Free for the Asking

Cabbage Butterfly by Sherri Woodbridge

I recently attended a conference and heard a pastor speak about grace. The kind of grace I have rarely heard spoken of before. Maybe I haven’t been listening. Or, maybe I wasn’t ready. But, this grace was a grace that saves – without conditions, without rules, without stipulations.

Many of us have grown up with rules. Rules that were followed by consequences that we often allowed to determine our worth, should we choose to follow them as instructed. Many of us have grown up never having experienced what grace really means.

Charlie Bing, the pastor that spoke at the conference I attended, said it like this: “Grace is free. It was given as a gift to those that believe in the work of Jesus Christ. That was it. It wasn’t promised to those who truly believed or really believed with all their heart or to those who repented and then believed. It was just given—plain and simple, free and clear—to those who believed. God didn’t say that we had to get cleaned up, quit our dirty habits and then He would accept us. He said, ‘Come to me.’ Yes, it was that plain and, that simple.”

So simple, Charlie said, that it is usually not an easy thing to just accept. And, he’s right.

I know from experience that it’s not easy. By our very nature we feel that if we receive something, we have to earn it or pay for it or, in many circumstances, owe something back. After all, isn’t one of the most popular sayings of all times, “Nothing is free”? We’ve all heard it and we’ve probably all said it. But God said, “Believe” and that was it. Just believe. Believe and there’s a wonderful gift awaiting the soul that seeks… salvation! It’s that plain and it’s that simple.

I found myself sitting there all weekend saying to myself with every statement of this new-found grace, “That’s too easy.”

I have always thought I had to push harder, serve more, stay later, do more, do it all. From childhood on, for whatever reason, I felt I earned my worth by what I did, how much I could do and how well I did it. This determined who I was. Grace didn’t enter into the picture very often, if ever.

But now I know better and one of my favorite verses has become, ‘You were saved by grace through faith and not by works…”

I have been saved by grace and, you have been saved by grace! We didn’t have to do anything to earn it. We don’t have to do anything to keep it. It was offered for free and free of charge, it is ours to keep. We owe nothing.

“Come to me,” Jesus says. “Come to me and I will give you rest.” Rest from the work, the rules, the regulations, the self-imposed laws and the legalities we pile on our shoulders. Simply…

Come.

It is in the coming that we find grace and it is in the receiving that we are set free. What grace!

Where Do Miracles Come From

Monarch Butterfly Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

you want the pain to stop
the emotional pain
caused by the physical
the mental
caused by the emotional

you want to live again
the way you used to

but used-to’s
don’t come too frequently anymore
and you’re left
stuck in the circumstances
you never signed up for
and you try
you try so very hard
to make the best of it
but your best
measures so much lower
than it once did

and you think
there is no God
you are sure
for how could God –
a God full of grace and mercy –
do this to you?
to one you love?
and you don’t understand
and you are confused
perhaps
angry
bitter
grieving
despairing
and you’re lack
of understanding
doesn’t mean
there is no God
or that He is cruel

you hope for a miracle
but where do miracles come from
if there is no god?

do they float out of nothingness
a just become
because we will them to
or do they come from that God
you say doesn’t exist

or does he?

your answer may not come
in the way you are expecting
it may not come
at this very moment
when you are desperate for it to come
it may not come for years
it may not come at all

but still there remains
a real Father
you can run to
fall into
and find rest
and peace
and strength
and if you think about it
isn’t that a miracle itself?

There In The Singing

When days seem like forevers, and forevers are hard to bare – when I want to say ‘I just can’t thank You right now’ – that is when I need to thank You most.

So, thank you Father, for days filled with pain. Days that seem like forever.

Thank you for rain, pouring from a black sky, surrounded by blackened days,  seeming to never end. Thank you for water pelting down upon earth through sometimes raging storms, daring never to cease, and one day finally turns to Spring. A Spring bringing buds to blooms from seeds I was certain water had washed away, carried off into aching darkness before me.

Thank you for deeper understanding created through lessons taught amidst pain. An understanding that recognizes heartache more readily. Senses a hollowness within a spirit, a torment and anguish of a soul. A discomfort of flesh and bones.

Thank you for those lessons that came from standing in rains and treading water in the floods. 

Thank you for songbirds that refuse to be quieted by storms which rain down hard upon feathered, ruffled bodies. They flit about – to and fro – gathering food in rain and snow. They do not cease to sing, giving thanks in the good or bad weather of life.

On days that seem like forever, days that are hard to say ‘thank You’, I will thank you for the hard and the hollow. The dark and dismal moments filled with pain. I will know You are covering me with Your feathers, sheltering me under your wings. Protecting me from the storms. I will thank you for the trials that have passed through your hands before allowing them to come into my life because those trials have brought about wisdom and a greater understanding.

I will remember Your promises. I will give You thanks. I will not cease to sing your praises, just as the songbirds in the rain. For it is there, in the singing, I find great comfort. It is there, in the singing, I find unfaltering hope. I find faith strengthened, joy made anew. It is there, in the singing, whether in good weather or bad, I find You. 

And I have found – that is enough.


Who am I, really ?

  I don’t understand how You can love me.

But I know You do.

It’s just so very hard for me to

        understand,

        to accept.

After all, 

You know me.

You know what I am.

What I’ve done.

What I’m capable of.

But in Your eyes,

that’s not me

        what I’ve done,

        what I might do. 

So, who am I, really?

         I’m Yours.

Standing at the gate.

Clothed in white.

Watching the children play.

Listening to the children,

all the children,

laughing.

Knowing they are wanted.

Knowing they are loved.

        Who am I?

I’m one of them.

I’m Yours.

        I’m not what I’ve done

        I’m not what I am capable of

but Yours.

Wholly,

completely,

only

        Yours.

Forever your child.

Forever a daughter of the Almighty King.

Abba Father.

Daddy’s beloved.

Forever Yours.

Home address:

        the Kingdom of God.

April 12th, 2015: This Week’s Offering

This past week, we had the privilege of watching our two oldest grandkids for a week while mom and dad went off to play in Hawaii for an anniversary celebration. I am certain we got the better deal! We were told we could spoil them as much as we wanted but though we tried, we didn’t have enough time to spoil them as much as we would have liked!

Grammy and clan – John is saying “Cheese”…

 

The week was filled with stories. Many we read, some we wrote, others we made for posterities sake. We took the kids shopping one day where they could pick out one toy and one outfit. Clara chose a girls’ Lego set – look out Uncle Mark! We put it together that afternoon. Those things are fun, no matter what age you are. She chose a pretty blue dress, whereas John was set on the Godzilla (“dinosaur”) shirt in bright orange. He opted for the dump truck/forklift combo in the John Deere section of the local Toys R Us. That was the extent of our ‘big’ shopping day and everyone returned home quite happy.

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Boppa and John

Every day included an egg hunt (at least one!), seeing who could blow the biggest bubble (the wind won!), and going for a walk. Every night was popcorn and movie night while we snuggled on the couch together, catching up on the latest Planes, How to Train a Dragon, Bob the Builder or whatever the movie choice was for that night’s entertainment. We sang along to Frozen, sat in suspense wondering if Dusty Crophopper would stall while trying to put out the fire, and wondered if Bob really would be able to fix ‘it’.

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After a wonderful worship service with the Cedar Hills Church, we were able to spend Easter with my mom and dad and cousin, coming to join us for dinner on Easter Sunday. The next morning we would be heading for home.

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It was hard to say good bye when Monday morning rolled around. Not a day goes by that a tear or two doesn’t drop when thoughts of those two, not-so-little-anymore precious kids wash over me. I stop and, instead of mulling over what isn’t meant to be, find the joy in what is and give thanks for the memories that we were able to make together. 

And  in the coming home, there awaits new memories to be made with our newest grandson, Finn. To say he is adorable, to say he is cute, to say he is awesome (to say the least)… well, I’ll let you judge. But the reason why I am so taken with him, is his personality (and the fact he may just have red hair like his mama). He is always so happy (especially when mom and dad are around). And this week took the cake.

You see, Finn has had a Grammy issue. He doesn’t like me to hold him. He didn’t want me to feed him. He hated me to change his diaper. I may, in fact, be exaggerating (but it wasn’t far from the truth). Until yesterday.

Yesterday Finn arrived with smiles, as usual. But something was different… He smiled at me! And it continued. He let me rock him and he fell asleep in my arms. He let me dance with him and we watched the birds fly by the window. He let me walk him and he watched the trees and flowers go by with me. And the very best thing was when I was taking him home. He was a little fussy – not crying – so I turned some music on and oh, what a treat!!! He sang all the way home! It was the same word over and over, (“aaaahhhh”) but it was music to my ears

God takes the broken hearts and heals them. How do we know this is not the song He sings over us (Zacheriah 3:17)? It surely touched my heart in a mighty way.

While on our trip to Idaho, we took a short detour to visit the beautiful Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in the town of Woodruff. Meandering through the outskirts of the main town, we passed several lush green farms, trees with ferns growing out of their trunks, and a gorgeous old church, its walls bursting with thousands of stories begging to be told. It stood across the street from an old school house, which boasted its own memories and stories of childhood days past. A familiar, old, steel gray merry-go-round and ladder slide stood ghostly still, vacated in the school’s play yard.

Shortly down the road, tulips by the thousand waited to be photographed and so I did what anybody else with a camera in tow would do and started shooting tulips. Reds, purples, pinks, yellows and what seemed every color under the sun were waiting to mesmerize the visitor and take your breath away. 

And so they did.

I am sharing some of the photos from our week up north via the tulip festival. It was short, but it was sweet. Enjoy.

 

Not Perfect but Beautiful

having some inspiration today

while realizing

why I don’t act on my inspirations

so my inspirations,
once again –
too many times again –
are left unattended to

and I feel myself going down

I sit down to write
all I feel is the numb

a feeling that I am empty
in need of direction
and no where to turn
no sign to tell me left or right

is it because I’m supposed to keep straight on?
and, is straight on taking me in the right direction?
am I getting deeper into despair or closer to healing?

I cry out
and it seems as if there is silence in the outcry
all around
deep within
there is nothing but silence within the silence

and trying to maintain that Jesus word for my 2015 life
I fear I forget
can I inch closer to the joy if the forgetting masters my mind?

I turn to the Word

He will protect
that includes the rampant thoughts
which seek to destroy my sanity

that which seeks to take what I know to be true
and turn it into doubt

I want to be good
knowing perfection is unattainable

righteous in the sight of God
good
beautiful from the inside out

He loves the righteous
Mary was righteous
Abraham was righteous

and good

not perfect

beautiful in His sight
protected
safe

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

the sign spoke of a home
a place where comfort and warmth exists
love and forgiveness is poured freely upon the broken
a place where forgiveness was established

practiced in a place where joy eminates even in the dark

if my heart is Christ’s home –
the very cause for the beating of my heart 
the very reason for my passion to live
and reside and breathe 

then…

though I am not perfect
i am beautiful

for

He has made me beautiful

and brought the comfort, the warmth
the love and the forgiveness and the peace
when He moved in, unpacked,
and Joy awakened my soul

not perfect – 

so very not perfect

but focused on His presence
drinking in His forgiveness
dwelling in His comfort

resting in His peace

focused on Him, 

who keeps me walking straight

not turning to the left
not turning to the right
not being perfect

but keeping straight on

not perfect

but beautiful

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution(s)?

One word.

That’s the popular New Year’s resolution technique for the past few years. Pick a word that describes for you what one thing you want to consistently for the new year. So, I thought about it for quite a while over the past few weeks. And then I went to church with my son’s family the Sunday before New Year’s day. And the pastor spoke on resolutions and suggested one word.

      

With.

To not be behind.

To not be in front of.

But,

to be with God.

And I liked that.

But, I had a word. And I was passionate about my word. But I became passionate about this new word. So, I decided to marry them to each other and this is what I ended up with for my New Year’s resolution and it’s basically my mission statement, so to speak, for 2015:

To be intentional about being with God. 

Being intentional in my conversations with Him. Being intentional about time spent with Him – quietly in thought, study, prayer. Intentional about sharing Him. Making Him known however He leads. 

Being with Him may mean going where I went not normally go, being vulnerable, trusting beyond past experience, or saying yes when I may have said the opposite. 

God goes to the broken-hearted. He forgives the sinners. He holds the orphans and feeds the poor. He is angered by the wickedness and has mercy and compassion for those who have been crushed in their spirit. He has unconditional love for His children and gives grace to those who don’t deserve it.

I have not deserved such grace, nor compassion, or relentless love that offers relentless forgiveness. So this year, I am excited to have started the journey hand in hand with my heavenly Father. I am excited and feel as a small child going on an adventure with her loving daddy, hand in hand. Excited for the possibilities, the things waiting to be learned, the wonder of it all. With eyes wide open to the new experiences and the realities of all that can come, I will trust Him to hold on to my hand as He safely leads me where we go, knowing it is all for my good.

How I love my God and oh, how He loves me. Just as I am. Why would I choose to be anywhere else than to intentionally be with Him?