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Monday grace

Maisie and I walk a half lap of the lane. The temperature is cool, the sky overcast.

The make-shift wooden bench, salvaged from the neighbor’s garbage last year, sits at the edge of the yard. Maisie wants to wander still, but I stop, not needing to rest, but needing to be still.

I gaze at the lake across the road, the geese as they swim and waddle ashore. The gander follows her goose as he leads her to the nibbles in the grass.

I begin to breathe deeper, something I don’t do enough. More often my breaths come in quick succession, enough to keep oxygen flowing through lungs and heart, blood carrying it where it is needed.

The deep breaths are cleansing and I feel myself relax in the quiet. Birds sing their evening song, a last hallelujah for this day, to the Creator who has provided for their needs.

As I turn loose of responsibilities and things on my list for tomorrow, my head clears and I listen for the voice of God. He speaks in the still, smallness of my awakened sense to Him.

He plants a question, His way of turning my awareness to my heart, to search out the deep recesses of my soul, to open doors that I often close and latch from the seeing world.

As I rise from my bench, Maisie restless to move on, the question lingers. I will ponder it in days ahead. I will come again to this place and sit to rest from my weariness, to hear and discern the voice of God, to gain understanding and insight.

For this is my Father’s desire: to draw me away from bustling to the place of quiet rest; to speak tender words of love to the tenderest parts of me; to reveal Himself once more so I can know Him even more.

Monday grace.

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It was a holy night

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The small fiber optic tree on the corner table, a loan because I could not make the effort this year, twinkles its changing colors.  All is calm, all is bright.

Friends have graced table, us sharing joys and sorrows, memories and hopes mingled.  Learning to be content with less takes time. Learning that Jesus is enough is my calling.

In the season of giving gifts, I receive what God gives for it is alway perfectly suited, though sometimes it melts me. The molding and pressing and changing of a life into something more akin to the Son, it can be a painful process.  Yet there is no other way to reflect His light, His love.

Jesus is Lord.  Lord over all.  Lord of my days and my years.  Lord when I laugh and when I cry.  Lord and King, benevolent and gracious, always bestowing the gift of Himself.  The greatest present.  His presence.

He is the with us God, Immanuel.

The mystery was revealed and angels gazed in wonder.

The prophecy foretold was fulfilled.

 The Promise became living, breathing Infant.  Child.  Savior.

The Creator surrendered to the constraints of creation.

The Lawgiver fulfilled His own law.

The breath of God, His very Word was formed into flesh and tabernacled among us.

The unutterable name of YHVH was wrapped in a blanket and called Yeshua.  Jesus.

The 400 years of silence was broken by a newborn baby’s cry.

And thus . . .

The lost is found.

 The prodigal gets to go home.

The impure is cleansed.

 The sinner is called righteous.

The ugly is redeemed, clothed in beauty.

The war-torn is offered peace and a place of rest.

The needy receives grace.

The orphan is welcomed into the Father’s house and invited to call Him Abba.

It was a holy night.

This moment, it is holy still.

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2013 Christmas (9)

2013 Christmas (7)

Sunday grace

The stillness of early morning comforts me. The moon is brilliant in its fullness as Christmas morning slowly approaches. The coffee in my cup is hot and strong, and the fireplace warms away the chill. I sit in my rocker and breathe.

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I didn’t expect last week to be so busy, but it became that way. Sometimes I create my own busy, me with the lists and projects. We shared time and space with ones we hold dear, and the gift of presence was more than refreshing and a thing of beauty.

My thoughts have been frenzied with things still to do and with the pondering of Christmas present and Christmas past. Sweet William and I talked about years before, when our parents were alive, when our son was small, when the grandchildren lived in the house next door.

Memories are sweet. Longings are undeniable.

We’ve received prayer requests by text and phone in the last several days, these in addition to the names of people we pray for regularly. Those spending this year with one less person at their family gatherings have been on my heart. I feel their pain.

At breakfast on Thursday, the burden of empathy overwhelmed me so that I wept at the table. I reminded myself that I was not meant to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am meant to carry our needs to Jesus who is fully capable of bearing the burden, strong enough to hold each one in His hand. He is the fullness of God’s love come to earth for each of us, offering Himself to any who will receive.

And this is Christmas. Not whether I got the perfect present for everyone. Not whether the cards were mailed in time. Not whether we have an elaborate tree. Not whether my decorations are enough.

Christmas is Jesus. God’s love wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger for the world to behold, for the outcast and the kingly. God of all creation loved us so much that He made Himself small, vulnerable, and helpless, so that He would be accessible to all of us who are small, vulnerable, and helpless.

Jesus. He came to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders, to carry our sins to the cross, to carry us in our joys and our sorrows. He is Christmas.

O come let us adore Him.

Sunday grace.

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We gather and we pray

How quickly a ride in the park can turn on its heels and take you in another direction, down a dark tunnel where you cannot see the light.

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After a companionable family gathering on Thursday, I got a call while still out on Black Friday. “A mass in her brain . . . being admitted to the hospital . . . it’s very serious.”

Entering my house, I tell what I know while I fumble about with the insignificant, still trying to assimilate in my own mind what I’ve just learned. When unexpected trauma appears I ask the same question, “How can this be happening?”

I put on my coat and scarf, gathered Maisie’s collar and leash to go walk. I aimed for the end of our lane where an old cedar post used to stand. It was a place my dad went to pray when trouble blindsided our family.

As I reached that spot, I paused to remember.

My cousins’ parents and mine moved to this piece of undeveloped property in the 1960s. We grew into adults on this lane. We added spouses and then houses sprung up, all of us living in proximity to one another. As our children were birthed, one by one, the sounds of childish play roamed these 40 acres, all the neighbors being our kin. It was unusual for sure, and it was beautiful beyond description.

I think of all the prayers our parents prayed for us, sometimes when we knew it, but more often when we had no idea.

The family leaned on my dad as our prayer warrior, his habits and customs unusually disciplined and structured. It was  his agreement between him and his God. He called all our names in prayer daily, nightly, and he interceded when we were in trouble. He stood at that cedar post at the end of our lane on several occasions that I can remember to speak to the One who knew us well.

Dad had a list with family names on it. It grew longer through the years as we increased in number. After mother’s death and his remarriage, he moved away from this lane into the house of  my step-mother. Though miles away, he had a nightly ritual of going outside and turning toward the south, where we still lived, to pray for each of us one by one.

I returned from my reverie of memories to the present. The old cedar post that stood as a memorial is gone. I looked about my surroundings. The fields that used to surround our homes are filled with subdivisions, privacy fences and apartment complexes. Other people live in the houses that used to be home to my family members. Things are different now.

While standing where my father stood, I reminded myself that my God is the same, never altering from His awareness of us, not any less compassionate and kind. Though our parents are gone, their prayers are not. The Lord stores them and remembers the faith of our fathers and mothers.  All of those words of petition did not vanish into thin air. Instead they are treasured in heavenly vessels.

As tears rolled down my cheeks, I prayed too. The words that came were simple: “Lord Jesus help!” I knew He heard me just as He heard my ancestors years ago.

He is a God who leans down to listen. He was not surprised by a devastating diagnoses like we were. His intention and purpose are already in place.

Our family has a traditional day-after-Thanksgiving evening meal of Hot Browns to finish the leftover turkey. I asked my cousin, who hosts us, if she still wanted to do this. She answered “I think we are better together than apart.” I agreed.

Sweet William and I entered the house and the atmosphere was somber, so unlike the day before when cheerful noises greeted us at the door. This night we are quiet, faces solemn. The axiom, “when one hurts, we all hurt,” is true.

Before the meal we were not really hungry for, we joined hands and lifted our praise to our God who has been faithful to us through the years; who has seen us through troubles great and small; who has shown Himself huge and performed miracles we didn’t deserve; who has given grace to walk the hard places; who has never left us alone to ride out the stormy gales.

We asked Him for mercy, for healing, for strength, for wisdom, for His comforting presence. Our hearts are assured He will answer our cries.

This is what my family does in times of crises. We gather and we pray.

Today I turn on music to soothe my heavy heart. This is the song I wait for:

 I Love the Lord

And pitied every groan.
Long as I live, and troubles rise,
I hasten to His throne.

When trouble comes, family gathers. We are better side by side than trying to stand alone  We hasten to God’s throne with full of assurance of His loving welcome.

We will trust, believe, and wait to see what God will do.

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Sunday grace

With just a few days until Thanksgiving day, my mind turns to the tasks at hand.

I wrote my list of food to prepare, grocery items needed, and made a plan. Wednesday is marked “Cooking Day” in my bullet journal.

Sweet William and I visited Wal-Mart yesterday, filling our baskart with staples for the pantry, while maneuvering around other shoppers with the same agenda.  The perishables are on the list for next week so they will be fresh, meaning another day in the food isles.

I anticipate the short trip to my cousin’s house on Thursday where tables will be beautifully set and aromas will greet us at the door. I can’t help but think of those who will not be at the table this year, and my heart longs for them as always.

In the pre-dawn, I sit in my rocker and read the Psalms and other verses, struck anew at the generosity of God through Jesus Christ. Such lavish love poured into my heart. Such amazing grace reconciling me to become a member of God’s family. Such hope that does not disappoint because the Holy Spirit within me is a deposit and a guarantee of more to come.

How can I not give thanks?

For God has done great things for me, from the small to the gigantic, from the simple cup of strong coffee in the morning to the very breath I take without thought; for shelter, food, and clothing to precious relationships of friends and family that  enrich my life; from eyes to see and ears to hear to the beauty of a world created for my enjoyment and comfort; from the privilege of making requests in the very presence of the Holy to miraculous answers to my prayers.

From being an outcast with no hope to being adopted and accepted, blessed and delivered, the promise of a future with Christ forever.

So I will praise my Lord with all that I have. I will sing and make melody. I will write my thanksgiving list, making it thoughtful and lenghty. I will rejoice in answered prayers with my prayer partner on an early morning phone call. I will remember the goodness of God.

And astonishingly, my thanksgiving will please the Father’s heart.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord . . . “

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

As the fog clears from my brain early this morning, I remember her. It’s her birthday.

I plug in the coffee pot and turn the numbers on my perpetual calendar to November 4. And I think of that day 18 years ago when she entered this world.

I missed being at the hospital, thinking we had plenty of time to get there. Her three-and-a-half-year old sister was brought to us in the night while mommy, daddy, and the second set of grandparents hurried to labor and delivery.

I carried a pager in those days, and that was the thing that alerted me to the news. I listened to the message of “we have a baby girl,” with a mixture of joy at her arrival and disappointment at missing this important moment.

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I suppose I made up for that one time not being there by being here in the house next door to hers. For ten years she lived close enough for me to hear her playing in their yard, to see her wave and shout, “Hi Grammy.”

I found two pictures recently of the lane in front of our house, and I wondered why I had taken them with no apparent reason. Then I spied three tiny figures walking toward our house. With a magnifying glass I could see them, my three grandchildren, ages three, four and seven on their way to Grammy and Papaw’s for who knows what kind of adventures. Hot cocoa, dress up, games, books – these were possibilities. She was the one out front, skipping along while her older sister held the youngest by the hand. Sweet remembrance.

They always brought the sunshine when the door opened to them, whether they came by one or by three.

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We two are miles apart now. I miss getting to celebrate with this special young woman today. Our connection is the Birthday Box I priority mailed to arrive in time. It contains items I hope will please her, and a sealed zip bag of my special hot cocoa mix, because that is a memory we hold and my Happy Birthday wish across the miles.

She’s a busy girl now, with school, choir, friends and family activities.  She’s beautiful and graceful, funny and creative, loving and her own unique self. I’m happy that she is happy, flourishing, and becoming.

But I miss her. Especially today. On her birthday.

So I pray a blessing to the Father who knows no distance. Whose hand reaches mine and touches hers. The One who holds her life in His strong hand and knows the way He plans for her to go.

I trust and believe that He hears my prayers for her. His heart is tender towards mine and the longing I feel. He sees the tears that gather in my eyes even as I write.

My Father’s heart is tender towards her too, His love far greater than mine can ever be. He has a future for her, and He will guide her to it.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have Breath.”
Psalm 116:1-2, NLT

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

So much to read and so little time. After all, there are meals to prepare, Maisie to walk, Sweet William to look after, and people to enjoy. And I do love my people.

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But when I can, I like to read a variety of books. With some, I wonder why I bothered when the words become disagreeable and/or plain boring, yet the perfectionist in me commands me to finish. Occasionally, I’ve disregarded that overachiever voice and closed the cover.

My current reading is disturbing. The author writes about surviving church, remaining a believer in spite of those who fill sanctuaries. It’s about Christians who don’t really act like Christians. They are more like legalist; prosecutor, judge and jury; critic; hater of the sin and the sinner too. Sadly, I am convicted by the descriptions. I have been them.

Examining Jesus words and actions, recorded in the Gospels, I see something completely different. He loved the unlovely and touched the untouchable. He did not condemn but called for  disciples. He offered forgiveness to the worst offender. He showed compassion for the masses and the individual. He was merciful and full of grace.

And yet the truth He declared was lightning-bolt startling, like no other. He spoke with the authority of the I Am, asking His followers to take up the cross and walk with Him. He called His friends to an impossibly high standard.

How do I achieve the law of love Jesus commanded? How can I be holy like the Father is holy?

I cannot. Nor can anyone else. And therein lies the lavish gift of grace.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
—   Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV

By trusting Christ to be my Savior and Lord, He calls me holy and blameless.

Holy and Blameless! This is outrageous. Scandalous. Shocking. Is he talking about me?

This beauty in which I am clothed is through Jesus Christ. It is God’s pleasure and will. It is to the praise of His glorious grace. It is freely given in the One He loves.

This is the amazing grace of God. Its extravagance invites me into communion with Christ, Him living through me, loving others in a way I could not on my own. His strength empowers me to be the person I was created to be. Through Him, I will not just call myself a Christian, I will live like one.

Sunday grace.

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