Grace

I was thinking this morning of the phrase WWJD? It is a good reminder many times of how we should behave, but it is so incomplete. A better reminder might be WDJD? (What DID Jesus Do?) He died on the cross, which is true, but what did that mean? Was it simply a sacrifice for our sins? Was it our ‘ticket’ to eternal life? While those are also true, it is so much more.

He abolished the law that man interprets (and misinterprets) and that man uses to guide his way through life. In its place, he supplanted us with His Spirit that directs us into Truth. The law can only reprove and correct, but the acceptance of his Mercy and Grace redeems us and imparts his Spirit. Words spoken from an obedient son:

“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” – John 14:23-26

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate[a] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’” John 16: 7-9&13-15

Posted below is a blog I wrote on Grace a couple of years ago at this time, it bears repeating.

Grace.

Hypothermia of the Heart

In the winter, bodies of water sometimes form a thin layer of ice that looks solid, but we can recognize from the climate whether or not there has been enough cold weather for a solid foundation of ice to form before we step onto the ice. We know better than to step onto a pond, lake, or river or we’ll face hypothermia when we step through a thin layer of ice and plunge into the icy cold waters beneath. If we do so, we are chilled to the bone. The time it takes to recover from the pain of freezing is excruciatingly slow. The thawing out process is long and tedious, sometimes leaving physical and mental scar tissue behind.  Water-Blue-Heart Hypothermia is a condition when the body’s core temperature drops below what is required for normal life-sustaining processes and functions to occur. When a person is exposed to constant extreme cold over a length of time, the body cannot replenish the heat needed to maintain its core temperature. The symptoms which typically occur even from mild hypothermia are shivering and mental confusion. Other symptoms of mild hypothermia may be high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, and narrowing of the large arteries that supply blood flow to the heart.

Unless there is sufficient medical equipment, slow rewarming is always recommended in cases of hypothermia, until a complete medical evaluation can be made. This would mean to dispose of any wet clothing and replace them with dry insulated clothing and a head covering, since much heat loss occurs through the head. If possible, the affected person should be placed in a warm environment to slowly warm up. If this is not possible, person to person heat exchange is the next method of slow warming; but in doing so, be gentle, with as little disruption or movement as possible to the person who has hypothermia. The reason for being gentle is that any aggressive or jarring motion could trigger irregular heartbeat (dysrhythmia) and can cause disruption of skin that has already been damaged from the exposure to the extreme elements.

In thinking of hypothermia and the effects it has on the body, I was relating to how it is similar to getting into a relationship with people who are destructive to our well-being. Many of us know from past experiences that entering into a relationship (even in friendship) with someone whom you must always tread on thin ice with in conversations and every interaction is like stepping onto a lake that isn’t solidly frozen over. We know eventually, we will break the surface and plunge through into the icy depths below. 

Why then do we step into these relationships with people who aren’t solid? … People whose psyche is so fragile that they must be handled with kid gloves? When will we learn to recognize a solid foundation from an icy thin veneer? It is when we learn to listen to the holy spirit’s voice. When we hear his caution. When we hear it as sure as the person standing next to us. I know that I have had what I consider a ‘check’ about some people and still went headlong, caution to the wind, into relationships that I had a gut feeling not to enter. I later regretted not listening to that still small voice. We don’t get into these situations when we learn to listen.

However, there are times that we cannot avoid people who are fragile. Sometimes they are people we work with, people we minister to, and sometimes they are part of our family. How do we guide these relationships then? We must definitely become the co-pilot and allow the holy spirit to become our pilot, because we are in uncharted territory. We cannot communicate from a carnal nature (not that we should in other relationships either, don’t get me wrong) but this is where it is imperative that our actions must be led and directed totally by the holy spirit. We have to get out of the pilot’s seat and sit back and allow him to speak in and through us. We must be sure that every answer, every jot and tittle in our communication is directed by him. If it isn’t, it will end in disaster. Through prayer and reading of the word, we can effectively navigate these relationships. God will guide us. He can work through us with the holy spirit. We just have to be open to listen. 

If you have been in a relationship where you’ve been wounded and weren’t listening to his guidance… If you are recovering from a hypothermic relationship, sometimes you are left in a state of confusion. You feel that you have been cut to the core and that your heart has been damaged beyond repair. You may feel that there isn’t anyone you can trust anymore or that the world is against you. Sometimes it feels that letting someone close again will only leave you cold and reeling from the icy depths you’ve experienced before. It might be scary to step back out on that ice and trust. So what is the process? It is a similar process to recovering from medical hypothermia.

Allow the gentleness of the holy spirit to warm and restart your heart. Destroy the old wet clothing (those words and events that have wounded you to the core). Replace them with the new clothing, new Life from the Bible. Find out what he says about you, who you are in Christ. Read Ephesians 1 to see some of his Truths  and promises concerning you. Let Jesus be your head covering. Surround yourself with people who are strong in their faith, those who have God first in their lives.  

By reading the word and searching your heart, you will know who you are, and gain confidence. Your thinking will become clear again (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV), your blood pressure (because he is our calm in the storm Matthew 8:23-27) will return to normal, praise him with every breath (Psalm 150:6 NLT), and you will breathe with ease. Wait on the Lord, be patient for his instruction and the blood flow to your heart will grow strong and healthy and you will be whole again (Psalm 27:14 KJV). You will be able to trust again, because his peace will envelope you and you will know that your core (inner being) is filled with him. Your inner peace and strength comes from God and not man. (John 14:26-27 NLT)

wm heart steth

 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT (my emphases)

blue heart image: fanpop.com

What’s Inside That Package?

My husband and I don’t watch much TV but the few shows we watch are, Jeopardy, Master Chef, and occasionally The Voice. What I like about The Voice, (a show where people try to win a singing competition) is that when people audition for the first time, none of the judges see the contestants. They are basing their perceptions of whether to choose that person solely on their vocal abilities. It has nothing to do with the way they look, what size they are, the way they act, the way they style their hair, how much makeup they wear, or what clothes they wear. It comes down to vocal talent. I like that concept and I know that even as open-minded as I think I am, I have found myself being surprised by people who try out at times. Once I was in the kitchen cooking, weeks after they had eliminated contestants and they were down to about six candidates and I heard one of them singing. Because I couldn’t see them, I didn’t recognize which one it was and I had my favorites. I was listening and trying to decide who was singing, but I couldn’t determine which one of ‘my favorites’ it was. I was enjoying this pure voice, but I couldn’t put a face to it. I had to walk into the living room and see who it was. I was shocked because I heard from this person, without seeing them, something I had never heard before, a quality I had never heard before. She was at the bottom of my top three and that night, she moved to my number one! (Incidentally, she went on to win the competition.) I thought right then. Wow! I had a preconceived notion about her. I was judging her based on her age and not her talent. I was letting my mind play tricks on me and not listening to what this gal has to offer! It wasn’t her looks, it wasn’t the way she dressed, it was her age! It made me wonder how many times have I done that with other people based on other things? Maybe it was something else about them that I let get in the way and I didn’t “listen” to what they had to offer. Maybe they had something amazing to share with me and some preconceived notion of mine blocked a tremendous blessing! I was saddened at myself and my reaction.

wm pkg

Later I reflected on Jesus and how he was rejected in his home town. He was also rejected because he was a Jew. We can think of all kinds of things to reject people for. Sometimes we don’t receive from people because they are talented or because they aren’t talented. We can make up all kinds of excuses not to listen. There are many people who will listen to a person because they have so many degrees, like a doctorate or a master’s but I’ve met people with many degrees who don’t have a lick of common sense. Then there are people who have very little education but have all the wisdom in the world. While we do need to be careful who we receive from, we need to be equally careful who we reject. We may be rejecting the greatest treasure on earth.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who have tossed out what they thought was garbage only to be found by another who found something of great value? When I had my first job at the age of nineteen, I rented a small two bedroom house off the college campus where I worked in Tulsa. The woman who owned the house, had left it, thirty years before, belongings and all, when her husband died because she couldn’t bear to stay with all the memories. It was quite a mess to clean up, but the structure was sound and the furnishings were very nice. It was like stepping into a time capsule of someone’s life. Imagine all the dust and grime that collected over those years! The vacuum’s electric cord had disintegrated into the carpet. When I went to move it, the cord just crumbled! She said to do whatever we wanted with everything in the house. There was a rather dull wall-hanging, in a plain off-white etched wooden frame, that I tossed into the open trash can. My mother came by as I was cleaning and saw it and asked if she could have it. Naturally, I said yes, wondering why she would want it. A couple of weeks later, I was in my mother’s house and there was a beautiful art piece hanging on her wall. I asked where she found that amazing ocean scene. She said, “Don’t you recognize it? It was in your trash can!” She had cleaned it and antiqued the frame to bring out the gold tones of the sun glistening on the water. It was a seascape of ocean waves crashing on the shore, spraying radiant droplets of water up, with reflections of a golden sunrise, but the dirt I saw had obscured the scene and the bland frame had muted the colors. Her skillful refurbishing had brought out what the original artist had seen and depicted. She asked if I wanted it back and I told her “No Mom, you deserve to have it, because you saw what I could not see, you brought it to life.” Over the years, every time I saw that painting, I admired it and reminded myself to look beneath the dirt and grime and see the potential, because I might be missing something of great beauty.

But isn’t that how life is? There is potential everywhere we look. There is potential in everyone, there is great beauty in everyone. God sees it, but sometimes we fail to see it. God sings over each of us, but we don’t all have the ears to hear his song. And God can use each one of us and speak through each of us. If he can speak through donkeys, he can speak through people. We just have to quit shutting our ears to the people around us and rejecting the packages. You never know when you might be missing a beautiful song or tossing out a beautiful art piece. Will you start receiving the packages God sends to you, no matter how they’re wrapped?

See these verses:

Luke 4:14-30 (Jesus rejection in Nazareth)

Numbers 22:28 (donkey speaking)

Zephaniah 3:17 (Lord sings over us!)

Prayer: Father I pray that today you will help us each to receive the messages you send to us, no matter how they are wrapped. Help us to look beyond the package to the message. Help us all to realize that you are the message and it is you we are seeking. Help us to look for content and not be judgemental. Help us to see with your vision to the heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.