Tuesday grace – a grateful heart

As the To-Do’s swirl in my head and are reviewed in my bullet journal, I add to and I check off. This is my week to make Thanksgiving happen at the Wright House.

I can set the tables, bring out extra chairs, cook food and light candles, but can I make thanksgiving happen in a heart?

Only in mine.

I take paper and pen and begin to count my blessings, one by one. They are many, because God has been especially good to me. Yet, the memories linger of last year when sickness grabbed Sweet William and me, and we missed my favorite family meal. Covid spread from one to another, until one of us was taken from this earth, and we were left wanting and wondering what in the world had happened. Grief settled on us like a thundercloud.

I think of it all this early morning, as I sit in my rocker and make my list.

I think of others in my circle of people, missing one at the table of grace this year. Somehow, we will muster the determination to make the special recipes and bring ourselves, with a heart of thanks that we can be together once more, while remembering there is one less plate to set. And I feel the longing deep inside me.

It will be different this year at our house and at houses of friends and family, here and across the miles.

I needed a Psalm of Thanksgiving, and I turn to chapter 34. I begins with “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” It is less of a command and more an encouragement from a fellow sojourner who knew his own share of heartache.

As I read the highlighted and marked verses, they are anciently familiar and like fresh warm bread at the same time. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” I am not alone.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.” This promise – that the Lord hears me – I cling to it as a life preserver. I am heard, I am known, I am loved. I am part of His plan.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” Tiny bottles grace the window sills of the upstairs dormer windows, sparkling in the sunlight, a reminder that my tears are noticed by the Living God. How is it that I am important to the Almighty? I don’t understand it, but I believe.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I’ve turned to this verse often through the years. It is my own comfort and comfort to share with others needing an assurance of Immanuel – God with us.

I pray for my people, the ones on a list and the ones who come to mind throughout the day. They are many. I know the Heavenly Father is aware of each need and how He plans to use it to grow us into who we are meant to be, how it will bring Him glory, how we will eventually see beauty rise from the ashes, how we will share the testimony of God’s grace and goodness.

My circumstances might not change, though I want them to or I pray for something else. But trusting in a good God is the beginning of turning my heart from questions and despair to joy and thanksgiving. His thoughts are higher than mine. I cannot comprehend the greater purpose in what He does. But I can run into the Father’s arms, let Him catch my tears, and hear His words of assurance, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.”

We approach the season of Advent, looking forward with anticipation to the Nativity of Christ at Christmas time. He came as the Light of the world. He came to dispel the shadows and walk with us into the unknown and the unanswered.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told His friends, “but take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is the Overcoming One and Only, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. I desperately need the never-ending wellspring of His mercy and grace. His indwelling Holy Spirit helps me walk with courage in this world. His presence is promised to me. That is what I need most.

There is hope in a shadowed world. He is the Light at the end of my tunnel. I will give thanks to the Lord. He has been especially good to me.

Thanksgiving grace.

Monday grace

As the temperatures suddenly turn from unusually warm autumn days to our first light snow, I sense the coming holiday season. If I am not careful, anxiety can blow in like a cold wind.

We are hosting Thanksgiving at the Wright House this year, Sweet William and I. It’s my very first year. Expectations of perfection can kill the joy of anticipation.

As an only child, I am continually thankful for my cousins and extended family. When I was a child, we went to my aunt and uncle’s house because they had more room for us to spread out. As life changed, the way it always does, we moved our Thanksgiving dinner to my cousin’s house, where it became a two-day event. She and her husband loved having people gather in their home, and they were such welcoming hosts. Their house became party central through the years, with any event an opportunity for food, family, friends, and good times.

But she died last December.

Our family struggled to make a decision about our November gathering this year. Then a couple of weeks ago, Sweet William and I were suddenly on the same wave length, and the decision was made. Now lists run through my head, are spoken into my Notes app on my cell, and eventually land in my bullet journal. My head swirls.

There is much to do before I begin to even think about grocery shopping or preparing food.  While we often have people around our table for food and conversation, a group the size of my family and the menu items we prepare take additional planning.

Recently I visited in a beautifully decorated home with wide open spaces, a coffee bar and room to spread out. I enjoyed the lovely atmosphere and hospitable ambiance. When I came back to our humble abode and began to look around at all the old things clustered in its rooms, I began to compare. Dissatisfaction started to sneak into my heart.

During fifty years of marriage, we have gathered things and been happy to live among them. But we don’t have a newly remodeled kitchen, an open concept floor plan or the latest trending decor minimally sitting on a few surfaces.

Comparison kills joy. I once heard someone say, you can compare or you can connect, but you cannot do both.

There’s truth in that statement. When I compare with another’s home, clothes, ministry, or gifts, it begins to divides us. We cannot connect as friends. When I look with eyes of envy, I miss the blessings of my own life. How can I cheer and encourage you when I’m secretly measuring myself as if it is a competition?  

As I sat in my quiet place this early morning, praying and thinking of what lies ahead of me in the coming weeks, a thought emerged. What I want for this home is the presence and peace that come from Jesus Christ. And that will only be available if His presence and peace reside in me. A house is just brick and mortar, wood and shingles. People who abide in them create the atmosphere of love, acceptance, and welcome. And that is what I want to give my family as they open the door and say, “We’re here.”

This week, I will be making my annual Thanksgiving List, a ritual that has become important and necessary for me. I need to remember all the good in my life, the multiplied blessings coming from the Heavenly Father’s gracious hand, because I can be forgetful. I will be thankful for this sturdy house, for chairs and tables where my loved ones can sit and eat and laugh and love. We will be warm and well fed. And we will be together.

I am blessed beyond measure. I will give thanks in all things.

Monday grace.

Monday grace – get wisdom

As I watch, the trees spread a golden carpet on the front lawn. Autumn marches forward as I try to treasure each beautiful day. Because, “Isn’t the present moment worth celebrating?” (Christy Purifoy)

In early August, as somewhat of a parting gift, she handed me the package, this friend who was moving miles away. Though different in vocation and ministry, we were kindred spirits almost from the beginning. We liked the same books, we cooked and made home for family and others, we loved the color blue, we shared a deep faith, and our conversation was easy.

Her token was a small journal with her handwritten note that read, “I encourage you to gift the world with your godly wisdom . . . you have much to share . . . “

And I wondered at the moment, as I still do, what do I have to share, what do I offer, what words linger after they are spoken?

I remember wisdom coming from the lips and lives of mentors in my younger life, my dear mother, my aunt, my grandmother whose words came second hand because she died when I was two, and a former school teacher, who nurtured me long and encouraged me each time I left with the words, “You’re a good girl.”

Wisdom came to me through authors and teachers and the study of the Word of Truth. It has come through experiences, falling down and getting up, success and failure, learning to say “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” It comes by hearing another speak, evaluating the message and grasping the truth.

At first glance at my friend’s words, I could not think of any particular wisdom I have. The wise words I hold are from other sources so how can I claim to possess them as my own? I suppose I offer what was once held out to me, not forced upon me but gently presented, to accept or not.

Perhaps that is the first wisdom to recall and record in the small blue journal.

The weeks passed and my friend is settled into her home in another state. I keep the journal on my desk where I can record my thoughts, because if she thinks I am wise, then let me rise to that occasion.

I bestow a handful of the entries here.

  • Wisdom can be offered but not forced upon another, as it should be. We examine what another says to see if the Holy Spirit quickens it to us, if it resonates with what He is already speaking to the heart and if it lines up with the Word of God.
  • I am never sorry I showed up for someone, whether it be a celebration or a grief. No words are needed. My presence is sufficient.
  • Listening is a super power. More of us should learn and practice it.
  • If I think I’m becoming more humble, then maybe I’m not.
  • Words matter. Which ones I choose and how I use them make an impact. Profanity is a rustic crutch to express an opinion or thought. There are more creative words that can relay my meaning and relay it better. Use a Thesaurus.
  • Beauty is always present in a smile and a joyful countenance.
  • Practicing empathy has an immense ability to promote understanding.
  • I don’t want to become a grumpy old woman. The ‘old’ I can’t change, but the ‘grumpy’ is a choice.
  • Generally, people don’t really want my advice. They simply want to be heard and for me to try to understand.

Today, as I sat in the booth across from a young mom, steaming coffee and a pumpkin muffin enticing me, I listened as intently as I could. Her experiences were important to her, and so they were important to me. I could identify with things she was saying, because life has a way of teaching us if we are willing to learn. And I want to learn from every joyful and every painful event I endure.

We parted with me having offered little in advice or counsel, but I think she felt heard and understood, and that carries weight for both of us. I continue to learn the art of listening. It is a gift when people share their lives with me. May I never take that lightly. May I hold it tenderly and in confidence.

The book of Proverbs holds a treasure of wisdom, and it says, “. . . the tongue of the wise brings healing,” (12:18).

I continue to write in my blue journal as I discern something recordable, something that may be deep with meaning. Herein lies something of great importantance: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” (Proverbs 9:10).

As leaves fall from trees, wisdom falls all around us, as well as a lot of information that lacks truth, validity, and authenticity.

The choices and practices of my life should be weighed carefully with a heart of wisdom. They form me. They impact those around me. Wisdom is prime. Get wisdom.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

October startles me with its coming. How did September slip by so fast, so lovely, so delightfully fall-ish? I wanted it to last a little longer.

I had garden tasks to complete, projects that needed to be checked off the list, and alas, they remain undone. What am I to do but look around and see the beauty of summer past and welcome autumn in all its glory. I want to put on a pot of pinto beans. I want to make vegetable soup. I want to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin everything.

A volunteer vine grew in the flower bed by the back deck and I love surprises. Watching and wondering what might grow from the big yellow blooms was pure anticipation. Lo and behold (such an old and beloved expression), by summer there were small greenish gourd-like fruits scattered on the lawn as the vine traveled unhindered. The lawn mower graciously cut around, giving it room to thrive. Last week I picked nine small pumpkins, fruit from the birds’ labor and not mine.

Even now the trees are showing signs, leaves tinging toward gold. The sycamore in the side yard shows off its large brown leaves, some already fallen to the ground. I feel it in the air when Maisie and I walk. The clouds look different to me. The smell of chimney smoke and fire pits creates a longing for roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.

I’ve looked forward to Autumn. It is putting away the harvest season, sharpening garden tools, opening windows as fresh air fills the house. I prepare to bring in tender plants to over-winter in the garage and exchange light summer clothes for snuggly ones with boots.

As I pull out flannel PJs from storage, extra blankets and a warm sweater, summer’s passing settles. There are projects still undone in the gardens, dangling on lists in my bullet journal. That bothers me, the one who wants to complete the task and give it a flourishing check mark. Trying to catch up last week, I labored long outside and felt the ache in my body.

Then I let this thought take root: I cannot get it all done. Some of it will have to wait for next year, next spring. And Lord willing, it will begin anew once more. All is well.

Thoughts of the coming season can weigh heavy too. When I talked with my cousin this week, she felt it. Memories of death and loved ones we held dear, holidays approaching where a place setting will be empty, and we wonder how to walk forward with our heavy hearts, remembering the joy of their lives mingled with ours while we miss them terribly.

We live and love while it is day, as the Lord gives opportunity. At least I hope I do. Responsibility and tasks can drain time, as we fill our lives with more. More stuff to care for, more devices to take our attention, more places to go, more events to attend. More is not always a blessing.

I think of my younger self when life seemed simpler. We sat on porches and broke green beans or shelled peas. We watched our children play in the yard with their cousins. We lingered long in conversations over cups of hot coffee or iced sweet tea and home-cooked meals. We talked, in person, face to face.

Sweet William and I are blessed with friends of all ages, and I am always amazed that they want to spend time with us. I thank God for this gift. In light of eternity, time spent with people is of more value than what I can accomplish, my to-do tasks, or things that show up on my lists. The check marks are worth little in comparison.

Our gracious Father gives us all the same number of hours each day, and there is always time to do His will. Jesus is my example of One who used His short span on the earth to finish the assignment He was given, making the most of every encounter with another. Choosing rightly becomes the challenge for a task-oriented person like me. Listening to the Spirit’s direction and prompting, saying yes to an opportunity to serve, accepting an interruption as a God-appointment, and laying aside my agenda for a higher purpose – that is my calling.

I will leave this earth with tasks uncompleted. I may have a list to my dying day. The house will need repairs, the gardens will still be in progress. The things I wanted to accomplish will wait. And Lord willing, there will be a Spring Eternal where life, real life, will begin anew.

If I hear the Living Lord say, “You did what I asked. You loved those I sent your way,” it will be enough. All will be well.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

The easy-breezy summer days I enjoyed in June and July morphed into August schedules, appointments and an effort to be on time, always a struggle for me. September arrived without the flourish I might have wished to give it.

I anticipated changing a few things in the house to reflect the season of Autumn, the mat on the front porch, the door wreath, a spicy candle on the hall table.  But responsibility takes precedence over such thoughtful tasks. People come first, or at least they should. Those who come and those who live with me, aka Sweet William, do not care about the current décor of the house. They care about the love they feel within it. They notice if they are being heard. If I fill their tummies with good food and welcome them with an open heart, that is what really matters.

The gardens became a jungle in the summer heat and rain. And yet there are flowers blooming continually. The sunflowers growing in view of the kitchen window attracted butterflies and goldfinches. The Texas Star hibiscus came up randomly near the back sidewalk. The bloom only lasts a day, and I will take its short-lived extravagance. In the front garden, the tall wispy stems of tiny yellow flowers whisper fall, drawing my eye to the swing where my cousin Candi and I sat often last year, talking about anything and nothing at all.

I feel her absence from my life. Her house on my lane, a short walk away, is changing, little things I notice, evidence she is not living there any longer. Sometimes I want to tell her something that only she would understand, discussions we had that made us think or laugh. It leaves a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my heart. Who else would understand what I’m talking about. Who else would care?

Death leaves a hole that is never truly filled. I attended too many funerals this year, heard of too many deaths. It is the age and stage of life where I am, I suppose. My generation is moving on. I think about it without being morbid. It is a fact of life, and I experience the loss, the changes, and the adjusting it takes to keep walking forward. I’m thankful for the life and health I have, but I know it is temporary. My body is a tent on earth, and it’s becoming a little more tattered each year, the laugh lines on my face deepening.

On a day of musings, I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit. How do I know it was the Holy Spirit? Because I don’t say the kind of things to myself that He does. His message was one of ancient wisdom: Count it all joy.

They are familiar words, and I let them linger through the day, acknowledging I do not count the hard and hurtful things as joy.

What does that really mean, then? I went to the letter of James and studied its original text, feebly I might add. I am no Greek scholar, only relying on others’ studies instead. The word ‘count’ or ‘consider’ as it is in NIV is an accounting term. In essence, it means to evaluate, let it lead to a thought. I begin to get a picture.

Counting it joy means to consider how the temptations and trials in my life are having an effect on the outcome of my daily living. Are they reenforcing truth or a lesson? Are they turning me where I need to change direction? Are they teaching me compassion for someone in a similar situation? Are they showing me my weakness, leading me to my Savior’s strength? Are they sending me running to the Father’s arms? Are they maturing me and preparing me for what is next?

In my Bible I wrote a quote from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth: “Anything that makes you need God is a blessing.”

Selah – I pause and think about that.

As a child of the Living God, I have to believe these hard places are not random or without purpose for me. Is anything of God ever wasted? He means to bring good from the experiences that come my way. While it may be harsh, intense, long, even painful, yet in the hands of a loving Father, it can be useful, even beautiful for someone else or for me in a way I could never imagine.

I am the woman who still deeply loves Jesus and wants to follow where He leads in this season, with my slowing gait and aching bones. Whatever comes, I want to learn to consider that my experiences will bring joy eventually, all of them. They are common to all people and lessons God is using to teach me, to grow me and make me stronger,

This counting it all joy is a work in progress for me, as is my entire existence. I believe I am held close to a loving Father’s heart, that He understands my hurts and struggles, and most importantly, that He is with me through each one.

His presence is promised in and through all of my days. I hold to that like an anchor when the water is choppy and my boat is tossed about in a stormy sea. He reminds me, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Peace be still. Open your eyes and see. Count every blessing. Consider how all things lead to the Savior. Joy is all around.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace – the body of Christ

 

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1

Arriving home late afternoon yesterday, my body felt drained from a long day, but my heart had been filled. 

Sweet William and I attended the visitation and funeral of a long-time friend. Our lives intertwined with his family when we were teens, and while we’ve not frequented the same circles regularly, the friendship remained precious. He and his wife married the same year as us. Their first born arrived the same year as ours. She is an only child, like me. We were intermingled by in-laws, church community, and a long history of loving Jesus. 

His service was beautiful, touching, bringing tears to my eyes as three ministers spoke of his life, his joy, and his faith. I hummed the old songs along with the soloists. 

As anticipated, there were people from the home church where I basically grew up. I was only about 13 years old when I was first asked to play the organ for services, my knees literally knocking at times, the anxiety of wanting to play perfectly without really knowing what I was doing. Several people at the visitation reminded me I had played for their weddings five decades past. I smiled, remembering what a novice I was and what confidence they put in me for their momentous day.  

I saw many of the church family who grew up with me. It was there we matured into young adults, married and had babies. The year our son was born, it seemed there was a baby shower every three months. I reminisced about the spirit-filled services, the powerful sermons, the youth choir that grew into an adult choir because no one wanted to leave. I remember the difficult musical arrangements that forced me to practice and become a better musician. The hours of music Sweet William and I played to prepare and serve added to good years and good memories. 

These are the people who saw me, knew when I messed up, heard the words that should have been inside thoughts, and they still love me.  

We are the older generation now, the ones with grey/balding/dyed heads, wrinkled and sometimes a bit wobbly, talking about our surgeries and the pills we take each morning to get us moving. We have pictures of grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren on our cell phones. We have buried parents and siblings. We have known joy and grief.   

This is the church, the body of Christ, the family of God. It is imperfect and flawed because the people in it are imperfect and flawed, sinners who were saved by grace and are still learning to walk as faithful pilgims. We have lived and experienced life. We made mistakes, fell down and got up again, often with the aid of a fellow sojourner. We’ve grown wiser and deeper in our faith because we have seen God in the living and the dying, in the pain and in the celebration, in answered prayers and those we still wait and hope for. We know in Whom we believe as we wait for our imperfection to be made perfect one heavenly day by the grace of God. 

It seems the church is suffering from bad PR these days. No doubt, people have suffered at the hands of individual church people. That does not make the Church of Jesus Christ a sham or fake. It is made up of broken people, redeemed by the blood of Christ, walking by faith and limping our way Home.  

As I rested on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I began to clean up old text messages on my phone. The process stalled as I read texts from the ending of 2021, when Sweet William and I had covid, when my cousin died in December, when I fractured my ankle on Christmas Day. Contained in those typed missives were comforting words, promised prayers, and love that came through the key strokes. It was the church ministering to us and we were strengthened by their devotion and concern. 

Countless times the church has come to our aid, bringing food, helping with household tasks, visiting and praying, even cleaning refrigerators and an overgrown yard. The church I know is going about the Father’s work, being the hands and feet of Jesus to such as I, again and again. 

The church will one day bury me, as it did our friend yesterday, transferring his church membership to Heaven. They will bring food and their presence, sing the songs and speak the Word. They will offer comfort to family left to grieve and remember. They will be at my ending like they were at my earliest childhood. 

In His closing remarks to His disciples, Jesus prayed that they might be one as He and the Father are one. It is a lofty goal among all of us who are so different and opinionated and sometimes even a little contrary. But the love Jesus gives, the love that fills us and binds us together, will make the prayer a little more of a reality.  

On days like yesterday, we are one. 

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Life is beautiful

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. — Psalm 139:16

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Roe v. Wade,
my thoughts return to the year 1973

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was summer, and I’ve never been so hot in my life. I was full with child and due to deliver in July. Weekly visits with my OB/GYN were mostly reassuring, but her concern that I might not be able to deliver this first pregnancy naturally weighed heavily on my mind.

On the 18th of the month, her concerns were confirmed as she hastily scheduled a C-section, while Sweet William willingly signed permission, overwhelming concern for both mother and child, sex still unknown. Because it was 1973.

In a surgical suite instead of a birthing room, surrounded by masked medical professionals, I heard the first lusty cries and saw the beautiful round head of my baby boy. He was perfect, and I was in love with this fair-haired child. But then I’d been loving him from his beginning inside of me.

From the first, people said he was cut from the mold of his father. Except for his blond hair and blue eyes – Sweet William was the tall, dark and handsome type – the resemblance was striking. This son was the image of his father.

It didn’t take long until we wanted to add to our family. I’d been an only child, and while it was a wonderful life, partly because I had the cousins almost always next door as an integral part of my growing up, I wanted siblings for our son.

In 1976, I was pregnant and we were excited again, making plans for this second baby. But our plans were interrupted one night in June when pains began that were all too familiar. After a call from my doctor, we went to the hospital where I was put in a room, all alone, to wait for the inevitable. I was about 22 weeks along, and as the pains of childbirth bore down, the pain in my heart hurt more.

At the end of the miscarriage, I asked the attending nurse if I could see my baby. He fit in the palm of her hand, so tiny and so perfectly formed. I noticed his fingers and toes. And I saw that he too looked like his father. I could see the resemblence in the small features of this one born out of time, not nurtured long enough in the womb to sustain life on his own. Not in 1976.

I think of this child often. I wonder what he would have been like, his personality, his talents, his hair and eye color. I wonder how it would have been to have two boys running the halls of the house, sharing the bunk beds, playing and building, imagining and testing their limits, keeping each other’s secrets and standing up for one another. I like to think they would have been close, even with the sibling rivalry that comes with the territory.

Every time I hear of a woman miscarrying, my memory is fresh. I cry with her because I know what it is like to have life and love growing within, and I know what it feels like when that life is cut short.

But the connection of love goes on even when the child is not there to hold.

The abortion issue touches me because life is precious from its very beginning. In the 21st century, tests reveal pregnancy so quickly. I had to wait weeks to know for sure. Ultra sounds show a beating heart, arms and legs growing, a thumb in the mouth, creative beauty I never could have imagined in the ’70s. Couples have reveal parties of blue or pink to announce the sex of their baby months before birth because now they know. Technology gives real pictures of life in the womb. Life in the womb. We see it with our eyes. We know it. We cannot deny it.

It was 1973 when Roe v. Wade gave women the right to end the life of their unborn children. Did they understand the scope of the decisions they made? Did they know they would think of that life, cut short, for the rest of their days? Did they think about the tears they would cry at the sight of another’s baby or calculate the age of their child as the years go by? Did they have any idea the impact their decision would make on themselves and others? Do they wonder who that child might have been if only he/she had been given a chance to live? Do they wish they had made a different decision?

I ere if I think my actions only affect me, that it should not concern anyone else. Have we not learned that no man or woman is an island unto themselves? My decisions will impact generations. As a stone cast into the lake ripples outward, my choices and actions have consequences on humanity. Dare we compare our actions toward the most vulnerable to the butterfly effect? It bears examination.

The breath of God resides in a human soul, and who are we to decide when that happens? It is our right and responsibility to care about life, to nurture it, to do all within our power to protect and provide. We are made in the image of our Creator and yet we are dust, fragile and vulnerable with the power to create and also to destroy.

Life has potential, if given a chance to be born, to bloom and grow. Entrusted with this marvelous gift, let us not waste it, cast it aside, or consider it less than the marvelous wonder it is. Life is worth the cost.

I feel a call to stand for truth and to show compassion at the same time. There are questions to this issue. How do we care for the women who find themselves in difficult, what may seem impossible circumstances? How can we serve children, families, and individuals? How can we love the least of these, the ones Jesus saw and stopped to hear their stories. How can we offer hope and healing?

We are called to walk as Jesus walked, to pay attention, to listen and see. We are called to love. We are called to do something.

Bob Russel, former pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY wrote a compassionate and wise response to the Supreme Court decision. Read it here.

I post this on my birthday, giving thanks for my mother who chose life for me. So I offer this prayer:

Father in Heaven,

That Your ways have been written into the human body and soul
there to be read and reverenced, thanks be to You.

Let me be attentive to the truths of these living texts.
Let me learn of the law etched into the whole of creation

that gave birth to the mystery of life
and feeds and renews it day by day.

Let me discern the law of love in my own heart and, in knowing it, obey it.

from Celtic Benedictions by J. Phillip Newell

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Sunday grace – for the fathers

Abba Father,

I am blessed to call you Father, to be welcomed into Your presence, the holy place of Your essence. You called my name and claimed me for your very own child. I am loved. This is a high privilege and I give You thanks.

I thank you for the men who influenced my life and showed me what You are like, especially my grandfather and my dear dad. I am grateful for patriarchs of my family and for men in my life who walked in the faith, were strong and gentle, treated me with respect and honor, protected and provided for me, bent low to serve and held me up with their prayers. I am blessed to know Your sons. I married one of them, and he is my life’s companion.

I pray for the fathers of this generation. How we need them to be steadfast and sure, standing true in the battle for souls, leading with firm resolve and gentle grace. They need guidance from the Holy Spirit and the power of love. Clothe them in Your righteousness and Your holy armor, for the battle is hard. Infuse Your Word into their minds to remind them what is at stake. Speak to them as You did to the warriors of old, “Be strong and very courageous.” Remind them this is Your battle and You are always with them.

I ask that You purify their hearts. Turn them from evil, the deceitfulness of riches, and the cares of life. Give them eyes to see the beauty of a precious child, the tenderness of a woman’s heart, the reward of being a servant to those in their keeping. Remind them that words can wound or words can heal and build up. Help them choose their words wisely.

Abba Father, I ask that they look to You as their only source, that the unwavering Truth is etched into their minds, that they seek to be more like Jesus every day, that they live to please You above all and be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. May You shine in them and through them as Image Bearers of God the Father.

I ask these things in the name of Your Son and my Savior Jesus Christ.

Amen

Sunday grace.

Reposted from June 2021

Sunday graces

I wander the gardens, admiring the beauty of flowers blooming in spite of me. I’m a wanna-be gardener who sows with hope. Hope the plant will live and thrive though I don’t prepare the soil well or provide enough fertilizer. Hope that I won’t kill it by neglect or accidently chop it with the weed eater.

Photo by Lyndsey Craven

It’s June and summer peaks around the corner, while spring lingers like a ballerina doing a finale on stage. I applaud her. Much rain brings grass that cannot be contained by the lawn mower, as insects enjoy both flowers and weeds growing in the midst of Kentucky fescue.

Early spring I wrapped tiny twinkle lights around posts on the back deck. They greet me in the pre-dawn morning, and I smile. Sweet William spotted a young dear near the edge of the little woods this week, and regularly we hear the jungle sounds of Pileated Woodpeckers whose young inhabit near us. Song of birds waking the day never fails to delight. It’s the little things, the simple gifts God gives to lighten the load of a world weighed down with heaviness and grief.

A friend just started chemo, another faces the anniversary of her husband’s death, and another just buried her son-in-law. I hear from my young companions dealing with anxiety, too much for those who should be savoring this adventurous time in their lives. Faces of family linger in my mind all day long, me breathing prayers to the Father who knows what they need. The world is not an easy place to live. Heartache and sorrow are nightly news and as close as the front porch.

This week I’m reading the Psalms. Again. They are my Go-To for all the emotions. Verses are marked in my Bible, dates written, and memories surface when I revisit this ancient hymn book.

Psalm 121 is my resting place this morning, familiar as my childhood. I regularly exercise these verses by memory. I recommit them to my heart today. The Holman Christian Standard version speaks beautifully.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

It is easy to look for help from other people and places. Friends, counselors, Google. It’s just as easy to wonder where the help is and when is it coming. Fact is, where can I go for what I need but to Jesus? He is the One who speaks Words of Life. He alone is Truth in changing values and ideologies.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

Protector is such a beautiful description. When I turn off my light at bedtime, punch my pillow and pull up the quilt, I give myself permission to rest in peace, because my Protector does not close His eyes or become weary like me. He is watchful. He knows I am flesh, growing older, my earthly tent wearing a little thin. He was there at my beginning and is my promised Protector to the end. I need fear no evil.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

I am often thankful for this old house where Sweet William and I take refuge from storms, cold and burning heat. At bedtime, I double check doors and locks, yet I know it is the Father who is our Mighty Warrior of defense. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” And I sing a familiar refrain, “under His wings I am safely abiding.”

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

I know enough by living long, that trouble comes to all. We get hurt and we get sick. We suffer the blows of living in a broken world. So what do I do with these verses? I believe there is a spiritual harm from which I am protected when I am sheltered in the cross of Christ Jesus. Paul said it rightly, ” . . . we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Renewed day by day. I am hoping in that promise, a sure expectation that God will do more than I can expect or imagine. He is good and He is strong. He will be with my coming and my going, from my beginning to my earthly ending, into the forever with Him. Hallelujah!

As I walked the yard yesterday, I see flowers growing in the rocks. I remember last year when a marigold pushed through the blacktop driveway and flourished with blooms and gladness. Seeds are scattered by the wind, and with determination of the Creator’s design, they sprout in spite of the harshness of their environment. I stand amazed and gaze at their resiliency.

Can I be the same? Can I go where the wind of the Spirit blows, bear fruit in a harsh place because the Creator of my Salvation calls it forth in me?

I believe it is possible, because the power in me is not my own making. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes, abides and speaks, teaches and guides always. He is the voice of Yahweh to me. Mostly He whispers. I have to listen carefully, push away the yelling and arguments of a culture that would drown out His tender voice.

When I rest the Scriptures in my lap in the morning, I posture myself to listen, open my heart to hear, quiet my soul of its own clamering and complaints. It takes purpose, planning, time. It is important, and I must do it. It takes priority over all other tasks in my day.

The Lord who brings forth food and flowers from the earth for my sustenance and joy, He who is the Word from the beginning, He who is guide and strength for my journey – He is my constant Companion, my Protector, the Keeper of my soul.

My help comes from the Lord.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace – on Mother’s Day

I wake and move into this day slowly. It’s Mother’s Day, the one day of the year I determine to treat myself with kindness, moving at my own pace, choosing the activities and the lunch Sweet William will pick up at a local restaurant. He knows it can be a challenging day for me, that I meet it with mixed emotions, and He is tender with my heart.

The Spirit draws me to Lamentations 3, a chapter that contains cherished verses, ones I turn to often. The center of it declares the compassionate and faithful Lord I serve. It is He who sustains me in all the seasons of life. He is stability in changing circumstances. He alone can speak peace to my storm. He gives joy unspeakable and showers me with blessings, daily being the Presence with me and in me.

3:19-20 “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast with me.”

When I look at the sadness of life, missing my mother since 1983, missing my dear ones since 2011, and now missing my cousin, Candi, since December, my soul is downcast indeed.

3:22-23 “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Ah, these verses remind me to look at the goodness of the Living God in my life. His love surrounds me every day, all day. His compassion is His glory revealed to Moses. His lovingkindness took on flesh and walked among us, showing us the love of the Father.

Calling to mind the faithfulness of my Father turns my attention away from loss and toward Him who fills the hungry with good things and satisfies my longing soul. I need that reminder today.

I received texts from friends who love me, younger and older and in-between. I am greatly blessed. God has filled me full with the love of precious people. I texted a friend whose son died from covid last year, her first Mother’s Day without him, and I cannot imagine how hard that must be. My son is alive and texted me early, and he will call sometime today. What a blessing that is.

3:24 “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion [inheritance]; therefore, I will wait [hopeful expectation] for Him.‘”

Hope has been my word for two years now. Not a pie-in-the-sky hope but an expectation that God will do what is best and provide what I need. He has done that in so many ways. So Many Ways.

3:25-26 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Hoping and waiting, in quiet expectation for His salvation, that is what I do today. And therefore, my soul is at rest and finds peace.

In some ways I have less angst this Mother’s Day, though my heart is still a roller coaster of feelings. The losses are evident, and things are different again this year. Different is hard, until it doesn’t feel so different anymore. Until it becomes the new normal, until I adjust yet again.

Later Sweet WIlliam and I will watch “Mom’s Night Out” and I will laugh and tears will spill from my eyes. It’s my go-to Mother’s Day movie, giving release to all the sentiments of this day. Mothering is challenging and difficult and sometimes heart-breaking. It’s also glorious and beautiful and has filled me to overflowing in ways I could not have anticipated. Motherhood is worth all of the effort.

I think of the women who mothered me, the ones who nurtured and cared, who asked hard questions and encouraged me to be strong, the ones who believed in me when I didn’t believe I had what it takes. I stand because they held me up and cheered me on.

I will count my blessings on this exceptional day in the year. I will remember the goodness of my heavenly Father. I will hope expectantly for God to do what God does best. Be the Captain of Hosts. Be the Redeemer. Be Mighty God. Be the Good Shepherd and the Running Father. Be Salvation. Be Peace and Provider. Be a Strong Tower of Defense.

He is all and in all, and all things hold together because of Him. He is holding me together. I will wait for Him. I will rejoice and be glad for He has been faithful to me.