Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One Hundred Gifts of Grace

Counting the things that count.  No matter what.  God uses everything. As Ann Voskamp says…they are all gifts.  She also says Gratitude redeems. I say it also brings balance to our hectic lives and makes my complaints fade into nothing.
 1)      Achey feet, because it means I have a job
2)     Libraries
3)     The varied call of the catbird in the corn field
4)     My great-niece’s giggles.
5)     Quiet
6)     The generosity of friends and family.
7)     Worship songs that make my heart dance
8)    Blossoms…flowers, I love flowers
9)     The crack in my windshield…I have a car. Most of the world does not.
10)  Cherries
 
11)   Cool days
12)  Personal pain that leads me to call out to Jesus every day and night.
13)  Lavender
14)  Jesus presence
15)   Chronicles of Narnia
16)  Walks on foggy mornings
17)   Laughing with my neighbor
18)  Remembering and crying…
19)  Streams, rivers, ponds, lakes…the ocean...fountains and waterfalls.... Water represents Life and cleansing
20, 21) Words and the Word...I love words but even more how scripture goes far and beyond the written words I read.
22) Fossils...yeah, I'm a nerd.
23) The fragrance of honeysuckle.
24) Chocolate...God made it just for us!
25) The surprise of a frog jumping into the canal as I walk by.
26, 27,28) Listening...being quiet and listening for God's voice, for the kids in the neighborhood playing, and bird calls.
29) Being listened to...
30, 31,32) Laughing and silliness...my women's group does a lot of this and we do get to the study and prayer...prayer being the best part.
33) Ice cream!
34) Family humor...no one else would ever get it...but we have fun!
35) Movies that make me laugh...Despicable Me!
36) Movies that make me cry...
37) Just how intricate the human body is...each organ, our original DNA which really is God's DNA...did I say I was a nerd?

Counting some hard graces...what Ann has called the "ugly beautiful"

38) My abuse...yeah, that. Only because of Jesus love and healing. Why? Because I can that I have a destiny to raise up others with a similar personal history...not by myself or through my strength but through God's power which has grown me up and gives me strength and wisdom.
39, 40, 41,) Financial struggles...because they have caused me to find riches in other ways...precious friends, God's creation and my conversations with Him.
42) When I pray in exhaustion and frustration and in return receive peace.
43,44) The oder coming from the waste treatment plant -- grateful there is one and also to have a sense of smell.
45, 46) Blurred vision...appreciate the value of seeing and yes...bifocals!
47) Sweat...it means I am working or walking and that it is summer!
 
48) Long talks with friends
49) Campfires at night
50, 51, 52, 53) Colors...of flowers, of fireworks, and Christmas lights.
54) Bees --- lead to honey and a bountiful harvest of fruit, berries and God 
knows what else!
55) Loving...
56) ...and being Loved
57, 58, 59,) Road noise and honking horns...the gift of hearing, the gift of technology and God allowing some mysteries to be uncovered.
60) To be a woman...just one dimension of who God made me to be and that is just a beginning.
61) Sunsets

Seasons...
62, 63,) 
Spring and Autumn...my favorite seasons
64) Frost designs on Winter windows
65,66) Silent snowfall...Snow perched perilously on fragile twigs.

67, 68, 69,) Watching the world wake up and bloom...March, April and May. 
70) Tulips...so many varieties and colors...The Queen of the Spring Garden.
71) Long Summer Days to see all Life living to the fullest.

72,73, 74)
Crisp Autumn Days...sitting inside reading with apples, hot cocoa and popcorn.

75) Leaf Piles!
76) Children's Christmas programs...never knew angels threw their halos!

77) Grateful and Honored to pray for my family and friends.
78, 79,80,81, 82,) Provision ---through work and gifts, prayers and counsel --- God's bounty for all my needs, spiritual, emotional, and mental as well as physical.
83) That God intervenes in storms...the atmospheric, spiritual, mental and social.
84, 85, 86, 87,) Making memories with my nieces and nephew --- steal the socks game, making cookies, backyard made-up sports, and picnics.
88 and 89) Twins!...soon to be born great-nieces!


90) Cloudy Days...for some reason they are comforting and cut the harshness of a too bright sun.
91) A good cry...letting it all out.
92) Lincoln Logs and Legos.
93) Growing older, grayer and stiffer...hopefully growing some wisdom and perspective as well.
94) Encyclopedias and books....amazing facts and imagination...
95) Spaghetti and Pizza...What does God have for dinner?
96) Misplaced items found....library book, gift card, doctor appointment note...


97) Forgiveness....
98) Forgiving...no other way to mend relationships.
99) Grace...for not being perfect or reaching 100...because there is always room for one more thing or person to be grateful for, to find God's grace in and become the person He designed YOU to be.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Searchng for Grace



Ann Voskamp has written “1000 Gifts”, a book like no other I have read.  It is quite an honest exploration of God’s grace, thanksgiving and joy in the midst of life 
…which includes pain, suffering, anger, anxiety, depression, laundry, 60 little sticky fingers and thumbs, kneading bread, laughter, laundry… Life.  I don’t have that many sticky fingers but I sure have had stinky thoughts that are sticky….but that is changing.  I have laundry, budgeting, work, depression, anxiety and the list goes on... Life.  That thing that happens while we are wishing half of it wouldn’t.

Ann, in the trailer for her new dvd series based on her book, says;
“I decided to live Eucharisteo, which is the Biblical Greek word which literally means ‘to give thanks,’ what I believe Jesus did each and every day regardless of His circumstances”

I am participating in this series with a group of precious friends and working through the workbook.  Sometimes it is agonizing. The exercise I am thinking of…the one I am trying to avoid.  Three moments.  Moments of pain and loss, grieving…bewilderment.  Why did “that” exercise have to be included?  I have an immediate answer…because God said so!   



Him.  Again…and again and again.   
Thankful for the “Him again’s.” 

I thought of the first moment…no, I won’t detail it here.  What I know is that it still affects me now and the enemy would keep it that way.  I had never really connected with the emotions of fear, sadness, pain and bewilderment associated with that particular incident.  I had those emotions in over-reacting to other events…sometimes had the feelings for no apparent reason at all.  But then God is healing me…

Him…again. 

It is normal to feel pain, fear, confusion and grief for events that affect our lives, take something or someone away, and threaten physical or emotional pain or harm.  We were created for love and perfect relationship…not the “other stuff”.  I can say I am being healed to be who God created me to be…and we all are. To feel, to have appropriate emotions, at appropriate times.  To be gifted hope and wholeness; joy and awe. What I can say is that I am searching for Jesus in my first moment…searching for the grace. My journey is an adventure. 

Him. Again!

The second moment was about two years long.  Some moment.  It was a job and I was where I was for a reason although I can’t define it precisely.  I’ve not yet recovered.  I developed panic attacks.  I would have internalized panic but eventually I couldn’t hold it in.  I am aggravated that the enemy really took me down but I can’t think of many ways I could have actually handled it better.  I can see grace dimly in this...the light on it is brightening.  I know even now that there is hope that I can sense God’s grace in it all.  I can say I learned to continue to work in tough situations with difficult people.  I was able to pay most of my bills on my own and continue to give to my church and others in both time and finances.  I am grateful for the support I received from family, friends and the body of Christ.  I continue to receive their support…because of Jesus love and grace.

Him..again…thankfully, gracefully, joyfully. 

Information about Ann's book, dvd series and devotional can be found at her blog: "A Holy Experience"

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Great A Love

Sometimes I’m not sure what love is…in fact, many times I’m not sure. Yeah…I’m on this again.  I often think that my love for God isn’t even a molecule of H2O compared to all the vast ocean of His love.  That any of us can say truthfully that we love Him is a mystery and a miracle to me.  I’ve heard people say they love God but from conversation I’m not even sure they have any idea what Jesus did for them,  that God is more than a benevolent, ethereal being.  So I'm searching for my love for Him.

 Checking The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary , these are some of the definitions of love I found there. “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”, “affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests” , “an assurance of affection” , “a beloved person” , “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another “ as in “the fatherly concern of God for humankind” , “a person’s adoration of God” , and “a god or personification of love” .  We can see that all of these can be said about God’s love for us or our love for Him…but something is missing. 

The Bible says “God is love” 1 John 4:8 NCV .  God says He will change our heart so we can love Him in Deuteronomy 30:6.  God says through the prophet Ezekiel that He will cause us to not have a divided heart, give us a new spirit (inner person) and He will remove hardness of our heart and replace it with a heart of flesh, one that will respond to Him and focus on His ways. ( 11:19 - 20 ) 


Throughout scripture God has called people, called to their spirit.  From the beginning God wanted relationship with us more than we wanted it with Him.  When Adam and Eve broke relationship, God wished to reconnect, make a way for the darkness that His most beloved creation chose.  They were deceived and their will was weak.

 It happens to me all the time. “Chocolate is good for you”…“well, then more chocolate must be better!” Uh oh…I think I made a mistake.  Seriously, we do give in and sometimes we believe anything that comes in an email or what any radio program tells us as we are driving down the road.  Sometimes I’m tired or depressed or angry and I just don’t care and in that moment of weakness I sin…I put up a wall between myself and my Jesus.  Just like Adam and Eve.  The process of connection…God loving us enough to make a way started then. John 3:16 says God loved us enough to send His son Jesus to us to make a way for us to reconnect with Him.  Verse 17  says He came to save us from our wrong doings, sin and the darkness that came down from Adam and Eve’s original choice to disobey God.  We can’t undo that. We don’t have the capability. We can’t even stop ourselves from telling lies. Doesn’t matter if it is a “little white lie” or if we leave information out…the intent is to intentionally give a false impression.  The point is that God set some standards, some fence lines, to keep us safe in the pasture to keep the enemy from having a claim on us.  1 John 5:19 NCV  says that any of us whom belong to God as His child doesn’t keep on sinning and that Jesus protects us and the evil one cannot hurt us.  It doesn’t mean we never do anything wrong but that we don’t intentionally continue to make that wrong choice day after day. 
 
He loves us enough that He took on what we would go through due to our wrongdoings, our sin.  He didn’t set aside the standards, didn’t open the fence and say, “Go ahead, if you don’t care if you meet the wolf in the dark then I’m fine with it.” Or “I know you don’t have a clue of the pain that awaits you over there but if you want you can go with my blessing…I’ll watch until you are out of sight” or “Go ahead baby daughter, touch the hot stove, I’ll let you get burned as often as you like.”  Makes a lot of sense…..NOT!
Did I start this post wondering about love?  I think I could write much more on what the Bible says, list more scripture and give examples.  God’s love for us started at creation and time and time again God rescued people physically from enemies, from sickness, from themselves, from Satan the Evil One, from the consequences of their wrong choices and actions.  Jesus came as the son of God, equal with God to take on the separation that our wrong choices put us into.  God required a response to His love…to love Him back.  In order for us to meet the requirement He offered to change us at our core, in our spirit.  He is changing us from the inside out.  This process of loving God…of changing in order to love Him and to increase in that love isn’t dependent on what I do, no straight A report card, no employee of the month award or winning “Jeopardy “will make the grade. 
It is a “God” process…He established the standard, set the requirement AND gives us everything we need to meet it and more.  He is never done changing our heart and building our spirit. The only thing that He did that was finished was His defeat of the Evil One by removing what appeared to be an insurmountable barrier between Him and us.  John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.   We are His friends….He lay down His life.  He also came back to life, He reanimated.  The power of God was so great and God the Father’s love was so immense that Jesus spirit did CPR on His body.  No stage trick….that tomb was sealed and guarded.  Okay…so it wasn’t CPR but pure power beyond anything we know, came from God, no outside source, not the sun, no nuclear fusion….but GOD. 


What do we do to show love to someone we know?  The answers are in the second paragraph.  What do we do to show God we love Him?  Allow Him to proceed with changing us, following His ways, doing what He did and what He asks us to do.  To walk into belief and faith and assenting to life change, asking Him for help, reading about His feats, His relationships with His people, His standards and how He helped many to meet the requirement of love.  His story is a story of love.  It is messy, we are messy.  He gave us a choice and often we make a mess. 

Ever watch a baby on his or her first birthday when they are given the cake?  Ever know a one year old to never make a mess?  Did anyone get upset about that mess of cake and icing?  That’s us…messy life, messy love…loved by God.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

If Not Now....When?

What happens when what you've believed will help, what others tell you is a path to growth and healing…just isn't?  
How long should it take?  Some say twenty years is too long…that God does and has healed in a short amount of time.  

Yes, with God all things, anything…is possible.  But what if He has another plan?  Other than healing me or anyone who have been abused…in a short amount of time.  What if the PTSD goes on and is even more entrenched by an abusive boss….or spouse or someone else in our lives?  For me…it was a manager at a job that I wasn't well suited for in the first place.  I took it because like many people I had no income and by appearances and theoretically, I could do the job.  I kept being told that God would help me, that I could overcome the anxiety, that I needed to view the manager, the customers and the job differently…that God would give me strength.  I was told to pray when things got tough…while four or five or six things demanded my attention? Right then? I did breath prayers for help and strength as I saw things start to get busy.  But while I was frozen as to what needed to be done first…when all things demanded to be done first?  What would my boss think needed to be done first?  Because it didn't matter too much what I thought…it was more out of self-protection from getting something said to me, or things banged or questions ignored.  I understand that at a certain level that self-protection means that a person isn’t trusting God to be their shield. (Psalm 7:9)  

What could I actually do?  No one really seemed to realize what this job was like and I felt like a failure for not "doing" what they recommended or for doing it but not perceiving the hoped for result.  I understand the importance of relying on God’s strength…but at the time I did not know how to bring that truth, my belief and the situation and my anxiety, confusion and sense of powerlessness together to find a solution.  I’m not sure at the time I understood that, so how could anyone else?  I’m sure God had an answer…but I missed it…as usual.

That brings on the questionwill God be my shield even if I forget to pray? If I just have time to breath “help” as chaos descends?  Even if I am not sure I trust Him to be that for me?  Why then…did things happen the way they did? No matter how I prayed…when I prayed…I was still traumatized by this manager’s behavior.  I thought at one point that I sensed God telling me to quit that job.  I had been looking for work all along; knowing the job I had wasn't the best fit.  I put it out there for a response.  I received just one…that it wasn't what God wanted…that I just wanted to quit the job and to not quit until  I had another job.  Did God in fact shield me and it would have been much worse?  I don’t have an answer to that question and I don’t know if an answer will ever come. 

What if no human guidance or counsel will help? People who have experienced similar trauma, have sought their creator, heard His voice, felt His touch and been healed have encouraged me, held my hand, advised and counseled me.  Those who have listened to people’s stories, been touched in spirit with God’s compassion and heeded His call to be His hands and voice to those broken like I am and have schooled and trained in order to serve well.  What if after all this….nothing they have for me, from God, from His Word…is the answer?  Is it possible?  Why would He lead me to these people? I am grateful for them...giving me time, an ear, wisdom, prayers and friendship. Relationships are valuable...but this isn't about relationships or other people.

I fail…all the time.  I've failed to follow the instructions…to allow change to happen.  Too many questions with no answers.  Too much fear, too much anger, too much mistrust.  I have clung to Jesus…talked to Him, told Him how I feel, asked for healing.  I don’t know….I keep falling on my face.  I've surrendered.  I've collapsed.  I don’t know what else to do.  I am lost.  Even though I don’t know who I am….I know whose I am.  Praying that is enough to find relief.  Does He hear this prayer?  Yes, I believe He does. Will I miss His answer yet again? Sadly…I think I will.