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Braking Points

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

Month

November 2014

Two Days After Thanksgiving

Two days after Thanksgiving
Boy, am I grateful now that day has passed
For turkey and dressing, a bountiful feast
For family, for friends both far and near
For the sweetness of life
For the wonder of love
For surviving the cleaning with nary a scar
For the couch that provided well needed rest
Two days after Thanksgiving
And now that day has passed
For time to reflect, on the paradoxes that day brings
For some are still lonely
For some are still hungry
For some have no place to rest rear end or head
For some have no wonder of life or of love
For some have just anger not a thing from above
Two days after Thanksgiving
Boy, now Christmas shopping
For family, for friends, and dwell in the world
In the dark corners, times and places
In captivating emptiness
In human tradition
To chose roots of bitterness rather than love
To walk in the footsteps of a commercial god
So Two days after Thanksgiving
I read these four verses from an ancient letter

Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, (‭Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭6-9‬ NET)

And I choose to live in the One Who saved me
For to be thankful is more than a day
For to really live requires more than external cleaning
For the Wonder of THE LOVE, For Deity Incarnate
For the sweetness of life dwells only in Him
Two days after Thanksgiving until the world ends.

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Thanksgiving 2014 Day Twenty: For His Faithfulness in Every Aspect of Life

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Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (‭Psalm‬ ‭100‬:‭1-5‬ NIV)

Another General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer, the bolded words are the ones that impacted me the most this morning. I was especially moved to remember when I read the fourth paragraph the times I have experienced adversity and disappointments that brought me closer to Jesus. You may be impacted by others. Great is the Lord and Worthy of Praise, Amen.

Accept, O Lord,
our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.
We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation,
for the beauty of this world,
for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends,
and for the loving care
which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks
which demand our best efforts,
and for leading us to accomplishments
which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also
for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge
our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ;
for the truth of his Word
and the example of his life;
for his steadfast obedience,
by which he overcame temptation;
for his dying,
through which he overcame death;
and for his rising to life again,
in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit,
that we may know him and make him known;
and through him, at all times and in all places,
may give thanks to you in all things. Amen
.

Book of Common Prayer/Book of Divine Worship

Thanksgiving 2014 Day Nineteen: A General Thanksgiving

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As a Christian raised in a tradition where “Our Father” was one of the few “memorized” prayers, I am late to understanding that there are traditions where prayers have been written, recorded, recited and read for a multitude of occasions both ordinary and liturgical by faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only now in my sixties do I often find the very words my heart longs to pray to God. So I want to share some of these with those of you like me who may not have been introduced or who may even have been warned about.

The following is a “General Thanksgiving”. Praying these words from my heart turns my eyes upon Jesus.

Almighty God,
Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you
for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray,
give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer/Book of Divine Worship

Thanksgiving 2014 Day Eighteen: For Showing Me the Plank

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You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭5‬ NIV)

Jesus’ words, everyone of them, speak directly to me.

If I read Matthew 7:1-5 and immediately consider all the judgmental people, all the hypocrites I know, then I am failing to look Jesus in the eye and fess up. If I have a piece of sawdust in my eye believe me it feels like a plank and I certainly am in no place to criticize others, when I cannot see beyond the pain.

So thank you Lord for showing me that my judgmental nature comes less from reasonable consideration of another’s actions or inactions, nor does it emit from spiritual discernment.

My judgment of others arises from the pit of pain that I cannot see past and have not allowed the blood of Christ to heal.

And so on this Eighteenth Day of Thanksgiving, I give praise and thanks to God for loving me enough not to let me ignorantly stand in judgment of others. I thank him for showing me the damage the plank in my eye does to me keeping me from loving the way Christ loves.

Thanksgiving 2014: Day Sixteen and Seventeen : For Traveling Mercies and For Modeling Prayer

Sunday November 16th we traveled, Terry, my brother Tom, and our dogs Max and Emma from Central Florida to Western Kentucky. We left this

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And traveled over 700 miles SAFELY to awaken to this

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Thank you, Lord for safe passage, a warm home, time with family for the holidays and yes even for the snow. Amen

And so on this snowy Monday Morning I consider that Jesus gave us the perfect prayer, not that we should recite it without thinking, but that it should be a model and also a form for prayer. It is not the only prayer of Jesus in the scripture, nor the only prayer in the Bible, but it is a gift, so that if I cannot think of words to pray, these are perfect.

This, then, is how you should pray:

“ ‘Our Father in heaven,

Our, not my, or your…Father in Heaven

hallowed be your name,

Holy is God’s Name, deserving adoration and honor.

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Let God’s kingdom be established in this world and His will be done in every corner of this world, my life, my family, my community, my country…His will be done just as it is in Heaven

Give us today our daily bread.

What I need to get through this day, Lord, please provide it. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bread to sustain and nurture so that I can grow in grace.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Forgive us and give us the capacity to forgive so that our relationship with you can be closer and closer

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’

Temptations abound. Put a hedge of protection around us and those we love so that we do not stumble, fall and get dragged under. Do not let Satan’s schemes harm us or our relationship with You.

And once again Father carve these words on my heart that I might not sin against you by holding back forgiveness from anyone.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭9-15‬ NIV)

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Thanksgiving 2014 Day Fifteen: For The Privilege of Praying for My Enemies

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There once was a “Pollyanna” side to me. In my head I thought that when Jesus said “love your enemies” that that would make them my friends. Life experiences have taught me that may never happen. I cannot always change a heart of animosity into a heart of good will, no matter how much I try to “love” them. I quickly learned that acts of kindness are frequently misinterpreted and build higher walls.

God knew this and yet He still loved.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (‭John‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NIV)

Even though He knew that among those He loved some would choose to be enemies. Some would be offended and some would pervert everything Jesus said and everything Jesus did.

And yet Jesus pointed out that being his follower required a higher standard.

And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭47-48‬ NIV)

I am required to love both friend and enemy. Not human love no matter how noble minded, but love that comes from God who is Love.

He showed us by example what love is.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬ NIV)

I am Pollyanna no more. I am a Christian struggling to love both friends and enemies without compromising the gospel, to be kind expecting no reward, to pray for friend and enemy. I am a person who realizes that some people have embraced evil so I struggle with how I can see them as God does, in chains, bound in a downward spiral to hell, to see them as people for whom Christ died.

When it becomes difficult, I look to Jesus own direction and remember his example.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭43-45‬ NIV)

So I am thankful that I have been loved by Christ and other Christians when I was bound up in myself and an enemy of the Cross. I am honored and grateful to be called to pray for both friend and enemy, but that like Jesus I do this with my eyes wide open, knowing evil for what it is a prison for the soul.

Thanksgiving Day 14: For the Extra Mile

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In the Roman World, a soldier of the Emperor could require a another person to carry his pack one mile. That was the Law of Rome. No one defied Roman Law without serious consequences so average Joe bystander stopped whatever he was doing, picked up the pack and carried it the required mile, not one step farther.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭41‬ NIV)

Jesus carried that one mile farther…why? Just to be an over achiever? To what end? To gain brownie points with the Roman army? Not likely to happen. That extra mile surely raised similar questions for the soldier.

“What is this joker trying to prove? If he thinks he is getting paid for this, he is crazy. And why is he smiling? I think I have a real nut case on my hands.”

“Where are you from?” The pack carrier asks.

“Galatia…why do you care? Here give me back my pack. You go on now.”

“Nah, I’m good. I like getting to know people who travel this road. Got a family?”

“Not that it is any business of yours, but yes my parents, a wife and two sons. Why are you doing this?”

“What? Oh, you ask me to carry your pack so I am carrying it.”

“But we passed the mile marker.”

“Oh, right, but you see I met a Man, named Jesus awhile back and he suggested going two miles instead of one and you know I like it. Why here we are having a conversation and we wouldn’t get the opportunity many other times. My name is Joseph by the way, what’s yours?”

“What business….Cassius.”

See, I no longer see you as one of the Roman oppressors, no insult intended, but as Cassius from Galatia, with a family. A man doing his job, like I do mine. This extra mile has blessed me so much.”

“Really? Tell me just who is this Jesus fellow?”

I am grateful to have had those who have gone the extra mile for me even when I was not gracious about it, because through them Christ became a living fact in my life. I am grateful to be able to go the extra mile for others those in the family of God and those without Christ. Thank you Lord for the Extra Mile.

Porch Story Chapter 12

“Give me my freedom for as long as I be.
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me.
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me,
and all I ask of dying is to go naturally, only want to go naturally.
Don’t want to go by the devil, don’t want to go by the demon,
don’t want to go by Satan, don’t want to die uneasy,
just let me go naturally.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born, there’ll be one child
born in the world to carry on.” Music and Lyrics by Laura Nyro

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Nancy’s head replayed the telephone conversation from Delia. Saved from searching through Ellie’s address book, her cell phone destroyed in the accident, by Delia’s initiative. She hadn’t known Ellie’s father and step-mother well, having only visited with them a few times over the years during one of their rare visits or inspections as Ellie referred to them.

She did know Ellie had visited them at least twice a year since her Dad’s retirement from the Air Force. At least she did not have to get the house ready for their arrival, Delia had already made reservations. They were flying into Wichita Falls and a driver would ferry them to and from and about town during their visit.

She remembered them as stiff, aloof people, but Delia had sounded, well, not chatty, but soft, friendly with a warmth in her voice that Nancy did not recall at all. There had even been a moment when the line went silent and Nancy could have sworn Delia was crying.

She pulled into Ellie’s driveway, noticing a strange blue Camry with a Hertz rental sticker on the back window. Clara? But, wasn’t Brian picking her up at the airport in Oklahoma City? She sighed, given the history between the two, maybe Clara had opted at the last minute to drive herself. Climbing out of the car into the afternoon heat sweat immediately poured from her pores.

She dug in her bag to extract her key to Ellie’s house, but reaching the kitchen door she noticed it was ajar. Her heart quickened, even here, that was odd. Ellie locked her doors when she was away. First, a strange rental car in the driveway and now this? She shook her head and murmured to herself, “Clara.”

Pushing it open cautiously, she first noticed take out food wrappers and drink cups littering the table. Odd, Ellie seldom let such debris pile up, but then she had had some awful news. Moving through the kitchen and into the expansive living room she spied a familiar figure sitting in the midst of scattered journals and papers, shoulders heaving with sobs.

“Mandy?”

Without thinking she lowered herself to the floor and took her weeping daughter, her prodigal into her arms and rocked her, trying to understand what she was saying between her sobs.

“Mom, Mom, did (sob) did (sob) you know?”

“Know what, Cupcake?” Nancy found herself still trying to absorb the fact that she had found her daughter in Ellie’s house.

“Ellie (sob) had a (sob) brain tumor. She only (sob) had a (sob) a few months to live.” Mandy’s voice gained strength, turning accusatory. She shoved several sheets of paper directly into her mother’s chest pushing her away, as she scrambled out of the embrace. Backing up like a frightened animal, Nancy thought with a pang. Words failed her, her emotions too raw. Obviously, Nancy concluded, Mandy had come to Ellie’s bypassing even the courtesy of a call to her mother. The sheet and pillow on the couch, the mess in the kitchen and on the floor before both of them evidence that she had been here at least since yesterday. As a mother it was hard not to be offended by Mandy’s actions, but she pulled the blast of recriminations back from the tip of her tongue, swallowed them and looked down at the papers Mandy had thrust into her lap.

A still small voice in her head reminded her there is a “time to be silent” and so she perused the papers with their diagnosis ( Grade IV, Glioblastoma), prognosis (poor), treatment options (palliative). She looked at the list of medications, Ellie had been taking recognizing only one or two, pain medication, anti-seizure medication. Then as if she could grasp the content better, or maybe to avoid engaging her daughter, she read them again.

Mandy spoke first, her voice tiny, child-like, “We could have said ‘good-by’ if we had just known. But NO she had to go and die first! That is just so mean!” Her voice broke into a sob that convulsed into laughter. Nancy snorted and then laughed with her daughter until they both were crying again.

“Just like her to go and die before we could say good-by. What kind of friend was she?” Nancy remarked through gulps of laughter and sobs, tears streaming down her face.

Then in unison, eyes meeting, “THE BEST.” So true, so true.

********************
Sally Burton produced tuna sandwiches for the group around the table with not a single turned up nose. Since Les preferred peanut butter and jelly, she expected him to complain, but he simply pulled a sandwich from the plate and gobbled it down with his friends. They were intent on a project of their own making, having requested drawing and painting materials, which Sally produced. Macy had run home and returned with poster board. Even Jessie’s two younger sisters were busy coloring in letters, with Jessie’s warning that they had better stay within the lines.

Retreating Sally bumped into her husband as he came out of his office or “man cave” as she had dubbed it. Paul’s face betrayed his frustration and concern. Uprooting his family, laying off men and women, he thought of as friends weighed heavily on him. He tried desperately to hide his raw emotions and laugh as he and Sally collided.

“Oops! Sorry, Sal. Wasn’t watching where I was going.”

Sally caressed his forearm, wishing he’d quit trying to hide his emotions to spare her. Good grief after all the years they had been together did he think his stiff upper lip, fake jollying would fool her. They needed to talk. She knew it. He knew it. Moving to Mexico wasn’t either of them’s choice, but job hunting wasn’t either. They had been so sure when he became Plant Manager that they would be set, not wealthy, but not poor either.

“I just fixed some tuna sandwiches for the kids, Les’s Sunday School class, would you like one?”

“Sure. What are those kids doing over here?” Paul frowned.

“Oh, you know Ellie gave them all saplings on Sunday morning. They were going to plant them together with her on Monday with some sort of ceremony…Of course, that didn’t happen.”

Sally’s voice trailed off and she was silent for a few moments.

“Well, I think Les has his in his room in water, but a couple of the kids threw theirs out. Jessie Adams was the one who wanted to carry on with the whole idea, but with two of the trees gone, and Ellie gone…” again her voice faltered, “They are working on something else together maybe like a memorial to Ellie. I have kinda tried to let them do their own thing.” She stopped then added, “It is the most animated Les has been in the last couple of weeks.”

Paul grimaced, snatched the sandwich from her and started back to his study. “Well, it is not my fault, Sally. I am just doing what I have to do for my own family.”

Sally followed his back with her eyes, but did not respond or hurry after him. She knew he was hurting. She knew he was not responsible for MarVal closing up shop and heading across the border, but at that moment she had exhausted her reserve of comfort giving.

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Their hysterical scene calmed, Nancy began clearing take out clutter from the kitchen, with Mandy following behind wiping surfaces clean. Together they folded the sheets on the couch with Nancy putting them in a sack to take home and laundry. They worked silently. The laughing, crying frenzy had pretty much quelled conversation.

Other than the notebooks, journals, and loose paper on the floor, the place was in order. They both sat down on the floor at the same time. Mandy had already begun the task, Ellie’s letter had asked Nancy and Clara to do, so Nancy saw no reason to move the piles. Just as she was thinking Brian and Clara should be there soon, she heard car doors open and close in the driveway. Mandy looked up, startled.

“Brian and Clara,” Nancy reminded Mandy. “He picked her up at the airport.”

Mandy nodded. Mother and daughter rose off the floor just as Clara followed by Brian entered by the kitchen door. Clara immediately ran into Nancy’s arms, struggling not to completely break down. Brian glared at his sister and mimed ‘why don’t you answer your phone?’

Thanksgiving 2014 Day Thirteen: For the Law

imageNo escaping it I am under the rule of law, natural law (what goes up must come down), civil law (speed zones, property, taxes, etc.), moral law (ethical behavior) but what place does God’s law have in my life as a Christian saved by Grace?

As a Christian, one thing I know, I cannot keep God’s law, but as a Christian, I know God’s law is meant to illuminate a righteous path. Taking only the Ten Commandments, as a Christian I now see them not as “Thou shalt not’s” but as “how to live freely’s” .

“Be faithful in your marriage” rather than “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

The law no longer condemns; the law lights my path as a Christian and I am not alone for the Holy Spirit works within me till every chain is broken.

I am no longer condemned by the law:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

For in Christ the Law is being fulfilled in me:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭17-18‬ NIV)

And so today I am thankful for all the laws of God, natural, civil, moral and spiritual for with Christ they free me and keep me grounded.

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