- Proverbs 3:3 NASB
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
- Proverbs 11:17 ESV
A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
- Proverbs 21:21 ESV
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
- Proverbs 31:26 ESV
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
- Micah 6:8 NASB
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
- Zechariah 7:9 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another,
- Luke 6:35 NIV
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
- Acts 28:2 NASB
The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all.
- Romans 2:4 NIV
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
- Romans 11:22 ESV
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
- Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
- Ephesians 4:32 NASB
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- Colossians 3:12 NIV
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
- Titus 3:4-5 ESV
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Mistakes, mess-ups, failures, growing pains, and a need for grace
I’ve been writing notes and sending cards since we’ve been shut away from friends and church family. Sometimes it’s a text message or an email to say, “I’m thinking of you today.” But I’ve also been refilling my supply of stamps and note cards regularly as I send out snail mail.
Last week, I discovered an extra set of stamps that I’d bought long ago and I was so excited about the little unexpected blessing: Stamps when I thought I was almost out of stamps. What a blessing!
It was like waking up to manna or miraculous oil in a near-empty jug or wine overflowing when the wedding feast ran out of wine. All those things.
I happily mailed out a few more cards.
Then this week, my daughter asked me if she could mail some cards also, so I pulled out those extra stamps and saw what I’d missed before: the word “Postcard” in teeny tiny, minuscule letters on the bottom.
That’s why those stamps had been sitting for a good long while. I bought them to mail out a few postcards and the extras just sat and sat.
I’ve been stressing about this for days now. Apparently, I’ve been sending out regular cards with only postcard postage.
Great. Either the cards will return back to me so I can have a re-do (I love a good re-do), or the post office will deliver my cards and actually ask other people to pay the missing postage.
I’d rather the secret re-do option, of course. But I have no power here. I’m at the mercy of the postal service.
So, I wait.
It’s the silliest little mistake, but a mistake I’ve been fretting over nonetheless. That’s partly because all of this coronavirus shifting we’ve been doing has brought so much failing our way to success over here.
We’re doing new things in new ways and that can get messy and exhausting.
Technology alone brings it’s own growing pains. Try this video, this sound, this streaming program, this way of filming, this way of posting. And all along the way we leave a trail of trying, messing up, and trying again.
I also can’t keep my dates straight, at all. I keep thinking Mother’s Day is this week and not next week. The days are just running all together.
All of these mess-ups leave us so tender-hearted. So humbled. How many times can we say the words, “Sorry. That didn’t work. My bad. I missed that. I made a mistake. I used the wrong stamp.?” (I’m still so embarrassed about the stamps.)
But so many of us are in the same place.
That’s the thing.
I’m so compassionate and deeply grateful as I see my kids’ teachers trying so many new things every single day. I think—-thank you, friends, for putting yourself out there for my kids. For getting on Zoom videos and Facebook live posts and whatever else is happening. I know some of them would prefer not to be on a video. I GET that. I don’t want to be in videos either. But they do it anyway.
Then there are days the sound doesn’t work or the screen is backwards or the link they thought they posted didn’t post or didn’t work or whatever whatever. I feel like saying, “Solidarity, my friend! I am with you. We are all trying so hard and it’s imperfect and messy, but we’re genuine and humbled and real and just making it through.”
We can shake off the old, the broken, the mistake-ridden the failure and the mess up because we have this grace: We can try again.
And, even if a new days is full of new mistakes, Jesus isn’t giving up on me or on any of us.
I read this promise in Scripture:
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Genesis 8:22 ESV).
The rhythms of creation itself are a reassurance of the rhythm of grace.
Day and night come ceaselessly. I will wake up to a new day, a fresh start, an opportunity to try again and maybe even get it right this time (and to buy new stamps.)
More than that, whole seasons come and go with certainty.
One bad year of planting isn’t the end. One season of hard soil, no rain, or destruction from storms and pests isn’t the end.
Spring comes anew and I can plow the field fresh, drop the seeds into the earth, and look forward to a better harvest.
The failures of one day, one moment even, are only permanent if I choose to give up instead of going forward.
Fresh starts and new beginnings: That’s what God promises us, season after season, day after day.
Why are you so sad today?
Last night, my six-year-old son was ready for a bedtime story, but I told him the truth:
“I’m feeling a little sad about the day and it’s okay to be sad. I just need a minute before I’m ready to read.”
I think most of us had some hard days this week.
Some of us needed some time (maybe still need time) to mourn before moving on.
My son looked a little surprise because I’m not really a sad person. I’m mostly an even-keel kind of girl. So mom being sad probably felt unexpected.
Also, for his little kindergarten self, the world hasn’t been rocked too greatly. Sure, he’s aware that he’s missing out on his soccer season, time with his friends and time with his awesome-sauce teachers who we love so very much.
But he’s still happy. He reads his books, plays with his Legos, matchbox cars and dinosaurs, swings on the swingset. He doesn’t rush out the door in the morning or rush to activities in the evening. He’s excited about soccer again in the fall.
For now, he’s just enjoying being together with the whole family.
That’s the sweetness for us in the middle of sorrow. It’s sweet to have time to rest and enjoy being together even while we mourn over losses and grieve on behalf of others who have lost more.
It’s March. Because of the impact of the coronavirus, our governor closed schools for the rest of the school year. We get it. We know it’s needed and we know that the lives of people around us matter far more than graduation ceremonies, concerts, math bowl competitions, field trips to Kings Dominion and band trips to Disney.
So, we feel sad and then we remember perspective. We feel sad again and we regain perspective. It’s just part of the upheaval we’re all handling in our own ways.
We’re not good “wait-and-see” people over here at our house, but that’s life right now. What about high school credits? What about an April birthday? What about grades? What about graduation? What about vacation Bible school?
We’re all in this together. We’re all mourning a loss. We’re all having to be “wait-and-see” folks at the moment.
Maybe that’s one of my first reminders in the middle of the mess.
Paul said this:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).
I need so much grace right now. Grace for my foggy-brain because I can’t quite think straight. Grace for feeling a lack of energy or passion—like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me. Grace for the fact that I’m a super-planner-extraordinaire who is living in a world that cannot be planned right now. I need grace as a mom and grace as a teacher and grace in ministry and just so very much grace. I need grace for my anxious self and grace for my sorrowful self and grace when I just need to take a walk and be quiet.
So, when I most need grace, I am reminded of all the grace Jesus has given me and how much others around me need grace, too.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
When my heart is most broken, I see the brokenhearted. When my heart is most tender, I am more tender to others who are hurting.
This is precious to Jesus, who was moved by compassion whenever he encountered the sick, the grieving, the crowds of lost people, the hungry. Even from the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive the mob who crucified him.
In her study on Joseph, “Finding God Faithful ,” Kelly Minter teaches that this is indeed the very thing that changed everything in Joseph’s life.
He had been sold into slavery by his brothers, taken far away from his home and the father he loved, then wrongly accused by the wife of his master and thrown into an Egyptian prison and left to rot there.
Joseph had sorrow. He mourned losses we hopefully will never experience. If anyone in the world had a reason to be sad, it was Joseph.
But in the middle of all his own mess, Joseph cared about the sadness of others. He saw Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer in the prison and noticed they looked particularly troubled one morning.
He took the time to ask them:
“Why do you look so sad today?” (Genesis 40:7 CSB).
He listened to their stories–strange dreams that had them worried. And it was those dreams and Joseph’s interpretation of them that God ultimately used for Joseph’s deliverance….and the deliverance of his family…and the deliverance of Israel….and the deliverance of the entire world from famine.
How can compassion, sacrificial love, kindness, and loving like Jesus change us, change others, change the world?
Bible Verses about Mercy
- 2 Chronicles 30:9 CSB
for when you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful; he will not turn his face away from you if you return to him.”
- 2 Samuel 24:14 ESV
Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
- Nehemiah 9:31 NIV
But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
- Psalm 23:6 ESV
Surely goodness and mercy[shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
- Proverbs 28:13 CSB
The one who conceals his sins
will not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them
will find mercy.
- Psalm 25:6-7 NIV
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
- Psalm 40:11 NIV
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
- Psalm 51:1-2 CSB
Be gracious to me, God,
according to your faithful love;
according to your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
2 Completely wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
- Psalm 86:15 ESV
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
- Psalm 103:8 ESV
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
- Psalm 130:1-2 NIV
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
- Psalm 145:9 NASB
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
- Isaiah 30:18 CSB
Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for him are happy.
- Isaiah 55:7 NIV
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
- Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB
Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
- Micah 6:8 NIV
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
- Micah 7:18 NIV
Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
- Jonah 4:2 ESV
And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
- Matthew 5:7 CSB
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
- Matthew 9:13 CSB
Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- Luke 6:36 CSB
Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
- Romans 12:1 CSB
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.
- 2 Corinthians 4:1 ESV
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart.
- Ephesians 2:4-5 CSB
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!
- TItus 3:5 CSB
he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
- Hebrews 4:16 CSB
Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
- James 2:13 CSB
or judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
- Jude 1:2 CSB
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
- 1 Peter 1:3 CSB
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
Bible Verses about God’s Comfort
- Psalm 23:4 ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
- Psalm 71:21 ESV
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
- Psalm 86:17 ESV
Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
- Psalm 119:50 ESV
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
- Psalm 119:52 ESV
When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord.
- Psalm 119:76 ESV
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
- Psalm 119:81-82 ESV
My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
- Isaiah 12:1 ESV
You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
- Isaiah 40:1 ESV
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
- Isaiah 49:13 ESV
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
- Isaiah 51:3 ESV
For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
- Isaiah 51:12 ESV
“I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass,
- Isaiah 52:9 ESV
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
- Isaiah 56:18 ESV
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
- Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
- Isaiah 66:13 ESV
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
- Jeremiah 31:13 ESV
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
- Zechariah 1:17 ESV
Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
- Matthew 5:4 ESV
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
- Acts 9:31 ESV
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
- 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 ESV
But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
- 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
- Philippians 2:1-2 ESV
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Bible Verses about Grace
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 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,
3 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. 2 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? 2 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. 9 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:
2 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, 5 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— 9 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.
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
Dandelions are out; Tulips are in
Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.
So they were weeds. So others didn’t like them. So what?
I barely noticed them. When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.
When I wanted someone to buy our house, though, I suddenly felt motivated to keep my yard weed-free.
That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.
These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard. Not this time.
I pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just head out the door to the minivan.
But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.
The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby. I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms to appear.
In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though. In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.
They were eaten. That’s why. Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.
I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in. So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies. Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and chili powder. I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.
The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.
Now, it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.
I have fought against and I have fought for.
Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too. That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 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 (James 3:16-18 CSB).
We dig out envy, pride, and evil. We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.
Paul told the Galatians:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB).
But that’s not the end. It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB).
I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.
But I’m still missing out. James moves past that. Paul moves past that.
It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want. I want more than a yard without dandelions. I want the beauty of the tulips.
And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts, my own failures. Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.
That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.
That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard. That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me. That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances. This is the Spirit’s work.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).
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)?
“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.
I’ll take a snow day if I don’t have to make it up
What I really want, what would make me really and truly thrilled with winter each year is snow days without makeup school days.
I’m not trying to be greedy or demanding, truly I’m not.
We love our snow days and all the joy of the unplanned day off, the surprise family day complete with play time and hot cocoa, homemade cookies and Crock Pot soup and canceled evening activities so we can all stay home and warm and relaxed in the evening.
But then, we wait for the phone call, the one that tells us, “oh by the way, now you have to come to school on President’s Day.”
Or, “we’re now shortening your spring break and lengthening your school year.”
It’s the payback we dread, the consequence for the rest and the fun. It’s the bad news that we expect hanging over our heads the whole time our kids are jumping around the kitchen for joy.
My sixth grader says her science teacher actually delivers an annual speech that goes something like this: “Oh sure, you THINK you love snow days and you all want to do your snow dances and hope they close school because of a few flakes, but do you want to be in school all summer? There’s a price to pay! You have to make those days up, you know!”
He’s right, of course. There is a price. There is the bad news mixed in with the good that taints it a bit.
So, it’s outrageously impractical of me to ever hope we just get those snow days free and clear. I know there’s not going to be a superintendent’s message on my phone that says something like, “Have fun, everybody. Be safe. Enjoy the day. This one’s on us!”
But that’s what I long for, and even though it can’t happen in the practical, day-in-day-out details of all these ordinary days, maybe it’s something I can have spiritually .
I want mercy, not just the trickle of it or the drip-drip-drip of it, but the outpouring of mercy.
I want the abundant grace, the kind that drenches you so much you can wring out your shirt and more comes pouring out on your feet.
I want the overwhelming flood of God’s goodness poured out, rivers of His goodness just dumped all over us.
But instead, I start expecting less from God, asking for less, praying for less, settling for less.
Faith isn’t really faith because I’m not believing Him to be wonderful or to be able or to be mighty. I’m believing Him to fit into practical, average boxes and do ordinary, reasonable things.
When God gives me the blessing of a “snow day,” sometimes I wait for the bad news mixed in there somewhere. I treat Him like He’s stingy or demanding or skimpy.
But God is abundant.
He is abundant in power, in mercy, in goodness, in peace, in love, and faithfulness. That’s what Scripture says. (Click here to read Bible Verses on the Abundance of God)
He fills us up and satisfies our souls and leaves leftovers.
That’s what Jesus did when He fed the crowd of over 5000 who lingered on a hillside to listen to His teaching. He took such a meager gift: a few loaves and fish, just a little boy’s packed lunch—and then he fed the multitude. They didn’t have to hand out crumbs at the end either.
No, they had leftovers.
And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12 ESV).
Not just that one time. Jesus did it all again. He fed the 5000 one day and then on another day when he was teaching another crowd, he performed miraculous multiplication yet again, feeding over 4000 people with another handful of bread and fish.
And this is what happened there, too:
They ate and were filled. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces (Mark 8:8).
Jesus didn’t just do the miracle that was necessary or practical; He fed those people and left baskets of abundance and then he did it all again.
So, why do I discount God’s bigness? Why do I worry over my need as if I have to be the one to fill it and I have to be the one to figure it out?
Why do I fret when God gives good things, superstitiously thinking that bad is coming next?
His abundance offers us rest. His abundance means we can trust Him and we can let Him do the work and we can worship and rejoice because our God is full-to-overflowing with the very mercy, grace, love, and goodness that we need.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, (Psalm 31:19 ESV)
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power (Psalm 147:5 ESV).