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.

What’s love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it, got to do with it?  What’s love but a second-hand emotion?  Are you humming the song yet, released in 1984?

This morning as I stumbled to turn on the gas logs in my sleepy stupor before coffee, I noticed a lovely wrapped box on the kitchen table.  And my first thought was “Oh, I forgot!”  Today is our anniversary.

Sweet William had remembered and somehow found a way to surprise me with a small  package, and we women know good things come in small packages.

After I opened the gift, I hugged him and cupped his face, “I always loved you, even when things were not good. Even in separation.  I still loved you.”  He responded back with the same.

That kind of love goes beyond a “second-hand emotion.”  Because love is not an emotion but a decision, a choice we must make.  Every married couple knows it.  Every parent knows it.

And this segues perfectly into the reason I sort of forgot my anniversary.  Or at least it was not in the forefront of my mind.

Last night we opened our home to two handfuls of beautiful women who came to do Bible study.  The small books of 1, 2, 3 John will be our focus over the next several weeks.  And John talks about love and the actions that should prove it – obedience to God’s Word.


Kelly Minter has written What Love Is and slowly dissects the books verse by verse by verse.

I love doing Bible study.  It’s a lifeline to my Heavenly Father, His very words to my heart, my situation, and my world no matter how any or all of them fluctuate.  I can study alone, and I do regularly.  But studying in a group always challenges me to think harder.  Iron sharpens iron.

So I welcome the opportunity to welcome these women into our home, to gather at the table of the Lord and feast on His truth.  John, the beloved author of those three little books (plus the gospel of John) has some powerful words to say to us.  Some of it is so familiar to me, learned as a child.  Yet throughout John draws a line in the sand, a line between light and darkness.  He calls it like it is even when it isn’t popular.  Even when it goes against the grain.  Even when it hurts.

Seeing myself in the Light of who Jesus is and who He called me to be can be painful.

As I reminisce the many years Sweet William and I have been together, I understand the vows made at the altar long ago.  They were hard vows.  They were meant to be taken seriously.  They were not to be entered into lightly.  Because who could know what would come our way.  Who could know how we would come back again and again to the vows when the feelings were different, when the emotions were not high, warm, or fuzzy.  Who could know but the One who loved first.

Love today for the two of us is deeper, more committed than it was 43 years ago.  It is not swayed by the changing tides of our feelings.  It is long lasting because we have endured together, rejoiced together, cried together, suffered together, prayed together, lived life together with all of it’s joys and heartaches.

We are in it for the long haul.  Because that is what real love is.  And so John the beloved disciple tells us.  We can only love because we were first loved.

And love is from God.