Tag Archive | grace

Valentine’s Day is not about sweethearts

Of course, the media in all of its intrusive forms would make us think Valentine’s Day is for lovers and sweethearts and couples and spouses.  We must buy candy and cards.  We must spend money.  Jewelry and roses are expected.  And if you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something expensive, well you just must not be loved so much.

NOT!  Please don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  I’ve been recognizing this more since doing a Bible study by Kelly Minter and gathering weekly with sisters to talk openly and be real about our lives and our relationships.

Anything good in this world, any smidgen of love displayed, any beauty, any joy all comes from the Creator of every good and perfect gift.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my husband’s embrace, in the endurance and strength to care for him, in the kindness of medical professionals and visitors to his hospital room.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with gifts all day long, gifts of grace like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, my little dog snuggling close, by a phone conversation with my grandson-too-far-away.

But the very most extravagant love God has demonstrated was the gift of His Son to a world that did not receive Him, did not know Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in that He loved us when we were unlovable, unlovely, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He initiated love and lavished that love on the creation, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His welcoming arms of forgiveness and grace.

Many stories try to tell us the origin of a man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving and so we celebrate him with a day in February.  We call him a saint.  And then we ask you to spend money to show your love.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing your own wants for someone else.

Love forgives, does not hold grudges, hardly notices when others do you wrong.  Love is patient and kind.  It’s not jealous and boastful.  Love helps you think of others first and act in loving ways no matter what.  Love longs for truth and right living.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Because Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when I am wounded by words.  Not when I am separated by distance or misunderstandings or unresolved conflict. God’s love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, no nothing can separate me from His love.  And that is worth remembering on Valentine’s Day.

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Just for today

Day 26 of 31 Days of October – Roses Among The Thorn

Just for today let someone love you.

Just for today laugh deep and long.

Just for today count your blessings for they are many.

Just for today receive grace, embrace it, wrap yourself in it like a warm blanket.

Just for today give grace to someone else because it has been lavished on you.

Just for today enjoy the life God has given you, every single second of it.

And when tomorrow comes, start all over again.

Sunday grace, friends.

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For a list of the days of October, go here please.

Slightly broken

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Day 11 of 31 Days of October – Roses Among The Thorns

She was a gift at Christmas from a co-worker.  I loved her at first sight.  This grace girl with wings holding a cross.  She symbolized so much to me.

Last week she fell off the piano.  It was all my fault.  My carelessness.  When I retrieved her from the dark recesses of the hollow between wall and piano, a wing was broken.  Beyond repair, because I didn’t have all the pieces to put her back together whole and new.

Sadness.  What to do with her now with a broken wing.  Not so pretty.  Not so perfect.

After several ideas went through my mind, I placed her back on the piano, broken wing and all.  Her imperfections are glaring.  But she symbolizes so much to me.

I am that grace girl.  Totally dependent on the grace of Jesus Christ whose death on the cross clothed me in a robe of righteousness.  I have no wings, though I do long to be more perfect at this age, having served the Lord for so many years.

I am slightly broken and always will be until I am made completely new in my Heavenly home.  I will exchange corruption for incorruption.  My mortality will be replaced with immortality.  And I will be like Him.  Oh glorious day!

Of this I am sure, that the One who began His good work in me will go on developing my life until the day of Jesus Christ.  But until then, my broken-ness will testify of Christ’s completeness and how He takes me as I am and does not give up on me.  He places me where I can display His grace.  And somehow through that, He will be glorified.

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Join me on my October journey as I challenge myself to write for 31 days.   You are most welcome.

For a list of the days of October, go here please.

This is my life

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I’m sitting in the waiting room at Bob Montgomery getting the oil changed in the little black Honda while the Today show on the TV keeps me company.  Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are talking with a physiologist about a new phobia she said is sweeping the planet.  It is called Fear of Missing Out.  FOMO for short.

In this information age, we can look into other people’s lives in a way our parents never thought of.  This I not gossip over the neighborhood fence. Social media is available on demand to investigate everyone’s business literally, at my fingertips.

I see what so-and-so is doing and wonder why I’m not doing that?  Someone bought a new car.  A friend and her family are on vacation, and look at all those fabulous pictures on Facebook.  Another person is headed out of state to see the grandchildren, and wasn’t she just there last month?

I fear that I’m missing out.

FOMO is envy of every other person who is doing something I want to do.

There is so little time and so many options!  And my time is running short.

The result is a bad case of malcontent, of wanting another’s experiences and possessions.

If I dwell on it too long, I risk letting it evolve into jealousy, known to be cruel as the grave.  Because jealousy keeps one from living one’s own life to the fullest.

If I am constantly looking at other people’s lives and comparing theirs to mine, I miss my own present season.  I do not enjoy the gifts God gives to me today.

I think it has something to do with learning contentment.  I’ve been thinking about contentment lately.  Perhaps because I have struggled to really be content.

I’ve said it out loud to myself lately.  “This is my life.”  I say it sometimes with resignation, when I am tired, discouraged, feeling left out of the fray of the action.  It’s a sad case of FOMO.

I need my vision checked.

When I stop looking at “what isn’t”  and the “have nots” and instead turn my focus to the “what is” and the “haves,” I take on a different perspective.

When I count the gifts I see all around me, the grace and mercy stored up for me each morning, I realize I am blessed beyond measure, more than I deserve.

I am queen of Quite-A-Lot.

So I determine to keep my focus turned upward, to look for gifts and grace falling down from above from the Father of lights who gives because He is good.

For the last several Wednesdays, twenty plus women and I have gathered in the upper room at Little Flock Baptist Church to practice.  We are learning to count.  We are doing a small group Bible study together, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  The study has challenged us to look for grace, the gifts the Father gives each of us moment by moment.  And then we give thanks, listing them in simple notebooks, counting to one thousand and more.  We are learning that in the counting there is joy.  And as Voskamp asks, who doesn’t want joy?

By counting gifts, I notice the small things, the simple everyday things that I overlook on too many occasions as I am rushing this one life of mine.  Taking notice of all that God has given me, I slow down to enjoy and find I have more than enough and then some, that I am not missing out on a single thing He has planned for me.

This is my life!  God designed and planned it before I was born.  He handpicked my family.  He guides where I liveMy steps and stops are directed by Him.  He purposes my experiences to form and mold me.

I have this one beautiful life to live to my fullest.  It is a gift.  I receive it with open hands, lifting my eyes Heaven-ward to the Giver of all good gifts.

Counting to one thousand and more . . .

. . . chicken pot pie with Sweet William and a dear friend

. . . red cardinals at the feeder on a grey day

. . . hot coffee

. . . geese on winter pond

Are you counting with me?  I’d love to know and hear about your list.

Life’s a journey

Life’s a journey.  Enjoy the ride” was a commercial slogan from a Toyota campaign a number of years ago. It appealed to me so much that I have made it a life motto of sorts.

I guess I was born with a personality type that tends to look at the glass half full, trying to glean the sunshine from experiences, even when it is raining.

Please don’t think I am a practically perfect Pollyanna who has mastered the Glad Game she played to deal with her disappointments.  I have had my mully-grubs, my bought with depression, my pity parties, and my “gloom, despair, and agony on me” days.

Still, the journey has been strewn with a vast array of joy, beauty, and friendships; an abundance of love coming from so many directions; and most of all the knowledge of the ever-present God.

This year, our road has taken some detours. I’ve been sidetracked and had to re-calculate my map.  There was no use trying to turn around and go a different way.  We cannot go back, can we?  Only forward.

The journey Sweet William and I have been on lately has been rocky and rugged at times, to say the least. The mountains have looked impassable and the waters too deep to cross over.  But God . . . (I love that phrase!) . . . but God has poured grace upon grace and so often given the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness.

Now we face yet another recovery process after yet another surgery this year. Complications have already threatened my plan and upset my apple cart.

While on a road trip today, taking Bill to an appointment for a medical procedure, I considered the hard journey this year.  With those thoughts begging for my attention, the Spirit turned  them and I began counting the blessings and the beauty in spite of the problems.  And so I list some of them:

The splendor of fall still glowing.

The yellow carpet of Maple leaves underneath the front-yard swing.

Our Bradford Pear tree that stands strong and tall after so many years whose leave just now turn red and are waiting to be enjoyed.

The orange berries on the shrub that grows by the garage, some of its branches cut and gracing a vase on the kitchen counter.

Roses stubornly blooming in the front yard.

Friends who call, send cards, and express their love in so many ways.

Strength in my own body.

Laughter.

A warm house and food to eat.

A washing machine that just keeps washing.

Our Maltese Buddy who greets me when I return home with the enthusiasm only matched by my grandchildren.

The newest member of the household, Gus the cat, whose purring machine turns on as soon as I reach out to touch him.

Sweet William who smiles through the pain and thanks me for all I do.

Kind, efficient, and knowledgeable medical professionals.

Family close by I can call when I am in need.

The distraction of work I enjoy.

Piano students who brighten an otherwise cloudy day.

A really good cup of coffee with half and half cream.

Hearing my Dad say he’s praying for Bill and me throughout the day.

The assurance of my salvation, that nothing or no one can ever separate me from the love of God because of Christ Jesus.

A good Word from Holy Writ, God’s personal message to me.

Being able to cry my tears, knowing my Father understands.

I could count more, and I do for they are always falling down to earth from God’s hand, mercies that are new every morning, just waiting to be noticed and appreciated.

Life will present me with more rough roads, places under construction, warnings to slow down and be cautions because danger lies ahead. Such is man’s destiny in a world longing for its own deliverance.

But the journey is not to be dreaded or faced with fear. It is journey God promises to walk with me, a journey Jesus himself paved for me. It will be filled with trials and temptations.  But it will also be filled with blessings untold.

It is a ride of a lifetime, one to be enjoyed and savored.  I don’t want to miss it.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father . . . (James 1:17)

Lent, a journey to the cross

This past week on March 9, many Christians recognized Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the season of Lent.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t really know what Lent was all about.  In 2005, I took a position as pianist at a Methodist church.  During my year and a half with that congregation, I was introduced to Lent along with many other worship experiences.

The Methodist services were filled with traditional symbols, prayers and songs. I determined to participate with a worshiper’s heart.

I found the Lenten season quite meaningful.  From Ash Wednesday to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter, we were admonished to prepare for and walk toward the cross, the place of Jesus’ death.

As I understand it, the main point of Lent is for Christians to examine their own hearts and lives in light of the work of grace completed in and for us.  Are there sins we are committing that need to be confessed and eliminated?  Are there sins of omission, commands left undone, that we need to start doing?  It is not a time to point fingers at others; rather I am to look deeply at myself.

During Lent it is a practice to give up something enjoyable as a way of denying earthly desires and so draw closer to God by crucifying the flesh.

The 40 days represent the duration of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Please understand, there is no means of us being saved by participating in Lent or by giving up something pleasurable.  Salvation is only by God’s grace, a free gift to each individual willing to receive it.

What I appreciated about Lent was the continual reminder of what we are looking toward, and that is Jesus Christ crucified for us sinners.  How often I have planned for my new Easter outfit, matching the shoes to the dress, without every really considering the cost of my soul’s freedom from the debt of sin?

I place a challenge before us with six weeks until Good Friday. Let each of us give thought to God’s unusual and magnificent plan for our salvation. Can we think of more than just a new outfit, getting a fresh haircut, filling an Easter basket with candy, or dying eggs?

Seek to know the love of God that surpasses earthly knowledge.  It is vast beyond measure.  It is lavish and pure.  It is worthy of our meditation and a reason for thanksgiving.

 How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

 How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory

 Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life.  I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom

by Stewart Townend

 

Will you join me on my journey?  Please leave a comment.  Let’s travel together. 

A circle of grace

I will try to be brief, yet I have to comment about this morning’s service at Little Flock Baptist Church.  Joyful tears filled my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks from the very beginning song by Hosanna, the women’s ensemble.  My heart was so full of thanksgiving for the grace extended to me by God, our Father, through Jesus, His Son. 

The testimony given by Della and Jerry was moving.  I cannot identify with their pain or loss at their daughter’s death; but I can relate to a grace that makes it possible to keep living and moving forward when the storms of life knock you down until you think you cannot breathe, let alone stand up.

Pastor Rodney’s sermon was like icing on the cake, encouraging us believers with promises of God’s faithfulness to work out all things, the beneficial and the horrific, for our good.  If God is for us, who – just tell me who – can be against us!  For we are more than conquerors and gain the victory through Him who loved us.

The sermon ended with a story of a young indian boy who comes of age and must show himself brave enough to stay in the woods all night with a blindfold on his eyes.   In this rite of passage toward becoming a man, he must endure the howling of wild animals, swallow his fear and stay within the circle drawn by his elders.  As the dawn begins to drive away the darkness and his fear, he is allowed to remove the blindfold.  The sight he sees is his father, who has been there with him all night long, waiting quietly within the circle.

Pastor called it the circle of grace. 

I picture myself in that circle, sometimes enduring the fearsome night and the howling sounds of the enemy’s threats.  And then I remember that my Heavenly Father is there with me in the circle.  What have I to fear?  What have I to dread?  I am safely kept by the everlasting arm of God.

In that circle of grace I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heights, nor depths, nor any creature can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. 

And I say, Amen and hallelujah!

Are you in the circle of grace?  Leave a comment.

Tell me if you want to know how you can join me in the circle.