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Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

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“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

As I read the above words I thought of how ‘hounded’ I was feeling that particular day.

Hounded was I by the pressures of relationships, and bills, and work, and making dinner, and seeking the location of just one ibuprofen to take the edge off this pounding headache.

Her words made my eyes fill, and their banks refused to hold the flood back … the dams burst, the water fell.

Later I sought the The Hound of Heaven … the poem I had a vague knowledge of once reading. It was written in the late 1800’s by English writer Francis Thompson. Mr. Thompson had studied to become a priest, then a physician, then lived in terrible poverty (as a writer) where he survived by selling matches. He then suffered with the constant pain of neuralgia, which he treated with laudanum (containing opium), eventually becoming addicted. He last years were spent in a monastery, where he was cared for by friends.

The first link I opened to read the poem, The Hound of Heaven, made the dams burst in another way … tears of joy.

I read the ode, allowing the pursuits to settle on my heart and mind. The pursuits that we make for ‘more’ of this world, and the never-ending pursuit of God for his child.

When I came to the end of the verses, there followed yet more verses … this time written by David …

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

… the words of Psalm 139 … the words I have been hiding in my heart for months, as though ‘I’ had anything to do with it … as though those words were chosen for me, for such a time as this. As though those words were the instrument of the Hound himself. He who is willing to use whatever means possible to draw us back to Him.

“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

 

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From the first time I heard This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham, I loved it! I couldn’t wait to go home and put it on repeat on YouTube (hubby and the kids  l  o  v  e  it when I put songs on repeat (NOT!), and to check out the lyrics (rather than my typical singing along with words I ‘think’ fit).

That first day that I heard it, driving in my minivan, I was feeling rather melancholic. But as the dance music hit my ears, and the easy lyrics penetrated by heart, it was no time until I was tapping my fingers and looking like a bobble head in my driver seat.

For me, the lyrics of this song, echoing in my downcast head was a God Wink, a gift of encouragement, a halt to my naval gazing.

And that is what grace received with open hands does … it takes our eyes, our focus, off of ourselves.

According to http://www.freedictionary.com, grace is “mercy; clemency; pardon” … funny how those definitions bring prison and guilt to mind, because without grace we are doomed to life in prison … a certain hell. God gives the sentence of eternal life through grace. This is a pardon from guilt and sins, through the stepping in of a guiltless one to make our payment in full. One, without sin, taking the place of all who are sin-filled.

“This IS amazing grace
This IS unfailing love
That you would take my place
That you would bear my cross
You laid down your life
That I would be set free”

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Ecclesiastes3_1-2

The beautiful poetry of the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3 is almost like a lullaby, gentle and predictable. Beautiful, though it may be, this portion of scripture is also a reminder of the ‘ying and yang’ of life, of blessings and curses, of beginnings and endings.

The first comparison, “a time to be born, and a time to die …” is the most basic beginning and ending, and it is here that I want to spend some time.

After months of begging, those who were born to me have finally started to hand me their ‘guest post thoughts’ for me to share.

Today, my middle daughter,

the people-loving,
driver-learning,
last-minute planning,
gentle-hearted feeling,
I’ll-try-anything-once,
favorite red-head daughter is sharing her thoughts … on being born, and dying. I think she has brilliantly reflected on this reminder of the cycle and circle of life … of course, I am her mom 😉 .

Reflections on Ecclesiastes 3:2a

“A time to be born and a time to die.

For us as humans, we all have a time when we are birthed into the life God gave us, and then another time where we all will die. This is the same for each and every person on earth, every living thing God created.

Ever.

So, we aren’t the only ones who have to go through this circle of life. We aren’t the only ones who are gonna go through life, saying hello and goodbye to others. We will all feel the brute of death, and we will all feel the joy of life- and those are what make our lives so meaningful and important.

To think that God made each and every person you come across, that he’s made people you will never meet ever in your lifetime, that he’s planned out who is going to come into your life- it is that fact that should truly shock you, and leave you awestruck.

God has created so much for his children. So much for such little praise. He always provided, even in the smallest of ways. And we still never notice how unending his love is for us!

God’s love is truly unfathomable, and most of the time, we don’t give him a second look.

God made the sun, moon and stars. He created this place, earth, that we call home. He created US.

He birthed the sun into it’s seemingly infinite existence, and yet it will cease to be when he comes to bring his children to heaven. Isn’t is ironic how he also gave his one and only son life, just so the son could die in order to give us a continuance of life in heaven? All stories have a beginning, and all stories, no matter how many sequels, prequels, and series there are.

Your story is the only exception. His grace has given you an infinite epilogue.”

“Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.”
Ecclesiastes 3:15

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Labor Day weekend (in Canada), is a time when University and College aged students start to migrate to places of higher learning, driving in cars with little back window visibility, due to the over-packing for the school year away from home.

This year, Labor Day weekend I felt constantly aware of the need to pray for someone I do now know, yet whose life, thoughts, faith and passions are shared daily through her blog posts.

Through her posts at A Holy Experience , Ann Voskamp has indicated that her eldest son was readying to fly from her nest, into his new adventure also known as his university education and experience.

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And this Labor Day weekend, while my own third-year university-experiencing daughter was talking textbooks and tuition, schedules and psychology, my heart was heavy for a woman I do not know, who would be experiencing it all for the first time. The difference between she and me? My daughter has not flown away … and my face is not on the back of a New York Times bestseller.

I wondered if Ann would be given the space (really a gift of grace) by those around she and her son, as he met his roommate, unloaded a years worth of necessities into his half of a room, as the tours were taken, as the cheques were written, as the mingling was happening … as the memories    were    flooding … as the tears   were   welling. Space to just be … mom.

“No, no, I’m not ready for now to be over, for the kid who wore a tool belt strapped around him everywhere to leave, the boy who can drive a tractor and wrestle hogs and reads Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” just for fun — just to go. He drove me crazy. He drove me to God. He drove me to love. I don’t care what anyone says — You can cut umbilical cords but you can’t cut heart strings.” Ann Voskamp

I wondered if her face

familiar to her son as strength and grace

frailty and forgiveness,

familiar to those whose faces were unfamiliar to her,

I wondered if her face might draw the unfamiliar to her space,

her mother space.

And I wondered if the unfamiliar to her saw her only as the face on the back of her bestselling book,

as a celebrity in their midst.

I doubt that Ann sees herself as celebrity.

I doubt her son sees her as celebrity …

He sees … mom.

And while he was preparing for adventures, she was reliving

his life …

his whole,

entire,

conception to the now,

life.

“You don’t become a parent by bearing a child. You become a parent by bearing witness to his life.” Ann Voskamp

And I prayed that those who saw her in the midst of the crowds, were able to see her, with eyes of grace, as just another purple-hearted mom, and not a selfish opportunity to enter her space with her child-man. That would have given her a million things to be thankful for!

“Parents wear Purple Hearts: the brave who are wounded and die a bit more everyday – and only get braver.” Ann Voskamp

 

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“Sing.
Sing a song.
Sing out loud, sing out strong.
Sing of good things, not bad.
Sing of happy, not sad.
Sing.
Sing a song.
Make it simple to last your whole life long.
Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear.
Just sing.”

So sang the Carpenters in the 1970’s … although my memory of it is from Sesame Street …

It is amazing how the singing of a song can make memorization so much easier. As one who is in the midst of memorizing one of the Psalms, I am thankful that it was put to music … I think I can, I think I can.

One of the beauties of memorizing scripture, poetry or lyrics through music is that it stays in your memory, and resurfaces at the most wonderful times.

Such has been the case for a particular hymn that I learned in my teens.

The hymn is more than a song, it is also evidence of the strength a person can attain with God as the rudder and anchor of their life.

Written by Horatio Spafford in 1873.

He, his wife Anna, and their four daughters had survived the great Chicago Fire. Horatio planned a trip to Europe for his family, and just days before they were to leave, he had to change his plans, send his wife and daughters on the ship without him.

While sailing to Europe the Spafford ship was hit by another, and sunk.

Days later, Horatio received the following in a telegram, from Anna, “Saved alone what shall I do?”

He boarded a ship, to meet up with his grieving wife.

As the ship was nearing the place where his four daughters died, he wrote the words to this hauntingly beautiful hymn.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Although I have not suffered the kind of loss and suffering of Horatio and Anna Spafford, this song surfaces in my conscious whenever my heart plummets with the weight of the sorrows of life and living.

I am amazed when it does come to my mind,
as though placed there
like a tissue to wipe my falling tears,
or a shoulder to cry on,
or a string around my finger

to remind me …

that I am not alone
that peace is more about the condition of my soul than anything to do with world conflict
that no sin is unforgivable
that no earthly sorrow can separate me from my God
that the sky, not the grave, is my goal.

What is your song?

tranquility

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A good day for me might involve a wonderful conversation with a friend, or a time of deep belly laughter with my children, or morning coffee on a day off with hubby, or a walk on the trail with the beast.

images-2A bad day can take many forms, but would often include rain … especially anytime from November to March, when the monsoon season is upon those of us in the Pacific Northwest.

Just as rain falls on us all, so suffering comes to us all.

Matthew 5:45 tells us, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Now I do not mind the idea of sharing the sun with the evil, but do I really have to share in the rain? Shouldn’t life be, well, easy for those of us who are good, and righteous, and more difficult for those who are evil and unrighteous? Isn’t that only right, only fair?

I sometimes think that my biggest problem in living this life is that I am looking for fairness, for goodness, for ‘payback’ here in this life. I think that I am looking for the rewards of following Christ to be handed out here and now.

I read verses like those of Deuteronomy 11:25-26, “see, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods,which you have not known,” and I figure that the blessing is for me for today, for now.

And maybe it is for now. Maybe I am being blessed on a daily basis (and indeed I am) but I am not even acknowledging the blessings that are mine. Each day I can enjoy the greatest blessing, that of walking each and every step, not alone or on my own strength, but with my God, and the power to live my life being energized by His strength in my weakness.

But maybe, just maybe, the blessings are for another time, another place. Maybe here on our God-created, but sin-soiled planet we cannot even receive the perfect blessing that God has for us.

Maybe the rains of suffering, given to all … good and evil, righteous and unrighteous, are to remind us that we are not good, or evil, but we are what God’s grace has transformed us into … blessed creatures, living under the grace of our perfect God.

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As a parent who believes in prayer, praying for my kids has been a regular thing since even before they were conceived.

One of the realities of prayer is that it is really more about me, than the one who I am praying for, as I do agree with C.S. Lewis who said, “prayer changes me” in this clip from his Shadowlands story.

But this is not something that I was fully aware of when I was a young mom. In the early days of motherhood I prayed, anticipating that God would grant my every request. Much like Santa with my gift list at Christmas time, I think that I subconsciously believed that if I was obedient to Him (kind of the equivalent to “being a good little girl”) then God would reward me by meeting my every wish and desire that was expressed in my prayers to Him. I may have even believed that I deserved to have my prayers answered.

When my children were young I prayed that they would grow up healthy, would make wise choices, and that they would be opened to God’s leading in their future decisions, especially surrounding their choice of friends, career and their choice of future spouse. These are all good, and I am not saying that I do not wish those things for them, but that I now wish even more for them.

The reality is that character rarely is developed without the exposure to temptation, life is not fully appreciated without the threat of or reality of loss, some of the best choices in life are made on the heels of the stupidest mistakes in our lives, love is rarely long lasting without enduring the struggles, and dependence on God rarely comes without a season of questioning His ways.

Really, the best things in our lives have often been born out of disaster, death and despair. Failures, mistakes and heartbreaks have a way of opening our eyes to what really matters to us, they have a way of drawing us to cling to God like nothing else.

I don’t pray for disaster for our kids, but I also have lived long enough to know that the greatest growth in life can come from the greatest difficulties. I also have lived long enough to know that life is hard, mistakes get made and difficulties will come to everyone in time.

Now I pray that they might have strength, grace and courage when the rough stuff of life happens, and that they might grow closer to their Heavenly Father through it all.

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