Common Grace

There is no better example of “common grace” than Spring-time. Common grace, also known as “general grace” is defined as “non saving grace in which blessings are given to humanity for physical sustenance, pleasure, learning, beauty, etc. as expressions of God’s goodness. It is particularly contrasted…. with God’s special or saving grace.” (McKim, Donald K., The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition). Common graces are the gifts given all mankind regardless of their belief system, faith, or acknowledgment of God the creator. How gracious and good is our God to lavish us with the beauties of nature, the breath of babies, the animals all around, intellect for scientific discovery even if we never choose to acknowledge Him as the giver?

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:17

Spring-time walks made beautiful by eyes specifically created to see color, not black and white. Spring-time with the Forsythia shooting out from it’s bush, out from the winter neutrals, shocking our color starved eyes with life and beauty. The rest of nature snoozes in hibernation as Red Bud Trees awaken and sing of the new morning. Daffodils dwarfed under trees trumpet with their blooms God’s love song. Paper Whites shyly whisper beside….. Spring is coming. And in every petal, in every bud about to blossom is God’s message, “Broken humanity, I love you. I love you…..” The azalea flowers will soon clump together, every hue in the rainbow proclaiming, “I bloom for He is good….” The hydrangea bush in the shade will not collapse under their rotund blooms. They will hold their weight and will say, “God is gentle and kind. Masterful and sovereign over all creation.”

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20

Birds will hatch, goat kids will be born with ears floppy and soft. God will feed them from His very hand…

Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Job 38:39-41

All this glory and yet nature is not where God sets His sight, pours His love. Mankind is the object of His love…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:3-5

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8

All mankind was given God’s very breath. All mankind was created in His image. But for those who choose Jesus. For those who surrender to His Lordship… we are the recipients of not only God’s common grace but also His saving grace….

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

After salvation His grace continues as He pours His Holy Spirit into us, allowing us to be beauty and light to the broken world around us.

As we are reminded in Altar’d, “You are the dwelling place. You are the place where He displays His glory. You are the place where His glory is ‘at home.’”

As followers of Jesus Christ are we shining brighter, acting more lovely, blessing more profoundly the world around us than the flowers blooming outside our doors?

Easter Monday

It is Easter Monday. Tomorrow will be Easter Tuesday and then Easter Wednesday and then…. well, you get the point. For those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, everyday is Easter Sunday. God’s power that resurrected Jesus on Sunday is still at work on Easter Monday.

Easter Monday, when the laundry piles too high.

Easter Monday, when the seven year old wakes up uncontrollably grouchy and you lose your temper, returning her bad attitude in kind.

Easter Monday, when you fought with your best friend of a husband the night before and you think, “Again? I thought we were over this!” And your heart hurts with the pattern on repeat.

Easter Monday morning, with a week full of appointments, meals to cook, counters to wipe, unbelievably sticky floors to mop, and hours of picking up and you think, “Is this what my day is about? It never seems to end.”

Easter Monday, when sticky floors make you angrier than they should.

Easter Monday, when Scripture reminds…

Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. (1 Peter 5:8)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)

At some point on Easter Monday, the reality sets in. Difficulties, frustrations, and trials were not crucified on Friday and a carefree life resurrected in it’s place on Sunday. On this, the day after Easter, the world looks like, well…. the world. Tedious work, tempers, illness, old temptations, encountering others whose hearts are bent on destroying. Even death happens on this Monday after Easter. You are tempted to believe the power and hope proclaimed on Sunday, is rendered ineffective and lifeless today.

Then Scripture reminds…

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

morlandthelivesOn this Resurrection Monday, Jesus is seated in heaven, all accomplished. The fact that, yesterday, He conquered death means that today He can conquer my bad attitude. He can destroy those patterns of thinking and behaving and sinning that break relationship with those I love. Are the, seemingly, insurmountable obstacles on this Monday after Easter really greater than death itself? Simply, NO.

The God who raised His Son after three days in death’s chamber can be trusted to give joy and purpose in the most tedious of tasks.  Work that, when done unto Him, with a thankful heart turns beautiful in its rhythm. This God of Easter restores brokenness, redeems those things the world would like to destroy, and equips us to face life’s challenges each day. This God of Easter is not just for Easter Sunday.

His resurrection power gives new eyes to see the blessings alongside the trials. Outside, I see azaleas and dogwoods and a new bright green that almost burns my eyes after a long winter. From where does this beauty come?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Beside this weary world is the whisper of a Savior who crushed Satan’s head on the cross (Genesis 3:15). While, for a time, the world moves forward in it’s sinful, broken state, His resurrection power is still working, transforming, and creating alongside the stench of a dying world. He is working miracles. Often, these miracles are in the transformed hearts of those who follow Him. Thankfully, I am not the same person I was last Easter. He is progressively changing my heart of worry to a heart of trust.

Because Scripture reminds, I will …

fix my eyes on Jesus , the author and perfector of my faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. I will consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that I will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Every day is Easter for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. We are not yet allowed to see His physical resurrected body but, between Easter Sunday and the unknown future when He comes again, we are given His power, His joy, and His hope. We are called to transform and infuse this broken world with His goodness and grace. I will pray to do just that today, Easter Monday, even as I mop the dirty floor and fold the endless laundry. I will not lose heart.

As Scripture reminds…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com

Thirsty

thirsty Vincent has been in the garage for at least an hour.  He is bent over paper; paint and markers in hand at our new garage craft center.  His glasses slide down his nose so he peers over them like an old man, his hair sticking up in the back, paint smeared on his shirt and pants.  I check on him between loads of laundry and the unloading and loading of the dishwasher, between the refilling of Luisa’s straw cup.  Eventually, the back door slams.  He steps into the kitchen, creation in hand.

“Momma for you!”  He peers at me over his glasses with a big, proud smile.

I am struck speechless for a moment then exclaim, “I LOVE IT!”

I stare at the painting and the lesson hits deep in my heart.  You must grow weary with me, God.  Always having to be so obvious.  Having to send a child to bring home the point You’ve been whispering to my heart over the last few months.

In my son’s artwork I see streams running down from the cross.  Surely Vincent was not thinking of streams of Living Water as he painted his cross creation?

“Vincent, what is this a picture of?” I ask.

“Momma you know that place we go where we dress up?”

“Church?”  I reply.

“Yes.  This is church,” he states matter-of-factly.

I see the dome now and yet I ask him about the blue.

“That’s where we walk up,” he says.

He sees the blue going up, a sidewalk of sorts, and I see the blue flowing down.  I wonder if the brown paint ran out and blue was the next best thing?  Yet I know what God is trying to say to me through Vincent’s sweet creation.  Living Water.  Living Water.  Living Water.

“‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

Grown people.  Tiny humans.  Relationships.  My inability to muster enough self-control and strength to live the holy life I am called to live.  These things make me thirsty.  At times, they make me weary.

Disease.  Sickness.  Current events.  They suck the life out of us, literally and figuratively.  We just might collapse under the weight of it all.

In these times we need to remember to drink of the Living Water found only in Jesus Christ.

As Jennifer Kennedy Dean reminds us on Day 14 of her book Altar’d:

You must decrease and He must increase.  Let your littleness be absorbed by His greatness.  Let your weakness be swept away by His strength.  Let your failure, your fear, your struggles, your bitterness…. let it all be flushed out by the powerful flow of His life in you.  Take your eyes off yourself.  Fix your eyes on Him.  Hide yourself in Him.

In my closet I have a place of prayer.  Pinned to the wall are prayer requests, quotes, scriptures, and one tiny painting.  An orange cross, a blue stream flowing down, a reminder to drink deeply of the Living Water offered me in Jesus Christ.

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com

Running the Show…

cactus flowerWhen you come across people and circumstances that engage your flesh, you are at a crucifixion moment. Altar that anger, or offense, or fear, or defensiveness, or possessiveness. Right then, before flesh starts running the show. It’s there, but it’s altar’d. Flesh might show up, but it won’t take over. Altar it again and again until one day it doesn’t show up. The altar has done its crucifixion work and you are free of that particular flesh pattern.
(p. 61, Day 11, Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean)

My flesh seems the most determined to run the show in my marriage and in my mothering. I always thought of myself as a patient, loving, hold no grudge kind of person. Then I was married. Suddenly I found myself sharing a 550 square foot apartment with my new, highly organized, Type A husband. Being somewhat Type B and definitely not organized, I stubbornly refused to cooperate with systems that would make our tiny living quarters more manageable. Labels for our medicine cabinet? Well, no thank you; one large bucket with all the medications thrown in will do. Band-aids in the band-aid box? Nah, searching for translucent band-aids under a mountain of cold/flu bottles builds perseverance! Looking back now I see the flesh of self-centeredness and pride. At the time, I just wanted to win the battle.

Patience? Long-suffering? Wise and temperate words? They are hardly my go-tos in mothering. Flesh. Flesh wants to make its appearance first.

Then there are times God alters our neatly calculated plans for life, motherhood, children, or work and we find ourselves at a crossroads, an altar before us. Will we lay on the altar our expectations of how we thought our lives would be, trusting that God’s plan is eternally more significant and beautiful than anything we could imagine? During the last eight years of mothering I have altar’d my expectations time and time again. Yet it was not until my husband and I were given the privilege of stewarding a special needs child did my knees truly buckle at the altar before me. Total submission to His plan, whether or not I could see the good (Romans 8:28) was His requirement of me. This mothering of precious children, this coming alongside my husband, this caring for a beautiful but vulnerable daughter – this life journey will surely bring me to the altar day after day. May I take my eyes off what I am laying down and raise them instead to the holy God who makes no mistakes; to the God most worthy, most capable of running the show.

Heavenly Father,
You are Perfect Love, Awesome Provider, Righteous Judge
I ask today for the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Please convict me of those patterns of flesh trying to run the show in my work and in my relationships.
I ask today for the strength to submit to the circumstances You have sovereignly allowed in my life.
I open my hands and lay before you my disappointments, my broken dreams, my will.
Loving Father, fill my empty hands with You so that I might accomplish Your purposes for this day.

Amen

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children. A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time. With a cup of coffee by her side Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com