Tag Archives: grace

And Giveth Again…

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My precious Grandma Vicki….

I am proud (in the puff-up-your-chest, walk-a-little-taller, American sense of the word) of some aspects of my heritage. For instance, my maternal great-grandmother’s name was Mamie (rhymes with Jamie) and  played the steel guitar. Yep. Ballin’.

And my paternal grandmother, Vicki Jo, is just as awesome. She lives in a double-wide trailer decorated from floor to ceiling in the most beautiful, south-western fashion. Dried chilis hanging from the front porch. Painted cow skulls hanging in the dining room. Woven Indian blankets on the couch. She taught me how to make cherry pie from scratch, raised six children almost exclusively by herself and every fall the pioneer woman gets herself a doe-tag (hunting license) and shoots a doe elk from her kitchen window.

That being said, the thing that reminds me the most of my Grandma Vicki is southern gospel music. And I’m talking about those oooooold hymns played in that bouncy way, like “There’s Power in the Blood” and the ever great “Victory in Jesus”. Grandma Vicki plays the piano so well; her passion and talent in music has infused itself deeply in our blood, bearing fruit over generations.

Why am I talking about my grandparents? Well, a good number of years ago I decided to explore through some hymnals and I came across this goldmine. I’ve never heard it sung live; as a matter of fact, only recently had I ever heard someone else even sing it. I am always so encouraged by the words, deep life-giving truth. And in honor of my beloved Grandma (who still records Gaither music specials on VHS tape), I’m including both the lyrics and a video for you to be encouraged as well.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

My most favorite hymn. I can hear these words over and over and over again. The faithfulness of our Never-Ending-Generous God is so amazing that I cannot help but cry tears of grateful worship.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

            His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
            His power no boundary known unto men;
            For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
            He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932)

Grace is…

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I’m staying at a friend’s house tonight, sleeping in a room currently unoccupied, and I found this unassuming page pinned to the normal occupant’s bulletin board. I don’t know if she is the original author, for no one is credited. I wanted to post this here to record this incredible piece of work, so I can continue to ponder the depth of truth found in its imagery.

Grace is an inflated raft that can submerge to the floor of a sea to save you.

Grace is the silver thread that stiches up the shreds of mangled souls.

Grace is the eye that finds us where it refuses, there, to leave us.

Grace calls the waitress to the table and sits her down to wash her feet.

Grace sees underneath the manhole on a street of self-destruction

Grace is the air to draw a breath in the belly of a whale.

Grace is the courage to stand in the shamed wake of a frightful falling.

Grace is the only fire hot enough to burn down a living hell.

Grace waits with healing in His wings when we’re too mad to pray.

Grace is the gravity that pulls us from depravity.

Grace races us to the Throne when we make haste to repent and always outruns us.

Grace treats us like we already are what we fear we’ll never become.

Grace is the doorpost dripping red when the angel of death grips the knob.

Grace is the stamp that says Ransomed on a life that screams Ruined.

Grace sets a table before me in the presence of my enemy, even when my enemy is me.

Grace is the cloak that covers the naked and the palm that drops the rock.

Grace is divine power burgeoning in the absence of all strength.

Grace proves God true and every self-made man a liar for the sake of his own soul.

Grace is the power to do what we cannot do for the Name of Christ to go where is has not been.

Grace is a room of a thousand mirrors, all reflecting the face of Christ.

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(added later: I was informed that Beth Moore is the author of this incredible poem. Go Beth!)

Leaves, Lasagna, and a Nap: An Impromptu Sabbath

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Want to hear a secret? I am a nerd. Ok, it’s not really that big of a secret, but the severity of my book-worm nature might be surprising to you. I love to read, 98% of the time I actually enjoy studying and doing homework (which is most definitely a blessing in nursing school!), there’s nothing a good library card can’t solve, and my dictionary app is by far the most frequently used on my phone. One of my favorites “space fillers” in my life for the past four years has been listening to sermons while I drive, do housework, cook, wash dishes, etc. I’ve found it to be an incredible opportunity to learn simply by listening to teaching in areas where I might normally listen to music.

Yesterday, during my various errands here and there, I was able to listen to the fourth sermon in Pastor Mark Driscoll’s current series on the Ten Commandments from Mars Hill Church. I’d listened to the previous three, and while I don’t agree with a few points stated so far, a few things Pastor Mark said in this sermon about the Sabbath were spot on. I appreciated how he carefully expressed that “remembering the sabbath” in a legalistic manner actually defeats the main purpose for which God established it: for us to find rest in Him.

I believe the Holy Spirit timed my listening to that message perfectly. In this season of my life, I am very busy. Class, clinicals, lab, homework, exam study, required charting, homegroup, discipleship, youth group volunteering, homegroup, leading worship, work, etc. Time is my most precious commodity and my natural solution to it’s increasing rarity has been to pick myself up by my “bootstraps” and push myself to be more time efficient. Therefore, my plan for today was to get the homework required for next week’s lecture finished, thinking that “I have the time today, so it must be done today,” However, as the day progressed, I found myself growing so very tired and began to nod off while reading. Instantly, a war began inside my mind: do I let myself fall asleep, or do I “do the right thing”, force myself to wake up and keep reading? I firmly believe that God wants me to be the best student I can be while in school, so wouldn’t that naturally mean that homework takes the top priority? As the battle raged, I remembered something Pastor Mark said in his sermon:

“So, the Sabbath day is the day to [rest]. Some of you say, ‘But, I’m supposed to serve the Lord.’ Serve him by sleeping. For those of you who get up and go to work, sleeping in is an act of worship and it’s your way of saying, ‘I believe that when I am asleep, God is still sovereign, and I don’t need to get up and control everything because the one who is in control actually has it covered.’ Sometimes it’s taking a nap.'”

This little concept might seem like common sense to you, but it was almost revolutionary thinking for me. Maybe the best way for me to use this little slot of time available is not to keep pressing full-steam-ahead. Maybe God, the one who has given me this time to steward, would rather me actually get some extra rest, and not just so I can be more efficient later, but because He is glorified in my resting. Amazing! So I fell asleep; it was one of those beautiful naps where when you finally wake up, you feel like you’ve been born all over again. Like a heavy blanket has just been ripped off and you forgot what day it is, what time it is, and what’s going on in the world. Like I just hit restart.

Inspired, I decided to keep rolling with this whole Sabbath-afternoon idea. And so, I got to work. Ironic? Not really, if you think about it. Have you ever had a really long, hard day (or week, or month?) and when you finally get the chance to relax, you sit down to watch a movie and end up feeling not only not-rested but also disappointed that so much time was spent to little result? This happens to me quite often, which is another of my frequent motivations to avoid any pursuit of rest altogether. Pastor Mark helped expressed an idea I had never really put into concrete thought regarding this issue:

““Some of you need to understand that if you work with your mind, you’re going to Sabbath with your hands. If you’re a person who’s an accountant, or an engineer, or someone who’s sitting at a desk thinking all week, for you, Sabbath is probably going to look like weeding, woodworking, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, or something with your hands.

For those of you who work with your hands, you’re probably going to want to Sabbath with your mind. You’re probably going to want to read, sit down, not do a lot, and get a day of Sabbath and rest. It’s going to look different for everybody and that’s OK in the grace of God.”

The vast majority of my work of late has been “mind work”: studying, memorizing, learning, interviewing, etc. The last thing my poor, tired spirit wanted was more noise and images to filter through. It was beautifully sunny today, a wonderful break from the practically incessant rain this past month and a half has given us. Motivated by my desire to make the most of the not-yet-winter weather, I decided to Sabbath with a rake and 2 hours later I had removed just about all the leaves the wind would let me from my yard. I felt wonderful, floating in a mix of relished productivity combined with visible signs of effort and progress.

My next and final project was to make dinner. Technically, I didn’t have to make dinner; I already have multiple leftover dishes that could have easily fit tonight’s menu sitting in the fridge. But I rather enjoy cooking, especially when I have to be creative with a recipe, tweaking what it “requires” to conform with what I think would taste better or be more unique. Combine this enjoyment with a growing desire for culinary creativity, and a limited, unorthodox pantry, and I find time spent in the kitchen more of an adventure than a chore. So I made lasagna. I didn’t even plan on eating the lasagna tonight, I just wanted to make it. If you peaked into my kitchen this evening, you would have found me dancing my heart out at various intervals. There was no music playing, other than the sound of onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic sautéing on the stove, but I felt so rejuvenated my joy was simply overflowing.

At the end of this lovely Sabbath afternoon, I’m feeling rested, pleased, productive and full. Plus, I have an entire meal ready to be eaten throughout the hectic week waiting for me. Today I’m grateful for God’s grace which has given me a new perspective, a fantastic afternoon, and a refreshed spirit.

Working in Weakness

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Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.                                                                                                                                                              2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I’ve found that a lot of conversation can happen in a kitchen. Working in a cafe/coffee shop, I spend quite a bit of time cooking and washing dishes behind the scenes with a handful of other women, and, as people in general (and young women in particular) are bound to do, we are often found talking about what’s going on in our lives. Our hobbies, our activities, our stories and our dreams.

I’ve shared most of my story with most of these ladies: missionary kid, passionate about Jesus, rocky home life, spent some time in a foster-type situation, went to Bible school, world traveler, and aspiring missionary church planter. Each time I tell my story, I can’t help but feel like there’s a disconnect. Missionary family goes through a nasty divorce, and two years later is still picking up the pieces? Young woman wants to traipse all over the world to build new relationships, but hesitates each time she interacts with her own relatives? Sometimes I can see these questions reflected in my listeners’ eyes as I tell my story, and, honestly, it makes me feel ashamed. I feel like we should have it all together. We should be perfect, be healthy, be happy, be whole. I should be the perfect daughter and have the perfect relationships with everyone around me. I  shouldn’t be so ungodly like this. How can someone like me, coming from a situation like this, be where I am right now? It doesn’t seem logical, or right, or natural at all.

I’ve been pondering this discord inside myself from quite some time now, and just when I’d decided to let it go, I recognized the truth in that verse. My favorite verse. It’s amazing how blind I can be. “My strength works best in weakness”. I finally see that God isn’t expecting me to overcome my situation and finally look back and see how far He’s brought me. He placed me where I was (and where I am now), and allowed me to be who I was and am, because of those shameful weaknesses. Because in that brokenness, where you can’t see a way out, His rescue shines miraculously bright. Because in that hopelessness, where cyclical sin seems endless and inevitable, His true freedom sings triumphantly. Because in that dark despair, where every voice around you and inside you tells you this is all you will ever know, His Love brings new birth and a whole new life.

I realized today that I can be like Paul. I don’t have to reach some amazing point of super-saint Christian maturity to be able to say “now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me”. I just tell my story, honestly and without shame, letting others see my weakness so that they can see His work. It’s only by Jesus’ grace that I have come this far.

Grace and Justice, Holding Hands

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When I pulled this principle from Joshua 10 (you could say it’s really from chapters 6-12), I wanted to express it in  some visual form, so I decided to try making a collage (a foreign art to me.)

When we read the story of Joshua and the Israelites conquering the land of Canaan, we are likely to focus on one of the two aspects of God’s nature that are expressed there: His grace or His justice. Since we do not see things from God’s perspective, we can read Joshua 10 and only see God’s grace. He is fulfilling His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by giving them a land, allowing them to have victory wherever they go; “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” Josh 24:13. Wherever Israel went, blessing followed. Or we can see only His holy justice; He is killing thousands of people, child-sacrificing, idolatrous Canaanites, (look at Josh 10:29-40, or 12:7-24.) Wherever Israel went, utter destruction followed. How can we reconcile these two, seemingly-contradictory truths?

Rather than seeing God’s grace and justice as two different, or opposite, attributes, maybe we should see them as two hands, intertwined. As if they were holding hands, both grace and justice are seen in each move of God throughout Joshua 6-12, the fingers of blessing and judgment in each action of the Israelites.

To support the “grace hand” in the picture, I’ve chosen Joshua 1:2-6, where God promises victory to Israel wherever they go, so long as they obey Him. And since they did obey (Josh 24:31), we see God providing for His people in mighty, miraculous ways.

Over the “justice hand” I’ve put Joshua 12:7-24, an exhaustive list of every king that God gave over to Joshua for utter destruction.

Central to the picture, I’ve put the closing passage of the book of Joshua, 24:16-18. As Israel conquered and settled into Canaan, they saw God move in grace and justice, which motivated them to live in humble worship. The climax of the story is underlined, verse 18: “The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” Though from a broken, human perspective, Israel  saw that God was both gracious and just, and dedicated themselves to living in worship of Him.

The clearest expression of this “holding hands” principle is found at the cross: as God’s justice is poured out upon
Jesus, His grace is poured out upon us. So put the crown of thorns in the background: these two attributes of God woven together into one painful, beautiful expression.