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When you’ve messed christian parenting UP

poopoo parenting

 

poopoo parenting

 

 

So last week I began a series on raising spiritually minded children. And since then, I’ve been questioning what I really want to communicate through this series. Posting “10 Ways” is a brand new form of blogging for me and I really need to say something.

 

So here goes.

There seems to be something inherently wrong with most of the Christian parenting stuff I read. It operates on the basic assumption that the parent is  good. For example:

 

We want to spend time with our kids but we don’t know how.

Enter solution: 101 things to do with your toddler.

 

We deeply desire to speak kindly and show patience when correcting our rebellious child; we just can’t seem to pull it off.

Solution: How to stop yelling in 30 days.

 

We receive joy at the prospect of selflessly serving our children, even when they are mean and unlovely; but we lack the time to do it.

Solution: Organize your life and live on cloud nine (!!!!!).

 

But what about when you don’t want what’s right or you don’t desire to deny yourself or don’t receive joy in well doing? What then?

What is inherently missing in the self help sort of approach to writing parenting articles is that it doesn’t get at the root of our most basic issue. It does not answer the fundamental question of “What do I do with my sin?” Because honestly, most of the time it isn’t that I don’t know how to spend quality time with my children; it’s that other things are more important.

Let’s just be honest.

And sometimes I downright resent the demands of my family and am perfectly content to give them my leftovers. What of that?

I am not saying I never enjoy my children or delight in serving them; but there is no point in reading and pinning an article that gives me ideas when what I really need is my sin issue dealt with. No expert can give me 3 quick steps to obliterating selfishness. Neither is there an eBook on miraculously changing my hard heartedness or removing self protection from my marriage bed.

 

That’s because only the Gospel can do that.

 

The last thing I want to do on my blog is give 10 steps without giving real hope. Friends, there is hope in the gospel. Let it be heard in sin-sick hearts everywhere.

Your sin issue? Is dealt with. The gospel tells us that we CAN change and we CAN live godly and we CAN reflect God’s glory and we CAN be the aroma of Christ in our home and we CAN change the legacy of our family line.

Because of Christ.

There is an allure to “10 Ways” and “Top Five” and “How to…” articles to be sure (which is why people write them.) But we need to know where to turn when facing the depth of depravity in our own mom heart- the heart that is supposed to nurture, protect, and selflessly serve your own but, in fact, does not.

At best, much of what’s out there can give tips and direction for us after we lay the foundation of the gospel. At worst, much of what’s out there can give us the appearance of wisdom but offer no help in curbing sin and self.

You need to go back to the gospel when you just used your authority to manipulate your child’s heart because she annoyed you. And when you’re confronted with the reality that you do not, can not, will not parent without using shame or condemnation. And when you are stingy with your affection or lazy in your daily routines and a thousand other times. (And if you haven’t been confronted by the depth of your own parenting depravity, just give it some time… you will be.)

Here’s the thing: we are sinners. We are fallen. Not only that, but our sin isn’t just the “little white lie” variety, the sort that’s cute and seemingly harmless. No, our sin is raunchy, deep, and utterly destructive. There’s no 10 step, 30 day, how-to solution deep enough to fix that.

Friends, I need the GOSPEL, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

I need the gospel that tells me Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief, and this is a trustworthy statement that I can rely upon when my heart resents being in a hot kitchen serving ungrateful children.

The gospel I need to hear is that God can take an entire day’s worth of mommy failures and redeem them and make all things new and when I wake up in the morning, even before the sun is up, He is eager and waiting for me and runs to meet me anew with buckets full of fresh grace and mercy.

That’s what I need to know.

I need to know that I’ve been redeemed from my own sin and I’ve not been appointed for stumbling when those temptations come and I’ve been set apart for worthy purposes and given everything I need to live godly and that even when I fail… and I will… God Himself is faithful because He cannot be anything else and He will complete what He started and accomplish what concerns me.

And when I do long to display Christ in my home yet fail… and fail… and fall short of that Glory yet again, I need to know that as true as my falling is, it is not the final word because God says it isn’t the one who works who is justified, but the one who trusts God… because He justifies the ungodly.

Day after day.

Friends, I need the gospel.

I need to know the same God that gave Abraham a promised son is the same God who gives life to dead things even now, even here, and calls into being things that are not. There is, in fact, hope for me. (Romans 4:17)

I need to know that the God who feeds the birds every morning and directs them where to go promises to multiply my seed for sowing today and will produce a harvest of righteousness in me. (II cor 9)

That’s the kind of parenting article I need. That’s the hope of the gospel.

Sure, I can learn from 10 steps and 30 days and 100 tips, and heaven knows I need those menu plans and recipes… but not without the foundation of the gospel. The gospel foundation tells me I CAN eat healthy because God has redeemed me from the worthless. The gospel foundation tells me I CAN relate with my children on a deeper level because Christ is there, whispering in my ear “this is the way, walk in it.” The gospel foundation says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Not because I am good and need some self help, but because I am horribly evil and have no hope of helping myself whatsoever and don’t ever have to. Christ has done it all and because of that, I can change.

Hallelujah, we have the gospel!

For the Christian, there’s no such thing as self help. Yes, there’s an allure to it but the real hope is the gospel. Oh how deep, rich, and sufficient it is! This depraved mommy heart needs it.

Desperate momma, get to the gospel! What you need pumping through your veins isn’t Pinterest. What you need in your face isn’t Facebook. Your secret sauce is not in the kitchen and your biggest help isn’t somebody’s blog. Momma, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… because the gospel is the power of God for your salvation, the moment by moment redemption of a momma’s life.

 

Grace for Today

Grace Titus 211-12

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Titus 211-12

 

Need to change? There is GRACE for THAT.

Come to the table of all sufficient grace.

Happy Monday friends! Live today GRACED.

Hope

newton_pin

 

 

 

 

 

An incredible story to give you hope this Christmas season

 

 

The bus swerves on the mountain road and I look straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lies beneath us. We are mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….

 

The orphanage juts from the side of the mountain and as we climb the steps to enter, I see faces of children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children run up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sit down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horde, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one has special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? Just for today, to communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and words and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.

Then…

I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side.” The director says this and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. We all want to run from what we can’t predict, what we can’t make sense of, avoid what is risky and unknown.

The director turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. 

Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty mirrored in my own heart.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that no matter what, I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks snacks out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I smile inside, thinking of my Little Bit. I can do this.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. Me of all people, and she who has lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Amidst the rush around us, somehow that inner need for survival is overpowered by trust. She looks at me. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. ”No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and empty, so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.

 

Jesus.

 

“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems such a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. When the dark emptiness stretches endlessly before them. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the headlines of death and loss and devastation. And we all wonder why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what’s the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that. But He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, dark pain of our lives stretching out endlessly before us but instead entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God? we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize it, that in our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Days of Grace

 

 

 

Grace is hard to fathom. Just try getting your mind around a holy God really and truly holding you completely blameless based on the work of Jesus Christ.

Amazing Grace.

Grace is also just as easy to misapply. Some Christians, in an effort to safeguard truth, minimize it. And some, tasting the freedom of grace, relegate truth to the sidelines. They throw “grace” at everything instead of pairing that grace with truth and living by both.

Jesus taught us His way is that of both grace and truth.

 

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:17

 

In this blog series on grace, I shared that grace was never intended to simply cover the multitude of our sins, as wonderful and amazing and true that facet of grace is. Grace has also made us into new creations and has given us all we need to live godly in Christ. Grace is real, actual, LIVE enablement to live out the Christian life.

We can never accomplish the Christian life by the law. It can only be fulfilled by daily living out God’s grace. I am pretty passionate about this topic because it is so very vital and I personally have to remain vigilant in living by grace, not the law.

Which is why I appreciate materials such as Rich Miller’s devotional, 40 Days of Grace: Discovering God’s Liberating Love.

As president of Freedom in Christ Ministries, Rich has seen time and again that many Christians start the Christian life grateful for grace but gradually get tricked into believing that somehow it’s actually up to us to make the Christian life work. Rich has spent his ministry trying to help people accept, and then keep accepting, God’s perfect grace.

Grace isn’t a license to sin; it’s the freedom and enablement not to.

In 40 Days of Grace, Rich takes a lifetime of reflections and study of the scriptures to deepen the reader’s understanding of living by grace. This book balances truth and grace and I look forward to completing the book later this year. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is interesting to note that when Moses got really close to [God] and asked to see His glory, the Lord Himself made all His goodness to pass before him. Since God’s glory is too much for a mere mortal to handle, God protected Moses and then let him see His back. As the Lord passed by, God described Himself.  How did God identify Himself in His own words to Moses? Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in loving kindness and truth. And yes, He will punish those who are guilty and who reject Him, but would you really have respect for a God who was soft and wishy-washy on sin and who would let the human race get away with murder?

Grace and truth- despite what some might think- are not opponents; they are friends. Grace is like the clean, oxygen-rich atmosphere we breathe. It is necessary for life, for health, for growth. When you are surrounded by grace, you flourish; when you’re not, you gasp for air.

Truth, on the other hand, is the solid ground on which we stand, move, and live. When truth is not around, you stumble and trip over hidden obstacles.”

Rich Miller,  40 Days of Grace: Discovering God’s Liberating Love

 

If you find yourself needing a refresher course in grace, here are my “top pick” resources. Each of these has deepened my understanding of grace, brought me anew to a place of joy and gratitude over the God of grace, lightened my heart, and caused me to exult in the God of salvation:

Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges

What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey

Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado

One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World by Tullian Tchividjian (on my to-read list)

 

You can also view my Grace Shaped Life series here.

 

Are you encouraged here? I invite you to subscribe for updates~

 

Disclosure: Kregel provided me a free copy of Rich Miller’s book in exchange for an honest review.

When you just need your sister

You have 7000 sisters!

 

 

You have 7000 sisters!

 

Dear sister,

 

I see how you’re bent over ‘neath the weight of it all.

 

I know the silent tears that drip unseen into the dish suds, sense the ache, hear the groan no one else hears. I see the pleading in your soul.

 

We’re sisters, after all.

 

And I don’t know how it’s come to be like this, the way I lie awake at night feeling you close across the thousands of miles, sensing your heart. I just know that sometimes… well, sometimes you just need a sister.

And sometimes she’s hard to find.

My own blood sister? Two years ago told me I didn’t have a place in her life anymore. “You’ve been gone for ten years,” she told me after I returned stateside and tried to stoke the fires of sisterhood. “You’ve no right to speak into my life anymore.”

Her voice crackled across the line, sharp and confident and strong. Mine just cracked, period.

And I remember sliding down the wall in the hallway, phone cord wrapped around a wrist, pierced right through by a sister who calmly spoke un-speakable after un-speakable.

It’s funny really, how a grown woman can still cry over things. How we can weep fetal-deep and still feel so adolescent in our losses.

How a loss like that can make us believe that, while we’ve been holed up somewhere the backside of nowhere, life goes on without us and if only…

In that moment you realize an entire family can move on… can write you right out of their wills and their photo albums and off their family trees.  And you’re left used up and dried out and no one gives a rat’s tail.

Yeah, sisters can give a soul beating to the already wounded.

And sister, maybe that’s why I need to write this letter. Because I get that. But also because I know another part of the story. There is something else, woven right into that heartache and loss.

It’s tucked away with Elijah and his own backside of nowhere. Do you remember? When he was running from Jezebel and told God, “I’m the only one left!” And remember how God said, “I’ve reserved for Myself seven thousand who haven’t bowed the knee or compromised in their hearts?”

Well that’s how it is with sisters too.

When we think we are the only one, the lonely one, we need to remember the seven thousand sisters.

Because today, as I was walking down another hallway, somewhere the backside of nowhere, you came to my mind. And I wasn’t trying to put the two together {I’m really not that smart} but these words were spoken into my heart: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or field for My sake will receive a hundred times as much in this life.”

And it dawned on my lonely, weary, Elijah-like steps how you are the fulfillment of a promise:

For every one loss, there’s a gain of a hundred. 

Your name to me, it’s the balm of friendship, the succor of promise, the reminder that we are seven thousand strong.

And when I get a little note in my inbox from you, it’s like God has shown up in my nowhere.

I don’t know how it’s happened this way. I surely didn’t go looking for this; I only know God keeps His promises and He’s promised us sisters.

You are a promise come true.

Oh, I hope you know it, sister!

Now I don’t know where you are holed up today. Don’t know how many tears have slipped down and away, how many weak smiles have covered up the inner ache. I don’t know how long you’ve been on the backside of nowhere, but I know this:

You’re a promise and I am too. We are promises come true.

Sister, I can’t be there to bring you a meal when you’re sick. Or take the kids out when you really need an hour of GOD. I can’t sit next to you on the couch with a shoulder or share a laugh over coffee. But I can give you words, these words. And I can lift a sister prayer to the God who gave us each other.

So sister, from Ancient Words I ask on your behalf: May healing rise in your morning wings today. May your rough places be made smooth and may you taste the treasures of your darkness. May you discover today the hidden wealth in the secret places and may your waste places be comforted.

Yes, may your waste places be comforted.

May you not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past; rather, may you know the Lord is doing a new thing! That instead of the thorn bush and the nettle bush in your dry places, instead of that thorny past that wants to entangle you, the cypress will come up. Yes, the cypress with the myrtle! And you will be a planting of the Lord.

May you know the Lord has promised and it will be fulfilled: the wilderness will blossom and rejoice and we will see the Lord’s glory.

In you, sister.

in you.

And may today you be reminded of the seven thousand sisters, the hundred fold, the promises come true.

All my love,

AJ

Becoming a Disciple of Grace

Grace Series #6

 

 

Every Grace for every good deed {Grace Shaped #6}

 

“There’s story of an old slave round these parts,” I begin.

Big round eyes shine with anticipation and I know that everyone loves a good story. “Now this was back when the Confederacy thought they could up and remove themselves from the Union. But anyhow, this one old slave was freed. And when his former master died, he left that slave everything he had. It amounted to a little over $50,000.”

And since I’m an accountant, I like numbers and I’ve looked up what that means in today’s dollars. “That’s like someone giving you over one. million. dollars.”

{What would you do if someone up and left you a million bucks!?}

“So the man was notified of his inheritance and the money was placed in the bank for him.

“Except months went by and he hadn’t withdrawn any money. So the banker went to give him a visit. He explained that he had $50,000 dollars available for his withdrawal and the old slave, who had no understanding of what that meant, asked, “Well Sir, do you think I can have 50 cents to buy a sack of corn meal?”

Children with the understanding of that slave stare back at me and I have to explain in the simplest of terms the difference between 50 cents and 50,000 dollars.

And I feel it in my bones, how Christians know a lot about the value of money …  but we don’t necessarily know so much about the incomparable worth of grace.

I’m mean, sure, we’ve been notified of our inheritance and we know that the righteousness of Christ was “credited” to our account. We know that grace means “unmerited favor.” We can give little acronyms and we talk a whole lot about justification and we can even pitch a celebration service for the $50,000 worth of grace in our spiritual bank… but that deposit was meant to be drawn upon.

That righteousness credited to our account wasn’t meant to sit there, it was meant to be drawn down upon, time and time again.

Like when a friend does you straight up wrong, it’s meant to draw down righteousness in the form of forgiveness. There are sufficient funds to give a blessing for a curse.

And when the sometimes selfish husband makes unreasonable demands, there are sufficient funds to grace him with kindness and nourish him with love.

And when the children wear and demand and it feels like you just have absolutely nothing left to give, there are sufficient funds credited to your account. Funds to give sacrificially and generously and joyously.

And when the trials blow hard against the soul, there are sufficient funds to stand strong and persevere and get back up.

Yes. This is the grace-oriented life.

 

Grace was never meant to simply be defined. It wasn’t meant to be acknowledged. It was meant to be drawn upon.

And what if we really lived like this?

It could be the greatest break-through of our lives.

Grace Series #6

 

There’s story of another slave even more insightful. This slave owed his master. In fact, his debt had accumulated to a sum of millions. There was absolutely no possible way the slave could ever pay the debt, not in several lifetimes.

So this slave was called to account. His master told him it was time to pay up. Since he couldn’t pay, he and his wife and children would be sold to pay for the debt. The slave begged for mercy. “Just give me a little more time and I will pay everything.”

The slave asked for a certain type of forgiveness. He asked for “makrothumason: an extension of time, a delay.”

Makrothumason requires continual striving, working, performing, achieving. This is what the slave assumed he *might* have a chance at receiving.

But the Master was moved with compassion and He granted full and complete removal of the debt. He marked the debt paid in full.

It was a glorious day, to be granted full pardon! Yet the slave, not realizing he was completely forgiven, thought he still had to go around collecting from others who owed him. He was still thinking in terms of makrothumason.

He saw someone who owed him a small sum, grabbed him and started choking him to exact payment.

And maybe we fail in our efforts to live the grace-oriented life because we make the same wrong assumption. Instead of drawing down on the inexhaustible supply of sufficient grace, we feel we can’t absorb a wrong-doing. We can’t afford to be generous. We can’t give a blessing for a curse. We just don’t have what it takes.

We don’t understand grace in terms of full provision. So we exact debts from husbands, friends, children, ourselves, because we don’t understand the grace credited to our account, the righteousness and provision of Christ. There are sufficient funds.

Yes, we have a good theology of grace. But do we live it? Is it in the gut, in the heart, in the reflexes? Is it reflected in our homes, our relationships, our “aroma?” Oh God, help us!

As this series comes to a close, it needs to be woven into the fiber of my being: Grace is full provision. At every moment, I can assume the bank account is credited beyond my ability to understand, there is no lack.

So this is grace -> always giving, believing, forgiving, nourishing, drawing on the inexhaustible resource that Christ has credited to our account.

Let’s live it, shall we? Let’s meet every challenge, each demand, every day of our lives with the assumption and from the standpoint of full provision. Let’s be disciples of grace.

May it be, friends. May it be.

 

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

II Thessalonians 1:11-12

 

 

Other Posts in the “Grace” Series:

 

The One Must Have for Spiritual Growth

For Those Not Good Enough

Eating Grace

The Grace Feast

How Long Will You Put it Off?

 

**Linking with GraceLaced today

How long are you going to put it off?

It's worth the effort!

It's worth the effort!

 

 

I’m standing at the kitchen sink. Helping hands splash soapy water and truly, half the bubbles are on the tile floor beneath our feet. We are soaked clear through.

Washing up the day’s grime, I wonder if cleansing the sin- sick heart could be so easy.

What if the impatience and the selfishness and the lethargy could just be rinsed down the drain of a soul, gone forever? How do we take the grace of God and apply it to the real issues of a life, a heart? Because I slip on emotions spilled over and I make big  messes and every day it’s this slippery, soapy work, the cleansing and the mess.

Even so, messy spills can be evidences of good at work. We mustn’t give up on well doing just because we don’t get it perfect.

And Joshua 18 tells us over half of God’s people drug their feet in taking possession of promises. They just kept putting it off, making excuses, never partaking in the labor and the fruit God had promised them.

I know it sure as anyone else: Years of promises can be written in journals and can sit on shelves and can lay dormant in the heart.  We can delay living in the good He has promised because of fear, laziness, unbelief, apathy.

Words from Joshua stir the spirit, a trumpet to the soul to press in and march on. “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

How long will we keep letting imperfection hold us back? Remember, the righteous woman falls seven times but gets back up. It never was about being perfect in the first place. We can slip and fall and finally give up and we can put off going in and taking possession of God’s promises to us.

The question is always, How long are you going to do that?

Joshua, the master leader, knew how to motivate. He told them, “Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each.”

Sometimes we need someone to tell us what living the abundant life looks like.

We need to know in the soul that it’s worth the effort. We need some God- inspired motivation. We need a good description of freedom. We need modern day spies to tell us that we really can be free of besetting sin, we really can live for a purpose greater than ourselves, we really can reflect the beauty and grace of God. The promises of God really do apply to us.

That’s godly motivation. But sometimes we can sit around waiting for a spy when what we need to do is remind ourselves.

We need to tell ourselves what God has already told us and stop waiting for someone else to do it.

We don’t have to figure it all out. We just have to believe that God has given us what He said He gave us. He has not only given us the promise regarding our children… our ministry… our own hearts and character…  He has also given us every grace needed for the journey, for every breath, every moment, step by step. There really are no excuses.

 

At the sink, I am tired. I’m tired of the mess, of a long day. I’m tired of the splashing, the incessant chatter. I want to cave to the exhaustion. But this I know: Possessing promises is worth pushing through my weakness.

So I push on. I breath grace.

I don’t know how I will do it five minutes from now, I really don’t; I just believe it for now, this moment.

And there in the soapy mess, a little boy chatters and grins up at me. “Momma, you’re the best momma in the whole wide world!”

Yes, possessing promises is worth pushing through the weakness.

So I will.

 

 How are you doing at Living Complete? Have you taken the 21 day journey with us? Press deeper and believe wider, friend. Let us go up and take more ground!

Amy has created a gorgeous bracelet for this month of May, the “Grace” bracelet.  To wear and remember that we can do this?

 

Grace bracelet

This is definitely my favorite, a reminder that every grace is mine. You can view the Grace bracelet, as well as the other Scripture bracelets,  here: Amy’s Etsy Shop

 

 

 

 

 

Every Grace for every good deed {Grace Shaped #5}

The Grace Feast

 

 

 

very shallow depth of field and very low perspective

 

When that Little Bit joined our family, she had to learn an entire different way of living.

I had to discover a truth too, that when one leaves slavery for freedom, it takes some adjusting. You need to learn the ways of grace … When all you’ve known is the whip of Egypt.

And one day early on in her learning, I find her crawling under the table eating crumbs off the floor. Her lunch plate still sits on the table, food untouched.

It’s a vivid real life example: She prefers the safety of crumbs, the self- foraging, to receiving something un-proven and risky from someone she doesn’t know very well.

Learning grace can be scary. The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt with its garlic and leeks rather than rely on God to provide something amazing out there in the middle of that desert.

For us earth bound sojourners, learning to feast on grace can seem like sure death… and it is. It is the death of self reliance and independence. It is death to all other provisions but grace.

To eat grace, we must refrain from filling up on crumbs. Maybe that’s why the writer of Hebrews says it clear and reliable for us:

 

“It is better to be strengthened by grace than by foods.”  Hebrews 13:9

 

We are masters of crumb eating. We eat the crumbs of social media and TV and entertainment and we consume information and textiles and fashion and fast food. We self forage for power and control and we use anger and self pity and self-righteousness and letting it all go can be frightening. Opening our hands to just grace seems risky.

What if grace, just simple grace for the moment, isn’t enough?

Eating grace is always a matter of trust. It is trusting that God really is better, that He really is enough, that He really will come through for me. In this moment.

And then we eat grace by acting on our trust. Even if it means treading deeper into the wilderness.

It’s the invitation of grace: come to the table and eat. But we need to know that means leaving the crumbs where they belong, on the floor and under the foot.

Over time, Little Bit started to eat that grace. She started to trust the woman who put her plate on the table. It took her mama getting real creative and even pureeing her food for awhile. It took her drinking grace like a babe, from a cup. But slowly, very slowly, she began to learn the ways of grace.

She is still learning {and so is her mama.} But one thing we both know: crumbs are best left for the dustpan.

How are you doing at eating grace?

 

This week, I’m evaluating how well I’m doing, how healthy I am. Because what really matters each day is whether or not I eat at the altar of grace and oh, I want to! I’m prayerfully asking these questions and you are invited to join in. Comments are off because I’m trying to give voice to the Lord alone this week.

 

~How strong am I? Am I being strengthened by grace?

~Am I looking to other things to fill me? If so, what are those things?

~How can I be intentional about turning away from those things and choosing grace?

~How will I step out in trust and go forward in grace?

 

More in this series next week…

All posts in the “Grace” Series:

The One Must Have for Spiritual Growth

For Those Not Good Enough

Eating Grace

The Grace Feast

 

Eating Grace

 

very shallow depth of field and very low perspective

 

 

Dust layers the city in drab gray. Undercover, everything from tree leaves to bird’s nest begs for new life, pants for an awakening.

And on a dark winter morning that paired perfectly with those dirt laid-en leaves, the speaker encouraged us from II Timothy 2:1:

 

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

 

Because sometimes you have dark and sometimes you have dirt and sometimes it’s all you can do to remember the bright color of spring. But even then, you always have grace.

We always, always have grace.

And since that first week of 2013, when the grime lay heavy and thick, I’ve practiced this. Eating grace. I’ve found others who have done it better and longer than I and I’ve mimicked moves.

From John Stott and words spoken in 1967:

 

First, then, there is a call to be strong in grace. Timothy was weak; Timothy was timid. Yet he was called to a position of leadership in the church – and in an area in which Paul’s authority was rejected. It is as if Paul said to him, ‘Listen Timothy, never mind what other people say, never mind what other people think, never mind what other people do; you are to be strong. Never mind how shy you feel, never mind how weak you feel; you are to be strong.’

That is the first thing.

Second, you are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. If the exhortation had simply been ‘be strong,’ it would have been absurd indeed. You might as well tell a snail to be quick or a horse to fly as to tell a weak man to be strong or a shy man to be brave.

But Paul’s calling Timothy to fortitude is a Christian and not a stoical exhortation. Timothy was not to be strong in himself. He was not just to grit his teeth and clench his fists and set his jaw. No, he was, as the Greek literally means, to be strengthened with the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to find his resources for Christian service not in his own nature but in the grace of Jesus Christ.”

 

And I get this, I can wrap my mind and heart around this and finally a way to be strong. I can eat grace.

For some reason it reminds me of the stick-thin woman I read in an interview once. “How long have you been modeling?” they asked her.

“For 26 years,” she said then added, “And for 26 years I’ve been hungry.” This woman who had found money and success and a wildly attractive body stayed hungry to do it.

We can starve as Christians. We can eat at many tables to get what we think we want. We can have success and find open doors and we can keep going back to the putrid or the seemingly innocent and we can be in pursuit of satisfaction in a hundred different ways. And we can be downright starving Christians.

There’s only one table a Christian can rightly eat at: Grace.

At that table, a Christian need not be hungry. I learn from another, John Piper. I know this desperation well and rejoice that it is common to us all, the filling of the soul comes at the altar of grace.

 

“I speak from some years of personal experience in these things; there are many mornings when feasting at the altar of grace is the only way I survive. Sometimes the breakfast of grace has to replace the breakfast of foods. When you are a leader, the heart must be strong. People turn to you for help; they need answers to hard questions; and comfort in the midst of grief; and guidance in perplexing decisions; and hope in the midst of discouragement; and an ear for their disappointments or even their anger; and a vision of God in the midst of darkness. The heart of a leader must be strong.

And so must yours. You are all ministers. And the glory of Christianity is that we have an altar – we have an old rugged cross. And there the Savior, Jesus Christ, serves inexhaustible helpings of grace. Do you want your heart to be strong? Do you want to be a strong person who has the resources to love each other, and take in strangers, and care for prisoners, and stay married or single and chaste, and not love money? Then stay close to the altar and eat and eat and eat again – the grace of God.

The only strength that really matters in life is the strength of heart that comes from feeding on grace and trusting in grace. All the way through life, it is not health and physical strength that God delights in. The Lord takes pleasure in those who hope in his grace (Psalm 147:11). And when we come to die, no food and no diet will matter at all. One thing will matter: are we nourished at the altar of grace?

 

 

 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

Grace is this invitation, to let weakness and inability and failure and yes, even sin, drive us to the table of Christ. The only altar that can fill us and we can let grace awaken new life. It is God’s power to transform us from weak and timid to strong and exemplary.

The grace-shaped life is the one who runs not from her inadequacy; but from her inadequay runs to Christ.

She eats at the table of grace.

The healthy don’t need a physician and the self sufficient don’t need grace. But if you find yourself lacking, oh there is great provision!

Today, one thing matters: are we nourished at the altar of grace? Will we serve, cook, clean, love, smile, live from the strength of grace?

Pull up a chair. Slurp it, drink it, daintly chew it or clumsily shovel it. Just get grace in.

{More next week on exactly “how”…}

 

Also from this series:

All posts in the “Grace” Series:

The One Must Have for Spiritual Growth

For Those Not Good Enough

Eating Grace

The Grace Feast

 

 

Where Identity begins

 

 

Here. Just here:

“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”

Ephesians 1:4-6

 

 

Need to know who you really are? Take a moment to read Ephesians 1

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