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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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When I don’t get what I want

What I want and what I get are sometimes roads apart.

I could make a list of the things I’ve wanted, prayed and hoped for that did not come to fruition. I could. But I won’t. We all have our own lists because life has a way of surprising us.

I am thankful I didn’t get some things hoped for when I was young. It could have been disastrous.

Growing older, and hopefully wiser, my perspective and my prayers have changed. I pray more “Your will be done” prayers than “I want it my way” demands.

I still believe in healing and miracles and angels unaware coming to the aid of God’s children. I ask for those things. And I know He is able.

It’s just that I don’t always get the answer I want.

Such was the case this week. People for whom I prayed hopeful prayers got less than hopeful answers.

I’m disappointed and hurt. This is not what I asked for. I know it isn’t what my friends wanted.

We live in a troubled world that bears the scars of sin and disease, of fear and anger and bitterness. Bad things happen to good people. And we wonder why.

The maxim is familiar: God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good.

Do I believe that when the test results are not desired, when there’s pain and suffering at every turn, when people die because of predjudice and hate, when the road we travel suddenly takes a nose dive downward and we are holding on for dear life?

It is not given to me to understand it all or the reasons life is not always pretty. My purpose is not to figure it out. My purpose is to faithfully believe that God is good all the time and that He is in control; that what He allows and what He does has a bigger purpose than I can understand; that He is always working toward the ultimate plan for mankind and is not a genie to fulfill my wish list.

Yet at the same time, I believe He is fully focused on His purpose for me and those whose names I lift in prayer. I believe He is constantly working out His divine will for individuals through the circumstances of life. I believe He is personally involved in my life and that He wants my faith to grow in the bright light of day as in the dark night of my soul.

The Psalmist declares God hears prayers, and that He answers prayers. We are assured we will be satisfied with the good things He has prepared for us, even when the good is not wearing a smiley face and carrying balloons. When what stands in front of me is hard and painful, I can still expect good from a God who is wholly good, fully righteous, and always loving.

Exercising my faith-eyes means trusting Him for the outcome when I see the storm clouds gathering. It means leaning my entire self into Him, against the wind of tribulations. It means believing He is the all-wise God who will not fail to complete His purpose in me and in others.

I will continue to pray and hope and believe. I will expect an amazing-grace outcome.

Because God is good. All the time.

But I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.  — Micah 7:7

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Sunday grace

And Jesus told them to pray.

This is our Father we are dealing with, and He knows better than us what we need. With a God like this loving us, we can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.  Show us Your glory!
Set the world right; do what’s best— as in Heaven, so here on earth where we live.
Give us what we need for today, food, clothing, shelter.
Forgive us again, and help us keep forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and from the devil.
You’re in charge.  You are the King most high.
You can do anything you want.  And we want You to.
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.     And amen.

Sunday grace.

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[from Matthew 6, The Message]

 

 

Sunday grace

Another Sunday.  Another church service.  Another week begins.

How will I spend the precious time I’m given?  A day, an hour, a minute, a moment.

There is no promise of tomorrow.  There is only today.  Will I fret and worry, let me heart swirl, uncontrolled in anxiety?  Will I plan and organize and purpose to do things, build things as a monument to myself?  Will I love, forgive, encourage?  Will I invest in the temporal or the eternal?

God gives me the choice.  It is His gift of freedom.  But He offers me the wisdom and the Word to see a better way, the best way to live out this one wild and beautiful life I have.

Dear Father above,

You are gracious, merciful, and full of compassion and understanding.  You are good.  You are holy.

Forgive me for squandering your gift, for using it in senseless and worthless ways.  You know my heart.  You know the things that frustrate me and get me off track so easily.  I cast down every thought and imagination that exalts itself above the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior who lived His wild and beautiful life to the full.  Abundantly.  In complete submission to Your will.

I want to live like that.  I am weak and helpless to do it on my own.  Fill me with the fullness of your Spirit and let me recognize once again that You have already provided everything I need to live a life pleasing to you.  A victorious life.  A life worth living.

It is in Jesus’ name I ask,

Amen

Sunday grace.

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Photo by Elena Walls

 

 

A prayer

Dear Father God,

You promised, and You kept the promise.

Your Spirit hovered, enveloped the womb of a virgin, and she conceived.

Your holy, sinless Offspring  was born.  They called Him Jesus.

Your expressed Your very self by a living, breathing Word.

This Word became flesh and blood and bone and sinew.

He lived with us in the dust and dirt, the muck and the mire.

He was life.  He is life.  Eternal.  He offered it for free.

He showed us the Father, the expression of Your love.

He opened the way and invited us in, into the Holiest.

How precious did that Grace appear.

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And now, we come to adore Him, Christ the Lord.

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Traditions

The traditions begin.

At 6:30 am, I talked with my prayer partner, Julie.  It was our annual day to remember all the answered prayers through the year.  I looked back over a year’s worth of pages in my prayer journal and saw how God had done great things.  We prayed prayers of thanks to One who hears and answers our prayers.

I’ve started feeding the birds since harvest is over and cold weather has descended upon us.  I call them in the morning, “Come on birdies,” and they are beginning to recognize that I am friend, not foe.  It is something I do in the fall and winter months.  Feeding them provides so much enjoyment, plus it reminds me how a faithful God cares for me.

The cooking frenzy has begun.  The cranberry relish is prepared and waiting in the fridge.  It is one item on my list of Thanksgiving food to prepare.  It gets better as it sits and marinates in the juices of orange and sugar.

Butter is getting soft on the counter in preparation for Sour Cream Cake, one of my mother’s recipes.  It continues to be a family favorite.  I have to pull out my big mixer for this cake, the only one that can handle the thick batter with ease.  I will wash and dry the perfect-size plate that fits the cake.  It was a wedding gift to my parents in 1942.  The gold edging is almost gone but it is priceless to me.

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I started my yearly Joy List this morning.  I will add to it throughout the day and tomorrow morning, perhaps even through the weekend.   The list gets longer every year, and why not?  God gives so many gifts that I  cannot count them all, though this week I try.

Sweet William and I make calls today and tomorrow, wishing friends and loved ones a blessed day.  It is good to chat for just a few minutes in the flurry of activity.  I sent texts message to sweet friends who have enriched my life in so many sweet ways.  People are the best gifts of all.

Tomorrow we will gather with my cousins and their children and grandchildren.  The house will be full, loud, festive.  We will quiet long enough to pray and give thanks to our great God who gives us so many, many blessings.  We will eat the best food in the whole wide world (my family are good cooks!), and we will talk and laugh and catch up with one another as families do.  This only child is grateful for extended family.

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I will remember those not with us at the table this year, my dear dad who is at home with Jesus now and my family-too-far-away.   I will remember others who are missing family members this year, trying to learn how to do life without them.  And I will say a prayer for them because I know what loss feels like.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for so many reasons.   It is the beginning of the end of the year when stress can rise and suck the very life out of us.  But on this day, I will still my heart.  I will look at the faces around the table and enjoy the moments.

And I will give thanks.

 

Sunday grace

The challenge presented, I kneel at the chair and weep.  I give thanks and make my requests known to the One who already knew them.  But He bids me come near and open my heart, speak my words, spread out my doubts and fears, lay the heavy burdens I’ve been carrying too long at His nail-scared feet.

I am comforted by the intercession of my Great High Priest and the knowledge that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for me when my words falter and fumble.  I pray the prayer that does not fail, “The will of the Lord be done.”

I tape a Scripture verse on the chair, a written word of encouragement for me and a warning proclamation to the enemy of my soul.  He who fights against me fights against God, for I am His and He is mine.  The promises upon which I stand are the only thing stable in this shaky world.

I arise from my prayer session with lightness and praise on my lips.  He has done great things for me.  I trust Him with all that I have and all those I love.

I dare not go into this life’s daily combat zone without first bowing the knee, confessing my own inadequacies, and consulting the Captain of the Lord’s host.  The battle is the Lord’s.  He is the God of angel armies.  And He is for me.

Prayer.  It is our great assault weapon.  Coupled with the Word of God, we are clothed with the power of God through Christ Jesus.  Let us not be weary in doing it well.

Sunday grace, friends.

{inspired by War Room, the movie}

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War Room Trailer