“Rest is synonymous with grace, which is never seized by force but always taken hold of freely by faith.” ~John Koessler
Scripture for Reflection: Philippians 4:4-9
“Rest is synonymous with grace, which is never seized by force but always taken hold of freely by faith.” ~John Koessler
Scripture for Reflection: Philippians 4:4-9
“By God’s grace, we can have our best witness in the worst of times.” ~Dave Branon
Scripture for Reflection: II Corinthians 12:9-10
I want to give some advice to you
There is something that I believe you should do
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Realize that you can always go to GOD for repentance and unconditional help
Your Heavenly FATHER made you a priceless gem,
who must always be totally dependent on HIM
GOD’s 1st Corinthians Chapter 13 Love, please embrace
Understand that our flesh is imperfect but can rely on HIS amazing grace
You are GOD’s unique workmanship…so don’t compare
For there is no one like you on this earth anywhere
Remember to take care of your body by exercising and eating right
And always know that you are precious and beautiful in GOD’s sight
Don’t get caught-up with what others think or say
Base your self-worth on what GOD’s Word says about you; for HE is the CREATOR of your DNA
Please don’t live your life according to what you understand
Trust GOD and allow HIM to hold your hand
Rest in knowing you were made from dust…so you are a little dusty
GOD is never caught off guard, He knows you make mistakes and sometimes get a little rusty
Even though you don’t deserve it… GOD’s SON, JESUS, died and rose from the dead just for you
And HE wants to be involved in all your actions; what you say, think, and do
We all have things about us that need to be changed; for we all are works in progress
So try not to get discouraged by worrying and unhealthy stress
Whatever you do…provide your best
Give your all to JESUS and He will do the rest
Your life improvements ….ask the LORD to help you with
And know sometimes the POTTER has to break you in order to help you get fixed
For HE knows your correct form and shape
And sometimes in your growth…you may have to be still and wait
This Sovereign GOD, you, HE chose to love
He chose to redeem and set you free with His only Son’s blood
So to the LORD, don’t be afraid to cry out when you have gotten off track
His compassionate Rod and Staff will guide you back
HE wants to lead you to green pastures and still waters
For you are His cherished daughter
To clothe you with garments of salvation and in righteousness YOU HE wants to cover
For HIS Love for you is like no others
Enough is enough is enough!!
Stop beating yourself up
I want you to forever know that disliking yourself is a waste of time
For your DESIGNER thinks you are just fine
Accept the gift that only your Heavenly FATHER can give
In HIS Sufficient Grace …please live
You are an original design…not made like anyone else
So please, don’t be so hard on yourself
A recent encounter with one of my doctors made me recall the times my sisters and I enjoyed telling each other, “Told you so!” or, “I knew I was right!” We were competitive and bossy little girls, but as we grew older, we matured and found it easier to let go of the need to always be right and started to support each other without judgment.
I wish I could say that this form of grace automatically extends to every area of my life, but I keep realizing that I need to grow and… that takes effort.
God continues to stretch me as I look for evidence of His grace at work in my life. And while I’m facing a new set of chronic issues, I am surprised that they helped me see God’s grace from a new point of view.
What have these issues exposed?
The difficulty I have in gracefully receiving an apology, and also how relying on God provides the strength I need to walk in love.
You see, I had been on an eighteen-month quest to discover the cause of increased back pain. I went through several tests and countless appointments. But my doctors seemed to dismiss my questions and concerns, even when I kept a diary and discussed the new symptoms and tried to describe how this pain was different. No matter how much I tried to get them to understand, they seemed to think I was going through an intense flare.
I lost weight and felt myself becoming depressed, like I was out of options. Hopeless. Finally, I admitted this to my doctor. “How can I continue living like this? I feel like I’m losing control!”
“I’ve never seen this level of discomfort on your face,” she told me. “You never look anxious when you come in, no matter what you are dealing with.”
We talked as she examined me and I agreed to see a doctor in the physical medicine department. The doctor there approached my case from a different angle. After several more tests, the physical medicine doctor confirmed my suspicions – a change in my lower spine.
I needed a consultation with a neurosurgeon.
He reviewed my tests and told me, “These discs are pinching your nerve in a weird place. This is the cause of your pain.” He laid out a treatment plan and schedule. “If things improved, surgery won’t be needed.
When I returned to my regular doctor, she walked in the room and said, “Mrs. Love, I owe you a tremendous apology. I am so sorry! I should have been a better advocate for you. Even if you couldn’t describe the difference between the pain, I should have probed and kept asking questions until we identified the problem.”
I felt vindicated!
I wanted to shout and tell her that I knew all along she was wrong and I was right, but I couldn’t. I felt a prick in my heart.
The anger I wanted to hold onto evaporated. Sympathy replaced it as she spoke from her heart. I heard the pain, sorrow, and regret.
We reached a new level of commitment and made peace. I believed she would not stop trying to help me find relief.
As I sat on the exam table that afternoon, I knew God wanted me to extend grace to her. To show mercy. To remind her how much I valued her as my doctor. To accept her apology with compassion.
“Thank you.” I shook her outstretched hand. “At least we know what I’m facing. Maybe we can get it handled.”
In that moment, I gained insight. She symbolized the times I approached God, my heart broken, because I’d failed, yet again. I deserved His wrath, but the only thing I felt was love and mercy – not the condemnation I deserved.
This journey with my doctor made me think about my life. The times I sensed God’s warning that something needed addressing. Times I brushed off the feeling or totally ignored it. Believing everything was OK. Failing to pray and seek God, to find out what He was trying to tell me.
I would go through my days, convincing myself that I was right whenever I felt conviction. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a sermon, read a book or passage of scripture, and came face to face with my shortcoming, my sin.
The shock of being wrong, of walking in disobedience and rebellion, always took the air out of me, causing me to repent, to beg for mercy and to ask for the strength and courage to change.
Was my doctor any different than me at that moment? No. We were on equal footing.
I had to graciously accept her apology, and to pray for her, asking God to give her the wisdom she needed to help me. To pray that my heart would remain open to each and every lesson He brought into my life.
This encounter with my doctors shows me that mercy and grace are intertwined in our lives. God bestows them on us lavishly. How can we refuse to let them flow to others?
Prayer: Lord, we thank You for Your grace and mercy. For Your love that covers all of our mistakes and failures. For Jesus, our Savior. Never let us forget the cost of our salvation. Teach us to walk in love and harmony with the people in our lives.
Yielding for Grace
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36 )
As I continue focusing on “GRACE”, I recognize this endeavor as both a challenge and a gift. Even though I want to think it’s getting easier for me to see God’s grace at work in my life, I’ve actually started to notice the times I need to extend grace to others and to keep an open heart for grace to take a deeper root in my own life.
I really desire to have a character that reflects God’s love and mercy, and as I pray to be the woman that God wants me to be, I’m realizing I have a lot of “self” to surrender.
I’m also learning that my chronic illness will not get me out of the lessons that God is teaching me. And, I know that I shouldn’t be shocked at this realization.
My latest lesson occurred on a day when I was coming out of a flare that had left me with extreme fatigue and pain in most of the joints in my body.
My husband volunteered to drive me to an appointment, but at the last minute another family member also asked him for a ride. This person’s destination was in the exact opposite direction of the location I needed to go.
Immediately I felt frustrated.
My husband, ever the diplomat, told me that he could take both of us. He gave me the choice to either ride with him or wait for him to come back and get me. He’s been this way since we met thirty-two years ago, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he found a way to accommodate both of us.
I blamed the building anger, discouragement, and anxiety on my health, especially my negative attitude and thoughts – “I should be first! My needs met before anybody else’s!”
As I think about that situation, I see how much I resembled my children when they were little and in the midst of temper tantrums.
I’m thankful that I didn’t voice my selfish thoughts and that I listened to the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit – “Humility. Grace. Compassion. Where are they?”
Passages of scripture threaded their way through my mind and caused me to back down and repent, seeking the very mercy from God that I was having trouble extending to our family member (Matthew 5:42; Luke 10:30-37; Galatians 5:13-14; Galatians 6:9-10; I Timothy 6:18-19).
I told my husband, “Go ahead and take them. I’ll wait until you get back.”
“Thank you for understanding,” he said.
When he left, I thanked God for my husband and for his kind heart. He has always been a generous man and never complains when he’s called upon to help family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. He gives like today’s passage describes – generously and without thought of receiving anything back.
I sat down with a cup of tea and my Bible and asked God to speak to my heart and help me.
I’m ashamed that I believed my health should come first; that just because I was having a hard day I needed special consideration; that my husband should ignore the request for help and cater to me.
That is NOT what Jesus modeled or taught.
As I considered my actions and thoughts, I surrendered my desire to be first to the Lord and asked for the strength and courage to face each day as it unfolded, without demanding that my concerns take priority first.
And then, I read this prayer and quote:
“Lord, thank You that You do not grow weary. Give me strength to face whatever situation I am in today.” – David McCasland
“When life’s struggles make you weary, find strength in the Lord.” – David McCasland
It seemed like God was giving me a gentle reminder to keep my focus on Him and to trust Him to take care of everything that concerns me.
This episode has taught me that grace will often include surrender, generosity, and compassion.
Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times we fall short. Help us remember that we are here to serve and not to be served. No matter what is going on in our personal lives, when You give us the opportunity to assist others, please allow us to see it for what it is and give us the strength to magnify and glorify You through it. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.
I read From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover. This book put a spotlight on our natural desires to have people think of us as “good”. And, it made me uncomfortable to see how easily this desire could turn into trying to earn God’s acceptance, instead of freely accepting everything He offers us through Jesus Christ.
But, the most valuable insight and understanding I came away with was realizing that I continue to struggle with receiving in general. Whether it’s an unexpected gift, a compliment, or even help with chores.
This month, it seemed like praying about grace and wanting to be conscious of it in my life, helped me understand that it takes grace to receive.
My husband has always been an extremely generous man, and when we first met, his habit of freely giving unnerved me. If something grabbed my attention, he would immediately purchase it for me. It took a while for me to get comfortable with his liberality, and even longer for me to convince him that I didn’t want everything I admired.
He has always had the philosophy of, “Give while I can.” He never waited for a special occasion – he simply gave whenever he thought about someone or saw a gift that reminded him of them.
I’d like to say that I’ve learned to receive after almost thirty years of marriage, but that would be a lie.
The book made me take time to reflect on my life and to try to grasp why it has been so hard for me to receive.
It’s never been easy for me to simply thank others for their compliments. Even when it was about my looks, my attire, my decor, or home cooked meals. Each time, I always explained their kind words away.
I prayed about it, seeking to understand why I disregarded their compliments, believing it was no big deal, that any efforts I made shouldn’t get recognized? I wanted to know why I found it difficult to accept their gifts and acts of kindness.
As I continued to seek God, I thought about my reaction when I get offers of help. It made me cringe. This has always been one of the hardest things for me to do! For a long while, I accomplished most tasks without help. However, in the last few years, I realized that I can’t do as much and the limits caused frustration.
So, when I was forced to ask for help, I felt guilty and ashamed that I can’t get things done like before.
But, God is showing me that receiving is a form of grace.
It’s a way to accept, with gratitude, the blessings God bestows on me.
Yes, I believe, and have no problem accepting, that there’s no way to earn salvation. I thank God for loving us enough to give it freely (John 3:16).
So why can’t I receive other things in my life as easily or as confidently? Is there a way for me to receive the good things God uses other people to bring into my life? Will I ever stop struggling against it and accept it?
Now that I realize why I have this problem, I feel broken inside. I finally understand that the difficulties I experience with receiving is because I don’t feel worthy.
I don’t believe that I deserve these good things in my life. Why? Because of my physical condition and limitations. Something inside of me causes me to believe I do not deserve anything special or extra or not requested in my life.
I feel sad just thinking about the occasions I have banished joy from my life. It happens every time I fail to receive from others. I see that my joy gets destroyed, but so does the giver’s joy.
Right now, I’m praying for God to renew my mind, for Him to teach me a new way of receiving, for Him to open my heart so that I can be encouraged by the kindness of others.
I have to remember that every time someone takes a moment to help me with a chore, or makes an effort to compliment me, or goes out of their way to shop for a gift – their actions and words are telling me that I M-A-T-T-E-R to them, that they are aware of my presence in their lives, and that I make a difference to them, even when I don’t think so.
I thank God for that book about goodness. I’m glad it didn’t reveal that I have a tendency towards “works”. But, I’m grateful that it has helped me discover a part of my life that was desperate for more of God’s grace.
I’m not used to it. It’s uncomfortable. But, slowly, I’m learning to receive.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your gentle correction when we fail to see ourselves as You’ve created us. Give us the ability to love ourselves so that we can genuinely love others. Please continue to shower us with Your love and mercy, but most of all, with Your grace.
“Jesus was teaching us by example that often the best way to help the oppressed, the sick and the poor is to touch them with our compassion. Jesus had compassion on people; we should have compassion too.”
I didn’t get any sleep that night. Not because of my chronic health issues. But because of a belligerent relative. It was midnight, and like Cinderella, my idea of a perfect evening came crashing down. I’d finally dozed off.
The bedroom shook. Before I could utter, “Earthquake!” There it went again, “CRASH!” I jumped from the bed. The noise came from the upstairs hallway bathroom.
I wondered if I felt an earthquake and the crashing sound was the towel cabinet hitting the floor. I scrambled out of bed and hurried to the bathroom.
I heard her mumbling as I flipped on the light. That’s when I saw her wedged between the toilet and vanity.
I gritted my teeth, ignoring the pain that shot through my jaws. I felt the tremors as my back started to lock from the rage. I shook with frustration while I squashed the urge to kick her.
I hated myself in that moment, because of the dark ugly thoughts.
“Grace? Compassion? I don’t want to, Lord. Not for this!”
I turned away. I didn’t want her to see the tears forming in my eyes.
She didn’t deserve mercy or grace. She needed to be locked away. In rehab. But, would it even help?
Looking at her sprawled on the floor, I wished we had the money to put her away, to put her in a sanatorium like the wealthy people did in the past.
“Let me help you up,” I said.
She rolled over and swatted my hand away, “I’m fine. I’m fine.”
But, she wasn’t. She couldn’t get up off the floor!
“Can you sit up?”
“I’m fine!” She yelled, slurring each word and pushing my outstretched hands away.
I’m ashamed to admit that I wanted to punch her in the face. “You. Are. Not. Fine.” I told her.
Finally, she managed to sit up. “Oh. Oh.” She kept repeating as she held her head.
“Did you hit your head?”
“Oh. I’m fine.” She tried to stand up, but failed and rolled over onto her side.
“Let me help you!”
She couldn’t stand up, so she started to scoot across the floor. She made it to the doorway and sat there for a while, holding her head and moaning.
Eventually, she rolled into the hallway and tried to hold onto the wall for support. Her hand slid down to the floor. She lay there for a few minutes before lifting her arms over her head. “I need help,” she admitted.
I bent down and stretched out my hands. I ignored the searing pain in my back and arms as she latched onto my hand splints and pulled herself up.
“Let me get you in bed.”
As soon as she was on her feet, she yelled, “I’m fine!” She giggled and shuffled to her room and slammed the door shut.
“I can’t do this!” I muttered.
I went back to my room and sat up in the bed. Fuming.
I didn’t volunteer for this assignment.
I wrestled with the idea of calling my husband, but he was on the road and wouldn’t be able to come home and help. Like it or not, this was all on me.
I can’t remember how long it took for me to calm down and get ready to try to go back to sleep, but before I could get under the covers, I heard her running back to the bathroom.
I went to check on her. She stood in the dark, trying to locate the light switch so she could find the toilet. And once again, she refused my help. I waited outside the door until she was finished and back in her room.
She was up and down several more times before I reached my limit and called it quits. I was done. No more. I closed my bedroom door, turned off the light, and pulled the covers over my head.
I heard her shuffling down the hall to the bathroom.
I refused to move.
I heard her stumble and fall.
I remained where I was.
She began coughing and gagging. I heard her flush the toilet.
I stayed where I was.
She got up three more times, but I didn’t move.
I had no idea what I would have to face at sunrise:
Her passed out on the floor again?
Her leaning over the toilet, vomiting?
I tried to pray because I didn’t want the cold, hard lock on my heart and mind to take over and become the norm.
“God help me!”
I couldn’t get beyond that desperate plea. I was ashamed of the hate and rage I felt. I knew those feelings were wrong.
Normally, she was fine to be around, one of the most loving and generous members of our family. It was not a secret that she drank. My husband and several family members had already confronted her and expressed their concerns about her drinking problem, but she refused to get help.
This was the first time that her drunkenness affected me. I was alone with her to deal with it. I never imagined I would have to face this monster one on one.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was fair, and I hated feeling like God was challenging me to honor my decision to exhibit grace throughout this year.
Would I be willing to dig deep and find it within myself to walk in love – not accepting the drunken stupor, but looking beyond it to the person who suffered from the sickening addiction? The person who needed love, compassion, and help from the Lord, just like I did?
I was ashamed of the foulness of my initial reaction.
The more I thought about it and prayed for God to fix my heart, I began to understand that I needed the Lord’s touch just as much as she did.
Her weakness was openly displayed.
Mine were just as awful and obnoxious, but they were hidden. People could not perceive those ugly thoughts, but God knew my heart and knew I needed healing.
I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I was aware that I was not without sin, so how could I want to be her judge and jury? I had no right to condemn her – only to speak the truth in love, and to pray for her, and to trust God to do the transforming work in her life.
Where was my compassion? My humility? My gentleness?
“Father, forgive me and give me the compassion I need to get through this.”
I understood that God’s grace and mercy covered me every day. Now, He was asking me to show grace to her, to be tender and loving, in spite of the difficulty of the situation.
The next morning, I scrubbed and cleaned the mess she’d made. I checked on her, and realized that God had radically changed my outlook and attitude and provided me with the strength to help her.
I never want to go through an experience like that again!
Our family realizes that she desperately needs help, so we have started making plans for an intervention. It won’t be easy, and I’m sure feelings will be hurt. Yet, I notice how this ordeal pulls the family closer as we learn how to confront the problem and to support our loved when she makes the decision to be sober.
Commitment. Encouragement. Prayer. Compassion. Trust. Humility. Some of the things I’ve noticed flowing more frequently and naturally as we come together. It’s God’s grace in action and on display.
It seems like God used this horrible ordeal to show me how easy it is to become self-righteous, to forget that He created each one of us in His image and that He loves us all.
I’m not sure I want to know what my next lesson on “G-R-A-C-E” will be, but I’m praying for the strength and courage to face it head-on. I’ll look back on this episode and remember how God got me through it and trust Him to get me through the next one, too.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your steadfast love, for the mercy You extend to us when we fall short. Forgive us when we judge others, when we get puffed up with self-righteousness and pride, when we forget that Your grace saves us. No matter how difficult the person or circumstance we find ourselves in, give us the wisdom we need to do Your will and reflect Your glory.
Scriptures for reflection:
(Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 12:7; Luke 10:30-37; John 8:1-11; Romans 14:10; Romans 15:1-13; Ephesians 4; Hebrews 4:16)