Sunday grace

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”       — Psalm 20:7 NIV

My Bible study sisters and I are Believing God is who He says He is. At last week’s class, we did an exercise that has become one of my power tools. I say it often when I need a boost of faith, when I need to turn my eyes off my problems and onto my Lord. It changes my focus and makes a believer out of me.

I call it the ABCs of God’s name. He is:

 

A – Alpha

B – Benefactor

C – Comforter and Counselor

D – Deliverer

E – Eternal

F – Faithful

G – Good and Gracious

H – Holy

I – Immanuel

J – Just

K – King of kings

L – Love

M – Majestic

N – Name above all names

O – Omnipotent

P – Peace

Q – Qualified 

R – Righteous

S – Savior and Son of God

T – Trustworthy

U – Unmatched

V – Victor and Victorious

W – Wonderful

X – eXcellent

Y – Yahweh

Z – Zealous

 

There are many ways I could describe Him. Saying God’s character names reminds me once again that He is more that I can imagine, more than I will ever comprehend, more than I need for every situation.

He is greater than anything. He fills the universe. He comes to fill me.

I will trust and not fear. His name is the hiding place where I am safe.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. ”   — Proverbs 18:10

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

We drove far, well over an hour to get there. It was a labor, and a drive, of love. But it was worth the effort.

My friend’s son was getting married, the friend who has been my prayer partner for 13 years. She and I didn’t know each other before that evening years ago at a Bible study when we were “randomly” paired. We were asked to call each other sometime during the week and share our prayer concerns.

God only knew what He was about to do with us, between us, how He would grow us in the area of prayer.  He would show Himself faithful again and again. He would teach us that He hears our prayers and He answers.

As I watched the young groom stand at the front of the church, I remembered the many times we had called his name in prayer. I recall how his senior high school picture was placed on my refrigerator along with the photos of my grandchildren. It reminded me to pray for him at a critical time in his life.

It was sweet victory to see him, watching intently as his bride walked the aisle with eyes for him only. I know my friend and I will continue to pray for this young couple who begin their lives as husband and wife.

At the reception, my friend introduced me to people whose names I knew well, having prayed for them over the  years. I saw their faces for the first time. It was a tender and beautiful occasion for remembering the goodness of God.

I remarked to someone that this ongoing prayer relationship is a God thing, because we, my friend and I, are not that good. We are the recipients of a grace given. We take no credit for it. The glory belongs to our Heavenly Father.

The trip home from the wedding festivities was arduous, rain pouring down on us, traffic slowing on the interstate because of visibility. I didn’t realize until I was almost home how tightly I had been gripping the stirring wheel.

It was a hard, long drive, miles there and back. But the reward was great. I’m so glad we made the effort. I saw God’s hand. He calls us to be part of what He is doing, inviting us to go with Him, to seek Him, to ask Him. And then we find Him and we see His glory.

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

The first Sunday of September stirs thoughts of fall, though the meteorologist dashes my hope with his prediction of 90 degrees.

Maisie and I walk early, before light invades the darkness. The sun is not yet visible, but its rays tinge the grey clouds with shades of pink. Stillness envelopes the beginning of this new morning.

New mercies await me.

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My thoughts turn to a new Bible study beginning next week. Women will gather at the Wright House, and we will study the Word, stretch our faith, and learn anew to Believe God.

“Believe” is a word that has profound meaning for me. A number of years ago, God spoke in my desperation, me on my knees at the couch heaving sobs. My heart was broken. My future looked frightful. This was not how my life was supposed to be.

Through my tears and brokenness, He spoke words to my heart:

“Believe and see the glory of God.”

What? Where’s the glory in this ugliness? How are You going to turn chaos into splendour?

The very next day I received a letter from someone who knew a part my struggle. She wrote on the outside of the envelope these words:

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 
                                                             — John 11:40 NIV

A verse written on paper by my friend, Jesus’ spoken words lettered red in my Bible, and the Holy Spirit’s echo of courage as I knelt – His holy word was inscribed on my heart. I grasped it like a life raft. I feebly exercised my believing and waited to see His glory.

His glory finally came. It was miraculous, like the dead being raised to new life. I could not have imagine what my God was about to do.

That memory stirs my soul as I enter the season of Believing God once again. I long for my theology to become my reality, as Beth Moore says. I desire to walk in victorious faith, to actually live like I’m more than a conqueror, to receive the blessings God wants to give me.

I Believe God. And He’s about to be wonderful.

Sunday grace.

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August ending 2018

What can I say? August is just hot. And it’s going out like a firecracker. Except for a couple of days that teased us with cooler temperatures, we have endured. Because August is about enduring to the end. I’ve been thankful for a fully functioning air conditioner, cool clean water, and ice cream.

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Among the books read this month, one of special interest was Quiet,  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain writes as an avowed introvert herself. She explored research and studies describing how introverts and extroverts are wired differently, how they function and cope differently, and how an introvert can thrive in a culture that often applauds extrovert personalities.

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As a child and teenager, I heard the comment more than once, “Peggy, I wish you wouldn’t talk so much.” It was meant to be facetious, because I was not talking. I suppose the person meant me no harm and hoped to elicit my participation in the conversation. But it didn’t. It actually wounded me, making me retreat even more into my reserve.

Growing up shy was painful sometimes, especially in junior and high schools. I have since learned to cope in a talkative, gregarious world. I’ve even developed the ability to speak publicly with a fair amount of confidence, though I over-prepare and sweat it out days before. My comfort zone is to be quiet and in the background. I suppose it is what makes me a good listener. I crave periods of silence and time alone when I can re-energize.

Quiet was revealing and affirming. It showed the positive characteristics of introverts  and how the world benefits from people like me. Understanding myself brings comfort and reassurance that I am OK after all.

I also discovered that I am an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, confirming my introversion and other personality traits. While I’m still trying to understand the letters and meanings, apparently I am not as unusual as I sometimes felt.

In August, it becomes obvious that the days are getting shorter, though it started on June 21. It isn’t nearly as hard to get up before dawn. My tiny wren in the little woods now sings at 6:45 am with fewer birds joining him these days. It’s the last songs of summer.

I had one especially busy week this month, with multiple appointments on six of the seven days. I began to feel stressed as the week progressed. I used to thrive in that environment, keeping all the spinning plates in the air without daring to drop a single one. They were not my best years. Without fully realizing it, I lived in a state of tension, trying to maintain a pace I imposed on myself, trying to please everyone, not knowing how to say “no.”

I’m walking a slower gait these days, pacing myself between activity and rest. I more carefully consider commitments. I plan down time after heavy activity. I enjoy and look forward to a Sabbath rest each week. But this week proves sometimes I forget.

This month I kept a “Done” list , jotting down tasks I completed during the day that never appear on my To Do list. Things like fixing a really good breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen after meals; washing and folding loads of laundry; practicing piano; watering the plants. It was an interesting exercise, seeing the value of everyday activities. I probably won’t continue the practice, because it’s just one more thing to do. And that I don’t need.

I’ve shopped the local Farmer’s Market this summer. My own garden has not yielded decent vegetables the past couple of years. So instead, I’ve enjoyed wandering the booths at the market and meeting people who do well at growing tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, peaches, fresh eggs and sausage from happy chickens and pigs. It’s my way of supporting the hard-working farm families in my area.

 

 

 

In the spring, I planted sunflowers around the lambs ear and white violets. The seeds produced well, stalks with multiple blooms. I pass them as Maisie and I walk, and they remind me of a friend whose husband died this year. As his illness progressed, she prepared a “Sunshine Room” for him with a sunflower theme to brighten his last days. I’ve thought of my friend as I passed the big yellow flowers. It’s been a long, hard summer for her.

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It’s a jungle out there in the garden, the weeds flourishing in the heat and unusual amount of rain. I finally took the weed eater to the garden and  sprayed weed killer with a vengeance until the yard looks relatively well under control as I write. There is still much to do to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I’m waiting for a break in the weather. Even with the weeds, late summer flowers are glorious.

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Sweet William and I have found ourselves cheering for our high school volleyball team. We got free passes for all the county sports events just because we are seniors. I love senior benefits. It makes getting older almost worth it. We will take our seats on the bleachers at several schools to applaud and support family and friends who play ball, and instruments, on the field and the court.

August ending means summer is ending. Children are back in school, parents are back on schedule, and big yellow buses create additional traffic.

 

As always when August winds down, I’m ready for fall. There’s a gently used, flannel shirt from a summer yard sale I want to wear. I need to raise the windows and let fresh breezes blow. I’m ready to snuggle under the quilt at bedtime and hear the night creatures instead of the constant whirring of a fan. The summer decorations  are being put away. Pumpkins are on my mind. I have a yellow mum blooming on the front porch with the promise of another whose colors will be a surprise.

August is a month of enduring, of getting through the summer and its persistent heat; of cutting grass and pulling weeds; harvesting the last of crops; and being ready to finish these jobs for the year.

There are things in my life that feel like August. They simply have to be endured. Some are niggling irritations; others are painful thorns in my soul. We endure grief, we endure health conditions, we endure a longing for those we love. We wipe our brow as we work through the struggle, and sometimes we cry. We pray for relief. The answer we receive most often is “Trust Me.”

On a video I watched recently, Jennifer Rothschild said something like this: “True contentment comes in the midst of difficult circumstances.” The Lord knows how I’ve sought to learn contentment and fought for joy.  She also said, “Thorn removal is not sufficient. Only grace is sufficient.”

Sufficient Grace. It is my song and my theme. I know it to be true. I depend on the Lord’s sufficiency and not my own. But sometimes I forget.

The beautiful and enduring hymn, It is Well With My Soul, reminds me to sing praise when the scorch of trials burn my flesh and weary my heart. Even when all my circumstances are not going so well, my soul can still be well. It is well with my soul, because I am safe in the arms of Jesus.

This is more than just enduring. This is victorious living.

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Sunday grace

The melody hovers over me this morning, a song of remembrance, of days gone by, a different time and place, when Sweet William and I offered our worship on instruments of strings and keys.

Jehovah Jireh, My provider, His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me

Jehovah Jireh, My provider, His grace is sufficient for me

My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory
He will give His angels charge over me

Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

 — lyrics by Don Moen

We played with exuberance, our hearts becoming entwined with the truth that our God is a Provider. Our Provider.

Looking back over years of need, I see His provision time and again. It came in the form of gifts or a job opportunity. Sometimes it was a bag of groceries or my gas tank filled unexpectedly.

It appeared as intercessory prayer on our behalf and through the encouragement of  family and friends.

God provided strength to work and knowledge to think and manage daily tasks. He who is Wisdom gave generously when situations were tangled and we didn’t know what to do.

He supplied comfort when grief overwhelmed and I thought I would die. He met needs we didn’t even know how to express in ways we could not have imagined.

I didn’t always get what I asked, but I always got what I needed and more than enough.  He has taught me to depend on Him, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the One who satisfies the hungry heart.

Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. His grace is sufficient for me.

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Sunday grace

 

Lord, we thank You for all of Your good gifts.

Scripture says You satisfy the thirsty and fill the hungry with good things.  I believe this is true, though sometimes your good gifts are shrouded in mystery, dressed in darkness, and accompanied by confusion and pain.

Yet, in Your wise and wonderful way, you plan to redeem each difficulty and bring beauty out of the ash heap. You teach us through our hardships, things like compassion, patience, kindness, endurance, and trust.

You hold us in the cold reality of calamity. When winds of adversity threaten to sink our fragile vessel, You ride the waves with us.

Sometimes you calm the storm. But mostly You offer Yourself as our Peace in the middle of the squall.

As Your child, I believe Your love for me is everlasting. You are sovereign over all my life and what you allow to come into it. I am not a victim of my circumstances. You are watching over all my comings and goings.

You plan good for me, a hope and a future. Your love for me is strong and determined. You have purpose for my pain.

And so I, the sometimes doubter longing to be a faithful believer, once again reaffirm my trust in You, the great God of Heaven and Earth.

Lord, I thank You for all your good gifts.

Monday grace

This prayer reverberates in my mind.

Revive us, oh Lord!

I hunger for personal revival, the presence of the holy God who stirs me as in days before. I long to hear Him speak to me, through His Word in the early hours of quiet, as I walk in the beauty of creation, as I gather with the saints to worship, in the stillness of my own heart.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1, 2 NKJV      

Repeatedly Scripture tells me that if I seek Him, I will find Him. He is not far away. He is as near as my breath, as close as my thoughts.  What in this life of mine distracts me from the knowledge of His presence?

He offers Himself to me in a way I am yet to comprehend. He created me for relationship so I could be called a friend of God. And like the Lover of my soul, He wants me to want Him.

Does it grieve Him when I only want His blessings and not He who blesses? Do I seek after the gifts, forgetting the Giver?

Oh Father, forgive me! Create in me a longing heart so that I want You more than anything. 

You who granted life to every living thing, be my life.  Sweet Jesus. Be. My. Life.

Then, may all other people, gifts, and trappings fall into their proper places.

Let Your abundant life, the promised life, be fully mine. 

This song, by Carmen, is what I’m singing. Will you join in?

Revive us oh Lord, revive us, oh Lord
And cleanse us from our impurities
And make us holy
Hear our cry and revive us oh Lord