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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

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.

My little corner of the world

I surveyed my kingdom today, and I am queen of Quite-a-lot.

It’s an annual ritual that takes me back to a time with my father, a farmer at heart.  I remember walking with him through the yard looking for signs of spring.  He would point to plants that revealed the seasons were changing.

Dad and I walked together through his yard when I was young.  And in later years, we took the annual trip in my yard as we enjoyed seeing the fruits of my labor.

So when I stroll through my own little corner of the world, I think of my dad who influenced my love of sowing and reaping.

Today it was just warm enough for a flannel shirt atop my clothes.  Donning my garden boots with the pink horses on them and grabbing a walking stick, I set out to see what’s coming up.  I spotted our neighborhood hawk circling above, keeping me company.

There have been crocuses surprising me by the front steps since last week.  Their purple, white, and yellow offerings make me smile.

I saw one lone forsythia bloom on the bushes near the driveway.  There are small shoots of hibiscus pushing through the dirt.  They were transplanted by the back walkway last fall.   The pussy willow already has the little fuzzy “catkins” showing up on long branches.  I found enough early daffodils to pick and bring in the house.  With a little water in a vase, they will open to full flower shortly.

My yard is not pristine and manicured like some I admire.  I’m as likely to find a carpet of yellow dandelion blooms in summer as I am a patch of moss amongst the Kentucky fescue grass.  I live in the county and random seeds will fly in regularly like the Canadian geese on the lake across the road. Weeds are a constant in my world.

While I survey the potential beauty just ahead, I also see the potential work.  Fallen sticks are scattered everywhere.  There’s a boggy area that needs fill dirt.  And the weeds, always the weeds.  I think there is more effort required than there is of me to do it.

But today, I will just enjoy the hope of what is to come.  Today I’ll just survey my kingdom and find pleasure in the knowledge that lo, the winter is past . . . flowers appear on the earth.  The season of singing has come, and the cooing of doves is heard in our land.  

I will remember my dad and the heritage he passed on to me. It is a heritage of investing in growing things, whether that is people or plants, and the knowledge that both take time.

I am indeed Queen of Quite-a-lot.  I am thankful for the good earth, strength to work in it and see it produce because God made it to be that way.

In this my “season of Lent” I will enjoy the season of new life and what that means to me.  New life in my yard.  New life here and now because of the cross.  New life in the hereafter because of the resurrection.

The old must give in to the new.  Because when life comes, death takes a holiday.

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The season

Yesterday was the beginning of the season of Lent.  I missed it.  lent

The church where I grew up did not observe Lent or even speak of it.  I didn’t learn about it until later in my life when I was employed for a while at a church that practiced Lent.  It was different, not what I was used to, but I tried to understand the idea of it and participate.

Since then, I’ve acknowledged Lent as the season leading up to the celebration of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  Some years I’ve kind of created my own version of Lent and blogged for 40 days leading up to the day we call Easter.  I don’t know if that was OK or not.

How often have we said or thought, “I’m in a season of life.”  It could be the season of raising young children or praying them and us through the teenage years.   We could be enduring months of health issues or cancer treatments.  It could be a job we see as only a stepping stone to the position we really want.

I love the changing seasons in the beautiful state where I live.  Each one has its special moments, though I begin to feel like I’m simply enduring in the month of February, wanting March to come and initiate spring.

Are we supposed to just endure our season, looking toward something else?  Are we supposed to hold on for dear life while we hope and pray for something else, a better season?

I certainly have been there.

Living in the present and being in the moment has become a longing for me.  Looking back has its advantages and looking forward is encouraged as we press toward the mark.  But in being here, at this place and at this time, I am more likely to see the blessings, experience the joy, revel in the process, appreciate the people with me in the right here and now.

During the weeks leading up to Easter, I most certainly want to remember the past and the price Jesus paid for my soul, to remember Him in communion of the Lord’s Supper, and remember the great and precious promises He left for me recorded in Holy Writ.

I will look forward to the changes in nature, the budding and bursting forth of flower and tree.  I will write down garden ideas and plan a trip to visit the family-too-far-away.  I will anticipate celebrating Resurrection Sunday.

But during this year’s 40-day journey to the cross and the empty tomb, I want to try to be present in the moment.  I want to look people in the eye and listen, really listen, not just wait my turn to speak.  Perhaps then I might understand.

I want to try to stop multi-tasking so much and give attention to the one task at hand, even enjoy it.  Maybe I’ll learn something in it.

I want to enjoy the ride because life is a journey.  I want to do more than just think about getting to the next destination in the quickest mapquest way possible.

The idea of Lent offers possibilities for us to change, not just our profile picture on Facebook, but to change the way we’ve always done it.  Perhaps there is a better way, a way that could open our hearts and our minds to something new.

Will you join me on the journey?  It could be fun.  We might learn a little more contentment.  It could bring joy.  We may begin to love a little better.

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How will they know?

Day 2 of 40 days to Resurrection Day

Today’s suggestion:

Wear a symbol of your faith during the 40 days.

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At first glance, I think this is going to be easy.  I have a couple of cross necklaces, several bracelets with Christian messages, and a pair of cross earrings.  I even have a scarf with “I love Jesus” printed on it.

No problem.  I can wear any or all of them during the next 40 days.  I’ve done it before, worn my cross necklace during the Lenten season as a daily reminder.

But then I go deeper.

Anyone can wear a piece of jewelry with a cross attached.  But is that evidence of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior?    Not necessarily.  No more than wearing a baseball cap makes one a ball player.

If I am a Christ follower, it should show in more than just my clothing and my jewelry.  It must be integrated into my actions, my words, and my attitudes.  This has been reinforced to me during the What Love Is Bible study.  John says the proof of my love for God shows up when I keep His commands and love my brothers and sisters.

Hear Paul’s admonition to the Colossians:

“. . .  put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another . . .  Above all, put on love. . .  (emphasis mine)

Now there’s a fashion statement.

What would it look like if I put on Christ?  More than a silver cross on a chain, I’m sure.  Challenging to say the least.

The only way to live out my true faith is to die to myself and live my life through Christ Jesus; looking to the things above rather than the things of this earth; seeking to do His will, not mine.

Unpopular as it is, it’s called crucifying my flesh and my desires to do God’s will.  The reason?  Because Jesus did it for me.

This – Christ in me – this is my symbol of faith and this is my destiny.  May it sparkle and shine and be noticed and point to the One and only Son of God.

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Come join me on my journey to Resurrection Day, won’t you?

Your comments and thoughts are most welcome here.

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Revised and re-posted from March 2014

40 Days – sort of

lentToday begins the season of Lent, a 40-day journey to Easter but does not include Sundays because they are “little Easters,” which actually equals to 47 days (according to my calculation).  Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, the so-called last hurrah before Lent ushers in a time of sacrifice, self-searching, and often the practice of giving up something for the 40-day (47-day) interval.  The practice goes back hundreds of years.

The church tradition under which I grew up never practiced Lent.  As an older adult I was employed by a church that did celebrate the Lenten season, and I learned from them.  I pondered it but didn’t participate at first.  The following year, I decided to give up something for Lent.  Critical words.  I thought that wouldn’t be too hard.  Wrong.  I became painfully aware of how often my thoughts and words were quite reproachful.

It taught me a valuable lesson, not only about myself but about the preparation for the season, a looking toward the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior of the world.

While I am a member of a church somewhere else now, a place that does not practice Lent, I find being in anticipation of the occasion is helpful.  A thoughtful journey toward the season of Passover and Resurrection Sunday may be just what is needed. If I truly want to be Christ’s follower, to love like He does, to listen and obey the Father’s will, then I should examine myself.

And the weeks before the Sunday called Easter is a good time to focus in that direction.  While we dig out of snow here in the south, I long for spring, the re-birthing of flower and tree.  How appropriate to envision the place of the soul without Christ in a deep winter while His gift of salvation is the hope of spring and new life.

Last year, I partnered with my sweet friend Robin to lead us on a 40-day journey to Passover and Resurrection Sunday.  I’d like to go there again and hope you will come along.

Would you be willing to  review and remember?  We watch reruns on TV or go with a friend to a great movie we just saw.  We read special books again. We listen to the same news over and over. And need I say anything about our favorite songs?

Perhaps a little repetition will be helpful. Perhaps truth will sink in, take root and bring forth fruit.

Our 40 days will begin next Wednesday, February 25 because I will be counting all the Sundays.  I hope you will travel with us.

Look for the introduction next Tuesday, February 24 and get ready for 40 days leading up to Passover and Resurrection Sunday starting February 25.

I don’t know about you, but I am longing for spring, new life, new beginnings.

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