In my last post about learning to serve others out of pure love instead of a legalistic drive or need to impress, I mentioned some questions from a panel discussion called “Stepping into God’s Game Plan” and today I’ll address the first one –
Choice Overload – with so many great opportunities to be involved, how does a woman choose where to invest herself?
My desire is to grow in celebrating what Christ has done for me. I hope that over time, I will find my heart increasingly captivated by the gospel – learning more of God’s amazing love for unworthy me – and that I would so long to show others that same grace. I want to be driven by nothing more than genuine love for others stemming from his gracious love to me, yet I admit, I struggle to set my mind on grace. I know it will be a lifelong journey. Before I think about any “steps” that may be involved in deciding where to invest, I need to remember the big picture and ask myself: Am I growing in gospel-celebration? If not, what’s the point of my ministry investments?? Continue reading
Scriptures like these have begun to change the way I think about serving:
…Because I have heard of your faith in The Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you…(Ephesians 1:15-16)
We always thank God….since we heard of your faith in Christ and of the love that you have for all the saints. (Colossians 1:3-4)
I added the emphasis on “and” in both passages because that’s what stands out to me now, and these are the Scriptures that help explain to me part of what James meant by his teaching on faith and works:
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2)
James and Paul both made clear distinctions between God’s salvation of my soul through faith in Christ (something vertical) and my response of love for others (something horizontal). They are absolutely connected, but they do have aspects that are separate from each other. One has everything to do with my relationship with God made possible by Jesus’ work on the cross – a total grace gift, received through faith; the other has to do with an urge to share that love and grace with others and is NOT about me trying to repay him or earn the grace I’ve been given. The first is about what Jesus has done; the second is what I do for others in light of what Jesus has done for me.
The problem is that for most of my life, I’ve viewed service to others more as a statement I’m making to God. Almost like I’m making payments toward what he already purchased for me. Continue reading
There was a very special grace needed when we took the first steps to be foster parents. Nearly two and a half years later, knowing what we know now about the system, we’re in great need of grace again as we take a step back from that role and consider other ways we can help the families connected to foster care. This redirection of our plans has come as a surprise to us, but we are trusting that God has interrupted the plans for a good reason. We trust, but our feelings are peppered with sadness too. I had no idea it would be as hard and require as much faith to leave this role as it was to first step into it.
It’s hard to be a foster parent, but it’s a hard we wanted.
I think of my friend Heather who adopted a sibling group of three this summer. Being in that courtroom when the judge officially placed these children into their forever family brought such a deep joy. Adoptions are my favorite kind of worship service. This one was particularly meaningful to me. Continue reading
Last spring as I was working my way through Habakkuk for the first time, something a pastor said about grief really caught my attention and made me think about it in a whole new light.
It was Tullian Tchividjian whose words spoke powerfully, “Grief is an expression of worship.”
What he meant and went on to describe was that every feeling we have when we grieve is a declaration that this world is not our home, that something more exists and our hearts recognize and long for that. The mere feeling of grief is a way to worship God, testifying to his great plan for more, for true life. I hadn’t thought of that. I always thought of worship, if it came, as something that happens in spite of grief. But there’s an element of worship right there in my grief.
So what are we to do with that?
A little over a year ago, I experienced something that devastated my sense of God’s love for a little while. At ten weeks into a joyful surprise pregnancy, I lost the baby my heart (still) aches for. It was my second miscarriage, but this one was different. From both losses surged grief deeper than I ever thought possible for this type of death, but the more recent one messed with my heart in ways I’d never experienced before. Maybe it was because I hadn’t planned the pregnancy in the first place – God just made it happen, not at all in accordance with our plans, and planted a new joy of expectation in our family; maybe it had to do with the roller coaster experience earlier in the pregnancy of believing I had lost the baby to discovering the miraculous reality that I had not and then having that happiness torn away two weeks later when the miscarriage abruptly happened. All of those things led me to one thought toward God: “How could you be so mean to me?” Continue reading
I spent four weeks this summer with a group of wonderful women studying the book of Habakkuk, and leading this study was a huge joy. Habakkuk is one of those books that no one studies ever. At least not most people I know! If you’ve ever glanced at this short, three-chapter book of prophecy found in the Old Testament, your first assessment might be that it reads completely depressing. I don’t think you’d be wrong in assuming that it is a difficult text to work through, full of topics heavy to the heart and issues that aren’t the most fun to explore. (It’s all about suffering, in case you didn’t know.) But, I LOVE this book. Absolutely love it! My Bible study friends who journeyed to the end all agreed – when deeply dug into, this book mines treasures of hope and is filled with good news. Ploughing through the difficult, dark, and depressing was worth it because we saw God sow seeds of joy in our hearts that we didn’t expect. Continue reading
A new blogging season has begun, and I’m writing from a bit of a different place these days. I know that the entirety of my life has been wrapped up in the beautiful grace of God, but my understanding of that grace has changed quite a bit over the last year. The grace isn’t new, but it feels new. I guess it’s been about a year and a half since God started me on a journey to discover new layers of his grace that I’d paid little attention to before. He began to peel back layers of legalism that had a tight grip on me, surprising me with insight into my messed up heart and showering me with his good, gracious love. And He hasn’t let up! The journey continues. His grace is changing me. I may be changing slowly, but his grace does not and will not stop working. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful. From that gratitude flows my desire to write again, to share how he’s illuminating for me some of these truths about his grace.
If I could summarize these grace lessons in a somewhat concise statement, it would be this: God has directed my mind and warmed my heart to the great need I have for the gospel today. His gift of grace – Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – was not useful just for the day I received his forgiveness, put my belief in Him and became a Christian. It is for EVERY day. It is for the right now struggle going on in my heart, and only the gospel (grace) has the power to transform me, grow me, make me anything I should be as a child of God. My own efforts mean nothing, and I’m just now beginning to get that. My understanding of it is small, my awareness of it young, but my heart is captivated and I’m eager to learn more. I realize more and more how little I know about the sweet gospel of grace that both saved and presently empowers me.
In many ways, it appears to be this huge, multi-faceted and mysterious concept that I’ll never conquer knowing, so why would I put the word “simple” alongside it on the title of this blog? Here’s the deal. Learning grace hasn’t been simple. But I can testify that every bit of grace grasped simplifies my spiritual life. My relationship with Jesus has been important to me for a very long time, but I see now how much I’ve worked at it, missing out on the freedom he longs to bring through grace-informed living. I’ve added so much to it and pursued way too much “doing” without truly being motivated by thankfulness for his grace. My daily service to him, my ministry opportunities, the disciplines of Bible study and prayer are all simplified by a focus on grace, a belief in the cross as enough and that I do not have to make myself better. He has done everything. And he will complete the work he began in me. So I plan to write about those things I’m starting to see through this new lens of grace – the treasures in God’s Word that work on my heart as I study the Bible; the roles that I have as a wife and mother; the experiences I have in serving that right now involve things such as foster care and mentoring through a local ministry to low-income children but might be something entirely different tomorrow. I hope this blog is compelling for those of you who want to know more of Jesus – that it moves you toward Him, but my other hope is that it is a breath of fresh air for all who read!