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. 

Photo by pixels.com

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

photo by pixel.com

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.

Sunday grace – taste your life

Years ago, I learned the value of slowing down when I ate. I was watching my weight. Food was limited. I wanted to enjoy every bite.

I am also a sipper of coffee. I don’t gulp it down in the mornings just to absorb the caffein. I like to hold the warmth, savor the first sips, taste the depth of its bold flavor and the richness of the cream.

I’ve been a journaler, a record keeper, a saver of memories for many years. My stack of notebooks fill one shelf and overflow to another. I look through them for reference. I re-read them occasionally to remember. I need to remember my life.

“I wanted to look at the words, savor the experience, feel the joy, and live every moment.  I was so afraid I would forget what had happened to me.” — Nicole Johnson, Fresh Brewed Life

I write, partly, so I won’t forget what happened to me.  At this age it is important to recall what I did yesterday, what I ate, who I spent time with, what words we shared with each other.  I want to remember. And I want to taste and savor this life I’ve been given.

And isn’t that exactly the thing? Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.  As I hear of another death, and then another, I am reminded again that Life is Short.

How often I’ve zipped through my day, crossing off items on my list, getting the job done, finishing that task so I move to the next one and feel like I accomplished something at day’s end?

But did I taste my life? Did I savor the conversation? Did I notice the blue sky, the bloom of flowers? Did I take in the fresh smell of cut grass? Did Maisie’s antics amuse me or aggravate me? Did I enjoy the process of living today?

Did I truly listen to Sweet William with whom I share my days? Or was I multi-tasking and only processing the gist of what he said, while I was busy with lesser things? Did I seek to understand?

Did I text or call the person who’s been on my mind? Did I send the card I’d been meaning to mail? Did I say “yes” to someone needing to talk? Did I accept the interruption in my day as an invitation from the Father?

Did I spend time with the Living God? Did I pray?

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I’ve gobbled down on-the-run meals when I just needed sustenance. I didn’t enjoy my food. The pleasure of the taste was lost in my hurry.

I’ve lived some days the same way. Survival mode. Get through it. Hope the strength will last until I fall into bed at night.

Savoring life has to be intentional. I have to think about it. I must look for the joy. Sometimes it is a fight to count grace, to actively seek contentment. When I stumble into the pitfalls, I must put on a hard hat, stepping carefully through the rubble, and hope I don’t get hit with a two by four. Even there, I can find something beautiful.

I believe joy is present if I look for it. Maybe I will catch a glimpse through tears. Perhaps I will fall on my knees, face to the ground in surrender to the in-control-God who works good out of devastation and brings beauty from the ashes.  It could be that walking by faith in the thunderstorm, searching for the rainbow, is my modus operandi for today.

It becomes the necessary goal, to taste life, the sweet and the bitter, the salty and the bland. It’s the mixture of all the flavors that gives it zest. This is what teaches me to endure, what helps me learn compassion for others, and what gives me reason for joyful celebration.

Smell the aroma. Anticipate the pleasure. Taste your life. It is full of grace, and it’s amazing.

Sunday grace.

It was a Good Friday, it was a Holy Friday

Good Friday.  Why do we call it good?  From all appearances, that day looked like anything but good.

The Passion of Christ

A false arrest in the wee hours of the morning.  Friends who ran in fear.  One denies he even knew Him.  One betrays Him for a pittance.

Accusations that fly in the face where slaps and spit follow.  Soldiers who had any compassion trained out of them, beating Him to near death.

Mocking words that contradict all He ever said.  A crowd jeering, crying out for death.  Religious leaders leading the rabble-rousers.  Political leaders afraid to do what is right.

A heavy, splintered cross laid on a back where the flesh was already torn away.  Crown of thorns piercing the brow with its poison.  A long and hard Via Dolorosa.  Golgotha in view.

Sound of nails in flesh and sinew.  Thud of crosses in deep holes.  Cries of pain and agony that only the crucified know.

A few lone followers, women and John, deep in the throes of grief and grasping for some understanding behind all this suffering and finality to a ministry that flourished only a week ago.

Alone. Forsaken. Separated.   Darkness. Earthquake. Storm. Death.

Sin exposed to the judgment of a Holy God.

Nothing of this day looked good.  This was a day gone horribly wrong.

Or was it?

“The King of the Jews” was written in three languages, a foretaste of the Gospel preached to all nations.

A thief on another cross entered into Paradise, giving us hope that salvation is still offered at the very last hour for those who believe.

Two secret disciples, Joseph of Arametha and Nicodemus, come out of hiding to do the right thing and acknowledge the One who came from God.

Forgiveness offered from a heart only understood by a loving Heavenly Father.

Words spoken from parched and bleeding lips that shout the victory battle cry, “It is finished!”

A veil torn in two so that all people will know they are welcomed into The Presence.

The penalty paid in full, judgment recompensed.

A Redeemer revealed

Blood of The Lamb poured out to take away the sin of the world.

The Plan, laid foundationally eons before by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brought to completion.

And I see it.  And it is good!

Remembering the cross of Christ I recall my sins and His suffering.  My debt and His payment.  My hopelessness and His free gift.  My searching and His seeking love.  My past and now my future.

Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe. 
Sin had left a crimson stain.  He washed it white as snow.

Good Friday.  It was a good day – for me and for the world.

And remember, Sunday is on the way.

Reposted from 2013

Sunday grace

Sometimes I cannot get something out of my head. As I read the Gospel account of the Passover preparations, this thing stays with me.

Jesus sent Peter and John to look for a man carrying a water jar. He told them to ask him about the guest room and to follow him and make preparations for their Passover celebration.

There’s a lot going on here that would seem to be women’s work in first century Judea. Carrying water. Making a room ready. Preparing a Passover meal.

It was no small task to clean and cook. There were details the Jewish people knew from Scripture that needed to be exacting. There were traditions they had gathered around tables for hundreds of years, foods and added activities that helped the people to remember and provided a means to teach their children.

I wonder, did Peter and John have any help? Did they feel this was demeaning, this task of preparing a meal? Or did they feel special, being appointed for this assignment, because, well, they were the “important disciples?” I don’t know, but I’ve been considering these questions.

When I’m required to do lowly work, what are my first thoughts and attitude? If I’m asked to do something that will bring me public acclaim or at least a pat on the back, how do I respond, knowing it will surely be noticed? When the job is unseen, maybe even unappreciated, are my thoughts pure or disgruntled? Am I simply glad to serve or am I annoyed that I have to?

I don’t need to tell you the answer. My pride may be showing up more than what humility I think I possess. I’ve been faced with both kinds of responsibilities this week, and there’s been some heart examination going on.

In the upper room, with all preparations completed, dinner table discussion ensued among the twelve about who was the greatest. It was not their first time on this topic. And it was not the first time Jesus tried to explain and show them that the least in the kingdom will be the greatest. A little child is of utmost importance to Him, He told them, and should be to those who want to be a disciple. They were dull of hearing. Sometimes I am too.

Jesus took a towel and a basin, knelt before one man, removed a shoe and began to wash one dirty foot at a time, all the way around the table. They were shocked, dismayed. Peter protested. What kind of common posture was their Lord and Master taking, Him on the floor before the likes of them?

 “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” –John 13:12-17 NLT

I wonder how often those men talked of that night and remembered the time their Savior washed their feet? I believe the message finally got through to them: after they saw their risen Lord, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit, after their eyes were opened to the plan God had been working out all along.

The disciples and those under their teaching would write of servanthood, of doing as Christ had done.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” –1 Peter 4:10 NLT

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” — 1 John 3:18 NLT

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” –Romans 12:10 NLT

The early church’s lesson is my lesson to learn. To serve in love. To serve without complaining. To serve when no one is watching. To serve with a heart of joy. Because in serving I reflect the heart of Christ. He made the role of Servant a high calling.

Beth Moore says, “. . . we may have no idea as to the significance of the work God has called us to do.”

The work He calls us to do might be to speak before thousands. It could be to nurture a child’s heart. It could be in the public eye where many will notice. Or it might be an obscure room where we kneel down and wash another’s feet.

The work of Christ is worthy, no matter what He calls me to do. There is a blessing in store when I do whatever He asks. And so I pray:

Search me, O God my Savior, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious and self-centered thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You. Lead me in the path You took, the path of righteousness, the path of servanthood. I want to follow You by serving others.

Sunday grace.

Walking toward Passover

The moon tonight will be at her full. I’ve been watching it for days, early mornings as it illuminates still darkened rooms, anticipating. Recently I heard someone say he did not rise until the sun was up. I thought, “Oh, you don’t know what you are missing.” The pre-dawn is my favorite time of day. Perhaps it is my introverted self who enjoys the stillness, with only the flicker of gas logs and perking coffee while all else is quiet. My mind is at rest before an active day begins.

I notice the moon before I’m out of bed, shining through the blinds. It is a sign, a sign of the coming Passover celebration, only a month away. Because Passover always begins on a full-moon evening.

Passover tells the story of the nation of Israel being released from the bondage of Egypt. The traditional meal will be eaten as the events of the exodus are recounted in detail. It is a time of teaching the young, a time to remember past slavery, a time to give thanks for God’s deliverance, and a time to celebrate redemption with family and friends.

I love to think of and celebrate Passover for it has deep significance for me as a Christ follower. Jesus’ last meal with his friends in an upper room was the event of Passover. It was the occasion of Him giving them His last words of encouragement and instruction. It was there He told them to love one another just like He had loved them. That last dinner was a tender time of communion with those who had been with Him through victories and miracles and hopes for the coming kingdom of God.

During Passover, Jesus washed the dirty feet of a dozen men, took a towel and served them on His knees to their astonishment and protests. He was Lord and Master. How could He be doing this lowly, slave-like task? They could not grasp it as He told them they would be blessed if they did the same.

At the Passover table Jesus revealed that one would betray Him, stirring up confusion, suspicion, and self-doubt. Who could possibly do such a thing? And for what reason? Besides, these were able-bodied, strong men who would surround and protect their Teacher? No, that could not happen.

Jesus implored His friends to abide in Him, to dwell in, find their home and comfort in His presence and love like a branch receives life from the vine. Little did they realize that He would soon be taken forcefully from them, with the worst days of their lives on the heels of Jesus’ arrest. They would need a place to go, a shelter under the shadow of the Almighty, as their world reeled and shook with the events during a Passover weekend.

They did not understand, those faithful followers, men and women alike, what Jesus was about to accomplish. Though He tried to tell them on other occasions, they were dull of hearing, listening to their own thoughts of triumphing over their enemies, of securing an earthly kingdom where they would sit at Jesus’ left and right, ruling and reigning with Him. Victory and conquest, that is what they were expecting.

Instead, there would be soldiers, an arrest, a fleeing for their very lives. Denial and forsaking their Master. Darkness and chaos. A mock trial with rabble rousers calling for the release of a criminal instead of the innocent Lamb of God. They could not see Redemption sitting at the Passover table with them, truth unfolding before their eyes.

Before they left the upper room of this Passover finale, Jesus gave them unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, and He called it His body and His blood. He told them to eat and drink it. As they remembered their slavery and emancipation from Egypt, they were now to remember Him. They did not comprehend then, but later they would, and thereafter they would think of Jesus life and death, the salvation He provided, each time they ate and drink in His name.

It happened on a Passover. The Lamb of God slain for the sake of the world. His death would mean deliverance and freedom, the like they had never known.

It is time to remember and prepare for the celebration.