Mercy

Daily Prompt: Mercy

Ahh…to simply say the word aloud–there is nothing else like it.  And what good fortune to have such a perfect daily prompt from WordPress for Thanksgiving Eve!           So yes, MERCY…

     If there were nothing to be thankful for but Mercy, then there would be everything to be thankful for.

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” –Jesus  (Matt. 5:7)                                   

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Temporary

November 10, 2017   Temporary  WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

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The morning heralds the sparkling mist. Both speak of divine mysteries and depart                                                              in a holy silence.

Always, too soon…leaving us longing for a little more.  As in Life. As in Love.

Cherish each drop while it shines for you.

Empty Spaces

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Holidays are coming.  And living in the “space” on the back side of fifty—it seems like we encounter “empty spaces” in our lives a lot more often now. Sometimes they are painful.  At times they are needful.  Often–they simply go unnoticed.

This time they caught me off guard—and left me still and quiet–soaking in a soft sadness I did not expect. But bearing me up beneath the emptiness there is a quiet grateful swell for the multitude of ordinary days that cause these empty spaces to feel so…well, empty.  I suppose  “E-M-P-T-Y” wouldn’t happen, unless we once knew FULL, right?   So, while you think about your “empty spaces” story, I will tell you mine—with hopes that you will share a bit of yours in return. For I believe it’s in the act of sharing the healing begins.

Recently I crossed state lines for a visit “home” to see Mom and my Tennessee kin. But, the thing is–Mom no longer lives “at home.”  Thankfully, she is quite happy and healthy for 82…passing the days in a pleasant assisted-living community–“uptown,” as we Southerners say.  She enjoys people and has embraced the change wonderfully, telling everyone (repeatedly 😊) how she likes her apartment much better than being “alone in the valley” (since Dad passed away a few years back). Truly, the time for the move had come—and we were all very grateful an opening came available at the just the right time.

This was my first trip home since her move, and staying at the house I spent the latter years of my childhood in–now changed forever–left me staring at empty spaces—somewhat expected; but as they say—you don’t know how something will impact you until you walk through that door.  And yes, it is the stark simplicity of the empty space that gets you:  There is no kitchen table. And the cookie jar, always full and waiting for us–is gone. And with it the Mom-warmth has suddenly vanished. Familiar and favorite pictures now reside at Mom’s apartment, leaving the walls half-naked.

And now, suddenly, I miss Dad even more…no newspapers clutter the coffee table; no lingering smell of pipe tobacco hides in an old jacket, and no pickup truck waits in the garage. His tools call out from the work bench in silence.

Yet, the couch and one recliner still sit and comfort us at night—same as always.  And the surroundings are stunningly beautiful this fall, as Dad’s vision for the “valley” slowly unfolded over the course of 20+ years—with his sweat and patience painted across the hills.  He taught us kids how to dig in and work, and learn things both hard and mundane. So that slowly, twenty-six overgrown acres of brush, broken fences and old barns became a verdant Tennessee valley and home place–complete with creek, dogwoods, maples, orchard and wild Walnut groves that line the valley with color.

We painted the barns, planted a garden in spring, added a pond– and in time replaced the barbed wire with a tame and lovely white fence (maybe that would keep those stubborn Angus cows in!). But with change, there was a wistful sort of goodbye—as I still like to look at my old photos and paintings–when the land was raw and younger—as were we. Now, only one barn remains—the low-lying “long barn” that stretches across the top of the hill.  It’s as if it stands guard now, watching over the valley when we are tired and need it most.

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And me–I still like to sit, as I did when I was 11, and watch the early morning mist rise out of the grass and disappear over the tops of the trees, or wisp over that barn if the sun isn’t too hot.   It’s then the Father speaks to me.  And on this occasion, I hear Him loud and clear: Life can be hard and it can feel lonely—empty spaces can catch anyone by surprise. But, the truth is…I am never really alone.  And this life–with all of its wonderful days–and it’s not so wonderful days– is only the prologue.

“LORD…before I speak a word, You know all about it. You are all around me, behind me and in front of me. You hold me safe in your hand.” (Ps 139:4-6)

 

This is Grace…with a bit of Grit

Welcome to my world. If you join me in this journey I hope you are ready to laugh. Or cry. Or sing and dance–and throw things occasionally.  Because that’s pretty much what “The Back Side of 50” is—unpredictable. One minute you are perfectly fine, sanely talking to people and doing your job, and the next minute you are secretly slinking through the raw chicken in the trash can, because you can’t find your phone. Yes, you MAY have accidentally thrown it in there—probably right after you hung up on that telemarketer.

Anyhow, that’s why the title is what it is. During our ‘post-50” era, there are days we must rely on pure Grace–to get up, get out the door, and get –oh, whatever it was we were going after?  And yet, God’s grace is so wondrous He takes us just as we are—without being the least bit annoyed. Which, in my book, is truly amazing.  So, there will be much to indulge in here!

And let me add that when it comes to grace, we are without exception the ones who cut ourselves short. In his book What’s so Amazing About Grace author Phillip Yancy calls God’s grace “audacious.” And though it’s been 15+ years since I read that life-changing book–if you think about it, it really is.

Not only is God’s grace audacious–It’s not even fair. I mean, sending His rain on the ‘just and the unjust” and all that.  Admit it–we all tend to like things fair. At least we law-abiding types do. But Jesus is always so, well—”not fair.”  You know, He appears to rather blithely say things like: “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:43-44 NLT) and “Don’t worry about your  everyday life–what you will eat, or drink…or wear” (Mt. 6:25-28)—really? That is a bit off the charts for most of us.  Yet, I get the distinct impression He is not speaking metaphorically here.

And on top of that, He keeps right on forgiving people—pretty much everyone who simply asks.  And expects us to do it, too.  You know about Peter and the “70 X 7” stuff, right? (Mt. 18:21-35)  And dishonest tax collectors, like Zacchaeus ( Lk.19:1-10), and people with evil spirits… like Mary Magdalene (Lk 8:2)—they ALL get forgiven–plus get special attention, as if they are heroes or something.

And of course, the story of the prodigal son sounds great (Lk.15:11-32)–unless you are the older son who stayed home working all that time!  (I mean, the father didn’t even lay down any conditions to let “party guy” back in after squandering half the family fortune —come on now! Really, the older son had a point, didn’t he?).  And the thief on the cross gets to go to heaven because…why?  He asks for mercy at the very last second?  And there goes Jesus again–doesn’t even bat an eye…just replies, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Yancy was right.  His grace is audacious.  And totally unfair to those who bust their tails to live righteously year after year …think so?

And last, but not least–it’s the parable of the Vineyard Workers that really gets our goat—when the laborers who only worked one hour end up getting the same wage as those that worked all day…( Mt. 20:1-16). Even a kindergartner knows that ain’t right!  And so it’s not “right”–but by God’s gracious standards…it’s wonderful.   His grace IS audacious.  And if you can’t take it, you better jump ship now.  I am finally starting to get it–and yes, it has taken 50+ years.

That’s just it—exactly what we are supposed to get—but honestly we keep FORgetting it.  The story that matters from God’s viewpoint is this: It’s ALL—completely all–about His grace and generosity–it’s never about how well we “do life.”  Sure, we want to please God with our lives–and we will try our best with His GRACE to help us along.  But Grace begins our life in Jesus–and Grace ends it.

Other days— changing the subject a bit–The Back Side of Fifty will deal with plain old Grit.  John Wayne style grit.  As in who trained my keys to jump out of my purse? And am I going to earn an Olympic medal for finding stuff in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator?  I mean, I am almost 6 ft tall and it is a long way down there…

But on a more serious note, it requires a lot of grit in the second half–because hard times happen—really hard times.  Either to us, or to those we love. As in–people die. Not all of them are old either.  And grief leaves gaping wounds.  Then there is pain–both emotional and physical, that slams us out of nowhere.  Or people we counted on disappoint us. Maybe it was their fault, maybe not.  But still the disappointment must be dealt with, or it becomes something else–anger, agitation, bitterness, depression–you name it–we have all felt it.  And, sometimes worst of all–we are tired of disappointing ourselves.  So, honestly–the second half is just tough.

So then, most of us do one of two things by now: we either look for help—or we become cynical and lonely. So I invite you–now is the time to pull out the Grit, couple it with Grace–and move forward a step at a time.

And that is where I hope to land us in this blog. Some days there will be a little more emphasis on grit and humor, for God has told us plainly that a cheerful heart is good medicine (Prov. 17:22) And, whoopee–do we need more of that!

0ther posts ( usually 1-2/month) there will be more leaning into God’s grace—it’s just so wide and deep.  And just about any good thing boils down to His grace really.  Though Jesus nailed to the cross says it in a nutshell.  Can’t get away from that.

So I’m staying yoked to the Shepherd Who offers rest for my soul. (Matt.11:28-29). “The Back Side of Fifty” might feel like the Valley of the Shadow at times, but there is still real Joy in the journey.  Hope you’ll come along for the ride.

 

Grace & Grit

Since after the fact I found this “first post” accidentally was published–somehow before I actually clicked on the PUBLISH button. And I wound up with 2 identical posts…I came back and changed it…But isn’t it wonderful that I can illustrate my “Back Side of Fifty” life with my own wonderful blende of blonde-ness right off the bat? Something about still being stuck in typing class I guess…

So really, welcome to my world :).