Archive for September, 2010

In The School Of Grace

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GRACE – the unmerited favor and love of God.

Not long ago, I had one of those mornings with my children when their every word and action pushed every button in me, so much so that I passed the point of rational thought and clicked into sheer emotional meltdown. The skills and war maneuvers I’ve learned through years of parenting four kids only echoed somewhere in the halls of memory. They were in full combat mode with each other and I was caught in the crossfire. By the time I dropped the last one at school without my customary morning prayer and blessing (I KNEW there was no way God was going to hear me I was so angry), I was crying, frustrated with my own inability to maintain self-control.

“I cannot do this! I am a complete failure as a mother!” I cried out.

I heard a quiet whisper, “I love you.”

I sobbed louder, “I know you love me, God, but I just thoroughly convinced those kids I don’t love them!”

“I love you,” I heard again.

“I know Lord, but did you see how I just behaved?” Tears were streaming down my face as the mirror of memory reflected back the ugliness of the me people I care about a whole lot less never see.

“I love you.” I stopped as I heard the meaning behind the words.

You… love… me. Even this me, the one I hide from everyone, the one even I can’t justify or rationalize, God loves me. You’re not waiting until I’m perfect so I can be called acceptable and one of your own, but in my ugliest, grossest moments, the Creator of the Universe, looks at me with love and calls me daughter. I have done nothing to earn this. I will never be able to earn this grace, a word for grabbing hold of, like a rope to a drowning man.

Turning Into The Spin

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Driving on ice is tricky. Fortunately, I don’t encounter it too often living near the beach in Southern California (ok, never). Which is good, as I have enough trouble driving in the occasional rain shower we get here. My children will be happy to verify. For those who’ve driven back East or in the Midwest, road conditions in a place like Southern California must seem like child’s play. No blizzards or wind storms to navigate, just the occasional fog, rain and balmy 75 degree weather. I may not drive in icy conditions, but I have been trained, thanks to my high school driver’s ed teacher, what I should do if my car ever spins out of control on ice – turn the wheel into the spin. Apparently, most people intuitively pull the wheel in the opposite direction, resulting in locked wheels and possibly a flipped car. The only hope of gaining control is to pull the wheel in the direction the car is turning. I am not going to even try to explain the reasons why this is true (I’d probably just botch the science anyway).

I don’t have any freak ice storms to report here, but I have been practicing turning into the spin. As money has become tighter and the economy icier, I’ve been giving away the treasures I’ve accumulated over years of prowling antique malls and thrift stores. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself and discovered a freedom in letting go of stuff and seeing enjoyment in the faces of those I give to (and no, they’re not faking it just to be polite). I’ll often bring flowers and give away antique jewelry to strangers. It’s amazing the relationships that have been born out of these encounters.

The same principle is in effect when it comes to dealing with rejection or hurt from people. I can respond to them in kind, turning my wheel in the opposite direction, but that only results in relational disaster. Instead, I’m taking the Sermon on the Mount at face value, give and you’ll receive in greater measure; bless your enemies; if someone asks for your coat, give him your tunic. Love, love, love. All of these commands are counterintuitive and require purposeful decisions to obey, not because Jesus will be mad if I don’t, but because he understands what is required to avoid greater disaster. I am becoming better skilled at navigating the icy circumstances of the current culture and economic circumstances, simply by responding in the opposite manner. Money is tight. I’m not going to be afraid and hoard what I have, but instead give it away. When someone rejects my love and friendship, I chooses to bless and love them more.  I’m finding that in doing so, I have power. Circumstances, the ice on the road, so to speak, don’t determine my quality of  life, my peace, my joy, my love, but I do, simply by obeying Jesus’ command to turn the wheel into the spin, the opposite direction from what seems right and let him maneuver me through the danger zones.