enelsonblog

not a clue, as usual


Leave a comment

Advent Joy

joy 2

Joy.

It’s so much more than just being happy. It’s a feeling that starts deep down in your heart. It rises above common sense and is the secret behind smiles even when circumstances seem to be more suited to tears. Ill winds may blow on the outside but joy lives in the depths of a God-centered soul and storms will not affect it. True joy springs from a loving God. It is bigger than the scope of your vision and the width of your wildest dreams. Therefore, the limits of this world cannot affect joy. It is a Godly thing that depends only on faith.

Young Mary sets off to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both women are dealing with frightening circumstances. Elizabeth had long ago given up on a dream of motherhood. Now she finds herself in an unexpected high- risk pregnancy. Mary is betrothed to Joseph. According to Hebrew customs, she must remain in her father’s house for one year preparing herself for marriage while Joseph builds their house. They consider themselves married once the betrothal begins in all ways except intimacy, so an unexpected pregnancy is a disaster for both families involved. Joy is not a word that I would expect to use to describe either of them. but that is only because I am thinking in earthly terms, not in Godly terms.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women Mary and Elizabethand blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”       

Luke 1: 41-45

When Mary first greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, immediately recognizes who is standing in her doorway. She refers to Mary as the mother of my Lord.  She knows the baby that Mary is carrying, is Messiah. Elizabeth’s words to Mary are filled with wonder and joyful excitement.

In this, we catch a glimpse of Advent Joy. An anticipatory joy at the thought of the gift God is holding out to us. As Elizabeth comes to understand who this baby is, she responds to Him in joy and wonder.

When was the last time you read the familiar Christmas story in the first and second chapters in Luke? Can you feel Elizabeth’s excitement as she greets her young cousin.  In her response, we see a measure of how we can respond to Him.

During Advent, we light candles for Hope, Peace and this week, Joy.  When I read Mary’s words in the passage, I sense her hope and peace despite the situation. In Elizabeth’s words, there is joyfulness. They had been given understanding through the Holy Spirit that they are about to meet Messiah, the Hope of the world, the Prince of Peace and the Joy of salvation. They respond in faith which results in hope, peace and joy.

May you be filled with His joy as you experience the beauty of this Christmas season.

christmas joy

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Welcome to the Threshing Floor

wheat, handI love when God pulls things together in a way that I can understand. All summer I have been working through a Bible study on the book of Ruth. The climax of Ruth’s story in Chapter 3 centers on the threshing floor at the end of harvest season. For six weeks, the workers and Ruth have been gathering the wheat harvest. In chapter three, the action shifts to the threshing floor, a hilltop overlooking the fields where the wheat is brought to be prepared for storage. It is here that Ruth proposes to Boaz. It is here that Boaz tells Ruth to rest as he springs into action to tie up any legal hassles that might prevent a wedding. She trusts him to clear away any obstacles and places her future in his hands. Over the years, this moment has become synonymous with a person placing their trust in Jesus. When we admit that we need Jesus to secure our future and realize that by dying on the cross, He has already taken away any obstacles to our eternal life in His home, we are standing on a symbolic threshing floor where we can offer ourselves as a bride to Jesus, trusting that everything He has already done for us will suffice.

threshing floor

The Threshing Floor

 

Yeah, it’s kind of a big moment for a Christian.

The last few mornings I have been reading thru the book of 1 Chronicles. Chapters 19-22 tell the dramatic story of how God enabled David to conquer the countries around Israel that had been threatening them. David is a charismatic leader with a brilliant military mind. He is the one that takes the struggling young nation of Israel and makes them into a power to be reckoned with. David is also the great grandson of Ruth and Boaz so I liked that my reading was pulling these generations together for me. After reading of the cultural and symbolic impact of the threshing floor in Ruth, couldn’t help but noticed that a threshing floor figures prominently in David’s story, in fact all of Israel’s story, too.

threshing floor Thirasia

remains of a threshing floor 

 

David’s army has been victorious and he decides that he wants a census taken of the army. He wants to see just how strong his army is. Problem is that God had already instructed Moses about taking a census and David does not follow those instructions. It’s not really about counting the men, it’s the reason he wants to count the men. After all those victories, David is feeling pretty good about himself and seems more inclined to trust in a strong army rather than an all-powerful God. When David realizes that he has disobeyed God, he repents (21:8). But God, being perfectly just, must exact a punishment. God is not being petty. He is teaching David and all Israel that the only way they will survive is through complete faith in Him. When we first meet David back in 1 Samuel 16:7 we learn that God looks at our hearts and is not impressed by outward appearances. David’s heart is not aligned with God at this moment and as king, it will affect the entire country. God moves quickly and decisively. He sends a plague on the land, but just as the angel of death is approaching Jerusalem, He orders His angel to stop (1 Chronicles 21:14-16). David is able to see the angel “standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem.” And the angel wasn’t just on the outskirts of town – he was “standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (v.15).

David is instructed to build an altar there and offer sacrifices. This is the place where God’s justice stopped and His mercy begins. Reading on, we see that David didn’t stop with an altar. He lays the plans for the temple to be built there and begins gathering a staggering amount of supplies. His son Solomon will be the temple builder but it started right here with David’s repentance of his lack of trust in God and his acceptance of what God is offering him.  We see the threshing floor as a place where God displays His love for us and we only need to accept and submit. Ruth did it. David did it. So must we.

The threshing floor goes down in history as the place where God’s justice meets His mercy in an earthly setting. But in God’s hands, it goes even further and becomes a place of Grace.

God’s justice – When He gives us sinners what we deserve even though it breaks His heart (Matthew 23:37)

God’s mercy – When He doesn’t give us what we deserve (1 Peter 1:3)

God’s grace – When He give us what we do not deserve – His love given eternally (it’s basically the whole Bible)

Following the example left us from Ruth and David, the only thing we must do is go to the threshing floor – find ourselves in a place where we can finally admit that we need God’s help, admitting that what Jesus did for us, really is enough to transcend this world and lift us into heaven. (Rev 3:20)

wheat, sun

Welcome to the threshing floor a place where justice, mercy and grace live eternally.


Leave a comment

What Can Be…

 

20180730_084306I’ve just returned from a week at the Jersey shore. I can still hear the seagulls cry, feel the sand between my toes and the taste the salt spray on my face. But what I really love about the beach are the seashells. Those broken, jagged bits of marine life scattered on the sand which most people only see as a barrier to step over on their way to the water. I can spend hours walking the surf, head down and plastic bag in hand, searching for any shell that strikes my fancy.

P1040237

One morning, as I strolled along the shoreline, scanning the piles of driftwood and shells to see what had washed up overnight, I noticed a woman up ahead, head down and walking slowly. Her plastic bag was pretty full already. “She’s one of me!” I thought. We stopped to talk for a minute.

“I’m looking for broken pieces” she said. “I have a whole garage full of broken shells that I plan to make mosaics out of. I want to use them as stepping stones in my garden next year”, she explained.
“What a great idea!” I agreed. I could already picture it in my head. The mismatched castoffs that most people would toss aside would become the most beautiful art, but only if you have the eyes to envision what can be.

I guess that’s how God can see the beauty in our crushed spirits, dejected souls and sorrowful eyes. He’s looking beyond what has washed up at His feet and seeing the new creation He will make of us, complete with our tears and scars and all our jagged edges. He sees what can be.

I remember, as a kid, collecting what we called “jingle shells” and running a string thru P1040241the hole in the center of each one to make a necklace that was considered high fashion among the children at the beach. I had no idea that the hole had been made by a seagull’s beak as the bird tried to get at the meat inside the shell. Those holes in each shell are the remnants of the pain and defeat which the creature felt in life. But if a kid with a length of twine and the patience to find a couple dozen shells can make them into a necklace that will be the envy of all the other kids on the beach, imagine what God can do with our broken, tattered souls if we trustingly place ourselves in His hands.

He sees such beauty in the lost and raggedy lamb, that He left the ninety-nine.

He sees inspiration in the destitute widow and her last few coins.

He sees courage in Peter as He beckons to him to step onto the waves.

He sees strength in Gideon as he cowers from his enemy and hides grain in a winepress.

He sees dignity in the woman accused of adultery and sentenced to death.

He sees worth in the woman who has led such a questionable life that she is forced to draw water at a time when she will not have to face the other village women and endure their sneers and sideways looks.

P1040249God sees beauty in places we would never think to look. He works with our wounds and creates an earthly version of His image in us. Our scars are outlines for Him to color vibrantly and add depth to our character. He teaches us compassion from our own pain, empathy through our tears and then turns us loose on a world that is hungry for hope. He makes us into instruments that will sing His song and speak His words, words that are etched in love. He will teach us how to speak them with humility. And this is something that we could not imagine happening but He knows what can be.

I spent the rest of my time on the beach taking a second look at the broken bits of shell imaging what can be…

P1040239

 


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

Dancing in the Waves

beach-2A storm had blown up the coast a few days before and the ocean was still reeling from the power of that wind. The surf was rough and the waves could knock a grown man down. From my sand chair, I watched a little girl of about 5 or 6 as she jumped in delight as the water came close to her toes. Her mom was keeping a close watch on her as she danced at the water’s edge. She reminded me of the sandpipers who scratch about as the tail end of a wave thins out on the sand. They follow the wave as it retreats. Then, just as the water p1020687regroups and slams another wave upon the sand, the little birds scatter before the water only to follow the waves retreat in an endless cycle. I find myself chasing down memories of my own children playing in the surf. I can reach back even further to my own childhood spent on a New Jersey beach. It was a little game of “You Can’t Catch Me!” that we played with the waves, running in just enough to get our toes wet and then scampering back to the safety of dry sand. What we really wanted was to ride those waves but we were too small to risk it, especially if the waves were rougher than normal. So this little girl flung her arms above her head and spun her feet into the sand and jumped high just as the edge of the wave crept close.

beachAs we get older and learn the art of keeping our balance and diving through the waves, we forget about that childhood dance that had kept us entertained for hours. But I was watching this child and remembering how it felt, a curious thought struck me. We still love to tempt fate. We still get a thrill out of leaning into risky behavior just enough to get our feet wet and pull out just in time. Why else would we gather round to watch a schoolyard fight before stepping in to stop it? Even something as innocent as window shopping takes us dangerously close to coveting. Most of us consider speed limits to be suggestions rather than a law and have no trouble driving just fast enough to still be under the radar.

Why, O Lord, do you put up with us? Why do you continue to love us when we are so reckless? You offer shelter and we turn our back, wanting to feel the exhilaration of the storm right up to the moment that the lighting gets too close and we are forced to run for cover. And still you will hold your arms out to gather your wayward children in. As we dance before the waves, You love us. As we grow into other, more dangerous thrills, You still love us. You provided us with questioning minds that always wonder, “What if I do that? What would happen?” And in this way scientists have invented, artists have dreamed and explorers have crashed forth into adventures that expanded the boundaries of our knowledge. Guide us, O Lord, as we continue to dance at the water’s edge and never let a wave go by unchallenged.

Dance on, little one! Your time will come.

p1020712


Leave a comment

Small things done with great love

images (4Our neighborhood supermarket closed a few months ago and I had to find a new one. There is a great market one town over but it is very busy and always crowded. I’ve had to make some adjustments, which is never easy but it seems to be working. One thing that I struggle with at this new store is probably the most trivial, yet I drives me crazy. They lock up their shopping carts and you need a quarter to unlock it. All the carts have a chain with a lock on them that inserts into the next cart in the line to keep them together, but a quarter inserted into the slot will unchain one. When you are through shopping, you return the cart and as you lock it to the other carts, your quarter is released. I like the concept. It keeps the parking lot free of stray carts. My problem is remembering to take a quarter with me. I keep a few spare coins in the cup holder of the car just for this purpose but it doesn’t help me if I always have to return to my car to retrieve the quarter that I so consistently forget.

Yesterday, as I went to insert my quarter, I saw that someone had left their quarter and not locked the cart. I’ve seen this before, some kind soul who understands the frustration of not having change on hand had left the coin to make someone’s day a bit easier. I resolved to leave the quarter in place and so pass on the act of kindness to the next person so they don’t have to fumble in their bag or reach into empty pockets in search of elusive quarters.

I felt good as I left my unlocked cart, passing on the caring gesture to the next shopper. I returned to my car and saw the spare change sitting in the cup holder and suddenly realized what an empty gesture that stupid quarter really was. It didn’t cost me anything. That 25 cents wasn’t going to break the bank. I had no right to be so pleased with myself for doing something so trivial.

And then I remembered a quote from Mother Teresa:

images (4)

or perhaps this quote that I read:

“There are no great things, only small things done with great love.”

Think of all the little unimportant things that you can do each day to brighten another one’s life. Saying “Thank You”, holding a door open or sharing a simple smile. images (5)We may not get an opportunity to make dramatic difference in someone else’s life every day but we if we keep our eyes open we will find a hundred little “nothing” things that we can do each day to lighten someone’s load.images (6)

Lord, I ask you to help me to see the needs that are all around me. Give me the courage to reach out and help even if it may cost me dearly. But help me also to see the value of the little things. Help me to see the beauty of that particular shade of green that you chose for the grass outside my window right now. Show me how to be grateful for all you give me, including that soft heart that caused someone to leave a quarter in the cart lock so I didn’t have to trudge back to my car for change. Help me to see the beauty in all the “small things done with great love” that have been done for me. And help me to do the same for others every day.   Amen