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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.
palm-sunday

 

Revised and reposted from March 2015
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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.

 

passover moon

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.

Image may contain: coffee cup, drink and indoor

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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Sunday grace

Christmas is grace if Christmas is anything at all.

If it had not been for His birth, there would be no Christmas.

Oh, there would be other holidays to acknowledge, other festivals and feast days, but no Rescuer come to save the perishing. We would be the people still walking in darkness, still trying our best to keep the law, continuing to do all the good works we could in hopes it would be enough.

It is never enough.

There would be no gifts to commemorate the wise, star-gazing travelers, no angels sitting atop evergreen trees, no anthems of joy, no manger scenes, no bells proclaiming peace on earth and goodwill to men.

But the mystery of heaven did appear. Majesty and splendor encapsulated small into human form. The living Word became cooing infant. The breath of  Jehovah took His first gulp of oxygen with a loud baby cry.

So whether on not there are presents under your tree – no matter the unsolved problems that weigh heavy – though anxiety threatens the atmosphere of your soul – when the future looks scary – if family members are missing at the table – know this for a certainty:

Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord!

He gives melody to our songs. He brings peace to our storms. He offers forgiveness to us sinners and mercy to we who were outcast. He is hope for the hopeless, joy for the sorrowing, strength for the weak. He is life for whosoever will.

He is the One and only who gives us reason to celebrate the season of Christmas. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promise, the Image of the invisible God, the Fullness of the Godhead.

He is Jesus, born the King and Messiah, the One we have been waiting for.

Come let us adore Him. Behold His glory and experience His grace.

Sunday grace.

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Revised and reposted from December 2016

 

Immanuel

I’ve written it in notes and Christmas cards this December, these words I am holding close this season.

Immanuel – God with us.

The hurry and flurry of the holidays keeps us hopping. Our homes are decorated with reds and greens, the twinkling lights gracing shrubbery, windows and the trees in our living rooms. Packages appear in brightly wrapped paper and gift bags. We wear our Christmas sweaters with pride.

Friends and family fill the spaces. We drink eggnog and eat too many Christmas cookies. Laughter rings through the house, and we are thankful for these people who gather at the table.

Yet, there are grieving hearts, longing souls, functions that are a little dysfunctional because we all have our own problems to deal with. Sometimes we put on a happy face so no one sees the pain, so we don’t rain on the parade as it marches down the street.

We get irritated with crazy drivers and clogged traffic, long shopping lines and the out-of-stock item we wanted under the tree. Checking accounts are running a little low, and there’s still a week of bills to pay. Our patience is in short supply when demands are made on us that feel more like obligations than celebration. We wonder if our Christmas spirit has gone into hiding.

December is much like every other month on the calendar, fraught with challenges and opportunities. We have a choice on where we will focus.

Emmanuel – In Hebrew, with us is God.See the source image

 

It was the prophecy of Messiah from the pen of Isaiah, re-written in Matthew as a reminder of its fulfilling.

These words, spoken to us by God over and over through our history, as if we are hard of hearing.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”    — Genesis 28:15

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”   — Exodus 33:14

 

“The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.”   — Psalm 46:7

Once more with a pronouncement from the angel Gabriel, God came to us wrapped in humanity, He whose name is Immanuel.

Nativity

He grew and experienced life as I do, with all of its ups and downs, with vigor and weariness, with smiles and tears, with joyful celebrations and heartbreak of separation. He came as the “with us God” and demonstrated to us that we are not alone.

As He left this earth in a burst of clouded glory, He gave one final reminder to those who believed:

 ” . . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”   — Matthew 28:20

Then sending the promised Holy Spirit, He remains with us in a way we could not have imagined.

Immanuel. God is with us.

Do not fret or be afraid. Walk in the power of His presence. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

Our God is with us.

emmanuel

 

A thankful journey

The nightly news is full of heartbreak, calamity, death, confusion. Sweet William and I feel the weight of tragedy in the world, in our communities, and among our own friends.

Digging a hole and burying our heads sometimes seems a viable option.

On the other hand, this is November, and I remind myself during this month especially to look for the light in the darkness. And so, I write out my blessings.

  • My piano students practicing to play difficult Christmas pieces and sounding good.
  • Attending Joy Group for the mature in body/young at heart and being welcomed by many.
  • Sitting at lunch with Karen and us chatting up a storm.
  • A meet-up with Amy at Panera Bread for coffee and a cranberry-orange muffin.
  • Lunch with Shirley, her flavorful potato soup, and the encouraging conversation.
  • Recital where my students were awesome!
  • Laughing and having fun with Helen as we visited a local craft fair.
  • Sweet William being sassy and fun, causing me to chuckle.
  • Time change and falling forward, enjoying that extra hour I’ve been waiting for since spring.
  • My granddaughter’s 17th birthday, pictures on Facebook of her opening the birthday box we sent, and her saying it was just what she wanted.
  • Grace to endure the distance and the miles between us.
  • K and M coming on their day off from school, talking, playing piano, making crafts, listening to music, them shedding their light all around.
  • Early prayer time with Julie who knows the highs and the lows of me like none other and loves me still.
  • Sweet Anna here to help me, her bringing her own brand of joy to us.

Life is hard, no doubt. There will always be trouble and problems. I could focus on that while despondency begins to wrap its bone-chilling arms around me.

Or I could pray for those in need, giving them to the God who is strong enough to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders, who knows what each person needs before I try to tell Him, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all I can ask for or imagine.

Then I am free to count blessings and look for His gifts. Then I can rejoice and be very glad.

Guy Penrod sings Count Your Blessings.

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