Sunday grace

The rain falling outside does not offer comfort to me this time. The sound of the sump pump running under the house does.

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The Salt River rises and I can see it from my front window. Maisie and I walk our quiet lane and there is water, so much water. It is ominous, it is powerful, and we are helplessness to stop its ascent.

The geese and one pair of Mallards swim happily in the lake across the road, unconcerned of pending danger, as if their Heavenly Father takes care of them.

Sweet William and I went to the store to stock up, wondering if shelves would be vacant as fear mongers whisper in our ears. Our angst is palpable.

We’ve watched the river grow deep and wide before, it threatening to steal, kill and destroy. We have neighbors and friends who are already being affected, moving animals to higher ground, wondering when it will be the family who needs to find shelter.

We offer beds. We will share what we have until the threat comes to our own door.

After watching the morning news of reported flooding and more to come, I turn off the TV. I won’t live with the fear of it all day. Instead I put on music.

I’ve saved old cassette tapes in boxes that haven’t seen the light of day for years. In my effort to simplify and pare down, just this week I began going through five boxes of them. Discard seemed the reasonable option. Who listens to cassettes anymore?

But then I decided to put a couple of them in our radio/CD/cassette player before I disposed of them. I expected they would be scratchy and sounding old. Instead what came from the speakers were beauty and memories of days when this music was current and “hip.” I remember when our son was a teenager drummer who played his kit in his bedroom with headphones, beating out the rhythm to upbeat Christian music that was cutting edge then.

As Sweet William and I listened to those old cassettes, familiar songs lifted my spirit. I hummed along as I fixed lunch. My heart turned from the anxiety of rising rivers to a Savior who rises to save. He is the mighty One who calms storms and calms my heart. He parted waters with His breath and brought water from the rock for the thirsty.

He is not surprised by our crises. His eyes see His children and makes a way in the wilderness, whether it be soaked with rain or parched by the blazing heat.

He is with us when the sun shines and the rain falls. He walks with us in the light or in the dark. He knows what we have need of before we ask. He does not leave us when trouble threatens. He is near, always near.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him. And so we will sing His praises, trust His promises and look for the rainbow.

Sunday grace.

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It’s all about love

Valentine’s Day 2018 may be a memory, but February makes me think about love like November reminds me to be thankful. If it could only last longer than a month, I’d be a better person.

Sweet William and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a couple days before the event. We knew the 14th would be filled with appointments and obligations. We’ve been together long enough to know a number on the calendar is not as important as what is in our hearts.

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On the morning of the 14th I woke with thoughts of love on my mind. I put Steven Curtis Chapman’s All About Love on the CD player and hummed familiar tunes as I prepared whole grain pancakes with bananas for our breakfast.

 

I sent messages to my precious ones who are miles away, the texts a meager substitute for the hugs I want to give them on Valentine’s Day.  But it was what I had to give. I received a quick loving response from our son that made me cry. His words were like sweet oil on my heart, soothing and tender.

In a minute or so “I Will Be Here” began to play, a song that means a lot to Sweet William and me, the musical message of commitment that weathers storms and holds fast, no matter what. And I cried some more.

As I stood at the back door looking out the window while tears fell freely, I thanked God for His love that makes our love possible. For love is from God. If we would see God, we should look for love where it flows freely from hearts who know love, who have been loved and have learned to give love in return.

I think how God’s love has covered a multitude of sins, the ones that would have drowned me and sucked the life from my lungs. Because of His love, grace has taught me to love and forgive others, those sins covered as well. I stagger at something so amazing and struggle to grasp its enormity.

It is easy for me to see God in the world that often denies His existence. I look for love where it is being acted out. It isn’t just the romantic kind that made my stomach flutter at a glimpse of my special someone, though that love has a place.

Love shines brightly when it is hard to walk out, when it is an act of will that requires all we have to give. I see it in the mother who prays and belives for a prodigal to return. In the father who takes care of and provides for his family by working a job he dislikes. In the adult child who gives patient and tender care to an aging and sometimes forgetful parent. In the spouse who lives the promise of for better or worse. In the couple who leave all that is familiar to show Jesus to the world. In the family who opens their home to a troubled teen.

As I ponder the kind of love that comes from the heart of a loving God, the last song of All About Love CD plays and Chapman sings:

“A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe,

This is a moment made for worshipping.

Love is from God. He gives it to us lavishly through Jesus Christ, holding nothing back, like a rushing river flowing out of its banks. As I stand in His presence and refresh myself with a deep drink of it, I know I am loved.  It’s only through Him I am able to love in return.

This love, this day is a moment made for worshipping.

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Sunday grace

The grey days of February stretch long, endless. The temperature on my outdoor thermometer registers cold. Yet . . .

I hear the bird chirp as the sun’s brilliance begins to lighten the sky, ever so slightly. Others soon join the song, echoing from the little woods. And they know something. In their rapidly-beating hearts, there is a sense of season.

Whether the birds anticipate that spring is near, I know not. But their voices resonate my own longing.

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
— Song of Solomon 2:11-12, NKJV

I acknowledge that winter is not yet past. There are weeks of uncertainty when rain may turn to ice and snow, when temperatures will chill my bones, when the gas logs will flicker to warm us in the house, and when we will bundle up to brave the outdoors.

But there is hope.

Hope. The confidence to look toward, to look beyond, to see with eyes of faith.

Though the winter is long and harsh and I am chilled to the bone;
Though the nights are dark too long and I wait for daybreak;

Though the winds blow branches from bare trees and I feel the breaking in me;
Though the grass is withered brown and I experience the strain of life;
Though the earth looks fruitless and I struggle to bring forth;

Yet I will hope in God my Savior.
I will take His offered courage, cling to His “fear not,”
And choose the joy in His salvation.

For God the Lord is my confidence, and He will lead me through the valleys and upward where the air is sweet and His strength becomes my own.

And spring will come.

Sunday grace.

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Remembering February 11

I started looking through the photos this week as I do whenever I think about organizing the boxes of pictures. I get a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of bringing order to a hundred years worth of family images.

When I come to the old black and whites, I linger long. There is one of my maternal grandparents looking young and sassy, and then years later they are with their three young children at the beach. I gaze at faces in sepia, my newly-wed parents, in the flower of their youth, and it’s hard to imagine them that way.

There are pictures of my dad in his army uniform and small portraits of mother that she regularly sent to dad when he was overseas during World War 2. I think how handsome he was, how beautiful she was. I only know those young people by photograph, and I wonder what life was like for them with their dreams and plans still ahead of them.

 

With those faces in the back of my mind, it’s not surprising to me that I walked down another memory lane this morning.

I’ve been reading the Psalms during February, and today I landed in chapter 56. I love the songs of David, Asaph, and the sons of Korah. In deeply troubling times, I have lived in the Psalms, the words reflecting my anxious heart and my dark emotions. Always, the writer points me heavenward, encouraging me to praise the God of mercy who is full of compassion and loving kindness.

This morning, this verse made me pause – Selah – and think:

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.   — Psalm 56:3

The lyrical King James language is so familiar and how I quote the verse to myself. It is the language of the Scriptures I grew up with and learned to love. Since then I have expanded my library to include lots of versions and paraphrases, all with the aim of understanding what God is wanting to say to me.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” I’ve been afraid, more times than I care to admit. One particular year comes to the forefront this morning. It was 1983, the year my mother took to a hospital bed in the living room of her and dad’s home, the one with red carpet on the floor. Mother loved red, and she had her way with this house.

Dad was a builder and over the years of their marriage, he built and sold our house four times that I remember. The red-carpeted-living-room house was to be the final home, and mother was a happy homemaker in it.

My mother, who had never been seriously sick, became gravely ill. When there was nothing else to do but make sure she was comfortable, we did all we could to see that she was, surrounding her with our presence. Friends and family filled the house during the early months of 1983, bearing food and fellowship, prayers and support.

My dad made gallons of coffee all throughout the day, standing at the gas stove stirring grounds into almost-boiling water. It was his old-fashioned way of brewing, and I suppose it gave him something to do. Coffee was our drink of comfort and he doled it out generously.

My mother loved to laugh and have fun. She was a warm and welcoming kind of person, inviting people into her life, loving them like they belonged. She was a woman full of faith in her Savior, and she had a voice that could “bring the Spirit down” as we used to say in our church. People loved to hear her sing, and everyone had their favorite song request.

As her life ebbed away, and that strong, vibrant voice became a whisper, she never seemed to waiver in her confidence in the God who was the subject of her songs. The words she sang so often were still true for her.

Sometimes when my faith would falter, and no sunlight I can see
I just lift my eyes to Jesus, and I whisper “Pilot me.”
“Fear thou not for I’ll be with thee.  I will still thy Pilot be.
Never mind the tossing billows.  Take my hand and trust in Me.”

Like those who experience heartbreak, I struggled with questions and doubts, not understanding why all this was happening. Why weren’t my prayers being answered in the way I wanted? I was grappling with my own faith, and fear was a companion.

When mother died on February 11 , dad and I were devastated, as were family members and those who felt like family. We wandered like zombies through many days and weeks, wondering how to live without the person who brought joy, laughter and love to our lives. But time passed as we tried to learn how to exist without her.

One day, I happened upon mother’s wallet. I opened it and saw her driver’s license. Those pictures are never good, but this time it was precious to me. Upon further looking, I found a strip of paper folded inside the wallet. There in mother’s familiar script were the words of Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Then I remembered that she has written that verse on paper and tucked it into the strap of her bra, wearing it like a badge of courage during the days of uncertainty.

She had faced fear too. In her love for us, she tried to be brave, but she had been afraid. It was astonishing to me at first, but I recognized my mother’s humanity in that moment. She had been my rock, unwavering, unfaltering, always there for me with a listening ear and words of wisdom. Looking at her handwriting on a scrape of paper I saw that she was much like me, me with my with questions and struggles and my grasping for faith when it is hard.

What made the moment profound was the understanding that she had taken hold of the only One who could calm her fears, and she learned to trust even in her fear. And here was an answer for me in my own weakness.

My heavenly Father knows I am prone to frailty and fear. He speaks “Fear not” to me and asks me to trust Him when I can’t see what He is doing. His provision of grace through Jesus gives strength when I have none.  He runs to my cry of Abba Father.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of mother’s death. That day long ago is forever etched in my mind. Grief overwhelmed me then, and I didn’t think I could go on. But I was strengthened by grace, the same grace that strengthened my mother as she walked out her calling on this earth, the same grace available to each of God’s children.

I’ve learned a lot in the years since that heart-wrenching day, learned that God is trustworthy in the darkness; that He has a bigger plan than I can comprehend; that He is good and showers us with daily blessings; that He fills the hungry with good things; that He loves the unloveable and watches for the prodigal to come home; that He gives a second chance, again and again and again.

I have found God to be faithful through my years, every single time. And when I am afraid, I can trust in Him.

 

 

 

 

Sunday grace

Selah.

What an unusual Hebrew word in Scripture. It is one which scholars cannot completely agree upon the meaning. Some say it is a musical term, others a liturgical signifier.

Often it is interpreted as “pause and think about it.”

We aren’t much to pause in our vigorous culture. We rush. We multitask. We move from one assignment to another, sometimes on auto-pilot. We accomplish much and travel far, but pausing is not on the agenda.

We fall into bed at night, exhausted, hoping to sleep just enough so we can begin the race again tomorrow.

What if we paused more often? Paused to view the sunrise in the morning. Paused to taste breakfast. Paused to listen to more than the words being spoken. Paused to give thanks for being able to move and work and think. Paused enough to enjoy the blessing of sleep. Paused to hear the still small voice of the Spirit.

Life is not an emergency, though we treat it as if it is sometimes.

 

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Music needs a rest to emphasise the notes played. The rests in music make the remainder of the song more beautiful.

Today, pause. Rest. Take a deep breath. Worship with your heart in it. Sing your song out loud as you move to its rhythm. Hug your people long. Look into someones eyes and hear what the heart is trying to say.

Selah. Pause and think about this good life God has given you.

Sunday grace.

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Ending and beginning

I woke up with anxiety this morning realizing it was February 1st and I had missed writing a “January ending” post.

Yesterday was a full day. I had three potential writing projects I wanted to complete. I had piano lessons. There were the dailies: cooking, laundry, clean-up as always. I worked on what I thought was the most important in the afternoon. By evening, I was spent and writing does not come as easily then. I turned off the laptop and went to bed.

Thus my anxiety this morning. I began to talk to my inner self, reminding her that I am the boss of my blog. There are more important things than writing a post. I let myself off the hook, gave myself some grace and went about my day today.

There. I feel better getting that off my chest.

January 2018 was cold, and then it was warm. It snowed causing canceled appointments and kept us home-bound. Then we played catch up. It’s Kentucky. What can I say.

I bought a leather journal for the new year, first time I’ve ever had one so nice. After viewing all my journals in their various shapes and forms, I decided it was time to treat myself to something special since, obviously, my journaling is not a passing fancy.

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Sweet William gave me a custom-designed fountain pen for Christmas. It is my journal pen. I love the way it lightly scratches across the paper and the flow of the ink. I hope the rumors I hear are untrue, that cursive writing is out of fashion and obsolete in this keyboard generation. Cursive is an art form, one we should hold close and not throw aside because something new seems better, faster. Recognizing the writing style of friends and family or seeing a signature of a loved one is a sweet pleasure. Let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

I am a whirling dervish in January, going through drawers and closets, cleaning out and repurposing things to the thrift store. It gives me a lighter feeling to let go of too much stuff as I head into the new year. It has caused me evaluate my thrift store “addiction” with a determination to use caution and restraint this year.

Sometimes I organize myself into a corner and forget what I’ve done with things. Like the jar of hand cream I still can’t find.

Sweet William and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary quietly this year. Take-out Chinese was our lunch menu, eaten in the comfort of home. We’ve celebrated lots of different ways these many years. In this cold, snowy month, I think to myself, “Who gets married in January?” We did.

Let me mention a couple of good books and movies I enjoyed while snuggled in at the Wright House.

Between Heaven and the Real World is by singer/song writer Steven Curtis Chapman. We’ve been a fan of Chapman’s music for years. In his book he revealed an honest look at a family who achieved fame and success, who struggled with real life issues of marriage and children, who faced unbearable tragedy, and who still believe in a good God.  I appreciate the words to Chapman’s songs even more now.

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Church of the Small Things, by Melanie Shankle, was not what I was expecting. But it was entertaining and made me giggle. Melanie has a funny writing style, while telling great stories of life. She’s been a blogger for years and has written other books, some that made the New York Times Bestseller List. I will look for her again.

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Finding Normal was a DVD from my library. It was family friendly, and I just like Candace Cameron Bure.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered was another movie we enjoyed with a redemptive theme, because sometimes I want to feel good after I’ve spent two hours of my time.

And now February begins with more weather weirdness, temperatures fluctuating from 50 degrees this morning and plummeting to the teens tonight, rain that turned to snow while my piano students wish for another snow day tomorrow. The good news is, as some celebrate the prophetic tendencies of the Groundhog tomorrow, winter will be half over and on the downslide.

Stores display their Valentine reds and pinks, and I wonder if the second month of the year could truly be dedicated to showing kindness and love? We are all fellow travelers on this earth, and the road can get rugged and long. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “on the good days and the bad days and the mad days, the happy and the sad days,” we could use some courtesy and forbearance, a little patience and tenderness.

If we try, if we make a concerted effort, February might turn into a gentle reminder that sweetness is not just something covered in chocolate.

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Sunday grace

Life is brief, even at its longest. Even with the accumulation of many years, it seems not nearly enough.

We are a vapor, spending our minutes, hours, days, and years, then wondering where they went so quickly.

The breath of the Creator blew life into clay and we became eternal, the longing for true vitality and essence imbedded in our DNA. We are connected to Him who gave of Himself to bring us into existence. Is it a wonder, then, that eternity is set in our hearts?

How then shall we live?

In self-seeking pursuits? In pride of accomplishments? In looking out for number one?

In gathering to ourselves houses, lands, stuff that we think will satisfy?

Knowing there is an end to our beginning, how do we live to pursue the worth of a life?

Love God. Love one another.

Be honest. Be fair. Be trustworthy.

Share your wealth, your belongings, your heart.

Be real. Don’t hide your true self. You are fearfully and wonderfully made to be unique and precious in God’s sight. Live out your true potential, exercising the gifts within you.

Show kindness at every turn, to every person. Practice patience just as you hope to receive it. Learn to be content in this present situation.

Forgive. Give mercy. Let your heart be moved with compassion.

Seek the Creator who gave you breath. Accept the love He freely gives, the grace that is a gift through Jesus Christ.

He gives us value and worth because He loved us first.

Sunday grace.

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Photos by Elena Walls