Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The First Signs of Spring

I took my camera out in search of the first signs of spring today. Guess what! I found some!

I drove through the parking lot at Lowes to see if they had any pansys and they were pulling them right off the truck when we drove up! Lucky me! Ok - so the bird nest with the egg was staged. The birdbath is still frozen over. I don't think it's egg layin' time yet! But as you can see, the seasons are beginning to change. Even though they're calling for snow on Friday!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

I was standing in Forbidden City enjoying the red buildings and yellow, tiled roofs. It's very interesting to be able to walk where the emperors walked. It's pretty fascinating. But then there was this little guy holding his paper flag. He took my breath away. His little face was much grander than any building we stood among. I'm totally smitten by the children there. They stole my heart years ago. Happy New Year China!The pictures below were taken off a Chinese friend's blog in China. They are of children in school. I love getting to peek inside their lives! Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

What is Grace? or What does God really think about you?

Understanding God's grace has transformed my life. When I was a child and prayed the prayer asking Jesus into my life one Wednesday night, I was excited to know that Jesus lived inside of me. Then I was baptized. I remember distinctly on the ride home afterward in the car, that my sins were washed away (you know - going under and coming up) and I was going to do my best never to sin again - so I wouldn't be a disappointment to God. I was nine. How sad is that? So I have believed that God loves me unconditionally - because He has to - but I was always a disappointment to Him. I could never quite make it to a place where I could control myself to the point where I never got angry, to where I never said anything sharp or unkind, and of course, studied and read my Bible intently every day. Oh I could handle the big sins - don't drink, don't smoke, don't take the Lord's name in vain. I said other cuss words that brought me down though. Still do when I get exasperated. Are you shocked? So I've been a disappointment to God with all my sins and shortcomings all my life. Have you been too? What I never really understood was grace. There was some weird mix of information in my head about when you confess your sins that God forgives them and forgets them. I actually believed that but still I think there was some sort of residue that left Him disappointed with me. I thought that when God looked at me that he saw someone with great potential but....well...always failing or falling short in some way or another. Grace to me allowed God to continue loving me unconditionally and that I was secure in my salvation. That was it. That's what grace was. But that's the wrong definition of grace. Completely wrong. Do you believe that God not only loves you but likes you? Have you really thought about that? The true definition of grace is that God loves me when I'm down for the count, worn out, given up and depleted. But more gloriously, He loves me when I'm sharp and angry with others, when I'm cunning and prideful...when I don't read my Bible and take thirty minutes to pray intently every day. The reality of all this is is that HE JUST LOVES ME. He loves me whether I'm living in perfect harmony with Him or have fallen off the rock He set my feet upon and have even chosen to wallow in the mud. He delights in my delights. He smiles when I come back to Him and say, "Please forgive me." He loves me when I'm grumpy and tired. He soars with me when I daydream of the Rockies or make something really fun in Photoshop. He waits on me with great anticipation when I wander away. Oh if we all could understand Grace. Can you let go of trying to be perfect for Him? Can you forgive yourself like He has when you've failed - unintentionally and deliberately. Someone asked me, "Doesn't this just give you the right to sin without remorse or consequence?" Brennan Manning said it best when he compared the love of his wife to the love of God. He said that Rosalyn loves him so much. Because she loves him why would he want to cheat on her? It's the same thing with God. He loves me without boundary, limit or breaking point. I don't want to go out and deliberately sin my life away because I know He'll love me anyway. No, it makes me try harder. I love reading Brennan Manning. God has used him to speak to me many times in my walk these past two years. Like Brennan, I don't want to cheat on God either. I now understand Grace. And when you do, you forgive yourself for your failures and sins. You accept that he delights in you just the way you are no matter where you've been or what you've done or where you will go or what you will do. That's complete security in His love that sets you free. There's something else that comes with this acceptance of his pure love for us. It is the responsibility of giving grace to others. Grace cannot be given to others unless we understand God's definition of grace and truly accept it for ourselves. Until we've accepted grace on a deep personal level, we will continue to criticize others sharply, find disappointment in their shortcomings and failures, and hold them to a much higher standard than we secretly know we can't even reach ourselves. When Jesus came to set us free, we are set free when we know him through his grace. I hope you will go on a journey to discover what God's grace means to you. I know that I'm totally free in Him. With this freedom comes great joy. I'm myself. I'm content with who He created me to be. I dont' try to fit in. I don't change my opinions when mine don't match the company I'm in. I'm free from the addiction of the acceptance of others. I'm just me living in freedom in Christ. I am a new creation every day!