Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?

Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?

A classic, arguable question that can be easily answered if one looks to the Word.  On the fifth day, God created “every winged bird according to its kind.” Genesis 1:21b. So, there you have it – he did not create all the eggs to hatch, but he created the winged bird first.

Who should reach out first when an offense has been made?

A tough question, but also easily answered if one looks to the Word.  Since the days following creation, God has been offended throughout history.  Yet, in love, He reached out with his Son, Jesus; John 3:16 explains – “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son…” – Why? So that all the offenders, of God the Father, could be forgiven and given the ability to go to heaven and have eternal life.  John 3:17 tells us what Jesus was NOT given for: with grace, “God did not send his Son into to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.

God reached out first and that’s what we ought to do also…in love and in grace.

What kind of picture would humanity be in if God waited for the offenders (us) to reach out to him before he gave his only Son to die?  I know God would still be waiting, because we are naturally a stubborn people, and there would be no hope in this life. But no, and thank God, He did not wait.  HE LOVED US FIRST is what 1 John 4:19 tells us. Not because we deserved it, but because God is mercy.

“We love, because he first loved us.”

There you have it – We, who have been offended, must reach out first in love and in grace and offer continual love and mercy to the one who maybe doesn’t deserve it.

In this action, HOPE will prevail and relationships will be healed, as our broken humanity is healed through the blood & sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  May this New Year be a year of healing broken relationships:  between you and God, and between you and others, in love, grace, and mercy.

He Saw Me in the Future!

Have you ever had the experience of someone coming up from behind you, clamping their hands over your eyes, without warning, exclaiming, “Guess who!”  For a moment you are confused, caught unaware, and then by scent or voice recognition, you take a guess.  Sometimes it is clear, other times it is a surprise – either way, the hands are lifted off your eyes and there is perfect revelation and joy as you recognize the playful spirit behind the mystery.

That’s how it was for me when I gave more thought to an all too familiar passage of scripture: Romans 5:8.  Jesus died for me, while I was a sinner.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  How many times had I heard this read from the pulpit or proclaimed by a fellow church-goer on communion Sunday.  Like hands clamped over my eyes, I had guessed at the meaning nonchalantly.  I get it. I am a sinner and Christ died for me. Plain and simple on the surface, I thought I knew whose hands were covering my eyes.   Aaaaah! – but when the hands came off, I saw so much more –  recognition of truth in this all too familiar passage.

Do you see?

While!

It’s in the word while…..

WHILE I was a sinner….HE SAW ME IN THE FUTURE!  He saw past me – the sinner – and chose to pour grace out on me and save me from the punishment of my sins….this is the revealed mystery.  Jesus sees us beyond our sinful state!  Before we were born, before we physically sinned, He saw us through it all and died for us; Grace poured out in faith and love, abundantly. 

In turn, we ought to do the same.

We need to see beyond people’s sin. No avoiding, no judging, but instead: pour grace abundantly.  The mystery paid forward: we need to see others as Jesus sees them – just as he sees us; God sees all of us as His children.

Friend, Jesus sees you in the future as well and He died for you too.

What an awesome verse! 

Quoting the words from a recent conversation with Bill Vanderbush, “Jesus is even better than we think.”

 

 

 

 

Too Much Grace?

Rhetorically speaking,

Is there such a thing as too much grace?

That is what I want to know with much exasperation as I scramble to come up and out from under, being crushed by yet another disappointment in a relationship.

I mean, how many times do I offer grace?

I  feel used. I  feel baffled.  I  feel angry.

Have you ever felt that way?  You give and give and pardon and give….and wonder if it makes any difference.

With a heavy heart and tears welling up, I speed out of my driveway.

The colored leaves nearly gone, exposing the stark, dead-ness of winter coming seems an appropriate picture of this situation; dried up and bare.  Yet, like grace poured out, the limitless sky and  clouds, illuminated by the sun, offset the trees and creates a brilliant crisp image before me; perfectly beautiful. And that ‘s how grace is , isn’t it – perfectly beautiful.

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My thoughts turn to Jesus as I praise Him for the beauty.  And the answer came forth:

No, there is no such thing as too much grace.

1 Timothy 1:14 tells of ABUNDANT grace poured out onto us – onto me, along with faith & love.

Dried up and bare, I ponder…

…how much grace was poured over me before I was a believer? How much grace is STILL being poured over me as I continually strive to walk this walk in Jesus’ Way?

Humbled by my own need for grace, all my angst disappeared. Truth fills me; no longer dried up and bare. Truth refuels and centers us, doesn’t it?

Jesus gives ABUNDANT amounts of grace.  In fact, “abundant” conveys it is even more than is needed.

I answer my own rhetorical question as the drive in my car comes to an end.

Nope!… there is never too much grace.

Thank the LORD for that, yes?   I am continually poured upon…therefore, in His image, I must keep pouring grace out upon others, with faith and with love. Won’t you join me in this venture to keep on pouring out grace abundantly?

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Weary Child Held

The LORD allowed me this:

A quiet day.

Not a single one to be in my way.

So I slunk back into the warmth of my blankets and slept for a while longer. One cat at the nook of my knees, the other alongside my back and the dog by my side on the floor.  Comfort hovered.

Hot water flowed and the steam engulfed as I reveled in the uninterrupted shower.

A breakfast eaten in solitude.

And a time to study the Word in the morning sunlight as a gentle fall breeze drifted by…274

Yes, I chose to stop today.  I chose to be still.  It was a hard choice because many things called after me in my mind, chasing me and taunting me to go. Do. Get busy.

The Word filled me and I was left with this conversation today.

Just me and the LORD.

Me: “Oh dear…what do you see when you see me LORD?”

Kinda scary. Right out there.

My mind reflected on my failures and my shortcomings; the traps I fall into repeatedly. Yet, I was soothed by recalling that Jesus stands between me and my Father God’s eyes as He looks upon me.

Despite my dark heart, Jesus clears the vision and I heard God responding to my conversation starter…

LORD: “I see my weary child with a desire to praise me and serve me.”

Like a single leaf in the cradle of my hands, I was held gently in the palm of His hands and Grace washed over me.

Hope stood firm in my presence.

Friend,

hope can stand with you as well.

Simply. I just wanted to share my experience of the LORD’s compassion today.

Be encouraged my friend.  The days are long and difficult, yet the blessing of stopping for the reading of God’s Word and the initiation of conversation with Him is abundantly rich.

 

 

 

WOW, every time!

Typically,

the baby is named.

Then soon after,

the other names, begin to flow.

My parents named me, Sheryl.

But, some used to call me Sherry and Sher… logical to see the connection.

The other names I had were buggy, and zipper, and twinkle toes, and whaaa-bird…not so easy to see the connection. That is because these other names were born out my looks or of things I did or things I had.

Buggy? …because our family car was a Volkswagon Bug – the only one in the neighborhood.

Zipper? …because I was so skinny – my friend’s older brother teased that if I stood sideways and stuck my tongue out, I’d look just like a zipper.

Twinkle-toes? …because I spent many hours in the ballet studio – twenty years of dancing in fact.

Whaaa-bird? Because I would let out an audible Whaaa sound every time I picked up 2″x 12″x 16′ planks – I worked as a carpenter for  a while in my young adulthood.

Names.

We all have them.  Some we like, some (?) – maybe not so much.  But all the names tell others who we are and often give an indication to what we are about.

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I love the fact that no matter how many times I read the Word, I find fresh nuggets of truth.

The One and Only.  This name just never stuck out.  Honestly, I never noticed it.

But, the other day…the three words, One and Only, jumped right off the pages of the book of John, and hit me!

What an awesome name!

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I read it.  I pondered it.  I rolled it around and around in my imaginings….and came up with WOW every time! Imagine,

to be the ONE and ONLY.

I love it!

I love that Jesus is named this way so that there is no question.  Not even room for a hint of confusion. John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” 1:14

and then in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s right side, has made him known.”

It’s in the name.

Who is He?

The One begotten Son from God the Father…

The One who is at God the Father’s right side…alive…in heaven, now (is = present tense)…

It’s in the name.

What is He about?

The One who makes the Father known to us…

God the One and Only meaning Jesus is God;

and Jesus revealed to us who God the Father is through His actions on earth.

No question!  Such a clear depiction of Jesus.  I love that we do not have to try and figure out who the One and Only is …the Word tells us.  Don’t you just love it when everything is obviously clear?

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The One and Only, full of grace and truth, came to draw us into faith so that we would believe on Him.  The One and Only willingly took on the sins of us all, died on the cross, and arose victorious, and lives today at the right side of the Father: Truth.  And Grace.

I know whom I believe in; whom I pray to; whom I worship!  No confusion.

How about you?

Listen and be blessed.

 Praising God for giving us the One and Only!

SIX DAYS and COUNTING!

Meditations on a Swing Set

Gazing out at the snow covered swing set in my back yard

a string of thoughts

was set into motion.

Child’s play. It is all a prep.

A revving up to the heart break of parenting.

Do you remember?

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The two year old struggling to get on a swing….?

Chuckling, a twitch of heart pang feels for the child who has no skill yet.

The three year old who sits and calls to you: “Push me!”

Smiling, a sympathetic heart watched as the child attempted the swing motion with uncoordinated thrusting back and forth that resulted in no momentum at all.

Now the child can push himself. And he swings with oblivious abandon.

No chuckles anymore, fear has come. We hear the thud and then the cry; he fell off the swing….clocked his brother in the crossing…and the two collided.  Heart aches.

Higher and higher the swinging goes.  The poles rise up out of the ground and slam down into the ground again.  A warning is given.  But it falls on deaf ears.

The heart hurts.

Cringing accompanies the fear now and a rehearsal recalling the quickest route to hospital is begun in the mind.  And the eyes continue to watch…

He jumps off and exclaims, “Geronimo! Look at me!”

The heart skips a beat. Maybe two.

This time there is no run to the hospital.  This time.

A revving up.  A prep for the heart ache in the raising of our children.

My heart has swelled with feeling and sympathy.  My heart has ached, and hurt, and skipped many a beat.

Then and now. Even more now.

The swing set has been replaced by a bigger play on life.

What to do?

Then I thought, Apply the lessons to me.

I am the child and my God is the Father.

At times…

Why do I pursue life, on my own, without Him?

Why do I  thrust myself forward and back unproductively?

Why do I pump harder and harder without attention to my surroundings?

Why do I turn a deaf ear to the warnings of my Father?

How have I caused my Father heart ache?

Is not my Father also looking down with a heart chuckling feeling for me; Does His heart not ache, and hurt, and perhaps skip a beat as He has had  to watch me stumble along in my way?

And yet.

He is patient.  He is compassionate. He is ever forgiving.

Mercy and Grace are poured out upon my walk with Him.

And so too should I be.

God, my Father, is a lover of hearts,

a changer of hearts.

Hearts are HIS main concern!

And so too should be my way.

So I continuously turn my heart back to Him and pray.

Forgive me LORD, for all I have done to cause your heart to ache.

LORD, grant me the gentleness of heart to offer mercy and grace to my children.  May you give me your wisdom in guiding them.  Help me to be patient and compassionate and forgiving. 

Even when my own heart is breaking.

There is HOPE in the cleansed heart….HOPE for the changed heart…

all for the Glory of God!

HOPE!

“Have-to’s” and “Want-to’s”

Reality and desire clash. 

The “have-to’s” and the “want-to’s” whirl and swirl in her mind like the colored leaves that are momentarily lifted off the ground by the gusty winds of autumn.  Like a child, she runs to grasp the leaf of responsibility, only to be lured by the brighter, more colorful leaf of pleasure.  The gust returns and the leaves are scattered again.

Which way does she run?

Which leaf to choose?

Where will it fall?

How will she know?

And so, which way does she run?

Consequently the girl stands, motionless.  Overwhelmed.  Again.

The “have-to’s” are things that must be done.  Responsibility, duty, obligation, and consequence are their names…these are the “have-to’s.”  These are things that beckon and fill her heart with unrest because they are ongoing, never ending, and unrewarding in the immediate sense of things.  With varying degrees of willingness and cheerfulness, the necessary get done.

“Have-to’s” are big leaves. Ordinary leaves; usually dulled and generally brown, earthy colors.  Plentiful, they make up the bulk of the pile.

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“Want-to’s” are harder to find in the whirl and swirl.  Pleasure, satisfaction, energy and possibility are the names of “want-to’s.”  These are the things that delight and tickle the girl’s imagination and lures her into a lulling hope.  One day.  One day she will sit and enjoy and create and soak in the special-ness and lavish-ness of the moment.  With varying degrees of patience she waits expectantly.

“Want-to’s” are the searched-for leaves.  The prized leaves when found.  They are the ones the child holds up in the air for all to see and exclaims, “I found it! Look at THIS one!”  These leaves are vibrant.  Only a few are found in the pile.

And the gust bursts forth again.  She stands mesmerized and paralyzed, and the leaves brush up against her legs.  Which way to run?  Which. Way. To. Run.

Reminded.  She falls to her knees and prays.  Surrounded by big, brown leaves she prays.

Father…..

She tells Him, quite honestly, she’s tired.  She is overwhelmed and gives the search up. Her tears fall.  She wants to see as He sees.  To know as He knows.  And to do what pleases Him.

Sighing. She is done praying.  Opening her eyes, another gust causes her to squint against the breeze.

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The Father answers.  A bright red-orange leaf gently settles on her lap. This leaf’s name is Grace.  Special and lavish, it is a gift given.

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The “have-to’s” are all that overwhelm me in this daily life and the “want-to’s” are the dreams of things I wish to experience and do.  The girl; she, is me. So aptly I was reminded of Psalm 142 this past Sunday and given the remedy for surviving the overwhelmed-ness of life in general.

Pray.  “I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.  I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” Ps. 142:1b & 2

And also, think upon.  God’s Word.  Who He is.  Who I am before Him.  More of Him and less of me, and wait.

And pray some more.

Friends, I have been mesmerized and paralyzed for weeks as the brown leaves have been raging in gusts against my legs.  So sweet is the moment I have been given in holding the vibrant colorful leaf in my hand today.

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Grace is falling down on me and Grace will fall down upon you as well because our Father is a grace-giving God who answers prayer.

Friends, I encourage you to pray and think upon.  So with me, you might be like the child victorious, exclaiming the delight in the gifting of the prized leaf!

The leaf named Grace.

Tuesday Tidbit: I Did This on Purpose.

Where is the head of your bed?

Most people have the head of their beds against a wall.  I do not.  The head of my bed is in the middle of the room; it sits somewhat like an island.  As I lay upon my bed, I have direct viewing out a double set of windows which face east.  The morning sunshine pours in through the glass and tickles my face with a very pleasant, “good morning!”

Slowly I open my eyes and a contented smile comes over my face and I cannot resist the moment of thanking God for my cozy bed, the warm sun, and the new day.

 I did this on purpose.  I chucked all conventional rules of room arranging and specifically positioned my bed in this particular way so that I could always greet each day with a view out the windows at the tree tops and the sky.  Day or night, it is pleasing.  And, I feel peace.

The tidbit is this: We have to purpose ourselves and specifically arrange ourselves to turn toward the Lord Jesus Christ, author and perfecter of our faith.  Day or night, He is pleasing.  He is our Peace.

As the familiar old chorus calls us: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

…listen to this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90

Can you agree these are troubled times we live in?  And, there are troubled times sure to continue to come.  All the more reason to chuck conventional plodding along in this life, and TURN to face the Son….and be delighted as He shines into your every new day! 

47 Things on Thursdays: The Saturation

“Jobette” is the pet-name I gave myself as I endured my trial with Cancer.  Like Job in the scriptures, I was physically tormented with pain and sores in my illness.  I experienced humiliation and loss.  Days were spent writhing and wrestling.  And in my pride, the pride I did not think I owned, I indignantly questioned God.

In patience, my God generously poured out grace upon me.  Undeservingly, I basked in the lavishness.  Despite my ignorance, looking over and beyond my pride, He let loose a steady stream of grace.

Having raised nine toddlers, I have had much opportunity to observe the young pour themselves a cup of refreshment.  Not having mature eye hand coordination, each toddler has naturally overflowed the cup, resulting in a liquid spill onto the counter and the floor, often causing the cup to tip over  before the toddler sized coordination is able to stop the action of pouring.  This is the picture I have when I envision God pouring out His grace upon me.  Overflowing and spilling over by choice.  Not because he is unable to coordinate his eyes and hands, but because he chooses to keep pouring a steady stream until I am totally saturated.

Grace.  After twenty three years of following and studying the Lord, ya think I would know well the concept of grace.  In my head, I knew it well. Defined as a free gift, I knew it. Yet, I confess, that I am just beginning to really know grace now.  One of 47 things I know is that God

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Gentle in His ways, my God works in my heart.  “I had to give way and trust that my Father, my Abba Father, was healing and doing an even greater work in my heart where the soul lives” (*Towdah p. 127).  Submitting to the understanding that I might never be healed of my physical affliction I learned that the healing of my heart was of more importance.

The residue of cancer treatments leaves its mark on my life and keeps me in a weakened state and God continues to work in my heart.  I am finally “getting – it.”  The saturation of grace is now beginning to flow out of me and into my vision and into my actions. I want to pour it out too!

Now, I indignantly question myself.  Why had I not been more generous with grace before?  Why had I not desired to pour it out with toddler ambition? 

Sadly I see and sadly I admit it is because I was too full of pride.  Grace and pride cannot co-exist. Like Job, “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3b).   In my pride, I was unable to access grace in a way that would allow me to receive it fully; I was not able to comprehend the fullness of the gift.

I believe, my Father God has been working in my heart for the last twenty three years.  Twenty three years of gently rubbing against my pride and finally it is being purged!  Now grace is able to be known in my heart – defined by true visceral understanding, allowing me fuller comprehension of the gift my God has been freely and lavishly spilling.  My heart is changing.  And that my friend, is where its at.

The message spoken through the prophet Ezekiel to Israel is pertinent even today, even for me, even for you,  “I will cleanse you from all your impurities…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:25b,26a)  Only God can change a heart and make it new.  This is the working of grace.  Saturated daily, I am praising my God for what I know about Him: He works in my heart!  

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Come back next Thursday for another offering of what I know about my God!

* Towdah: A Cancer Survivor’s Song of Hope is available at Amazon.com