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Sunday grace – the body of Christ

 

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1

Arriving home late afternoon yesterday, my body felt drained from a long day, but my heart had been filled. 

Sweet William and I attended the visitation and funeral of a long-time friend. Our lives intertwined with his family when we were teens, and while we’ve not frequented the same circles regularly, the friendship remained precious. He and his wife married the same year as us. Their first born arrived the same year as ours. She is an only child, like me. We were intermingled by in-laws, church community, and a long history of loving Jesus. 

His service was beautiful, touching, bringing tears to my eyes as three ministers spoke of his life, his joy, and his faith. I hummed the old songs along with the soloists. 

As anticipated, there were people from the home church where I basically grew up. I was only about 13 years old when I was first asked to play the organ for services, my knees literally knocking at times, the anxiety of wanting to play perfectly without really knowing what I was doing. Several people at the visitation reminded me I had played for their weddings five decades past. I smiled, remembering what a novice I was and what confidence they put in me for their momentous day.  

I saw many of the church family who grew up with me. It was there we matured into young adults, married and had babies. The year our son was born, it seemed there was a baby shower every three months. I reminisced about the spirit-filled services, the powerful sermons, the youth choir that grew into an adult choir because no one wanted to leave. I remember the difficult musical arrangements that forced me to practice and become a better musician. The hours of music Sweet William and I played to prepare and serve added to good years and good memories. 

These are the people who saw me, knew when I messed up, heard the words that should have been inside thoughts, and they still love me.  

We are the older generation now, the ones with grey/balding/dyed heads, wrinkled and sometimes a bit wobbly, talking about our surgeries and the pills we take each morning to get us moving. We have pictures of grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren on our cell phones. We have buried parents and siblings. We have known joy and grief.   

This is the church, the body of Christ, the family of God. It is imperfect and flawed because the people in it are imperfect and flawed, sinners who were saved by grace and are still learning to walk as faithful pilgims. We have lived and experienced life. We made mistakes, fell down and got up again, often with the aid of a fellow sojourner. We’ve grown wiser and deeper in our faith because we have seen God in the living and the dying, in the pain and in the celebration, in answered prayers and those we still wait and hope for. We know in Whom we believe as we wait for our imperfection to be made perfect one heavenly day by the grace of God. 

It seems the church is suffering from bad PR these days. No doubt, people have suffered at the hands of individual church people. That does not make the Church of Jesus Christ a sham or fake. It is made up of broken people, redeemed by the blood of Christ, walking by faith and limping our way Home.  

As I rested on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I began to clean up old text messages on my phone. The process stalled as I read texts from the ending of 2021, when Sweet William and I had covid, when my cousin died in December, when I fractured my ankle on Christmas Day. Contained in those typed missives were comforting words, promised prayers, and love that came through the key strokes. It was the church ministering to us and we were strengthened by their devotion and concern. 

Countless times the church has come to our aid, bringing food, helping with household tasks, visiting and praying, even cleaning refrigerators and an overgrown yard. The church I know is going about the Father’s work, being the hands and feet of Jesus to such as I, again and again. 

The church will one day bury me, as it did our friend yesterday, transferring his church membership to Heaven. They will bring food and their presence, sing the songs and speak the Word. They will offer comfort to family left to grieve and remember. They will be at my ending like they were at my earliest childhood. 

In His closing remarks to His disciples, Jesus prayed that they might be one as He and the Father are one. It is a lofty goal among all of us who are so different and opinionated and sometimes even a little contrary. But the love Jesus gives, the love that fills us and binds us together, will make the prayer a little more of a reality.  

On days like yesterday, we are one. 

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Life is beautiful

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. — Psalm 139:16

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Roe v. Wade,
my thoughts return to the year 1973

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was summer, and I’ve never been so hot in my life. I was full with child and due to deliver in July. Weekly visits with my OB/GYN were mostly reassuring, but her concern that I might not be able to deliver this first pregnancy naturally weighed heavily on my mind.

On the 18th of the month, her concerns were confirmed as she hastily scheduled a C-section, while Sweet William willingly signed permission, overwhelming concern for both mother and child, sex still unknown. Because it was 1973.

In a surgical suite instead of a birthing room, surrounded by masked medical professionals, I heard the first lusty cries and saw the beautiful round head of my baby boy. He was perfect, and I was in love with this fair-haired child. But then I’d been loving him from his beginning inside of me.

From the first, people said he was cut from the mold of his father. Except for his blond hair and blue eyes – Sweet William was the tall, dark and handsome type – the resemblance was striking. This son was the image of his father.

It didn’t take long until we wanted to add to our family. I’d been an only child, and while it was a wonderful life, partly because I had the cousins almost always next door as an integral part of my growing up, I wanted siblings for our son.

In 1976, I was pregnant and we were excited again, making plans for this second baby. But our plans were interrupted one night in June when pains began that were all too familiar. After a call from my doctor, we went to the hospital where I was put in a room, all alone, to wait for the inevitable. I was about 22 weeks along, and as the pains of childbirth bore down, the pain in my heart hurt more.

At the end of the miscarriage, I asked the attending nurse if I could see my baby. He fit in the palm of her hand, so tiny and so perfectly formed. I noticed his fingers and toes. And I saw that he too looked like his father. I could see the resemblence in the small features of this one born out of time, not nurtured long enough in the womb to sustain life on his own. Not in 1976.

I think of this child often. I wonder what he would have been like, his personality, his talents, his hair and eye color. I wonder how it would have been to have two boys running the halls of the house, sharing the bunk beds, playing and building, imagining and testing their limits, keeping each other’s secrets and standing up for one another. I like to think they would have been close, even with the sibling rivalry that comes with the territory.

Every time I hear of a woman miscarrying, my memory is fresh. I cry with her because I know what it is like to have life and love growing within, and I know what it feels like when that life is cut short.

But the connection of love goes on even when the child is not there to hold.

The abortion issue touches me because life is precious from its very beginning. In the 21st century, tests reveal pregnancy so quickly. I had to wait weeks to know for sure. Ultra sounds show a beating heart, arms and legs growing, a thumb in the mouth, creative beauty I never could have imagined in the ’70s. Couples have reveal parties of blue or pink to announce the sex of their baby months before birth because now they know. Technology gives real pictures of life in the womb. Life in the womb. We see it with our eyes. We know it. We cannot deny it.

It was 1973 when Roe v. Wade gave women the right to end the life of their unborn children. Did they understand the scope of the decisions they made? Did they know they would think of that life, cut short, for the rest of their days? Did they think about the tears they would cry at the sight of another’s baby or calculate the age of their child as the years go by? Did they have any idea the impact their decision would make on themselves and others? Do they wonder who that child might have been if only he/she had been given a chance to live? Do they wish they had made a different decision?

I ere if I think my actions only affect me, that it should not concern anyone else. Have we not learned that no man or woman is an island unto themselves? My decisions will impact generations. As a stone cast into the lake ripples outward, my choices and actions have consequences on humanity. Dare we compare our actions toward the most vulnerable to the butterfly effect? It bears examination.

The breath of God resides in a human soul, and who are we to decide when that happens? It is our right and responsibility to care about life, to nurture it, to do all within our power to protect and provide. We are made in the image of our Creator and yet we are dust, fragile and vulnerable with the power to create and also to destroy.

Life has potential, if given a chance to be born, to bloom and grow. Entrusted with this marvelous gift, let us not waste it, cast it aside, or consider it less than the marvelous wonder it is. Life is worth the cost.

I feel a call to stand for truth and to show compassion at the same time. There are questions to this issue. How do we care for the women who find themselves in difficult, what may seem impossible circumstances? How can we serve children, families, and individuals? How can we love the least of these, the ones Jesus saw and stopped to hear their stories. How can we offer hope and healing?

We are called to walk as Jesus walked, to pay attention, to listen and see. We are called to love. We are called to do something.

Bob Russel, former pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY wrote a compassionate and wise response to the Supreme Court decision. Read it here.

I post this on my birthday, giving thanks for my mother who chose life for me. So I offer this prayer:

Father in Heaven,

That Your ways have been written into the human body and soul
there to be read and reverenced, thanks be to You.

Let me be attentive to the truths of these living texts.
Let me learn of the law etched into the whole of creation

that gave birth to the mystery of life
and feeds and renews it day by day.

Let me discern the law of love in my own heart and, in knowing it, obey it.

from Celtic Benedictions by J. Phillip Newell

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Sunday grace – thoughts on motherhood

There is a family of geese sheltering in the safety of the lake and its surroundings across the road. I’ve watched them wander since hatching on a frosty April day, seven little goslings waddling along with their parents. Each time I spy them, I count. They are vulnerable to predators, large snapping turtles, hawks or coyotes.

The two parents are watchful as they meander into our yard. Father goose stands tall with his neck stretched high, on the lookout for danger while mother goose and her goslings nibble in the grass.

This week I saw them and I counted again. There are only six. And I wonder if a goose has enough sense to grieve her loss and how she deals with it.

Observing motherhood in animals teaches me. The collie dog I had when an adolescent carefully tended her pups, concerned if someone picked up one of her babies, only content again when all were nestled close to her. I’ve had a bird’s eye view of a robin from a bedroom window, watching the nest prepared, eggs laid, and fledglings straining their necks for the next meal. A racoon family made their home in the loft of Bill’s shop one year. We watched the tiny racoons follow mama through the cat door one early morning, after a night of learning to hunt.

Motherhood is an experience. I never knew how my heart could fill with love or how it could break. I laughed and cried, prayed and celebrated, worked long hours and stayed up past my bedtime. I made a zillion peanut butter sandwiches and cups of hot cocoa. I helped with homework and projects carried carefully to the classroom. I baked birthday cakes, cookies and made Rice Krispie treats. I cleaned up messes that should have required a haz-mat suit.

I read stories, told tales, played games, picked up toys, washed sticky faces and dirty feet. I tried to impart wisdom and a love for Jesus. I read Bible stories and sang worship songs as we traveled by car. I held on as long as I could to the son, the daughter-in-love and their own children until they waved and were out of sight. My heart still grips tightly to the heart of each one.

Sometimes I was busy with other things when I should have been more attentive. I was short on patience and long with a lecture. I didn’t have the right answers to the questions, and I fumbled to do the right thing. I fell down on the job, and I have regrets.

Mother’s Day reminds me of the glory of being a mother and how I wish I’d done it better.

Age and experience taught wisdom I longed for those many years ago. I see my errors, and wish for a do-over. Grandchildren give us that chance. It’s why we seem to spoil and give in and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no.’ We learned the hard way what really matters with the perspective of looking backward, learning from our mistakes.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

— Isaiah 49:15 ESV

The verse of promise is comforting to me. I cannot imagine ever forgetting the son I nurtured in my womb and loved with everything in me. But even if . . . my Heavenly Father would never forget about me. His love is beyond what I can ever produce or feel or act upon. My love is tiny in comparison. And I’m full of thanksgiving for such an everlasting and unfailing kind of tenderness toward me and those I hold dear.

I wonder if all mothers ponder the same question. Did I mother well? Did I do enough? Did I show them Jesus?

I did not get it right every time. I failed often. Yet I hope the love I gave and the prayers I prayed outweigh the mistakes I made. I hope they know that my love continues, that my prayers follow them, that God knows their names because He hears me speak them so often

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

— Isaiah 40:11 NIV

My young ones are grown now. I am not the one gently leading any longer. Still I cling to this promise that the Good Shepherd is keeping watch, is leading and guiding and seeking their hearts continually. And that is a comforting grace to this mother’s heart

Sunday grace.

Grace for the new year

Sitting in my rocker by the fireplace, window open to the every-changing Kentucky weather, I listen to rain drops and the chirping of birds in the little woods. A few hours in the comfort of home are not taken lightly.

Sweet William and I spent the closing holidays of 2020 in the hospital. Like many, this is a year of remembrance, its strangeness not ceasing even to the final day.

I recognized the seriousness of his health in the months leading up to a sudden doctor’s visit that began a roller coaster of emergency activities and a surgery we didn’t expect. We were on a ride controlled by something other than ourselves and our plans were laid waste.

Christmas presents sit unopened.

It’s interesting how schedules, lists, to do’s and obligations stagnate when life takes a sudden turn and all one can do is take the next step. It was survival mode for days, texting family and friends for prayer, weeping and leaning hard into Jesus. I kiss Sweet William’s cheek and tell him, “You are a warrior.”

Scripture is a promise to hold. Praise music permeates my atmosphere, driving out the darkness and turning my eyes to the One who is strong when I am weak. And I feel so weak, like a child needing to be held in her mother’s arms.

Great is His faithfulness.

In a year where we were distanced from each other, we were comforted from afar by ones we hold dear. Reassuring texts promised prayer and told us we are loved. Sounds of familiar voices, a little laughter and stories were a balm in Gilead. An actual visit in the hospital entrance found me sitting with two who were determined to feed me potato and ham soup that nourished body and soul. Another friend brought two bags of goodies: real tissues, gum, snacks galore, socks, and sanitizer, surprises I needed but didn’t know how to ask.

Hospital staff are kind, behind masks of protection, caring for Sweet William tenderly and competently. The attendant at the cafeteria gave me a cup of coffee yesterday, at first me not understanding when he said, “Just take it.” It was a welcome gift.

And I am awed at the love of God shown us through people. It is His way, His hands extended through His church, which is not a building or a denomination but flesh and blood, in the marketplace and in the corridors of everyday life. The body of Christ is active, living out His commandments to love God and love people. I have seen His glory, shining brightly in the moments of our days.

This morning I write in my joy journal because the gifts are many.

Friends who take care of Maisie while I’m away from home, loving her, feeding her, letting her out as needed, assuring me she is OK.
Music to lift my spirit heavenward, reminding me of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness.
Caregivers in hospitals who work with diligence, even on holidays and weekends, with a cheerful heart.
Sweet William’s doctor, his expertise and skill, his determination to do what was needed.
Greeters at the hospital who recognize me and speak kindly.
Security guard who walked me to to my car late one night.
The newlyweds who brought me a Christmas dinner plate on a frigid night.

The ancient recliner in Sweet William’s room where I slept somehow.
The little black Honda that gets me where I need to be.
The comfort of a good dog.

Neighbors who watch over the house while we’re gone.
Family who are a treasure to this only child, who took us in to the circle of love many, many years ago.

Our dear ones, miles away, brought near by their tenderness and love, and a cell phone with video chat.
Ongoing texts from the multitude who promise to pray, who assure us of their love, who are life-giving to us in these hard days.
The often written promise, “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask. We are here for you.”
Those who come, show up, do what I don’t even know what to ask for.
Learning to love better through the actions of these good people.

It is a new year to remember. I take time to reflect on the past and look toward the future. I have no idea what is to come. What I do know with certainty is my Lord and Savior holds all things in His hands. His is trustworthy and faithful. I have seen it with my own eyes.

I’ve reminded myself of God’s message in the night hours before the frantic days of this last week. “Hope in God.” My good Father prepared the way before me, sent me His Word of invitation. I reach for Him and rest in His promises.

He is strong and He is good. And I am His child.


Sunday grace

Father’s Day was quiet at the Wright House. I fed Sweet William well, and he did as he pleased. No suggestions or agendas from me. He said it’s been a good day.

I remember my own sweet dad, now gone from this life many years. I miss him today. I think of two friends spending their first Father’s Day without their dads. I know it is hard.

I thanked God for the man who influenced me so much. God meant for children to have loving fathers in the home. Our culture is missing out if we negate that fact.

I honor fathers and those who walk in the role of fathers. You are important to the world. This is my tribute to you.

To the fathers who walk crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep,
To the fathers who are brave enough to change a diaper, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children,
To the fathers who run alongside kids on bikes without training wheels, who sit on hard bleachers while the game goes on, who take their children to music lessons and sit through recitals and keep giving encouragement along the way,
To the fathers who teach math and science in the evenings and who teach life by their actions more than their words,
To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives,
To the fathers who show their little girls how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for,
To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families, 
To the fathers who pray for their children, who take them to church, who read the Bible in front of them,
To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like she is a precious treasure,
To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up,
To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down even, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day,
To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own,
To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still standing tall in spirit, offering wisdom born of years,
To the fathers who show their sons how to be men and dance with their daughters, 
We need you to be strong.  We need you to be men.  We need you to show us what it’s like to be loved in a small measure by God the Father.
On this Father’s Day, I pray God’s blessings on you as you stand tall and walk brave in this world.

Grace, mercy and peace to all of you from God the Father and from His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday grace.

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

This morning I paused at 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

After surviving months of quarantine, hopeful of better days, we witness rioting in the streets of our country. Tensions run strong as people express their hurt, anger, and fear. We break and wound because we are broken and wounded.

We want justice to prevail. We want people to be treated right. We want things to change rather than be like they’ve always been. Divided we are falling.

While laws are written and imposed, we cannot force hearts to love one another. Only God can do that. Only God can bring peace to a tormented soul. Only God is the lasting answer for our hurt and anger and fear.

And so I pray,

Dear Father of Love and Reconciliation,
You alone can heal our troubled hearts. Our iniquities were laid upon Jesus. He took our punishment and brought us peace by His atoning sacrifice. We have peace with You through Jesus.

Yet we don’t receive it. Instead, we try to fix things ourselves, as if we could make it all right. We are helpless and hopeless without Your love permeating the essence of our being, changing us to be more like Christ.

Jesus Christ Himself is our peace, tearing down the walls that separate us. He made peace possible through His blood, freely giving Himself for us.

Why can’t we love each other? Why can’t we be kind, forgiving, gracious to one another? Because we have not received the gift of Your love. Your love changes us. Your love bears righteous fruit in our lives. Your love shows us how to give and forgive, how to accept as You have accepted us.

Help us, O God! Help us see the light in the grace You offer. It is a grace that flows to the lowest depths, covers a multitude of sins, and lifts us from the mire of our selfishness and pride.

You are Jehovah Shalom, God of Peace. The road to peace is paved with the blood of the Son of God.

In the name of the One who said, “My peace I give to you. . . . In Me you may have peace.”

His name is Jesus. Amen.

Sunday grace.

Tuesday thoughts

My head spins thinking about the coming weeks.

It’s the end of the month and we head into summer. Heat is calling for lighter clothing, swimming pools, and cold sweet tea.

Churches opened Sunday, but Sweet William and I watched from the kitchen table. Vulnerable health issues make me cautious. We Zoomed with our Sunday class in the evening. We all come as we are, comfy and at home. There’s not the same concern about carefully chosen outfits with matching jewelry. We are real and simply glad to see familiar faces.

I’m planning in-person piano lessons with my students after weeks of struggling with on-line instruction. After a day of internet lessons, I was worn out like I had plowed a field. Yet my students thrived, learning new songs in spite of the hardship. They are troopers, all of them, from my second grader to my high school seniors.

With resuming face-to-face interaction comes responsibility for our health and safety. Protocol is in place for handling doors and piano keys, for washing hands and keeping a safe distance. It will be different. It is the new normal, at least for this time in our history.

I’ve had three months to work in the gardens, and chunks of uninterrupted time is bringing it under control. I enjoy its beauty now compared to last year when the yard felt completely overwhelming, and I went inside to escape the work that required too much of me.

We’ve eaten strawberries and lettuce from our raised bed, and tomato plants are healthy and strong. The peonies bloomed despite the late frost I thought would kill the buds. I’ve planted flower seeds of all varieties and am excited at the sight of a sprout pushing through dirt.

We’ve had a few deck chats with friends willing to come, and while we longed to give parting hugs, we have refrained with the consolation that love knows nothing of safe distancing. It reaches across all barriers, to the heart of each of us.

Life feels like its making a corner turn, back to a world open for business. Suddenly, I’m busy making preparations for returning to a semblance of three months ago. And yet it is not the same. We will handled it individually, with our own sense of care and well being. We need to respect each other and the choices we make, being cognizant of each other’s concerns.

Now is an excellent time to consider the one another’s in the Bible.

Be at peace with each other.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
Live in harmony with one another and stop passing judgment on one another.
Accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you.
Have equal concern for one another and serve one another with love.
Carry each other’s burdens.
Be patient, kind, and compassionate to one another.
Encourage each other, pray for each other, and love one another.

As hustle and bustle try to woo us into our previous frantic pace, I hope we’ve learned to slow down, value the ones closest to us, lend a helping hand, enjoy the simple things, take time to listen closely, share our resources, celebrate people in creative ways, connect indirectly, offer comfort when we can’t be there, be grateful for all the gifts from a loving Father, and worship wherever we find ourselves.

We may look back on our time of quarantine with a different eye, seeing purpose in it after all.

Sunday grace

I was determined to start the fire in spite of rain predictions. Sweet William kept telling me, “It’s going to rain.” I know, but I intended to make the effort and burn what I could.

A couple of years ago, we constructed a fire pit at the side yard, with a salvaged stainless steel container and garden bricks from the hardware store; it was not bad looking for a do-it-ourselves project.

We intended to build fires, roast hot dogs and marshmallows and invite the neighbors. Years went by as I piled cut branches near the wood pile knowing they would be good for kindling. But eventually, the area became an eyesore, unused and unkempt. Wild things grew among the stacked wood. Weeds were tall around the small pit. And it became a project on my garden to-do list.

I was ready to start a fire, get rid of the rotting wood, and clear away the brush. I gathered matches and old paper, piled on dry stick and soon there was smoke and eventually flames. The rubble burned and the unsightly mess grew smaller.

It’s a funny thing about fire. It draws people to it. My cousins drove by, noticed us siting around the fledgling blaze, and pulled into our driveway. We invited them to come sit with us, properly distanced of course. Soon my other cousin who lives on our lane walked down to our house, and the five of us sat in yard chairs around burning embers under overcast skies.

I brought bottled water for us all and we talked, like we did before the world was crazy.

Eventually raindrops began and we scattered to cars and houses, back to sheltering in our homes. But for an hour or two, we were together again, drawn by the attraction of burning wood.

As I think of the re-entry process after two months of cocooning, I am considering my own responsibility and response to rules and changes and a new normal and especially the people I will meet face-mask to face-mask, or perhaps as our unmasked selves.

For years I’ve been discovering I cannot change others. I can only change myself. The lesson is hard learned, me with the constructive criticism, for your own good, mind you.

The powers that be can enforce rules, but it cannot change a heart. We may coerce people to do what we want, but we will not remake a life or an attitude or a mindset. Only God can light that fire.

How will I respond to rudeness? It should be with a gentle answer. What should I do if people get angry and shout their opinions? I could express myself with calm control. I can check my facts and know the truth before I dare to differ. I can stand for my God-given rights in peaceful protest.

Jesus’ example was humble strength. He did not back down, nor did He run over. He responded with wisdom, shrewd yet innocent of ulterior motives. He always spoke truth and He always acted in love. He was fervent splendor, ignited with the Spirit of God, and people were drawn to the heat.

As we move into our small corners of the world again, what if our lives were on fire with the light and love of Jesus? What if we walked without fear, clothed in compassion? Would people notice the difference? Would it catch their attention? Would they want to investigate and come closer, longing to be warmed by the passion of Christ burning in the lives of His children?

I pray it will be so in my own life, the one and only life I can change through the power of the Holy Spirit. I want His zeal and intensity burning in me.

And like the unconsumed bush that captured Moses’ attention, the fire of God will draw people to Himself. Then hearts will be transformed.

photo from pixels.com

Tuesday thoughts

The past Sunday I lingered long in my rocking chair in the early morning. There was nowhere to go.

The candle flame twinkled in the glass votive on the kitchen table. An open window let in the breeze and the sound of birds waking the morning. I never tire of their first songs of the day, and I count them as gifts, those sparrows and wrens cared for by their Father.

There was no rushing about for breakfast or ironing Sweet William’s shirt for church. No band practice, sanctuary service or class gathering for donuts and coffee. For almost two months, Sundays are different. I have plenty of time to sit, to pray and to ponder the Word I read.

I began to wonder what God wants to do in me in this unusual season of the world. What instruction can I take into the days ahead?

Oddly enough, the word purify came to mind. Purification is the process of making impurities evident so they can be removed. It occurs in water, air and metals, and it certainly happens to a life God wants to refine. During my sheltering at home, the Holy Spirit has gently urged me to pay attention to heart issues rising to the surface.

I needed grace during our confinement, and I’ve needed to give grace to others. It’s easy to forget that God expects me to give what I have lavishly received, grace upon grace, day after day and week after week.

It was necessary to count gifts in my journal, remembering all the good surrounding me while news reports were dark and foreboding. Gratitude makes a difference in the way I think, putting a positive spin on a negative and difficult situation.

Trust trumps fear. I wondered if the food would last, how long we would be confined, would there be enough toilet paper, was my family going to be alright? Again the Lord reminds me to trust and not fear, believing He is good and strong and has a plan in all this.

Love is still the highest goal. We have been loved by texts and phone calls, shopping done for us, yard projects, properly-distanced outdoor visits, and surprise gifts. God wants the same from me, loving others in tangible ways, by word and deed, the way Christ loved me.

Life does not consist in the things we possess, Jesus said. Things are nice, but what I miss is human contact. Family and friends matter. At the end of life, when everything is stripped away, what I will cherish are the ones I held dear in my heart.

Lessons learned the hard way seem to make the most impact on me. I don’t know why it has to be so. Maybe I’m thick-headed and need vigorous tutorials. The Holy Spirit, my teacher and guide, patiently works in me to bring out the best. The best will look a lot like Jesus.

The weeks have been challenging and more will be required of us for a while. I notice people’s kindness, their thoughtfulness as we shelter apart yet we shelter together. God is in our midst. He is here, and He has some things to teach us. Let’s listen up.