On the morning, two Sundays ago that I decided just in time to go to church, I was honest with myself.
I’d been waiting until conditions could be right to return. I’d been waiting for the church to be in agreement with me, to not require that I wear a mask.
Church that morning enveloped me in peace. The mask that I deplore because I deplore demands made of me
Invited a sweeter worship in.
The music, the prayer, my hands open in front of me, my joining in the singing despite my mask.
I wish it weren’t so; but, I tend to be self-conscious in a sanctuary. No surprise, I compare my worship to the worship of others and I worry if others are watching me, measuring whether my praise is big enough.
But, on that morning, before the message on humility and its meaning and worth, I allowed peace to come.
Peace that came through the Spirit leading me to be alone there in the socially distanced place, to close my eyes and be moved by “The Blessing”, to welcome the tears that came. To be aware of, overwhelmed by God’s peace.
Peace comes when we acknowledge our standing in relation to God.
Peace comes when we challenge ourselves to believe we should go when we don’t think we are able or don’t believe we belong.
Peace comes when we remember,
“I am weak but He is strong.” (Yes, Jesus loves me.)
Meekness leads to peace.
Meekness leads to great things.
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 ESV
My little circle of six feet in the sanctuary was inhabited by a sense of Holy that Sunday.
I had no idea that choosing not to be selfish, stubborn, self-righteous over a piece of cloth over my mouth, would bring me such peace.
“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” Psalm 37:11 ESV
And peace shall be mine again.
I will sing along.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
Joining others who are writing prompted by the word “church” here.
Up early and uncertain whether I had again gratefully “woken up well”, I walk outside to see the pink sky in the distance, wishing our home was set either on a hill or not bordered by tall trees and houses.
If that were so, I could see the wide morning. Instead, I look upward and the half moon is above me, surrounded by the remnant of two clouds breaking thinly away.
I wished for a different sky. I had hoped the day would bring rain.
A rainy day that could give permission for thinking, make seclusion seem more pleasant.
On this day, nineteen years ago, destruction changed our country, altered our thinking of what could happen.
For years, the color code marking threat bordered our television screens.
For days on end I wondered when it would happen again, certain that it could. Another attack by people who hated us, another planned explosion in places where people congregated.
It could happen again.
For now, there are other “coulds”, the resounding murmuring amongst one another.
Rather than explosion, I sense a subtle threat to our togetherness, I fear we are imploding, a caving in.
Don’t get too close, she may be sick. Don’t touch the door, it could have the viral contaminated touch of someone else. Don’t forget your mask, don’t let your worn out mask shift and uncover your nose.
Don’t hug the friend you encounter that you’ve not seen in years.
You could get sick, you could make others unwell. You could cause pain to others.
This predisposition to high alert stances based on what could happen is much like a phrase I’m just now embracing.
Don’t borrow trouble.
Two hours ago, I woke up too early. I was thirsty and had what my grandma called a “dull” headache. I moved from my bed to the kitchen for water.
Today, I did not pray, “thank you God, I woke up well.”
But, now I am because I was sullenly anticipating dread. I was alert to what could happen because of it happening all around me, inundated with a sense of foreboding,
A man in the Bible, mentioned just a couple of times, Jabez confronted his predisposed “could happens” with a prayer that God answered.
“Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” 1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV
The mother of Jabez chose his name that meant pain and told him so, of all the brothers, his birth had caused her great pain.
Could it be so for us? That we acknowledge what harms could come our way and simply ask God to prevent them.
Knowing He can?
I’m not so naive to live the fairy tale that all pain can be avoided. This world, our country gets more angry and full of fear and evil every day.
Still, I can open my hand to heaven now and again later and say “Thank you, I am well. It is well. I will not fear. You are near.”
Like Jabez, I can set my intentions on what God can do not what could happen.
I love to think of other choices that could have been made by people in the Bible. Jabez knowing he was least likely to have a life without pain based on his name could have chosen to cower, could have accepted his position among his brothers, to be careful, to fear pain, to prepare for the worst case scenarios and so, to hide away.
He didn’t. He asked God for the ability to see opportunities, to be kept safe in his pursuit of them and to live a life from which we get the phrase, not just blessed; but, blessed indeed.
The purple flowers that seem to be summer withered have sprinkled petals heavy from humidity all along the border.
I bent over to try to see the sunrise in the distance and noticed a new thing.
The scent from the purple bloom. All summer long I’ve walked past and now almost mid-September, my attention was drawn.
The sweet smell of still hanging on, the still tint of soft indigo and lavender, the gift of finding beauty in my subdivided back yard.
The firm decision not to borrow trouble; instead to be aware of it and to ask God to keep me from it.
Then to remember, not knowing how or if or whether it was sudden.
God granted what he asked.
He will for us as well.
This truth I shall remember when I ponder “what could”.
Remember only the possibility of good.
Our lives are not what are circumstances say they are, rather they are what God says “could happen” if we trust Him.
If we continue, continue and believe.
This post was prompted by the word “could” from Five Minute Friday (I link up although I’m rarely five minutes or under in thinking or writing.) Read others’ words here:
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:1-2 ESV
Before I felt the truth of belonging there, I observed the setting. Twice in my life, a very long time ago, it was offered to me, possibility.
The high school art classroom, the teacher who spilled her very own love of painting all over the room, she started my believing.
She was less instructor, more demonstrator of art as a comfort, as a passion. She was evidence of the balm of creativity.
The English Honors professor who was a tiny force of expectation, a petite woman
She refused to accept my errors.
I remember the desk I arrived early to take, first row, third seat back. I hated my poor appearance, I avoided the walking across any classroom.
The room was so small, desks barely able to allow my thick to me frame. Classmates so close, it was uncomfortable to have another’s skin so near. But, my grades categorized me as Honors and I had no idea why, only that this class was significant, I was taken seriously. This exclusive group now included me.
The professor scared the mess of out of me until she convinced me, it was my writing that got me there, that qualified me. Not my parents, not my appearance. My writing was my how.
Four decades in between the idea of belonging and possibility are hard things, heavy losses and other type accomplishments.
Chronicling the years between what could have figuratively and literally killed me, the question of how is not of importance.
The answer of now is the result of believing I belonged in both classrooms and in what life and God knew were my possibilities.
“…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV
Hope and possibility, words we value so vaguely, minimizing their power.
Think of someone, some thing in your history that pulled you close enough to listen, to believe that tiny voice of ideas and dreams unsought, unfulfilled, set aside would always be there. Then, pick it back up again, unconcerned with how, knowing you’ll treasure the day in the very near future when you decided on the possible.
In us, is the glorious hope of heaven because of Jesus. When we will fully believe, the details of our how are no issue.
Only today will matter, the day of grabbing hold of our set aside possibilities.
I’m linking up with others in a time when the “how” question is heavy and complex. How did we get here? How can we fathom it ever getting better? How can I be a difference maker? I don’t provide answers to things I don’t fully know. I can only hold fast to hope and possibilities and to be more like Jesus in all my encounters.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” Job 24:13 ESV
I could easily stay in my soft cushioned chair, feet propped and fan creating a breeze overhead. The worn quilt from many washings is as soft as a feather and cool against my feet.
I could stay here all day. It would be no matter, and maybe I should.
Stay in this morning spot that is the place where I’m met by mercy and reassured it has no end.
The place of the promise, begin again. The place that is quiet. The place where God informs me through my Bible or the words someone else has recorded.
Or just through the allowing myself to stay, just through my patient sitting.
Job answered his friend’s advice to agree with God and be at peace (Job 22:21) with bitter honesty. He was exhausted over not knowing why or when.
Job was confused over how God would allow his condition, how it seemed to him God was not looking or worse, looking away.
“From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.” Job 24:12 ESV
The chapters of the Book of Job continue with Job’s debate with God, relentless in both his longing to understand and his commitment to believe in the majesty and knowledge of God.
Job stayed and God answered with redemption and life again.
He listened to his friends’ advising and rebuking and he implored them in his own defense.
Then, he listened to God.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 ESV
I’m letting that truth linger, lessen the pressure of overthinking or demanding quick answers. I don’t need to have nor am I able to have every answer.
I’ll move from my morning place to other things God is calling me to finish.
Paintings and stories of birds and marshes and laundry.
I could easily stay in this quiet spot with God. No television and no habitual social media checking. No news debates and no high pressured conversations nudging my thoughts to write catastrophic stories.
Instead, I’ll continue.
Job gives us permission to be honest with God. To ask how long and still believe.
To continue and believe. To know the light, keep coming back and staying as long as you are able.
Linking up with others with the prompt “stay” from Five Minute Friday’s Kate Motaung
“There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas ). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.” Acts of the Apostles 9:36 NLT
Last night, I saw the writing prompt, “Now” and thought there’s so much that word could inspire in this time, this time that feels like now is an open-ended question or complex algebraic word problem I’d likely give up on. So, I thought to write about the difficulty of now, the tough realization that we’re running out of distractions to fill up the time called now that feels so far away from “then” and even farther from “when”.
Instead, after making a very good to do list to help me feel a purpose, I lingered over a quote on my “In Touch Ministries” devotion, knowing this was pressed prior to Co-Vid and meant to turn us towards Easter.
“In loving with His whole heart, Jesus was willing to be turned down.” Dr. Charles Stanley
I turned back to my daily Bible guide and returned to Acts. The story of Tabitha, I missed before. She became ill and died and was surrounded by friends who wore garments she had sewn for them. Peter prayed and she was healed and because of her healing, many others believed.
But, I couldn’t stop thinking about the women who surrounded her, the lives that would remain in the room and that many would carry with them, wearing tunics made by their friend and remembering her acts of charity, her love for them.
I thought of the quilts my grandma and aunt made that lie folded across our beds. I thought of women everywhere who’ve learned to make masks for medical workers and others.
Love remains. The love we give, the love we’ve given. The love we decide to give today, regardless of it being well-received or going unnoticed. Jesus is our example of love giving, love that will remain.
We’re beneficiaries of His choice to love mankind through dying not knowing who or when or if we would receive it.
So, the prompt called “now” that caused me to be frustrated over its lack of borders led me to a story of a creative and what she left for others, love and beautiful garments.
Her love remains even today because of my discovery of her “story” and the way it made me feel worthy, feel hopeful, inspired.
What’s your story? How have you loved others, how can you continue elaborately even unknowingly in this time of openness in time despite closed doors?
I say that on the regular and I know it. I need to shield myself from the worrisome realities of this world. I need a safe buffer, I need to do what I can to help my own “hemming in” a mindset that says no to fear.
I don’t know any country songs anymore; no more singing songs about good times, lost loves or even reminiscing with some Eagles, Clapton or Stevie.
I do keep my Phillip Phillips handy because his voice makes me happy and soulful when I need it.
But, I worship on Sunday.
I need it and it’s an answer to a kind calling of me to return, to rest.
I cling to my quiet spaces that welcome big or tiny thinking. I pray and I listen to songs about believing in God, redemption, beginning again, courage and the assurance of God. I do all of these things because I know I need them.
I’m not able on my own.
On my own I write scary stories, I anticipate the bad news by the ringtone. I observe the reactions of others, stand prone to defend my tender self. I “armor up” I suppose in a not always healthy way. When I’m not trusting I feel my breath in a knot in the center of my chest.
To trust without knowing feels like risk for me. To go one step farther not knowing the location of the sudden ledge is not comfortable for me.
To only know what I am to know in the story of another makes me uneasy. I squirm in my seat wanting to see how I can prepare for the ending.
I sometimes need to know what isn’t mine to know and if I’m honest, it’s more about my lack of understanding than it is concern for another.
I don’t like not knowing. It feels like risk for me.
Trusting God feels risky.
Then I remember to consider the ravens, the way He made them. He tells us we are worth more.
“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Luke 12:24-25 ESV
Last week, my granddaughter and I were cooped up from the rain and cold. We went window to window to get an idea of outdoors. I spied a big bird, black as coal and shiny and we tracked it together from front yard to open field to sky.
“Bird.” I said to the baby.
And then, she replied in a sweet soft utter…
“Bird”. I smiled and held her close.
Childlike observation, trust not yet tainted by fear.
Consider the bird through a baby’s discovery.
Trust like a baby. Faith like a child, fearlessness because of belief in Jesus.
Risk like the ravens. Confidence like a happy sparrow. Peace like a lily in an open green field. Plenty like a pauper with more than enough for breakfast.
It occurred to me just now as I decided I love the Book of James, the gospels are essentially memoir, perspectives provided of what the writers knew and know of Jesus.
Hmmm, just like us. Our life stories left in piles of journals thought to be too personal for the perusal of others. Lord knows my journals tell all kinds of stories, my life stories. Some admittedly hard to reread, the coming to terms with life events, questions, agonizing hashing out of major decisions.
Thankfully, truly really, those days are over; they’re over because I finally learned to filter my days through the lens of redemption, not regret.
Still authentic, still honest but more gentle, more wise.
This is why the Book of James is calling my name. James, the brother of Jesus wasn’t quite sure of the truth of Him until He saw for himself the death, the resurrection. It became real then and the Book that bears the name of James is worth reading and reading again.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 MSG
I love this so much, my faith life being forced into the open showing I’ve endured some struggle and I’ve kept on believing.
Life is just that, continuous belief and knowing that faith is our preserver, our kind companion, our rescue in every storm.
The display of our many colors.
What’s your life looking like today? It’s cold and rainy outside my window. My house has me home alone and quiet. I’ll take my time reading, a half hour maybe and read the Book of James. Remembering, at one time it was believed he was uncertain.
RememberIng in words I especially love that he knew enduring, believing and not doubting wasn’t a given. Still, James reminds us that this is the way to sacred and true living.
We all stumble in many ways. We all get beat up and tossed around in life’s storms. (James 3:-4)
But, we hold on tight to what we believe is ours for the asking in faith.
We continue and believe. Our colors are beginning to show.
This thought, my waking one on a free Friday morning.
The Bible says we’re worth more than sparrows and that God knows the number of hairs on our heads.
Still, I find myself wanting to keep it all under control, worry over what I need to do to become what I’m not yet.
A trio of black crows gathered out by the woodpile on Thursday.
I pointed them out to my granddaughter, acknowledging their being so close, not flying above us anymore.
We talk about the birds as we watch from the windows cold to the touch of our hands.
Foggy mornings cold to southern girls like us, cooped up and positioned for curiosity.
We had three days like that.
Then the sun came.
I woke this morning thinking about the sovereignty of God, of peace and of that being a relief.
About realizing that every moment holds peace if we accept that in every circumstance, every craziness or every seemingly unfair lull in meaningful activity, God is in it with us.
Be at peace.
What a relief to accept every single moment as God’s orchestration.
Either of needed rest or of unexpected yet longed for relief.
I’ve often found myself on the edge of a forlorn cliff deciding to sit and be at peace or to jump for relief, either running from my anxiety or demanding evidence of God knowing me, finding me worth knowing.
Truth is found over and over in the quiet place. His Spirit is relief.
Yesterday, I was escorted back home from the winding roads bordered by overgrown splendid trees, bright moss clinging to clay ditches and a wide sky with soft brushstrokes of clouds like meringue.
I noticed the birds.
I decided they were the ones from Tuesday.
A trio of hawks led me back to the main road and I held up my phone thinking this is for you from God.
Saying good, see you’re seeing me, Lisa.
I wanted to remember the threesome, the hawks swooping and swaying above me as I turned from my third grandma day back home to paint.
I am learning to live aware of all my moments.
To live peacefully, momentarily.
To remember the things God is saying about His will being found by me.
Be where you are.
Notice God there.
I saw that the grass my daughter picked from the pond had faded and told her I loved it more, the softer color.
She paused, maybe she saw it.
Peace as a centerpiece.
The will of God is found when we accept ourselves in the places He places us, changes us.
When we give fully to every calling, each one of value.
Not anxious over what is unfinished or not even begun yet.
Be where you are.
Life and peace, this is your life and this will be your finding peace.
Life and peace.
Singing “Deep and Wide” to an eight month old and watching her eyes, seeing her awareness of love, her noticing God.
Allowing this captivating exchange.
Standing in front of the easel, taking time to nourish this calling. Creating from a closeness with my Creator, not worried over whether someone will want it.
God’s work through your hands, think of it this way and be sweetly, simply amazed to be an artist.
Writing without seeking acceptance, writing your one and only story.
Writing for those God knows need your words. Don’t consider that small, never see that as a small calling.
Listening to my husband who loves lyrics like not passing this way again. He’s so subtle. Aging is a melody, it is best done together.
Be what God has shown me to be for my adult children, available and unrelenting in my belief and God’s in them.
There’s no need for analysis or expert advice.
Keep being their mama!
There’s a peace here, it’s a heart and mind decision, sacred in relationship.
Be who God knows you’re on the cusp of becoming and look for His assurance, not others’.
Be who you are.
Relieved in that acceptance and aligned with the one who made you.
See, you are loved.
“So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; My arms wave like banners of praise to you.”
The crescent moon reappeared after a week of enormous full one. Its beauty is subtle, causing the eye to be discriminant towards the heavens, the evidence of cycle, of God in a quiet and sure way.
If courage had an expression I wonder what it would be.
If someone had the inability to hide their thoughts from their facial expressions.
What would the face of courage reveal?
Would courage look like tragedy, would the countenance of courage be downward glances, forlorn faces or broken distressed mouths formed in a grimace to convey the pain that courage represents?
Would it be like the joy of a love for another that’s met in an equal exchange or like the glee of a surprise causing a wide and spontaneous smile.
Not that way, I don’t think the expression of courage would show in that way.
Courage has a countenance more solid, more settled, more internal.
Steady, a secret formula.
Courage keeps a record of profit and loss and has tallied up the cost.
The value is underneath the layers, immeasurably personal and for the most part.
Courage is secretive.
Is a secret.
I sat on the pew marked for friends of the deceased. Family on the right side and us on the left, we were a sparse group.
Five of us spoke. The summation?
Each of us in our individual ways remembered this individual as courageous.
If courage had words to share, I wonder what it would say.
Not very much, I’ve decided.
Courage is just that way.
Not a braggart or an instructor.
Courage is more.
Courage is a quiet conqueror who given the chance will tell of the agony, the distress that brought them to bravery.
Give its testimony.
Otherwise, courage stays quiet.
Stays quiet as a way to cherish and guard this inner resolve and immeasurable source.
Courage is the evidence that we know and believe in God’s love.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Romans 8:35-37 ESV
The cost of courage?
Impossible accounting, irreplaceable, its value and the places from whence it comes.
Individual trials, personal triumphs.
Continue and believe.
I’m linking up with others, prompted by the word “cost”.
I kept my promise to myself this summer although the plan for the big reveal just didn’t come true.
I feared the worst thing that made absolutely no sense.
What if I can’t feel my way back to safety? What if I hit bottom and lose my breath? What if I’m left to figure it out on my own, panic and struggle and cause my own deadly distress?
I practiced in private. Well, just the instructor/husband and I. The scenario I planned, on my birthday my children would come over and we’d grill burgers and then I’d surprise them as they sat by the pool.
They’d see I was able. I had overcome my fear of diving into the deep end.
Other plans played out, my birthday was good but not the “big reveal”.
The accomplishment was more private, I believe it was better that way. Mine to treasure.
Now, it’s Autumn and the kitchen window is open to welcome cool air as I sit with my Bible, thinking about God’s call to deep.
There’s a verse in the Book of Acts that describes this beckoning I’m feeling.
This quiet acceptance of slow growth after my baptism, like roots spreading underneath, necessary for solid strength, I sense the preparing of this stronger me.
This one who is going deeper still in the sharing of my story, my perspective on this often discussed Jesus, the Son of God, waiting for all the skeptics, doubters, intellects and risk takers to dive in to the simplicity of grace.
To feel their way towards heaven.
There must have been masses of deep thinkers bent on proving Paul wrong back then.
They listened and he kept speaking.
He knew his place was simply to share his story of change. His understanding of God, of Jesus.
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.”
Acts of the Apostles 17:27 NLT
Aren’t we all just “feeling our way” towards the unknown and knowable God?
When I stood on the edge of the pool, my toes gripping the edge, body bent towards the water and practicing the rocking type motion that would give me the push
I was scared.
Scared of the same irrational thing, what if I get to the bottom and I can’t come back up.
“What happens when I am that deep?” I asked my husband.
He always answered, same way, he gave me step by step instructions and I followed them and he says it wasn’t pretty; but, I did it.
I jumped/fell in and I did it again and again until I was satisfied.
I met my goal before my 59th birthday!
Symbolic for me, although I didn’t know it.
This has summer changed me, grown me.
Still growing. Letting the roots of assurance of what happened to me in the water take their time in spreading wide, making plans and breathing life into what may have otherwise dried up and withered.
My branches are reaching wider.
Feeling their way towards God.
To the water, the deeper end, bottomless pool filled with mercy and grace for those who take the chance, step from the edge, finally trusting we’ll be drawn up, face beaming, pure joy as we pop up!
Hallelujah, I have felt my way towards God!
Linking up with other Friday writers, prompted by the word “Deep”.