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Braking Points

Pausing in the midst of Life to ponder, pray and find footing to continue.

Porch Story

rocking chairsAugust in southwestern Oklahoma comes in like a steam bath and goes out like a sauna. Steam rises out of the soil in the early morning like ghosts materializing to be swept away by a wind so hot and dry that even shade provides little comfort to man or beast.

At sundown the wind dies and a dense stillness blankets the region, wringing the remaining drops of moisture from every pore and holding them against the earth to start the whole cycle again.

In August people go a little crazy. Minor arguments turn into brawls. Abusive incidents swell as many reach for another cool one and then another until they reach their boiling point. Even the ones who swill sweet tea lean to short temperedness. Unable to punch the weatherman, the boss or God, they settle for whoever’s handy.

Farm accidents, home accidents, and car accidents increase with every degree on the thermometer. Old timers dread August, because the month brings heartbreak. It was only the fifth, but August had claimed its first victim.

Chapter 1

Pete and Dewayne discussed the accident on their way from the field to the house, and then fell silent as they poured their tea and settled on the front porch.

The two men chose spots that shielded them from the afternoon sun and provided at least a whisper of a breeze. Their two hound dogs stretched out near them. Darcy languished between the two men while Max lay draped on the first step of the porch. Pete swirled a mason jar of sweet iced tea watching the ice evaporate, taking a swig every so often but mostly content with pondering the movement of the liquid. His bare feet perched on the porch railing and he tilted backward in the chrome vinyl covered kitchen chair, he’d dragged onto the porch with his tea. His boots caked with red clay rested just outside the door, socks soaked with the sweat of a day in the fields draped atop them to dry.

Dewayne, the younger of the two men and the larger, sprawled on a similar chair, legs splayed, and the waist of his jeans resting below the swell of his belly which was bare. The tail of his t-shirt had been tugged up so that the edge rested even with his arm pits.

Dewayne was a man of ill defined itches prompted more by his need to scratch than by any irritation. With both hands he scratched the expanse of flesh, while picking with one pinky finger or the other into the pit of his navel. Periodically he’d examine the contents of his belly button, flick bits of dirt away and return to his main task, scratching.

No words passed between the two men. By all appearance they seemed content, one to swirl his tea and the other to rub his belly. Pretty soon they’d need to get cleaned up for dinner, but for now just sitting barefoot in the shade met their requirements for rehydration and rest. Neither Pete nor Dewayne expected any visitors. The farm butted up against the town limits and the house set close to the state highway, but the folks that did drop by would not be inclined to do so on an afternoon as hot as this one. Nevertheless expected or not company came.

The dogs alerted first to the girl’s approach. Max, the hound on the porch step, lifted his head to bark, but his attempt sounded like a cross between a yawn and an abbreviated yodel. Darcy lifted the lid of one eye, puffed a big sigh, spotted the visitor before she shifted her position and settled down.

Pete removed his feet from the railing, scooted the chair down onto all four legs and stretched with one eye closed and the other focused on the approaching figure. Dewayne tugged his dirt encrusted t-shirt down to where only half of his bulging mid-section remained exposed. Otherwise he remained settled except for a shift in his scratching spot. He moved that activity to a tuff of curly hair that peeked through at the neck of his t-shirt. With a tilt of his head he, too, could observe as the girl moved steadily toward the porch.

Even with the sun to her back and her face fully in shadow, both men recognized her familiar sway and stride. Neither moved nor spoke. However, as the child drew closer the dogs roused, first banging their heavy tails on the clapboards of porch and steps. They lifted their heads and their bodies followed. With Max leading, the two hounds shuffled down the steps across the patches of dirt and grass that served as yard for the farm house.

The hounds revived by the prospect of attention, loped toward the familiar figure. She didn’t disappoint them, leaning forward without breaking her stride, rubbing first Max then Darcy between the ears. Reaching the bottom step to the porch, she shaded her eyes and stared up at the two men, who nodded and grinned.

“How you doing, Jessie? What you packing?” Pete asked leaning forward with his arms on the porch rail, pointing to the bundle she carried in her arms like a baby.
Jessie glanced down at the parcel and then back at the two men. When she spoke, her voice quivered.

“It’s a tree. Is Miss Nancy home?”

Dewayne moved to get a better look at Jessie and the package, shifting his scratching from his chest hairs to the back of his scalp.

“You say there’s a tree in that wrapping? Must be a miniature.”

Pete shook his head at Dewayne and regarded the girl who had fallen silent her eyes first on the package and then on a tuft of grass at the toe of her penny loafers.

“Don’t mind him, Jessie. He thinks trees come full grown. Nancy’s not here. She headed into town for,” he hesitated, “some groceries. Should be back real soon.”

He swirled his iceless tea and inquired, “You want a glass of iced tea while you wait on her? I’m going to get some more before I get cleaned up for supper.”

Jessie shook her head, still studying the ground at her feet. She mumbled something unintelligible.

“You’re going to have to speak up, Jessie.” Pete said.

She lifted her head and looked up at the two sets of eyes that stared down at her. She attempted a smile but it faltered.

“Could I just sit here and wait for Miss Nancy? I could just sit here on the steps, if it wouldn’t trouble you any?”

“Sure,” Pete said, “Come on up on the porch. Take my chair.”

Jessie shook her head again, sat down on the bottom step, and placed the tree between her knees. The hounds flanked her trying to edge as close as they could to vie for her attention as both attempted to use her lap as a pillow. She stroked both their heads automatically as she watched the road for Miss Nancy’s car.

Pete started toward the backdoor motioning to Dewayne to get up and follow. The younger man grumbled but he reached out for the railing using the leverage to wrench his massive frame into a vertical position. Once standing he tugged upward on the waistband of his jeans, accomplishing little in the process. Before heading into the house through the screen door Pete now held open, Dewayne looked back down at the child on the bottom step.

“Where’d you get a tree anyway?”

Initially, Jessie didn’t speak. Dewayne started to repeat the question, but then thinking, ‘What’s the use? Who cares where the tree came from anyhow?’ he batted his hand at the air dismissively and turned to move across the threshold. Before he got inside the door, as Pete slipped behind him to follow, Jessie spoke.

“I got it in Sunday school last Sunday. Miss Ellie gave all six of us one to plant.” A low sob punctuated her words. Pete and Dewayne halted, their eyes met as her words registered. Both stepped back onto the porch and edged toward the steps.

Jessie had buried her head in the curve of Darcy’s neck and though her crying was muffled by the dog’s coat, the heaving of her back revealed her sorrow. Neither man knew what to do when females cried and their experience lacked many first hand encounters, so they stood shifting from one foot to the other in the masculine equivalent of wringing the hands.

Dewayne pushed by the masculine instinct to do something even if it was wrong, asked, “So why haven’t you planted yours? Why are you still carting yours around?”
Jessie lifted her head out of the dog’s fur but did not turn at the two men. Instead, she adjusted the tree to a more secure position between her knees before swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Daddy won’t let me plant it at home. He says it would be a bad omen to plant a tree given to you by a dead person. He says it would bring all sorts of bad luck and we sure don’t need any more than we already got.” She paused, stroking the trunk of the tree which was hardly bigger than a grown man’s thumb before continuing, “Bad luck, not trees. He says if he didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all, but that he doesn’t intend to offend God or the devil with a tree that was a present from a woman who was dead two hours after she gave it.”

“I think that’s a song, isn’t that a song? ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Dewayne interjected, singing the line off key then with a snap of his fingers, “Ray Charles! That’s who sang it.” Pete jerked his head around in Dewayne’s direction with a look that probably had a half life greater than uranium. For his part Dewayne basked in the joy of having remembered the song and the artist lifting a shield of pride so dense Pete’s poison tipped expression merely bounced off.

Jessie turned to consider the two, unable to recall a tiny flicker of a smile before it lit her face. She knew Dewayne meant no harm. Even at ten she knew he was like a defective piece of equipment that needed a discontinued part, but still worked even though it was slow and awkward. His burst of song dried her tears and though the redness around her eyes and the streaks on her cheeks remained, her spirit rebounded slightly.

“So, what are you going to do with the little tree?” Pete asked keeping his eyes averted to a distant spot on the horizon.

“I was hoping; I mean, I hope Miss Nancy will help me plant it around here. Everyone knows how good she is with growing things.”

“That’s true,” Pete said drawing the words out as if pondering them. “She’ll be along in a little while. Will you be okay out here? Dewayne and I need to get cleaned up or she will skin us alive.”

“I’ll be just fine.” She returned to staring off down the road and petting the dogs.

Pete thumped Dewayne in the shoulder, pulling the backdoor open again, prodding his brother inside.

Chapter 2

Nancy noticed the slight figure on the bottom step the moment she turned into the driveway. Pulling closer, she recognized Jessie Adams and a second later she spied the sapling the girl balanced between her knees.

A little knot formed in her throat as she recalled helping Ellie carry the tiny trees from her car to the fifth grade classroom, Sunday.

“Goodness, Ellie, what on earth do you have planned this morning?”

Ellie laughed, “Why I am going to help start a forest, a stand at least.”

“Well if you’re going to be planting trees, I would have thought you might pick something other than Poplars. They grow fast, but. . .”

“They are perfect for what I have in mind.”

“Is it a secret?” Nancy asked, her interest piqued, Ellie had that way about her.

“No, I chose them on purpose; Poplars are perfect for the children to plant,”

Ellie’s smile faded, her expression growing more serious as she paused before continuing, “because, well because every one of their families have been hurt by the closing of the Mar-Val plant. Rex and Macy’s moms both worked there; Richard’s dad was a foreman; Sandra’s dad manages the Piggly Wiggly—folks without steady income don’t buy as many groceries; Les’s dad has been asked to relocate his whole family to Mexico to start up the new plant down there; and, Jessie, well in some ways her family’s taken the hardest blow. Both her parents had good jobs there and they just bought their first home. I hear James especially is taking it hard, which just compounds the problem.”

“Hitting the bottle again, huh?”

Ellie shook her head and sighed, “I saw him coming out of the liquor store. I didn’t see him drinking, but I know he’s had a problem in the past. Anyway, that’s why I dug these little fledglings from that stand of Poplars along the creek at my house. I chose Poplars intentionally.”

Nancy had been ready to press her about her reason for choosing the poplars when the children started arriving for Sunday school and the commotion of their greetings and questions interrupted their conversation. Ellie bubbled with energy and excitement as her attention shifted from Nancy to focus on her students.

“Catch you later.” Nancy mouthed as she caught Ellie’s eye for the briefest of instants. Ellie waved and smiled then returned to the children.

Nancy regarded the child on the step and waved at Jessie, who returned her greeting. The child, the sapling and the hole in her heart burned. She knew the children in Ellie’s class and so many others were mourning her sudden death, but Nancy despite scolding herself resented sharing her grief with any one else. Her loss hadn’t settled yet. What on earth did she have to offer the child on the stoop?

Nancy inhaled deeply, blew the air out through pursed lips, before opening the car door and stepping from air conditioned comfort to the afternoon furnace.

Chapter 3

On warm days Granny and I would walk through that grove, and she would point out the fledgling trees that sprung from the shallow but widely spread roots of the older trees. Not only were they temporary, she’d tell me, they were prolific and rapid growing trees. The adult trees in the stand were children and grandchildren of earlier family members. Poplars, she told me didn’t grow from seeds, but emerged as the spawn of a mature tree’s root stock. “A lot like humankind, we grow best when we stick together and when we come into this world we bring a lot of what’s happened before with us.” From Eleanor Brown’s Journal

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September, 2016. A Touch of Fiction

lifeinthesilverriver

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For September, I encourage those of you who have ever considered writing a story, a novel, a memoir to write.  It is scary, but fulfilling…every person possesses within stories, either real or imaginary–which by the way contain reality.  I find sharing fiction harder than writing my blog.  In a sense they expose a person in ways essay type writing does not.

But taking a big deep breath, I have chosen a few mainly Flash Fiction Shorts [250-750 words] that I have written over the past few years to share. I hope you enjoy some of them, but even if you don’t, I hope YOU will try writing down some of those stories you have inside.  Let’s start with:

Curiosity Nips Cat

I am a curious person. For example, while watching PBS News recently, I asked my husband if he thought I looked as old as the woman being interviewed…

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Barefoot Book Club: Recent Good Reads, Recent Good Listens, Currently Reading

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One ongoing goal I set EVERY year involves reading.  I love a variety of genres so I am open to suggestions.  I say that but I shy away from syrupy romances filled with hot sweaty bodies and torrid sex scenes. Last year I attempted to run across the room, leap into my husbands arms only to collapse both of us onto a piece of furniture thankful neither of us broke a hip.  So aside from that, I welcome book suggestions and love discussing what I am reading or have read.

I try to read at least ONE Classic a year.  Terry and I both tackled Mobey Dick and I swear there were moments in the multiple pages on ‘WHITE’ that I almost quit..Glad I didn’t.

So with that being said:

What I read on my Christmas Vacation

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

On the surface this novel, the second of Corban Addison’s that I have read with The Garden of Burning Sand being the first, is about human trafficking of children. Ahalya and her sister, 17 and 15 find themselves orphaned and homeless following a tsunami. These middle class Indian girls who have lived a privileged protected life at home and at the convent where they attend boarding school. With few resources scavenged from their destroyed home, they set out for the convent only to be abducted, sold, and transported to a brothel in Bombay.

“Corban Addison leads readers on a chilling, eye-opening journey into Mumbai’s seedy underworld–and the nightmare of two orphaned girls swept into the international sex trade.”
At the same time, Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke left by his Indian wife after the SIDS loss of their infant daughter faces both his personal unraveling and a professional crisis. With only a few options and an experience of a young girl’s abduction on a North Carolina road fresh in his mind he makes the fateful decision to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent’s human traffickers. He also is motivated by the possibility of reuniting with his wife.

There tagging along on a raid of a brothel notorious for under age prostitutes he becomes a part of the rescue of Ahalya, but Sita has already been sold and transported. Learning this Clarke makes it his personal mission to rescue Sita, setting the stage for a showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals.

While the subject matter sent me into waves of revulsion, slavery exists all around us, the conclusion of the novel was one of redemption and hope.

What we listened to on our 2 day trip to Florida from Kentucky

The Guilty by David Baldacci

Fourth in the Will Robie Series

Will Robie is the government’s most professional, disciplined, and lethal assassin. He infiltrates the most hostile countries in the world, defeats our enemies’ advanced security measures, and eliminates threats before they ever reach our shores.

But now, his skills have left him. Sent overseas on a critical assignment, he fails, unable to pull the trigger. Absent his talents, Robie is a man without a mission, and without a purpose.

So what does he do he returns to the backwater Mississippi town where he was a star quarterback in high school, but where he has not set foot in over 20 years. Why does he return? To help his father, to whom he has not spoken in the same 20 some years. Obviously, there is a back story here. Also, his father, a judge is in jail for murder, he has a stepmother close to his own age and a half brother who is a toddler. This plot has twists and turns from beginning to end with Jessica Peel, Robie’s colleague coming to his rescue and then hanging around to see it out.

A great book for a long drive. Good narration by the two readers.

What I am reading now

Audacious by Beth Moore

Just on the third chapter of this book that asks the questions–not unusual ones, if you are in the first half of your life:

What is your dream? What is your vision for the future?

And yet, here at almost 71 years old, I am contemplating those very questions, AGAIN.

Hey! I am not dead yet. There is so much I want to do, to experience, to share….SO

I suspect God had a reason for Carolyn and Charles Foster giving me this book for Christmas.

Here’s the blurb on the back of the book, if you are interested.

“Thirty years in the making, Audacious is a deep dive into the message that has compelled Beth Moore to serve women around the globe. Glancing over the years of ministry behind her and strengthening her resolve to the call before her, she came to the realization that her vision for women was incomplete. It lacked something they were aching for. Something Jesus was longing for. Beth identifies that missing link by digging through Scripture, unearthing life experiences, and spotlighting a turning point with the capacity to infuse any life with holy passion and purpose. What was missing? Well, let’s just say, it’s audacious and it’s for all of us. And it’s the path to the life you were born to live.”

Please let me know your suggestions for a good read.  I would love to hear from you.

No Matter What Happened, Happens–Thought on the New Year

‬‬“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”
‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭AMP

No matter what happened,
good and bad,
all mixed up like stone soup
The peaceful vistas,
The piles of manure
Boredom followed by tedium
Tedium swept away by torrents of mayhem
Or accomplishments or milestones
Weddings and funerals
Or as the Bible proclaims
Blessings and Curses
Individually and universally

No matter what happened
Last year passed
Day after day leaving
Lingering memories,
A sour taste in the mouth,
Tears that continue to be shed,
Saved in a bottle by God till the day
When every trace he wipes away
Laughter mixed with uncontrollable giggles,
Quiet peaceful moments
Gut wrenching panic
Gone with the drop of a ball
Individually, universally for us all.

No matter what happened
Last year or years past
Time keeps moving,
This day will not last
So we are older
Wiser? Or not
Will this year be the same?
Yes and No
There will be I suspect good things and bad
This world filled with turmoil
And in the USA an election
Not to mention, an extra day
Before the ball drops again
Hopefully, not on your foot or mine.

What choice I make as this year unfolds
What I read
What I write
How I love
What breaks my heart, tears it apart
How I live out what I profess to believe.
The actions I choose, the new friends I make
The old friendships I renew.
The attitude I choose when I step in manure
Or when Life brings me moments of joyful glee
No matter what happens
This year
How we live it will define you and me.

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Post Christmas Ramblings

Perhaps you are a little bit like me.  No Christmas is perfect, especially when our human expectations meet the human actualities.  Almost like a hangover…in some cases, a real hangover…the day after all the festivities can become a downer.  Which gives the devil a tiny little foothold.  Joy is fragile during times of attack.  Looking at the scattered paper under a Christmas tree and looking for the manger with the baby under the scattered paper, I could not keep a melancholy from settling on me.

Knowing I needed to turn the focus away from myself, I read my devotional, found scripture that spoke to my current feelings, and wrote the following.

Perhaps it will speak to you, too, if you are a little bit like me.

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Distracted,
Disappointed,
Disillusioned,
Disheartened,

These tools of the enemy
Threaten DESTRUCTION.

Gifts stacked upon gifts
scattered remnants
paper and bows,
Expectations and emotions


Unable to make the gift that was wrong
Right.


Unable to clear mental clutter in the midst of

all the debris  

Reminders of yet another

Christmas barely past.
Weary, worn travelers congregated
Then scattered


Where is the manger?
Where is the Baby Jesus?

Where is all that promised joy, peace, love, and grace?

Time to reflect

Dig deep

Refresh, remember, reflect

PRAY!

I will trust

I will not allow 

Inadequacies, stilted moments, grief or 

Selfishness

Become the big “D” tools of an enemy

Whose only goal since I belong to Jesus

Is to promote self condemnation,

Critical thoughts, sin in my life

So that I feel unworthy of the Savior’s Love

So I doubt His love for me

And fall into the Post Christmas Blues

I will trust in His unfailing love

I will seek His face, 

Believe His grace

And Rejoice

For unto US a Child is Born

Unto US a Savior for all the world

Unto US  a Purpose and Plan

So I dig deep

Reflect 

Pray

Hope for tomorrow and Hope for today.

 

 

Christmas Without or Christmas Within 2015

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It is just not Christmas without…
You fill in the blanks

Snow or at least frost in air

A spouse, parent, a child, a friend, someone you loved

Who is not there

Health, wealth, or just enough money

to put presents under the tree

or maybe not even a tree

being home to celebrate with family and friends

without clothes to keep warm 

or a home in the storm

You fill in the blanks…
It is just not Christmas without. . .

Yet the truth of it all, it is all those with outs 

That speak to what Christmas’s about

The broken places in our lives and hearts

The empty spaces at the Christmas table

The health issues, the presence of sin

Christ came to a world filled with doubt

The promise of love, peace, hope within

In spite of all the with outs

It is Christ that Christmas is about.

I pray the world, especially the ones that I love take time to figure that out.

Emmanuel Internalized: Christmas Eve 2015

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Emmanuel, God with us

Tiny baby, mother cradling there

Flesh and blood,

toes, fingers, eyes and hair

Come to save the world from sin

Come to show us how God loves

Come to teach, to laugh, to cry

Come to live like you and I

Come to die

Emmanuel, God with us

Come to save from chains of sin

But only if we let him in.

Faith in Winter: Advent 2015

Darkness falls early

The night lingers long
Life’s maze a puzzle
Wrong turns, dead ends
Struggles and doubts
Frail, fragile flesh
Stumbling about
Then just short of quitting
Eyes struggling to see
A flicker of light
A promise fulfilled
Another glimpse of glory
Faith’s eyes open wide

imageChristmas comes in Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkest time of the year, but so often it is a dark time for people because the advertisements promise joy and plenty, family and friends, love and kindness.  Even folks in the Southern Hemisphere experience shrouds of that darkness. Why? Because Christmas is not about all that…Christmas is Emmanuel, God With US!  He is with us whether we are having a great year or an unbelievably lousy one.

All we have to do is OPEN OUR EYES and BELIEVE.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
‭‭John‬ ‭11:40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

400 Years: Advent 2015


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Four hundred years without a word

Four hundred years performing the sacrifices, following the traditions, interpreting and reinterpreting the laws and the prophets

Four hundred years of squabbles among religious leaders, with two main parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees emerging

Four hundred years of humanistic, ritualistic, legalistic and for the Sadducees, pragmatic and progressive actions.

Four hundred years without a word.

AND THEN

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
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He came for all, but some had wrapped themselves so tightly in their own interpretations, their own way of doing things, their own defensive stances that
His voice was unrecognizable. Their ears so attuned to their own rhetoric that He became the enemy.

Emmanuel, God with us, how will we respond?

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.””
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭30:20-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Emmanuel, God with us, Will WE HEAR HIS VOICE?

Paradox: Advent 2015

The paradox is that people who cease all pretenses of personal strength, admitting their weakness, are often the ones others see as brave, strong, and all together.

God delights in taking the ordinary, the cowardly, the folks with rough edges to dare the most and accomplish the most in the dark places.

Consider Mary and Joseph. A couple, who their individual roles, their individual acquiescence to their places in the salvation of the world differed. Both lives bear witness to their submission which brought the Light to the world, protected and loved that Light, and raised him to manhood.
People, who own up to their sins, their powerlessness, their need for help,

People, who end up slam dunked by life, whose song line “I’ve been down so far it looks like up to me”,

People who in a moment of revelation, murmur like Mary did, “Behold the handmaiden[the servant] of the Lord.”

People, like you and I, who never intend to act courageously, who tremble in their boots in the dark but who admit those feelings and rely on God,

These are the ones who shine in the darkness.
While people, so caught up in their own bravado and ambition, who cannot get off the image treadmill, find they are running scared. Yet, even these, if they lay down their pretense, admit their weakness, can become strong.

The saddest people cling to the World and its expectations, seeking power of wealth, health, popularity, notoriety, beauty, and influence. Clinging to threads of image even as they age and wither. Refusing to turn loose of of the fraying rope attached to the false world they’ve built to trust God’s arms to catch them.

Living the Great Paradox–when I am weak then He is strong–requires turning loose.

Living the Great Paradox requires trusting His arms to catch you.

Living the Great Paradox requires a radical shift of belief from a broken world’s promises to belief that God always keeps His promises.

Living the Great Paradox requires that like Mary, the handmaiden of the Lord, like Jesus in the garden, the prayer “Thy Will be Done.”

To do so, changes everything for the Christian…it is the stuff of heroes 

 

Dawn on Gamble Lane  December 16, 2015
Dawn on Gamble Lane
December 16, 2015

 

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