Be a Grace Giver…

graceWhat if we turned things upside down today? What if we gave people what they didn’t deserve and didn’t give them what they did deserve? What if our words and actions were so infused with grace, they were able to disarm negativity, counteract conflict, and give courage and boldness to others when received?

Grace is unmerited love and mercy. It’s an undeserving gift and it’s not easy to give. It’s difficult to bite your tongue in response to a bitter comment or biting criticism. It’s hard to think beyond hurt feelings and bruised emotions and offer forgiveness. It’s tough to be a presence of grace with an offensive person. The message of the world says, “Give ’em what they deserve!” ”You deserve better than that!”

I am not promoting we go around acting like feeble, push-overs, or passive, fake happy people throwing grace around like magical, rainbow fairy dust. Giving grace is a bold, brave, intentional choice. It means choosing to respond instead of react. It means pausing, getting our thoughts together, and then speaking truth in a loving, respectful way. There are many situations that need to be further addressed, processed through, and worked on; but grace is the invitation to a pathway of respectful discussions. Grace can be a gateway to a journey of healing and restoration.

As a follow of Christ, we do not have to rely on our power to be a grace-giver. We shouldn’t. We have access to power, life-supporting love and strength through the Holy Spirit. By excepting and receiving God’s grace, we in turn can extend grace to others with God’s help.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16

So today, join with me in the practice of grace giving– and keep in mind, there will be a time when we are in need of grace too. ❤


Where Is the Love?

for-the-love

Where is the love? Where is the grace?

Two years ago, I helped manage a book signing line for a well-known and very popular Christian author at a leadership conference. This author had collected a large following of “fangirls” who started lining up for her meet and greet about two hours in advance of her arrival time.

As the author walked to her meet and greet spot and picked up her Sharpie markers, women went C-R-A-Z-Y. The best way I can describe the scene was something similar to the Beatles arriving in the 60s or a scene from a 1990s New Kids on the Block concert. There was pushing and shoving and squealing. There may have been crying and fainting (okay, maybe not fainting, but you get the point….)

As the line moved, I tried to keep up with the book purchases but I was mesmerized by the women and their praises, compliments, and stories of how their lives were changed by the author and reading her books. You might have thought Jesus Christ himself was standing there. (And when we get to heaven we better have way MORE enthusiasm, praises, and compliments of how our lives were changed because of OUR Lord Jesus…just saying.)

With every woman, the author was gracious and welcoming and smiley…very smiley. I wondered if her cheeks hurt from all the smiling and I wondered what was going through her mind as she listened and listened. Was she tired? Did you she need a Starbucks? Did she want to go back to her hotel room and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls? Did she think this was a lot to do about nothing? Did she hope these women could see her as a just another woman trying to walk out her faith and live her life?

When the time came for this beloved author to leave, women still stood filed in line with anxious faces and praying for a miracle to meet their word-wielding hero. Women had to be turned away. Sad, disappointed women reluctantly left the line sulky and teary-eyed with their unsigned books clutched in their hand. I packed up the unpurchased books, tried to process all that had happened, all that I witnessed, and all I could think of was “for the love.”

Fast forward to this week, the same author, and her fans. Things are different. Some of the women who have loved, adored and been devoted to this author, are now crucifying her for comments and HER opinions published in recent articles. These women (and some men) are questioning her faith, her integrity, her intentions, and her abilities as a Christian leader.

Let me make sure we get this straight. These women and men are not Muslims, Jews, or atheists they are Christians against other Christians. Comments have been flying through cyber space and landing hotly in notification boxes. Our very own sisters and brothers taken up in arms against each other. If you think the world is not watching, you are wrong. If you think the Devil is not having a hay day, kicking back with a martini, legs stretched out, smiling as he is watching this situation turn into a train-wreck like a bad reality TV show….you are wrong!

While I fully believe there needs to be accountability and responsibility if you are in a place of leadership, and especially if you have been entrusted with a very large sphere of influence, I also believe that there are right and wrong ways to go about disagreeing. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions. I believe we are all on a journey of faith and it is healthy to wrestle with God and each other over questions of faith. I believe those in leadership should have mentors and advisers to talk things out and pray through tough issues.

Disagreements are going to happen BUT there is a proper place and certain time to work them out. Public arenas with millions of eyes watching and ears listening lead to greater separation and move us further away from the unity God designed for His people. People who are not Christians (or even Christians that have stepped away from their faith) are watching and listening. And some Christians are on holy crusades of righteousness using Pharisaical phrases and speech, throwing darts and fiery opinions out from behind the safety of a computer screen.

All the while, the world is rotting away. People are starving from hunger. Some are thirsty from lack of clean water. There are prisoners of addiction and self-sabotaging ways.  Lost and lonely people have been wandering for far too long. People are without hope and we have a gift to share. If our arguments, our very public arguments are distracting people and drawing attention to ourselves instead of drawing attention to the One, the gospel, the only One who can bring satisfaction, light, life,  freedom, and peace, then shame on us!

I can only imagine what it might feel like to be the author this week. The real live person behind the interviews and articles. A human who claims to love Jesus and others and has shown it through many good works, written words and the thoughts she has shared.  Keep her in your prayers!

Let this is also be a reminder why we must not put each other on pedestals and remember people are just that….people, imperfect people. As God extends His grace to us, we must extend grace to others especially our sisters and brothers. That includes grace in our words, our social media postings, and even in our thoughts. It also means addressing disagreements in a Biblical way.

There is enough chatter and noise in the world. In fact, I am adding more to it by writing this blog post. I would like to encourage you, if you are a follower of Jesus, to be wise to distractions and splits, consider using some self-control with your opinions, and immediately run to Jesus in prayer and read your Bible. In the meantime, I am going to shut my mouth and go put my words into action. Pray, love well and live faithfully!

(If you are still reading….enjoy this video…think about the words… be inspired….and keep praying and living out your faith. )


Beginnings

beginnings

I wonder how many “firsts” or beginnings there are in life. First breath, first step, first love. Beginning of the month, beginning of a new school year, beginning of hopes and dreams. If every day brings a fresh beginning and every end a start of something new, the number of changes and adjustments we make through our lifetime must equal an infinite number.

The beginning of our homeschool year started on a high note. The first days were excellent. Our schedule flowed smoothly and we were excited to dive into new books and curriculum. But as things often go, the novelty soon wore of and by Thursday reality hit. Summer was over and the idea that a good part of our day would be consumed with schooling started to sink in. We were exhausted from reigniting parts of our brains that seemed content to linger in vacation mode.

Grumpiness and discontent started to weasel their way into our Thursday morning activities. Short answers and ungracious responses added to the rocky start of the day. With determination, I pushed through my planned activities and the lessons. The activities and lessons I was so sure we “needed” to cover. My kids tried to keep up but the whole day felt forced. This was not why we homeschool or how I like to teach or how I wanted my children to learn. We managed to get through the day but I decided to call a time out and push the reset button. Friday was going to be different.

My Friday lesson plans looked like any other day of the week but it was my expectation of what “needed” to be completed that was different. The pace was led by my kids. If one subject was dragging on or frustration levels with a new skills were rising high, we stopped and moved to something else, returning to the subjects and tasks later. We spent more time on science and read alouds, which we all enjoy, and we focused on our attitudes. I was convicted of my role in modeling a good attitude and gracious responses and my children soon followed suite. I am not saying that it was a perfect day. Curriculum still needed to be covered and some difficult skills still needed to be mastered but there were other things needed to be addressed first. The foundation of an ideal learning environment needed to be rebuilt, one that included a whole lot of grace and a lot of love.

With every new beginning, I think it is important to remember these things:

1.) Make space for grace. Give grace to yourself, to your co-workers, family members, strangers, whoever else may be joining you in a new start. Beginnings and starts require change and adjustment. Adjustment takes time. There may be new things to learn and new ways of doing things. Shifts in mindset may be required too. Allow grace and patience in the process.

2.) Take time to breathe. Deep breaths. It sounds simple but few people take more than a few deep breaths a day. Deep breathing helps your muscles to relax and delivers oxygen to all cells in your body. It also helps attention and concentration. For an even better and more impactful result, pray while you are breathing!

3.) Stop and reflect. Contrary to popular belief, we need to pause, stop, and rest. Allow time for reflection and think what can be done differently. Ask yourself, what is my role? How can I use my gifts, talents, and personality to help improve this situation or make this adjustment easier?  Can I be a good role model for others even as I make mistakes and am learning through the process? Focus on the good things. There are always good things to find.

Now in our second week of school, skills are getting more difficult and the amount of curriculum to cover is increasing but there is a sense of peace. I am trying to keep a gentle pace to our day. We are still adjusting, slightly mourning the loss of summer, but we know there are some new exciting things are to come.