Rejoice

Yes, I know it is not Christmas anymore (technically) and I am well aware it is New Year’s Eve. But this glorious song reminds me that EVERY DAY is Christmas for those who know Jesus. My weary worldly soul rejoices at the fact that I know and love a God that graces me with unconditional and every lasting love. Rejoice…and again, I say…Rejoice.

Blessings to you and yours in 2017.

Laughing in the Rain.

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Driving down the highway is always an experience.

Halfway to my destination today, I saw a convertible Beetle similar to my own. The difference though was my convertible top was closed but the other was down and open to the elements.

…it was raining.

The occupants were laughing hysterically while getting drenched and I reveled in their joie de vivre. They were ecstatic.

All days are not sunny and sometimes the rain pours down upon my head. But, it is up to me to choose to laugh in the rain knowing it will pass or wallow in misery.

God doesn’t promise perfect days, perfect people, or a perfect life. But what He does promise is to cover me with His grace and love.

That is something to hold onto on less than ideal days because I want to laugh in the rain. I really do.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

Born Again…

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I am not afraid of birthdays. I embrace them. Today, I celebrate my 61st.

Many years ago, I was sitting at the funeral for one of my dearest lifelong friends, Paul Marshall May, and it just struck me that I would never complain about getting older. He was a young man who would not live to see his very small children grow up and enjoy years with his family.

I think of Paul often and I miss him dearly but I honor him on my birthday as a way to remember that our days are numbered as we wait to be cross over Jordan and head homeward. Paul was so full of the joy of life and while cancer robbed him of his earthly days, his faith guaranteed him an eternity of birthdays. His legacy is his faith, his family and the beautiful music he could create on the church organ. Paul was amazing.

We grew up in church together with our families and know what it means to be born again. On each birthday, on each day, I too am born again. I walk one step closer toward Jesus and that is just all right with me.

Happy 61st birthday Paul and thank you Jesus for the many gifts you have given to me…but most of all, for the gift of grace.

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Palm Sunday

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Honestly, I hate palm trees.

As a native Floridian, I know that may sound sacrilegious but I really find them to be ugly, messy trees. They just don’t have the beauty of the willowy drake elm or fine spread of a wide oak tree. However, in Jesus’ time the palm branch symbolized triumph and victory. I get it.

So this week, I’m all about the palms. It’s Palm Sunday tomorrow and a day to remember something special. It was a great day when people cheered Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Every day I welcome Jesus into my heart and home. I love Him so. I pray, read, study and discuss the Bible with friends. I talk about Jesus grace and love for me. I worship Him.

But, I also know that I don’t live up to my Christian calling. I make mistakes, big mistakes, and I am not the person God has called me to be. It’s not for lack of trying; it is simply the failings of the flesh and the sinful nature of my soul. I don’t want to sin, I just do.

So while I know that I would have almost certainly be in the crowd praising Jesus’ arrival, I wonder if I wouldn’t have also been one to stand at the cross. Would I have denied him three times or would I have carried His cross?

I know what I would hope to do. I know how much I love Jesus. But I also know that God knows all of this and loves me just the same. Grace, grace, God’s grace – grace that is greater than my sin.

In my heart, I’m waving my palm branch! Hosanna!

Tough Memories of Heroes – Lent 9

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My Dad was a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany. It was an important part of his legacy.

As the pilot of a B-17, he was shot down over Stuttgart and parachuted into a lake where he treaded water until the German military arrived. Any soldier who swam to shore would be beaten or killed by waiting citizens. This was the reality of war.

My Dad did not start talking about his war experience until late in life. I think his sons, grandsons (one of whom is a Naval Commander) and friends wanted to know his story. It was dramatic and cringe-worthy and was difficult for me to comprehend. War is just so horrible.

This was a big part of my Dad’s life; a life lived well with significant highs and lows. The war was a low point for a man who was never defeated in spirit.

However, I really didn’t want to hear about it. I didn’t like to hear about my Father in danger.

I am proud of my Father’s heroism and his military skills of survival. But, I liked the Dad that I knew personally. You see, my Father was one of the most fun-loving and joy-filled people that I ever knew. He had a wicked grin and a lovely sense of humor. He delighted in pranking his children and pulled some funny, funny tricks over his 91 years on this earth. There are so many stories that I can’t begin to share them all. Suffice it to say, there was rarely a dull moment around my home. He was the life of the party and the person we all wanted to be around. He was a magnet for people and they clung to him in love and laughter.

Dad had seen the worst in people including some horrid atrocities that come with being a soldier in combat. He had seen death in so many ways and did not relive those moments often.

Lent is like that for me. I have to force myself to walk through the awful process to get to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I don’t want to consider the beaten, spit upon, abused, and mocked Jesus. That’s too hard. I don’t want to think of the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus. It is simply too painful to ponder. But sometimes, we have to remember in order to understand and appreciate the never-ending gift given to us through the shed blood of Christ. Sometimes we have to go through the worst to get to the best.

My Dad’s laugh resonates in my heart. My Lord’s sacrifice blesses my soul. The grace of Jesus Christ keeps me safe.

I am grateful. Eternally so…

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33

The Red Doors – Lent 4

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I love a red church door.

In the more traditional religious denominations, a red church door was considered a symbol of entering into worship, into the presence of God, through the blood of Christ, the sacrificial lamb of God.

The church has historically been a place of refuge from the evils of the world both real and perceived. It remains so today.

I urge you to find your red doors. The church is not perfect but it is a place of peace and a refuge from the highs and lows of life. It is a place to share joy, peace and love. It is a place of reflection.

Most of all, through those red doors you will find God waiting to wrap you in love and spread His never-ending grace upon your weary soul.

Enter in…

Bigger God for a Bigger Year

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My dog Buddy thinks he is bigger and badder than any other dog. He’s not.

Buddy was quite literally dropped off at our door and into our arms. His former owners ran for their car and thus he was adopted into our home. We have never regretted this decision and he is a fine young man although possessing a rather interesting personality.

We had three small female dogs when Buddy arrived but he adapted and fit perfectly into our family. They loved him and he returned their affection. But then we took Buddy for a walk. His demeanor quickly changed and we were shocked to find a total lack of socialization and a very aggressive behavior that was troubling. All the more so because we were in a charity walk for our local Humane Society. They looked at us like we were the worst pet parents and we tried to explain that he was a recent rescue who had never behaved so poorly.

The interesting thing is the bigger the other dog, the more Buddy goes into attack mode. On a good day and with a full stomach, Buddy weighs about 12 pounds. He was not deterred…he wanted to go for the jugular of any Rottweiler or Doberman he could sink his tiny teeth into. It was alarming.

We have had Buddy a long time and tried many things but the bottom line is that somewhere in his past 8 years, he was hurt and became aggressive with other dogs. In his mind, Buddy is bigger than he thinks.

Somehow, I like this. I know I should not and we never allow him to engage with any dog because I don’t want him killed. But I like the way he thinks. He’s a big, bad dude and no one is going to mess with Buddy. Get on board or get out of his way. He’ll eat you for breakfast. Simply put Buddy has a killer mentality.

As I think on this New Year, I want Buddy’s attitude. I want a killer mentality for Christ. I want to stir the pot. I want people to think about Jesus. I want to encourage others to remember what is most important in life…a Jesus that gave His all and gave it all for us. Go big with Jesus or go home.

I promise not to hurt anyone – I just want to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ. There is no room for timid behavior, we need to be aggressive as we share the good news.

Buddy would be proud.

Tell me the old, old story…

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I love singing hymns in church. But, I truly love old hymns…the standards of our faith.

I was baptized in the Episcopal and Baptist churches but I was raised a Southern Baptist. However, I returned to the Anglican faith many years ago where I enjoy the smells, bells and liturgy of the more solemn high church. My son-in-law is a die-hard Baptist and will be till the Lord calls him home. I can respect that. We both have our convictions. We both enjoy our church “home”.

The one thing we do share without question is our love for hymns. It’s not just the old standards but also the hymns sung up to and including the more contemporary songs enjoyed by many churches.

It often goes back to our conviction about organized religion.

I have debated the merits of one “religion” over another with priests and pastors throughout the years. Some are convinced that their brand is the “one true church” and holds the promise for salvation. I disagree.

Here is what I believe: I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe especially in His word…”Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. John 14:6

There is no one true church. There is only one truth and that is that Jesus is the way to salvation and grace. Whether you enjoy it in a formal high church or in a contemporary worship service is irrelevant. Whether you speak in tongues or you sit quietly without movement. It’s really all about Jesus.

Music simple serves as a portal to our souls and enhances our worship experience. That is one thing on which we can all agree.

 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure;

Save from wrath and make me pure.

 

Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

 

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

 

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyes shall close in death,

[originally When my eye-strings break in death]

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

 

Rock of Ages

By: Augustus Toplady

1776

Can I wear heels in heaven?

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I have been thinking about heaven a great deal recently. I find that it is a subject that never bores me and for which I am deeply curious.

So many people have theories on what heaven is like. Writers, theologians and just regular people all have some concept of heaven including how the angels will sound, and when we will meet Jesus. The dimensions of those pearly gates, St. Peter, our loved ones, a book filled with names…so many possibilities. I truly find it so intriguing and illuminating to hear people speak of this mystery.

I have heard writers hope that their version of heaven is like one large Barnes & Noble with comfy chairs, classical music and books galore. Others want heaven to be a golf course. Some hope to wear their high heels. Streets of gold? Lambs book of life? It’s all possible.

But I have my doubts (about the heels of course).

I do know this. I want to go to heaven. I don’t care what it looks like, sounds like, smells like or who I see. I want to walk with Jesus and have him call my name. I want to be told “Well done”, I want to thank Him for unending grace and outrageous love.

So, today, I press on for the prize and I live in the glow of knowledge that God loves us and waits for us. I look in the face of my grandchildren, I watch the birds soar, the rainbows appear and the feel of a loved one’s embrace…and I see heaven. It’s all a brief glimpse of glory for me. It’s that intangible perfect peace and love that can only be gifted by God.

Heaven is for real. This I know.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12