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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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February ending 2018

While Valentine’s Day is what I think of in February, spring has been on the move.  There were record-breaking high temperatures and heavy rainfall that threatened flooding . We watched the news and watched the waters rise. We prayed for peace and prayed for neighbors who were severely affected. We renewed our trust in a God who controls wind and wave, heat and cold, rain and sunshine.

The birds started singing in the early mornings this month and my daffodils began to bloom today. I anticipate spring with joy. In the morning I open the window where I sit with coffee and Scripture, listening for the first chirp, and soon the sound of other birds echo in our little woods.

Rabbits are hoping in the yard again. Which means Maisie will want to chase them again.

The geese on the lake across our road are pairing up. There’s a lot of honking and posturing among the males. I spied a couple of blue birds flitting about the bird house in the back yard. It’s nesting time. I savour the sights and sounds of the coming season.

I heard the cranes flying overhead twice in February. It is always a surprise gift to be outdoors at just the right time. When I hear their call, I stop what I’m doing, and scan the sky for the flock overhead.

It’s one of those sounds that makes me smile and takes me back to a Sunday afternoon when the grandchildren were small and living in the house next door. The three of them were with Sweet William and me for a few hours that day, and it was warm enough to be outside. We heard an unfamiliar noise overhead and began to look for its source. On that day years ago, there were hundreds of crane flying so high we could barely see them. But we heard them. Flocks of them flew over and we watched and listened. It was one of those moments of discovery imprinted on my mind.

I am pursuing depth this year and a book by Cal Newport fell into my hands in February. I don’t always pick a word for a year but this time I chose “Deeper.” At times I’ve felt like I had mile-wide commitments with inch-deep results. I’ve lived busy for many years. Now I want to live deep in many areas of my life.

It was easy, then, for me to latch onto Newport’s book from the library called Deep Work. He offers an intriguing proposition that we are a distracted culture, multi-tasking, constantly online and connected via smart phones, attached to our social media accounts, and in many ways alway available to most everyone on our friend list.

I am evaluating how I spend my days, how often I check my laptop for posts and messages when it really is not time-sensitive. I’ve tried to make changes in the way I use technology in February so that technology does not control me. It should be a tool I use, not one that directs my day.

I also read a book of poetry, A Garden in Kentucky by Jane Gentry. Gentry’s poems were lovely and I enjoyed her way of writing about her home state and mine.

I’m not the biggest fan of poetry though I would like to be. I have often found it hard to understand. Perhaps I can blame it on my high school experience when we were forced to read an epic poem, Evangeline, which was long and made no sense to me at all.

My creative juices flowed freely this month. My cousin and I took an introductory weaving class at the library, making a simple loom from a piece of cardboard. I learned the basics, then took my project home to finish into something quite pleasing.

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I visited the  Paint Spot for the very first time. Actually it was a Christmas gift from a friend who decided that giving me a shared experience was better than another scarf. And she was so right. I relaxed while I painted my coffee cup, and it was twice as nice with my friend.

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This month, I decided I feel better when I change into real clothes even on the days when I don’t have to go anywhere. One of the perks of being part-time retired is that I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want. And some days I have. But I feel better prepared for the day if I put on decent clothes, wash my face, add a little mascara, and comb the bed head out of my hair. I’m not sure if I am more productive or not. That remains to be seen.

I finally had time to get acquainted with the newest neighbor on our quiet lane. The couple moved in before Christmas and we briefly met, but cold weather and short days kept us all indoors. As the days warmed and lengthened in February, it was the right time for coffee and muffins. My neighbor who lives in the house next door joined us at the table, and the two young women found common ground as they chatted. It was lovely to behold.

Sweet William and I visited my friend at her farm in the next county. She has created a beautiful home, and we find the miles to get there worth the trip. She fixed us eggs from her own chickens, gave us carrots to feed the horses, and showed us her latest projects. We stayed so long that she brought out lunch meat for sandwiches. And we ate again.

I gathered with a group of beautiful women early in the month for Table Life, the first of four sessions, where we are learning to do life at the table with the awareness that Jesus wants to be there with us. It coordinates beautifully with my “Deeper” work of building relationships, of savoring the moments with dear friends and family, of investing in lives and eternity rather than in things that fade quickly.

Jesus left us an example of spending time with people over a meal, demonstrating to us that the table is important. I am finding that amazing things happen when I take time to sit awhile, pour another cup of coffee, eat a muffin or scrambled eggs, and enjoy the fellowship of one another. We are able to share our lives with one another and listen to what the heart is saying.

Love  happens at the table and Christ is in our midst.

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Sunday grace

Day is nearly done. Night settles into cold darkness.

Fresh baked bread sits on the counter. Maisie sleeps on her big pillow beside me. The fire pops as if it were real and not just gas spurting through artificial logs.

We have food, clothing, shelter. And we are content.

I hear from friends both near and far and anticipate communion with them next week. We nap on the couch, snuggled under fleece throws, gifts from a giving hand.

The Sabbath is nearing its end for us. Tomorrow is a day of doing and going and accomplishing. But today, I can be unhurried, relaxed, accepting my limitations and that I do not run the universe.

We are blessed beyond measure, more than we deserve. Grace upon grace flows down from the Fathers benevolent hand.

God is in His Heaven, but He is also here with us.

Sunday grace.

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