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Sunday grace

There is tension in the world and I’m very uncomfortable with it all.

My enneagram number is Nine, categorized as the peacemaker, the one who avoids conflict at all costs, who just wants everyone to get along. If Nine were symbolized as an animal, it would be a golden retriever, wagging its tail and wanting to be friends with everyone.

I’ve distanced myself from the news and social media after days of too much information, dark threatening words, and anger that morphs into hatred. I want everyone to get along.

But that is not the world where I live. It never has been. Conflict existed the day Cain met his brother Able in a field. There were wars and rumors of wars since people groups settled into their own communities and discovered that their neighbors were not like them.

I’ve listened to podcasts and read blog posts about the racial divide. I’ve heard sermons and people of all colors give opinions about the direction we need to go. No one has the answer, though some think they do.

I was a child when I first became aware of integration in my small corner of the world. I remember the first time I saw a black couple sitting in our family’s favorite restaurant. They were dressed in their Sunday best, like we were, and I thought they must have been to church, like us.

I once worked for a company whose staff were mostly white. Phyllis and I were at opposite ends of the building, but we found each other and built a relationship. We met early in the morning and in the break room for coffee, talking about our lives, our children, our faith.

I remember the difference in our hair texture and the contrast of her skin next to mine. It didn’t matter to either of us. We shared a kinship and we were friends.

The one and only son of ours went to college. He roomed with a young man named Michael. He was our son’s best man at his wedding. He stayed at our house and with great delight rode Sweet William’s lawn tractor. He calls me his other mother. Michael is African American.

We used to visit the church where my son and his family attended when they still lived in our city. The first time there, I noticed the diverse races, how they shared in ministry and worship responsibilities. We were welcomed, and I loved the atmosphere of acceptance and the brother/sister-hood of the family of God.

The people who live in the house next door combine four different cultures in their veins. I feel sure they were hand-picked by Jesus to be our neighbors. We’ve adopted each other and they call us Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill. They are a gift to Sweet William and me.

A woman younger than me lives nearby. She was born in another country; she is bi-lingual. She came to the United States, studied for citizenship, and is currently working to complete her college degree. She is a daughter of my heart, and I love spending time with her. When I ask her to pray, she does so in her native language, and I listen for words I recognize.

People I love are different from me.

I’ve checked on my friends during the chaos of demonstrations and riots. I’ve also message people who have police officers in their families. I’m concerned. Society can turn on the winds of public opinion, naming and blaming, dividing rather than healing.

I want to listen to people’s stories, try to understand what it’s like to live as a minority. I’ve checked out books from my library by black authors, reading to see and hear and be sensitive to the pain.

I pray for our president and leaders. They have an unspeakably difficult task. They will never be able to please all the people. There is no simple solution.

When Adam and Eve chose to ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they got what they desired – the knowledge to create good and to destroy viciously. Pandora’s box opened, and they were no longer led by a peaceful and loving spirit. Thy exhaled the breath of God and inhaled something else. We still breathe the same air.

As I walk among my gardens, I see weeds popping up. It is a continual fight to keep them from taking over what I’ve worked so hard to make beautiful. I deal daily with the curse of the fall of man. It is a fight to keep peace and love in the world when sin is always present.

There is One who gives peace in the conflict, One who calms the storm of our inner turmoil. On the night of Jesus’ birth into our world, the angel army proclaimed peace on earth and good will to men. I think the angels knew it was full out war in the heavenlies.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to be peacemakers and to love people. We are called to be comforters and encouragers. This is our battle cry.

Jesus compels us to love our neighbors, to go the extra mile, to show kindness and compassion, to love justice and show mercy.

We need love to invade our hearts, our homes, our city streets, our nation’s capital. This is a costly love emanating from God the Father who sacrificed Himself for the hearts of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This love is active. It takes risks.

God’s love changes hearts. Jesus is the way of peace. Let us pray to walk with Him, invite others on the journey and breathe in the life-giving breath of His Spirit.

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

Sunday grace

Do you know what’s under your house?

Sweet William and I had work done in the dark recesses under our old Kentucky home recently. It was quite costly and a bit stressful, I might add.

We knew there was a problem a year ago. But sometimes I prefer to live in an imaginary happy place resembling Oz with it’s yellow-brick roads, dancing Munchkins, and poppy fields. Let me pretend all is right with my world, if only for a little while.

It’s easy to ignore what is concealed in the shadows under the house.

Ignoring a problem will not make it disappear. After our contractor worked for days, finding more issues than we imagined, and me writing checks while I breathed heavily, the situation is resolved, and the air in the house smells fresh when I walk in the door.

Why did we wait so long? Who knows. Money factored into it, and I didn’t want to deal with the discomfort. But putting it off possibly made the problem worse.

This is not just a home-ownership issue. My inner life suffers in a similar way.

Becoming aware of an interior dilemma, sometimes I chose to bury it. In the words of Scarlet O’Hara, I prefer to “think about it tomorrow.” I struggle with choices, delaying the inevitable.

And so I wait. Until a more convenient time, when circumstances my be better, while hoping it might disappear altogether.

But usually a problem does not go away quietly.

It has a way of hounding me, resurfacing in my thoughts, looking for a chink to slip through and shout, “I’m still here. Do something.”

I don’t want to be ignorant and call it bliss.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit will not allow me to bury, hide, or sidestep what needs to be brought into the light. He keeps reminding me, whispering that He can help with what troubles me. It is His specialty.

And so I pray:

Come Holy Spirit.
Shine Your love in the hidden places where sin and fear hide.
Open the windows of my heart.
Let the fresh breezes of the breath of God flow freely.
Cleanse me of dark secrets that fester.
Pour your healing balm on what hurts.
Let me walk in freedom where joy is my companion.
In Jesus sweet name.

Sunday grace

Rising earlier than usual, the stillness envelopes me. The house is warm with the season of spring, needing no furnace or gas logs. I open the window next to my chair, and the distant sound of birdsong filters in. It’s too soon for the winged creatures to begin their pre-dawn chorus. And yet, there is one, out in the little woods, and he sings to me.

Sweet William breathes the heaviness of sleep in the back bedroom. Maisie checks that I am OK, then trots back to bed, her sleep-in habit.

The morning quiet is mine alone.

After awhile, I hear a sound, in the wind, in the trees. It’s the sound of rain in the distance. Did I miss that weather prediction? I listen carefully because I know the music of raindrops.

Memory takes me to decades before when I sat on the upper deck of my parents’ house, us facing the west, watching as the dark clouds hung low and rain moved toward us, over the hills into the field beyond until the spattered drops were heard on the tin roof above us.

It’s a sweet remembrance, me a young mom sitting with my mother and dad talking about whatever was on our minds. I shared a lot with them in those days, but I still kept a certain part of me hidden. Things that seemed unsolvable were closed off from everyone, kept under lock and key lest anyone might know what really troubled my heart.

Those hidden parts would be the death of me.

Another memory invades my thoughts. This time in a room other than my own, displaced and fearful of the future. An open window near a borrowed bed and somewhere a bird sang through the night. Its melody brought comfort to a weary mind, me with the uncertain days ahead, with a taunting fear rearing its ugly head.

In the middle of that torment, my Heavenly Father sent a bird to sing me to sleep.

Eventually, the doors of my secrets were pried open. Brought into the light, a gentle Savior would reach for all of it with a promise of restoration. “Believe and see the glory of God,” He whispered into my tears.

It took time for healing, for broken things to be repaired, for beauty to come from ashes. It took hard work, confession and forgiveness, a path turned in a different direction.

The sound of bird and patter of rain remind me that God is always near, always working, always has a plan.

And His glory is revealed in the song of a bird and the sound of the rain.

Sunday grace.

Welcome to our world

Christmas-Ribbon-Tree

Invisible put on flesh and bone.

Spirit came as helpless baby.

Immortal was mortal for a season.

The Ancient of Days constrained Himself to time and space.

Infinite God was made into infant Son.

The Sacred became the Sacrifice.

The miraculous Being remained a miracle.

And we still behold His glory.

Welcome Holy Child Jesus to our broken world, our broken hearts.

Mend us as only You can.

Come and make your home in us.  Today.

Search me oh God

Day 10 of 40 Days to Passover and Resurrection Weekend

Examine your heart daily. “Search me O Lord and know my heart. Try me and see if
there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139: 23-24).

O my Father who is Heaven and who came to earth as the Son,

Your name is holy and righteous and glorious and good.

You rule in Heaven; I invite you to rule in my heart.

I submit to your will.

O God, come and search the deepest part of me where no one else can see.

You know the secrets in my heart and you test my thoughts.

You have examined me, and You know everything about me.

Point out anything you find there that makes you sad,

things like unforgiveness, envy, bitterness, hatred, lust, pride.  I could go on.

Create in me a brand new, clean heart, O God.

Fill it with clean thoughts and right desires.

Sprinkle me once again with the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Wash away the stains of sin and I shall be whiter than snow. 

Your grace is more than enough and you promised You would never leave me nor forsake me.

You said your Holy Spirit would  always be with me and would teach me how to live pleasing to you.

I’m counting on those promises.

Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make my heart a willing servant to always obey you. 

Lead me along the path of holiness and everlasting life.

In the name of Your Son who gave His all for me, Amen.

(taken from selected Scriptures)

Won’t you join us on this 40-day journey?  

If you would like to download a copy of the “40 Days to Passover and Resurrection Weekend, please do so.

And let us know you are journeying with us.

40 days to Passover download

Passover preparation and spring cleaning

 Passover is probably the most widely celebrated Jewish festival. It is a festival of freedom and is intensely personal for each individual.

Preparation for Passover begins with a thorough cleansing of the house, mainly to remove all leavening agents (Exodus 12:19), whether it is in their cookies or bread, or boxes of baking powder in the pantry. During the Passover meal and for seven days thereafter, nothing containing any leaven is to be eaten. This is the Feast of Unleavened Bread as told in Exodus 13:6.

Some homes have special dishes and cookware that are only used during the Passover season. The everyday things are put away.

On the night before Passover, a traditional hunt for any final crumbs of leavening is conducted by the father of the house and his children. Mother has purposely left out some crumbs for them to find. When they discover the crumbs, they sweep them with a feather into a wooden spoon, wrap it in a napkin and burn it. In some communities, there is a bonfire where families come to burn their final bits of leavening. With this accomplished, the house is now ceremonially cleansed.

Jesus talked about leavening being corruption of the heart. Even a little is dangerous. We cannot flirt with the world or continually taste of a little sin and expect to walk away unaffected. A little leaven puffs up a whole batch of dough. A little sin, left confessed, can spoil the soul.   And it influences those around us whether we like  it or not. 

Let us examine ourselves daily and pray as Jesus taught us, “Forgive us our trespasses . . .”  Let us pray David’s prayer,

Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me . . . , (Psalm 139:23-24)

Paul warned us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1).

What is that keeps you from drawing closer to God? A habit that binds and controls? A relationship you know is not edifying but you cannot give up? A temptation that you did not run from and now it entangles you? A command you know you should obey but you simply won’t?

I cannot look into your heart. I can only look into mine. And so I pray,

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my sin to you and do not try to cover it up. I will confess my transgressions to You Lord. And You will forgive the guilt of my sin. I am blessed because my transgressions are forgiven and my sins covered.   (from Psalm 31 and 51)

Prepare me, O Lord, for the Passover, that my heart will be a cleansed and welcome place for Your Spirit.

Leaving February

 

I enjoyed the month of February with all its talk and posts about love. It gave me a chance remember important people in my life.

Then there was the sermon series, “Navigating the Storms of Life,” at Little Flock that got my attention and resonated with truth each Sunday. I found myself heading into a storm on February 15 when my Sweet William was suddenly thrust into open-heart surgery.

Now at the end of the month, I’m beginning to see some of the clouds disperse and a patch of blue sky peeking through. I guess that means I’m coming out of a storm. At least for now.

I was having a Facebook conversation last evening. You know the kind I mean. I type out my message, send it, then wait for a reply. It is a slow way to talk.

My FB friend is in the middle of a tornado-like storm, the warning sirens at full blast. It won’t be over for a while. All I can do is stay close, pray for her, and offer encouragement when I can.

I told her I have found that God speaks to me more clearly during the darkest of days, the hard roads, the tear-streaked seasons of my life. He seems nearer at those times, probably because I seek Him more often, praying without ceasing just to make it through the next hour. Perhaps my ears are more prone to listening to His words when I am broken and bruised.

Honestly, when I look back to those stormy seasons, I realize my faith grew. When I had nothing but God, I found that He was more than enough.

It helps me look with hopeful expectation toward the future. I can enjoy the clear-sky days. But I can also face the storm clouds that gather without fear. I have tested and found Him to be faithful, near and dear in the valley of the shadow as well as on top of the sun-shiny mountains.

So I bid February farewell. I will not pass this way again. But I will look back and see God’s hand written all over it.

A check-up for the soul

 

I went to the Lord’s Clinic to have a check-up. I was hoping to get a pat on the back for lots of good works and a “well done.” Instead it was confirmed I had some major health issues.

When Jesus took my blood pressure, He confirmed I was low in tenderness and compassion.

He took my temperature. The thermometer registered 102 degrees of anxiety.

He ran a heart catheterization and found I needed several bypasses since my arteries were blocked with envy and hatred.

Next I went to orthopedics, complaining of some pain in my legs. Jesus said I had not been bowing on my knees in prayer enough.

After an eye examine, Jesus told me I was shortsighted, not seeing past myself. There was also a tendency to magnify the shortcomings of my brothers and sisters. Plus there was this great big beam in my eye causing me to be very critical.

When I told Him about some deafness I was experiencing, the diagnosis was that my ears were stopped up with the world’s message. It was keeping me from hearing the Truth.

After the exam was complete, I asked about the bill and was shocked by how much it was. It was way beyond what I could pay. Then I heard the good news . It had already been paid by Jesus.

Jesus then took me aside for a consultation. He gave me His healing remedy which was in the shape of a cross.

He said I should call on Him frequently since He is available day and night, at just the whisper of His name. Why, He even makes house calls at all hours.

He gave me some instructions to follow each day. Here they are:

I absolutely must start exercising my faith on a daily basis.

Every morning, take a full glass of gratitude.

Before I leave the house, take a couple of large spoonsful of brotherly love.

Every hour, sip from the Fruit of the Spirit and receive doses of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At midday, drink one heaping glass of humility.

When getting home, take an extra dose of love for one another.

Before retiring, have a bedtime snack of the Bread of Life. Wash it down with an ample amount of the water of the Word.

When ready for bed, kneel and lay everything at Jesus feet. Then receive two caplets of a clear conscience.

For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Dear Readers, a sweet friend sent me something similar to this, and I made a few changes to it.  I do not know the originator, and I do not mean to commit plagiarism.  I wish to thank the author, whoever you are.  If you’re out there, please step forward.

I always enjoy hearing back from you.  Please leave a comment.

A little help from my friends

Yesterday did not go as I planned. 

My Sweet William and I went to Audubon Hospital for a scheduled heart catheterization on Bill’s heart.  I was hoping, expecting for something routine like a stint in a mildly blocked artery.  After the test, the doctor’s report did not meet my expectations.  One artery was completely blocked and two others were 80 percent blocked.  Open heart surgery was the only recommended option.

I’m glad there was a door frame on my immediate left for me to fall against.

We learned that the heart surgeon had an opening at 2:30 (sounds like making a hair appointment!).  Bill made the decision to go for it since he had not eaten or drank anything since the day before.  The next few hours were a flurry of medical tests and preparations for surgery.  I began making calls to family, friends, and coworkers.  My mind started mentally adjusting to this new information, changing all my plans for the next few days, even weeks.

Time and again as I talked with someone on the phone, he or she said, “Let me pray with you right now.”  And how I needed it.  I was trying to be calm and composed on the outside, to be strong for Bill; on the inside, however, I was crumbling into pieces.

My friend, Margie, had come at 8 am to be with me through the heart cath.  At the news of impending surgery, she set her mind to stay with me throughout the long day.

Two men from our Sunday School class, Paul and Ronnie, and a couple of my family members, Danny and Linda, had also been with us during the test.  They left and went home around 11 am.  When they heard surgery was imminent, all four of them returned in the afternoon, holding vigil with me.

Staff in the heart wing were divinely appointed to be there for us.  A man named Darrell helped to prepare Bill for surgery while they talked about the goodness of the Lord.  One of the surgical nurses told Bill she would say a prayer with him before he went under the anesthetic.

Thankfully, I did not have to walk this day alone.  People kept arriving, pastors, Little Flock staff, our Sunday School teacher and his wife, and more family.  Our son, Travis, his sweet Renee and the three grandchildren came bringing hugs and smiles.  My 89-year-old dad came rolling up in a wheelchair, pushed by my stepmother, Esther.  Calls came to me and to Travis, assuring us that prayers were being lifted up toward the throne of grace for a successful surgery for Bill and strength for us.

About 8 pm when surgery was over and the recovery room gave way to an intensive care room, we were allowed to see Bill, tubes and wires connected in so many places.  My dad said a short prayer.  Bill would spend the night being carefully monitor and attended.

As was recommended and urged by caring people, I went home to try to rest my weary body and mind in preparation for the long days that follow heart surgery.  I decided to briefly look at Facebook.  I was astonished to see so many comments from friends of mine, Travis’ and Renee’s saying they were praying for all  of us.  The messages kept me scrolling down the screen as I read each one.

It sometimes takes an event such as an emergency surgery to remind me what a vast circle of love encompasses us.  The promised prayers were lifting us up, giving us strength to endure, filling us with God’s love. 

A very profound thought comes from John 13:35.  It reads,

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other,” (The Message).

I stand as a witness to this truth.  God’s amazing plan was that we would need each other.  As His children, we love others because He first loved us.

Friends rally around when you are hurting.  They come, they care, they offer, they pray, they stay.  Tonight I feel so blessed to be the recipient of this kind of friendship, this kind of love.  It is God’s hand extended and one of the ways He makes Himself known in the world.