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Tag: grace

Hollyhock Gracelettes

by Wendy

Hollyhocks by Rakel Leah Mogg
Flickr.com_5927759987_d1279c9d8d CC BY-ND 2.0

She stopped by unannounced, unexpectedly showing up on my back porch. Who does that when you live in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path?  Hikers frequenting the nearby mountain, perhaps, but no one else. Yet here she was, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, one who lived far enough away to make the trip unlikely.

My heart leaped for joy to see my friend, but my brain groused that I had five hours of work to finish in the short time before our dinner on the porch.  My husband’s unexpected disability meant the outdoor tasks wouldn’t happen. Dead leaves and blossoms littered the deck alongside the deserted robin’s nest and sticky spider webs. Flowers drooped in the muggy, blistering heat. The daisy waited patiently for a new pot, but the hollyhocks…   I sighed, seeing the wilted, dying blooms in plastic tubs. Four weeks was three weeks too long for those plants.  Their new garden bed wasn’t going to happen either.

“I love digging in the ground,” my friend offered reassuringly.  Wait, what?  You’d plant the hollyhocks for me?  My grousing stopped as the Spirit nudged me to remember. Was it this morning I shook my head and prayed cynically, “Lord, what I really want is someone to walk in off the street and say, ‘Hi, I’m here to plant those hollyhocks.’” What I really thought was “Right, that’s not going to happen.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond What We Have Known

by juste buzas

Risk it all by Kyle Steed
Flickr.com/photos/kylesteeddesign/4496357233_CC BY-ND 2.0

But if from there you will seek (inquire for and require as necessary) the Lord your God, you will find Him if you [truly] seek Him with all your heart [and mind] and soul and life.  Deuteronomy 4:29

It was late one night.  I was tossing and turning in bed.  My dreams were unsettled, restless.  I turned over upon my back, opened my eyes and faced the darkness.

“What, Lord?” I whispered. I waited.  The night was black, still. Then it came, that still small voice deep within.

“Do you want what you’ve always had?  Then, by all means, continue doing what you’ve always done.  Or, do you want more?” Read the rest of this entry »

That Unforced Rhythm of Grace

by kerriebutterfield

First Dance
by Elizabeth Anne
Flickr.com_2666924472_c85810c260_CC BY_ND 2.0

I regularly pray that people would be embarrassed by God’s affection and goodness–become a billboard for the goodness of God. My heart is that people would see Papa God’s nature on display, and God would get the glory. When I pray this I often picture a teenager embarrassed by a public display of affection; enjoying the love but completely self- aware, and wondering what people watching might be thinking. My husband also prays daily for our family that any areas that are uncomfortable with Papa God’s love would be revealed and transformed by love. A few weeks ago these two prayers had a beautiful collision. Read the rest of this entry »

This Is Amazing Grace!

by Rob Dunne

Holga, Fuji Acros, "When ghosts collide..." CC BY-ND 4.0

Holga, Fuji Acros, “When ghosts collide…” CC BY-ND 4.0

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10

Convincing a jury that the car with the flat tire was at fault was one of my toughest cases I had ever tried. This vehicle stopped in the travel lane of the highway. The person directly behind her was able to safely stop her vehicle, but my client wasn’t so lucky. She attempted to slow down and swerve left, but still rear-ended the vehicle in front of her.

The jury was asked to determine if the broken down vehicle violated the law by allowing her vehicle to remain in the travel portion of the highway. They were also asked to decide if my client acted reasonably under the circumstances. Even though she was traveling below the speed limit, she could be found at fault if her response differed from that of the reasonably prudent person.

My client was victorious but the jury cut her damages in half due to her comparative negligence. I think it was a fair result.

Long before I entered the practice of law, I was a legalist. I prided myself on the fact that I was better than others because I lived a holier life than them. To this day, I am quick to render judge when I observe someone violating the law. It is funny how quickly I forget the numerous laws that I have broken while judging others.

This self-righteous attitude is what causes me to wrestle with the concept of grace. There is literally nothing that any person can do to earn God’s forgiveness. We don’t live as holy as we can and then trust that Jesus will fill in the gaps. Either we believe by faith that Jesus paid it all or we try to become our own savior.

Unlike my client’s situation, there is no comparative fault with God. Either you follow the law perfectly or you are guilty of violating all of it. God knew that no one would ever be able to keep the law perfectly. That is why He sent Jesus. Jesus was able to fulfill the entire law and live a sinless life. As He hung on the cross, He became sin so that we might become righteous. Our part is to simply believe by faith that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. That act of faith restores our relationship with God and the promise of eternity with Him.

There are many people who argue that abandoning the law and living under grace gives people liberty to sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding God’s grace and the love that He has for us sets us free from the requirements of the law. As His love is poured out in our hearts, we simply lose our desire to engage in sinful behavior. The holier we live, the deeper we are able to go in our relationship with God, thereby allowing Him to pour out even more love over us. In turn, we stop judging others and extend the same grace to them that God has given to us. It is quite liberating.

It is impossible for us to earn God’s love or our entrance in to heaven. Accept His free gift of grace today and allow the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus to set you free from the law of sin and death. I promise you will experience inexpressible joy in the freedom that His amazing grace provides!

My Jacob Moment

by Dawn Aldrich

Wrestling_states063_edit

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 NIV

There comes a time in our walk with Jesus, when our past catches up to the present. That past that we gulped down hard and packed away deep below the surface; the chapter that we thought we finally closed. But the funny thing is, if we don’t resolve the past, it keeps challenging us to a wrestle in hopes of a resolution.

It was early spring and the New Hampshire mountains remained captive by winter’s frozen veil.

Lost in thought, I trudged my way up the newly formed snow path from my bunkhouse to the chapel, wondering if I’d made the right decision, because women’s retreats weren’t “my thing.” Maybe it was all the fluff and foo-foo conversations that seemed to permeate every women’s retreat I’d attended before. I’d much rather bypass all those niceties and jump right into the hard stuff—the meaty conversations that changed your heart forever.

I waded through the thick molasses worship set and then poised myself to take copious notes of the speaker’s message, all-the-while praying, “Dear God, I showed up. Now speak! Make this retreat worth my effort, please?” Oh, boy. Did. He. Ever.

It wasn’t so much what the speaker said, but the challenge she presented for the next morning. Based upon God’s name, Abba (Father), we were to make a list of all the positive life lessons we garnered from our earthly fathers. {In marches my past…that chapter I’d slammed shut when I was fifteen when I spewed disrespect towards the father who walked out on us all.} I wrestled God to the ground all night—argued my fatherless, painful past was punishment enough. How dare He open up that closed chapter again? Besides, what positive lessons could I have possibly learned from a father who walked out on his daughters?

By daybreak, I conceded and slipped away to a quiet room, alone. In the silence I gave God another punch, spilling my angry words onto paper. Five pages later, I took a breath and God asked, “Are you done yet? Now, write these words down. Here are all the positive things your father passed onto you.” And God proceeded to bring to mind all the wonderful characteristics embodied by my father—those things that I saw in myself, but ignored because I knew it meant I was a bit like him. Then when the list exhausted itself, God said, “Now write these things down. Here’s the positive lessons you learned DESPITE the fact your dad walked away. And this list was where God showed me how he redeems the past, the wrong and makes all things work for good for those who love Him.

And before the hour ended, God threw me a challenge. Knowing the wrong and the pain my father caused me, knowing now, all the positive aspects he added to my life just because of who God created him to be and despite the facts, God forgave him. God could see the wrong no longer and only saw the man…the father…He created him to be from the beginning of time. So, what about me? God asked me to offer my father the grace and forgiveness that Jesus freely offered me.

Exhausted, I left the retreat a few hours later—a whole day early—and pondered God’s challenge. I’d love to say I took action immediately, but I didn’t. I’d be lying if I said my heart melted that day and I ran to my father’s side and threw my hands around his neck and forgave him instantly. It took months. God wouldn’t let me go and kept reminding me of Jesus’ grace so freely given. When I finally had enough wrestling, I visited my father and relayed this story, face-to-face. I truly forgave him for the past and God redeemed the past.

I call this wrestling, my Jacob moment after the Old Testament story found in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God through the night. Have you ever had a Jacob moment? Are you resisting God’s prodding for some unresolved issue? Is there someone you need to forgive?

Heavenly Presents

by Rob Dunne

The night was truly silent as I walked down the hallway toward the living room. Tiny particles of dust danced from my eyelashes and fell lightly down my rosy cheeks. Confusion quickly set in when confronted with a seemingly impenetrable fortress. Layer upon layer of sticky plastic encased the Louvre doors like a butterfly going through metamorphosis.

Behind the doors, I pictured dozens of multi-colored boxes cascading beyond the daintily skirted tree. Who devised this fiendish plot to separate me from the frenzied joy I longed for? Was this the work of elves or had a band of marauding pirates blockaded themselves behind the doors? No, this was simply a pre-emptive measure to keep three miniature tornadoes from wreaking havoc on an otherwise Rockwellian scene.

Fortunately, Father God has devised no such plan to keep us from the heavenly gifts He freely offers us. First, there is the gift of His love. Since God is love, He offers us Himself. How I wish the world would fully comprehend the depths of His love. God the Father sacrificed His only begotten Son Jesus to redeem mankind. Can you imagine giving up your most prized possession to win the heart of an indifferent person? I can’t.

Second, He offers us the gift of grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Santa Claus maintains a naughty and nice list to determine who is rewarded with presents. God is not concerned with your good deeds. Rather, the gift of grace is free to everyone who believes by faith that Jesus is God’s Son.

Third, when we believe that Jesus died for our sins and surrender our lives to Him, God adopts us. To this day, I am still trying to wrap my mind around this one. By law, an adopted child is treated the same as a biological child. When the inheritance comes, your share is the same as biological child’s share. God also blesses us with brand new identities. He restores the pristine image we once shared with Him prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. God re-writes our DNA, demonstrating to the world that we belong to Him. The world can “see” Jesus inside of us. Amazing!

Let us remember in this New Year,  to praise God for His eternal gifts of His love, grace and adoption that far outshine those temporal Christmas gifts we just opened a few short days ago.

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