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Summer musings

When I open the back door to the deck to let Maisie out, I hear summer sounds, the cicadas singing in the trees. The birds finished their chorus hours earlier, gone now to other business, like searching for insects and pecking at the last seeds in the feeder. The squirrels will sneak their way up the deck railing later in the morning, and Maisie will find great delight in a dog’s purpose to chase them away.

The rooster next door is awake before the rest of the neighbors. He’s a handsome fellow, looking after the hens. Sometimes they wander into our yard in a free range sort of way. Early mornings, I hear his cock-a-doodles coming through the open kitchen window. Even on a humid morning, I need to hear the melodies of nature, their soothing sounds are a comforting balm.

The baby geese that entralled us in the cold of March are almost as large as their parents now. They still wander the land, rest in the shade of trees, and flap their wings wildly in the lake across the road. Perhaps they are exercising in preparation for their fall flight.

I tried a small wildflower experiment this spring. In April I scattered packs of purchased seeds, along with saved zennias, cock’s comb, sunflowers, and morning glory varieties. I watched them sprout and grow among apparent weeds. It was a wheat and tares situation, and I was hesitant to pull something that might actually become a flower.

Now, in August, there are zennias, cosmos, marigolds and other potentials sparkling like jewels in the sun. It makes me happy to observe my efforts. At the other end of this bed something edible is growing, vining over the little fence and into the yard. It appears to be a squash of sorts, a suprise I’ll wait to discover.

Even with the opressive heat and Kentucky humidity, there is beauty everywhere. We’ve enjoyed a few days of unseasonably cool nights and early mornings. It gladdens me to open windows, let the breeze freshen the indoors, a little wildness seeping in. The colorful variety of birds fly from little woods to bird feeders and back again. They always seem hungry. Hummingbirds zip from one side to the other checking each feeder, and butterflys drink necter from blossoms.

Dispite the on-going war of the weeds, each week something flowers in my garden of delight. Most recently surprise lilies are popping up randomly, Rose of Sharon in pink and white bloom on topiary trees, and one lone crept mytrle blooms stately along the property line.

Today Maisie found and investigated a tree frog under the wooden glider Sweet William built me years ago on some important birthday. I sit there sometimes to read and write. The scribbling of words are an effort to make sense and bring order to my thoughts. Sometimes I need to pull away from the ever-present list of necessary tasks. Surrounded by God’s creation, I breath deeper. My mind settles. Prayer comes easily.

In a crack of the driveway just beyond our garage door is a marigold. It looks green and healthy with several orange blooms. As I watered other plants suffering from the stifeling heat, I poured a little on the marigold only to watch the water run off on the blacktop. I wonder how it survives. Yet it does, and seems to flourish there by itself.

I marvel at the seed that somehow rolled away from soft earth of the garden into a crack in the drive. I would not have given it much of a chance. Yet it nesteled in and began to grow. This is resealiance, determination, tenacity.

A few years ago a phrase attributed to Lynda C. Fell was tossed about often: “Bloom where you are planted.” In other words, wherever you find yourself, make the best of it, think positively, find some joy whether or not you would have chosen this place.

I suppose the marigold-seed-turned flower was doing what seeds do, die in order to grow, and then become a flourishing plant.

. . . if [a seed] dies, it produces many seeds and seedlings and those seeds and their seedlings produce much fruit.” — John 12:24.

Could I be like the seed? What if I’m not in a nurturing environment? What if my surroundings are less than desireable? What if I’ve landed in a really hard place and I don’t want to be here at all? Is there hope even there?

There has to be hope.

Hope keeps us going. Hope that expects something good even though it is difficult gives us inspiriation to press on. And some days pressing on is pure determination. Put one foot in front of the other and do the next thing. It requires resileance, determination and tenactiy.

Hope as used in the Scripture is not blind faith in an uncertain outcome. It isn’t trying to muster a bright outlook in a negative circumstance. Hope is “according to the biblical usage . . . an indication of certainty . . . a strong and confident expectation . . . akin to trust and a confident expectation.

May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22

This is hope you can cling to when the sweltering sun wears you down, when life feels unbearable, when disease threatens, when the future looks dim, when death changes everything. Hope works when your seed lands in the harsh and uwelcome environment of a blackened drive.

Though the seed dies, hope will produce life. Hope calls forth growth and fruit and beauty even in the imperfect, the flawed and impaired.

We live in a broken world where all of us are presented with challenges, hurts, and pains from which we think we cannot recover. Jesus Christ offers a hope that is a strong and confident expection. We can trust Him no matter what the weather brings.

Bloom where He plants you. I will do the same. And let’s hope together.

Christmas grace

On the first day of winter, the wren sings loud and defiant at the dawning of day. I hear him and smile.

Today marks the longest night of the year, 14 hours of darkness. It also brings the sure hope that tomorrow the daylight hours will increase incrementally, pointing me in the direction of spring.

There were the days (the years?) I fought for joy. Because joy is worth the struggle. I counted gifts with determination, sometimes words of “breathing in and breathing out” were all I could write. I set JOY before my eyes, hanging from window latches, resting on tables, reminders to battle on.

Christmas is joy, and cards in the mail reiterate the songs, their sparkly designs a visual rejoicing. I receive them and I mail them, thankful for people we call friends. They are gifts.

Joy and sorrow are parallel tracks of a train.

There are lonely souls in crowds and broken bodies in hospital beds bearing the weight of heartache even while the world hangs ornaments and lights on a tree. The homeless in my home town scuffle toward a back alley on the cold night. People suffer while the music blasts Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.

As I read the Advent devotionals aloud to Sweet William, I am confronted with truth. Jesus came in the harsh reality of a people sad, sick, scratching out a living. They were looking for consolation, the hope of Israel, a redeemer and savior to take away all the suffering and oppression.

Mary and Joseph felt the heaviness too. The babe bearing down in Mary’s womb. The responsibility bearing down on Joseph’s shoulders. Hurrying to Bethlehem, they hoped for a warm room with a bit privacy for the coming of a child.

Instead, there was a cave, a stable for animals, smelly, dark, damp. Maybe they wondered if they’d taken a wrong turn, wondered if they’d understood the angel’s message, wondered what in the world God was doing?

I have wondered the same.

In a night of deep slumber, I awaken to words spoken to my spirit, “Hope in God.” Through my sleepiness, I recall the verse and in the morning I turn to Psalm 42 and 43 where the composer repeats this: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

The Word is familiar, words I learned as a child, rehearsed in my growing, and cling to now. I encourage myself in the Lord like David, the sweet singer of Israel.

At the little thrift store I frequent, there on the top shelf, is the sign for sale in large letters, “HOPE.” I pick it up, hold it to me, purchase it, and set it before me as a reminder. It is an Ebenezer stone.

The hope written in the book of Hebrews is not a penny thrown in the wishing well. It is an anchor for my soul, a sure proclamation cast into the Holy of holies where Jesus, my High Priest, intercedes for me.

” . . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever . . . ” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV

Hope is my memorial stone in this season, though the darkness stays long. I set it and mark it. I repeat it to myself. I cling to its message. Hope in God.

Luke tells us of that an old man named Simeon went to the temple, as was his custom, and he saw the common young couple with the newborn baby. He knew, felt the quickening of his spirit – this child was the promise, the Consolation of Israel. He took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed the God who is our hope, whose promises are true and will come to us, even when in the waiting.

Though the night lengthens, though the heart is heavy, though the body weakens and trembles, though our prayers appear unanswered, there is a hope, an anchor. There is a Savior who came to us. He came for us.

We put our hope in Him. Jesus, the Hope of the world.

Sunday grace

The gas logs burn in the dark of dawn, and I snuggle under the quilt, sitting in my rocker, sipping hot coffee. It’s spring they say. The cold chills me. And the bird song filters in through the closed window in the morning hours.

Maisie and I walk, me bundled in my corduroy coat and a scarf at my neck. Buds on the forsythias are peeking yellow. I cut some long branches, put them in a vase of water, hoping for spring to bloom in the house.

A redbud tree sustained wind damage a week ago, the multi-part trunk broken and a piece of it lies near the ground. I’ve done nothing with it yet. It makes me sad, this beloved tree I planted to commemorate the first grandchild’s birth almost 22 years ago.

While the geese move in pairs, one female already sits on her nest, like she’s trying to get a jump on the others. Her head is bent low and curled into her body as she tries to stay warm. Her mate swims and eats grass, always near but still living his goose life. She sits faithfully in the waiting.

The moon is full in the night sky. It will wane and wax as the season of Passover approaches. I observe its phases this time of year and remember the familiar story in Exodus.

The Israelite people, in Egyptian bondage, clothed in their slavery, crying out for deliverance, wondering when it would come. In their waiting, God was moving to bring his plan to fruition. A Passover night would symbolize their deliverance and point to their future.

We all wait for something. We do it patiently in hope or we live with frustration and anxiety. It’s my choice.

I wait for spring to fully form. I wait for prayers to be answered. I hope in the waiting, knowing that God is strong and God is good.

I choose to trust that He is moving while I wait.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Early morning I read a book of Advent, and Kathleen Norris gets my attention with this:

“When our lives are most barren, when possibilities are cruelly limited, and despair takes hold, when we feel most keenly the emptiness of life — it is then that God comes close to us.”

For those grieving at Christmas, whether it’s the first or the fifth year without a loved one, whether it is death taking its toll or a relationship gone wrong, whether the life in front of us is not what we expected at all and we dread the tomorrow, there is good news still.

We are not alone. God came wrapped in skin like ours to be with us.

His name shall be called Immanuel, the “with us God.”

Take heart, dear one. Jesus fills the emptiness, the longing, the lonely days. He gives joy in heartache, peace in trouble, provision in want.

His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The trees in the little woods are greening and absorbing spaces. It’s becoming harder to see through the spiky saplings as I scan the depth for a deer sighting.

The small tree attached at its root to the larger Ash is blooming full and brightens my view out the kitchen window.

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The weather warmed and dried out enough that I donned my garden clothes and bush hat to start a little clean up in Maisie’s fence and around the side of the house.  Sweet William helped me sharpen my tools, making my work easier by far.

The bushy hedge behind the house and along the sidewalk to the outbuilding always gets a shave and haircut each spring. Between raindrops, I went at it until I discovered nests tucked into branches on either end. Blue eggs belong to a robin, and she flew out and fussed at me each time I came near. A mourning dove nested on the white eggs on the other end, her calm sitting undisturbed by my pruning.

My cutting stopped short to leave concealing  foliage for each of the tender mothers who are protecting their precious progeny.

On a walk-about at the lake, Maisie and I were nearly attacked by a male goose this week, him rising up in the air waving feathers and clawed feet in our direction. Apparently we were getting too close to his gander who sat faithfully on her nest of eggs at the water’s edge.

The few days of warmth and sunshine this week were encouraging and enticed me outdoors. It is spring, even when grey days appear again and I concern myself for apple tree blossoms with forecasts predicting freezing temperatures once more. Yet I will not lose hope.

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God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

Not that the world is all right. It certainly is not. Nightly news would fill me with dread. But my hope is not in this world and its treasures or its future. My hope is in God alone who is sovereign ruler over all.

And He is my Father. He loves me and has His eye on me. He watches my every breath and has planned for my future.

While I wait for spring to fully flourish, I know what to expect. The fullness of its beauty lies ahead.

The beauty and glory of God’s completed plan draws ever nearer for me. He designed and arranged it, and His intention is to redeem. Until that day comes, I will wait for Him.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The grey days of February stretch long, endless. The temperature on my outdoor thermometer registers cold. Yet . . .

I hear the bird chirp as the sun’s brilliance begins to lighten the sky, ever so slightly. Others soon join the song, echoing from the little woods. And they know something. In their rapidly-beating hearts, there is a sense of season.

Whether the birds anticipate that spring is near, I know not. But their voices resonate my own longing.

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
— Song of Solomon 2:11-12, NKJV

I acknowledge that winter is not yet past. There are weeks of uncertainty when rain may turn to ice and snow, when temperatures will chill my bones, when the gas logs will flicker to warm us in the house, and when we will bundle up to brave the outdoors.

But there is hope.

Hope. The confidence to look toward, to look beyond, to see with eyes of faith.

Though the winter is long and harsh and I am chilled to the bone;
Though the nights are dark too long and I wait for daybreak;

Though the winds blow branches from bare trees and I feel the breaking in me;
Though the grass is withered brown and I experience the strain of life;
Though the earth looks fruitless and I struggle to bring forth;

Yet I will hope in God my Savior.
I will take His offered courage, cling to His “fear not,”
And choose the joy in His salvation.

For God the Lord is my confidence, and He will lead me through the valleys and upward where the air is sweet and His strength becomes my own.

And spring will come.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

When my days are upended, when I don’t know which way to go, when I keep asking the same questions and still don’t hear the answers, I lean on Jesus.

In life and in death, in health and in sickness, in plenty and in want, I build my hope on Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

As seasons begin and then leave so soon, when daylight turns to darkness, there is nothing and nowhere else to turn but Jesus.

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.

No matter what else may be offered to satisfy my hunger, only He is the Bread of life.

When other options are presented, He is the only Way and the Truth.

As grief engulfs me, obscuring my sight for the tears in my eyes, He is the Resurrection and the Life.

When the world looks scary, uncertain, out of control, when fear threatens, He is my Peace.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!

My hope is built on nothing less. Jesus.

Sunday grace.

 

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

The grace of a new day, ’tis sweet. Day follows night and the world keeps on turning.

The wind blows the tall branches of naked trees, them in waiting for newness and life to rebirth.

I wait with them.

The faithfulness of God astounds me. Words on a page from One too awesome for words, speaking love in the loneliness, peace in distress, assurance in faintness, and strength in the struggle. Praise exhales as breath.

Words that aim at my heart like an arrow sent from a sure bow, my spirit latching on to eternal certainty.

Cold winds threaten and taunt me  with, “You are hopelessly lost in winter.” But the Word that spilled into fertile heart soil heart says otherwise. The promise of spring and renewal casts down the imaginations of my enemy; anticipation, faith energizes me.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday grace.

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The grey days

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The greyness of the winter days stretch long. Though I know by fact that the nights are getting shorter this time of year, it seems an act of faith to believe it.

I saw someone’s Facebook post yesterday: “Anyone needing a little sunshine?” I responded with a “like” when what I really wanted to do was shout, “YES, I need the sunshine!”

It happens each January. The festive season passes, and we are left with the winter of despair” while we longingly wait for “the spring of hope.”

I should not be bewildered that history repeats itself and seasons come and go as naturally as night turns to day. But sometimes the short winter day can feel long when the sun does not appear.

Such is life. It is the waxing and waning of delight and pleasure versus the bitter and despondency that exists in our world. Somewhat like the moon. There are nights I see it brilliantly in its fullness or as a crescent sliver. At times it disappears altogether, being a new moon or a cloudy night.

Fact says the moon and sun are both still in the sky rotating as they have since creation day when the Creator set their courses and determined their orbit. Whether I see them with my eyes or not, they remain.

There is a confident knowing of this same Creator who also sets my course and determines my days, whether they be tinged with grey or absorbed in brightness.

It is just a season. And seasons change. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is a deep resevoir within the heart of one who knows.

I know that my Redeemer lives, just as Job knew, despite our trials and tests. We walk through our own grey days while looking for the dancing sunbeams.

As I went to the bedroom to open blinds, I saw the light blinking through. It was the sun. I pulled up the blinds and saw it there in the sky, blue hues peeking through the clouds. It lasted only about an hour before soft ashen clouds covered the horizon.

But I have seen resplendent light once again. And hope rises.

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On this Christmas Eve

If it had not been for His birth, there would be no Christmas.

Oh, there would be other holidays to acknowledge, other festivals and feast days, but no Rescuer come to save the perishing. We would be the people still walking in darkness, still trying our best to keep the law, continuing to do all the good works we could in hopes it would be enough.

It is never enough.

There would be no gifts to commemorate the wise, star-gazing travelers, no angels sitting atop tall trees, no anthems of joy, no manger scenes, no peace on earth and goodwill to men.

But the mystery of heaven did appear. Majesty and splendor encapsulated into human form. The living Word became gurgling infant. The breath of  Jehovah blew life into the dead.

So whether on not there are presents under your tree; no matter that unsolved problems weigh heavy; if anxiety threatens the atmosphere of the soul; when the future looks scary; even if family members are missing at the table;

Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord!

He gives melody to our songs. He brings peace in the storm. He offers forgiveness to the sinner and mercy to the outcast. He is hope for the hopeless, joy for the sorrowing, strength for the weak. He is life for whosoever will.

He is the One and only who gives us reason to celebrate the season of Christmas. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promise, the Image of the invisible God, the Fullness of the Godhead.

He is Jesus, and we have seen His glory.

Let heaven and nature sing!

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