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Sunday grace

It is a day for palm waving and shouts of joy. The crowds gather with prophesied words, “Hosannah, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Praises roar as excitement builds to fever pitch.

The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.

He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.

He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.

As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.

While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.

Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.

He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Rising earlier than usual, the stillness envelopes me. The house is warm with the season of spring, needing no furnace or gas logs. I open the window next to my chair, and the distant sound of birdsong filters in. It’s too soon for the winged creatures to begin their pre-dawn chorus. And yet, there is one, out in the little woods, and he sings to me.

Sweet William breathes the heaviness of sleep in the back bedroom. Maisie checks that I am OK, then trots back to bed, her sleep-in habit.

The morning quiet is mine alone.

After awhile, I hear a sound, in the wind, in the trees. It’s the sound of rain in the distance. Did I miss that weather prediction? I listen carefully because I know the music of raindrops.

Memory takes me to decades before when I sat on the upper deck of my parents’ house, us facing the west, watching as the dark clouds hung low and rain moved toward us, over the hills into the field beyond until the spattered drops were heard on the tin roof above us.

It’s a sweet remembrance, me a young mom sitting with my mother and dad talking about whatever was on our minds. I shared a lot with them in those days, but I still kept a certain part of me hidden. Things that seemed unsolvable were closed off from everyone, kept under lock and key lest anyone might know what really troubled my heart.

Those hidden parts would be the death of me.

Another memory invades my thoughts. This time in a room other than my own, displaced and fearful of the future. An open window near a borrowed bed and somewhere a bird sang through the night. Its melody brought comfort to a weary mind, me with the uncertain days ahead, with a taunting fear rearing its ugly head.

In the middle of that torment, my Heavenly Father sent a bird to sing me to sleep.

Eventually, the doors of my secrets were pried open. Brought into the light, a gentle Savior would reach for all of it with a promise of restoration. “Believe and see the glory of God,” He whispered into my tears.

It took time for healing, for broken things to be repaired, for beauty to come from ashes. It took hard work, confession and forgiveness, a path turned in a different direction.

The sound of bird and patter of rain remind me that God is always near, always working, always has a plan.

And His glory is revealed in the song of a bird and the sound of the rain.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

The gas logs burn in the dark of dawn, and I snuggle under the quilt, sitting in my rocker, sipping hot coffee. It’s spring they say. The cold chills me. And the bird song filters in through the closed window in the morning hours.

Maisie and I walk, me bundled in my corduroy coat and a scarf at my neck. Buds on the forsythias are peeking yellow. I cut some long branches, put them in a vase of water, hoping for spring to bloom in the house.

A redbud tree sustained wind damage a week ago, the multi-part trunk broken and a piece of it lies near the ground. I’ve done nothing with it yet. It makes me sad, this beloved tree I planted to commemorate the first grandchild’s birth almost 22 years ago.

While the geese move in pairs, one female already sits on her nest, like she’s trying to get a jump on the others. Her head is bent low and curled into her body as she tries to stay warm. Her mate swims and eats grass, always near but still living his goose life. She sits faithfully in the waiting.

The moon is full in the night sky. It will wane and wax as the season of Passover approaches. I observe its phases this time of year and remember the familiar story in Exodus.

The Israelite people, in Egyptian bondage, clothed in their slavery, crying out for deliverance, wondering when it would come. In their waiting, God was moving to bring his plan to fruition. A Passover night would symbolize their deliverance and point to their future.

We all wait for something. We do it patiently in hope or we live with frustration and anxiety. It’s my choice.

I wait for spring to fully form. I wait for prayers to be answered. I hope in the waiting, knowing that God is strong and God is good.

I choose to trust that He is moving while I wait.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Grace upon grace. God gives lavishly, elaborately, beyond measure.

The gift of a new day and strength to get up, get moving, and go forward.

The gift of comfort; clothes to stave off the chill; warm oatmeal with butter and sugar.

The gift of music, blending with other musicians in rhythm and harmony.

The gift of caring evidenced by smiles and hellos, a quick “How are you?” and a hug.

The gift of God’s Word, my familiar leather-bound book clutched in my hand.

The gift of coming home to leftover chili and fresh-baked flatbread.

The gift of snow falling outside the window, sprinkling our little woods in white.

The gift of communication in sundry modes, texts, emails, blog posts, phone calls, easily connecting me to the world.

The gift of rest, a sacred Sabbath to refresh and recharge.

The gift of Christ, offered to me, His life for mine.

Grace upon grace. Blessing upon blessing. Beyond counting.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

I’m such a saver of memories.

I’m a keeper, this I know for sure. I don’t swing to the side of hoarding, but my family will tell you I hold onto things. Like the grandchildren’s animal-shaped sippy cups, though the three of them are practically adults. Like the dolls I played with when I was a child. Like our son’s cub scout shirt. Like my dad’s hammer and my mother’s girlhood autograph book.

And then there are the cards people sent. These are difficult to part with. They hold deep sentiment and recollections of people who have been important to me.

I have a small file cabinet in the upstairs office. It contains things saved: trip maps used recently, Bible studies I’ve taught, my high school report cards and resumes of my work history, among many other things, filed alphabetically of course. Those drawers hold pieces of my life, and somehow remind me who I am as much as the photos organized in boxes.

I determined I would go through the file cabinet while this year is still new and throw out what I can, to lighten the load of stuff kept. And there were piles of papers that went into the trash.

Occasionally I will come upon something special. As I was finishing this final organizing project, I found a 3-by-5 inch lined index card with a simple eight line poem written in my mother’s handwriting. She’s been gone from this earth for 36 years, but I know her penmanship well.

She was such an example of faith to me. I watched her live it out through many hard places. As she faced death, I asked her if she was afraid. She immediately replied “No.” She had learned that Jesus is faithful through her years, and she didn’t worry about her future.

There is no author to whom I can give credit for this simple verse. But it is worth sharing.

Doubt sees the obstacles
Faith sees the way.
Doubt sees the darkest night.
Faith sees the day.
Doubt dreads to take a step.
Faith soars high.
Doubt questions, Who believes?”
Faith answers, “I.”

Sunday grace.

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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