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Tuesday thoughts

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? . . . Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?” — The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

I love the written word. I love reading the written word.

When I was a child, I was not such a vivacious reader. Reading assignments in school left me feeling anxious about finishing the book. Sadly, I often laid aside the volume with pages left unread.

Somewhere in my life, I developed a love for the printed page, and I cannot imagine not having a book in progress. Often there are several.

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The written word is powerful. Being able to read is power also. To keep people enslaved, do not let them learn to read.

Words themselves carry power. The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death. I bear witness to that truth. Haven’t we all experienced the encouraging word or the ones that crushed our spirit?

Consider the might and authority that brought forth the earth by the spoken word of God. “And God said, let there be . . .” And it was.

That the very Word of God was made flesh and lived among people is astounding. Jesus carried with Him the might and authority of the Father, yet he walked humbly as a human, being obedient even unto death.

His glory was on full display. Some saw it and recognized the glory. Some did not. Some read the signs and saw deity. Others closed the book because they didn’t like the way the story was going.

And so the writing continues in the lives of those who believe. Written on our hearts for the world to see and read is the splendor of the gospel.

May it be a story of beauty and hope, one that illuminates and inspires with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness. May it display the deepest mysteries of the majesty of God.

And these are my Tuesday thoughts.

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Sunday grace

Forgiveness. Unforgiveness. I am confronted with it this morning in my morning quiet time.

And a person comes to my mind, someone who hurt me with her words, a wound that was deep. I struggled to find healing for it. I struggled to forgive.

Daily sometimes I said it to myself. “I forgive her. Lord, please do a work of forgiveness in my heart.” I willed to let the offense go, but I need a higher power to removed the pain and heal the laceration of my heart. Forgiveness is a divine attribute, not a human one.

Christ in me is the only way it can happen.

I have surmised that when I think of the offense and it does not hurt anymore, then forgiveness is complete in me. So why this morning am I thinking of it once more with a twinge of discomfort?

I’m not sure. Perhaps it is the enemy of my soul trying to torment me. Perhaps it is because someone else has upset my apple cart and gotten under my skin, making me want to retaliate. Forgiveness is once again required.

Tempting me to hold onto grudges and offenses are his prime tool. Keeping hurts alive is where a root of bitterness finds a way into my soul. And Scripture warns me not to be ignorant of satan’s tricks.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. — Colossians 3:13

So once again, I affirm my desire to forgive. How can I do otherwise? I have been forgiven much. I have no right to withhold it from another.

“Lord, I forgive _________ once again. Do the work of forgiveness in me, mending my heart and giving me a complete recovery.”

I don’t want to carry the burden any longer. I don’t want to be locked into a prison of my own making. I want to be free.

I have been given much grace. I will give grace as I have received it. In Jesus name. For He forgave me fully and pefectly.

Amazing.

Sunday grace.

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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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And I’m proud to be an American

On Sunday night Sweet William and I attended a concert at the mega church in our area with some friends. It was in honor of America’s birthday.

There was a full orchestra and a one-hundred voice men’s choir who performed over a dozen songs and medleys. As the instruments tuned up, I was enraptured from my seat in the balcony. I love to be where the music is, and this was an occasion to celebrate.

The concert was themed One Nation Under God, and I pray we still are.

The performers played and sang songs like “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” “Washington Post March,” “God Bless America,” and of course, “The Star Spangled Banner.” I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes I sang along.

One song brought tears to my eyes, “Bring Him Home.” I thought of a young man I knew who was killed in the line of duty a number of years ago. He did not come home. There are many others. Families are devastated by such heartbreak, and yet this is the cost of freedom.  The cost of my freedom.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our 200 plus years as a nation, but this is still the best country in the world, the place where others want to escape to, the nation that offers liberty and justice for all.

Though we are divided in many ways today, we still live free. And this freedom is the gift we treasure.

Freedom is never completely free. It costs someone. Freedom is my treasure, my pride in the US of A, my privilege in living my life here.

I am proud to be an American. At the concert, I tapped my food, clapped my hands, and sang along. At the end I felt so patriotic, honored to live in this great country.

I dare not forget how blessed I am. Truly God shed His grace on thee, my United States of America.

Let freedom ring long and loud. And let us live honoring the freedom we have been given.

A week after

After last weekend’s celebration of a risen Lord, a joyful afternoon spent with extended family, and counting multiplied gifts from the bounty of God’s blessings, the week after is fraught with things difficult. My mind whirls and tilts like an amusement park ride. But I am not amused.

I hear of an untimely death and sorrowing parents. Sweet William underwent a minor surgery, but nothing is minor when one has been in too many hospitals to bother counting. News about a dear one’s jarring diagnoses leaves us in shock and questions. Yet another one close to our hearts battles dreaded disease and the pain that accompanies.

And we pray. What else is there to do?

We ask in faith, believing God already knows and nothing takes Him by surprise. We trust in His goodness and His strength because He is a good and strong Savior. We know we are His children and will not be given a stone when we ask for bread and fish. We petition a Mighty Warrior who fights our battles with a powerful arm.

We pray and wait to see what will be His answer.

“And we know with great confidence that God, who is deeply concerned about us, causes all things to work together as a plan for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” — Romans 8:28 Amp.

I have recognized this week that trials bring people together. Texts and phone calls run to and fro through space, keeping us updated, friends and family expressing their love and offering help in some way. As a result, prayer is our connection to those we care about and to the Father who loves us with an everlasting love.

If trials bring people together, then prayer binds us to one another, brothers and sisters reaching heavenward as the family of God and the body of Christ. One one hurts, we all feel the pain.

Jesus offered reassuring words just before He disappeared into the sky as astonished followers watched:

” . . .  and lo, I am with you always, remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20 Amp.

In all of our trouble, trials, testing, there is only one consideration:  Jesus.

Jesus with us, in pain, in uncertainty, even in death.

Jesus, the man of sorrows who is familiar with suffering and runs to our cry.

Jesus, the One and only who came from the Father’s loving hand to open the way into His presence.

Jesus, dying for us so that we might live free and abundant.

Jesus, showing us how to love one another by His own extreme love and servant hood.

Jesus, holding onto us when the rope we cling to frays at the end and we lose our grip.

Jesus with us at all times, “regardless of circumstance and on every occasion,” giving us His strength and comfort and answers we cannot even imagine.

Pain and suffering draws people together. Sometimes we sing the song of heartbreak, disappointment and confusion in the minor key. As God’s family, we sing united.

Prayer binds us as brothers and sisters. And our chorus, ascending upward, is heard and is answered. We sing the song of the redeemed. And the world will hear the melody.

Perhaps that is part of the plan.

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And it was dark

It was a dark night.

For Judas who walked away from the Passover, into his own passion for something other than he’d been offered, who left the Light of the world at the table of communion, it was dark.

For Pilate who came face to face with Truth and didn’t recognize Him, who asked the questions but could not grasp the answers, who washed his hands of the only One who could cleanse his heart, it was dark.

For the Jewish leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the one sent from God the Father, who were determined to go their own way, work their own agenda, it was dark.

For the eleven disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, who did not understand the plan of God, it was the darkest of nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed the light had been extinguished forever. Those who hoped He was their promised Messiah were left in their own prison of darkness.

Judgment must come.  Sentence would be passed and punishment meted out.  The prince of the world would be cast out.  Darkness veiled the earth for a time.

Those who will not believe, who choose to worship something other than the Christ,  remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  The Light of the world will arise and shine once again. His glory will be revealed throughout the world.

 

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Those who accept the Son and the Father who sent Him, will walk in the light of day.

And we will never be afraid of the dark again.

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Revised and reposted from March 2016

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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