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.

Sunday grace

Early Sunday morning is quiet as we leisurely walk the lane, Maisie and I. The bird song is all we hear. I hesitate to speak and break the sacred silence.

I notice things in the slowness of this morning. Random spider webs, a night’s endeavors, lie low in the grass or higher up in the bushes. The mist rises from the lake, moving gently across its surface, in no hurry to go. The coolness of the morning is relief after sweltering days.

In my hurry, I easily miss the moments.

Children teach us. They dawdle. They keep no time schedules. They “waste time” with what draws their attention, until an adult says, “Hurry up. We’ll be late.”

We really do need to be more like children.

Our mantra shouts to us. Be productive. Get more done. Work harder. Fill the schedule with one more activity. We can do it!

Wasting time is not on the agenda.

 

Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller (coming in October)

Time is spent one way or another. The finite number of moments we have can be used how we choose. We can hurry it away with activity, or we can slow down, see and hear. We can enjoy and find joy.

It may seem like wasting time when we rest, when we stop, when we do nothing. But perhaps it is the best use of time at the particular juncture. Perhaps it gives our souls time to catch up.

“Teach us to number our days carefully,” Moses prayed, “so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

The people of Israel moved when the pillars of fire or cloud called them to go. Then they stopped because God’s sign of His presence rested.

God knows we need that.

Take time, some of your valuable, precious time to waste away and enjoy the rest He gives.

Sunday grace.

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July ending

It has been hot this July at my old Kentucky home. HOT.

The 90-degree temperatures with high humidity have kept us indoors with the shades pulled and curtains drawn to keep out the heat. We prayed the air conditioner would keep running. Even Maisie was quick to come in, her tongue wagging, after a short time in her fenced yard.

July was a month of birthdays. The United States, the one and only son, and I got a year older. I shared my day with our eldest granddaughter, her celebrating the ending of high school and the beginning of a new journey. Being with my family was present enough. Their presence is the gift I always crave.

Indoor activity prompted me to read several books, including another by author Sophie Hudson. This one, called A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, made me laugh out loud. And it felt so good. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and could not contain myself. I looked around at all the people with their phones in their faces and thought they didn’t know what they were missing.

I also read a book about punctuation. Yes, punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, was also humorous (not enough to make me laugh) and incorporated how our writing has evolved.

The question is why would I read a book about punctuation. I ask myself that. For one, it was recommended at a writing workshop I attended this year. For another, I want to be a better writer. When I was trying to get the best grade possible in a shorthand class years ago, every incorrect comma and capital letter carried grave consequences. I’d like to avoid those red correction marks.

One other book worth mentioning is Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. She is an artist with words, documenting a year of her family’s life after moving to an old farm house. I gave the book to someone who has been in a difficult transition all year. Then I bought another copy for myself so I could re-read the book slowly and taste every delicious phrase.

I’ve started doing word-search puzzles. Admittedly, I’ve not been fond of them. Since it may be good for my brain, I will make the effort. Keeping my brain young is important as the birthdays keep accumulating.

I made peach jam from the biggest and sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted, right out of Alabama fields.

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I’ve enjoyed precious time with friends, shopped the thrift store and found a few bargains. I welcomed my piano students back after a month break. I made gallons of sweet tea and more cups of coffee than I will mention. Because for the record, it is never too hot for a cup of coffee.

I watched both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. I heard lots of promises and plenty of demeaning remarks. I pray for my country.

The butterfly bushes and the morning glories are blooming, a sign of late summer. They require nothing of me. They simply do what they are designed to do.

As August begins we enjoy one more month of summer. It will most likely be hot. The lazy days of the season must be a myth as I heard talk about busy, busy schedules from too many. Schools will open their doors to teachers and students who may or may not be glad for routines to resume.

I plan to attack the yard with a vengeance and my weed sprayer because it’s a jungle out there. My little hand surgery, the recovery time, and the heat have given the weeds a chance to flourish. But their heyday is over.

Sweet William and are looking forward to fall this year. Cooler days and nights when we can open the windows. Flannel shirts and warm blankets to snuggle us. The changing of the leaves from green to golden, maroon, and copper. Listening for the sound of geese and crane flying overhead for warmer climate. Roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows on our homemade fire pit in the side yard. Inviting the neighbors to come sit and talk awhile. Being thankful for all the good days and bounty of blessings God gives.

A good cup of coffee will be nice as temperatures drop. Because the weather is always just right for a fresh hot brew.

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