We are all One in Christ Jesus

Love one another

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26-29

I remember when the Berlin wall came down. It was a historical moment. Here is a little snippet of Reagan’s infamous “tear down that wall” speech:

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent– and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides.

Jesus was the original “wall leveler.” He smashed walls right and left, and it got Him into a lot of trouble. He addressed women, as equals, he ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. He mingled with the rich and poor and he approached lepers and the outcasts of society. He never refused anyone who came to Him.

It’s been said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and I believe that. There are no levels in Christianity, you either are or you aren’t. We are all clinging to the cross each and every day if we are to be honest with ourselves. I don’t know why, but we tend to grade each other and ourselves, but Jesus never does. God really doesn’t care how many times a week we go to church. He cares about the motives of our hearts. This needs to be said.

Paul spoke about walls and divisions when people in the church were starting to break themselves up in different “camps.” And we tend to do the same thing with our Pastors and each other. It’s just human nature I guess.

But this is the truth…….we are all in just as much of a dire and desperate need of Jesus as when we first believed. If we think differently, then we are deceiving ourselves. Most of the time, we fall somewhere between Billy Graham and Mother Theresa and the prodigal son and Peter when he hacked off the Roman’s ear. They were all in different places in their journey throughout their lives and so are we.

Christianity is simply this, that each day we come anew to the cross. Each day we celebrate a new Resurrection from death to life. Each day we try our best and admit our utter failure in ourselves and our utter belief in Jesus.

Jesus is praying for unity. He is praying that we love, and forgive. We are all on a journey to meet Jesus face to face someday. This means you, if you have ever said yes to Him. Look around, there are no “Super-Christians” here. Just people who have humbled themselves and responded to the Invitation.

In the quiet of night when only God saw.

In the middle of a church service.

With your arms around a fellow believer.

Even after you said you never would.

You get up, and you go. Against the odds, with all eyes upon you.

This means you, if you’ve ever felt the lump in your throat and tears spill over at Amazing Grace, or How Great Thou Art.

If you’ve ever known the unmistakable tug of the Spirit in the middle of the day.

This means you, even if you haven’t darkened the door of a church in a while. He knows you’re His and there is nothing you can do to change that.

You, who no longer have to be judge jury executioner of your own life, that’s so exhausting isn’t it?

I love how the Message puts Romans 3:21-24:

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

I like to think of it like this. When you are out on a hike, there is a kind of rule. It’s unspoken but it’s there. I like to call it the grace of the trail. We are all on different levels, but we respect each other just for being out there under God’s blue sky. We give each other grace, we step aside so the faster ones can pass. Always, we try to greet each other with a smile of encouragement.

This is what we need to do as for each other as believers.

So grab a walking stick and come along with me. Extending a hand of Grace is a lot easier at the foot of the cross, the trail-head always starts there.

 IMG_3768

The Greatest Generation

IMG_1635

I wrote this after a phone call from my Dad. He had just visited his old football buddy (he and his friend are the last remaining alive on their team). His friend and wife are now in separate elder care facilities and not long ago he visited them in their home……

A phone call from my Dad last night gave me pause to consider what will happen when the last of what they called “The Greatest Generation” takes its final leave of this place we call home. I wonder at the changing face and shape of a town, a smallish town like Lodi. What does the gradual taking leave of an entire generation look like? I am afraid that unless we keep their stories alive, they will slip away graciously the way they lived, with seemingly little impact.

Can a town remember? A town whose streets hold the footprints and buildings that years of blood, sweat and tears have produced? I believe it can, for the conversations that took place in grocery stores and downtown corners, over meals and glasses of wine will still be here in the words and voices of those of us who’ve come after. But only if we don’t forget. For the best way to show our gratitude is by keeping those memories alive. It’s the least we can do for them.

For these were a people who stepped up for the nation and the world at a great time of need with little thought of what it might cost them personally. Young men climbed into rickety planes were given no guarantee they would even make it across the ocean. Young women stepped into roles and jobs they had never had before and proved themselves beyond capable. My own Mom had shoes thrown at her as a teen when the shoe store she worked at ran out of shoes by the end of the day.

What will it be like to look around someday and hear only echoes of these voices without their graceful presence? These are the questions I ask myself. And I’ve asked myself something else too. Could I live as selflessly as this courageous generation has done? Could I make the necessary sacrifices they did by going without for years, so that I could have more? What lessons might I have learned if I had saved more and spent less?

Things are changing, that’s for sure. The service station my Dad frequented for years recently stopped accepting his checks for gas. He went elsewhere. Trust and integrity are precious commodities. Back in their day, a word was as good as a contract, and a handshake was enough to seal a deal.

There is something unique about this particular generation in that they not only make me want to do better, they make me want to be better. A better customer, a better neighbor. I think of my folks who at one time knew just about every business owner downtown. This past year they had their 63rd Class Reunion. Turnout was incredible, though no one is quite as mobile as they were in years past, quite an impressive number turned out. That says a lot.

It tells me the best way I can honor them is by letting their values and their legacy live on in me. To keep on trusting even as the world seems to turn more jaded and cynical. To know the name of my neighbor and wave, even if they don’t wave back. To never give up on humanity and believe that there are still many good people out there. Because there are.

Today, if you are blessed enough to know or love someone who was alive back then, call them up and ask them to tell you a story of what it was like in those days. Make the time…….You are not too busy, I promise.

And most of all, think of each day as a gift from God. None of us has any guarantees of how much time we have left, but waking up with gratitude is the only way to start.

Peace……

The Power of Memory

IMG_6387

Prayer for today: Oh Lord, help. I have no idea how this year is going to go, but thank you in advance for blazing a trail before us…….You have never let us down yet. Amen

This morning in prayer it struck me that one of the best gifts we can hand down to our children and others in our lives is to provide them with good memories. Kids will forget the gifts they unwrapped in a few days time, but they will never forget the times you spent together whether good or bad.

This weekend, I had an occasion to relive some old memories and add some new ones to the collection. My cousin and her husband came for a visit, and so did Elaine’s nephew. We had a great time reliving all those old times, in fact they surrounded us as our companions as a backdrop as we laughed and talked and filled each other in on the past few years.

I guess maybe you don’t think too much about memory until you care for someone who has had theirs stolen like Joyce had. What would it be like to lose those memories that make up a life? Wouldn’t it be like losing your life? Memories make up so much of who we are. Memory is the sum of what makes us individuals in many ways. You and I might hear the same song and that same song conjures up altogether different images in our minds.

While you might think of a pleasant time growing up in a little Spanish village, maybe images of little old men and women opening their shops, sweeping in the warmth of the sun. I might borrow a memory from my Mom in the 1940’s when she told me about going out to meet the trains and wave to the soldiers as went off to war. And what a powerful thing, when we share those memories, they mingle together like a little bit of magic and yours become a little of mine and vice versa.

If you share a life with someone then you share a wealth of memories and moments where you might look at each other at the exact same time and say, “Do you remember that time?” Those same memories that can bring such sharp grief after they’re gone, can turn soft and healing with time and provide great comfort.

Memories have tremendous power to grip us for good or ill. Sometimes holding us hostage for years. Sometimes sending us to rehab or the psychiatrists couch. Sometimes they’re the only thing that keeps us from losing our grip.

A further thought is that worry is like a perverted form of memory because worry conjures up things that haven’t even happened yet. It’s borrowing negative from a future that may or may not even come to reality. It is tiresome and burdensome and renders you useless to the present and unable to be fully there for those around you.

It’s why Jesus cautions us so often about worry. He knows how destructive it is. It never leads to peace. He beckons us to turn and look back down the road He’s already led us, so our minds can settle again. He has promised everything we need for today, He only asks us to keep walking in His direction.

I am thanking Joyce today for the gratitude I have for my memories. Elaine has her remains now. It’s a very odd thing to see them on her shelf, someone I knew so well even though I know she isn’t there. I also know that someday I will come to the same state, unless Jesus comes back before that happens. And I hope that I will still be teaching someone something, like Joyce continues to teach me.

We are all in this together, thank God.

I Remember………

1495538_10201586429244556_1060515917_n

Memory is a powerful thing, one of the best gifts we have. Just make one simple statement like: “I remember…….” and see what you come up with. The point is not to think too hard, just let your mind flow free and write the first ones that come to mind. No need to label who you’re writing about either, it can be all different people and places, one right after the other.  I thought of this last night right before I went to bed.

I’ll go first……..

I remember:

Your laugh when I first met you and those striped t-shirts you wore, yellow and blue……and the way you wore your hair.

The way you molded the meatloaf right before you put it in the pan, I do it the exact same way.

Cold flannel shirt mornings and cracking walnuts on the garage floor.

The sound of your voice as you prayed for me by firelight, and the feel of your hand in mine.

Me shifting impatiently as your curled my hair before school.

Wrapping your sandwiches in waxed paper and tucking them in your lunch.

The sound of the screen door as it opened and closed.

The squeak in my Aunt’s old stairs, the one we hit, every single time.

Rain on the plastic tarp.

The first time I saw you after you were born and the time I cried when I had to leave.

Laying on the warm driveway soaking wet and looking at our imprint when we got up. We called it making skeletons.

The sound of those metal skate wheels.

A girl on the playground named Kathy McVay whose hair fell in waves, plastered just so and held in place with a jeweled clip. She ran the bases on kickball holding her head so her hair wouldn’t move.

Hot sand on the beach.

German spoke between sisters as I drowsed on the outdoor swing and the feel of the gray cover with the white fringe.

A box of kittens and scooping one out and saying, “That’s the one.”

Another kitten, wreaking havoc at Petsmart, someone saying no one will take that one. We did.

Waking up at my Grandma’s house where I always felt at peace because she left a night-light on the buffet.

I could go on and go……..

Now it’s your turn.

 

 

 

What Matters Most

IMG_2162

This week at work was a challenge. People had emergencies and had to leave midweek, and some were on vacations. All told, we were stretched thin. Another lady and myself toiled at our workstations for three 12 hour shifts with only a few short breaks. By the time I finished last night, my mind was still spinning like a top. I was so eager to get out I left my scarf behind which I never do.

I was so locked into myself at work I barely talked, barely joked. I felt more robot than human. But on the way home last night……There was sky, and cool breeze, and a hint of rain. I drove by restaurants and people were spilling out onto the sidewalks and patios, seated at tables with their drinks and food, casually talking, laughing. Being people.

One of the moments I was able to step out in the fresh air during the week, one of the things I thought about was that life is tragically unbalanced. We have slivers of time outside, in God’s beautiful creation and big chunks of time in artificial surroundings with artificial light and artificial air sucking the life out of us. And I think if we were honest, somehow we all sense we are under a curse. That things are not as they should be.

And the thing is? I can’t get the previous 36 hours back. But I can change how I do things. I can redeem the time I have left, however much of it there is. We say life is short, but do we believe it? Yesterday a card was circulated for a man we work with who lost his year old Grandson to drowning. Time………moments, years we always think we will have more of.

The older I get, the more I realize that there are only a couple of things we really need to learn before we leave this place, and none of the schools of higher learning can teach it. It’s that behind every beautiful mountain vista, every glorious sunset on the beach, every bend in the road, there have been the people standing next to me that matter even more.  As I look back on all the most wonderful moments of my life, there was someone standing next to me with eyes alight, saying, “Will you look at that!” And if it happened that there was no one standing right next to me, I always knew God was.

Even in tragedy and deepest sadness there were moments of hope against hope, laughter  that leaked through. Right after I lost my husband and we were all gathered together at my brother’s house doling out Xanax so we could sleep. Someone said they had more than someone else and we all had a giggling fit through our tears.

Of all the lessons God wants us to get before we leave this place is that the people matter more than anything. And even before that, that God is a people too. and if we get Him wrong, nothing else matters. I guess another way to say it, since God is love is that if we get Love wrong, we get everything else wrong.

Ultimately, how we perceive Him will determine where we spend the rest of eternity in that place where the curse is lifted forever. And sorrow and sighing are only a distant memory.

1495538_10201586429244556_1060515917_n

Easters I remember……….

IMG_5204

Posing in our Sunday Easter best in the backyard…………The joy of patent-leather yellow shoes to go with the most beautiful dress I had ever seen…….The year my Mom thought the washer was a good place to hide my basket……..and Easter showers when all the ladies in their finery had to dash from curb to church holding their hats and clutching their raincoats……..and Daffodils, heads bent low from the wetness and the vivid green of the grass when the sun finally came out.

I remember……so excited the cousins were coming to visit…..and my Grandmother boiling eggs in her large pot, fretting about how many cracked……and egg dye making stains on the towel, and finally, seeing who could do the ugliest egg after dipping from one color to the next. I remember the year we hoped and prayed for a joyous sermon, only to get “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down”……and Aimee at the organ and “Up from the grave He arose……”

And I can still see my Grandmother’s dining room table and the giant Easter bunny cookie she always made, scotched taped from the back because it always broke. And the jelly beans she places around it, along with the grass.

I remember holding hands and singing “Morning has broken………” at my Aunt’s Methodist church sunrise service. I remember wonderful Easter dramas and over the top excitement because “so and so” said they would come to church. Especially the one year Jesus disappeared and we still don’t know how they did it.

And the year in Arizona when we saw the mother duck leading her ducklings on the way to church on an impossibly beautiful morning. Every Easter, I remember these things.

Every Easter, I feel the hope all over again.

Lent Day 23: Ashes to Ashes

IMG_5279

It’s hard to know what to post today on this 23rd day of Lent. It was a whirlwind trip and a promise fulfilled.

Vernon Curtis Dupree is back in his beloved homeland of Texas…….here with his folks.

We know that death is not the end, and it’s in this spirit that we must live each and every day.

There’s not a better way we can honor each other after we’re gone…….

In the end, it always people that matter, and of course the stories.

The stories will keep these memories alive from generation to generation.

We heard so many this trip, and they were each and every one, as precious as the lives centered around them.

We will remember.

IMG_5273

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18