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Sunday grace

It seems like only yesterday though it has been closer to 50 years ago.

I reached to take Sweet  William’s arm, and as I did his muscle flexed. I could feel the strength in it, in him, and I knew I was protected.

I felt the same way growing up with my dad, who was a carpenter by trade. The muscles in his arms were big and powerful from swinging a hammer all day long. With my dad close by, I was  not afraid.

Isaiah prophesied of a coming rescuer,

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1)

When Mary went to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, she and her elderly relative had a moment of praise and she said,

“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;”

The arm of God represents His strength.  His power and might come to the aid of His people by the representation of His strong arm.

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And in a small village called Nazareth the might of Creator God was nestled in the tender womb of a young girl. At five weeks of her pregnancy, there was evidence of arm buds. Sinew and muscle slowly formed around a tiny bone, and by mid-point of the pregnancy, baby could move his arm to suck his thumb.

The strong arm of God came to rescue us in an astounding way. Who could have expected this?

God wrapped in flesh, blood flowing through a human body. He made Himself like us so He could redeem us by an outstretched arm on a wooden cross.

The arm of the Lord was revealed to us, His love the most powerful strength of all.

There is no other like that. He is Savior Christ the Lord.

Sunday grace.

 

 

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Sunday grace

 

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Through my window, I watch the sun’s red glow rise over the trees. We call it day break, when the morning rays burst through the dark of night. Sunrise pushes against the night, and night cannot hold it back.

God said, “Let there be light,” and brightness exploded suddenly into the blackness over the surface of the earth.

Light broke through when the Creator spoke it, His words full of power.

“The evening and the morning were the first day.” In Jewish culture, a new day begins at evening. It starts with night and moves into daybreak and a new morning.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. — Isaiah 9:2

Isaiah prophesied the coming Messiah, and Matthew proclaimed it fulfilled in Jesus.

The long dark night was about to be broken open by the Morning Star. And hope rises.

I have endured my seasons of nighttime gloom, wondering how long, and when will the day come. I longed for the light when my world would appear brighter, when I could see more clearly, when clouds of darkness would part and the rays of the sun would shine warm.

Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We watch for, we hope for, we pray for the light of day.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. — Isaiah 60:1

Hope rises at the first sign of dawn, and Jesus, the Light of the world, is a darkness breaker.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, — Isaiah 61:1

It is for this He came, to release us from the dank, shadowed depression of our prison cells, to open the doors wide and invite us into the presence of the Holy God where glory shines brighter than a thousand days. And with Him there is no night.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Colorado, by travis

Sunday grace

The air is cold on my face, the rest of me bundled in flannel, corduroy and fleece. This is what I call a crisp fall morning.

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Maisie is cloaked in her cozy jacket with fake fur around her neck, and we walk, she with her nose to the ground as if scrolling through a news feed. I observe the earthy browns of autumn, what is left of the colors. The tree branches are stark against the backdrop.

Overhead a hawk calls and flies toward the tall electrical pole. I hear a second hawk in the distance and stop to see what will happen. The two land precariously on the same pole, fluttering to balance and stay together. Then they fly off swooping and calling, a game of catch.

The sun announces itself with a red blaze across the lake. Soon its brightness begins to appear. It is a new day, and there are fresh mercies stored up for it.

We don’t know what a day brings, but our Father has already seen ahead of us. He has prepared for it. He is not caught off guard by sudden circumstances that knock us to the ground, send us to the hospital, bend us low in weeping.

He is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. He is the Ancient of Days who goes before us into battle and with us through the valley. He marches as Captain of the Lord’s host, always victorious, and we are clothed in His righteous armor.

The season of joy approaches, and we will sing the songs of a Baby who changes everything. Some of us will still carry burdens along with our gift boxes. Sometimes we will smile through tears and say, “I’m fine,” when we really aren’t.

God sees. God knows. He who feeds the birds of the air and watches with gladness as they swoop and play, also knows me and you.

God hears us, our prayers, our praise, our weeping. He answers with a love that will not let us go, with peace that passes understanding, with joy in spite of a heavy heart.

He came to us. He became flesh and lived among us, experienced life as we do. Who can be compared to One like Him?

Make Him welcome in every part of our lives, this season and always. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Come Lord Jesus.

Sunday grace.

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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

When my days are upended, when I don’t know which way to go, when I keep asking the same questions and still don’t hear the answers, I lean on Jesus.

In life and in death, in health and in sickness, in plenty and in want, I build my hope on Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

As seasons begin and then leave so soon, when daylight turns to darkness, there is nothing and nowhere else to turn but Jesus.

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.

No matter what else may be offered to satisfy my hunger, only He is the Bread of life.

When other options are presented, He is the only Way and the Truth.

As grief engulfs me, obscuring my sight for the tears in my eyes, He is the Resurrection and the Life.

When the world looks scary, uncertain, out of control, when fear threatens, He is my Peace.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!

My hope is built on nothing less. Jesus.

Sunday grace.

 

Sunday grace.

Sing your song

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Music was part of my life since I can remember. My mother sang in a church trio when she was young and then became a soloist later in life. She could belt out a song. As I grew to be more accomplished on the keyboard, I was her primary accompanist.

My dad did not read music but played piano by ear (the reason my mother was determined I have lessons). He could touch almost any instrument and make music with it, be it a recorder, harmonica, banjo or guitar. He played something he called a sweet potato, brought back with him from the war. I learned it is called an ocarina. He even learned to play the saw, using a violin bow.  A carpenter by trade, he had plenty of “instruments” to choose from, and make music he did.

A special memory is singing in the church choir as a child. It wasn’t a formal or trained choir, but a group of people who went to the platform at the beginning of service to sing with the congregation. We were all ages, and  my friends and I sang with enthusiasm. We were there to praise the Lord with music. I still love the old songs. I can hear one of them, and I am back there again, a little girl with a melody in my heart.

Naturally I was drawn to the book Sing!, How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, written by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The Getty’s songs are already favorites; titles like In Christ Alone , Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer 2, and The Power of the Cross 3  are well known and beloved. Their gift with lyric and melody has given the church hymns once again.

Sing book

The book examines and encourages singing together whether as a family or as a church congregation.

Sing! encourages singing in our everyday lives, throughout the day, with the family at home or on road trips, as a church body. We witness to the world through our singing, and when we sing together, the message is powerful.

Chapter titles include:

  • Created to . . . Sing!
  • Commanded to  . . . Sing!
  • Compelled to . . . Sing!

Then we are to sing “with Heart and Mind,” “with Your Family,” and “with the Local Church.”

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“We are all singers. We may not all be very good singers, but we are all created to be singers nonetheless.”

“Your ability to sing is fearfully and wonderfully made. Around the twelve-week mark the vocal cords of a baby growing in the womb are in place and have been shown to work long before the baby is born.” 

“We are designed to benefit from beauty in creativity. . . . God made us to be powerfully engaged in our senses and memories by music. Songs have the power to prompt a memory or transport us back to some time and place.”

” . . . as we create, we communicate–just as God does through His creation . . . Echoing through our congregational singing is the commun.ication the divine Author has written into this world. Melodies matter. Words matter. Our songs always say something.”

“To praise him [God] is the original desire sewn into every fiber of our God-designed humanity and into every aspect of our God-designed world. When we sing God’s praise, we join with the tune of the cosmos. Just pause. Isn’t this incredible?”

Sing! can be used as a small group study; with worship leaders, choirs and musicians; with the entire church congregation; or individually.

It is essential that we understand how vital and necessary singing is to our lives.  We learn through music. Music affects us emotionally. Songs impact the way we live and the society in general.

It’s not about style of music that we choose in our churches, but it is about quality songs and a message that reflects who God truly is. The truth written in the lyrics, and sung so the world can hear, must declare that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.

Co-authored by Stuart Townend
Co-authored by Margaret Becker
Co-authored by Stuart Townend

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sunday grace

This song, this morning. It’s what my heart sings. My fingers touch the keyboard. I open my mouth to voice words that lift my eyes to Jesus. He alone is worthy of my trust.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, 
and to take him at his word; 
just to rest upon his promise, 
and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.” 

O how sweet to trust in Jesus, 
just to trust his cleansing blood; 
and in simple faith to plunge me 
‘neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, 
just from sin and self to cease; 
just from Jesus simply taking 
life and rest, and joy and peace.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him! 
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er! 
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! 
O for grace to trust him more! 

              — words by Louisa Stead

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him these many years. O for grace to trust Him more.

Sunday grace.

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