Friday, March 28, 2014

Finding Freedom in Grace

We are a little over half way through the season of lent. The days have sped by with the busyness of work and kids and traveling and just life in general. I have wanted to make a determined effort this year to slow down and take part in the season of repentance and truly understanding what the cross means.  But it has been difficult to not get caught up in the chaos of the every day. 

I have had time to reflect this past week though with some down time in the mountains and I can feel God stirring in my heart.  I can see clearly how I am more in love with God than ever before, even when I do not always understand His ways or His plans. I can question and be frustrated, but at the end of the day I know that I believe and trust in God's character.  I believe that He is a loving God who has good plans for me and my children.  I believe that even if the answer is not what I expected or wanted, maybe even a distinct No, that I believe in the God who knows what He is doing and is working on behalf of the children He loves.  I feel the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart the assurance of God's great offering of grace and love.

So I continue to take these forty days leading up to Easter to reflect on repentance and my need for grace.  The first part is not usually hard for me; it can be easy for me to point out my own short comings, failures and inadequacies. But being stuck on that first part isn't the intent and should not be the whole story. God doesn't want us to stay stuck in recognizing where we fail or are weak, instead He wants that realization to lead us to the part of recognizing the grace that He offers us in love.

When we see our need for Him and release all of our failures and heartaches to Him to restore, then there is freedom. He traveled the road to the cross to give us freedom.  Not freedom to do whatever we please, but the kind of freedom that comes in knowing we are not walking this earth alone. 

The freedom that promises us glimpses of His glory when we allow Him to shine through our broken parts and weaknesses.

The freedom that promises we have nothing to fear because of His great love for us. 

The freedom to hope and to trust in a good future.

The freedom to love without limits.

The freedom to forgive others and ourselves.

The freedom that can only be found in Christ.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  Galatians 5:1

So my prayer for you during this second half of lent is that as you recognize your own need for God's abounding grace, that you will find freedom in knowing that He has already given it to us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Am His

I will be honest; I can often struggle with wanting to know right now how everything turns out in the end. Anyone who knows me is probably laughing as they read that line, because they are all too familiar with my Type A personality and desire to want to know and have control. This is no secret confession for those who know me best. But I still wanted to write it out as I'm definitely a person who processes things through writing.

During this season of Lent, I'm consciously trying to observe and understand the act of dying to myself.  I've been looking at what I need to let go of and sacrifice to God. What comes up again and again for me is learning to let go of needing to know how it will work out. I need to let go of control, and I need to rest and find contentment while God works the rest out.

There are times where I can feel lost and that I don't know who I am. I want to know how God is using me or is going to use me. It's a feeling of restlessness and searching.  It is also a deep struggle for control over my own life when I know that in reality I do not have the control.

One of the dangers is that when I feel like I'm being tossed around by the waves, I can find myself looking to others to define me.  Does a job well done at work, does the love of another, does having well behaved children or a clean house make me worthy? And if they don't, than who am I?

I found myself in prayer again, asking God to show me who I am.  I want Him to be the anchor of my soul and the source of my identity and security.  It was on my heart while I got ready for work, and as I drove, and it's been on my mind for days.   It's the desire to let Him have control but also wanting to know who I am in all of this.  It's the struggle of living in this world but learning to have my mind on the kingdom. 

Today was different though.  His answer resonated deep in my soul: "You Are Mine.

Three little words, with no explanation of what that looks like.  But it was all I needed.  Me, in my gifts and in my imperfections, I am completely His.  It is the understanding that I learn to rest in that knowledge and trust He is already working.  He is shining His light and love into my darkness. He has fearfully and wonderfully made me, and His Holy Spirit is at work within me.

All I need to know is that I am His and nothing can change that.  I can let go of the fear and find everything I've needed because He has promised that in His presence "is fullness of joy." 

I am excited to continue this journey of Lent over the next 35 days.  I am looking expectantly to what God is working in me during this season.  I want to continue to walk in this place of recognizing how far I fall short of the glory of God but seeing the redemptive grace found in Jesus.  Henri Nouwen says:

"Lent is a time of returning to God.  It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us without really finding what we desire.  Only God can give us what we want.  So we must be reconciled with God. . . The season of Lent, helps us in a special way to cry out for God's mercy."

My prayer for you is that God will also be showing you His mercy and love during this season, and that you never forget you are completely His.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

From Dust to Dust

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust."  Psalm 103: 13-14

The sky is cloudy and grey today; it's been that way the last week or so as off and on, rain has finally hit the dry bones of this land in desperate need of water. It's Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.  A grey sky, like the grey of ashes, feels fitting on this day set aside to remind us of our own inevitable death and the fact we are imperfect, sinful people.  

Today is a reminder to me that this life is incredibly short even though it can feel so long at times. 

It's a reminder that I will take nothing, absolutely nothing, with me at the end of this life except my relationship with the living God.   Because "for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19)" 

And it's a reminder that I will only reach heaven because of the One who loved me so much He journeyed to the cross and conquered death for me. That in my imperfection and weaknesses, I could never be good enough to save myself.

It may feel like a bleak or even defeated outlook, but I don't see it that way at all.

I see the cross even on this day of ashes, and in that I see incredible hope.  I recognize my desperate need for a loving God and the fact that it's okay I cannot do it on my own because I have a Father who's strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.  Most importantly, I don't see death as the end, but as only the beginning. 

So today marks the beginning of a 40 day journey towards the cross. A time set aside to reflect on my relationship with Jesus and to remember that because of Him, there is a hope that will never disappoint. I am not giving up anything this year, instead I'm taking this time to dig deeper into the word and my relationship with my heavenly father and His son who gave up everything to save me. I'm committing to reading through the New Testament in the next 40 days, maybe you'll think about joining me.