Art and Story Continue

Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, mixed media painting, painting, Peace, wisdom, wonder
“Intercession”, most recent painting

This morning I thought of slowing, of savoring and of sort of settling into truly becoming the artist me.

To do so with smallness. And so the 2023 word will be two actually, small things.

2022’s word was/is “willing“ and with effort and effortlessly I embraced it. I said yes to chances I hoped might be possible and I said yes to surprises.

This one, another and likely the last of ‘22 surprised me, a feature about me as an artist.

Inspiring Stories

Look Up Here

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, eating disorder, Faith, freedom, grace, memoir, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, testimony, Trust, Truth, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder, writing
In Process

Friday night, two weeks ago, I sat in my friend’s den. We’d had a yummy and not without funny incident meal in a tiny town nearby. The night was cool. The Labrador and cats had been fed. My friend sat on the “Elvis” velvet green sofa and her husband faced me, each of us in the ivory armchairs.

My friend suggested, I “give my talk” as a practice for Saturday morning. This would be my third practice reading.

I made it through and my friend and her sweet husband approved. Then, she added,

“Lisa, it is beautiful; but, try to talk instead of reading. Look up.”

“Okay, okay.” I assured her and went to bed scared and vulnerable.

Tossing and turning but waking to a pink morning sky, I journaled and landed on the passage in II Timothy that tells us not to have a spirit of fear. I found another verse I’d only skimmed over before.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1‬:‭8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We arrived at the gathering place, women preparing and chatting; I found a pen and reviewed the words I’d be sharing.

Added in places that I felt needed it

LOOK UP HERE

I’ve decided to share the essay/speech.

You’ll likely recognize the paragraphs or two that led me to choke up, lose my place and for the life of me not want to look up.

Places that caused me to stare in an awkward vacantness.

Still, I knew someone might benefit from my sharing. I didn’t know I’d be given such a gift of acceptance in their kind expressions that morning.

Your slightest pain finds response in his sympathy.” Handley C.G. Moule

Here are my words:

Of Lasting Value

Lisa Anne Tindal

Louisville Presbyterian Church, October 22, 2022

I suppose it was over six months ago. My friend called me by surprise which is her nature. The call is always genuine, the conversation always for my betterment. I have a friend who is closer than a sister. She is why I am here. 

This friend who is both soft and strong, hilarious and humble has influenced me towards courage all along the way. And so, this phone call from my splendidly southern friend was a gift and then, an idea shared in an unexpected request. 

I am here with you today because my friend believed I should be. She shared that she thought of me and my journey and felt I’d be the just right speaker. I told her I would think, I would pray, and I thought…

Well, I don’t have to worry about this now, October is a long time away. August came and then September and I began to be very afraid.

And the fear became heavy and close to paralyzing. I couldn’t be quite sure why or rather I couldn’t decide which was the most accurate reason. After all, I’d spoken publicly in many places, business, philanthropic or civic engagements and I’d spoke about much less pleasant topics, homelessness, suicide, mental illness. Why the fear over sharing about my life, my journey, and least of all, art? Why did I feel so deficient? Why did I regret saying “Yes”?

On a Saturday afternoon, just before dusk, I made a list. Lists help to organize my thoughts, give understanding of my worry, spur me on. This list with a column for opportunities over  the past year or so lined the left side and the right was absolutely nothing at all as I tried to respond to my mind’s question.

Why is this not enough?

What more could be proof? 

Will it matter if you’re in a gallery, a solo show, if all five paintings in the current Charleston show are sold?

My soul was sullen. My mind knew the answer.

It would not matter at all; you’d still be trying to prove to yourself that you are “enough”. You’d still be trying to win the next marathon, jump unhindered through the next circus hoop of culture and comparison.

You’d still feel unqualified. 

Later, I prayed before sleep and there were tears. The prayer, not one of request or providential goodness, instead I asked God to forgive me for trying to be anything other than his plan and his idea. I acknowledged I’d been striving to succeed, to fly on the wings of my own, wings that aren’t broken, no not broken at all…just marked by fading scars and not fully grown.

I sat in my morning spot the next day, recalling my cry. I reviewed the list and remembered a couple or three wonderful things I had omitted.

The list is long. The list is truly amazing; but neither sufficient nor satisfying on its own.

Actually, insignificant.  

As a woman, a little girl, a mama or wife, how do you measure significance?  Is it in the success of your children? The accolades in your profession or maybe in the longevity of your marriage that has endured some stress? Or is it smaller, more insignificant things that matter so much more? 

I am a woman from south Georgia, raised by a mother who loved through cooking and often masked depression with achievement, a father who was broken and as kind as a southern breeze on a humid day until he needed relief from whiskey and then he could express his brokenness and anger. It was hard many days, thankfully not all of them.

My parents were human.

A girl who was “daddy’s” who became a young woman broken by the weight of that label. A young woman who loved the quiet comfort of art and longed to love God but was afraid she couldn’t measure up.

A young woman who suffered harm, overpowered by strong and angry hands on more than one occasion. A college student who lost her way and began to starve herself to gain control.

A woman who became a single mother to two and found the wherewithal to support them through keeping Georgia’s children safe as a DFCS employee.

I am a woman who is now married to a man who understands me (although it was an effort) and the mother to two adult children I treasure, a grandmother to four, very soon five grandchildren.

What’s your story? Have there been debilitating detours or even small dilemmas? How have you tried to redeem them?

Has it been tough on your own?

I love to imagine being alongside women in the Bible who found themselves in places and situations that didn’t masquerade their disadvantages.

Their stories are ours.

They are in our Bibles. These women I call “Colors of My Bible”, figures that began to develop in the margins of a Bible gifted to me in 2016. I began to see myself in their stories, at times not sure the reason, and yet, as I continue, their stories, their colorful lives continue to change mine.

They are women who came to understand, it is God who decides we are valuable.

It is God who positions us in places to remember this and to add value to the lives of others by our embrace of this truth.

Of what value are you?

Maybe we are similar to the women with ancient stories,

We are strong and have value.

Esther, an orphaned young woman raised by her uncle found herself in an unlikely position. Her beauty, I suppose we could say was her ticket. More so, it was her commitment to her people, her family that made her courageous. I like to imagine her clothed in purple, diminutive in size and in the background are the other competitors for her place in the palace. I remember Esther for her bravery. Her allegiance to her family and her courage to protect them became her value. 

Martha, a favorite of mine because she did what I do. If there is angst, an unanswered prayer, a rescue or remedy I’ve decided isn’t coming, I have the answer. It’s control, cleaning, rearranging.

Once I painted the bathroom cabinets, replaced the mirror and changed out all the towels in the bathroom. I was waiting on a call from The Citadel to see if my son in his Freshman year first week would be coming home. I think of Martha and her plight of “needing to know” or being sure all would be well. I like to envision her finally sitting down to rest beside her sister Mary and being gently reminded things like a cluttered kitchen don’t matter. I remember Martha for her anxiety. I remember Jesus telling her to rest, all will be well. Her learning to trust and rest became her value.

The Woman at the Well, known by many for her lascivious ways, I relate to her story. Admittedly, I am not a theologian; but I’ve read that is was not unheard of for women to “serve” more than one man. This was the culture back then. This is why I love the approach of Jesus. He didn’t have to say to her “your secrets are exposed; your lifestyle is well known”.

Instead, he offered redemption in the form of I know, and I still care.

I like to build on the story of when she ran back into town to tell everyone she’d met the Messiah and he too knows all about me. Here’s an even sweeter part of this story to me, the townspeople knew her. They thought less about her messy life than they did the message she brought them. Her living past her shame became her value.

The Woman Caught in Adultery I believe was despondent. I believe she expected to die by stoning that day. I see her with eyes cast down, numbed by the reality of her exposure. Although she was prepared to be stoned, I somehow see her as suicidal. When Jesus confronted the accusers, she must have been surprised. I suppose he could have told her to hurry home, to go her way; instead he asked her to take notice…you are not alone, “Go and sin no more”. Her life was changed despite her imperfections, it was changed as she acknowledged her wrongs. Her humble admission in the face of punishment expected leaves me with a beautiful image of her walking away, eyes lifted up and shoulders strong in faith. Her humility although despondent became her value. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, so young and unprepared. As I speak to you today, my beautiful treasure I call Heather Analise is ripe with the soon birth of her second child. I recall the first days of my granddaughter, helping any way I could and the preparations her parents had in place, things like schedules, feedings, monitors, sound machines and cradling swings that lulled her to sleep. Mary, surprised by an angel, simply believed and continued in her appointment arranged by God. I wonder about her questions, if she shared them with Joseph. She pondered ( a word I love) and I wonder if her ponderings were sometimes fearful worries over the mysterious and unfathomable delivery she was chosen for. Belief in what made no sense, confidence in what she couldn’t have predicted, and a quiet resolve to believe in what she did not yet see. Occurs to me now, the similarity of the life of Mary and the definition of faith. Her faith in a time of unknowns became her value. 

Hagar, (Am I the only one who wonders, couldn’t God have at least given her parents a prettier name?) the mistress of Abraham and Sarah who met their needs and fulfilled their wish for family. A maidservant, who with the wife’s permission, slept with the husband so that in their old age could carry on the lineage with a son. Here’s where I used to find myself on “Team Hagar”, relating to her condition as a result of abuse and manipulation. Again, culture in these ancient days allowed this. Sarah resented Hagar and Hagar hoarded over Sarah the benefits she brought to her husband and to them, a child.

Jealousy between women has apparently been around for ages. 

Hagar ran away, not broken and afraid as I once believed. No, I believe she was just angry. She had enough or maybe the “maidservant with benefits” was not proving to be as beneficial as she thought.

So, she ran.

The angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness and confronted her fleeing. More than a confrontation though, it was an acknowledgement that you may not feel it but “God sees you.” Being seen by God changed her, not so much her living situation or positioning in life; but, knowing God saw and sees her strengthened her to carry on. Hagar’s words, the first to give God a name, “El Roi” has become her value, we too are seen and known.

The woman who spent over a decade in hiding, unable to be cured from her uncontrollable flow of blood, despairingly decided to simply give the healing of Jesus a try.  How many of us have had to leave work, tie our sweater around our waist or worse, agree to surgery to remove the source of flow? What a personal thing a period is. 

What a last resort to try anything for better. So, the crowd was thick that day, the scene perfect for her to go unnoticed and to simply be near this man who’d been healing so many desperate others. She touched the hem of his garment and she was made well, and Jesus felt the sensation of the miraculous leaving his body and he stopped in his tracks. 

He sought the seeker. 

When he found her, He called her daughter and she began to live unhindered and unhidden that day. She didn’t expect to meet Jesus, only hoped for healing. Her resolve to seek healing and to keep seeking. This is her value. 

Esther, Martha, the Samaritan Woman, the Adulterous, Mary the Virgin; Hagar and The Woman in need of healing, these are just of a few of the figures you may find in the margins of my Bible. What began as a tentative practice with color moved to canvas and from canvas to local shops and galleries. From galleries to pages on social media, articles in magazines, a website, a children’s book and an invitation to be photographed for a national exhibit.

I stand before you an example of a woman sort of lost and found. 

You see none of these accomplishments were solid enough for my soul’s standing as far as my value and worth to be unshakeable. It made sense to me that my childhood was so deficient in encouragement and notice that I’d set my mind on achievement and unrelenting aspiration in the confidence that one day, some way, I will believe I am enough. 

And yet, I had to understand, accept, on my own I am never enough.  

Rather, I am a work in progress, a sailboat shifting in the winds of God’s direction, a woman who asked God to cancel this event, deciding for God that I was not qualified, not attractive enough and not skilled eloquently as far as speaking. 

Hmmm, I wonder did Moses have a sister? 

Thank you for the invitation to choose the braver as Martha chose the better, as Esther chose the more courageous, Hagar chose God’s knowing, the three women defeated, scorned and or wrongfully living chose the joyous gift of living differently, Mary chose not knowing and yet, believing and because she chose our story continues, 

a life of value according to Jesus.

My prayer is that you know this choice, that you’re easy on yourself as you try to remember.

Your value is not accomplishment or acclaim. Rather, it’s a quiet thing, a life that leaves an example, one that is lasting even if often scary. 

Continue and believe.

You have value.

Look up.

Notes To Self

contentment, courage, Faith, grief, heaven, hope, memoir, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Salvation, Vulnerability, wonder

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45‬:‭3‬ ‭NIV‬

Someone said to me, “Your Bible belongs in a museum.”

Sincerity was in the tone of the one who decided this.

Today, I turned to Romans and I found two pages almost completely covered with longings and lists.

In the margin, I added the word “indeed” to strengthen the words of Paul saying Christ is at His Father’s hand communicating my specific needs and hopes to Him.

Unfathomable? No. Hard to believe?

Maybe.

Joy and Strength, authors from the 1800’s

God! Thou art love! I build my faith on that!” Robert Browning

A couple of Sundays ago, I heard the word “perish” in the delivery of two different ministers.

We don’t talk much about Hell anymore, some about Heaven. As a child, I remember a favorite uncle telling my daddy that he went there as he lay on a hospital bed and that the smell of burning bodies was overwhelming.

Was he delusional in his terminal illness? Did he glimpse what perishing means?

I can’t know any more than I can really know what Heaven will be.

Both preachers explained Hell as “eternal separation from God” and I thought

I know what it feels like to be distant from God because of my own wandering mind and activities here on earth.

I know I don’t want to be separated eternally.

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭24‬-‭25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve just been interrupted by a call, a number I sort of know and so I answer.

The caller is a precious woman. A woman who’s name I used to scan the obituaries for, a woman I served in the best way I could until I couldn’t anymore. One, challenged by loss, addiction, incarceration, homelessness, loneliness and utter despair.

I felt I’d always be responsible for her well-being.

And then, I let her go.

She learned to fly on her own.

She’s with her mama this morning. Her mama hasn’t eaten in three days and “it’s her time, Miss Lisa, I just wanted to call you, will you pray?”.

I told her what I had just been reading and how I had added the word “indeed” in the note to self:

“Christ Jesus is indeed interceding for me, for us.”

Together, we imagined such a conversation.

Then I asked if she needed anything. She answered, “No, Miss Lisa. Just pray.”

And I thought.

Well, that’s one thing I can do.

The mysterious ways of God will never truly be understood by us here on earth.

Still, my hope is unwavering.

I pray it’s the same with you.

Believe.

Continue and believe.

On Right Paths

Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, memoir, Redemption, rest, waiting, walking

More thoughts and art because of the 23rd Psalm…

I woke with the thought, “Yet, not I, but Christ in me.” and began searching for the scripture. This is typical, it’s either a song or verse. This time a song by CityAlight. My friend texted me early another song by them. So my day started with the gift of worship.

I’ve been resting, revisiting and relishing Psalm 23 for going on three years. I could live and be led by the six verses.

Last week, as it often happens, I read verse 3 with a new clarity. I’ve been thinking/saying “God kept me for this time.” as an acknowledgment of the gift of being an artist and sharer of words.

Like most people, I can get tripped up on my own steps and I pray, less Lisa, more Jesus and little phrases like God, not glory. I gotta keep my steps in step.

Because when David wrote about restoration, he also praised the Lord for guidance and he remembered the most important truth:

This path of restoration and righteousness I am walking is for the making known the Lord’s name, not his, not mine, not yours.

Today has been the first day this week I’ve been able not to rush from my Bible to my to do list. Now, when I rise to do some things, prepare myself for obligations and the weekend, I rise lighter. I rise with a lifted spirit and a steadiness in my heart and steps.

Sermon to self, stay on this path.

Thoughts on Psalms and Paint

Art, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, hope, mercy, mixed media painting, painting, Redemption, rest, Vulnerability, wonder
Goodness and Mercy

A few months ago, I discovered an online publication, “Collected Magazine”. I connected and they connected in reply. The result includes some of my artwork and an interview about my Psalm 23 series. Here’s the link:

Collected

Goodness and Mercy is available

Value

Abuse Survivor, Art, contentment, doubt, Faith, grace, memoir, Redemption, Vulnerability, wonder, writing
Use Your Words, Canvases and Other Things

Last week, I asked someone “Are you hugging people?” Even typing that sounds ridiculous. But, she said yes and so, we hugged.

You probably know the research about hugs, how our body releases bad stuff, let’s good stuff take over when we hug.

Not, a cordial southern “how you doing? but an embrace; a hug that knows you need to be pulled closer and holds you tightly until they just know it’s good, it’s better, I can let her go.

If you know me, you know I love words.

I thought about strongholds this morning.

I’d dreamt of my mama and daddy traveling far for an art exhibit that didn’t go well at all, filled with criticism and two judges telling me in front of everyone what I’d gotten wrong. The fancy onlookers clearly reminding me, “Who were you to think you belong?”

Doubt is what you could call one of my “strongholds”.

So, I laid still and changed my thoughts once the dream was over. I remembered two essays I’ve recently written, I thought of the women I wrote about and their dilemmas, their deficit, their would be “strongholds”.

I will be the speaker for a women’s event very soon. The essay that will be my speech is written, the accompanying artwork is in progress on the easel. I’ve chosen several women from the Bible who left a legacy demonstrating a specific value, a value that is lasting.

On the Easel

Just now, I may have settled on what I am hoping mine could be

My value left long after me, that I never stopped remembering the gift of grace.

I heard a song that captured that hope with a substitutionary word for “saved”.

Your grace has salvaged me.

I hope you’ll allow yourself a few minutes to listen her and remember grace again.

Grace Song

Maybe you have a “stronghold”. Maybe it’s fear, anger, worry, resentment, sadness or maybe a default rescue you turn to as a way to dull them.

I share honestly.

I often wonder if I should. I hope someone who needs to fall into God’s strong embrace and linger there long reads this today.

Remembers where peace is found, our God’s soft long enough hug never just cordial that won’t let go.

“But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭94:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Wonderfully Colored

Art, Children, confidence, contentment, courage, curiousity, daughters, family, grief, hope, memoir, painting, Redemption, Vulnerability, wonder

“On different days, I’m different too, You’d be surprised how many ways.” Dr. Seuss, “My Many Colored Days”

Someone commented on Sunday, her love for the colors in my paintings. I smiled to myself. My palette has decidedly changed.

Formerly, I had a bend towards neutral, bland in conversation and tone. My aim was ethereal. I now see it was timidity.

Yesterday, I watched a tiny lizard fade from black to green to gray. I convinced my granddaughter to let him go as she clutched the caught creature, tiny thumb and forefinger keeping “the baby safe”.

Once set free, it scurried with a whip of a long tail into the sandy ground overtaken by green.

There was a time, I turned all the books exposing only the pages, clean and pristine, no color showing. My husband asked how we’d know the titles, I answered, “Pull it from the shelf and look and keep looking until you find one you like”.

Explore. Truth is, I felt comfortable with the quiet untouched arrangement.

It was safe, not noisy with color, uncluttered, avoidant of engagement.

Now, it appears I’m becoming vibrant, creeping towards but resisting crowded clutter.

Discovering wonder in tiny things again.

Like sunlight landing on spines of books I love.

Morning greeted me that way, touching the den’s corner and I saw the beauty, I saw the gift of a perspective change.

I lean my paintings against my mama’s white chair, the backdrop a mixture of blue speckled paintings and a splash here and there of yellow.

I’m layering color more boldly these days, still soft and easy, fluidly filtered but not at all shy.

Ebony paint fencing in water, creamy white shadows only slightly dulling the grasses.

Verdant green, velvet like a cool cushion.

Happy pinks and confident blues.

October 11, 2022, I paused to see if my memory was correct.

Then I tallied the years since my father passed away on October 11th, 24 years ago today.

I remembered the room where the decision was made and thought of how it seemed to be a circle of voting, “what do we do?”.

Hang on or let go?

I wondered, this afternoon, what might have been had we decided differently and for a minute I felt lonely. Then, a thought that might not be true for others; but, for me it quelled the useless wondering question.

Don’t waste your wonder over what might have been, only and always open your heart to the wonder of now and the wonder of them.

A cousin I haven’t seen in over twenty years wrote to me today. She said my daddy would check on her when he was in Savannah. It was always unexpected; but, sweet, so sweet when my daddy, her uncle came by to be sure she was okay.

I found myself like a child, filled with wonder and my day, one of many colored, was bright yellow dancing with indigo.

Not murky grey like regret, nor blah with grey from the dirty jar needing brushes washed.

No, blue like the eyes of a girl like me, filled with wonder. Coral like kindness, turquoise the assurance of hope for tomorrow.

These are the colors on this day, just one of my “many colored days”.

I have so many more.

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Visit https://www.lisaannetindal.me to view available work.

Enough

Art, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, family, hope, mercy, patience, Peace, Redemption, wonder

A noticer of people, on Monday I watched from my car in the Hobby Lobby parking lot. I noticed the clothing of others; vibrant yellow, a too long skirt on a woman, a man who walked beside his wife dressed as if accompanying her to the craft store was a hot date,

A young girl with black boots, arms covered in ink and every accessory a display of matching energy as she danced by, like a little bird on a mission.


A woman dressed completely in drab black, long skirt, shirt and too big cardigan, I watched her shuffling in orthopedic/athletic shoes that were so big I could’ve put my fist in the spot for her heels.

For a minute, I was sad, felt it was my place to fix her.

Should I offer to give her my shoes or give her money for a pair that fit? Thinking, here I sit, about to go and buy more paint as I enjoy my Chick-Fil-A and she needs shoes.

Or does she?

Who am I to know what defines “abundance” for her?

I thought about her all day. My thoughts went from sympathy to more of “I think she’s okay”.

And today, I wake to Job’s words again coupled with Ann Voskamp’s email, reminding me that I’m not the maker or measuring tool for abundance, only called to do what God created me for and to notice in places less obvious.

To see it in me, the abundant life through Christ, to quietly consider every moment just how abundance looks, feels, is expressed through me.

To see my little deposit of abundance in the faces of others.

God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.”
‭‭Job‬ ‭28:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Creator knows us, us as artists, executives, teachers or skilled fixers of things…as creatives, makers of families, lovers of the beautifully crafted earth around us.

Notice today.

He knows the way.

Abundance is in and around you.

Don’t miss it, don’t miss a thing.

Notice God today.

Say a little secret prayer,

“Abundance, God…show me the way to it.”

You are loved.

The Personality of Praise

bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, mercy, praise, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A flowering bush hidden by the fence is so exotic it seems more fit for another country. The blooms like tiny cups of strawberry buttercream on a tiny spoon, the center a plop of darkness.

My granddaughter decided

“These beautiful flowers, Grandma…they’re blueberry blooms”.

She plucked a few “babies” and I picked a branch full of blooms for inside.

The splendid color praising a very sweet Saturday.

Rarely do I pass by the patch of grass shaded by pines and hidden by high fence.

The place of the flowers showing their brilliant display.

Yesterday, I was moved in a sweet heavy way by the nearness of spontaneous praise, the connectedness to another who felt the words of a song and proclaimed in a way that was personal, something they only knew, were fearing or taking hold of in renewed faith.

Once, I sat beside a woman with a jawline changed by the ravaging in her body evidenced by the cloth covering her head.

I felt her being comforted by song. I embraced it beside her. We listened together.

I touched her arm in a goodbye as we exited. I hope my look said “I care”, words felt unnecessary.

She’d surely heard them in abundance already I was certain.

Another time, I sat next to a man about my age who looked like he’d been a linebacker in his day. He smiled as if he’d been lonely when I asked if the seat was vacant and he made affirming sounds during the message.

My favorite part was his singing, his abandonment to the joining with others maybe better at singing than he or I.

He sang along.

He sang loud enough to be heard clearly, his one voice in the crowd of others.

I listened.

One Sunday, I found a spot next to a woman who was large and strong and dressed up for Sunday in a way that said confident joy. Once the music began, I saw my first impression was accurate.

Joyous.

Because she sang like the old cliche’ “like no one was listening”, like maybe she understood what Maya Angelou felt…

like a splendid bird who had been set free from its cage.

Like me.

Together, we were in an old country church with the windows up in August. She swayed and her swaying body made me sway.

We became secret sisters.

Reluctantly, I went to church last night. Sullen over feeling alone, burdened by answers not coming soon enough and vulnerable over what it seems God is calling me to that I sort of wish He wouldn’t.

I listened to a podcast on the way, one hosted by a woman who is learned because of her scholarly credentials coupled with the dilemma of serious illness, typically an honest and helpful voice, interesting.

She is a researcher, well read and well respected, a historian of religion.

She once believed in “praise and worship” and has now decided she doesn’t. She is now quite critical of what she defines as manipulative.

Although she misses the beauty of joining others in worship, she’s just not “taking the bait” anymore.

So, I stopped listening as I began to feel conflicted and that “critical spirit” that’s not beneficial began to creep in.

I thought of her jadedness. I can relate.

I felt sad for her. Her scary illness had caused her to become cynical, to be expectant of bad things, to decide maybe, after all, God is “not good, not great”.

I switched to music and listened.

One hand on the wheel on the crowded interstate, the other raised in agreement to a song about prayers, circumstances and healing.

Three or four years ago, I too believed most people were faking praise, were desperate for attention or just liked it when church felt more like a nightclub than a sanctuary.

Then, I landed on the second row from the stage because I was late. Pondering on my drive there, my ambivalence over my commitments and asking God to help me know where I belong.

God answered that day.

A thought, a word,

the Holy Spirit.

“You resist most what you need most.”

I need to feel connected to worship, I need to be led by vocalists and musicians to do so.

Not manipulating me, rather encouraging me.

It’ll be rare for me to be seen raising my hands. I’m more private, more quiet. I believe made “wonderfully” that way.

My personality of praise is more receptive, more being alongside the extravagant praises of others and with eyes closed, a simple opening of my hand, palm towards heaven.

In a way, I suppose, an exchange.

Freely receiving the goodness of God and privately, quietly joining others in a praise that says “Thank you”.

I’ll never stop singing.

Quietly.

Steadily, and mostly in secret places.

Being so grateful to stand so close to others made different by God’s design, that the praise they give, I get to join in.

A spirit of grace, love and mercy, one that’s not critical.

May what you’ve been resisting find you today, my prayer.

And another, let there be a song that beckons the jaded, the reluctant, the uncertain of us today.

May we not be resistant.