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December ending

December ends and so does another year, and my mind runs amok with a multitude of thoughts.

The month ended in a frenzy of unexpected stress, unplanned events, things I didn’t see coming. In a way, it felt as if I were blindsided.

As I opened the Scripture this morning, seeking a word of comfort, my ribbon marker opened to Psalm 100, a short chapter I memorized as a child.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

The familiar words of the King James Version came easily to my mind. I was refreshed with their ancient newness, words of assurance and love, reminding me to praise no matter what the day produces. I kept them in my heart throughout the day, believing that God is who He says He is and He meant every word that He preserved for me to read.

December was joyously spent with friends and family. Tables filled to the brim with few and many, shared meals or simply a cup of hot cocoa. Conversation was always the prime ingredient. It was beautiful, and I’m grateful for the gift of relationship that lasts all year long.

The holiday season was busy with a recital, a craft fair and birthdays added to the hustle of gift buying, cooking/baking, and opening our home every chance we got. I’m always down to the last wire getting the Christmas boxes to the post office in time for delivery to our dear ones. I have settled it in my head that I’m a late gift-wrapper. I can’t seem to do it ahead of time in spite of the wrapping paraphernalia setting out in readiness since the first of the month.

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In contrast, there were quiet days for contemplation, shared devotionals with Sweet William, time to sit by the fire and sip slowly of life. I appreciate days like that. Too much, my younger self spent all her days in frenzied activity. I’ve learned that slow is a good speed for me.

I re-read an old book, Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a fictional account of Mary and Joseph in the days of their betrothal through the birth of Jesus. While much of the story was imagined, the Biblical details were accurate. I enjoyed thinking about the young couple, the love they might have shared, the criticism they endured from Mary’s unique pregnancy, and the hardships of a long trip to Bethlehem ending with birthing in a stable.

The drama came alive to me, a real story with real people living out an unusual calling. I was reminded that God’s ways are different, to say the least. His ways are higher, too profound and deep for me to completely understand. And yet, He is so near, so involved in history and our daily lives. He came to be with us so that we could know Him. Amazing.

And so we begin a new year. In an odd sort of way, I like endings and beginnings, the closing of a book cover only to open another, finishing a project with the satisfaction that I can move on to something else. It is the anticipation of starting fresh and new, like the untouched page of a new journal or notebook. It awaits the imprint of inked words.

As I reviewed my bullet journal and prepared the new one, I saw that I didn’t complete many of the major projects I’d planned to do this year.  Which presents me with a conundrum. If they were not a real priority, what shall I do with them in the coming year?

I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll just go like a butterfly, take each day as it comes, feel  for the wind of the Spirit and go where He is moving.

I kind of like thought.

Happy New Year 2019! 

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Sunday grace

Trying to read with fresh eyes, I ponder the first stories told by Matthew and Luke. I see ordinary people doing ordinary things.

A priest performing his regular duties at the temple in Jerusalem.

His wife back in Judea keeping the home fires burning.

A young woman minding her own business while preparing for her pending nuptials.

A carpenter building a home to make ready for his bride.

A band of shepherds working the night shift, watching for predators of the smelly sheep  in their charge, them just trying to stay awake.

The Magi, men whose assignment was to study the sky at evening’s blackness, hoping for some new discovery.

People doing everyday tasks, much like me.

But then their regular lives were touched by the holy. Angels appeared. Dreams intruded. A star blazed as a wondrous sign. Life is not normal anymore. Suddenly everything is changed.

There is holiness around us, trying to get our attention, inviting us to slow and see it. Holiness wanting to break in to the mundane so we can experience the extraordinary measure of grace.

The story of Christmas has a beauty all its own. It needs no trappings of glitter or gifts, no decked halls or tables laden with delicacies , no spinning activities or full-to-the-brim schedules.

The story of Christmas is the Holy come down to earth to be with the ordinary. The Holy made single-cell small in order to enter into my world. The Holy, whose glory cannot be contained in a thousand universes, putting on flesh to be swaddled and held by a mere human. The Holy initiating a tender and astounding love that can make all things new.

This is Christmas. May we look for the holy in each moment of it, experience it fresh, slow to hear angels sing.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14

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

We drove far, well over an hour to get there. It was a labor, and a drive, of love. But it was worth the effort.

My friend’s son was getting married, the friend who has been my prayer partner for 13 years. She and I didn’t know each other before that evening years ago at a Bible study when we were “randomly” paired. We were asked to call each other sometime during the week and share our prayer concerns.

God only knew what He was about to do with us, between us, how He would grow us in the area of prayer.  He would show Himself faithful again and again. He would teach us that He hears our prayers and He answers.

As I watched the young groom stand at the front of the church, I remembered the many times we had called his name in prayer. I recall how his senior high school picture was placed on my refrigerator along with the photos of my grandchildren. It reminded me to pray for him at a critical time in his life.

It was sweet victory to see him, watching intently as his bride walked the aisle with eyes for him only. I know my friend and I will continue to pray for this young couple who begin their lives as husband and wife.

At the reception, my friend introduced me to people whose names I knew well, having prayed for them over the  years. I saw their faces for the first time. It was a tender and beautiful occasion for remembering the goodness of God.

I remarked to someone that this ongoing prayer relationship is a God thing, because we, my friend and I, are not that good. We are the recipients of a grace given. We take no credit for it. The glory belongs to our Heavenly Father.

The trip home from the wedding festivities was arduous, rain pouring down on us, traffic slowing on the interstate because of visibility. I didn’t realize until I was almost home how tightly I had been gripping the stirring wheel.

It was a hard, long drive, miles there and back. But the reward was great. I’m so glad we made the effort. I saw God’s hand. He calls us to be part of what He is doing, inviting us to go with Him, to seek Him, to ask Him. And then we find Him and we see His glory.

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

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We take our evening stroll, and the temperature is more bearable than it’s been in days. Still Maisie pants and I look toward the shady places where trees offer respite.

I pass by my neighbors and think of Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Hard stuff sometimes.

It’s easy to love the young couple who has been kind to us, coming to our rescue, inviting us into their lives. They made a place in our hearts soon after their move into the neighborhood. And they loved us freely.

Didn’t Jesus tell me the reward for loving those who love me is small compared to loving those who don’t like me, mistreat me, even despise me? The rubber meets the road right there under the blazing sun.

I’ve prayed to love this week, even this very day. It isn’t always easy because I can’t manufacture the feeling. I know love is supposed to be an action word, but a little emotion to accompany would be nice.

Of course, loving God comes first. How can I love my neighbor if I’m not fully committed to loving God? Because love comes from God and God is love. Without His invasion into my heart, my life, my entire being, I can’t expect to get it right.

I perceive this loving business is primary. Opportunities abound. People are everywhere. Some are lovable. Some are not.

Dear Father,
Infuse me with Your love. Plant me deep in it, like the trees, rooted and established, being able to grasp how wide, how long, how high, and how deep the love of Christ is, the love He freely gives to me. I want to know this love that surpasses knowledge. Fill me to the measure of all the fullness of God. And then teach me to love my neighbor as myself.  (Ephesians 3:16-19 and Mark 12:31)

It’s a tall order, a mountain-size request for me to love like that. But my God specializes in the miraculous.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.    — Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The new day dawns grey again. Snow and rain this week kept Maisie and me indoors more than we like. I hear birds in the early morning, and from the upstairs window I see trees blooming white in the little woods.

But spring feels illusive.

This chilly day is Palm Sunday, the pivotal day in history when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. More than just an ordinary ride, He was fulfilling the promise of old, giving the onlookers one more sign of who He really was.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
— Zechariah 9:9

Some recognized Him. Some did not. Some wanted to believe. Others choose to remain in their small world of skepticism.

There is so much to this simple story, the day of palm waving.

As people gather in churches to hear sermons about the one called Jesus, some will wave palm branches, some will wave away their boredom, some will wave at their friends, and some will wave away thoughts of tomorrow’s business.

All the gospels record Jesus entrance into the city and the beginning of His final week before the cross. The Jewish people were looking for a messiah, someone to save them from the tyranny of Rome, the cruelty of soldiers, the hopelessness of living without freedom.

They were looking for a king to rescue them.

Today we are still look for a rescuer.  Someone to make things better.  Someone to relieve our poverty.  Someone to raise our salaries.  Someone to give us what we want.  Someone to promise a better tomorrow.

No matter our nationality, our affiliations, our political persuasions, we want someone to come and save us, someone who will show us the way to a better life.

That Someone arrived in humble fashion on a Sunday two thousand years ago.  He came bringing peace.  He offered love.  He was hope.

But He didn’t fit the criteria of a king.  He was not the one they really wanted though He was the only One they desperately needed.

The One we are looking for is still Jesus.  He is the hope of all nations.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is the redeemer of our families.  He. Is. The. One. We. Need.

Wave the palms branches.  Lift your voice in praise.  Shout hosanna because blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

The King has come to save us.

Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.”

Sunday grace.
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Revised and reposted from March 2015

Sunday grace

On day two of this new month, the month of spring, I rise before dark as is my habit.  Coffee is first on my agenda. The coffee pot is the first thing to wake up so that its black  brew wakes me up.

I start a load of laundry, brush my teeth, then begin to turn out lights left on during the night to drive away the darkness. Maisie stirs but decides it’s too early; she curls up in her bed.

Sweet William dozes and I relish a little quiet before a new day begins, my list of to-dos weighing on my mind.

Then I spy the moon out my kitchen window. It’s full and beautiful in a clear, dark sky. After last week’s grey days, rain, and threat of floods, this sight takes my breath away. And I remember – it is a month from Passover.

The moon draws me this time of year. After today it will begin the waning cycle, ever so slightly becoming smaller and smaller until it disappears, only to re-emerge in the days following until it is full again. And then it will be Passover.

I read how there are two full moons in March this year (as there was in January with February missing out on a full moon altogether). The first one is on March 2 and the next one is March 30, the beginning of the Jewish Passover celebration.

Science books would explain its rotation and the shadows that block my view, but let me simply enjoy the beauty and mystery of it, the memories it conjures, the significance it has for me and for the whole world.

In the days that follow, I will watch the night sky, the moon cycle signaling the Passover season’s approach. Passover and the holiday of Easter are always connected, whether they are days or weeks apart. It is no accident that the remembrance of lambs slain for blood on the doorpost and the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world coincide. The events teach us if we will be willing learners.

 

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Passover was and is God’s object lesson. It was the shadow of the real and tangible Savior of the world, Jesus, the Lamb God, who alone would provide redemption for the sins of the world.

The anticipation of Passover carries me into the season of remembrance.  “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. The perfect Lamb, without spot or blemish, will provide freedom. My freedom.

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

                — 1 Corinthians 5:7

Will you watch the moon with me, its orbit planned and set by our creator God in the beginning?

He is the One who promises, and He is faithful to do what He says.

Sunday grace.

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