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Sunday grace

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.

Grace breaks down barriers between us. It is not about the name over the church door. It is not about ethnic background. It is not about politics or preferences of music, clothing, or books. It isn’t the young versus the old nor how big or small the financial portfolio is.

We all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross, all sinners in need of a savior.

Jesus opens the door of communion and offers life for whoever will come. When we accept His invitation, we have sweet fellowship with Him. And thus we fellowship with one another.

We rejoice together over victories, and we cry with one another over heartaches. We celebrate and we mourn as community.

Brothers and sisters, not by birth but by re-birth through Jesus Christ.

Friendship at the table of grace.

Sunday grace.

 

At the table

There is something delightful about creating in the kitchen, sugar, flour, and spices floating in the air.

My mother was a good cook. She learned from her mother. I was invited into her expetise when I was young, and I enjoyed the whole process. I tried to grasp her technique and how mother’s dishes always tasted so delicious.

Sugar, butter and bacon grease.

I like fixing a pot of soup in the crock pot. Usually what is currently in the refrigerator and freezer is what goes in the pot. The chopping of vegetables and seasoning with herbs from my garden patch in the early morning is a promise of deliciousness as the aroma fills the house.

I’ve been very domestic since my recovery. I guess I’ve missed the creativity of the kitchen. I made Irish soda bread for the first time, to go with the leftover soup. Hot from the oven and slathered with butter, it was scrumptious.

Mother was right about the butter.

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The act of cooking and eating is about sustenance of course. We have to eat to live. It can become mundane and habitual as we fix three meals a day and then clean up the resulting mess of pots and pans. I often feel as if my life is being lived out in the kitchen.

Some of us live to eat and relish finding a new restaurant or trying Pinterest recipes. I admit to having an old fashioned recipe box containing index-sized cards, spattered and stained from my concoctions. They are the tried and true. I have tested them and found them good, worthy of returning to regularly.

I baked a pie last week and invited the neighbors who live in the house next door. Our quiet dwelling was soon filled with the noise, the talking and laughter, of people we love. Add cups of steaming coffee rich with cream and it was a party.

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The littlest neighbor, just two-year-old, was not so interested in the food. He was content with the gently-used matchbox cars, the ones collected years ago and loved by two generations of boys.

Food brings people together. It offers a welcome of friendship. It brings comfort and fills us in more ways than just the physical.

The taste of soup and fresh bread, of an apple pie fresh from the oven embodies the warmth of hearts joined in fellowship.

Around the table we talk about the weather, the latest news, and our current projects. At times we go deeper into what concerns us, the decisions we must make, and how life is challenging.

And maybe, just maybe we open our hearts and reveal our true selves. We laugh and we cry. We listen deeply and we carefully craft our words to encourage rather than instruct. It becomes more than mere conversation. It becomes communion.

At the table we are enriched and fed.

Scripture records Jesus feeding people and being fed by them. His humanity was revealed by the mere fact that he also needed nourishment for his body. It was at the Passover table where he shared bread and wine with the disciples and opened his heart with final words before his death on the cross.

After his resurrection, he prepared fish over coals of fire on the shores of Galilee, inviting his friends once again. It was a time of restoration and healing for them.

There is something to the idea of comfort food. Because sometimes the present trial is hard and the future is unsure. We wonder how we are going to face the days ahead or endure our disappointments today. The taste of something delicious, especially when it is shared, brings us back to this moment. Right here. Right now.

This moment is what we have. This day, this hour. And when we gather at the table, we can eat and be filled. We are refreshed, revived, and strengthened for the journey.

Gather at the table. It only takes a loaf of bread. Or maybe a freshly baked pie.

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To finish well

armor of god2This week we celebrated with gladness.

The Armor of God Bible study concluded, many of us saying it was the best one yet. The ending of something so grand was a mixture of joy and melancholy moments.

The women and I have been gathering regularly for seven weeks, weathering snow, a tornado watch, rain, muddy yards that captured a couple of cars, and 80-degree-almost-record-temperatures. Typical Kentucky.  And we persevered because we wanted to know the God who makes Himself known.

By the final week, the chatter among the women was loud and beautiful.  We had bonded.  It is one of the benefits of Bible study and the way our Father planned for us to have community, communion, and find common ground when we are all so very different.

As we looked deep into the Law of Love, we saw ourselves.  We confessed our failures.  We  desired to do better and be stronger.  We acknowledged that when we fall, we want to fall forward, at the feet of a merciful Savior.

We were made aware of our enemies strategies and how we can stand firm against him.  We studied the armor, God’s own strength provided to us, and we practiced putting it on.

We welded the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and we found it powerful.

Bible study brings us face to face with the very words of the God who made everything and is in control of everything, who saw us in our desperate need and provided a remedy, who loves us enough to show us Himself through words we can understand.

I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned.  I don’t want to just check off another Bible study completed, blanks filled in and meetings concluded, the book put on a shelf and its teaching soon to be forgotten.

No. I don’t want to forget. I want the Word planted deeply into my heart, my soul, my very being.  I want it to grow and produce fruit fit for the Kingdom, making me useful and spiritually healthy.

One more Bible studied finished.  One more day of my life done.  How many are left to be lived abundantly, fiercely fighting the battle and standing firm when I’ve done all there is to do?

I want to finish well in the days I have left on this earth.  I want to look more like Jesus every day. Though the process is painful, I want to submit to the chipping away of anything that does not look like my Savior.

That would be a life well-lived.  A life to the the praise of His glory.

 

 

 

 

What if . . .

What if I really believed God is sovereign and good and loving?

What if I really believed He can do what He says?

What if I really believed He had my best in mind through all of my life?

What if I really believed His word?

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Those questions were brought to the forefront during a weekend conference at Little Flock.  We were the IF: Local group for the IF: Gathering simulcast.  It brought a diverse group of us from surrounding churches to join with women around the world who were asking themselves the same questions.  These were women who were strong in their faith in spite of heart-wrenching events.  Women who had stepped into new territory despite their fears.  Women who knew there was more to God than they had seen or experienced, and they wanted Him more than a mere Christianity.  They wondered what a life beyond themselves could do if they really believed.

I wonder that too.  And I am asking myself the questions.

If I really believed what I say, not just spouting off empty platitudes, what would my life look like?  How would my actions change?  How would I treat my fellow-men and -women?  Would my prayers become bold?  Would my faith increase?

Could it be that this is the generation where we will determine that fear will not stop us but that we will do what God says while we tremble in our boots or our stiletto heals?

Can we walk in His light even if it shines only one step at a time?

Will we dare to love like Jesus did, like He commanded, even when we risk being rejected and persecuted?

Would we live out love like He did to the fullest by washing dirty feet of those who would betray and deny in just a few short hours?

Can we believe for miracles? for revival? for His presence to come and overtake our programs and our schedules?

The questions have been presented to us.  Now it is up to us to answer.

What will you say?  What will I say?

The next step in the local process will be to gather at tables as sisters, IF: Table.  We will meet to fellowship and ask the hard questions of one another.  We will grow in our relationships.  We will be challenged by one another.  We will leave with more resolve to live out this Christian walk being real, being transparent.

IF you are invited to an IF: Table somewhere wherever you are, respond.  Go.  Take a risk.  Participate.  Let down your wall of protection.  Be open to love and being loved.

Because IF we really believe God is who He says He is and really believe His word is true, we will be changed.  And we can change the world.

Fellowship and what love is

Normally on a Sunday morning, I write briefly and so honor the commitment to rest, to take Sabbath in all of its beauty.  Today, I must make some comments about fellowship.  I will try to be brief.

In studying 1 John this week, the facts about fellowship have dug deep into my heart.  I have an introverted personality and struggled with it, especially in my teen years when we feel all eyes are on us and we will never measure up.

People used to say things like “I wish you wouldn’t talk so much” or “Can’t you be quiet back there” as we rode along in the car.  It was not because I was talking but because I wasn’t.  Those kind of comments were kind of hurtful.  Because I didn’t really know how to join in the conversations people were having all around me.  I didn’t know what to say or if I wanted to say something I was afraid I’d be laughed at or misunderstood.

There was one year in junior high when not one of my friends had classes with me.  It was a lonely year for this introvert who had a hard time finding another group.  I spent a lot of time standing around, being quiet, and longing for fellowship.

As I grew older and a little wiser, I realized I could learn to be more proactive in conversations, in meeting new people, in making friends.  And I put myself out there with all of my insecurities, making eye contact and speaking directly to someone passing me in the school halls.  To my surprise, people responded, and I realized the problem was not that they didn’t want to be friendly but that I was too afraid.

Years passed.  I am much more comfortable making new friends now.  My inner introvert still longs for some quiet and space at times, but I am being truthful when I say I love fellowship.  I love gathering with women friends in groups or one-on-one.  And I equally enjoy when Sweet William and I get together with other couples.  I can even enter a room of virtual strangers and introduce myself, though this one is hard for me still.

So when John the beloved disciple talks about having “fellowship with us” it warms something in me.  He speaks of a common bond of friendship with Jesus, the One John had seen and heard and touched.  And he offers that to his readers.  Fellowship with the Father and the Son.  And the result that follows is joy.

There are lots of surface relationships in this world.  Friendship for what one can get out of it.  Professional relationships for the purpose of networking.  Using people for one’s own purpose.

But there is a friendship that is real, and it is lasting, and it originates with God who sent Jesus in human form yet in His own holy likeness.  He reached out His hand to invite us into fellowship with Him.  Then He stretched out his arms on a cross and to fulfill the just requirements of Holy God.   And the doors of Heaven were thrown wide open.

John says this is what love is.  We were loved first by God so that we could love others and have fellowship.

And that, my friends, is pure joy.

Sunday grace to you.  Relish the gift of fellowship with God and with believers today, no matter your personality.  And reach out to someone who is standing alone on the sidelines.  She may be just waiting for someone to love her.

Joy

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