Grace Will Overwhelm- Thoughts on James 1:5

“And if anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and He will give it! He won’t see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures, but He will overwhelm Your failures with His generous grace.” (James 1:5)

Longing is birthed from the depths of our souls. A true longing for wisdom usually comes in time of trouble or need; a desperate want for direction or a way through the darkness. Questions of what to do, or how to move forward can feel like a prison when there are no answers.

The key to unlocking the door seems too simple, so we fumble around trying keys that won’t work. We struggle and wonder why we can’t get free. So much time is wasted using the wrong keys. All we have to do is “Look… [to God] and be saved…” (Isaiah 45:22) Turn to Him, and simply look, behold, acknowledge, and receive. Ask God and He will give wisdom. I am not speaking of knowledge, but the deeper wisdom that God gives. “Knowledge is raw information, but wisdom is knowing how to use it.” (D. Guzik)

Whether God gives answers or perserverance, His generous grace will prove to be enough. The more I have struggled on my own, the more tangled up in my own thoughts and actions I become. To rest, stop, let everything fall at the feet of Jesus is where my freedom comes. And my spirit fills with the wisdom of God because He promises to give generously. All I need to do is ask, seek, or knock.

Lord, Thank You for Your generous grace. Where I have gained knowledge, give me wisdom in how to use it for Your glory. Show me the way to Your peace that passes all understanding. Thank You for the mercy in my failures. Help me to walk in this humble knowing and be strong in Your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Grace Space

Reflection and study notes on Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 12-

“And my God will supply all your need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

“And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:19a

There is no lack in God’s supply, we are filled by Jesus. Water turned to wine for celebration. A handful of fish and bread becomes enough to feed thousands who hunger. Our weakness and failure, sickness and sins will never push God away from us, but rather gives His grace room to move in where we need it most. The more space, the more room for grace. Paul prays for the thorn in his flesh to be removed three times. God’s answer is clear. Grace. Being content in the weakness. Therein lies true strength.

In my weakness, there is temptation to reach for things other than God. Where I am lacking, my pride tells me I am justified to reach for the things the world gives no matter the cost. It’s so easy, but the consequences can be hard. Letting God’s power work in my life means to take His unending, smiling grace over me as the gift it is, and let His strength supply all my needs.

The distance between God’s perfection and me is filled with grace. No amount of doing better will make a dent in the amount of grace I need. I saw a diagram of a line drawn representing God and His perfectness. And another line drawn just below representing a Christian’s mark toward perfection. Grace filled the space. But you know what? That space was too small. Any line drawn anywhere near God’s perfection symbolizing me would be too close. That space filled with grace? It’s immense. As it should be. Our sin nature is what it is. No amount of striving will ever make us sin free. It just is. If anyone boasts of being near perfection in God’s eyes just doesn’t get it. It’s not about how good or bad we are, but it’s about how good God is.

His goodness compared to ours is referenced as filthy rags. This is just our state of affairs. The original sin is our heritage. But our inheritance through Jesus is a Kingdom of glory. We will get there. But not in this life. And so we need more and more grace to fill the space. We need to stop looking at the bar set for ourselves as if it will ever reach God’s level of perfection. But God’s love? We are soaked, if only we would realize it sooner than later. Ever flowing love comes to us like a raging river. Jesus filled that grace gap. We don’t need anything else.

Take the grace. Be filled with it. Let Him be enough. Then our response in living will be love poured out on others. Compassion. Humility in serving others. Not serving others a false picture of us. Some kind of place to reach for. Don’t reach for me or for what you think others have. Reach for God. I want to point others to Jesus. He is perfect. And His perfect love is sufficient for all of our needs. We need His love. We need His grace. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Not in our strength. I am finally getting it. It’s not about moving closer to perfection, but letting His perfection move in closer to me. My sin that I thought separated me from God? It’s exactly the space that fills up with grace. I am God’s beloved child. Nothing can separate me from that truth. And nothing I do makes Him love me any more or any less.

Lord, Help me live better with the thorns in my flesh. Help me to let the space for grace be as large as it needs to be and let me remember that it is the grace that links me to You. I am drawn in and tethered to You through Jesus. If the thorns are not removed, let them be covered by You. Your strength is made perfect in weakness and in my reliance on You. Teach me more about Your grace. When I am weak, I am strong in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thistles and Grace

From dust we were formed

To dust we return

We rise with the wildflowers

And feel the sun’s burn

Not left without shade

Or water to thrive

But in toil with our hands

Harvest honey from hive

Sweetness from crushing

Wine press for grapes

Droplets of sweat

Proves what we create

Desires are shaken

Twisted in two

But gathered in mercy

By the Father who knew

Freedom and wisdom

Come at a price

Mysteries unspoken

His love will suffice

Driven from Eden

A heavenly blow

We yearn to return

To the Home our hearts know

Heirs to the Kingdom

Exiled to this place

We cultivate goodness

Shred thistles for grace

Passionate purpose

Cast seeds into ground

A harvest will come

In this hope I am found.

 

Servant of Grace

I give the smile from my face to see the joy on yours

If you don’t respond may I still give you more

Not to find a reaction I need

Not to fill my own emptiness

But that I would give because I have been given

I am a recipient of joy

Joy that comes from being seen as I am

Love that came down from above

Not to fill me with pride that seeks

Not to bring me high standing

But that I would love to share my Jesus

I am a recipient of sacrifice

A gift that came wrapped in pain and tears

Offered to my heart without strings

Not to open and keep to myself

Not to hide it away

But to offer in love this beautiful treasure

My hands are outstretched to serve for the Kingdom

If you don’t accept may I still love you more

Not to make you feel guilty

Not to cover you with shame

But that you would open your eyes to forgiveness

I am a servant of grace.

Waiting (Inspired by Ruth 3)

11.5.15

Wilderness wandering leaves me bare

Hands fall empty with nothing to share

Cover me with redeeming wings

In Christ alone my spirit sings

Worldly knowledge is grasping for straw

If knowing and gaining scrapes heart raw

I’m heading to the threshing floor

With all I’ve lost, but gaining more

Calm and trusting silent pace

Remove the covering seek His grace

I lay my body at His feet

The Lord will grant the claim I seek

I will do what You have asked

My face will shine without the mask

And if today meets chaos or pain

My heart will know that truth remains

Remember Ruth and all she lost

Her beautiful faith was worth the cost

Questions asked and prayers now wait

Resisting worry in delay

My grateful heart will choose delight

Remembering blessings from day to night.

Thoughts on Genesis 21:1-7

10.1.15

All I can see here is grace. First, Sarah laughed to herself in disbelief when she heard God’s promise to her, and yet God heard and questioned why she laughed. In fear, Sarah denied laughing. God did not write her off or take the promise away, He gave her grace. And now, with her promised son in her arms, she laughs out loud (LOL) saying “God has made laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh with me.” BIG GRACE.We have to remember who we are. And Who’s we are. God’s love is something I have to meditate on often. His promises feel true when all is quiet and I am sipping my coffee, spending time with Him. But as soon as I jump in my car and zoom off to work, that person pulls out and I am transported into reality. And anger, or frustration, seems to erase that peace I sat in only moments ago. And you know, that’s okay. I cannot control what happens to me, but I can definitely control what I choose to do with it. I pray that I choose well. That I learn to do better. That even in my current and very real struggles, even in my pain, that I choose well. Choosing badly only deepens the despair, and the momentary release of anger or unhealthy choice only moves me further from that peace I so badly desire. I do not want to be angry. Or right. Truly. I want to love and be loved. This is at the core of who I am as a woman. This is the catalyst that drives me to serve others, to spread joy and laughter, and is my true desire. Lord, help me to pause before reacting, comfort me in my despairing moments, reassure me in my doubts, and help me to be your light because I know where my hope springs from. The everlasting fountain of love is here for the sipping, for the tasting, for the filling of empty heart spaces I fear will never be satisfied, the unanswered dreams that have faded, the yearning for significance. Father comfort our hearts, inspire us to hope in big things, and let your will be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Words to Grow)

I drink in words

And pour them out.

Language soothes

A place without.

Thoughts in poetry

Guide my mind.

Interpretations,

Peace, I find-

Where otherwise,

Rocky steps

Could bring demise.

My Savior places

Gifts within

To grow with life

To grow again.

Thoughts on Genesis 16-21

9.28.15

I am struck by the entire story. One I have read many times before, cringed through the details, wading through the sins of others, evil unspeakable acts, and yet a beautiful story emerges. My heart is left raw and vulnerable. After 13 years of marriage I have no children and my marriage is hard. Difficult truths have emerged, my faith is being tested. After 42 years on this earth, I have sinned and walked in darkness many times, and yet a beautiful story emerges. In the barrenness of my moments I have been brought to my knees. I have gone to my Lord and I have been redeemed. The salvation gift came to me many years ago, but recently I have been freed from many things I did not realize were weighing me down. I have come to know grace deeper, mercy closer, faith stronger, and love greater. I know compassion and humility better, joy and forgiveness quicker, and Jesus is more real to me than ever. The key to this life hinges on prayer, which brings intimacy with God, which brings life. Beautiful, true, bright and shining life. I pray for the hearts seeking, the eyes looking, the ears listening for some glimmer of hope. Hope is here, hope is now… just like the song goes, it is. Jesus paid the price for our restoration and He is our hope. No matter what this life brings, there is an everlasting Happily Ever After.

(The Work of His Hand)

She wanders, heart empty, through libraries, books-

Seeking and searching, taste words found in nooks.

Another day lived, as her soul is struck thin,

Feels her way through, wondering where to begin.

Step back and you watch her, confusion and grin-

Your own life is halted, interruptions within.

Orderly patterns, the American way-

Keeps dreaming in check, plan your life, plan your day.

This creature before you, seems lost and confused,

Poor soul needs some coaching, some wisdom to use.

And you, so helpful, you’re way sets things right-

Strategy and planning mask conviction and might.

Glimpse life without judgment, expecting what’s real.

Leave room for your heart, glimpse wide without shield.

Step forth and approach an open new gate-

Move boldly in, to prepared fertile blessed fate.

Your God who created you, knew you’d be here-

Placed hazel eyed Jennifer where you would be near.

No plan you envisioned nor life had you planned

Could stop this unfolding, the work of His hand.

http://www.ifequip.com

Thoughts on Nehemiah 11:25-12:26

Names. Each of these names in the story are tiny glimpses of bigger stories. Here these names are listed in God’s story of rebuilding a city. I dig in a bit deeper and imagine walking through the new Jerusalem, seeing the faces of these named people, and I wonder. What would they be doing? What would they be saying? I can almost hear the buzz of conversations, the planning of how to make this new life work. The meeting of new neighbors. The uncertainty. The excitement.  And this is our life too. Each of us stepping into the world each day, living in our stories. Our own names are written into God’s story. Where does my name appear in the story? What is my impact in this life? My current prayer is that God would reveal His path of life to me. For so many years I barreled along, seeming to progress and move into a future I had imagined. Somewhere along the way, my dreams got left behind. My heart was broken when I smashed into reality. My story had been hijacked, and although my story contains pain and life felt stolen, I realized the hijacker was Jesus. I found that my path of life was not following God’s story line. I chose the wrong adventure. Waking into my new story has brought me hope. My role has been repurposed, rebuilt, redeemed, and renewed. The memories of the paths that brought me here are part of my current story, character building memories filled with lessons and also love. I have never walked alone. I have never walked without love. Its just that I lost my focus, and I made some wrong turns. God has used each of the places I have been to build in humility, compassion, and understanding all woven together with grace and love. And I am ready for today. I am trusting God for tomorrow and each new day He gives as I follow His story.

(Life That Lasts)

Sweetness lies in memories,

Trigger feelings, jolting life awake-

Bright spark, heart responds.

Looking back into life,

In moments, recently passed,

Or further back in time, you see.

Reflecting, thinking, smiling in jest.

Don’t dwell in weakness, chase joy.

Focus on goodness, and dim the rest.

Gather your treasures, and keep them close.

Treasures of light, and sometimes in darkness-

Glistening jewels need shadows, to gleam.

Beaming rays shine brightly, at night.

If you look, you will find your love.

It’s not too late to make new memories.

It’s not too late to dance, or sing out loud.

It’s not too late for love to blossom.

God will take your pieces, scattered along-

Strewn like chaos, like feathers in the wind.

And He will weave them, into beautiful

Living fabric, life giving life that lasts.

http://www.ifequip.com/3159

Victory in the Middle

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I am struck by the truth of how easily our strength fades in the middle. We all have those moments of clarity, inspired by God’s word, spoken deep within us, and we know what we are to do! We step out in faith, we begin the work of rebuilding, or loving in action, or we forgive what seems unforgiveable. And then the sun rises one morning, the once beautiful rays of light have been darkened by clouds. Thunder rolls in the distance and you wonder. Discouragement sets in, doubts fog up our minds. How easy it would be to just give up, give in, go out, and live like your neighbor who seems to be doing just fine. But, we are the women who know our God. We have studied and we have prayed. Our hearts have been guarded well, and so the attacks of our enemies, the Enemy, cannot breach our souls. God will fight for us. He who wants to destroy us cannot have a victory in us. It is time to get back to work. It is time to get back to Love. Take up the weapons, put on the full armor, and this time do not lay them down until the work is complete. Beginnings are full of fresh ambition, building seems worthy, but just as a lavish dinner with friends is wonderful, the time of enjoyment must turn to cleaning up. This is part of the process. Memories planted in our hearts are not erased by taking out the garbage. Part of the building includes removing the rubbish. Making room for the firm foundations to be set, an integral piece of the larger goal. Remember why you started. Remember your people, remember the love, and remember what Jesus did for you. For us. So much love through pain. The victory is not always found at the end, but right in the middle where you did not give up.

(We Are The Women)

Smack dab in the messy

We show our selves real

We take what we’re given

The cards in the deal

We are given one life

One great story line

That one is yours

And this one is mine

We are the women

Who live from the heart

Brave and courageous

For every new start

When life tosses toughness

We catch it with strength

Turn it and mold it

Stretch love with new length

I’m not saying easy

Not giving a shrug

Just one step, then two

With a God given hug

We treasure our friendships

Hold close to a few

Makes mornings more lovely

Like freshly formed dew

And so retreat daily

Into God’s loving hands

Fill empty places for

New mornings, new lands.

(Nehemiah 4:10-23)

Healed Heart Gleams

What stirs in heart at depths it seems

The whole of quiet, nature beams

Take a look and longer gaze

At what you pass in hurried days

Find the rest, your soul that thirsts

Remember love, remember firsts

Once wild desire, taken for granted

Trace back and see what seeds you planted

The tree that grows needs time to flare

Slow down, stop running, reaching for air

Hold to that which firmly rooted

Anchors soul, press play, now muted

Let beauty’s music guide your heart

Hope revealed, seen now in part

Gather treasures growing where

Your passion planted life once bare

Remember promise sown with vision

God graced you with a worthy mission

Humble down and let love rise

Cherish treasures, choices wise

Cease in searching empty dreams

Once cold and broken, healed heart gleams.

Words and Photo by Jennifer JLS

1/23/15