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Sunday grace

My spiral note cards, sitting on the small table beside my morning rocker, are filled with Scripture verses, written through the years when I wanted to remember a word from the Lord. I’ve been reading them again and contemplating their significance to me in seasons of joy and sorrow.

As I think of people through the day, breathe a prayer for them, a verse keeps coming to mind.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11 KJV

I ponder, what is the good thing the Lord will not withhold? Those I pray for are suffering, by sickness, pain, distress, anxiety, loss and grief. Where are the good things in all of it?

I have walked the hard road, dealt with my own anxiety, endured the grief, cried the tears, and I asked the questions. Lord, where are you in my pain?

My note cards speak to me.

September 6, 2011 – The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace. Psalm 29:11

October 20, 2011 – Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19

April 16, 2012 – . . . but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5b

April 30, 2012 – You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence. Psalm 16:11

March 4, 2013 – The Lord is good, a refuge in time of trouble. He cares fot those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7

May 11, 2013 – For You, O Lord, are my lamp; the Lord lightens my darkness. 2 Samuel 22:29

July 19, 2013 – God is my helper, the sustainer of my life. Psalm 54:4

April 2, 2014 – Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion . . . Isaiah 30:18

December 17, 2015 – My flesh and my heart may fail, bu God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

June 27, 2016 – 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. Romans 15:13

October 1, 2016 – Surely You have granted [her] eternal blessings and made [her] glad with the joy of Your presence. Psalm 21:6

January 2, 2017 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

September 13, 2019 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

November 1, 2019 – The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

January 2, 2020 – My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14

November 10, 2020 – And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. Colossians 2:10

December 30, 2020 – The Name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

July 21, 2021 – Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 *

As I reviewed my circle of versus, I see a theme, a thread of hope coming from Heaven and reaching my heart. The good things God does not withhold are His presence, His peace, His strength, His unfailing love, His grace, His comfort, His guidance, His heart. He does not and will not withhold the One Good Thing – Himself.

While I wonder at what He does, I am called to surrender to His will instead of fighting for my own. I continue to pray for healing and health and for earthly blessings for friends and family. I intercede for souls knowing this carries eternal consequences. I weep with those who weep and help bear the unchanging burdens of others. I remember present grace and future glory, and I know there is a good God who gives good gifts to His children. In His wisdom, providence and sovereignty, He sees the bigger picture, one I cannot comprehend.

I look toward the exceeding weight of glory while enduring the light and momentary troubles, though it seems a painful process. I run to the mercy seat of Jesus as He is working all things for good and for His purpose, though I can’t understand it.

The Father of Compassions calls me to be compassionate too. My wounds and scars are testimony of His sustaining grace in the dark valleys and shadows of death. My joy should be full and my heart overflowing with praise to Christ my Savior for taking my sin, covering my shame with His righteousness, lifting me up and keeping me for an eternal home with Him.

I don’t understand God’s ways. But I know He is good and He will not withhold Himself from me. This is my strength and my song.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

Sunday grace.

*Various translations

Sunday grace

I ponder life, its intricacies and complexities. It is beautiful and yet painful. It surprises me with great joy and sometimes plummets me into the depths of sorrow.

Having lived my many years, I’ve learned from the everyday of routine, the unexpected turn in direction, and the sudden stop of grief. Wisdom came not through the study of books but from experience, the waking to a new day and putting one foot in front of the other because that is what I must do. While so much is mystery, I see some things with unquestioned clarity.

Yahweh the Lord is sovereign. He is strong and He is good. He is over all, in all and through all, and nothing is beyond His grasp of knowledge and care. Love is His essence, justice and righteousness are like garments. He is tender and He is a warrior.

He is I AM. He will be who He will be.

When life begins and when it ends.

When I am full or when I am empty.

When dear ones are close or when they are far away.

When relationships are rich or when confusion and hurt separate.

When I am strong and full of vigor or when I am racked with pain.

When the fog lifts so I see clearly or when darkness blinds me to the next step.

When I understand His plan or when I lay in the dust of confusion.

When the way opens up or the door closes to me.

When friends surround me or when I am left alone.

When the gifts and talents He gave lay dormant on the shelf.

When I question but get no answer.

When I cry until no tears are left.

When I cannot perceive what He is doing.

When I don’t know which way to go.

This I know. He is Yahweh. I AM.

He has a plan for me and He loves me with an unreasonable, everlasting love. His grace reaches to the lowest depths and captures me, drawing me to Himself, telling me I am precious to Him. He forgives again and again. He has prepared a place for me so I can be with Him forever. He has completed His plan of redemption and all I have to do is respond to His invitation.

He is Yahweh. I AM.

He is Faithful and True and I will trust Him.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

Spring presses herself onward while winter clings with a tight-fisted hold.

I walk the yard and notice the signs of beginnings. The crocuses by the front porch surprise me every year. Buds on branches are full. The forsythia bush opens tender flowers despite the cold. And daffodils by the side of the house bloom enough for a bouquet on the kitchen table

I listen to the sounds of the season, early bird choruses, frogs croaking in puddles, geese fluttering as a pair, abandoning the flock, preparing to nest.

The trees in my yard are winter bare, awaiting the surge to bring forth life again, except for one oak by the drive. It clings to last year’s leaf collection, all dry and brown, unwilling to turn loose.

Like the oak tree, I sometimes cling to an old and lifeless past. I bear scars, but wounds are meant to heal. What happened cannot be undone, only forgiven. I may wish I’d made a wiser choice, used better words, walked a path less traveled, treasured a relationship, opened my heart, but I cannot ask for a do-over.

Sometimes I long for what was but is no more, binding me to yesterday, unable to move forward or rejoice in today. Or I simply crave another’s perceived Facebook life, assuming it is better and easier, seen though my lens of discontent.

I’m clinging to dead leaves.

Old journals and picture albums stir memories and the emotions of life events: birthday celebrations and holidays, vacations and family gatherings. Remembering is good. The past shows where God led me. I was there. Now I am here by His grace. There’s no turning back or retracing of steps. The road leads forward, and I must press on, laying aside weights and sins, regrets and longings, that are heavy like a burdensome backpack.

” . . . when I hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to me.” — Emily P. Freeman

I’ll be observing my oak tree, watching as it swells with spring’s energy, laying bare its branches in readiness for the new and fresh. It will release winter’s hold and open to creation’s beauty.

I pray to release what cleaves to and hinders me as I walk with Christ in what still feels like a winter season. I ask the Father to refill me with the Holy Spirit’s renewing life force, the energy and power of a God who knows no boundaries or limitations. His grace is strength for the journey.

Let Spring bring forth.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

What if it isn’t about religion but about relationship?

What if isn’t about our effort, our work, sweat, and tears but about receiving the grace of the Person of Christ Jesus?

What if it isn’t about trying to keep all the rules but about keeping company with Him?

What if knowing Jesus personally, not just knowing about Him, is the main thing?

Would life be simpler? Would trust be easier? Would praying be as natural as talking to a friend? Would the Word of God become more of a love letter than a letter of law?

What if we knew every life is valuable and eternal? Would we treat each other and ourselves with more gentleness and kindness?

What if we understood that we are known intimately and loved completely. Would it be easier to receive love and to love others?

What if tribulations really produced endurance, perseverance, compassion, and understanding? Would it be easier to count it all joy and give thanks in all circumstances?

What if life in the here and now is meant to prepare us for the everafter? Would hard experiences make more sense? Would we be more heavenly minded and more earthly good?

What if the Bible is true? What if there is a God who planned and created all we see? What if we are important enough for Him to die for us?

What if He truly offered a life more abundant? Would it make a difference to you?

It makes a difference to me.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Unsought words penetrate my thoughts. And what have I been given?

Life. Parents who loved me. Extended family who helped mold me. A sheltering home. An opportunity to learn to read, write, explore.

A husband, and then a son. A daughter-in-love, and then three grandchildren.

Long-time friends and new friends who know me and accept me as I am. Neighbors who share my lane and look out for me

Meaningful work. Music and a gateway to share it with students and in ministry.

God the Father, the Word, the Holy Spirit desiring relationship with me, seeking me, forgiving me, living in me to be guide, comfort, teach, and help.

Strength to engage in life. A mind to think and reason and create.

Much has been given. What is required?

To act justly, to do kindness, to walk humbly with God.
To love God and love others.
To give thanks.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

I’m reading a book about the ageless soul, written by someone well past my years, who talks about aging vs being old.

It is the perfect time of life to think about aging. I see the signs in the mirror and feel it when I walk up the steps, when I kneel down and then try to get up.

This body of mine bears the marks of the life I’ve lived. I can hardly wrap my mind around the nearness of the next decade. Only five months away from what seemed ancient when I was a teenager. And now it is on my doorstep.

The decade markers are weighty, and my candle burns.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.
Psalm 90

Seventy years. Maybe eighty. My dad lived past ninety. Will I? I’ve been here a pretty long time already. What is before me? How much time is left on this earth?

Aging happens to all of us, even my four-month-old littlest neighbor is growing, changing, becoming something different. He is aging.

Old is not the same as aging.

Aging brings experience, knowledge, wisdom. It is life-giving. My true self emerges and continues to grow strong even while my body, which is the tent, lacks its former vigor.

” . . . we emerge in our older years with the beauty and wings of a butterfly.”
— Thomas Moore

I love butterflies, the way they float with the gentlest breeze, stop to nibble a flower and sip the lifegiving nectar. They move unhurried, enjoying the brief life they are allotted.

In the quiet of the early morning I looked backward, into the years gone before. I muse on the hard places, events that changed life as I knew it. I observed how God used the tests and trials, the joys and victories to teach and mold and conform me. I have aged. My soul has been nurtured. I have participated and found purpose in my life.

I considered my years, the number of them left on this earth in a body that is temporary. I will not be afraid of my tomorrows, however they come. There is a loving hand, a true heart, a purposeful Father who guides my years, my days, who gives my every breath. He was always there. He is here now. He will be where I am going.

So I will watch the days of the calendar tick off one by one. I will live in the newness of life in Christ Jesus my Lord. I will love life and sip the nectar it offers.

And I will go and be like the butterfly.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

I am yet to comprehend God’s mercy.

Even when someone tries to explain it. Even when a story attempts to portray it. Even when I read about it in the Bible, I still struggle to understand the depth to which it flows.

How could God love the world so much? How could He love me? How can I fathom the lengths of love He extended to have a relationship with me?

Why in the world did He who was without sin not cast the first stone at the sinner? He could have. He was the only One who had the right. But He didn’t. Instead He gave mercy.

Neither do I condemn you.

But after the words of forgiveness come the challenge.

“Go and sin no more.

Who can even do that? Go and sin no more? I only wish. In fact, I try. And I fail. Then I feel the shame of not measuring up to the high standard of holiness.

“Be holy for I am holy.”

Woe is me, I am left undone and without hope.

“My power is made perfect in weakness.”

In my weakness, Christ’s power rests on me. His greatness is shown through my frailty. For when I am weak, then I am strong through Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

I am yet to comprehend God’s grace.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

I have needed a little sunshine.

The grey days of a Kentucky winter are getting to me. It’s the same each year, the rain, the clouds, the cold. Days are short. Darkness lasts long.

Yesterday’s prediction of snow greeted me early morning. I saw the moon out my kitchen window, a lovely surprise. I hadn’t seen it in days, weeks maybe. Then there was a real sunrise and blue skies, and despite the cold, it was beautiful outside, the world brightened.

January has been different, my usual organizing frenzy delayed. Family matters were priority, and Sweet William and I spent long hours on the road to give comfort. Really, we were the ones needing solace, the balm which comes from being with those we hold dearest to our hearts.

I become more contemplative at the beginning of a year. I seek out quiet to think; write my heart in a journal; read in hopes something will dazzle me; look to God’s Word for inspiration. Silently pray.

I’ve slowed myself these weeks since coming back home. Familiar routines guide my days. I resolve to eat from the freezer and the pantry, not running to the grocery unnecessarily.

I turned on lights throughout the house to cheer us on the sunless days, lit candles for fragrance. I cut evergreens from the yard and put in vases, a breath of nature. The book I read about Hygge (pronounced HOO-GA) told me to find pleasure in the simple things.

Finishing a book about mercy today, I determine to give mercy to others more quickly. I see that I need to give mercy to myself.

On this coldest day of winter, we have been warm, well fed, protected. I numbered my blessings in the pink spiral journal, because I must. There is much for which to give thanks.

This from Stacy J. Edwards gives me pause, dazzles me:

Our hope comes from what we know. Not what we feel. Not what we see. Not what someone else has said.”

My perspective changes. The grey days of a Kentucky winter that are getting to me are not my end. The low-grade sadness I feel is not who I am. My hope is not in the realization that the days are getting longer and thus spring is coming.

My hope comes from what I know. And this one thing I know above all. God is love and He loves me.

Sunday grace.

December ending

December ends and so does another year, and my mind runs amok with a multitude of thoughts.

The month ended in a frenzy of unexpected stress, unplanned events, things I didn’t see coming. In a way, it felt as if I were blindsided.

As I opened the Scripture this morning, seeking a word of comfort, my ribbon marker opened to Psalm 100, a short chapter I memorized as a child.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

The familiar words of the King James Version came easily to my mind. I was refreshed with their ancient newness, words of assurance and love, reminding me to praise no matter what the day produces. I kept them in my heart throughout the day, believing that God is who He says He is and He meant every word that He preserved for me to read.

December was joyously spent with friends and family. Tables filled to the brim with few and many, shared meals or simply a cup of hot cocoa. Conversation was always the prime ingredient. It was beautiful, and I’m grateful for the gift of relationship that lasts all year long.

The holiday season was busy with a recital, a craft fair and birthdays added to the hustle of gift buying, cooking/baking, and opening our home every chance we got. I’m always down to the last wire getting the Christmas boxes to the post office in time for delivery to our dear ones. I have settled it in my head that I’m a late gift-wrapper. I can’t seem to do it ahead of time in spite of the wrapping paraphernalia setting out in readiness since the first of the month.

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In contrast, there were quiet days for contemplation, shared devotionals with Sweet William, time to sit by the fire and sip slowly of life. I appreciate days like that. Too much, my younger self spent all her days in frenzied activity. I’ve learned that slow is a good speed for me.

I re-read an old book, Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a fictional account of Mary and Joseph in the days of their betrothal through the birth of Jesus. While much of the story was imagined, the Biblical details were accurate. I enjoyed thinking about the young couple, the love they might have shared, the criticism they endured from Mary’s unique pregnancy, and the hardships of a long trip to Bethlehem ending with birthing in a stable.

The drama came alive to me, a real story with real people living out an unusual calling. I was reminded that God’s ways are different, to say the least. His ways are higher, too profound and deep for me to completely understand. And yet, He is so near, so involved in history and our daily lives. He came to be with us so that we could know Him. Amazing.

And so we begin a new year. In an odd sort of way, I like endings and beginnings, the closing of a book cover only to open another, finishing a project with the satisfaction that I can move on to something else. It is the anticipation of starting fresh and new, like the untouched page of a new journal or notebook. It awaits the imprint of inked words.

As I reviewed my bullet journal and prepared the new one, I saw that I didn’t complete many of the major projects I’d planned to do this year.  Which presents me with a conundrum. If they were not a real priority, what shall I do with them in the coming year?

I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll just go like a butterfly, take each day as it comes, feel  for the wind of the Spirit and go where He is moving.

I kind of like thought.

Happy New Year 2019! 

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Sunday grace

Trying to read with fresh eyes, I ponder the first stories told by Matthew and Luke. I see ordinary people doing ordinary things.

A priest performing his regular duties at the temple in Jerusalem.

His wife back in Judea keeping the home fires burning.

A young woman minding her own business while preparing for her pending nuptials.

A carpenter building a home to make ready for his bride.

A band of shepherds working the night shift, watching for predators of the smelly sheep  in their charge, them just trying to stay awake.

The Magi, men whose assignment was to study the sky at evening’s blackness, hoping for some new discovery.

People doing everyday tasks, much like me.

But then their regular lives were touched by the holy. Angels appeared. Dreams intruded. A star blazed as a wondrous sign. Life is not normal anymore. Suddenly everything is changed.

There is holiness around us, trying to get our attention, inviting us to slow and see it. Holiness wanting to break in to the mundane so we can experience the extraordinary measure of grace.

The story of Christmas has a beauty all its own. It needs no trappings of glitter or gifts, no decked halls or tables laden with delicacies , no spinning activities or full-to-the-brim schedules.

The story of Christmas is the Holy come down to earth to be with the ordinary. The Holy made single-cell small in order to enter into my world. The Holy, whose glory cannot be contained in a thousand universes, putting on flesh to be swaddled and held by a mere human. The Holy initiating a tender and astounding love that can make all things new.

This is Christmas. May we look for the holy in each moment of it, experience it fresh, slow to hear angels sing.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14

Sunday grace.

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