Remembering Stone #4: The Gospel of Grace

Remembering Stone #4: The Gospel of Grace

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. …

 It is so amazing how the twists and turns of life are used by the Spirit of God to direct us according to His path. This is exactly what happened as I left the convent and went back home to Edison, New Jersey at the age of 21. And this is where I pick up my story …

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Abiding Today!

Abiding Today!

It was 30-plus years ago now that I "discovered," as if for the first time, that I am a branch...a beloved one at that, but just a branch...in the Vine, the Father's true Vine, that is. And I love being a branch, because a branch doesn't have to be smart or strong.  All a branch has to do is what Jesus told His disciples just hours before His death on our behalf. And what is that something? Let's take a look as Jesus tenderly prepared His beloved disciples for the days ahead by following His walk through a vineyard on the way to Gethsemane.

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Remembering Stone #3: The Holy Scriptures

Remembering Stone #3: The Holy Scriptures

Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Psalm 119:97 NIV

I had grown up with the belief that the best thing to do for God was to become a nun and dedicate my life to serving Him. In fact, my mom raised us kids believing we should all become nuns or priests. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that some of her zeal in “encouraging” us in that direction was very likely a result of her difficult marriage to my dad who “abused” alcohol more and more as the years went by.

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Remembering Stone #2: The Holy Spirit

Remembering Stone #2: The Holy Spirit

… So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11: 13 NLT

After our three and a half years in Tucson, another geographic move directed my story at the beginning of my fourth grade school year. Being so far from family had been difficult especially for my mom, so my parents packed up our family and moved back to New Jersey.

I remember the week-long trip on Route 66 in our green Plymouth sedan, now with 5 kids in tow – 3 girls and 2 boys. It had been a “fruitful time” in Arizona for our growing family. After a few months of staying with my paternal grandmother in inner city Newark, my parents bought a three bedroom house a few blocks from St. Matthew’s church and school out in the “suburbs.” (A few years later, we made a move to a new home right next to the church and school.) 

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The Emptying of Motherhood

The Emptying of Motherhood

Motherhood is filled with emptyings -- from the emptying of the womb in childbirth to the emptying of self in child-raising to the emptying of the nest, the ultimate goal. The stripping is hard, every step along the way.

And eventually, it may mean being alone on the day when moms have always been lauded and honored. This happened to me early on in the empty-nesting process. It could have shattered me were it not for my Abba Father's loving gifts to this hurting mama. 

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"Eulogize" your Mom While She is Still Alive!

"Eulogize" your Mom While She is Still Alive!

eulogy  noun, plural eulogies.
1. a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person.
2. high praise or commendation.

Caring for our treasured loved ones is at the heart of “family” in the purest sense of the word.

However, we often forget that true caring can be much deeper and more needed than merely physical care, as critical as that is.  There’s a caring that touches heart and soul…one that meeting physical needs approaches, but a caring that perhaps only loving words can reach.

We busily go through our lives, often thinking many kind thoughts and feeling loving, appreciative sentiments for our loved ones, but not stopping to put words and voice to them…nourishing the soul of ones we love.

Rather what do we traditionally do?  We wait until the person has passed away to express those words, words that deep down she may have been longing to hear.    We give those golden words to others in the form of a eulogy, either formally or informally delivered, at a funeral or memorial service.

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Remembering Stone #1: The Will of God

Remembering Stone #1:  The Will of God

may he equip you with all you need for doing his will….
My story begins on the East Coast in the city of Newark, New Jersey. Janet Gale Renner (me) was born to Conrad Charles Renner and Jeanette Agnes Galuszka at St. Michael’s Hospital on June 16th, 1947. 

Born just after the end of WWII, this firstborn girl of eventually seven spent the first five and a half years in Newark. There I attended a half -year of kindergarten before our family moved to Tucson, Arizona because of my dad’s health.

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Remembering Stones: Reflections on a Life Being Lived

Remembering Stones: Reflections on a Life Being Lived

Live while you are alive.  (Patch Adams)

Each of us has a life … the life we were given.  We didn’t choose our life.  But I guess the issue is,  “Are we living while we are alive?” Or, are we waiting till “things settle down,” or, “we lose ____# pounds,” or, “the kids grow up,” or ????,  or ????, or ????.

“Things settling down” was always my trap in my early years of adulthood. But things don’t ever settle down, do they? Not for long anyway. They just change. And then the cycle begins again, and so then we never really embrace the life that is ours. So this is what I eventually realized: I need to …

live the life I have, not the one I wish I had.

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A Restaurant, a Railroad, and a Resurrection: Theo's Story

A Restaurant, a Railroad, and a Resurrection: Theo's Story

I have a new, young friend. His name is Theo. Theo is 19 years old and special. Theo is special not just because he has a special way of thinking and seeing the world,  but because he is an amazing person.  Theo is smart, friendly, and interesting. And I like him a lot.  And I think Theo likes me too. In fact, he says I’m his favorite “Babci” (my Polish grandma name) because our grandson Evan is his best friend. 

I haven’t gotten to know Theo very well yet, but I have discovered that Theo loves people, biking, and trains. And one day around the holidays, I was offered the opportunity to experience all three with him.

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Are You Guarding an Empty Tomb?*

Are You Guarding an Empty Tomb?*

It is Finished!

There were soldiers that guarded Christ's tomb. And for them this was not just "another day at the office," because this time the death of the "Criminal" presented new problems: would the followers come to steal His body? Would He actually do what He said and come back to life? (I'm not so sure the officials really worried about this last possibility, do you?)

So the stone ... and so the guards! Until...

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Holy Week: 7 Sayings of Christ with B.C. 2001

Holy Week: 7 Sayings of Christ with B.C. 2001

A few years ago, I came across an inspiring cartoon in my "Easter" file (See enlarged image below).  I think my husband John, who had been the family reader of the Sunday funnies in years gone by, cut it out and gave it to me back in April 2001.  So there in my file, this little treasure has been tucked away for all these years.

For those of you who have been following the Lenten Meditations on a branch in the Vine, this piece serves as a fitting climax during Holy Week.

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Reunion

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Reunion

Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

So goes a traditional nighttime prayer taught by American moms to their children for generations. It may seem odd to us today that there would be the mention of death in a child's prayer.  But scientists say that sleep is the closest we come to death while still alive.  The Greeks even had a proverb,

Sleep and death are brothers.

However, in the first century, Jewish moms taught their children a different bedtime prayer...quoting Psalm 31:

Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.

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Invited to the Dance -- Perichoresis

Invited to the Dance -- Perichoresis

Prom time is just around the corner. Do you remember those days in your own life? The beauty! The excitement! The “romance” of it all! Rarely does it measure up to all our anticipation, and yet there is something about the dance that draws us in, doesn’t it.

As you may recall from my last blog post, the image of the dance is my favorite metaphor for the life of faith. When I said YES to the LOVER of my Soul, I became one with Him. I accepted His invitation to the dance of all dances … one that will never end and one that is all about Love.

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The Dance of FAITH: Moving with His Life-giving Flow

The Dance of FAITH: Moving with His Life-giving Flow

A few years ago, my husband and I were at some friends’ house.  This couple liked to gather miscellaneous people who knew them but not each other. True to form, they asked a great icebreaker question.  The particular question that evening was, 

If you could do anything other than what you currently do, what would that be? Your secret ambition?

 

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Completion

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Completion

Tetelestai!* It is finished! The death of Christ on the Cross is the HINGE of human history...and nowbefore He breathes His last breath... a cry of victory,It is finished!

What's finished? It must be something BIG,...look at what happened when Jesus died:

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.

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No Joke! He is Alive ... Forever! And So Am I!

No Joke! He is Alive ... Forever! And So Am I!

Last year, I posted this for April Fool’s Day. Even though Easter is several weeks away this year, this post is no less true. HE IS ALIVE & I am free!

He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.
Matthew 28:6 NLT

Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.
John 14:19 NLT

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Now in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus expresses His own physical need:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. John 19:28-29 ESV

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Abandonment

Lenten Meditation:  a Word of Abandonment

Abandoned!  Left on the "doorstep of Life"...but with no Rescuer in sight! What happens next in the unfolding drama of the crucifixion of our Lord is incomprehensible!

It's an abandonment so profoundly mysterious that it boggles the mind...but ravishes the believing heart! Let's watch it unfold...

It is noon. By this time, Jesus has already forgiven ... 

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Starting from Scratch: a Retreat Meditation

Starting from Scratch: a Retreat Meditation

This past weekend I had the joyful opportunity to join with a lovely group of ladies from my church with the express purpose of experiencing our God on a deeper level. The group was comprised of women of all ages who were at different stages in their walk with God. Yet despite the differences, an amazing oneness prevailed. How like the Holy Spirit to join us in Christ and allow us to sense Him in and through each other!

On Friday evening, I had the privilege of sharing the opening meditation. If you were at that retreat, you may like to revisit our focus by reviewing the meditation. If you weren’t able to join us for whatever reason, please join us here now as we explore the rest we are called to in Christ, who is our Focus, our Ground Zero, our Foundation, our All!

Actually HE IS the Christian Life! Amen!

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Family Affection

Lenten Meditation:  a Word of Family Affection

Dear woman, behold your son...behold your mother. (John 19:26)

Jesus has a special love for His own. As we've already seen with His forgiving and saving attitude in the midst of excruciating agony, His concern was not with His own suffering.  Rather His attention was next drawn to His precious loved ones at the foot of His cross, His mother and His beloved disciple John.

What agony Jesus must have seen on Mary's face.

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