My pastor told the story of a man falling off a cliff and grabbing a branch. As he held on for dear life, the man cried out to God, and God said, “Trust me. Let go.” I’m not sure how the story turned out, but I do know it doesn’t make much sense when there’s this thing called gravity.
Truth is I’m not sure what makes sense these days. So many voices ringing in my ears.
Wear a mask but don’t because it might cause lung problems, Stay at home, away from others, but beware of lonliness. A vaccine will save the day, but it too might be dangerous. If you have a sniffle stay home, but remember to pay your mortgage on time. Back and forth, back and forth. It makes my head spin! Who can make sense of it all?
Some days I leave the house determined to never take my mask off and wash my hands a gazillion times. Other times I find myself in the middle of the grocery store without my mask feeling guilty because my forgetfulness might be spreading invisible germs. Do we go to see family we haven’t seen in over a year? Some we may not get the chance to see again. Does it make more sense to stay home? How do I live faith and common sense at the same time? If I have to ask this question do I have any faith at all?
I read scripture words long before the sun comes up.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him.Mark 10:17-21 (NIV)
Wait? What? Jesus looked at him and loved him. How did I miss this before? Before Jesus answered the man’s question, before he invited him to sell all his worldly posssessions and join the gang, Jesus looked at him and LOVED him.
Poor rich young ruler got a bad rap because wealth is something we all experience to some degree.
If you are still reading these words your are rich to the one who is illiterate. A good night’s sleep is wealth to the one who tossed and turned all night. Children with parents are wealthy beyond imagination to the orphan, and the opportunity to work is more than many have this Monday morning.
Is Jesus calling us to somehow let these go? How does it make sense to walk away from the wealth God’s given?
I’m beginning to believe faith doesn’t make much sense. It didn’t to Abraham or Moses or Esther. It certainly didn’t make sense to the discples as they watched the rich man walk away.
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”Mark 10:24-27
Here’s the deal (as my oldest often says): whatever wealth we have, whatever Jesus calls us to let go of probably won’t make sense to us. That “whatever” won’t be the same as our neighbor’s because this isn’t about hard, fast religious rules. It’s not about having no wealth. It’s about holding onto “this makes sense” wealth with tight fisted hands, and refusing to let go.
Love invites us to do things differently. To let go when we want to hold tight, to give way when we want to have it our way, and to serve when we want to be served.
This is the way of faith. This is Jesus’ way. It doesn’t make sense, but let me tell you what it does do.
It makes us free.
Free to let go of the whatever we’re holding onto and accept Love’s invitation,
Most years I gather twigs from the yard and place them in a vase with scattered paper leaves for writing things I’m thankful for. This is the season I practice thanksgiving but it is more than just a season, it’s a discpline. A few years ago I discovered intentionally practicing thanksgiving during this time is just the exercise I need to grow in gratitude. I told a friend recently it is kind of like lifting weights to strengthen your bicep. Thanks giving strengthens a heart of gratitude.
The past few months I’ve been quietly creating with the help of others a few things to encourage you (and me) to grow in faith. Through the process of redesigning the blog, graduating from spiritual direction training, and learning a new design technique, God reminded me I am made to encourage. God’s taken what I thought were separate pieces and connected the dots so to speak.
With a humble and joy filled heart I invite you to explore the links below where you’ll find encouragment to be thank-full in this season.
And that’s not all. These items inspired a way for you to go deeper in gratitude through a free on-line course at sistertalkfaith.com. Carol and I are trying our hand at offering our teachings through this new platform. Hop on over to the Sister Talk page and explore the sistertalkfaith thank-full course.
Whew! I’m a bit humbled as I finish up this post. Because Encouraging Enough Designs felt a lot like birthing something new. There were times I doubted it would all get done. I certainly didn’t expect the coming together of so many moving parts. But here it is (and there’s more to come).
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!–Psalm 100:4
Oh I almost forgot! Follow Encouraging Enough (click on the link) on facebook to get a daily dose of thank-full encouragment.
I used to live there, sometimes I return, to a place I call the Land of Not Enough–L.O.N.E. for short. Maybe you’ve been there too. The place where nothing and everything is “Not Enough.”
L.O.N.E. was a dark and gloomy place with dreadful weather. The sun never shined enough, rarely enough rain watered the ground. The temperature climbed too high or fell too low. And oh how the wind howled through every season constantly screaming, “You’re not enough… you never will be!”
Fear was my mode of transportation in the land. Moving, moving, always moving in the hopes of being or finding enough. Yet nothing satisfied. No relationship or possession. No amount of education or career achievement. I built houses on streets named Money or Time… Tall or Skinny… Talented or Smart. And none of these were ever enough.
Residents of the land were do-it-yourselfers, independent people who never asked for help. Because if you did achieve enough with someone’s help it wasn’t REALLY enough. I was a LONEr, a citizen of the land. I trudged through my days with a smile on my face and discontent hidden in every corner of my mind. It stirred my jealousy when others seemed to have enough. Judgement crept in when others missed the mark. This was a land where no authentic relationship could be found.
Throughout my life in the land there were many opportunities to move out. There were times I heard of a better place… whisperings of a different way. I happened on others who somehow found a place where they were enough, but I couldn’t imagine it. A place free from striving and working and fear. A Kingdom whose ruler loved no matter the achievement or failure. Where residents didn’t have to obtain enough.
Could this place be real? Did it exist? A Kingdom where just being me would be enough for the King? Would He really want me to live there? Did He know I am worn, weary, and at my absolute best not enough? Did He realize I would be a burden… a total fixer-upper? Did He know I”m not worth it?
Still the new land and its King beckoned me come…
I packed my bags and moved to the outskirts of the new land. Maybe I could blend in, and learn to fit in with the others. It was a large Kingdom and if I worked hard, did my best, kept a low profile, I might go unnoticed. As long as I never came face to face with the King it might work out. Because meeting Him face to face was a horrifying thought. He would know, would see right through me. I knew I would never be enough and He knew it too.
Year after year I worked. I strived for a strong faith. I studied the law of the new land, and shared the good news with those around me. I watched as the King granted freedom to others, healed their wounds, stitched up their broken hearts. I witnessed the King pour out grace upon grace and heard them testify of His goodness. This was a King like no other. One who sought out the lost and made them heirs to the throne.
Oh, how I wanted to be close to the King, to be able to enter His presence and feast at His table. Is it possible I misunderstood the invitation? Could it be He intended from the beginning to draw me in, make me more than a outskirt-living resident? If He knew the real me inside and out, would He even want me? Was there enough courage in me to crawl to the foot of His throne and risk the rejection?
Slowly, slowly I gathered the remnants of baggage I brought from the Land of Not Enough. I packed them neatly and began the journey to meet the King face to face. I trembled and quaked with fear. This was the only sacrifice I had. The only thing left to offer to the King. Maybe just maybe He could wipe away my not enough and do what I never could do on my own.
This is my story, the story of a girl who once lived in the Land of Not Enough. A girl rescued and adopted by the King. A girl risking all she knows to live as a daughter of the Most High.
A beautiful unfolding of a girl free to be… enough.
It all began Thanksgiving break when my hubby and I traveled to see his family in their Illinois hometown. In an effort to stay outside in the fresh air the two youngest nieces and I took a walk through the neighborhood. We set out on our journey to the little lake just down the hill.
As we drew closer I said, “Let’s go skip a rock.”
“Skiparock, what’s that?” the youngest asked.
We headed down to the water’s edge and the lesson began. They made a few attempts as I coached them in the art of skipping rocks. A few practice throws didn’t bring success, and as the oldest prepared to make another attempt we heard, “Hey you! Stop throwing rocks in the lake!”
The youngest questioned what was wrong with playing skiparock. The oldest remained quiet. I was a bit miffed at the thought that we just got in trouble for skipping rocks in what this country girl considered a small pond. I mean if Canadian geese are allowed to do their business in every corner of the “lake” what’s the harm of a few small rocks? Was there some unknown danger? Could we possibly throw so many the displaced water would flood the houses? If we continued would the police be called? I envisioned the headlines, “Aunt from Texas arrested for teaching nieces to skip rocks on Thanksgiving Day.”
I wanted to pout. I wanted to skip one more just to see how the grumpy bumpkin might respond, but I was pretty sure a lesson on how to be disrespectful might land me in “she can’t be alone with the kids” category. So with a sigh we continued on, but the abrupt stop to our lesson left me a bit dejected and sad.
Just a few short weeks later we traveled north and the in-laws drove south to celebrate Christmas on the river. It was beautiful day to be outside. The girls and I hiked the nature trail. We read information signs about birds living in this area and watched in awe as two blue herons flew close. The youngest carried her backup muffin and a bag of chips for fire starter just in case we got lost.
The path led us close to the water. She smiled her toothless grin up at me, “Look at all these rocks! Can we play skiparock?”
And just like that what I thought was lost returned.
Four days on the Road to Epiphany I’m reminded I serve a God that returns things I’ve lost.
Not the other way around.
What I mean is most of the time we can’t return to the place we’ve come from. On this New Year’s Eve when I want to forget this year ever happened, there will be no returning to the world I knew a year ago. Mistakes I made along the way cannot be undone. Lessons learned won’t be unlearned. I’ve grieved the way things used to be. I’ve ugly cried over wearing masks and trying to decide if hugging is safe. I don’t like the feeling of constraint or quarantine.
Thanksgiving day I walked away from the lake and let go of the skipping rock lesson. I never expected to return to it.
I think I’ll do the same this night. I’ll walk out of 2020 and into 2021confident I serve a God who is in the business of returning things that are lost. I’ll put down my expectations and keep walking this faith road. If along the way God returns something lost, you can believe it will be better.
Kind of like the way my niece transformed skipping rocks into a game of “Skiparock.”
Two trucks, two boats, and one four runner all packed with the seven of us and two dogs. Not to mention the loads of stuff we’ve brought for the journey. We traveled north on four lane roads for most of the trip. But the final two hours of our journey included the winding up, down, round and round through the Ozarks.
Mile after mile we drove, and along the way were warning signs. Arrows pointed out the hard curves. Squiggly lines warned of squiggly roads ahead. One sign read, “Caution. Very sharp curve.”
As we passed another sign the thought came, “If this trip needs countless warnings, is it even safe to keep driving.” I quietly chuckled at the thought of stopping this caravan of loved ones and turning back. As if there was even a possibility this outdoor loving, game playing, fishing crew could be deterred at this point.
Today’s epiphany is simply this. Warnings are meant to help us continue along our way, to keep us on the road to where we are going. Yes, there will be detours. There will definitely be times to slow our pace and stay focused. But for me refusing to continue is not part of the equation.
The Wisemen didn’t turn around either. No matter what they faced on their journey to Bethlehem, they kept going. You’ll even find they heeded the warning of God and returned home another way. But it didn’t stop them in their tracks or deter them from continuing the journey to Jesus.
She asked the question as loved ones discussed the difficult roads, “Why are all the pretty places so hard to get to?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself a time or two when it comes to following Jesus. “Why is faith so difficult at times? Shouldn’t this journey to Jesus be easy going? Maybe I’ve taken a wrong turn or lost my way.”
Turns out there is a scripture warning that speaks to these questions.
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.Luke 14:27-33
Counting the costs of following Jesus is all the warning sign needed to know this is not an easy going road. There will be twists and turns, ups and downs. Some days I’ll travel at warp speed and others will be at a snail’s pace. There will be detour moments and back tracking along the way, but the warning doesn’t keep me from going.
My sister-in-law spoke wisdom with her question because all the pretty places ARE hard to get to.
And the prettiest place of all just might be a stable that holds the manger where the newborn King sleeps.
The story of Christ’s birth often feels as if it all happens in a few short hours. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem and Jesus is born. Shepherds and kings arrive shortly after to worship the newborn King. By December 26 all is finished and on to the New Year’s celebration we go.
A song begins, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” I wonder about the twelve days. Are these the final days leading up to Jesus’ birth? Or after? A little research brings new understanding. The twelve days begin Christmas Day and continue through Epiphany, January 6.
I wouldn’t change a thing about how we tell the story. Each year as I set up the Nativity, I put the Magi in their place. But this year I want to linger on this twelve days of Christmas idea. These were traveling days for the Magi. Twelve days of following the star’s sign to the place of epiphany.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to JerusalemMatthew 2;1
One of the definitions of epiphany reads,
an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosureMerriam Webster
There’s something about the definition that draws me. What illuminating discovery did the Magi experience on the road to Jesus? Or was there a road at all? What realizations came as they made their way to Bethlehem? Were they expecting some great epiphany at the end of the journey or did they experience a few along the way? The scriptures don’t reveal much about this time. And so I’ll use my imagination and invite you to do the same.
Let’s travel together and consider what the Road to Epiphany might reveal to us and in us.
On this second day of the twelve, let’s take the first step together. Let’s step out on the Road to Epiphany and see what’s to be discovered along the way. Are you ready?
Here we go!
This Christmas morning doesn’t look like it used to. No tiny tots at my bedside sounding alarm in unbridled anticipation of gifts under the tree. The oldest two celebrate in other places this morning. The youngest still sleeps in his bed. The house is quiet. It’s weird and wonderful all at the same time.
I watch light overcome darkness and think about the magi noticing a star for the very first time. I hear the Spirit whisper, “He’s here.”
The Wisemen weren’t God worshippers at least not that we know of anyway. We do know they were stargazers and sign-watchers. Curious risk-takers who packed their stuff and headed out guided by the light of the star that heralded the news, “He’s here.”
I hear an invitation. Come… pack up your things. Follow the star’s light and see. He’s here. He’s really here!
Traveling takes lots of packing. There are gifts to wrap and food to cook. The clean clothes wait patiently to be put in suitcases. My hubby scurries around setting things out just in case we need it. The youngest calmly waits for his next assignment. I am bit overwhelmed with all the camo and fishing stuff. It feels like chaos. It’s definitely not like last year or the year before. I would be taking a nap by now.
I breathe deep and heave another suitcase into the truck, pushing and prodding things into place like I’m playing tetris. All this packing makes for physically hard work, but it’s nothing like what’s going on inside. Because in order to go on a trip there is much leaving to be done. This might be the toughest thing of all.
Scanning the kitchen for the last time I wonder, “Did I leave anything important?” I hurry about turning off lights and whisper to the pups, “we’ll be back in a few days.” The truck and boat are ready because our journey north will takes us to a place where “fishing and presence” are part of the celebration.
While I’m not so sure about the fishing.
I do know one thing.
Christmas is about presence.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”Luke 2:10-14
Did the Magi feel this way as they began their journey. When the preparation work was all done, did their hearts thump with anticipation of what they might find? Did they take a look back and let go with a bit of sadness?
The youngest grins back at me through the rearview mirror. He’s not aware of the pull in this momma’s heart. Of all the letting go it takes to embrace the new. One day he’ll understand. One day he’ll find himself at the crossroads of holding onto what was or journeying to another place. I pray he’ll choose the latter.
Because faith calls us to move toward Jesus, to prepare for the trip and let go. Faith is trusting the path I’m taking leads me to the manger.
When I get there I’ll bow low and worship the newborn King. I’ll whisper in the quiet of the stable, “He’s here.”
He’s finally here!
She toddled in with her momma , and I peeked around the corner of the shelf to say hello. She frowned and I stepped back with a comment, “Maybe my mask scared her.”
Her momma replied, “If this keeps on going she won’t remember the time when we didn’t wear masks.”
Ugh! I wasn’t prepared to consider a world where masks are so normal a generation won’t remember not wearing them. Because I’m tired of virus talk, and weary of its background noise. Most days the waiting is tolerable but not this day, and I find myself praying Psalmist’s words, “How long, O Lord?”
The Isaraelites spent 400 years in silence between Malachi’s final word and Matthew’s first word. Four centuries passed without a message from God to the Israelites, without a prophet to herald the good news. 146,000 days of silence. Over 3.5 million hours without a word. Two hundred million plus moments. Generation upon generation waiting….
I can’t quite wrap my heart around God’s people waiting 400 years. How did Anna, the widow in Luke’s gospel, continue to spend day after day in the temple without a sound from God? Didn’t she get tired? Wasn’t she weary when months went by without change? Were there times she wanted to leave the praying behind and give up? Its hard to imagine an ancient Israelite woman worshipping God and praying for the silence to end most of her adult life.
Advent is the season of waiting and I hear Paul’s words,
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
How do we guard against the weariness of this season? All the waiting? The bad news? Where do we turn when we feel like staying in bed or giving up? When quarnatine feels like forever and there’s no end in sight?
I would love to sit right down with Anna over a cup of steaming coffee and ask her how she did it.
But deep down I already know. She prayed, fasted, worshipped no matter what because she believed in a God who speaks. She believed the day was coming when God would show up.
I believe it too. I believe God speaks. I believe God shows up. I believe there is purpose in the waiting. Most of all I believe a day will come when God’s work is complete in me, in the world.
Like Anna I worship and pray, looking forward with anticipation to Jesus coming.
Until that day I’ll keep singing, though it might be a bit muffled by a mask, “My soul, my soul, maginifies the Lord, my soul magnifies the Lord. He has done great things for me, great things for me!”
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”–Revelation 22:16
This name for Jesus stumps me. I sit and wait and wonder. What does it mean? I turn to commentaries and google searches. There’s much to be said about this name. Still none of it feels right. None of it speaks to the questions I continue to ask each time I consider a name for Jesus.
What does this name reveal about you? Who you are beyond what I know now?
My heart longs to let go of my perspective and opinion, my past understanding and assumptions. It’s a deep desire for the kind of knowing that comes with life-long relationship.
Science reveals the star we see in the early morning sky is not a star at all. It’s a planet with no ability to produce light. A bright reflection of the rising sun.
Now this is something I can sink my teeth into. John’s words come to mind.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.–John 1:1-5 (ESV)
And just a few chapters later Jesus speaks.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:38-40 (ESV)
Jesus, the bright Morning Star, is the light that shines in my darkness, and nothing will overcome His light. He is the perfect reflection of the Father’s purpose, and not one thing will be lost in the process. Like a sailor who turns his ship toward the morning star, Jesus is my navigation. My sign post pointing to the last day. No circumstance will get in the way. No dis-ease or amount of wandering will change my eternal outcome.
It won’t change your’s either.
May I make a suggestion? Rise early one morning and look to the east. See the reflection of light and point your ship in its direction. Morning upon morning it will be there. Reflecting bright light in the midst of darkness. Stay a while and enjoy the quiet before dawn.
As the sun rises remember you too can shine. You too are a reflection of the Son’s light. So go! Go light your world!
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.–Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
It’s early. Like before the rooster crows early. I did’t plan it nor set an alarm because it’s Saturday, and this is the day I like to sleep a bit later. It seems the men around here have other plans. Before the clock numbers read 5:00 am one arrives home from late night hunting for wild hogs and the other rises to head out for a day of fishing. I sling my arm over my eyes to shield them from the light but it’s no use. I’m wide eyed awake, and there’s no turning off this brain.
What to do? What to do?
I attempt to sit out on the deck but it is sticky hot and the June bugs keep landing in my coffee. Flying dust from halfway around the world shields my view of the stars.
Yesterday’s conversations float through my thoughts.
“I figure we will all get this virus at some point.”
“Did you hear the governor has halted the reopening?”
“What about school? How will we manage to teach and keep our kids safe?”
“My coworker’s family tested positive. We are waiting on her results.”
“The new baby is back in the hospital.”
“The statue on campus was spray painted.”
“They postponed the wedding for another year.”
This is surreal living. With every conversation a phrase runs through my mind. Wars and rumors of wars. Over and over this is my internal response to bad news. What does it mean? Where have I heard these five words? A quick google search leads me to an expected place.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.–Matthew 24:6-8
I am not surprised by where I find the words though I am taken aback when I read them within the larger context. Honestly I am hesitant to share them. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. This is not “the end is coming soon” post because I have no idea how long “soon” will be. Nor will I pretend to understand the complete context of Jesus’ warning.
What I do see is a short little phrase to live by. See to it that you are not alarmed. It means feeling a sense of danger, urgently worried, concerned, or frightened according to Webster’s. In other words, see to it that you are not feeling a sense of danger or worry. Don’t panic or tremble in fear. Do NOT be alarmed.
Easy to say… much harder to live.
One of Jesus’ name is Lord. Of all the names I call him, this one is special to me. It is the one I use the most. I begin most conversations with Lord. I whisper this name in the midst of my fear. Lately I have taken to holding prayer beads tight and praying Lord have mercy on us again and again.
It literally means one having power and authority.
Jesus has all power and authority. I am certain of this even when I question why. Why allow sickness to ravage the world? Why does slavery still exist? Why wars and rumors of wars?
Not having the answer doesn’t change my understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is Lord no matter my circumstance or the state of the world. I have no idea what it will take to transform the world, but I know it all begins with acknowledging who is Lord of my life.
In the midst of wars and rumors of wars I hold tight to the most familiar name to me.
Jesus is Lord…
See to it you are not alarmed…