Of Lost Things

20140422_120109I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. This friend is one I hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years. I had high hopes for our reunion. I planned my outfits carefully, and around our common interests. I wanted to look good. I wanted to act good. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be seen as different than I was 28 years ago.

During one of our conversations my friend looked me in the eye and said, “You and I, we’ve lost so much.” And it is a very true statement. Abuse, neglect, rejection litters our pasts and tempts to take over our present at times.

When my mind is allowed to look back over the things I’ve lost, my focus changes. It moves from “Man! I’m blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)!” to “How much more do I have to lose? I’ve nearly lost everything as it is!”

And the voice of Jesus softly whispers, “You haven’t lost your life yet.”  I would listen and think, “You’re right. I haven’t lost what You lost for me.”

In reading Psalm 103 this morning, Jesus spoke again, “Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit…” I prayed those words and He spoke again, “You haven’t lost your life yet.”  He moved the focus from His death, which is important, to teach me a reality that I had been denying.

I was hanging on to my life, clutching it with both hands in a death grip all in a vain effort to not lose it, to hold on to one thing that no one could take away.

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who lost his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:38-39

This was His message. “You haven’t lost your life yet because you’re hanging on so tightly to it.” 

In the Old Testament book of Ruth, chapter 1 we see the beginning of the story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi lost a lot. She lost her country, family, what was familiar, husband, and children. Naomi chose the pit. She chose bitterness.

Ruth also lost. Ruth lost her country, what was familiar, her family, and her husband. But she chose the path.  She chose grace.

The question for us today is, which will we chose? When we’re faced with yet another lose, another loss, another thing we feel being ripped from us and leaving us empty, will we chose the pit of bitterness or the path of grace?

I’ve chosen the pit of bitterness and it isn’t fun, it is where ministry dreams go to die. But in the pit of bitterness we can chose differently. We can in that pit, when we’re buried in the scum on the bottom of the pit, we can chose the path of grace. When we make that choice, even in the pit, He lifts us out of the pit and places us on the Rock, that is Himself.

Let’s chose the path.

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Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges {A Review}

51JAXctyoTL._AC_US218_The late Jerry Bridges is known for authoring many books on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His books include: The Practice of Godliness,  The Pursuit of Holiness, and many others.

I had not read any of his works before reading Transforming Grace. I might have to change that.

Transforming Grace is simply the best book I have read on the topic of God’s Grace toward us.  I have read many books on the topic of grace by many different authors, but none hold a candle to this one. So much of the book resonated deeply in this heart.

If you want or need a good book on the topic of God’s grace go to your local Christian bookstore and purchase this one. An added bonus there is a study guide in the back of the book. This book would work well for an individual, personal study of grace or it could be used in a group study.

Jerry Bridges, as much as any man could, had a handle on grace. He tenderly teaches us that our salvation is all Jesus and not at all us. It’s isn’t Jesus + Whatever I do, but it is simply Jesus and His great Grace.

A few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“This instantaneous act of God by which He beings sanctification in us is just as much a gift of God’s grace as justification. God does not wait until we ‘surrender all’, make a second commitment to Christ’s lordship, or anything like that. God give sanctification by His grace.” (page 117)

And another one.

“Our love for God, expressed through obedience to Him, is to be a response to His love, not a means of trying to earn it.” (page 92)

One last one.

“God is worthy of my loving obedience because of who He is, not because of what He does.” (page 89)

What did I love about this book? In short, everything. It put into words what my heart believed and couldn’t articulate. So many times I was inwardly shouting, “YES! This is exactly right!!”

It opened my eyes and brought out many questions, hard questions that I needed to answer.

What did I not like about the book? Nothing.

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges will change your life and is a necessary addition to your library. It is published by NavPress and is available through your local Christian bookstore or your favorite online seller.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my my own.

A little Grace

Recently we were dining out, it was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was busy. We had about a 15-minute wait. Once at our table our server came by to take our drink orders and almost immediately she returned with them. After she took our orders she said she was going to go put them right in and we should have our meal in no time.

We enjoyed our appetizer and didn’t notice that it had been quite awhile since we had ordered, our server goes by and says she’s going to check on our meal. A few minutes later she comes to our table and tells us she had forgotten to put our order in right away, and she offered to get her manager so they could do something with our bill.

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All of our eyes are on this girl, brave enough to face hungry people and say “I screwed up.” Her question of getting her manager just hung there over our silent table for a pair of moments while we all looked at her, not quite daring to breathe.

Was it okay? Was it okay with us, the hungry family, that she had failed to do as promised?  Was it okay?

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I thought of every time I’ve screwed up. And I remembered the cross on my wrist. The cross I’ve been inking into my flesh for months in hopes of reminding myself to live cruciform.

Live all give out in the shape of a cross.

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Live all give out when someone else does something that isn’t okay.  Live as Jesus lived when I’m inconvenienced or kept waiting.

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I found myself saying, “You know what, we all screw up. It’s okay.”

Because it is. It really is. We do all screw up. Your screw ups are no worse than my screw ups. Jesus’ love covers mine as well as yours. His grace is deep enough to cover them all. And if I’m truly living as a conduit of His grace, I have no choice but to extend it to you.

Jesus didn’t call us to be grace hoarders.
He called us to be grace givers.

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Those chosen people who exhibit His grace and His character in all of our activities. Even those that squeeze us, inconvenience us.

Maybe by showing His grace and extending His grace is how we know we are given grace. Maybe that is how we feel grace. Maybe that’s why He requires it of us. Because He knows we’re nothing but grace beggars and if the broken hurting world is going to see His grace it’s only when we extend it.

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We’re all beggars when it comes to grace. In myself I have none. None for me and definitely none for you. But in Jesus…in Jesus is found all the grace we could ever need. And He gives it freely to us.

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So we can give it freely to others. It’s living in His grace.

So we can give it freely to others.

Something To Be Thankful For

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“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.”(Ezekiel 28:15)

We were created blameless –perfect. Our default was righteousness.

But sin changed that. Sin brought shame, condemnation,  separation,  death and unrighteousness.

But Grace changes that! Grace brings healing, salvation, restoration,  covering, togetherness,  freedom and righteousness restored.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

rantings of a poor woman

Just a completely selfish post asking someone, anyone to, please, say something nice or good about me to me. I’m so tired of thinking, believing and hearing of my very many horrible mistakes and screw-ups. Of hearing how horrible I am.

Fallen so short of grace.
The very grace that reaches deep
Is very much out of reach.
To a girl like me.
Who screws up,
Messes Up,
Makes the wrong choice,
Says the wrong thing
All the time.
The wrong thing.
She rushes ahead
When she should be still
She is still
When she should be moving.
Talking when she should be silent,
Silent when she should be talking.
Will I ever get it right?
This dance of Good
This frolic of might.
Is there grace for me?
True grace?
For a Jesus screw-up like me?

Surely I’m good for something more than making coffee, right? I mean is that really all the good I have?

I know, girls like me aren’t supposed to ask these questions. They’re supposed to know the Truth and the Light and walk in His ways always. And that is my heart’s very deepest desire, but sometimes sin creeps in and takes my heart by surprise. I have my doubts that I’ll ever measure up to what He wants for me to be.

And then I know that I don’t have to measure up. Because in God’s economy I already do. He knows my doubts, my failings and He has taken them up on Himself so I don’t have to bear them anymore.I can walk free. Unchained. Unfettered.

But still the struggle remains. As long as I walk in this fleshly abode, I will question, I will doubt. I will weep. I will wail. I will cry for the injustices done to my soul. I will cry for His grace,

The very grace that right now seems so out of reach,
Just beyond my grasp,
Grace, grace, grace that reaches this leach
Grace that I can clasp
To my very soul, And remember
Jesus died for each
Doubt and Fear
That I clutch tight
In my fist
In my fight
For protection of myself.
Oh Jesus, let me let go of
Self. and Selfishness.
Be the only Truth
In my sense of helplessness
Let me give in to
Your grace
That flows over me
And makes my heart race.

Warm thoughts on a cold morning.

Happy 2015. Currently, the house is quiet except for my fingers clicking on the keys and the furnace ensuring we stay warm another day.

Or second at least.

I’ve been on a self-imposed hiatus from all things Facebook.  I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends in my day-to-day life, friends I could laugh with, share coffee with, not the friends who live inside my computer. It was good. It is good.

It is also January 1, 2015. I can’t believe it. I know to many New Year’s Day is a holiday, Mr. FullCup is off work, as are many people. But to me it’s just a regular day.

A regular day to watch football. all. day. long.

This year I don’t care at all about who wins the national title in college football. Unless it’s Ohio State. I’m sure that is the only game I’ll be watching.

We’ve been invited to friends for the day, I’d like to knock off some more painting. But really, football and friends will win. I can paint tomorrow.

I have learned over the years that the new year will come whether or not I’m awake to see it. I’ve adopted the habit of getting up around 5:30 every morning, which means I go to bed around 9:30. Needless to say, I was too tired to live last night. I fell asleep watching Holiday Inn, and finally went to bed around 11:30. I was done. So was Beanie.

So here’s to 2015. What will the year bring? What joys, what surprises, what happinesses, what tragedies, what sorrows, what troubles?

It doesn’t matter. We have been given grace-gifts and we will be given grace-gifts. Little gifts of His grace to praise and bless Him.

Cafe Chocolate…Where Women Delight in God’s Grace

All of this comes in the kit!

All of this comes in the kit!

What woman doesn’t like chocolate? I know there are some out there but for the most part women love chocolate. Maybe at some times more than others but for the most part we all think chocolate is  our friend.

Speaking of friends, we all also love our friends. What is better than chocolate with good friends? Especially if you’re meeting your friends over chocolate and God’s Word. We all like that.

We all need that. Just like we all need Grace, God’s grace but also grace from other people. We also need to extend that grace to others, but it is only when we are fully aware of the grace lavished on us can we extend it to those around us.

Group Publishing has come out with a “Retreat-In-A-Box” that incorporates all of the above. Cafe Chocolate is a new retreat “where women delight in God’s Grace”.  The Director’s Kit has everything you will need to put on a top-notch retreat for the women of your church, community, or Bible study group.

It is not “video-driven”, but you don’t have to be a super-talented speaker to make your retreat a great one. Group provides everything you need to say.

Session 1 is on God’s grace is Extravagant. Other sessions teach us that God’s grace is for our friends, our enemies, people we don’t know yet. Session three is special in that it is a service project.

There is a leader guide for your worship leader or if you don’t have one you can just sing along with the music CD.  The music CD is a good mix of peppy songs and slower songs. All of them are ones you probably sing in church.

This retreat would work great in any format, one day, weekend or even stretched out over a week.  Or you could even tailor it to fit any need and time slot you might have.

I look forward to the possibility of doing it at my own church.

 

(I received a free Director’s Kit from the publisher for the purpose of review.)