Reminders of His Promises

When I got to the end of the driveway this morning there were thick gray clouds stacked high in the west. Like a wary dog growling deep within, the rumbling of thunder was distant toward the hills.

So thinking I could beat the rain, and preferring to walk in the fresh air, I set off.

The pink edge of the sun peeked above the horizon at 6:31 and was completely visible two minutes later before sneaking behind bluer and grayer clouds just moments later.

Then raindrops began falling.

But I was nearing my set point, so I walked faster, dodging most of the wetness.

Reaching my spot, I turned to go home. And there, in its silent splendor was a complete rainbow! So high and wide that my phone camera could not capture all of it in one shot.

Praise was my response.

And then, unbidden, almost like the Holy Spirit’s whisper, was the reminder “God put the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise to never again destroy the entire earth with water.” (Genesis 9)

If God the Eternal needs reminders, I certainly do. And I find the best reminder of all his promises to me is to be in his word consistently.

Take time today to read his promises!August 16 2ndAugust 16 2016

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Not My Home

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Oh Lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

walking Granny home

When you are thirteen years old, you feel like your life is just beginning. You start learning from other adults outside your family circle. As you are exposed to a wider variety of friends and their families, you realize that your family is not the only way that people choose to live.

As I look back thirteen years, all four of my children’s grandparents were still actively involved in their lives.

One by one, every four years, we adjusted to life without a grandparent.

But saying farewell to the remaining grandparent was hardest.

Perhaps it was because we are now the “old” generation.

Or because of sharing life with her every day for thirty-five years.

Her home was just across the driveway, in full view of our home. She had been there to help with watching our girls when they were little.

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Tea parties, sometimes just because the girls had asked to use Grandma’s bathroom when they were outside playing in her trees. At other times, the tea parties were planned, with invitations, and a dress code requiring “dress up.”

She taught at least two of our girls to ride bike, spending hours starting them at the top of the gentle knoll in our driveway and running alongside as gravity coaxed them down the hill.

On many mornings, the girls would leave our house and run over to Grandma’s to wait for the school bus. From her window, they could see the bus turn the corner and be outside not one extra minute, which is important when the wind is blowing across the prairie.

Grandma also taught them to appreciate the big band songs of Lawrence Welk,  and the ballroom-style of dancing from the 40’s and 50’s.

When there weren’t enough people to play ROOK, she showed them how to play cards with a dummy hand.

And nearly every morning for those thirty-five years, she and I walked at least a mile together. We talked about everything, from gossip (yes!) to philosophy. And at times she credited me with her most recent health kick.

The last eighteen months of her life continued to be lived on her terms, mostly. We knew that our presence and attention made it possible for her to stay in her home. She loved her little house and took pride in its upkeep, even when it was physically challenging for her to do that.

Nearly a year ago, cancer beat out her healthy cells. She was at peace.

But this week, we let go again. Her house is gone. Emotions are mixed.

Rejoicing in the excitement of the new owners.

Relief that we no longer need to tend that property.

Reminiscing about the stories those walls could tell.

Reflecting that this world is NOT our home.

God promises that he is preparing a place for us with him. As I get older, and closer to the home he is getting ready for me, it is easier to let go.

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But when I saw her house go around the corner, down the road, never to be seen out my window again, my eyes misted, my heart clutched, and my breath came in ragged snatches.

And though God wants me to hold things loosely, I know He understands my sadness.

Lenten Series: And Can It Be?

On Sunday evenings, our church services were often heavy on singing favorite hymns spontaneously selected by those in the service. The high school Sunday school teacher had been a Lutheran before he married a girl from our church so I thought this hymn had its roots in that church tradition. Nearly twenty years ago when we began attending Central United Methodist church I was surprised to see it was written by Charles Wesley.

Corona Baptist

It is a great hymn to guide one’s thoughts about the mystery of our salvation. Human love might sacrifice for children or friends, but to take the death sentence for the one who wronged us? Sometimes it is all we can do to forgive them. But Jesus died for us, the very ones who have pierced his soul and broken His father’s heart.

While I’ve always believed that God existed, was omniscient, and eternal, this hymn roused a new question. “The immortal, eternal God-man died.” It does not seem possible. But because God designed this redemption plan, it happened. And it happened for our release from bondage, to release us from enslavement, and imprisonment in chains of our own making.

chains

Not only are we free of the wages of sin in death, but we can live free from fear. Jesus’ sacrifice has released us from condemnation, from the need to make blood sacrifices, to have a relationship with God the Father that is personal and intimate.

As you reflect on the words of this hymn, may it help you see the glory of Easter in a new way.

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And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!

Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Lenten Series: We Have an Anchor

Remember the night last week when the wind sounded like the beginning of a fierce blizzard?

Since the wind was from the south, I could walk in the protection of our trees. But the wind howled, and whooshed, and careened through the treetops.

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Somehow this song came to mind, tracing images of large sailing vessels with crews trying to get down the huge canvas sails to save the mast, its rigging, and the ship. The iconic anchor was lowered, waves crashing, bow bending forward and back.

Then I imagined hearing this song in four-part harmony with the Hammond organ leading the parts and the piano filling in the riffs. My favorite part as a little girl was the descending arpeggio the bass line punched out on the last line “Firm and Deep”. The words and harmony were a perfect marriage of meaning and music.

Though the storms of life sent the waves crashing over my life, the anchor is firm and the Rock is sure.  Having walked the valleys leading to the death of my mom, my dad, as well as my loving in-laws, I rest more easily knowing that He was stable, firm and sure in those places, too.

hands

In times when the month was longer than the pocketbook, when hands were tangled in machinery, when hearts were broken, when fevers raged, when our cattle’s feed lay trampled on the ground rather than staying on the stalk, our anchor was sure and secure.

How steadfast is the anchor of your life, the place you put your confidence?

heart of stone

Will Your Anchor Hold?

By Pricilla J. Owens

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

Refrain

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.

Refrain

It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

Refrain

It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—-
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.

Refrain

When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

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Lenten Series: In the Garden

After a cold, dark winter most of us revel in this change of season. And my mind turns to the garden.

Even though it is too early for most plants to poke through the frozen ground, wandering around my flower beds lets me enjoy the warmth and sun. Soon the tulips and daffodils will sneak up, and then seemingly overnight, break open the bright, cheerful blooms

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The garden is a place to meditate, to be still, to listen for God’s voice, as the old hymn expresses so lyrically. Not only do the birds sing, but worms quietly go about their work of enriching the soil. Every part of the garden links so beautifully to analogies about my walk with God.

“Spring has sprung!” My dad often said that after a few nice days. Though he would be antsy to begin turning soil, preparing his fields for planting, he would spend hours in the shop repairing and maintaining the tractors and implements. And often he would be humming or singing this song as he prepared for his garden, the fields.

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Not only did my grandmother love this song, she also loved her garden. Though as a child, I didn’t appreciate it, I remember the bright yellow and red rows of four o’clocks. During the winter her entry was filled with coleus potted in empty coffee cans, waiting for warmth and sun to once again be set outside.

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The legacy of hymns, God’s garden-whether my grandma’s flowers or my dad’s fields-and a positive expectation of life is a treasure in my life.

Where do you picture walking with God?

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing. [Refrain]

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling. [Refrain]

Lenten Series: Be Thou My Vision

No matter what our age or stage of life, stress wiggles its way into the cracks and nooks of our days. Music carries a balm for our spirit.

heart of stone

And when the melody is married to a message that reminds us that God is our vision, our focus, our “all in all.”

Though I’ve always loved this hymn, our daughter played this as one of her set of five songs to relax at the end of a day filled with school, activities, and work. She would walk in the back door, kick off her shoes, scan the frig for a nourishing—or not—leftover, glance through the mail, stack her homework on the table, say a few words, and then head to the piano.

Ellie & Ashley Spring 2009

My husband soon learned that if he wanted to listen to the ten o’clock news, he might as well go down to the basement. She would play for twenty to thirty minutes, the same favorite songs each evening, but I soon learned that the longer she played, the tougher her day had been.

The hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” was her final song. By the time she played through her repertoire, she was ready to pray these words through the music.

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Being reminded that He is the “Lord of my heart” made her find balance and focus once again.

And now, every time I hear this hymn, I think of her and pray for her needs.

What brings focus and delight to you?

Words attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th century

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father; thine own may I be,
thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

And here is a verse that I’d never heard before.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
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Lenten Series: I Wish We’d All Been Ready

Corona Baptist

In our small rural community, singing was a favorite pastime. Nearly everyone was a high school choir member. (With fifty-some students in the high school, we needed every voice!)

Our church youth group was blessed with strong vocalists, a bass guitar player, and a willing youth leader who played a mean piano. Over a few months, we prepared a program that was about an hour long. We even enlisted our moms to help us sew matching dresses in various pastel gingham shades.

After a test run in our home church, we were ready to accept invitations to other churches. It was exciting to be able to sing praises to God and encourage others in small communities. For all our work, we probably presented the blended musical program seven or eight times.

One time we were in a small, non-air-conditioned church on a warm, humid, summer evening. The platform was smaller than usual so we were generating a lot of heat without much air movement.

Interior like Corona Methodist Church

The contemporary piece “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” was a favorite of ours. In fact, we’d edited the ending to “Don’t be left….” without resolving the final chord. (Pretty hip for the early 1970’s!)

This night, just as we sang that, one of the guys in the back row crumpled to the floor. The crowd loved it, thinking that it was an effect for the message of the song. However, it wasn’t! I don’t remember what happened, but I think an adult took him out of the church into some cooler air and had him drink some water. It was just a case of too much heat and locked knees.

The message of this song remains powerful, a summary of what Jesus tells us in Luke 17.

Luke 17:28-36The Message (MSG)

28-30 “It was the same in the time of Lot—the people carrying on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp. That’s how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed.

31-33 “When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.

34-35 “On that Day, two men will be in the same boat fishing—one taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the same kitchen—one taken, the other left.”

We watch the signs of the time and believe that the Lord’s second coming is near. So did the disciples. What we do know is that it is closer than ever before.

Don’t be left….

return of Christ

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

By Larry Norman

Life was filled with guns and war
and everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready

children died the days grew cold
a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready

there’s no time to change your mind
the son has come and you’ve been left behind
a man and wife asleep in bed
she hears a noise and turns her head
he’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready

two men walking up a hill
one disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready

there’s no time to change your mind
the son has come and you’ve been left behind

there’s no time to change your mind
how could you have been so blind
the father spoke the demons dined
the son has come and you’ve been left behind

you’ve been left behind
don’t be left