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.
“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…
Almost every morning of quarantine I awake singing, “… Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness. My God, that is who you are.” As we take baby steps to move out into the world again, it surprises me how quickly I have become accustomed to this new way of living.
Washing my hands has become second nature. Being aware of how close I am standing to others on the sidewalk or in the store has me shifting and moving constantly. I wipe the door handles and everything else a customer touches with alcohol. I don’t hug those I usually would or shake hands with a new friend. Not long ago I spent my quiet time learning to balance chemical equations in order to teach my student body of one. It is a huge shift in living and thinking. With the dawning of each day, I follow the new way as best I can mostly smiling, finding things to be thankful for, and creative ways to connect with others.
My friend’s text makes me smile. “I’m fine, we’re fine… everything is fine.” Like my friend, most days I think I’m fine with this way. At least I tell myself everything’s fine, and I tend to believe myself for the most part.
Until the other day when one of my favorite littles came into the shop. Before I knew it or could step away, he wrapped his little arms tight around my legs. I’m pretty sure time stood still as I considered my options, and tried to decide what was best for him. Tears puddled as I leaned down and we had a proper hug. It took all the strength I could muster not to fall down on my knees and sob right there in the middle of it all.
It is not because I haven’t seen him or talked to him in the last six weeks. We talk to each other through the miracle of internet and zoom. I tell him Bible stories. We play games like hangman, and he quizzes me on the Ten Commandments. Before quarantine we usually spent time together in our pew on Sunday mornings. Now our connection comes through a screen. And I’m thankful. Really I am. But his hug reminded me not so gently that this is not the way.
Turns out I’m not quite as ok as I thought I was. Because that little guy’s hug brought to the surface the longing I have for community. It reminded me no amount of zooming or social media can take the place of face to face conversations or squeeze you tight hugs.
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Early believers weren’t called Christians they were followers of The Way. They understood it took a community of people gathering together to love and build each other up. We were created by a community (Father, Son, Spirit) for a community (the church).
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we throw caution to the wind and ignore safe practice. For now, in this time, this is the path set before us. There are days I don’t mind it as much as others. Days I wash my hands and stand six feet away without much thought as if this is the way.
But it’s not. Make no mistake about it. THIS is NOT the way.
My little friend’s hug is God’s reminder even in the midst of quarantine and safe practice, the Way Maker is still at work. Even when I don’t see it the Miracle Worker is bringing Light in the Darkness, and I can trust the Promise Keeper no matter my circumstances because God never stops working.
That’s who God is.
Want to hear the complete song? Click on the link: Way Maker by Leeland.
Prince of Peace.
It’s hard to find peace these days.
Most mornings I have to ask myself what day it is. I think about how to get the things I need and consider if I really NEED them or not. Some moments are filled with joy while others bring tears. I wish at times I could go back to the days and months before this all happened, and at the same time wonder what life looks like on the other side.
Just this week the school cook (that’s me) burned the cinnamon toast and the chemistry teacher (that’s me too) said a bad word. I have learned the difference between a stringer and weave weld which was mesmerizing but probably not something I will ever use.
My student is struggling in English and doesn’t really have an interest in dystopian literature. In fact if it weren’t for text messages and social media he would never read a thing. To top it all off, I forgot an entire subject. While trying to figure out google classroom and which assignments go with which teacher, art slipped right by us. Now we have a lot of catching up to do.
As school time closes, thoughts whir in my mind. What’s next? Maybe I should start that project in the yard. Or I could finish the sewing project I started two months ago. Perhaps we could get a pool this summer since we probably won’t be traveling. Or a puppy! A puppy would be fun right now. My mind is on energizer bunny mode. Don’t be too concerned. I know these are the ways I’m attempting to escape the hard feelings and struggles of quarantine living. So I let my mind race and tell myself no… especially to the puppy thought.
Maybe this is how the disciples felt as they waited behind the locked door. Maybe they whispered to one another, “How long will this hiding continue? What will life look like on the other side. What’s next? What do we do next?”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” —John 20:19
Right in the midst of their fear and anxiety and all their wondering Jesus appeared. His first words didn’t answer all their questions or give them the information about what to do next. Instead, he spoke words of peace.
Words that remind me peace doesn’t come from the ability to teach my son chemistry or virus numbers going down. It certainly doesn’t come from the screens I watch or the bleach wipes I use to clean, clean, clean.
Peace comes when Jesus steps through the locked door of my heart and whispers, Peace be with you.
In the momentary quiet of my mind I hear a song.
And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Oh friends, if you are finding peace to be a minute by minute struggle I get it. I pray God steps through the locked door places in you and whispers…
Peace to you…
peace of Christ to you.
(Want to hear the entire song for yourself? Click on the link below.)
Peace of Christ by Rich Mullins
Less than two weeks to go. The end of Lent is in sight, and Easter waits just around the corner.
Only today marks the beginning of a new month and thirty more days of this virus war. I wake up wishing this was some kind of joke, but there’s no fooling around this April.
Today more businesses will close, and children will hear the news they will not return to school next week. While our healthcare friends and family fight on the frontlines, doing our part doesn’t mean doing much at all. This feels more like the end, but its only the beginning.
Jesus’ name, Alpha and Omega, is the reminder I need. This may be the beginning, but it is NOT the end.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.–Revelation 22:13 (NIV)
It is difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that staying home, interacting with others as little as possible can actually help. The studies show it does. The studies, not yet fully tested, show if we cut our social interaction by 90 percent, the end will come sooner and leave the least amount of destruction in its wake.
In my limited interaction this week I noticed this is more difficult than we anticipate. Just a few days ago I went to the post office and stepped up to the counter to send a package. The nice lady stood at a distance and said, “Please move back to the line.” I stepped back and she stepped forward. We continued this until the transaction was done. I called it the social distancing dance. She smiled and agreed it felt very weird.
Yes! This is weird. It goes against our very nature because we were not created for isolation. God created us through the community of the Trinity, to be in community with each other. This battle we begin anew today is not how we were created to live.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”–Revelation 1:8 (NIV)
Thirty days or sixty or even more will not change this. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus was… is… and is to come. Nothing. Not one thing will wipe away His-story.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Friends, there is power in these three statements. Might I suggest you give it a try? When you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed with the weight of it all, or fear grips you for the hundredth time in less than a day say the words. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Then he said, “It’s happened. I’m A to Z. I’m the Beginning, I’m the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty. Conquerors inherit all this. I’ll be God to them, they’ll be sons and daughters to me.–Revelation 21:6 (The Message)
Life looks different around here, and I wake up feeling out of sorts most mornings. Still, Lent marches on day by day, and so do I. Only I’m not going to work as usual, instead I rise early to teach my high school-aged son algebra and English and chemistry. The first two aren’t so bad, but chemistry? Now that’s another story.
When school is over the sewing machines take center stage and I sew… mask after mask. Though I’m happy to do something just in case the need arises, it makes me sad, really sad.
Jesus’ name, Man of Sorrows, brings me great comfort in this moment. I think of his anger and frustration as he tossed tables in the temple. I remember his weeping with Mary when Lazarus died. Jesus experienced all the emotions I experience which means Jesus knows exactly where I am today.
He’ll not be turned away by my sadness or frustration, my buzzing thoughts and times of anxious energy. I used to think so. I used to think any “negative” emotion was a sign of little faith or spiritual growth. That’s just not true.
What I understand now is Jesus, Man of Sorrows, walks hand in hand with me in my most emotional moments. Jesus understands because he lived it. There’s no need to deny life stinks sometimes. No need to speak flowery prayer words to cover what I’m feeling in my heart. He knows. Oh, how he knows.
Isaiah’s words describe the Man of Sorrows…
This uncertain time ramps up my wrestling. I move from trusting God to anxious thoughts of what’s to come. I think about my oldest working in the medical field. The neighbor’s family in California. I wonder if the small business I co-own will survive. I second guess my reduced coming and going. Graduation, wedding, and retreat plans change minute by minute. I avoid media and binge watch at the same time. I find myself praying Moses’ words.
Lord, I’m not going if you’re not with me. Please… show me your glory.
Moses faced uncertain times too. God told him to leave Mt. Sinai, to head toward the promised land. Yet, God did not plan to go with them.
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” —Exodus 33:1-3 (ESV)
Moses wrestled with God, interceded on behalf of the people. Literally told God he wouldn’t go without His presence. In the end Moses asked, Please, show me your glory.
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”—Exodus 33:19-23 (ESV, emphasis added)
Moses stood on the rock, and God sheltered him in the cleft. With his very hand, God shielded Moses and kept him safe.
Jesus, The Glory of the Lord, is the rock on which we stand, our firm foundation holding fast in uncertain, stormy times.
Christ is our hiding place, the cleft in the rock, our refuge.
He is the hand that covers us and shields us in times of trouble and wrestling.
Then, after God passes by, he removes the covering so that we might see his glory.
This is good news in troubled times. Gives me hope in the wrestling. Reminds me in this moment, to wait and rest, for The Glory of the Lord is present.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” —Exodus 33:14 (ESV)