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When the tears flow and you don’t know why, but then, you do.

Have you ever begun to cry and you can’t explain why exactly? Maybe you see something in nature that creates awe-induced tears. Or maybe like me, you sing during worship and find tears streaming though nothing happened or even went through your head. Sometimes His glory alone is all it takes to set free the tears waiting for their release.

No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me.”

These words grip me. The first time I heard this song, I knew I wanted it sung at my funeral one day. I know, sounds a bit morbid to plan for death, but the reality is death comes to us all. And on that day, I don’t want people wondering what songs I wanted, what I would share. So I wrote it down for my family. I’m a planner to the extreme at times.

There is a line that produces tears every time I hear this song.

This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

It’s that “scorned by the ones He came to save” that punches my gut. I’m the scorner. I’m not so special though. Many of us share a similar story.

I never understood grace. I heard Bible stories. I prayed. I “believed” in a Creator God. I even believed Jesus was God’s Son. But I didn’t understand grace.

So in my rebellious pride, I scorned Him. I lived life my way, on my own terms, doing all the good works to balance those scales in an effort to earn my way there. I stayed away from Him because deep in my heart, I knew. Yes, I knew. I knew no matter how “good” I tried to be, I wasn’t good all the time. So I told God I’d come back toward Him when I could get my act together.

On that day of salvation, I still didn’t understand His grace. Paul David Tripp says it well in his book, Parenting. He discusses God’s past grace, present grace, and future grace. You see I believed in the past and future grace. I didn’t understand that His present grace is what gave me the ability to grow and change moment by moment as I walked in His Spirit. It took me years after my salvation to begin to understand this.

Now when I hear lines about Jesus, sometimes the tears simply fall. I can’t explain why. All I know is He didn’t simply save me from hell, He continues to save me from myself every single day. His love overwhelms me.

“Here in the death of Christ I live.”

May grace never become commonplace.

No guilt in life because He’s washed me clean. Every single sin I’ve ever committed, He’s cleansed. I can live guilt free now. No fear in death because I know I will one day step through that paper thin veil that separates my physical life today with my eternal life.

I can live without proving my worth. I can stop trying. And so can you.

When the song begins this section, my heart begins to race. I feel the excitement shooting through my veins.

“There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”
Here is where I land, on these words that cause my heart to ascend into my throat threatening to break right free.
“Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
Lord, tenderize our hearts. Give us a fresh heart, fresh eyes, a new appreciation for the depths you went for us. May we see it continues every second of every day. Shine through us so the whole world can see You. Lord, we love you so much. Help us love you more today than we did yesterday. Amen.

 

Fast Pass to Pure Grace

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On our recent trip to Disney, the boys and I raced through the fast pass lane on Space Mountain. We flew right by the ones waiting in the regular line. When we got to a stopping point, Zachary turned and asked, “What if someone entered the regular line, then when no one was looking, crossed into the fast pass line, then got to the final fast pass checkpoint and got caught?”

“Well, they would either send them back to the regular line, or they could choose to tell them they couldn’t ride at all.”

His face turned serious, which is so rare. “Well, I would just let them go through anyway.”

Now, Jacob is my child who must see justice served, but Zachary is a rule follower, so his answer surprised me.

“Why?”

His eyes, full of softness, met mine. “Because that is pure grace.”

Grace, an over-used, often misunderstood word. I had been a christian for years before understanding what grace actually meant. I’ve now come to realize grace can never be fully understood. It’s beyond our human ability to comprehend such a free, wild, and extravagant gift.

I know the definition of grace is an unmerited gift. It’s a gift we don’t deserve, a gift we didn’t earn. Salvation I don’t deserve. Salvation I can’t be good enough to earn. There are no scales. You see that would be unfair. And God is fair and just, beyond that He is wildly compassionate and loving. So in love with us, He extends grace.

Have I become desensitized to the word grace? Have I spoken of grace with such ease that it’s lost its magnificence on me?

Grace goes beyond comprehension. Pure grace, well, that just causes me to pause. If Zachary had simply said the word grace, I think I’d have smiled and nodded along with him. When he placed pure in front of grace, my thoughts came to a halt.

Grace is pure. Grace doesn’t need pure added to it. Grace needs nothing added to it. Grace is grace. Pure is pure.

The grace I daily extend tends to come with a price. But then that’s not grace. I’ll forgive you if you offer me a proper apology. I’ll accept you into my circle of friends or family, but you must behave a certain way. I’ll do this favor for you, but I hope you remember you owe me one.

My grace may come with conditions. His grace, no, it’s pure, no strings attached.

Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Grace should cause my heart to skip a beat. Grace should cause me to look at every situation in light of eternity. Grace should not become a commonplace word in my vocabulary, desensitizing me to its magnitude. Grace changed everything. Grace is changing everything. Grace came for me, and grace came for you.

Look for grace today. He bathes us in it, but we may find ourselves so accustomed to His graces they have become a bit too common. Pray today for an awareness of His moment by moment grace.

Lord, capture our heart by your grace.

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How To Help Our Kids When They Just Want Freedom

How to Help Our Kids When They Just Want Freedom - Square

Night after night he lamented, “Mom, it’s not fair, everyone goes to bed so much later than I do. Why do you make me go to bed so early? I’m 11 years old.”

I attempted to explain the why behind our bedtime policy, though my best efforts failed to ease his frustration. I tried to explain that he wakes earlier than his friends, that his body actually functions better on more sleep, that some kids stretch the truth to impress each other. Wasted words. What he really wanted wasn’t a later bedtime. He wanted freedom.

He felt constrained. He was so focused on the one thing that we withheld from him, he lost his ability to see the abundant freedoms we showered over him daily.

In his 11-year-old world, his vision focused on what he convinced himself he was missing due to the limits we placed on him. Limits for his own good. Boundaries to protect him because we want the very best for him.

The desire for freedom is nothing new.

Would you join me at my dear friend, Jeannie Cunnion’s blog to read the rest of today’s post?

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. Blog subscribers are entered in a quarterly drawing to win a $25 Stitch Fix gift card and will also receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

The Fear You Thought You Conquered

 

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We stood in line to ride the one ride I said I never wanted to ride.  I don’t like fear to stand in my way, so last year I swallowed my fear and rode the ride.  The same one that rose 300 feet into the air before breaking down.  The same one that stranded riders at 300 feet for hours.  I rode it.  All was fine.  I believed my fear had seen defeat.  That was last year.

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Each time I’ve ridden, the fear has decreased, but it’s always remained in the back of my mind.  This time was no different.  Except it was. Steve and I took our seats, clicked in, even posed for a picture.  The swings rise 300 feet until you reach the top for a beautiful view of Charlotte.  The breeze picked up as we gently made our way around the circle.

Steve looked out to the city, “You know this really is a relaxing ride.”  The words barely escaped his lips when the ride took a lurch.

“Well, except when that happens.”  The swings stopped.  You have got to be kidding me.  Everything in me wanted to scream and panic.  We were stuck.  And the fear was so threatening all I could do was breathe, lay my head back, and let go.

Fear.  I despise fear.  Just when you think you’ve got it under control, it rears its nasty head to taunt you.  Reminding you of its presence.  I thought my fear was the ride.  I thought I conquered my fear by riding the ride.  My true fear was not the ride.  It was being stuck on the ride.  And that was a fear I had never faced until that moment.

I’ve procrastinated writing a new blog post.  Telling myself that having the kids home all day every day makes writing hard.  Telling myself I need to work on other writing projects, not my blog.  Telling myself it’s because I have so much to do around the house and with the kids and this and that.  I’ve been lying to myself.  So can I confess to you?

Here’s the truth.  I’m scared.  I’m avoiding writing because I fear the reaction. Not because I’m anticipating a reaction, but the opposite possibly.   What if I get no reaction?  You see I tell people all the time that I used to care too much about what people thought about me, but I’ve outgrown that in my maturing years.  Yeah right.  That’s a lie, too.  I still care very much what people think about me.

That’s why I’ve procrastinated writing a post.  I’m afraid to let you down.  I’m afraid you won’t like what you read.  I’m afraid that you might be a reader that liked my post that went viral and now you are expecting another one to touch you the same way.  And I don’t want to disappoint you.

I’ve never written from the position of fear before.  Yes, I’ve faced this in life with other circumstances.  But when I write, I simply write.  I write from my heart using situations and stories God has brought into my days.  I don’t sit at the computer thinking about what people will think.  Or at least I thought I didn’t.  Until God used a letter to my boys on my blog to create reaction I’m not accustomed to in order to show me that yes I do still care what others think.

My entire life I’ve placed an enormous amount of pressure to perform on myself.  Whatever I excelled in naturally brought praise.  The praise planted fear in my heart.  Fear of failure the next time around.  Failure leads to disappointing others.  And I hate to let people down.  So I tried hard.  Really, really hard.

A performance-based life that feeds on praise lives in fear.

My try hard life shows me in the clearest way my desperate need for grace.  I need grace daily.  When I fail, I want to know it will be ok.  When I mess up, I want to know I’m still accepted.  When I disappoint, I want to know I’m still loved.

It’s the gospel.

What I’m seeking from others in my life, can only come from one.  The same holds true for you today.

So today I write.  An average post that will not go viral.  I’m choosing to accept the fact I might disappoint some.  I’m choosing to accept that I can’t do everything perfectly.  I’m choosing to tell my fears to run away.  I’m choosing to release the pressure to perform so I can open my hands to grace.  And I thank you for grace.

What fears are you facing today?  What fears did you believe you had under control only to see them resurface?  Where are you trying so hard that you are closing your hands to grace?

When You Go Looking for a Good Fight

reneestomach

Proverbs 15:1

A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath.

I was over it.  Exhausted.  7 days of constant activity and commitments, traveling twice within just days, a house in disarray.  And a mama in need of rest.

I surveyed the disaster surrounding me.  In an effort to make their own lunches, the boys had created an explosion of food and crumbs all over the counters.  Dinner dishes graced the counters and table.  Clean dishes filled the dishwasher in need of unloading.  The family room had piles of ornament boxes from the recent tree decorating.  Bathrooms and bedrooms were overun with piles of dirty clothes and evidence of water wars.  To top it all off, we have been without a dryer for 2 weeks.  I looked around at all the newly “dried” crunchy clothes to put away only to piece by piece hang the newly washed loads.

I hastily kissed the boys and escaped to my bed in utter defeat.  I am not a slave.  Why should everyone else have all the fun and I should go behind cleaning messes so they can do it all over again.  It’s not fair!  I huffed and puffed all the way to the bed, where I burrowed with a good book.

Steve opened the door.  His face looked concerned.  “You know it’s 7:30 right?”

“Yes.”  I said it without making eye contact and a tone that said I want you to ask but I don’t want you to know I want you to ask.

“Are you ok?”

It started spewing before I had a chance to reign it back in.  All the frustrated wife and mommy moments came pouring out.

“This just isn’t like you.  You don’t curl up in a ball when things get tough.  You fight through it.”

I made a few snide remarks, and to my surprise he didn’t fight back.  What I expected was a response like this, “I cooked dinner tonight.  I played Foosball with the boys.  I helped decorate the tree.  I bathed Andrew.  What more could I possibly do?  Don’t I deserve a break too?”

Instead, I got silence.  But not a bitter, angry silence.  I got one full of mercy and grace.  I got a response I didn’t deserve.  And he softly closed the door and left me to rest.

Proverbs 15:1 came to life.  Steve answered me with gentleness when I didn’t deserve it and it turned away wrath.  It softened me.

And the burning coals were heaped on my head when I came down an hour later to find a spotless house.

He gave me what I did not deserve.

Christ came to give us what we don’t deserve.

The season is upon us where we wait.  We eagerly anticipate and long for His coming.  May our hearts be stilled in awe as we reflect on His coming.

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Bad Breath And A Plank In The Eye

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We entered the doors of church a little later than usual.  We made our way to a pew that could barely  fit four of us.  The boys sandwiched themselves between us and quickly got to work on their sermon notes activity sheet.  Every few minutes Zachary would whisper something to Jacob.  After a few times, I noticed Jacob becoming very snappish with his brother who adores him.  His head turned sharply towards me as he hissed, “Mom, his breath is treacherous.  It’s driving me crazy.”  The look on his face told me he was not kidding.

Initially I chuckled, thinking how funny his statement sounded.  Then I noticed how visibly upset Jacob was over the smell of his brother’s breath.

“Stop talking to me.  Your breath stinks!”  Jacob snarled to Zachary, who just looked at me with raised eyebrows and a sheepish little grin that seemed to say, “What?  I’m…..sorry…”

Jacob turned away from Zachary and faced directly towards me as he made his final comment about the state of Zachary’s breath, to which I replied to Jacob, “Your breath smells equally as bad.  Leave him alone.”

“So what, Zachary’s is worse.”

Jacob was seething, overly agitated, and lacked all forms of mercy, grace, and compassion.  I’ve been there.  Have you?

Oh what a picture.  What a picture of our humanness.  A picture of myself.  A picture of each of us if we are truly honest with ourselves.  How often are we so focused on the sins and wrongs of others that we fail to see our own sins, our own shortcomings?  How often are we so focused on how bad someone else’s “issue” is that we unknowingly cultivate a garden of anger, resentment, pride, and self-righteousness in our own hearts?

Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We are all sinners.  Jesus didn’t die because we are naturally good.  No!  We are sinners.  In need of saving.  None of us has minty fresh breath all the time.

Thank God for grace.

Imagine the richness of our experiences in life if we removed our own planks before focusing on the specks of others?  Imagine how we could see God in a completely new way.  Imagine how our relationships with each other and our walks with God would grow if we could do this.

In our own power, it’s impossible.  We can’t do it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am weak.  I am in constant need of His power resting on me.