Archives

Sunday grace

According to Webster’s dictionary, normal is defined as:  the usual, average, or typical state or condition.

It certainly does not describe what I’m living now. As I think of it, how often has my “normal” changed?

When I left my parents’ home to marry Sweet William, I learned a new normal. When I became a mother, life was never the same again. That role evolved many times and always into a completely new normal. When life took turns in an unexpected direction and I was faced with impossible uphill climbs,  I stretched and prayed to learn normal once again.

See the source image

 

I am here once more. While my days of confinement have become somewhat predictable, the world outside is morphing almost daily. I’m trying to learn new ways of doing things, adapting to my situation, while trying to keep a positive outlook that this self-distancing, COVID-19, uncommon spring season will eventually become a memory.

One thing we can count on as a constant. There will always be change.

But there is more I count on. In fact, I build my life and future on the truth I read in Scripture. God is in control when the world is spinning unrestrained. He is good even when life is not. He is strong and able to meet every need of every person who calls on Him. He has not forsaken us.

The Father is compassionate and gracious, sending fresh mercies at every sunrise. He has set the universe in order, and time continues according to His plan.

He shares His love with humans and gives them supernatural Holy Spirit power to love when we are wounded, to forgive when we are mistreated, to bend the knee and serve the least to the greatest.

As we enter the weeks before Palm Sunday, Passover, and Resurrection Day, the story that is ancient becomes relevant and contemporary. The gospel message is unchanging. God loved all people and Jesus came to die and pay the debt of sin. Those who believe and accept the gift of salvation inherit eternal life.

It is a changeless message of hope. God is love. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived. He died. He arose to immortality and offers it to me.

Some things just don’t change.

While we wait

I’m in a waiting period. I think a lot of you are too.

The small wipe-off board I used to list our weekly activities is uncommonly blank, except for the dates. It’s never like that. 

It is strange, this social distancing, a word now unique to 2020 and one we will remember, I bet. Each day presents challenges, news updates and directives from our government. Every blog that presents in my in-box has something to say about coronavirus. I question how to do this life while we confine ourselves for an undetermined period.

Everyone isn’t confined, and I’m thankful for healthcare workers and first responders and the UPS employees who keep delivering our packages. Mail is deposited in my box each day, and I count it a gift.

I count the gifts of people who text to check on us, asking if we need anything. We are in the high-risk category of over 60 years old and determined to stay where we are. Younger friends asked if we are OK, can they do something, offering to bring supplies to our front door and leave them on the porch. We are touched by such kindness, and we feel loved.

Each day I talk with two of my cousins, one by phone, and one at her house down our lane, careful to keep at least three feet between us. I check on my neighbors, and they are much like me, home bound. I text my family members to see how they are faring during complex days. We try to be hopeful, cheerful, look for the bright side.

While this is a serious situation that I don’t discount, I appreciate humor where I can get it. Sometimes I really do LOL, laugh out loud, at something on Facebook or TV, and it does me good, like medicine.

I have a stack of good books and time to read them now. I hope the temperature rises. I could use a little sunshine so I can work in the garden and feel productive. The fresh air will be good for me.

A friend who is working her job remotely texted a request for some recipes. She is home with her husband and children and wants to make something good to eat. I sent her four tested recipes, with options to make them her own, according to her family’s tastes. Good food is satisfying to body and soul.

A couple of days ago I fed my sour dough starter and baked whole wheat bread. Sweet William and I ate it hot with butter melting in its crevices.

My neighbor who lives in the house next door texted that she was venturing to the grocery and did we need anything. I love her even more for asking. Her little guy, almost six, delivered some fruit and cream for our coffee, and I sent him home with a loaf of still-warm bread, a little thank you for caring about us.

Sweet William and I are practicing a song together on piano and guitar. We played it years ago at a friend’s wedding. It’s a difficult piece, and we struggle with it. But we have the time to re-learn it in these days of waiting.

The season of lent continues, and my early morning quiet time draws me to truth as I read of Jesus’s last days on this earth. I am reassured, knowing this was planned before galaxies were constructed, before I was born, before 2020 presented us with COVID-19.

As the trees bloom white in our little woods and I gather daffodils from the yard to cheer to the house, the earth moves in its designed path toward spring. If the clouds clear away, I will see the moon waning as she makes her  circular path toward hiding. Daylight appears each morning even when the sun is overcast. Birds sing and frogs croak, and the month of March is much like each one I’ve known and yet it isn’t.

This I know, there is a God in heaven who is watching His world and His children. He is aware and involved and working His good will in and among us. Kindness and love are His evidence.

In our waiting, let’s keep the faith. Be humble and kind. Look for the good and count blessings. Laugh out loud. Say “I love you” every chance you get. Stay in touch with those who are socially distanced from you. Pray for our leaders as they try to do their best for our country.

Trust the One who knows exactly what He is about in our world. Believe He will care for us like the sparrow. He loves us more than we know.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?    — Luke 12:6

Growing fruit

Recently, I began thinking about  the Fruit of the Spirit, wondering what would happen if I focused on one of the nine components each day. I had to get creative to divide them into seven days a week. Here’s what I came up with.

Sunday – Faithfulness
Monday – Gentleness
Tuesday – Self-Control
Wednesday – Joy
Thursday – Peace
Friday – Patience
Saturday – Goodness and Kindness

And Love over all.

In the early morning quiet time, I look at my categories and write the word in my journal to help me focus on it during the day.

I understand that it is the Spirit in me working His beauty and grace causing His fruit to grow in me. I cannot conjure up these attributes myself, all by myself, in my own strength. I am aware that it is God working in me, giving me the desire as well as the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13).

I think of it like crocuses in my yard. They lie invisible and sleeping under ground all winter. Then the weather begins to warm and sunshine lasts a little longer each day. Suddenly the crocuses beside my front steps appear, surprising me every time. They are there under the ground, and so they grow.

There is a volunteer apple tree in the yard, noticed by my dad many years ago, marked and protected from the mower. It grew and eventually produced fruit. It’s an apple tree so it brings forth apples.

Perhaps the fruit God wants to produce is something like that, lying dormant in me but still pulsing with His life. As He works in me and I cooperate with Him, the fruit grows and I’m hardly aware of the process.

As I focus on the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit, I pray to be fertile soil, a willing vessel. I become more conscious of what the Lord is doing in me. The Spirit quickens my spirit to awaken me when I have wrong attitudes and sinful actions.

When I bear fruit, I resemble the One who created me, the One who gave His life for me. And I want to be like Jesus. Oh Lord help! I don’t always know how to do that, but I do know I need His help.

I trust that He is working in all things, tilling the ground, removing weeds, pruning and feeding, watering with the Word, encouraging new growth.  

He is God over the growing season of my days, determined to produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. On the day of Christ Jesus, I hope for a bountiful harvest knowing the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Sunday grace

I’m a small girl, swinging my legs back and forth under the pew at the big church. My mother and father are on either side of me.  Familiar faces surround me.  The organ plays strong and the piano accompanies as the leader at the front sings,

I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.

And my tender child-heart surrendered what I knew of myself to Jesus. I didn’t understand theology and complicated doctrines. I only understood that Jesus loved me, for the Bible told me so.

I grew older.  My feet touched the floor as I sat up straight and listened to the sermon.  Again, I heard the invitation, “Surrender.  All.”  I left my comfortable place on the pew and went forward to kneel at the altar.  I wept and surrendered.  I thought it was my all.

It seems I’ve surrendered a lot to the Father’s entreating, and each time I think it is everything.

It is the gentle way of our Lord to call for another surrender and another as He reveals my heart to me and says, “Do you love me more than these?”

I don’t always understand the ways of the Spirit.  He is mysterious.  He is patient and persistent.  He is full of grace.  He is tenacious and unrelenting, unwilling to let me stay the way I am when there is so much more.  There is abundant life in Him, fullness of joy, and He wants that for me.  He invites to me to come further still into the place of His perfect will. That requires my surrender.

I want that too. The full-to-overflowing life where I abide in Jesus and His words abide in me and communion is sweet. The place where He walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own. Ah, the joys we’ll share.

But sometimes this alludes me. I am caught up with the cares of life, busy schedules, lots to do and time feels fleeting. I think I have to do it all and that it all depends on me, and what would happen if I lost control?

I hear it once more, the call to surrender.
Turn loose.
Quiet frantic thoughts.
Fear not.
Follow Me.
Be still.
Rest.

Once more, I bow to His will and relinquish.

I consider the life Jesus lived in complete submission to the Father’s will. The way to the cross would be horrendous, yet He walked it with purpose and acceptance. He yielded, even as He took His final breath, “Father, into Your hands I comment my spirit.” 

And so today, I surrender again.  I surrender all that is in my hand and all my hand reaches for, all my heart’s longings, all my hopes and dreams, my today and my tomorrow.  I surrender all.

Tomorrow I will do it again.

So it begins

The tradition of faith in which I was raised did not celebrate Lent. I hardly knew anything about it until in my fifties I was employed as pianist at the Methodist church in my home town.

It was a time of transition for me, a hard season when I carried a weight of sorrow. God sent me to that small congregation of loving people who built up my confidence, lavished me with love, and made me feel like a person.

While the traditional services were very different than my upbringing, I determined to enter into their style of worship with a whole heart. It was within this community that I learned about Lent.

The first year I was an observer. The second year I participated and gave up critical words, which I thought wouldn’t be that hard. I learned differently, finding my heart could be very critical even when I didn’t speak the words. It was a soul-searching experience.

I no longer attend that small church, but I carry with me a wealth of learning and love from my time there and the wisdom of the practice of Lent.

On this first day of the Lenten season for 2020, I contemplate how I can focus on Jesus’ journey toward Calvary’s cross. During the weeks leading us to Resurrection Sunday, I want to be intentional in opening my heart to the message that God was willing to pay my debt of sin, all because of love.

At Christmas we celebrate the God-man’s coming to earth with bright decorations, presents, family gatherings, and joy.

At Easter we celebrate life after death, defeat of the grave, miracles and wonders.

Lent is the in-between time, an arrow pointing us to Jesus’ determined journey toward Jerusalem, knowing His death was imminent. He would experience undeserved cruel and unusual punishment. He would be denied, abandoned, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested, beaten, mocked, sentenced without a just trial, and led to his death.

The gospels give priority to the final weeks of Jesus’ life. There are details of the last meal with his close companions, the disciples. His trial and execution are reported thoroughly.

It would seem we should pay special attention. Can we do that together, pay special attention to what undoubtedly deserves our thoughtful consideration?

Each person will choose how to do that, whether by giving up something, adding to your daily spiritual practice, or simply noticing what is already a present activity. The purpose will be to remind us of the enormous and costly price our Lord paid for us, how His love for the souls of this world is beyond our comprehension, and that His sacrifice calls us to make a decision. The decision is to accept Him or not.

No other religion in the world offers grace like this. No other doctrine provides an eternal sacrifice for the sins of the world, for my sins. No one ever loved me like Jesus.

Will you join me on the journey to the cross?

We will meet here on Sundays and Wednesdays. I hope you will come along side. We can do this together.

Sunday grace

I’ve long been partial to the verses in Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

Admittedly, sometimes I trust sparingly, and I don’t recognize God’s faithfulness in the middle of my mess. When I view life in hindsight, I see His ways written all over my story, His creative working in and through it all. My faith grows at the looking back, His love and mercy in full view.

His faithfulness is great, stunning, ever constant and certain, unlike me, who is sometimes faithless in spite of my best effort. I learn to trust by trusting when I can’t understand my circumstances. I learn to walk with God by walking with Him in the dark as well as the light. I learn He is faithful when the road is hard and I can’t see my way. I learn His word is true and He means what He says every single time.

It seems simple enough. Why do I make it hard?

The supply of new mercies each morning allures me, perhaps because the best part of my day is morning. The next twenty-four hours offer a do-over, potential and opportunity.

I enjoy starting slowing, the way I sip my coffee. Life is meant to be savored, but often we gulp it, swallowing hard to get done with this so we can move on to that.

I wonder why Jeremiah expressed the verse like he did. Why are mercies new every morning instead of having a storehouse full? Is mercy like manna, meant to be sought daily, gathering enough to sustain me a day at a time? If I considered that I had plenty, would I seek my Savior when morning rolls around again?

The Scripture assures me, that just like the manna, there will be enough compassion, kindness, forgiveness, generosity and favor from a bountiful Father who offers mercy to me today.

He is the source of all I need, no matter what shape it takes. He daily loads me with benefits. He gives more than enough.

God’s promise of His presence with His people, His ultimate mercy, weaves beautiful strands through the story of human history. He came and lived among us for awhile, in the form of a Son, a physical reality of a promised covenant.

It is an amazing grace and a beautiful declaration.

His mercies are new every morning.

Sunday grace.





Sunday grace

From my window, I watch the rosey glow appear at the edge of trees, a new morning heralding its coming.

It is early for a walk, still I get my coat and scarf. This day calls me. I grab the pink leash and invite Maisie to join me.

Light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.
(John 1:5 NET)

Outside, I hope for a world yet to awaken, a stillness unbroken. I hear the faint call of a bird in the little woods and the tinkling of Maisie’s collar as we move along. The lake is like unbroken glass.

But soon I hear the noise of traffic on a nearby roadway. Already humanity is up and about their business, heading to myriad destinations, the rhythm of tires on pavement breaking the tranquil moments I crave.

Listening is my objective. Learning to do it better is the goal in this new year. Listen to my heart. Listen to the voice of the Spirit. Listen and learn.

Much of my life I’ve been a head listener, doing what seemed appropriate, what was asked of me, what was necessary. I don’t regret being a dependable person. It has served me and others.

Life made choices for me, I think, events and circumstances beyond my control, prescribing my decisions and the next step. Though not of my choosing, I walked forward in what I had to do.

I may have ignored my heart sometimes, quieting its gentle voice amidst a roar of responsibility. I want to know what my heart has to say. It speaks softly, like the trill of the bird in the little woods. The clamor of a harried world, a busy schedule, and a distracted mind can drown out the inner prompting that tries to be heard above the noisy din.

I’ve repeated this to myself: Do what you’re called to do, and don’t do what someone else is called to do. In my efficient super-power suit, I may have taken on someone else’s role a time or two, only to regret it later.

It’s about time I listened to my own heart, recognize my passion and walk in my calling. I am not to compare it to another. It shall not be considered bigger or smaller, overly important or inconsequential.

Life can feel like a desert wander or a directed path. It is both. The journey is steep bluffs, rocky paths, uphill climbs, and it is green fields, restful streams, surprising rainbows.

The path God has purposed for me is unique. He planned it and tenderly draws me back to it should I stray. He intends that I walk it with Him. He is the light that shines in the darkness. His voice will be heard above all others, though it be still and small. My heart will hear it.

What lies ahead could be my biggest adventure, my best learning curve, and my greatest miracle.

A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.
(Psalm 37:23)

Photo by Elena Walls