Sunday grace

“If I want to abide in this day, to make my home in it, I must only tear my eyes from tomorrow and look around. For there is a wholeness to this day that I do not want to miss.”    — Roots & Sky, Christie Purifoy

Yesterday is over with its tasks accomplished and the ones left undone. Words were spoken, tears shed, joy expressed, love embraced.

Tomorrow is only an empty promise. It may or may not come for any and all of us. The hopes and dreams it holds are fragile and illusive.

But today is here. This is the day I have been given. The newness of it, the beauty of it, the splashes of color and light that lay before me. And what will I do with this gift?

Live it to its fullest. Give thanks for its opportunities to love and be loved. Taste it and see that it is delicious.

What this day holds is held by my Father in Heaven. He knows how it will unfold and present its joy and sorrow, for they walk together, those two.

I will walk into the light of this new day with the One who never leaves me and will not let me go. We journey into it together.

I will rejoice and be glad and look for grace.

Sunday grace.

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Friday’s prayer

On Fridays I pray for my country.

I watch the news sometimes or hear Sweet William recount the latest offering from opposing stations and perspectives. It never seems to be good news. Opinions are argued out, people talk over one another, and I shrink, trying to make sense of it all.

Each side proposes to have the answers. Do they? Can they back up their words with actions? Can they bring promised change? Can they make life better?

As we approach election day in the United States, the future is uncertain. By mid-November, one side will celebrate and the other side will wail that we are destined for inescapable disaster.

I can easily get caught up in the rhetoric, the reports that have no basis of reality but only seek to stir up controversy. As I watch and listen, I begin to think it is all about controversy.

I ask a question posed by Pontius Pilate to Jesus over 2,000 years ago: What is truth?

Truth stood before Pilate, but he was unaware, consumed with other agendas. I perceive we are guilty of the same. We are consumed with our own projects and plans. Truth has become selective, personal, changeable, situational. It has been reshaped until it is not truth at all. No wonder our foundations are shaky.

I pray for my country, the coming elections and for people to take responsibility to vote their conscience and exercise their rights as citizens. I pray that people will do the right thing. I pray that love would replace hatred, that light would shine in darkness, that good would overcome evil. I pray that God will be honored and we will see who He is. The I AM. The Self-Existent One. The essence of love as well as consuming, burning holiness.

I won’t give in to fear though it is frightening in the cities and country towns. I remember God is sovereign over the elections, over our country, and over every thing that lives and breathes and moves in the vast creation.

He is righteous and will set things right though He tarries long. He reaches for the sinner, the fallen, the lost, the self-righteous, the wanderer. His love is unending. He is faithful and just, awesome in power, completely other than all else. He is holy. And He is good.

What is truth? I know what it is. It is Jesus. And no matter what the newscasters report or what the world looks like around me, He is Lord over all.

And that is undeniable reality.

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Sunday grace

Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of the Lord.

I remind myself of it often, this giving thanks is not just a guideline or a suggestion. This is the will of the Lord for me.

And His will is always for my good.

Giving thanks turns my eyes from the disappointments to the grace, from the heartbreak to the lavish love, from the pain to the process of healing.

God gives good gifts. He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him and follow Him. He is the sun and the shield.  He bestows favor and honor.

So I will count my blessings; I will name them one by one. I will see what the Lord has done as I look for His goodness in my ordinary, everyday life.

It’s a discipline I need to practice, repeat and rehearse. It is like a music piece that I stumble at in the beginning but becomes beautiful as I perfect it.

In the good times praise His name. In the bad times do the same. In everything give the King of kings all the thanks.

When the sun shines and when the storm gathers. When I am warm and when I am cold. When friends are near and when they cannot be found. When I am in good health and when I am sick. When money is plentiful and when I wonder how to pay the bills. When I am full and when I am empty. When I am bursting with joy and when my heart is torn wide open.

God is good no matter what. He will take what is hard and hurtful and redeem it, make it a time to teach me and draw me close to His heart. In His own miraculous way, He can bring beauty from ashes.

So this morning, I practice Eucharisteo when it is easy and when it is not. The giving of thanks is grace and it is joy.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me. And Jesus is the best reason to be thankful for He is the greatest gift.

Sunday grace.

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Five years

Breakfast finished and enticed by the clouds moving in, I went to the back deck to sit and watch the promised rain finally arrive this morning, bringing cool breezes. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all week.

As I sit and listen to the raindrops on wood, leaves, and grass, the wind sways the tall branches of trees in our little woods behind the house. It’s a sight I never tire of seeing. The wind blows and the branches give way to its power.

I’ve been blown about and moved by the power. The power of circumstances and illness. The power of emotion and disappointment. The power of love and forgiveness. And the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

Sometimes rain is a welcome relief of dryness and heat. Sometimes it is reminiscent of tears and sorrow of soul. The rain is both to me this morning.

Facebook’s ability to “never let me miss a memory” reminded me what happened this time five years ago. As if I needed its reminder. This week was the fifth anniversary of the day our family next door moved away. I don’t need to look in the 2011 journal to remember the gut-wrenching emotions I felt as the big yellow moving truck pulled out of the lane. I recall the last wave and tearful smile from the grand boy who was only nine. I feel the long hugs and how we all tried to be brave. They were facing the unknown and the challenges of a new location. We were facing the unknown also and an empty house next door.

It was a hard day. A long, dry season.

I looked at pictures captured the last week before they all packed up and left. Sweet William and I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren trying to build memories and pour ourselves into those precious young lives. I wanted them to be filled up with our love. I wanted them to remember it when they hit some hard, dry seasons themselves.

There were lots of smiles in those pictures, us trying to ignore what was coming and live in the present of each other. Nothing else really matter that week except spending time together.

I can barely believe it has been five years now. The house next door stood empty for almost a year. Then two sets of renters moved in and moved out. Two years ago a young couple, her great with child, bought the house and came to stay. They have been a gift to us, their growing toddler calling us Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill, their warmth and friendliness, their love and kindness more than we expected.

I have adjusted to another family living in the house next door. I have adjusted to having my dear ones living so far away. I have adjusted to us being the lone couple at family gatherings and no grandchildren to play with the cousins.

I have adjusted, but tears still threaten to fill my eyes.

A lot has happened in five years. I used to look from my back deck and wave to grandchildren heading out to play in their back yard. I heard their “Hi Grammy,” as they waved back at me. Now the meadow has grown to a woods and I barely see the back yard next door.

Sweet William and I endured three years of hospitalizations and too many surgeries, suffering and questions that were not answered. We are on the other side of the physical problems, but it changed us in uncommon ways.

My 91-year-old father died during the five years, then my step-mother three years later, leaving me feeling a little like an orphan, on my own now for sure. Mother’s and Father’s Days lack the luster it did before.

I retired from a position I loved, working with people who were friends. I knew my role as care-giver would increase, as it has.

We’ve traveled to visit our dear ones, but not nearly enough for me. I’ve missed so many birthdays and holiday celebrations with them.

When we do get to see each other, the time is precious. Whenever they say they are coming, I try to clear my schedule, freshen bedrooms, and cook up a storm. I want them to be at home, to feel absolutely welcome, and to enjoy their visit. When being together is rare, the measured occassion becomes a treasured jewel.

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Good-byes are still hard, even after we have practiced saying them so often. I always find something left behind. And I suppose that gives me hope of their return.

For reasons beyond me and held within the secret plans of a Sovereign God, we live apart from one another. He watches over them as He watches over us. More than ever our prayers seem very significant. They are our connection. They create a triangle: them, us, and God. He holds us all, and His hand is strong.

I’ve learned to trust God more during the five years. Trust when I cannot see the purpose. Trust when I don’t know what is going on. Trust when my tears are my food all day long. Trust when I am fearful. Trust when I can do nothing to change any of it.

My Lord is faithful and worthy of trust. His plans have purpose. He is the One who began the good work in each one, and He will complete it in His time.

The clouds cover the the blue this morning. Grey moves across the sky. Rain is here for a while, washing away the dust, watering the ground and the gardens, soothing my soul, mimicking my tears. It’s what I needed today.

Sunday grace

I walk in the stillness of the dawn and the early morning fog, the faint sound of a train in the distance. The day begins fresh and clean with mercies fresh from the Father’s hand.

Leaves and branches are strewn on the pavement and grassy fields, the results of a blowing wind and rain the evening before. The dead have clung to trees too long. The violent tugging loosed them. They needed to go. They were lifeless.

I’ve had some dead branches fall away this week, burdens, grief and emotions I clung to long enough. They needed to go. They were lifeless and sapping the life from me.

Moments in Scripture pull me back from my self focus, to the One who is the central focus of all of existence. Of life itself. The Father invites me to lay down my heavy load, to come and find forgiveness and rest.

I respond to His invitation, confessing my sin, feeling His embrace. He wipes away the tears and wipes the slate clean again.

I am the beloved of God, not because I have much to offer but because He offers all. Though I fall and fail, His love is unfailing and catches the fallen.

In returning I find Sabbath.

Sunday grace.

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Hosea 14:1-2

 

Most admired

I’d picked up a copy of the magazine that is specifically written about women for women. It is free, and I find it in the hospital waiting rooms where Sweet William and I frequent much too often.

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This one’s cover showed pictures of twelve women chosen as most admired in as many categories. I read the women’s stories, all of them worthy of their being chosen. They have worked hard to educate themselves and achieve success.

These are high-profile women, some of the movers and shakers of the community. They carry briefcases and they carry weight and influence.

As the days go by after reading the summary of these successful women, I begin to formulate my own list of most admired. They will never grace the cover of a magazine. Their stories may not be told in print. They will not get a make-over or a fashion consultation so their photographs look polished and professional.

But the women on my list have achieved something that ranks them in a place of honor, in my opinion.

There is woman who opened her home to an aging mother-in-law, and this after her own children had left the nest. At a time when she and her husband could have thought about travel and beginning to explore their couple-ness again, she is responsible for someone who becomes more in need of care as the years go by. She handles it with grace and dignity.

There is the woman who comes to help me in our house sometimes, the one I have called on in emergencies to let our Little Dog out when Sweet William was suddenly hospitalized. She enters our house with a smile and joy that brightens our lives. She has her own problems for sure, but she continues to work multiple jobs to help provide for her family while making sure her children get to ball practices and games, music lessons and the unceasing activities of this generation. She maintains an openness and honesty with her children in the midst of her crazy schedule. Her kids are growing up to be responsible and hard-working, following her example.

There is the woman whose grandson lives in the far corner of the country. She is his life source in many ways. Her love and devotion to him is unmistakable, and she makes the journey to him many times throughout the year. Her continuing prayers for him are evident in his young life as she sees God intervene and provide. She keeps up with his activities and his grades, doing what she can from her distant home, to see that he has every available advantage.

There is the younger woman who is taking care of her mother who has been left with a sever disability, while she has a husband and children at home. Life has dealt her some rugged blows, and she keeps walking forward, seeking different avenues to advocate for her family, making sure they have what they need.

There is the friend who checks on me, asks about my day, and willingly hears my honest raw truth coming from a fractured heart. She has her own burdens, yet she cares about me and mine.

There is the teacher, influencing lives on a daily basis, praying for her students and showing them God’s love actively while not being able to mention His name.

There is the nurse who gives skilled expertise to patients in hospitals, rehab centers and nursing homes. She cares for those unable to care for themselves while offering a smile and some cheer on many a gloomy day.

There is the woman who fosters other people’s children, giving them a safe haven when they have been removed from home, some experiencing untold horrors.

There are the women who volunteer. They teach Sunday school to the least of these; they meet weekly with middle schoolers; they have a heart for understanding teenagers. Theirs is a special calling.

There are the mothers who home-school and invest their daily time and energies into the hearts and lives of their little ones, knowing there is no other more important job. They sacrifice some of the frills of life so they can give themselves away.

There are the women who are caregivers of  children, husbands, parents, and relatives who have experienced life-changing illness or injury. Their lives are focused on another and not themselves.

There are the women who are friends to other women, loving them with a listening ear and words that encourage. They offer a comforting place to speak one’s heart and not worry about being exposed on Facebook or Twitter or to the next-door neighbor.

Women are a wondrous group. They may be described as the “weaker, more delicate vessel” in physical make-up, but they make up for it in determination and courage. They are fiercely loyal, tireless in their efforts, and they give of themselves to a fault. God endowed women with a heart like His in so many ways, their nurturing, relentlessly loving, tenacious way of holding on in hope.

Almost an entire chapter of the scriptures is dedicated to a woman’s worth. More than rubies. Priceless in value. Her characteristics are most definitely to be admired and emulated.

If I had a list of most-admired women, it would be long. The women who are are making a living and making a life. Giving and selfless. Loving in word and deed.

These women are strong. They are beautiful. And they are worthy of honor.

“Give her the reward of her labor,and let her works praise her at the city gates.”  — Proverbs 31:31

 

 

Sunday grace

In Him we live and move and have our being.

The Lord God Almighty took dirt and created skin and hair, blood vessels and nerve endings, bones and cartilage, muscles and sinew. He made blood to flow bringing oxygen to every cell.

Then He breathed, and the breath of God gave life.

We live and move, create and build, relate and learn because of the breath of God, that which would connect us to Him.

We have our being because of the Creator who shared His life-breath with us. It was given as a gift to be used for good. Sadly, we have abused His gift, used it selfishly, for our own sinful wanderings.

The birth of each child brings hope, and we are reminded of the breath of God, the divine, designed miracle. Yet, our wandering continues, and we are found wanting.

One came with the Breath of God clothed in flesh; came to redeem us, to buy us back from the slave block of sin we found ourselves upon. He lived, and moved, and had His complete and perfect being in God. For He was God.

He breathed His last breath and paid the price for our slavery.

Once again we can live and move and have our being in Him to the glory of God. As it was meant to be.

Sunday grace.

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