The Limping Church Triumphant

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L-ife is to be lived with love as our mandate; but too often,
I-maginations are soiled with the cares and constraints of bolstering up this
M-ansion here, rather than the one
P-prepared for us. Wishing to stay and wishing to go
I-s for those closest to heaven’s door and
N-ot for those distracted with position and purpose,
G-rounded, it seems, in earthly things. And we wound each other with

C-areless words; and we
H-arm the weak and disarm the strong, without
U-nderstanding we are servants one of another, chosen not by destiny but
R-edeemed and uniquely
C-hosen by Christ. He is the One we serve—not ourselves—with grace and
H-umility, forgiving one another, seeking each one’s best.

T-herefore, as God’s people, let us clothe ourselves with compassion; let peace
R-ule our hearts, forgiving all grievances, responding
I-n love as Christ has loved us,
U-nfettered by ambition and pride and blind passion.
M-aster of all, Lord of Your church, it would seem our faith
P-aralysis is not a reflection of You but our
H-alf-hearted devotion, our crippling sins.
A-rise in our hearts; revive your chosen ones that we might
N-ot be so earthbound, but set our hearts on
T-hings above. This is my broken prayer.

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Colossians 3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I Miss My Mother

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I miss my mother.

Not the pained days and her lonely, disorienting moments,
not the frontal lobe disintegration that turned a stable woman of integrity into a silly, flirting schoolgirl,
not the numbness and loss of dexterity that stole the pleasure of creativity from her busy fingers.

I miss the laughter, the sneaky tricks, the Scrabble games at midnight. I miss the hint of mischief behind those blue eyes. She saw it so clearly in us because it was self-diagnosis.

I miss her dedication to home and family that gifted us with pies and cookies, doilies and quilts, music and ministry, prayers by the bed, and testimony in every routine act of living.

Discipline was not always pleasant, but forgiveness was metered out with hugs and affirmations. When I finally got caught stealing Daddy’s pocket change and hoarding it under my mattress in an old condom box, I got the just talking to, but my repayment plan was probably a third of what I stole and so much less than what I deserved. Perhaps part of my debt was paid in the moments of laughter behind her hand.

I miss her full mind, her surety, her security in faith tested. If she ever doubted, her passion and love for the lost washed over any questions she may have had.

I miss her determination to press on through bad memories and disappointments, betrayals and sorrows.

Her commitment to work in the church and community, to pour her energies out to bring along the weaker and the worn, kept her going past her physical strength and only faded with her fading mind.

On that day, your spirit soared as I flew homeward, and I like to think I met you in the air as you left this hard place, though whether heaven is up, down, or sideways, I don’t know; but I know
you are surely there, as surely as life has gone on.

There are some days in this topsy-turvy world,
I really miss my mother.

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I Miss My Father

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I miss my father.

Not the last, lingering days when the ravages of Parkinson’s stripped his body of strength and dignity,

not the growing quiet and dimming light, the betrayal of senses with the ambush of age and degeneration,

not the loss of skill and purpose with increasing dependence.

I miss the stories, the laughter, the dropping of the false teeth to scare innocent children.

I miss the sawing afternoon naps in the recliner, the dirt between the fingernails, and the smelly old farm boots.

I miss him, dusty and weary, still willing to amaze his children at day’s end by playing a bit of softball in the failing light—and hitting that ball to kingdom come.

I miss stealing sips of his instant coffee and codependent sampling of forbidden pies.

It’s the wisdom, I miss most. The forgiveness and acceptance, the knowing that in my stupidest moments, he was still my rock, my shelter, my willing warrior.

I looked at his picture on my dresser today, and a tear caught in my throat because as long as it’s been and
as surely as life has gone on,
there are some days in this topsy-turvy world,
I really miss my father.

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Upside-down World

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When what was and now is not happens in a wisp of a moment,
when friends become foes, exchanging their trust for biting and isolating words,

then it is plain to see that we are living in an upside-down world.

When conversations meant to break down barriers instead erect the worst kind of walls,
when what I see and what you see suddenly are
oddly at odds
to the vision once shared,

then it is pain to see that we are as much a part of this upside-down world as everyone we have observed from afar. Tut, tut, what a shame it was. And is.
We are in it, of it, and yearning for all to be made right.

What makes it worse is that the reflection is somewhat like what we hope for; but
in its rippling distortion and ever-changing color, what’s hoped for seems like some cruel illusion.

Far off, unattainable, yet present enough to hunger the soul.
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Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

 

Sunday Stranger

A p r o n h e a d -- Lilly

The man at the entrance handed me a bulletin from the top of a large stack.  He gave a vacant smile—a smile saved up all week long for Sunday strangers.  His eyes focused somewhere just above and to the right of my forehead.  It made me wonder if there was a fly caught in my hair.

The music grew louder as I crossed the foyer and entered through one of the sets of heavy double doors to the sanctuary.  Slipping into a back pew, I glanced around.  The church was old with dark mahogany and stained glass, the pulpit a million miles away.

The congregation was in the middle of a song, led by a golden-robed choir with bright faces and sure voices.  At the close of the song, a smile in a suit encouraged the people to spend a few moments greeting those around them.  The lady in front…

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Whispers

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Whispers thread through the flaming rage,

almost lost, almost imperceptible, drowned out by opinion, history, frenzied fury, and flailing fists.

The whispers tip toe in my tossing mind, seeking a place to land and be heard.

They are the filaments of hope, the clinging truths that cannot be destroyed by rhetoric or abuse or repeated dogma.

They are woof and warp, the solid underpinning of this spinning, unsettled mess.

Are you listening? Am I listening?

We are all the same—blood and bone.

We are all broken—body and soul.

We are all human—color and kind.

God loves. And

He whispers in the tumult

to see as He does and love as He loves.

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Romans 13:10 (NLT)

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Proverbs 10:12 (NLT)

Hatred stirs up quarrels,
but love makes up for all offenses.

 

Asking you, asking me . . .

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Does your faith-life even require Jesus?

Got the maxims memorized.

Got the rules down.

Is religion more your bulwark than relationship—

behavior and image more important than face-falling service,

open-hearted devotion to His worthiness?

Has purpose surpassed person?

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate this substance-hoped-for idea.

Are we a scattered and lost flock, devoted to a text but without a message?

I think I would rather falter on a rough road than walk resolutely down a worn and wrong path,

stuck in a form of obedience . . . but without a desperate, clinging trust.

My will is contrary to my dedication;

my rituals supplant my connection, offering a form without reality.

Am I so right-on religious that as a Christian I can do this thing without Jesus?

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

~Romans 7:19