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Sunday grace

What are we searching for?

Yesterday I searched through the house for a present I knew I had purchased and wrapped but could not find. I looked under the tree, in closets, in reasonable and unreasonable places, to no avail.

By day’s end, I decided to check one more time and found it sitting undisturbed right where I’d put it.

There’s a lot of searching going on in our world.

The last-minute gift for that hard-to-buy for person on our list. The daily on-line discount with free shipping that will arrive in time. The Pinterest project that will be beautiful and easy enough to finish before the deadline. The organic, non GMO, all natural ingredients needed for the food dish we always prepare for a family gathering.

What are we really searching for?

A bunch of shepherds went searching for a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

The far-eastern astrologers traveled a long distance inquiring about a king.

The old man Simeon, expecting God to keep His promise, looked for the consolation of Israel.

The widowed Anna was faithfully serving when the Spirit led her to Joseph and Mary with their newborn.

We are we really searching for in our frantic-busy, traffic-clogged, worry-filled world?

Could it be what we are really seeking is a compassionate, understanding heart?

Are we looking for peace in the atmosphere of chaos?

Do we need forgiveness for all we have ever done and the lingering guilt that torments us?

Is there someone who will be there for us and never leave us alone?

Can there actually be a love that will not let us go?

Could it be that the one thing that will fill our emptiness is what filled the manager?

What are we really searching for?

Our heart’s cry will only be satisfied with One and Only. His name is Jesus.

Sunday grace.

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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.

 

 

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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Sunday grace

The sun shines in the afternoon, and I feel it in my bones. Cold dark days are hard to navigate sometimes.

Thanksgiving anticipation looms in my view. Most of the shopping is finished except for broccoli that needs to be crisp and fresh. Recipes have been pulled from books and boxes. They are old and spattered with years of memories. I recognize my mother’s handwriting on one of the folded papers.

I remember other Thanksgivings. Some are full of wonder, like last year when my dear ones drove long to be here around the table. Others years found me with an ache in my heart, like the year when my mother first became sick or when there was one less person at the table.

Holidays are a mixed menu of sweetness and salty tears. It is the stuff of real life. The rain and the clouds can suddenly turn into rays of brilliant sunshine. And vice versa.

When we gather at the table this year, let us give thanks for those who are there. Whoever they are, whether relatives, long-time friends, or new acquaintances, they are gifts God has given us for a time, this very moment.

They are more important than the food or the table settings. More important than the football game or the black Friday ads. More important than the Christmas gifts we are hoping to get at a bargain.  More important than Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

We will set across the table from one another, face to face with daughters of Eve and sons of Adam, God’s image breathed into human form.

Let us give thanks for each one and love them with all of our hearts.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The sun sets early and darkness settles over us. We are safe and warm inside.

As a child I was afraid of the dark. I wanted a nightlight on. I didn’t want to be alone at night.

I learned to overcome my fear by quoting Bible verses when mother sent me next door to borrow a cup of sugar, or whatever it was she needed. I ran as fast as I could, saying the 23rd Psalm all the way there and all the way back.

Working a third shift job for a few months out of sheer necessity, I parked my car in a dark lot. Only thirty minutes ago I had tucked my young son into bed for the night. I felt alone waiting for my shift to begin. It was more than the physical darkness that threatened me then. It was a gloom over my soul.

Each night in the few minutes before I exited my car to walk to the plant, I read the same chapter from the small Bible I carried with me. Psalm 139. And this verse particularly comforted me:

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

God is with us whether it is day or night. He shines the light of His love around us showing the way, the next step, the places of resting. In the shadow of death He walks beside us. No place on this earth, not a depth of sadness or the height of joy, can keep us from Him.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39

I am never separated from His love. Never. I don’t have to be afraid any more.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

I am in need of grace this morning.

And so I count gifts as Maisie and I walk the familiar lane of our home, because grace is recognized in the numbering of blessings.

  • The beauty of the fall trees even as their colors fade.
  • The red leaves reflected in the lake.
  • This warm day in November.
  • Pictures from a distance where I see smiles and happiness.
  • The reassuring Word of God this morning and the Holy Spirit giving me strength.

I glance out the window, watching as golden leaves gently fall from the giant maple at the edge of the little woods. I had no hand in planting this one. Creator God did that through his birds. It has grown tall in a few short years.

I want to be like the tree, releasing the leaves in proper season without fighting the process. The wind blows and its branches sway and turn loose. Yet it remains strong and steadfast in the changing. It remains a strong maple.

Can I allow the days of my life to reflect what God is doing in me even through the changing, even when sometimes it is hard, even when I have to turn loose and let go? I long to.

Solomon said it wisely. To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven. There are periods of beauty and new growth, of flourishing. It is followed by the season of letting and bareness. It is a circle of life.

There are days of victory and rejoicing. There are days when my heart hurts and I wonder what and why. It will be easy to count my blessings sometimes, and other times it will be a hard eucharisteo, looking for the beauty in the ashes.

I can learn to be content in plenty and in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengths me. He lives in me and works through me, showering grace upon grace.

I am in need of grace today. And He gives it abundantly.

Sunday grace.

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