Tag Archives: grace

Those who despise grace…

Standard

Friday is the day for our weekly spelling test in my 5th grade class.  When the test is over, the kids exchange papers and we grade them together as a class.  Those kids are so hard on each other.  Every week someone complains that their friend’s “O”s look like “C”s or their “A”s look like “U”s.  They demand that every “T” be crossed and every “I” be dotted.  I’m sure some of them have a future in some government office.

I am constantly trying to teach them about grace.  My 5th graders are hard on each other and don’t give each other much grace because they don’t recognize their own need for grace.  They have very short and selective memories.  They remind me a lot of some Christians.

When Christians are hard on each other, demanding perfection of each other, it is because they do not see their own need for grace.  Pride has blinded them to their own faults, and they undervalue God’s power to forgive.

Jesus talked about this.  He said, “He who has been forgiven of much, loves much.”  The woman weeping at his feet was a prostitute.  The host, who forgot to give him water to wash his dusty feet when he arrived at the house, was a Religious Leader.  Who loved Jesus more?  The one who had been forgiven of more sins.

Those who do not recognize their own need for grace will always be hard on the people around them, like my 5th graders who are tyrants with a correcting pen.  Once a person sees their own trashiness, smells their own filth, and understands all that God has had to put up with in cleaning them up, then that person is tender and sensitive to the cleaning up process in his neighbor.  He says, “There but by the Grace of God would I go.”  If it were not for God’s Grace towards me, you and I would be in identical straits.

Has Pride blinded you to your own need for grace?  Are you hard on people?  Ask God for the brokenness that comes with understanding your own pathetic state before a pure and holy God.  Tenderness comes through brokenness.  Compassion is born of humility.

Grace is Messy

Standard

I’ve been thinking about this blog now for some time and it’s just been a matter of sitting down to actually write it.  I am not writing this to embarrass anyone, so I’m not going to use any names.  The reason I’m writing this story is to cure you of the idea that you have to be perfect to serve the Lord.  I want you to put out of your mind once and for all the incorrect idea that missionaries or ministers or pastors are perfect.  Put that lie out of your mind once and for all.  Grace is messy.  Each of us have been and forever will be the recipients of sloppy, messy, beautiful, ugly grace from God.  Grace is about fresh starts, Happy New Year.

This past week I have spent a few days at a World Missions Summit where I reconnected with some of my best friends from around the world, other missionaries.  I was struck by a continual theme in their lives as we shared family updates and stories of our lives since we last saw each other.  I am stunned by our universal need for grace.  Our lives are sloppy.  Our details are messy.  It’s like we are all children learning how to color in the lines.  Nothing is perfect.  But Father God still takes our childish, out of bounds coloring and proudly displays it on the family fridge.  We are learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

One friend told me that their family counselor told them, “the only way we can do this is imperfectly.”  Liberating Grace!  Her teenage daughter is learning to be a mother.  My friend still aches for the mission field they left behind to nurture their daughter through a difficult season of life.  It is imperfect at best.  Grace.

With detached emotions another friend reported to us the details of a painful divorce he endured this year.  She ran off with another man.  He told us without flinching, “She just didn’t want to be married to me.”  I choked back my own emotion thinking of how much pain he was holding behind his brave face.   Walking out of the hotel at the end of the weekend, we saw him talking in the lobby with a girl he met at the convention.  Healing, renewing grace!  Fresh start.

Broken by abuse as a child, and now ministering through her scars, my dear friend has remained single when all the other girls were getting married.  Brave woman- broken girl, she kept every man at arms distance and the ones she let into her heart were as jostling, joking little brothers.  She has found powerful healing in God’s strong grace.  Now she is feeling sparks, long dormant, flying to the surface.  Her first love is back, fresh from a divorce where his wife walked out on him and the children.  This is life changing, challenging grace.  But it’s not cut and dry.  It’s a confusing and slippery second chance to love and be loved.  Tender, broken grace.

If our lives were pretty and tidy, we would not need grace.  We can speak of Grace and preach of Grace and sing Amazing Grace how sweet the sound because we WERE the wretches who were saved by it.  We once WERE lost and broken and dying of our wounds.  Now we are found, healed, and saved to live again.  Grace means we live with scars.  Grace means that Father God still loves us when our lives are imperfect and resembling King David.  Poet warrior king who was a man after God’s own heart, yet he still fell into adultery, lies and murder.  He fell and was restored again by God’s messy grace.  It’s what grace is for and why we all need it.

May your New Year be full of messy, much needed Grace.

Failure is always an option

Standard

I’m not a shop-a-holic… mainly because I have no money.  But I think I’m a Change-a-holic.  I love change.  I crave change.  I am easily bored with routine and the same old, same old.  (I’m pretty sure adult ADD is setting in.  If I ever get Alzheimer’s no one will notice.)  So my short attention span combined with a natural free spirit is lethal for personal disciplines like exercising, sticking to a diet, and doing my daily devotions.  Were personal disciplines are concerned, “failure is always an option” (thank you Mythbusters).

Ugh, my daily devotions!  I go through spurts where I do really well and then I slack off for weeks at a time.  But here’s the thing about that.  God is not condemning me for that- that’s Satan’s voice that condemns- God’s voice says, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you!!”

God knows how I’ve wasted my time, he saw me do it.  It was no surprise to him, but he’s ready to start today fresh and new.  The Bible says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases (even when my love is inconsistent) His mercies shall never come to an end (even if I walk away from him- his mercies don’t depend on my actions, they are a fundamental part of HIS character and he never ends) They are new every morning (even if I don’t claim them every morning, and even if many mornings have been awash in failure, each day is fresh and given with the same level of joy and hope and love as the last day was given) Great is THY (not my) faithfulness, O Lord, my God!”

Put it this way.  I’m a mom.  My children are not perfect.  But I don’t love them any less when they are naughty or any more when they are well behaved.  My relationship with them is permanent.  It’s founded in who I am and who they are:  I am their mother, and they belong to me.  My relationship with them never changes because who I am never changes.  It’s the same with God.  Our relationship is permanent.  It’s not dependent on my behavior or my conformity or my consistency or my faithfulness.  It is based on who God is and who I am.  He is my Father, my Creator, my Savior and I belong to him.  He’s my Father and I’m his child.  I am his… forever.  Period.

Since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) I think about all the centuries of Christians who lived and died without owning their own copy of the Bible.  They didn’t do daily devotions (I mean like reading a chapter a day) and I’m sure they made it to heaven because we are not judged on our faithfulness… we are judged on the faithfulness of Jesus who was faithful unto the cross!

All that to say- give yourself grace.  Grace to grow.  Grace to fail.  Grace to start fresh each morning.  Grace to be human.  Grace to say I’m not ALL TOGETHER yet- I’m a work in progress.  Grace to move overseas, speak Spanish like a toddler, feel overwhelmed by culture shock and homesickness, have no idea what you are doing or what is expected of you, feel like you’re a big fat fake of a missionary because you hate praying and fasting, eat rice and beans until you’re sick of them, sit in church and wish that the pastor would just shut up because your Spanish brain burned out 20 minutes ago and you’re ready to go eat lunch… (Oh wait, that’s me, not you).

Give yourself grace and give others grace too.  Grace says “Failure is always an option, but it’s not the end of the road.”

I am Anti-Religion

Standard

“Are you tired?  Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  ~Jesus

I have to admit, this passage appeals deeply to me.  I AM tired.  I AM  worn out.  I AM  burned out on religion.  It’s like he’s talking directly to me!  I want to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.

For me, grace has been a learning process.  It’s not always been something I have valued.  I have learned how to have grace with myself and my failures, and by the same token, to give grace to others.  The burden of religion that I placed on myself was ill fitting and heavy.  I had to be perfect!  And if I wasn’t, no one else must see it!  Perfectionism is a heavy burden to bear.

Thankfully, that’s not where I am anymore.  Do I have it all down perfectly?  No, but I’m learning to live freely and lightly, comfortable in my skin, not overly caught up in my successes or failures.  I’m not always at peace with my daily cycles of work and rest and learning from God and applying to my walk.  But I see improvement.  I suppose that before I can extend grace to others, I have to first learn to cut myself some slack.  And for me, that is a very difficult thing to do.  I need Jesus to teach me the unforced rhythms of grace.