There’s something you need to know…

There is an incredible truth that has become so real recently. Something I struggled to grasp for years. Something that I caught hold of at times, but that other times eluded me. Something that has finally made it from my head to my heart for good.

This changed my life, you guys. Are you ready for it?

It’s simply this: God is for us.

I was thinking back on it yesterday and then I saw the words come across my Instagram feed this morning, and I knew I needed to give voice to some thoughts, even if the words aren’t flowing as beautifully as I’d like today.

So here goes…

God is not standing there with His arms crossed, disappointed and waiting to angrily berate us when we can’t “do all the things.”

Did you know that? I mean really know that?

God is not waiting for you to mess up so He can beat you over the head with a Bible.

And grace? Grace is not saying a prayer once in order to secure a place in heaven … and then wearily and hopelessly slogging through a list of things to accomplish for the rest of your days in an effort to maintain that place. If you’re doing that, you’re missing the point.

Grace is not only for salvation; it’s divine enablement each and every day of your life.

The Cross is just as much for today as it was for the day you were saved.

Yes, you will fall. Yes, you will sin. Yes, you will need to repent—over and over (and over and over) again. So do it. Then get up and move on. Stop living in the past. Stop living in condemnation. You are forgiven. You are free.

There is grace for you.

God is not against you.

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14).

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).

Here’s what especially blows me away…

God loves us so much that He WANTS us to succeed. He tenderly dusts us off when we fall. He cheers us on with each step we take. His incredible Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Go read 2 Peter 1:3, Hebrews 13:20-21 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 for a minute. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back? Now let me reiterate that last part: The Holy Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Typically, I’m a wallower. When I mess up, I feel so awful that I stay there. But y’all, we don’t have to live in defeat. This fills me with such gratitude, such awe, such confidence, and such HOPE!

No matter what battles we face, no matter what weaknesses we struggle with, no matter how far we’ve fallen, God is FOR us. Let that sink in for a moment. The God who created the entire universe is for YOU!

When we grab hold of this truth, our lives will turn upside-down.

Walk confidently in His love today!

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P.S. Here’s a song. Because it’s on repeat around here at the moment and because it’s good:

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Dear Mama who is Home with the Little Ones

 

 

 

Dear Mama

Dear Mama who is home with the little ones,

There is something I need to share, something on my heart. You see, I have little ones too. And, when you’re home with your little ones, there seems to be much to juggle and little time. There are meals to cook and piles of laundry and dust in the corners. There are bills to pay and schedules to manage. There are diapers to change and faces to wash. (If you’re homeschooling, there’s that too.)

And there are always little voices asking for a banana or a story or a hug.

There are many demands.

There are also people. And while most people are truly supportive, there is the odd voice that tells you that you’re doing it wrong. That because your contribution to the home isn’t monetary, it doesn’t really matter. That you’re wasting your life. That what you’re doing isn’t enough.

They probably mean well, but what it feels like they’re saying is that you aren’t enough.

And what do you do all day, anyway?

I feel it too. Last week, my children were especially trying and I was especially tired. I didn’t get enough accomplished. I was grumpy with guilt. And as much as I know that I’m called to this, part of me wanted to give up. So I did the only thing I could do. I took it to Jesus. Every messy little bit of it.

As I poured it all out, the Holy Spirit breathed words into my heart and, with the words, breathed peace.

It’s okay that this is challenging. You have permission to be tired. Grace is a soft pillow for tired hearts.

His words brought instant release.

Some days will be harder than others. Some months will be harder than others. Admitting that it’s hard doesn’t mean that you’re throwing in the towel. It just means that it’s hard.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Being home with your little ones is important. But, although this season of life is short, for those of us who thrive on immediate incentives, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture. There are no breaks; there are few pats on the back; and there is no paycheck at the end of the week.

But there is an abundance of grace.

So, dear mama, if you’re tired? That’s okay.

Grace is a soft pillow for tired hearts.

When Love Needs Truth

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Everyone’s talking about the big change. A man becoming a woman, his new identity splashed across the pages of Vanity Fair.

(Yes, I’m going to go there.)

Our society is hailing him as a hero.

Why?

I think it’s because he embodies the tenuous hope that, somewhere out there, happiness is possible. But, as Matt Walsh pointed out, brokenness in a surgically and hormonally-altered casing is still brokenness—and no matter how much you change the outside, your inner self is still your inner self.

Seeing people wrestle with themselves like that? It wrecks me.

Know what else wrecks me?

The church.

I love my pastor because he does not compromise truth. But there are many churches in which the definitions of gender, orientation and identity are not being shaped by the Word of God. We live in a society in which the global church is increasingly adopting “progressive Christianity”. Here’s the thing. Progressive thinking becomes regressive thinking when we become so focused on promoting love that we forget truth.

I’m all for grace and mercy. Believe me. I breathe it every day. But it was John Lennon who said that “all you need is love”, not Jesus.

Jesus, the embodiment of love, said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Love and truth are intertwined.

So when we say that black is white and white is black? Or when we ignore both black and white entirely?

We end up with people in the church who are just as lost and confused as they were before they joined the church because they still don’t know why they are broken. The church might throw out a lifeline of love but if that love is not anchored by truth then we are all just hopelessly drifting.

If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.

We will never fully understand the redeeming power of Jesus without understanding the destructive power of sin. Angry confrontational protests do not show love. But love that does not bring freedom is not really love either. Jesus died for our freedom but until we realize that we are bound, we will never be able to embrace the fullness of the cross. 

We need both love and truth.

Sometimes, I sit in my living room and weep. I weep for the world and I weep for the church. And I weep because I want so badly to be brave.

Why are we afraid to stand for truth? I don’t know if there has ever been a society so lost and confused.

I truly believe that God wants to bring freedom to our land. I truly believe that He wants to sweep across our nation and ignite hearts with His love and His truth. But the church needs men and women who will stand for what is right. Only then can lives be changed. People are not looking for conformity. They are not looking for compromise.

People are desperate for the freedom that only Jesus can bring.

In the confusion and brokenness of today’s world, God is calling the church to rise up strong. Full of love? Yes. Yet uncompromisingly strong. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s unpopular, and even when no one else gets it.

Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me?

The need is great; the call is great.

Here am I. Send me.

Plaid-Wrapped Grace: A Christmas Story

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It was a lesson in grace wrapped in cheerful plaid paper. The knock on the door was unexpected. The present was even more unexpected. Unexpected and undeserved.

A friend stopped by and pressed it into my hand—a gift from a whole group of our friends, my husband’s and mine. And I felt so unworthy as I stood there staring at the brightly wrapped package. It had been a hard year and, many times, my attitude towards circumstances and situations and people had been terrible.

And yet I held in my hands evidence of a love overwhelming.

Later, as my husband and I opened the package and saw how people had pooled together to bless us in a difficult season, the tears flowed unchecked. I had been struggling so hard to understand grace. Unmerited favour. An undeserved gift.

And there in my hands was a tangible expression.

I believed in Jesus. I knew that He loved me and died for me and forgave my every wrong. I was so grateful for what He did, but I often wondered why. Why does He love us so?

As I looked at the gift, His still, small voice whispered to my heart.

This is it. This is grace. You’ll never deserve it. You’ll never earn it. You’ll never understand it. It is a gift that is given to you anyway, no strings attached, given purely out of love. It’s why I came.

Grace brought a baby to a dusty, hay-filled manger. Grace brought shepherds, grimy from sleeping in the fields, together with kings to kneel before the King of kings. Grace rang clearly through angel voices: Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

Goodwill towards men. God’s heart is a heart of love.

Grace brought Jesus to that cross where blood and mercy flowed. And grace softly calls us to kneel before the cross. Like shepherds and kings on a starry night in Bethlehem, grace calls us to kneel before the King of kings so we can be made whole. Every mistake erased. Every sin forgotten.

We’ll never deserve it. We’ll never earn it. We’ll never merit it. But it is a gift that is given to us anyway, no strings attached, given purely out of love.

I will always remember that Christmas. Always. Because that Christmas, a red plaid box opened my eyes in a new way to the most beautiful gift of all.

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Something is Different!

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but something on the blog is different. Do you see it? Look carefully. Do you see it now?

The blog has a new name.

I was writing a post on the weekend when the title caught my eye.  “Moments of Grace.” And a still, small voice whispered to my soul. Not an audible voice, but a distinct sense of the Holy Spirit speaking. It went something like this:

Why have you called this “Moments of Grace”?

“Because it’s all about finding those brief glimpses of grace in the ordinary and the mundane,” I replied.

Why have you settled for brief moments of grace? I don’t just want you to catch fleeting glimpses of My grace. It’s My desire that you walk in My grace all day, every day.

It’s true! Life is not one giant cloud of checklist prayers and Bible reading plans and meetings and church services—with the odd sunbeam of God’s presence poking through. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are important. Essential, even. But it’s easy to make an empty religion out of them when God desires much more for us.

The Bible says, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2). There is an abundance of grace available to us—to walk in—to live in—every moment of every day.

When we invite Jesus into the ordinary, we find that the clouds scatter. Jesus wants us to live our lives dancing in the sunshine of His love. He calls us to a life overflowing with the abundance of His grace and peace. He wants to fill us and surround us and hold us close.

Every moment of every day.

So “Moments of Grace” is a thing of the past. Welcome to “The Grace-Filled Life”.

Lessons from the Playground

Early Morning on Playground

My daughter sat dejectedly beside me on the couch. “She told me that she didn’t want to play with me and it hurted my feelings.” Her eyes were sad as she described what had happened on the playground that morning. “I tried to give her a stamp but she didn’t want it and then she told me that she didn’t want to play with me.”

She had been so excited to play with her little friend. She had talked all morning about it. And then this.

It took me back to my own childhood. I heard those same words. Often. They would spit and push and throw rocks but it was the words that hurt most of all. They were just kids. Still, it took time and Jesus to let it go.

I looked at my daughter. Obviously, the fact that one little girl didn’t want to play with her didn’t mean that she would have years of difficulty when she went to school. But I’d learned some things along the way. And the learning could be applied here too.

“You know sweetie, we need to forgive people when they hurt us.” Truth. Letting go is freeing.

My daughter turned her head towards me. “Yeah,” she said with a small smile. “She hurted my feelings. But I still love her.”

But I still love her. Such a beautiful lesson in grace. When someone hurts me, do I love them anyway? Grace is not my natural response, not something I can do on my own. It requires some time on my knees first. It takes Jesus.

Sometimes, I’m the one doing the hurting. I say things and do things I shouldn’t. Afterwards, I feel miserable. Which begs another question. Do I allow that same grace to cover me?

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

It’s in the Bible for a reason. We all mess up. We sin. We hurt each other. But then there’s the next part. The part that makes all the difference.

“…and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

No one deserves grace. No one can earn it. But it’s there.

It’s why He came.

So let’s accept it. Embrace it.

And extend it.

 

Are You Missing Out?

“That day, the Spirit led him to the temple.” (Luke 2:27)

He was old. Wrinkled. Grizzled. He probably wasn’t much to look at. Just an average senior. You likely wouldn’t think twice about him if you passed him on the street. But he had a big, crazy dream that he harboured in his heart.

He wanted to see Jesus.

Not just with his spiritual eyes. He wanted to see the flesh and blood Jesus. To reach out and touch Him.

People had been waiting for Jesus for thousands of years without seeing Him. Some even questioned if He would ever come. But Simeon believed with all his heart that the time was close. And so he dreamed.

God saw and whispered a promise. “You will not die until you see the Messiah.” Such a special promise. Simeon clung to it. And as the days and months and maybe even years passed, he never gave up hope.

One day, the Holy Spirit led him to the temple.

Do you ever wonder what would have happened had Simeon not followed the Holy Spirit’s leading? What if he was too tired that morning to go to the temple? What if he didn’t feel like getting his creaky limbs, stiff with age, out of bed? Or what if he had gone…but arrived too late because he had taken his sweet old time getting ready?

Nothing significant would have changed. History would not have been altered. God’s plan would still have come to pass. Jesus would still have died and grace would still have been available to mankind.

But Simeon would have missed out. He would not have had the chance to bless Mary and Joseph and, in return, receive the biggest blessing of his life. He would not have seen his dream – the Messiah – in the flesh. He would not have tearfully, joyfully, reverently taken the holy babe in his arms and then bubbled over with a prophetic prayer that echoed throughout the ages.

He would have died without seeing his promise fulfilled. One small decision. One tiny excuse. That’s all it would have taken.

“Not today, Lord. I’m too tired.”

“Not today, Lord. I’m too busy.”

“I don’t feel like it right now. I’ll do it later, Lord. I promise.”

As I was reading Simeon’s story in Luke today, I had to do some soul-searching. When the Holy Spirit leads me to do something, do I instantly obey? Or do I make excuses?

Confession time. I missed a prayer meeting last Wednesday. And another one on Monday night. I was tired. Not feeling well. Grumpy. The baby was fussy. But I should have gone anyway. What did I miss out on?

Here’s another. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to compliment a mom that I saw at a neighbourhood school a few weeks ago. It was just a compliment but, still, I was scared. But what if the seemingly innocuous words He was telling me to say were the very words that young mom needed to hear that day?

What about you? Do you ever wonder what you might have missed? What you might be missing? What others might be missing when you don’t follow the Holy Spirit’s leading?

The beauty of grace is that we can pick up, move on and start over. Yesterday is gone. It’s a fresh, new day and the slate is clean.

Completely, totally clean.

I don’t want to miss a single thing that God has in store for my life. So this morning, I’ve made a decision. From here on in, I’m not going to dwell on all the ways I’ve failed. It’s over; it’s done; and it’s forgiven (thank you, Jesus!). I am going to commit to doing my very best to obey. Right away. No excuses. Instant obedience. 

Will you join me?

Breaking Limitations – Not I, but Christ

My husband and I stood on our cobblestone driveway watching flames curl around a measuring tape by our feet.

“I have been crucified with Christ,” I said softly. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

As the fire died down, my husband poured water on the twisted, charred plastic. It is garbage day today and, along with the trash, goes this symbol of the enemy’s whispered lies. I’m glad.

You see, the enemy wants us to believe in limitations.

I can’t meet that person. I don’t know how to make conversation.”

I can’t write for that organization. The articles are read by pastors and missionaries. I’m just a mom.”

I can’t apply for that job. I’m not qualified.”

I can’t mention Jesus to the neighbours. I’m sure they heard me raise my voice to my children yesterday. I’m such a big hypocrite.”

Do you notice the one thing that these limitations have in common?

It’s the word “I”.

Lies don’t have to be rational to be effective. They simply need to take our eyes off of Christ.

Last night at a prayer meeting, I asked Jesus to show me the key to overcoming the ever-present sense of failure in my life. Clear as a bell, the words came to mind, “It’s not I, but Christ.”

“It’s not I.” The truth is that we’re human. Humans have limitations.

But that’s not the end of it.

“Christ lives in me.” We have been crucified with Christ. That means that all of our limitations were broken at the Cross.

We need to take our eyes off of ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we “can’t” do something; we are dead! Our lives have been laid down at the cross. Jesus lives through us. His grace has covered us. His limitless power is at work in us.

A pastor who was praying for me last night suggested I go home, find a measuring tape and burn it to symbolize God breaking limitations off my thinking. As my husband and I stood under the night sky and watched orange flames lick yellow plastic, I felt such a sense of freedom.

This is a lesson I won’t soon forget.

There are no limitations. There is no measuring stick. There is only the One who overcame death and sin, the biggest limitations of all. There is only the cross. There is only Jesus.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

It’s not I, but Christ – the limitless love and power of Christ.

To Inherit the Earth

Grapes

I stand at the sink and watch water wash over the strainer piled high with grapes. Purple skins glisten. As I spill them onto the counter, I can hear the baby fuss, hungry. I pick up the knife and slice the fat ovals into quarters, dark skins giving way to juicy green. As fast as I can slice them, my children eat them, taking no time to savour their sweetness. And yet, as I stand at the counter, I savour. I am struck that there is joy in something as simple as cutting fruit.

It is a wonder, a mystery.

How much thought went into the dark purple hue, the sweet flavour, the smooth skin bursting with sticky juices? To think that God created these, simple grapes, just so!

I look around with new eyes. The snow pushed up against the backyard fence—each tiny crystal intricate and unique. The trees—regal even without their leafy cloaks, stark branches scratching the sky. The flowers in the vase on the table—sunshine rings of petals encircling disks of cool green. All of these came into being with just a word. And yet, every detail expresses a love so deep, so profound, that it defies comprehension.

Last night, I sat surrounded by thick books, trying hard to unwrap Psalm 37:9. “Those who wait patiently for the Lord will inherit the earth.” I closed my books and went to bed still wondering. What does it mean? How does one wait on the Lord?

But today, I think I’m getting it. The thought is half-formed and hard to express: This pausing to savour love expressed in flowers and trees – the gratitude that Ann Voskamp talks about in 1000 Gifts – could this be what it means to wait on God?

And these new eyes that see the heart of God poured out through the physical world around, could this be what it means to inherit the earth? To have eyes that find His beauty in something as simple as a globe of fruit—could this be it?

Or at least the part of it that we can experience in the here and now?

The baby fusses again. I carry another handful of grapes over to her high chair. She dimples deep as she stuffs them in her mouth, juices running down her chin.

“Then God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!” (Gen. 1:31).

As I return to the kitchen to cut more fruit, I smile content. For now, deeper questions aside, it is enough to embrace the moment, to know that it is good because He is good and because He is love.

A Salvaged Feast – Grace in the Mess

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Last night’s moment of grace was cleverly disguised. It began in the morning. My gut instinct said, “Don’t put alfredo sauce in the crock pot.” But I did it anyway. Even before I left for work, I could see that it was a mistake.

Sure enough, when I got home, I lifted the lid of the slow cooker with trepidation. The contents were more pathetic than I imagined. The alfredo sauce looked like water. The broccoli was mushy and overcooked. There were burn marks around the edges of the pot. It was disgusting. Horribly nasty. Really stinky. Completely inedible.

It was the perfect opportunity to go out for dinner.

So we bundled up the kids and drove to a restaurant. We haven’t done that in forever. What a fabulous outing! The kids were well-behaved, the food was great and we even had enough time to grab a latte before our evening class at church. It was a splurge … but it felt so ridiculously good!

Why on the earth am I blogging about last night’s dinner? Because sometimes life gets messy. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan them. Sometimes we make mistakes and ruin more than just dinner.

But we don’t have to wallow in those moments.

Right?

Just like my ruined dinner became a wonderful family time, our ruined plans can pave the way for better things. Mistakes can change our direction in life. An ugly mess can become a thing of beauty.

It’s all in how we respond.

Recognizing “moments of grace” in our lives has everything to do with our attitude.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2, NIV)

Why joy? Because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Jesus came to give us an abundant, full life (John 10:10). So no matter how big or small the circumstance, we need to remember to look to Him, the giver of all good gifts.

Although my ruined dinner hardly qualifies as a trial, it challenged me. Next time I face a something difficult or mess things up, will I wallow in discouragement? Or will I turn to Jesus, embrace joy and find grace in the mess?