed when I mentioned another mother saying “every child gets to write their own story”.
“That’s right.” he said.
They are thriving and becoming even more fully grown.
It’s a wonder to me, because I surely often overwatered, fertilized with unsolicited advice and often looked on too closely to circumvent uprooting of what I felt meant thriving.
So, how does growth happen best?
Not getting too wrapped in the care and nourishment of our thriving, established long ago by our Father.
If growth is intended for us, it will grow when we let it be.
Because of God, my growth and I have all I need.
Like the healthy plant that never gets watered. Whatever is within it has it thriving. Letting it be seems to be the answer.
I journaled in the margin of the smooth thin paper what God hopes I’ll let linger.
Roots that are planted in good places of abundance and then left to spread on their own are more likely to thrive than the roots I cling tightly to, so tightly they wrap themselves around me stunting the intended growth of my calling, art, writing, my contributions to others.
Roots allowed to spread without being overnourished, overthought or overworked are the roots of long living, lasting evidence of hope.
Yes, it will thrive.
Let it happen. Let it grow. Contribute as needed, as led by the Creator of you.
Hope will grow and thrive.
Continue and believe.
“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalms 23:2-3 NLT
Who can you think of past or present who is famous because of their peace, the most indescribably unknown person you know?
“These are treasures no bird of prey can see, no falcon’s eye observe.” Job 28:7 NLT
I spoke with an author of three books recently. I sensed the ache in his voice as he told me about his writing after I talked about mine, the children’s book inspired by Matthew 6:26. We agreed to sell a lot of books, you must be famous, have a website with a bookoo of followers and be good at talking about yourself.
Just the conversation between us about self/book promotion was hard.
Before sunrise today, I thought of just how contradictory that seems. I’ve read lots of Christian books, some sort of trendy and insubstantial and some very resonant and worth returning to.
I thought of how we, as far as I interpret the words of Jesus, are not supposed to want to be famous.
When we say
“Make Jesus famous, not me!”
We’re supposed to be able to mean it.
And yet, an agent won’t return an email and a query goes unread because you have less than 5000 Instagram followers.
A few weeks ago, I had a skip in my step, a sense of a really cool possible art opportunity.
Time passed and it faded to “oh,well…”
I’ll reference trauma once here and that’ll be it.
If your needs went unnoticed as a child or young adult and you get well enough to try expression of your needs and talents again and nothing happens…
You decide it’s better to be invisible again.
Because invisible is what you know.
But, now this self-awareness feels less achingly deficient and more like
a better fame.
A realization of what I decided was my “treasure” was not my treasure at all.
Years ago, when I began writing, my heart set on a memoir about the possibility of hope, I was starry-eyed and optimistic and I told myself don’t be a chatty little woman who writes about Jesus.
Be authentic. Be real. Be truthful but not so truthful you hinder another’s hope.
And I thought I’d write a book about it all.
Now, I realize I may not.
Because the truth, my truth I am learning to be okay with is,
I don’t think I want to be famous. I think I’d rather be quiet.
That admission may be the kiss of death to being a published author or it may be the breath of heavenly fresh air to a weary striving soul.
Because writing, painting, being a published author are not my treasures, my peace and my peaceful sharing of my healing are. They are the treasures I hold and occasionally share in hopes of stirring curiosity over the same treasure for others.
I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop painting, often with crayon.
I’m just certain being a person who can be found by name on Amazon as an author or who has art that can be searched for and purchased has given me a taste of fame.
But never has fame made me famous, instead only made me wanting more.
Thirsty for recognition, parched for praise and aching for a dollar sign saying success next to something I made.
Eight years blogging. I suppose it’s fitting to write honestly today.
That feels like a quiet celebration.
Keep writing. It’s good to continue quietly and to believe.
Because healing is not dependent on fame, only on believing, believing like the lame man on the banks of the Bethesda.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time. Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath.” John 5:6-9 TPT
“He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” John 9:11 ESV
Two passages have held my interest in August, my writing sparse because of a desperate longing to correctly understand one and to linger in the hope of the other. Plus, my brain’s been a bit fuzzy, like a dull swirling of what next.
The passage about the man blind from childhood whose parents were interrogated by the Pharisees about the cause and the remedy has captivated me.
“His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.” John 9:20 ESV
The other is the passage that contains the words to “carry your cross” used often in sermons or songs. It always intrigues me. More so now because I believe I’ve been believing it wrongly.
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 ESV
Once I heard a woman sing a song she wrote about her cross. Her voice was strong as she began and then wilted in weepiness towards the end. The lyrics told of her personal battles, her depression. These burdens she told us she had decided were her’s to carry, they were “her cross”.
I caught myself now thinking, “albatross”.
I remember how hopeless it left me, her disclosure, and how I pondered the weight I’d be expected to lay across one shoulder for the rest of my life.
I’d be bent permanently by the burden of my traumas.
If my past was my cross I’d be like the aged and decrepit beggar on a back street barely carrying on.
The road I often travel passes by the County jail. Men and women are leaving to walk towards town with paperwork in hand or they’re sitting at the exit, heads bent towards their laps, hoping soon their ride will be there.
“Change their life for better, God, today.”
Last week, a young man I guessed to be in his late twenties stood on the corner waiting. He was dressed in clothes that didn’t seem to match a night spent in jail. He stood and then paced and I watched in my rear view mirror until watching was no longer possible.
I noticed something different. I sensed his deep contemplation and so I opened my hand to heaven and prayed, “Lord, let today be his turnaround day. Be near him in a new way.”
When Jesus passed the man who’d been blind from birth, the disciples asked him, whose fault is this?
Is he blind as a punishment for his wrongs or is he blind and it’s his parents’ fault?
Jesus told them no, it is because God wants others to see the possibility of hope, of healing.
“Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle.” John 9:3 TPT
Now I see.
“The healed man replied, “I have no idea what kind of man he is. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life!” John 9:25 TPT
And now I see, the cross I carry is not the cross of my past wrongs or wrongs done towards me. My cross is not a burdensome visible and invisible reminder of what Jesus healed me of and from.
My cross is the very cross Jesus died on, the sacrifice of surrender to His Father’s plan, the hope of eternity for all of us who would say like the blind man.
It was “the man called Jesus”. (John 9:11)
Who said , I can’t comprehend it all, I just know what I experienced and I won’t debate with anyone on how or why or if.
I’ll carry on healed and I’ll carry the cross that made possible my healing, the good shepherd’s brutal cross.
I will follow.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 ESV
I most likely won’t know what happens in the lives of the prisoners who’ve been set free.
I know hope is possible.
Healing is a moment away for any and everyone. Jesus is still near and miracles are still the evidence and purpose of the cross, the cross waiting for us to carry in exchange for every weighty sin, shame or trauma.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 ESV
“In times like these you need a Savior In times like these you need an anchor Be very sure, be very sure…” In Times Like These
Saul was blind for three days after being confronted by Jesus over why he chose to be such a criminal, intent on being so vicious.
He was found and he saw life differently.
One lamb wanders away, the others stay in the pasture waiting as the shepherd, the master of their wellness and safety leaves them to find the wayward one. The parable is for us, the ones who were lost and still get lost sometimes.
We need our good shepherd. We’re prone to forget.
“Think of it this way: If a man owns a hundred sheep and one lamb wanders away and is lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine grazing the hillside and thoroughly search for the one lost lamb? Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12, 14 TPT
I saw a man walking on Wednesday.
His dark hair combed back from his face, his jaw clean shaven. The sun came up over his shoulder, I hoped it was the one I’d been praying for, the man I’d seen the days before.
This man curled up under the overpass, then later on my route, walking cloaked in black jacket and too big pants, bent down towards the sidewalk along the highway, once I saw him leave the Waffle House, I prayed he’d been well fed.
Seeing him early in the day made me hopeful. I prayed God had made for him a new path.
I’ve been sketching lots of practice sketches for a commission, a bird cradled in a hand was the request. Instead, I keep sketching hands cupping a bird in a nest.
Think of this.
We know God cares for us by looking at the birds as evidence of that love.
Look at the nest built by a mama bird and you’ll see it’s even more elaborate than we can fathom. A bird nest, intricately woven together, little stems and pieces of whatever that the bird creates using a sort of circle pattern as if the cupped hand of God is keeping it safe until it can fly on its own.
I’m humbled and awed by this.
If God, the maker of heaven and earth has equipped a bird to do this, how could I ever question His love and intentional preparing of me, to do things for those around me and for Him?
“Consider the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they? So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 TPT
Be very sure. He cares for you.
Like a mama bird with babies, like a kind and gentle shepherd who’d never abandon his lost lamb.
Like a Father who is wise, a friend who is kind. Like a stranger who stops what they’re doing to offer aid.
Be very sure, God cares for you and for lost, lonely or weary people you’ll never know.
Something in me longs to find a quiet old church with wooden pews and streams of sunlight in every hue laying down strips of color at my feet on old hardwood floors.
To sit in the quiet. To listen to God.
I’m in the spot I call quiet in my home. It is very quiet, only the mockingbird mama’s protective song in the distance calling for my attention.
I woke thinking about being drawn to the wars others are warring as a distraction to what God knows needs my attention according to Him.
Yesterday, I grabbed a $5 pillow and dropped it in the cart. I sensed my daughter wondering where I’d put it. I’m not one to decorate my home with pillows adorned with trendy sayings. I think I mumbled.
I need to remember this.
See good in all things.
First on the loveseat, then between the bigger ones on the couch, then in my mama’s reupholstered chair, I centered it. It seemed too contrived, a pillow pointing out words I needed to remember, seriously silly.
So, I fluffed a pretty one woven with navy and added it as a background for my much needed words. I angled the pillow to meet my gaze from the place I sit in the evening, the place I begin my day.
The wisdom of a book of lamenting words lining up with mama’s and the embroidery threads on a pillow.
“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26 KJV
Good comes from waiting, seeking quietly.
Distracted by culture, conflict and confusion, it seems I have made lesser the most important things.
Grace, mercy, peace, surrender.
Attentiveness to God’s purpose for me.
Remembering the gift of redemption.
So that I can be a presence inviting question rather than spewing comments.
Understanding we all have wars within, we are all pulled astray by the personal battles and patterns that deter the transformation that is a witness to the light of God within.
A compelling cause for others to seek salvation.
The salvation that can never be taken from us; but, must be treasured with every breath of our body so that we don’t fall back into warring.
So that we don’t miss the glory of the quiet voice of God in the quiet places.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24 ESV
May my quiet confidence in God be more evident than my constant questioning over what is not mine to understand, only be available when called to offer peace in the knowledge of my Savior.
Linking up prompted by FMF, Quiet (smile, Kate likes pillows too).
I’ve removed the fifteen or more books from my nightstand.
Some of them read, some recommended, others opened and skimmed and set aside.
I’m hard on myself as a reader. I’m distracted and mostly too sleepy. They say a writer must be a reader.
Maybe that’s why I’m less afraid to paint.
To simplify. The nightstand now has one framed photo, a lamp, a pen with paper and a paperback collection of Psalms and Proverbs.
“How he satisfies the souls of thirsty ones and fills the hungry with all that is good!” Psalms 107:9 TPT
I’ve taken to the practice of reading at least one verse as soon as I’m settled in bed.
Some nights more. I thumb to the passage chosen by the date and the pages from notes compiled through the years are becoming my sedation, my self-help.
There are pencil scratches, black or blue ink faded to soft grey. There are bold underlines and tiny little star asterisks in places.
The summary of supplication, of suffering questions, or redirection of myself in an achingly sorrowful way.
Remorse, regret, confusion and occasionally a determined commitment to peace, the words warn, these are best kept secret.
Much like Job may have felt, I imagine if he sat with the pages that detailed his friends calling out his wrongs and his reply incessantly saying,
But, none of this makes sense. Why me?
I feel like Job was just that honest.
If you find your old journal or Bible, do you find your honesty to be hard or do you see it as simply honest?
Do you see how far you’ve come or are you hard on yourself that some days you still hurt to comprehend some things?
I fell asleep with a revelation the other night.
I’d read my prayers scrawled in the old book. Concerns so very intimate that only God and I knew and know the reasons.
I realized I had such a yearning for God back then.
I realized I still do.
The thought of my laments and longings documented with pencil or pen gave me a new idea, a different peace.
I was a seeker. I still am.
My soul ached with yearning.
It still is.
I decided it is a good thing to be still yearning, to not be satisfied in who I’ve become, to be certain God’s still what my heart yearns for and the goodness of His gifts to me, to my family, beauty made of so many hard things.
The words to a song you won’t hear on the radio seem to pop up on my Pandora quite often lately.
I drive the morning road, make it to the hill and curve on the dirt one and I slow my arrival because it happens!
The voice of Paul Beloche, so gently and assuredly reminding me of all the beauty God has made of my life already.
She gave a helpful list with one thing being to ask yourself at the end of the day,
“Where did I see God today?”
Naturally, I loved this, it’s might kind of deep thinker thing.
Tuesday was a “grandma day”. It was so sweet and easy and it was a gift the way the simplicity of the day fell into place.
We sat together in the cool castle building dirt spot. To pass the time ‘til Mama drove up, I taught the baby to sift sand from one hand to the other. Teaching maybe the wrong word, I just did it and she followed.
From one hand to the other we just passed the sand between our hands. She looked up, longer than usual, looked deeply into my eyes in a way that said, “This is sublime.”
Yes, this was when I saw God.
God with us.
Heaven met earth and situated itself with us in the Springtime dirt.
Yearning for me not to miss such a beautiful moment on a blue sky day.
And I didn’t and I pray I don’t from now on.
“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” Hebrews 7:25 NLT
Lord, may our earthly days cause our longing for you more every day even as we yearn for the incomprehensible promise of heavenly days promised by you.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Yesterday was a good day, restful but productive until I paused with early sunset on the sofa and allowed my thoughts to catch up.
The annoying squeeze of the unnamed anxiety was realized. I walked down the hall to use the stretch, “legs against the wall” and I felt the rope loosen, the one that was tight around my chest.
Stretching and then praying made it better, the place that my soul inhabits was opened up, restored, clearing out the clutter, making more room for my Father’s spirit to be fully known by me.
I’m beginning to believe God. Beginning to believe the prayer that children say has words that are more than a pretty promise, are true.
“Ask Jesus to come into your heart.”
Not as a child but as a thirty something year old, I said what is called the “sinner’s prayer”.
Jesus came near, planted His Spirit in my soul. It has been gradual, often half-heartedly that I believed this mystery to be so.
This mystery that by grace and patience is no longer so obscurely mysterious at all.
Because I’ve been asking God to come near, to fill me, to allow His river to flow to me and through me and it has begun to be so.
It is becoming well with my soul,
Will become even more so. I am certain. I continue to believe.
Believing God has good things for me, not just for others is a closer truth than before.
A couple of weeks ago the nearness of God astounded me. I’ve kept it to myself except one wise other person until now.
On a regular morning walk with my grandchild, music she loves coming from my pocket and stops and starts to dig in the sand followed by her bouncy steps running, I had a thought.
Surrounded by trees, I remembered the scary vertigo episode almost exactly a year ago. I thanked God for wellness, for no further episodes.
I looked on either side, trees with leaves falling, old tall ones and new branches and I wondered to myself, what would I do if one of these trees fell, if my grandchild was safe but I was trapped?
I imagined calmly, the dog would look after Elizabeth and I’d be able to call for help.
Although scary, it would be okay, I would be safe.
Strange, I know.
Even stranger or as I now believe, not strange at all, occurred the next morning.
I arrived to care for my granddaughter in the dark of morning. My daughter said her husband wanted to know,
“Did your mama see that big tree that fell overnight?”
“No”, I answered. She continued with the way it fell, not a loud sound and the tree with the trunk at least seven feet around, it fell perfectly against the fence row, didn’t block the road.
“Oh” I mumbled.
We walked later to see it, the baby and I. I saw the massive oak severed by something unhuman lying on the ground.
I admit, I thought heavily of it all day, wondering over the weight of my thoughts the day before. It felt very scary and then, supernatural in a kind and loving way.
I texted my friend, wise in spiritual strengths and truth.
She wasn’t astounded or afraid. She simply told me God wanted to show me He is protecting me. That wherever I am, He is; I embody His Spirit. I have an advocate. There was no shock in her tone, she didn’t think I was crazy or what happened was scary.
Later, I realized I could believe it too. God is very close to me.
He is answering my most tender prayers.
Before sleep last night, I read five psalms, a proverb and a message.
I remembered the random text from the friend mentioned above, the way her words sent a chill down my calf.
I slept with the certainty of being known and loved and when I woke I repeated what God told me overnight.
“You are a masterpiece. Keep creating.”
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” Psalms 4:8 NLT
Receive grace, we need it. We’re going to need it. Regardless of November, hopelessness is a wound not even close to being healed, the result of our lack of control, uncertainty, the open-ended question of the coming year, the apathy towards each other, the numbing that’s happening to us to the extent we don’t yet know.
“That’s a lot, Lisa…I thought you were a person of faith?”
I know. Today I prayed beside my bed, no words, just a position.
Surrendering the moment.
…and by Him, everyone who believes is freed. Acts 13:39
Belief is a very personal thing, prayer is too. God, knowing each of us completely and individually knows us “down to the very bones” and yet, sees us worthy of the very grace we received when we accepted the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. We decided then I can’t fix this, in fact in my humanness I am unfixable.
Still, I work hard and with intention and a word we love, “perseverance” to see the measure of my faith be represented by works. It’s how we’re wired and we forget that physical wiring never is enough.
Praise, prayer and worship with music rein me back in closer. I find myself opening my hands to heaven when a song touches my tender wounds, thrilled to be uninterrupted on my knees beside my bed or joining others in prayer with both hands palm up to God.
Giving God the hopes, fears and thanks.
Today, I read “Receive His grace all day.” It struck me that the hands I open to give are rarely opened to receive from God. I forget that I need His grace all day long, every moment. More importantly, I forget that His grace is a reservoir that never runs dry. I forget that it is ours simply for asking, just by saying, I need you every hour. Again, I’m not able on my own and you know it God, still you wait patiently for me to remember.
We cannot put our hopes in this country. I’m sorry if that sounds unpatriotic. It hurts to know that and I worry that hopelessness is outpacing the destruction of the pandemic. Without hope, without God and His grace, none of us can sustain our own manufactured hope.
Open your hands as needed today. Receive grace.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 ESV