God’s Grace is Enough

It’s Communion Sunday. A time of repentance, remembrance, rejoicing.

Repentance ~ Silver plate passes in front of me. I take the bread, symbol of Christ’s broken body. Next comes the fruit of the vine, poured in thimble-sized, plastic cups.

Lord, I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy.

But still, God loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus to ransom me

So I eat and drink in….

Remembrance ~ For this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

Can’t comprehend the magnitude of God’s love, can’t fathom the cost.

But still, I raise my hands and …

Rejoice ~ that God’s grace is enough. I’ve been purchased with His own blood. (Acts  20:28)  and “nothing can separate me from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38,39)

It’s a truth I’ll need to cling to because

That same day, I’m on a walk when a turkey vulture circles overhead; in search of death, a hearty meal.

I think of my “adversary, the devil, who prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Not knowing, that someone is me.

While the sweet fruit of the vine lingers on my lips, I trespass once again. And in a blind moment, God’s grace and love appears dim as I listen to the enemy’s accusations.

Karen, You are not worthy. 

I weep, knowing my best can’t close the gap between my filth and God’s holiness.

But still, God loves me. And His Spirit that dwells within me, because I am purchased by His blood, guides me to a passage that confirms His benevolent grace.

In Zechariah 3:1-4, Satan accuses Joshua, the high priest of Israel, who stands before the angel of the Lord wearing filthy garments. Instead of defending Joshua, God says, “Remove the filthy garments from him. See, I have taken your iniquity from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”  

God’s grace is enough.

Tears cloud my vision, as I read verse 8 aloud, “Behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch…and I will remove the iniquity….”  

“The Branch,” Jesus the Messiah, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Psalm 53:5)

Crushed for MY iniquities, and brought

Reconciliation ~”God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. “ (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Defeated, the enemy slinks away in silence; his tail between his legs.

Elated, I rejoice once again that my perfection is based on my relationship with Christ and not my petty performance.

What’s Taking Sooo Long? (rest of the story)

The rest of the story…….

The disappointment on my son’s face tugs my heartstrings. And I realize, its easier for me to pray “Thy will be done” in my life than watch “His will be done” in my children’s lives, particularly as they get older.

Unlike the years when I could dry their tears and kiss scraped knees, the needs of my adult children have also grown. Powerless to help them or show them the way, I get on my knees and pray. But when storm clouds linger and there’s no end in sight, I ask God, What’s taking so long?

Just say the word, the waters will part, the wind and the clouds will obey.

Remember the woman who begged for mercy,  “Oh Lord, my daughter’s demon-possessed.” And Jesus replied, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.”  (Matthew 15:22-28)

Is it wrong of me to wish You’d help my children? O Lord, why must they wait?

The question is raised, but my heart knows the answer; “trials are the testing of our faith.” We’re a work in progress and there’s more at stake, than the wishes of an earth-bound  Mother.

                                                                                                                   

Had I Been Joseph’s Mother

(by Ruth Bell Graham)

Had I been Joseph’s mother

I’d have prayed protection from his brothers

“God, keep him safe.

He is so young,

so different from the others.”

Mercifully, she never knew

there would be slavery

and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother

I’d have wept to keep my little son:

Praying she might forget

the babe drawn from the water

of the Nile.

Had I not kept him for her

nursing him the while,

was he not mine?

And she, but Pharaoh’s daughter?

Had I been Daniel’s mother

I should have pled

“Give Victory!

This Babylonian horde

godless and cruel—

Don’t let him be a captive,

Better dead, Almighty Lord!”

Had I been Mary,

Oh, had I been she,

I would have cried

as never mother cried,

“Anything, O God, Anything…

but crucified.”

With such prayers importunate

My finite wisdom would assail

Infinite Wisdom.

God, how fortunate

Infinite Wisdom

should prevail.

What’s Taking Soooo Long?

For several weeks now, my teenage son walks in the door after school and greets me with the same question, “Did my music CD arrive?”

I shake my head, and watch him sort through the mail as he grumbles, “It should have been here by now.”

Forget snail mail, my son wants to know if the company sent me an email explaining the status of the CD he ordered.

“No word.”

“What’s taking so long?”

  I’ve asked God that same question.

 “Lord, I prayed about this matter weeks ago…………What’s taking so long?

 I sort through God’s Word, searching for His answer.  I pray and fast so God knows I mean business. I claim Luke 11:5-13 where Jesus tells us to keep on asking; I’m not trying to be a pain.

But sometimes I wait so long, the weeks turn into months, and even years ……………without a response.

Does God’s silence on the subject mean NO or NOT YET?

I cross my fingers and pray again, hoping the answer is a delayed affirmation; that it may be later than sooner, but I’ll get what I want. Sounds like the brat in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden egg, and she wants it NOW!

Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Are you prepared to ask yourself what it is you want from God and why you want it? God always ignores your present level of completeness in favor of your ultimate future completeness. He is not concerned about making you happy right now, but He’s continually working out His ultimate perfection for you.”

There’s that word perfection again and my need (not want) to submit to God’s perfect plan for my life. “And let endurance (perseverance) have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4)

My son comes home and tosses junk mail on the kitchen counter. The disappointment on his face tugs my heartstrings. And I realize, it’s easier to pray “Thy will be done” in my life, than watch “His will be done” in my children’s lives.

 But that’s another story……………

I Love the Imperfection

Last week, I went into an antique store to browse old furniture. The man who worked there showed me a handmade fireplace mantel. He pointed to the scratches in the wood, and the uneven design along the front. Then he caressed a round, black stain on top of the mantel where a wet glass or candle had stood.

“I love the imperfection of it,” he said.

“What did you say?” 

“I love the imperfection,” he repeated, “because that’s what makes antique furniture unique and have character.”

Unique is not a word I’d use to describe the queen-sized bed frame I recently bought. It was manufactured in China, came in a cardboard carton, assembled by yours truly, and seemingly without defect … unlike the reflection of imperfection that stared back at me from a hazy, antique mirror.

I combed my hair with my fingers and left the store asking myself, do I love the imperfection in myself or others?

Absolutely not! I’ve been programmed from birth to look my best, be my best, and do my best.

Imperfection, the flawed condition of humanity, hides behind good intentions and exasperation. “I’m sorry, but I’m doing the best I can!”

But my very best falls short of the commandment to “Be perfect just as my Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Why would a holy, perfect God love me; the poster child of imperfection?

I try to wrap my mind around His love and grace, but imperfect emotions distort my vision. I return to His Word where truth resides:

And put my faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Earthly perfection is impossible this side of heaven. But like the Apostle Paul, I can be “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

IF I rest in that knowledge, I can stop striving to be perfect, and instead, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”(Hebrews 12: 2,3)

Since my visit to the antique shop, I have enjoyed the warmth of a crackling fire on a winter’s day. The polished wooden mantelpiece is smooth to my touch; it is not old or unique. But the words of a stranger, “I love the imperfection,” stirs my heart because it shows me how God “whose way is perfect” used even this to bring Himself praise.

Rainy days and Mondays

It’s Monday evening and my husband says, “You’re in a mood, today. You know that right?”

I nod, and take another bite of cold salad.

“Is it the rain?”

I pause to hear the drumbeat of water falling from the sky. This is not the patter of little feet dancing on my roof.

“We need the rain,” I sigh. “But I miss the sun.”

The sun: that giant, fireball that emanates warmth, and light, and draws my eyes upward to celestial heights.  I know the sun’s still there if I could just fly above the gray clouds that hang over me like a heavy tarp.

When I’m in a melancholy mood, I browse through my spiritual journals, hoping for previous insights or a spark to fan the embers. On this particular January day, several years ago, I’d written in my God Calling journal, “Today is gray and cold. I lack joy and feel indifferent towards the Lord.”

The enemy loves to use January weather to derail me.

In that same journal, I’d underlined a sentence, “You must say ‘Thank You’ on the grayest days. You must do it. All cannot be light unless you do. There is gray-day practice. It is absolutely necessary.”

There’s the formula to an improved mood. Did it work?

I turn the page where I’d written about an awesome worship time with the Lord, and the verse. “He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I scan scribbled words, written from a heart anchored to God in the storm, “We are on a life journey which consists of hills and valleys where our vision is limited. We can’t know what’s coming around the bend. So we take one step at a time, knowing He is with us, and “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NAS)

I close the journal, my scrapbook of heartaches and joy-filled God moments. I’m not sure what plagued my soul back then. Perhaps it was the rain. But I know how I escaped the pit of indifference and despair.

I sought the Lord even when I wasn’t in the mood. I praised His name and said ‘Thank you’ even when I didn’t feel grateful.

“I am your God. Your Great Reward. Yours to look up and say, ‘All is well.’”

And so He is, and my soul is well, even in this…..

Rainy days and Mondays.

Please Send Stamps

A belated Christmas card arrived in the mail this week. It was from a female inmate whom I’ve been corresponding with during the past year. Her handwriting was bold and neat. She wished me well, thanked me for sending her a package of Christmas cards with postage last month, and after her signature, she added a postscript:

“Could you please send stamps?”

“Why am I not surprised?”

As a volunteer jail chaplain, I teach Bible to women inmates, and on occasion, I correspond with some of them when they go away to prison. I understand their need for positive relationships and spiritual encouragement while they’re behind bars. It’s a mutual blessing.

But this woman never ends her letters without requesting something from me.

Sometimes I feel she’s taking advantage of me. Even Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

But on this particular day, her request for stamps struck a nerve.

 How often do I pray to my Heavenly Father, without adding my laundry list of needs and wants?

“I love you Lord, thank you Lord, but could you please send: a job, healing, financial aid, help, wisdom, success, new car….”

I KNOW God wants Christians to “devote ourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). His Word says “pray without ceasing” for the details of our day including: our daily bread, to avoid temptation, forgiveness, when we’re suffering, for each other, for those who persecute us.

“Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

However, because God cares for me, shouldn’t I also seek God for Himself alone; with no personal agenda than being in His presence?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4, 5)

The Christmas card is now taped over my desk as a reminder:

Spend more time praising God and less time saying,

“Please send ….”

                

Touchdown


I’m snuggled beneath warm sheets when my alarm clock pesters me to rise and shine. I stumble out of bed, sleepy-eyed, and head for the kitchen. Friends are coming to our house after church to watch televised football games.

First order of business: brew myself a hot cup of French-pressed coffee. Within minutes, my full cup sits idle on the kitchen counter while I hurry through my to-do list. If there’s one thing I know about my “men folk,” they want their appetites fed the moment they walk through the door on Sunday afternoons. So I melt Velveeta cheese, make a taco bean dip, and dice lettuce and tomatoes for our Mexican feast. 

Husband and son stroll into the kitchen ready for church as I rush by them to get dressed. But when I re-emerge from the bedroom with Bible and purse in hand, I’m informed there’s a change in plans.

Our company canceled.

Seriously?

Self-centered thoughts surface and swim in my head like blood-thirsty sharks. What about all the food? Do we invite someone else? I wish I’d known an hour ago.  

Instead of lending a voice to my thoughts, I apply scripture. I put a “guard around my mouth” (Psalm 141:3) and “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)    

 


   

   After church, my husband stands in the kitchen scooping tortilla chips into the quesadilla dip. “Tastes good, Karen. I’m sorry our friends couldn’t come, but you’re handling it well.”

  His comment makes me grow two inches taller. “You’re right, especially when I consider how easily I got frustrated last week. Do you know why I didn’t get upset today?”

“Why?”

I point to my Bible laying on the kitchen counter next to my cup of cold coffee. “I’ve been in God’s Word and prayer for the past few days. It makes all the difference in my attitude.”

My husband hugs me and heads for the man cave to watch the kickoff. I stir Chicken Tortilla soup that’s been simmering in my crockpot for hours. Its variety of spices, amplified by heat and time, has created a culinary delight.  

The slow process reminds me of my spiritual sanctification. There’s no such thing as microwave holiness. Sanctification, becoming more like Jesus, is a life-long process.

So today’s change of plans and my response is another opportunity to “be conformed into the image of Christ” and “bring Him praise.”

My husband turns up the television volume as I ladle hot soup into three bowls. There must have been a touchdown because I can hear the fans cheering through my wall. I imagine the football player who scored is raising his arms in victory. 

I love the similarity to my life.

Okay, so I fumbled the ball last week. It’s not the end of the world.

Nothing’s wasted.

Even though some days seem like baby steps, I’m learning how to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10).

Today is Sunday, the beginning of a new week, and when I compare my calm reaction today with last week’s critical spirit, I know by God’s grace……

I scored a touchdown.  And that’s something to cheer!