Amazing Grace

This morning I saw it tweeted:

<Person> singing ‘Amazing Grace’ the day <they> condones
<something contrary to the tweeter’s beliefs>. Talk about a perverted mind?!”

I’m purposefully leaving out the Tweeter, Person in question, and Topic of contention; I think they will detract from the point of this post.

Both the Tweeter and… Tweet subject (tweetee?) are
self-professed Christians, which I guess is what bothered the
Tweeter so much to begin with.

Maybe the Tweeter is correct; that the topic in question is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, and the person in question needs to
reexamine their stance on the issue, in a biblical light.

But to take issue with someone you deem unworthy singing
‘Amazing Grace’… well isn’t that the point of Grace? Hope for the hopeless? Unearned. Undeserved. Unmerited. A way to Salvation for the very worst of us. A song for everyone.

When not understood, Grace can certainly be abused or misused. But I think it is important – imperative, that Christians don’t ever ‘take away’ another’s ability to claim that life-saving Grace.
Because Grace that is made available only to the ‘worthy’ is not Grace. And it’s certainly not Amazing.

If someone is not living up to their calling, it is always more helpful to exhort them, that they may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge’,
rather than strip them of their right to claim the lifeline of Grace as their own.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

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Unmerited Favour

Years ago I came across a couple sets of Bible verses that I think really help to reveal the heart of God.

The first set is 1 Kings 15:4-5:

4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem: 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

Now when I read that verse I showed my husband and chuckled. Because when vs. 5 mentions that “matter of Uriah the Hittite”, it kind of leads one to think David accidentally stepped on Uriah’s foot, or something equally small or petty. But what actually happened in “the matter of Uriah the Hittite” is this (paraphrased):

Once a man named Uriah was out being a good soldier and fighting in a war for King David. One evening during that time, King David happened to spy Uriah’s wife bathing. Overcome with desire, he sent for her, and they slept together. Then he sent her home as if nothing happened. THEN she tells David she’s pregnant, and since her husband is still gone, it’s definitely David’s. So David sends for Uriah, and tries to cover up what he did by giving Uriah the opportunity to “spend some quality time” with his wife.

David: You’re working so hard. Why don’t you spend a nice night at home with your wife before you go back to the awful, lonely war? *chuckles to self, pleased with cleverness.*

Uriah: (full of integrity) How could I let myself have all that luxury when my countrymen are in such conditions even now? I will not.

David: (to self) Crap.

So Uriah goes back to the battlefield without having any “quality time” with his wife. Which means he would definitely have a few questions concerning how she got pregnant (or if not ‘how?’, at least ‘with who?!?!’).

David then had Uriah moved to a battlefield position where death would be unavoidable. Oh, and then David took Uriah’s now-widow as his own wife. Illegitimacy problem solved!

So let’s recap: Covetousness, Adultery, Lying, and Murder.

I bet some of you didn’t know the Bible was so intense.

Anyways, THAT’s “the matter of Uriah the Hittite” that the writer of 1 Kings was making reference to. And as I was chuckling, I thought “How can they make it sound like such a non-big deal like that?”

BUT…

Here is the second set of verses, that really blew my mind (they come earlier in the text, but this is the order in which I found them, so this is the order I will relate them). 1 Kings 14:7-8:

7 “Go, tell Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Because I exalted you from among the people, and made you ruler over My people Israel, 8 and tore the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it to you; and yet you have not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes;

So I thought it was funny how a mere person minimized David’s flaws… and then I see that God not only forgave them, but forgot them! Not a new concept I know; I’d heard before “God will remember your sins no more”, and similar things, but here was proof!

Quite often I hear comments like the following:

About Other People:

“It’s so nice how God can still love that person despite their sins and problems. How quaint.”

or

“HOW is God loving THAT person?! Doesn’t He see their sins and problems?!?! How scandalous!”

 

About Ourselves:

(Full of woe) “Ohhhhhhhhhh God. Thank You for loving ME, a wretched, awful, horrible sinner with nothing but problems!”

or

“God can’t love me. Look at my sin and problems. It would be scandalous. There’s no hope.”

 

And then I read what God thought about David, and you know what? God is NOT loving you, me, or anyone else in SPITE of their problems, or in hopes they will change. In God’s opinion, all of humanity’s wretchedness has already been dealt with and done away with; punished on the person of Jesus Christ at the cross. There is no backup file somewhere that God is just itching to pull out later. The debt of sin has already been paid.

There is no reason for God to remember our sins, just as there is no way we are able to repay the debt by our own efforts or works. Have even our best efforts ever really been able to allow us to meet the Perfect Standard?

Religions of the world all put the work on people. People need to perform tasks, rituals and live right in order to make things right with God. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Countless people try and turn Christianity into just another religion, but Christ came to restore man’s relationship with God. God knew people could never reach Him with their efforts, so the Son of God came down in the flesh, and completed the work for us.

Isaiah 53: 4-5 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows;… 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

Some people say God is still punishing people (or cities, or even whole countries). But if that were the case, it would make Jesus’ suffering pointless. Why would Jesus suffer God’s wrath and punishment for our sins, if God was just going to keep on punishing people? That would be nonsense.

2 Corinthians 5:21 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus did not just take away the sin of the world. He exchanged it for His own righteousness. When you put your faith in Christ’s finished work in taking away your sins, there is nothing separating you from God. There is nothing you have to go take care of before God will accept you. Because when God looks at a person whose faith is in what Christ has done for them, He sees the sinless, perfect, righteous sacrifice of Jesus. The greatest exchange you could ever hope for, all freely offered, freely given.

Isaiah 54:10 10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

Often, even at our best, most gracious moments, we can only comprehend God minimizing someone’s faults until they are little “matters”. That He sees them but says “Well so-and-so did that, but Jesus paid for it so it’s ok.” But He DOES NOT REMEMBER THEM ANYMORE.

And that’s what it’s talking about in the Bible when you read things like:

2 Corinthians 5:16-19 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them,…

A question: Since Jesus put away sin, can people just live however they want and God doesn’t care?

Romans 6:1-3 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

“Grace” can be defined as the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favour God has given to us through Jesus. Since Jesus has put away all sin, can we keep sinning? No. That’s not even possible if you’ve accepted new life in Christ. You can’t believe Christ has provided new life for you without believing that He accomplished that by dying with your sin. When He died, your old self (sins, addictions, sicknesses) died with Him. When He rose again, you did too- your ‘new creation’ life in Christ that was mentioned earlier!

Romans 6:5-6 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

We WILL be in the likeness of Christ (in actions, speech, etc) KNOWING THIS…. That our sin has been put away with by Jesus! That it has no control over us anymore.

The key is the ‘KNOWING THIS’ part.

Too often Christians will bring people to church, tell them they need Jesus, get them to say the “sinner’s prayer” and then all of the sudden wallop them with a bunch of rules they need to follow to keep God happy.

“Read your Bible! Pray to God every day! Stop drinking! Stop having sex before marriage! Watch your language! Etc etc etc” and they get offended if the people don’t start having all this Christ-like behavior. But look above to the verses in Romans again. Us being in the likeness of Christ will only come after we are taught that He has put away our sins once and for all. That it is no longer our fight to win. That we are more than conquerors of any behaviors because of what Jesus has done on our behalf. Once people realize what Jesus has done for them, the light of Christ in them will naturally shine.

One Choice at a Time

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed in decisions we have to make. Worried we’ll make the wrong choice. Wanting to choose what’s best for us. Afraid we’ll miss out on something better.
Personally, I have a hard time deciding to do something ‘forever’.
Once I had a much more serious decision to make, and I was totally waffling. Until someone very wise simply said, “Why don’t you just explore this avenue. See where this road leads. And if, after a time, you decide it really isn’t the right choice, you can turn off this road and try another.”
That really helped.
I think we take ourselves too seriously a lot of the time. Though our lives may feel like they are pretty locked in, or that our course is set, in all honesty there is much we can change, if we want or need to. Decisions are seldom final. Even in situations where the road is decided, you still get to choose your method of travel. Maybe the problem isn’t the road you’re on –the choice you’ve made– but rather, things you could be doing (or not doing) that would help you to really enjoy your journey.

Relationship Maintenance

There is a lot of power and influence in our speech. The words we choose can affect us more than we realize and reveal our inner thoughts.

In our relationships especially, choosing the right language can make a world of difference. So I want to ask you, do you spend time working on your relationships?

               Work: Exertion. Labour. Toil. A Task or Undertaking.

Are you laboring under your relationships? Toiling in the task of making something happen?

Maybe your time would be better spent cultivating your relationships.

               Cultivate: To Prepare. To Care for. To Develop the possibilities of.

Why not prepare your relationships? Care for them? Develop their possibilities?

It is interesting, the words we have allowed to become common in certain settings, when they don’t come close to accurately conveying our intent or hopes.

Do you strive for equal give and take (giving and getting) in your relationships?

               Giving: Hand to. Yield. Provide.

               Getting: Obtain. Receive. Recover.

Instead of focusing on giving and getting, or even simply giving, I think if you thought about it you would agree it is better to focus mutually (or solely, if necessary) on nurturing –nourishing– the relationship.

               Nurture: Something that nourishes.

Whether giving or getting, both words generally speak of something of limited supply being passed from one hand to another.

If you are nurturing, you are taking ownership. You are actively doing your part to ensure proper nourishment takes place. If both parties are nurturing, neither is waiting for a need to be supplied by the other. Neither party is constantly diminishing their own supply to bring another’s up. Rather, something is being created and loved into growth. Something alive. Something dynamic. Something that changes, and is given the room needed to change.

I think that’s much more fitting a description for a relationship between two living, dynamic, changing people.

Is it Helpful?

Some good advice I received in the past when making a decision, was to ask myself, ‘Is it helpful?’ Helpful to my goals, to what I hope to achieve, to being who I really am.

This question is more effective to ask than “Is it right/wrong?” “Is it good/bad?” etc, because there are lots of things that are right and good, and yet that doesn’t mean they are helpful. Also, there is no need to unnecessarily label something as wrong or bad, simply because you know it doesn’t suit your particular needs at the moment.

Next time you have a decision to make, ask yourself if it is helpful in serving what you most value; if it is, proceed. If it isn’t, then choose to say no, and continue on your way.

 

Patterns

As a pattern emerges, your restraint against redundancy weakens, or lessens.

If you have never done something, you are not likely ever to do it.

If you do it once, you are more likely to do it again.

If you do it again, you are even more likely to do it again.

Each time, it becomes less likely that the situation will have a different outcome.

Then, a pattern is in place.

Conversely, patterns can also be stopped.

If you’ve never tried to correct a pattern, you are not likely to ever try to correct it.

If you try to correct it once, you are more likely to try to correct it again.

If you try to correct it again, you are even more likely to try to correct it again.

The pattern can be corrected.

 

This applies to both good and bad patterns.

Both good and bad patterns can be created.

Both good and bad patterns can be stopped.

Respect (Just a little bit?)

I was thinking today about a wife’s biblical call to submit to (respect) her husband, whereas husbands are called to love their wives (Ephesians 5:22-25). Specifically I was thinking about how fitting for the sexes that is, especially for women who are more prone to (at least more than men) be more influenced by their emotions.

So women are told right off the bat– you can’t treat your husband how you feel like he should be treated. The call isn’t to submit to your husband only when you want to, which is great, because feelings change all the time, based on the so many things- like lack of sleep, health, even the weather. But our calling is dependent on something that is unchanging– the man’s position as our husband. *Because this is the internet, and people love being argumentative, I will add in this disclaimer, that obviously if your husband is abusing you, breaking the law, etc, I’m not saying submit. This call for wives to submit goes hand in hand with the husband’s call to love his wife, and give himself for her, as Christ did for the church.*  We are told simply to respect. 

Submitting against your own desires goes somewhat against what we are brought up to do in western society, but I’ve found it to be beneficial. I’ve had times of extreme doubt with my husband, where I just couldn’t muster feelings of affection. If I had of waited until those feelings came before I was respectful to him, I don’t see how our marriage could have lasted. If I complained to my friends about him (being disrespectful) just because the lovey feelings weren’t there, the cycle would continue in a downward spiral:

I don’t feel romantic emotions for him –> I’m treating him the way I do feel –> My negative actions reinforce and nurture my negative feelings –> and on it repeats.

BUT if I respect him, even when I don’t feel like it, it stops the cycle.

I don’t feel romantic emotions for him –> I choose to be respectful regardless –> In respecting him I am taking away the nurturing my negative feelings need to grow –> By maintaining a respectful attitude, I keep myself open to finding things in him to appreciate –> In finding things I appreciate, my affections are nurtured –> I feel the romantic emotions.

We are often told things like ‘follow your heart’. But knowing how easily influenced we are by outside forces (even without us realizing it), it is very unwise to give your emotions so much control over your life. A person led only by their emotions will be thrown about like a leaf in a raging ocean. You just can’t trust them to guide you in important decisions.

Your emotions are only a part of you. They are to be helpful to you; never to control you. If you have been in the habit of submitting to your emotions, it may seem like they are in control, but it is possible to put them back in their place, and make them submit to you.

The first step is realizing that how you feel does not determine who you are.

Life Without Facebook (kind of)

I never knew it until this past week, but Facebook will send you an email if you go a certain number of days (8?) without logging in. The reason I didn’t know this is because I’ve never gone that long, at least not that I can remember.  Until now.

However, recently I got a touchscreen smartphone, and even though I don’t have data, we do have wifi and I was finding myself aimlessly scrolling through my newsfeed whenever I had a spare 10 minutes…. 5 minutes…. even just 30 seconds. If I had a spare second, I automatically would reach for my phone and see if anything else was new.

Unhappy with the amount of time I was mindlessly spending, yet unwilling to delete my account, I realized it was up to my willpower to break the Facebook habit.

Let’s just say that didn’t work.

I then blocked most of my friends’ content from my newsfeed so that checking Facebook would be more boring.

Also no progress.

Meanwhile, I would watch enviously as other friends left Facebook, with nary a look back. I was starting to get a complex over here. My thoughts were something like:

“I’m a bad mother! Maybe I should just delete my account. But then how will people get a hold of me?? I won’t be invited to things as often. AM I a bad mother?? *sigh*”

Finally, I found a solution, and it’s been working fabulously for going on 3 weeks now. I got my husband to change my Facebook password and he isn’t allowed to tell me what it is. So I can only sign on when he signs me on. Now, we didn’t set a once a week rule or anything- he’s not allowed to NOT sign me on when I ask him to, but it turns out I actually only care to go on about once every 10 days or so. The other times were just useless time-wasters I was doing out of bored habit.

Of course, I’m still getting notifications to my email, which is the only reason this works so well. If a message comes through I HAVE to respond to (which hasn’t happened yet, by the way) I would know to sign on that night and reply. Now when I sign on, it’s for just a 15 minutes or so to reply to event invites or comments or what-have-you. No more newsfeed browsing.

It was surprisingly easy to do.

…Of course now I’m on buzzfeed a lot more…looks like I’m going to need that willpower after all.

Stay at Home MOM

I’ve noticed that sometimes (oftentimes, from what I see) stay at home moms forget why they are staying home. The poor woman will be stressed beyond belief, snappy with her children and annoyed at her husband. It’s hard not to be annoyed at those pesky children — they are making it really hard to find enough time to do the groceries, the cooking, the errands and of course, all of the cleaning.

To those moms I always say the same thing.

You are a stay at home MOM! You are NOT a stay at home cook, maid, laundress, or personal assistant for your husband. Why kill yourself doing all that other stuff when really all that is important is spending the time with your kids?

“Well we need to eat dinner.”

Sure. But if you wait until your husband gets home, you can hand the kids off to him and make it then, without little ankle-biters demanding to be held the whole time. My husband gets home too late for me to put off feeding little dear one, but her lunch is her biggest meal of the day (typically the dinner that she missed from the night before), and her dinner is more healthy (quick) snacks . That’s right– I only have ONE kid and I STILL don’t have dinner for us ready when my husband gets home. And I have no guilt.

“Well, I can’t have a messy house.”

Sometimes I think the best thing my mother ever did for me was raise me in a messy house. I’m so thankful I don’t have some cleaning complex, or need everything to be spotless before I have friends over. There are exceptions, but generally, the dishes will build up on our counter until the end of the day, and me and hubby do them after dinner. That’s also when we’ll do a quick clean-sweep through the house, tidying up quickly. I’ll do a more thorough (but still pretty quick) job on the weekend when he’s caring for daughter. I rarely mop. I wish my floor was mopped more often, but I don’t have anyone offering to do it for me, so my floors just sit there, unmopped. Sometimes I think, “I could mop it now,” but then I realize I would rather take a nap, or read, or go for a walk, or do something that isn’t mopping some dumb floor. And I have no guilt.

Probably the thing I hear most (and it’s true!) from people is: Children grow so fast! Enjoy it! So I do.

I don’t know why women feel guilty asking their husbands to help out a bit?

If you worked fulltime outside of the house, you would certainly expect him to help out with dishes, cooking, laundry, and chores (at least I hope you would!). Why is it any different just because you are working in the house?

If I took my child to a daycare, and was paying someone to care for her, you can bet I would expect them to be attentive to her. In fact, if I picked daughter up at the end of the day and daycare woman proudly showed me her sparkling house, folded laundry, and lovely multi-course meal, I would wonder if she paid any attention to my kid at all! I’m not paying her to take care of her house. I’m paying her to watch my child.

If I wouldn’t want a person I pay to watch my child doing all that other stuff instead of just being present with my child, then why on earth would I think it’s ok for me to do it when I’m at home? My child is not a hindrance to me taking care of the home throughout the day. My child is the reason I am at home throughout the day (though if I could do my early years of marriage again, I would totally be a stay at home wife).

Some women I talk to are certain it is what their husbands expect of them. I would talk to your husband to make sure that is actually the case, because I don’t think a husband will mind dirty dishes if he knows it’s giving him a stress-free wife who gets more down-time with their kids.

And if you talk to your husband and he doesn’t see why it isn’t possible to have X Y and Z complete when he gets home? Just so he has an idea of what he is asking of you, see if he’s willing to do it himself one Saturday. You can go out for the day, and he can do everything you would typically do on a weekday. The cleaning you would do… the cooking…. everything. If he only deals with the kids for an hour or so each night when you are around, of course he won’t realize how difficult the simplest tasks can become. You can’t suggest the idea spitefully though. You can’t say, “You wouldn’t last ONE day! Why don’t YOU try it then??!” in an angry huff. Maybe a playful, sweet challenge would get your husband to agree. Maybe a more factual approach will work for him. Men are all about respect, so I think a good one that would work on most would be if you went to him humbly (not manipulating him, but sincerely) and just asked if he would do it once, and maybe at the end of the day he could give you some pointers. Maybe he will have some for you (and if he does, listen with grace), but I think what will likely happen is he will say “Whoa mama! Am I glad you’re the one who stays home! How do you get anything done?!” And then you two can decide which items you can slack off on.

Another option is to say “You know handsome, I bet we’d have more sex if I wasn’t so worn out from <doing dishes, laundry, or some chore you hate>.” Again, not manipulating him. And if he helps out with that chore, don’t spend the time he’s saving you doing some other silly menial task. You spend that time having sex. Not only will the sex help to get rid of some of your stress, but it also leads to a more helpful husband, and so the sexy cycle can continue.

I don’t have any other tips really if your husband is being stubborn. My husband is a gem. But I DO know that nagging your husband will not get you the desired effect. Neither will letting all the stress build up and then exploding at him once a week, once a month, or whenever you just can’t take it anymore. Husbands really do respond to respect. Find a time when you are calm, and just explain to him sweetly (not whining or blaming) that it’s just too much for you. You need his help. (or even, you just need his standards lowered).

I think though, that generally it’s not really the husband that is upset if the weekly dusting doesn’t get done. It is the wife who is giving herself such impossible standards.

Well, if that’s you, just stop it.

For goodness’ sake, put down the mop! Go enjoy your kids. Make love to your husband. Pick up a hobby you can enjoy while the kids are napping so that you can unwind and recharge before they wake up again.

It will probably be weird for you at first, but give it a try anyways. Unmopped floors really aren’t so bad. And I should know.

I’m the Same Age as a Reputable Business

*Written 7 years ago*

I was out doing some errands yesterday, listening to the radio, when something unsettling happened. Some ad for a furniture company came on, and I caught the phrase, “Delivering quality results since 1986”.

“Oh yeah,” I sarcastically thought, “You’ve definitely been around long enough to have it together!” That’s the year I was born, for heaven’s sake. They couldn’t have been in business for more than–

“Over 20 years in the business.” The Voice proudly announced.

WHAT?!

Granted I’ve never been good at math, but that seemed somewhat…. impossible. However, after running over the sum in my head I found the advertisement was, in fact, correct.

I’m the same age as a reputable business.

This realization was even worse than when Toy Story celebrated its 10th Anniversary. At least that occasion allowed me to happily reminisce. This, this is mature. This is serious. This is “feel free to expect me to be perfect. After all Sir (Or Madame, as the case may be), I’ve had 20+ years to get it together!”

Am I really twenty already??

Just yesterday, while running those aforementioned errands, I left the grocery store without some much-needed spices my mother requested because I was too shy to ask where I could find them.

Twenty?

I can’t drive someplace new without getting lost, or at the very least driving past a crucial exit at least once — it’s routine now for me to factor in 20 extra “Emily Minutes”.

Two Decades?

I was pleased a couple months ago to receive a letter informing me that I made the President’s Honour Roll at my college. Unfortunately any pride I felt completely disappeared as I read the next letter, from my credit card company, mentioning they noticed I was having trouble remembering the 4 digit pin I picked out, and maybe I wanted to call in and switch it to something I could remember more easily (they stopped just short of calling me a ‘1234’ pin person).

And yet this joker advertising his furniture business says his measly twenty years’ experience makes him more than qualified?

Well. I’m sure with a gentlemanly voiceover my life would seem pretty put together too.

Too shy to ask? Of course not! I’d be trying a bold new way to cook things.

Lost? Just giving that handsome voice in the sky more time to focus on my positive attributes.

If you ask me, twenty years just isn’t enough time. With that in mind, from now on any establishment wanting my business had better be my mother’s age or older. I’m sure she has it all together.