There is something very eloquent about a table being set. Behind the scenes, it is a mixture of adrenaline and cortisol caused from the plans and preparations that have been a precursor to the event. It is a momentary feeling of dread and excitement as the clock ticks down. I have been both the host and the guest where, either way, emotions can run high.
This month is about unexpected surprises ... and endings and beginnings, all wrapped up into one. My faith has been tested as praise, gratitude and hope mingle to conjure a melting pot of a journey unfolding. There is a related passage of scripture that brings into light the urgency of paying attention to details:
At the time my coming draws near, heaven's kingdom realm can be compared to ten maidens who took their oil lamps and went outside to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Five of them were foolish and ill-prepared, for they took no extra oil for their lamps. Five of them were wise and sensible, for they took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. When the bridegroom didn't come when they expected, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, they were awakened by the shout, "get up. The bridegroom is here! Come out and have an encounter with him. So all the girls got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones were running out of oil, so they said to the five wise ones, share your oil with us, because our lamps are going out. We can't they replied, We don't have enough for all of us. You'll have to go and buy some for yourselves. While the five girls were out buying oil, the bridegroom appeared. Those who were ready and waiting were escorted inside with him and the wedding party to enjoy the feast. And then the door was locked. Later, the five foolish girls came running up to the door and pleaded, Lord, Lord, let us come in. But he called back, Go away. Do I even know you? I can assure you, I don't even know you. That is the reason you should always stay awake and alert, because you don't know when the day or hour when the Bridegroom will appear. Matthew 25: 1-13 from the Passion Translation.
This scripture holds both personal and biblical relevance to me. Why had the girls not been prepared? Were they distracted, busy or uncaring? We do not know exactly. Like other scripture, it is held in the interpretation of the holy spirit (the oil) to reveal it to us. More importantly, how does this passage of scripture apply to us today?
The one word that comes to mind is TRUST. The ones that were prepared had to trust the importance of being ready. They had to trust the truth of the good news. They had to trust in something they could not see. Faith was built in the details; hope grew out of obedience and in the end, a relationship was held together in love.
I began this month's post with a surprise party ... so let's begin there.
I received an email invitation to a surprise 50th wedding anniversary; I responded with a resounding, yes and set in motion the details of a gift. I had plans for a one-of-a-kind gift but was was delayed in following through so when the final weekend came, I was in a scramble.
Time was running out because I did not realize the importance of being prepared. I made plans and even followed through on them but lost the gift on a metro train. I was distracted and talking to strangers; I was absorbed in the unfolding story and tried with humble obedience to follow what I believed was the important steps of faith: being available, trusting in His plan and being open to the changing of my character.
I arrived empty handed to church. And, to be honest, I had put no attention, detail or thought into the party. The only thing I remember about the invitation was not to be late. It was embedded into my mind - do not be late!
Empty handed in church – there was something very symbolic about the humility that comes with failed attempts. A chiseling away of pride until my bones were frail and brittle. Through the doors – with no expectations, I entered a church past a sign that read, "all are welcome here".
I was not too late. It was perfect timing! As I walked through the front doors, my first impression exceeded my momentary imagination. It was shear beauty; the excitement of a surprise was in the air. There were tiny paper doves, streamers and sunflowers down the center isle. The sound of the best gospel band I had ever heard trumpeted through the cathedral ceilings of fine wood. The pews were filled with people dressed up for a party; the guest of honor didn't know what awaited her. The groom had planned, in detail, with his son the festivities of a renewed wedding vow and I was invited to the event.
As we sat in a packed church, the gospel band played loudly with the best dance music I've heard. There was a light breeze coming through the open side doors but more than the setting, the inside of my heart burst with an unexplained joy ... I belonged. I had shed tears, laughed and been encouraged by the recipient of this gift and there is no-one I could think of who deserved it more. She had had her share of heartache and wore it with humility. I was grateful I had not been too busy or distracted through the years.
This moment, sitting in a packed church with a gospel band as beautiful and intimately tangible as it was, also existed with a profoundly deep and sorrowful feeling as I carried with me the simple sadness and regret of not having said good-bye to a dear friend that recently passed away. It was in the microcosm of thought where Jesus dwelled through the holy spirit in music and people as I sat in church fully and completely raw and present. Through faith, I intellectually scanned large pieces of my life through the remnants of years and experiences, and for just a few seconds, tears spilled onto a page as grief and love and church blended into the evaporation of time and I smiled and cried ... and loved, all at once.
The fabric of so many lives intertwined through love and community - strangers and friends gathered; the cross was the only thing that came to mind. Gratitude spilled out everywhere - it must have been a glimpse of heaven ... and then the gospel sound danced like a melody across pews out into the breathe of the air that penetrated darkness into light and I was glad.
In the scripture verses: when the bridegroom hadn't come when they expected, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. I believe it is a metaphor for discouragement and the long journey. My faith falters too. I don't have the answers when I see those I care about sitting in deep sadness I cannot explain or systematic division and hatred in a divided and privileged country or poverty and violence across the globe or isle and I, too, grow drowsy with the weight of it all and "fall asleep" in my ability to hang on to faith and hope. That is precisely when I pray and call upon the holy spirit to be the oil that continues to lubricate a hardened heart, mine. I choose, instead, not to remain in doubt looking for the holes where the nails once pierced but rather inch forward into stillness where no words are necessary and into the light of belief.
That is what the girls with oil had done in preparation for the risen King. They believed and acted upon that belief through their faith in the details. They were prepared. Equally important was their ability to not be distracted in what the other girls did not have. They had a quiet confidence in the value of the oil.
When the time came, they were escorted in and the doors closed behind them. It is not by accident that you stumbled upon this website or took the time to read this month's post. I carefully and sincerely pray for each and every person that happenstance across this website. It is not too late; God has perfect timing!
Believe Jesus is the son of God, that he was crucified onto death, was buried but rose from the grave three days later. He has prepared a way for you and me; you only need to confess your sin and accept his free grace. It is important too, that you find community. Pray and seek and you will find.
... But, fear does not have the final word; love does. I am grateful I am a planner and an organizer because I have seen and felt the good effects of being prepared and doing the tough work beforehand. I know the value of seeing through small and big details. I pray and I work hard and leave the rest up to God. Yes, fear and doubt can and do distract me but I continue to pray forward through it all.
For the girls that were prepared, their efforts were heaven-worthy.
At the time my coming draws near, heaven's kingdom realm can be compared to ten maidens who took their oil lamps and went outside to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Five of them were foolish and ill-prepared, for they took no extra oil for their lamps. Five of them were wise and sensible, for they took flasks of olive oil with their lamps.
Faith is believing and preparing for the coming of the risen king.
This month is about an ending ... where memories flood the forefront of my heart and it is about beginnings, where people get second and third chances to become the story of a redeemed and transformed people in the midst of chaos, and finally, it is about unexpected surprises where a story is unfolding - yours. Will you take the chance?
As I sat in a beautifully small and intimate church with cathedral ceilings and the fragrance of a gospel band, I thought of the expensive oil poured out on Jesus; it is in the extravagance of a gift where hope and faith are born.
Scripture found in the Passion Translation of the Bible. Pictures purchased through Adobe, stories uniquely my own, post inspired by those I love. Copyright 2019.
Translucent light with hues of soft orange, yellow and blue across sun-streaked sunset nights. I reach deep within the morrow of untouched rooms until I drift slowly and softly onto shore - arms wrapped around me ... as I learn to trust in His strength, alone. I breathe in fully and exhale in surrendered puffs of circled air that lingers sweetly in the moment.
It is a whole lot more difficult to stay present. There are a multitude of things that draws me away but as I begin to place fingers on keyboards and my mind to the story at hand, I am reminded of black history month when I sought a vintage vinyl; this is a song from the album. Even the name, Sentimental, eludes to a soft backward lingering. Whether the song is new or old, nostalgia swirls in just a few notes.
In contrast -
Stress surrounds the choking of a melody. The banging stroke upon my mind: boom (job, finances, tasks), boom (health, exercise, hobbies), boom (loneliness, regret and hurt)... all vying for attention. There must be a deliberate lull to the present, not of our circumstances, not of our day but of the very moment at hand. It is a deliberate pressing in toward the appreciation of living fully and completely in the breathe of the hour.
Gathering threads in a web of chaos to an untying of the knot, the soul rests in the slow discipline of concentrating on the rise and fall of the breathe. Breathe in slowly ... 1, exhale slowly ... 2, repeat- in and pause, 3, exhale again slowly. The technique of concentrating on our breathe is nothing new; it slows the train of thought. It is to become fully present in the moment, prayerfully surrendering your plans to His.
The pounding of a single note drawing attention as though it is the most important intonation on the shore. I will be honest - i don't feel like writing. The past few months have been particularly difficult; so much loss and pain and as I press into scripture, the gentle lull of His word calls me to a quiet stillness.
I believe the bible is the inspired word of God - living and active. It's truth and light found in the scriptures. As I read the above verses in context to the past few months, I find hope and a deepening of my faith through the character of Jesus. In the gospel message of Matthew, I reflect on the miracle of bread and fish:
I enter the story in chapter 14, after the beheading of John the Baptist. The disciples retrieve and buried the body and finally tell Jesus what had happened.
As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. That evening the disciples came to him and said, "this is a remote place, and its already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "that isn't necessary - you feed them. But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish! they answered. Bring them here, he said. Then he told the people to sit on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves of bread and two fish and looked up to heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the loaves to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children.
Lord God - I pray the holy spirit would transform your words into a living promise of hope and encouragement for anyone who might stumble upon this website. In Jesus' name, I pray.
Jesus had just heard the news that his friend was dead. He left in a boat to be alone. His friend was gone.
The hardest part of living in grief is that life continues. There is a forward motion from everyone around and yet the pain invades like an impermeable membrane around your heart. There is still the details of the day and Jesus was not immune to the fragile persistence of people in need. As he stepped off the boat, scripture said he had compassion and healed people. Let's step back a moment: he had no time to wallow in his own sadness; he couldn't bring back to life his friend and yet, he continued to do God's work of healing others. In fact, the eminent miracle of feeding over 5,000 people came on the heals of his great sadness.
In contrast, notice the disciples response of annoyance, 1) it was a remote place, 2) it was getting late and 3) they wanted Jesus to send the crowds away so they could buy their own food. How often have you been there? In moments of discouragement and loss, you just want to be alone. Remote is defined as situated far from the main centers or having very little connection with or relationship to. The power of the Holy spirit living inside us is to transform lives. A relationship with Jesus means the opposite of remote - it is intimacy and connection. It goes beyond words or geographical location, it is a drawing into the present circumstances. For me, it was flying to another state just to sit in the shadows of someone's deepest grief; I had no words. At the same time and separately, I had been praying fervently for a friend who died 10 days later. Perhaps I should have flown there instead? Might there have been words of encouragement I could have offered? It is the opposite of remote - it is compassion... and I fell short, again.
The disciples said it was getting late. I don't know about you but everything seems harder and more difficult at the end of the day when exhaustion and fatigue weaken my body and mind? How interesting that in scripture, the crowds didn't arrive in the morning when Jesus was rested - no, it was getting late. I find it fascinating and not by coincidence that it was in their greatest weakness (at the end of the day) that prepared the environment for compassion; they could no longer rely on their own strength but God's.
Also, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds away so they could buy their own food. His greatest miracle wasn't the healing (which was in itself life-changing) but in a deepening trust of what faith looked like to the disciples. Yes, there was compassion on the 5,000+ people that made the journey to hear the gospel message. Yes, there was compassion in the details; the people were hungry and he fed them but do not miss the subtle compassion Jesus showed to his disciples - his friends.
Jesus showed a deep connection and spiritual intimacy with those he truly loved. He met them in their weaknesses with a loving understanding and willingness to share relationship with them; he set the example of spreading the gospel of truth and love. There are things he could have done wrong - gotten annoyed, used sharp language or even reprimanded them for not caring about his loss (with the death of John the Baptist) but instead he showed compassion. That is the part I struggle with ... faith is not always how I see the story unfolding and yet, Jesus shows the example of humility and service in all seasons. The disciples' faith grew that day and I would imagine they reflected on these moments throughout the remainder of their lives and ministry. Their eyes were being adjusted and perfected toward heaven.
Each of us has a journey to walk - there will be times of joy and sadness and everything in between. There are moments when I feel sentimental thinking of the past. There are days when I feel anxious about the future but the sediment that remains: I am simply human, flawed and doing the best I can given the information I have. Mistakes and triumph are part of the deal and in my hope, love prevails.
My prayer is that you will be fully present to experience the moment - for in it, begins the song that is uniquely and creatively yours alone.
I am a picture person. It is a natural way for me to process my emotions and the world around me and yet, there are no pictures for deep sorrow. I must be content with silence.
The character of Jesus, not as a "good teacher", but as God incarnate offers us hope today. The tomb was empty. Could the disciples have known then what the ministry of Jesus would look like? Would they struggle in their faith? God knew then and He knows now. May hope is that each day you press into the truth, light and love of Jesus. May you find strength, solace and the deep abiding-peace from standing in God's light.
I will continue to stand in the mystery of the things I cannot explain and in the hope that I will one day be reunited in His eternal grace... and, in the meantime, i keep writing and working and loving until I am called home.
Good Friday - where Jesus died on the cross ... but the story doesn't end there.
I was a little girl when I found a lost dog. It was a German Shepherd and I loved him. But more importantly, I needed him. School was difficult. My home was chaotic. My sadness was deep. This lost and beautiful animal was exactly the miracle I was hoping for. I obediently posted flyers around the neighborhood but I secretly prayed nobody would respond so I could keep him. My friendship with him grew. As the hours turned into days and then weeks, I thought the blessing was mine. Sadly, the call came and the owner retrieved him. I was crushed AND I was strong.
It has taken a half century to realize little stories such as these created cracks in my soul. It is a place where God painted faith, hope and love to mend those broken places. I am not arrogant enough to think that my story should affect yours but perhaps mine can provide a platform in which God can mend and heal those places in you.
Lord God, through the power of the holy spirit, provide clarity and wisdom through your promises. Amen
Search scripture for God's promises. May your burden's be light and your joy complete.
Song, As It Is (In Heaven) - Live
"Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him." Psalm 98
Have you ever gotten an award for simply participating?
- showed up to an event even though you didn't want to (check)
- felt really sick but went to school or work anyway (check)
- cleaned up after a holiday meal even though you would rather watch tv (check)
- talked to a new person on the metro, at a meeting or a party (check)
- wrote a thank you card for a gift, dinner or a friendship (check)
The Oscar awards 2019: Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Black Panther, BlackKklansman, Green Book, Vice, A Star is Born and Roma are the films nominated for best pictures of 2018. Each push the boundaries and communicate the human condition of stories.
Bohemian Rhapsody and the explosion of the band Queen in the 1970's tells a story, as they describe, as band member misfits reaching an audience of misfits. It was a prelude to an undeniably magnetic chemistry and the power of music. As we are drawn into the story, we feel the subtle cultural threads of the emergence of aids and the world's support against famine relief through Live Aid. As our feet stomp, a new beat ushers in a cultural shift of awareness.
The Favourite weaves the duality of friendship through power and deceit. Two women vying for the love of the Queen who is a pawn in her own world of misery and responsibility. Her internal struggle to be loved leaves her vulnerable to corruption.
Black Panther is a beautifully crafted cinematic reproduction of a fictitious world of villains and heroes. The first all black cast of actors and actresses, it ignites the beauty of skin and costume onto a movie screen and articulates a larger context of inclusion and identity.
With the premier of Black Panther, a u-tube video gone viral expressed opinion through the eyes of kids. It was a spontaneous explosion of song and dance amongst elementary school aged children at a predominantly all black school the moment they heard they would be going as a school to see the movie. No agenda, just the power of film to be a voice in a silent story.
BlackKKlansman is the elusive disease of supremacy and it's ugly and distorted view of reality. It's prejudice extended it's hatred beyond race toward anti-semitism, anti-gay, anti-feminism. The movie is crafted in such a way as to incorporate music, protests and the law enforcement to bring light upon a real story that continues today. It is the challenge we all face toward the eradication of bigotry and hatred.
Green Book is a jaunt down rural south between an educated black musician and his white, Italian body guard. It embarks on a story of racism, and music and the judgements prevalent in white America. It is the building of a friendship and how that, in turn, changes the outcome of a story.
A Star is Born is a riveting tale of love and heart-ache. It is a re-enactment of one of my favorite movies from the 1970's. Re-vamped through a current narrative, the shine of authenticity is articulated in simplicity; beauty to come as you are and the smashing of two stories into one deep love. It is the raw and complicated messiness of love.
Song, Shallow (Oscars)
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Roma is visually stunning. It is a story about a young teenage housekeeper in Mexico. It weaves poverty and privilege throughout two women's lives but loosely draws on friendship and hardship in the disintegration of la familia. With no fancy story line, it draws you in.
Another movie nominated in the "best actress" category, the Wife held a sentiment that resonated - a writer needs to be read. A writer needs to be read! That is the story in culture today: people needing to be heard and seen. That is the story of the gospel - His story told through our story.
For about six weeks, I was looking forward to a weekend in Portland, Or with my two daughters. One was flying in from Los Angeles and the other was taking a bus from another part of the state. For Christmas, I bought the three of us book tour tickets to see Michelle Obama.
It was cold in Portland, Or that weekend. Mid morning Friday, I thought a trip to the Japanese Gardens in winter would be a good perspective. Because of my impending divorce, I had started incorporating mindfulness meditation and yoga into my routine; the gardens in winter were beautiful. Snow dusted trees and grass amid the sound of running water. My daughters paired off and I followed behind. Getting lost taking in the stillness, capturing the beauty with my camera, I delighted in the quietness of winter.
It was such a calming in the midst of my storm. It had been a difficult Christmas and my daughters responded with such grace and compassion. They created the most perfect celebration of the savior's birth only days before December 25th. It was the gentle and simple elements of thought and detail in making our time special. They understood me; they love both their mother and their father equally. This Portland, Or weekend was in response to that.
In the hours that followed the Japanese gardens, I tried to get into their stories and lives. With no agenda and no expectation, I meandered. It was later that night, that I received an email that the book tour had been canceled due to an impending threat of snow. I tried to push back the disappointment at the words I read.
So we went to the Oscar nominated documentary shorts that next day. This category draws upon the film makers story by diving into the human condition in four 20 minute "condensed" gut-wrenching stories of people's lives. I felt drained. As we left, I begged my heart for the escape valve of decompression and asked my daughters to let me know what they were thinking. Quick to respond, they said, mom... "we are not all verbal processors." Funny but true, we continued along our way.
We had a snow storm that day in Oregon but nothing worthy to cancel a book tour. I didn't vote for Barrack Obama. I was far to the right; I always had been until about five years ago where my story started to be influenced by other stories. Perhaps it was the quiet and deliberate protests or the conversations. Possibly, it was my daughters involvement in the elections or in researching for themselves the stories of others. Maybe it was the articulate voices through my daughter's camera lens or the posters that shouted inclusion from my other daughter's quiet and still voice. Either way, the wave of a movement toward listening began to change in me what I heard.
In the past years, I reached out to my father where his story began to illuminate and change my perspective of him. What was being chiseled out in me was the soot of judgement permeating the imperfect belief systems I had created in the internal marrow of my childhood. The more I listened, the more I questioned. I was growing up.
Where my daughter fell short of her reading goal last year of only 60 books, I struggled with having read 6. Where all three of my children's affinity toward podcasts strengthened their desires to communicate a story, I listened acutely to the tune of those around me. When social media began to soften into a quieting distancing like a life ring drifting out to sea, my voice softened too. I felt alone and dis-oriented in the movement toward change. I grappled toward the stories told on and off the screen. I listened to Michelle Obama's book, Becoming on audible. I enjoyed hearing her voice telling her story and how her childhood permeated subtly into a larger platform as she had a front row view of life in the White House.
Although there was no snow, it was overcast that day. The dark clouds held strong under the skies of a simple Saturday in February where we wandered for hours in a book store, sipping coffee in an old hotel and taking black and white pictures in a vintage photo booth. We walked on sidewalks with no umbrellas and when a stranger, with quiet anticipation hugged my daughter and said, "I thought that was you" and talked about the pictures she had taken, I took the substance in. When my other daughter said, "this was her roommate's sister's design" in a clothing shop, she had me take a picture of them in the clothes so she could send them took pictures to send to the designer. It was here in these moments that I drank in the goodness of youth.
Having been filled up that morning with a sense of inclusion, I was open to the dusting of the savior's story upon the fragmented pieces of my heart. You see, for me, church doesn't begin and end with the sermon on Sunday. It is the journaling in the morning, the scripture readings throughout the week, the fellowship at church on and off the sidewalks of a sanctuary. It is the permeating of a story that meanders its unyielding way through the stories of others as His and mine blend into the rich fragrance and taste of life.
This day, my daughters led and I followed. Light snowflakes had turned to rain as we made our way toward the unfamiliar path of an enclosed building. Outside I noticed 2 or 3 large black men and a smaller Asian man. They walked toward us. They were strangers walking toward a common ground. Entering the side doors of an alley, I walked into a marketplace filled with young people. I told my daughters I would meet up with them as I decided what to eat.
The large room was filled with people - their stories as unique and different as they appeared. Each food court brimming with the flavor of culture; beer and food and television and i-phones and music and laughter and the quiet rumble of people talking. The crowds left little room to sit. Life poured out in the unfolding of an experience. In techno color, my black and white opinions were shifting toward the inclusion of an idea.
Having little opportunity for one of my old favorites, a bacon & cheese hamburger, the words, "gluten-free" buns, got my attention. I joined the line. I stood behind the same strangers I saw outside. One was lost in conversation with the cashier; I smiled. In waiting, I began to talk to the tall and handsome young black man that was about my daughter's age. Pretty soon, I learned he and his friends were from the East Coast and were showing their friend from Hong Kong parts of the United States that included a trip to Portland, Oregon. We talked about the storm that didn't happen and the cancelled Obama book tour that my daughters and I were going to attend. This opened the conversation further. We began to laugh and smile and tell stories.
Later, having retrieved my food and beer order, I approached my new friends with a smile. I thanked them for the great talk and toasted their friendship as we all lifted our raised glass of beer. I wanted to continue into their story but instead wished them well as I found my daughters.
Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
My heart beamed with the feeling of inclusion. Would my daughters even understand the short interchange that had taken place with me and strangers moments before? Having finished my lunch, I offered to buy us dessert and as we talked with the person at the counter, he spontaneously and out of kindness gave us our order free - the owner had given him permission to honor patrons once in a while with gratitude.
Jesus answered her, "if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." John 4:10
Time and time again, Jesus and the disciples wandered the lands in an opportunity to spread the good news of the gospel. They encountered people hungry for the word of God. As I live my life with the ups and downs that surround me, I dig deep into his word and the worship of his truth in order to live out my days in an unfolding story, His story.
Would the rendering of the stories found in the Oscar nominated movies this year have more resonance than those that surround us? I am drawn into the stories around me too: the loss of a child, the loss of a relationship, the personal growth found in learning something new, the victory over a disease or oppression or the praise and rejoicing found in the birth of a child. It is showing up in the story of life and being changed by it that matters.
I began with the word, award because it is the ones we don't receive or even the ones that aren't told that have ability to change us. The simple things:
- showed up to an event even though you didn't want to (check)
- felt really sick but went to school or work anyway (check)
- cleaned up after a holiday meal even though you would rather watch tv (check)
- talked to a new person on the metro, at a meeting or a party (check)
- wrote a thank you card for a gift, dinner or a friendship (check)
Or in the consistency of being available to be molded from the inside out and through the hands of faith and that our story develops into the likeness of Him.
As I close this month's post that includes some of this year's Oscar nominated movies, there was one movie that left the audience in a quiet silence. It was such a peace-filled stillness of gratitude that I would be amiss not to mention it. The movie didn't talk about faith, even though the protagonist was a Christian, it wasn't a message about racism or sexism or violence or hatred even though it's message addressed the contrast to those things. It was a simple message ending a quiet gratitude. The movie, Won't you be my neighbor? is a challenge to change and be changed. Will you?
Jesus longs to call you into a life with purpose. May your life leave you breathless and changed for having made the journey. Blessings to you, my friend, as your life unfolds. Go in peace.
Song, Raise a Hallelujah by Bethel Music
Pictures purchased through Adobe; inspirational videos may be found on U-tube, scripture found in the bible and the stories are uniquely my own, told in my voice. Copyright 2019
“You, God are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs
for you in a dry parched land where there is no water.
I recently picked up a journal. These are the scripture verses I had written in March 2017. I abandoned the book putting it away in a box. Fast forward to January 1, 2019 and while I searched for a journal to accompany a new bible reading plan, I again picked it up; both the bible app and journal began in roughly the same places. Diving a little deeper, I learned there are 150 poems in the Psalms, 73 are written by David. It is organized under five "book" headings: the first three written primarily around words of lament, while the later two books of praise.
This website, for me, has been a self-discovery of just how much I need faith. This past year, in particular, has been a tearing down of any exterior facade. It has been both a year of lament and one of praise. Would an outstretched hand and God’s promises be sufficient enough to push me toward God’s redemptive shoulders where He, alone, is enough? I am led to the dichotomy of God’s words: be forgiven and get up.
"Get Up" is not always easy. It seems the tension between lament and praise is exactly the thing that is necessary for a deeper and more authentic prayer life. The illustration of no water implies a certain level of pain, or at least a subtle awareness of something that has been missing, water. In order to get to the rejoicing, there exists the conditions of "a dry parched land" where precisely the depth of the stirring and self-awareness exists so that we turn toward the promises of deliverance.
Why would a savior go to so much trouble? To save us - that is, from ourselves? That is the reason we worship. For knowing in our own brokenness there is found hope, we discover freedom and out of that "thirsting" we extend our hand to others through a savior who redeems, discovers and transforms. There is no getting around depth - it simply doesn't come from living life only in the blessings but in a weaving of the burdens AND the blessings. In the raw and vulnerable thin membrane of our soul, comes a whimper which beats toward a yearning which, in turn is satisfied by an answer. It is there that praise is born.
What does "get up" mean outside of the scriptures written 2000+ years ago in the age of accessibility? Where do we turn when we have failed? Where the church has failed? Where we, as collective people have failed? Doing a simple "google" search, I stumbled upon a myriad of ideas from meditation, exercise, facing fears, accepting responsibility, trying something new, reaching out to friends ... the list goes on. With January, a new year, i sought a new plan of renewal. I presupposed that even a soft and gentle adjustment of my rudder might effect change.
I invested in new routines: a devotion/reading plan in a bible app, breathing/calming techniques in a headspace app, a gym, an on-line budgeting/finance seminar, a yoga, and art class. Where I once poured over involvement in marriage and parenting, I pressed into the hurt and loneliness of being alone. Taking risks meant the possibility of opening myself up to mistakes. There was no getting around that. I pressed into something tangibly new. I lamented and I praised.
At the gym, I participate in a timed obstacle circuit where one of the stations has a large and heavy rope looped around an anchor. Feet planted, knees bent and gluteal muscles out, I swiftly move the rope up and down. At first the ripple is fluid but as the repetition and weight continues, my arms get tired and the wave becomes unsteady; my breathe is weighted and lofty.
In Psalm 49, we hear a sermon; it is a re-occurring theme throughout the bible to not put too much emphasis on that which does not last. It is always about the relationship - one with the savior and the other with those who come our way. There is a third one, however, it is a calling to be gentle and patient with ourselves.
As I think of the rope, my soul seeps deeper into the weight of gravity: a full-time job, plenty of material possessions, a home, I swiftly move the rope and down - at first the ripple is fluid, "the foolish and senseless alike perish." I continue to move the rope: finances - where does my money go and how do I establish new routines? I continue to move the rope. A headspace app: just how much worry, guilt and responsibility do I allow to take residence in my brain and can I re-orient my perspective? The ripple of the rope is getting heavier now. An adult art class: can I move past self-critique and learn something new? Yoga: can I bare the weight into the floor so I can experience a lighter upper body?
Change takes time. It is either an explosive interruption to our daily lives or maybe it is a slow and gradual realization that something must change.
The marbles in the jar are not all one color. There are many facets of life; it is in the lament and praise that the marrow of our souls get chiseled from the dust of the cross to the sculptured beauty in His hands. In order to be transformed and redeemed, there is a breaking and a piecing together. It is what the Psalms are all about. It is a crying out for ourselves and His people.
A soft and pillowy reminder that change and transformation takes patience and timing. I picked up a tiny and little book in a hotel lobby this weekend. It was: Taming your Tongue, by Deborah Smith Pegues. It, in combination with the self-realization of my words - spoken and written which may or may not have caused alienation, where the wound is open and oozing; it hurts. It is a deep and yearned introspection that allows God's truth and wisdom to dust over my soul with delicate intimacy.
Just as the cross is not about me, so too this website is not about me. First and foremost, the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross was not only for your salvation but so that you can be transformed into his image. Out of an intimate love relationship with the savior, good works are born. Not the type that points back to your achievements, but the kind that points to your character being broadened and deepened so that your captivity to love others in and outside of your radius is enlarged and expanded. If that is true, then the internal work of the cross must be wrestled with - through His word and fellow sojourners along the way. Maybe the sharpness of tongue is NOT something God is working on with you. Perhaps it is an inability to speak up for yourself, or the lure of addiction in its many facets or maybe sexual impurity, or something more subtle like gossip or comparisons; the list is endless but God's pursuit is not. He will penetrate the darkest hour or the brightest moments in order to adjust your rudder toward the wind of his unending love.
Whether you are in the balance of lament or praise, my gentle prayer is an offering up of hope through faith. It is not by accident that you stumbled upon this website, this post. It is not by accident that God has planted a desire in me to be as open and raw as I can in order to communicate to you the sense of community. I have a deep and abiding yearning to be transformed from the inside out for the specific purpose of sharing hope with you. The good news that is available to you, through the abundance of joy, found through the pursuit of God through Jesus and the acceptance of the holy spirit. The work of the cross done in you for the sake of eternal life and his kingdom now on earth.
So, where do you go from here?
Get-up ... take whatever positive steps you can toward the light of His cross. Even tiny and deliberate baby steps eventually translate into forward motion. Choose to forgive; choose to ask for forgiveness. Enroll in a class; begin to face problems. Seek the company of community that is uplifting, supportive. Volunteer - whether in a class or in your neighborhood. Think big! I used to think the word dreamer was a character flaw but I have come to realize that the man and woman that dreams comes to the cross with open hands and a vulnerable heart; it is precisely there that God whispers his wisdom into the veins of your soul; a childlike faith is enough. You are enough!
God is not finished ... not with you, not with your circumstances. Perhaps it is a gentle tweak in your life. Maybe it is a major overhaul due to loss. Get up - your future is dependent on your small, and seemingly insignificant baby steps. God can use even the tiniest mustard seed of faith to transform and redeem lives. To be honest, I have no idea where my life is going or where I will end up but i do know HOW it will end up. My character will be chiseled into an intimate and loving one intertwined into His purposes and plan. The relationship of the father son and holy spirit (trinity of the cross) in communion with him for the purpose of spreading the good news of the gospel to you.
This is January, a new beginning to the year and a new opportunity to experience His great love in ways you do not yet understand. Embrace change; deepen love and get up. May you hear the quiet and still hush of snow falling softly upon the inside of your soul: you are enough, just as you are. Get up, my friend.
My prayer is twofold: that you will learn of your intrinsic worth and value in the eyes of God and out of that love relationship, you will experience His love.
Go in peace, my friend.
Inspiration about Psalms found in a program I stumbled across called, Bible Project - check it out. Photos purchased on Adobe, song may be purchased from i-tunes, quotes found on twitter and google, scripture found in Holy Bible and stories uniquely my own. Copyright 2019
"We know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two" ... Farmers Insurance
The outcome of becoming vulnerable to another person includes an element of risk. There are no balance sheets to measure quantitative results. Like a thick and clear plastic shower curtain, we only see and are seen. No control panels for adjusting dials of perception; it is what it is.
Faith challenges us toward transparency with the father and ourselves. As we strip down the clothing of self absorption, we are left with getting into the real hurts and joys of life. As I get closer to people, I see flaws. It does not matter the age or locale, people are people and that bundles all sorts of emotions. Likewise, as I strip down the image of what I think I look like from the outside, I gaze at my own reflection. Fuzzy with steam, i am left with me.
This month is about sin. It is also about the washing of our souls through the breaking of water and wine. It is about new wineskins and the power of His word to transform us from the inside out in order to reach the lost and broken.
I have intimately been in love with the church all my life. On tip toes, I peered through glass windows longing to be drawn into His presence. Faith was simplistic - I believed wholeheartedly in the power of his name. The small number of people I knew with genuine faith seemed to me to hold imaginary magic keys into the kingdom of heaven. It was a slow penetrating belief that settled into my heart. It began a subtle yearning for the church.
The adult version was much the same. It was an honest and intent pursuit toward the kingdom of God. It lulled me like a lullaby in a hand made wooden cradle. It was an explosive expression of His love through loud worship, inspirational speakers and an honest pursuit into truth through the scriptures. It was prayer, fasting and leadership on a grand scale. The foggy mist enveloped me with a quiet and arrogant confidence in a community I loved.
What seemed once clear and evident is now vague and obscure.
Maybe it is age or experience but it is difficult not to grow cynical. I do, indeed, seem to be living in a divided world. In the midst of change, you would think I would be more skeptical but I'm not. In the shadow of political and cultural upheaval, I should be more arduous in my opinions but I'm not. When the church seems to be pushing people away, I want to draw closer. There is a faint muddy water deep within me; it is a realization of the subtle sin that has been present all my life. It is intertwined between my judgement of the church, my own sin and the invitation into Freedom through the cross. It makes a simple acceptance of his love a gasping for a fresh breathe of air; it is an urgent and desperate floating to the top, up through the whitecaps toward His outstretched arms of love.
First the mud
I came across a rain-soaked hat today. It had been raining on and off throughout the night. The hat did not appear to be muddy, just wet. It was a quality double-knit material and as I began to hand wash it under a faucet of tepid water, mud oozed out. I washed it again. Squeezing out the water, dirt continued to flow so I washed it again and again and again until finally, putting the brim back into position, i set it outside to dry.
The sin in our lives can be flagrant or hidden. As we too, are washed under lukewarm liquid, the mud oozes out with consistency. The scriptures are filled with men and women who either knew their own flaws intimately or those who were oblivious to them.
In Matthew 19, there is a verbal interchange between "a rich young man" and Jesus. The disciples appear to have overheard the conversation and follow-up with their own questions for Jesus.
Just then, a man came up to Jesus and inquired, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life? (16) Why do you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied, there is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." Which ones? the man asked. Jesus answered, Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself." All these I have kept said the young man. "What do I still lack?"
What do I still lack?
Jesus continued with an invitation for the young man to surrender something so great and so deep within his heart, that the man went away in sorrow. Jesus turned to his disciples with sharp-hitting words: (25) When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
This is where you and I enter. It is through the mud and muck of perception into a simple exchange of love between the church and it's bride. Yes, surrender all. We are washed again and again and again: for those of us under the illusion that we have done everything right, it will be a long and steady fall. For those of us who are well aware of our pervasive sin and self-absorption, the invitation will be an easy grasp and finally, for those of us who have never seen His grace in the midst of life, it will be a cloudy, steamy curtain until the last grasp of air awakens our soul. It is an invitation to be washed through the power of the holy spirit, the father and son through the cross.
and then the route
As adults, we long for the wooden cradle version of Christmas. It is the evolution of hope through the old testament into the new and the unfolding of a story through the birth of a savior in simple surroundings. It is there we find ourselves in the miracle of his birth. It is the start of a wonderful and miraculous story.
For some, that beginning is brought to an abrupt end through the assault of consumerism as the meaning of Christmas is diluted through our own lens. For some, however, the miracle of Christmas is found in the violent and bloody truth of a ministry that lasted 33 years and the breaking of illusions though the man who took all the stories (yours and mine) upon the weight of his shoulders. The miracle of Christmas is found in the frailty of an invitation.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. 1 Tim 1:15
The scriptures point the way to wisdom and freedom. These past months have brought me to my knees as the evolution of my story unfolds against the backdrop of His. There is so much sadness all around. We need the cross. We need the baby. We need Christmas.
Three wise men, escaping the political terror of their time looked up into the stars, believing in their hearts through faith that a messiah was on his way. With three gifts, they searched. As we, with the the three gifts of the father, son and holy spirt also search; we look both upward and inward and accept that grasp of air - new air.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev 21:4
Washing: Christmas is about the washing of your soul. Look up and get up
for the invitation is yours to accept. It is a free gift of mercy and
grace found in the simple cries of a baby.
It is where the story begins.
Will you hear the fragrant scent of Christmas?
May you hear the whisper of your name and your story into the welcoming arms of His.
Love and peace to you today and always.
About the fourth watch of the night, he went out to them ... immediately he spoke to them and said, "take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid."
Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened. Mark 6: 48, 50 (excerpt)
Normally I don't play the "Lotto" but when the stakes had reached over a billion dollars in the past few weeks, I had to submit myself to peer-pressure. The entry fee was a steep $20 bucks, twice! Because the first try, nobody won, the money rolled into an even greater measure. We didn't win; the odds were astronomically high. It turns out ONE single ticket was the winner. Because the state where the winning ticket was purchased is a state where anonymity is granted, we will never know who was the recipient of such great luck.
In my mind, I decided where I would spend the money: I would form a non-profit where I could gather a team of people I trusted for the investment in people through ministry, motion pictures, books and some ideas that have been percolating. Of course, I would pay off my relatively small mortgage and help my kids with homes but more importantly, it was about a sense of community.
In order to combat my guilt in an extravagant wish, I put some cash in the church plate and blessed triple the amount in a simple gesture for a friend - along with a card. Her tears and heart-felt gratitude were well worth the small amount I invested in lottery tickets. The money had been sitting in my drawer in safe keeping for a special occasion. For a brief moment, I saw the rawness and frailty of our shared circumstances.
Jesus saw that: take courage, it is I and then he climbed into the boat with them.
Interestingly, the fourth watch is a time where my mind is a jumbled mixture of an empty hunger and exploited thirst. Typically, I have been asleep through two sleep patterns, about four hours, when the mind automatically accelerates it's brain wave activity. The gut is empty from the previous night's meal, the heart is ripe for the tender mercies of his word. I reach for a bible, a pen and a journal to probe the perimeter thoughts that swim in the 2-3 am hour.
Jesus sees this: take courage, it is I and then he climbs into the boat with us.
Fear is an interesting tool of the robber's trade. It seeps in through sneaky ways: it is at our most vulnerable sense of aloneness. It is a subtle mind chatter that whispers, am I enough? Could I have said or done something differently? Am I entangled in the complexities of sin or in the therapeutic cleansing of His grace?
I am fully guilty. My hardened heart wrestles with the mystery of the loaves. God had just blessed the thousands with a few simple loaves of bread and fish and yet the disciples couldn't accept the fearless assault of God's intimacy into the sheer vulnerability of their (and our) thoughts moments later. No sooner had they been bystanders to a miracle when, they sat lifeless in the aloneness of their condition.
"The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know"
Song: I am not alone - Kari Jobe
The canvas acts as a reminder of our shared dependency on the story to reveal itself with hues of light. I have never been so alone as I am now: alone in my thoughts: alone in my condition; alone in the depth of my need to hear his words - take courage, it is I.
An "I" that means the audacity to enter into our deepest thoughts. It is an investment where the wringing of hands is late at night played out in doubt and fear. It is an investment of time where the pressing in is to wait and listen despite the stillness. It represents countless hours, days, years, circumstances, scriptures and stories; it is a relationship that calms the storm. So much so, that when we hear five simple words, take courage, it is I, we stop to listen.
The canvas is simply a starting point. In order for it to bear the likeness of life, it needs color. There was a lot of work that went into the making of paint. We take for granted the color used by Rembrandt, for example where his students helped to pound, grind and swirl elements from the earth into small heaps of pigment which was then placed into a pig's bladder where it could be squeezed out in a lump of substance upon a large stone which was then scooped onto the artist's brush. So much work BEFORE the true work even began.
Lapis Lazuli, which is a brilliantly deep blue color was the most expensive paint to make as it's elements could only be found in a certain region in the mountains of Afghanistan. Painters used this blue in the robes of the Virgin Mary. Less about the symbolism of its meaning and more about it's cost, it was a tangible expression of value. It cost a lot to make that particular shade of blue.
Time and time again, I believed being a good person was enough for the Kingdom of God. And, for the good riches found in this life too. But, more and more, I am becoming the white canvas. It is as though the pounding and grinding on the inside has been the color pigment for the artist's brush. It feels as though the experiences and thoughts and circumstances have simply been the components that make the color. I have loved so deeply, it hurts to my core and yet God calls me to something deeper. It is as if the painting on blank canvas has just begun.
I love that the sky, under brilliantly magnificent lighting, resembles the shades of blue found in the royal robes depicted by the early painters. Or the ocean, with it's shimmering penetration of light casts an illumination that cannot quite adequately be captured; it must be experienced in order to fully absorb it's value.
Until we fully and completely understand the depth of work the artist brush endures, we simply do not understand the palette in which the price was paid. Until we can fully and completely immerse ourselves into the human condition, then we are mere copies of the authentic painting under the master's hands.
So quickly I bought into the idea of a lotto ticket. The true treasure, however, is in the evolving story of the artisan's brush.
That is precisely when God gets into the boat. Time and time again, the disciples had witnessed healings and miracles and the outcasting of demons; they had witnessed the crowds gathering and heard the sermons and parables and teachings. They saw with their own eyes the times Jesus had healed and told some people not to mention anything while others, he told to tell of the miracles. The disciples were not custodians of the gospel but the elements of color for a grand and magnificent story. Where they fearful? Did they doubt? Did they fall into temptation? Did they experience grief and bewilderment? Was there joy and fellowship? It was all of those things but NOT what they thought were the stories formulated in their heads. They were simply part of an unfolding story they had yet to read.
We are each granted a certain number of days here - what will your faith say of you? As my canvas is blank, I pray God uses the timing of my birth and death, the expression of my love and my clinging of my hope into a faith story of His love.
May your walk include vibrant hues of the most costly blue pigment found in extravagant regions for there simply is not another person like you and for that, I am deeply grateful.
Pictures purchased from Adobe, song may be purchased on i-tunes, link to color found on wikipedia and stories are uniquely told from my own perspective. Copyright 2018.
"Love is the flower you've got to let grow." John Lennon
Like beads of sweat, my heart beat faster. Fear - suffocates and restricts. How much is imagined and how much is real? Constant motion toward inevitable change, stretch marks in new skin.
It was prettier than I had anticipated. Lush green landscapes with crisp red barns. My imagination had dreamt of red and modern but also of kid-sized conversations of red-wooden horses, Christmas candles and hope-sized dreams. The girl-friend is gone now but somehow stepping onto the soil she once loved brought me to a door where fear was turned into appreciation and subtlety into substance.
First the passport stamp, then the re-examination of luggage and then something new and decidedly different: it was a soulful change beginning to take root deep within me. I had been going back in order to go forward. Forgiveness had finally landed on fertile soil; it was up to me whether I chose to water and put it into sunlight.
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22
I had lost touch with a childhood friend from Junior High School but only a handful of years ago, I found her through the use of computer research. Forty years had passed but I called to ask for her forgiveness. That random conversation rekindled a friendship through the phone that lasted until her sudden death last year.
As kids, she loved everything "Swedish" so this random and brief layover in Sweden allowed me to experience God's forgiveness found in the scriptures.
Cirrus (latin word for curl or fringe) - "thin and wispy" type clouds. The fears I use for this are the ones that are not deeply rooted but rather present nuances throughout the day. I kept quiet: what is the exchange rate for Kroner? Had I forgotten to notify my bank that I would be out of country? Without internet, would my phone work? Would I be lost since maps do not come to me easily?
Days before departure, my son called me at work which is unusual. He began with "before i post on social media, I thought I should tell you...... which already sets up a mental pause. He began, I am home safely; I went to Bagdad, Iraq. Three grown children in their twenties, each as independent as they are unique. I say this to only illustrate my slow and natural progression toward saying less and being willing to go more often. Go - in thought and action.
A full day of respite meant I could follow. Maneuvering the city on bicycle on what locals would call an unusually beautiful October day was weaving through bikes, cars and pedestrians. It meant being alert and decisive. It was to keep quiet and keep up, being open for the experience. Marketplaces, a ferry to flow toward the other parts of the city, to enter a room-sized storage unit to exit into a bar with lots of young people enjoying a beer under blue skies. It was to "get out of the way" of control in order to be molded into the experience - taffy folded and formed with specs of color churning and stretching under the artisan's hands.
Cumulus (latin word for heap or pile) - fluffy (cotton-like). These type of fears surround me like a blanket. They are ever-present in my thoughts and judgements. A self-imposed 30 day fast from social media meant less community but more prayer. I have two more days but in the process of stepping back, I have pressed into the loneliness to feel it's sting. The cloud has been pervasive - it surrounds me. I didn't think people noticed. I was wrong. There are a small handful of friends where the veil is lifted.
My heart is toward a ministry of young people but in order to reach out, I must reach in. Social media is a hook on a line. It is thrown into a vast water: with bait, some take hold (through likes or comments), some troll and stand as outside observers. Some stand in perpetual turmoil casting judgements on the ill-effect of social media while appeasing endless appetites. Stepping away from it has caused me to press the pause button.
It is a pause from the distraction of becoming immersed in my own selfish world of fear and activity in order to embrace clarity and distinction. In order to hear God's soft voice in the crowd of noise, it is a slowing down in order to confront fear and confusion to hear only a few words: you are enough.
So much work to hear so few words:
Nothing more, nothing less.
You are enough.
We miss the cross, otherwise.
The clutter constricts and suffocates. The story is different but the humanity is the same.
Nimbus (latin word for rain) - precipitation. These types of fears are life-changing ones. it is the place where change begins. It is precisely the place where doubt is churned to hope and loneliness into faith.
I fumbled through the carefully written map until I arrived at my destination. I fumbled through the hand-held audio equipment toward English and began the trail into a room with collages of pictures and drawings. I grappled for a button on the wall for direction until I spoke up softly asking for directions from the docent who positioned me toward the downstairs, then immediately up the escalator and to end up where I began.
I took the hook and turned around. To my surprise, the beginning held historical, artistic greats such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Anna Boch (the only female in Avant-garde), Chagall, Matisse, Diego Rivera, Picasso and Pollock, all within a corridor of each other. It brought back those kid-sized cards as a parent-volunteer in school or my involvement in fundraisers, specifically raising money for arts and music in elementary school. Yes- it was going back but it was also going forward to something decidedly different.
Absorbing great works, I now ascended the escalator into a sensory assault into Post-modernism. Much like social media, it was an overload of everything. It was inclusion, exclusion, visceral stimulation of heart and intellect. It was an expression of the impact of cultural division, environmental raping, war; it was the emersion of voices in feminism, equality, expression. It was a loud crying out toward change. It was a jarring out of the comforts of warm blankets toward the isolation of jagged rocks; it was a pounding from the inside out. It was a moment where my participation in all that is wrong was thrown against the cliff of judgement and I wasn't sure where I would land.
Nimbus clouds are the ones where fear is cast upon the shores, breaking firmly held beliefs into a shattered pinata of candied pieces of goodness. It is the precipitation found in the tears. Tears filled with quiet lulls and loud roars within the ventricles of flesh. It is the realization that sin is everywhere. It is the tasting, yes, of putting toes into the water but also the unintentional oozing of simply being. It is the inexplicable separation of the vertical and horizontal beams of a cross.
Where would I go from here?
Stratus (latin word for layer) . - horizontal layering . My fears would need to be ordered. Yes, they were there but layered too with the goodness of His grace.
Goodness and evil exist beside one another. In the garden of eden, Adam and Eve were surrounded with the goodness of fruit too glorious for words. It was an expression of clarity and being seen fully in the light of grace. It was there for the tasting, albeit one tree. It was the one tree, however, that tantalized the senses beyond restraint. Both partook in the bite which forever ushered them beyond the borders of safety into the storms of doubt and fear.
Two more days of exclusion from social media. One more floor to discover. The journey ends where I began - into the present. Has anything changed?
That is the point of this month's blog: And, that is the challenge for you and for me. What are you willing to do in order to change? What drives you outside the comforts of the noise and distraction in order to hear the quiet and soft footsteps of His voice calling you into the eternity of his love?
Maybe you need to go backwards in order to go forward to live fully in the present ... and in His love.
Blessings my fellow sojourner.
Pictures purchased in Adobe, Cloud quotes found in Wikipedia and stories uniquely my own. Copywritten 2018
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 311:3
I sat in the foyer of a sanctuary - alone. Sun streaming through tall windows casting light in peculiar perpendicular shapes. The iridescent beads on a tapestry of a Lion and Lamb glistening; a golden colored velvet couch, which otherwise might have seem dated, bringing my mind back in time. Dust floating effortlessly in sunlight; I wondered what my spiritual grandfather (a strong faith mentor) would have thought of my life now; so many grand hopes drifting in particles in morning light.
I looked up, whispering a simple prayer in an empty church.
Inspiration: Song, River by Leon Bridges
An unadorned prayer in a grand cathedral, God hears the cry of his people.
The location was a hidden spot for a wedding. Off the beaten path, the twists and turns through bramble and brook finally opened to a small clearing. It was simplistically quaint. Tall trees providing shade, a substantial patch of freshly mowed green grass, a large still pond where at dusk, you could see the ripple in the water of fish coming up for food. There was a fire pit and quiet corners but also a cluster of old vintage buildings. I couldn't decide if I was stepping onto a movie set or whether a subtle participant in an Anthropology magazine shoot but either way, a nice spot for a wedding.
Servant and guest, the next 48 hours were helping my sister. Whether it was carrying out the details of months in the making, or the last minute purchases, we were there to set-up, attend, and tear down the details of a wedding. These first few hours, however, allowed for thoughtful wandering. Each of us were involved in individual tasks so I worked alone using whatever I could find for ambiance. Old wood stumps, borrowed linen, new regalia and forgotten articles in small wooden sheds, I dusted old things off, like a pair of muted blue saloon doors, changing them into something new.
Faith to move mountains
Jesus was sitting with many religious leaders when some men tried to get a man who could not move his body closer to him. Because they were unsuccessful, they made a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, "friend, your sins are forgiven."
"The teachers of the Law and the proud religious-law keepers thought to themselves, "Who is this man who speaks as if he is God? Who can forgive sins but God only?
Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said to them, "why do you think this way in your hearts? Which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgotten or, or "Get up and walk"? Luke 5:17-26
Lord God, you see the mess inside.
Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man
That morning sitting in sunlight in a church alone, my thoughts came to a chrysalis as the words from Christ settled into the caverns of my heart. Several threads to a simple conversation and faith-filled miraculous event.
Get up and walk
I have shed a lot of tears lately; with the outpour of obedience and faith, I still have doubts. The word that keeps coming to mind is pruning. Open any devotional and you are bound to come across the reference. Cutting dead and diseased branches in order to bare healthy and vibrant blooms takes time and careful tending.
Last year, the neighbor insisted on replacing our shared fence. Reluctantly, I agreed. The price was steep monetarily but the void and empty space was there too. I loved the forty year old weathered, vintage red fence and overgrown ivy. It reminded me of stepping into an old English garden. I loved the little shade it provided too. Yes, i would miss the old fence.
The ripping out of old in order to make something new looked stark and cold. The fence, although more structurally sound, lacked color and vibrancy. The ripped and torn ivy and branches heaped in a pile reminded me that there is a price to pay for progress.
In order to combat the empty looking fence, I planted a row of simple white roses. Having lived only across the street for years, the many variety of roses I had tended to in the front yard were lush and overflowing with fragrant, colorful blooms. This new house, however, left little time for tending and the simplicity of white roses seemed fitting. Through the months, the ivy quickly grew around the roses suffocating their roots. Their blooms became lackluster.
Clearing out the ivy, I committed to a newfound desire to redeem the white blooms. I began cutting old branches, clearing dead blooms and refreshing the soil with fertilizer. The fence looked barren but kept and the weeks began to unfold.
I thought back to the little girl me who cried herself to sleep many nights. Introspective and responsible with a high tolerance for pain, I always held onto hope. As I pruned the white roses, I thought of the dried and broken branches I had let linger inside me. Fifty years later, I came to the same fork in the road but on a much grander scale.
I have poured out all that I could into a marriage that has long been struggling to survive. Obedience and perseverance have been deep roots but the blooms have long been diseased. I am scared. That is when pruning has to be the answer for new growth. The fiercely loyal and not wanting to hurt anyone are not branches to be severed too harshly. It requires a great deal of care - from others, prayer, a quiet listening voice, patience, more prayer and finally grace.
I committed to a 30 day fast of social media in order to sharpen my hearing toward a deep yearning to listen clearly. I am surrounded by kids of all ages and sometimes a childlike faith grows from a simplistic desire to be loved, deeply, intently and with the loving hands of a gardener who prunes not out of destruction but out of a caring heart; it is the recognition for more blooms to grow.
Winter, spring, summer and fall: the seasons mark endings and beginnings. As a kid, I loved the change of seasons. Fall ushered in cool, brisk air, winter - the contrast between the stillness of snow falling and the sound of crackled footsteps on ice. In spring, held the emergence of tender blooms and finally, summer whose shadow stretched into warm, lazy days.
Jesus was sitting with the religious leaders. That is the backdrop for this biblical story. The faith conversation was interrupted by an annoyance. In the middle of a theological debate where important religious instruction was being held, a subtle ripple of intrusion emerged. It was a small group lowering a paralyzed man from a rooftop in order to get him close to Christ.
The audacity! There were no doubt countless people with ailments and paralytic conditions but the story suggests to me one of relationship. Having invested in the story of others and allowing others to invest in me, I have to imagine this tiny gathering of people represented countless hours of conversation. They had heard of a savior who could heal. Perhaps they had no in-depth biblical instruction; they simply held onto a hope that Jesus could redeem and restore.
Their faith must have been one to move mountains - or at least a willingness to
take a risk through trust and perseverance.
Jesus was pruning. Yes, he had performed a miracle but equally important was the miraculous pruning within the religiously educated elite. In the midst of a religious conversation, in the midst of observing the healing of a paralytic man, in the midst of an ordinary day, Jesus was doing something extraordinary.
He was intruding into their very thoughts! The gardener was cutting the old diseased way of thinking; he was ridding the plant of dead blooms. In just a few words, He casts a challenge: "which is easier: to say a man's sins are forgiven or get up and walk."
Which is easier for you?
As I pruned the white roses in my front yard, I too wrestled with the same thoughts of the religious elite: which was easier for me to believe: that God could forgive my sins or to get up and walk? One requires faith and one necessitates action.
That is the stinging result of the cut - penetrating deeply into our own judgements and beliefs. The loving hands of the gardener works from the inside out.
A friend recently wrote a letter that held a handful of words: the wait has not been void but will be returned with the blooms of a new season. How could she of known that seeds and blooms were in exact alignment to a recurring dream I had as a child. Yes, I had the tears, yes, I had the nightmares but I also had hope in a dream and the outstretched hand of a prayer.
In order to be me, fully, I need to trust the gardener's hands - fully. I need to trust the pruning and get up and walk into a love where a savior cries out, "forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do."
There has been a subtle clarity in my thinking: each of us struggle with the pervasive strangulation of sin but Jesus heals through the father and the holy spirit. The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3 And that truly is a sensational love.
Pictures were purchased by Adobe, the song reference found on i-tunes and stories uniquely my own. Copyright 2018
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.