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Sunday grace

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Unsought words penetrate my thoughts. And what have I been given?

Life. Parents who loved me. Extended family who helped mold me. A sheltering home. An opportunity to learn to read, write, explore.

A husband, and then a son. A daughter-in-love, and then three grandchildren.

Long-time friends and new friends who know me and accept me as I am. Neighbors who share my lane and look out for me

Meaningful work. Music and a gateway to share it with students and in ministry.

God the Father, the Word, the Holy Spirit desiring relationship with me, seeking me, forgiving me, living in me to be guide, comfort, teach, and help.

Strength to engage in life. A mind to think and reason and create.

Much has been given. What is required?

To act justly, to do kindness, to walk humbly with God.
To love God and love others.
To give thanks.

Sunday grace.

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Monday grace

I’m reading a book about the ageless soul, written by someone well past my years, who talks about aging vs being old.

It is the perfect time of life to think about aging. I see the signs in the mirror and feel it when I walk up the steps, when I kneel down and then try to get up.

This body of mine bears the marks of the life I’ve lived. I can hardly wrap my mind around the nearness of the next decade. Only five months away from what seemed ancient when I was a teenager. And now it is on my doorstep.

The decade markers are weighty, and my candle burns.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.
Psalm 90

Seventy years. Maybe eighty. My dad lived past ninety. Will I? I’ve been here a pretty long time already. What is before me? How much time is left on this earth?

Aging happens to all of us, even my four-month-old littlest neighbor is growing, changing, becoming something different. He is aging.

Old is not the same as aging.

Aging brings experience, knowledge, wisdom. It is life-giving. My true self emerges and continues to grow strong even while my body, which is the tent, lacks its former vigor.

” . . . we emerge in our older years with the beauty and wings of a butterfly.”
— Thomas Moore

I love butterflies, the way they float with the gentlest breeze, stop to nibble a flower and sip the lifegiving nectar. They move unhurried, enjoying the brief life they are allotted.

In the quiet of the early morning I looked backward, into the years gone before. I muse on the hard places, events that changed life as I knew it. I observed how God used the tests and trials, the joys and victories to teach and mold and conform me. I have aged. My soul has been nurtured. I have participated and found purpose in my life.

I considered my years, the number of them left on this earth in a body that is temporary. I will not be afraid of my tomorrows, however they come. There is a loving hand, a true heart, a purposeful Father who guides my years, my days, who gives my every breath. He was always there. He is here now. He will be where I am going.

So I will watch the days of the calendar tick off one by one. I will live in the newness of life in Christ Jesus my Lord. I will love life and sip the nectar it offers.

And I will go and be like the butterfly.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

I am yet to comprehend God’s mercy.

Even when someone tries to explain it. Even when a story attempts to portray it. Even when I read about it in the Bible, I still struggle to understand the depth to which it flows.

How could God love the world so much? How could He love me? How can I fathom the lengths of love He extended to have a relationship with me?

Why in the world did He who was without sin not cast the first stone at the sinner? He could have. He was the only One who had the right. But He didn’t. Instead He gave mercy.

Neither do I condemn you.

But after the words of forgiveness come the challenge.

“Go and sin no more.

Who can even do that? Go and sin no more? I only wish. In fact, I try. And I fail. Then I feel the shame of not measuring up to the high standard of holiness.

“Be holy for I am holy.”

Woe is me, I am left undone and without hope.

“My power is made perfect in weakness.”

In my weakness, Christ’s power rests on me. His greatness is shown through my frailty. For when I am weak, then I am strong through Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

I am yet to comprehend God’s grace.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

I have needed a little sunshine.

The grey days of a Kentucky winter are getting to me. It’s the same each year, the rain, the clouds, the cold. Days are short. Darkness lasts long.

Yesterday’s prediction of snow greeted me early morning. I saw the moon out my kitchen window, a lovely surprise. I hadn’t seen it in days, weeks maybe. Then there was a real sunrise and blue skies, and despite the cold, it was beautiful outside, the world brightened.

January has been different, my usual organizing frenzy delayed. Family matters were priority, and Sweet William and I spent long hours on the road to give comfort. Really, we were the ones needing solace, the balm which comes from being with those we hold dearest to our hearts.

I become more contemplative at the beginning of a year. I seek out quiet to think; write my heart in a journal; read in hopes something will dazzle me; look to God’s Word for inspiration. Silently pray.

I’ve slowed myself these weeks since coming back home. Familiar routines guide my days. I resolve to eat from the freezer and the pantry, not running to the grocery unnecessarily.

I turned on lights throughout the house to cheer us on the sunless days, lit candles for fragrance. I cut evergreens from the yard and put in vases, a breath of nature. The book I read about Hygge (pronounced HOO-GA) told me to find pleasure in the simple things.

Finishing a book about mercy today, I determine to give mercy to others more quickly. I see that I need to give mercy to myself.

On this coldest day of winter, we have been warm, well fed, protected. I numbered my blessings in the pink spiral journal, because I must. There is much for which to give thanks.

This from Stacy J. Edwards gives me pause, dazzles me:

Our hope comes from what we know. Not what we feel. Not what we see. Not what someone else has said.”

My perspective changes. The grey days of a Kentucky winter that are getting to me are not my end. The low-grade sadness I feel is not who I am. My hope is not in the realization that the days are getting longer and thus spring is coming.

My hope comes from what I know. And this one thing I know above all. God is love and He loves me.

Sunday grace.

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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