Category Archives: ancients

vintage faith

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” –Jeremiah 6:16

 

In searching through the old, I find something new. And so I went there yesterday . . . to the Cotton Exchange and Livery in downtown Fayetteville in search of my new.

 

I love old things, vintage items that date me by a few years. Linens, glassware, trunks, and clothing. Standing amongst them, I travel through time, taking a step backward, a step inward to feel what it must have been like to first wear that shawl, hold that hankie, or cook with that iron skillet. Immersed in all things vintage, I pay respect to the generation that first embraced the newness of these treasures. Used and preserved over the years, they’ve outlived the people they first served. They now serve as a witness to the lives lived before me. What stories they tell me . . . mostly imagined, yet relevant for me in the search for my new!

The story that comes before me is the anchor that writes the story now in me and the story that will follow after me. I need to visit the old, to rediscover my roots so that I might move ahead with understanding. So that I might find rest for my soul.

As it goes with my search for all things vintage, so it goes with my faith. To move forward requires a pause at the crossroads, a deeper immersion in the culture and times of my spiritual ancestors. Being with them in their history via the lens of Scripture is like finding a compass for the road ahead. Living with their old brings new perspective into my right now. Antiquity isn’t wasted when it comes to faith. Antiquity enhances faith. That which once was still is. Faith lives on, above extinction.

 

And so I go in search for the old, because that which is new is not always that which is best for my soul. Old things, ancient treasures, and a faith that lives in antiquity, this is where newness of heart and life can be found. With Abel and Enoch. Noah and Abraham. Isaac and Jacob. Moses and David. Gideon. Rahab. Samuel and Daniel. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the prophets of old. John the Revelator and John the Baptizer. Peter. Paul. Mary and Martha. Stephen. Timothy. Elizabeth and Zechariah. Sarah. Ruth. Esther. And Jesus . . . always Jesus.

Yes, this is where I will stand, in the middle of their stories and then some. In doing so, I find my anchor and my rest. And that which is very old becomes new breath to my aging flesh. I breathe in the smell of an ancient faith, and I am revived.

 

The story that comes before me is the anchor that writes the story now in me and the story that will follow after me. Faith lives on, and by God’s grace, it lives on in me. Perhaps there will be day in the years to come when a future generation will take hold of something I have said or something I have done, that will thread them back to the heart of Jesus. I cannot imagine what that would be, but today I’m challenged to believe that there really could be . . .

 

A faith in me that survives extinction. A faith that serves the kingdom long after I’ve made the journey home to Canaan. Who will wear this shawl of faith that now cradles my shoulders? Who will see it as treasure, pay the asking price, and preserve it forward?

 

Old to new. New to old. The cycle of faith that never dies. Only lives.

Find yourself there, and find rest for your souls. I’ll meet you at the crossroads. As always . . .

 

Peace for the journey,

 

a tuesday table…

a tuesday table…

I miss them this morning; thought about them throughout the morning… those “ancients” who will gather in a short while to do lunch without me. For six years we gathered as friends around a Tuesday table, usually at the local pizza place. It wasn’t so much about the food; instead, it was about the fellowship.
The gathering.
The coming together to hold hands, break bread, share laughter, and speak hope. It was about understanding, about setting aside personal preference in order to entertain the preferences of others. About loving beyond limits and allowing friendship to birth over salads and drinks and believing that, just perhaps, a table was meant for more than physical sustenance. That a table was meant for grace. God’s grace—another yet undeserved kindness from his heart because he better understands what happens when hearts connect across the table for kingdom consequence.
They served my heart well, those precious “ancients” (affectionately titled in the spirit of Hebrews 11). They didn’t know at the time all of the ways that their lives would impact mine; they simply did what they’d been doing most of their lives—
Living life as it comes; not being afraid to embrace new experiences, new people, new ideas, new routines. No, six years ago, I was their new. And they loved me; they love me still, and today as they gather around that table, I wonder if they notice my absence. I certainly notice theirs, and a tear or two falls in remembrance for the lavish gift of memory I now hold as my own.
Tuesday tables. The gathering of the saints. I don’t know where you’ll be spending yours today, but I’d certainly like for you to be a part of mine. And while we won’t sit in close proximity to one another, our hearts simmer together in this moment. And just for fun—just to feel less disconnected to my Tuesdays, I’d like a little conversation. I’d like to know what’s on your mind.
What you’re having for lunch.
What costumes your kids have chosen this year.
What Bible study you’re working on.
Where the good deals are hiding.
What books you’re reading.
What ailments riddle your heart and flesh.
Whose coming for dinner.
What’s on the menu for dinner.
What you’ll be watching on TV tonight.
When you’ve known grace in the last 24 hours.
What you’re praying about.
Generally speaking, any what, where, or when about your life.
Stuff like that. Whatever you’d like to tell me as we have lunch together this Tuesday… all day. It doesn’t matter if you miss the eleven o’clock hour. Tuesday lunches have no time constraints. They pour forth goodness all day long, seven days a week, sowing God’s grace along the way and as it arrives.
So join me. Tell me. Lavish me with nothing and with everything and make my table full. I know that at over at Lisa’s place, she’s serving up JiffyPop. And at Beth’s? Starbucks. Make sure you stop by there as well and pull up a chair for a moment.
Today, you’re in charge of the menu. My plate is empty; come and fill my hunger with your fellowship. I’ll eat most anything you’re serving (minus collard greens and chicken & pastry). As always…
Peace for the journey,
PS: Christmas special on peace for the journey books. Click here!
Sweet Trust

Sweet Trust

Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.’ … ” (John 12:35-36).


I watched him walk to her. She couldn’t make it to him. A stroke claimed her ability to do so.

Two years ago she would have been able to make that journey down the aisle to receive the bread and wine. Today she sat in stillness as it was brought to her, and all I could do was find my tears. I’m not sure anyone else noticed the blessed exchange between her “less” and God’s “more,” but for me it was a privileged invitation to sacred participation.

I amply partook, not just of the elements but of the moment that birthed a true witness to the beginnings of an Easter week … as to what it means to pilgrim from a palm branch to an empty tomb.

Remembrance.

It’s a remembrance that has been a part of Ms. Margaret’s ninety plus years on this earth. I don’t imagine that she’s missed many communions in that time. Because she currently resides in a local nursing home, she is no longer a regular attendee of our church gatherings. Today was the exception. For whatever reason, today was a day that allowed her to come home to a familiar pew and to dozens of familiar faces.


It was good to see her; not just her physical presence, but her faith that continues even though her flesh has relegated her to a state of seeming anonymity. Wheelchairs and inaudible speech cannot confine the witness of a heart that has been claimed by the cross of Jesus Christ. Despite her physical limitations, her spiritual vibrancy remains, and I, for one, am better for the beholding this day.

As I lingered in the moment, the familiar hymn written by missionary Louisa Stead accompanied my contemplation:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior friend;
And I know that Thou are with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.[i]

Sweet trust. That’s what I witnessed this morning. It is a trust that has been birthed between a daughter and her Father throughout nine decades worth of living. A trust that has lingered despite ample heartaches and debilitating health issues that have begged a heart to the contrary. A trust that simply and profoundly says that God’s Word is enough.

That God’s Word is worthy. That God’s Word is willing. And that God’s Word is “… with me, Wilt be with me to the end.”

I don’t know when that “end” will come for Ms. Margaret. I wouldn’t presume to take her one moment sooner from this earth than what God has allowed. Her life still breathes with kingdom purpose. And her King? Well, He’s marked her days from beginning to end, and for now … for this day and, perhaps, for this upcoming week, she’ll be allowed another journey of remembrance to the cross, to the tomb, and to the glorious awakening of an Easter morning.

It is my privilege to walk it with her. It is my joy to walk it with you, ye saints of God, as we boldly approach the throne of grace with a sweet trust that walks in surrendered faith knowing the One who awaits us at the end of the road.

And while Jesus no longer hangs in submission upon a tree, remembering Him there is the worthy pause of our hearts this day … the worthy pause of hearts for always.

The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Do it all … live it all, my friends, in remembrance of Him, and do it with a sweet trust that walks a lifetime with the complete confidence in an everlasting grace. This is our invitation to sacred participation; accordingly, may our feet be found on the road of remembrance this week. Thus, I pray…

Let nothing take my focus from your cross this week, Father. Let not the consumption of my “to do list” consume me to the point of forgetfulness. You are worthy of so much more from me. More of my time, more of my thoughts, more of my hands, and more of my heart. Forgive me for relegating your cross to an annual remembrance. May I never lose the wonder of its place in history and its hold over my heart. You have allowed me the daily privilege of lingering in its cleansing pour. Thank you for the blood that has amply paved the way home. Keep me to its path until I safely land at your feet in final resurrection. Amen.

[i] Robert J. Morgan, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” Then Sings My Soul (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 2003), 210-211.

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Love’s Full Bloom

Love’s Full Bloom

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

That which is the greatest remains my difficult hard.

Love, and the giving and receiving therein.

It should come easily. It should be the overflow of my heart because my heart has known so much of it. But it doesn’t. Not always. I’m working on it, and the more I see it displayed in my own life, the closer I walk toward its embrace. I witnessed it again today, and I couldn’t help but be swept away by the invitation to come and to celebrate the occasion that brought love’s bloom to my dear friend’s heart.

We met again, as we are prone to doing on Tuesdays. Me and my ancients. Today we traded in our usual fare of pizza for chicken salad and fresh fruit. It’s not easy for us to trade in our usual. We love routine, but today we made the sacrifice. Why?

Because one of the ancients is getting married. Yes, that’s what I wrote. An ancient. Getting married. To a manly ancient. In just a few short weeks. Wedding, reception, honeymoon…the full spectrum of wedding bliss. Both of them have their stories—their pasts which they bring with them to the altar. Both have walked the course of some seventy years of living without one another, but by God’s grace will be allowed to walk their next years alongside one another, holding hands and cherishing the gift of love’s full bloom.

It’s a privilege to share in their joy. To be part of this grand reminder that love is a sacred gift. It arrives for each one of us in all sorts of packages, on every kind of occasion, and in all manner of shapes and sizes, preferences and ages. When love comes, the unwrapping and receiving of its package mirrors the hope of heaven, for God has always intended for love to be our portion. His love pours over us through the hearts of many—friends, family, the body of Christ, and sometimes even through the heart of a stranger.

Love came as a baby in a manger some 2000 years ago. Love grew as a carpenter’s son in the hidden hills of Nazareth. Love walked the road to Calvary where Love’s heart bled in surrender for ours. Love poured out its full portion of forgiveness so that many will soon know the joy of Love’s full bloom—a wedding day fast approaching, when the Groom will come to gather his bride for all eternity.

Love is the sacred intention of a Father’s plan and a Savior’s cross. And that, my friends is always worthy of some celebration. Whether loves comes in the form of marriage, friendship, family kinship, or any other kind of relationship, Love is the seeding of God’s creation. And Love will be the anchor who brings us all to our full and sacred bloom.

Yes, some Tuesdays cry out for more than pizza. Some Tuesdays cry out for a party and for some cake and for the laughter that is a sure reminder of what awaits us all at the banqueting table of our Groom.

And I’m pretty sure that Miss Christine’s Swiss Mocha Cake will make the eternal cut. At least that’s what I asked of the Lord this day as I devoured one bite after another, after another, until its sweet came to full bloom in my stomach.


Isn’t God good?! Yes, he is…just in case you’ve forgotten.

No matter your current–whether in crisis, in chaos, or in contentment–our Father is good, and his portion for each one of us is an extravagant Love that boasts the reach of heaven. High and wide and long and deep. That’s how far our God will travel to bring you home as his radiant and spotless bride.

It is his joy to do so, and it is my joy to say “yes.” I hope your voice finds a similar echo today, and thus, I pray…

Thank you, Father, for occasions that remind me of your gracious love over me. You’ve walked the road from heaven to earth in order to claim me as your own so that I can walk its return path with you as my Groom. You are the Love of my life, the pulse that quickens my steps, and the anticipation that stirs my heart in expectation for the wedding day soon to come. Prepare me as your bride, dressed in your robes of righteousness and washed clean in your blood from Calvary’s full surrender. And God, bless the ancients, especially the two that will soon walk the aisle to receive your extravagant love through the gift of marriage. May theirs be a love that reflects the gracious grace of heaven. Amen.

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Lunching with the Ancients

Lunching with the Ancients

For my Tuesday ancients. I’ve written of you before, but today you caught my heart again. I love you all!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrew 11:1-2).

 

I ate with the ancients today.

Now before anyone takes offense, you need to know that by my calling them “ancient,” I do so in the spirit of Hebrews 11:2.

Ancient. Presbuteros meaning “elder; of age; the elder of two people; advanced in life; a senior.”[i] And in the context of the scripture, an elder bearing the witness of a life built on the solid foundation of faith.

Yep. Those are my ancients—women seasoned with the grey and the wisdom of walking a long life with Jesus. We are in our fifth year of “doing lunch” on Tuesdays. We began gathering upon my family’s arrival to this community, and rarely have we missed a week in that time.

I seek them out wherever I go. The ancients. I suppose it won’t be long until others might consider me as one of theirs. It is a label I will humbly accept, for to be numbered alongside my ancients of today and the pilgrims in Hebrews 11 is, indeed, an honorable tribute.

The pilgrims that gathered today walk deep. On the surface, we may seem a little shallow, for rare is the occasion void of our laughter. We do our fair share of discussing politics, current events, doctor’s visits, and offering up of ideas on how to “fix” the problems in our church. Mostly, I just listen to their thoughts, and I am glad to do so, for they have stored up a lifetime of memories worthy of my pause.

But underlying all of our chatter, there runs a sacred thread of a well-spun truth that anchors us all to the table and keeps us coming back every Tuesday for more.

Faith, and the certainty of things therein.

For all of the changes that flood their current, there are a few things they would voice as certain. Things like…

This life is full of pain.
This life is full of joy.
This life is but a breath.
This life is not the end.
This life is to be celebrated because…
This life is a gift from God.

I bet that you have lived long enough to voice a few of these certainties as your own. It takes awhile to come to some conclusions in these matters. Our youthful immaturity and need for reasoned parameters often prohibits our clarity.

When pain is our present, it’s hard to reason the joy. When life fades to the certainty of death, it’s difficult to vision beyond the grave. And when celebration goes unnoticed—seemingly forgotten and pushed under because the urgent and desperate blankets the party with wet—well, life unwraps more like a tragedy rather than the sacred wrapping of a gracious God.

Indeed, it takes years of well-worn living to reach some conclusions in this matter called faith. My ancients have lived those years.

Some years have authored sad. Since moving here, three of my friends have buried husbands. One of them has buried a son. All of us have walked to the grave on behalf of loved ones—friends, family and one of our own named Maxine. Many have been escorted to the hospital because their bodies have betrayed them. Surgeries and procedures have been their portion. There are tears and remembrances a plenty that speak the witness of such sadness.

Some years have authored joy. Untold numbers of marriages and babies and graduations and birthdays have passed through their hands in our time together. There have been parties, vacations, and family reunions enough to fill a scrapbook the size of heaven. There are pictures and newspaper clippings that speak the witness of such treasured milestones.

My ancients know about years and about the threading the weaves them together. They know Jesus, and they are wild and wonderful and just on the other side of “crazy enough” to believe that He is the one who holds the needle that sews them ever closer to their eternal home.

They walk toward heaven, not from it. And if they harbor any fear in the matter, they keep it from me. Somehow, they realize that their faith, their hope, and their certainty about the season soon to come are needed commodities in a world that suffers from self-centeredness and short-sighted visioning. They’ve lived long enough to get over their bitter, to live with the unanswerable, and to surrender their need for control.

They simply live by faith, and not by sight. And they would all tell you that this is a really good way to live, considering that their temporal vision seems to fade with the passage of time. They have caught the vision of their forever, and that, my friends, is reason enough to lunch with the ancients every Tuesday.

I need to see, and they need to color the sacred canvas of their witness while the brush is yet strong and the paint is still wet. Like the saints of Hebrews 11, theirs is a portrait worthy of the throne room of heaven, and thus I pray this night with tenderness in my heart,

Thank you, Father, for surrounding my life with the ancients on Tuesdays. They breathe the witness of faith unlike any other women with whom I share my life. You knew I needed them, Lord, and with gratitude I accept their influence in my life. Script my heart with the certainty, hope, and faith in the truth of who You are. They are sure of their tomorrow. Let my life breathe with the same measure. And when we all finally reach our home with You in heaven, it sure would be nice to have a Tuesday table with our names on it. Please tell Maxine that we won’t be long in coming. Amen.

[i] http://studylight.org/desk/view.cgi?number=4245

~elaine

I would love to hear about the “ancients” who surround your life. If you don’t have any, find some! They are a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Shalom.

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