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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Cross_Passion_Week

Jesus

Betrayed ruthlessly

Arrested unjustly

Abandoned callously

Tried illegally

Beaten brutally

Crucified unfairly

Buried anonymously

Arose victoriously

Jesus

Son of God

Light of the world

Lord of Lords

King of Kings

Messiah

Savior

Redeemer

Lover of my Soul

Jesus

Compassion continual

Truth unerring

Humility personified

Grace without limit

Mercy repeatedly

Power eminent

Peace unending

Joy overflowing

Love unconditional

Christ himself was like God in everything.
But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit.
But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.
He was born as a man
and became like a servant.
And when he was living as a man,
he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God,
even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
So God raised him to the highest place.
God made his name greater than every other name
so that every knee will bow to the name of Jesus—
 everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
And everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
and bring glory to God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11 (NCV)
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img_1315For the last three plus years I have surrounded myself with kids. I’ve always enjoyed children, especially my own, but sometimes a few could really get on my nerves. Honest confession: I like kids who behave. But as I’ve grown older, I think I have more grace than when my own children were younger.

Quite a few years ago, when I helped out in a kids’ ministry to 4th-6th graders, I’d get exasperated with the kiddos who enjoyed causing turmoil. I think they felt it was their calling in life. “Let’s get Kris to lose her temper.”  And each Wednesday night, I left irritated. Now I know the Bible says to love everyone, but these little ones got on my very last nerve every week. So much for showing the love to Jesus to the world, right?

img_2090Then came a seven year hiatus, when I basically had no ministry responsibilities. I spent a lot of alone time with Jesus. Through a series of events, I felt a mindset shift in many areas. I made intentional choices to get healthy, ready my Bible, lose weight, reconnect with friends and family, take up running, explore new adventures. Somewhere in the course of that time, I fell in love with kids again…even those that used to irritate me. Of course, I don’t have involvement with those same kids from way back, but I still encounter children whose sole purpose in life is to disrupt whatever environment they are in. They’re really good at it too. But God has given me a supernatural love for them. No way could this be on my own. And on top of that, I love all the other ones too. The ones who are wild and crazy, the one whose smile lights a room, and the ones who are shy and reserved.

img_1567Every child needs to know they are valued and loved, no matter their behavior. The world they live in is turbulent and scary so I want to be a safe place for each one. A place they can go for encouragement, a hug, a prayer, maybe even a little face-to-face “what ARE you doing?” if necessary. I want them to see Jesus in all that I say and do. Occasionally I get in someone’s face to confront behavior that is unacceptable (cheating, lying, bullying are non-negotiables), but mostly I want them to really know they are loved…by me and most importantly, by God. I still make mistakes…many times. But I’m relying on the grace and mercy of God. He loves those kids more than I do!

I am blessed to be a part of the kids’ ministry at our church. We have preschool through high school as part of our Wednesday night program. This week is our last JAM (Jesus and Me) of the school year and though I’m tired, I’m sad too. Once the program is finished, I may not see some of these kids again until September, or maybe not at all.  We have such a small window of time and opportunity…make it a count. These kids are worth it!

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I love the adrenaline rush of a busy day but as I get older I find the downslope of that mountain can turn treacherous. I spend my day being extra helpful and gracious to people I don’t know (good thing) but then I’m grumpy with those who love me best (bad thing). I’ve expended tons of energy to do my job well but have nothing in the tank for after hours.

So, at the end of my crazy busy work week (with a crazy busy and emotionally draining weekend ahead), I’ve decided: (1) my best self needs to be given to my husband and children; (2) I will not beat myself up over silly mistakes; and (3) even keel is my best speed and serves others best also.

In the midst of the late 90s revival services, I received advice from a well known speaker: You cannot live on the mountain top experiences. And there is no medal for wallowing in the valley. You must attempt to live as steady as possible, enjoying the changes in terrain but always striving for level.

So when my schedule is wonky and my temper is short, I will remember those other wise words: “This too shall pass.” Leveling out and moving on. Giving and receiving grace. Enjoying the journey, not trying to win the race. Oh yes, a visit from puppies never hurts.

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It’s not even a word – but it so accurately describes my life. I have a lot of unexpectedlies – every day. And so do you. At first, I was blindsided by happenings in my life that I never planned for. Death. Accidents. Job loss. Broken relationships. All these and more kept me off balance, sometimes teetering on the edge of grief and despair. I felt more fear than faith – dreading the next bend in the road.

One weekend TrailI had an epiphany. I came to realize, with the wooing of the Holy Spirit, that these unexpectedlies are opportunities. Opportunities to find blessing in the midst of sadness. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing in the midst of pain. Instead of finding the gray on the backside of every cloud, I really do attempt to find the silver lining.

This past month, three close friends have passed away. One was my beautiful daughter-in-law’s father. He was a huge influence in my life, in the lives of my friends and family. Another was a man who helped me navigate the stress of my first radio job, moving from co-worker to great friend. He and his lovely wife gave me support in the hardest time of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. Just this past Tuesday, another friend entered in the presence of Jesus. We’d only known each other three years but we became the best of buddies, joined together through our love of the Chicago Cubs and our little church family.

Each man was an unexpectedly in my life – unexpected voices of encouragement and affirmation, sometimes challenging, always loving and supportive. I am a blessed woman to have known these three and I am so grateful I was able to run part of my life’s race alongside them.

Takeaway – celebrate the unexpectedlies. Look for the blessing in each one. Grow through the experience. Choose to respond to each one with grace and forgiveness. Love fiercely because unexpectedlies happen…every day.

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Pet Peeves. I’ve come to the realization that pet peeves are just subtle forms of complaining but acceptable because we all have them (plural). Many of us could make a list: Top 10 Pet Peeves (and still have plenty left over for a second or third list).

There are those who specialize in grammar, harping on “their/they’re/there” and “accept/except” and “lay/lie” and of course, “you’re/your.” These people have become more vocal as texting and social media posting have become the norm. At least once a day I see a post on my timeline bemoaning the lack of proper grammar on Facebook. Personally, I won’t repost any cute meme if it contains a misspelled word…I’m guilty of being a Grammar Czar.

Maybe you have issues with technology…more specifically, those of us who are trying to keep up with technology. Do you do an eye-roll when encountering one of us old people trying to learn a smartphone? Yes you do…admit it. Do you sigh in exasperation when you text and text and text, with no response…not even a “k”? Or maybe you deplore the overuse of emojis.

I have a tech pet peeve list: GPS that takes me to the wrong address, iPhone batteries that don’t hold a charge (Thank you, Apple), and computers that (fill in the blank). Enough already – that list could get long real fast.Pet_Peeve_Toilet_paper

Then we have those whose pet peeves surround their idea of acceptable behavior, always willing to judge others on bad parenting, disobedient children, too fast/too slow drivers, tardiness and loud public conversations on cell phones, etc… For every behavior, we have someone who doesn’t like it.

Let’s admit it. Pet peeves, especially those that surround someone else and their behavior, is judging. You are assuming you are right, in whatever opinion you have, and the other person is wrong. We would all agree that none of us are perfect (especially when it’s us), but we still want everyone else to be our definition of perfect.

In the morning I grouse about slow drivers on the interstate and on the way home, I complain about the fast drivers speeding by me. Thank God for the “edit” button on Facebook postings because I have typed so many grammatical errors, I could fill an English textbook.

In an ongoing attempt to make better choices, I’ve been working on my decision to complain, instead of expressing gratitude. I proclaimed a “no complaining day” this past week. It was mildly successful – mostly because I posted a “no whining zone” sign on my desk and posted about it to keep myself accountable. But every day? It’s hard. So, once again, I’m making the choice to give people (myself included) some grace. To show love, instead of judgment. To offer a smile, instead of a frown, when I see something I may not agree with. I’m not going to compromise my convictions…but they are MY convictions and as long as no one is being hurt, I can live with a little public cell phone conversation.

P.S. Scripture shows a history of complainers who got what they deserved…some major heat and a few extra years in the wilderness.

“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” Numbers 11:1

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.” Psalm 45:1-2

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I was pretty stuck when thinking about what to blog about today. Most of the day I was nursing a bad attitude. I was irritated about almost everything, spinning anything to my “Poor me” perspective.

Then…I received a very nice surprise. My favorite (and only) sister walked into my office. She had come to town unannounced to get some freelance work done and suddenly, my gloomy, rainy, crappy day got a ray of sunshine. 

Isn’t it cool how God knows what we need when we need it? Many of you will call it a coincidence that my sister just happened to surprise me on a day when I was feeling blue but I’m not one who puts much stock in coincidences. I believe God cares about me, and desires to send “suddenlies” into my life. I believe God wants to show me His love, His grace and His favor in the everyday circumstances of life, even to orchestrating surprises to lift my spirits. 

My beautiful sister surprised me with her visit today, but she didn’t surprise God. He knew how blessed I would be to see her face, feel her hug and of course, listen to our laughter together. And now I have some together time to look forward to. No more gloomy day – now all I feel is warm and cozy. 

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“Please, sweet baby. Just go to sleep.” The poor mama was almost in tears. So many late nights trying to get her young son to sleep. She knew that once he settled down, he would be fine, but he was stubborn and just would not fall to sleep without her presence. Their apartment was too small to allow him to “cry it out” which was the suggestion almost everyone gave the new parents.

“He’ll stop soon enough. Let him cry.” Well, he must not have listened to their advice because he could cry, and cry, and cry, without wearing down at all. Conscious of their thin walls, and trying to be good neighbors, they could not allow the noise to go on very long. So far, her only solution was taking him out of his crib and resting with him on the spare double bed in the baby’s room.

“Please, sweetie. Just sleep.” Her pleas met deaf ears. His eyes stayed bright and alert. The baby giggled and cooed as his mama snuggled with him on top of the handmade quilt.

“Lord, help me. I don’t know what to do.” She had prayed every day (and night) for a solution. She knew God cared about every facet of her life, even the amount of sleep she got, so she knew He would give her guidance in this area too.

Finally, when she thought the only solution was sleeping in that double bed every night, she had a sudden thought.

“Sing.” Sing?

“Lord, I’m not a very good singer. I don’t know very many lullabies.”

But that still, small voice kept whispering, “sing.”

Wracking her brain, she tried to think of pop tunes, or lullabies or even hymns to sing to her brown-eyed baby boy, but she came up empty. Except for one little tune with simple lyrics.

“He won’t care what I sound like. He’s just a baby. He won’t even remember.”

So she started to sing…

“O Lord, You’re beautiful.

Your face is all I seek.

For when Your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

I wanna take Your Word and shine it all around,

But first help me just to live it, Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown,

For my reward is giving glory to You.”

Over and over, she sang the lyrics to this simple chorus, until it was no longer just a lullaby to her baby, but a song of worship from her heart. She didn’t just sing the song, she prayed the song. That little baby didn’t miraculously fall asleep the minute his mama started singing, but he watched her and he listened to her and his little spirit eventually grew quiet. Each night, she sang to her little guy until one night, she didn’t have to. He fell asleep on his own, without her off-key voice and simple songs. Sleep, blessed sleep.

David_Mom_asleepLooking back on those nights, I don’t remember my scratchy eyes (and voice). I don’t remember the sense of helplessness or even hopelessness. I don’t remember feeling like a stupid new parent. I remember the peace that came over my little boy, the intimate times of worship in that small bedroom, the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit as I sang that simple, but powerful, song to my firstborn. I didn’t realize it then but God answered my prayers. Not just the one asking for David to fall asleep, but the one embedded in the song. Because God’s eyes weren’t just on me, His eyes were on my child. And what He planted in my little boy – a love of music, a desire to worship and a boldness to give glory to God wherever he goes – started in that little apartment in the middle of the dark nights when he refused to sleep until his mom sang the lyrics to that Keith Green chorus, over and over.

I’m grateful for that little song. I cry every time my beautiful daughter-in-law sings those words while her husband, my little stubborn brown-eyed firstborn son, accompanies her on guitar or piano. It’s still the cry of my heart. Not so my baby will fall asleep, but so my soul awakens to the grace and glory of God.

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