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Sunday grace

There is always grace.

When the message on the phone is not good news.

When the day turns drastically in the wrong direction.

When the diagnosis is not what we’d hoped for.

There is always grace.

When the sun shines or the rain pours down.

When the pantry is full or when we wonder how to pay the bills.

When there is birth and when there is death.

There is always grace.

Grace sufficient.

Grace for every need.

Grace giving strength.

Grace to save, to forgive, to heal, to provide peace and rest.

There is always grace. Because there is always Jesus.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The stillness of early morning comforts me. The moon is brilliant in its fullness as Christmas morning slowly approaches. The coffee in my cup is hot and strong, and the fireplace warms away the chill. I sit in my rocker and breathe.

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I didn’t expect last week to be so busy, but it became that way. Sometimes I create my own busy, me with the lists and projects. We shared time and space with ones we hold dear, and the gift of presence was more than refreshing and a thing of beauty.

My thoughts have been frenzied with things still to do and with the pondering of Christmas present and Christmas past. Sweet William and I talked about years before, when our parents were alive, when our son was small, when the grandchildren lived in the house next door.

Memories are sweet. Longings are undeniable.

We’ve received prayer requests by text and phone in the last several days, these in addition to the names of people we pray for regularly. Those spending this year with one less person at their family gatherings have been on my heart. I feel their pain.

At breakfast on Thursday, the burden of empathy overwhelmed me so that I wept at the table. I reminded myself that I was not meant to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am meant to carry our needs to Jesus who is fully capable of bearing the burden, strong enough to hold each one in His hand. He is the fullness of God’s love come to earth for each of us, offering Himself to any who will receive.

And this is Christmas. Not whether I got the perfect present for everyone. Not whether the cards were mailed in time. Not whether we have an elaborate tree. Not whether my decorations are enough.

Christmas is Jesus. God’s love wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger for the world to behold, for the outcast and the kingly. God of all creation loved us so much that He made Himself small, vulnerable, and helpless, so that He would be accessible to all of us who are small, vulnerable, and helpless.

Jesus. He came to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders, to carry our sins to the cross, to carry us in our joys and our sorrows. He is Christmas.

O come let us adore Him.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

December entered with grace, Sweet William and I having been invited to spend a gloomy, rainy afternoon with friends who feel like family. We have history together. We remember the years ago when their children and our grandchildren were young, when we worshiped together at another church, when this important relationship first began.

Their home was warm and inviting. The atmosphere of Christmas had arrived, and I pleasured looking about at her lovely decorations, especially the exquisite Nativity set taking a prominent position in this house.

We ate a simple yet delicious lunch. Dessert was chocolate cake from her grandmother’s recipe. The men moved to the living room to finish watching the basketball game, while she and I remained at the table, sweet tea glasses refilled. We talked as long-time friends will, remembering the past and catching up with the present.

We’ve shared prayer requests, she and I, us wondering at God’s ways, marveling at His answers. She has encouraged me to trust when the way was dark. I’ve confided some deep secrets and struggles, and she does not judge or condemn. We continue to pray for one another and our families, because this is the law of Christ. To love one another.

Whether I finish my Christmas decorations or not, of this I am sure: the people with whom God has graced my life are the true adornment.  I am a wealthy woman because of the friends who choose to love me. And I get to love them back. What joy!

“The ornament of a house is the people who frequent it.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is grace indeed. That Love came down to be with us, to be in us. The gift of Christmas.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

With just a few days until Thanksgiving day, my mind turns to the tasks at hand.

I wrote my list of food to prepare, grocery items needed, and made a plan. Wednesday is marked “Cooking Day” in my bullet journal.

Sweet William and I visited Wal-Mart yesterday, filling our baskart with staples for the pantry, while maneuvering around other shoppers with the same agenda.  The perishables are on the list for next week so they will be fresh, meaning another day in the food isles.

I anticipate the short trip to my cousin’s house on Thursday where tables will be beautifully set and aromas will greet us at the door. I can’t help but think of those who will not be at the table this year, and my heart longs for them as always.

In the pre-dawn, I sit in my rocker and read the Psalms and other verses, struck anew at the generosity of God through Jesus Christ. Such lavish love poured into my heart. Such amazing grace reconciling me to become a member of God’s family. Such hope that does not disappoint because the Holy Spirit within me is a deposit and a guarantee of more to come.

How can I not give thanks?

For God has done great things for me, from the small to the gigantic, from the simple cup of strong coffee in the morning to the very breath I take without thought; for shelter, food, and clothing to precious relationships of friends and family that  enrich my life; from eyes to see and ears to hear to the beauty of a world created for my enjoyment and comfort; from the privilege of making requests in the very presence of the Holy to miraculous answers to my prayers.

From being an outcast with no hope to being adopted and accepted, blessed and delivered, the promise of a future with Christ forever.

So I will praise my Lord with all that I have. I will sing and make melody. I will write my thanksgiving list, making it thoughtful and lenghty. I will rejoice in answered prayers with my prayer partner on an early morning phone call. I will remember the goodness of God.

And astonishingly, my thanksgiving will please the Father’s heart.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord . . . “

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The cold crispy morning compels Maisie and me to dress in our warmest. The sun is barely rising, and frost covers the ground. Fallen lives crunch louder under Maisie’s feet and blades of grass look sugar-coated.

Taking our normal route on the lane, I spy the flag. How can I miss its enormity? My neighbor, a veteran, hung it from an upper deck of his house, it all unfurled in the glory of a freedom it represents.

How can I know the cost of what is free?

I recall the stories my dad told of his time in Europe for 25 months. He knew exactly how long he was gone from home and loved ones. He told the funny tales and the times when God intervened for him. I don’t remember so much him telling the dark side of war.

War has a dark side, and every veteran in combat experiences it to some degree. I sit in my warm house and walk freely on my lane because some put on the uniform and gave their best.

I want to thank them all, thank them for their service and their sacrifice. I want them to know that I value the price paid when giving themselves costs more that I’ll ever understand. I want them to feel my appreciation for every effort they made to secure the life I have.

Is saying, “Thank you for your service,” when I see a soldier even enough? Does that convey my gratitude sufficiently? I doubt it does. But at least it’s something I can do.

And so I say it with a heart of thanksgiving. Thank you for your service. May God shed His grace on thee.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Our ten-week Bible study is winding down. On Tuesday this week we will begin the final journey. The last seven days are always melancholy.

I review my index cards. Beth Moore encouraged us to write Scripture verses on simple 5 by 7 inch cards and keep them within arms length, helping us memorize, helping us remember.

The last couple of weeks I have considered my life, once again, remembering the work of God along our pilgrimage together. As I walk the lane that is so familiar, memories rush in from every house, yard, tree, and mailbox of my neighborhood. This place has been home to me for decades.

I witnessed the changes that brought both joy and heartache. I recall prayers prayed and prayers answered. Faces of my family emerge from the recesses of my mind, swallowing me up with the enormity of a God very present in a life like mine.

The years add up, and Sweet William and I sometimes grapple to recall a word or name that is familiar and on the tip of our tongues. I pray for my mind to stay strong, to be healthy, to be able to call to mind things that I learned, events from days past, what I know for sure.

I pray for the Lord to help me remember.

As we took part in the Lord’s Supper this morning, the simple act of taking bread and juice, eating and drinking, are for the purpose of remembering our Lord Jesus who gave Himself completely. Such a simple practice reminds me: Don’t forget.

“The Counselor, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”         — John 14:26

I’m believing those words, recorded in my Bible and written on one of my index cards. I’m keeping both of them close to my hands and my heart.

I don’t want to forget.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Pain is part of life. Living in misery is a choice I make.

Someone said it in a different way long before me. Looking for its author, I find that no one actually knows. Perhaps because it is a truth we all need to acknowledge sometime in our lives. Hopefully, we learn it early rather than later.

Here is a quote whose author I do know:

“Instead of being broken and miserable, I chose to be invested.”  — Shelley Gigleo.

I wrote that one down. There were seasons I lived broken and miserable. I don’t berate myself for that since it was difficult circumstances, grief I needed to work through. But one can’t stay there too long without consequences.

In some way, I too chose to be invested. Looking back on how that mindset settled on me, I can only attribute it to my God.

He is the Father of compassion and understanding of my suffering. He weeps with those who weep. He comforts the hurting. He is near to the broken-hearted.

He sees our pain and walks with us in the vally of the shadow of death. He is the Shepherd who brings us to still water and to resting in green pastures.

But He is also the One who calls me to courage, commands me to “fear not,” and offers me an abundant life.

Jesus said it this way: In this world you will have trouble.” It’s a given. We can’t avoid trouble, pain, sorrow in this broken world of ours.

But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus said those things so I could live at peace in a world bereft of it. He is the peace I need when tribulation comes my way, as it surely will.

But I don’t have to live in misery. I can rest in the arms of a Savior who has overcome all things. He is the Captain of the Lord’s army. He is the Victor over sin, death, hell, and the grave. He has a strong arm to save me, to impart strength, to infuse me with power from on high, to enable me to do all things through Christ.

Pain is a part of life. Mine and yours. But we can choose to live in hope, joy, and peace, encompassed in the love of the Heavenly Father. All provided through Jesus Christ.

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