The Wednesday Writers: Carol Graft

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my friend and fitness accountability group member, Carol Graft.

The Gift and Fruit of Grace and Mercy

Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.
Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.

– Author Unknown

We are familiar with Galatians 5, the chapter that includes the Fruit of the Spirit passage:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

– vs. 22-23 (NKJV)

Notice that “fruit” is singular. It’s all the same value. We are to have all of the attributes. All the fruit of the Spirit should be manifest in our lives as believers in and followers after Christ. But if we are honest, we have our strengths and weaknesses in this area just as we have in any area of our life. We can get down about this.

We forget about grace.

We forget that it’s a gift. Instead, we focus on passages like this:

…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

– 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NKJV)

I know some don’t think these words are relevant; the time for passages such as this is long gone. Given that the Word of God is living and active, not just pages of wood pulp with typeface on it, I beg to differ. (But that’s another post).

Those gifts listed above are plural, meaning multiple gifts.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has them all, though most have several, just in varying degrees. We get wrapped up in that. We focus on what we are able to do.

What about grace? Mercy? The ability to rest in Him, instead of striving and fretting?

These two things fall into both the “gift” and the “fruit” category.  Straight from the heart of God, we simply must have grace and mercy flowing in and out of our lives.

Grace: unmerited favor. Favor that we didn’t earn.

Ihis book Grace: More Than We Deserve Greater Than We Imagine, Max Lucado talks about a night in an upper room.

The grace of God.

Hours before Jesus is to be killed, to take the sin of the world then and now upon His shoulders, He shows grace, compassion and unconditional love.

John 13: the Last Supper, that last Passover remembrance.  After the meal, Jesus grabs a basin and a towel and proceeds to do what would normally be done by a slave. Wash the feet.  

Jesus didn’t exclude anyone from what He was doing.  Not the doubter Philip, not James and John who always wanted to be first.

Not Peter, who turns his back on Jesus,

We see Jesus is so full of grace that He washes the feet of Judas himself. The man who very shortly will sell Him.

Could you do that? Could you wash the feet of your betrayer? Could you wash the feet of your boss who fired you?  Could you wash the feet of _______ (fill in the blank)?

To be gracious women and men, we need to walk in Christ. To walk as if Christ’s love is surrounding us and in us.

If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

– John 13:14-15 (CEB)

To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.

Mercy: withheld punishment.

Scripture says we are redeemed by mercy.

In His love and mercy He redeemed them…

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

– Isaiah 63:9 (NIV); Romans 11:21 (NKJV)

Because we have been granted mercy by God, we need to be merciful to those we meet every day. Those in our lives that try our patience. Those who don’t know the Lord.  If we only remember where we were and what we were brought out of, maybe that would soften the attitudes, the hearts of us and our judgments to others, especially those who don’t know yet the wonderful cleansing of God and His love for us.

The gifts of grace and mercy enable us to live as He wants us to. The fruit grows when we are planted deep in the soil of His love. We are changed, for:

What shall we say [to all this]? Are we to remain in sin in order that God’s grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?

– Romans 6:1-2 (AMP)

 

Remember today that God’s mercy and grace is so very, very rich.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

– Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

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Carol lives in West Michigan, close enough to the beach to chase the sunsets when she can. Married 33 years and counting. Mom to 7, mostly grown, children. 3 daughters in love, and blessed with grands. Loves hot beverages, prayer and worship. Love to teach and encourage others in this Journey with Jesus. While I think my writing is rather rusty, I am learning to lean in and follow the call, stepping out on the water.  Keeping my eyes on Jesus.

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The Wednesday Writers: Stephanie Thompson

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (4)

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my friend Stephanie Thompson.

Why Scraping Your Life’s Windshield Affects Your View of the Road

Every January, my husband and I ask each other the same question: “Why do we live here?”

The air stings. Grey skies hover without a slight peek at the sun. The trees bare their nakedness. Sometimes snow; despite it’s nuisance as it mounts, adds a texture of beauty to this somewhat drab palette. This is Winter in the midwest; Chicago to be specific.

Several years ago, my husband worked temporarily in San Diego. On a weekend whim, I flew out to visit. You can eat outside in January? Who knew? And the scenery…..hello ocean and hills!

Though we considered the prospect of God perhaps moving us out there (ok wishing), it was apparent that Chicago is our home.

Scraping the ice off the windshield after the night temperatures have plunged below zero is not my favorite activity. It requires early preparation in the midst of a hectic school morning routine. Even with the defroster at work, the ice hardens and resists the effort of my chilled to the bone fingers.

In my rush and frustration, the temptation to simply scrape off enough ice to provide a small “window” of visibility seduces me. Yet despite the increasing windchill whipping my face, I know that taking the shortcut increases my chances of an accident. If the back window is not clear, I cannot see what’s approaching behind me. Despite my kids thinking that I do indeed possess eyes in the back of my head, it’s simply not true. If my rear vision is incomplete, my abilities to prevent certain collisions is impaired. If the side windows are still frosty, I may not see the car next to me as I attempt to change lanes. And even a small circle of transparency in the front windshield does not allow me to gauge the elements of all that lie in front of me.

How similar I find the act of scraping a windshield to approaching sinful areas of my life.

What is blocking your view?

Fear? At times, it floods the senses; resulting in anxiety as we take in the implications of the journey ahead. The heartbeat escalates, eyes grow big, and hands quiver. Is God really big enough to keep us on track despite detours, pot holes?

Pride? The ever seducing voice in our head lulls us into a false reality. Our wisdom, though faulty and biased to self, rules the world. We know better. Especially when time constraints beckon. But as the sun bears it’s light onto the foggy windshield, we are blinded. As navigation continues, we find ourselves suddenly braking to prevent colliding with a car which was hidden by the glare. Why am I afraid to “trust in the Lord with all my heart? (prov. 3:5)”

Discouragement? Perhaps staggering to the car, while feeling the sting of the air seems like the best you can do. Scraping off the windshield? The task seems too daunting. Confronting the dawn of a new day while deceitful voices whisper words devoid of hope keep us from preparing early. The defroster’s warmth cannot melt the iciness of the morning’s frost quickly. What thoughts can I surrender to God so that the warmth of His light thaws the frost surrounding it?

How are you enlarging your “window” of visibility? Little chisels at a time or engaging in the more arduous process of scraping the covering all at once?

Sin, when not scraped off immediately, becomes a harden base upon which more layers mount. The longer it sits, the more overwhelming the task becomes. The temptation, then, becomes avoiding the removal. Little chisels may provide brief glimpses of the road in front but we find ourselves impaired by the lack of visibility.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

– Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Or, In this case, “scrape off” everything that hinders.

Fear, pride, discouragement. Satan wants nothing more than to block our view of the light going before us as we travel. With nothing impeding the view, we can aim clearly toward the destination.

What is hindering yours?

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mudphotoStephanie is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary and an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She writes about sensing the voice of God and encountering the Holy Spirit in the midst of our everyday routines. Her pieces have appeared at Mudroom, The Mighty, Altarwork, as well as other sites. She is a writer for the Redbud Guild. In addition, her passion for those affected by mental illness finds itself woven into her writing. Stephanie lives in Mokena, Illinois with her husband and three teens.   .

A speaker as well as an author, you can connect with Stephanie at her blog and on social media (Twitter  /  Facebook).

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The Wednesday Writers: Tezlyn Reardon

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (3)

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my new blogging buddy, Tezlyn Reardon.

Open Your Eyes and Dream

When you wake up in the morning, what do you see? Do you see the leftover shards of unfinished projects or unsuccessful relationships? Or, maybe you see goals and dreams of years gone by, hopes that you once had but left far behind because, well, “life” happened. Do you fight opening your eyes because you don’t want to face the reality that the movie that has been playing in your mind for the last 8 hours is not real and it probably never will be?

When we were younger we were always asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But why did people stop asking? Is there an age when you are supposed to stop believing that you can be anything you want to be? Over the last fifteen years or so, I stopped dreaming. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I could do anything more than what I had been, it was because I got comfortable with where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing with my life. I replaced my dreams with my son’s dreams, my husband’s dreams. I was comfortable, and I didn’t want to get out of the warm, worn in spot in my proverbial bed and risk turning my world upside down when I already had everything I needed or wanted.

In late 2016, my husband left me. My dream became a nightmare, one that I so desperately wanted to wake up from. I couldn’t sleep for months, much less dream of anything that didn’t involve my husband coming back home and my world miraculously falling back together. I didn’t know if I would ever live again the way I had lived for the duration of my relationship with the only man I had ever fallen in love with. How on earth could I find the strength to dream?

A funny thing happened on the way to my own personal hell. I gave my life back to God and I started over. I learned that my dream wasn’t coming to an end, instead, other dreams that had been hibernating inside of me for many years were coming out of their unending slumber. I have said for almost 20 years that I wanted to write a book. In August of 2017, I sent my completed manuscript to a publisher and that book will be distributed on Amazon in early 2018. I’m not saying that I never would have written the book had I still been married, but it might have taken me much longer while I waited for my perfect life to present the perfect timing.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

– Jeremiah 29:11

It might not have been easy to understand and believe, but these very words have kept me moving forward, allowing me to dream loudly and boldly despite the circumstances. Hope and faith have become standard words in my conversations with myself and others, but it shouldn’t have taken a self-described catastrophe to have larger expectations for my life. It’s not selfish to want more, as a matter of fact, it’s selfish to be content with living a mediocre life. We were created to help one another to grow and thrive, but all of that has been lost in the new-age religion of competitiveness, where we vie to take all that we can get, leaving nothing behind for others. There is abundance for all of us, God never planned for us to be poor or homeless, downtrodden and hopeless. Although He never promised life would be easy, He did promise that we would all be taken care of, that all of our needs would be fulfilled. All we have to do is dream and then believe.

I hope that after reading this blog entry you won’t wait until you are on your deathbed or at the end of your rope before you start to check items off your bucket list. Whatever you have in your heart this very moment, what will it take to make that happen and why are you waiting? There is a man who wants to hear all your hopes and dreams and he wants to give you your heart’s desire. All He asks is that you give him a little bit of your time so that He can tell you about the dreams and purpose He has for your life. If you show your faith and trust in Him, He will show you more favor and mercy than you could have ever imagined in your wildest of dreams. Go ahead, try Him. Dreams are for 5-year olds, and 25-year olds, and 55-year olds, there is no age limit and there is no expiration date.

Dream. Eyes open or closed, but damn it, dream.

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TezlynTezlyn Reardon is the author of 40 Years of Practice, her first published work. Working in marketing analytics for over 10 years, she finally took the leap into developing her real passion, sharing her story with others, something she has felt moved to do since college. Everything happens for a reason is the motto for her life and she is living and learning as she moves through this world, helping others along the way. In addition to writing and speaking, Reardon is actively engaged in the Columbus, Ohio community, participating on several non-profit boards and supporting others who have dreams, but don’t know how to plan or execute them. She is also in the process of developing a new coaching program for those who are struggling to find or hone their purpose in life.

Visit her blog to learn more about Tez, her book and stay up to date with other projects she finds herself getting into!

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The Wednesday Writers: Cody Neal

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my fellow Society of Evangelical Arminians member, Cody Neal.

Boasting in Christ

The first quarter of 2018 is over. A few months removed from 2017, I reflect.

There are many expectations and hopes that we all have for ourselves and others. If you are anything like me, you probably understand the disappointment in yourself when you feel as though you have not turned out to be the person you wanted to be during the previous year – or that your expectations were not quite met. I admit, I have been disappointed in myself. Whether it be with trying to control my anger and impatience, controlling my tongue, fighting off lustful temptations, and just generally being a man of noble character – I have known disappointment this time around again. I wanted to be so Christlike that I would clearly look back on a year of much improvement, comparatively, to the years before. And maybe there was an improvement in some areas of my life, but, perhaps I have foolishly had the wrong perspective.

One thing is for certain, I am weak, you are weak – we are all weak. Yet a greater truth is that Jesus Christ is not weak. What He did on the cross reveals His strength and righteousness. How beautiful it is that His righteousness has been assigned to us (only by His strength).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.’

– 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 (NIV)

This shows us that all that humans can boast in, whether it be status, talents, wisdom, or characteristics, is utterly worthless in all that God has done. Our own capacities will fail us and even worse, our confidence in our own capacities will inevitably fail us. So what else do we have to bank on? We must bank on this fact: Christ is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption! Therefore, we must boast (or as in the Greek, glory) in our Christ!

Truth is never novel – it has always “been.” Truth can only be presented in fresh ways. Perhaps you have heard or read something similar to what I have presented so far. If so, then this serves as a reminder – we constantly need reminders. I find this evident in my own life because, after several years of being a Christian, I still find myself baffled at how foolishly I forget the truths of the scriptures. Let this serve us as a reminder for the upcoming year. If there is any hope for our expectations being met this year, let it begin in Christ. In the words of John Wesley:

We must be cut off from dependence upon ourselves, before we can truly depend upon Christ. We must cast away all confidence in our own righteousness, or we cannot have a true confidence in his. Till we are delivered from trusting in anything that we do, we cannot thoroughly trust in what he has done and suffered. First, we receive the sentence of death in ourselves: Then, we trust in Him that lived and died for us.

I believe Wesley hit the nail on the head. We must quit selfishly placing our confidence in ourselves, it only leads to selfish disappointment. Yes, we will mess up, but have we forgotten the truths of the scriptures? Christ has become our righteousness! It is by His righteousness that we have been saved. And to be saved is to be a child of God.

I’ll close with this. Jesus told His disciples they must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and likewise, that applies to us. (Matthew 18:1-5) Do you believe that you are a child of God? If so, then start living into that fact this year. When I was a young kid, I remember being a huge Spiderman fan. I was such a fan that I remember “playing Spiderman” out in the backyard and attaching multiple belts around my waist and to the top of a large dog kennel gate to act like I was swinging around like Spiderman does. That definitely was not as glorious as the films or comics portrayed, nevertheless, the inspiration was so strong that I tried any way I could to be like him. Likewise, I wonder what it would be like to have that kind of childlike inspiration from Jesus? Granted, Jesus is obviously far more important and real than the Spiderman character.

I’m still trying to figure out how to live into what Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-5. What I do know is that we are called to be utterly dependent on Christ. This year, let us remember the scriptures, remember what Christ has done, and remember who He has become for us. Let us boast (perhaps externally and internally,) “This is who my Christ is! This is what He does! So I want to be like Him!” And as the old saying goes, “The rest…will take care of itself.”

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Cody currently resides in Wilmore, KY with his wife, Mary (and their three crazy cats). He enjoys reading, guitars, baseball, and is passionate about the Wesleyan tradition. He currently holds bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is in the process of earning a Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary.

 

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