Life is so hard sometimes, and yet life is so beautiful. So much suffering, so much pain, so much sorrow, and yet so much grace. Grace poured out, my cup overflows with it, I am unable to contain it, unable to measure it, and often I miss it completely. Lord, I am so thankful, so very thankful for Your grace and mercy, and the forgiveness that You have given unto me. I have not earned even the smallest measure of it, am not worthy of the tiniest morsel, and yet You heap upon us your love and mercy and grace. Whatever comes Lord, whatever tomorrow brings, whatever comes next month, or next year, I stand in awe of You, I hold fast to faith, for I know that my Redeemer lives. You have brought me to this place where I now stand, to these circumstances. Nothing comes into my life that You have not allowed. I do not understand fully, I am not certain of Your purpose in all this, nor can I see the end of it all, but I, in all these things that have occurred and are occurring, know without doubt that You are present in it all. So I stand in awe of You, I stand and wait, I stand still in Your presence, and I give thanks to the One who makes all things new. The One who redeems all that the locusts might destroy. I submit myself and all that I have, all that I am, all that I care about to the only One who can save.
Your grace surrounds me Lord, it finds me no matter the circumstance. I am so very grateful.
YOUR GRACE FINDS ME!
It’s there in the newborn cry There in the light of every sunrise There in the shadows of this life Your great grace
It’s there on the mountain top There in the everyday and the mundane There in the sorrow and the dancing Your great grace Oh such grace
From the creation to the cross There from the cross into eternity Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me
It’s there on a wedding day There in the weeping by the graveside There in the very breath we breathe Your great grace
The same for the rich and poor The same for the saint and for the sinner Enough for this whole wide world Your great grace Oh such grace
There in the darkest night of the soul There in the sweetest songs of victory Your grace finds me Yes your grace finds me
Your great grace Oh such grace Your great grace Oh such grace
So I’m breathing in Your grace And breathing out Your praise I’m breathing in Your grace Forever I’ll be
Your grace finds me Yes Your grace finds me
How Lord can it be, that after a day like today, I can hardly contain my joy, the joy of the knowledge of You, the joy of the wonder of Your grace, that in the midst of all this darkness, all this despair, all this hurt and turmoil, You shine like the brightest star, like the sun in all its brightness, there is no darkness in You, there is no place for it, You burn it away and leave nothing but grace upon grace.
A truly beautiful song.....one to really listen to, over and over again, hear the words, take in the words.....
His great grace!
It’s there in the newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace
It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace
From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me
It’s there on a wedding day
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace
The same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh such grace
There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me
Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace
So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be
Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me
Today's devotional reading left me with two quotes which touched my heart...quotes to ponder throughout the day.
"Counting one thousand gifts means counting the hard things.........otherwise I have miscounted."
"When God moves us out of our comfort zone......into the hard places that are way bigger than us, places that are difficult, hard, painful, places that even hurt....this is a gift.
You are being given a gift."
These are hard words.....hard truths to swallow.
I have miscounted. I have not given thanks for the hard things, for the hurtful things. I am still struggling with how to do that. What part of the pain of this year and last is a gift? I cannot say, I do not know, so I must look back on my life in order to find any type of answer to my question. Does good come from the hard things?
I remember a day, many years ago, when I sat in an empty house, with my brother and wept. I was very young, he was only a few years older. It was a dark day for us, and the beginning of a hard road. Nothing was right about it, nothing was good about it, and yet looking back on it I give thanks for that day. So many things came about because of it. So when looking back I can see good coming from hard times.......but it seems to require a lot of time to pass before I can see it.
I had to walk through the valley of anger, of feeling betrayed, of lashing out at others before they could lash out at me. I had to walk and wallow in darkness for a long time.It was a long walk of many years until that one day, over 24 years ago, when God called my name and said it is time to come out of the valley. But I can now see the good He intended. He used even this terrible dark time in my life for good.
I can also see that the hard times of my life have made me more compassionate, they have given me an ability to love others, they have pushed me towards God, pushed me to work towards knowing Him better, and the more I know of God the more I understand how very much I need Him, how I am not much of anything without Him. The hard times have strengthened me, strengthened my faith, strengthened my love, helped me to see that for the most part, we tend to focus much of our lives on things that do not really matter, and not enough on what matters most.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-3
So today I move towards this truth I have been given today, and I with weak and shaking hands lift my arms to the heavens and say "thank You Lord" for the hard times. Help me to see You in them, help me to learn from them, help me to be a better person because of them, strengthen my faith through them, use them to help me to help others as they walk through their hard times. I give thanks because You are good and because Your love endures forever!
Lord I do believe, help Thou my unbelief!
I leave you with some quotes to ponder;
knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties
to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will
to overcome them. ~ C.S. Lewis
I would go to the deeps a hundred times
to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted,
that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary. ~ Charles Spurgeon
Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not
show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not
protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from
anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and
chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the
faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in
God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled
them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously. ~ Lee Robertson
Christians are like the several flowers
in a garden that have each of them the dew of heaven, which, being
shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other’s roots, whereby they
are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other. ~ John Bunyon
“Are you aware of who you really are in relationship to the very God who
created the Universe, who scattered the stars and aligned the planets?
Only to those who remember and realize that they are literally spirit
children of a God who knows and loves them, can the fire of refinement
be welcome. Otherwise, pain and adversity are just that, pain and
adversity. Fire doesn’t purify; it only burns.”
~ Toni Sorenson
"In His grace there is life; weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5"
In all things there is always a choice. We lie to ourselves when we think otherwise. In my devotional reading this morning there is a quote that spoke to my heart. "I had to choose fear.......or completely trust Him. One cannot exist if the other is true." And in yesterdays reading there was another; "That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem."
Two very profound statements that hits me right where I am. Living between sorrow and fear, bouncing back from trust to sorrow, from sorrow to fear, back to trust........but is it really trust? For one cannot exist if the other is true.
I have been a Christian for 24 years now, have read the Bible countless times, I know these things, they are written in my memory.....but are they engraved upon my heart? That is the question that God has been asking me, for weeks now. I am learning Lord, help me to hold on to what I learn.
I am at peace, more so than I have been in some time. There is no need to fear tomorrow.
When I fall into fear and worry, I am actually stating that I do not trust my Lord. When I agonize over what might happen, and how things do not seem to be going the way I think they should, or the way I would choose for them to go, I am stating that I do not trust that God knows what He is doing, that I do not believe that He is capable of redeeming things should they take the turn I fear.
When I moan about the unfairness of things, I am stating that I am not where I should be, that the place God has put me is somehow wrong, that He has somehow lost control of things, that perhaps He was sleeping and did not intend for it to be this way. God has not been caught unaware of anything, and all that happens is allowed. I can not explain the why of it, I can only explain that God is good, He does not do wrong, so therefore there must be a purpose for it all.
I can rejoice even in sorrow. For I know God will bring about good from all these things, He has promised me this, and one day, all that is wrong with the world will be made right, one day we will be reunited with loved ones gone to soon, one day His perfect love will forever cast out fear and sorrow. He has promised these things to those who belong to Him, He has promised good to me. He has promised good to His children.
He tells us to give thanks in ALL things........how often do we really truly consider what that means?
It means we are to praise Him, in the midst of the storm, we are to praise Him, and we are to give Him thanks for everything! Thanks for the long hard road we have walked, we are walking and we may be walking for some time. Thanks for all the blessings that He gives each and every day. And we should ever ask Him to open our eyes, do not allow us to miss the gifts You give, do not allow us to fall into fear, or despair, to wallow in any kind of self pity. May we ever stand where we stand and may we wait for You Lord, without complaint, and in perfect trust. Your love is perfect, and perfect love casts out all fear.
Open our eyes Lord!
"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear,
but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ""Abba,"
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear
has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in
"In Japan the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It's
a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is
also tragically short. When the cherry blossom trees bloom for a short
time each year in brilliant force, they serve as a visual reminder of
how precious and how precarious life is. So, when Japanese people come
together to view the cherry blossom trees and marvel at their beauty,
they aren't just thinking about the flowers themselves, but also about
the larger meaning and deep cultural tradition the cherry blossom tree."
The beautiful song, Cherry Blossoms in Rain, when played on the piano, makes use of only the black keys. The dark keys, when the right fingers are touching them, makes something beautiful. Our sorrows in this life, if we trust God, if we live a life of thanksgiving, if we take the joy He offers even in the hard things, can be like the black keys on the piano, with His fingers upon them, something beautiful, something useful, something needful can and will occur.
Take a moment and listen to the beautiful song, "Cherry Blossoms in Rain"
The quotes mentioned in this post were both taken from the wonderful devotional book by Ann Voskamp, called "One Thousand Gifts Devotional" it is a beautiful book and it has blessed me very much.
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”"Luke 17:11-19
They stood at a distance!
Leprosy required one to always stand at a distance from "normal" folks. As a leper, when you traveled you and came near people you were required to shout out 'UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!" so that people could avoid you. You were an outcast. A victim of leprosy was even excluded from God, he or she could not enter the temple, could not offer a sacrifice....for they were UNCLEAN!
If a normal person touched a leper they would also be UNCLEAN! Leprosy stole everything from a person, absolutely everything, it took their bodies and their flesh, leaving them looking like monsters, it stole their dignity, it stole their humanity. It took EVERYTHING and was the most feared disease of that time. Better to just lay down and die than to be a leper.
"And a lepercame to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean." Mark 1: 40
He stretched out His hand and TOUCHED him!
Do you realize how profound that was! No one touched a leper! They were unclean! Their touch made you unclean! But our Lord, moved with compassion, not only healed this man, but He touched him.
I see myself in all these lepers
Sometimes I see myself in the one leper, who returned to give thanks, these are the best of days, when my eyes and heart are open to his gifts and filled with gratitude. On these days I revel in falling at His feet and praising Him for all that He is and all that He has done. Oh that I could live every day like this.
Often I see myself in the nine who did not return. My Lord heaps blessings upon me, and so many of them I do not even take notice of. I fail, time and again I fail, to return to His feet and give thanks for all that He has done, is doing and will do for me. These are the days I stumble about in the dark, eyes tightly shut, gaze on self instead of on Him. Oh that I would have no more days like this.
I am always the leper he touched. I was unclean, I wallow in uncleanness, even as His child, touched by His grace, I return to the mud and dirt to wallow. I am not fit for His touch, not fit for His gaze, in all truth and honesty He should cast me aside and scream UNCLEAN! But He does not. Instead, each and every time I fall, He reaches down and touches me and says "I am willing...be clean".
Because of Him, and His great mercy, because He, the glorius God-Man, chose willingly to be born of a woman, to walk about this filthy unclean world, to live a life of grace and perfection in the midst of all the sin and darkness, because He willingly gave himself up, and was delivered to the cross, where He hung in agony, because He willingly at the appointed time declared IT IS FINISHED and gave up the life in His body, because He conquered death and sin, because He stomped the head of the devil into the ground, because He by His power as Almighty God, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to take His place at the right hand of God the Father, because of all this, I am declared CLEAN. My sins, all of them are cast as far as the east is from the west, and though I remember them, He remembers them no more. I stand here dressed in filthy dirty leper rags, but when He gazes upon me he sees me clothed in the purest white.
Every morning I arise from my bed and He gives me a new white robe to wear, and although I drag it through mud and filth, He renews it, it is ever white to Him. My friends that is profound, that is wondrous, that is marvelous, that is outrageous grace!
I no longer have to stand at a distance, I no longer am barred from His presence, instead I am whole, I am clean, I am His child. He has granted me the right to come close, to sit with Him, to converse with Him, He has made me His........and I am grateful.
Today I will live as the one who returned, to fall at His feet, to give Him all praise and worship. Lord I praise You for your outrageous grace!
Outrageous Grace, sung by Godfrey Birtill
There’s a lot of pain but a lot more healing
There’s a lot of trouble but a lot more peace
There’s a lot of hate but a lot more loving
There’s a lot of sin but a lot more grace
Oh outrageous grace oh outrageous grace
Love unfurled by heaven’s hand
Oh outrageous grace oh outrageous grace
Through my Jesus I can stand
There’s a lot of fear but a lot more freedom
There’s a lot of darkness but a lot more light
There’s a lot of cloud but a lot more vision
There’s a lot of perishing but a lot more life
There’s an enemy
That seeks to kill what it can’t control
It twists and turns
Making mountains out of molehills
But I will call on my Lord
Who is worthy of praise
I run to Him and I am saved
" God, all the world is an opportunity to behold more of your transfiguring darkness into grace. I won't ever get over it. I'm beholden to it all my life, now and forever. I want to accept all You give and learn to see into the darkness as You do, as a place to fill with Your light. Help me Father. Help me to see in the dark." One Thousand Gifts Devotional.
And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16
If there is one thing I have learned over the course of the past few years, hard years, painful years, it is that God is faithful, even in the darkness.
In all things and no matter the circumstances we must remember that nothing, not one thing that happens to us is a surprise to God. He knows these things, He has allowed these things, dark as they may seem to you, senseless to you, unfair to you, He has allowed them. This might seem like something a harsh and unloving God would do, but in those thoughts we must remember all that He has told us, about who He is, about what His purpose is.
He is everywhere present.
He is all knowing.
He is sovereign.
He is holy.
He is absolute truth.
He is righteous.
He is just.
He is love.
He is merciful.
He is faithful.
He never changes.
All that He does, all that He allows, all that He brings about in our lives will and does serve His purposes, and His purposes are always for our benefit. Always.
His grace is always available, a full measure, all that you need, for each day. Open your eyes. Ask Him to show you all the ways he blesses You, ask Him to show you how to see Him at work in what you perceive to be total darkness. From every single thing comes grace and blessing.
I learned long ago that sometimes word pictures assist us in understanding something. I have always thought of my children and my great love for them in defining how God allows bad things, hurtful things, to occur in our lives. I look back to when one of my boys was very sick. I took him to the doctor, and they informed me that he would have to receive two shots, they would inject them into his legs, and that the shots were extremely painful. They informed me that they would burn like fire. I helped to hold him down while they injected him. I will never forget his eyes, they burned into me, eyes that screamed betrayal, how could I, his mother, the one who always defended, always comforted, always gave anything and everything on his behalf, allow this to be done? He was too young to understand why, too young to know that the reason I held him down, the reason I allowed them to hurt him, was because of my love for him, my desire to save him, to preserve his life. It was not for harm, although in his eyes great harm was done.
Now I am an imperfect created being, and I have made, do make and will continue to make mistakes. My word picture therefore is inadequate in it's representation of God, but it at least helps to form a picture that might aid somewhat in our understanding of why bad things happen. Just like my son, laying on that table, screaming his outrage and his pain at the top of his lungs, did not understand, did not have all the pieces to the puzzle, could not comprehend at that time that what was taking place was for good in the end, sometimes we also cannot see. There will be times of great sorrow where we will live to actually see with our own eyes the reasons, and the good that came from them, there will be other times where we may not see it, we may have to wait until we stand before Him, and He shows us all that He did, all that He brought about, all that He prevented, by allowing the pain in our lives. What He asks us to do right now is to trust Him. His love for His children makes my love for my own children pale in comparison, for He is God, perfect in His love, while I am human and created and always imperfect in mine.
May God, today and in days to come, help us to see in the darkness, to open our eyes fully, to open our clenched fists completely and receive the abundant grace that He freely gives.