Thursday, May 25, 2017

When We Can't Get It All Together

Here’s a quote for you: “If I’ve ever gotten it all together I surely can’t remember where I put it.”

A touch of humor, but a deeper thought for sure.

Do you have it all together?  Is every single element of your life in order, in sync?  What a pleasant thought if that is true, yet many of us find our lives to be going in the opposite direction. 

I so admire people who appear to have put their lives all together in all the right ways, and yet I rarely find even one individual who qualifies as a role model in that pursuit.

I think Anne Lamott hit it right on the bead. 

Prayer is taking the chance 
that against all odds and 
past history, we are loved 
and chosen, and do not 
have to get together 
before we show up. 

We think we have to fix ourselves before coming to God, when the opposite is really the truth. 

I’ve quoted Brennan Manning’s quote a few times and it still applies today.

So, you still think you’ve got to get it all together FIRST and then approach God? 

1 Peter 5:7 reminds us: “Cast all your cares on him because He cares for you.”

In the story of the prodigal son, we read this:
“So, he (the prodigal son) got up and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  ~Luke 15:20

It appears to me that the prodigal son didn’t have it all together.  His clothes were in rags, he was hungry, he had road grime on him and he smelled of pigs and sweat and other less desirable body odors. 

And yet this parable depicts a story of love and acceptance as the son was, not as he should have been.  When he left home, he was dressed in finery, he smelled nice, looked nice, was healthy and had the jingle of coins in his pocket. 

And on the return trip – he was stripped of all of that.  He didn’t have it all together. 

And yet the Father (a picture of God) ran to his son.  He embraced him and ordered the fat calf to be killed, clean clothes to be brought and a banquet prepared.  Invite the neighbors ‘cause we’re going to celebrate the return of my son.

If anyone ever depicted a life that did not have it together, surely it was the prodigal son.  And yet … he was accepted.

Perhaps we should gather the rags and shards of our lives and lay it all at the feet of Jesus.  He delights in sorting things out and putting in order what we cannot do on our own.

This gives me great hope today. 

Offering Words of
Hope Encouragement
One Word at a Time

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Light Through the Cracks

And we think cracks are a bad thing.  Hmmm.

Consider this – Light gets in through the cracks.  It shines through.  We can’t keep it out.

Are you cracked?  Are you broken in places you’d rather not mention?

Perhaps it is time to let the light of God’s love and grace seep in through the breaks and
cracks and flood your heart and life with his good news.  You would be amazed at how God would choose to use your life with its cracks and flaws.

It seems to me that God loves to use imperfect people.
   ~David was an adulterer
   ~Rahab was a harlot
   ~Saul/Paul was a human rights abuser
   ~Peter was a traitor
   ~Jonah was a runaway

These prodigals became mentionable men and women of the faith and God used them, cracks and flaws and all.

Grace shows up best in our imperfections. The light of God’s grace gets in through our cracks.

Though he probably didn’t intend this lyric as a spiritual reflection, I think Leonard Cohen makes a nice contribution to our thought.
   Ring the bells that still can ring.
   Forget your perfect offering.
   There is a crack in everything.
   That’s how the light gets in.

I love what Brennan Manning says about this:

God has a history of using
the insignificant to accomplish
the impossible.
~Brennan Manning

And God wants to use you and me in these days.  It becomes an act of surrender.  We surrender our past, present and future.  We surrender the good and bad in our lives. 

I remember an illustration I heard once when I was a small boy.  The story goes like this:

One sunny June Sunday, in a small church in Tennessee, there sat a Dad, a Mom and a seven-year-old boy.  When it came time for the offering to be received, the ushers walked down, got the offering plates, a prayer was prayed and they then proceeded to pass the offering plates up and down the aisles.

Our small friend was watching intently as this went on.  When the ushers reached the back of the church, they again came down the aisle to the front and were just about to place the offering on the communion table.

Our friend darted out into the aisle and ran down to the front of the church.  He approached one of the ushers and said, “Lower please.”

The usher was puzzled for a moment and then held the offering plate about waist high.

Our young friend said, “lower please.” 

The usher lowered the plate to knee level.  He assumed the boy wanted a better look.

“Lower please” came the request, one more time.

This time the usher placed the offering plate on the floor.

Our seven-year-old stepped into the plate amidst the money and coins and envelopes and said, “I don’t have any money to give to Jesus, but I give myself.”

That is it!  We are available for God to use, cracks, flaws, age limitations, skin color, and any other disclaimer we choose to offer.

Even with our imperfections, God’s light can get through.

Offering Words of
Hope Encouragement
One Word at a Time

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Will I Get What I Deserve

See that man over there, the one in the gray sweater, and one white tennis shoe?  He is on his last dime – his life is in shambles.  He reeks of stale tobacco and alcohol … and yet, he is a recipient of God’s grace.

Tonight, at 11:45 PM he will call out to God.  He will cry and beg, plead and confess.  Will God give him what he deserves?  Yes, He will … God will give him grace and mercy, peace and assurance, for that is what God does, and even though our desperate man does not deserve this kind of goodness, God nevertheless offers it in buckets.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.”  Remember that phrase?  God listens for our call.  He listens for our cries, even in our desperate moments, and He jumps in.  Picture that … God jumps in to save and redeem, forgive and cleanse.

I love what Brennan Manning says about this scene I just painted.

None of us deserve God’s goodness.  The Bible reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”

And yet we receive. 

And yet we get what we don’t deserve but what God, in His mercy says we do indeed deserve.  We receive grace … abundant, overflowing, falling on us in bushel baskets full.

II Corinthians 12:9 says it this way: 
“And He said unto me, 
My grace is sufficient for you.”

I am moved when I read words such as this.  I’m no Billy Graham, or Apostle Paul, Peter, Mark or John. 

I’m me.  I live in Seattle.  I work a 40-hour a week job.  Sometimes I do life messy.  What does a guy like me deserve?

And then there is my friend Lou.  You should know about him.  He served time in prison.  He lives on $700 per month, and can’t hold down a job, has PTSD and reeks of tobacco.  What does a guy like that deserve?

And the answer is the same.  “And He said unto me, … My grace is sufficient for you.”

I left out a portion of this scripture.  And I think it is important.

“My strength is made 
perfect in weakness.”

Oh, don’t get me started on weakness.  You should see my laundry list of my weaknesses.  Let’s compare list, shall we?

And the message of God’s grace sings again …

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

And then He adds …

“Come, all who are worn out and carry heavy loads.  I will give you rest.”

This picture pretty much captures the consummating love of God.

What is left to say ... Thanks Be To God!

Offering Words of
Hope Encouragement
One Word at a Time