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Sunday grace

How many times did he tell me he was praying for me? A zillion it seems.

Every time we spoke on the phone, every time I saw him, he told me once more, “I have thousands of prayers stored up for you, little girl.”

I believed him. I knew he prayed for me. One of my first memories as a child is my dad kneeling beside my bed early in the morning. While it was still dark outside and I was tucked under the covers, my dad was dressed and ready for work. One of his last habits of the morning was to lay his hand on me and pray before leaving the house.

I found comfort in that as an adult, remembering how my dad loved me enough to consistently pray for me.

He believed he stored prayers in heaven, and Revelation 5:8 and 8:4 say the prayers of the saints are stored in golden vessels in Heaven. And so my dad prayed much. His prayer ministry was known by those in his circle of influence. He was a disciplined man in his commitment to kneel before the throne of grace and call out multiple names day after day.

dad and coffee

After his death, I had stacks of papers, listing prayer requests people had given him. He kept them in orderly piles near a chair in the basement of his home, a chair where he knelt at least twice every day while he was able.

Sweet William and I talk about my dad often, the way he loved his coffee and how he slurped it loudly showing his pleasure in it. He dispensed kindness and encouraging words regularly. He could tell a great story and it got even bigger and better when he had an audience. And if he got the joke on you, it was his delight.

He laughed with everything in him, his mouth wide open, sometimes slapping his knee from pure jubilation. He loved people, especially his family, and he would go to the ends of his earth to take care of any one of us.

He was a wonderful father. He knew how to show me the Heavenly Father’s love. The foundation he laid for me as a child helped me stand when the winds of tribulation have threatened to blow me away.

I knew my dad loved me. I knew he was there if I called him. I knew he prayed for me consistently.

My dad is with Jesus now. I miss him especially today, on Father’s Day. I would love to fix a plate of sausage gravy and biscuits for him and hear him say, as he always did, that it was the best I’d ever made. I’d like to hear the army stories he told until I had memorized them. I’d like to hear him laugh one more time. I’d like to hear him pray for me once more.

Dad in the army

I believe his prayers are still alive, kept in heavenly golden containers, and there is a large one with my name on it. Those stored prayers still come before God’s throne, intercessions on my behalf.

A good and godly father is a treasure above wealth this world can give. I am a rich woman because of it.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

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We take our evening stroll, and the temperature is more bearable than it’s been in days. Still Maisie pants and I look toward the shady places where trees offer respite.

I pass by my neighbors and think of Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Hard stuff sometimes.

It’s easy to love the young couple who has been kind to us, coming to our rescue, inviting us into their lives. They made a place in our hearts soon after their move into the neighborhood. And they loved us freely.

Didn’t Jesus tell me the reward for loving those who love me is small compared to loving those who don’t like me, mistreat me, even despise me? The rubber meets the road right there under the blazing sun.

I’ve prayed to love this week, even this very day. It isn’t always easy because I can’t manufacture the feeling. I know love is supposed to be an action word, but a little emotion to accompany would be nice.

Of course, loving God comes first. How can I love my neighbor if I’m not fully committed to loving God? Because love comes from God and God is love. Without His invasion into my heart, my life, my entire being, I can’t expect to get it right.

I perceive this loving business is primary. Opportunities abound. People are everywhere. Some are lovable. Some are not.

Dear Father,
Infuse me with Your love. Plant me deep in it, like the trees, rooted and established, being able to grasp how wide, how long, how high, and how deep the love of Christ is, the love He freely gives to me. I want to know this love that surpasses knowledge. Fill me to the measure of all the fullness of God. And then teach me to love my neighbor as myself.  (Ephesians 3:16-19 and Mark 12:31)

It’s a tall order, a mountain-size request for me to love like that. But my God specializes in the miraculous.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.    — Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

Sunday grace.

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It’s all about love

Valentine’s Day 2018 may be a memory, but February makes me think about love like November reminds me to be thankful. If it could only last longer than a month, I’d be a better person.

Sweet William and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a couple days before the event. We knew the 14th would be filled with appointments and obligations. We’ve been together long enough to know a number on the calendar is not as important as what is in our hearts.

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On the morning of the 14th I woke with thoughts of love on my mind. I put Steven Curtis Chapman’s All About Love on the CD player and hummed familiar tunes as I prepared whole grain pancakes with bananas for our breakfast.

 

I sent messages to my precious ones who are miles away, the texts a meager substitute for the hugs I want to give them on Valentine’s Day.  But it was what I had to give. I received a quick loving response from our son that made me cry. His words were like sweet oil on my heart, soothing and tender.

In a minute or so “I Will Be Here” began to play, a song that means a lot to Sweet William and me, the musical message of commitment that weathers storms and holds fast, no matter what. And I cried some more.

As I stood at the back door looking out the window while tears fell freely, I thanked God for His love that makes our love possible. For love is from God. If we would see God, we should look for love where it flows freely from hearts who know love, who have been loved and have learned to give love in return.

I think how God’s love has covered a multitude of sins, the ones that would have drowned me and sucked the life from my lungs. Because of His love, grace has taught me to love and forgive others, those sins covered as well. I stagger at something so amazing and struggle to grasp its enormity.

It is easy for me to see God in the world that often denies His existence. I look for love where it is being acted out. It isn’t just the romantic kind that made my stomach flutter at a glimpse of my special someone, though that love has a place.

Love shines brightly when it is hard to walk out, when it is an act of will that requires all we have to give. I see it in the mother who prays and belives for a prodigal to return. In the father who takes care of and provides for his family by working a job he dislikes. In the adult child who gives patient and tender care to an aging and sometimes forgetful parent. In the spouse who lives the promise of for better or worse. In the couple who leave all that is familiar to show Jesus to the world. In the family who opens their home to a troubled teen.

As I ponder the kind of love that comes from the heart of a loving God, the last song of All About Love CD plays and Chapman sings:

“A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe,

This is a moment made for worshipping.

Love is from God. He gives it to us lavishly through Jesus Christ, holding nothing back, like a rushing river flowing out of its banks. As I stand in His presence and refresh myself with a deep drink of it, I know I am loved.  It’s only through Him I am able to love in return.

This love, this day is a moment made for worshipping.

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As we come to the table

Just a few days left before we celebrate Thanksgiving in all of our varied and crazy ways. Relatives and friends of all shapes and sizes will gather with food dishes that range from vintage recipes to gluten-free concoctions.

101_1203 I’ve been making my efforts at having a thankful heart during the month. I’ve tried to be disciplined to write three things that brought me joy at the end of each day. At least I’ve tried.

I started my annual Joy List this morning, counting God’s graces one by one on paper. There are so many, I could write forever. I had to stop for breakfast with the promise of “to be continued.” Tomorrow my prayer partner of many years will call on the phone, and we will look back at the prayers prayed and how God answered them this year. Our voices will be full of “thank you’s.”

From Old to New Testaments, we read instructions to remember how God has been  faithful. It’s easy to forget sometimes when we are in the throes of difficulty, tragedy, or grief. And honestly, sometimes it can be simple neglect or a lack of contentment.

Just as our menus will be different, not everyone will do Thanksgiving the same way. I read one blogger who thought making a daily count of grace was too regimented, and she was definitely not putting kernels of corn beside each place settings for a round robin of being grateful. She preferred more spontaneity and daily mindfulness. She did her thankfulness in a different way.

There isn’t a prescription for how to have a grateful heart, but we are told to practice it regularly. And in the same way God’s commands are good for us, being thankful brings joy to our lives.

The method is not as important as the message. It’s the heart of the matter that matters. Be thankful in your own sweet way, dear friends.

This year has brought much loss to my friends and family. I feel it in my own heart, the tears flowing unexpectedly this morning. At many holiday tables this year, there will be an empty place.

Life can be hard during the holidays. Especially during the holidays.

And yet God is good even in this present circumstance. His grace is still sufficient. He remains the God of all comfort who gives us comfort in all our troubles. His presence in our days continues as a promise.  He still walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death. And we are never, ever alone.

If there is nothing else today or this year, there is Jesus who is God’s love demonstrated in tangible, relatable, identifiable form. He wrapped himself in skin and bone and showed us the glory.

Give thanks with a grateful heart. And have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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Sunday grace

This week I have pondered a question. How do I live a beautiful life in a fallen world to the glory of God? Because it is always about the glory of God.

I hear news reports of devastation for residents in Texas, the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. At the same time, I see people stirred by an inner kindness and compassion to serve any way they can. They come from neighboring counties or other parts of the country to help with clean up. They purchase bottled water, shoes and supplies to fill a truck that will soon head in the direction of loss. They donate money to the Salvation Army. They pray.

So often our human response is to blame God for disaster and tragedy and wonder what kind of being He is to allow such things. Funny how we are quick to blame Him when we hardly notice Him or give Him credit when things are going well.

When I see humanity at its finest, giving, serving, loving, I see God. It is His goodness coming to the surface of each person reaching a hand to help.

If we want to see God, then look for mercy extended, marvel at compassion in action, be amazed when forgiveness is offered for the unthinkable. Everything that is good and decent and loving in this world originates with the Creator of all things good.

When Jesus lived on this earth, He showed the world who God was, what He was like, how He loved the world so much that He gave everything. Everything.

Scripture tells us He is love, His essence, His being. Anything that looks remotely like love is God moving through human hearts and lives.

How do I live a beautiful life in a fallen world? By being Christ’s hand extended to someone else.  By sharing my goods, my time, myself with a a longing soul. By forgiving when I have been hurt. By loving when it is hard. By serving faithfully with joy when I am bone weary. By bowing the knee in prayer for someone who is suffering. By random acts of kindness to the one God brings into my path.

God is moving in the world. He is connected and concerned with us here on planet earth. And we will see Him if we look.

Sunday grace.

The journals

 

101_1647My old journals were stored in matching boxes, tucked in a shelf upstairs. I thought I needed to keep them out of sight, for privacy perhaps. But seldom are visitors in the upstairs room anymore.

I decided to unload the boxes. The journals lay around the room, their various sizes and designs an analogy of the years, each one different.

When I was a child, I often started a daily diary in January. The book had dated pages and I wrote regularly for a few weeks or a month. Then I’d skip a day or more. Being the perfectionist I am (and continue to try to overcome), blank pages meant I had failed. I soon abandoned the book altogether.

Tiny books record events from my teens when life seemed so challenging. I was navigating the road to becoming an adult. My latest crush was a common topic.

Journaling was sporadic at best when being a wife and mother was all-consuming; recording my life’s events didn’t seem important.

I would love to look back at those years now, see them from the perspective of the younger me.

My more consistant journaling began in 1997 in a simple spiral book with lined pages. Pen went to paper and took on a life of its own.

I began recording my thoughts as well as the events of my days, and I wrote when I wanted to. I was not compelled to do it every day. It was the niche I needed.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone will read all those books. My handwriting gets messy and illegible as I scribble the things in my head and my heart. The volumes hold the thankful days and the grumbling days, the sweet moments and the times I cried.

Perhaps they just need to be buried with me. Because in those pages are the honest version of myself, the view I try to keep hidden from public scrutiny. The words on the pages reveal more of what God sees than anyone else.

The journal was a listening friend, a safe place to vent, with no contradicting voices or interruptions. It was therapy as I worked out a problem, rambling on as I needed. Other times, it was an altar where I repented and where prayers were lifted to the Savior who understands me in a way no one else does.

I counted blessings on the pages. I wrote about friends and family, the treasures they are to me. I recorded the everyday and the extraordinary.

I suppose I will keep writing as long as I have pen and paper and a mind to do it. It matters not if anyone reads them. I do not write for others. I write for me. I write to remember.

When I am old and more confined in place, perhaps I will leaf through the pages of my journals and remember what a full and blessed life I lived. The ups and the downs, the sideways and crooked will be there. I will read and be grateful for all the days I was given.

The sweet singer of Israel wrote these words:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” — Psalm 139:16 AMPC

While I was writing about the days of my life as they passed, my heavenly Father recorded them before my birth. What a beautiful thought, that He knew me then, that He has been watchful to carry out His purpose in me for all my years.

I take a breath and consider the wonder of that kind of love.

I set all the journals up on the open shelves in chronological order. They are interesting to look at, their variety of color, shape, and size. For each year has been unique.

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In some way, my life is there on the shelf. But the plans for me are guided by an unseen hand, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

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Tuesday thoughts

August is a different month. It is the only one in the year with no legal/religious holidays, although I found a list for some that are bizarre and unique.

In fact, today is “Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day.” Hum. I’ve already missed National Chocolate Chip Day and National Watermelon Day. But I could still celebrate both if I choose.

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School buses will begin running this week, the children waiting with new backpacks and supplies. Teachers will anticipate a little chaos and parents are hoping to get back to a regular schedule so “things settle down.” I’m not sure that ever happens in our rushed, over-committed kind of living.

The Kentucky State Fair begins August 17. When I was a youngster, the fair was our last hooray before school started in September. Our family always went on a Saturday. My parents, my aunt and my cousins piled into the car, arriving early and planning to stay all day.

 

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Dad liked the army displays. I liked all the farm animals. We ate corn dogs and drank the fresh squeezed lemonade. It was a fun, family activity, and we were worn out at day’s end.

One exciting event in August this year is the total solar eclipse visible in the United States, and I am looking forward to the 21st. Nothing will be on my calendar except to experience it. I’ll probably brew a pot of afternoon coffee and take my seat outdoors. The free glasses I got from my library are supposed to be a safe way to observe this phenomenon.

The eclipse and the wonder of our world brings a verse in Job 26:14 to mind,

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Though August has no holidays, there are reasons to celebrate. In fact, every day is a reason to celebrate. It is the day God has made and handed to us as a gift. We should rejoice and be glad.

I acknowledge that there are problems and heartaches, and some days we can only put one foot in front of the other. But there is a God in heaven who sees the earth He created. He is not too busy or distracted to care about each person individually.  He is involved in our daily lives and is always working out His purpose for us and through us. It’s an amazing thought and something upon which to meditate.

If we only hear God’s faint whisper, perhaps the thunder of His power is His everlasting, unchangeable, inexplicable love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son . . . ”

Something to consider. Something to celebrate.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.