Sunday grace

hands lifted

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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June ending

As June comes to an end today and July begins tomorrow, I realize half of 2015 is over.  The summer solstice has passed, leaving me with the knowledge that the days are indeed getting shorting now in the northern hemisphere.

Days come and days go.  Quickly.  Almost without notice.  Without warning life moves on.

The heat of summer will soon give way to the colors of fall, the snows of winter, and we begin it all again.

We make New Year’s Day a celebration, anticipating it, blowing horns over it, somehow expecting the next year to bring happiness and change in some form or another.  Yet each new day, each month brings with it the dare to live life fully, to enjoy the bounty we have been given, to find joy in the moments.  We can squander the minutes or we can influence positively, encourage with our words, serve with a willing heart, and truly make a difference.

The news anchor said July is typically the hottest month of the year.  July is birthday month, for our country, for me and for the son born to Sweet William and me.  July signals a milestone anniversary for that son and his beautiful bride.  And I wonder where the time has gone.

I look at old pictures and remember.  We all look so young.  We were young.  In those years gone by, so much happened.  Joy.  Tears.  Birth.  Death.  Lord, teach me to number my days.

This coming birthday is a turning point for me.  It moves me toward a different decade.  My bones are well aware.  How will I finish out this life of mine?  How will I be remembered when I’m gone?  These are the questions that fill my mind.

The ending of June marks the half way point of the year.  It is another reminder of the brevity of life.  “What do people gain from all their labors?” asked the wisest man.  Heaven forbid that it is vanity, all vanity.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity.  I’ve had many seasons, time for so many different experiences.  There are more seasons to come.  I want the rest of my life to count for something more than just a clicking off of the days.

And so I pray.  Lord, may this gift of life You have given only improve with age.

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No matter what

No matter what this day, this month, this year may bring, God is still on the throne. No matter how I feel in my fluctuating emotions, God is still on the throne.  Through the snow of winter and the blazing heat of summer, in the beauty of spring and the relinquishing of fall, yes, God is still on the throne.

God is the One who rules.  He is the true Righteous Judge.  God is the One who speaks and all of creation responds.

God is in control when it seems my world is out of kilter, out of control, turned upside down.  God has set the seasons, determines when the sun rises, put boundaries on the seas, and named all the stars in the sky.

It’s His plan, formed before the foundation of the world.  He put it into motion and will see that it is completed.

He alone has the power to cause nations to rise and nations to crumble.  He is the One who knows all truth for He is Truth. He is the beginning and the end of it all.

God is the One who loves without limits and has gone to the ends of the earth to save us.  And Jesus is still the only name whereby we may be saved.

So no matter what . . .

God is still good.  God is still sovereign.  God is still faithful.

And He can be trusted.

Sunday grace, friends.

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To the fathers

To the fathers who walk crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep,

To the fathers who are brave enough to change a diaper, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children,

To the fathers who run alongside kids on bikes without training wheels and shout encouragement along the way,

To the fathers who teach math and science in the evenings and who teach life more by their actions than their words,

To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives,

To the fathers who show their little girls how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for,

To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families, 

To the fathers who pray for their children, who take them to church, who read the Bible in front of them,

To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like a lady,

To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up,

To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down even, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day,

To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own,

To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still standing tall in spirit, 

To the fathers.  We need you to be strong.  We need you to be men.  We need you to show us God the Father.

On this Father’s Day, I pray God’s blessings.  

Grace, mercy and peace to all of you from God the Father and from His Son, Jesus Christ.

Bill and Gramps dad with family2 elyse, ethan, celeste, dad gramps and ethan~ story tellin' gramps and travis three men

ABCs and VBS

little flock vbs

This week has been a whirl of enthusiasm as Little Flock does VBS, also known as Vacation Bible School. And Little Flock does it well.  Volunteers of all ages pull together to make it one of the best weeks of the year for the children in our community.

While there are songs and fun and games and refreshments and crafts, the most important part of the day is story time, when the children have an opportunity to hear about Jesus and how He wants to be their Friend.  The older children are given the gospel message during the week and can make a decision to accept Jesus as their very own personal Savior.

I just love that about VBS.

There have been Sundays when I saw some of my former VBS students walk into the waters of baptism acknowledging and confessing their decision to follow Christ.  Tears are in my eyes as I watch with a joyful heart and thank God for fruit from the labors of so many during a wild and crazy week of ministry in the middle of June.

Each year at VBS there is an ABC song that explains the simple way to come to Christ Jesus.  It goes something like this:

A – Admit to God that you are a sinner.  Repent and turn away from your sin.

B – Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and gave His life to be the Savior of the world.

C – Confess your faith in Jesus as your Savior and Lord and become a child of God.

The melodies and motions are different each year.  The phrases may be adjusted a little but the message is always the same.  Coming to Jesus is as simple as A – B – C.  Even a child can understand.

If you would like to know how to become a child of God, what we call being a Christian, you can get more information right here.  And please, let someone know that you have made a decision to follow Jesus.  That’s the C part of the ABCs.

We don’t travel alone on our journey as Christians.  We walk as brothers and sisters, holding each other up and holding each other accountable.  We learn and we grow.  We study the Word of God and we worship.

We do life together as God’s children on our way to Heaven.

If you heard about Jesus at VBS, be thankful for the workers who made it possible.  Then determine that next year when your church is looking for volunteers, you respond and give back to the next generation. The rewards are priceless.

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Go here to sing along with Jeff Slaughter’s Outrigger Island ABC song. 

Sharing grace

I read the Psalms this morning and think of a friend who is suffering long and hard.  Her trial reminds me of the road Sweet William and I were on for several years, a dark road that looked endless.

I read the comforting words,

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.

The Lord, our help and our shield.  It is He who gives grace for the journey.

I want to share grace with my friend.  Grace is what she needs to sustain, to strengthen.  It is her help and her shield.

I want to say, “Hold on to Jesus.  He is tender and compassionate and knows our sorrow.  He is near to the broken and wounded.”

I want to encourage her with “God is good.  He is Sovereign.  He is with you even in this.”

Grace has been sufficient for me in the darkest nights and the longest days.  Grace has strengthened.  It is grace that saves.

I would share grace with she who suffers today.

Not just Sunday grace, but everyday grace.

Grace and peace to you, my friend.

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