enelsonblog

not a clue, as usual


Leave a comment

Campfires

campfire 4

When my kids were in elementary school we spent one week each summer at a camp in the Western Adirondaks.  It was a small piece of property on the banks of one the many lakes with cabins or campsites that you can rent. The groups renting the cabins would all share the lakefront beach, picnic tables, dock and a huge stone fire pit area. My favorite part of the week was when everyone would gather around the fire each night. Early in the week, we were just introducing ourselves but by the end of the week, we were old friends. Each year, the same families would rent their favorite cabins but there would always be one or two new families to meet. It was a tradition that I grew to love and look forward to each year.

There was a rhythm to life on the lake. The families would do their own thing during the day – hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking. Then after dinner, one of the men would wander over to the stacked firewood and start to split some logs. Someone else would campfire5gather up smaller twigs and they would start to stack the wood in the fire pit. Soon they would have a fire going. One by one folks would start to come out of their cabins and gather ‘round the fire. Some would bring marshmallows, some would bring graham crackers and chocolate. Before you knew it, everyone in the camp was pulling up a chair to toast marshmallows and trade stories of their day.

That’s the way campfires are. People are drawn to them. It would be dark around the lake at night so the only light came from the fire. It would get cold as soon as the sun went down. As the night wore on, you would see other fires start up around the lake and you could hear people talking and laughing at their own campsites. We would gather closer to our fire and talk into the night.

As soon as the fire was lit, people were drawn to it. It was a light in a dark place. It provided warmth on a chilly night. Not only were people drawn to it, but everyone was welcome there. No one was ever turned away from the campfire. You might think that we were all young families so we had a lot in common, but that’s not really true. When I think of the cabins and who stayed in them there was a lot of diversity. Our family was young, middle class, and there was another family about the same age. They had three athletic boys, a large boat and loved to go sailing and hiking every day. The next cabin held grandparents with their adult daughter and young grandson who was an only child. Next to them was a middle-aged couple with grown kids. The father played golf every day and their kids came up and each spent a few days as their job schedules allowed. These were families with very different dynamics than mine. There were also two elderly nuns who rented the smallest cabin on the lot. They were very sweet and would only came to the fire early in the evening so they didn’t bother the “young folks”.  We’d beg them to stay and talk with us and sometimes they would for a bit. We would also have first time visiting families. One year we had a family of older parents and a young foster child with some severe social issues. I know they felt awkward but everyone did their best to make them welcome. The next year another family with a single child came. campfire 1The first day I invited them to the campfire but only the wife and child came down. She explained that her husband was watching a ball game on TV. Same thing the next night. The third night the husband came to the fire and we realized what was going on. He had been drinking quite a bit. The wife was embarrassed and expected those of us around the fire to exclude them but she was surprised when we all welcomed him and then kept right on talking and roasting marshmallows. That’s how campfires work – even groups of people who are very different will bond together and feel welcome. Even people with problems that may make them difficult to be around are welcome.

That’s how God is – He is a light that everyone is drawn to and finds a warm welcome. God doesn’t turn anyone away. The church, as a reflection of a loving God should be the same way – drawing people in and making them welcome. But sadly, because we are just human, we don’t always do a good job with that. Though we aim to be inclusive,  churches often become exclusive. It’s human nature to want to gather with those who will look, talk and think as you do. A healthy church body is one that allows God to raise them above their own human nature and lift them into a Godly nature that can become a welcoming campfire. A campfire that those outside the sanctuary doors can see and be drawn to. All those different types of families will make for a messy mix. But a messy mix united by God is beautiful to see and even more beautiful to be enfolded into.

Without oxen the stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. 

Proverbs 14:4

A life that is lived will get messy. People will mess up but God doesn’t. Our campfires may sputter out but God’s is always burning bright. That is why we can always find a welcome with God. You always belong and fit in with God. Even when you mess up, when do something wrong, you belong. The wife of the alcoholic was expecting a cold shoulder from those of us around the campfire. She was a bit confused when we still welcomed her family even after knowing her secret. It’s an amazing moment when youcampfire 2 finally realize that no matter how “good” you try to be, you will mess up at some point and your secrets will slip out. Maybe it’s something little, maybe something pretty big, but we all make some bad choices at some point. We all sin. No one is so good that they can say that they haven’t sinned today. But this doesn’t scare God. He is not put off by our bad choices. He is not going to shut you out because you did something wrong. He will always love and welcome you. He will expect you to repent and help you change that behavior, but he won’t push you away. You are always welcome with God.

Everyday someone is hiding from God because they feel they won’t fit in or that they have messed things up so badly that they wouldn’t be welcome. Maybe you know someone like that. Maybe you are someone like that. I know I’ve been there and will, at times, still find myself slipping back into that line of thinking. Human nature is tough to beat. But I keep looking for the campfire that shines in the darkness. It’s not a perfect fire. The logs may have splinters that draw blood and may still be a bit green. Sometimes there is more smoke than fire. Yet, if it’s a campfire belonging to God, there will be warmth and light beyond our limited capabilities. And no one will be turned away from that campfire. Not even me.

campfire

God is light: in Him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5b

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Freedom

Freedom – it can mean so many things to different people.

Child-running-in-field

When I think of freedom, I am transported back to the woods by my childhood home where my friends and I would play for hours on end. During the school year, we would cut through the woods to get to school. We weren’t supposed to but we felt free to do so anyway. There was a path that cut through the trees but there was another area with an open meadow on a gentle slope. I loved to run down that slope coming home from school on a spring day -arms spread wide, long hair getting hopelessly tangled in the wind, just running down the hill in a moment of complete freedom!

You don’t get that many “twirling in the sunshine in a grassy meadow” moments of care free freedom as an adult. Life isn’t a movie set and as we age a million worries jump in to replace childhood freedom.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17

I have to admit, I never saw much freedom in being a follower of Christ. There is a whole set of do’s and don’ts that Christians have to follow, right? On Sundays, I would take extra pains to dress nicely and act respectfully and sit quietly in church. Isn’t that the way things are done? I remember one boss I had who would always apologize if he cussed in front of me because I was a “church lady” and he seemed to think that I wouldn’t tolerate such language. One time, I was planning a weekend getaway with friends and someone asked if I “needed to be in church on Sunday morning”. Now, in all honesty, I do like to dress up a bit for church since I am so casually dressed during the week. I don’t like to hear swearing, but I do a fair share of it myself so I don’t think it’s my place to correct anyone else. And I do like to visit other churches when I am away from home. But all these perceived “rules” that I live with are (for the most part) manmade, not God ordained. We expect certain things from ourselves. We accept the expectations of others and allow that to rule our lives. Yet, God repeatedly offers us freedom.

The Lord sets the prisoners free.

Psalm 146:7b

prison-bars We all have allowed prison walls to build up in our lives but Jesus promises that following Him will set us free. Yet doesn’t the very idea of following someone imply a new set of rules to follow?

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

All of Jesus’ teachings are truth shining out against a twisted world. Everything you havesky 1 ever learned can be held up against Jesus’ words and the lies will be exposed while freeing truth is revealed.

What are the lies that can imprison us? Just think of all the basic lies we fall into everyday – “I am not good enough”, “I am not strong enough”, “I am not smart enough”. I was at a job interview once, in which I was told that I didn’t “look the part”. It was gently hinted at that I was too old, not stylish enough, my makeup was too simple and I should try to dress in a more slimming way, in other words – too fat! I fell for every one of those criticisms that had nothing to do with my ability to perform the actual job. It left me discouraged and feeling pretty useless. Isn’t this what our society tries to do with us every day? You need this product to feel better and this one to look better. Most women I know cringe at the thought of shopping for new jeans or, even worse, a bathing suit! Why? Because we have been told what things should look like and have never learned to appreciate who we actually are.

open roadNow here is a freeing truth that I, as a follower of Christ, need to take to heart. He already knows exactly who I am and still loves me. He doesn’t care that I prefer to wear sneakers rather than heels. He knows every inch of the road that he has laid out for me and already knows exactly where I will fall along the way. Notice I didn’t say “if I fall” but “where I will fall”. He still loves me. He doesn’t pay any attention to the lies that so easily trip me up.

Those lies come into play when we allow our failures, combined with our sins to identify us. We start to see ourselves in terms of our darkness and not as a reflection of God’s light. God has promised that through repentance, He will remove our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and once removed, He will never hold that sin against us again. Even though we tend to identify ourselves by our sinfulness, God sees those who have committed themselves to Him as blameless (Philippians 2:15)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Let these words sink in for minute. If you are like me, you will need to do this daily. Our past can either help us to grow or cause us to sink into the mire of our own sinful nature. We make the choice and by reaching out to God, He will do the rest. Just as Boaz does for Ruth (Ruth 3-4), when we let our intentions to follow God be known to Him, He shows us how he has already stepped up to the plate and taken care of our redemption for us. Though we are sinful, God is waiting for us to turn to Him so that He can forgive us and put our past in its proper place – behind us as we move forward.

Freedom

What does this godly freedom look like? Paul talked about being free from sin in Romans. Not free from ever sinning again but being free from the things that sin can trap you in, like negative thoughts and a dark outlook on the world. Things like fear, anxiety, doubts and anger. Things that can wrap around you so tightly you struggle just to take a breath. But God gives us freedom- the freedom to celebrate life, the freedom to love ourselves and others. Freedom to take just that one breath.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:34-36

fireworks

Happy 4th of July – Celebrate Freedom!

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

A Conversation about love

love2

Me: You tell us to love one another and I was wondering if this is an all-around, across-the-board type of love. ‘Cause I have to tell you, I’ve run across some folks that are just plain unlovable. I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.

love 1

God: A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

Me: Yes, I’ve heard you say that, but I’ve been having some trouble. You see, there’s some people out there who just drive me crazy. I don’t agree with them but they keep on talking to me. I try to talk and they don’t listen to me. And some of them, well, they’re just plain mean. So, I was hoping that maybe you had some exceptions to the rule that would help me out.

loveGod: (I think I heard Him let out a mournful, soft sigh) Love one another deeply (1 Peter 1:22b).

Me: You’re not gonna make this easy, are you? Look, I’ve been trying but, lately, it’s been so hard.

God: (He leans down close to me, His voice is gentle, not condemning) But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners” expecting to be paid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

Me: (in a very small voice) You mean like to way You have been kind to me, even when I love3don’t appreciate it, even though I can’t possibly pay you back? (even smaller voice) I don’t think I can.

God: Remember the words that I gave to my servant Paul: “Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). I have already shown you how to love. As I explained it to John, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us….since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11).

Me: (my voice barely above a whisper) Could you go over it again?

love 5God: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1b). Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14).

Me: (I can’t look up, I slump down at His feet) That’s a tall order, God.

God: My child, you are already rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17), so live a life of love (Ephesians 5:2) by serving one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Me: (I dare to glance upwards) I love you, Lord. I will try.

God: My love is already within you, along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).

Me: Will you help me?

Matthew verse

God: And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age

Me: Amen

love 6

 


Leave a comment

Shark’s Teeth Among Broken Shells

P1020713

After a cold, snowy winter, we were in need of some sunshine. My husband and I planned a trip south to visit his cousins who live near a beach in North Carolina. We watched freezing rain hit the windshield as we started off and couldn’t wait to feel ocean breezes and salt spray on our faces.

The beach has always been very therapeutic for me. I grew up spending summers at the Jersey shore where my grandparents lived. One of my fondest memories is of my mom gesturing to my sister and me to grab our sand pails and follow her down the beach to collect shells. We would find everything from horseshoe crabs and beached jelly fish to sea tossed shells and stones. Eventually we would end up in a boardwalk store and beg our parents to buy the gaudy neon-colored shells in the store window. I don’t remember my mom being disappointed in my lack of appreciation for God’s handiwork, but I do remember carrying those store bought shells in my lap on the car ride home like some great treasure. The true treasures were tossed in the back, still in their sand pail with the wet towels and sandy beach chairs.

Fortunately, I developed better taste as I grew to adulthood. Unfortunately, I have P1040114become obsessed with picking up shells whenever I am on a beach. I can walk up and down the shore line all day scanning the sand and surf for shells, sea glass and whatever else washes up.

This past week was no different. There had been a storm the day we arrived, but as soon as the skies cleared, I was delighted to find a treasure trove of shells left behind by the waves. My husband’s cousin taught me something new. If you look among the piles of tiny broken shells, you can usually find fossilized shark’s teeth. I had always overlooked those piles P1040120hoping to find intact shells, but she showed us how shark teeth tend to shine and have a distinctive shape making them stand out from the pile. For the next few days, as I collected my obligatory shells, I kept an eye open for shark’s teeth among the broken shells. We ended up with quite a haul of both!

Sometimes the teeth tried to hide among the shell fragments. Other times they would be sitting right on top, almost waiting for me to stroll by. Though the shells had been broken by hungry predators and crashing waves, these teeth still held their shape, making them easily recognizable. Over the years, fossilization had turned them a deep ebony that reflected the sun, making them stand out against the paler shells.

Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day is coming up. Maybe it’s because I was visiting with family, but I found myself thinking of my mom a lot that week. She was a petite womanP1040122 with dark eyes and always up for an adventure even though she was severely weakened by a heart condition when I was eight years old. We lost her when I was only fifteen. My memories of her, more than forty years later, always center on her ready smile and kind heart. But she could be tough! She was a warrior long before the term feminism was ever coined. She was tough, hard-working and gutsy as a Jersey girl should be.

Back on the beach, the sun glinted and I bent down to pick up a shark’s tooth. It was small, but solid, shiny and still retained its sharp point. Think about that – after a millennia at sea, that tooth could still bite! That’s my mom- a beautiful, yet functional shark’s tooth among conditions that had caused the more fragile shells to succumb to the waves.

P1040112On our last day, I found an incredibly fragile angel wing shell – pure white and perfectly intact. It reminded me of my mom too – another type of beauty that survived against all odds. As I marveled at the shell in my hand, I reminisced about the past against the backdrop of waves, salt air and sand.

I only found one perfect angel wing shell but there were lots of shark’s teeth if you knew where to look. Beautiful, strong, persevering relics of the sea. That’s how I remember Mom. She persevered against overwhelming odds, displaying a beautiful strength that I can only hope I have inherited.

I know that my mother often felt weak and in danger of sinking under those waves of life. But the strength she exhibited came not from herself but from her decision to stand firm in her Christian faith. She let Jesus be her “anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). And in that decision, she sparkled with the strength of a shark’s tooth among the broken shells of this world.

P1020754

 

“…that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”

Colossians 4:12b

 


Leave a comment

I wanted to be with You

cross

I wanted to be with You

as You fell down to pray

but there were so many things

that kept me very far away.

Things like pride and anger,

things like plain old fear.

But I am so glad to know

that You were praying for me there.

I wanted to be with You

when your friend, he did betray,

But I saw the soldier standing there,

I just couldn’t be brave that day.

I was held back by pride and anger

and just plain old fear.

But when you faced Judas’ kiss

I saw compassion shine so clear.

(how did I miss this?)

I wanted to be with You

to defend You at that trial,

making waves and speaking out

but you know that’s not my style.

I cowered in pride and anger

and just plain old fear

I was no help to You

Had my own burden to bear.

I wanted to be with Youcross - Copy

as they led You up that road.

that cross that You carried

should have been my heavy load.

But I couldn’t bear the suffering

and tortured agony

yet, You walked the walk I couldn’t walk,

each step you took for me.

I wanted to be with You

but I’m not good enough, I guess.

Still You carried on alone

even when I had to rest.

You took all my failures

that had stopped me in my tracks

as you walked up to Golgotha,

my weight across your back.

You took all these things that held me down,

my pride and anger and fear

You took them with You on that cross

and I’m so sorry that You were there,

so sorry that I couldn’t share,

so sorry.

And yet, somehow glad that You were there

so glad that You truly care

for me.

I wanted to be with You

yet all the time

You’ve been here with me.

images


Leave a comment

Love has…

Love has a facecross

A face that all creation looks up to

A face I can cry out to for desperate help

Or opens into laughter for the joy He extends to me

All life stretches upwards to see the face of Him who is Life

 

Love has two eyes

Eyes that look down upon His creation

Beaten and bloodied eyes that saw past his own pain

Tearful eyes that soaked up the darkness that exists in mine

Eyes that ever long to catch a glimpse of who I am to Him

 

Love has two handsfather child hands

Hands that were stretched out and nailed to a crossbar

Hands that have reached out to catch me when I stumble

Hands that gently wiped away each tear I have shed

Or rise up in anger to defend me when I crumble into my own weakness

 

Love has two feetfather and child feet

Feet that have walked the Heavens from before time

Feet that trod the dust of Judea and splashed in the waves of Galilee

Feet that resolutely followed a path to Golgotha

Feet that willingly search for me when I have hidden myself in shame

 

Love has a name

Savior, Messiah

Annointed One

The Son of Man who is Jesus

love looks like...

 


Leave a comment

Grace all the More

Hatred divides andgrace and rocks

Fear closes doors,

As bigotry grows

There’s Grace all the more.

 

A harsh word spoken.

A bully has roared.

Victims cower in corners,

But there’s Grace all the more.

 

For the one who pulled a gun

And robbed the corner store,

For those who are guilty,

Just Grace all the more.

 

For those who are hungry,

Those desperately poor,

Those begging for help,

There’s Grace all the more

 

An old man forgotten,

His memory obscured,

his family has left him

yet, Grace all the more.

 

Street life can be harsh,

How do they endure?

Cold empty stomachs,

And Grace all the more

 

Just one more hit,

It’s the needle’s allure.

As life drifts away,

Still Grace all the more.

 

The disobedience of us Adams

Is met with the One so pure

Hs obedience to the Father

Has brought us Grace all the more.

Grace thru Jesus

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

Romans 5:18-20

grace changes everything