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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.

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Once I was lost

It’s coming upon a year since we adopted our little girl Maisie, a dog who was recued from the streets. We have watched her turn from a timid, sad creature to a happy and healthy furry friend.

I got home late one night this week and walked Maisie when the sun had already set, and any lingering daylight was almost lost in the clouds of a rainy day.

We met a neighbor and her dog as we headed toward our house. In their tussled greeting of each other, Maisie pulled free from her collar and my heart went to my throat. She is a fast runner and had escaped from the house a few times, but I had been able to retrieve her after a few minutes. As soon as she was loose  from the collar and leash, she sped away in the direction of a cat we had passed a little earlier. I could hear her yelping go farther in the distance as she was on the chase.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . ” Psalm 119:176

I hurried to the door of the house and called for Sweet William to bring the treat jar. I’ve enticed Maisie to me on other occasions with a shake of the jar.

I went toward the sound of her yelping, calling her name and shaking the jar. This time it was not working.

My neighbor put her dog in the house and came to our yard to help me. We could hear and see glimpses of Maisie’s white hair as she ran through the little woods that surround our house. Our calling was lost on her. She was intent on finding the trail of that cat.

My neighbor thought Maisie was close enough once as she lunged for her, then fell flat on the ground. Our efforts were failing.

Maisie came out of the wood, nose still to the ground and ran around our house. She was headed to other houses, other neighborhoods, the busy road just beyond. I went after her knowing she has no sense about traffic. If she went to the road, I feared the worst, that she would be hit by an oncoming car. If she left our neighborhood, there is not telling where she would end up.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? —Luke 15:4

It was dark by now and there were no glimpses of my little girl, no sounds of her bark. My dread was that she was gone. Gone too far for me to find her tonight. I would have to look tomorrow when it was daylight.

Maisie could not know that the only food she might find out there in the raw world would be trash, her water would be stale and muddy. She would search for someplace out of the weather to sleep and she would be cold. There would be no kibble provided, the kind that keeps her healthy and her coat shiny. She would be unprotected where coyotes roam and people with shotguns are not afraid to use them. She would not have a fence where she could run and play and still be under the watchful eyes of Sweet William and me.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. –Luke 15:16

She did not realize that we are the fountain from which her every blessing flows.

As I headed to the house where Sweet William was praying for her to return, I heard him call me, “She’s in the fence.” How in the world?

My neighbor had enticed Maisie with one of the treats we were both carrying in our hands, and she had lured her inside the fence behind the house, the fence we put up just for Maisie. The fence with both gates open for her to run into.

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. –Romans 2:4

I gathered up the wet, muddy mess she was, carried her to the bathtub and began to wash her. I found a bloody place on her neck where she had probably tangled with the wild blackberry brambles throughout the little woods.

As I rinsed off the sudsy water, I leaned my face down to Maisie’s face and I cried, tears of relief and thankfulness that she had come home to us. She does not know how much she is loved; how much trouble we went through to bring her home; how we choose her and paid the price for her; how we continue to love her, provide for her and look out for her best interest.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. –Jeremiah 31:3

I dried her off and put medicine on her wound.

He anoints my head with oil. — Psalm 23:5

I did not even try to explain the dangers of the outside world to Maisie. It would not have done any good. She thinks like a dog and acts like a dog because she is a dog.

Surely I was sinful at birth . . . –Psalm 51:5

I could not make her understand that the limitations we have imposed on her are for her good, to keep her healthy and to protect her, to give her a long, happy life with people who love her and want good things for her.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. — Isiah 55:8

Maisie is on house arrest for now, and she wears a restraining collar when we walk outside. It’s not meant to hurt her, only to keep her in my control. This discipline is for her good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71

She is a little subdued today, and perhaps a little worn from her heyday of perceived freedom. What she thought was pure bliss would have ended badly had it not been for the persistence of people who cared about her. She has to remain within our boundaries, not because we are being mean, but because we love her.

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Now remain in my love. John 15:9b

Maisie once was lost, but now she is found. And so was I.

February begins

The origin of the word February is surprising to me. I’ve always simply thought of it as the month of love.

With the advent of Valentines Day, merchants discovered another way to entice us to spend money, reds and pinks showing up in stores early last month. Cards to honor the day of hearts and flowers flood the isles, and TV commercials encourage us to make diamonds the proof of undying affection.

But what if . . .  what if we really did practice a little more love during February? Not the gushy, mushy vaporous emotions or the once-a-year expensive gifts that last but a little while before they are forgotten and we move on to other “more important” endeavors.

What if we tried scattering a little more kindness this month, without it turning into a spending spree or a guilt trip? What if we gave out of the abundance of our hearts, out of the grace we have been given?

We take on the character of God when we become givers. God gave. God gives. God will give eternally.

“What if the truth is every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” — Ann Voskamp,  The Broken Way

Chapter 5 of Ann’s new book, a gift from a friend, ignites something this morning as I read about her and her children leaving unexpected gifts all over the city, creating smiles and joy in their wake.

One of the dots on my Bucket List is “Always be kind.” I wish that just writing that down and marking it a priority made it always be true in my every day. It isn’t. I need a reminder. Often.

Scatter Kindness 8x10 Canvas Quote[purchase the canvas at this Etsy shop]

So I am challenging myself to Scatter Kindness in February, to find unusual and unexpected ways of giving to others out of my own abundance. Thoughts, ideas already drift in my head. I would gladly bring a few more smiles to the faces I encounter regularly and those who just happen along my pathway.

This month, February, I will make it my goal to Scatter Kindness, to Sweet William first for his is the face I see most often and the one I can so easily take for granted. I will endeavor to Scatter Kindness to those I know and to those I don’t, to the ones in my circle of  influence and to those I may pass only once in this life.

It will be challenging because I am too often self-centered. Perhaps the focus on others will alleviate my struggle for a while. At least for the next 28 days.

And like the dandelion fluff I’ve scattered with my breath on scores of summer days, perhaps one seed will take root in another heart. Perhaps Scattering Kindness will grow and flourish in someone else.

This morning’s radiance splashes pinks and oranges in the sky from my eastern window. The Spirit whispers, “I love you. This is for you.”

The world is chaotic and dysfunctional. I cannot fix it or make people happy. But I can show them they are loved by simple, kind deeds. And “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone is just asking if they can be loved.”*

February could turn into a bountiful opportunity to show God’s love through small acts of kindness. There is the chance it could change me and my little corner of the world.

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* Quote from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

My list

A friend invited me to read James Herriot’s books, the ones he wrote in the mid 1900s about his experiences as a veterinarian in England early that century. I’ve always loved animals and considered becoming a vet when I was young, so his book was enticing.

all-things-bright

I checked out All Things Bright and Beautiful at the library and understood my friend’s love for Herriot’s books and language.

Reading Herriot’s description of the people and animals he encounter was often funny, sometimes sad, but always entertaining. Herriot wrote frequently about his wife, them only newly married in this particular book.

Herriot said of her, “She was always kind.”

That description stayed on my mind for a while. “She was always kind.” I would like to be remembered that way.

In 2007, a movie called The Bucket List was shown in theaters across the country. It was a comedy-drama starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Two terminally-ill men shared a hospital room, and because their lives were nearing the end, they decided to do and experience things before they “kicked the bucket.”

It became their Bucket List. As a result of the movie’s popularity, people began making their own lists of goals, dreams, experiences, places to visit, and people to meet, with nothing being too lofty or extravagant for the list.

There are websites that will help you understand, envision and make your own list.

I understand the idea. If we never set our sites on something, we will never try to reach the goal. I’ve been a list-maker and a goal-setter for a long time, so I get it, and I appreciate the focus required to strive for something.

I made a simple bucket list once, thinking outside my ordinary box to dream big. Through the years, I’ve crossed off some things as achieved, some as not-gonna-happen, and some that are no longer important to me.

As my years add up, what I think of more often is the legacy I will leave behind. I’m not talking about bank accounts, houses and land as an inheritance in monetary terms. Instead, I think about what people will say when I’m gone. How will I be remembered?

“She was always kind,” would be on my legacy bucket list.

There are some other ways I would like to be remembered.

  • She was a good listener and a safe place to express oneself.
  • She was real, not a fake.
  • She prayed for you when she said she would.
  • She was the kind of wife whose husband trusted in her, and she spoke well of him.
  • She loved her children and grandchildren unconditionally.
  • She was a loyal and true friend.
  • She gave of herself and her resources.
  • She had real joy in this life and hope for the next one.
  • She knew Jesus and her life reflected Him.

I’ve walked by many caskets in funeral homes. I’ve heard stories of the deceased and told some of my own memories. It is sometimes serious and sometimes joyful, and a combination of both, remembering the life lived.

When it’s my time to die, and all of us have that appointment, I want to have lived out my days with joy and gladness. I want to have loved with abandon. I want to have treated people right, with respect and honor. I want Jesus to shine brightly through me.

And I want to always be kind.

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Yesterday and today

 Simon & Garfunkel gave words and melody to thoughts I’ve had before.

When you’re weary, feeling small, When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough and friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down

 

The difference in their song and my experience is that my friends could be found. And they turned up often on our doorstep.

During my recuperation, I have been blessed by my friends in beautiful and tangible ways. This is not something new, however. Friends have been pouring out their love to Sweet William and me for years now. And I cannot be grateful enough for them and their acts of kindness. They truly show the heart of Jesus.

Back in 2012, it was another time and another need. People I didn’t know well then came to our rescue. As I read it again today, tears sprang to my eyes remembering their benevolence. They are precious friends now, and they deserve thanks from me once again.

Here are my words. I only wish I could give melody to them.

The Heart of a Servant.

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Kindness

Kindness.  It’s a fruit of the Spirit.  It grows from being connected to the heart of Jesus when He is Lord of your life.

It came to our house today dressed like a guy with a snow plow.  I was wrestling my shovel, dressed like a bear in hibernation.  Sweet William was standing inside the garage because he cannot risk a slip or a slide on his fragile knees.  And I begged him not to.  He did not like standing there watching me with a shovel.  But what are we to do?

Then this kind person arrived, his truck hauling the snow plow behind it.

I remembered him from last year when we had the record breaking snowfall of February 2015.  I was stuck in my house with little dog, while Sweet William rested safely in rehab after yet another surgery on his knee.

My good Samaritan was a sight for sore eyes that day last year.  He made quick work of our driveway, and I was able to pull the little black Honda out of the garage for the first time in a week.

And here he was again.  Relief flooded me.  My back was aching from the work I’d already done.  We rejoiced in the kindness of someone we hardly see in our large church, except at a distance.

We offered to pay him.  He said no.  We offered to pray for him.  He said yes.  So there in our cleared drive, we joined our hands as members of Christ’s family and offered thanks for one so kind and asked God’s blessing on him and those he loves.

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  It comes from God and shines brightest through His children.100_2761

 

Boo-boo Bunny

I created Boo-boo bunny as a sample project for a women’s ministry event many years ago. At that time he was white with blue and yellow stripes, bright and clean, and his ears perked up as if he were actually listening for any sound of a cry for help. For that was what he was created for, this was to be his purpose, to ease the pain of someone’s boo-boo.

Boo-Boo Bunny was made simply with a dish cloth, some string, jiggly eyes, a bit of embroidery floss for whiskers, and a few tiny pom-poms to give him a nose, a tail, and those cute bunny jaws.

All put together, he was quite cute. There is a split section in his body that is just the size to hold an ice cube. That is where his soothing characteristic comes into play. With ice cube held nicely in place, the bunny is ready to rest on someone’s scrape or cut and give cooling relief.

He’s been sitting on top of my refrigerator for years. He is on duty and ready to give aid and has done so on many occasions, especially for the grandkids. My three grandchildren are rough and ready kind of youngsters. They climb trees, swing on ropes, skate and scooter and bike. They have had their share of bumps and bruises.

Just the other day, Ethan fell on the driveway, scraping his thumb and causing a bruise under the nail. It looked painful. I placed an ice cube in the bunny’s tummy and offered him to Ethan. He placed the ice-cube-in-tummy on his sore thumb and sat on the porch steps. After awhile, the pain was eased, and Ethan was back to his play.

By now Boo-Boo-Bunny is bedraggled looking because he has been a busy bunny. He is a bit stained. His ears don’t stand up anymore but instead droop down permanently. He has seen the sad side of life. We only bring him down from the fridge when there is a painful crisis where his services are needed.

I sometimes look at him and think of his value. He was made with a couple of dollars worth of materials. But he is dear to our hearts because he has been there when we needed some comfort. The grandchildren know him well. I reach for him quickly when someone comes running in with that look on the face that says, “Help me! I’m hurt.”

What if we were put on this earth to bring healing and comfort to other people? Maybe we are. Don’t we too often, however, think about ourselves and “what’s in it for me?” Instead of promoting ourselves, grasping for our pot of gold, concentrating on getting in on good life (whatever that may be), what if we looked for ways to sooth the troubled soul, to listen to a stranger, to offer a cup of tea and comfort, to weep with those who weep? Perhaps our world would be a little bit better if we were less centered on ourselves, sort of like the contestants on TV talent shows who are sure they are the ones worth one million dollars. Maybe we should be more like a little rag bunny whose only purpose in life is to give aid and comfort to the hurting.

Max Lucado said it well in his book, It’s Not About Me. What “if we played the music the Maestro gave us to play . . . made His song our highest priority?” And what is the Maestro’s highest priority?

I think it is to reach the lost souls drowning in their sins, to strengthen the weak, to lift the fallen, to encourage the discouraged. Jesus taught the idea in Matthew 25:34 – 36:

” . . . I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

What we do for others, we do for Jesus, and He is taking notice of our Boo-Boo-Bunny actions.

Do you have a Boo-Boo Bunny at your house?  Would you like to?

  Visit this link and learn how to make one.