Our pastor likes to give us an assignment at the end of his sermons; something to think about or put into practice. I always take notes, but appreciate this “oh, and one more thing” encouragement to give further thought and prayer to what I heard. Several Sundays ago, Pastor Jeremy suggested that we write our own psalm. A psalmist, I’m not, but here are the thoughts – a prayer, really – which came to my heart and mind as I sat down to write that very afternoon.
Matt was little – probably about 3 years old. I don’t remember what he did that morning that prompted a scolding from his tired mommy (tired from taking care of his baby sister). In the midst of that scolding, Matt looked up at me with his winsome green eyes and interrupted, “Mommy, can we listen to ‘Weary Land’?”
Unbeknownst to him, my precious little guy had just gently rebuked his mommy and diffused our tense moment with his special request. Knowing just the song he was asking for, I reached for the record album and said, “Oh, you mean Shelter in the Time of Storm?”
He clapped his hands together as I turned on our phonograph, lifted the cover, gently placed the vinyl album on the turntable, then lined the needle up with song #2 on Side Two. I turned the volume up and we were soon marching around the toy box that served as a coffee table in our living room, singing:
The Lord’s our rock, in Him we hide
A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide –
A shelter in the time of storm.
O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land,
O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land –
A shelter in the time of storm.
The raging storm may round us beat –
A shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our helper ever near –
A shelter in the time of storm. (Repeat Chorus)
I thought about this moment in time yesterday when I read that ‘Uncle Charlie’ from Children’s Bible Hour had gone home to be with the Lord. Uncle Charlie and the Children’s Bible Hour ministry had a special place in our family. We loved listening to their radio program – a dramatized Bible story written for the younger listeners (and for the moms and dads too). As each of our kids became readers, they also enjoyed the Bible devotional found in CBH’s “Keys for Kids” publication. The church we attended hosted a Children’s Bible Hour choir concert on several occasions. We were sure to find a place in line for their sales tables after the concerts. Over the years, I think we bought nearly all of their records. One of my favorite albums was “Good Old Gospel Singing” – that’s the one that had Matt’s special ‘Weary Land’ request on it.
I gave that vinyl record another spin today in memory of Uncle Charlie. As I sang along to the familiar tunes, I thanked God for Charlie VanderMeer’s legacy of faith. I wondered how many lives had been touched by his faithfulness in his ministry for Christ. I wondered how many servants of Christ have been called to ministry and mentored by Uncle Charlie.
Only God knows.
Of this I am confident. Uncle Charlie is now in heaven and has surely heard from the lips of his Lord and Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Encounters with Grace
Saturday, November 25, 2018
In his sermon last Sunday, our pastor reminded his congregation that it is easy to miss the beauty of God’s grace in our every day lives. We are so accustomed to receiving his daily gifts and benefits we often grow blind to His goodness and loving kindness toward us. Pastor Jeremy challenged us to watch for ways God demonstrates His abundant grace toward us. To do this, he gave us an assignment asking us to take out a sheet of paper and list 20 things God has given us that we do not deserve.
I’ve been watching and taking notice this week – here’s my list with a little bit of explanation on each.
- My copy of God’s Word – with real pages I can turn and plenty of room in the margins to jot special notes. By God’s grace, my granddaughter Violet loves God’s Word and has the same Bible.
- The Grace of Family. Growing up in a family who lived several states away from our kinfolk, I recognize full well the grace of having my family close.
- Veiled grace. Our friends had their baby on Thanksgiving Day. My first thought was, “Oh no!” Their wee girl wasn’t due to make her debut until February. While ‘Baby K’ was more than a mite too early, she arrived on the day that was just right on God’s timetable. By His grace, she weighed 2lb 14oz – a good weight for a babe who arrived much too early. Also by His grace, she was delivered by emergency cesarean in a hospital equipped to handle the very special needs of Baby K and her mommy. A careful look at the circumstances surrounding Baby K’s arrival reveal God’s veiled grace in everything.
- Grace for Rough Days. Momma struggles with the little things in life. Just getting out of bed is rough. Walking hurts. Underwear are disposable, and for good reason. Sleep comes…eventually, and not always when everyone else wants to sleep. Grace for rough days comes in many forms – usually shaped like people who care.
- Hugs. If grace could be measured in a currency of hugs from grandkids, I’m one very wealthy woman.
- Testimonies of God’s Grace. We attended a Thanksgiving Eve Service at Wildwood Church where our son serves as an elder and missions pastor. It was a blessing to sing favorite hymns together with brothers and sisters in Christ we were meeting for the first time. We listened, sometimes with a laugh, other times with tears in our eyes as members of this congregation shared their testimonies of God’s grace in their lives.
- Grace in having a furnace to keep our house warm. Our thermostat is set at 72 – mostly because my mom is always cold. My body must have grown used to her temperature preference; at times, I felt a bit too cold at my son Matt’s house where it was 63 degrees. Then my mind recalls my husband’s recent trip to India where he discovered winter temps can fall into the 30’s at night. Many folks there don’t have heat in their homes. Or insulated walls, windows and doors. Or a fireplace. I’m thankful for a warm house, socks for my usually bare feet, and money to pay our heating bill.
- Grace in owning a washing machine, a convenience totally foreign to many in the world. A blessing for the umpteen loads of wash in the week of a caregiver.
- Grace in laughter. A cheerful heart really IS good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Yesterday, one grandson with especially infectious laughter was riding in the back seat of our car and his giggles blessed my heart.
- Grace in a Spirit Who prays for me. Sometimes I am so fatigued and emotional, or tired and discouraged. I don’t know how to put my needs into words in prayer. My gracious God knows what I need, and the Spirit of God dubs in the words my heart utters but my lips cannot speak.
“This is Us” kind of Grace. When it feels as though my caregiving responsibilities are sucking the “us” out of our marriage, I am reminded that God gifted me with a husband whose generosity goes beyond material things. He lovingly supports me in this decision to care for my mom in our home by unbegrudgingly giving of his own time while I give of mine.
- Grace notes. Musical ‘grace notes’ are tiny ornaments decorating a musical piece with beauty. I’m blessed with three granddaughters who love to leave little surprise notes for me to discover as I go about my day. I call them my grace notes. I don’t deserve granddaughters who love me like that, but God blessed me with them and I am SO grateful.
- Grace in the ability to hear and enjoy music. Momma lives in a rather silent world. Oh, how I wish she could hear the beautiful music I heard this week. Two “hymn sings” in one week; lovely piano pieces played by special granddaughters; my daughter-in-law singing and humming to Christmas music while prepping food in the kitchen, to name a few. I found special joy in watching my daughter teach her daughter to line dance while my son-in-law sang a little boot-scootin’ country tune. I cannot imagine a world devoid of the grace of music.
- Grace in Technology. I confess, I really enjoy Facebook. Frustrating as I sometimes find my laptop and iPhone, the ability to see the faces of loved ones near and far gathered around their own Thanksgiving table is priceless.
- Diet Coke and Coffee. Enough said.
- God’s grace of comfort as I sleep. One of the missionaries we support shared a picture yesterday that made me realize how blessed I am to have a comfortable bed, an abundance of blankets, and pillows that are just right. His photo was a reminder to pray for refugees in Iraq whose city had been hard hit by recent heavy rains, drenching their dwellings and meager belongings. Lord, as I fluff and arrange my pillows at night, remind me to pray for those who have no place to lay their sleepy head tonight.
- God’s gracious gift of helpers. Momma’s Friday and Sunday caregivers, Kathryn and Kathi, are an amazing grace gift, allowing a bit of time away from caregiving each week. And I must not forget my friend Waldely, who helps keep my head above water (and dust) by helping me with housework.
- Amanda and Lisa. As my caregiving responsibilities grew, I contemplated stepping down from my church ministries, including teaching Sunday School. Then, just as Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses to hold up his weary arms, Amanda and Lisa stepped in to help me with teaching responsibilities. They are a gift of God’s grace in my life.
- Grace in a basket of warm, freshly dried laundry. Momma so relishes feeling useful…and handling warm laundry in need of folding brings her extra-special joy.
- Grace in the next generation. Tomorrow about 24 young faces will look up at me as we sing praises and learn more from God’s Word in Sunday School at Memorial Baptist Church – evidence of God’s grace continuing to the next generation.
Now, it’s time to flip my list over and start again. Would you join me in the comments below by sharing evidences of God’s grace in your life? One or two will do, but I’d encourage you to begin your own list too.
Anyone who knows me at all realizes that I love flowers. This time of year, my garden is brimming with them. But you only see what I post on Facebook…the loveliest of the lovely. But, there are things that are not so lovely.
Wayne and I appreciate my sister’s every-other-week caregiving visits and are learning to take advantage of time when mom is well cared for to spend time together. It was a blessing that a recent visit fell on our 41st wedding anniversary, allowing us to get away for a day at a nearby bed and breakfast.
Besides well-pampered time with my hubby, I appreciated the gardens at Walking Iron Bed & Breakfast. With one step out of our beautiful first floor room’s door, we could sit a spell in a comfy Adirondack gliding chair on the immense wrap-around porch and enjoy the cottage garden’s beauty. Of course, being a gardener myself, that wasn’t enough. I had to traipse around the whole garden touching, smelling, photographing and making mental notes. As I wandered, I sensed innkeeper Karissa’s gardening style was much like my own. Like my garden, Walking Iron’s gardens are not professionally planted or tended by a landscaping company. The owners of the B&B plant and care for the gardens themselves. In fact, when we arrived, our hostess was dressed in her grubbies and staining the garden arbor which graced the entrance to a very beautiful corner of the earth.
I loved Walking Iron B&B’s very beautiful sunny gardens brimming with beautiful daylilies, hardy hibiscus (some grown from seed), Asiatic lilies, coreopsis, zinnia and roses. The shady gardens included many gorgeous ferns, astillbe, a nice collection of hosta, and I loved the innkeeper’s use of a smattering of repetitive elements – a sort of eclectic order. But, you know what I loved most? On close inspection, Walking Iron’s garden had weeds. Lots of them. And many of the weeds were the very same type I had in my garden. In a twisted sort of way, I was encouraged and inspired by that.
Seeing the weeds in someone else’s otherwise gorgeous garden spoke volumes to a heart that struggles with frustration over the number of weeds in my own. You might not believe it if you have only my Facebook garden pictures to look at, but not all of my garden is composed of lovely, healthy plants and well-mulched, dead-headed and weed-free spaces. Much of my gardening time is devoted to digging and pulling weeds, including attempting to get rid of plants with “weedy habits” which threaten to push other more favorable garden lovelies out of their respective beds. Wayne hauls a trailer filled with garden debris over to our city’s composting site nearly every other week during most of the summer. My friends rarely see me post photos of my weeds. Or my Japanese beetle infested roses. Or my phlox and honeysuckle plants ridden with powdery mildew. Or the nasty “stretchy weed” that is a menace in my flowerbeds. But weeds, disease, barren spots, insects, burrowing critters and other pests are all part of of the world of gardening. Gardens aren’t perfect. And people aren’t either. My pastor, Jeremy Scott put it well when he reminded me that, “Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse.”
Just as closer examination will reveal weeds in the most manicured of gardens, close examination of our lives reveals weeds – things in our lives we choose not to reveal. Sin, actually. We may try to hide it from others, and might even do a pretty good job of that. However, Scripture reminds me that I sometimes can’t see the weeds in my own life.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; let them not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” Psalm 19:12,13 (NIV)
Some of my sins are much more obvious than others. I can’t deny I have a problem with overeating. That particular problem is easy for the whole world to see. But there’s also that stinky attitude that crops up whenever I don’t get my way. And my more often than I care to admit struggle with redeeming time wisely; my Bible may sit in the same spot gathering dust for way too many days while Facebook gets checked religiously.
But, there are many more hidden things in the garden of my life, known only to my Master Gardener. God sees my weeds. He knows the condition of my heart. The mean words that slink their way into my thoughts – not spoken aloud, but spoken in the heart. The ungrateful spirit. The judgmental attitude. The worry. The irritation I feel when my Alzheimer’s plagued mother disrupts my sleep. The wicked thoughts and imaginations of my heart.
The Psalmist teaches me that, no matter how beautiful our lives may seem, we all have those hidden weeds. Those things known only to God. How thankful I am that verses 12 and 13 of Psalm 19 are followed by the more well known verse 14; the prayer of David’s heart – and mine.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
Sometimes “church” doesn’t just take place on Sunday morning seated in a pew in a sanctuary.
Last night Momma sat at her end of our kitchen table smiling. Seated around our table were some pretty special dinner guests: my girlhood pastor and his wife, Ed and Diane Fuller, and their son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Dianne Fuller.
I told Momma about the visit shortly after she awoke in the morning. It’s funny how certain future events linger in the mind of a person experiencing significant short-term memory loss, yet other things slip right through like sand through a chicken wire sieve. Continue reading “Church at the Kitchen Table”