Ultimate Joy

Posts Tagged ‘grace

The symptoms hit me during a Saturday morning meeting. A low grade headache, nausea and muscle aches came on suddenly. All I wanted was the comfort of my bed. It wasn’t the onset of the flu. No, I recognized the symptoms as burnout brought on by a long, busy week. Because of the frequent times I operated outside of my comfort zone that week, my body was simply telling me, “I need some rest.”

Not wanting to give in to my fatigue, I did the next best thing or so I reasoned. When I got home I grabbed a good book and laid down on the couch. My thought was to read a chapter or two, then get up and tackle my list of chores. But you know the story…I got comfortable, warm, contented. Quickly the book was put aside and I took a much needed nap.

When I woke up, my body felt rested; so much so I also didn’t want to get up. I was cozy, relaxed, ready to camp out on the couch for the rest of the evening. Only one problem, though. I had signed up to serve communion that evening at church. That’s when my contentment started speaking to me. “You don’t really have to go. It’s a big church. They don’t need you. They have plenty of volunteers. Someone else will do your work.” I snuggled even further under the blanket lingering longer on the couch.Trays of Bread and Wine for Communion

Yet the Bible is very clear about situations like this. Matthew 5:37 tells us, “Let your ‘yes’ by ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” A war began stirring in my soul. I didn’t want to get up. I simply didn’t want to go to church that evening. I wanted to savor one of the few moments of rest I had that week. “I don’t want to go,” I explained out loud to my dog curled up on the floor at my feet.

But I had given my word.

Reluctantly, I rose from the couch and drove to the service. There I discovered the most interesting dynamic: God didn’t tell us that our word should be our bond to be mean. No, He told us that to safeguard our character. Had I stayed on the couch that evening, I doubt anyone would have noticed. But I would have sold out my reputation, my integrity for a few extra moments on the sofa. In the long run, it just wasn’t worth the price.

After distributing the elements, I returned to my seat and held them preciously in my hands. They offered me redemption of another kind; soul redemption, an eternity with my creator. Having struggled to be there, I saw the sacrament in a new light.

When you say ‘yes’ to God, you become a living, breathing, walking display of His glory. All of us are just one step of obedience away from the next great, godly adventure and the mountaintop moments that follow. Are you willing to abandon what makes you comfortable to embrace what makes you fulfilled? Are you ready to exchange cozy for the confidence He provides?

Not only did God love us enough to die on a cross, He loved us enough to send a roadmap to a more joyful life. All we need to do is let our ‘yes’ by ‘yes.’

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Used

Posted on: May 14, 2012

Listen up, all you coffee drinkers and Starbucks devotees. This is probably the only time we’ll be talking about coffee on this site.   I never developed a taste for it and I probably never will.  Love the smell of it, though. 

My husband has a bad habit of leaving his used coffee grounds in the sink. Why he can’t put them in the trash is beyond me. One day, as I got ready to toss them into the garbage, I took a minute to ponder them. Do you feel ever feel used up liked old coffee grounds? Tired and past your prime.

I searched the Internet and found there are many ways to use old coffee grounds. Everything from exfoliant to hair conditioner, plant fertilizer to temporary tattoos. So even when we think we are used up, we’re not.

Think about Paul.  Prior to his conversion, he was dedicated to the persecution of the early followers of Christ. In his writings, he called himself the worst of all sinners. Despite this, once converted, he maintained a healthy identity in Christ. He did not wallow in his sins or let his guilt over them prevent him from doing God’s work. Paul knew Christ’s death set him free from all his sins and their condemnation. Something utterly amazing happened to Paul; he moved onward and didn’t stagnate because of his inner failings.  He asked for forgiveness from sin and moved his eyes toward one goal – becoming more like Jesus.

Looking at those used up coffee grounds in the sink, I was overwhelmed by God’s love. My identity in Christ is secure…even when life grinds me up, uses me up and spits me out.  Paul was not a spiritual anomaly. The freedom he found in Christ, the positive, uplifting, inspiring identity he found in our Savior, is ours, also. We only need to own our mistakes and move on.

Like old coffee grounds, there are a myriad ways God can use us, even when we think we’re not good enough to be used. So like Paul, let’s be quick to receive God’s grace so guilt won’t paralyze us. Let’s make room in our hearts and souls for the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to fill every inch of our heart and soul. May the only things we wallow in be His light and His love.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2.

“$15,000!”  I screamed into the telephone. “Who needs $15,000 of adult incontinence diapers?”

 “Not to worry,” the lady on the other side of the conversation calmly told me.  “I can see someone has hacked into your credit card. We’ll remove the charge and issue you a new credit card.”

Yet, even after I hung up the phone, an anger smoldered in me. A thief had stolen from me. Well, Imagetechnically from the credit card company. Still, I was miffed. I felt like part of me had been taken, also. And adult incontinence diapers?  I was getting old, admittedly, but I still didn’t need those – yet.

Knowing I had to quickly douse my rage, the Holy Spirit reminded me it was a thief Christ ushered into His kingdom with the words, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) A thief similar to the one that charged over $15,000 on my credit card was in heaven now.  Because he believed. And Jesus granted the thief grace.

Which is exactly what I needed to do – grant the thief grace. That’s when the tears started. But these weren’t tears of frustration, of pain or even of sheer exhaustion. In the midst of thinking of the thief on the cross, I was overwhelmed.  I was taken aback by how completely and utterly loved I am by my Savior. A savior that has given me His story to tell, something to live for, something to hold onto.  In a word, grace.

Because, truth be told, I am no better than the thief. Yet Christ spoke His love to me in a powerful and consuming way; He died for me. His death was confirmation of so many promises. A promise that He will never leave or forsaken me.  A promise that all things work together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

There is tough stuff in this life, challenges that seem too heavy to bear. (And honestly, challenges that far exceed those of a stolen credit card. ) My encouragement to you is to remind yourself daily of the promises wrapped up in those nail-scarred hands. The promises that comfort from His ever-sustaining Word. You see, He is writing our stories in the midst of our trials:  stories of His faithfulness to you, stories of His relentless pursuit of you, stories that will become your testimony to His goodness towards you.

The story He has woven for me is a gift only He can give. A story I can reflect on and praise Him for His goodness towards me. A story that overwhelms me with His love.

And as life moves forward, He will continue to shape it into what He wants it to be for me.