Tag Archives: grace

Extended Family

Whether you are single or have a family of four, when you enter into relationship with God, you also enter into a family of believers. It doesn’t matter if you were looking for an extended family. You found one.

During the last several days I have spent a lot of time with my family. Wednesday night we sent one of our sisters off to Virginia to be with her family during a trying time. Like a family, we shared in her sadness yet we celebrated knowing her. We look forward to the next time we will see each other. Thursday night I attended Q Commons, a conference about improving the community we live in. Guess what! I met more of my brothers and sisters. My family continues to grow. Friday night I surprised my former church family by coming to their church Moon Festival potluck. The hugs and friendly greetings made me feel right at home. Yesterday morning I met my sister Sharon at the beach to watch her husband swim in a two mile race. We cheered on my dear brother as he crossed the finish line. Today I went to church where I got to celebrate God’s grace and mercy with even more family. I met new people, new brothers and sisters.

A church is not a gathering of people where you just go for a few hours to fulfill your religious duty for the week. It is a family that celebrates together, cries with each other, prays over its members, carries one another through the hard times, encourages, shares a meal, cares for its community. A family that no matter how many miles or how long it’s been since they’ve seen one another, they’re still family.

Time and time again I find that when I run into a fellow Christian on the street, no matter how long it’s been, you just pick up where you left off, and if you left off in a bad place, you move past it. It’s the way God transforms people, he helps us put our egos down and helps us cover each other with mercy and grace.

Thank a brother or sister for the ways they have supported you, appreciate you, loved you. It will mean so much for them to hear it.

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Growing Pains

Aside from being one of my favorite childhood favorite TV shows, growing pains are no joke. Many times God allows us to be in uncomfortable, even painful circumstances to push us to grow. This stretching and strengthening exercise makes up your most emotionally and sometimes physically difficult times in life.

Looking at my parents’ lives I can see how much their marriage grew through their suffering during four years trying to adopt and years of caring for their ailing parents. God used each of these times to improve on their love for one another and for God himself. Seeing their growth gives me comfort in this season of life.

A friend and I were just talking recently about a time of suffering in her life. She described feeling small. I remember each day telling her she was still big, but it was hard for her to see her own strength. Now that a few years have passed she tells me she was always big, but she just couldn’t see it.

I have felt small during the last few weeks. I have thought about giving up, but it’s impossible to give up on life when God is at the center of it. He simply doesn’t stand for quitters of life. Like a parent he doesn’t always give the pouting child his full comforting attention during those moments of feeling small because he knows there’s something more to gain from our suffering and pain. He knows when watching from a distance is more helpful than immediately giving us comfort.

I am up at 4:00 a.m. writing this post because I am very uncomfortable in life right now. I have felt small, sad, angry, confused, even sick from the stress and pain of growing. When God woke me up at 3:30 this morning, even in my discomfort I felt things would be okay because this is just the feeling you get during the strengthening and refining process. I have witnessed many testimonies of the strength that comes from this pain, and it is worth it.

A loving God is not a God that gives us a life full of nothing but easy moments.

Please share your testimony of the growth and strength that came from your suffering.

When the Hungry Cry Out

Last Friday while preparing my lunch I saw that I had way more fruit than I could possibly eat, so I packed it into a bag with some other unwanted snacks and set off for work. I thought about giving it to my coworkers, but then I remembered the group of homeless people that sleep outside the work parking lot. Perhaps they would want some fruit and crackers.

When I arrived to work I was surprised to see that the group I normally see was gone. That’s unusual, I thought. After work I gathered my purse and the bag of food and wondered if the group would be back that evening. I wandered out another entrance and immediately came to a couple of disheveled men chatting. Not sure of whether they would be offended by my offering, I started unpacking my bag a few feet away. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if wondering if I would share with them. When I saw their glances I explained that I had bought in bulk and had too much food to eat myself. In their gratitude they offered me a newspaper, the kind that the city provides for the homeless to earn money for meals.

As they handed me the paper, they began explaining to me why things are the way they are for the homeless, basically covering the topic of the paper. To my surprise, the older man revealed that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and that he is afraid of what will happen if he needs chemo or radiation. How will he care for himself as someone without a home. His resources are so limited. I listened quietly until he said, “But I believe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can heal me!” I think my eyes widened. I didn’t expect to hear that through the cloud of pot smoke that was forming around us. You see, the other man had been smoking the whole time. Then he, the guy who was smoking, started telling us about a prayer ministry he was a part of in L.A.

It goes to show God’s children come in all shapes and sizes. After they were done sharing I offered to pray and the older man grabbed my hands and said, “You pray first.” I prayed a short and simple prayer asking God to be with them and keep them safe and for the older man to be healed. By this time we were on a first name basis. When I finished praying the older man looked up, eyes wide and said, “Wow! That was a powerful prayer.” Then the other man started praying, and boy did I feel the Holy Spirit…or maybe it was a contact high (just kidding). At the end we all said Amen, and the older man exclaimed, “I am healed! I believe I am.” The other man kept proclaiming, “You are healed in Jesus’ name.”

A few minutes later the younger man asked the older man, “Are you sick?” Through a frown the older man said, “Yes…” to which the younger man responded, “But you just said you were healed?” The older man laughed, “Well, I forgot. I smoked two bowls before we prayed!” We all burst into laughter, and I truly believe the joy they felt was not just the influence of marijuana but the joy of the Lord upon them.

God is good, and He does not discriminate. He blesses those He wants to bless whether they are stoned or sober. I praise God for putting those two in my path that day. Who knew that on the streets of Berkeley in a cloud of smoke I would meet two of my Brothers?

The things that have grown my faith more than anything else are those instance just stumbled upon, interactions with strangers on the street. God uses all kinds to teach our busy minds and hearts to love.

It Wouldn’t be Called a Hunt…

Ever since I woke up in the wee hours of the night with complete peace about my next career venture, it’s been nothing but putting my nose to the grindstone. I have applied for nearly 15 jobs, most of which are closer to the school I want to attend so I can earn my degree in the most minimal time period. I tell you, sometimes I wish I hadn’t woken up that night. I think I would call the state I’m in “self-destruction for a cause.” I have woken up early almost every morning to work at least half an hour on future goals, and then when I return home from the job that is supposed to support those goals, I work on them some more, making very little headway.

I guess if getting on the right path were easy people wouldn’t talk about “hunting” for a job or “searching” for direction, etc. If it were easy then everyone would constantly be moving up the ladder. If it were easy it might mean that God doesn’t see me as resilient, a fighter, someone who can meet a challenge head-on. If meeting a goal were simple, there would be no need for a goal.

The one thing I have learned in the last two weeks of being absolutely stressed and spiritually miserable is that I can’t do this alone. I can’t! If I try to achieve my wildest God-given dreams on my own, I am, first of all, going to fail, and secondly, declining the assistance of the very giver, the very author of these dreams. This evening I took a walk down to a local church, something I like doing. The whole way there I prayed out loud, in a whisper, but still out loud. When I arrived there I photographed the outside of the church. Then I walked down to the corner and crossed the street. When I got to the gate where I hoped I could take a shortcut through the college campus, it was locked. I turned back around to head back in the same direction I came only to find that the church I had photographed was now open. I looked at the open door and passed by without stopping, but something in me told me to stop. You see, I had never been in this church or even heard of the denomination, but God wanted me to be in His house in my discouraged and worn out state.

Inside I met two gentleman preparing to have Bible Study. I explained that I have a hobby of photographing churches and asked if I could take a few photos before they started. As I took photos we chatted, and I left encouraged. Yes, God has given me a direction for my future, but He didn’t give me a ticking time bomb to fret over every waking (and sleeping) hour. I am meant to enjoy and connect with others, even when I am chasing after my dream.

Thank God that He is so gracious to wrap me in the arms of his creation and the warmth of my fellow believers to give me the comfort I need for the journey.

Shrinking from Suffering

As Jesus hangs almost lifeless on the cross he finds the strength to say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You see, no one likes suffering, including Jesus. It is part of our human nature to shrink away from suffering, but what we forget in the suffering is that we often experience God’s grace and love most when we have experienced such oppression.

Recently a family member of mine underwent what she thought was minor surgery, but what has followed has been more suffering than the symptoms the surgery was supposed to alleviate. Now, I am confident that after the suffering will come great healing, which will completely wipe away the past pain and discomfort, but in this time of pain and unrest it is hard to keep the focus on what is yet to come. There is no doubt in my mind that my family member is going through a rollercoaster of emotions and wondering if she should have bypassed the surgery for a less invasive solution, but there’s no denying that when she was trying to decide on whether to have it or not, God spoke to her in a very clear way.

When she found out the cost of the procedure she realized it would not be feasible, but it seemed as if it was necessary for quality of life so she did what any good Christian should do, and she asked God for His will be done. The next day she received a call from a client offering her a raise and more hours. All of a sudden, impossible seemed Himpossible. The decision was made just like that, but when we are in pain and suffering doubt often grows in our hearts and minds.

Here’s the difference between the thoughts of you and I and the thoughts of Jesus. Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Often we catch ourselves saying, “There is no god that would allow this pain.” Or, “God has forgotten about me.” Or lastly, “God doesn’t really know what is right for me.” These all point to our disowning God and our total independence. Jesus said, “My God.” “My” being possessive means that Jesus was still clinging to the fact that God was his for the taking, while we often consider him “chop liver” if things don’t go our way. Jesus asks God to reveal to him the reason for this forsaking, while we often say the only explanation is we are forgotten or god is non-existent.

Fortunately my family member has a close relationship with the Father, and she is now quickly recovering, on her way to renewal of faith and renewal of body. I pray that each of us can learn to embrace God and seek understanding in our suffering just as Jesus did. We don’t understand suffering and we feel forsaken, but God brings healing every step of the way whether we acknowledge it or not.

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Grace Unveiled

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In some cultures and religions if one were to convert to another religion they would be disowned by family or would even be persecuted. Today I was asked by a dear friend what I would do if one of my future children decided to convert to Islam from Christianity. My answer was very long. Like my friend who is of another religion I would accept my child because family is first. Not only would I accept my child, but my faith community, my church body would too. My friend asked how can a body of Christian faith possibly accept someone who was formerly Christian now Muslim.
My answer was this. Jesus gives us the great commandment. Love the Lord your God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself. So basically, love God, love yourself, love your neighbor. If the greatest commandment is to love, which in some scripture is actually translated “grace”, then I am called to accept my child, my friend, my coworker whatever their faith.
How can one accept a family member or a friend that they have taken time nurturing in the Christian faith if they convert? It may seem like time wasted to some, but it can be accomplished. Even the most broken-hearted parent or friend can show grace through the power of the Holy Spirit who stirs up words of wisdom and encouragement, speaks truth in love, and heals broken relationships.
Is there someone in your life who has broken your heart by offending you and God? Maybe they were unfaithful, dishonest, deceiving, abusive. You can find a way to show mercy and grace through the Holy Spirits counsel.
If you need a starting point visit a website I have found very helpful, http://www.iamsecond.com. There are videos there on all topics. Once you watch the video reflect in silence or through journaling. You might want to write a letter to that person, and you may not even send it, but find healing in writing down your message of forgiveness and grace.
I hope you have found this post helpful. Please leave your comments and likes if you so desire.

Identity Theft

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What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25a

We live in a world of sin, and as Christians, somehow expect ourselves not to sin. I don’t know about you, but when I mess up I will fret for days about my mistake. Growing up my parents rarely had to discipline me because I would punish myself. Despite our constant self-applied guilt trips and sin’s attempts to rob us of our true identity, God expects us to live in freedom through His grace.

In Romans 7 Paul seems to ramble on and on about sin, the law, and the new way of the Spirit. I never quite understood this chapter until I read a Girlfriends in God devotion by Sharon Jaynes. Jaynes describes an untrained volunteer applying drywall. After hours of doing the job correctly he accidentally switches his power tool to reverse, and doesn’t understand why the screws won’t go into the drywall. The lesson here is that sometimes the problem is us and our sinful nature. We feel we can’t get ahead no matter how hard we try, and sometimes it comes down to resetting our direction through repentance.

There are a few things we should be aware of before over-analyzing our mistakes:

  1. We have direct access to grace and mercy. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
  2. From the time Adam and Eve sinned sin has lived within mankind, including you and me. (Romans 7:17-18)
  3. Despite the sin living within us we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

If you have given your life to Christ by repenting, declaring that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and being baptized then these three things are true. What is your response to this? Often my response is to hide in fear of judgment, but that is not what God called us to do. No, He has already given us enough grace to cover our sins if we choose to repent daily. I believe the first step to repentance is believing their is an end result of forgiveness. The second is knowing that, because sin lives within us, we will sin despite our best efforts. Paul says in Romans 7, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Friends, God shows you unlimited grace. Show yourselves some. Instead of fretting about mistakes you’ve made, admit to making them, repent to God, and move on in freedom.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

I would like to thank Sharon Jaynes of Girlfriends in God who continues to inspire me with daily devotions, and to Robert and Marcia Scott, faithful and redeemed, for their sermon on Grace this last Sunday at Great Commission Christian Church in Richmond, California. You can listen to their sermon at http://www.gccubed.org. You are God’s mouthpiece in a broken world.

Heavenly Father, Your grace is more than sufficient. Remind us to turn from our sin daily, not by the law of Moses which we are sure to fail, but by loving you wholeheartedly and repenting genuinely. Help us to let go of our past and embrace our present, never missing a moment of joy for the fear of judgment. For Your unending, unconditional love, we thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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