Sunday grace

I wonder at myself, my inability and my lack.

There have been times when I was like Peter the disciple who boldly took steps out of a boat and on to the fluid sea.

And other times I fall into the crashing waves of fearfulness and uncertainty, just like Peter.

I want an immovable, unshakable faith.  I want to be a faith-filled woman.

Sometimes I am.  Sometimes I am not.

But this I know for sure.  When I am weak, my Jesus is strong.  When I grow weary, He neither slumbers nor sleeps.  When my faith waivers, He remains always faithful.  When I am the most unlovable, He is Love.

No matter the state I find my emotions and my sometimes foolish heart, He is beginning and end, Alpha and Omega.  And He gives more grace, grace that strengthens, grace more than enough for my need.

And in that I rest secure.

Sunday grace, friends.

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The gift

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I was out of town last weekend, flying by myself on an airplane and finding my way through Houston International Airport for a connecting flight.  I felt like a grown up and a child at the same time, navigating signs, regulations, and my own insecurity.  I did it, a bit nervously, with purpose.  I went to get my granddaughter who lives-too-far-away and bring her home to stay with us for a month.

And that is a gift.

She’s the eldest of my three wonderful grands, and the one who first made me a grandmother with that bursting wide open of my heart.  I had no idea that love could just break me right apart as I scooped up this tiny being who would take the heart of me and change me forever.

Love does that.  It transposes the song of life and we are never the same.

Love gaps us open, open for joy but also open for pain.  Pain is often the price of loving deeply.

I’ve felt the contradicting emotions, the loving and the losing, the holding close and the giving up.  The loss comes in different forms, whether by moving, misunderstanding, divorce, or death.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.

But the risk of loosing is more than worth the joy of loving and being loved. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is so true.

The granddaughter and I flew home together, our heads bent in conversation, laughter, taking selfies (with a photo bomber), stories, tears, and hugs.  She is a kindred spirit and we feel the connection deeply.

selfies of me and E Continue reading

In memory of Little Dog

Our Little Dog died yesterday morning after more than a year of health problems.  It’s been a couple of hard days.

Pets bring so much to our lives; they are certainly gifts God gives to humans.  Our Buddy taught me lessons in his years with us.  I wish I could be as forgiving as him, as loyal and faithful.  I wonder if I will ever learn to love completely like he did or to be content with my own Master the way he was with me.

I will remember him and how he made our lives full.

When he was just a ball of white fluff cupped in my hands and I asked “Can we keep him?”

How puppy training was as much for me as it was for him.

How he chased the grandchildren down the hallway, running the length of the house.  The children jumped on the bed to escape.  And then they did it all over again.

Early morning routines when we were the first ones up and outdoors, the first ones to catch a glimpse of the sunrise.  And the world was quiet.

Bath time, him all lathered up looking like a wet rat and shivering until I dried him and wrapped him in a blanket and we warmed up together.

How his big bark coming from such a small creature made me feel safe when Sweet William had to be gone for the night.

The way he loved road trips, long or short, and just the question “You ready to go?” brightened his eyes and sent him to the back door in anticipation.

That he always like our food more than his own.  And nothing was better than sharing popcorn with Sweet William.

How his tummy had an internal clock that sent him to the dog dish at 5 pm every day.  And if we weren’t paying attention then he would flip the metal bowl over until we understood.

How his eyes rolled up to look up at me when I was dressing for work.  Those eyes asked, “So you’re leaving me again?”

The way he greeted me when I returned and always with such great joy.

How as he grew older, he was ready for bed even before Sweet William and me.  And after snuggling in at the foot of the bed he raised his head to look at us at least once just to be sure we were still there.

When his health failed and allergies developed, how I dressed him in baby pajamas and socks to keep him from scratching.  And he was just the cutest thing.

How he never backed down from a big dog and always went for their ankles.

That he loved us no matter what.  That he forgave us every single time.

Recently I read something on Susie Davis’ blog about living, growing old and dying.  She said,

“If our lives weren’t so exquisite, so beautiful, and if the people in our lives hadn’t mattered so terrifically, then this wouldn’t be so hard.”

Life is exquisite no matter the shape or size it takes.  If our pets were not so exquisite, such gifts from God, if they didn’t teach us unconditional love and so many other attributes, if they didn’t matter so terrifically, then letting them go would not be so hard.

But they are exquisite, and they do matter terrifically.  And it is hard to say good-bye.  And I wonder who will greet me at the door now like I was the best thing since honey on a biscuit?

What would my life have been like without Little Dog?  I cannot say.  I only know that our days have been richer for having loved him and having been loved by him.

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Sunday grace

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The rains come.  And sometimes it just keeps coming and we wonder if we will be washed away or blown away by the storms.

And then the sun breaks through and blue appears in the clouds.  And we sigh relief.

I raise the shades and throw open the doors and receive the sun, its welcome warmth.  And I smile.

In every life there comes rain and sunshine.  Both are needed for growth.  All sun will make a dessert. All rain will produce a flood.  But both together, working their beauty, will give us trees and grass and flowers and birds and bees and more than we could imagine.

God is in His heaven and all is right with the world because the earth is the Lord’s and all of its fullness.  He is there in sunshine and in the rain.

All is well.  And all will be well.

Sunday grace.

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Birthdays

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They come slowly when you’re a child.  They speed up like a fast-moving train as the years tick by.  The clock moves at the same pace, but life seems to go quicker while the years of my life increase.

Birthdays.  Celebrations of life.  Years experienced.  Lessons learned.

I would not want to live it over again, but I would not take anything for what life has taught me.

The number of birthdays I’ve had astonishes me.  They are more than my mother and my maternal grandmother got to enjoy.  And while I am not nearing death by any means, I recognize that well over half my life has been lived.  I don’t say my life is half over, I say it’s been lived.  For living is what I’ve done.

I’ve live much joy and much sorrow.  I’ve lived successes and failures.  I’ve lived in plenty and in need.  I’ve lived with loved ones near and long, hard separations.

I get to choose to live or not.  Some people seem to be dying years before they ever take their final breath, looking at their lives as if they are in a long dark tunnel headed for doom.  Am I going to choose to live the rest of my days or choose to start dying right now?

A friend reminded me recently of a quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption.  Andy, one of the main characters, was incarcerated 26 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Even behind the walls and bars of prison, he said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

I plan to get busy living the rest of my days.  Why not?  Each day is a gift.  I will open it in the morning and find grace enough for whatever comes.  I will look for joy.  I will offer love.  I will give thanks to God.  I will serve in ways I am able.  I will work and play and rest.  I will laugh and cry.  I will invite people into my heart, my life.

For as long as the Lord above gives me breath, I choose to live the rest of my life.

Sunday grace

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Pastor’s topic of joy this morning hit my nail on its head.

My joy does not depend on a friend’s inattention to my needs.

My joy does not depend on the number of the scale or the size of my jeans.

My joy does not depend on the neighbor’s loud noises late into the night.

My joy does not depend on whether the air conditioner works or not.

My joy does not depend on too much rain or too much heat or not enough of either.

My joy does not depend on the nightly news or the supreme court’s decisions.

My joy does not depend on people, circumstances, problems, success, or an uncertain tomorrow.

My joy does not depend on the family being close or too far away.

My joy does not even depend on my Sweet William’s love for me.

My joy is wholly dependent upon my relationship with a Savior who loves me unconditionally and would rather die that live without me.

His joy becomes my joy.  And nothing, no nothing, can ever change that.

Sunday grace, friends.

Joy

Life, death, and freedom

I grew up going to funeral visitations and funeral services.  It seemed normal to me.

My mother and my aunt sang together from their youth.  Being preacher’s kids, they often sang for the funerals where their father officiated.  When they married and had families of their own, they continued to minister through their music wherever they could.

My mother was not one to leave her only child in someone else’s care, so I attended a lot of funerals.  But that didn’t have a negative impact on me.  It was the process of life.  Babies were born.  People lived their lives.  And then they died.  It was natural.

This week, Sweet William and I will have visited two families whose loved ones have died.  Funny how sometimes we say “he passed” or “she lost her loved one.”  We try to soften the hard blow of finality. Yet, there is nothing easy or soft about death.

Though it is a common and natural part of living life, it still moves my heart when people grieve.  Sweet William and I have grieved our own losses.  We weep with those who weep.

We don’t get a free pass to skip over death, loss and grief.  It comes to us all sooner or later.  For some it is the ending of a life lived long and fruitful, the aged body finally wearing out and returning to it’s Maker.  For others it is a life cut too short, leaving unanswered questions, too many “whys.”

I believe life was given as a gift in the beginning of creation, that man and woman were presented with a perfectly beautiful world to explore and enjoy, and then they were invited to be part of the creative process.   I wonder what they could have accomplished without the sin factor entering in and making it all so very different, so very difficult.

Life is a gift to be lived as beautifully as we can.  For some there are immense limitations and adversities to overcome.  For all of us there are challenges.  As Christians, we endeavor to live our lives with impact, shining a light that points people to Jesus.  We live with the end in sight.  We live with hope of something more, the perfection that was lost in Eden.

And we grieve with hope as well.

So then death becomes the gateway, the vehicle whereby we move from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality.  I should not dread it or fear it.  I should be ready for it, for it can come at any moment.

While I live my life here on earth as beautifully as I can, I do so with freedom because of Christ.  Freedom from fear of death.  Freedom purchased by grace.  For freedom is never free.  It is costly.  A high price is always paid for freedom.

This Fourth of July day, I celebrate my freedom as a citizen of the United States of America, purchased by the men and women who have fought for that freedom.  And I recognize with deep gravity that many of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world are not so free.  And yet, together we are free in spirit.  Free in Christ.  Free from the penalty of sin.  Free from guilt.  Free from the fear of tomorrow. Free to live as God gives us life.  For it is He and He alone who holds the keys to death.

And death will be a welcome relief, a door that opens into another world, a world as it was meant to be.

It is for freedom that we have been set free, brothers and sisters.  Live the life you have now as free children of grace.  Look forward to the freedom that will come to us when we have finished our course and kept the faith, when the Father calls our names and we will be set free.

For whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

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