Sunday grace

The temperature has warmed in February. We walk in the early Sabbath light, Maisie and me, a mist moistening our faces as we move forward and back.

The silence is broken by the singing of birds and an occasional soft honk of geese on the lake across from the house. The geese have disbanded their flock and are now couples swimming the water together, thinking about a family, if geese think such thoughts.

I’ve seen two hawks in the little woods behind us, them swooping and enjoying a freedom I can only imagine. I wonder if we might have the delight of a nest hidden in the trees soon.

Daffodil greens have pushed through winter soil, and this week crocuses caught me by surprise, them blooming by the front steps.

The maples are bulging on the ends of branches, the beginnings of spring seed pods and leaves.  The oaks still hold on to their dry brown leaves. They are like that, every winter not willing to turn loose until new growth pulsates and pushes them aside.

I wonder how many weeks before I put away the warm red hat and corduroy coat I wear to walk? When I will put my “Baby it’s cold outside”cup in the back of the cabinet until fall? How long before I pull out garden boots and tools to work the ground?

Can spring be far away, the season I love most of all? The one that holds promise of freshness, beauty, resurrection, eternity?

God is in His heaven. His dominion is over all. He rules with goodness and justice. He is faithful to His creation and His children.

His love is everlasting and His mercy endures throughout generations. I rest in His unchanging character while I watch the world transition from season to season.

Time marches on for me, the seasons of my life moving faster every year. How long before this clay vessel will be worn out?

God is timeless and He offers eternity to those who choose His love. Eternity. For me it will be ever springtime.

Sunday grace.

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Always with you

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

“I am always with you.”

I read those words in my morning devotional, words I’ve known since childhood, but words I need to hear often. Reminders are good and necessary.

I just finished reading The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, and the same truth became evident once again: that the ever-present God, who continues to work out His purpose in every situation, is always with His children.

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Prisilla Shirer has ventured into the genre of fiction books, appealing to elpriscillashirer2ementary and middle school children. The first in the series, The Prince Warriors, introduced us to a group of children whose lives intersect at the Rec Center in their home town. They are different ages, different ethnic backgrounds, and different personalities. Their personal stories intertwine as they are called to the adventures in Ahoratos, a world somewhere in another dimension where good battles evil.

In Ahoratos, they meet Ruwach who dispenses wisdom from time-honored Scripture. He is the one who equips them with armor for battle.

The children encounter attacks from the creatures of the dark kingdom, and they learn how their armor operates, how it helps them fight and protects them from the enemy.

As the story continues, we see how each piece of armor issued to the young prince and princess warriors mirrors the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6.

The second book of the series, The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, highlights the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. One of the girls is harassed by the enemy who tries to invade her thoughts and speak lies to her because she is not wearing her helmet.

During the invasion, the children begin to understand the truth that God is always with them

Though our trails are hard and last long; though the battle rages and we fight hard; though the road ahead look ominous and our strength is gone; one thing is a fountainhead of comfort. Jesus Himself said it,”I am always with you.”

“I AM always with you.” Be reminded.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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About Valentine’s Day

Culture will try to tell us what to think and how to act. The media, in all its various venues, formulates ideas they want us to accept. If they say it often enough, we tend to believe it is true, especially if it is on the internet.

How does that relate to Valentine’s Day?

We are told the day is for lovers and sweethearts, couples and spouses.  We must buy things, like candy and cards.  Spend money on jewelry and flowers.  If you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something costly, well you just must not be loved.

Please, don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  It is His essence, who He is. Anything good in this world, any smidgen of kindness, any beauty, any joy comes from the Creator of good and perfect gifts who first initiated love.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my Sweet William’s embrace, in the smile of a friend, and in the strength to take care of another.

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 grace all day long, gifts like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, finding our Maisie who was lost, and a phone conversation that encourages.

But the very most extravagant love God ever demonstrated was the life of His Son to a world that did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in this fact: He loved us when we were unlovable, unfaithful, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He gave love. He lavished it on the ones made in His likeness, 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 beckoning arms of forgiveness and mercy.

Stories and legends abound about the man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving, and so we celebrate him with a special day. We call him a saint. We are enticed to spend money in his honor.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

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

Love forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. Love does not get offended easily.  Love is patient and kind, not jealous or prideful.  Love causes us to consider another first and act in loving ways, no matter what.  Love longs for truth and doing the right thing.  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.

Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when words wound.  Not when distance or misunderstanding or unresolved conflict separates. Love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from His love.

This love is worth remembering and celebrating on a day in February and every other day of the year.

Revised and reposted from February 2015

 

 

Sunday grace

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.

Grace breaks down barriers between us. It is not about the name over the church door. It is not about ethnic background. It is not about politics or preferences of music, clothing, or books. It isn’t the young versus the old nor how big or small the financial portfolio is.

We all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross, all sinners in need of a savior.

Jesus opens the door of communion and offers life for whoever will come. When we accept His invitation, we have sweet fellowship with Him. And thus we fellowship with one another.

We rejoice together over victories, and we cry with one another over heartaches. We celebrate and we mourn as community.

Brothers and sisters, not by birth but by re-birth through Jesus Christ.

Friendship at the table of grace.

Sunday grace.

 

Once I was lost

It’s coming upon a year since we adopted our little girl Maisie, a dog who was recued from the streets. We have watched her turn from a timid, sad creature to a happy and healthy furry friend.

I got home late one night this week and walked Maisie when the sun had already set, and any lingering daylight was almost lost in the clouds of a rainy day.

We met a neighbor and her dog as we headed toward our house. In their tussled greeting of each other, Maisie pulled free from her collar and my heart went to my throat. She is a fast runner and had escaped from the house a few times, but I had been able to retrieve her after a few minutes. As soon as she was loose  from the collar and leash, she sped away in the direction of a cat we had passed a little earlier. I could hear her yelping go farther in the distance as she was on the chase.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . ” Psalm 119:176

I hurried to the door of the house and called for Sweet William to bring the treat jar. I’ve enticed Maisie to me on other occasions with a shake of the jar.

I went toward the sound of her yelping, calling her name and shaking the jar. This time it was not working.

My neighbor put her dog in the house and came to our yard to help me. We could hear and see glimpses of Maisie’s white hair as she ran through the little woods that surround our house. Our calling was lost on her. She was intent on finding the trail of that cat.

My neighbor thought Maisie was close enough once as she lunged for her, then fell flat on the ground. Our efforts were failing.

Maisie came out of the wood, nose still to the ground and ran around our house. She was headed to other houses, other neighborhoods, the busy road just beyond. I went after her knowing she has no sense about traffic. If she went to the road, I feared the worst, that she would be hit by an oncoming car. If she left our neighborhood, there is not telling where she would end up.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? —Luke 15:4

It was dark by now and there were no glimpses of my little girl, no sounds of her bark. My dread was that she was gone. Gone too far for me to find her tonight. I would have to look tomorrow when it was daylight.

Maisie could not know that the only food she might find out there in the raw world would be trash, her water would be stale and muddy. She would search for someplace out of the weather to sleep and she would be cold. There would be no kibble provided, the kind that keeps her healthy and her coat shiny. She would be unprotected where coyotes roam and people with shotguns are not afraid to use them. She would not have a fence where she could run and play and still be under the watchful eyes of Sweet William and me.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. –Luke 15:16

She did not realize that we are the fountain from which her every blessing flows.

As I headed to the house where Sweet William was praying for her to return, I heard him call me, “She’s in the fence.” How in the world?

My neighbor had enticed Maisie with one of the treats we were both carrying in our hands, and she had lured her inside the fence behind the house, the fence we put up just for Maisie. The fence with both gates open for her to run into.

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. –Romans 2:4

I gathered up the wet, muddy mess she was, carried her to the bathtub and began to wash her. I found a bloody place on her neck where she had probably tangled with the wild blackberry brambles throughout the little woods.

As I rinsed off the sudsy water, I leaned my face down to Maisie’s face and I cried, tears of relief and thankfulness that she had come home to us. She does not know how much she is loved; how much trouble we went through to bring her home; how we choose her and paid the price for her; how we continue to love her, provide for her and look out for her best interest.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. –Jeremiah 31:3

I dried her off and put medicine on her wound.

He anoints my head with oil. — Psalm 23:5

I did not even try to explain the dangers of the outside world to Maisie. It would not have done any good. She thinks like a dog and acts like a dog because she is a dog.

Surely I was sinful at birth . . . –Psalm 51:5

I could not make her understand that the limitations we have imposed on her are for her good, to keep her healthy and to protect her, to give her a long, happy life with people who love her and want good things for her.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. — Isiah 55:8

Maisie is on house arrest for now, and she wears a restraining collar when we walk outside. It’s not meant to hurt her, only to keep her in my control. This discipline is for her good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71

She is a little subdued today, and perhaps a little worn from her heyday of perceived freedom. What she thought was pure bliss would have ended badly had it not been for the persistence of people who cared about her. She has to remain within our boundaries, not because we are being mean, but because we love her.

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Now remain in my love. John 15:9b

Maisie once was lost, but now she is found. And so was I.

Sunday grace

The grace of a new day, ’tis sweet. Day follows night and the world keeps on turning.

The wind blows the tall branches of naked trees, them in waiting for newness and life to rebirth.

I wait with them.

The faithfulness of God astounds me. Words on a page from One too awesome for words, speaking love in the loneliness, peace in distress, assurance in faintness, and strength in the struggle. Praise exhales as breath.

Words that aim at my heart like an arrow sent from a sure bow, my spirit latching on to eternal certainty.

Cold winds threaten and taunt me  with, “You are hopelessly lost in winter.” But the Word that spilled into fertile heart soil heart says otherwise. The promise of spring and renewal casts down the imaginations of my enemy; anticipation, faith energizes me.

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.

Sunday grace.

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February begins

The origin of the word February is surprising to me. I’ve always simply thought of it as the month of love.

With the advent of Valentines Day, merchants discovered another way to entice us to spend money, reds and pinks showing up in stores early last month. Cards to honor the day of hearts and flowers flood the isles, and TV commercials encourage us to make diamonds the proof of undying affection.

But what if . . .  what if we really did practice a little more love during February? Not the gushy, mushy vaporous emotions or the once-a-year expensive gifts that last but a little while before they are forgotten and we move on to other “more important” endeavors.

What if we tried scattering a little more kindness this month, without it turning into a spending spree or a guilt trip? What if we gave out of the abundance of our hearts, out of the grace we have been given?

We take on the character of God when we become givers. God gave. God gives. God will give eternally.

“What if the truth is every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” — Ann Voskamp,  The Broken Way

Chapter 5 of Ann’s new book, a gift from a friend, ignites something this morning as I read about her and her children leaving unexpected gifts all over the city, creating smiles and joy in their wake.

One of the dots on my Bucket List is “Always be kind.” I wish that just writing that down and marking it a priority made it always be true in my every day. It isn’t. I need a reminder. Often.

Scatter Kindness 8x10 Canvas Quote[purchase the canvas at this Etsy shop]

So I am challenging myself to Scatter Kindness in February, to find unusual and unexpected ways of giving to others out of my own abundance. Thoughts, ideas already drift in my head. I would gladly bring a few more smiles to the faces I encounter regularly and those who just happen along my pathway.

This month, February, I will make it my goal to Scatter Kindness, to Sweet William first for his is the face I see most often and the one I can so easily take for granted. I will endeavor to Scatter Kindness to those I know and to those I don’t, to the ones in my circle of  influence and to those I may pass only once in this life.

It will be challenging because I am too often self-centered. Perhaps the focus on others will alleviate my struggle for a while. At least for the next 28 days.

And like the dandelion fluff I’ve scattered with my breath on scores of summer days, perhaps one seed will take root in another heart. Perhaps Scattering Kindness will grow and flourish in someone else.

This morning’s radiance splashes pinks and oranges in the sky from my eastern window. The Spirit whispers, “I love you. This is for you.”

The world is chaotic and dysfunctional. I cannot fix it or make people happy. But I can show them they are loved by simple, kind deeds. And “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone is just asking if they can be loved.”*

February could turn into a bountiful opportunity to show God’s love through small acts of kindness. There is the chance it could change me and my little corner of the world.

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* Quote from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp