Sunday grace

The heat bears down on me, almost unbearable. I search the sky for a cloud, for rain, for a reprieve. But the sky is clear and blue and cloudless.

Sometimes a cloud is what I crave.

Summer stretches long. It is the season of play and fun and lasting daylight. Darkness brings short bursts of cooling and rest. Rain showers water the earth and leave the air damp, the skin sticky.

This year I long for relief.

Summer can be long burning days, and I can forget that this too shall pass. The autumn season awaits its entrance, its signaled appearance, its glory and grace.  But it seems far away.

The oppressive trial sunburns my heart, and I look for respite.

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“Let us cross over to the other side,” Jesus told His disciples. A terrible storm disrupted their voyage, and they thought death was imminent. They forgot their Rabbi’s assurance of certain arrival on the other shore.

Sometimes I forget too. Oh me of little faith.

Endure with patience, oh my soul. Look to the Light, the One whose radiance burns away chaff, leaving the wheat to be planted, to be fruitful.

Summer is the season of breaking up fallow ground, of laying in the seed that must die in order to live and grow. Then comes the harvest. It takes the summer heat to produce the bounty of reaping.

May it be so. In me.

Sunday grace.

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Coloring and note taking

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

When I was a little girl, I loved to color, and I loved it that my mother would sit and color too. It was fun and creative for me, and we shared the experience making it all the sweeter.

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My mother was my first playmate and confidant. She was my teacher and the one who told me about Jesus for the very first time.

As I became a teacher of children, I recall preparing color sheets for wee ones in Sunday school classes many times. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then maybe coloring can help us remember those words even more.

As I grew up, I replaced coloring with note taking. If I had colored pens to do it, well, even better. I made lists, kept a calendar of events, took minutes of meetings, and wrote in journals. As more years are added to my life, it seems the more words I write.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to receive The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible from B&H Publishing Group for a couple of reasons. It had wide, lined margins on the pages, with plenty of space to write personal notations during sermons or daily study. I like having room on the page. Some notes I’ve made in my old Bible are scrunched in small areas and often written so small I can barely read them or remember why I wrote them.

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The second reason is The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible has over 600 images and filigree designs for coloring.

The adult coloring book trend is popular, with books turning up for purchase everywhere. One article cites reasons adult coloring can be helpful. It can relieve stress, help one focus, and has been used in art therapy for years.

The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible “combines two hot trends: Bible journaling and adult coloring. Each Bible spread contains a line-drawn illustration that can be filled in by the reader with whatever colors they choose. Includes three varieties of illustrations: (1) filigree, (2) Scripture quotes, and (3) drawings that illustrate the topic of the corresponding Bible text.”

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From the title page to Revelation 22 the opportunity to color abounds in this book, offering illustrations of a story or a verse in creative lettering. Even the Table of Contents can be colored. I especially like the two-page spread for Old Testament and New Testament that incorporates coloring and almost a full page for note-taking.

The plan of salvation is the first thing after the Table of Contents, and next is an Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the textual basis for this particular translation. This Bible also includes a concordance and a maps section.

Overall, I found this to be a premium book with its bonded leather cover. (It does come in other covers and translations. Plus, there is a version especially for teens.) It is lovely to look at and lovely to hold. The quality of the pages has a touch of elegance.

Don’t expect a lot of extra notes and explanation of Scriptures. This is not a study Bible with scholarly information throughtout. The purpose of The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible is this: a place to write your own thoughts and notations, and a place to be creative as you meditate on God’s Word and who He is. The book fulfils its purpose very well.

I think this Bible would make a wonderful gift for someone you know or even for yourself.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Sunday grace

She who dwells and takes her place in the secret habitation of the Most High moves close, into the shadow of the Holy. As close as a breath.

Weighty words, this taking up residence in God.

We enter this abode at the supreme cost of life, death, a cross, and a resurrection. The secret place is a sacred place. It bears the weight of glory. His glory.

In the secret place, we find shelter, a refuge, and safety from evil intents, from daily cares, from burdens too heavy, from living in our swirling, rapid, trying-to-keep-up world.

In His presence, the believer takes his sacred position, and where He is the ground is holy.

I run to the sacred and secret dwelling place. I bow low and remove my shoes.

Sunday grace.

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In the dessert for a few days

Sweet William and I have been in the desert for almost five days. Here in mid August, our central air conditioner gave up the ghost.

It happened on a Thursday evening while I was in the midst of piano lessons. I fanned vigorously and apologized to students coming into the house. The prognosis: We need a new unit which will cost a lot, and it cannot be installed until Monday.

My students where glad to be going home.

The heat rose in our normally climate-controlled house, rising to 85 degrees quickly. Even the August picture on our wall calendar looks hot.

By Friday, Sweet William and I were sweltering. And I wonder why air conditioners break down in the middle of summer? We kept looking at the thermometers placed throughout the house as the temperatures went higher. Fans were running everywhere and especially in our faces.

And for once it was too hot for coffee.Wendys

By the afternoon, with outdoor temperature soaring to 91 degrees and not much better indoors, we had enough. We got in the car where the air conditioner worked great, turning it down to 65 degrees and letting the cold winds blow. A cheeseburger at Wendy’s was our destination because if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.

We ate our burger in the car with the air running full blast. Then we went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards because we deserved it.

I don’t know when ice cream tasted so good. I ate until chill bumps formed on my arms.

One small window unit upstairs and a portable unit left by the heating/air company were our only means of survival. At night we closed the bedroom door, the portable unit blowing cold air into the room. We slept like it was winter, pulling a quilt over us. But upon waking and opening the door to the rest of the house, the heat hit me, and I really wondered whether morning coffee was worth it.

On Saturday, the cloud cover lowered the house temperature a small bit. We experimented with blankets and quilts in doorways hoping to keep the coolness in a smaller area of the house where it could be manageable and somewhat livable.

I was glad we had not invited anyone for brunch or dinner. They would not have wanted to come.

Each morning we emerged from the igloo of our bedroom only to be faced with the heat wave in the rest of the house. The blanketed-off living area had to cool down again by opening up the bedroom door. We lived in the desert of hot air blowing around us during the day.

We went to the deck because sometimes it felt better in fresh air. We watched dark clouds roll in a few times and hoped for rain to change the weather. Maisie lay stretched out on the cool floor more often than curled up in her bed.

We drank cold drinks and fixed sandwiches. I didn’t dare turn on the oven. The goal was to stay calm, cool, and collected as possible.

It seemed each time I went outside and returned to the house, the same words came out of my mouth. “It’s cooler outside than it is in here.”

I’m sure if we had asked friends, someone would have let us come stay with them. But when you have a dog, the equation gets complicated. And Maisie was in this with us.

As the days went by, the outdoor temperature cooled a little, and I think we began adjusting to our situation. We were going to tough this one out while we counted down the days until the new unit could be installed.

Sweet William and I prayed that we would not let our tempers flare with the flare of our heated conditions. We found ways to entertain ourselves because TV was in the hot rooms of the house. We talked more, and we laughed. I read a book aloud.

We have come through this experience with much thanksgiving and hopefully some wisdom.

While we were hot and miserable physically, what we lacked were only creature comforts. There are others on our prayer list who are suffering more. Ours was a temporary discomfort lasting a few days. It is not so for some we know and love.

Life is complicated. Minor irritations and major trauma are assured to come along in this life. We are destined for tribulation. Sometimes we have to walk through a desert, and sometimes we must weather a storm.

But we also look with hope toward an end of the trial. We want to understand the lesson to be learned and grow in endurance. We come through the trouble with a few more of our rough places sanded smooth. The chisel and hammer are brutal to the marble. But what begins to take shape is the image the creator planned.

We are like the marble. God is the artist who continues to do His good work in us, though it be painful, until the image of His Son is revealed more and more.

This short desert trip was not on my schedule; I would not have chosen it. But having made the journey, the oasis is deliciously refreshing.

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Sunday grace

“I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.” He said that to Abram.

He says that to me.

When I am afraid, He is my protection and my place of safety.

When the road ahead looks dangerous and dark, He promises He will go with me and be the light.

When I feel threatened, He is my defense.

When fire consumes, moth eats away, and the thief steals, He is my portion forever.

When I am hungry or thirsty, He gives me bread that sustains the weary, water from a fresh fountain.

When the burdens are too heavy, He lifts them and offers His own yoke.

When I think I cannot go on, He carries me.

When I falter, fall down, and fail miserably, His grace lifts me, heals my wounds, and gives strength for the journey.

He teaches me, comforts me, leads me. He is loving, faithful, merciful, and full of compassion toward me.

He died for me and rose again to offer me new life for the old one.

I search for what I think will satisfy my longings. Then I realize nothing will fill me. God alone satisfies.

He is enough.

Sunday grace.

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Summer work, soul work

While I call them the gardens, this year it seems more appropriate to say it’s a jungle out there.

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This spring and summer has not been my best time for accomplishing much outdoors. It has been the year of the dog for us, though Chinese lore designates that title in 2018. Our little girl Maisie requires walks twice a day and lots of play time in the middle. I have given that to her more often than I’ve been down on my knees in the dirt with garden gloves.

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As a rescue animal who fended for herself much of her young life, Maisie needed our attention, training, and affection. She is rewarding us with obedience and companionship. She is settling in as our dog.

Last week I was able to go to the yard a couple of days. After a downpour of rain, I pulled on my garden boots and pink work gloves, carrying the kneeling pad and a few tools. I soon filled box after box of weeds pulled from all sorts of places. The occasional cloudburst drove me to the deck to rest a bit. Then I would trudge back to the work area.

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Another day, I determinedly took the weed sprayer and began the long-overdue task of killing poison ivy and the extreme overgrowth of neglected flower beds.

Both days I finished soaking wet with perspiration because, once again, it is hot at my Kentucky home. I felt encouraged that something like a small beginning was produced in those hours of work.

However, there has been some friendly fire in the gardens. Plants that should have been left in the ground were uprooted as I pulled weeds feverishly. Some purposely planted flowers were sprayed with poison accidentally in my hurry to get more accomplished. Two out-of-control Rose of Sharon bushes in full bloom were trimmed to the point of having almost no flowers left.

It happens when I leave something neglected for too long.

It happens in my soul as well. The small roots of discontent, comparison, and unthankfulness can turn into something ugly rather quickly. While the Holy Spirit prompts me with the Scripture and His still small voice, I can ignore both and go my own way, neglecting the needed soul-work, intending to deal with it later.

It’s never a good idea to put it off too long.

Weeds grow too close to flowers and reproduce quickly. Roots entangle with each other. Dislodging the weed often results in the good plant being uprooted.

I need to learn the lesson. It’s better to address the issues that bear on my spirit promptly. It’s wise to forgive quickly. I would do well to turn loose of the cares of life and stop the comparisons that burden me down. I should be discerning the bounty of gifts that are evident every day.

I need to count my blessings.

I realize life can be hard. How well we know that. There are mountains to climb, rivers to pass through, bridges to build, and rocky roads to travel.

I am assured that God goes with me every step of my journey. I am encouraged that there will be grace enough. I am told to let patience do it’s work in me so I learn endurance and will be made complete.

Instead of pushing aside those gentle nudges of the Spirit, I want to be more conscious of His whispers and quick to respond to my need for Him in every season and at all times. He is always with me and willing to help me address the complications of my life sooner rather than later. What might seem like a more convenient time only delays the inevitable.

He is the Teacher, the Comforter, and the One who goes with me whether for a daily walk or into the jungle.

There is still beauty in the gardens despite my neglect. And God still works to produce beauty in me through His tireless love, with the goal of reflecting the beauty of Christ at the end of it all.

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In the quietness

Sometimes words fail me.

So it was last week. I had no words, no words to write, no words to say, no words I hoped would encourage or inspire. I was somewhat silent.

There is the ebb and flow of the ocean, and the ebb and flow of life. Waves bring the high tides and then they recede once again. The coming and the going. Seasons bring change, and change is always, always the constant.

It is appropriate to dwell in the hush, to break from the rush of chatter and babble. I make the effort to practice the discipline of a quiet spirit that I hope results in serenity in me. I pray for God to set up a guard for my mouth and keep watch at the door of my lips. The tongue can be a fire that sets a forest ablaze.

Sometimes I need to be silent and avert the burning.

I have never been the life of the party, the one person who lights up the room by her mere presence. I know people like that. I have friends with the bubbly personality that exudes laughter and fun. They lift spirits and bring lightness to any situation.

I’m thankful for those personalities, for those people.

I am of a different sort, the contemplative one who loves being with friends and family but who craves a calm space. Too much noise, clanging and clatter for too long, can overwhelm me, and I look for some place to escape, to pause and restore.

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While my week was one of few words, the ending was celebratory and festive.

Sweet William and I gathered with friends to rejoice in one has lived 70 years. Around the table, laden with delicious food and presents for the birthday girl, the conversation and laughter were just what I needed after days of stillness.

The very next day we were at an 80th birthday party for another friend. She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a tiny new great-great-grandchild. It was a loving family showering their affection on the one who has loved them all very well.

The house was crowded, and we squeezed around one another, observing and mingling with a family who celebrates.

To everything there is a season. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up. A time for solitude and a time to throw a party. It is the ebb and flow of life.

Last week brought both seasons to me. And it was good.