ANOTHER GRACE-FILLED WAY TO CELEBRATE!
For the first 3 decades of my life, grace to me was just something that I sang about in songs and talked about in church but really didn't have a personal understanding of what it truly meant or what role it played in my life. I knew I was saved, but to be honest, I didn't really appreciate God's love and all that He had blessed me with.
I would hear AMAZING GRACE sung in church and think "you know, since I was never a wretched sinner I'll never be able to have the kind of deep passion for God that someone really sinful has once they get saved". I really thought that because I was so "good" that God really hadn't saved me from much...I mean, yeah, I now would get to go to Heaven when I died...but I hadn't been a druggie or a murderer or anything really "awful" like some people. And so I went about my self-righteous life thinking it was mostly about being good and working hard and not letting myself act like those wretched sinners who really needed God.
Then God put in me in a place where my pharisee-tinted glasses were about to get ripped off. I was at a worship conference at the church where I served as preschool ministry coordinator. I was in charge of getting childcare providers for all the services and having a hard time finding people willing to do it even for pay. Almost everyone wanted to be in on the action and didn't want to miss it by being "stuck in the nursery" with the children. I, being a good self-righteous do-gooder was fed up. I ended up having to be in the nursery almost the entire time because I couldn't get enough child care providers. But on the last night, I managed to slip out and go into the worship service for a while. As the incredible worship team led the congregation in praise, all I could do was think about myself and how much I had had to sacrifice and look at all these "bless me" people who hadn't been willing to be a servant like I was willing to be a servant and on and on with my critical, self-righteous thoughts.
Then all at once the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, took off the blinders, and showed me for how ugly and petty and mean-spirited I was. I couldn't even worship Him because I was too busy looking down my spiritually-snobby nose at the people around me. For the very first time in my life, I saw truly how sinful and wretched I was. For the first time in my life, I realized that I did desperately need a saviour to take away my awfulness. Yes, I'd accepted Jesus as a 7 year old child. And yes, I'd loved God and desired to serve and obey Him. But I'd never really seen until that night that I was also a wretched, undeserving sinner.
The service ended with communion and I wept as I hungrily ate the bread and drank the wine. I was desperate for Christ and His cleansing.
I was truly broken.
About 2 weeks later I attended a Steve Brown BORN FREE seminar in Atlanta with one my best friends from college. I came there terribly aware of my unworthiness and a desperate need to understand fully God's grace. I left there set free! Steve helped me understand the spiritual prisons I had been in all those years. I was a Christian, but I was still living like someone in bondage. Because of that weekend, I learned a crucial lesson. On the long drive home, as I pondered over the weekend, God helped me realize something for the very first time. He didn't love me because I baked good biscuits, had a nice singing voice, and could organize people....BECAUSE HE LOVED ME I baked good biscuits, had a nice singing voice, and could organize people.
It was a total paradigm shift in my thinking. God didn't love me because I was good. He loved me because I was HIS! And because was HIS, He gave me good things such as the talents that I was so prideful about. He showed me that every good and perfect gift came down from HIM! He started setting me free from the prisons of guilt and the fear of saying "no" to people. He's still helping me in these areas but He's helping me to learn that its okay to not always please everyone as long as I'm pleasing Him. And He's teaching me that He loves me and isn't surprised when I still mess up...after all, thru Jesus death and resurrection, He provided a way for my forgiveness before I was even born.
My shortcomings are no surprise to God. He saw every sin I'd ever commit before the world was even created. He knew about every time I'd say the wrong thing, think the mean thoughts, or intentionally NOT do what I should, but He chose to love me anyway.
That's what grace is all about. Its about Him and His passionate, seemingly illogical love for people just like me...and people just like YOU...who mess up big time. Its about Him never giving up on me even when I give up on Him. Its about Him giving me so many more blessings than I ever, ever could even think about deserving. Its about His goodness, not mine.
Its about Him.
I am so thankful for the last decade spent in grace. He used people like Steve Brown, Brennan Manning, and my former associate pastor Dan Wills to help me get rooted in it. He used my husband to help me stay free in that grace and refuse to go back into bondage.
In the first few years of our marriage, I wanted Jim to pretend that I didn't have any flaws. I remember one night we got in a silly quarrel because I wanted him to say that I was the perfect wife for him. Because he's so literal, he wouldn't say it because he said I WASN'T perfect. But I kept nagging him and nagging him and trying to get him to see it my way and he finally gave in and said it just so I'd shut up and let him go to sleep.
See, I had believed that stupid idea that came out of the 60's that love is blind. But what my husband was wise enough to already grasp was that true love isn't blind. True love sees all the ugly things but chooses to love anyway. With him, I didn't have to be perfect to deserve or earn his love, he loved me just the way I was...and he still loves me just the way I am.
How freeing! How incredible to know that he loves me when I'm hormonal, he loves me when I'm lazy, he loves me when I'm whiney, he loves me when I stink, he loves me when I spend too much money, he loves me when I scrape the van, he loves me, he loves me, he loves me.
For him and others like him who grasp the awesomeness of grace and unconditional love, I am so thankful.
So in honor of him, my other heroes of grace, and to celebrate the new look here at GRACELAND that communicates the freedom and joy found in a grace-filled life, I am announcing the birth of a new blog award....GRACE IS THE WORD.
This award is to honor those people in my life who thru their every day lives and thru their blogs not only communicate the awesome nature of God's grace and unconditional love, but strive to lead others into this path of freedom.
I am presenting the first GRACE IS THE WORD awards to:
*Claudia Mair Burney http://ragamuffindiva.blogspot.com/
*Drewe Llyn Jeffcoat http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/DreweLlyn
*Barb Cash http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/rbjhcmama/
*Cindy Rushton http://www.cindysdesktop.com/
*Lisa Samson http://lisasamson.typepad.com/blog/
*Angela in Ohio http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Momto5inarow/
I appreciate each of you for the many ways you have encouraged me and so many thru your authentic walk with the Lord. THANK YOU!!!
Now you can post this badge at your blog if you so desire and award it to those in your life and in the blogosphere who keep spreading the message of God's Amazing Grace.