Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for August, 2011

A Bouquet of Dandelions

This morning we went for a walk around the block with our two-year-old grandson.  On the way, he picked a handful of dandelions.

Isaac w flower (1)   

It reminded me of a photo we have of my sister and me doing the same thing and presenting them to our mom who oohed and aahed over them.  She actually did appreciate the cheerful flowers which we normally consider weeds.  But more than that, she appreciated the “love gift” of her two little girls.

What I do for the Lord is so small and inadequate.  (Remember the widow who gave two tiny coins.)  But when it’s done to please Him, he delights in it.  Like maybe washing the dishes for the family, taking time to read to a child or play a game with them, offering to run an errand for someone, or…

More than anything, I long to hear the Lord’s words someday:  “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Unburdening

My recurring nightmare is about school.  Classes are beginning and I either haven’t yet registered or have misplaced my books or failed to do my homework or can’t find my classroom.  It seems there’s always something to worry about, whether in dreams or in real life, which is the fodder for those dreams. 

When I was in elementary school, I used to lie awake worrying.  For the life of me, I can’t remember what I worried about!  But when I shared it with my mom, she gave me a Bible verse that has stuck with me all these years:  Casting all your cares on him for he cares for you  (1 Peter 5:7).  David said much the same when his life was in danger:  Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall (Psalm 55:22, NLT).  I love these verses and the beautiful songs that they have inspired.  I first heard the former on a children’s recording, and the latter is set in Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.”  For all ages and all styles, this reassurance of God’s care is our comfort. 

The First-born—Whom does God choose and use?

Last night at supper we discussed with our grandchildren (two of which are twins) the birth of twins in the Bible:

Me:  When Jacob was born after Esau, what was he doing?  (Expected answer:  Holding Esau’s heel.)

Simeon:  Making soup!

I guess he skipped ahead a few years in his thought process.  But it got me to thinking again about the role of the firstborn in the Bible.

Of course, we know that the firstborn got twice the inheritance, and (at least in some cases) a more special blessing.  But when it comes right down to it, it seems that non-firstborns may figure more prominently in salvation history and generally in the  Old Testament stories.  We know that none of the following was a firstborn:

Abel or Seth
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Ephraim
Joseph (OT)
Moses
David
Solomon

As the firstborn in my family, I would love to think of the firstborn being blessed.  But I’m more intrigued by the way God turns things topsy-turvy, laying his blessing on men and women “after His own heart”—those who are “friends of God,” regardless of birth order—and a lot of other things.  

What Can’t We Give Up?

In a local newspaper today were printed responses to the question, “Things you can’t live without even when money is tight”.  This is what they said:

Pop/Pepsi (3)
Internet (3)
Cellphone (2)
Cigarettes
Air Conditioning
Jeep (for safe winter driving)
MP3 Player
Perfume
Shopping
Pedicures
Books

 

What would I have said?  Would my response have been pleasing to the Lord?  Think of Paul sitting in prison as he wrote to the Philippians (esp. chapter 3).  What did he consider non-negotiable?  It surely wasn’t creature comforts, tangible toys, fleeting pleasures.  Rather, it was the invisible…

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Cor. 4:18 (NIV)

Grace and Mercy—what’s the difference?

An important task of a Bible translator is to accurately translate similar terms.  And when the receptor language lacks its own terminology for important theological concepts, it’s all the more important for the translator to understand what those Greek or Hebrew terms mean in order to render the ideas precisely. 

“Grace” and “mercy” are two of these which are so similar that, in some languages, it’s hard to find ways to distinguish them.  We’ve all heard the helpful definitions of “getting what (good) you don’t deserve” and “not getting what (bad) you do deserve.  Here’s another thought or two:

Maybe there’s an aspect of “grace” that focuses more on the giver—his kindness, compassion, riches and generosity. 

And maybe there’s an aspect of “mercy” that focuses more on the recipient—his need, his guilt, his helplessness.

In Christ, we have both! 

God’s Relay Race

A verse that has puzzled me is Hebrews 11:39-40.  “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (NLT)

Why do all the heroes mentioned in that chapter have to wait for us before they can “receive all that God promised” and “reach perfection”?  Two images come to mind:

A family celebration where the father wants to wait till everyone is present before bringing out the cake and blowing out the candles.

But a relay race seems even more appropriate in the context (the next verses, 12:1-2—following an unfortunate chapter break).  The people listed in chapter 11 have finished their part and handed off the baton to us.  Now it’s our turn to “strip off every weight”  and “run with endurance, keeping our eyes on Jesus.”  The race won’t really be finished until the last runner has crossed the finish line.  That’s when we’ll all receive our team trophy and “reach perfection” together.  Are we cheering each other on?  Are we listening to the encouragement of others along the way and keeping our eyes on our Champion there ahead of us?  In the end, it will be well worth it all.

“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus; life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.  One glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase.  So bravely run the race till we see Christ.  (by Esther Kerr Rusthoi)”

Doubly at Home

Two metaphors come together in Ephesians 3:17 in an interesting way. 

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT)

First, try to picture Christ “making his home in your heart.”  Think of him coming in (without knocking, of course), kicking off his shoes, raiding the fridge for a snack, and making himself comfortable in your favorite chair.  Does this idea make me gasp with horror or with delight?  Does He find me running to meet him with my arms open wide or scrambling to hide the stuff he shouldn’t see?  I think I would do the former; I can hardly wait to see Him!  But when He makes Himself at home, He will call the shots.  Am I really ready for that?  (A great resource for exploring this whole idea is My Heart Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger.)

Second, picture your “roots growing down into God’s love.”  Now the situation reverses and we’re the one entering into Christ!   I am stable, strong and secure in God’s limitless love.

Lord, please remind me of this when I am again tempted to feel rootless and homeless.  You are in me and I am in You Smile

That’s Rich!

In a language that I know, there’s a specific word to refer to how you feel when you’ve eaten too much sweet or rich food.  Though that is an unpleasant feeling, it does come to mind when I try to express how overwhelmed with awe and delight I am when intaking certain parts of God’s Word.  Like 1 Peter 1 and Ephesians 1, for example.

What can I compare it to?

–A bottomless treasure chest full of dazzling jewels…

–The richest dessert that you can only eat in tiny bites and savor every morsel…

–A sunset so beautiful it makes you want to cry…

–A garden of infinite variety, flowers of every shape and hue and fragrance…

–The sky on a starry night; the more you look the more you see…

God, your Word is wonderful!  It delights me, makes my heart sing and draws me to you.  I can never get enough—I never tire of it—I want to make it part of me.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Your Word in my own language.  And please raise up people to translate it in all its power and beauty into the 2000+ languages that don’t yet have even one word of it!

No Need to Understand

I am puzzled by Christians who allow themselves to be persuaded that God required long periods of time to make the earth and the universe.  Doesn’t He have the ability to do it all in one fell swoop (i.e. in six days)?  Or that he has the ability to make things that appear to have been around for some time (i.e. appearance of age).  Can’t we just believe that He did it even though our minds cannot grasp just how it was done?   Isn’t God greater than our own understanding?

I am also puzzled by Christians who focus on arguing between the extremes of predestination and free will, between various eschatological theories, and other mysteries that the Lord has chosen not to make fully clear in the Scripture.  Can’t we humbly accept that God’s plan contains mysteries beyond what He has chosen to make known to us?  Can’t we accept the possibility that a brother’s position might be as valid as the one we have chosen?  Can’t we focus instead on loving our Christian brothers and sisters, obeying the Lord, and growing in the knowledge of what has been clearly revealed in the Scriptures?

I don’t know how God made the universe, but I’m glad he did and am enjoying living here Smile.

I don’t understand exactly how He works in people’s hearts to make them His children, but I’m glad he chose me and drew me to respond to Him Smile.

I don’t know when Christ will return and what will happen before that, but I’m looking forward to meeting Him and being with Him forever.  And then, for all eternity, maybe I’ll learn the secrets to these mysteries.  It will be greater than anyone has ever guessed—or argued about.

How deep are the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unfathomable his judgments;
How unsearchable his ways!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Who has been his mentor?
Who has made a gift to him first, and earned a gift in return?
For from him and through him and for him all things exist.
To him be glory for ever!  Amen  (Romans 11:33-36)

Being God’s Friend

When I die, I would love for my gravestone to bear the epitaph, “A friend of God.”  This is what God himself said of Abraham. (Isaiah 41:8 & James 2:23). And Jesus assured his disciples that they were his friends if they obeyed him and because he confided in them.  (John 15:14-15)

Can I be so audacious as to claim to be a friend of God?  What does it say about God that he would stoop to befriend a flawed human being?  While some religions consider this either absurd or blasphemy, it is at the heart of Christianity.   I want to be God’s friend.

In the human context, a  friend is someone …

–whom I enjoy being with

–whom I confide in, including my joys, hopes, concerns, hurts, etc.

–whose opinion and esteem I treasure

–whose reputation I strive to protect and enhance

–with whom I share the most important values

–with whom I reciprocally give and receive good things

–who I can trust to act in my best interests

How do all these carry over into friendship with God?  Very well, I think… Smile

A few songs that I know revel in this wonder.  Here are some lines that ring through my head:

“It’s so good to get to know You as my Friend”!”

“My God and I walk through the fields together…we walk and talk as good friends should and do.”

“A friend of Jesus—oh, what bliss that a sinner such as I should have a Friend like this….”

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