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Archive for the tag “grace”

there is a way through

IMG_0813There is a way through, God said to me. I read the verses laying open in my lap again. For so long I felt these verses were impossible, ridiculous. I didn’t want to read them again.

“‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, MSG

In the NIV version, it says, “I boast in my weaknesses”. I cringe at the words. What kind of person would say such a thing? A show-off? Why would anyone invite, glory in, celebrate pain and weakness? I’ve been in pain for far too long, I said to the Great Being. I’m looking to avoid hardship. I’m sick of weakness. I tried to ignore the herculean effort of a single thought that reminded me pain is guaranteed in this broken world. Where is the space for joy?

He rejoices because there’s a way through, God said again, His voice patient and kind—more than I deserved just then—unafraid, not put off by my bitterness. He learned to trust me, trust my redemption, he wasn’t afraid of the pain or hardship anymore, God continued.

Redemption—the word stuck in me. I know it well. I’ve been redeemed, saved, brought back to life, whatever term you want to give it. Before I was walking dead, now I burn hot with life. But Death hasn’t stopped trying to knock down my door and I have only one defense.

I am safe the minute I invite God into the dark, stinking truth of my weakness. Sometimes my invitation is a ranting shout of the ugly truth. Sometimes I wail it out, like a mourner. But each time, in my humble ask—my gut-level cry for His help and my faith that He will not forsake me—He comes.

Every. Single. Time.

He walks straight into the middle of my weakness, those broken places where my neural pathways are so twisted I can’t see reality right in front of my face. His hand reaches into the epicenter of those wounded places where I’ve been hurt deep. His scars heal mine.

I no longer have to be afraid of my hurts, habits, and hangups (as we say in Celebrate Recovery). They won’t overtake me. God will meet me in that moment. There was, there is, there always will be, a way through, He says again with full kindness.

There is great power in recounting those times God has broken through. What is a time God showed you a way through? Is there a place you wish God would step into?

a love note

What are you wildly passionate about? What is the beautiful, driving thing you believe you’re born to do? What makes you feel on fire? There was a rather scary period of time when I didn’t have any passions. But it’s amazing what passion I uncovered after that dark, ugly thing—depression—that hounded me for years, almost killed me, was vanquished. I rediscovered a love of writing but there was something even greater, a passion for truth [italicized to distinguish the kind of truth I’m referring to] because it saved my life. Now, I can’t stop writing about truth.

Smothered under depression I used to believe that truth was hard, unyielding, cruel in it’s pristine perfection. It was utter condemnation—I saw the truth of me and it was nothing good. There was no grace in this truth and I needed more grace than I could afford. So I avoided truth.

His truth first came to me under the guise of grace. God isn’t pharisaical. That’s impossible for him because he is LOVE. Full, complete, perfect love. The kind of love that flies in the face of logic but is the only substance on earth that can save us all.

And yet, the hard, inescapable truth is that he is the final judge and can’t tolerate a spec of sin. In this most peculiar mixture of love and justice he ruled all lives with any sin must pay with death but then he stepped down from the bench, handcuffed himself, and paid the price—his death for mine, for all of us who choose to accept it.

The truth he offers says I can be redeemed, that I have worth, that fear has no place, that he has a plan for my life, that he can vanquish the darkness plaguing me. His truth is an invitation to a new way of life that has immortal, life-giving repercussions. His truth does not shy away from my sins [I must ask for forgiveness] but in the space of a breath, he offers me forgiveness, a way out, and takes away my shame.

I guess my passion for truth is a love note to Him. And it’s a message I feel compared to share for the rest of us who need unaffordable grace and a new way to live.

Question time: I’m wondering, how do you feel about this truth and what are you passionate about? I know, seems like two separate questions but I’m wondering, is what you’re passionate about linked at all to whether you believe in this truth or not?

When You Look a Gift Horse…

SamI have a hard time accepting gifts from people. I’ve learned to say thank you over the years, but inside, I still feel weird. Unsettled. Even a little guilty. I didn’t do anything to deserve this gift, so it’s probably an error of sorts that it came to me.

Which leads me to this weekend. I went to a conference, and I had some prayer time in my car before walking in. I asked God what I needed to do, what I needed to know, before stepping into conference world. His response was simple. Receive. All He wanted me to do this weekend was receive.

This might have seemed like simple direction, but I found it super complicated. What did I need to do in order to receive? What was the action step before this receiving would take place? How could I work at receiving?

Clearly, I like to do something. I feel better when I do something. Comfortable. It stokes my pride, and I can keep on feeling good about myself. But receiving… Receiving has nothing to do with my capabilities. I’m just the one standing there, and the giver is the one in action.

I can approach my art like this. I want to do, do, do. I like action and movement and the “feel good” factor that accompanies this busyness. But I’m learning that I am overlooking a critical aspect of the artist’s life when I employ this mindset. Artists have to receive.

Ray Bradbury says it like this, “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

Receiving. Filling. It can still sound passive to me, but I’m learning it’s anything but. It’s an active decision to still myself in a whirling world.  It’s a deliberate rest from doing, striving, working, trying to do better and better. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” God tells me. And this is only found by receiving, and creating out of that gush of gift.

So what do you think of all this receiving talk? How do you reconcile the idea of receiving with the actual production of art? How are the two related?

the saving of something irreversably declined: redemption

heatherOur society knows very little about redemption.  We are the land of sweat, hard work.  We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  We work for the American dream.  You want it, you make it happen.  The notion of redemption, rocks me.  I have a strong sense of needing to be self-made.  And I drag my notions into my art.

re·demp·tion n

1.  the saving or improving of something that has declined into a poor state

2.  the improved state of somebody or something saved from apparently irreversible decline

3.  the buying back of something given, for example, to a pawnbroker, as security for a loan

4.  the removal of a financial obligation, for example, the repayment of a loan or promissory note

5.  deliverance from the sins of humanity by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

I was something that had declined into a poor state, apparent irreversible decline.  My life was a state of paralysis and therefore, my art was also at a stalemate.  There is something incredibly damaging about not being able to do the thing you were born to do.  It is a kind of hell.

I surveyed myself often, going over the damage.  Going over my strategy, how was I to get back on my feet?

And then God…my redemption story is for another time…but much of me has been restored and it wasn’t because I found some kind deep buried strength.  It was an act of God.  Grace.  Undeserved.

When I write now, I find my old demons start circling like vultures.  The old paralysis comes back.  And in that moment I call on my God.  I hold onto my redemption.  And then I start to write.  And I feel the fulfillment, the power, the sheer ecstasy that comes from being solidly in my skin working in the heat of my calling.

Have you been redeemed?  What do you do to hold onto your redemption?  Is there something you wish to be free of, something that is holding you back from your calling?  I’d love to hear it all.  There is power in speaking the pain and the truth.

——————————–

In case you are interested I added the lyrics from Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave.  God provides ways to remind us of things we need extra help remembering.  I find this one does the trick.  You can find the song on iTunes.

Seems like all I could see was the struggle

Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past

Bound up in shackles of all my failures

Wondering how long is this gonna last

Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son

Stop fighting a fight it’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, I’m redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy

Named by the voice of my shame and regret

But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”

I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me

‘Cause his day is long dead and gone

Because I’ve got a new name, a new life, I’m not the same

And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, ’cause I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, yeah, I’m not who I used to be

Oh, God, I’m not who I used to be

Jesus, I’m not who I used to be

‘Cause I am redeemed

                                                                                    Thank God, redeemed

CONFRONT

As soon as I read this passage from the book Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend, I knew I would be sharing it on the blog.  I highly recommend the book if you’ve never read it!  Here is a link to the biblical passage The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that is referenced in the excerpt below.  It’s a quick read so if you are unfamiliar with it, take a second to read and then come back!

Our talents are clearly within our boundaries and are our responsibility.  Yet taking ownership of them is often frightening and always risky.

The parable of the talents says that we are accountable—not to mention much happier—when we are exercising our gifts and being productive.  It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure that the “wicked and lazy’ servant gave in to.  He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult.  He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.  Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.”

Fear is my nemesis.  But I read this and thought I have no more excuses.  But the truth is, at this point in my life I don’t want any more excuses!  I don’t have any more time to waste.  God help me I want to use what he gave me!

When it comes to your job/your talents (I think our talents are our job) do you struggle with fear?  What do you do to push past your fear?  What are you committed to doing no matter what?

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