Grace for the broken

Can a woman of God be broken by Him? Can a person who is faithful to Him struggle with doubts? With temptation?

If your answer is no, you are mistaken.

I’ll tell you why.

Picture a woman. One who is sure of her purpose. She has put her trust in God, is sure of what He told her she was to do. She prays fervently for those He has placed in her path. She ministers to the “least of these.” She is faithful to His instructions, guidance, and ways.

But then…doubt creeps in. The doubts of people. Those who doubt her abilities, giftedness, and vision. The doubts she has in herself-am I enough? Do I have what it takes? And the voices of the devil that open those doubts wide: “Nope. You are not good enough. You don’t have what they have. Your vision is all wrong. God isn’t answering your prayers.”

Picture this. Constant for months. Disappointments. Changes not expected. The constant voice of the devil’s criticisms and lies.

Once faithful. Now full of doubts. Until she breaks.

What does this breaking look like?

It’s slow. Not sudden. The doubts in her abilities, her talents, her purpose slowly turn into doubts of her worth. God’s love for her.

She slowly forgets what He says about her, and who approved her, and seeks this from the world.

From people. From the opinions of those people. Trusting feelings, perceptions, and the promises of a fallen world, and not Him. She is broken, because she forgets who made her worthy.

I have always liked the song “Gracefully Broken.” There are several different versions, but my favorite is the one performed by Tasha Cobbs Leonard. In the opening commentary this is what she says about being broken, and being offered His grace:

God will break you to position
He will break you to promote you
And break you to put you in your right place
But when He breaks you He doesn’t hurt you,
When He breaks you He doesn’t destroy you, He does it with; grace.

God will let you become broken so He can provide you the way to His grace. He will allow you to be broken to show you how to climb back into His arms for safety. He will let the breaking occur so He can show you how to truly surrender to His will. He will break you to remind you of His love when you go looking elsewhere. He will allow our brokenness to happen so we can be put back together again with grace that provides deeper lessons, truths, understanding, and wisdom. Those that we could not learn and gain if we had not broken in tiny pieces.

But as the song says…He never leaves us that way. He offers us His grace.

To everyone broken, He offers us a way to put the pieces back together. In their right place. Grace to remember our worth again. Wisdom so we never allow the lies and noise of the world to cause us to forget it.

He may allow our breaking, but He also offers His grace.

Are you going to accept it, and allow Him to put your pieces back together, today?

I do not own rights to video, music, or lyrics.

WWJD: Still casting stones?

Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. 1 Corinthians 13:5, MSG

My husband and I have had to do some crawling back. Crawling back to the beginning of what we had at year one of a 15 year marriage. In doing so we read, and we began reading a devotion weekly that tackled some difficult junk.

Let’s jump back for a second. Read the header of this blog post. “Straight Up Messy Truth.” Does that give you a clue that I will not shy away from the mess? And folks, marriage? It is messy. This may not be what you thought you would hear today, but hang on-if your marriage is not messy, and you do not fight. You do not have a struggle, or have not had hardship-hold on…it is coming. Or, you are hiding something. Because straight up-we are human. We are messy. And every single one of our relationships will be, too. Even those we vow to remain in “til death do us part.”

Now, back to that devotional…and another mess. In the beginning of this particular exercise the authors of the book Closer, Jim and Cathy Burns recall the story of the woman caught in adultery: “The woman was first brought to Jesus in shame. Jewish law was clear she could be stoned to death. (We still don’t know why the man involved in the sin was missing).”

I had never thought of that before. When I read it…wow, I became angry. Bitter. How dare she be dragged into the streets to be stoned, and he…he was just able to walk away. She had to stand before all these people, shamed for her sin. And where, where was he?

This was my husband’s response: “Probably holding a stone in the crowd.”

Possibly. And for a couple weeks I held onto that image. The woman. Dragged into the square. Everyone talking. Her shame and sin for all to see. The man hiding in the shadows, ready to throw the first stone.

Until I read the passage again, a month or so later. Read the conversation she had with Jesus as she knelt on the ground, and saw this as I had so many times before:

“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

He may have spoken it to that woman, but it applied to everyone in that crowd. Even the man. If we confess of our sins, we are then told to “go and sin no more.” We are given the opportunity to live a new life without shame. No one can cast a single stone because we no longer walk in that way. We no longer do those things. We no longer make those same choices. We hand him our sin. He forgives us, and we don’t do that thing ever again.

Woman. And man.

We all are given this opportuntiy because we could have stones cast at us. We could all look out at the crowd in guilt and shame. There may have been a woman kneeling there, but it could have easily been that man.

And Jesus would have offered him the same thing. Forgiveness. The opportunity to go and sin no more.

What’s that got to do with keeping records of wrongs? Well, think about it. Those people in the crowd couldn’t wait to stone that woman. And do we do this at times? Hold stones of judgment? Stones of all the things done against us, so we can throw them out at just the right time? Come on…admit it-we all throw stones like ammunition when we argue.

But Jesus doesn’t. He didn’t. He wanted to make sure no wrong could be held against the woman.

That she could leave that square without sin. Without shame.

When we throw stones, we shame all over again. And Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t throw stones.

He offers us grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. A new way of life where sin lives “no more.”

To the woman. And yes…to the man.

Take me as I am

Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. John 6:37

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When I was a teen, I hated country music. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It was not the era of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Keith Urban. Instead their was Joe Diffie, Dwight Yoakam, and Wynonna. And the songs were really all about what country music jokes were made of.

However, when my parents moved closer to my grandparents, and my brother and I spent many a summer afternoon walking to their house, the twang of the songs grew on me.

And I grew to love the no nonsense words of Miss Shania.

She taught me that any man of mine had to be proud of me. That certain things should not impress me much. I could color my hair. Do what I dare. And after a long day I needed someone to rub my feet, and give me something to eat.

Then there was ole Faith…who taught me this: All I really need is honesty, From someone with a strong heart, and gentle hand. To take me as I am. 

So, I had a standard.

However, as faulty humans. We don’t always live up to that, do we?

We expect a little too much from each other.

We expect that prior to any relationship we need to have all our junk together first. We rarely take anyone just as they are. Or, we take them. Then try to mold them into what we want them to be.

This is exactly how Charlotte Elliot came to know Christ. Who is she, you ask? She is the writer of the hymn “Just As I Am.”

Bound by depression in her 30’s, her minister paid her a visit and spoke to her about God. She dismissed him. Dead set on needing to “have her junk together” before she could accept this God in her life.

Her mentor and minister’s words: “Come just as you are,” were just the words she needed. She became a Christ follower that day.

It was 14 years later when she would write “Just As I Am.”

These words from that hymn are enough to make me thankful that He accepts me in all my messiness, in all my chaos, with all my junk.

“Just as I am, tho’ tossed about, With many a conflict, Many a doubt, Fightings within, and fears without, O lamb of God I come! I come!”

There are days I am crippled by worry and anxiety. If I didn’t have a God who accepted me in my tangled doubts and fears, I would not make it through.

I am thankful He sees past my twisted thoughts to the person I am outside my head. That He sees past my wretched faults, and accepts me just as I am.

He is and always will be someone with a strong heart, a gentle hand, to take me as I am.

The lost (beans) get found

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Anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a slight, unhealthy dependency on coffee. So much so that I have been known to plan entire road trips around stops at Starbucks (don’t judge!).

My husband also knows this about me. Thankfully, he also understands my obsession, and the fact that it is essential to his health that I remain caffeinated. For this reason, he will often come home from Costco shopping trips with the newest seasonal Starbucks blend…and, while we are still working on the “He-Brews” part of the deal, this one is still pretty sweet.

This past Christmas season I found myself in a bit of a tizzy when my “bean” jar had dwindled, and I could not locate the remaining beans from that bulk bag. It was quite possible I had gone through 2.5 pounds of coffee in a month, but I was pretty sure I had hidden those things somewhere in this house. Somewhere I would remember, of course. Or not.

That somewhere was never found.

Until 3 months later. In a cabinet I open every night at home during the dinner making hour. Sitting right next to my beloved casserole dishes, and my well-used measuring cup, were my “missing” coffee beans.

“I found them! I finally found those darn coffee beans! I told ya! Things are finally looking up!”

My husband was slightly (well, probably more than) amused that I had missed them each time I had opened this cabinet. I, however, was not. These beans were just one more “wink” from God that I can miss a whole lot when I am distracted from my purpose.

See, I looked everywhere for those coffee beans, but never once thought to look in that cabinet.

We look everywhere for love, peace, joy, healing…but never once think to look to Jesus for these things.

I have been feeling lost myself. Like everything I touch crumbles beneath me. Clinging to hope in a dark world. And, praying that God would restore some fire in me to keep fighting.

And, somewhere in a dark cabinet, he shows me some missing coffee beans. The ones I had totally given up on. But showed up, unannounced 3 months later, exactly where I left them, mind you.

To show me that yes, even in those struggles, things are looking up! That good things do exist in a dark world, if you can rid yourself of the world’s distractions and look in the right places.

That he won’t stop pursuing. Won’t let go. Won’t give up hope. For His people. That lost sheep. His purpose. Even missing coffee beans.

Because what was once lost, can always be found!

I once was lost, but now am found; t’was blind, but now I see. 

 

He Goes Before Me

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” Hebrews 13:5

Remember that past I mentioned I had to face on my journey to become a licensed pastor in my district? That past the devil used for weeks to taunt me? Well, today was the actual day I had to travel to meet with our credentialing board to give my testimony. Even though I had come to terms with my past mistakes, given them to God, and embraced them as part of my journey, it was without surprise that I still spent most of the day at war with a devil who wanted me to believe that my history could never be a testimony of God’s grace.

He used one little annoyance after another in an attempt to convince me that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t “called,” that I wasn’t worthy. First, I woke up to a cloudy day, soaked with rain. For those of you who know me, rain is not my favorite thing. It makes me want to find a deep dark cave to crawl into, or back in bed, at least. My meeting with the credentialing board was not scheduled until 8pm, which meant an hour and a half drive in the rainy, foggy night. I did drive in the rain and fog, only to find that I had driven to the wrong place. When I did get to the right place after several wrong turns, I sat waiting with a sinking feeling of dread that the pothole I hit while I got lost, would result in a flat tire as I went to make my way back home.

I knew that God had already come before me, yet, I could not keep the devil from crippling me with fear and doubt.

His taunting continued as I learned my transcript had not been received as I had previously thought, as I waited for over an hour to actually give my testimony, and as I clawed around in my purse for a pen to write these very words in this post (Thank God for that Notes app!)

The devil certainly did not want me to give my testimony. He wanted nothing more than for me to believe that God’s grace is not evident in my life. He didn’t want me to be able to write about how I may have defeated him today, any more than he wanted me to be able to tell a room of men and women how God had defeated Him in the past. He didn’t want me to feel like an overcomer. Instead, he wanted me to feel like a complete failure. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy, or to call myself “pastor.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

And I knew God had gone before me. What could the devil do to harm me?

I sat in the waiting room, and as I opened Facebook, the following post from Joyce Meyer was waiting on the page just for me: Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny.

No, it is my testimony.

A testimony that shows the power of salvation. A testimony that shows the depth of His love. A testimony that proves I do not have to live with the doubts I allowed God to overcome. A testimony that shows how God can overcome our past sins and mistakes, make us new, cleanse us, and wash us with his grace.

A testimony that the devil was not going to convince me not to share.

And, as I walked into the room-a room filled with people who had gone through the same process, who wrestled with their own doubts, and fears, and who had all been forgiven for mistakes they themselves had made, I knew that God had once again come before me. It was finished. The decision had already been made. The battle had already been fought on my behalf, and He had already won.

He had once again gone before me, and I had nothing to fear.