Reminders of grace for those of us who are imperfect

It’s official.  My “baby” tugged on his sneakers, pulled his backpack onto his shoulders, grabbed up his lunchbox and headed out the door to  kindergarten this week.

In the final week of summer, we all chimed in with school-preparation tips:

When to go to the bathroom.  How to ask to  go to the bathroom.  Where he would sit on the bus.  His room number, his lunch number, his teacher’s name, and the clipchart behavior system they use at his school.

The behavior chart caught his attention.  He prayed at night that he would only ever “be on green and never have to clip down.”

At Open House, we met his teacher and he played with toy animals and dinosaurs while I signed the pile of forms.  He zipped over to  me for a quick second while I was in mid-signature to tell me that he had accidentally knocked over the animal bucket….just accidentally….but he had picked it right up because he didn’t want to clip down.

He whispered “clip down” like he was describing ultimate doom.

So with all of his focus and concern over clipping up or clipping down, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by his last words to me before heading out to the bus on the first  day of school:

I might have to visit the principal’s office.

Wait.  What?

It wasn’t a little prophecy; it was a confession of fear.  The worst thing that could happen would be getting sent to the principal and he was worrying over that.

He didn’t visit the principal, of course.  He climbed off the bus at the end of the first  day with a good report: No clipping down.  No time out.  No conferences with the principal.

I love that he is so intent on doing the right thing and I love that the chart is really motivating him to  try hard to make  good choices.

But I have also been taking the time to counterbalance this with a conversation about grace.

Because I think he needs the reminder.  And maybe I do, too.

He’s not perfect.  He’s just a five-year-old little boy trying really hard to do the right thing and sometimes he won’t get that exactly right.

So somehow he has to learn this incredibly difficult balance between trying to do what’s right , and yet not being terrified of mistakes or paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to earth and die a painful, sacrificial death to atone for a bunch of people who never get it wrong.

He came because we needed His help! We needed a Savior.

I read a prayer this morning that included asking God to  bring my faults to light so He could work on them and I thought–Oh Jesus, please don’t do that!  I don’t really want to see or know or have anyone else see  or know all the ugliness of sin in me.

Later this morning, I prayed for direction and guidance, and I began to feel the pressure of getting it right, not  making a mistake, not choosing the wrong direction and ending up  in  the completely wrong place instead of where God intended.

It can start to feel like it all depends on me to do right, choose right,  be right.

So, instead of feeling the weight and the pressure of perfectionism,  I have to heave all that off of my shoulders and down at the feet of Christ.

This doesn’t depend on me.  It  is not up to me.

I read in the Psalms this reminder:

 God—he clothes me with strength
and makes my way perfect (Psalm 18:32 CSB).

I can depend on God, not on myself or my own effort.  It’s His strength I need.  And it’s God who makes “my way perfect.” I trust Him to  change me, to direct me, to help me be more like Jesus.

What I really need is to know Jesus, to love Jesus, to trust Jesus.  He cares enough about me to  forgive me,  to offer me fresh starts, and He’s big enough and strong enough to rescue me, redirect me and take me to the place He plans for me to go.

That’s why I lean into my son and I tell him, “Absolutely, I’d love for you always to be on green on the clip chart.  That’d be awesome.  But if there’s a day where you have to clip down, it’s still going to be okay.  You can just start fresh after that.  You can try again.

Bible Verses about Restoration

  • Job 42:10 NASB
    The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold.
  • Psalm 14:7 CSB
    Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
  • Psalm 23:3 NASB
    He restores my soul;
    He guides me in the paths of righteousness
    For His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 51:12 CSB
    Restore the joy of your salvation to me,
    and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.
  • Psalm 71:20-21 NIV
    Though you have made me see troubles,
        many and bitter,
        you will restore my life again;
    from the depths of the earth
        you will again bring me up.
    21 You will increase my honor
        and comfort me once more.
  • Hosea 6:1 CSB
    Come, let us return to the Lord.
    For he has torn us,
    and he will heal us;
    he has wounded us,
    and he will bind up our wounds.
  • Jeremiah 30:17 NASB  (About Israel and Judah)
    ‘For I will restore you to health
    And I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying:
    “It is Zion; no one  cares for her.”’
  • Joel 2:25-26 CSB
    I will repay you for the years
    that the swarming locust ate,
    the young locust, the destroying locust,
    and the devouring locust—
    my great army that I sent against you.
    26 You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied.
    You will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
    My people will never again be put to shame.
  • Amos 9:14  CSB
    I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel.[a]
    They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities,
    plant vineyards and drink their wine,
    make gardens and eat their produce.
  • Zechariah 9:12 CSB
    Return to a stronghold,
    you prisoners who have hope;
    today I declare that I will restore double to you.
  • Acts 3:19-21 CSB
    Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out,20 that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
     Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another,[b]agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
  • Galatians 6:1 CSB
    Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit,[a] watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted.
  • 1 Peter 5:10 CSB
     The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while

Bible Verses about Grace

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  • Jeremiah 31:2-3 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “The people who survived the sword
        found grace in the wilderness;
    when Israel sought for rest,
        the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away.
    I have loved you with an everlasting love;
        therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
  • John 1:14-17 ESV
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 4:33 ESV
    And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
  • Acts 15:11 NIV
    No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
  • Acts 20:32 ESV
    And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
  • Romans 3:23-24 NIV
     for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
  • Romans 4:16 ESV
    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
  • Romans 5:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:8 NIV
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:20 ESV
    Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
  • Romans 6:1-2 NIV
    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
  • Romans 6:14 NIV
    For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Romans 11:6 NIV
    And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV
     But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV
     But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 HCSB
    Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
  • Galatians 2:19-21 NIV
    “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
  • Ephesians 1:1-3 ESV
    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
    To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • Ephesians 4:7 NIV
    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
     And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV
    He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
  • 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV
    You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • 2 Timothy 4:22 NIV
    The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.
  • Titus 2:11 NIV
    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
  • Hebrews 4:6 NIV
     Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
  • Hebrews 12:15 ESV
    See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled
  • Hebrews 13:9 NIV
    Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.
  • James 4:6 NIV
    But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

    “God opposes the proud
        but shows favor to the humble.”

  • 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  • 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
    And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
  • 2 Peter 1:2 NIV
    Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 NIV
     But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Bible Verses about Putting the Past Behind You

  • Genesis 41:51 ESV
    Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.”
  • Psalm 25:7 ESV
    Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
        according to your steadfast love remember me,
        for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
  • Psalm 51:10 ESV
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and renew a right spirit within me.
  • Isaiah 40:1 ESV
    Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
        and cry to her
    that her warfare is ended,
        that her iniquity is pardoned,
    that she has received from the Lord‘s hand
        double for all her sins.
  • Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV
    “Remember not the former things,
        nor consider the things of old.
    19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 43:25 ESV
    “I, I am he
        who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
        and I will not remember your sins.
  • Isaiah 65:16 ESV
    So that he who blesses himself in the land
        shall bless himself by the God of truth,
    and he who takes an oath in the land
        shall swear by the God of truth;
    because the former troubles are forgotten
        and are hidden from my eyes.
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
  • Luke 9:62 ESV
     Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
  • Romans 6:4 ESV
    We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  • Romans 8:1 ESV
    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
  • Galatians 2:20-22 ESV
     I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
  • Ephesians 4:22-23 ESV
     to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds
  • Philippians 1:6 ESV
    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 ESV
    Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
    And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
  • Hebrews 8:12 ESV
    For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
        and I will remember their sins no more.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • 1 John 1:9 ESV
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 3:2 ESV
    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Peace and the heart of Christmas

This Christmas, we are celebrating with not just one, but two new kittens in our family.

Every  morning I check to see what they got into during the night.  Which ornament, which light strand, which bit of garland, which wise man have  they pulled down or knocked down.

I have stopped one kitten from climbing up the middle of our Christmas tree on several occasions and rescued this same kitten when his claws got stuck to the garland and lights strung over a door.  He was hanging from them like a mountain climber repelling off a mountain.

Wrapping paper is their favorite closely followed by empty boxes and ornament hooks that they’ve detached from the ornaments they’ve knocked to the ground.

Oh, Christmas is a wonder of excitement to these two little guys and they are certainly keeping me on my toes.

They are also prodding my heart about something:

The purpose of Christmas, the very heart of God’s heart in sending His Son, is peace.  It is RECONCILIATION.

We adopted our new kittens from the Humane Society.  They apparently had been dropped off at the shelter together.  They spent time in a cage together there before spending the next several weeks of their lives on display at a pet store in a different cage—still together.

We kept going to the pet store for supplies for our other animals and seeing these two playful kittens.  Why weren’t they getting adopted?

Finally, we decided we needed to be their family only to learn as we signed our name to the adoption papers that others had been interested in taking one of the kittens, but never both of them.  Until us.

That was what the Humane Society had been looking for the whole time, a family who wanted to keep the kittens together since they’d never been apart.

And we see this at work in these little guys.  The very first week we brought them home, they were getting bolder, adventuring into new places around our house.

Then we heard the crying.  It was the saddest, quickest succession of meows we had ever heard, not  a hurt cry, but a deeply sad cry.  One lone kitten walked by, meowing as he searched from room to room for the other kitten.

Even now, after almost four months with us, if one kitten can’t find the other kitten, we hear the crying and we watch the searching.

I’ve been meditating this Christmas season on God’s heart for Christmas, the lengths He went through to reach us and bring us back to Him.  His divine plan initiated in the Garden of Eden was this:  the moment we chose sin, He made provision for grace.  He began preparing the world for its Savior, Jesus Christ, to bring reconciliation.

Then the appointed time came, after waiting and waiting, after anticipation and heartbreak, after God’s faithfulness despite His people’s unfaithfulness.

Jesus was born, a tiny helpless baby born to a poor,  seemingly insignificant couple in the lowest of circumstances—surrounded by animals, hay, and the scent of a barn.

The angels rang out the Good News:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14 NASB)

The prophet Isaiah had promised that He would be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Peace.

Jesus brought peace, and Jesus is still bringing that yet-to-be-attained peace.  

He brought us peace with God.  Paul says Jesus was God’s gift of reconciliation to the world:

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-29 NLT)

We were divided from God, cut off from His presence.  Sin disrupted our relationship with Him, but grace bridged the gap.   Through Jesus, we can be at peace with God.

So He sends us to bring that peace to others:

Paul tells us that God brought us peace, so we now bring peace.  We are ambassadors to the world, carrying the message and ministry of reconciliation so that others can be made right with God.

And He commissions us as peacemakers:

Jesus’s heart is for peace:  Peace between us and God, peace between us and others.  He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NASB).

Peace is the heart of our Prince of Peace.
Is it mine? 

Peace is the fruit I bear when the Spirit is at work within me. 
Am I bearing this fruit?

Peace-making is a sure sign that I am His Child.
Can others see His heart for peace in me?

When You Can’t Do Over But Have to Move On

We’ve been giving do-overs here at my house.

Snarkiness has been on the rise.

So, when we hear, “Move!  I can’t see!”

We respond with, “You want to try saying that again in a kinder way?”

Or we hear, “Put that down!  That’s mine!”

We say, “Try that again.  I’m sure you could say that differently.”

I love do-overs.

I love the utter grace of it all, that even though you made a mistake, you can have another go at it.  Maybe you’ll do better this time.

Learn from those errors.  Make some corrections.

Maybe this time you won’t miss or forget.  Maybe you’ll study harder or speak with kindness or choose not to gossip.

My hope is that the do-overs now will help those lessons sink in before it’s too late, because we all know you can’t always have a do-over.

Sometimes, bad things happen and once it’s done, it’s done.

A missed opportunity can’t be regained.

One day, those words will slip out and they’ll be said.  You can’t take them back.

Sure, you can apologize.  You can attempt restoration.

BUT WORDS ONCE SAID CAN’T BE UN-SAID, AND THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL TONGUE CAN BE DEVASTATING.

In those moments when you can’t have a do-over, though, you have to learn a new skill:  Moving on after you’ve messed up.

Shame from mistakes can drag us right down and bolt us to the floor.  We can’t move forward.  We’re chained to the past.

At night, I rumble through conversations I wish I’d handled differently.

I consider the mistakes I wish I could un-do and the decisions I wish I could un-decide.

It’s hard to let it go and just rest already.  I keep thinking, “if only….”

If only this hadn’t happened….

If only I’d done this instead…..

I want a do-over.  I want to rewind back to the start of the day and just try again.

But I can’t.  So I replay the wrong over and over and over.  I’m stuck in a perpetual loop of embarrassment and self-condemnation.

Paul makes this sound so easy:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

Just forget what’s behind, look forward to the future and move on?

If only it were that simple!

Then I consider Paul’s words, how he’s straining forward and pressing on.  This is discipline and endurance.  This is refusing to get bogged down.

It’s falling down in the middle of a race and yet choosing to push to your feet and keep on going to the finish line even if you’re limping all the way there.

Surely this is how David felt after being confronted with his own sin of adultery and murder.

One bad decision led to another bad decision and now here he was, unable to have a do-over.  He couldn’t un-commit adultery with Bathsheba.  He couldn’t un-murder her husband.

But he prays for God’s mercy, for God to “blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1b-2).  He asks God to:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:9-10).

This I understand.

When I’m weighed down by mistakes that I can’t do-over, I’m compelled to cry out for “mercy!”  I rely on God’s grace to wash my soul and renew my heart for Him.

But then David does something more.  He doesn’t just stand there in the cleansing flood of grace.  He doesn’t keep re-hashing his need for mercy.

No, he begins to look forward.  He talks of moving on.

This is where I lean in to David’s Psalm today, because too often I’m stuck in the cry for mercy and can’t shake the shame.

Yet, David prays:

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you…

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 51:12-13, 14b)

HE’S FINDING MERCY IN THE MESS, RECEIVING RESTORATION, LEARNING FROM HIS MISTAKES, TEACHING OTHERS, AND WORSHIPING GOD FOR THIS SALVATION-GIFT.

I have to choose to accept the grace, too.

I have to choose to forget the past.  Every time my face heats up with shame, I remind myself that it’s done.  Over with.  Behind me.  Forgiven.

I have to choose to move on, choose to learn and grow and worship and teach others.

And the next time I’m reminded of how I messed up, I make all of those choices all over again because even if I can’t do over, I can do better next time.

Originally published April 2016

Bible Verses about Peacemaking

  • Psalm 34:14 CSB
    Turn away from evil and do what is good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
  • Proverbs 12:20 CSB
    Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
    but those who promote peace have joy.
  • Matthew 5:9 CSB
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
  • Romans 12:18 CSB
    If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
  • Romans 14:17 CSB
     for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 14:19 CSB
    So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:33 CSB
    since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 CSB
     Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice.[a] Become mature, be encouraged,[b] be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of loveand peace will be with you.
  • Ephesians 2:14 CSB
     For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.
  • Ephesians 4:1-3 CSB
    Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • Hebrews 12:14 CSB
    Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.
  • James 3:17-18 CSB
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
  •  1 Peter 3:10-12 CSB
    For the[c] one who wants to love life
    and to see good days,
    let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit,
    11 and let him turn away from evil
    and do what is good.
    Let him seek peace and pursue it,
    12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
    But the face of the Lord is against
    those who do what is evil.

When you can’t just have the same day

“I just want the same day.”

That’s what my son has been saying to me recently.  He’s struggling with the whole ‘being the baby of the family” thing.

There are perks, of course, like lots of attention and helpers and getting to do fun activities younger than everyone else did.

But the trade-off is hard.  He’s always the one being dragged along to fun for the big sisters that he can’t participate in and he’s the one patiently watching concerts, award ceremonies, and competitions that aren’t for him either.

And many times he gets left home with mom or dad while the older kids head out the door.  Even if they aren’t going anywhere fun or wonderful, they are going and he’s not and there’s sorrow over missing out.

So, he’s been telling me how he just wants “the same day,” the day when he got to come wherever we were going and he got to play with some friends while we rehearsed for a play.

Nevermind that we’re not always going to rehearsal.  Or maybe we are, but there won’t be any one for him to play with that night.

He doesn’t understand that you can’t just replicate good days from the past.  They happen and you enjoy them and then you move on maybe to other good days, different good days.

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes is:

‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’

There’s something joy-filling about celebrating that good day that you loved so much and remembering all that goodness, but not mourning the loss of it.

And that’s the choice for us.

How can we engage today?  Right now, in this place where God has brought us, how can we celebrate and rejoice and worship?  How can enjoy this moment and let God be at work in us here?

Good or bad, the past sure can ensnare us. Maybe pain and hurt hold us hostage. Or perhaps memories trip us up and those “good old days” we long for stir up discontentment with NOW because yesterday still holds our hearts hostage.

That’s where the nation of Israel was as they lingered outside the Promised Land, hoping their journey would finally be over.  They wailed:

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6 NIV). 

Fish and a salad.  They were willing to forego the Promised Land for the sake of fish and a salad bar they had in Egypt.  They even forgot that the Egyptian food wasn’t free; it came at the high price of slavery.

Let’s not fall into this same backwards trap.

Instead, we look forward.  We look forward to  all that God has in store for us.  We look forward to all His plans for our future.  We look forward to  heaven with Jesus and eternity in His presence.

Maybe it’s not “the same day” we had before, but it’s a new day with Him.  Maybe it’s not salmon and cucumbers, but God gives miraculous manna.

New can be frightening sometimes.  It can be uncertain.  But as long as God leads us forward, we need not fear.

We learn from David, who used the past to propel him to courage, not mire him in discontentment or complacency.

David knew why he could face down a giant with confidence and not fear.  He told Saul:

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17:34-36 NIV). 

In his book Glory Days, Max Lucado says:

“Before he fought Goliaht the giant, he remembered how God had helped him kill a lion and a bear…He faced his future by revisiting his past.  Face your future by recalling God’s past victories” (Glory Days).

Our past doesn’t have to be a pit and it doesn’t have to be a monument.

Our past is a testimony of how God brought us through and it’s a reminder that He will bring us through again.

He has provided and He will provide.

He has redeemed and He will redeem.

He has directed and He will direct.

He has forgiven and He will forgive.

Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love

Today,  maybe for the last few days actually, it seems like I have some words on repeat.

“I’m sorry!  My fault!”

I’ve messed up and made mistakes, said the wrong thing,  planned poorly,  forgotten, and just generally haven’t been perfect.

Oh my, have I had a time, my friends!

Confessions are hard anyway.  When is it ever easy to say, “I messed up?” or “I was wrong?”  But when you’ve said it here and you’ve said it there and you’ve said it over and over in the course of a day (or two or three) to different people for different reasons, it becomes deeply humbling.

Can I get anything right?

And the temptation for me is this–to obsess.  I replay the video in my head of how I got it wrong and feel anew that wave of blushing embarrassment. My internal temperature feels like its 110 degrees and my heart is racing.

Even if I can fall asleep, I wake up at 4 a.m. and review the failures relentlessly because brains go crazy in the deepest parts of the night.

That’s when the self-condemning thoughts muscle in like a posse of bullies, never letting me move along, fretting and stressing over mistakes that are been-there, done-that.   There’s no way to correct them. Only thing you can do is move on.

My son is four and apologizing is hard for him.  We are wading knee-deep in the mess of parenting some character issues:  Being willing to  say “sorry,” just take personal responsibility, receive forgiveness, give forgiveness.

He cries.  He struggles.  He refuses. He complies. He learns and we try it all again.

It’s a journey.

Maybe it’s a journey  that I’m actually still on.  I’ve apologized.  I’ve fessed up and owned up.  That part I’ve gotten down.

But how to un-stick myself from the mire and move along?  How to start  fresh, embrace mercy, and forget what’s behind so I can keep pressing forward (Philippians 3:13)?

Isaiah wrote:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).

If I know in my head that I’m washed white like snow and like the purest, cleanest wool, how come I sometimes still see the dirt and the grime and feel like a mess?

In his book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray, Ed Cyzewski writes:

….we could all do well by praying, ‘Lord, have mercy on  me, a sinner.’ That’s one prayer in the Bible that we all should feel comfortable repeating daily.  This simple prayer puts us in our place and acknowledges God’s great mercy for us.”

This is a verse I’m learning to pray and not just pray it, but use it as a weapon to  beat back some of that pride and some of that hurtful self-talk.

Scripture is clear about what happens when we repent and ask God for mercy and forgiveness:

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, Acts 3:19 HCSB

then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:17 ESV

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 ESV

When we confess and we repent, we are forgiven completely and that sin is washed away, blotted out, forgotten, and removed.

I don’t have to hear about it anymore.  God isn’t asking me to remember it, wrestle over it, feel embarrassed by it, or stress out over it.

He’s covered me in His mercy.

The tax-collector who prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” in Luke 18 got it right.  I’m a sinner!  But I come to the God of mercy.  Even if I feel unworthy, I am invited in before His throne of grace.

So, I pray this prayer in the night when I wake up to the thoughts that won’t leave me alone, replays of how I got it wrong and what I should have done to get it right.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and then I wait.

And if I still feel that wave of terrorizing shame, I pray it again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and I breathe.

God has already forgiven me.  I’m just standing on that forgiveness.  He’s already blanketed me with His grace, but I’m holding onto that grace.  He’s declared mercy, and I’m hanging on tightly to it.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”—Our loving Savior does just that.

 

Snow reminds me that this is all grace

We didn’t need a snow dance this year; the snow just came and we rejoiced.  We’ve been known to have a little fun with snow rituals in the past, though, especially when January ends and we haven’t seen a flake yet.

My kids have worn pajamas inside out before and flushed ice cubes down the toilet. Snow dances have been danced.

And then there’s the mysterious ritual, one we can’t quite figure out so we’ve never tried–placing a spoon under the pillow.  Who knew?

We love snow days.

Even I love them, despite the fact that I prefer snow when it is outside and I’m inside.

I love them even though at least an hour of my day is spent suiting my children up in layers of clothes, finding missing gloves and snow boots that fit, zipping up coats, and more.  Then I send all the children out, knowing  I’ll just be unpacking them from all those layers soon and then serving up hot chocolate and sugar cookies.

I love the snow the most when it’s smooth and untouched, gently falling in the darkness of night. I flick on the porch light and stand a few minutes at the back door with my  fuzzy socks  and my mug of strong, hot tea.

I stand and marvel at the peace of it., this quiet covering over the world with white.

I like to pause just for a moment before noise  and the busyness sweep me right along again, just pause and give thanks and marvel at this:  Christ covered us in the blanket of His righteousness.  He made us white as snow.

David wrote:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow
(Psalm 51:7).

They used this hyssop (the ezov plant) for ritual cleansing in Israel–for purification and the ceremony to pronounce a leper healed and made clean again.

David reminds us that the action is God’s,  not ours.  We don’t cover ourselves with hyssop or dip ourselves down for a cleansing.  We are not our own healers.

This is God at work.  This is the beauty of His grace.

Isaiah tells us this also:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool (Isaiah 1:18 ESV). 

This forgiveness, this overwhelming grace, is God’s work by God’s invitation.

Our God is an inviting God.  He invites the thirsty to  COME and the weary to COME and the brokenhearted to COME and the children to COME.

And to the sinners, He says COME.

Not, come when you’re white enough,  clean enough, holy enough.  Not come when you’ve merited salvation or proved your devotion through enough righteous acts.

He says, “Come.  I’ll  make you white.  I will do it.  And you’ll be white like the whitest snow, pure like the purest wool.”

We’re self-condemners so often—buying into Satan’s lies when he tells us we still deserve punishment for those sins of ours. The Enemy likes to  remind us how unworthy we are.  He likes to shout accusations in our face and beat us down with our past and present failures.

But God.

He simply says, “Come.  Come and let me do the work of grace for you.”

Paul wrote to the Galatian church:

 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:21 ESV).

Nullify God’s grace?  Destroy it?  Treat it like nothing?

What could Paul mean?

Nullifying God’s grace is what I do when I reject God’s invitation to come.

I’d never say these words,  and yet isn’t this what I’m doing when I demand perfection from myself, when I beat myself up over mistakes, when I let shame hold me hostage?

I’d rather keep the law.  I’d rather bog my soul down in endless rules and regulations and then beat my soul down when I fail to be perfect (which is inevitable).

Thanks for grace, God,  but no thanks.  I’d rather wear this label:–SINNER –instead of accept my new identity in Jesus– FORGIVEN.

Oh, this is what I say without realizing it:  Jesus, the cross simply wasn’t enough.  My sin is too much.  You died for no reason.   

So the snowfall covers over the lies of Satan and the legalism and that old bully perfection. The snow covers over religious pride and self-righteousness.  The snow covers shame and self-accusation.

And the snow reminds me that it’s all grace.  Amazing grace.  Jesus did the work once for all, and now we’re covered in the snow-blanket of His powerful, cleansing grace, a grace that is indeed “greater than all my sin.”