Sunday, March 31, 2013

His Extravagant Grace

Just a short post today. . .

As today is Easter, I'm taking some time to just soak up the unfathomable Truth of the Gospel--that Christ came to earth and lived without sin; that He took on my sin (past, present, and future) and died the death that I should have died; and that through His death on the cross, He became my sin substitute so that the curtain was torn, and I am no longer separated from God by my sin. 

May this Truth, and the fact that I am daily in need of His extravagant grace, fall afresh on me each and every day, not just at Easter.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

His Grace in Reminding Me Who I am

A few weeks ago, I engaged in pure vanity:  I asked a friend to take a headshot of me for a professional directory because the picture taken by the professional organization did not meet my expectations.  It didn't even fit all my hair in the frame.  For a gal with big Texas hair, that's not acceptable.

As I posed for different shots, a process that makes me uneasy and feels completely unnatural and awkward, I realized that there was/is such a heart struggle in this process.  The struggle in my heart is one of trying to believe what God's Word says--that He calls me His Beloved--versus the screams and shouts of today's culture that beauty is such a high and unachievable "standard" that I will never measure up to. 

One of the speakers at a retreat that I attended this past weekend shared other good reminders about true beauty:

**We are God's masterpiece, created in His image.

**Our value in Him never changes.

**Refuse to define yourself by others' views.

**Refuse to believe personal labels you've attached to your soul, as well as any designer labels that you think will bring you value when you wear them.

**Lasso your rogue cravings. {The mental picture of this makes me smile.}

**Real beauty comes from understanding God's love.

**Humility is the beginning of beauty.

All of these thoughts stem from the Truth of His Word:

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7

"Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out." Romans 12:2 (MSG)

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!" Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

I'm grateful that the Lord has provided a definition of "beauty" that is not centered on how much we can buy to make our outer selves prettier but on how He changes our heart the more and more we spend time with Him.  The kind of beauty we are given by Him does not fade and cannot be taken away.

I pray that I would rest in that definition and reject anything contrary that the world imposes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March Update

What I'm Pondering:
Jen Hatmaker's post on grace is a must-read here.

Amy's post on the Verge conference makes me want to "Just Go" next year.

And Ann Voskamp's most recent post on radical living tears me apart in a good way.

What I'm Listening To:
I just received the Passion 2013 CD, and it is sing-along, dance-along worthy.  Excellent.

What I'm Reading:
I've continued "eating" books lately, including Sacred Search by Gary Thomas.  It's just as good as his prior book Sacred Influence.

Today, I just finished reading a book on the benefits of apple cider vinegar.  Sounds random, I know.  But my mother recommended it, and I'm on board for trying a teaspoon in a cup of water a couple of times a day because I'm not the best when it comes to eating veggies. 

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Brene Brown's latest book called Daring Greatly.  The language isn't all clean, but the conclusions that she shares on her twelve-year study of shame and vulnerability is eye-opening.  I'm still wrapping my mind around the first four chapters.  Very interesting read.  (Please excuse the coconut oil fingerprints all over the cover.)


What I'm Enjoying:
It's springtime, and although the pollen has wreaked havoc on my sinuses, I love seeing what God is up to in nature.  Things that looked dead just a few weeks ago are now budding, reminding me that He is a Restorer and an amazing Artist and Creator. 

What are you enjoying right now?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

His Grace in Frustration

Confession: Lately, I have been a grumbler.

I have grumbled about my work, my allergies and the resulting headaches, my singleness, my finances, and so many other things that I am embarrassed of. I have grumbled for no other reasons except that I don't like God's plans and that I'd prefer stress-free, comfortable living--thank You very much.

Honestly, I just want God to put this seal on my life:

I want the frustrations removed. All of them. And the Lord knows that, but He also knows what I need in order to draw near to Him.

That difficult work scenario? It had me praying for good health, strength, energy, and wisdom to do my job more than I have ever prayed for those things before.

Those allergies and headaches? They enable me to sympathize with those who are struggling with their health and prompt me to pray for their healing along with my own.

Walking through life solo? That keeps me on my knees and in desperate dependence on Him as my Provider and Comforter.

When I come to Him in these situations, He's big enough to handle my harsh words and the fists that I shake at Him. Because He is holy, my outbursts and many requests do not drain Him of His power, His time, or His resources. And because He is omnipresent, the rest of you don't have to wait in line while He's busy listening to me and my laundry list of complaints. (And the people said, "AMEN!")

I'm not a burden on Him.

I often have to repeat that to myself:  I'm not a burden on Christ. 

He has already taken my sins--past, present, and future--and canceled them out on the cross, offering me a lifetime of grace.  And instead of becoming tired of me, He offers me His presence at all times and the invitation to continually commune with Him. It's a gift that no other can offer. 

So for any of you who, like me, missed out on the frustration-free packaging of life, voice your complaints to the One Who made you and Who can walk with you through them. His grace is sufficient, even (and especially) when your attitude is one of frustration.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you., for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, March 3, 2013

His Grace in Providing Sabbath Rest

A Sunday with no "to-do list."  Doesn't that sound like a dream?

Or what if every Sunday was filled with worship, both corporate and individual?  What if you were free to read a book, take a nap, enjoy time outdoors, or spend time with family and friends?

Thankfully, Sundays really can look like what I've described above; they don't have to be just another day of chores, to-do lists, and errands.

I've written about Sabbath rest a couple of times here - most notably the post from September 2011, which stayed up forever because I took a blog sabbatical right after that post.  Since then, I've taken this concept to heart and have continued living out that dream, though it hasn't always been easy.

Observing the Sabbath takes some planning on my part to reallocate my chores and errands throughout the remaining six days of the week.  But that little investment of planning reaps great rewards.  I'm able to slow down the pace of life, even if it's just for one day a week. 

Sometimes, my plans fail, and I don't get everything done before the Sabbath.  But I've learned to let those things go and trust God with them; I force myself to put aside my Martha tendencies and to be a Mary for one day.  And the hope is that maybe I'll become a little more Mary during the week and a little less Martha.

The Lord gave His people this wonderful gift back in Old Testament times but continued it in the New Testament:  "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his." Hebrews 4:9-10

I'm now learning that I can rest in His grace as I go about my Sabbath.  I don't have to follow a particular format; I don't have to justify what I do or don't do as part of my Sabbath.  I'm not trying to earn the Lord's favor by observing the Sabbath because that cannot be done.  His grace is all-sufficient.  Rather, the Sabbath allows me time to gaze on Him and spend time with Him.  What more could a Believer want?

If you haven't tried observing the Sabbath, plan for it this week and give it a try next Sunday.  It will provide the rest that you've been seeking.