Taking Delight in what Delights my Children

The smile on the face.  The nod of approval.  The slight smirk  flowing from a job well done.  I take delight in what delights my children!   When  Christian lands a “Flip Kick with an Ollie” my heart skips a beat, When Rachel flawlessly performs on stage, I get a rush.  When Debra bakes and designs a cake, more than just my taste buds do the “happy dance.”

My need to compete is no where to be found.  Any corrective spirit is out of town.  I simply marvel in the moment of  the marvelous.  When my kids delight in themselves, I delight in them!

As I am composing this blog, I am in the Make Up Class at Colorado Mesa University.  I sit in a room with 6 students, including my daughter Rachel.  They are taking famous pieces of art and painting them to their faces.  Rachel is in her element.  She is not only gifted at what she  loves, she loves to use her gifts!  My heart is happy!

“How great is the love of the Father, that we should be called His children.”   (1 John 3:1). Our Abba Father delights when we live in His creativeness!  It is not about winning or perfection.  It is about moving and breathing  as His image-bearers.

Unconditional Acceptance

Greetings,

I was so moved by the story shared with me (by my super hero) Dr. Gerald Kieshnick, that I am sharing it with you.  He shared with me the following story that was shared with him.  This is a story of learned grace:

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called “Smile.”

The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake. Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son and I went out to McDonald’s one crisp March morning.

We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch, but an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible ‘dirty body’ smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman close to me, he was smiling. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God’s Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, “Good day” as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.

The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was of critical importance to him. I held my tears as I stood there with them.

The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, “Coffee is all, Miss.” That was obviously all they could afford. He knew that if they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm.

Then I really felt it. The compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That’s when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were on me, judging my every action.

I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman’s cold hand.

He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you.” I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, “I didn’t do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.”

As I walked away to join my husband and son, I began to cry. When I sat down, my husband smiled at me and said, “That’s why God gave you to me, Honey—to give me hope.”

We held hands for a moment. And at that time we knew that only because of the grace we had been given were we able to give. That day showed me the pure Light of God’s sweet love.

On the last evening of class, I returned with this story in hand. I turned in my “project” and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, “May I share this?” I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class and began to read my story.

And that is when I knew that we as human beings and children of God share this need to help heal people and to be healed in the process. In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald’s, my son, the instructor, and every person who shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.

I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn—unconditional acceptance. That day I learned the importance of loving people and using things, not loving things and using people.

…as we have forgiven those who trespass against us.

I admit it!  Honestly, it happens too often!  I am praying the Lord’s Prayer, and mentally stumbled.    Did the microphone catch it?  Did the congregation notice?  My lips were reciting the ancient prayer and my mind wondering how to get folks out of the service before the next one.

The words that caused a hiccup in my cranial hemispheres:  “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Do I really want God to forgive me EXACTLY the way I forgive others?    Lord, have mercy!  Please, God, NO!

I read recently (which means I do not remember the source):

These words are the hardest in the “Our Father” to live out.  Our worship and love of God, if it does not involve forgiveness, comes to nothing. Forgiveness is the very thing Jesus does for us on the cross, and he hands this gift to us in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness involves a readiness not to live in the past, but to be open to the future.  This means trusting that we can have a future, even when hatred, violence and evil have destroyed human relationships with each other and their relationship with God.

In the book,”The Art of Forgiving” Lewis Smedes has insight as to what forgiveness is not:

  • It is not forgetting the sin
  • It is not pretending the sin did not occur
  • It is not going back and accepting the abuse
  • It is not saying it is okay

A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life.

The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace.

What does God say about forgiveness?

  • The Bible gives us much instruction when it comes to forgiveness.
  • We forgive because we have been forgiven by God (Ephesians 4:32).
  • We forgive in obedience to God (Matthew 6:14-15Romans 12:18).
  • We forgive others to gain control of our lives from hurt emotions (Genesis 4:1-8).
  • We forgive so we won’t become bitter and defile those around us (Hebrews 12:14-15)

To bring it down to my simple thinking, I see forgiveness as my “giving up the right to get even.  I fire myself from being judge, jury and executioner.”

Dear God, I choose, because of your forgiveness of me,  as an act of my will, regardless of my feelings, to forgive the person who has wronged me. I release them, and I set myself free to Your healing. With Your help, I will no longer dwell on the situation or continue to talk about it. I thank You for forgiving me so eventually I can forgive them. I thank You for releasing me. I ask this in Jesus’ name, AmenImage

Veteran’s Day Reflection 2012

I came across these words that summarize Veteran’s day well:

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN, who salutes the Flag,
Who serves under the Flag.

Today we want to honor all our armed service veterans.  To you, veterans, we owe a debt of gratitude because you were willing to go, to serve and to give on behalf of the United States of America!  God bless you!

Grace Alone

I am more than a little nervous in composing my first blog.  I am worried you will:

be unimpressed with my writing style

not be nourished with my devotional thoughts

stop reading because I struggle with the same things you do

print a copy of my blog, give it to your pastor, who will want to focus on being right instead of right-eous.

That is why I am asking for your grace.   I respectfully request that you put down your “red pen” and allow sinful ol’ me to share my heart with you.

Today I want to talk about “grace”.  I need barges full of it.  I am quite capable at being culpable.  Just because I bear the title “ordained” does not mean that I have all the answers or have risen above pride and self-centeredness.

Much of what I learned at the seminary was helpful.  Some was not.  In my homiletics class (that’s where we learn how to preach via a merciless camcorder) we were taught to not share our struggles.  The robe is our invisibility cloak.  We disappear.  Only Jesus remains.  Uh, no!

The trait I most value about being a Jesus follower, is that it is not about me.  It is not about how good or bad I am—but how holy and loving God is.  God wants to give me grace.  God is the rain cloud to the drought of my spirit.  It is God’s decision to love me—regardless of what I think of me!

Theologians love to use Latin phrases.  Odd as it is, we use a dead language to describe a God who is risen from the grave!  The phrase is “sola gratia:  grace alone.” The truth of sola gratia is what inspired John Newton,  a repentant slave trader, to write the wonderful song “Amazing Grace.” It is a grace so amazing that it can save a wretch like me. It is an amazing grace that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I belong to a mainline denomination that believes in grace but has an affinity for rules.  “Worship like this.” “Don’t do that.”  “We all have to do church the same way.” It saddens me that with our lips we say “grace” but argue vociferously over the rules of convention.

To M.E. (my initials) grace is believing that God loves me even when I don’t love me.  Grace is the daily reminder that God does not give me what I deserve.  Grace is the fact that God blesses me with what I need even when I am an ingrate.  Grace is my ability to love someone else without the need to convert them—but rather to love them—and trust the same grace that loves me will love them!  Grace lets me honestly disagree with someone and still feel compelled to love them!

Today I heard the song ‘Grace Alone’ by Scott Wesley Brown and Jeff Thomas. The song begins with the words ‘Every promise we can make’.  As a song of praise and consecration it balances total dependence upon God’s grace with personal resolution and responsibility to give to others the same grace God has given to me.

every promise we can make
every prayer ant step of faith
every difference we can make
is only by his grace
every mountain we will climb
every ray of hope we shine
every blessing left behind
is only by his grace

(chorus)
grace alone
which god supplies
strengh unknown
he will provide
christ in us
our cornerstone
we will go forth in grace alone

every soul we long to reach
every heart we hope to teach
everywhere we share his peace
is only by his grace
every loving word we say
every tear we wipe away
every sorrow turned to praise
is only by his grace