Cancer Acrostic

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The Home of Grace

This is the third post in The Grace Series. For the first and second, click here and here.

Somehow, it seems that grace is the hardest to give at home, where it should be the easiest, with my own people. The man I chose. The children I birthed. But I am often the worst version of myself at home. I need to daily seek the grace of God to fill me, so that it may overflow to my family, and then out from our home to our little corner of the world.

I have been watching mamas for a long time, and I have come to know that the mama sets the tone of the home. In other words, the grace my people extend to others is in direct proportion to the grace I am extending to them.

They cannot give what they have not received. 

I must show my children how to extend the grace-gift to each other. I must show them how to admit when they’re wrong, how to ask for forgiveness, and how to repent of sin. I must do this not only by instruction, but also by example. When I sin against my children, or in their presence, I must come to the place of grace in the shadow of the cross and ask them to extend the grace-gift back to me.

When I sin against my husband, I must ask for the grace that he is so often so ready to extend. He is better at this than me. “I’m sorry” is such a hard pill to swallow. But once it goes down, the grace that washes both of us makes it so much easier for him to give the gift. Am I doing everything I can to make it easy for my husband to extend the grace-gift to me?

Probably not.

Freely you have received, freely give.

When I give my husband, my children, the gift of grace in the way I have received it from my Father, I encourage them to also give it. I have received Life from the Life-Word, Jesus Christ, and I give the grace that overflows from Him to my family. We give grace-filled words and grace-filled service. We give as we have been given, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver.

And then from the grace we have found in our home, we reach out to others and extend that grace as well. Sometimes, the people we touch have already received the Grace-Gift. They know what it is to be washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb. And yet, they too need grace. They need it, because while Christ has healed the broken-hearted and bound up our wounds, He also calls us, His children, to bear one another’s burdens.

In this way, we fulfill the Law of Christ.

Other times, the people we touch have not yet received the Grace-Gift. It seems wholly and wonderfully strange to them. They are drawn to it, but they do not understand it. By showing them the overflow of the Grace-Gift in our own hearts, we show them the source of that spring: the Grace-Gift Himself, Jesus Christ.

Giving grace in and through our home is a daily laying down of my fleshly cry, “What about me?” As I seek to follow the One who laid down His glory for me, I follow His example. After He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He then cried, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In my daily interactions, I often know not what I do in the ways I offend God and others. May God grant me the grace to pray Christ’s prayer of forgiveness,  freely receive His grace, and then freely give it.

Freely you have received, freely give.

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References:

  1. II Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
  2. James 5:16a “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, that you may be healed.”
  3. II Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
  4. Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
  5. Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
  6. Luke 22:34 “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
  7. Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received, freely give.”
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The Gift of Grace

This is the second post in The Grace Series. To read the first, click here.

Freely you have received, freely give.

God’s gift of grace has been freely given to me through the sacrifice of His only Son.

I freely receive this grace, and I freely give it, or at least I want to. It is hard to freely give to others because it always costs me something. The grace-gift costs me my pride, my convenience, and my comfort. It costs me my to-do list, my system of doing things, and my vision of how things ought to be done. It means I have to lay it down, lay it all down.

Selfishness is so heavy.

When I empty my arms of all this heavy burden, the grace-gift freely flows. The laying down is so hard, but the giving is so easy. It is joyous. It is holy.

This grace-gift is hardest to give when I am tired, spent, or fed up. Sometimes, I don’t want to give grace, because my people don’t always deserve grace. They hurt me, ignore me, and sin against me and each other. But this is exactly when the grace-gift is most needed, because Grace has the power to demolish strongholds.

How can I, the recipient of the greatest, undeserved Grace-Gift of all time, not also extend undeserved grace? This is exactly what Grace is at its heart. The undeserved favor of God.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Grace means that I think the best of others, see the best in others, and love them like they already are the best versions of themselves. I do this because it is what Christ has done for me. Christ loved me when I was an enemy of God, completely outside of His covenant of grace. He extended the best kind of grace.

I was dead, you see, and He made me alive. He reached down and breathed the breath of life into my soul, and I became a living being. And God saw what He had re-made through His Son, and He called me very good.

Freely you have received, freely give.

No one can ever offend, hurt, or betray me more than I have offended, hurt, and betrayed my God. And yet, He loved me anyway.

How can I not also love others in this way?

I must. I am commanded. I am compelled.

Giving, receiving, and living in the place of grace is my calling as a child of God and a follower of Christ. It is my greatest joy, and often my greatest struggle. In the day-to-day rhythm of my life, Christ invites me to dwell in the shadow of the cross, where His grace abounds to me.

To read the third post in The Grace Series, click here.

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References

  1. Matthew 10:7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come  near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.
  2. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  3.  Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
  4. Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

 

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Sweet Magnolia

In the shady canopy of our mountainside home, a sweet magnolia grows. Every April, delicate pink and white blooms grace its slender branches. This is our tenth spring here, and I think it may be only the second time our magnolia has had so many flowers. I love my tree. It is beautiful.

Not everyone agrees. True, the branches are rather spindly. Even in its fullest bloom, it looks a bit sparse. Judged against other more magnificent magnolias, it is surely not the grandest. But I think it may be the strongest.

You see, our sweet magnolia is growing in less-than-ideal conditions. We have quite a few trees on our property. Sometime long ago, some forebear of our home decided to plant this magnolia in the shade of three large sugar maples. I question the gardening wisdom of this, but I am grateful. The little tree serves me well.

My sweet magnolia is the only tree in our yard with branches low enough to hang a birdhouse. A gourd that a friend grew, hollowed, and painted deep, rich-red hangs from a low-slung branch. I watch small birds come and go through its tiny opening while I drink my morning tea.

More recently, my darling husband gave me a bird feeder for Christmas. In winter, we sit at our table and watch cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, wrens, and woodpeckers take turns eating the seeds. One morning, we watched in delight as a very determined squirrel did some pretty amazing upside-down aerobic maneuvers in an effort to grab his share of the bounty. We only saw this once, and thankfully, the squirrels seem generally disinterested.

The magnolia adds early spring color to a very green, mostly shady landscape. While it is in bloom, the towering maples are just bearing their first buds, giving the smaller flowering tree a short window of full spring-time sun. Once the maples are verdant, the magnolia has long dropped its petals. Beautiful, broad green leaves appear, giving shade to the birds that gather in its branches and providing a low canopy in that little corner of the garden.

My magnolia reminds me of a song that my daughter and I love to sing. The song is actually about wandering from home, but we love the refrain, “wildflowers don’t care where they grow.” I always think of that song whenever I see flowers growing in impossible places, not caring that the landscape is less-than-ideal. This is how I want to be, and how I want my daughter to be: growing, blooming, and thriving, even though our circumstances are not always sunny, well-watered, or nourishing.

Someday, God will restore the garden He perfectly created in the beginning. And He will restore me, His child, to perfect relationship with Him. When that time comes, there will only, always be ideal growing conditions. Then I will walk in His garden, and I will sit in the shade of the sweetest magnolias.

 

My sweet magnolia, in all its springtime glory.

 

 

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The Babbler

The Babbler sits at the corner
His voice an instrument
Broken since birth
What does he say
What does he say
And comes forth words
Like a muddied stream
Which none can understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him some paint
Give him a brush
What does he say
What does he say
Watch the brush dance
As it renders a secret  world
That only he can understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him some paper
Give him a pen
What does he say
What does he say
The pen glides gently
And speaks of hidden things
So that all might understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him a flute
He needs no notes
What does he say
What does he say
Close your eyes to listen
To the song he could not sing
So that you may understand

Aidan Raudenbush

I am so excited and proud to publish my very first guest contribution, this award-winning poem by my 13-year-old son. He is a spiritually intuitive young man.

 

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It’s Time to Go

After my aunt passed away, my mother asked me to speak at her memorial service. Other friends and family spoke about her outgoing, vibrant personality, the way she filled up a room when she entered, and the funny things she did and said. She was a great storyteller. Since others covered those parts of her life, I spoke about her faith. 

In loving memory of Lynne Walker DiGilio.

March 6th, 1952-September 2nd, 2017

I am Julia Lynne, Lynne’s niece.

We call her Auntie Lynne.

Auntie Lynne was not a religious person, and yet in her own way, religion was important to her. She liked going to church when she could, and she understood the importance of God in her life, even though it seemed she struggled with exactly what that was supposed to look like. She was raised Baptist, joined the Unitarian church in her town, and often visited a Catholic parish with her dear friend.

This past June 25th was an unusual Sunday because I was home alone. My husband was away with our boys on a father/son camping trip with church, and our daughter was on a service trip with our youth group. Because I was alone, I got ready quietly, and actually had time to think. I thought of Auntie Lynne. I prayed for her. I thought that I should call her and invite her to come to church with me. I did.

Knowing Auntie Lynne, I wasn’t confident she would answer the phone, but she did! The first miracle.

She was so happy to hear from me. I asked her if she wanted to come to church. She hemmed and hawed about getting her old, aching bones ready on such short notice, but she said yes! The second miracle.

Anyone who has ever made plans with Auntie Lynne knows that you can never be totally certain she’s actually coming until she gets there. I told the elder at the door and the usher in the back to watch for her, saved her a seat, and prayed she would really come. Just as the service was beginning, she came hobbling into the sanctuary, leaning on the cane that supported her through severe back pain. She was a few minutes late, but she came! The third miracle.

The pastor preached on II Corinthians 5:1-10. He began the sermon by telling us that this passage is frequently read at funerals, but that it is not really meant to remember the dead ~ it is really meant to encourage the living.

Auntie Lynne kept looking at me in disbelief as he read and spoke, because the words so directly applied to her life.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Awaiting the New Body

5 “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

We know how Auntie Lynne groaned in her body, and how that affected her spirit. She was weary and world-worn, and told me that sometimes she wished she would just die, because she said, “What’s the point?” But the words of verse 7, which were the theme of the sermon, “Walk by faith, not by sight,” grabbed hold of her heart and changed her.

She started reading her Bible, and, in her words, “actually understanding what it says.” This was new for her. In the past, she had tried to read her Bible, but whenever she did, she said it was like a wall came down that kept her from understanding. That broke my heart, so I rejoiced in this new insight. The fourth miracle.

“Walk by faith, not by sight,” became Auntie Lynne’s mantra as she faced new health problems over the summer. She decided that she would undergo tests and seek treatment as needed, because she was going to let God define her purpose and keep living as long as He kept her here.

But still, she struggled. She groaned in her earthly tent. Through His Word, prayer, and a few more visits to church, the Lord was preparing Auntie Lynne all summer for the late night or early morning hours of September 2nd or 3rd, when He called her home. September 3rd was a hard day, and I could not watch when they carried her out, even though I knew she had left her earthly tent.

That night, I had a dream. It was not a normal dream that comes in whisps and shadows and flies away in small bits with the morning~it was the most vivid dream I’ve ever had, and rather than fading with the morning, it remains clear in my mind as time goes by.

Two angels stood at the end of Auntie Lynne’s bed as she slept, and said, firmly but gently, “Lynne, it’s time to go.”

She hesitated and said, “Really?”

They answered, “Yes,” and each angel reached out a hand for her. She rolled up out of bed, whole, and beautiful, and dressed in white. She took their hands, and she was gone.

After a lifetime of resisting God’s call on her life, she finally received the gift of Grace that he had so long been waiting to give her. And then she was free to go.

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Revelation 7:13-17

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

This is what God has done for Auntie Lynne. She is before His throne, dressed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. Someday, I know with the sure hope of God’s grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, that I will see her again.

You, my dear friend, can know it too. God is calling you to walk by faith, not by sight.

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The Hammer

Smashing hammer,
Shattered heart
Blow by blow,
Torn apart.

“Fat,” the hammer falls.
“Ugly,” the hammer falls.
“Stupid,” the hammer falls.
“Worthless,” the hammer falls.

Shattering blows,
Bit by bit
On a heart
That turns to stone.

 

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The Place of Grace

The first in The Grace Series.

The place of grace is found in the shadow of the cross, where Love poured out His life-blood and the heart of the Ransom actually burst because of His great love for me. This is the grace I need. This is the grace I long for. I rest in the shadow of this grace and I am washed. I am reconciled. The righteousness of the Ransom, the Righteous One, is reckoned to me. Me. Amazing grace! How can it be?

I come to the cross for cleansing, for pardon. I cling to the cross because I have nowhere else to go. If I were to turn back, to reject this grace, where then would I go?

You alone, O LORD, have the Words of Life.

Life is more than breath, more than sleeping and waking. More than work and rest and recreation. Life is eternal. And the Eternal Life-Word is Christ. There is no life apart from Him.

This Life, this New Life, is imputed to me.

Imputed. Attributed. Credited. Transferred. A spiritual blood transfusion that brings me back to life. The Righteous One, the Holy One, the Perfect One, the Sinless One, spilled His blood for me so that I could become the ransomed one.

God, the Righteous Judge, looks at me and says, “Not guilty.”

Oh, but I am guilty. You have no idea how guilty I am.

And then He looks at me and says, “Made whole.”

Oh, but I am not whole. I am wounded. You have no idea how wounded I am.

I am bleeding out.

Over this guiltiness, this woundedness, this bleeding out from the wretched mess of sin and hurt and shame lies the shadow of the cross. The Ransom takes his nail-scarred hands and gently binds up my wounds. He softly whispers, “You will not bleed anymore, because I have bled for you.”

Then He applies the healing balm, the soul-balm that heals my broken heart.

Because of this great love with which He loved me, this great grace by which He saved me, I can be His hands and feet to bind up the wounds of others. I must be. For me, Wife and Mother, this starts at home.

Home is our place of grace because the shadow of the cross lies over this place. We extend grace to one another in light of the far greater grace extended to us. And we open our doors and our arms and our hearts wide to welcome others that they may also receive this grace. We give grace because we have received Grace. We cannot give what we have not first received.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Come, sinner. Receive His grace. Receive it wholly, fully, and completely. And then give grace — as freely as He has given it to you.

This post is the first in The Grace Series. To read the second, click here.

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References:

  1. Ephesians 2:8-9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
  2. John 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
  3. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  5. Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
  6. Matthew 10:7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come  near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.
  7. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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You Complete Me

“You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you,” the saying goes.
But “Jesus loves me, this I know.”

He loves me, he loves me not.
He said he did, but then forgot.

“My Jesus I love Thee,” my lips shall repeat.
Only in Him am I made complete.

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Who Am I?

Who am I?
I am a mother, a daughter
A wife and a lover.

Who am I?
I am a teacher, a student
a woman and a child.

Who am I?
I am the strong one:
a friend and a confidant.

Who am I?
I am smart and funny,
loyal and brave.

I am a child of God,
Whom Jesus came to save.
Forever, that is who I am.

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