Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Picture of Grace

One of my favorite pics of us.
Oct 2015
I cried as I hugged Alexandra goodbye yesterday afternoon and told her I loved her, knowing that by the time I got home from my meeting at church all of her stuff would be packed and moved out.

She hugged me again at the door and I took goofy pictures of her before I backed out of the driveway.

Then I cried all the way to my meeting.

It would be selfish of me to try to make her stay.  An 18 year old soon-to-be college freshman doesn't want to share a room with her 10 and 12 year old sisters.

I know this.

But that doesn't make it easy.

My selfish mommy heart says, "I'm not done with her. I have more to teach her, more to share."

Mom, Alex and I
Feb 2016
But frankly, in spite of the rough edges that life will inevitably rub off of her over time, she's a pretty good kid... strike that... young woman.

She's more than that though. To me, she's a picture of grace.

Created in less-than-ideal circumstances, she was born with two kids for parents. Not understanding what it means to put your children before yourself, we made mistakes. A lot of them. A lot a lot.

Her father and I divorced when she was 6, leaving me the single mom of 3. Just before she turned 8, her youngest sister was born, making me a single mom of four kids under 8.

After the divorce, I fell into a depression that would grip me off and on for about 10 years. She often had to play the grown up when I couldn't or wouldn't function. And, while our life is much more stable now, I can't help but remember how I was scared at one point that she was the daughter I was "most likely to ruin" with all of my selfish choices... and that was even before I had seen that God had given me way out.

Graduation May 2016
Instead, even after modeling all the wrong things through her formative years, I still managed to raise a daughter who either in spite of (or maybe in some ways because of) all my faults, is a woman I can truly say I am proud to be the mother of. Beautifully stubborn and smarter than even she gives herself credit for, she can make me laugh without even trying.

Her creativity knows no bounds. And, while her exterior can be tough sometimes, she has a heart brimming with compassion.

She loves her family, even when it's hard.

I also love that she is not afraid of spiders. Although, I'm never sure if she is really rescuing me from them... or rescuing them from me when she captures them and sets them free outside.

The most exciting thing for me has been the many conversations we've had in the last year or so about Who God really is and what He really thinks of us. We've talked about things we do and do not believe. She's inspired me to write several blog posts with our conversations.

Not long ago, she started asking me to pray for her when she was sick so she could go on to school. She began to understand that God desires us to be healthy and believes we have authority over many more things than most people realize. Seeing her grasp those beliefs was so encouraging.

I know she will succeed at whatever she pursues as God gives her the desires of her heart. Even when things get hard or she falters at some point, she knows Who to turn to. He is for her and she's going places. I'm insanely proud of this girl.

Grace is getting something you don't deserve.
That's why she is a picture of grace to me.

You don't earn a great kid like this... I'm truly blessed to have her.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, 
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
~Joshua 1:9*

(*This one might be more for me than her in this case.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Gospel According to Google

Years ago, I read a book by John Howard Griffin who said, "Every fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him up."

I remember thinking it was funny at the time. I even thought about coming up with ridiculous positions on things solely for the purpose of finding scriptures to back them up, just to see if he was right. Now, as an adult, I see that he was... and today it's even worse than Griffin likely imagined it could be thanks to the pervasiveness of Google.

With a quick search for a couple of key words, anyone these days can not only find a verse that fits their viewpoint and a translation with just the right wording, but they can zero in on that verse without ever reading it in context.

Some, like those from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, use random verses to spew hatred... ignoring large portions of the Bible, while others focus only on the positive passages they want to read, ignoring verses about sin altogether. 

Still others are loving, respectable pastors and leaders who truly care about those they are serving. Yet, for one reason or another, they forgo the revelation that comes from studying the word, and spout Bible verses that only make sense within their message when read out of context.

Here's an example: Hebrews 10:26

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, 
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Read out-of-context that is a scary verse for me! Believe it or not, I still sin sometimes. In fact, sometimes (often), I still sin deliberately. Don't you? 

(If you said "no," that was probably a lie... which means you can now say, "Yes.")

In the last week I have deliberately lied to one of my children, eaten way more food than I needed or was good for me, made a rude comment about someone who annoyed me, and have even deliberately broken the speed limit! 

And while I said "In the last week," let's be honest here... 
I probably did all of them, 
within minutes of each other, 
in a single afternoon.

That is a lot of deliberate sinning... and it likely doesn't even come close to the actual list of sin in which I have participated in the last week. Thankfully, I know that it isn't a scary verse for me.

Hebrews 9 and 10 talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross for us. We can be assured in these verses that ALL of our sins: past, present, and future, have already been forgiven. So, if future sins have been forgiven already, what sin could one commit that would be held against them?

What about the sin of rejecting Jesus and His forgiveness? Someone who does this, has no other alternative. They have received the knowledge of the truth and for some reason, deliberately turned their back on God. 

Why would anyone do such a thing? I don't know. Ask Judas. He saw Jesus in action and still rejected him. It happens, which is why we are being warned about it here. The point is that we should not worry with each and every sin that we may be in danger of losing our salvation, 

In his commentary on these verses, Andrew Wommack says, "Those who truly love the Lord and yet sin, however grievously, need not fear these verses. These verses are for those who totally renounce their faith in the Lord. They know what they’ve done, and they don’t care. They hate the Lord."

And writer Paul Ellis asks, "How can we interpret Hebrews 10:26 as a warning against sin when Hebrews 9:26 says that Christ appeared once for all “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself”?"

While I don't believe most of the people who use scripture out of context mean to hurt Christians, it is important for us to guard ourselves against teaching that might do so. When you hear a sermon or read something that contains a verse for reference. Always take the time to read it for yourself and ask God what He wants you to receive from His Word.

He (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages 
to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
~Hebrews 9:26b

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Just ask

Before we were officially dating, my boyfriend commented that he worried about whether or not he would be able to be the provider he thought I needed. I didn't even have to think about my response to him. "If you are worried about that, you've found the right girl. I don't depend on any man for my support. I've got God for that."

While I hadn't really thought about it before that moment, as soon as I said it, I knew it was the truth.

Often I need money. I am a single mom and a business owner. There are always expenses. Right now I have a child about to start college, I'm trying to gather a down payment for a house, and I need new $800 tires. Am I worried? No. God always provides. Always.

But Kindall, weren't you homeless once? Where was His provision there?

I was. I don't believe that it was God's will for us to be homeless. I believe that God let me do what I wanted and deal with the earthly consequences until I gave up and let Him take over. God can and will get us through, but it takes something on our part, faith.

Before that time, I was fighting for myself. I would say I had faith that God would get us through and then devise a plan to get money to pay whatever bill needed covered. He often came through in unexpected ways, but I believe that if I had listened to His plan from the beginning, things would have worked out much differently, with a lot less suffering.

Because I focused on my problems instead of on Him, I could only think about ways I could possibly fix it instead of letting Him shine through the situation.

Exodus 14:14 says, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." In my case, I had to wear myself out fighting before I was still enough to let Him take over.

I recently spoke with someone about what they needed to change in their church to bring in and keep those people who tithe, which is what he believed was needed to bring in the money their church needed to expand. I told him,"I understand what you are saying, but you are talking about what you need to do 'in the natural'... God doesn't need to work that way." He kept comparing his church to other churches in the area. I don't think he understood what I was trying to say.

This is what I know. If we want God to move, we can't tell Him how to do it. We have to have faith that He will and get out of the way.

I can't say that I know his church well, but maybe God isn't planning on giving them money to fix this or that. Maybe He isn't even planning on bringing in "those people." What if God wants to prosper the small businesses within that church so the current members have more to tithe? There are countless other options as well.

Having faith that God will prosper you, doesn't mean you copy what others who are prospering do. It means you trust Him to make His will clear and you trust Him to show you His path, even if all you can see is one step at a time.

Having faith and making plans usually don't go together. I've learned the hard way that when you make plans to prosper yourself, you get in the way of God's plans to make sure you prosper.

I love the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible. We have all been that son before. We know what it is like to walk the wrong path for awhile and have to humble ourselves to ask for help.

Often though, we are the other brother... we stay and work and are faithful to our Father. In the parable, he complains to his father that so much attention and expense are being lavished on the brother who came back...

And [his father] said to him, ‘
Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours...' 
~Luke 15:31 ESV

God says the same to us, you know. All that He has is ours... we just have ask Him for it.

And my God shall supply every need of yours 
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:19 ASV

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. 
In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.
~Romans 8:17a NLT

Thank You, Lord, for your acceptance of us as heirs with Christ. We know that You consider all that You have to be ours and that You will provide according to Your riches. Thank You for extending grace when we get in Your way, and gently nudging us when we stray from the path You have planned for us. I don't know the needs of the people agreeing with me in this prayer right now, but I have faith that You are reminding someone right now that You've got this and You have already dispatched provision for them, even if they don't see it yet. 
You are a good, good, Father and we are so thankful.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.