If grace was matter, a substance to be measured, tallied, considered in a debate about comparables, how much would you say your cup would contain, how substantial would be the grace you’ve been shown?
I woke before light and stayed still until I saw the light coming across the hall, narrow slats on the carpet from the room with the silver tree.
I remembered the homeless one.
Three times I’ve now seen him, he finds spots to retreat in the woods near the abandoned mall. He looks to be mid-twenties, thin but not starving.
I first saw him camped in a shady spot. I shopped at Target then drove back to give him $5. I hurried my window down and sort of frantically thrust the money towards him. He said thanks and I drove away. I don’t know why I was scared of him or being harmed.
Then I saw him leaving all his bags in front of Target and dart inside and I worried someone might just take all his stuff and I wondered if he was worried. When I was done shopping, he and his stuff were gone.
I don’t know his story. I just want him to know what I know about grace.
It was 22 degrees in Carolina this morning.
I remembered the homeless one.
The third time I saw him, I had a back seat full of groceries and one last shopping stop. He was standing at the intersection, cardboard marked with a scrawl, “homeless”.
I looked his way, smiled that smile of mine that says worry, accompanies an inaudible moan.
I paid for my art supplies with cash and added a Hershey bar with almonds, wrapped in cash, $10 and headed back to the homeless man.
This time, I paused. I let the window all the way down. I gave him the candy bar and money, suggested he eat something good.
I looked at his eyes, he at mine.
And I told him strongly as if I was telling a long held secret to someone before you’re not sure of ever seeing them again.
God loves you.
And a second or two transpired that felt like hours and I repeated myself and added, “no matter what.”
I got the sense that he believed me or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he thought
Well, lady what good is that?!
I don’t know what he thought.
I just know my God is love and if I forget that I also stumble over the immeasurable gift of grace.
I fall into that pit of looking to others to determine my worth, to prove to myself that I’ve done enough and more to be worthy of this abundance of grace I’ve been shown.
Paul talked about this to people who continued to question their rights and their wrongs in an assessment of themselves and others to believe in their righteousness.
They believed and couldn’t fathom not believing it was all up to them to be good enough.
Paul told them he would never waste the death of Jesus by complicating it with his behavior.
“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Galatians 2:21 NLT
Grace matters, matters more than any effort we pursue, any accomplishment we know.
It matters more than our falters, our failures and thank goodness it matters so much more than our stubborn and strong or feeble and sad efforts to prove ourselves right enough not to be found wrong.
Here’s a song about such an incomprehensible thing, to know my God is love.
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.
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.
“…where have you come from, and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8
If I inventory my speculations, judgments, concerned observations and exchanges in chatty conversation last week or so, I could fill a page of my journal, the pages that typically contain personal/selfish prayers.
Like the practice of contour drawing, I laid down names on the paper. A simple free flow based on things I’ve heard, concerns I know and mostly, worries and hopes others have that only they know.
You can pray for others without “needing to know”.
Some names of people who have questionable behavior, names of some who’ve told me their woes and a really random one.
Facebook clamored yesterday around a sighting of a pretty girl on the loose, darting in and out of, in front of cars on the most cluttered and crowded road in our city, Whiskey.
Comments became jokes, a few worried, a few diagnosing the addiction she was caught in and one or two sincere worries over why she was running.
When I worked, I did my best to support families and friends of those who lost someone to a suicidal choice.
I learned that we ask a lot of questions, those of us who don’t know this tragically unique trauma.
I wrote an essay and titled it “The Tragedy of Speculation”.
Because, I noticed I needed a reason to know this wouldn’t, couldn’t happen to me.
I needed to justify the behavior of another from a distance, so that I could have assurance. In my time there, doing the work, the foundation of me living by “but for the grace of God, I go there” became solid, steady and strong.
I am grateful.
So, I rounded out my list of praying, with “girl on whiskey”, gave the page a header.
pray without ceasing
trust in the Lord.
I hope the pretty girl gone crazy on Whiskey is better today. I pray she finds her way and that it is safe.
And I pray for others who were the subjects of my speculation, snarky comments masked as concern and I open my palm to heaven remembering it’s God who knows the way I go.
Also, knows where I came from.
Now time for page two, I just remembered more names.
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.
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.
“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3 ESV
I woke with thoughts of Peter, the one who sat with the skeptics, naysayers and contrivers to crucify Jesus and said “Hey, I don’t know him, I’m not one of “those”.
So, I thought “Peter had a lot of stops and starts”.
I can relate. No big deal, you might think; but, I went very light on dinner and then caved around 10 because I really wanted my favorite comfort yummy thing.
Crunchy peanut butter on slightly toasted grainy yet soft bread and a tiny dollop of jelly, folded over, cold milk on the side.
And I slept like a baby only to wake with regret and “start again, start again, jiggity jig little fat pig!”
Imagine if Jesus told Peter “I’ve had it with you! I mean, I even told you that you’d cave under pressure. You’d deny knowing me.”
You’d decide this calling I called you for was not possible. You’d deem yourself incapable.
Peter’s life wasn’t defined by regret.
Nor is ours. We are marked by love, by beginning again and continuing.
Creamy coffee in hand, I open my emails to see a reply. An online magazine is asking for photos of my art, specifically the Psalm 23 collection from over a year ago along with a newer piece, “Pool Party”.
The publication requires a bio and they pointed out what must have been a typo in the original submission.
The bio you added is pretty short – and also a little confusing? I think there’s a typo. It reads:
Artist and Author, hoping to regret redemption and hope through my words and artwork.
Smiled because they didn’t disqualify me because of a typo, smiled because I could never regret my redemption.
I mean, I’d be long gone, succumbed to regrets long, long ago.
It’s my redemption that calls me forward, beckons me to keep trying, put myself in places that invite my story.
Mostly, I’m smiling because all of this “reflects” the redemption and grace of God.
(Reflect not regret, the typo)
Clearly, I am imperfect; but, not unable.
Starts and stops, I can’t even begin to tell you how many.
Beginning again and again.
This is my wondrous story.
I was lost, but Jesus found me Found the sheep that went astray Raised me up and gently led me Back into the narrow way
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story Of the Christ who died for me. Frances H. Rowley, 1886
Only one of the five “Psalm 23” series sold. One is in my den, three are packed away and one is on display in a restaurant.
Now, I get to share how painting them connected me with the psalmist’s words, how my paintings came together to tell the story.
I can’t recall the exact number, but I’ve been thinking of the research that has proven we can’t survive long without water.
Water sustains us. I can go hours lost in painting and forget all I’ve eaten is a banana; but, I’ll notice my thirst. I pause for a sip of water.
This morning, I dined alone. With a set agenda, I made breakfast a priority, a good one. I sat at the dining room table rather than standing at the bar. I savored cheesy grits, eggs scrambled and sausage. I drank cool orange juice with bits of sweet pulp.
A very large painting is hanging on the brick wall. It is simple. An imperfect watery path snakes up the middle.
Today, I saw a path instead of marsh and I considered changing the light grey blue to a sandy beige dusty dirt.
I saw the tree-line where the path gets thin. I saw the opening, the invitation to leave the hidden places, the run and hide, flee from harm wilderness calling me forth.
Calling me forward.
Into the broad place of abundance.
“Come back, daughter.” is not a sentence you’ll find in the Bible, not exactly.
Thirsting for safety, thirsting for relief, longing for understanding and deciding hiding is better than seeking, we, like the woman at the well, Hagar and countless others prefer to hide.
And we’re met by the one who gives water, living water.
And we’re given the chance to consider where we are coming from and where we are going.
We’re told we are seen and known and we’re astounded by the surprise of that very thing.
Feel free to use those three words, come back daughter (son or child) when you find yourself longing to run and hide or feeling unknown, unseen, misunderstood or even ridiculed.
Come back to the one who knows you.
“The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” John 4:11, 15 ESV
I woke without alarm and quietly found my clothes. Carefully, I remembered the sandals were on top. The contacts were turned right side up and the bathroom window gave enough light for a splash of cold water on my cheeks.
The old door creaked as I closed it. Bare feet on the steps, I saw the pink behind me as I thought nothing of walking alone on our last vacation morning.
The promise of grandeur was kept. I thought if I could touch the far away sun, I’d never let go.
Decided that’s why we’re not made to hold such things, we’d cling so fiercely we might never see from a distant perspective.
“How deep is your faith?”
I asked myself this morning, the question in the tune of the Bee Gee’s song.
Riding home from a week away, I enjoyed what my husband calls a “conversation hiatus”, a thing he will never fully understand. I’m just glad he allows it. I thrive on quiet. I require a flushing of the mental overload, a reset of sorts, a not always pleasant assessment of events, conversations, interactions and pushed to the side for later thoughts.
Processing, becoming prayers. Seeing from a distance, not holding tight or looking too close.
Heal what is hurting. Mend what is broken. Speak what needs to be heard. Continue with me, Lord, these lessons I might begin to live, to teach.
Find me, Lord, where I left you.
Keep changing my perspective, Father. Keep redeeming what is not mine to remake.
Psalm 23 became a plea in a hospital bed for me back in 2019. Maybe I made it more than it was, the scary episode of vertigo that refused to quit. Likely, I did make it bigger than it was.
Because it wasn’t the episode, it was the fear. It was the trigger of being forced to quit or being grabbed and shaken, being unable to escape a violent grip.
Over and over for months, I said to myself.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need.”, taking the opening line of a well known Psalm and making it mine.
Now, I prefer a different translation.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 ESV
One that reminds me no matter what, how, or when…I shall not be in want.
My faith will and has sustained me.
In the morning when I rise, I’ll keep considering my perspective. In all that affects me, I will pause and examine the ways I have changed.
I’ll give myself a minute and I’ll ask, “How deep is your faith.”
Knowing that’s all that matters and knowing that’s all and only what makes me, me.
And I shall not want.
“…that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” Isaiah 2:3 ESV