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Sufficient Grace

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Through your pain

His grace is sufficient

Through your joy

His grace is sufficient

Through your suffering

His grace is sufficient

Through your triumphs

His grace is sufficient

Through your defeats

His grace is sufficient

Through your denial

His grace is sufficient

Through your feeble attempts to earn grace

His grace is sufficient

Through your self-righteousness

His grace is sufficient

Through your laughter

His grace is sufficient

Through your tears

His grace is sufficient

For his power is made perfect in weakness.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In case you’re wondering, is my favorite scripture.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival: Grace. For more stories about grace, please visit my friend Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time.

The Graciousness of Uncertainty (Oswald Chambers)


The following is taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It is from the devotion for April 29. I’ve been meditating on this scripture and Mr. Chambers words this week:

“It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” 1 John 3:2

Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says – “Well, supposing I were in that condition . . .” We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, “Except ye become as little children.” Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not – “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.

An Old Man’s Theory (by Duane Scott)


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I won’t say much about today’s guest blogger except to say I came across his writing recently and was impressed that someone so young could so effectively communicate through the written word. I’ll give you a link to his new website at the end of this post, but in the meantime, please read about Duane Scott’s conversation with an older gentleman he met on the jobsite this week:

Recently, our company has been working at a church. Today, the general contractor called and said he would appreciate if we could put a few vent chutes in so they could start putting sheetrock on the ceiling. Having sent all the other crews to different jobs, the only remaining option was for me to do it.

As I began working, I fought back disgruntled thoughts about the inconvenience while fast becoming bored with the repetitive job. That was, until I noticed a peculiar man.

He wore blue Dickie coveralls and on his feet were black dress shoes, looking oddly out of place in the dusty environment. Construction workers bustled around him, hanging sheetrock and noisily moving their scaffolding. It seemed the old man hardly noticed the commotion, but continued to silently sweep the sheetrock dust to the corners.

We all worked along side each other for a few hours, and never did I hear the old man say a word. Curious, I wondered why he was on the job and decided he must be the father to the general manager.

When 4:00 rolled around, the cords were wrapped up, drills and saws were put in their places, and one by one the workers went home for the day. When they bid the old man goodbye, he only responded by the nod of his head.

I continued to staple vent chutes in the trusses and the old man continued to sweep silently. When I was almost finished, I asked him, “Do you work for the general manager?”

“No,” he replied, leaning against his broom. A grin appeared on his wrinkled face, exposing a few missing teeth. With enthusiasm, he said, “I’m a priest at this church.”

With renewed interest, I noticed the black robes he was wearing under the coveralls. I didn’t know what to say, so all I managed was, “Interesting.”

He smiled and said, “That, it is.”

Switching the subject, I said, “Looks like I’ll be back in the morning. I didn’t bring enough vent chutes to finish the job. I’ll be here early enough so I can get ahead of the other contractors. That way, they won’t have to wait on me.”

“That’s okay,” he grinned, “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t make a mistake or two.”

I laughed. Then jokingly I said, “By being a priest, I doubt you have that problem.”

“Look here buddy,” he chuckled, scolding and pointing a finger in my direction, “I’m still just as human as you are.”

I smiled, feeling a bit uncomfortable until he continued to talk. “I still make plenty of mistakes, and I still get into plenty of trouble.”

“A man your age surely doesn’t get into as much trouble as I do,” I said.

“Maybe not. But you should be glad you get into trouble.”

I raised an eyebrow and looked questioningly at him. Stifling a laugh, I said, “That’s an interesting theory. What makes you say getting into trouble is a good thing?”

“It’s all the trouble we get into in life that makes us realize how much we need God. Nobody could ever get into heaven if they never got into trouble.”

“So you are saying…” I asked, a bit confused, “that I should want to get into trouble?”

“Oh my,” he said, embarrassed, “That does sound like a… excuse my language… a hair-brained idea. What kind of priest am I?” He laughed, “That’s not really what I meant.” Eyeing me from head to toe, he continued, “You’re young. I have a feeling trouble will find you.”

I chuckled at the absurdity of the moment. It isn’t every day a priest looks me over and says I’m bound for trouble. More importantly, it isn’t every day a priest tells me getting into trouble is a good thing.

“It’s like this,” he continued, “God sits up there in His office, and everything you face in life comes across His desk for approval. And He will never put His signature on a trial or temptation that is too big for you to handle. Everything you face is only meant to bring you closer to Him.”

Saying goodbye to the elderly man, I marveled at the wisdom hidden behind his youthful eyes and mischievous grin. I admired his charismatic approach to life, and continued to think about the pearls of wisdom he had bestowed upon my young mind.

Some people curse their bad luck. Others become depressed by their misfortunes. Instead, maybe we should take the advice of the elderly man in the blue coveralls.

If trouble never found us, nor trials ever came, we would never need His grace… and it is only through His grace, that we are saved.

Yes, I like his theory.

-Duane Scott

***

To read more from Duane Scott, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @duane_scott.

Being Me (and being you)


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On Tuesday, I wrote a post for the blog carnival entitled “Faithfulness – To thine own self be true”. In it, I made the following statement:

For the most part, I enjoy being me. I now understand after years of fighting to be like someone else, it was never God’s intention that I be anyone but myself. I fought it for years, seeing only my shortcomings and rarely my strengths. But somewhere along the way, I figured out God can use our weaknesses just as well (and sometimes better) as our strengths.

In the comments section, Bonnie and Melissa Rae asked about the line, “But somewhere along the way, I figured out…” How did I figure that out? There’s not a short answer to this question. It’s been a process. It continues to be a process.

The journey began innocently enough. I was 24 or 25 years old. I was watching a segment of 20/20 about Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults. I’d never even heard of ADD, but as I watched the stories of others struggling with the same feelings of inadequacy, low self worth and pain, I knew without a doubt they were describing me. I wasn’t looking for excuses, I was looking for hope.

Shortly after this broadcast, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I took a long, verbal test to confirm if I had ADD. The test began with some questions about my work habits in school, etc. Simple enough. Then the doctor began asking me math problems. As I type this, my face is beginning to feel flush remembering how full of shame I felt. I could not calculate simple addition in my head. I broke down in tears, and he concluded the test. He didn’t need more to confirm his diagnosis. I was referred to a therapist to help me understand my condition and to learn to live with it. When I walked into her office, beautifully framed in gold was this poem by Veronica Shoffstall:

Comes the Dawn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn…
With every goodbye you learn.

That was a major turning point. I was approaching life completely wrong. I was attempting to gauge my self worth based upon what others thought of me. In that epiphany moment, I understood what I believe is a core truth: You can be surrounded by loving, supportive, caring people (or not) and yet you are still ultimately alone in this world. We are created to live in community with one another, yet at the end of the day, it is you and your Creator who understands the depths of your soul.

Strip away all the things people think define you, and you are ultimately left with what you know to be the truth. That despite how flawed you may be, God put you on this earth for His glory, and He has already equipped you with the tools you will need. It is up to you to hone these tools, and get to work on your Father’s business. “To thine own self be true?” Yes. Absolutely.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

A Wretch Like Me (by Jennifer Lee)


I read a lot of blogs. I comment on a lot of blogs. If you want to increase your traffic, leaving comments on other blogs is a great way to do that. Increased traffic has never been my goal when leaving a comment, it just happens to be a by-product of said practice. And let’s face it — I am rarely at a loss for words.

I realize that part of the blogging experience is getting feedback from your readers, but sometimes I simply want to savor the words I’ve just read and reflect on them.

Jennifer Lee has a blog that leaves me speechless on a fairly regular basis, and she has graciously agreed to write a guest post for me.

Enjoy…

***

I asked my pastor the question the other day at my kitchen table as I poured him a second cup of coffee: “Pastor, do you think I’m a wretch?”

His response: “Absolutely.”

I neither spit out my coffee, nor threw it at him in disgust.

Instead, I nodded in agreement and responded with this: “And you know what, Pastor? I’d say you’re a wretch, too.”

***

There was a time in my life when the accusation would have offended me. But that was before I took a good, long look at my heart. That was before I saw myself among the most depraved characters of the Bible.

I almost cringe to read the words I just wrote — which puts me among the worst of sinners — for this is the first I have met some of you. For the record, I am an Iowa farmer’s wife, a mother of two, a women’s Bible study leader, and an adjunct professor at a Christian college. But I am also this: First-Class Wretch.

I am part Pilate and part Peter. I am the doubter, the mocker, the Pharisee.

And I am the criminal on a cross beside Jesus, deserving the punishment He got, but getting a crown instead.

But I am also this: madly in love with the One who would make this wretch His treasure.

There are some Christians who don’t like it when we talk like this. They don’t like it when we say we’re wretches. They say that when we continue to sin daily, we put Christ up on that cross and crucify Him over and over again. There are some who say that after we become joint heirs with Christ, we traded in our wretched rags for robes of righteousness. End. Of. Story.

Yet, I cast my eyes down and

see how stony my heart,

feel how cold my love,

and watch how prideful my ways,

And I know

that I know

that I know

that I am still

a wretch.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” — Romans 7:24

***

A friend of mine knows it, too. She had a package delivered to my front door a couple weeks ago. I ripped into the cardboard box to find a gray T-shirt with the words: “I am the wretch the song refers to.”

More than 230 years after John Newton wrote the words, I feel them in my marrow: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” So I slip that screenprinted Truth over my head and wear those words as a badge of honor — not because I’m proud of my wretchedness, but because I know the One who covers it.

But to some, my choice of fashion reeks of heresy. The shirt was the source of a week-long debate a couple years ago on a Christian web forum.

One person wrote: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing that slogan. I used to be a wretch in need of salvation, but since God has done this, I am not to call myself a wretch anymore.”

Another wrote: “Paul says we’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, so which is it? Wretched or righteous?”

As for me, I’m both.

There are a lot high-falutin’ words like justification and sanctification that you could use to describe all of this — words that this Iowa mama is still trying to figure out. The way I see it, we’re called to become more and more like Jesus every day.

I guess that would be a little bit like saying we’re becoming less and less wretched.

For me, that process has looked a little messy sometimes because of my two-faced heart: I don’t want to be bad, but I am anyway. I know the law, but I can’t keep it. I’ve done much wrong — and by the end of today — I’ll do even more.

I am in constant need of a Savior, stumbling my way Home. As my 7-year-old daughter Lydia says when referring to the act that started this whole sin-mess: “I’d like to rip that snake’s eyeballs out.”

Me, too, Lydia. Me, too.

And so tonight, when I go to bed, I’ll bow low once again and marvel at grace. And with a lump in this throat, I’ll whisper my thanks to the only One holy enough to cover my wretchedness. Someone once said that the only thing of our very own that we contribute to our salvation, is the sin that made it necessary.

And that I know very well.

Lord Jesus, I am a sinner in constant need of a Savior — not just once but every single day. Wretched woman that I am, who will deliver this body from death? The answer, thank God, is You. Thank you for your amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me. Amen.

Photo: Self-portrait of wretch in wretched shirt, a gift from a friend.

To read more from Jennifer, visit her at Getting Down with Jesus

Days of Elijah

These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord:
And these are the days of Your servant Moses,
Righteousness being restored.
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!’

Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call;
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh;
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the labourers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord!

There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!

Copyright © 1997 Daybreak Music Ltd.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received a call from my friend’s daughter. You see, my friend is 71 years old and is dying of cancer. She was in the hospital, but is now in hospice care at home. Anyway, she was asking for me all day, and they finally got a hold of me. I sat with her, we prayed, talked and laughed. There is always laughter when I’m with my friend. I cannot express how special this lady is to me and my family. She is kind, compassionate, outrageous and funny. When I get to be her age (God willing), I want to be just like her. The video and the song lyrics posted above are “Days of Elijah”, the song she wants played at her funeral. No slow, sad songs for her! She wants people to celebrate God’s glory.

I’m going to go hang out with my friend some more today. I know she’s destined for a much better place. She told me she’s ready to go. But I just want to spend as much time with her as I can. I’m selfish like that…

Father Can You Hear Me?

If you have never seen the Tyler Perry movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” then you are truly missing out. As a matter of fact, you should probably turn off your computer, go to the nearest Hollywood Video or Blockbuster and rent it. Better yet, buy it. If you’re like me, you will watch it over and over. Why? Because it is incredibly funny and incredibly poignant. And while the main character is indeed a “mad black woman”, it is not a “black” movie. (If there is such a thing.) It is a story of forgiveness and redemption; of God’s mercy and grace for us even though we don’t deserve it. I was a bit disappointed at how neatly everything was tied up at the end, but it is, after all, a movie and the message of the film is a powerful one despite the convenient ending.

The following clip is from the movie. Here’s a brief outline of the cast of characters:

-The young girl singing is Tiffany, the daughter of Brian, the gentlemen with the beard wearing a brown suit (Tyler Perry)

-The bald gentlemen is Charles, an attorney and the husband of the “mad black woman” who, after years of marriage to her, kicked her out their beautiful mansion and moved his girlfriend in. Before their divorce was final, he was shot by one of his clients and had to undergo some major rehab to regain the ability to walk and talk.

-The woman in the pink hat is Helen, the “mad black woman”. After the accident, she moved back into their home and helped nurse him back to health. (The girlfriend split after the shooting, but not before cleaning out Charles’ bank account.)

-The woman sitting next to Helen is Myrtle, Helen’s mother and a devout Christian.

-The woman who enters the church towards the end of the scene is Brenda, wife of Brian and mother to Tiffany. She no longer lives with Brian because she became a junkie. She was also Helen’s childhood friend. Just prior to this scene, she checked herself into a detox center and has presumably kicked her drug habit (like I said, it’s a movie).

Okay. Were you able to follow all that? There is so much more in this movie that I won’t mention here, but hopefully I’ve set the scene up adequately. To truly appreciate how awesome this clip is, you have to see the movie. I have seen this movie at least 10 times and I have yet to watch this clip without crying. (But I’m kinda sappy that way.)

Even if you don’t like the movie, you gotta admit that is some SERIOUSLY AWESOME gospel going on up in that church! Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Madea – Helen’s aunt. She alone is worth the price of admission! Just go get the movie!

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