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July ending

July is full on Summer. Hot and humid. Walks with Maisie left us both panting for water. The occasional reprieve of temperatures and a summer rain were welcome relief.

On the very first day of July, I realized my driver’s license was missing. Nothing else in my wallet was gone, so I did not suspect theft. But how could I have lost it from a place that takes an effort to remove it?

I was troubled over it for a while, but then I let it go and gave Sweet William the wheel. Fortunately, this was the year to renew and July is my birth month. Plus, my old picture was pathetic. So Monday morning, July 3, Sweet William drove me to the Circuit Court and I waited in line. The colored backdrop for the mug shot greatly improved the outcome, and my silver blond (aka, grey) hair and fair complexion were not completely washed out.

I look happier on my new license. The one from four years ago was taken on a day I felt forsaken and alone, and my face reflected it. What possessed me to go and have a photo taken, I don’t known. Each time I looked at it, it reminded me of that awful day in my life. I’m glad it’s gone.

I broke a tooth in the middle of the month, chewing on a cherry pit. I knew that pit was in there, so why? I endured an hour and a half in the dentist’s chair, griping my lip balm for dear life and reminding myself to breath. I felt some pain mid-way through the procedure and got an extra dose of numbing meds. It took a long time before I could smile normally with both sides of my mouth.

I celebrated my birthday for a number of days before and after the fact, and I sent a birthday box to the one and only son who shares my birth month. I wanted him to have Nutter Butter cookies because they are his favorite. Since I couldn’t be with him to make a peanut butter pie, cookies would be the next best thing. I purchased from Amazon and didn’t realize how many cookies I was actually ordering. Apparently it was a lot. I may not have to send cookies next July.

Creation explodes in summer. The cucumbers from my vines flourish. And nothing is quite like a summer tomato on tuna melt sandwiches.

The day lilies bloomed their last as the rose of Sharon bushes and giant hibiscus unfurled themselves. I have Shasta daisies this year, a reminder of the friend who shared them with me. They are the flowers of my bridal bouquet.

 

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The pink ladies surprised me one morning, piercing the ground in random spots like arrows. Queen Anne’s Lace has popped up in the landscape and I let them be. Though they are considered a weed, I consider them lovely. One woman’s weed is another woman’s pleasure.

Two plants are new this year. A purchase from the County Extension Office plant sale in spring produced a charming morning glory in my favorite color, blue. And my gardener friend gave me starts of Spider Plant that make my happy.

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As I sometime bemoan the fact that there are many weeds for me to tend to, I am blessed to have many flowers to delight me. I will take the trade-off and enjoy the bounty of blooms.

Summer sounds of the cicadas in trees greeted us by late morning when we sat long on the deck. The night twinkled with lightning bugs in the little woods. I discovered they eat other pesky insects which makes them more delightful to have around.

This month I read autobiography, fiction, and a book about writing. One interesting read was Blink by Malcomb Gladwell. What gave me the most pleasure was discussing the book with a young man who is a former piano student. He came to see us before heading back to college.

I participated in a Bible study group and enjoyed being a class member. Meanwhile I was also studying 2 Corinthians in preparation to lead All Things New by Kelly Minter in the fall. This will be the first study I lead this year. Twice last year I doubled up and did the same study at two different locations at the same time. It was crazy. I learned my lesson that I am not super woman.  (Actually I think I keep having to re-learn this lesson, over and over.)

I was surprised by the death of a family member toward the end of July. Too young, too soon. When I attended the funeral service, where there was literally standing room only, I saw the glory I have been looking for. As the song I Can Only Imagine played, people stood, and the husband, whose wife lay in a casket in the front, lifted his hand in worship. I watched from the back and asked the Lord, “Is this the glory?”

When we bow the knee in reverence to the One who gives and also takes away, this is glory. When people who have gathered to mourn, can rise and sing of Heaven’s hope, this is glory. When our hearts are torn, when we don’t understand any of it, when we prayed for a miracle that didn’t come the way we wanted, and yet we still believe in a good God who gives good gifts to those He loves without measure, this is glory.

There was a tremendous outpouring of people who came to show their support and concern to this family. The influence one life has on another brings this kind of response. Memories of a life lived joyfully and loveingly, all these are evidences of God’s glory in the everyday moments of life and even death.

Funerals make me think of my own mortality. What will I leave behind? What sort of seeds am I planting in the hearts and lives of those God brings in my path? Am I nurturing with love? Am I watering with prayer? Am I tending relationships with compassion?

Christy Purifoy speaks of it in Roots and Sky:

“What will we cultivate with the moments and resources given to us? I want to grow a living home. Something as vivid and as alive as a bed of flowers. I want to create something that shows the way. A signpost of the good things God has planned for us and our world.” 

Summer makes one consider sowing and reaping. We all sow in one form or another. The law of the earth says we will reap the same, only more of it. It would do us well to consider what seeds we are scattering.

I have not blogged much this month. Chalk it up to being hot and muggy, or call it the lazy days of summer. I’m not sure why, and this from Edda Walker makes it feel acceptable:

“Lovely night, warm, and filled with gentle summer noises. I don’t feel like writing . . . Instead I am going to listen to the whispering trees.”

Through all kinds of weather, in sunshine and storms, I have listened to summer’s song in July, the echoes of a faithful God. And its music has been captivating.

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The glory of today

It is a practically perfect day in my old Kentucky home.

Late last night I sat on the deck, the blustery wind blowing in what is today’s low 60 degree temperatures. Humidity moved out and gentle breezes are left this morning. The sky is blue with puffs of cotton ball clouds.

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I sit long this morning, the second pot of coffee brewed and in my cup. The yard could use some attention, but it is a practically perfect day. I will “waste” the morning in quietude, contemplation, writing in my journal, and pondering life.

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But my heart hurts today. A cousin died this week. Sweet William and I will attend a funeral tomorrow, and a young husband feels like half his body has been torn away from him. Two children are left behind, and they are too young to be without a mamma. I know that feeling.

The young woman who died was born the same year as my son. And how does a mother deal with that kind of loss?

My cousin’s struggle with cancer was hard-fought and faith filled. Yet she is gone and we are left with our grief. And our questions.

Life is hard.

I talked with a friend last night, one who is closer to my age. She also battles cancer. I listened as she expressed concern for her husband and for the grandchildren she loves. She fears she will not see them grow into adults. She faces the uncertainty of her life with courage. I admire her for that, for her openness as we talk about the days ahead.

She probably does not see the strength that is in her right now. It is the strength that is made perfect in weakness, when the power of God rests on a life He holds in the palm of His hands.

I visited another friend yesterday. She is dealing with a different grief and struggle. We drank coffee and tea, chatting as tears filled our eyes. I shared my own battles and my crises of faith, hoping it might help. She texted later that it had.

This morning, as I recall painful experiences in my life, I see opportunities God has given me, just this year alone, to offer an understanding heart. My heartaches identify with someone else’s heartache. And I wonder if this is part of the redemptive process?

The comfort I was given from the God of all comfort is tenderly held out to another through shared experiences, the sweetness of His Word, and the promise of hope.

And do I see some sort of beauty rising from my ashes? Is this a way God redeems the hard places that tested my endurance, when I felt like there was nothing in me to go one step further? Is this the chance to give my testimony that the strong arm of the Savior was holding onto to me all along, when the rope I tied a knot in to hang on for dear life frayed to its very end?

I recently read again the story of Lazarus, his sickness and then him dying while Jesus waited days, not responding to Mary and Martha’s appeal to come heal their brother. His actions seemed callous, uncaring. Haven’t I felt that way about Him myself?

” . . . it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” Jesus told the disciples (John 11:4).

How often I am self-focused, centering on my pain and my problem, left wondering why this is happening to me. After all, isn’t it all about me, even sometimes?

What if the road, strewn with rocks and entangled with thorns, where we are led to walk is for the glory of God? What if these times are meant to point to a higher power, an omnipotent, all-knowing God who has a plan so enormous that we cannot possibly comprehend? What if these things we wish had not  happened or would go away are like arrows pointing us to a Savior who took on our flesh and blood and walked the hard places Himself and says to us, “I know. I know how you feel,”?

What if this life I live is about the glory of God?

Jesus preached an upside down gospel, after all. He said things like the first shall be last. Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you. If you want to be great, then serve. Give to others without expecting anything in return. Forgive. Love. Believe.

He was the Master who stooped low to wash dirty feet of those who would betray, deny, run away, and lose their faith. Jesus lived a contrary-to-what-we-think kind of life.

If I could begin to see with spirit-eyes, beyond the present suffering and into another dimension where death becomes life everlasting and tears are wiped away for good, perhaps it would change things for me.

If I could grasp the finite-ness of my earthly days and compare them to what comes afterwards, perhaps I would be less concerned about the cares of life and the problems here that trouble me so.

Perhaps I would arise each morning with the hope of seeing God’s glory in the daily events of an ordinary day.

My cousin seemed too young to die. There was too much living yet to do. Yet this very day, she lives in a way I can’t even fathom. She sees what I long to see. She knows things I want to know. She understands what I wrestle to understand. Her faith has become sight and the questions, they don’t matter any more.

And I am envious of that.

I want to see the glory, to perceive beyond the surface and into the deep things of God, things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined. These are the things God has prepared for those who love him.

I pray to see His glory, to endure with faith today and live with hope for tomorrow.

Lord, show us Your glory!

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Sunday grace

My friend texted me late last night: “Karen left this world at 6:50 pm tonight.”

Karen, a woman who has battled cancer that ravished her once healthy body, left this world of pain and suffering. Karen left this world and went Home.

There’s no place like home. I look forward to coming home at the Wright House. The old and familiar things comfort me with memories. I recall family and friends gathered at the table, filling the rooms with their sweet presence.

We’ve fought battles here and shed tears. We’ve bent over in laughter and shared joy and victories. We’ve found comfort in each other’s embrace here and weathered storms as we prayed for peace. Here at home is where we built our lives.

Home is where my people are.

Paul describes it so eloquently: Being absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. This is our true home. To be with Jesus will be home like no other place I’ve ever dwelled.

The tribulation and trial that are part and parcel of this earthly existence will fade away. No more suffering. No more weaping. No more death. God Himself will wipe away our tears.

As the years add up, I find myself longing for home more and more. I see that this life is temporary, that my body is aging, that I am susceptible to ailments and pain. I look forward to corruptible putting on incorruptible. When perishable will put on imperishable.  Life will swallow up death.

And I will be Home. In Heaven. With Jesus.

I will hear the familiar words I am longing for, “Welcome Home.” And I’ll run into my Savior’s arms.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]

The Friday of Passover week

We call it Good Friday. Two days before Easter Sunday. It seems an odd description for the original day.

Researchers differ about the origin of the term Good Friday. The one that seems most reasonable is that “good” related to “holy.”

It was a Holy Friday.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, would not have thought it a good day as she watched her son suffer an agonizing death, this son proclaimed by an angel to be called the Son of God, an heir to the throne of David.

The disciples would not have called it good since by this time they had scattered like scared rabbits. They were disillusioned, disappointed, fearful, and confused.

How could the people of Jerusalem have thought the events of the day were good? The city was in an uproar. Barabbas, a proclaimed dangerous criminal had been turned loose. Pilate was under pressure from the Jewish leaders and was concerned about his political position.

There was a crucifixion occurring during the week of Passover, the festival of freedom. And the prince of darkness appeared to be on the winning side.

But there was something holy happening.

The plan of redemption was at work on a hill called Calvary.  A perfect spotless Lamb offered Himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice. The sins of the world were being carried to the cross.

Trespasses were forgiven.  The debt we owed was paid in full. Spiritual dark rulers were disarmed.

Christ on the cross brought great anguish to those who watched Him suffer, knew Him intimately, had learned to loved Him, and hoped He was their Deliverer.

They could not see any good on a Friday when the sun was darkened.

But there was something holy happening that day, something that would change everything.

It was a good Friday for me.

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Spring fling

Spring weather just teased us as winter holds tight a little longer.

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The trees are flowered and daffodils have bloomed. I enjoyed it while it lasted. Now the mornings find me in my rocking chair with the gas logs burning to chase away the chill. I crack the window open when I can to hear the first bird sing. Whoever that little soloist is, he delights me. Soon joined by a chorus of birds, the woodland symphony captivates me as I  walk out to the deck, coffee in hand, snugly throw around my shoulders.

It’s Spring Forward weekend. I’ve already set all the clocks an hour ahead, and I wonder why “they” keep doing this to me. My internal clock is not so easily adjusted. I’ve set my alarm an hour early several days this week in an effort to trick myself so that in the morning I will not feel so sleep deprived.

A nap is in my future tomorrow.

Weather predictions can say what they want. Spring will come. It always does. The Creator planned it to be. And He is faithful and true.

With the season comes lent which is already in process. Those who practice it, their foreheads ashen marked, have determined some sort of fast during the forty days leading to Easter Sunday.

While my spiritual experience has not always included a season of lent, I see the value of preparing our hearts to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. His victory over death is what separates Christianity from all other religions. We have reason to celebrate.

And we have reason to prepare our hearts. For Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world was no small event in the history of the world. From creation, all things led to it. And from the day of resurrection all things flow from it.

To remember is a command. Jesus told His disciples as He handed them bread and wine, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is my commission also. Remember.

I shall not take His incarnate life, His death, and His triumph over the tomb for granted. This month I’ve been reading the Gospels, anticipating the last weeks of Jesus’ walk upon the earth He created. I don’t want the story to grow old or so familiar I lose sight of its majesty.

I will think on His teaching, the hard sayings that call for humility and courage.

I will wonder at His miracles of healing and forgiveness and will believe that they are still real in the 21st century.

I will ponder His suffering for my sake, to offer a redemptive price for my sins and the sins of the whole world.

What great love, what abounding mercy, what amazing grace.

Springtime offers the perfect picture. Death tries to hold on but it cannot. It lost the battle, and the grave was swallowed up. Life has come from the tomb because Jesus lives.

I am setting my heart toward recollection and reflection of this special season. I will call to mind the great things God has done for me and give Him thanks. I will pray that the Word will be fresh bread feeding my soul and that the Spirit will spring up as a fountain of refreshing.

And I will remember to worship the living Lord and Savior of my life.

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When it’s not all merry and bright

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My cell phone jingled with the notification of a text: “Can you play for a funeral on Saturday?”

It is my only day this week with nothing scheduled. I respond, “If you need me.” What a silly response. Of course I’m needed or otherwise I would not have been asked. I say “yes” because this is the gift I can offer.

Just because it’s December with Christmas around the corner, we are not immune to heartache. Death does not take a holiday. More email brings announcements confirming it.

I remember back to other years, other people, other funerals. Other sorrows.

I ache at the thought of families enduring heartbreak at the time of year when so many celebrate with gusto. Children are excited at the prospect of their wish lists showing up under the tree. Holiday parties fill calendars. Family gatherings are planned and anticipated. Preparation for out-of-town relatives is a labor of love as we look forward to being together once again.

If only it were all so merry and bright. We kid ourselves if we think it is.

For some it is not: a couple facing Christmas for the first time without a beloved granddaughter at their family table; a woman whose mother died in December and the anniversary brings poignant memories; a friend who is learning to live in the unknown of a diagnoses that is terminal.

Others deal with their own sicknesses and disabilities. Caregivers carry responsibilities that drain the life from them some days. A husband and wife wonder about a job that may be ending and an uncertain year ahead. Bills stack high on the desk as funds dwindle low. Families are divided for one reason or another. Plans we made for a joyful season implode when the unexpected report crushes them.

Life can be hard even at Christmas time.

The good news is Jesus. Jesus is Christmas. Plain and simple. He is the One and only reason for any kind of celebration.

God’s plan was formed before the foundations of the earth were laid, and He planned for Christ to come for us.

Jesus birth was not haphazard but detailed in every possible way. In the fullness of time, the eternal blueprint began to take shape exactly as the grand Architect designed it.

Jesus came for just such a time as this, to give us unspeakable joy and to share in our inconceivable sadness. His name is Emanuel, God with us. He is the Comforter, the Sustainer and Provider, the Friend of sinners, the Way to the Father, the open Door to forgiveness and freedom, the Wisdom and Power of God.

He is Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of it all. Period.

Who else offers this kind of relationship, who invites us to cast our burdens upon Himself, who bore our sins – all of our sins – on a cross and rose from the dead to assure us of an eternal home in the Heavens?

The circumstances of our lives do not dictate the celebration of Christmas. If we are expecting the picture-perfect magazine layout, where everything and everyone looks great, to be our holiday experience, we will be disappointed every single time.

But if we are looking for a Baby in a manger, a Child who embodies the very presence of Almighty God, we will find Him. He came to be one of us. He invites us to come to the celebration of real life.

There is cause for celebration this December. It is Jesus. 

The tinsel and lights may droop. The presents under the tree might be scarce. The family get-together could be somewhat dysfunctional. The cookies might burn in the oven. The hospital corridor may be familiar ground. There may be the sound a funeral song in the distance.

Do not be dismayed. Do not fear. Do not lose hope. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

He is the reason for this season of celebration. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy!

nativity-vectorimage from freevector.com