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“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace…”  – Zechariah 12:10

A friend once asked me, “What is grace?”  At the time I couldn’t think of a definition, only examples.  I later heard our former Pastor define grace as: unmerited favor.   In other words, grace is showing undeserved  kindness.   My Bible defines grace as being God’s unmerited favor toward sinful humanity.

I’m blessed, but ashamed, to say that I was a recipient of grace today. 

A friend… sister-friend… someone I admire and respect …someone’s whose friendship I treasure…recently asked me to do an important favor for her.  I immediately responded that I would, but then failed to do so.   Unexpected plans distracted me from my commitment and I forgot.  Two days ago I realized what I’d done (or hadn’t done, in this case).  I felt terrible and ashamed.  I knew I needed to apologize and admit my failure to help her, but I procrastinated.  While praying this morning, God let me know that I needed to stop procrastinating and contact her today. 

As soon as my morning tasks were done I sat down to send my friend an email of apology.  No, I wasn’t copping out by sending her an email instead of speaking to her in person.  Email is how we communicate.  However, as I started my message to her, I received an email from her!  I  expected it to be a message calling me out on how I’d let her down (and that would have been deserved), but instead it was an all-out gift of grace.  She didn’t even mention the previous favor she’d asked me to do.  Instead, she was giving me another chance to do a favor for her. I thought surely she’d label me as unreliable and remove me from her “go to” list.  In addition, she also informed me of a surprise favor she was going to do for me!  Now if that’s not all-out grace, I don’t know what is!  All that grace and she hadn’t even gotten an apology from me yet! 

Grace:  unmerited favor, undeserved kindness

By definition, Jesus showed the greatest act of grace when he allowed all of our sins to be upon Him as He died on the cross.  It’s easy to wonder why He would do that because even though He had many followers and people who loved Him, many others hated Him.  Before being crucified He was beaten, mocked, disgraced, and despised.  Yet He took the sins of those people, too.  Yes.  Jesus was a true man of grace.  He was a man who paid the ultimate sacrifice for sins with His own life so that forever more, all who would claim Him as their Lord and Savior could be forgiven of their sins and offered eternal life with Him in heaven.  In fact, just as my friend ended her message by showing an extra act of grace, Jesus offered one more act of grace while hanging on the cross by promising salvation to the criminal hanging next to him who acknowledged Jesus as LORD and asked to be saved.   

GRACE:  God’s free and unmerited favor toward sinful humanity.

God probably won’t ask for such an extreme act of grace from us, but there are many ways we can show grace to others.  Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t say, “I told you so.”  * Avoid taking part in gossip.  Say something positive to end the gossip, instead! * Don’t rub it in when someone else messes up.  Be compassionate to them.  * Turn the other cheek when someone wrongs you.  * Allow the other person to ‘have the last word’ in an argument.  * Avoid an argument altogether by only speaking words of love and grace.  * Let it go when someone cuts you off in traffic. *  Forgive others…even without being asked!  * Don’t repay evil with evil.  *  Trust God to bring justice to others.  * Pray for those who wrong you, hurt you, cheat you, lie to you,…   * Be the first to extend kindness after a bad experience with someone else.  * Let bygones be bygones.   * Love everyone just has God has loved you. 

As stated above, I was ashamed to be in a position where my friend needed to show me grace.  However, I felt extremely blessed when she did.  A little grace goes a long way!   Now I’ll have to remember her loving act of grace and pass it on to others, too! 

How about you?  What acts of grace can you offer today? 

God bless you.  May grace and peace be with you.  Amen.

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A broken shell sits atop my roll-top desk among other sentimental treasures.   Two other broken shells sit on my bathroom counter among a few seemingly ‘perfect’ shells.  The shell on my desk is from our recent Spring Break trip.  The two on the bathroom counter are wonderful reminders of our women’s retreat, held at the beach last fall.  It was there that I learned to treasure the special beauty of broken shells.

I’ve always collected shells.  At age 47 I STILL can’t resist picking up shells as I walk along the beach, and I LOVE to walk along the beach!   I used to only search for unbroken, whole shells. However, now I see special beauty in the broken shells, too.  I learned to appreciate the beauty in broken shells after hearing one of my friends excitedly share the story of how God had spoken to her during her early morning walk on the beach at our women’s retreat.  I don’t recall exactly what she said, but this is how I was inspired by the beauty of broken shells:

We, like shells, get tumbled around on our journey.  Sometimes we take hard knocks and get battered around by life, and these rough times can cause wear and tear, cracks, and even break us in places.   Other times we allow ourselves to remain dormant in troubling situations and ‘barnacles’ of anger, resentment, jealousy, pride, doubt and other negative influences begin to attach themselves to us.  Eventually we’re like the broken shells that wash up upon the beach, but that’s ok!  As the friend who shared her story says, it makes us “beautifully broken”.   God sees beauty and opportunity in our brokeness.  It’s in those times and places within us that He can do His best work!

We are ALL broken shells!  None of us have arrived where we are today completely unscathed or untouched by life situations.  Each of us has experienced pain, fear, disappointment, loss, illness, injury, and the list goes on.  It’s been through those times that we’ve had the opportunities to grow, mature, and become even more beautiful!  Since becoming a woman of faith, it’s been in those times that God has shown Himself most beautifully to me.  In fact, if you look closely at what appear to be perfect shells, you’ll see many scratches, marks, and imperfections.  Pssst…people are like that, too!  They might look all perfect and whole at a quick glance, but if you look closely you’ll see signs of imperfections – in EVERYONE!

Many people pass by the broken shells on the beach or even toss them back into the ocean.  They might do the same with us,  but not God.  He sees the beauty in us no matter what!  It’s when we wash up on the shores of life looking broken, damaged, and having signs of wear and tear that He most wants to be with us!  He wants to be the first to pick us up so He can add us to His collection of the “beautifully broken”, for it’s in those times that He truly can create beauty from the broken times of our lives.

It’s quite appropriate that God shared this lesson with my friend because she calls herself “beautifully broken” in the title of her blog site, Beautifully Broken Amanda.  How about you?  Are you ready to call yourself Beautifully Broken?  If not, please let God turn your brokeness into beauty as only He can.

And, you know what?  It’s because of the broken places on the outside of the shells that I can see the special hidden beauty on the inside of the shells.  Haven’t we always been told it’s what’s on the inside that counts?  God bless you and your brokeness, too!

Dear God, Thank You for making beauty out of the broken places of my heart and the broken times of my life.  Help me to always see the beauty in the brokeness of others, too.  And Lord, please help others in their brokeness, too.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen. 

   The following was shared with me via email from my friend, Charissa.  It’s a wonderful lesson about love that touched her heart.   With her permission, I’m sharing it with you, too.   Charissa writes:

While browsing through the Christian books in the church library, I ran across a book called “Learning to Live with People You Love”.  I thought this would be a good one for Dave and I.  I was shocked when I started reading the misconceptions of love that most of us have.  D. James Kennedy. Ph.D. writes that “This feeling that people call love is not what the bible means by love at all.  According to Scripture, love is not a feeling; love is a way of acting.  True love, God’s Word tells us, is a way of treating other people.  Notice in the following Scripture passage that there is not one tingle of emotion-not even a palpitation!

             Love is patient. love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV 

   Love, according to the Bible’s definition. involves two aspects: doing and enduring.  We can understand this better by looking at Jesus Christ.  The life of Christ is divided by theologians into two parts: His active obedience and His passive obedience.

  The active obedience of Jesus was everything He did: Jesus went about doing good.  He healed the sick; He fed the hungry; He forgave the sinner; He comforted the mourner.  Christ’s passive obedience (from which we get the word passion) involves the things He endured: mockery, insults, betrayal, injustice, emotional turmoil, sorrow, physical pain, separation from His heavenly Father.  Jesus Christ was the perfect embodiment of love as it is defined in 1 Corinthians thirteen.  Doing good and enduring evil-that is what love is all about.

I hope this was as eye opening for you as it was for me. 

 Love,

Charissa

 

 

Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

Let all that I am praise the LORD: may I never forget the good things he does for me.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases…      ~ Psalm 103:1-3 (NLT)

My 14-year old son has been sick all week with fevers, fatigue, body aches and night sweats.  We saw a pediatrician on Monday (6 days ago) who said his illness was viral, so all we could do was treat symptoms and wait it out.  By Friday pm I was concerned he had mono.  As he continued to have nightsweats throug the night it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to go with his youth group on their mission trip since departure was little more than 24 hours away.  Even if his symptoms miraculously went away, he wouldn’t have time to recover after being so sick for so long.  Going on the trip could set him back and make him even worse.  I sent a prayer request to a few of my prayer partners asking them to pray for my son and his wellness.  A few responded that they’d pray for him to get well so that he could go on the mission trip.

Boy, were those prayers good, because all the sudden the next day my son was feeling well! 

With less than 24 hours from the trip’s departure, I took my son to Urgent Care.  He’d had night sweats through the night and continued to be fatigued.  Blood tests ruled out mono (praise!) but comfirmed his blood was high with viral ‘bugs’.  The doctor agreed that my son was too sick to go on the trip, which led to disappointment for both of us.  On the way home we stopped at the grocery and I noticeed my son seemed to be doing better.  Then he said he was feeling better and asked if he could pack when we got home just in case we decided to let him go on the trip.  From that moment on he’s been well! 

Throughout the day I was in skeptical amazement.  Just hours earlier my eyes were looking at results from a blood test that confirmed my son had high counts of viral cells.  Now my eyes were looking at the same son and seeing a boy who was suddenly well and back to his usual self! 

The doctor proved he was sick.  The Great Physician made him well! 

As I write, my son is on his way to inner city D.C. with his youth group and leaders for their mission trip!  Praise be to God! 

Thank You, Great Physician!

For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.       ~ Proverbs 30:33

Today was a special day, one we’ve been looking forward to with great excitement.  Our son graduated from 8th Grade!   The graduation ceremony was 9:00 a.m. this morning.  We dropped our son off at the school, then hurried out to the grassy area where the ceremony would be held.   Parents had been instructed to bring their own chairs.  We arrived in time to set our chairs just a few rows back from where the students would be seated and the ceremony would take place. 

My husband and I were excited, as were all the other parents who were mingling and chatting with those around them.  We happened to notice our neighbors from across the street were in front of us.  We had just mentioned them to another couple whose sons would attend the same high school as our son.  I’d mentioned the neighbors because their daughter would also attend this high school.  I’d told our friends the neighbors were a nice family. 

Just moments later it was time for the ceremony to commence.  We were asked to take our seats.  Everyone quickly did so.  Everyone, that is, except for our ‘nice’ neighbors who proceeded to stand.  Our friend kindly approached the father who very rudely said, “You shouldn’t have put your seats behind those of us who want to stand!”  They were STANDING in the SEATED area!   Many other people were standing, but they were considerate enough to do so in the aisles and outer perimeters so they didn’t block the view of others.  Not my ‘nice’ neighbors!  They stood through the entire ceremony, blocking the view of many behind them.  We were able to scoot our chairs just a little bit to one side (there wasn’t much space – hundreds of people were seated all around us).  Doing so allowed us to see most of the podium, but the family who stood – a group of at least 6 people – blocked us from seeing any of the students – including our own son.  We spent the hour looking at the back sides of that family.  I can still describe what each of them was wearing.

In order for me to get photos of my son, I had to make my way through the seated crowd to walk to an outer area where I had to take photos from a farther distance than our seats would have been.  And believe it or not… while I stood waiting for my son’s name to be called, a woman who had to be 6 feet tall stepped right in front of me blocking my view again!!!  I carefully moved in front of her, crouching down, determined NOT be inconvenienced anymore!!  She then realized what she had done and moved away.   Part of me had to chuckle at the cruel irony of that. 

I was mad all day because of the rude and arrogant actions of my neighbor.  He RUINED the ceremony for us!  This was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion that we cannot do again, and this man ruined it for us!   Part of me hoped he wouldn’t say anything to us after the ceremony because I didn’t want to say or do anything that I’d regret.  The other half of me hoped he WOULD say something so that I could call him out on his obnoxious behavior.    In fact, all day I kept looking outside hoping to see him so I could go out and speak to him about what he’d done. 

I also spent the day wondering what’s appropriate to do in situations like this.  Am I entitled to be angry?  Or do I need to do what the Bible says and turn the other cheek?  As a Christian, is it ok to be mad?  How should an angry Christian respond?  I didn’t like the answers I was feeling for those questions.  They required me to be nicer and more passive than I wanted to be.  I changed my questions and took the Christian part out.  That’s cheating, I know.  I’m just keeping it real and honest.

My mother and our close friend advised me that it’s not worth it to pursue this further. Our friend felt that if this man could be that rude, then nothing I say will make a difference with him anyway.   After speaking with them and receiving their advice to let things go I was no longer angry, but I do still feel the need to calmly and matter-of-factly tell this man how his actions affected others. 

So what’s a Christian to do in times like this?  Notice I didn’t say ‘good’ Christian?  I’m not feeling like a ‘good’ Christian after some of the thoughts I had today!  I AM still a Christian, though.  I can’t take that out of the equation – although it would make things a lot easier! (It would proably make things messier, too.)   So here are the answers to my own questions:

1)  I need to pray about these things and allow God to rule my heart and mind.  I’ve been allowing ME to rule my heart and mind.  That’s not good.   God will indicate whether or not I’m to confront this man with his actions, or if I’m to let things go and trust the justice matters to the Lord. 

2) I need to pray for this man – truly pray for him, not have condescending or immature, selfish thoughts.  I need to pray for him just like I would others that I care about.   I need to ask for blessings for him and his family. The Bible tells us to do this somewhere in the New Testament, but at this moment I don’t recall where. 

3) I will also follow the advice of a dear friend from church who is older and wiser.  When she’s having negative feelings for someone else, she reads the “Love is…” verses from Corinthians and inserts the persons name.  As she does, she’s mindful of what ‘jumps out at her’ as she reads, knowing those are the ways she’s to show kindness to the other person.  

4) This brings me to the final stage of my anger management and recovery.  I’m to show KINDNESS to this man – not wrath, anger, or resentment.  

Here are things the Bible says:  Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to lustful desires…Instead, give yourself completely to God…Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin.  Instead, you are free by God’s grace.   ~ Romans 6:12

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.   ~ Proverbs 15:1

If you have thoughts about any of this, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you do when you’re mad?  What do you wish you’d do?  What would you advise me to do? 

Dear God, Please forgive me for the negative and ungodly thoughts I’ve been having today! I give thanks Mom and her friend who reasoned with me and helped me to finally overcome my angry feelings.  Please guide my thoughts and feelings so that I handle this in a way that is pleasing to You.  I’m claiming Romans 8:28 in hopes that You can even make good come from all of this.  Mostly I give praise for my son and his accomplishments.  Celebrating his growth and accomplishments are much more important than dwelling on the rude behavior of others.  I thank You that our son is  healthy, happy, and a good kid who gives us many reasons to be proud and give praise.  Please continue to be with us as he moves on to new challenges and experiences to help us be the best parents we can, knowing what we want most is to help him reach his full potential according to who YOU created him to be.  Of course we offer the same prayers and praises on behalf of our younger son, too, a child who charms and delights us every single day, and who also gives us many reasons for which to be proud and give praise.  Humbly I lift all these things up to You, my Heavenly Father, with Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and in the love of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

To end on a positive note:  The graduation ceremony was very good.  Students were asked to be the speakers and they were excellent!   We were very proud of our son and his accomplishments.  Now it’s on to High School!   YIKES!!!!!

Recently God did a really cool thing.  He put it on someone else’s heart to ask if I’d like to have a special friendship with her, one that would be a godly friendship for the sake of being mentors with each other and keeping each other accountable.  Now I have a new BFF – Best Friend in Faith! 

This all began when a friendly acquaintance from another church shared her excitement about changes God was bringing to her life.  She asked if I’d like to meet for lunch so she could tell me about them.  She was so excited that I was excited, too!  We met just a few days later for what would be a very special meeting. 

God was looking out for both of us when He brought us together.  My friend, still excited, began by asking what I was currently involved with.  I had to chuckle when she asked because that very morning God had conversed with me telling me that when people ask what I do, I need to tell them specifically, not just say that I’m active in the church and help at my son’s school.  I was instructed to share my involvements and was specifically instructed to tell people that I’m starting a mentoring program because it might be helpful to others to know.  “OK,” I  thought, “I’ll do that.”  It wasn’t even two hours later that my new friend was asking me what I do!  Remembering the conversation God had with me, I gave specific details and ended by telling her that I was developing a mentoring program. 

When I mentioned the mentoring program, her eyes got big and I think a light bulb appeared over her head.  She said she knew why God wanted her to meet with me and proceeded to tell me that she was seeking a mentoring-type friend.  I couldn’t believe it!  That was exactly what I needed, too!  We were dining in McAlister’s Deli.  I actually looked up to see if a bright ray of light was shining down on us because we were obviously having a God moment! 

We’ve now met three times and each meeting has been wonderful!  She discovered a book called “Conversations on Purpose” by Katie Brazelton.  It’s an excellent tool for guiding our discussions and leading us through self-discovery for the purpose of better serving God and others.  We’ve only completed the first conversation, and already it’s been enlightening for each of us! 

I have MANY awesome friends in my life who bless me in wonderful ways.  God has been so good to me.  My dearest friends is my husband and I love him the most.  However, there’s something really special about having a divinely appointed friend outside of marriage whose main purpose in friendship is to be a godly friend. 

Now I’m even more excited about the mentoring program we’ll present to our church in the fall now that I’ve experienced firsthand how wonderful these special relationships are!  You don’t have to be in a special program to find a mentor or accountability partner.  Pray about this and see if God brings someone to mind for YOU to invite to be this special friend.  I will be praying for God to do this for others as I continue to pray for His guidance in the program we’ll start soon. 

May God bless you with the gift of godly friendship!

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