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Hymn Series: Fullness of Grace – John 1

what-is-grace

I am an accident waiting to happen.

I trip over air.  I am awkward.  I barrel through life, a broken leg waiting to happen.  In just the past six months I have:

  • Tripped over a golf club while mowing
  • Tripped over the flat electrical panel on our church’s sanctuary stage, nearly bowling down my fellow worship team member
  • Missed my chair in the food court at the ATL airport, effectively dumping my tray with my food and drink
  • Slid (and landed on my butt) across the kitchen floor that was inadvertently made slick when I sprayed furniture polish, thinking that it was air freshener.
  • Fallen down half a flight of stairs at my company’s corporate offices.  In front of all my co-workers
  • And, effectively mortified my 16-year-old son, when I fell flat on my face by missing a curb on the beach boardwalk in Hermosa Beach, California, resulting in several people coming over to see if I needed assistance.  He wasn’t the only one mortified.  There was no way I could pull off a graceful exit from that mishap.

God has given me so much grace.  Just not in the physical arena.

I am so incredibly awkward.  Such an odd duck.

But, in being the subject of much grace-less-ness, I am that much more aware of the grace-full-ness of God our Father.

Because, being graceless and landing flat on my face so often (and not just physically), is humbling (and a bit humiliating), and highlights for me my–and our–need for His grace.

I recently did some study on John 1.  I may go through the whole book again, in study, though I haven’t firmly decided on that yet.  But I did re-study John 1, and spent most of the time on one of my all-time favorite passages, John 1:14-18:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

I love these verses, for many reasons.

First, the Word became flesh…..to dwell with us.  The use of the word “Word” there is amazing and the culmination of all the verses from John 1:1 through John 1:13—Jesus became flesh, to be among us.  Not just to visit, to dwell–to live.  I dwell in this little house of mine; it is my home.  Jesus dwelt among us.  He abided with us, so we could abide with Him.

Second….we have seen His glory that belongs only to the Son of God the Father, and He is full of grace and truth…..

Pay attention here, because this is where this gets so very good.  He is full of grace.  He is full of truth.  When something is full of something, there is room for no more.  When a cup of water is full, not another drop will be contained.  Jesus is all grace and all truth.

But, when I cup has water in it, and that water is given to someone to drink, the cup becomes less full.  The water table goes down.  It eventually becomes empty.

But not so with Son of God; not true with Jesus.  He is full of grace and truth in such a way that there is no end to it.  There is no end to His love and mercy and forgiveness and grace and truth.  There just isn’t.

So, in verse 16, we are told that from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  Endless grace.

And, yet, it is never depleted.

What that tells me is this:  I am in need of grace, every day.  Every day.  And, the only source of grace that I have available, is a source that never will be empty.  And, will be given.  Because it comes from his fullness, that is never un-full.

So, when I mess up, which is Oh, so very often, there is still grace for me.  And, when I am weary, which also is Oh, so very often, there is still grace for me.  And when my thinking if off-track, there is still grace for me.  And for you.

It is free and unmerited.  We do not deserve it.  We can not work hard enough for it.  We cannot pay penance enough for it.

It is a gift.  And endless gift.

And, so, I love the words of this very old Wesley Hymn, that I found in some very old hymn books that a friend gave me. The title is “Jesus, Lover of my Soul”; I’ve never heard it sung, so I have no idea how the tune goes.  But, good gracious, the words reflect well the fullness of grace that is found in Jesus alone:

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

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I have several resource pages at this website.  You can find them in the tab located above.

Today I updated the Productivity Tools and Apps page with some tools I have recently started implementing.  You can access that page either via the tab above, or by clicking HERE.  There are some great fitness related tools I’ve added, plus a couple of office/work related items as well.

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Our Only Good

Ocean

……you have made us, and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.  St. Augustine; Confessions

The truth of that is astounding.

Our souls–for, I believe, that is a much accurate word than heart–our souls are so very often unquiet.  They churn–they are not still; they do not settle well.

They are very often, very noisy places.  Filled with so many thoughts that, if we allow them to, become much larger than the God who created our ability to think in the first place.  And, so often, our thinking is so wrong.

I have read Augustine’s Confessions before, but somehow I missed this passage.  It may be highlighted in my copy on my shelf, but I’m too wired to stop writing and go find it.  I want to sit down with Augustine and tell him that he has captured perfectly, here in Lib 1,1-2, 2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5, what I wish I could have said myself.

And so, tonight I borrow from Augustine, and pray:

Oh! that I might rest on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart,

and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my only good.  Augustine

Our God–my God–you are my only good.  My only good.  There is no good in me, and there is no good around me.  There is good in my life; that is so very true.  But there is also much not-good.  And, what good there is, is only there because you are my only good.  The good that I am graced with–my children, a job to provide with, a home to live in, the sky, music, sleep when it comes, laughter–all these things are good because they are graces from you, my only good.

That I might rest on Thee!  That you would be what inebriates my soul, what a word God!  What a word, that Augustine chose.  And, not only chose, but recognized the power in that word to produce forgetfulness of ills.  But this is not forgetfulness that returns in a matter of hours, once sobering comes.  No, this is a forgetfulness that recognizes that though the ills still remain, they are colored by grace.  And, changed, even, to some degree, in the light of your sovereignty.  Enter my soul, o God.  Enter our souls, because that is the only–the only–avenue to quiet our unquiet hearts.

And, tonight, my heart is so very unquiet.

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

….and you will be exalted.

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Oh, have mercy on me and tell me,

0 Lord my God, what You are to me. Augustine

So often my mind turns to your grace, God, and I am grateful for that.  Your grace is a ribboned theme through my life.  But I also need your mercy. We, each, need your mercy.

We need to know what You are to us.

You do tell us, the nouns of who You are, in your scripture.  You are the way.  You are the truth.  You are the life.  You are the resurrection.  You are the shepherd.  You are I AM.  That all-encompassing, incomprehensible I AM.  And yet, sometimes we need you to still have mercy on us, and tell us again.  To settle our souls.  Sometimes we need you to have mercy on us, and remind us who You are.

And, sometimes, we just need you to have mercy on us.

Mercy, please God.

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Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Say it loudly enough that I may hear.  Augustine

Speak to our unsettled, restless, unquiet souls, O God, and speak loudly.  Loud enough that your voice becomes a whisper that says “Shhh” to our minds and souls, and that that whisper is so quiet and yet so loud that it drowns out the cacophony of noise in our souls–that drowns out the grief and anxiety and irrationality and illogical and fear.  Oh God, especially the fear.  The fear can be so loud.  We need You to say to our souls “I am your salvation” loud enough that we might hear.  Salvation from our sins.  Salvation unto you.  And salvation from our unquietness.

Say to my soul,
    “I am your salvation!”  Psalm 35:3

_________________________________

Hide not Your face from me. Let me die, so that I will not only die.

Only let me see Your face.  Augustine

Hide not, our God.  Help us to sense your presence, when so often our souls are too loud to be able to.  Help us to sense that you are real, that you are near.  That you have not abandoned.  That you will not abandon.  And then, someday, home.

You are our only good.

 

 

He Who Calls You, Is Faithful….Parenting, Grace, Salvation, and Prayer

grace

Everyone knows that the proverbial “Camp Conversions” happen on Thursday nights.

They don’t happen on Monday nights.

If you ever spent time attending a christian “Youth Camp”, you know this to be truth.  Thank you, “University of Joy”, circa early to mid 1980’s, you taught me this well. There is a cycle; a procedure to follow, for maximum results.  Rules to adhere to.  Start off slow, deprive the kids of sleep, build the drama and the emotionalism to a fevered pitch and then “BAM”; there you have it.  Scare them half to death with, well, death–and hell–on Thursday night, and there you’ve got it, recipe for an “outpouring of the spirit” and the opportunity to say “we had 279 saved this week!  In fact, we got everyone saved except that one rebellious kid.” Said with a sad shake to the head.  Dang it.  The one that got away.

Does that sound cynical?  Sarcastic?  I suppose it does.  But you know there is an element of truth there.

Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night.  Nor do they happen when the focus is on the Gospel message as opposed to Gospel-absent yelling and stomping and shaming of people.

Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night.

Except for when they do.

Everything within me wants to share my girl’s story in this space.  But it is not mine to share.  At all.

Her story is sacred.  It is important.  It is not to be thrown away, or thought of flippantly.

And we, as parents, must be sensitive to that.  We should never share their story, or post their picture on social media, or use them as a sermon or writing illustration, unless we first ask permission.  And, even then, we should make sure that they understand why, and let them help us tell their story.  I try to be conscientious of that; I don’t always succeed, but it is important.  So, I won’t share here.

But, it doesn’t mean that the mother in me doesn’t want to.

Because 3 John 1:4 is not nothing:  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

And, I am overwhelmed with joy tonight.  More joy than I have experienced, to date, because of the truth of 3 John 1:4.

But, simultaneously, I am wrecked tonight.

This week, I’ve attended the evening worship sessions of the Missions Camp Imitate that is being held at our church.  I’ve done so primarily for two reasons.  First, I’ve been curious about the guest speaker.  He is an author and seminary professor.  I’ve not read any of his printed stuff, but I’ve read some of his blogs, particularly about cultural engagement.  So, I was curious.

Secondly, I wanted to hear what my girl was hearing, so we could discuss if the opportunity arose.  This was the most crucial factor in my decision to attend; and now I see why.  She has heard some hard-to-hear things.  Things that have hit home, on many levels.  I’m so grateful that I know what those things are.

And those things are both responsible for the co-mingling of tremendous joy…..and grief.

But, I also know where my hope lies.  And, I know where her hope lies.  And, she is starting to learn where her hope lies.

I know the depths of having been saved; and of continually being saved.  And I long for that first-hand knowledge to fall upon the souls of my children as well.

Salvation.  One of the greatest-and probably should be the greatest–desire a Christ-follower who is also a parent should have for their child is that they, too, would know the reality of salvation.  However, if a parent is not a Christ-follower, and their child grasps the gospel and becomes a follower of Christ, then sometimes it is bewildering and concerning for the non-Christ-follower parent.  I’ve even had parents tell me that it frightened them.

That wasn’t the case for me, but I can understand their anxiety.    No, because I grew up in the church, and because I was the wife of a minister and was always at church, I naturally expected my children to be baptized at some point.  How could they not, really?  What choice did they have?  But there wasn’t joy in watching their baptism.  Happiness, because they were happy.  Happy, because everyone around them were “Happy for them” and “Proud of them” (don’t we love it when others are proud of our children, too?).

But not joy.  In fact, there was a twinge of sadness, even.

However, it is a much different experience when, as Christ-following parents, we grasp the implications of salvation for our souls and our minds, and realize how much we want that for our children, too.  When we, ourselves, have experienced that grace first-hand, then we start to realize that we want nothing more than for our children to also experience that grace.

I think we become so conditioned to the idea of someone being “saved”, that we do not understand the grace involved.  We make it so routine.  We are happy, we clap when someone “comes forward” at an invitation to “accept Jesus” (as if that is even close to appropriate language to describe salvation.  It’s not.  Not even.)  But, do we stand in shock and awe?  Not that God could save a wretch like us…..but that He would save a wretch like us.  Like me.  And like every other soul that comes to see the cross for what it is:

Scandalous.

So, when we start to grasp (because, it can never be grasped fully; it is beyond us) exactly what God has done, in our own souls, that’s when we start to understand how deeply we long for our children to know that very same grace.

And, when we see our children ache, and when we suddenly understand the why behind their ache, we come to a new understanding that we can not fix their ache.  I cannot undo the turmoil my kids have experienced.  I would give absolutely anything, to be able to.  Absolutely anything.

But I can’t.

But, I can see.  And know.  And remember. And not forget.

But, even in all that, because I, myself, have experienced the scandalous grace of the cross, I know–maybe deeper then most– that that very same scandalous grace is their only hope.

And so, prayer.

I pray for my children.  Earnest prayer.  The ones that are Christ followers, and the ones that are not.  Yet.  (Please God, let that pause only be a “yet”.)  Real prayer.  Every single morning.  That they will know overarching saving grace in the form of a man who would willingly go to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.

How Deep the Father’s Love.  So deep, it is nearly too much to bear.  Too much to look upon.  But that’s the kind of love I want my children to know.

But also this— that they would also know grace on a more micro scale–that they would sense God’s presence.  His very realness.  Their very not-aloneness.  That He will not abandon or forsake them.  That they will know that they are loved, deeply, by me, as inadequate as my love is.

And prayed for, consistently.  Without fail.

And, I will never, ever stop knowing and seeing and praying for them.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-25:

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.