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Sunday grace

In our confinement, I reach out to friends through text and email. I’m learning to use Zoom and Google Hangout, anticipating doing virtual piano lessons with my students. It will be teaching an old dog a new trick, but I’m game to try it if they are willing.

A confessed introvert, I thought staying at home for two weeks would be easier than it is. I love my people and cherish gathering at the table over coffee, tea, or lunch. Jean Fleming writes, “(T)he human face is a transmitter and a receiver, always sending and picking up messages.” I’m missing those vital signals.

Sweet William and I are reading Max Lucado’s How Happiness Happens in the morning hours, an appropriate title when watching the news too much can suck the happiness right out of me.

We are eating well here at the Wright House, though it seems I spend much of a day cooking and cleaning up. I can get a bit grumbly about it. I caught myself doing it yesterday, a gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit perhaps. I should be thankful for food, plates and pots, dish soap and hot water fresh from the faucet. And Sweet William is here to share a meal with me.

Counting my gifts is a necessary discipline for me, especially now, turning my thoughts away from a perceived lack toward the bounty surrounding me.

While I live in this separateness, this self-distancing, I remember the plan of salvation, how the Creator always wanted to be with His creation. In Eden He walked with the Adam and Eve. His yearning words came through prophets and psalms singers. He tabernacled in the wilderness with twelve tribes of Israel camped around. His glory manifested in a majestic temple in Jerusalem.

His ultimate coming to us was when he wrapped up in humanity, encasing His glory in soft baby skin, a confinement I can’t even imagine. He walked among us, sharing food, intense conversation, long journeys, and voyages on the sea. He touched people and was touched by them.

In the closing chapters of John’s gospel, Jesus promised another, one who would be with us and in us. It must have seemed incomprehensible to the twelve sitting at table with Jesus. Yet, it happened just as He said.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit roared like fierce wind, like He was rushing to get here to indwell the believers.

And so it is, He is with us in an unexplainable, truly mystifying, and completely unreasonable way. Because God wants to be with His people.

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

He is truly God with us, and that is immeasurable comfort to me. I can endure this seclusion while I remember He is always with me and in me. No one is closer than that.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

They first met at our house, these two who became one in holy matrimony only yesterday. The beautiful wedding was sprinkled with grace and truth, and those who know their story marvel at the narrative.

I first met him when he was in fourth grade with my oldest granddaughter, sitting at the lunch table with her. I remember his cute round face and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled.

Not by chance, Sweet William and I became friends of his family, spending time at the breakfast table, hours talking over coffee, sharing Bible studies, and those evenings when he came to talk guy stuff with Sweet William. Relationships deepened.

I met her through our neighbors who live in the house next door, the one  where my dear ones onced lived. These neighbors were a balm to my aching heart, me missing those I love, who now lived many miles away. These neighbors were her relatives.

She had a lovely smile and a gentle way about her. We became acquainted with her family, sometimes celebrating birthdays and holidays. I noticed her godly character.

Add the years, and I hosted Bible study at our house, a room full of women who love God and want to know His Word, including my neighbor, her sister-in-law, and my friend, his mother. At the end of the evening, I casually mentioned his name and her name, how maybe they should meet.

Maybe electricity was in the air, maybe the moon was full, maybe the angels were listening, as minds conceived possibilities, and my neighbor and my friend planned to introduce him and her. In a couple of weeks,  the boy met the girl, and sitting at our kitchen table they got acquainted. During Bible study, while the rest of the women in the other room listened to Beth Moore talking about Believing God on DVD, he asked for her phone number.

That was about a year and a half ago. Yesterday they married.

I marvel at how this all came to be, how God orchestrated the plan, how He uses people to accomplish His purposes.

We offered our home, a place of gathering, a time to share the good gifts God gave us.

Some people hinted at giving us credit for this union of husband and wife, but we had nothing to do with the couple’s attraction to one another, to their budding relationship, their eventual falling in love and promise of commitment, or the hand of God all over it.

We simply opened the door to our house and said “Come in. You are welcome here.” It is that simple and simply that. When we offer what we have in the name of Jesus, He takes it as fish and bread and multiplies it to meet the need, to feed the hungry, and to bring people together in ways we cannot imagine.

The gifts God lavishes on us are not meant to be hoarded and kept to ourselves. They are meant to be shared. We give what we’ve been given, opening our hands and our hearts, allowing Him to perform wonders of His love.

What is in your hand? It may appear insignificant or small. You may wonder what good it can be. You may not think what you do is having an impact. But it could be you are an instrument in God’s hand, a pencil He is using to write His story.

What is in your hand? Give that. Leave the rest to Him to create the masterpiece.

Sunday grace.

Tuesday thoughts

A text on a Sunday morning, read between band practice and the beginning of service, sets my head to spinning. Someone is in the hospital. It’s serious.

Sweet William and I go as soon as we can. We see the grave faces of the family, observe the mechanics of the ICU room, and gaze upon the stillness of our friend.

There is nothing we can do but offer love and prayer and our presence.

By the next morning, I hear of his passing. Another death in so few months. And I am broken open by a broken world where death comes without warning and life feels too short. I wonder how I am to live with the reality that all of us face the same end?

What is life about here on an earth that groans with its own longing as if in the pains of childbirth? I groan with it, eagerly waiting for the perfection of all things when tears will be wiped away forever.

I experience what is common to all. Birth. Death. And in between are a multitude of experiences, joyous as well as heart-rending. What is the purpose?

I’m full of questions without answers.

I remember Paul’s words how the resurrection of Christ is our hope in a world of hurt. If we do not know that reality, we live in misery, without expecting anything better. We live futilely looking for meaning when there is sickness, pain, and death all around.

While living is radiant, joyous, abounding in good things, gifts from a benevolent God, there is the harsh reality of suffering and we are left wondering. In our hearts we know it isn’t supposed to be this way. We feel the call to the flawless Eden when God made everything and called it good, very good.

So we exist in the in-between of Eden and Heaven, with eternity set in our hearts drawing us to a higher and better place, where beauty exceeds our imaginations, where music is more splendid than we’ve ever heard, where suffering no longer exists and love permeates everything with an eternal light.

We wait for that glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We wait for all things to be fulfilled as God has ordained. The plan is beyond me. I cannot fathom in my finite mind what He is doing. But I know without a doubt He is working all things according to His excellent plan, and I rejoice and find comfort that I am part of His plan.

Until I understand more, I am told to trust. Believe. See His glory. Even when it is shrouded by a cloud of darkness and I tremble to approach. God dwells in light but He is also in our darkest nights. He never leaves us in our heartbroken estate. He is with us even then.

Yes, even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, again and again, I know my Good Shepherd will be with me. I do not need to be afraid.

I look upward to the heavens, watch the clouds begin to mist away as blue sky appears. Even the blackest of night gives way to dawn’s radiance.

The morning will come. And it will be magnificently triumphant.

Photo by MaRanda Green

Sunday grace

The day dawned magnificently, after rain and lower temperatures that enticed me into long sleeves.

With coffee cup in hand, I headed to the car, driving the miles to a long-awaited promise. The sky boasted shades of red and pink as the sun broke into the night, and my heart was eager for the day.

Parking my car, I walked to the church with Psalm 103 on my lips.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
 Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,
 Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.


I was greeted by the women, beautiful women who had set their alarms early to arrive ahead of the crowd, who came to serve with smiles on their faces. And the joy of the Lord shone round about.

We came for Cultivate, to hear Kelly Minter teach from passages of Matthew 8 and 9, stories familiar to any who had grown up in the church. But today they were fresh, new, breathing, because the Word of God is active and living, its razor sharp edges penetrating my soul and spirit, judging the intents of my heart. I marked my Bible and took pages of notes so I wouldn’t forget.

We praised and worshiped in song with hearts and hands lifted to the only One worthy of our adoration. The music was a tender balm to my weariness. Tears washed my eyes so I could see Jesus.

At lunch I chatted with friends young and older, enjoying the fellowship of women who are dear to me. Smiles radiated on faces as we savored the experience of this day in August. Hugs were part and parcel to the love we felt.

Time flew and I was not ready for it to be over. Had we really been there seven hours? It didn’t feel like it, this taste of heaven’s atmosphere where God’s daughters are in one accord, bound together in unity and purpose.

What made the difference in this day among other days? I’ve pondered that.

We planned, prepared and prayed for it. We did our homework through Kelly’s Bible studies through the years. We were expectant and hopeful, desiring a fresh touch from our Father. We came with our hands open to receive.

And He did not disappoint. His glory was all around, and we opened our eyes to see it.

Is it possible I might experience God like this more than just one special day in a year? Is it me who holds back from receiving all He wants to give? Am I too busy with lesser things to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith? Do I prioritize time with Him and open my eyes to behold wondrous things from His Word? Do I put His commands in practice, keeping a humble, submissive heart?

Can I really have as much of God as I want? Didn’t my Father once tell me to believe and see the glory of God? And didn’t He prove faithful to His promise? Yes He did!

Then I shall believe and expect to see Him.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

We sat across from each other in the restaurant, cups steaming with our hot beverages. We talked as friends, sharing the details of life, catching up months of intricacies and essentials. It had been too long since we communed like this.

She told me about opening her home to neighbors, friends, people in general, and I listened, wondering how she did this so easily, so lovingly, so Christ-like. I’ve benefited from her gift of hospitality on many occasions, how she does it with ease, an open heart and an open home.

I pulled out of the parking lot with those thoughts lingering, asking myself if I could do that. Could I throw open the doors and invite the needy in?

It’s much easier to welcome friends, companions, those who share common ground. It’s not as threatening when I am familiar with the faces around my table and we chit chat. But what about the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphans, those less like me? What about those who are too troubled for me to offer an easy remedy?

Yet, aren’t they the ones God bids me to love? Isn’t that the way He loves me?

The call came late in the evening, from one with whom communication is mainly via text and cell phone. She asked if she could come spend the weekend, and the intonation of the words told me there was something more to the phrases she used.

In a vulnerability I don’t often have myself, she said she needed a place to stay for a couple of days, a safe place. After asking more questions and seeking Sweet William’s insight, knowing his perception is often better than mine, I said, “Yes. Come.”

She arrived with her baggage and burdens, her tears and her hurts. We opened the door when she knocked and said, “Welcome.”

That night as I lay in bed, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to fill this house and fill our hearts, the very Presence of peace who brings comfort in chaos and provides shelter in storms. The Host who embodies the glad welcome and complete acceptance, was abiding with us.

My own heart opened a little bit wider. And it was all grace.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

December entered with grace, Sweet William and I having been invited to spend a gloomy, rainy afternoon with friends who feel like family. We have history together. We remember the years ago when their children and our grandchildren were young, when we worshiped together at another church, when this important relationship first began.

Their home was warm and inviting. The atmosphere of Christmas had arrived, and I pleasured looking about at her lovely decorations, especially the exquisite Nativity set taking a prominent position in this house.

We ate a simple yet delicious lunch. Dessert was chocolate cake from her grandmother’s recipe. The men moved to the living room to finish watching the basketball game, while she and I remained at the table, sweet tea glasses refilled. We talked as long-time friends will, remembering the past and catching up with the present.

We’ve shared prayer requests, she and I, us wondering at God’s ways, marveling at His answers. She has encouraged me to trust when the way was dark. I’ve confided some deep secrets and struggles, and she does not judge or condemn. We continue to pray for one another and our families, because this is the law of Christ. To love one another.

Whether I finish my Christmas decorations or not, of this I am sure: the people with whom God has graced my life are the true adornment.  I am a wealthy woman because of the friends who choose to love me. And I get to love them back. What joy!

“The ornament of a house is the people who frequent it.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is grace indeed. That Love came down to be with us, to be in us. The gift of Christmas.

Sunday grace.

Christmas-Ribbon-Tree

 

October ending 2018

October is two days gone and I’m already behind. It’s like being on a speeding locomotive, the months of this year moving so quickly. Before I twirl around a couple of times I will have whizzed through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it will be next year. Stop! Slow down, please.

fall

Kentucky weather is interesting if nothing else. I had to grab my corduroy coat, complete with scarf, hat, and gloves for my morning walk in October. Maisie wore her purple “Woof” sweater. It was way too soon for both of us.

woof sweaterThe few days that were warm enough for me to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee were especially enjoyable, maybe because they were rare. Isn’t it like us to finally appreciate  what we’ve had a-plenty but now long for? We become satiated and lose the enjoyment of the abundance we possess.

Having dismissed the yard work for the season, I did plant a couple of tiny trees in my cousin’s yard. It’s what I can do for her and her husband after a summer of dealing with illness and recovery. I’m praying those little saplings dig their roots deep into the earth and flourish next spring. New life speaks the language of hope.

Sometimes in our enthusiasm, we want to do great things for God, large and far-reaching. With the wisdom only living gives, I perceive it is in doing the simple and ordinary that we descern the pleasure of God. “Do what is in front of you.” “Do what you can with the gifts you have.” “Do the small things well with love.” Yes, that is the guidance presented to me.

I got to visit my younger friend in an adjoining county. Going alone this time, I was quite confident with my trusty Gypsy (GPS) telling me where to turn. Even at her directions, I passed the drive to my friend’s house, which happens every single time. The trees and telephone poles all look the same along that stretch of highway.

Arriving at her house, she showed me her latest project. She’s always got one in progress. Her home is comfortable and beautifully decorated. We ate and chatted about family, faith and things familiar to us until it was time for me to go. I’m so thankful she reached out to me a couple of years ago, just a message on Facebook that lead to a connection and friendship. God does amazing things when we are open to His leading and then open our hearts.

The book most impacting me this month was Hiding in the Light , autobiography by Rifqa Bary. Her story was in the news in 2009, a Muslim teenager who found Jesus as her Savior, with the resulting conflict in her family. It was a gripping story, a glimpse into a different faith and a young woman’s courage, and a striking contrast of God’s grace. Highly recommended.

Sweet William and I played old hymns at a dinner for the widows at church. It was an elegant and detailed event to bless the women and show them love and support. The songs stirred up memories for all of us, I think.

It was satisfying to be at the keyboard and guitar once again. There were years Sweet William and I joined the band every single Sunday, playing loud, playing long, worshiping God with the gifts He gave us. We reminisce about those good years of serving, how our hearts were tuned in to the worship, how the Lord showed up in our praise and blessed as the Spirit moved among us.

There’s one song I’ve been remembering and singing. My favorite version of “Ain’t No Grave” is by Russ Taff. His excitement is contagious, and I want to celebrate with him. I notice that when I talk of my age I’m speaking in decades now. My years are adding up swiftly, and I’m trying to come to grips with its brevity.

My body feels the affect of living long in a broken world. I move slower. I am concerned about balance and the risk of falling. I pray to stay strong and for my knees to last. I do things I hope will keep my mind sharp. I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned through books and experience.

If Jesus tarries coming for His bride, one day my life here will be over and I will go by way of the grave. There’s no fear or concern in that. I’ve rested my hope in a risen Savior who defeated death and handed that victory to me. It will be glory. And there “ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down!”

Bible study has been a major part of the last two months.  The women who gathered at our table each week, have no idea how they bless me. We are hungry to know God, stretching our faith to Believe Him. I’m coming out of this study richer for the fellowship as we journeyed together. We bond as we open God’s Word and share our hearts with each other.

The month of October has been busier than usual. I’m still trying to figure out why, hoping to plan a quieter, less stressed November. I think it is possible, even in a culture that presses me to believe enough is not really enough.

Time has limits, the same as my body, my finances, my resources, my years.  Autumn reminds me to slow, to observe, to turn loose, to draw upon the blessedness of my existence and believe my Creator has it all in His hands. Contentment continues to call me with an alluring voice. “Come, be filled with joy in the abundance of God’s bountiful gifts.”

He is good. He is strong. He is enough.

 

fall lane