It’s both awesome and awful to realize just how completely we are known by God
From our first breath to here.
I stood at the kitchen window and noticed the lime green glow of Spring on the grass.
I remembered the sycamore tree, the hand sized leaves and the broken branches.
Thirty-plus years ago, I cut down branches heavy with green leaves and decorated a tiny cinder block room.
There was a grand plan. I’d be teaching children about the man who climbed the tree to get a chance to see Jesus, Zacchaeus.
It would be my first time as a Vacation Bible School teacher and I was intent on winning best decorated classroom.
The first night, a line of children trailing me down the hall, I giddily swung open the door to discover a disaster.
Leaves wilted and woeful covered the floor and the stench was unbearable in the poorly ventilated room.
I don’t remember teaching the children about a greedy man who got to see Jesus and then fed him supper.
I remember who I was then and am grateful to be not quite the same today.
Just as Jesus knew Zacchaeus was hated by many, was sneaky, corrupt and greedy, He knew I was just learning back then.
Just learning what matters to Him.
Not fully grown, but fully known.
We are already known. The secrets, the shame, the actions we take wrongly motivated,
Jesus is not surprised and doesn’t keep a record. It’s we who do.
My mama used to say, Lisa, stress’ll kill you. I’m here to say I believe its not so distant cousin, shame is more fatal.
The Woman at the Well in the heat of the day encounters a man who shouldn’t be there. She calculated her replenishing of her water to go to the well when she could go unnoticed.
She is surprised by a man who tells her he can help. He has a certain kind of water that won’t run out, she’d never have to be sneaky again in coming to the well.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 ESV
She’d never have to be thirsty again. She decides to accept the stranger’s offer.
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” John 4:15 NLT
And we know Jesus wasn’t talking about a cool drink of ice water on a humid day. He was talking about the refreshing peace of an abundant life.
Jesus tells the woman to go and get her husband and come back. She tells him she’s not married and he answers with “I know.”
Then he tells her what he does know. That she has a reputation and is well known for being with husbands of others and is now with a married man.
Whoa! or “How dare you?” she could’ve said.
She was brazen after all.
But he continued to enlighten her and she listened, connecting his gentle wisdom with the possibility he might be the Messiah.
So, he told her that indeed he was.
“The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!” John 4:25-26 NLT
Then she is overjoyed and goes to tell all the townspeople what they already knew about her she’d tried to avoid.
The reputation she tried to cover was now a proclamation…you’ve got to meet Jesus!
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” John 4:39 ESV
There was no shame anymore, only her story.
Only a tax collector’s, a disciple’s who denied and regretted, a woman’s wearing shame and a lascivious reputation.
A woman like me who didn’t know anything about the value of the story of Zacchaeus, only wanted to be noticed because of trees in a room.
God is patient. He already knew and knows our journeys.
Yesterday, I stood in the parking lot with a woman. As women our age do, we caught up on the lives of our children. We compared wisdom and we exchanged worries.
She asked me to keep writing.
Said she needed my storytelling.
My story of rescue and of tripping and getting back up gradually as I learn.
Today, when you recall your own mistakes, missteps and wrong motivations, will you pause with the truth of being known?
Will you accept the grace that has never said give up, go your own way or isolate in secret shame?
On either side, grey with spattering of a heavier shade of green. Illuminated by headlights switched courteously to dim, the asphalt blended in and danced with shining specks.
The colors of the morning like a softly blended oil painting evoking thought, allowing questions.
I slowed to press the Audio button to resume my walking podcast, again, again. It didn’t work. Thought to find the charger wire and took the second or two struggle with the plug. Then, made the decision to travel quietly.
To have the only noise be the noise of my thoughts being easier to address, more approachable as emotions, less of a hurry to stuff them down, keep them hidden.
Have them buffered by chatty voices or lamenting songs.
In the early morning hours, I woke without alarm, lyrics waltzing.
“We will never the see the end of your goodness.”
I wrote in my journal, “Don’t lose heart.”
On the first day in February, I had a thought about emotions.
The emotions we wish were not ours, the ones that come back pounding on the door like an official bent on taking us away.
I thought wrongly at first.
Emotions must not go unaddressed, I thought and
then thought to be more truthful,
emotions will not go unexpressed.
They won’t allow being held back. They’re bullies that way.
Because we cannot choose emotion, only our behaviors that tend them, embrace them, coax them gently to go away.
What are those behaviors? I’m sure I can’t accurately say for everyone.
We can choose behaviors that allow the beneficial expression of emotions.
Walking (without advice or music)
Praying (unashamedly allowing your anxiety to be exposed privately to God)
Sitting quietly (unhurried for evidence of His attentiveness)
Drawing (pencil on paper, no skill necessary and no ideas for precision or perfection)
Here it is February 2nd and I have already forgotten how to prevent that squeeze in my chest over my not yet enoughness.
Then I remember the words of David that woke me.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12 ESV
I’m participating (at least for today) in a creative challenge called Artfull February. It’s a way to acquaint myself with other artists, to engage. Yesterday, I introduced myself, told my artist story.
Today’s prompt suggests we share our “studio”. This space in my home is called “my art room” by my husband. It’s an add on room that was built for my daughter when our family became “blended”.
It’s tiny. It’s deficient in natural light and the floor is covered in old rugs. The corners are filled and growing higher with works on paper and the walls all have paintings completed and not purchased leaning against them.
I catch my paint thickened apron hung sweetly on the easel and I see a recent piece newly edited, “Pursuit”.
I snap a photo of the beauty to me in the midst of the mess.
David penned this prayer after a big mess he made. He’d slept with another man’s wife and that secret he tried to keep was only a tiny part of his descent into remorse.
He asked God to give him a willing spirit. I suppose he could’ve justifiably given up, hidden, quit living altogether or decide there’s nothing in my future.
Nothing I’m worthy of pursuing or participating in.
Instead he was honest.
With himself and God. The anxiety that tried to catch me as I surveyed the place others call “studio” and added to it the pending works of art I’ve promised but can’t seem to start was unpleasant and stifling.
But, not for long. I acknowledged it. Decided to realize today I may not paint.
That won’t be disastrous.
I asked God to give me ten more years of the “late to the game” pastime that’s becoming vocation.
Still, today is just one day.
Restoration, Refinement and Redemption aren’t instantaneous.
Emotions stem from destruction deeply imbedded. Be hopeful that you have the guts to address them.
Listen to what they’re telling you and then bravely reply
“This is not that.”
It just feels like it.
Then embrace the restoration you know, hold it like a treasure, press its cheek against your soul.
You’re not fully grown; but oh how you’ve grown.
Believe. Continue and believe.
Choose loving kindness for yourself.
Remember to be willing to do what is your heart’s desire as well as your obligations.
Maybe remember the old sayin’
“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…”
Then exchange your grappling with graciousness, your tentative tasks with tenderness and your insufficient mindset with the certainty that we’re not the ones in control.
From the upstairs window, I watched their coming and going. The wife, tentative in her steps and the husband, with an armload of groceries, one hand against the small of her back. I noticed their commitment to one another, their quietness and settled joy.
I mostly avoided them. We, the upstairs tenants and them, below. My baby brother and I lived together. What a life it was. Barely getting by, outrageous behaviors, dangerous rendezvouses and mostly him being certain I was okay and I less caring and attentive to him, carried on in my reckless ways.
My brother and I were together, it’s an invitation to be safe I will forever treasure.
All the while, the diminutive couple surely observed us. Never confronted or complained about our noise up above, only nodded occasionally in a knowing way.
One Sunday I was brave. I watched from our window as their sedan found its spot. The gentleman had gotten his wife settled in and I walked lightly down the stairs and stood facing his caring eyes.
And he did not look away.
“How can I know the will of God?” I asked with timidity.
Close to forty years ago and I can’t say what he answered, only that his tone was gentle and he gave me a small book.
A book I only skimmed, a paperback long ago packed or trashed away.
The will of God is not a detailed plan, more a captivating pursuit.
I believe it is simply and profoundly a decision
to trust and to renew that trust as often as necessary.
To sit quietly waiting.
To consider how decades later, a church going senior citizen’s response matters.
There was no correction in his tone, no critical reply or even “come to church with us next Sunday.”
Instead, he instructed me to be a seeker. He gave me a book. He compelled me towards words and the Word.
This morning, I sat in the place I love. I pondered all of the voices of advisors…
Podcasters, those who believe they’re gifted with prophecy, experts on enneagram and such…people who are benefiting themselves by joining the trauma healing (bandwagon) force.
The voices are loud, lauding quick and exciting never known to be possible results.
Yesterday walking, I mentally answered a question.
Who is God to you?
I answered. “God is my creator.”
Remembering the sufficiency of that astounding truth, I watched the sun for more than a glance.
The golden light landed on my art. I watched it become more outlined.
Become a window.
So I sat for a minute more and answered my heart’s question.
The will of God is for me to see Him. To settle my search inviting other relief or rescue.
To see God on a chilly morning because I sat still long enough.
And to remember the value of a gentle response, never haughty and a hindrance.
Hopeful, always hope.
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT
Of all the scribblings and sketches in my Bible that chart my hopes, prayers, dreams and instructions, there are a couple I prefer not to read, that cause a sort of wrestling.
Make me wish I’d used a pencil, not a pen.
One word, “mama”.
“Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” Luke 8:50 ESV
Jesus had just been interrupted on his way to heal an important official’s daughter. He stopped in the throng of curious people when he felt a touch, I think more a desperate, still gentle tug and he healed a woman who’d been ostracized because she couldn’t stop bleeding. He looked her in the eye and called her “daughter” and said carry on now, go and live freely and well.
A few sentences later, he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead in front of a group of mourners, saying she was just sleeping.
“My doubt has fled; my faith is free.”Harriet McEwen Kimball, “Joy & Strength”
I’m curious about Harriet. How she came to this freedom and how she remained doubtless. Maybe it was an exercise in returning to the faith, of reminding herself in a comparative sort of fashion why she chose to believe.
Yesterday, I thought of prayers it seems I’ve been praying for quite a long time and I thought about waiting and about the wonder of prayer.
I could bullet list mentally the answers to some seemingly unrealistic and rapid responses and I could list the times I fall back to my knees and say “Here I am again, Lord and it’s the same thing.”
I can list the times I’ve been reminded by God’s spirit, give it to Him.
On Monday, I thanked God for the privilege of surrender, not being responsible for everything or maybe not much of anything at all.
I’ve written about this before, about the country preacher who came to visit when a long fought battle forced surrender.
The preacher didn’t lecture, didn’t condescend, didn’t direct me to a Bible, didn’t say he’d send the women’s ministry to see me.
He turned to me in my fragility and spoke softly,
“Just pray for mercy.”
The itinerant preacher from Poplar Springs Baptist Church saw me and responded.
And thereby started me on my tentative path towards believing, of refusing to doubt no matter the dilemma or delay.
When I wrote “mama” in my Bible, the lowercase letters resembling a middle school diary entry, I was a different woman than I am today.
If there was an assignment, I said yes. If there was a need, I volunteered to fill it.
If the church lights were on, I was seated in my pew or I was dutifully down the narrow hall, teaching or getting ready to sing.
I didn’t listen, only now cringe remembering, the Sunday morning my son said to me, “Mama, just sing with your voice.”
Oh, the ways my children endured me!
Because of my steady efforts, I was certain my mama would not die, like the daughter of Jairus, she’d rise up strong again.
But, she did not.
There were some things, I decided, my faith could not do.
I see “mama” on the page in Luke in my Bible as a gift now, a retrospective glance at the striver I was rescued from being.
I see “mama” and I still believe.
Because wellness, healing, a life without serious illness or chronic conditions is not completely up to me.
No amount of striving, performance or gut wrenching protective prayers or isolating will guarantee a life without sickness.
Circumstances will come, that’s a given.
Still, it is with certainty that I know belief is not circumstantial.
If it were, the woman with the flow of blood wouldn’t have had to wait so long or worse yet, she’d been overlooked or assumed too far gone.
Just pray for mercy.
Mercy will be given.
Perhaps not as expected and likely not without question of “if”.
And certainly not because of or despite your performance.
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.
At first, I felt feisty. I felt fearlessly intrigued and the winding, hill and valley narrow dirt road was pretty. I continued and looked to either side in careful glances so as not to slip from the narrow path to a deep crater ditch.
Either side of me, vast open and clearings, fields with little treehouses on stilts for sighting and shooting deer.
No sign of life anywhere.
Then, the drop into the valley followed by a sharp curve and another hill.
Stuck, bogged down and panicked, when I slowed over fear over when will this road be over.
This road Waze instructed.
My destination, a wedding.
My “grandma car” SUV adorned with stickers on the carseat window and Chick Fil A prizes strewn all over. My blue Toyota Highlander was trapped in thick play-doh like clay.
No cell service. No idea what to do. Who might ever find me?
My face began to flush and I prayed and prayed as I turned the wheel right then left then right then reverse then right foot pressed to the floor. My torso rocking in a rhythm that matched. My body and my will with all my heart was pushing.
Then inching, inching, inching.
I had not stopped trying.
I didn’t succumb and I broke free.
Tentatively, not taking for granted the rescue I’d achieved, I drove into the clearer, strewn with pebbles road.
I arrived with gift under my arm as the bride was stepping up into the chapel on her daddy’s arm.
Someone offered me a seat.
A precious wedding it was.
Joy, laughter, love, elegance and simplicity with an aroma of longstanding faith in a family.
I’ve told the story more than necessary.
About this road called Yarborough.
The scariest abandoned road, the adrenaline rush of a woman alone and inept, but rescuing herself.
The union of two precious souls, in a restored and resurrected building,
new again surrounded by unchanging old.
House of God by way of a wretched and dangerous road, a road taken wrongly.
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.
“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?
“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.