Amazing Grace

I will be forever thankful that in the years just before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I spent each morning lingering long over Scripture.  I had just completed filling my fifth journal, copying entire chapters and making notes about what God revealed as I wrote and read.

Because if I had not been so thoroughly steeped in truth before it happened, I’m not sure I would have listened to it afterward.

I understand how hearts are hardened by tragedy.    

It’s a wonder that any heart remains soft at all.  

Only God’s amazing grace has kept me from turning away.  

Only His steadfast love has kept me from leaving it all behind.  

not doubting wondering how painful the best will be.jpg

 

 

Have You Seen His Glory?

If I had been around in the intertestamental years of Israel’s history,  I think I’d have been tired of waiting for that promised Messiah the prophets kept crowing about.

I mean, really-how long was it going to take?

What was God waiting on?

What was the plan anyway?

And then, when this young woman shows up claiming to have been overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost-well, that’s a nice fairy tale but hardly how I think God would work this whole thing out.

Except that was EXACTLY how He worked it out-God Himself sent His Son to be born of a virgin and to live as a perfect man and to offer Himself as the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin.

Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, revealed Himself to His disciples.  He gave them a glimpse of His glory-the glory of the one and only Son of the Living God.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1;14 NIV

We no longer have to wonder what God is like or what He is up to.

He is full of grace and truth and He is up to reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

THAT is glorious.

word became flesh

God Doesn’t Grade on a Curve

When I was in school it was popular to ask a teacher after a test:  “Will you grade on a curve?” The hope was always that since it was unlikely anyone would get a perfect score, the brackets would be moved downward.

cartoon grade on a curve

Very few of us like absolutes.  We prefer to be judged one against another instead of against an unbendable standard.

It’s no different with morality.

If you asked me to judge myself on a scale from Hitler to Mother Teresa, I would definitely put myself closer to her rather to him.

As long I measure myself against other humans, I am comfortable saying I fall in the top 50 percent.

Trouble is, that’s not the standard.

The standard against which my actions and heart attitudes are measured is unchangeable and inflexible.

It is perfection itself-the holiness of a holy God.

And when I place myself next to that measuring rod, I am woefully short.

Jesus shocked His followers by telling them that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (considered the most upstanding and holy in that day) they would never enter the kingdom of God.  He expounded on every aspect of the Ten Commandments by addressing not only outward conformity (which, in truth, was impossible) but also motive and intention.

By that standard, even my “good deeds” are inadequate because they are often done with a wrong heart attitude.

I give because I want someone to think I’m generous.

I volunteer because I am a people pleaser.

I work hard because I want a raise.

Paul wrote in Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

I can never “measure up” to the perfect standard of a perfect God.  And while my flesh may be happy with “good enough” the holiness of God demands absolute perfection.

Truth is, I am a sinner-I miss the mark, I step outside the boundaries, I do what I shouldn’t do and don’t do what I should do.

Just like our first parents, I listen to my flesh and the evil one and question God’s goodness and His wisdom.  I want to plot my own course, captain my own ship.

And also like our first parents, I find that I cannot do it.  

I fall woefully short.

I am naked and ashamed, exposed in my sin and without hope for redemption by my own efforts .

In any other story, this would be the end-no hope, no second chances.

But God….

Two of the most beautiful words in the world!  

God has not left me without hope.

He has not left me in my sin.

He has not abandoned me in my desperate state of alienation from my Creator.

He Himself has provided the Sacrifice,

the Perfect Lamb,

the propitiation for my sin.  

lamb of god with crosses

 

 

Made for Relationship

I’ve always taught even very young children straight from Scripture because I believe there is no better way to introduce them to Jesus and God than by the words the Spirit breathed into the world through the pens of chosen men.

In preparation for sharing with the children of our community this week at VBS, I’ve been studying the Bible verses chosen for each day.

When I study, I look up parallel verses and use several Bible translations and some paraphrases to try to get a better grasp of everything God may be saying.  I don’t use commentaries because I find them distracting and because I am convinced that the Holy Spirit can lead me into all truth.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14: 26 KJV

Since I’ll be busy these next five days, I thought I’d share my study notes with you.

the relationship begins

The first day’s theme is “The Relationship Begins”:  

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

Jesus is God made visible!  Selah

(Pause and think about that!)

The eternal, omnipotent God of the universe chose to clothe Himself with flesh and enter His creation as a creature.   He subjected Himself to the same forces of nature I’m subject to.  He walked like I walk, talked like I talk, was hungry, thirsty, happy, sad-just like me.

But He is also utterly unlike me.

He was before ALL things.

He MADE all things.

His power keeps all things TOGETHER.

He made me and as my Creator, He has the absolute authority to direct my path.

“Life from nothing began through Him, and life from the dead began through Him”-He is the Author of physical life and the Author of eternal life.

There is no life apart from Him.

Whether or not I acknowledge this truth doesn’t change that it IS truth.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

John 14:6-7 MSG

Christ’s sacrifice and His blood make it possible for me to dwell with God eternally.  He is the propitiation for sin, the payment in full for the penalty I deserve.

For that reason He is justly called, “Lord of all”.

God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 TLB

 

radiance-hebrews-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attitude Adjustment

This week has been challenging on multiple fronts and the challenges kept coming at the most inopportune moments.  None of the things I faced was truly awful but each wave of stress swept over me exactly when I thought my head would be above water and I could breathe easy for just a bit.

I admit that by Friday morning my attitude was pretty awful.

And I was feeling rather justified and satisfied in my bad attitude-some people had let me down, some people had lashed out against me, my hips hurt, my feet hurt and my “to do” list had lengthened every day instead of getting shorter as I worked through the items.  I was not looking forward to next week which is going to be filled with daily interaction with strangers and increased responsibility for children I don’t know.

But a conversation with my daughter (O Wise One!) helped turn that around.  

She didn’t do it by shaming me or tossing Bible verses at me or refusing to acknowledge the very real challenges, stress and pain I faced.

She did it by turning my heart and mind to the children I would have the opportunity to reach next week in our community through VBS.

She did it by reminding me of the many children she and our family have known through the years that may not need to hear the ABCs of how to receive Christ (because they have heard that before) but may need the undivided attention of a trusted adult for just five minutes out of a long summer.  

let the little children come to me

She helped me remember I love children and I love seeing their faces light up in the glow of genuine affirmation and encouragement.

She reminded me who I really am.  

Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and her wise words helped adjust mine.

I have a shepherd’s heart.

It’s why I go to extraordinary lengths to save a member of my flock.  It’s why I will drop everything to come to the aid of a broken heart.  It’s why there is no such thing in our house as being “too busy” when someone reaches out and needs a hug.

But for a few days I forgot that.

I had forgotten my true identity in the frenzy of trying to live up to others’ expectations and in allowing others’ remarks or actions to dictate my own.

I forgot that the only One Who matters is the One Who made me.

When I remember that I am the beloved child of a loving Father Who has promised to meet every need I have through the riches of His bounty in Christ Jesus, I am free to be the person He created me to be.

And that’s who I want to be.

Nothing-you-do-can-change-Gods-love

 

He Is ALL That and More

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the One Who holds me in His hand IS “All That” and MORE.

He is more than I can imagine,

more than I need,

His resources are limitless

and His grace sufficient for every day

and all eternity.

HE IS-

The Way and the Way maker:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

~Isaiah 43:19 KJV

The Truth and the Truth Speaker:

“When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end. 17 In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise. 18 So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath. These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us. 19 That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) 20 and back into the place where Jesus, who went ahead on our behalf, has entered since He has become a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

~Hebrews 6:16-20 VOICE

The Life and the Life Giver:

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.”

~John 1:4 NLT

The Promise and the Promise Keeper:

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

~2 Corinthians 1:19-21 MSG

I cannot see the end of this journey but He is already there.  

god is already there

It looks black as night to me and I am fumbling around in the dark, but there is no darkness in Him at all.  

in him is no darkness

My flesh and my heart will fail, but His never will.

god is the strength of my heart

Bad Mama?

I have a heart for ALL mamas-the ones who are just starting out all the way up to the ones who launched their fledglings and have an empty nest.

I especially have a heart for mamas who have had to say “good-bye” to one or more of their precious children-sending them on ahead to heaven.

I’ve never met one that didn’t wonder if she did enough, said enough, loved enough-WAS enough.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

On the one hand, it allows instant communication and easy sharing of special events among friends and family in ways we could only dream about when my kids were tiny. On the other hand, the perfect pictures and carefully curated lives posted for the world to see place great pressure on those of us who look around at our messy houses and messy lives.

Add to that the articles and memes passed around and you have a perfect combination to crush a mama’s spirit.

Are my children being kept safe?  Are they being kept too safe?  Are they in the right school, the right sport, the right music program? Should I feed them this or that?  Am I doing enough?

Am I enough?

Am I a bad mama?

Can I just tell you something struggling mama?  Can I give you a lifeboat in the ocean of doubt?

God chose you before the foundation of the world to be your child’s mama.  He knows everything about you-past. present and future-and He chose YOU to help shape this little life into the person He created your child to be.

Yes, you make mistakes.  

Yes, you are flawed.  

Yes, you will do some things well and some things not so well.

But that is no surprise to God.

Look closely at the families in the Old Testament-you don’t have to get past Genesis to find dysfunction all over the place.  But God isn’t limited by our limitations.  His plan isn’t thwarted by our inability to follow directions.  His purposes do not depend on perfect parenting.  

Hallelujah! AMEN!

So buckle up and hold on-do the best you can to guide your family down the road God lays before you.  You will make some bad decisions and need to do a few U-turns.

That’s OK.  Lean into the One Who made you and made your children.

God has it under control.  

no way to be a perfect mother child in arms