Who bore the blame?

But God is merciful

Psalm 86: 15-16 But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant.

Psalm 56:1-3 O God, have mercy on me … When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, mercy is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” The best description of mercy I know is Psalm 103:8-11:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

Yesterday God’s mercy was the theme of our entire service. Pastor Kevin’s sermon was wonderful, but the music was extraordinary, and I want to share it with you. You can turn them into a playlist or click on any of the links below. Or listen to or watch part or all of the service. “O Gracious Light” begins at 57 seconds. The sermon is 25 minutes-42:30. The second period of worship begins at 56:30.

O Gracious Light” by Andy Clark and Elise Massa: Show me this darkness is not too dark for you.

Each song title is a link:

Lord, Lord, Lord” by Ryan Flanigan: Please restore our trust.

What the Lord has Done in Me” by Hillsong Music: From the heavens mercy streams of the Savior’s love for me

O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship: Are you hurting and broken within?

He Will Hold Me Fast” by Keith and Kristen Getty: I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path … He must hold me fast

We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken: Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed. You are the faithful one.

Love (III) by George Herbert (published 1633)

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat;

So I did sit and eat.

The cost of kindness, by Meredith Dobson

But God is right beside me

Psalm 18:8 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

The gardener had shoveled a path from the curb to the front door. However, sun had melted a piece by the curb that froze and created “black ice.” I had loaded my arms and begun a walk to the house when, without warning, my feet went out from under me and I was flat on my back, head on the pavement looking at clear blue sky.

Shutterstock: Maria Sbytova

Stunned, I couldn’t breathe for a moment. But I was vaguely aware I had seen a man walking on the sidewalk toward me. Now he was beside me trying to lift me up. Suddenly a woman appeared saying “don’t lift her, she might be hurt.” Somehow, I got to my feet, feeling a little dazed, but I felt no pain.

A second woman appeared. My knees were shaky, but they supported me. “Is this your house?” someone asked.  It was in my head to explain the long, complicated story of why I was there and whose house it was, but it seemed like too much.  All I could say was a quiet “Yes.”

The man who had been walking asked if I needed things from the trunk that was open.  I said, “Yes I do – bags from Target and” …  my mind went completely blank. In my mind I could see the Staples store, but my head felt full of mush, and I couldn’t find the word. It occurred to me that I had hit my head on the pavement, and I needed to hold on and not faint or say or do anything stupid. “Staples!” I shouted. These kind angels brought the bags into the house for me. Before I could say “God Bless” they were off into the morning sunshine warning me of the black ice.

I felt a miracle of sorts going through me. Nothing hurt. Maybe my hip would have a bruise. Nothing broken. I stood there in this living room belonging to a woman I felt deep affection for and whose final years and now months or weeks or whatever kind of time God had planned for her are mine to watch over. I took off my puffy coat and was thankful for the soft cushioning I had landed on when I fell. I said a direct and sincere “Thank You” to God for no injuries.  Then I “heard” Him say, “Ok, Meredith, get to work.”

Throughout these weeks and months that I have been Power of Attorney on behalf of this dear woman, I have often questioned the extent and manner in which my choices and decisions for her needed to be taken. I have asked for advice. I have talked to God. I have asked for guidance. People have offered opinions. People have said what they would or would not do, but at the end of the day, the choices and decisions were mine to make and to live with. 

On that day, when I was flat on my back, looking at the sky and minutes later scanning my body for injury, there was no doubt in my mind that God was with me and guiding me. God will help me with mistakes, and he will guide me whenever I ask. My only job is to be honest, truthful and keep my friend’s best interest at the top of the list right underneath God’s. Amen.

Proverbs 3: 3 – Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.

But God extends grace

Acts 11:20-21, 28-29 Some believers who went to Antioch began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord … A prophet named Agabus predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could.

Galatians 1:15 But before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace.

Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace … you can’t take credit for this: it is a gift from God.

My heart sank. “You’re kidding, right?” That’s what I thought, though I think I was a little more gracious than that to the Duquesne Incline ticket seller. It wasn’t her fault—I should have researched before spontaneously dragging my three-year-old Caleb and one-year-old Talita up all those steps from the parking lot to the next set of steps to the walkway across to the cars.

Shutterstock: James Kirkikis

The thing is, I had already dragged the kids all the way back down to the car and up again in muggy 90-degree heat after discovering I had forgotten our face masks. Little Talita was soaked in sweat, her hair a sticky mass. Caleb stared at me in unbelief when I told him we wouldn’t be able to ride the Incline after all. I hadn’t realized it was cash only, and the credit card in my pocket had zero value. Nor could I imagine making the round trip again. Obviously, I wasn’t accustomed to riding on public transit, or I would have known about the need for cash.

A woman behind us in line heard my explanation to Caleb. As I turned to start our descent to the parking lot, she said, “Wait. How much do you need?”

“Well, the kids are free. So it’s just me.”

“Five dollars, then, round trip. I can give you five dollars, so the children aren’t disappointed. Let me do this.”

“What? Are you sure? I have no way to pay you back.”

“I’m sure. Here. Enjoy the ride.” Her smile was brilliant.

Ironically, on my way to pick up the kids, I heard on NPR a conversation about research demonstrating the benefits to the giver of showing kindness to others. I hope that was true for our benefactor! What a lovely random act of kindness. Though I might not recognize her again, she will forever occupy a warm place in my heart.

It tickles me to think God experiences joy when he gives to us. In my experience that happens like, all the time. Even when I don’t notice.