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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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Sunday grace

 

101_1664It was a free day, nothing scheduled, a rare treat. So I filled it.

  • Wrote a note to a friend experiencing depression to assure her of my care and devotion.
  • Mailed a gift to a young couple who just moved to a new area, them trying to find their place and settle into home.
  • Baked cookies and took them to a teenager who is recovering from a serious accident.
  • Delivered dinner to a family in crises.
  • Visited a friend and brought a small mum as a love offering.

Turned out, it was a busy day with an added trip to the grocery store and library, And there are always meals to prepare and cleaned up at the Wright House.

By evening, I was tired but exhilarated. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

There were those years not so long ago when we were the ones in need, and people gave and gave. Back then I looked forward to the day when we could be the givers. Yesterday was one of those days. And it was joyous.

Grace we have received. Grace we will offer.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

My devotional theme yesterday morning was about resting, and it took me to a familar passage, Psalm 23.

Sometimes things old and familiar can be common and ordinary if we are not careful.

I didn’t need to turn to the Psalm. I’ve known it by heart since a child, learned in Children’s Church when rewards were given for memorizing. Whatever works, and it worked for me.

As I quoted the verses by heart, I noticed afresh how they speak of resting.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I have all I need. I don’t have to concern myself with working for salvation or be consumed with the cares of life.

He makes me lie down. Why is it so hard to cease from our busy schedules and relax, be refreshed?

He leads me beside still waters. The rushing waters are beautiful and powerful, but the still waters invite me in to its gentle flowing.

He restores my soul. How I need this. Jesus tender touch on a weary brow, a heart that is broken, a soul that has drifted.

He leads me in paths of righteousness. This is His path, not one of my own making. His path is the right way.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Fear has torment and is the enemy’s tool. No matter the place I must go, my Shepherd is with me.  He is good and He is strong. He replaces anxiety with His very own peace.

Your rod and Your staff. Comforting tools of the shepherd are there to protect and guard, to guide and rescue.

You prepare a table for me. I love it when someone invites me over, prepares the food, and tells me to sit and enjoy. I am the pampered guest, and I feel loved.

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My cup runs over. Not “just enough” but more than enough. Christ’s love is everlasting, His mercies are ever new, His compassion fails not.

Goodness and mercy will follow me. I don’t have to chase them down and beg. They are pursuing me with the graciousness of my God.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Ah, here is the ultimate rest, to be absent from this body and present with my Lord. I am a member of the family and will make myself at home.

Because I will be Home. And nothing says rest to me like home.our house by Elyse

P.S. I took this Paslm to heart so much yesterday that I rested from from Sunday grace and technology.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

“In the body of Christ, how one person breathes affects the whole body,” writes Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way.

The final chapter, “Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken,” is scrawled with underlines. I identify with so many of the words.

I feel a bit broken this morning. Broken by cares and concerns. Because the world is broken, and all the programs and politics and plans cannot fix it.  We are living in brokenness.

Through the night, I wake and breathe prayers for ones I love and hold dear. My first thought of the morning is the same.

Out my kitchen window lies the beauty in my back yard, so lush and fully green. I hear birds chirping and singing, the tiny wren with the biggest voice singing his heart out. Flowers in colors bold, and I am stunned at their offerings, how they keep coming back each year in spite of my sometimes neglect.

The earth was called forth, creation was completed and called “good.” And it was so very good. But something has happened to it, to us. Sin has wrecked havoc on the planet, on its citizens. And what are we to do?

We must share our brokenness, open the cracked heart and let each other in. Let the desperate cries of the wounded be heard as we acknowledge our own broken. For none of us are whole on our own. We hold each other up. We rejoice together and celebrate. We weep with another and grieve. We feel the pain when one of us is bruised.

We must seek with open hearts to model the One and only perfect man who came into our brokenness and was susceptible to it. He didn’t turn away from our mess but instead walked right up and embraced the leprous, the bleeding, the outcast, the demon possessed, the dead, the sinner.

He allowed Himself to be fully broken in full view, shamed and forsaken. And then He showed us His scars.

Can we be so vulnerable and share our scars, our pain? We must if we are to enter into the suffering of one another.  To have true fellowship and relationship, there must be an open heart reaching out to another open heart.

Put away the perceived perfections, stop pretending we have it all together. Because we don’t. We don’t.

It takes humility to admit I am broken and in need. And it will be grace that binds up my wounds with healing ointment. If I am willing, someone will be at my side, helping my woundedness heal. With tears in her own eyes, she will embrace me and say, “It’s OK. I’ve been there too.”

Sunday grace.

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