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What My Grandma Knew (Part 3)

January 14, 2017

Jill Eileen Smith 6 yrs oldI was born after those years—at the tale end of the “baby boomers”. We were still a nation that didn’t think much about locking our doors and people went to church on Sundays and dressed up on Easter and believed in the Bible. That’s not to say things were perfect. “Father Knows Best” might have been a favorite TV show, but the social structure and changes that began in the Twenties? They kind of reignited in the Sixties.

I grew up in the Sixties and Seventies. Anyone who knows history knows of the racial tension of those times. I remember the race riots in Detroit and how suddenly we didn’t feel so safe. There were rumors that turned to warnings in school telling us kids not to talk to strangers and how there was a strange car lurking around my elementary school. Walking home alone wasn’t quite so peaceful for a time, and when I would pass certain buildings, I ran just because they had that creepy look about them, though as an adult I now wonder what made me so afraid.

Mom Dad Den Elaine Jill 1960sThe Sixties changed a lot in this country. “Free Love” was the cry of the younger generation. To my ten-year-old ears, it sounded like a good thing. My dad didn’t quite agree with me, and I think society today would prove his feelings on the subject, that “free love” had far more consequences than we could have imagined. You see, there isn’t anything “free” about that kind of love, which isn’t love at all, but back then you didn’t want to advertise “Free Sex” lest it get you arrested or it sound like prostitution. But most of the time, it wasn’t much different.

Commune living, cults, living without restraints became the motto of the “Flower Children”, but what it resulted in was a lost generation that wanted to throw off responsibility. While some good came of that time in the Civil Rights Movement, there was a lot of unrest. Sex outside of marriage slowly became acceptable. Unwanted pregnancies sprang up and abortion became legal. And well, I could go on and on with the moral changes we’ve seen since then, but then I’d have to write a book, which isn’t on my to-do list right now. At least not this kind of book.

Part 4 tomorrow~

by jill at 8:00 am in

What My Grandma Knew (Part 2)

January 13, 2017

fullsizeoutput_6c53Back then, people weren’t so very different at a heart level, but morals have changed a lot since Grandma’s day. The social issues came on the heels of winning the “war to end all wars” except it wasn’t. Of course, during the Twenties they didn’t know there would be another World War about twenty years later. Now wasn’t the time for thinking of the future. They were victors and they wanted to party and be morally risky in more ways than one.

That era brought about discussions of birth control, and the Christian Women’s Temperance Union who wanted to stop all of the wild partying and drinking with Prohibition. Birth control discussions later gave birth to Planned Parenthood and Prohibition didn’t last very long.fullsizeoutput_6c68

But people just wanted to be free, after all. It was a new era. A new century and the youth of that day wanted to play and live without restraint. And maybe the social issues would have gained faster ground if not for that stock market crash that sent the nation reeling during the Great Depression.

Have you ever cleaned out a house of a person who lived through those years? I have. They saved everything. Down to every piece of tin foil, every napkin was reused. Recycling had nothing on them. The Depression-era survivors were the first environmentalists.

But the next war jolted everyone. Suddenly we were a nation that came together for a common cause and there was an enemy outside of any social issues that needed our attention. So men went to battle and grandpas and women went to work, and grandmas stayed home to care for the children. Social issues took a back seat then, but when the war was over, women had found they rather liked working outside the home and more change hung on the horizon.

Part Three tomorrow~

by jill at 8:00 am in

What My Grandma Knew (Part 1)

January 12, 2017

fullsizeoutput_6c64If my grandmother were alive today, I think she would be shocked to see the way the world has changed. Perhaps you are thinking, well, of course, she would. Anyone who was born in 1901 wouldn’t recognize 2017 any more than I would recognize 1000 B.C., though I can study it’s history and try to imagine what life was like then.

But back to my grandmother. She lived through a lot of social change. She was eleven when the Titanic sank. She was a young wife and mom during the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition and kept her family from starving and a roof over their heads during the Great Depression. My grandmother was probably a feminist in a Baptist dress, though she wouldn’t have known the word feminist, nor admitted it. She was strong-willed, and made decisions for other people. We might call her a control freak today, but she wouldn’t have heard of that phrase either.

fullsizeoutput_6c62She took in an infant her first year of marriage and raised her for a year after her father died and her mother needed surgery. She took in borders and sheltered her family when they needed her during World War II. She lived through the deaths of two brothers-in-law – one during World War I and the other to alcoholism. She planned the latter’s funeral on Christmas Eve, and took in her mother-in-law when she needed care.

Grandma saw the first car created. She rode streetcars in Detroit and allowed my grandfather one beer after a hard day’s work. She wasn’t about to let her man end up like his alcoholic brother with no money to feed her family.

She saw the suffragette movement, though I don’t know if she ever exercised her right to vote. She saw the Supreme Court cases that brought evolution to the classrooms and abortion to the masses.

She lived through the Cold War and Vietnam and the Korean Conflict and was widowed by about the age of 60. She lived through many presidents and industrial revofullsizeoutput_6c66lution changes, saw a man land on the moon, and watched her new son-in-law go off to war to save this country that had undergone more changes in her lifetime than I’ve seen in mine.

My grandma lived in Detroit at a time when people didn’t worry about being shot in their homes. When neighbors came in different nationalities and everyone went to church on Sunday. Families gathered for dinners, whether they got along very well or not. Grandma used to fight with her sisters but she sure missed them when they were gone. Love might be hidden behind criticism or even underlying bitterness, which Grandma knew, but in the end, love always mattered more.

And truth mattered as much as love.

More tomorrow~

#livegrace

 

by jill at 12:29 pm in

A Taste of Grace

January 10, 2017

Grace. I think I have taken that word for granted during my entire lifetime. But now…it carries a sweeter weight, a tone of melody that sings to the deep places in my heart where other songs can never reach.

Grace. It is a gift. A heart’s cry. A blessing. A word so full of amazement and wonder that I think it might take eternity to unravel all that it means.

The Psalmist prayed, “listen to my plea for grace.” He was counting on God’s goodness and forgiveness and steadfast love…to ALL who call on Him…to give him the grace he needed to make it through. Can you relate?

I sure can. Whpsalm-86-verse-picat other god in the universe, in the existence of humanity has ever been seen as abounding in “steadfast love”, forgiving, good, full of GRACE?

Grace, by the way, suggests a goodness and kindness to those who do not deserve such benevolence. Grace gives mercy where mercy is not warranted. Grace forgives even those who hate. Grace loves unconditionally. Grace is good to those who are not kind in return.

But that is such an awesome picture of our God! The Psalmist pleaded for God to hear his prayer, to listen to his plea for grace. And you know what? We are not unlike the psalmist, are we? In times of trial and trouble, we long for grace. It’s a lot harder to offer grace to others when we are hurting, than it is to ask for grace when we’ve been the one doing the things that are wrong.

But the same grace God extends to us, He asks us to extend to those who are indebted to us. “Forgive us our debts or trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Grace gives and asks that we give in return.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, is the psalmist’s often plea. Give me grace. Give me grace to live today, to forgive today, to extend love everywhere you send me today. Because I can’t do this alone. I need You. I need Your grace.

And in return, grace pours from my heart to everyone I meet, to everyone I love, even to those who make my life a struggle. I can forgive and love in spite of. Just as Jesus died for me–in spite of me.

That’s grace.

Lord, give each one of us a taste of Your amazing grace.

~Selah

#livegrace #lovealways #forgive

by jill at 7:55 pm in

Live Grace

December 29, 2016

IMG_16032016 has not been my favorite year. I can bet many of you feel the same. What started out as a year full of promise, even filled with good things, ended in a kind of mind-numbing disbelief for some and heartbroken pain for others. If you had a picture-perfect holiday and you live in an “everything is beautiful” world, then maybe you won’t relate to this post. But perhaps, if you stick with me, you might find something of use for next year or the year after or the next time you are faced with hurt that feels like a sucker punch or leaves your heart bleeding but no one sees.  When joy turns to sorrow, and when there is more anger and violence than grace and mercy. Sometimes life cut deep – whatever the cause.

Truth is – if I focus on all of the things I count as loss this year or any year, my emotions will close up and I tend to grow a little numb, like someone has hit me too many times until I can’t feel any more. Maybe it’s our God-given coping anesthetic until we can face our trial–whatever that may be. And trials, struggles will come. Guaranteed.img_0350

My pastor once shared with me several verses from Isaiah–a few of which read, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you…”

Did you notice the word “when“?

Not if. When.

Have you felt sometimes like you’re drowning? Has the fire come close enough to singe your clothes? That’s what deep hurt feels like. And I daresay there is not a person on the planet who is not hurting in some way – if not today then yesterday or tomorrow. The human heart has a great capacity to walk around wounded and look every bit as normal as the next person. We pass each other in the stores, in the waiting rooms, on the subway, at the airport – and no one knows what we are really feeling on the inside.

Some of us have been betrayed by someone we love. Others have had expectations dashed. Still others have lost hope that the future carries any hint of brightness, that the skies will always be gray. Tomorrow isn’t a song in a musical that dreams of a better day. Tomorrow just looks gloomy.

img_7371Whatever happened to “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning?” I think I missed part of that somewhere because joy and I keep passing each other before dawn attempts to clear the clouds.

And yet…

I wonder if part of the reason this is not my favorite year has to do with my perspective? Could it be that my focus on pain needs a lens adjustment? Have my glasses grown foggy, wrapped up in too much inward thinking?

I’ve been reading posts of late that are making their rounds on social media about forgiveness and what that looks like. One author said it well, when she spoke of lamenting the wrongs done to us – pouring out our hearts to God about the issue or incident – and ask Him to help us forgive.

IMG_0718Another suggestion that I borrowed and shared on my FaceBook Page says that forgiving someone isn’t excusing bad behavior. It’s a choice to forgive because God forgave us first. Forgiveness frees me, whether it improves the situation or not. Forgiveness takes away pain’s power.

But the truth is, if we are honest with ourselves, we aren’t strong enough to forgive like that without God’s grace. It is in our nature to grow bitter. It is in our nature to blame others, to complain, to gossip, to hold a grudge.

Some in my family tree were angry people. I had a grandfather with a temper I’m rather glad I didn’t witness, and a grandmother (different side of the family) who held a long-lasting grudge, that was thankfully reconciled and forgiven before her dying day.

I’ve had my own bouts with bitterness and grudge-holding and I didn’t even know they were part of my anatomy.

Anger a subtle sin, and one we don’t always recognize. Sometimes we bury anger so deeply and so easily that we would deny the emotion to anyone who asked. I did that as a child, and the consequences led to physical symptoms that caused some deep struggles, which God graciously helped me to resolve.

I learned to recognize the symptoms of anger because for me it starts with hurt turned inward, which leads to depression. Anger turned inward is depression – much of the time.

Tricky little emotion is anger. Anger also turns into a root that digs deep into our subconscious. The Bible calls it a root of bitterness and if we go to bed angry, we’ve allowed it to fester and given the devil a foothold. That means we’ve given him a way into our thoughts, into our hearts. And trust me, the enemy of our souls isn’t a nice guy. Jesus said of him that he is a thief and a liar and he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to destroy us.

img_2562He’s very good at destroying everything in his path, especially relationships. Just look at the relationships in this country – the misery, the anger, the violence against humanity. The murders in Chicago are at a record high. Now step outside of the United States and look at war-torn Syria. Destruction takes on a whole new meaning.

Man’s inhumanity to man is sin, and I have no doubt it is often linked to anger and an unforgiving heart. We treat each other with contempt and disdain and hate – people made in the image of God – all because we cannot forgive as we’ve been forgiven. For those of us who have known the forgiveness of God’s grace, we can’t harbor these emotions. God doesn’t give us a choice in this. When He commands us to forgive, He also gives grace to do so.

img_0285I once taught a Bible study on forgiveness and we came across the passage in the gospels when Peter asks Jesus – how many times do I have to forgive my brother? Seven times? (Peter was being generous in his mind.) But Jesus multiplied that number 70 times, meaning the forgiving doesn’t ever stop. And sometimes it’s for a one-time offense that is just too painful to forget. So forgiveness becomes a daily thing.

As is grace. Grace. Once for all and yet daily bread. We need to breath in grace every single day. And we need to breath out forgiveness just as often.

Maybe 2017 will turn out to be as bad a year as 2016. I know some people fear that it will. Others think it will be good in significant ways. I’ve never been able to predict the future–and I’d probably run from it if I could!

But maybe we have a choice in this next year’s outcome. Maybe how a year feels is based more on how I handle the circumstances that come at me rather than the circumstances themselves. How will I react to the next negative thing that comes my way?

Will I forgive each offense? Will I grow in grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus so that I don’t give in to bitterness but can offer up mercy? Will I accept that the flood and the fire will come, but I know that the words of God go with me in the midst of them? Because in that passage my pastor gave me, God also said, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

When I remember Whose I am and the promises of the God who knows me by name, I can stop looking back with regret or bitterness or depression, wishing life had do-overs, but rather look up, trusting that for every broken-hearted person, there is a God who came to heal every one of those bleeding places in our hearts with His Grace.

2017 – It’s time to Live Grace.

~Selah

#livegrace

 

by jill at 8:27 pm in