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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Last week during worship at church, I was confessing to the Lord about my stingy heart (again). You may remember that I’ve been here before.

In fact, I just went back through old blog posts (links below) and found 2 previous posts on this topic. Clearly, I’ve been dealing with this for some time now.

But, oddly, I’m not beating myself up over it. I’ve stopped doing that. In fact, I’m much kinder and more patient with Camille than I was 10 years ago. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still believe I need to surrender daily (er… hourly) and ask God to turn my stony heart to playdough and make me more like Jesus. As always and more than ever, and ever, Amen.

Because there’s a distinct difference these days in the way I view my flawed, sinful nature and God’s desire to see me change and grow and produce more of his Spirit in me. After years of despair about my failure to arrive, to “be a better Christian” (compared to her or him or some perfect figment of my imagination), the truth finally sunk in that I can no more lose my right standing with God than I can earn it. I can not earn or lose my righteousness. This has been entirely done on my behalf by Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection. I can’t undo that by having a bad day or a bad week or even a bad year. I can’t lose God’s saving grace and I can’t earn it. Growing and living for Jesus is always my goal, but somewhere in the back of my little mind, it was somehow attached to keeping my foot in heaven’s door. It was also attached to an age-old fear that some fathers stop loving you and vanish, and others get pleasure from verbally beating you to down.

God doesn’t deserve to be thrown in with deadbeats and bullies.

When he looks at me, he sees holy, which feels weird to say. He sees me fully cloaked in the righteousness Jesus paid for with his life. When he looks at me, he sees his lovely, precious Son.

And because of that, I want to grow up. More than ever. I have a long way to go, but he’s brought me incredibly far. I am no longer driven by fear, but by gratitude, grace, and love. I am encouraged by God’s 40+ year display of inexhaustible love and kindness toward me.

So while I was having a stare-off with my stingy nature, I asked God to help me be more generous when others have need—through gritted teeth. We’re talking muscle cramps from how tightly my jaw was clenched. I also admitted—might as well since there’s no hiding it from God, right?—that this is REALLY HARD for me to ask.

He knows. He gets that I’m wired a bit off the grid.

Now, there are reasons I tend to withhold giving of myself emotionally, and some might seem justifiable. For instance, I still carry scars from emotional wounds at a time in my life when I was extremely vulnerable. And then I spent decades having no clue what “boundaries” are and why you’re allowed to have them, so I’ve been burned and emotionally drained and have therefore grown resistant to giving. But… I’m also a sinner and admit that I’m selfish, sometimes lazy, and have a powerful aversion to discomfort. (Hey–cut me slack, I’m working on it. Plus Aspies have serious discomfort issues—another topic for another time.)

So as I was admitting to God that needing to be more generous was really hard to ask for, he reminded me of the verse in Matthew 11, when Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let me pause there a sec. You might have expected the answer to my request to come in the form of a challenge, like Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. A solid truth, and a perfectly good verse. But I find that Jesus really is gentle and lowly in heart, as he said, and this is especially evident in the way he deals with the wounded. I am not afraid of challenge. But the Lord knows me well and knows that a challenge to try harder, do better, is NOT going to produce the results I’m humbly asking him for. He knows that shame has never brought about any good thing in me, only damage. He knows full well that I can accept a challenge, but he also knows that I need reminded–again–that he wants to help me.

Effort is needed on our part, to be sure. But our Father, who knows each one of us intimately—and who has, in fact, wired us all uniquely—has fashioned an easy, custom-fitted yoke for each of us. Not to weigh us down, but to share our load. To ease the burden for us. To do the heavy lifting, actually. I believe his end of the yoke bears like 95% of the weight. Okay, maybe more like 99%. He invites us to come to him, come under the safety and abundance of his provision, lean into his strength. Submit to the power of his Spirit living and working in us. Draw from him, learn from him, find peace and rest. Whatever burden he asks us to bear, he promises to share. He promises to carry the heaviest part. In his grace, he promises to lighten our load.

I so often forget that he will provide whatever it takes to do whatever he asks of me.

I also often forget that the “giving up of myself” doesn’t mean I must surrender to every need or request that comes along. I need only to surrender to the Lord. He will direct me about how he wants to meet the needs of others. When I come under his yoke, he can be FULLY and COMPLETELY trusted. When I place myself in his hands, he does not violate my trust and does not hurt me or take anything from me that I can’t part with. If what is being asked of me costs time or energy or resource, and he is directing me to give it up, he will provide. He can make the sun stand still. He can send rain out of the clear blue. He will provide manna. He’ll turn water to wine. He will multiply a couple loaves and fish to such an overabundance as to leave heaps of leftovers.

His yoke is easy.

His load is light.

His provision is ridiculously more than enough.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” -Jesus

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.” -C. S. Lewis

Jesus loves me, this I know. He will never leave me on the road with four flats and an empty tank. He will not let me be overwhelmed. He will provide every last drop of what I need, when I need it, always. Whether it be time, energy, mental focus, resources, the ability to pour out love and care, the space to withdraw and process and recharge when all the cares become overwhelming. He is carrying the heavy end. He’s got this.

see also:

https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/surrender-brings-freedom/ https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/surrender-brings-freedom-part-2/

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And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …

For a long time as a believer, I wondered what “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” meant. Somehow, I had missed the fact that this phrase was tucked in between the exhortations to build up others, to steer clear of bitterness and slander, and to be kind and forgiving.

Fact: Unkindness causes God grief.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

It’s pretty clear that bitterness, anger, slander, criticism, and all such forms of negativity break God’s heart. They don’t belong in the spirit-filled believer. At all. Paul tells us that kindness, compassion, and grace are to be our response to the offenses and imperfections of others.

Before I came to faith in Christ, bitter words spewed easily from me (see THIS post). But even long after I became a believer, I didn’t hesitate to be critical, freely listing others’ faults and flaws to myself and sometimes to others. And then about 15 years ago, I was blessed to work with an exceptional pastor, a man who consistently modeled grace and compassion day after day. Not only did he exemplify positive attributes, he also didn’t engage in negative, critical conversations. I instantly took note. His lack of engagement combined with his unwavering bent toward grace and compassion began to influence my thinking and actions.

After a while, I grew to sense a check in my spirit whenever criticism or negativity spilled out of my mouth. Sometimes the check was heeded. Other times, it was noted and promptly ignored.

Stop. Don’t say it.

Okay, now you’ve let that ugly criticism out of your mouth. You’re slandering someone God loves. Time to stop. Don’t continue.

STOP TALKING NOW.

Paul says we are to get rid of all bitterness. All.

ALL.

Bitterness is a weed with roots that go a lot deeper than the critical, judgy words about to leave my tongue. If I have to slap my hand over my mouth in order to not grieve God’s Holy Spirit, then I have a lot of work to do. Critical words are a product of stinky attitudes which are products of thoughts. Thoughts I am prone to feed and entertain if allowed to sprout and flourish unchecked.

If slanderous words grieve my Lord, then slanderous thoughts are every bit as heartbreaking.

Get rid of all bitterness. Get rid of malice.

Get rid of things that break God’s heart.

Fact: If you are in Christ, then God has forgiven you for all the things other people could be critical about that you’re still working on.

Uh …

Just as God has forgiven you for not having it all together, forgive others the same way.

Be Compassionate. Don’t pick at others’ flaws, faults, weaknesses.

Have Mercy. Show grace.

Remember that we are all a work in progress and all need God’s cleansing, renewing, and empowering. Remember that we all struggle with unseen things, with pains and fears, with quirks and tendencies and bad habits we need God’s help to overcome.

According to Ephesians 4, our words have the power to build others up according to their needs—even when we don’t understand what those needs are. And our words have the power to tear people down. Our words have the power break God’s heart. This is some serious power.

But my negative words are not the real issue—they’re simply evidence of a deeper problem: a bitter attitude in my heart. And what goes on in my heart matters to God.

I pray that the Spirit of God would not only stop me before I speak an unwholesome word about someone, but to stop me even as the negative thought begins to germinate in my mind. I pray he gives me a repulsion for such ugliness. I pray he enables me to immediately recognize seedlings of negativity, pull them by the roots, and hand them over to him. I pray he makes me ultra-sensitive to resentful thoughts and critical attitudes that so deeply pain him. I pray he makes my heart grieve over the things his heart grieves over. I pray Ezekiel 36:26, that he transplant my bitter, stony heart with a heart like his—a heart overflowing with compassion and grace. Soft, not stony. Full of light, not darkness. Full of love, not malice.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)

Oh, to have a heart like God. Make it so, Lord. Please make it so.

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mister-rogers-television-persona

The film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” releases in theaters today. I haven’t seen it yet, but I think I already love this movie.

But let’s back the trolley up…

I have a confession: I grew up watching Mister Rogers, and I liked him fine, but I didn’t really appreciate him, not as a child. I remember being about 10 and not understanding the gentle guy with the soft voice and the puppet friends and the incessant drive to keep peace in the neighborhood. To always be neighborly, to point out how neighborly others were being.

And I didn’t understand why he would look into the camera (at me) and say, “You’re special,” and, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” These platitudes (I thought, at all of age ten) were lost on this emotionally struggling kid, because life hadn’t been special, there hadn’t been kindness or a safe, gentle community in which to develop healthy self image and relationships. Moving multiple times combined with dysfunctional dynamics had left me feeling disconnected with no grasp or appreciation for community and no concept of kind, gentle fatherly figures.

So I appreciated the polite guy in the sweater and alternating loafers, but I really didn’t know what to make of him. I mean, there weren’t really men like that (in my worldview). I think I decided he was only a caricature, a fictional invention, like the Six Million Dollar Man. Although why anyone would go to such lengths to invent a character who talked to slightly creepy little puppets didn’t make sense… Life in the real world simply did not look the way it did in Mister Rogers’ polite neighborhood, so, as pleasant as it was, it was just TV, not real.

But deep down, I wanted Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood to be real.

Can such a kind, neighborly world exist? What would it take? An army of Fred Rogers? An increase in education? A decrease in guns? A change of neighborhood? Where can we go where everyone is just like us?

Who is my neighbor?

Someone asked Jesus this question once, and his answer was to tell a story (what a novel idea!). The story of the Good Samaritan tells us what God thinks about where we should draw the line at kindness.

The Bible has a lot more to say about how we respond to others.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:17-18

If peace and harmony could actually be as simple as each person committing to live peaceably with all. If only we could actually resist the temptation to repay evil with evil, an eye for an eye, if we gave conscious thought to the way we respond instead of acting rash or retaliatory. If only Love was patient and kind. If only…

it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor. 13

Love takes the initiative, Love desires to have the last word, leave a lasting fragrance. Like Mister Rogers and his tireless devotion to kindness, peace, and treating each person as someone of special value—also known as Fruit of the Spirit.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” opens today, and I’m planning to see it tonight. I can only imagine how this story will impact me, now that I’m not that naive, jaded child, and now that I have a deepening and purposeful desire to see Love getting last word, and to see what impossible things God can do among us.

So I’ll be back… when the day is new… and I’ll have more ideas for you…

-Camille

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hot buttonHot buttons. We all have them… those things that bring out the less flattering side of us when the right one gets pushed.

As a believer, I know I need to see with the eyes of grace. I need to rise above human failings and offenses. Need to step back and think of the bigger picture, the spiritual principle, the eternal significance of a wise, well-placed word.

Sometimes, I remember this.

And then… there are those other times. The times my particular hot button gets pushed and the last thing I want is someone pointing out that Jesus would never call that driver a bonehead. Jesus would never take offense at being falsely accused and fire off a text. Jesus wouldn’t see someone coming toward him in the store and spin and duck down a different aisle.

There are times that my lack of grace for others does not reflect well on me. That my negativity or complaint or harsh view of someone’s behavior doesn’t reflect well on Jesus and his spirit living in me. Do I have to like others’ idiotic driving? No. Do I have to take harsh treatment? No.

But what does my response to others’ failings and flaws and thoughtless choices reveal about the state of my heart?

When I’m more inclined to react “in the flesh” (meaning my hot button has been pushed) I need to really take a look at why. Is it the other person’s fault?

Well, duh, if not for other humans, I’d be all sweetness and light all the time. (ha!)

But… since I have been known to seek the Lord’s ways instead of my own, and ask for the ability to see people or situations with eyes of grace instead of with my nearsightedness, I realize that grace is a supernatural reaction, and is therefore possible. Not just possible, but expected of those saved by grace.

So why are some situations harder to respond to in grace than others?

In my observation, most people have at least one hot button. That one thing that flips our switch and has us off and running (or swearing, or slandering, or responding) before we have a chance to ask ourselves What Would Jesus Do?

What’s missing? I don’t know about you, but I find that a day began and bathed in prayer and the word is a day I’m more inclined to look at things through a spiritual lens, rather than just the natural. When I don’t begin the day focused on the Lord, it’s like using my phone all day and then forgetting to plug it at night, then trying to use it the next day. It needs to be recharged. And not just once a week, but daily.

We need to plug in to the Source and seek the Lord for daily renewal. We need the word, worship, and prayer. And we need to take the truths of scripture to a more intimate level, to press those truths deeper, from the mind to the spirit, from the natural to the supernatural, where God’s grace and wisdom transcend the world and the flesh and our rights and our petty grievances and our offended, wounded pride and being disrespected and a hundred other hot buttons. In quietness and prayer, the One who wrote the word speaks truth into me, lives in me, breathes his life into me, makes me new, gives me strength and power to overcome, gives me victory over sin and tailgaters and false accusations and offense.

If I begin my day in the spirit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 is one of my favorite verses:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.

Because when I begin my day in the spirit, I have a better chance at responding not in a natural way but supernatural. It shields me from the careless, the thoughtless, and it helps me rise above, gives me perspective. Creates a protective shell so that my nerves aren’t so exposed, so sensitive. It allows time for grace to fall like a blanket of snow and cocoon the situation, and perhaps helps me to see a bit like how God sees.

And when I don’t begin my day that way, well … oh wow, would you look at the time!

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  -Galatians 5:16-26

If you’re willing to admit it, what’s your hot button? Does beginning your day in the word and in prayer make a difference in the way you respond when your buttons get pushed?

Okay, here’s the question I really want to ask: Can you show grace to those who should know better and yet sometimes trip and fall right on their hot button? Do you, like me, tend to forget that other humans have moments of weakness, when maybe they’ve run their battery down and are in dire need of a recharge?

I hope I’m not defined only by moments of weakness, moments when my response doesn’t reflect well on me. It’s hard to remember to give the same grace to others that I would like shown to me. It’s also hard to not define a person by a mistake or an unflattering action. (Or am I the only one who struggles with this?)

Or do we expect everyone—except for us—to be perfect?

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trillium 1

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There are people who, based on their actions, seem absolutely bent on making it impossible for me to display grace and forgiveness. But this doesn’t change the fact that I must forgive. Tirelessly, and totally. Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 18:21-35.

 

Who must I forgive?

EVERYONE, no exceptions. Even my enemies.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)

When?

Whenever they offend me.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

How?

Completely. No holding back.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Why?

Because I was forgiven a debt I could never pay, and I am expected to do the same for others just like me.

JUST. LIKE. ME.

Wait—I don’t act like HER … I’m not a bad as HIM

Wait—in whose book did I deserve the grace I received?

he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

Some people are hard to forgive because they are hard and unforgiving. Are they a lost cause?

Not to God.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

How will my bitter neighbor ever learn to show grace and forgiveness if I, a recipient of undeserved grace, can’t show him what it looks like?

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

If it’s not my responsibility to exemplify undeserved grace, then whose is it?

What if you and I are the only example of Jesus that an offensive person will ever know?

i love u bc God loves u

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Let’s Talk: What has the Grace of God taught you, and how has it changed you? What does it allow you to do that you couldn’t before/on your own?

-Camille

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The grace of God is difficult to understand. The idea of granting favor to people who don’t deserve it is so foreign to our small, justice-wired minds. His mercy is equally confusing: to be pardoned from the consequences our blockheaded behavior deserves.

I understand that I am to be a conduit of God’s grace, I really do. But even when I am willing to show grace or mercy, my sense of justice keeps rearing its score-keeping little head.

I don’t fully understand how God’s grace operates. Grace, like lasting love (because let’s face it—if it isn’t lasting, it isn’t love), isn’t an emotion, but a choice. Grace sometimes means thinking outside the box.

In fact, true grace often means throwing out the box altogether.

The Lord has been showing me that I need to stop wishing people would change when they don’t line up with my list of Things I Like in a Human. I not only need to stop wishing they would change, but I need to change the way I see others and be more accepting of our differences. I’m trying, truly. And yet, no matter how hard I try to change my attitude toward those who see and think differently, it occurs to me that I can never change enough. There are always going to be things about people that I just can’t reconcile. I need to be more open minded, and yet I can only open my little brain so much.

Ah, the limitations of being human.

That’s where grace comes in.

I don’t understand people. Shocking, I know. Christ says I’m to love people as he does, without condition (conditions include wishing they would stop being so anal/boasting/dramatic/verbose/needy/etc). So, in order to love as He loves (and commands), I must rely on grace—that mysterious spiritual blanket that falls on me and everyone around me like snow, coating us all until we are a bizarre collection of snowmen, mismatched in size and shape and yet oddly uniform, suddenly similar. His grace, like snow, puts a hush in the air, quiets the clamor in our judgmental minds, and blinds us to one another’s annoying quirks and all those other things we just don’t understand or—let’s be honest—like about each other.

They say love is blind. This doesn’t mean love turns a blind eye to destructive behavior. But I do think blind love means that with the help of the Spirit and grace of God, I could be far, far, far easier on others in the privacy of my heart.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Don’t secretly demand that people measure up to some standard that you and I, if we were to be honest, don’t always meet ourselves. Do you want a friend? Show yourself friendly. Do you want more attention? Be more attentive. You want more respect, show more respect. Not because giving is a magical formula for getting, but rather because wanting to receive what we’re not willing to give is selfish and hypocritical.

Wait, was that a snowflake…?

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imageResentment is a certain evil, a ready seed in fertile soil. Like a noxious weed, it takes over and quickly ruins anything good around it. It’s a hidden trap, a merciless captor. It has no place in the heart of a Christ follower. It causes self deception, destruction of relationships, and is a cancer to the one bearing it. It fosters sin, the unjust belief of lies, and replaces Grace with Judgment.

After receiving grace ourselves, what a dangerous place in which to live.

Trust me, I know.

Paul says “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Cor 2:10-11

The enemy of our soul hates relationship and is scheming to destroy what binds people to one another (body of Christ, spouses, friends) and to God. Human bonds, perhaps based on good feelings and emotions, are easily broken, sadly. Our feelings are hurt. Or perhaps our pride is wounded. Our worth or opinion is dismissed. Our needs are unmet. How easily we hold others accountable when we are wronged. And people in our lives should be held accountable for their actions, in a right and loving way. But accountability and forever labeled and blamed are not the same thing.

The bonds we as Christians have with one another, forged by God’s grace, are powerful and unbreakable. His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need. Grace isn’t a fleeting emotion, but a powerful and deliberate act. It’s supernatural.

In fact, I think I’ll tattoo this to my forehead:

His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need.

Want to thwart the enemy? Ask God for more grace and then choose to pray for the one you resent. I didn’t say it would be easy, but you can do it. (What Christ did for you on Calvary was much harder.) Choose to forgive and let go your case against them. Pray for them in earnest, and watch your resentment fade. Seek better for others, and seek Christ’s healing and comfort for yourself and your hurts. Be empowered by something far more powerful than a determination to hang onto your rights. Take your resentment to the Cross, where Christ accepted responsibility for your sin, and let grace help you leave it.

Question: when was the last time you chose to pray for the one who wronged you?

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white flagAs a Christian, conversion is an endless process for me, mainly because I face a never-ending challenge to become a fully submitted soul. It’s a constant battle to lay down my will, surrender my desires for the good or need or comfort of others or simply (and most importantly) put Christ and his will first in all I do. It’s not about becoming some kind of doormat or whipping post, but rather growing a servant heart, because let’s face it, surrender of my will is not my spiritual gift.

I can easily blame my self-focus on being a 150% Introvert, but let’s be honest. I’m wired to think of myself first. I always have been. It probably started in childhood when my mom felt compelled to spoil me by letting me have my own way because life around us pretty much sucked. It probably also stems from events that robbed a needy little girl of her voice, her choice, and her self-worth.

As a result, I’ve always been willful and ultra guarded of my will being taken from me, even in small things. Though this has been a long and frustrating battle, I finally realized that Jesus gets this about me. For decades, he’s been patiently challenging, encouraging and helping me lay down my will—in the right ways. Because unfortunately, I think when someone like me learns to guard our will against violation, we can create an iron will and may never experience the freedom that comes from surrendering to Christ.

Though I constantly fight “dying to the flesh”—that part of us that wants to be satisfied and fed, soothed and esteemed—I understand self denial is healthy. Vital, in fact. Maybe through denial of self, in a very small way, we can catch a small glimpse of what Christ has done for us on the Cross.

There’s a story in 2 Samuel 24 about King David whose sin had brought a terrible pestilence on his people. He begged for God’s mercy on them, so God directed him to build an altar on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah (clearly not struggling with the same issues I do) was pleased to give David everything he needed for the altar: the property, the wood, the oxen—the works. But David refused the gift and insisted on buying the man’s property and all the supplies he needed, saying, “I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.”

I’m reminded how easy it is to look at Christ’s gift of eternal life and his death on the cross without fully appreciating what it cost him. I don’t know if I will never fully appreciate it this side of heaven.

In the meantime, I lay down my will here and there when Jesus nudges me to let go or relinquish my plans or my comfort or convenience (more often now than before, so see, I’m making progress). And when I do give it up, I sense his pleasure. I also find, again and again, that though my flesh may grumble for a moment, the surrender is neither painful nor pointless. With each surrender, I find myself a little freer in my soul, a little less chained to my willful flesh, a little closer to Jesus, a little more like him.

And when you get down to it, that’s all I really want.

Q: Have you ever experienced freedom through surrender?

For a Similar post on Surrender, see: https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/if-i-only-had-a-heart/

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I recently read a quietly deep, beautifully written novel called Some Wildflower In My Heart (Bethany House Publishers, 1998) by Jamie Langston Turner. The story is told by Margaret, a deeply wounded woman who has spent decades closed off to love, relationships, and especially God. She ensures distance from others by being cold and unapproachable. Yet In spite of her brusque demeanor, she finds herself the recipient of the persistently kind, friendly attentions of a woman named Birdie with an inexhaustible capacity for love.

In the real world, anyone behaving like Margaret is sure to go to their grave friendless. But because one woman’s love for Jesus flows like an underground spring and touches everyone she meets, there may be hope for Margaret.

I try to imagine myself being persistently gracious and kind to someone who continually rejects the kindness. I can’t really see it. Could you? Would anyone you know continue to show acceptance and grace to someone continually cold and unresponsive?

What’s intriguing about this story is that it is told in Margaret’s point of view. If I were only able to observe Margaret’s outward behavior, I wouldn’t be interested in her story. But her thoughts tell a very different tale. What Margaret is only telling the reader is that she was inexplicably drawn to this kind woman. And that drawing rattled her. She tells how Birdie’s gentle, persistent love eventually broke past Margaret’s cold shell and brought warmth to the painful, neglected places in her heart.

After reading about Birdie, the phrase “Love keeps no record of wrongs” keeps coming to mind. I wonder if I could be anything like her, always quick to forgive the thoughtless words or deeds of others. Why don’t I simply turn the other cheek when someone is thoughtless or unkind?

Maybe it’s an accounting mentality. We are wired to keep accounts of what others have done. This is so typically human, isn’t it?

Please tell me it’s not just me.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Would Jesus go to God and complain about me behind my back? Would he criticize me for the mistakes I make (which are…ahem…numerous)? Avoid me when he sees me coming?

No. And not because I don’t deserve it.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Faith, Hope, Love.

The Bible says that without faith, it’s impossible to please God. And humans need hope in order to thrive. But according to this scripture, the greatest of all life’s needs is love. This kind of love. The selfless, unfailing, “unoffendable” kind.

Can I really love this way? I mean, is it possible?

Maybe it helps to remember that since I am in Christ, there’s no “tally sheet” or file being kept on me. God keeps no record of my sins. Because of Christ in me, when God looks at me, he sees no offense, harbors no grudges.

Perhaps likewise, because of Christ at work both in me (his life-changing power) and for me (clothing me in his righteousness), I too can look at others and forget their offenses. Hold nothing over their heads. Give them a new clean slate every day.

The love of Christ keeps no record of wrongs. With his help, we can do it. And it seems only fair, since this—the way of grace—is how God (thank you, Jesus!) deals with our offensiveness.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

Q: Do you desire the kind of love that keeps no record of wrongs?

 

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I recently thumbed through a 10+ year old journal expecting to be entertained, if nothing else.

Good grief. IRS instructions are more riveting.

The pages were filled with tedious moping about all the things I longed to change about myself. On and on and on, like a broken record. Just skimming over that stuff now is depressing.

Journaling is healthy, of course. I’m all for it, especially when it comes to keeping track of answered prayer and God’s faithfulness—that’s important to remember. But some journaling, while good for getting gunk off your chest, is just self-centered, navel-gazing pathos (yeah, I know, it’s probably just mine). What I find sad about those years is how long I pined for change—to be a slimmer woman, a holier Christian, kinder mom, more pleasing wife, truer friend, etc. How sad that I clung to such a singular focus for so long, especially when the journals show no indication I ever arrived at the changes I so desperately sought.

At some point I quit journaling. Maybe I finally got fed up with the monotony of repeating myself and the despair of continual failure. Who has time or energy to change when you spend all your time in front of the mirror cataloguing all your flaws?

Actually, I think God finally lured me away from such a self-centered focus. I think he wanted me to stop believing lies about who I was supposed to be, and start making the most of what I have right now. Begin accepting who I am, cellulite and all. Embrace the gifts and interests and purposes God placed in me when he made me. ME, not some air-brushed, magazine cover girl.

I haven’t journaled in well over a decade now. Looking back, I can see many positive changes that have occurred over time. Quiet, lasting changes that came after I gave up trying to bully that unhappy woman into being someone else. Somewhere along the line, God gave me a truckload of patience. And grace. And a great peace in knowing that “he makes all things beautiful in its time.” (Ecc. 3:11)

Maybe it’s a Rapidly Nearing Five-O thing, but now I find the things I stressed about for so long don’t really matter all that much. What matters to me now is to live and love people today instead of putting it off. Listen more. Pray more. Care more about what Jesus thinks and less about what people think. See eternity in every moment. Live each day like a heaven-bound soul.

Q: What about you—have you ever needed to let go of some elusive longing in order to embrace life now?

 

 

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