Snack attack and a lesson in grace

Last week, we finished up soccer practice–kids running all over the field, parents lined up in travel chairs along the sidelines.

Somehow, our team had been double-booked, so we couldn’t practice on our normal field.  We shifted to the side into an open area and used cones instead of goals while a younger team practiced in our normal place.  They were a group of tiny, enthusiastic and sweet four-year-olds whose team shirts mostly hung down to their knees.

While our team took a water break, their team finished up for the night and headed off the field.  Their little arms were full of goodies–Gatorade bottles, Oreo snack packs, little bags of Goldfish.

I thought to myself, “Wow!  That is a bit much, all that snack after practice.  It’s not even a game or anything!”

One of our kids noticed the other players leaving with their armloads of snacky goodness.   (How could you not notice?!)

He wanted to know where our snack was?  Were we getting snack after practice?  How come we never got snack after practices?

Coach reminded him that we don’t get snacks after practice, just games.

Again, I had that silent little thought:  “Well, yeah!  Snacks after games is reasonable.  Snack at every practice is over the top.”

But then the coach filled in the blanks.  He said, “We did snacks at practice when you were that young because you didn’t have any games.  So, that way you still got a little celebration when you finished up playing.  But now you’re older and you have regular games, so we save the snacks for those days instead.”

Oh.

It all made sense really and I felt that check to my heart to be less quick to assume I know everything, to assume I ever know enough to judge something as “foolish” or “silly” or “a bit much.”

I am not always careful with my tongue or my words; they have a way of escaping me in moments maybe of stress, anger, pressure or frustration.  But, even so, I have grown in this.  I am more gracious and gentle now with my words than I have ever been.

And yet,  there is  still that aptness in my spirit to criticize.  Even if I don’t speak the words aloud, my heart still sometimes sits in silent judgment.  The Bible uses words like “scoffer” and “mocker” and I don’t want that to be me.   I don’t want my attitude, my thoughts, my heart to be bent towards judgment and assumed negativity instead of grace, love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

And,  while I do need to be wise and discerning about what is evil  or wrong, in most of these cases I simply need to be more apt to consider the other side of the story.

Maybe there’s a reason a team of cute four-year-olds leaves soccer practice with some snack bags.

Charles Spurgeon  wrote:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

We are indeed heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.  All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

But we can choose whether to join in the all the noise of negativity or to  tame our own critically inclined spirits.

We can open ourselves up to the possibility that there’s more to this person’s story than we know or see.

We can take Paul’s challenge to  heart to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

James also says:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (James 4:11 ESV).

I feel like I tumble into this lesson repeatedly: that there is a difference between being spiritually discerning and having a critical spirit.

Help me, Lord, to clearly hear your voice, to yield to your wisdom, to be discerning about right and wrong, truth, holiness, and righteousness, but help me also not to add  to that my own voice of criticism or hurtful thoughts or prideful judgment.  May my heart be humble and may my thoughts be rooted in grace.

 

 

Just Keep Walking

My daughter and I sat in our travel chairs, watching the soccer game.  We cheered on her teammates and told them “good work” and “way to go” when they ran over for water breaks.

Our coach cheered them on also, and she pushed them to persevere.  At one point she called out, “I don’t want to see any more walking out  there!”

We’ve heard her  say those same words at soccer practices all season.  There’s not much reason to walk around on a soccer field.  Pretty much anywhere you need to be, you need to get there fast.

My daughter, though, sat through the whole game, her crutches leaned against her chair.  She had hobbled onto the side of the field just to watch and cheer since running  (and even walking) was impossible.

She sprained her ankle in gym about a week  ago and she’s thankfully on the mend.  Today, she finally stepped onto the school bus without any crutches.

These past few days, she has moved slowly and depended on others for constant help.  Sweet friends have carried her backpack down the hallway and toted her binders from class to class.  Her kind teacher has carried her lunch tray for her.  Friends at play rehearsal have given her piggyback rides and actually carried her around as we ran through choreography.

She needed help and others have so generously given that help.

This  week  as we’ve sat on the soccer sidelines while  my daughter heals up, I’ve been thinking  about walking, running and hobbling around, and how sometimes the best we can do is a slow, painful crawl while others help us along.

Then there are times when we need to be in top form, running and running and running .  God equips us for the running seasons.  He trains and disciplines us for the sprint and He calls us out for the occasional marathon.

But that doesn’t mean we de-value the simple, faithful, daily act of walking or the seasons when walking alone takes perseverance.

“Run your own race.”  That little bit  of encouragement tells us not to give up when we’re on crutches and our best friend is zooming across finish lines.

We also remember what Isaiah said:

but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB). 

We will have times that we soar.

We will have times that we run.

We will  have times that we walk.

Our pace doesn’t need to match anyone else’s, as long as we’re traveling with the Lord.

This same thought encourages me in another way.  Not just to keep going and not give up.  Not just to avoid comparing my speed with anyone else’s, choosing instead to be content with my own journey.

But also this–don’t criticize someone else’s pace.

One of my daughter’s teammates took a moment after the game to tell her, “Thanks for the support.  I hope you feel better soon.”

He thanked her—even though she had spent the game in a chair on the side of the field.

Sometimes the people around us who are limping along on crutches need us to say, “Keep it up!  You can make it!”  Sometimes, they need us to carry a binder or bookbag because they cannot do  that alone.

When we’re sprinting, it can be easy to judge others who aren’t.  But Jesus calls us to  grace.  Jesus calls us to compassion and encouragement, gentleness and kindness with our brothers and sisters.

Today, I read:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools (Eccles. 7:8-9)

God cultivates the patient spirit within us. 

He doesn’t say that a patient spirit is better than a “hasty” spirit or an “impatient” spirit.  He says it’s better than being proud.

That’s because it’s pride that drives haste and impatience and a rush into anger when others don’t meet our expectations or pass our judgment.

Matthew Poole’s commentary says this verse is partly “to correct the vulgar error of proud men, who think highly of themselves, and trample all others, especially such as are meek and patient, under their feet.”

May that not describe me.

In my haste, eagerness, devotion, or passion, may I never trample over others, especially the meek and patient around me.

May this also be true:  May I value the walking seasons instead of envying when others run.  May I be a cheerleader for  those around me.  May I be a help instead of a hurt to  those who might be wounded or weary.

 

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.

From Here to Eternity

I announced  it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.

When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell.  That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug.  My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship.  He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”

It’s August.

My son’s birthday is in October.

In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me.  He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”

I’ve been thinking  as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.

After all, my son doesn’t just  think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October.  He thinks about when they’re in middle school  together and then about high school.  He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?

In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about  the Church,

The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of  heaven in a country of  death.

This image captivates me.  “A colony of  heaven.”  We can’t be heaven, of course.  We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect.  After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior!  Because we’re sinners!  We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times.  We all battle Death;  it surrounds us in this death-bound world.  The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.

Still, we have life.  We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life.  This is what ties us together as believers.  We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade.  We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.

It’s not “once upon a time.”  Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.

How can that change my perspective on loving others?

I feel less pressured, for one thing.  I remember that God has an eternal work in mind.  He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps.  When to cling?  When to let go?  He knows, and  I can trust Him.

When God was preparing to  take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here.  God wants me to go to  another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.”  He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.

But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will  not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6).  Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.

Then Elijah was gone.   God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.

I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now.  I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.

Paul writes:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).

We’re in that place now of building  and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTILUntil Christ comes.  Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus.  Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.

We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, we equip each other.  We build each other up.  We help each other become more like Jesus.  We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.

 

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 to Pray for Your Marriage

MAY WE LOVE….

  • John 15:12-13 ESV
     “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • Colossians 3:14 ESV
    And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  •  1 John 4:7-8 ESV
    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • 1 John 4:19 ESV
    We love because he first loved us.

MAY WE FORGIVE….

  • Proverbs 24:29 ESV
    Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
        I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 ESV
    Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  • Colossians 3:12-14 ESV
     Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
  • 1 Peter 4:8 ESV
    Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

MAY WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER….

  • Romans 12:10 ESV
    Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Hebrews 13:4 ESV
    Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

MAY WE WORK TOGETHER….

  • Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV
    And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
  • Philippians 2:2 ESV
    complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

MAY WE SHOW KINDNESS….

  • Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV
    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

 MAY WE SPEAK WITH GRACE…

  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV
    A soft answer turns away wrath,
        but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Ephesians 4:29  NIV
     Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

MAY WE SEEK GOD ABOVE ALL….

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
        and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make straight your paths.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
  • Matthew 6:33 ESV
    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • Romans 5:2 TLB
    For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

WHAT BIBLE VERSE(S) ARE YOU PRAYING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE?  JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION AND SHARE WITH US!!

Bible Verses About God’s Gifts to Us

  • Ecclesiastes 3:13 ESV
    also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
  • Matthew 7:11 ESV
    If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
  • Luke 11:13 ESV
    If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
  • Luke 12:32 ESV
    Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • John 3:16 ESV
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  • John 4:10 ESV
    Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
  • Acts 2:38 ESV
     And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Ephesians 2:8 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
  • Romans 5:17 ESV
    For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
  • Romans 6:23 ESV
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 11:29 ESV
    For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable
  • Romans 12:6 ESV
    Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ESV
    To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
    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.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV
     Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
  • 2 Timothy 1:6 ESV
    For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
  • Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV
    how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
  • James 1:5 ESV
    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
  • James 1:17 ESV
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
  • James 4:6 ESV
    But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10 ESV
    As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
  • 1 John 3:1 ESV
    See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

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.