Tag Archives: Jesus

Those Rumors You May Have Heard? They’re True.

We are told of a man….. a merchant by trade, known throughout the ages as one who can spot something of real and lasting value. More than a skill, this merchant appears to have been on a mission, driven to seek the best and the finest.  Experience has taught him about quality; he knows it when he sees it, perhaps even when others do not, and he’ll spare no expense to obtain it.

That’s all we know for, in just two short verses and one simple matter-of -act statement found in Matthew 13, we’re told simply that this merchant was compelled to search, gifted enough to know what to seek, and led to find a single pearl of great value. Upon it’s discovery, and recognizing it’s tremendous worth, he sold everything and bought it.

Like other parables from Jesus, this one is ripe with meaning. In the context of the discussion, Jesus has been instructing his disciples on Kingdom matters: value, redemption, growth, purpose and perspective. He’s teaching them what’s important to God and therefore what should be important to them… and those of us who follow. While ultimately, we know this parable is about the nature of God, Jesus explains, it’s for our benefit too: 

  • God wants us to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.
  • He desires that we should know His nature and have His image marked upon our souls.
  • He wants us to recognize lasting treasure and real value when we see it and to imitate the examples set before us as best as we can— to seek, find and spare no expense to bring our “pearls” into the Kingdom coffers.

You might know that pearls are born over time out of discomfort. A small irritating grain of sand gets lacquered by an oyster (typically), eventually becoming a highly prized gem. That’s a lesson in itself. But Jesus doesn’t focus on the process of how the pearl came to be. Instead he draws our attention to the outcome and the kingdom response to something so precious.

Notice also how Jesus points out this merchant’s success. He was a savvy  businessman with plenty of fine pearls already, yet we don’t sense that it was wrong for him to keep on searching. Something deep inside urged him on, knowing there was something more to be found. He surely valued what he had— a collection so beautiful and fine— but that didn’t stop him. Seeking, he found something of greater worth and had no problem selling ALL the rest to make it his own.

“The kingdom of heaven is like _____ ”. 

Here*  six times in six different ways Jesus expresses the kingdom equation in the simplest terms and the lavish kingdom response that turns our world economy upside down and inside out. This kind of extravagance made little sense then and even less now. Each time Jesus is spelling out further what He’d been teaching about the kingdom earlier in Matthew 6 where basically He says, “Look, your needs are known. Your needs are going to get met. Stop striving to meet your own needs and seek the kingdom first. The kingdom of heaven is like_____ and the treasure is tremendous and all the rest? You’ll be amazed by how those needs are met along the way.” (Some BIG time Lorretta paraphrasin’)

Obviously, I’ve been thinking a lot about these things. As one who’s been brought into this kingdom by a judgement value and price set by God alone, it’s humbling enough to make me put on my merchant’s cap and look for others. Depending on where you find yourself today, a variety of ideas may spring to mind as you mentally “fill in the blanks” Jesus (thankfully) left in these parables. 

For me, today, it’s a little more plain and real than it was even a year ago. I don’t have to look far to see my collection of “fine pearls”: a solid home, a successful business, a loving community, healthy houseplants! The list goes on. Twenty-eight years of marriage, three grown children and a decent 18-year run at self-employment have provided us with a flexible lifestyle in a place we’ve grown to love. As Christ followers, we’ve been privileged to invest 15 years in our local congregation, cultivating our gifts and talents while raising our family. We are about to be “empty nesters”. We are blessed with good health and mobility.

We are comfortable.
We have enough.

By worldly standards— even by the basic American Christian understanding we are considered “successful” and it would be no big deal to keep on as we are without a hitch.

Except, like that merchant,  we have been led by God to seek the Kingdom’s more. This is why, within the coming year we will sort, sell and moderately store all that we have to take a ministry position overseas in January 2019. It’s why we have begun to tell our business clients that we’ll be stepping away by then (not now!) and why Christmas with our children was so precious this year. It’s all about to change: we have found a pearl of great value and we’re selling (most) everything to purchase it.

Lord knows it’s not easy. In fact, once you set aside all the ridiculously romantic ideals of doing such things, it’s downright terrifying. It should be. It’s also the most peace-filled place we’ve ever been.  All we know as we prepare to go is that there is a God who loves us and the world so much that in spite of our sin, He sacrificially made a way for us to know Him and His great love. The kingdom of heaven is like… more than we will ever really understand, more than we will ever really deserve and yet, it’s like… right in front of us at all times and there are others who need to know this too.

As with all  such things of great value,  there’s sacrifice involved— a constant stream of releasing things to God’s care as we seek first His kingdom with the remainder of our lives and step beyond all that we’ve known to acquire this “pearl”.  In pondering these things; the parables, the pearl and the price, I’m beginning to recognize, by God’s grace, that the “pearl” isn’t necessarily a thing, place or position. Ultimately, yes, it’s the prize of the stored up “treasure” we’re promised at the end of time but in practical terms, the pearl of great value is obedience… the “everyday yes” to whatever God has called us— and you— to do.

We are very much in process and the details of how to do such a thing are still a bit hazy. The invitation however,  is clear: “Release. Give up everything to secure THAT “pearl”. And all the rest?  That will be the icing on the cake.  I promise.”

Would you like to know more about what’s going on? Email me at dl@stembridge.us  and I’ll add you to the Facebook page and prayer letter list. Thanks!

* ( six times in six different ways…) I originally wrote “five”– missed one, sorry! 

How to Turn Around

So….this is my official RE-blogging post.

I never UN-blogged er… un-plugged but for those of you reading this — 72 potential followers plus the “Random Fandom” out there— you know it’s been awhile since I’ve written out here.

It’s been so long that even the crickets have died.  Ha.

In fact, I’ve been so embarrassed to go to my front page and get smacked by the fact that the very last time you heard from me legit was about six months ago…. at Christmas.   I mean, what the what Lorretta?!?

So please bear with me as I just write and spill this…. off the top of my heart and (mostly) unedited. 

Q:  Did I stop writing?
A:  Goodness, no.

Q:  Do I have nothing more to write?
A:  I am SELDOM silent within and God’s voice is never (thankfully) silent within me.

Q:  What’s going on?
A:  More than I can say at this very moment but more will be shared soon.

Truthfully, I have written GOBS of stuff for various reasons other than this. There was a women’s retreat back in February that consumed a good bit of my writing and prayer preparation. Then there’s this MAJOR application that required pages and pages from me and to be honest… the micro-inspection and reflection of it all sucked me dry for awhile.

Add that to the daily do of the Daily Do, many home repair projects,  some sudden and unplanned for interruptions (not all bad),  and this palatable and weighty shame of neglecting my writing space… and well, I just didn’t know where or how to begin again.   

And I MUST confess here and now that what little creative energy I’ve had over these many months got swallowed up in mindless moments spent on social media. Not all was completely mindless but I know there’s only so much the “Insta-Snap-Face” life can offer in the way of depth and breadth. I realize I’ve been standing in the shallows throwing stones out across the deep –too weary or maybe afraid of getting caught up in the current.

I’m sorry.

This morning, while tidying up some stuff I heard from a sweet little person in my life who was letting me know that after a great deal of messing around, etc.,  during her quiet time this morning the Lord revealed to her that she *really* hadn’t submitted her life to Jesus. So… just like that, she did.  She turned. And she wanted me to know it.

So like her… just like that—I’m turning as well and I want you to know it.  Turning back towards going deeper, stretching higher and reaching out with real meaningfulness to you, for my own soul and the glory of God.

One thing God revealed during this time was the HUGE difference between being a Kingdom Consumer and a Kingdom Producer. There is a lot of noisy muck and mud being slung around out here and  I don’t want to add to those conversations.  I don’t want to be another noisy gong.

Instead, stepping out of the shallows again,  I hope to share this space with you in a way that seeks to produce Kingdom moments all around us as we make this journey together even while distances apart. I want to encourage you in your life to do the same….to every day, wake up expecting God to move and show us where He’s at work, and then have the courage to pick up our cross to join Him there.

Thanks for being here, and for waiting on me.

Hang on though… it promises to be quite a ride!

Christmas Everlasting

Her name was Charlotte.

I’ve wanted to write about her for such a long time but I couldn’t find the words until now. I’ve desperately wanted them all to be so honorable and right, full of grace and love— just like she was.  I confess I didn’t know or appreciate her half as well as I wish I had, but I know she loved me and I’m certain she knew I loved her too.

And… I won’t lie; we didn’t hit it off right away— I really wasn’t her type of girl. I might have scared her. Heck, I scared myself.   Thank heavens, she tried and kept on trying.

While she’s been gone for 6 years, so many things around our home continue to keep her memory alive. Especially at Christmastime; her most favorite season of all. Gosh, how she loved Christmas! Partially because she flat out thrilled at any chance to celebrate, decorate or arrange something. Seriously, she was the kind of woman who had a tablecloth and matching paper products on hand for every season. I used to tease her about belonging to the “Potholder of the Month” club for that reason alone! Yes, she loved a holiday but Christmas was her time to shine.  Charlotte understood as deeply as possible the real joy we have for celebrating the birth of Christ: Jesus was her Savior.

In her earthly lifetime, Charlotte was the classic “Southern Lady”- private, proper, loving and loyal. Hospitable and generous too— you’d have to work hard to out-give her and after she was gone it amazed us to discover how charitable she had been with her meager retirement income.  Whether caring for her aging mother, children and grandchildren, or serving her church, retirement center neighbors and community through delivering Meals on Wheels— Charlotte spent herself wholly in the name of Christ.   What a legacy.

Charlotte was forgiving— at least as forgiving as humanly possible and willing to pray for the strength to forgive better when necessary. Despite the pain and betrayal that singed her heart terribly, somehow she managed to never let it interfere with the way she lived on a daily basis. Pain just didn’t define Charlotte or her relationships with others—Christ did.  She taught me by these examples and her life is teaching me still today. Especially at Christmastime.

I vividly recall her last Christmas with us. We didn’t know it was the last one we’d have together and certainly she didn’t either.  There we were— crowded together in her tiny apartment visiting, sharing a modest but plentiful meal, and opening up thoughtful and silly gifts, much like we’d done the year before.

However, this year she had also decided to gift some of her precious Christmas dècor. She’d already done some considerable downsizing in order to move into the center, but now she was ready to decide what she wanted to keep and, to capture the spirit of her words, she “wanted to give it as her own choice”.  Because she knew that this life and these lovely things were only temporary, she happily gave the very things she treasured. That was Charlotte.

So, again this year, as I’ve carefully unboxed and unwrapped our family Christmas items, many which once graced her own humble home, I can’t help but remember my sweet mother in law with a special fondness for her steadfast example of what it means to truly love, truly serve and truly live to give of oneself.  And not just at Christmastime; her legacy is the every day sort of stuff meant to be applied each and every moment.

I have to ask myself why this year remembering Charlotte seems to matter more to me than ever before.  To be honest, it’s likely for a variety of reasons but mostly,  I need the anchoring in these solid memories to help me know how to move forward through this ever-changing season of my life and most importantly— why.

Also because, among these other things, this year also finds her four sons in the throes of trying to respectfully care for their aging father. 

The differences between the two of them are like night and day but Charlotte would not want me to dwell on that. However, the life-lessons are clear:  how Charlotte gave, he withheld; what Charlotte cherished, he dismissed; where Charlotte released, he spent his life gripping all the more tightly. Sadly, in choosing a much meaner course of life, this poor man put them all on a trajectory that might have ensured no one would be around to stand in the gap for him at this late and most difficult stage of life.   But God.

Because this is where all of Charlotte’s love and Christ-like example is bearing the best fruit and an everlasting example. Simply put: the way she raised her sons and lived out her life before them was so thoroughly saturated with God’s protective and sheltering grace, that they are emboldened and equipped  to do the very best they can for their father despite the fractured relationship that has existed most of their lives. Because Charlotte loved Jesus the most, she loved her sons well and out of this love they are now able to show love to one another and for this man, their father. In courageously caring for their father, they are honoring the memory of their mother and surely, God is pleased.

So alive and unshakeable for me this Christmas— so real and profoundly true, these things of God matter the most. As I look around our home today, I see a handful of things she passed along but my heart clings to the real treasure that doesn’t fade  and one we are attempting to pass along to our own children—  it is the Holy Spirit’s everlasting gift of witness showing us the path to follow in the weeks and years to come. 

This is Charlotte’s gift to us– the  truly, everlasting message of Christmas and I’m so grateful that it’s mine to share…now… with you.    Merry Christmas!