Thursday, November 27, 2008


There is no way to talk about being thankful for something on Thanksgiving without sounding cheesy and cliche...but I'm going to do it anyways.
And (though I hate to admit it, the thought of the gospel ever sounding anything but fresh and amazing is sad) but it's even more corny to talk about being thankful for God on Thanksgiving...
but again..I am.
There is a verse I read this morning, that caught my heart so captive I had to share it...and it is on this truth that I rest my salvation, and that my heart blossoms with the most overflowing gratitude that I can't help but share it:
"But he (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." isaiah 53:5

I kept reading this morning, verse after verse to reflect on the great freedom that I have received in Christ (why is it every time I hear the word freedom that song by George Michael starts rolling through my head?) and to remember the number one reason I have to be thankful...and I kept coming back to the same enthralling and exhilirating (big words huh?) theme....grace!
Listen to Paul's words, so laced with the concept of a free gift form God that he can scarcely go a moment without coming back to it:
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by GRACE you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his GRACE, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by GRACE you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:4-9
So I can safely say that this Thanksgiving, more than any other gift I have received, more than any truth I can understand I am abundantly, overflowingly (I'm thinking of a like a giant cornucopia here) thankful for the grace that God chose to extend to me--and still daily gives to me in light of my shortcomings.
Happy thanksgiving, may the truth of God's love be real to you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Not of yourselves"....thankfully.

How do you start confessing to however many people may be reading this that you committed a sin?
I think I just did it.
So here's my story (no preface let's just jump right in, you're all furiously reading at this point to see what it is I'm sure).
I go to the Gap and buy this pair of jeans (which, might I add, cost $50 BUCKS *insert groan here*) because I was in need of some pants that fit...
I get them home and throw them on to go out for an evening with my husband, all the while thinking that I can't believe I spent that much on jeans. A few days later shopper's remorse gets the best of me (and they'd been sitting on my shelf ever since that night, waiting to either become a committed part of my wardrobe--or go back to the clinically clean shelves of the store I am so begrudgingly obsessed with) and I choose to take the jeans back to the Gap to get a credit to my account.
I heave two children, stroller, diaper bag, purse, returns, and snacks, all in the car and drive twenty minutes to the store. When I get there I hastily shovel myself and my two kids through the door, to be greeted (with little enthusiasm) by a 50ish-year-old woman who looked like she had never had a bad hair day (or worn sweat pants) in her life (we'll call her "Buffy"), and this is my first moment of feeling like a complete putz for being with my two children in the Gap wearing a jacket I got at Goodwill (which I am normally quite proud of).
The conversation that followed went something like this:
Me: I'd like to return these please
Buffy: Okay do you have your receipt?
Me: LINCOLN, where are you? Come out from behind those clothes!
Me again: Sorry, what was that?
Buffy: Do you have your receipt?
Me: Yes I...LINCOLN, stop playing with the mannequin.
Lincoln: Ooooh, a princess (looking up a mannequins skirt)
Me: Here is my receipt
Buffy: Okay, I'm sorry I can't return these jeans, they've been worn...

Now let me preface what happens next by saying that I not only do not know what came over me, but I also in no circumstances condone what I did in this instance.
Me: I'm sorry, but I've never worn these
Buffy: You've never worn these jeans? There is dirt on the hem of the leg.
Me: No, I think that's the wash or something, I only wore them to try them on...
(WHA??? If you were paying attention earlier, you would remember that I did wear them, and at this point I am blatantly lying to Buffy)
Buffy: Okay mam, I'll give you a credit on a gift card.
And THEN there was this pause that seemed to go on forEVER while she figured out how to credit said gift card...and in the midst of this pause I had a mental conversation with God...that went something like this:
God: You just need to tell her you were lying.
Me: No way.
God: Be bold, do the right thing, it doesn't matter if it's just a pair of jeans, you were wrong, stand up and tell her.
Me: Not a chance she'll think I'm totally ridiculous.
God: I've called you to a high standard, and I expect you to live up to it.
Me: Too late! She's handing me the gift card.

And I walked out of the store, heart in the pit of my stomach...feeling like pond scum.
I immediately start praying telling God I am so sorry and I cannot believe I did it. I commit the money I was credited (part of the purchase had been on a gift card and part from my fun money, so I got some money back) to our tithe and charity fund (so as not to reward myself for my sin) and call John to tell him about what a horrible person he married.
The rest of the day was ruined at this point, and I must say I was pretty pathetic wallowing in this pool of guilt I had nicely created for myself when God so graciously reached down and tapped me on the shoulder...reminding me...
"There's a lesson in all this."
And I'm thinking "Right the lesson is, don't spend $50 on jeans cause you'll regret it and definitely don't lie." And then a quiet voice tells me ever so kindly to stop thinking about myself.
And I realize the real lesson.
I need forgiveness...we all do.
Every day, every moment, every time I fade right back into who it's easiest for me to be. And there will never be a day in my life (no matter how long I've been a believer or how good I've gotten at "being good") that I don't need this forgiveness. That IS the whole point isn't it?
I'm not good...I never will be (because no matter what I'm going to mess up) and this amazing astoundingly gracious and loving God sent a mediator for me, a passionate forgiver of my sins, so that I can be seen as forgiven, even though I could never earn it on my own.
I think God gives us those little glimpses (not that I by any means think it's a good idea to sin that grace may abound) to remind us that this whole "salvation" thing is not for the good, well-behaved people, but for the rest of us, who are blissfully aware that we fall short, and recognize an amazing God who abundantly chose to give us a scapegoat, the credit is to Him alone.
The Bible says it again and again, "He saved us, not because of the righteous things we've done, but because of his mercy." Titus 3:5
I don't know how to end this, I'm not even sure that it made any sense. I don't know how to get the point across that I want to make...but I can say this...
I will never be good enough to get my way into heaven...
but because of who God is, he sent a perfect savior (Jesus) to die as punishment on my behalf...
and as a result I have been credited with righteousness.
It doesn't "make sense" it's not "fair" that someone who has sinned, has messed up, gets to gain righteousness by simply believing...but it is true.
And it is on that truth that I rest, on that truth that I live my life, on that truth that I hang my future, my past, my everything.
And I want nothing more than to see others come to know the same freedom that comes from that truth....
because there is nothing that will so dramatically change your life, no "higher knowledge" or "state of existence" that will get you to that place...
that place of forgiveness and grace in the daily life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mothers: Fashioning the destinies of immortal souls since the creation of the world!

What is it about God that makes him able to find the most obscure times to teach us something we need to hear? Must be that whole "omniscient" thing.
In light of that I'll let you guess where I was when I was reading this...

"Homemaking" written by J.R. Miller, originally published in 1882
Oh that God would give every mother a vision of the glory and splendor of the work that is given to her when a babe is placed in her bosom to be nursed and trained! Could she have but one glimpse into the future of that life as it reaches on into eternity; could she look into it's soul to see it's possibilities; could she be made to understand her own personal responsibility for the training of this child, for the development of it's life and for it's destiny-she would see that in all God's world there is no work so noble and so worthy of her best powers, and she would commit to no other hands the sacred and holy trust given to her.
What we want to do with our children is not merely to control them and keep them in order, but to implant in true principals deep in their hearts which shall rule their whole lives; to shape their character from within into Christ-like beauty, and to make them noble men and women, strong for battle and duty. They are to be trained rather than governed. Growth of character, not merely good behavior, is the object of all home governing and teaching. Therefore the home influence is far more important than the home laws and the parent's lives are (far more important) than their teachings.
O mothers of young children, I bow before you in reverence. Your work is most holy. You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls. The power folded up in the little ones that you hushed to sleep in your bosoms last night are powers that shall exist forever. You are preparing them for their immortal destiny and influence. Be faithful. Take up your sacred burden reverently. Be sure that your heart is pure and your life is sweet and clean.

I thought this was so profound and challenged me so greatly I had to share it...and if you can get past the writer mentioning "bosoms" (something admittedly hard for someone with my maturity level) it's a beautifully written admonishment to mothers. I love it and will treasure that God brought it to my attention when I needed it!
I'll be praying that God will give us all a glimpse into the eternal nature of the little ones we so painstakingly invest in, to give us all perspective in the daily butt-wiping and whining. Love to the mamas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Caution: Steep drops ahead!

So recently I chose to embark on a study of the book of Revelation (cue: impending doom music *Da Da Da DUMMMMMMM).
I must admit it has always been very daunting to me, and I've avoided it from fear that it will be nothing but cryptic, but I enlisted the help of my husband and we sit down and read it and talk about it. It's been a major blessing and I've been amazed at how much the Bible is a living book and that God can use even the apocalyptic books to strengthen my faith.
The thing it's helped me the most with is perspective. Upon reading it you'll quickly realize that there is little in this world that is important in light of eternity. The only two things that are eternal are God and people. Wow. That really funnels down what I should be spending my time on.
But I digress...
The point I was really smacked flipside up the head with is in Jesus' words to one of the churches (I don't remember which one and you don't care anyways). He's talking to them about how they have lost their love for Christ. And here comes the verse (put on your helmets): "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember the height from which you have fallen." (Rev 2:4-5)
To quote Emeril on the toothpaste commercial...BAM!
How true this is in my heart and life. This specifically ministered to me in light of my husband and children. It's so easy for me to be quick to get angry at John, to fail to have patience with my children, to get irritated and be short because they aren't whatever I think they should be. And then a voice comes and reminds me where I came from. Here's another verse for ya:
"Anyone who lacks these things (faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love) is nearsighted and blind and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins." 2 Pet 1:9 (parenthesis mine)
Basically, "Jenn, if you remembered what a pathetic sack of selfishness you were when I found you, and I forgave you anyways, you'd be much quicker to give grace to those around you."
Let me summon my most gangsta ghetto voice to say, "True dat!"
Don't get me wrong, I still think it's critical to discipline my kids. I mean if I want them to grow up to be adults who love and worship and obey God, I have to start now right? But I don't discipline because I want perfect little well-behaved children so everyone can go, "What a wonderful little 2-year-old", but so they can be children who draw near to God, and I don't take it as a personal offense when they disobey, I'm quick to forgive (this is all hypothetical of course, simply stating what I have learned I SHOULD do, not what I've done necessarily).
Again...I digress.
The point I learned is that I need to invest my life in the criticals because in a split second some perspective could come crashing into my life in any number of ways and the things I thought were important (losing those last 15 pounds, or getting my playroom decorated) will become staunchly trivial. And if I am keeping that mindset, I'll also keep in the very front of my mind the reminder that I have been forgiven much and will be continually grateful for that. Which will in turn direct my actions back to God where they should be.
See it comes full circle.
How great a God we serve that we are asked to live out forgiveness and love to others not only as a constant reminder of the forgiveness we have received but as a living example to others of the forgiveness that is available to them as well.
And all God's people said...