Prayer

 

Dear Father… You are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving. Let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves. You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy. May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, through these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family.” – prayed by Jack in Home by Marilynne Robinson

You would have to read the book to understand how beautiful and sad this prayer is.  Jack, the “black sheep” of the family prays here and it nearly broke my heart. This is the prayer I need to pray. Every. Single. Day. I identify with the ‘no way to forgive ourselves’ sentiment. And the being blessed even while ungrateful and unworthy.

Prayer doesn’t change things, but prayer lays hold of God who changes things and Who, in prayer, changes you. And sometimes in the midst of it all He gives you the assurance that your plea has been granted. – from The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis

I like that part about how God changes us in prayer. And gives us assurance.

Thoughts on Grace – The Weak

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Extravagant Grace is a book written by Barbara Duguid. She uses John Newton’s teaching on sanctification to explain God’s sovereignty over sin. The quotes in this series come from her book.

 

“They (the weak in faith) are told they must run with all their strength, yet often find themselves barely able to lie on the ground facing the right direction.”
“We must love them, bear their burdens gently and help them to carry their loads, because they belong to us. They are our family in the Lord.”

 
Have you ever felt like you had so little faith that you didn’t even know how to approach God? Did you know that it’s actually God who gives you faith, and that He already knows what you are struggling with? When I am struggling, this is the verse that comes to mind: Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

 
As for loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord, this is a great verse to keep in mind – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

 
Some days you may be on one side of the fence and some days on the other. There will be times when your own faith is weak; there will also be times when you can lift up a weak one and help them to bear their burdens; and do it without judging.

Thoughts on Grace – Humanity

Extravagant Grace is a book written by Barbara Duguid. She uses John Newton’s teaching on sanctification to explain God’s sovereignty over sin. Duguid is the wife of a Presbyterian pastor in Pennsylvania and the mother of six. The quotes in this series come from her book.

“I had not yet learned that you don’t have to be abused to be messed up; you just have to be a human!”

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In our finite human minds, it’s easy to understand why someone with a rough background, an abusive past, or a survivor of some tragedy would turn out to be “bad”. What we often don’t understand is that we are all “bad”, all sinners. Some may show it more outwardly than others, but it’s in all of us. That expression, “there but for the grace of God go I” is one I have to bring to mind often.

For whatever reason, only He knows, God has put a protective hand on me. I was never abused. Sure, I’ve experienced death, car accidents, loss of jobs and income; all the things most of us will experience in our lifetime.To say we are all human is an understatement. We’ve read stories of those who have suffered tremendously, yet survived and overcame and thrived. Then, there are those with the proverbial “silver spoon” who have wrecked their own lives.

The bottom line is that we are all sinners, all capable of just about anything. What I have learned from pondering these things is that I should not get smug in any goodness I think I have. God has allowed me to have a life that by many standards is very blessed, very comfortable. No, not a rich life monetarily, but, then again, comparatively it may be. Not a happy-go-lucky life. But, a life of growing knowledge of Him. And that is only by His grace.

Thoughts on Grace – The Example of David

Extravagant Grace is a book written by Barbara Duguid. She uses John Newton’s teaching on sanctification to explain God’s sovereignty over sin. Duguid is the wife of a Presbyterian pastor in Pennsylvania and the mother of six. The quotes in this series come from her book.

“David’s sin did not come out of nowhere. It began with him failing to pursue his duty to lead his people into battle.”

Many people know the story of David and Goliath and see David as a brave kid who grew up to be a brave man. And so he did. Others, though probably not as many, know the story of David and Bathsheba. Here he’s acting pretty rotten, and we wonder what happened.

Well, David is no different than us. We are all prone to sin, we all sin every day. The reason I like the quote from her book is it’s a good reminder of how one bad thing leads to another.

Here is the short version of David’s fall:

  1. He stays home instead of going to battle like he was supposed to, sending his right hand man, Joab, instead.
  2. He “just happened” to go up on the roof where he could see Bathsheba bathing.
  3. He sends for her and they have a little afternoon delight.
  4. Her devout husband is sent for from the battle, because David hopes he will have marital relations with Bathsheba and cover up any pregnancy that might have occurred.
  5. Her husband, Uriah, does what a good soldier is supposed to and does not go to bed with her.
  6. So, then David has him sent to the front lines, hoping he will be killed, which he is.
  7. David and Bathsheba end up having a son who dies.
  8. David finally comes to his senses, though at a great loss for many people, most especially himself.

Whew! Can you say “Soap Opera”? And yet, God forgave David and used him greatly, as Jesus was born of the genealogical line of David.

If you want to read about David in more detail, read I and II Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible.

 

Psalm 11

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Psalm 11 has this to say in verses 1-2:

In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.

Many of us worry and live in fear. Yes, we are to be wise in our comings and goings; we shouldn’t recklessly put ourselves in dangerous situations. But, often, I think we shy away too much from situations when we don’t trust the Lord. How many of us think, or even say “I don’t want to go to that part of town” when it’s in just “that” neighborhood that people need to hear the Gospel.

Others are preoccupied with  stuff and with socking away money for retirement. I don’t recall reading about any of the saints in scripture retiring. We fell prey to the “building bigger barns” syndrome when we bought a house that was larger than we really needed just because we could. And then it was a struggle to maintain.

In this election year, many struggle with the issue of our future as a country. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all the strange and scary things I read and hear daily. Truly I have to lay this all at the feet of Christ, for I can only pray and trust. I don’t understand the whys, but I know it’s in His hands. Always has been.

Verses 3-4 of Psalm 11 say:

If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.

This is how Dale Ralph Davis puts it in The Way of the Righteous

 in the Muck of Life: “Despair is managed by keeping Yahweh himself in the center of your vision.” I thought this was a great summation.

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And let me leave you with this one last quote from Davis: “You have not seen Jesus yet you love Jesus. Christians are such conundrums.”

Psalm 10

….there are seasons in a believer’s life – and sometimes the seasons change suddenly…Faith is perplexed and yet goes on pleading. The psalmist does not use God’s baffling him as an excuse for disengaging with God but as an incentive to press on with him. from – The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis

I don’t know just what season I’m in right now. It’s like the rainy season – sprinkled with showers of doubt; covered in clouds of despair. But sometimes, the clouds will break up and the sun will shine through and I am reminded that God is still there, always there, even when I doubt.

The Psalm begins this way in verses one and two:

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord  Why do You hide in times of trouble?

The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which

they have devised.

Why? I’m always wondering why. I find myself too full of questions and doubt. But, the psalmist sees that God is good in verse fourteen:

But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand.

The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.

And again in verses 17-18:

Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart;

You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

My prayer for myself is that God would change my whys into words of trust. That I would

trust in Him to shelter me in the days of darkness and give me joy in the rays of His grace.

Cathy – Part One

Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out now a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.

I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15

In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”

This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she  mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went to home to Jacksonville  and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.

We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.

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“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf

This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.