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Sunday grace

Oh Lord, You know me well, better than anyone else.

You know my grace-filled ponderings. You also know when I am anxious, angry, disgruntled, unbelieving.

You have a window into my heart that no one else has ever seen. The place where I battle to bring every thought into subjection to You.

I want to dwell on things that are pure and lovely, honorable and true. Sometimes I struggle.

Oh Lord, You love me like no other, even though You know me so well. How is that possible, that Your love goes beyond my ability to be lovable?

I don’t understand Your ways. They are too high, too deep. I cannot grasp Your affection for me. You give love like an ever-bubbling stream, a fountain of fresh life. It washes over me, calling me to climb higher and dwell peacefully in hope.

Why do I worry and stress when I am Yours and You have me in Your hands, working out Your perfect plan? Why do I let anxiety get the best of me? You are my Lord and Savior, my Redeemer and the God who sees me.

You are the Lover of my soul, the Shepherd who leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

Still my apprehension and my fear as I put my trust in You.

Sunday grace

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Second Tuesday in November

Today is election day in the United States of America. It seems we have not been particularly united of late.

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I woke with the thoughts of campaigns ending, the circus it has all been finally leaving town. And the Spirit sings to me, “Our God is in control.”

As I sit in my rocker in the pre-dawn hours, coffee and Bible in hand, I pray for my country, sweet land of liberty, land that I love. Today marks a day of changes, no matter how the pendulum swings.

Sweet William and I went early to the polls to cast our ballots. The parking lot was full and people waited in line to vote. I hope that is an indication that we care about the election outcome, that we are willing to be responsible citizens, that the invasion of lethargy and hopelessness has not won a battle.

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No matter what tomorrow’s result, I know this one thing for certain: My God is in control.

An old refrain echos the same, “I don’t know who holds tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand.”

And still another melody from my childhood offers comfort,

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, just to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’.”

Today I will hope in the Lord. His Truth still marches on.

Today I will trust in Jesus. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Today I will sing and rejoice in my salvation with thanksgiving, for this is God’s will for me.

Today I will choose joy no matter the outcome.

Because my God is in control.

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Strength will rise

Lines were drawn in the sand months ago. The games have begun; opponents faced off; and I hear in the distance, “Red Rover, Red Rover, we dare you come over.”

This side says one thing. The other side contradicts. The first side rebuts. And the air feels hotter than my outdoor thermometer indicates.

Who do I believe? When the words are conflicting, but each declares it to be the honest-to-god truth, who really is the truth teller?

Can one look polished, smile and shade the truth while reading from a telemonitor?

I wonder who we are. One nation under God? Indivisible? With liberty and justice? For all?

My mind whirls. There are choices to be made, and I must choose wisely.

In the thick of spins and commentary and promises that sound convincing and too good to be true, who is really speaking the whole truth and nothing but? I wonder.

The atmosphere is tornadic. Yet I hear a melody in my heart, coming from somewhere deep, my spirit connecting with the Spirit.

And He sings,

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary

You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

 

There is One truth-teller. There is One who always keeps His promises. There is One who is strong and able to do what seems impossible. There is One who gives hope to the weary, the downtrodden, the helpless, the defenseless.

He is the Everlasting God. I will lift my eyes to Him, away from the noise and fray of the crowds, so that I am not afraid of the future.

Strength will rise when we wait upon the Lord.

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Thou O Lord

The engines roared into our quiet close-knit community, sirens blaring and lights flashing.  The dark night was ablaze with fire coming from our neighbors house, people who are more than neighbors.  They are my family.  My near kin.

“Oh Jesus!” was all I could say, all I could pray.  Over and over, it was a moan of desperation in a desperate situation.

Neighbors and friends came out of warm cozy houses and family celebrations, not knowing what to do, only lending their presence.  And when the sky falls what is there to do but huddle close, be there to hold onto and cry with, to pray for grace and mercy in a night of horror?

Our thankful prayer was that all souls were safe, unharmed, spared the smoke inhalation and burning.

Christmas Day suddenly became something different for us.

 “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.   Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.”

We watched from a distance, as firefighters risked life and limb to try to salvage what was so far gone, to put out flames that burned hot and ferocious.  They did what they were trained to do.  All we could do was stand back and let them.

Gathered at the closest house, we sat on the deck in the cold night, tears streaming down wondering how and why and what to do next.  Silent prayers echoed in our hearts.

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.  I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.”

 And yet, underneath are the everlasting arms of a God who knows all.  I don’t understand His ways, but I know that He is wise beyond me.  We know that His mercy is plentiful and His grace is sufficient.  His love endures when nothing else will.

Late into the night people part, go to their own places of sleep.  I tell Sweet William that I almost feel guilty for having a home and bed tonight.  What we count as treasures, what we invest our time and money and very lives into can be gone in a breath.  And what do we have left?  What can we count on?

” I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.”

We lock our doors and feel secure.  We set our house alarms and expect safety.  We drive on the highway observing the traffic laws and don’t know for sure if we will return home whole.

There is no security in this life.  None.  Zero.

God is all we have.  God is all we need.

“Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”

When there is faith in a God who cares enough to send a Savior, there is hope.  Hope for tomorrow.  Hope for a future.

My family/neighbors have much ahead of them, decisions to be made, grief to work through, loss to accept.  They will because their hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness.  They will move forward, rebuild, though they will be forever changed.  They will continue to trust in their God because there is nothing else.

Dare we set our dreams on things of this earth when it is so quickly gone?  Dare we trust anything except a mighty God who saves?

We stand firm on the Truth that God is good, God is strong, God is loving, and He will bring beauty from ashes.

And no matter what the enemy means for evil, God will use it for good.  Our adversary does not have the last word.

The last word is:  But Thou o Lord.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sings But Thou O Lord

Scripture from Psalm 3, KJV

August ending

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August is winding down, and for me it is really the last month of summer.  While we may still have some warm days next month, I begin to think about snugly clothes and fires on the hearth and shorter days that signal the end of harvest season.

Each season presents its own glories.  I want to enjoy each one in the beauty it offers.

Summer gave me fruits and flowers from the garden, the smell of fresh-cut grass, birds galore on the back deck, and butterflies hovering over blooms.  It gave long, lingering days and time to visit with friends.  And it gave Sweet William and me five wonderful weeks with our three grandchildren who live away.  For five weeks they were here, running the lane with cousins, visiting former school friends and present relatives.  We had fun together, drank pots of coffee, played games, watched movies all snuggled on the couch, and time was precious.  Too quickly they are gone.

I’ve learned some things during the summer or perhaps rediscovered them.

One is this.  When life feels like it is spiraling wildly on its own orbit and I can’t stop the madness, I start cleaning out.  If my emotions are in a tornado, I will organize the desk drawer, sort paper clips by size, and put pencils and pens in separate slots.  I see all the superfluous items that take up too much room in my house and my life, and in a frenzy I start making a pile to discard.

I talk to myself through the process with such comments as: “Why do I have so much stuff?”  What in the world am I saving this for?”  What is wrong with me that I can’t let go of these collections?”  And most importantly of all, “Why do I keep accumulating more?”

With my emotional roller coaster rides, I should have the tidiest house in the world.

The stacks of discards get bigger as I look into hidden places.  The Goodwill box in the garage has filled and I really need to make another car run there.  I just realized I’ve been saving tax returns for way too many years and that the files in drawers full to the brim can actually be shredded.  Why didn’t I know that?

A couple of days after I began my frenzy, something clicked in my mind.  I organize when I am feeling stressed and out of control.  When I cannot do anything about that which troubles me, I side track and start taking control of something I can.  I’m not yet sure if this is a healthy, if it is a good coping mechanism or not.

Is it OK to focus on something within my power to do while I release my brain, even for just a little while, from the concerns that I am powerless to do anything about?

I’m still working on that quandary.

In this season of life, the Lord is teaching me to trust Him when I can’t see past today or tomorrow.  And haven’t I been around this curve before?  Of course I have.  Sometimes, I slip into forgetfulness that God is the only One in control, and that I am definitely not.  Patiently, He teaches me again.

He has reminded me through so many different avenues recently that He is big and He is strong and He is able to handle what seems insurmountable to me.  That the concerns of my heart are also a concern of His.  That the ones I hold so dear and love so deeply are the ones He loves most and gave His life for.

While I am so limited in what I can do (cleaning out a closet), He is limitless in power and wisdom, and He will do whatever it takes to accomplish His purpose in the lives of those I love and care so much about.

He is God Almighty.  His promises are sure.  He will not fail.

So as I prepare to enter the next season, I am looking into the face of He who planned seasons, controls them, and fulfills His divine purpose through them.  He loves me.  He loves them.  My prayers are heard.

And I am learning to trust Him even more.

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What now?

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The sun shines beautifully amide fluffy white clouds.  Birds sing and gentle breezes blow my hair.  The day is pleasant.

Then suddenly, almost without warning the storm clouds gather, winds whip up ferociously and terror threatens my very core. And where do I go for shelter?  Where can I ride out the storm and be safe? Where is the promised peace in all of this?

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I sit and pray silently, “Oh Jesus help!” over and over because no other words come but those.

I recall stories I’ve heard, how one poor woman cried out for mercy as Jesus passed by, and He stopped, turned His attention to her in a stormy swirl that would not relent.  An impossible situation that she could do nothing about.  Her attempts at fixing it herself were hollow and left her empty.  All her efforts were futile.  She boldly cried out for help, not worrying what anyone would think about her.  That was over, trying to please others or be acceptable.  She was desperate and there was only One who could help her.

I feel it in my own heart.  Desperate.  I cry to the only One who can help me.

The darkness of the storm clouds threaten my joy.  How can I give thanks in this?  How do I count grace and gifts when I am brokenhearted, despairing, and tormented by “what if’s?”

I turn to the only Source I know, the place I’ve run so many times when tempests threaten.  And I am not disappointed.  His Word comforts.  He points me to places I’ve been before, to promises given in dangerous times, and He reminds me that He resurrected the dead.  Not just in centuries past but in my own life.

And He says, “Trust Me.”

But can I do that?  Can I turn my frenzied emotions, my breaking heart, my desperate soul to trust?  I must.  Is there any other place to go?  Who else has the words of life?  Who else calms my storms every single time?  Who else has power over any and all forces in this great expanse of creation?  Who else speaks and it is done?

What else, who else can I trust?  Nothing.  No one.

And my heart responds, faltering at first, the best I can offer.  My best is never enough I know.  His best is always enough.  I reach to the only One who claims my heart and gives me hope.  Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Trust.  In my questions.  In uncertainty.  In the dark.  In the storm.

I will trust You even now.

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Got questions?

I have always had questions.

When just a tiny tot, I began to ask questions. It was a way for me to understand this giant world I had entered. “Why is the sky blue and why is the grass green?” “Why do I have to tie my shoes?” “Why can’t I ride my bike in the street?” “Why do I have to wear this?”

Little people ask a lot questions. They ask “why?” and “how come?” and “why not?” They ask it to infinity it seems, until mom or dad resorts to those words we promise ourselves we will never say to our children, “Because I said so!”

When I was growing up painfully shy, I was not very adept at social interactions with people other than family. So I read as much as I could to be better at it. I learned from the teen magazine I subscribed to that asking questions is a good way to make conversation.

The magazine told me to ask questions to find out about the other person, that people love to talk about themselves, especially boys, which was of prime interest to me at that age.

I tried it and found it was true. People do like to tell their own stories. Most of the time I didn’t have to say much, just ask the questions.

Through the years, I’ve continue to ask questions not so much because I’m still painfully shy but because I truly want to get to know people. I learn things like where he is from, how many children she has, what line of work he is in, where they go to church, what his hobbies are, and what brings the light to her eyes and her heart.

As a result of asking so many questions, I’ve become a pretty good listener.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately. Sweet William and I have been walking a long stretch of road that has brought many questions to my mind.

A lot of “whys” have sliped into my prayers. A lot of “how longs” and “how is this going to turn out for good and for Your glory, Lord?”  I just want to understand the purpose of it all.  If I just knew the reasons, then maybe I could endure it with more patience and grace.

So I’m listening.

But I’m not getting many answers, as least not the ones I long to hear.

My questions are mostly met with silence.

When I was a child I remember someone saying “You should never question God!” It was a rather fearful-sounding admonition.

Yet when I read the Bible, I find there were quite a few people asking questions of God.

The Psalms are full of questions like “How long O Lord?” (6:3) and “Will you forget me for ever?” (13:1) and “Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide Your face from me?” (88:14)

Moses asked God, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease You . . .?” (Numbers 11:11)

Job asked a lot of questions.  He didn’t get the answers he wanted either.

I am glad that God is patient with me and my questions.  I don’t need to be afraid to cry out my pain and frustration in the safe haven of His tender mercies.

I’ve come to understand that while I can ask all l I want, it doesn’t mean I will get an answer when or how I would like it.

The bottom line is, God is God and He answers to no one.

God is in no way obligated to explain Himself to me or anyone else. His plan is from eternity to eternity, a time line I will never fathom. His thought process is not something my pea-brain can grasp. His ways are beyond figuring out.

All my questions spiral down to one.   That question is “Who?”

Who is like the Lord God?

Who can set the universe in order?  Who causes the wind to blow, the seas to roar, the moon to shine?  Who makes a baby smile, a caterpillar turn into a butterfly, a rose to smell so sweet?  Who loved me so much that He was willing to die rather than let me go?

Who can take the darkest night and shine His glory in the middle of it?

Though I may not be able to make sense of the present, some things become quite clear.  God’s love for me is demonstrated in ways I count daily.  Though His voice may be silent, I see His hand of grace in so many things.

Can I trust a God who does not answer my questions but instead asks me to be still and to know Him in joys yet to be discovered? Can I trust His promise that  all things will work together for my good whether is seems like it now or not? Can I believe that this present pain will produce future glory?

My answer to that question is “Yes!” No other answer will do.

 

Dear reader, thank you for returning after such a long time of me being away from Strengthen by Grace. Two months of intense care-giving to Sweet William has left me with little time and fewer words. By God’s grace, we will meet more frequently in days to come.