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Sunday grace

Before the household awakens, I awake. It is a special time of day for me, to sit quietly while it is yet dark, to contemplate my God and my life, and await first light of the new day. I love first light.

It’s a few days before Thanksgiving Day, so I start my annual list of blessings. It is my very own tradition, one I keep while many of my beloved traditions have fallen away like autumn  leaves.

I number gifts. Nothing is too small or insignificant. Some are manna in the wilderness. Some are as brilliant and beautiful as spring flowers. Others are like a star in the night sky, a beacon pointing the way through a dark and sorrowful season. But they are gifts, all of them, from a loving God who uses all things to work out good, bringing life from death and beauty from ashes. 

I look around this old house; it holds memories a plenty. I am grateful for the dear ones who have graced us with their presence, who have shared themselves with us. My people are treasures, young, older, and in-between, unique like snowflakes, and I marvel at their warmth and tenderness, that they want to come, to be with us.

I count the ordinary – strong, hot coffee; comforty bed with warm blankets; indoor plumbing; food enough; squirrels that play in our little woods; good neighbors; sunny days and rain to water the earth.

I count the extraordinary – my prayer partner who still prays with me every week, us enduring more than a decade; playing in the band at church with those young enough to be my children and grandchildren; sharing music with piano students and hearing their joyful sounds; money to pay for unexpected and unplanned home repairs; God’s Spirit communicating with my spirit in ways that challenge me to change for the better and then giving grace to do it.

I ponder experiences that broke me open as I cried buckets of tears, running to the throne of grace for help in my time of need. Change and healing do come, the balm of Gilead, and compassion and empathy make their abode in me with a better understanding of my brothers and sisters.

I am astounded by God’s love, displayed through Jesus, how it moves me to surrender to His way of loving others. That kind of love transforms me.

Over the next few days I will add to my Joy List. As I consider what to record, I  will look at the world with eyes of gratefulness and a heart of thanksgiving. I will see grace and beauty, faith and kindness, and I will know each comes from God whose essence is love.

Showers of blessings, like so many falling leaves, are all around.

. . . whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of all light, and He shines forever without change or shadow.”
                                            — James 1:17 Living Bible

Sunday grace

It’s about love. That is it. That is all.

Francis Chan said this: “We are here to love. Not much else matters.”

My best intentions are pointless unless they are birthed from love. My sound advice may not be well received unless it is clothed in love. My wise words will be sounding brass and tinkling cymbal unless guided by love.

Why do we think we have the answers for other people’s situations, and why do we feel the need to pour it on them like a dose of needed medicine? How can I possibly understand someone else’s journey when I have not walked it or even listened enough to picture where they are?

Wait. Let me examine the mote in my own eye before I try to remove the speck in yours.

Love is patient when frustrations run high and people don’t do what I want.
Love is kind even in difficult circumstances, when others are unkind to me.
Love is not envious of another’s gifts, beauty, talent, possessions or success.
Love is not boastful but remembers that all things come from God’s hand.
Love is not proud of accomplishments but rather humbly serves from a heart of gratitude.
Love does not dishonor others by words or actions.
Love is not self-seeking but wants what is best for the other person.
Love is not easily angered and is therefore self-controlled.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs; it keeps forgiving and forgiving.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth and justice.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always endures, even when, and especially when, it is hard.
Love does not fail. Love is primary. *

Dear Father in Heaven,
I’m convicted as I write the words about love. I fail often and I falter too much in loving well.

Your kindness leads to repentance. You draw us to Yourself by loving the unlovable.
May my words be kind, always. May I be patient even in my tribulation.

May I offer grace in the abundant way I have been given grace.
May I be quick to forgive and keep no record of offenses.
May Your perfect love touch the deep places of my heart and cast out fear.
May Your mighty power work in me so I can comprehend and acknowledge how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is.
May I come to know this love, though it surpasses knowledge, and be filled with the fullness of God, so that I live according to love’s direction.
I pray this in Jesus’ name, the One who loved us with His life and with His death. *

Amen

* From 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 3

Sunday grace

Reading Exodus 33 once again, I am struck by the audacity of Moses’ request of God Almighty:

Show me Your glory.”

Oh God, we need Your presence more than Your good gifts.

We work for the stuff of this earthly life, houses, cars, trinkets, bank accounts, travel. We seek education, careers, and climb ladders to who knows where, hoping for a taste of fulfillment, to find happiness, to experience contentment.

We look for fun in the funniest of places, wanting something long-lasting, expecting it to satisfy, while it floats to the ground like dry leaves.

We spend our strength on things short-lived and temporal, that which passes away, leaving us searching for the next thing.

And all the time it is You, Lord, that we need. More than comfort, more than healing, more than gifts, more than answers. We. Need. You.

Give us hungry hearts. Give us ears to hear You and eyes to see You in our everyday moments. Show us how needy we are for Your Presence, Your Voice, Your Holiness.

Your Glory.

For this I pray.

Sunday grace.

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.

Sunday grace

Words of a song from my youth take shape in my mind, and I sing them to the trees.

More of You. More of You. I’ve had all, but what I need is more of You.
Of things I’ve had my fill, and yet I hunger still.
Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer for more of You.

On retreat at a cabin in the woods, what better place to be? I look out to the treetops. The quiet is a balm. I fill up on nature’s nectar.

The early morning is my favored hour on the deck, before the heat of the day, sunlight filtering through leaves, birds serenading, gentle rain dripping to the forest floor.

When Maisie and I walk, she is in olfactory heaven. I wonder at her inquisitiveness, ears alert and nose to the ground. What scent causes her pause, creating a craving to investigate? What sound catches her attention enough to stop, stand still, and wait for more?

I too feel the yearning to pause in wonder while seeking and searching for truth. What lies ahead as one decade of my life ends and another begins? How shall I be alert to what lies ahead? How can I give heed to what my senses and my spirit are trying to tell me?

At this age I have more questions than answers.

Reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life, I make notes in my journal.

  • I will not live wisely unless I am thoughtful, examining this one wonderful life, my motives, behavior and habits.
  • Preparing for tomorrow is different than worrying about tomorrow.
  • I can’t face old age when I’m old. I have to do that when I’m young. (I hope it isn’t too late.)

Life is a remarkable adventure, with twists and turns, wonder and mystery. The trail is winding and uphill, heavy with the weight of the unimaginable yet to be discovered.

The journey is dangerous and wild. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and face planted. Hopefully, I learned from my errors, picked up and gone forward. Around the bend is magnificence, and I don’t want to miss it.

When the road is uncertain and frightening, I will not walk alone, though the valleys are deep and the mountains high. My Shepherd leads. He started the quest and invited me to follow. He is my protection and prepares a table for me. He bids me rest and takes my hand when it’s time to press on.

The closer I get to home, the more I know what I really need, what I want most. It isn’t the stuff I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating. Not houses or land, bank accounts or possessions.

It’s Jesus. He is what my heart craves. He is what I need.

Sunday grace.


Sunday grace

Predawn darkness. Sound of perking coffee. Fresh air from an opened window.

The new day begins. I sit in the stillness, Bible open in my lap and prayer list in my hand. I read, pray, listen.

God was awake before I heard the alarm. He kept watch through the night. He waited in expectation for me to come. He desires fellowship with me.

I stand amazed.

Before the sun crests the tree tops, birds begin their chorus. First one, then others join. The little woods becomes a symphony of song.

The words I pray are no surprise to my Father. He knows the needs before I ask. He understands my feeble effort to express my requests, remembering that I am dust. He determines the times and seasons and works His plan to bring about His will.

What more could I ask?

I journal and pour out my heart on paper. God comprehends more than the words I try to write, the longings so tangible that I ache, the storm brewing that needs a calming.

As near as my breath, He speaks peace. “Fear not. I am with you.”

I rest in Him, a Sabbath rest that incompasses every day of the week. It is the choice I make as I rise to face the day. Whatever it brings, I know God loves me. He hears my prayers. He answers according to His perfect will, accomplishing His purpose in me and those I love.

This is grace.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

It is a day for palm waving and shouts of joy. The crowds gather with prophesied words, “Hosannah, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Praises roar as excitement builds to fever pitch.

The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.

He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.

He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.

As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.

While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.

Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.

He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.

Sunday grace.