Sunday is for sinners…

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I am one of those people who really needs to go to church.

It is not that I think organized religion is a panacea for what ails you…it is my need to be accountable to God. Yes, I am a born-again sinner and in church I find myself surrounded by fellow fallen angels. This is as it should be. We are in the right place to begin again to set things to rights.

My Anglican/Baptist soul longs to be reminded “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I’m just your run of the mill backsliding, commandment breaking and wicked sinner. That would be me. I don’t take glory in this, in fact, I want to be perfect. It is just that perfect is so hard to accomplish.

I find that church is the one place that this sinner feels welcomed unconditionally. God whispers to me and tells me to take a load off – he’ll take my sorry soul and work some heavenly magic. I believe this. I turn myself over and realize that no matter how many times I muck things up…God will gift me some much needed grace. Without that promise, I’m not sure what would happen to me.

I’m grateful for reminders. I’m grateful for God’s never-ending grace. I’m just plain grateful.

See you next Sunday.

 

Once Upon A Time

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I like to make up stories with my 5-year old granddaughter. She is quite the storyteller.

But she always starts her stories with “Once upon a time…” which I find charming. As for me, I share stories of dogs, bears, cats and all sorts of heroic characters but without her opening.

But I will use it today.

Once upon a time…there was a baby born in Bethlehem who would change the world. This was not as expected by some but foretold by many. He was such a special baby that people would want to kill him throughout His life.

But this baby grew up to be the savior of the world and even when He died…He died for us and for a happy ending. That’s a story I want to hear every day and I want to share with others.

I’m grateful for Lily Lee’s fictional fables and for the many books I’m lucky to read. But I’m really grateful to tell her about Jesus, the true hero and savior for us all.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

 

Oh my word…

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I wish I could tell you that I started this blog to begin my illustrious writing career. That would not be true.

I wish I could tell you that I started this blog to share my deep theological knowledge to the masses and to transform lives. That would not be true.

I wish I could tell you that I intend to make a difference in the world. That would be true but not wholly realistic.

What I can tell you is this. I like to write, blog, and share my thoughts. I am not a trained, educated or skilled theologian. I just know what I feel and I feel that God led me to this place.

Where it will take me? I don’t know…but I really don’t care. This is a wonderful opportunity to share. But most importantly, it is a chance to give my family something for the future. A chance for them to know how much I love them and love God. It’s a chance to show them I still take risks. It’s a chance to let them know that I don’t care what anyone thinks except for Jesus.

It’s a chance…

Anger Management

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Of all the human emotions, the one that I have the most problem with is anger. I just don’t get it.

I work in a profession involving mood swings, emotional decisions and highly charged situations. I have yet to see anger solve anything and typically it causes everyone to loose all rational thought. Rancor reigns and it is just so unnecessary.

I truly believe that issues can be resolved through a thoughtful process of communication. We may not always agree, but we can agree to politely disagree. It’s called civility. I wish there was more of it.

Yes…Jesus was angry on a few occasions but not typically so. His message was love, love and more love. In fact, Jesus extols the truth that love is the greatest commandment.

My father was a survivor of WWII and a former POW in a Nazi camp. The Nazi army marched my Dad and his fellow soldiers all over Germany and Poland. My Dad spoke of carrying the officers guns for them when they tired. How’s that for a witness of God’s love? My Dad always said “Kill them with kindness” and he meant it.

I endeavor to do so.

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12 (NIV)

 

What was lost is now found…our dog Buddy

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My dog Buddy came to us in the most unexpected way. He was dropped into my huband’s arms after answering the door late one night. The person took off running and never looked back.

My husband stared at me in wonder. I took one look at this messed up and battered puppy and ran into the bathroom to begin the process of removing fleas from his matted hair. He had more fleas than I have ever seen in my life. My oldest daughter rushed over and it took us until two in the morning to rid him of these pests. We ruined my husbands hair clippers in the process.

It was all worth it.

I dutiful took him to the vet, had him scanned for a chip (no chip), realized that HE (I never had boy dogs) was not fixed, and watched for lost dog reports. As the proud owner of three rescued female dogs, we had absolutely no intention of keeping him but were intent on finding him a good home.

I named him Buddy.

Buddy was great with our dogs. They loved him and welcomed him into the pack. It was not until we went for walks (specifically an ill-advised animal shelter fundraiser) that we realized he was not socialized and obviously had led a rather harsh young life. He was in full on protective mode. Buddy had issues.

We made one attempt to place Buddy with another family but I couldn’t do it. There was something about this young man that pulled at my heart; so he was adopted into the Hutchinson clan. My husband, who was against this decision at first, became Buddy’s biggest and most loyal advocate. To this day, Buddy follows him everywhere and waits for my husband’s return from work. In a house full of women, I think they have a “bro” code that I can’t break.

What does this have to do with God? To me…everything.

God takes the most broken, beaten and abused people and can fix them. He loves us just the way we come to Him. When we misbehave, He still loves us. We don’t have a “code” with God…we have a covenant. His love is unconditional. His grace is sufficient for our needs. We are His favorite. We belong to Him.

We are redeemed…just like Buddy. We are no longer lost. We are lucky indeed.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68

 

Right turns…

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Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

We have been on vacation this week and it has been an interesting trip.

The home we are renting near the ocean has a unique entry…the road splits into two as you enter the village. Cars turn right to enter through a longer route while the left lane is reserved for drivers leaving the complex. It is always tempting to cheat and take the shortcut and turn left when there are no cars in sight. But, that doesn’t make it a good decision.

Last night my husband and I were returning after an evening drive and the road was free of traffic. But, Ken took the right turn and the long way home. It was a small decision but I have thought about it a lot today. My husband is a rule follower. He is the kind of person who makes good choices in life. He doesn’t cheat or take shortcuts. I admire that about him.

I think we are led or in some cases, misled to believe that everything will come easy if you only believe in God. Popular and best-selling authors challenge us to simply think, wish or expect riches and material blessings will pour down upon you. While I do believe that God wants the best for us – I believe that you also need to work hard and make good choices.

It may seem easier to take the shortcuts. But don’t shortcut God. He wants you to seek Him and that requires effort. It requires some prayer, study, reflection, and more.

Learning to do the right thing may cause you to take a longer and more arduous journey but in the end…it’s the best thing to do and I believe it’s a journey that God will bless.

 

Tiptoe through the tulips

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Over 35 years ago I was firmly entrenched in planning a wedding. As typical, life was chaotic but it did not deter me from trying to coordinate the perfect honeymoon.  I was insistent that we spend our first night overlooking the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale. Everything would be perfect.

Until we got to the hotel.

Weeks of planning culminated in our arrival at a rather shabby inn. Added to that, it was NOT on the beach. In fact, it had no views, was dingy and as a result was undergoing major renovation. Not the most ideal of circumstances. I remember distinctly that the clerk was trying desperately to cheer me up by sharing that the entertainer known as “Tiny Tim” was also staying at the hotel. Don’t know about you, but a honeymoon with Tiny Tim was not on my bucket list.

Fast forward so many years and I realize now that this was a great beginning to a crazy life journey. This was not a major disaster…it was a minor inconvenience. We have laughed over this story many times having spent countless great vacations in cities all over the world.

No matter how hard I try to make everything perfect, there is often something that comes up and makes us change course. It’s all good. The end result is what matters. It’s the forest…not the trees.

My botched honeymoon doesn’t equate to the serious issues of life…those things came later and without warning. Life is like that. But, it reminds me to trust God and move forward in faith. Good things come out of bad situations…they really do. It’s a learning journey and we are all onboard for the ride of our lives.

As my pastor always said, “God is Good”

…all the time.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Forgiveness 101

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One of the things that I constantly struggle with is forgiveness and I’m way too old to keep this up. It is now or never for me.

There seems to be so many people on my naughty list who have harmed me in some egregious manner. To be honest, it’s a long list going way back. Add to that, my ability to forgive does not come easy. I am embarrassed to share that with you.

But I have to remember that if I don’t forgive, the ultimate loser will be me.

To hold on to hurt or hateful feelings is a self-defeating thing. It will eventually harden your heart and Lord knows, I don’t want a hard heart.

I know that if God tallied up my sins, mistakes, and wrongdoings, it would be pretty hard to forgive me. It’s a rather long list. The inability to forgive is contrary to the good news of the gospel since forgiveness is at the core of our faith. To forgive, as Christ forgave us is the ultimate victory over sin.

Am I perfect? Not at all. But I’m weary of holding these negative hurts in my soul. It has to stop.

So, before my friends, I vow to forgive. I want a contented soul and I can’t move forward without this. Most of all, I’m grateful for a loving God who forgives me daily.

I’m starting fresh today with a loving, contrite and most of all, forgiving heart. Lord, hear my prayers…

 

Hard days

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Some days are just better than others. We can’t get away from that reality.

Some days we have difficult people surrounding us spreading strife and hatefulness. This is one of those days.

Some days we miss people who have meant so much to us and have now gone to glory. The pain runs long and deep for those we have lost. This is one of those days.

Some days there don’t seem to be good answers. This is one of those days.

But as a believer, I know better days are ahead. I’m grateful for a God who reminds us that all of this is only temporary and will pass. I’m grateful for even bad days.

…this is one of them

All you need is love

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From birth to death there is one constant in this earthly life.

Everyone wants to be loved.

I know we need food, money and shelter but it all means nothing if you are not loved. I watch as people self-destruct, shoot up schools, fight and bicker and harm innocent people. It’s raging against the obvious…a lack of love.

How sad that people don’t look first to the One who loves us unconditionally. A God who IS love.

When we realize that we truly matter to someone else – it makes life so much sweeter.

I wish it for you my friends…love, sweet love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.…1 John 4:7-8