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not a clue, as usual


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Shark’s Teeth Among Broken Shells

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After a cold, snowy winter, we were in need of some sunshine. My husband and I planned a trip south to visit his cousins who live near a beach in North Carolina. We watched freezing rain hit the windshield as we started off and couldn’t wait to feel ocean breezes and salt spray on our faces.

The beach has always been very therapeutic for me. I grew up spending summers at the Jersey shore where my grandparents lived. One of my fondest memories is of my mom gesturing to my sister and me to grab our sand pails and follow her down the beach to collect shells. We would find everything from horseshoe crabs and beached jelly fish to sea tossed shells and stones. Eventually we would end up in a boardwalk store and beg our parents to buy the gaudy neon-colored shells in the store window. I don’t remember my mom being disappointed in my lack of appreciation for God’s handiwork, but I do remember carrying those store bought shells in my lap on the car ride home like some great treasure. The true treasures were tossed in the back, still in their sand pail with the wet towels and sandy beach chairs.

Fortunately, I developed better taste as I grew to adulthood. Unfortunately, I have P1040114become obsessed with picking up shells whenever I am on a beach. I can walk up and down the shore line all day scanning the sand and surf for shells, sea glass and whatever else washes up.

This past week was no different. There had been a storm the day we arrived, but as soon as the skies cleared, I was delighted to find a treasure trove of shells left behind by the waves. My husband’s cousin taught me something new. If you look among the piles of tiny broken shells, you can usually find fossilized shark’s teeth. I had always overlooked those piles P1040120hoping to find intact shells, but she showed us how shark teeth tend to shine and have a distinctive shape making them stand out from the pile. For the next few days, as I collected my obligatory shells, I kept an eye open for shark’s teeth among the broken shells. We ended up with quite a haul of both!

Sometimes the teeth tried to hide among the shell fragments. Other times they would be sitting right on top, almost waiting for me to stroll by. Though the shells had been broken by hungry predators and crashing waves, these teeth still held their shape, making them easily recognizable. Over the years, fossilization had turned them a deep ebony that reflected the sun, making them stand out against the paler shells.

Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day is coming up. Maybe it’s because I was visiting with family, but I found myself thinking of my mom a lot that week. She was a petite womanP1040122 with dark eyes and always up for an adventure even though she was severely weakened by a heart condition when I was eight years old. We lost her when I was only fifteen. My memories of her, more than forty years later, always center on her ready smile and kind heart. But she could be tough! She was a warrior long before the term feminism was ever coined. She was tough, hard-working and gutsy as a Jersey girl should be.

Back on the beach, the sun glinted and I bent down to pick up a shark’s tooth. It was small, but solid, shiny and still retained its sharp point. Think about that – after a millennia at sea, that tooth could still bite! That’s my mom- a beautiful, yet functional shark’s tooth among conditions that had caused the more fragile shells to succumb to the waves.

P1040112On our last day, I found an incredibly fragile angel wing shell – pure white and perfectly intact. It reminded me of my mom too – another type of beauty that survived against all odds. As I marveled at the shell in my hand, I reminisced about the past against the backdrop of waves, salt air and sand.

I only found one perfect angel wing shell but there were lots of shark’s teeth if you knew where to look. Beautiful, strong, persevering relics of the sea. That’s how I remember Mom. She persevered against overwhelming odds, displaying a beautiful strength that I can only hope I have inherited.

I know that my mother often felt weak and in danger of sinking under those waves of life. But the strength she exhibited came not from herself but from her decision to stand firm in her Christian faith. She let Jesus be her “anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). And in that decision, she sparkled with the strength of a shark’s tooth among the broken shells of this world.

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“…that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”

Colossians 4:12b

 

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Love has…

Love has a facecross

A face that all creation looks up to

A face I can cry out to for desperate help

Or opens into laughter for the joy He extends to me

All life stretches upwards to see the face of Him who is Life

 

Love has two eyes

Eyes that look down upon His creation

Beaten and bloodied eyes that saw past his own pain

Tearful eyes that soaked up the darkness that exists in mine

Eyes that ever long to catch a glimpse of who I am to Him

 

Love has two handsfather child hands

Hands that were stretched out and nailed to a crossbar

Hands that have reached out to catch me when I stumble

Hands that gently wiped away each tear I have shed

Or rise up in anger to defend me when I crumble into my own weakness

 

Love has two feetfather and child feet

Feet that have walked the Heavens from before time

Feet that trod the dust of Judea and splashed in the waves of Galilee

Feet that resolutely followed a path to Golgotha

Feet that willingly search for me when I have hidden myself in shame

 

Love has a name

Savior, Messiah

Annointed One

The Son of Man who is Jesus

love looks like...

 


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Grace all the More

Hatred divides andgrace and rocks

Fear closes doors,

As bigotry grows

There’s Grace all the more.

 

A harsh word spoken.

A bully has roared.

Victims cower in corners,

But there’s Grace all the more.

 

For the one who pulled a gun

And robbed the corner store,

For those who are guilty,

Just Grace all the more.

 

For those who are hungry,

Those desperately poor,

Those begging for help,

There’s Grace all the more

 

An old man forgotten,

His memory obscured,

his family has left him

yet, Grace all the more.

 

Street life can be harsh,

How do they endure?

Cold empty stomachs,

And Grace all the more

 

Just one more hit,

It’s the needle’s allure.

As life drifts away,

Still Grace all the more.

 

The disobedience of us Adams

Is met with the One so pure

Hs obedience to the Father

Has brought us Grace all the more.

Grace thru Jesus

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

Romans 5:18-20

grace changes everything

 

 

 


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The Coming of Peace

peace on earthIt’s an interesting paradox that the ability to give something away ultimately gives you mastery of that thing. So to claim a mastery over fear, you have to stop clutching your fears so closely to your heart. Not a simple task, to be sure, but I am finding my grip loosening on all the things that cause me fear and anxiety through simple acts of obedience.

There have been major upheavals this past year in my church and at my job at that church. It has left me feeling anxious, a bit scared and a lot confused. But my prayer for the past six months has been, “Lead me on, Lord, I will follow”. This is a very scary prayer because He will lead you to where you need to be which is not usually where you want to be. Yet, through obedience I have allowed God to lead me to an unlikely new church home and found that I have a new found ability to roll with all the uncertainties of changing job responsibilities. Lately, I have been experiencing peace that has allowed me to let go of all the fears and anxiety that I had been holding onto. I’m not sure when this sense of peace started, but I am living out what is described in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though the same issues surround me, I am coping much better simply because I asked God to lead me. I did not ask for the problems to be solved, just for the strength to follow and peace entered into the picture.

Peace often feels like a distant dream that we will spend our lives reaching for. The world that we live in has always been a cause for anxiety and always will be. Can you imagine the fears and doubts felt by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi 2,000 years ago? The job before each of them was daunting.

An unwed motherjesus_mary_joseph

A man told to take in that unwed mother

shepherds-1Illiterate peasants told to deliver a grand message

Wealthy kings told to cross a dangerous desert.

All were being asked to leave their comfort zones, and they all did. Relying only their obedience to God through faith, they changed the world in those long ago years. And in their obedience, they found peace. Considering their circumstances, I can only think that they must have been as surprised by the appearance of peace in their lives as I have been. This is a peace that has the ability to steady knocking knees and shaking hands, allowing you to move forward into an unknown future.

Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 and promises to give that peace away freely (John 14:27) to all who ask for His leadership in their lives. Your fears and doubts will still be there. His peace helps you to gain mastery of them and in that process – let go of what you once held, mistakenly thinking that those fears were security for you.

But even with an inner peace that is spreading within me, where do I see the peace of Christ in the world today? Can we have peace in a world at war? Or in a life in turmoil, in hurting hearts or misspent lives? Yes. That peace is available to all through that little baby born in Bethlehem. I’ve found that the more that I trust Him, the more I am able to be obedient; the more I ask for guidance, the closer I am able to follow and do it all with a growing sense of His peace. I am not saying that I have become a better person (not even close!) but I have become a more dependent (upon God) person.star

We all struggle but as you continue to struggle through this fallen world, reach for Christ and feel that inflow of peace. Let that peace be like a river (Isaiah 48:18) that flows over all the rocks in our riverbed and gives us a smooth surface to float on.

This is true Peace that will give you mastery to let go of all the anxieties that come with the problems of our lives.

True Peace gives you the ability to give away the things that fear made you clutch so tightly – old habits, prejudices and prideful attitudes.

Peace in our hearts will lead us to peace with our world.

Peace while here on earth comes from peace with God.

This is the essence of Peace.

peace of Christ


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A Glimmer of Hope

hopeBetween the Old and New Testament stretch four hundred years of uncomfortable silence. During that time, Isaiah’s words would have brought the first inkling of the idea of Hope.

The people walking in darkness

Have seen a great light;

On those living in the land of the shadow of death

A light has dawned.

Isaiah9:2

This is the beginning of hope; that first glimmer of the idea of a Savior for all people. It would have been a foreign thought, though. When you hope in human terms, it starts very small. Just a flickering of light in your dark surroundings. Only if the situation improves will that flicker grow steady and brighter.

But hope, from God’s perspective, bursts onto the scene with “a great light”. What I love about this verse is that it shows the sheer size of Godly hope with a God who has even the scariest of situations in already in hand and will walk with you through whatever fears, doubts, sorrow or anxiety you may be facing.

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The darkness must come first in order for hope to shine against it. Our trials become a mere backdrop for God to work. Hope appears in the midst of darkness and gives us a target to aim for, a goal to strive for. It forms itself into an anchor that you can cling to.

This is the essence of Hope.

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Advent 2017 – week one


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Sharing the Luck

 

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Walking through the woods last week, my friend and I came across some 4 leaf clovers. I considered myself to be extremely lucky but she told me that it’s only lucky if you give it away to someone else.

“Oh man”, I thought, “Christianity in a nutshell”.

We may not always live like it but being a Christ follower means that we have been freely given grace, mercy, forgiveness and most of all love. Yet, what is it worth if you hoard those things and tuck them away only for yourself?

He gives us grace – a gift of life eternal20171001_114735

He gives us mercy – no punishment for repentant sin

He gives us forgiveness – He’s not going to keep bringing up past hurts (like I tend to do)

He gives us love – a love without strings attached, wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean

But there is a catch. If you have been forgiven, forgive others. If you have received mercy, extend it to others. If you have experienced grace, give others a chance to experience grace. Then, and only then will you have the chance, maybe even the right, to tell others about God’s unending grace, mercy and forgiveness that is so beyond our feeble human limits.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 John 15:13

And love…..did I forget love? No, it’s just that it is the hardest one to live out in our society. Can I love the one with the gun in a high rise window, or the one driving a truck on a crowded street or the one in the pilot’s seat of the jet streaking towards a tower housing multiple offices and thousands of employees?

Too much to ask?  Let’s bring it down a bit. Can I love my coworker whose snippy comments are driving me crazy? How about the one loud mouth relative who has the capacity to ruin every family gathering and often does? Can I still reach out in friendship to the person down the street who plastered his yard with political slogans last election year that I disagreed with? It’s not going to be easy but He tells me that with His help, it is possible.

And so I keep trying.

I will share the next four leaf clover I find so I can share that luck. But every day I can share love. Whether it is accepted or not, I can share love. And grace, and mercy and forgiveness, but most of all love.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

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a touch of grace – finding beauty even on a rainy, foggy day


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Step Boldly

I’ve been doing some research about the German pastor/author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous man who lived during a very dark time in history. His resistance to the Nazi party in Germany during WWII eventually led to his execution just weeks before the war ended. As I leafed through his writings, I found this quote,

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“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin, than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Those words got me thinking. The Old Testament is all about following the rules. God lays out the Ten Commandments and tells his people to obey. Today, I think most Christians will tell you (myself included) that we are grateful that the Lord spelled it out so completely for us in Exodus 20. It’s a much needed roadmap to help us avoid all the pitfalls of this world. By the time that Jesus shows up in the New Testament, mankind is ready for the next step.

Jesus replied: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

matthew 22.39

This is really the same as the first commandment in Exodus 20:3. Jesus is quoting directly from both Deuteronomy and Leviticus but his words reach beyond telling us what not to do and tell us how to “do”. He tells us to love. That verb “love” resonates through all of Jesus’ teachings.

“Love one another”

“love your neighbor”

“love as I do”

It takes us from how to avoid sin and jumps into how to live lovingly. It shows us the steps from “do not” to “do”.

Anyone who has experienced love can tell you it is not easy. It can be messy, painful, exasperating, joyous, uplifting and turn your world upside down crazy. It is the most difficult command to follow because it encompasses all the other commands. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to cut right through that and instead of cautioning us to watch our steps, he is encouraging us to step boldly.

In both the Old and New Testament we find that God never stopped at just listing the things that we shouldn’t do. God has always instructed, admonished and often has to push us into action. Following Christ has always been more about what you do than the things that you don’t do.

 

 

I’ll just leave you with this favorite verse of mine:

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Micah 6 8