Tag Archive: Grace

Seventy times Seven

Our granddaughter, Gabrielle and her boyfriend, Weston spent four days with us this week. What a delight. We cherish the time we spent together. This picture was taken at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Floating $2 bill

We learned to know Gabrielle again after not seeing her for a few years. Learned to love Weston. The four of us laughed and talked as we prepared three appetizers for a larger get-together, each one doing his or her part in seamless completion of a task that would have taken me several hours longer on my own. We went to the beach (one day, fog; the next sunshine), enjoyed a few magic tricks, talked through some issues, shared our faith journeys with them. These are precious memories we carry forward.

I could go on writing about the ways God answered prayer this week, about times of laughter, but life isn’t one-sided. It is filled with joy and with sorrow, as most of us have learned by now.

I felt the barbs this week … again. You’d think after years of passive hostility I’d be used to it. We don’t see each other often but when we do it’s like I don’t exist. She moves away as soon as I enter the space where she is.

“I want to hate her,” I told Don, “but I can’t. That would not be Christlike.” (And that’s a choice, not a feeling.) And I don’t. But how do you or I respond when a hurt feels repeated deliberately, year after year. Somehow I don’t think I’m alone in this.

jesus saves neon signage
Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven. But forgiveness isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap. It costs the forgiver, requiring letting go of the right to hurt back, releasing the sense of self-righteousness that can come with unwarranted animosity.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily happen immediately. It may take a period of time, of praying and talking and working through the issue with God’s help. Forgiveness is also a choice, not a feeling. And the choice may need to be repeated until it becomes reality. For me, the process starts with the God who tells me to:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

Hebrews 12:14-15 NLT
gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water
Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

Bitterness hurts me more than it does anyone else. It blocks the free-flowing channel of communication between God and me. And then it transmits to others around us, just as these roots are spreading out beyond the base of the tree.

I think of the man I read about whose wife was murdered in cold blood. He was later able to forgive the murderer, and even to share God’s love with him. That is possible only by the power of God!

And I know my Father wants me to let this go–again. He has forgiven me for the times I’ve walked my own way. We’re told to confess our sins and be healed, so I requested prayer after church this morning. My sin was holding onto the hurt and, in the process, hurting my beloved husband. I’m still working through this one, but by God’s grace it is coming. And I realize I may have misread some of her actions this week. I hope so.

Who’s a difficult person in your life and how do you deal with him or her?

So … a week with precious memories and some hurt. Which will I allow to rule my thoughts and life? Hmmm … Amazingly, while on the Cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NLT) I know what choice he wants me to make. And after almost a week of struggle, I choose to obey.

But God …

P1090285

Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

Acting – or Authentic?

Marketing isn’t new. In the first century, actors went out to the city streets and put on short parts of their drama to attract crowds to their performances. Reminds me of when my mother and I were in Vienna and saw gentlemen and ladies dressed in eighteenth century attire, advertising Mozart and Strauss concerts.

Marketing for Mozart and Strauss concerts

Marketing for Mozart and Strauss concerts

Don and I are excited about an upcoming trip to Israel and Jordan. In preparation to visit this land we’ve heard about all our lives, we are reading devotionals prepared by our pastor, Rene Schlaepfer (www.jesusjourneybook.com/day16). He says one of the most impressive buildings in the town of Sepphoris was its beautiful theater.

Schlaepfer writes: “I can imagine Jesus and Joseph on their way to a job in Sepphoris, walking past a busy street corner where actors loudly strutted while wearing their grotesque theatrical masks (in Greek theater, actors typically wore masks to portray their characters instead of make-up as modern actors do — in fact, the Greek masks representing comedy and tragedy are the icons of the acting profession to this day).

“Jesus’ impression of these street performers might even be evident in the Sermon on the Mount. He used the word ‘hypocrite’ several times in this message. That’s a word that has developed a very specific meaning in English, but in the Greek language of Jesus’ day it meant one thing:

“An actor.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by the life of Ferdinand “Fred” Demara, Jr., known as “the Great Pretender.” The man must have been brilliant. Throughout his life he performed as a monk, surgeon, deputy sheriff, doctor of psychology, cancer researcher, and prison warden, among other roles. During the Korean war he faked credentials as a Navy doctor, and even performed several successful surgeries on his ship. While the patient was being prepped, Demara would disappear with a textbook on surgery and speed-read the appropriate procedure!

Every time, he was eventually caught. He could fool people on a temporary basis, but eventually his mask slipped.

I had forgotten, but Schlaepfer reminded me that Demara “finally settled down when he became a Christian and graduated from Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a well-loved hospital chaplain for the rest of his life. But after a lifetime of pretending, Fred Demara found the satisfaction of authenticity. He said that for years he was afraid to be real, that he was trapped in pretending.”

Jesus encourages authenticity, not acting. If we get trapped in a rigorous legalistic system and check off the boxes … gave money, helped the poor, didn’t miss a month’s worth of church services … we will want kudos for our achievements; and who determines how many points each action merits? That’s acting–putting on a front to gain merit points or approval. Jesus wants authenticity, authenticity which is possible because of the grace– unearned love and favor–of God.

I love Schlaepfer’s conclusion: “Grace, because it emphasizes God’s unconditional, initiating love, encourages honesty. That’s because you know you can’t do anything to make God love you more, and you know you can’t do anything to make God love you less. You might as well be authentic.”

So are you acting … or authentic? Do you live for the praise or approval of others; or by the grace of God?

BUT GOD …

P1090285Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I’d like a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle.

But that’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But our pastor reminded me this weekend that God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s empowering.

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but Rene reminds me that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

Thanksgiving

Holiday MealTurkeys and cranberry sauce; creamy mashed potatoes and raisin stuffing. The fragrance of freshly baked rolls and pies wafting through the warmth of the house. Thanksgiving is coming…a glorious reminder to stop and count the many blessings we enjoy.

But one day is not enough! The Apostle Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

He doesn’t tell us to give thanks FOR all things. I don’t thank God that my friend has incurable, untreatable cancer. But I do thank Him that He is with my friends and will guide them on this new journey. I didn’t thank Him for my first husband’s diagnosis of end stage liver disease. But I thanked Him for the love my husband and I shared, the years we had together, and the ways He showed His love and care during Jerry’s illness and subsequent death.

A thankful attitude is a choice which can be developed, starting with small things. It runs the gamut from stretch fabrics to a good medical report; from another year of life to the joy of another baby born into the family.

When I realized I had made a major mistake on my bank record, I was thankful I had enough margin to cover the mistake, and the loss didn’t impact me in any life-altering way.Pumpkin Pie with Pastry Leaf Crust

When a colleague wrote, telling me she was angry that terminal illness had entered Jerry’s and my lives because we were “good people,” I was able to respond with thankfulness. I told her that God has not promised we would be exempt from trouble and pain; but He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. And He never did. When I cried out for help, He lifted me with hope, joy, and peace that were clearly not from my own inner strength. By His grace I was renewed day by day. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do I respond to those who are undergoing severe trials? I can’t promise that God will deal with them in the same way He did with me; I can’t promise a positive outcome. My friend Constance Plett expressed it well on her facebook page when she said:

“I am grateful, when I feel helpless listening to the news, that God knows places like Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria and every single individual and family affected by the Ebola virus. That their suffering and passing is not lost on Him because He created every single one down to the last cell.

I am grateful that the PROMISE MAKER is the PROMISE KEEPER.
* I will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:16
* I know what I have planned for you. Jeremiah 29:11
* I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. Psalm 32:8
* I will guard your going out and your coming in. Psalm 121:8
*I go and prepare a place for you… (and) … will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3″

In any circumstance, I can choose to be thankful, knowing my God knows the Way (MY way too); and is the Truth and the Life. How have you developed an attitude of thanksgiving in your life?