Tuesday thoughts

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? . . . Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?” — The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

I love the written word. I love reading the written word.

When I was a child, I was not such a vivacious reader. Reading assignments in school left me feeling anxious about finishing the book. Sadly, I often laid aside the volume with pages left unread.

Somewhere in my life, I developed a love for the printed page, and I cannot imagine not having a book in progress. Often there are several.

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The written word is powerful. Being able to read is power also. To keep people enslaved, do not let them learn to read.

Words themselves carry power. The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death. I bear witness to that truth. Haven’t we all experienced the encouraging word or the ones that crushed our spirit?

Consider the might and authority that brought forth the earth by the spoken word of God. “And God said, let there be . . .” And it was.

That the very Word of God was made flesh and lived among people is astounding. Jesus carried with Him the might and authority of the Father, yet he walked humbly as a human, being obedient even unto death.

His glory was on full display. Some saw it and recognized the glory. Some did not. Some read the signs and saw deity. Others closed the book because they didn’t like the way the story was going.

And so the writing continues in the lives of those who believe. Written on our hearts for the world to see and read is the splendor of the gospel.

May it be a story of beauty and hope, one that illuminates and inspires with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness. May it display the deepest mysteries of the majesty of God.

And these are my Tuesday thoughts.

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Sunday grace

Forgiveness. Unforgiveness. I am confronted with it this morning in my morning quiet time.

And a person comes to my mind, someone who hurt me with her words, a wound that was deep. I struggled to find healing for it. I struggled to forgive.

Daily sometimes I said it to myself. “I forgive her. Lord, please do a work of forgiveness in my heart.” I willed to let the offense go, but I need a higher power to removed the pain and heal the laceration of my heart. Forgiveness is a divine attribute, not a human one.

Christ in me is the only way it can happen.

I have surmised that when I think of the offense and it does not hurt anymore, then forgiveness is complete in me. So why this morning am I thinking of it once more with a twinge of discomfort?

I’m not sure. Perhaps it is the enemy of my soul trying to torment me. Perhaps it is because someone else has upset my apple cart and gotten under my skin, making me want to retaliate. Forgiveness is once again required.

Tempting me to hold onto grudges and offenses are his prime tool. Keeping hurts alive is where a root of bitterness finds a way into my soul. And Scripture warns me not to be ignorant of satan’s tricks.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. — Colossians 3:13

So once again, I affirm my desire to forgive. How can I do otherwise? I have been forgiven much. I have no right to withhold it from another.

“Lord, I forgive _________ once again. Do the work of forgiveness in me, mending my heart and giving me a complete recovery.”

I don’t want to carry the burden any longer. I don’t want to be locked into a prison of my own making. I want to be free.

I have been given much grace. I will give grace as I have received it. In Jesus name. For He forgave me fully and pefectly.

Amazing.

Sunday grace.

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The journals

 

101_1647My old journals were stored in matching boxes, tucked in a shelf upstairs. I thought I needed to keep them out of sight, for privacy perhaps. But seldom are visitors in the upstairs room anymore.

I decided to unloaded the boxes. The journals lay around the room, their various sizes and designs an analogy of the years, each one different.

When I was a child, I often started a daily diary in January. The book had dated pages and I wrote regularly for a few weeks or a month. Then I’d skip a day or more. Being the perfectionist I am (and continue to try to overcome), blank pages meant I had failed. I soon abandoned the book altogether.

Tiny books record events from my teens when life seemed so challenging. I was navigating the road to becoming an adult. My latest crush was a common topic.

Journaling was sporadic at best when being a wife and mother was all-consuming; recording my life’s events didn’t seem important.

I would love to look back at those years now, see them from the perspective of the younger me.

My more consistant journaling began in 1997 in a simple spiral book with lined pages. Pen went to paper and took on a life of its own.

I began recording my thoughts as well as the events of my days, and I wrote when I wanted to. I was not compelled to do it every day. It was the niche I needed.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone will read all those books. My handwriting gets messy and illegible as I scribble the things in my head and my heart. The volumes hold the thankful days and the grumbling days, the sweet moments and the times I cried.

Perhaps they just need to be buried with me. Because in those pages are the honest version of myself, the view I try to keep hidden from public scrutiny. The words on the pages reveal more of what God sees than anyone else.

The journal was a listening friend, a safe place to vent, with no contradicting voices or interruptions. It was therapy as I worked out a problem, rambling on as I needed. Other times, it was an altar where I repented and where prayers were lifted to the Savior who understands me in a way no one else does.

I counted blessings on the pages. I wrote about friends and family, the treasures they are to me. I recorded the everyday and the extraordinary.

I suppose I will keep writing as long as I have pen and paper and a mind to do it. It matters not if anyone reads them. I do not write for others. I write for me. I write to remember.

When I am old and more confined in place, perhaps I will leaf through the pages of my journals and remember what a full and blessed life I lived. The ups and the downs, the sideways and crooked will be there. I will read and be grateful for all the days I was given.

The sweet singer of Israel wrote these words:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” — Psalm 139:16 AMPC

While I was writing about the days of my life as they passed, my heavenly Father recorded them before my birth. What a beautiful thought, that He knew me then, that He has been watchful to carry out His purpose in me for all my years.

I take a breath and consider the wonder of that kind of love.

I set all the journals up on the open shelves in chronological order. They are interesting to look at, their variety of color, shape, and size. For each year has been unique.

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In some way, my life is there on the shelf. But the plans for me are guided by an unseen hand, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

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Tuesday thoughts

August is a different month. It is the only one in the year with no legal/religious holidays, although I found a list for some that are bizarre and unique.

In fact, today is “Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day.” Hum. I’ve already missed National Chocolate Chip Day and National Watermelon Day. But I could still celebrate both if I choose.

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School buses will begin running this week, the children waiting with new backpacks and supplies. Teachers will anticipate a little chaos and parents are hoping to get back to a regular schedule so “things settle down.” I’m not sure that ever happens in our rushed, over-committed kind of living.

The Kentucky State Fair begins August 17. When I was a youngster, the fair was our last hooray before school started in September. Our family always went on a Saturday. My parents, my aunt and my cousins piled into the car, arriving early and planning to stay all day.

 

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Dad liked the army displays. I liked all the farm animals. We ate corn dogs and drank the fresh squeezed lemonade. It was a fun, family activity, and we were worn out at day’s end.

One exciting event in August this year is the total solar eclipse visible in the United States, and I am looking forward to the 21st. Nothing will be on my calendar except to experience it. I’ll probably brew a pot of afternoon coffee and take my seat outdoors. The free glasses I got from my library are supposed to be a safe way to observe this phenomenon.

The eclipse and the wonder of our world brings a verse in Job 26:14 to mind,

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Though August has no holidays, there are reasons to celebrate. In fact, everyday is a reason to celebrate. It is the day God has made and handed to us as a gift. We should rejoice and be glad.

I acknowledge that there are problems and heartaches, and some days we can only put one foot in front of the other. But there is a God in heaven who sees the earth He created. He is not too busy or distracted to care about each person individually.  He is involved in our daily lives and is always working out His purpose for us and through us. It’s an amazing thought and something upon which to meditate.

If we only hear God’s faint whisper, perhaps the thunder of His power is His everlasting, unchangeable, inexplicable love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son . . . ”

Something to consider. Something to celebrate.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.

 

Sunday grace

Sweet William and I attended a wedding last night, the lovely fairly-land like atmosphere setting the mood for a special occasion.

I listened as the officiant read familiar verses from 1 Corinthians 13 during the ceremony:

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.

These familiar words are easy to read and easy to promise. But they are challenging to put into practice. I thought of how long it has taken me to learn what love really is.

Thus, the importance of the covenant of marriage, the “until death parts us” portion that assures we will not bail out when I lose patience, when the spouse is unkind, when we become selfish and easily provoked and keep all sorts of records of offences and can recite them in the heat of an argument.

While God’s love is perfect, it takes a lifetime to perfect love in us.

I’ve learned to love better over the decades of marriage to my Sweet William. And he has learned also. I’m thankful we kept trying to get it right when it was hard, that by grace alone we did not give up and give in when it seemed an easier way out.

Allowing God to love us, accepting His love, and letting Him love others through us is the way to 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. It is what we need to endure.

Sunday grace.

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On being happy

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

I understand that the personality one is born with affects the way we view the world. Some naturally view the glass half full while others see it half empty.

I’ve been one who tends toward the half full while wearing rose-colored spectacles.

That does not mean I’ve never dealt with depression or days upon end when I felt lonely and sad. There have been long seasons of grief and even despair. Life has its ups and downs, and each of us must learn to walk through the shadows as well as the sunshine.

At times Christians have been presumed to be serious, stoic, even grim and rigid in lifestyle so that the idea of being happy seems frivolous, even worldly.

I remember when artists’ renderings of a laughing Jesus began to appear during the 1970s. He was appealing and approachable and had a joy-of-living look on his face. I liked it.

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by Francis Hook

So what about being happy? Is it spiritual?

Lisa Harper’s latest book, The Sacrament of Happy, says “yes.” The few times I saw Lisa speak, she was obviously one of those half-full kind of people. Her joy is infectious and her ability to make her audience see the funny side of life comes naturally to her.

The by-line of The Sacrament of Happy is this: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World. And couldn’t we all use a smile from God?

Lisa points out that the word “blessed” in Scripture can often be translated as “happy.” That puts a different connotation on the beatitudes, doesn’t it? And how about if 1 Timothy 1:11 read like this:

“. . . in accordance with the good news of the glory of the happy God with which I have been entrusted.”

A happy God. I’m not sure I’ve thought of Him like that. But I am excited about the idea of a Father who enjoys His creation and delights in what He has made – me.

It puts me in the mind of my own father who enjoyed people fully and telling a funny story was his forte. He could laugh the biggest and loudest, while still being one of the most spiritually-minded men I’ve ever known. It was a beautiful combination of character traits.

Lisa weaves in stories of the adoption of her daughter Missy, who was born in Haiti, and how the two of them are enjoying a happy life. Lisa’s sorrow over two failed attempts at adoption and Missy’s unfortunate early years in a poverty and disease stricken country testify that everything is not always easy.

But she proposes that we can continue to be happy even in the very middle of trials and heartaches.  She tackles this issue in the chapters entitled “Is Happiness the Absence of Sadness?” and “What about When Happy Takes a Hike?”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Lisa in her book:

” . . . true, biblical happiness doesn’t have a personality type!”

“Genuine, God-given happiness is not the absence of sadness . . . it is the overriding presence of His sovereign mercy. The firm belief that He is good and He does good no matter what our current circumstances are.”

And some familiar verses with a twist of happy:

[Jesus said] “How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”  Matthew 11:6 GNT

“Happy are those whose wrongs are forgiven, whose sins are pardoned! Happy is the person whose sins the Lord will not keep account of!” Romans 4:7-8 GNT

Quoted within the book:

“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings–it’s something we make inside ourselves.” Corrie Ten Boom”

“Where others see but the dawn coming over the hill, I see the soul of God shouting for joy.” William Blake

I especially like the chapter near the end, “Can Happy Change the World?” In it Lisa describes her trip to Greece where they encountered the refugees crisis there. She and her companions did what they could to give aid. When they were transferred to the children’s tent, they enticed them into round after round of an animated version of the Hokey Pokey. The children “began singing and dancing their little hearts out, too.”

Lisa saw first hand the redemptive effect “this glorious good news of the happy God (1 Tim. 1:11) of which we’ve been entrusted has on those who have every reason to be joyless.”

I am fascinatesd to think of a happy God, one who delights in me, who enjoys giving good gifts, and who has my best interest in His heart. It also challenges me to be unrestrained in my joy and happiness. It has the potential to point others to my happy God and Savior.

The Sacrament of Happy was a good read the first time. I may start it over again and get another good dose of joy.

It makes me want to lift my head heavenward and smile.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of The Sacrament of Happy, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Thursday’s Thoughts

School begins this month and supplies are in the store. I get excited and want to shop, even though I don’t go to school any more. But who couldn’t use a new notebook or some fun pencils? They are hard for me to resist.

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While in a favorite discount store this week, I saw the fall decorations had already filled several isles. Such lovely items were enticing, with a message to “buy me.” I resisted, at least for the moment, since I have plenty of autumn decorations. Besides it’s August and summer and I’m still looking at school supplies.

But I know before the month is over I’ll be saying, “I’m looking forward to fall.” I do it every year. It is a human habit, I guess, to want what I don’t have. In winter, I want spring. In summer I long for fall. When I see school supplies, I want more pencils.

Being content with what I have takes conscious effort. Otherwise I continually look for something else to satisfy me, something that will give me a happy boost that is fleeting at best.

Working toward goals is healthy. Moving forward to improve ourselves is a good thing. Creating a better world for myself and for others is honorable. But when wanting more consumes me so that I cannot relax and enjoy this very day and all I have been given, it becomes something of a god to me.

And I only want to give allegiance to the one true and living God who provides all I really need.

And those are my Thursday thoughts.

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