Uncomfortable grace

Last week I went into Walmart to grab milk and eggs. We only needed milk and eggs. But listen, I have the hardest time not running through the clearance at Walmart. I’m a mess, I know.

And as I made my way to the clearance I went to the bedding section, and thought oh yeah we could totally use new sheets. (For real, we had one pair and we need a backup.)

Next thing I know I see a dear friend from church and her daughter. We smile and chat for a few minutes. My youngest is looking at all the pillows and stuffed animals by the sheets. My friend and I finish up chatting and my littlest and I head down the next aisle. I got sidetracked again and grabbed a really squishy pillow, then we went down the clearance aisle and ran into our friends again. She commented on how great the pillow was and she hoped I got to take a nap on it that day.

I was so grateful to see her and catch up. With COVID-19 it’s hard to see people and try to figure out what’s appropriate or not. We both felt joy seeing each other.

I finally grabbed what we needed and headed to check out. My friend and her daughter checked out in front of us and we said good bye one more time.

As I’m checking out I realized I left my wallet at home (darn purse change) and so I returned those few things to the worker and head out the door thinking I’ll go this afternoon and get milk and eggs. It was a sign, I didn’t need the sheets and pillow anyways.

We walked out front and our friends were waiting, and I thought oh wonder if they needed to tell me something. No, they just had a little blessing for our youngest.

I said, “Man, I forgot my wallet (because my cart was empty).”

She replied, “Oh, we are going back in and I’m gonna get that stuff for you.”

I said, “Oh, I can send you money through my phone!”

She replied, “Absolutely not.” She said she was blessed she got to see me that day and knew she was supposed to help.

I was embarrassed. Uncomfortable. She wanted to buy not just my milk and eggs, but my sheets and pillow! I sheepishly accepted.

They poured blessing on blessing to us that day.

And as I’m thinking on that story today my heart wells with gratitude. I want to owe her back. I want to do something in return. But maybe my only roll was to accept the blessing, the free gift, and be grateful.

I couldn’t help being reminded of the gospel.

Jesus sent us the most perfect gift, and sometimes it is flat out uncomfortable for me to accept I need it. But once we do, “God pours out His Spirit in our hearts with His love” (Romans 5:5) so we can live a life for Him. A life that is grateful. At the end of Luke 7 there’s a story about a sinful woman who comes in to see Jesus and she begins to weep at Jesus’ feet with gratitude and she wipes His feet clean with her hair! Then, Jesus replies, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven–for she loved much. But He who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47”

His forgiveness of all her sins drew her in love, He wasn’t going to punish her, but forgive her completely. And she overflowed back to Him in gratitude.

I love that my friend showed me Jesus. Reminding me of my need, even if it’s uncomfortable.

How can we show God today we are grateful for His free gift of grace? Can we give it out?

Redemption

So I’m watching Downton Abbey and it’s marvelous.  Witty, funny, just the right amount of drama and love.

The oldest daughter, Mary, has a secret that her and her mother are keeping. She’s afraid it will scar her forever, and she will be a lonely spinster if word gets out.  So she pays a man to keep her secret quiet for her and she agrees to marry him.  All the while she is still madly in love with Matthew.

You are pining for them to be together, just tell him I’m thinking.  It’s okay, he will love you anyways.  You know the truth, but she’s unsure.  Her father, Lord Grantham does not know either.  And for fear of him outcasting her she stays quiet.

Then the day comes, her mother tells her father.  He sits down and absorbs the news.  Mary goes to her father and they embrace as he already knows and has forgiven her.  It’s a powerful moment.  He stands beside her, whatever may come, because he didn’t want his oldest daughter marrying someone out of fear.

Then, Matthew learns the truth.  And again, he takes some time, but walks right up to her and professes his love for her, in spite of the truth she has told him.

Whew!  Redemption.

It’s beautiful and powerful.  Undeserved, but needed.  Grace upon grace.

To be known to our depths and loved.  I pray and hope you have someone in your life that knows it all and loves you still.  Because that truth points us to the one and only true God who said, I know all you will do, and I’m sending Jesus anyways.  I love you that much.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus, that all who believe in Him will not die but have eternal life.”

New Mercies

I keep seeing this word: mercy.  In my quiet time this was the verse for today with the caption: choose grace.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

The old testament talks about God being slow to anger and abounding in grace and mercy.  We get annoyed with Israelites after a few rounds of their complaints.  We don’t always associate grace and mercy with God in our crisis or even our daily life.  Normally my words to myself are “Can’t you get it together?”  “Why are you anxious about that, it’s not a big deal?”  Frustration.  Lack of empathy.

We think if we show compassion to our neighbors or ourselves, we are giving a pass.  However, it is clear this is important way of living in scripture.  I think modern psychology would agree.  Punishment does not equal lasting change or a “good head on our shoulders.”

What if we let feelings pass, if we slowed down long enough to see if we needed something, made time to be quiet to hear and listen.  We are scared though huh?  Scared if we stop what we might hear.  Well, I can promise you this.  Just from this Hebrews verse alone, we can know our God is gracious and cannot wait until we come to Him to receive the mercy and grace undeserved, but that He wants to lavish on us anyways.

We can wake up tomorrow and do it differently if we know we have grace and mercy.  Perfectionism comes when we think we will be punished.  Punished for anything and everything.  Not a great way to live.

Example: I’ve felt guilty my kids don’t help pick up much, I bear the burden of most of that.  Now, I could stay there punishing myself-which means I will try harder to keep the house neat and tidy and get angry when our third runs through the living room pouring legos all over the floor or my oldest says he’s just too tired.

Or grace and mercy say, tomorrow is a new day.  Make a stride.  You can’t fail at this, because grace will meet you when you lose your cool as I teach my children to pick up.  And lets be honest, may grace meet me when I succeed, keeping me humble not trusting to much in my own ability to get it right.

So where can you give yourself mercy and grace?  Giving it to yourself means you’ll give it to others too.

Whatever it is, you got this.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself today!

Remember: Lamentations 3:23 “…His mercies are new every morning.”

 

Fully Known

You know how your mom, friend or spouse just know you.  Like when they buy you the perfect gift or call you at a moment you needed it most.

But, sometimes it’s annoying, right?  Like Jesse in Full House, when Rebecca had figured Danny out and even when he was trying to do the opposite of his personality she knew what he’d do.  He was exhausted trying to be someone he wasn’t.

It’s good to be known.  But it doesn’t always feel good.  It feels vulnerable, exposed.

Tauren Wells sings in his song “Known” that, “…it’s not one or the other: its hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known, fully known and loved by Him.”  I’ve been on one side of that line.  The hard truth.  I knew who I was.  I knew the depth of my sin.  But to sit there was too much.  It was too heavy, like a boulder on my chest.  Sin was debt I knew I could never pay no matter how hard I worked at it.

Freedom is to accept who you are, human, unable to do anything to save yourself, plus receiving grace that is absolutely ridiculous.  Grace completely engulfing our sinful selves.  God gives us grace upon grace because He knows who we are, how fallen, utterly dust humans.

James 4:6 says, “God gives grace generously…opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Proud and humble are the opposite.  Admitting you have faults, you are broken, you are in need: humility.  Because we all have faults, we all are broken, and we are all in need of saving.  Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  None of us can do it.  Think about the greatest person you know, yep, they are sinners in need of God’s ridiculous grace.

But you don’t understand, Tara, you don’t know me.  You are right, but God does, and He paid for all that you are hiding.

1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves…”  Isn’t that the truth, we think hiding and saying we don’t struggle with this or that sin somehow validates we are saved.  But God says confess your sin to be forgiven.

Grace balances the scales, in our favor.

So, let God know all of those completely empty places you carry, so that, grace can enter.  And know that it is both.  It is our admission of sin and God’s act of extending grace to us.

Grace- it overflows so that our sin is no more.

We are His, complete and whole.

Learning to rejoice

Its a funny thing.

People say, “Just be thankful.”  “Be happy.”  But sometimes life throws punches and it’s just hard.  Especially when you’ve learned to “get through” life instead of taking delight in it.  The Bible tells us to rejoice a lot.  But, there have been times in my life I felt blind to rejoicing.  I didn’t know how.  And it felt very foreign.

1 Peter 4: 12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”  (ESV, emphasis added)

There have been some moments in the suffering that I was able to rejoice, but most of the rejoicing in my life has come after the storm.  Normally a “thank you for letting me live!”

I looked up “rejoice” and asked the internet what its meaning was in greek.  I was looking for something deeper. (Note: I am no Bible teacher, I literally just looked up “rejoice in greek” and saw a Strong’s definition, remembering that name from Bible college.)

A few pieces of the definition popped out to me.  Rejoice: leaning towards grace.  Whew!  Leaning in, moving closer.  Another definitions “to delight in God’s grace.”  Because that suffering will end, if not in this life, in Heaven.

So rejoice is not putting a silver lining on our suffering, or pretending its not there.  But it is completely delighting in God’s grace towards us.

There are things in this life that do not change.  God’s grace towards us.  His love.  His Presence.  And for me His creation will never stop rejoicing in His goodness.  Just go sit outside and watch the clouds go by.  They are magnificent.  Delight.  Breathe.  Take it all in.  Shift your gaze.

And we can rejoice in these things even when life throws a curve.

How are you rejoicing today?

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