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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

attributes_of_godMy “30 Days of Gratitude” list has me contemplating the attributes of the God today. Imagine having to pick one attribute that I’m most thankful for. That’s like picking my favorite candy bar or my favorite child. Impossible. God is omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, holy, sovereign, infinite, transcendent, self-sufficient, wise, faithful…and so much more. For the sake of needing to blog today, I’ll pick one attribute of God that touches my heart the most…the mercy of God.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7a

Have you ever watched your children misbehave and you knew you should discipline them so they won’t disobey again, but instead of giving them what they deserve, you hug them, snuggle them, and tell them how much you love them. That is mercy. Showing kindness and compassion, instead of judgment.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

God continually shows mercy to those who love Him. He also shows mercy to those who don’t know Him at all. As our world continues to taunt Him, to reject His Son, to flaunt sin and lawlessness, God shows mercy…over and over and over.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Romans 2:4-5

I am so thankful for God’s mercy to me. He did not give me what I deserve but instead shows me His love and grace and mercy…day after day. I am so grateful.

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today_grateful

In this first day of intentional gratitude, I want to remind you of those unexpected blessings we all receive…and when I say unexpected, I mean, never-in-your-life-thought-this-circumstance-would-turn-out-to-be-a-blessing blessing. Like being unemployed.

If you know my husband and me at all, you know we recently spent six years with no full time job and very little income. It was tough – for my husband, because, you know, men look at having no job as having no meaning in life. He struggled a bit (I’m kidding, he struggled a lot)…and had quite a few conversations with God about the whole thing. But that’s his story to tell.

It was a tough time for our kids because everything they relied on appeared unstable. They weren’t sure where we would live, how we would live, where they would finish high school, and how we were going to pay the bills. Now that I think about it, those were mostly my worries – I’ve never asked what concerned my kids back then…I should probably do that.

Nevertheless, looking back, that whole six year time period was full of God’s blessings. He provided finances for every single obligation (we paid every bill and always on time). Out of the blue, people would stop by the house to give us money saying, “God told us to give this to you today.” God blessed us with the emotional and spiritual support we needed. I read and studied the Word, and prayed on my long walks, crying and begging God to give us something, something to put our hope on…and He never let us down. Don and I had more and deeper conversations. God gave us supernatural health during a time when we had poor insurance coverage, and then provided a way to get better coverage, for the whole family, right before our son started travelling with his band. I could go on and on with story after story…not the time or place.

We learned a lot about ourselves. We learned about humility, and trust, and faith, and grace. We learned that we don’t know very much, but that God knows the beginning and the end. We learned that some people will stick with you, no matter what, expecting nothing in return. We saw God’s hand at work in our kids as He provided funds for college and travelling, when we had nothing. We cried buckets of tears – in frustration and sorrow, rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Am I glad we were without a job for that long? I’m not sure. It was rough. Our Christmas’ were sparse. We ate at home, took no vacations, purchased no new clothes. We had no church to call our own, but we were privileged to help a couple of congregations transition to new pastors. We learned a great deal about what is really important. Family. Real friends. Health. Our own relationship with Jesus, away from ministry.

 

And most of all, we learned God’s promises are true: He will never leave you or forsake you – even if you don’t have a job, even if you are struggling with poor health, even if you are in a difficult circumstance. He is your Rock and your Redeemer. He will turn your mourning into dancing. Ask Him to show you the unexpected blessing of this tough time and watch Him show up. God will never fail you.

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Kris_aging_gracefully

As much as we fight and complain, all of us want to get older. Because the alternative is obvious and no one really wants that road. But the path of aging is fraught with potholes and deer crossings and railroad tracks. Some places are well-paved, four-lane highways and others are one curve away from a two-lane dirt track made by migrating yaks. Aging isn’t pretty. But it is necessary and that means it’s my attitude that’ll make the difference between facing it with dignity and grace or petulance and irritability. We’ve all known those cantankerous old people…and I don’t want to be one.

I’ve never been too worried about getting older. My hair began it’s elegant slide toward silver back in my mid-30s. I was too cheap (and lazy) to purchase stock in Clairol so I’ve been au naturale for quite some time. And I’m perfectly fine about it. Oh, once in a while I’d make a joke about being the only gray-haired mother with preschoolers, but in reality, I am comfortable in my skin (or hair, as the case may be). (Side note: I’ve noticed the recent trend of young women coloring their hair gray – I wonder if that makes them cool or me cool?) I’ve been blessed with good health and with my recent weight loss and healthy life style changes, I’m looking forward to many more years to love and live. But I am on the back side  of my 50s and my body has given me a few signs that it’s not as young and agile as it once was. I’ve recently had to start taking a medication just because I’m now an “older woman.” Pretty much hate that.

So what’s necessary to age gracefully without succumbing to society’s marketing of youthfulness forever? First – admit it. Second – accept it. Third – Get past it.

Admit it – say this after me – “Yes, I’m getting older. Yes, my body is changing. No, I don’t have to look 15 (or 25, or 35 or even 45 for some of us) anymore. I am beautiful, inside and out, just as I am.”

Accept it – ok, we can talk the talk, but can we walk it out? Accepting the reality of our aging means acting it out in all we do. No more putting ourselves down as “the old lady” in the group (hey – I’m preaching to myself here). Take advantage of the wisdom that comes from living life. Feel free to buy clothes you like wearing and add some color. Everyone looks better in color. And remember, beauty comes from the inside so work on that inner beauty thing. It’s way more valuable than any lift, tuck or injection.

cartwheel

Lastly, get past it. No more fixating on our age. It’s really just a number. “You’re only as young as you feel.” Nope – because somedays I feel 80 and somedays I feel 16…and that’s when I do something stupid. Like a cartwheel. More accurately, you are only as young as you determine in your heart you are. So, if you’d like to attend a concert with all 20-somethings, go for it. (I do it all the time – with the intention to never embarrass my children in attendance.) If you want to go rock climbing and have the ability, do it. If you want to learn a language, take a cooking class, run a 5k, get a dog, change your hair color, join a gym, buy a motorcycle, teach a class, write a book, volunteer at a homeless shelter, get a job, travel the world…go for it!

God has given us a number of days – He has a purpose for you and me. I want to live in such a way that God’s purpose is being fulfilled everyday. I don’t want to be one of those old ladies who look like they suck on lemons every morning. I want to embrace children and the elderly. I want to smile at strangers. I want to give love out of the abundance that Christ has put in my heart. As my husband often says, “I want to be saltier salt and brighter light.” It’s my choice and I choose to have a wise heart and youthful spirit, even while my body ages, gracefully.

 

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sorrow_longing_tears______by_Westia

(Note: A year ago I wrote the following article and it received the most views of any blog I had ever written, including any since then. Because it’s Black Saturday – that day of sorrow between Good Friday and Easter – and because recently so many friends are going through this grief journey, I’m reposting.)

I’m on my next to last “blogging through the 40-days of Lent” adventure. Today’s topic is hard. A lot of the other blog posts have had some difficulty, but this one today – giving up sorrow – is tougher than most. Because how can I presume to tell you how to grieve or when to stop. So I won’t. But I will encourage you not to allow sorrow to overwhelm you (forever). To choose to step outside your sadness for a few minutes each day…until you can look and see the deep grief is behind you.

I have a dear friend who lost the love of her life last summer. He had been ill and yet the suddenness of his passing was a shock to all of us. He was a wonderful man, loved and respected by so many…a great husband, father and grandfather as well as a supportive and generous friend to me and my family. The grief has been overwhelming for his wife, children and grandchildren. But each one has taken the baby steps necessary to continue to live their lives and honor the memory of this dear man.

My friend shared some of her grieving process with me. Losing a husband is different than losing a parent. The “oneness” feels broken. The grief includes anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, feelings of loss and even rejection. People’s attempts to comfort her often left her emptier, not encouraged; sadder, not exhorted. “You’ll always have your memories” turned into a trite phrase because it’s the remembering that hurts the most.

So, for those of you who are “walking through the shadow of death,” please know that “life sucks sometimes.” (Thank you, Ben Rector, for those poignant and truthful words.) We must keep going – we have responsibilities, we have people who count on us, we have a Father God who loves us unconditionally, even when the grief is so deep that you can’t get dressed or face another human being.

Try to get one thing done….mark one thing off your “to-do” list. Put sorrow away for a couple of minutes and face your day. Do a little more each day, or week, or month…than you did before. Meet someone for coffee. Write a few “thank you” notes. Bake a cake and take it to someone. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy and give yourself permission to laugh a little. Call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Read a new novel. Take a walk. Buy a new pair of shoes. Indulge in a rich, chocolatey dessert. Take a friend to a movie. Pray for someone else who’s facing a similar situation.

Jesus was a man of many sorrows, according to the prophet Isaiah. He knew suffering and grief. He knows your pain and sorrow. Lean into His grace today. He’s more than enough.

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Double-EdgedSword

We all have it. Some more than others but, unless you live alone in a cave without any human interaction, you have influence with someone. How you use it can define your legacy.

First, a few questions…

  • Do you show kindness to the harried grocery clerk?
  • Do you drive as though you own the road?
  • Do you discipline your children with respect or anger?
  • Do you roll your eyes when asked the same question multiple times?
  • Do you belittle someone and say “I’m just joking?”
  • Do you give a little extra tip to the hard-working restaurant worker?
  • Have you ever paid for a stranger’s meal or coffee?

The influence you wield can encourage, exhort and enlighten. It can empower others to action…brighten the lives of the less-fortunate…embolden the spirits of the downtrodden. Your influence – my influence – is a powerful weapon for good, but unfortunately, it can also be used for evil purposes.

  • If you can encourage, then you can demean.
  • If you can empower, then you can reject.
  • If you can build up, then you can tear down.
  • If you can enrich, you can also impoverish,
  • If you can assist someone, you can destroy someone.

We can influence others with our speech or our actions. Usually our intentions are obvious in our body language or tone of voice. How you say something usually supersedes what you actually said. Emojis can offer intent but don’t replace the real deal…

So, be careful where you point that thing called influence. Like a light saber in the hands of a Jedi master, hone your positive influence skills. Be patient with others, give grace whenever possible, show love and mercy, demonstrate forgiveness, allow the fruit of the Spirit to hang low on your influence tree. Be salty and shine bright.

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pedestal person

I had a pastor friend once talk to his group of college-age students about idolizing. He said when you idolize someone, you are setting them up to fail, because no one can live up to the standards set for someone placed on a pedestal.

As flawed human beings, we will all fail at some point. When the person we idolize falls from the high place we’ve put them, we often can become disappointed or angry to discover he or she wasn’t the perfect person we thought they should be. It’s not fair to them or to us.

Don’t assign anyone a standard they cannot live up to.

That means your spouse, your kids, your boss, even (or especially) your pastor. Give up placing unreal expectations of excellence or perfection on someone else.

And, by the way, don’t do it to yourself either. Are you a perfectionist? Are you placing higher standards on yourself than you would someone else? Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a break. Jump down off the pedestal before you fall down. Because inevitably, we all fall down. Thankfully, the grace of God helps us up again. Just stand on the ground and leave the idolizing to J-Lo, Harry and Keith.

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YouGoGirl

I was recently asked to be the speaker at an upcoming homeschooling moms’ getaway. Truly humbled and honored, I’ve been attempting to come up with a bio the organizers could use for their brochure. Something short and pithy – humorous but elaborate. Something that would make someone want to come hear me. I got nothing.

Then I decided to try some free writing – not worrying about length or breadth or scope or humor or grammar and punctuation. It’s way too long for their purposes but hey – that’s what blogging is for, right? To give anybody an opportunity to write, knowing it probably won’t be read anyway.

Kris McGarvey – Who Am I?

I’m a former homeschooling mom and currently helping my husband as the president of WFM Missions Base in Robins.

I love trying new restaurants, reading stuff, experimenting with new tastes & recipes, learning how to run, walking for great coffee, setting new goals and then pushing past my self-imposed limitations, endeavoring to avoid saying “I can’t” until I’ve at least tried, travelling outside my comfortability (and making up words that my spell-checker doesn’t appreciate…like comfortability).

I’m loving the journey, embracing my own adventures, not particularly a lover of danger but thrilled with discovering the hidden treasures of life like small consignment stores, coffee shops and people’s stories.

I’m an amateur writer but a professional list-maker. I love shoes and the color purple (not the book, never read it). I say I’m silver-haired (because grey-haired sounds too old). I’m a novice runner but an elite chocolate and coffee consumer. I love lots of genres of music (and I really like the word “genre”) – hymns, worship, jazz, folk, singer-songwriter stuff and catchy pop tunes like “Happy.” I’ve never seen the movie “Frozen” and don’t know any of the lyrics to “Let It Go” and I’m okay with that. I enjoy a good guitar or piano solo but I’m learning the nuances of a really great drummer. I love the band NEEDTOBREATHE and don’t mind it when people call me a “groupie.” My kids don’t because I take them to concerts with me. They are not dumb.

I’ve embraced social media for the platform it gives me to stay connected to family and friends around the world and to encourage those who need someone on their side, someone who can say with confidence – “Trust Him – this too shall pass.”

I’m a sports junkie. If it gets played with a ball, I probably like it. Even curling and it’s played with a rock. I watch golf tournaments on TV with my family like others do the Super Bowl (snacks and everything). Though my 3 guys and I split up our loyalties to cheer for different teams (Hawks, Illini, Cubs, Cardinals, Rams, Falcons, Bears, Lakers, Nets, Bulls) – we do agree on one thing – we think Zach Johnson is awesome. I do live to see the Cubs in the World Series, so I may be immortal, not sure.

I love superheroes…they really exist and I’m pretty sure I’m married to one. I try to be a good sidekick to my phenomenally intelligent husband and I appreciate that he keeps me around to take care of those mundane things like computers, phones, taxes, and cleaning the bathroom (though I’m not very good with that last one).

I’m privileged to have birthed two sons – both of which are so much like their parents that they scare me, and yet so different from each other. They each amaze me with their maturity, wisdom, sense of humor and discernment, despite their upbringing. They are gifted with creativity, although it usually plays out in different areas. They both love fiercely and I’m proud to be on the receiving end of it.

I’m not perfect and I’m not trying to be. I’ve decided that life is too much fun and there’s just so much to do, that I can’t allow others’ expectations to rob me of my joy in discovery.

Most of all, I’m a lover of Jesus. He gives me life and breath and joy and unconditional love and grace and mercy. He picks me up when circumstances pull me under. He laughs with me and listens to me and holds me. He dries my tears and grins at my attempts at humor. He whispers to me in the night and shows me great and mighty things. He says he’ll be with me through anything, so I know I can be brave and try, because I won’t be alone. He tells me to “dream big” and then takes me outside my comfortability and shows me the stars in an endless sky. Most of the time He just blows me away.

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