Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Grace”

BINGO…AND FORGIVENESS

“BINGO!”

That is the word I hear several times a week after I utter a seemingly endless strand of letters and numbers.

B9…O66…I20…B2…G55…N41…etc….etc…etc… “BINGO!”

bingo

Admittedly it’s probably the least favorite part of my job. But the residents thoroughly enjoy it. After calling BINGO for over four years now, it’s dawned on me why I don’t care for it much. It’s the least social aspect of my job. It’s rote and redundant. You can’t necessarily visit with folks because it needs to be fairly quiet and continuous. In my own quirky, silly way, however, I try to make it fun and entertaining. (I don’t do this for the residents. I do this for my own sanity.)

There’s occasionally some friendly banter back-and-forth between residents who are winning a lot and those who aren’t winning at all. There’s occasionally some friendly banter back-and-forth between residents who have empty cards and me who’s apparently not calling their numbers on purpose. They like to “threaten” me that we’ll no longer be friends if I don’t allow them to win. They even playfully threaten me with some sort of violence if I don’t start calling the “right numbers.”

After the first game the other day, one gal made such a “threat.” I played along and told her I’d work really hard to call her numbers on the next game so she could win. Well as it turned out, she did win. Then she said, “Beth, all is forgiven now!”

I replied back, “Wow…that was easy.”

Another one piped up and said, “Yes, that’s how forgiveness works.”

As we continued with the mundaneness of BINGO for the next hour, I reflected on forgiveness…and the beauty and simplicity therein.

The hardest part of forgiveness is the asking. It’s hard to admit we’ve done wrong. It’s hard to acknowledge we’ve hurt or angered someone, especially those we care a great deal about. Even so, though we may admit our wrongdoing, and ask someone for their forgiveness, they may have a hard time honoring our request. They may even deny our request for forgiveness, or make us somehow try to “earn it.” When we go through something like that, all is not necessarily forgiven, nor is it easy.

But I reflected on a grander scale. Not us being forgiven by others. But us being forgiven by God. When we admit to God we’ve screwed up or not exactly lived in a way that’s pleasing to Him, He promptly says, “All is forgiven now!”

No threats. No earning it. It’s a freely offered gift from a great big God who thinks the world of you despite your screw-ups. It’s called grace. It’s not complicated. Just beauty and simplicity therein.

When I reflect on that, I indeed reply, “Wow…that is easy!”

And my resident would respond, “Yes, that’s how forgiveness works!”

And everybody would join in and said, “BINGO!” (…or maybe AMEN!)

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THE STARE DOWN

The stare down between us started at 9:15 Wednesday morning.

I was outside visiting with a gentleman who had his scooter parked alongside the handrail of the wide sidewalk from the front door to the parking lot. It’s about 30 feet from the door to the edge of the sidewalk where our company van picks up folks to transport them to various places.

In the middle of our conversation, I looked up and there he was, hunched over, unable to stand erect, using a cane instead of his normal walker, struggling to take his steps toward the van. Scruffy beard (which I’ve complimented by the way), bald head, glasses half way down his nose. Worn and weathered stern looking face. Headed my direction.

I heard him say something to me in his gruff voice…something that I couldn’t quite make out. So I asked him if he needed any help…if there was anything I could do for him.

He immediately bit my head off. I didn’t understand all of his rant, but what I could decipher was a few expletives shot right at me, stating his adamant independence and his desire for me to leave him the hell alone.

That’s when it happened. The stare down between him and me. I didn’t say a word and neither did he as he made his way right toward me. He stared at me with his devil face and I stared right back with my bitch eyes. As he passed by me we were only a few feet away from each other, deadlocked on each other’s faces. Eye to eye. I didn’t crack and neither did he.

Stare DownHe turned to get in the van as we gave each other one last, long, look. Then I turned and walked inside. Not a word was vocalized after his outburst. Well…perhaps many words were spoken, just not verbally. This is the same gentleman (if I can even call him that) I blogged about on June 28th. He’s crusty and very rough around the edges.

At the moment of his blasting, I wasn’t at all taken aback. I’ve gotten used to it from him. I wasn’t necessarily left speechless, because again, I’ve been on the receiving end of his chastising before. But at the same time I didn’t know what to say back. I’d had it. It hit a nerve this time. So I stared him down and quite likely in my mind spewed words so sharp it would have cut the scruff right off his beard.

I fully believe everything I shared in my previous blog about dealing with difficult people. I believe we are supposed to bless those who curse us and love our enemies. I believe we shouldn’t repay evil with evil or insult with insult. With regard to “Mr. Crusty Man” I’ve literally put those words into practice.

But after I got home, something (or perhaps someONE—who’s far greater than me) reminded me of the passage in Scripture where Jesus tells His disciples “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Could it be that this is what God is calling me to do with him? I wrestle with the thought. On one hand, I feel that I should love unconditionally. That I should continue to offer grace and mercy to a guy who certainly doesn’t deserve it, because isn’t that a picture of what God does for us daily?

On the other hand, there are Jesus’ words to His disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” which is a symbolic indication that they had done all they could do and no longer carried the responsibility of it. They were free to walk away with a clear conscience.

Is this God’s way of telling me to move on? To “shake the dust off my feet” with regard to this guy who I’ve poured into, prayed for, tried to encourage, helped in every way I can, planted seeds, and made an effort to take our conversations Godward when I could?

I’m stuck in the middle of these two teachings of Jesus. Both right. Both true. Both I believe firmly in.

I haven’t seen him since the stare down occurred. When I encounter him next, will there be the sweet fragrance of Jesus in the air…or just a cloud of dust?

WHY WHACKED OUT STORIES IN THE BIBLE ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE

For those of you who think the Bible is out of date, irrelevant, and boring think again. The Old Testament is chock full of crazy stories, that not only make you scratch your head and say, “Seriously?” but they’re ripe with application for life today.

Check this out…

Many of you have heard this story before, but maybe not in this light. So hold on and read this whole thing…

There was this super old guy named Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham). He was married to this super old chick named Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah). Not something we do much of today, but God—who changed their names—can pretty much do what He wants, right?

So these old folks have no kids. And they’re way past childbearing age. Like waaayy past. Abraham is around 85 years old, and Sarah is around 75. Sarah—feeling every bit of her old age—gets a bright idea to give her maid Hagar to Abraham to sleep with so that in some whacked out way they’ll have a family.

Seriously?

Yep.

Believe it or not, this works. Hagar gets pregnant by 85-year-old Abraham. And guess who’s feeling left out of the picture now? You got it…Sarah! Ya’ think? Totally! Dumb on her, but apparently that was normal back then.

Hagar, now prego with Abraham’s baby, begins to look down on Sarah. According to Sarah, Hagar was disrespectful to her and treated her like she was nothing. So get this…Sarah blames Abraham for the whole thing.

Wait, seriously? Wasn’t this debacle Sarah’s idea in the first place?

Yep.

In her frustration and lashing out at Abraham, Sarah says, “May the Lord decide who is right—you or me!” Now she’s bringing God into this mess, hoping He’ll side with her, not Abraham.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. And here’s where I get to the point of my blog. Abraham responds to Sarah by saying, “You decide. Your maid is your business.”

(As a side note, Sarah was probably angry at Abraham, Hagar, and God. She was the one who was barren. She made the choice to take matters in her own hands and create what she thought to be an amicable solution. But when it backfired, her anger probably ran deeply to those three in closest proximity—Abraham, Hagar the maid, and God. They became the targets of her misfortune.)

After Abraham lets God off the hook and tells Sarah to make a decision about the matter, the very next line in the Bible is, “Sarah was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away” (Genesis 16:6, MSG).

You see, Sarah didn’t just react or even overreact. No, she chose. She chose how she treated her maid Hagar. She chose to be abusive. She chose to mistreat her, humiliate her, and treat her cruelly. Granted, Hagar got a little uppity with Sarah and didn’t treat her well. So, I guess you could say Hagar deserved it.

But did she?

Sarah chose. Sarah decided. Sarah opted to take her frustration, anger, humiliation, brokenness, failure, feelings of inadequacy, bitterness, and hurt out on Hagar the maid. She became the target. The target that Sarah chose.

Do you get where I’m going? Sarah had the power to choose how she dealt with this situation when Abraham told her to decide. She could have chosen forgiveness. She could have chosen to build a bridge between herself and Hagar and not a wall. She could have chosen to be the better bigger person in the matter. She could have chosen integrity and honor and respect. She could have chosen to reach out and nurture and guide and love. But instead she chose the opposite.

It’s hard when people treat your poorly. It’s hard when life doesn’t seem fair. It’s hard to keep our frustrations in check. But we do have the power. It’s the power of choice. To choose to respond, not to react. It’s the power to choose love over hatred. To choose bridges, not walls. To choose grace over judgment. To choose mercy over malice.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or hurt—and you’re looking to retaliate on those you love—why don’t you consider this whacked out story from an old book called the Bible? Because, you see, it actually makes sense.

At the end of the day, when the blame game ends, you have the power of choice. You control how you respond. Will you allow your emotions to override the right thing to do?

In the words of Abraham, “You decide.”

(***Spoiler Alert***) Abraham and Sarah actually do end up having a kid together…when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. If that’s not whacked out, I don’t know what is.

8 THINGS TO STAND FOR IN A WORLD THAT’S FALLING DOWN

There’s a popular song on the radio that I really like to sing along with, but the lyrics trouble me.

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for…What Do I Stand For?
What do I stand for?
Oh what do I stand for?
Most nights I don’t know any more…

Isn’t that sad? At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, not to have any idea what you stand for. To be that clueless, or misguided, or misinformed, or confused, or torn. But I think, unfortunately, this would describe a growing number of people in the world.

Here’s the problem as I see it:  This crazy, messed up world we live in has hijacked our truth, our morals, our values, our ethics, our virtues, our integrity, our standards. We have no idea what we stand for because we live in a world where tolerance reigns and truth seems to be a moving target. We live in a world that celebrates boundary-less individuality. We live in a world where any behavior, any response, any treatment, any reaction is acceptable because, after all, “I’m just being ME.” Barf!

The great country music theologian Aaron Tippin sang a song back in the early 90’s which stated:

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

Here’s what I think we should be standing for (otherwise we’ll fall for just about anything)…

Stand for:

  • Treating people fairly and justly–God loves people and so should we
  • Grace–even when you think you’re right, grace must win out
  • Giving, not getting–change your perspective from what you can get out of something to what you can contribute
  • Honesty–if you tell the truth the first time, you won’t have to remember what you said
  • Positivity–negativity is a buzz kill any way you slice it
  • Peace–though you can’t control the actions and reactions of others, you can control yours. As much as it depends on you, live at peace
  • Hard work–slothfulness and apathy will never get you where you want to be
  • Compassion–remember not everyone is as cool as you, as fortunate as you, as put together as you, as healthy as you, as problem-free as you, as smart as you, nor as talented as you

What about you? What do you stand for?

RETHINKING YOUR TO-DO LIST

“To-Do” lists. We jot them down on post-it notes, note cards, napkins, scrap paper, on our smart phones, in our minds, and even on our hands. Most of us are wired this way. We need some semblance of order in our lives as much as we need to feel the effects of accomplishment. So we create lists—things we need to do, places we need to go, people we need to talk to or email, items we need to purchase, etc. When those items on our “to-do” list get crossed off, we feel a much needed sense of accomplishment. For many of us, if it doesn’t get on the list, it doesn’t get done. All too often the “need-to-do” item gets filed away in our brain, in that “lost-and-only-sometimes-found” box.

Lists—our attempt to be organized, our attempt to achieve, our attempt to complete.

I’m not knocking the “to-do” lists at all. As a matter of fact, I’m quite a list gal. I operate best when I have the visual list in front of me. And yes, it sure feels great as I see the items on my “to-do” list get checked off one-by-one.

Rethinking Your To Do ListBut have you ever thought about creating a “to-BE” list? Yeah, you heard me right—a “to-BE” list. I was challenged with that thought a while back. A friend and I got together to discuss what exactly is on our spiritual “to-BE” lists. You see, all too often we are consumed with what needs to be done, hence the “to-do” lists. We do, do, and do some more until we’re blue in the face. We teach Sunday school, join the PTA, serve at the local soup kitchen, tithe our 10%, sing in the choir, coach little league, or volunteer at the homeless shelter. But in the grand scheme of things, which is more important: what you do or who you are? This is a tough question, isn’t it? The easy answer of course is who we are is more important than what we do. However, we can’t get wrapped up in the “to-BE” list and totally neglect the “to-DO” list.

Here’s my challenge for you:  Take some time this week to generate a spiritual “to-BE” list. Who do you want to become? What kind of person do you want to be? Who does God want you to become? What kind of characteristics does He want you to work on and adopt for yourself?

Once your list is created, ask yourself how willing you are to work on accomplishing those things. (Granted, most of what’s on your “to-BE” list are things that will be life-long endeavors for you.) In order to complete your “to-BE” list, what things do you need to pray about, surrender, be held accountable for, let go of, share with someone, admit, dig up, or drastically change?

Here’s the thing…I tend to believe that if we generate a spiritual “to-BE” list, and focus on all God wants us to become, our “to-do” lists will be accomplished with greater grace and purpose in mind.

In the words of the Apostle Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Go forth and do…but more importantly, go forth and BE!

WHAT DO GRACE AND FROGS HAVE IN COMMON?

I’m not a fan of long processes. But oddly enough I find myself in them all the time.

The “love someone for who they are, not what you want them to become” is one very…long…process. And I’m not a fan of it at all. Because it’s long. Because it’s arduous. Because it’s taxing. Because it’s not pleasant. Because it takes all my energy. Because it requires more than I am capable of. Just…because.

Think of the people in your life that get on your nerves, weigh you down, drain the life out of you, make you crazy, are hard to be around, challenge everything you say, and keep you constantly in the classroom called patience. Surely you know some of these people. I know lots. And truth be told, they’re hard to love.

What Grace & Frogs Have In CommonI want to love them. I really do. And just when I think I’m making progress in that direction it occurs to me I do not love them for who they are. I love them for who I want them to become. I love the “better” version of them that I’ve created in my mind and heart. It’s as if I idealize the “prince/princess” version of them instead of embracing the “frog” version of them.

But if I’m to love like Jesus, I’ve got to love people, blemishes and all. I’ve got to love people where they are. I’ve got to love people in spite of everything I said in paragraph #3 above.

And that’s a process. Ugh!

God’s been teaching me more and more about grace lately. And I firmly believe it’s this thing called grace that will allow us to love someone for who they are, not what we want them to become.

Strangely enough, however, I find this thing called grace is quite frightening to lots of people. You see, grace says that you’ll never change someone into that “better” version. Grace says you perhaps have lowered your standard. Grace says it’s okay to hang out with less than the absolute best. Grace just might tarnish your reputation. Grace says there’s no difference between the frog and the prince.

And grace, too, is a process. Ugh!

Who do you find difficult to love?
Who do you find challenging to embrace?
Who do you find hard be around?
Who do you find tough to like?

Rather than see the blemishes—the flaws, the ugliness, the bad attitude, the negativity, the crusty parts—seek this thing called grace. It just might be where the contempt ends and the love begins.

WHY CRITICISM IS THE BEST WAY TO GO

There are certain things I just don’t understand.
There are certain things I can’t relate to.
There are certain things I criticize.

It all comes in one bundle it seems. I’m not proud of it, it just happens. And it happens to you as well. Think about it: when we don’t understand something, we can’t relate to it. When we can’t relate to it, we criticize it.

It not only happens with circumstances and events and situations, it happens with people too. There are people I don’t understand. There are people I can’t relate to. There are people I criticize.

That which we don’t understand—that which we can’t relate to—we criticize.

Grace

We don’t understand why our friends do the things they do. We can’t relate to it. Therefore we criticize. We don’t understand why our family members act or react the way they do. We can’t relate to that. So we criticize. We don’t understand why our coworkers choose the lifestyle they choose. We can’t relate to it at all. And because of this, we end up criticizing them and their situation.

We criticize what we don’t understand and can’t relate to. Why do we do this? Why do our minds instantly go down the critical path and walk all over the things we don’t understand and can’t relate to?

I think part of it is that we don’t want to understand. We don’t want to relate. We don’t want to identify with these things at all. It would take effort to try and understand. It would take thought and maybe a conversation or two. And why would we bother with that? It’s easier to not understand, not relate, to criticize.

But here’s another reason why we so easily criticize that which we don’t understand and can’t relate to: we want to maintain that we are better than what (or who) we criticize. We don’t consciously do this. But subconsciously we criticize because we want to feel better about ourselves. And we want to appear as though we’re better in the company of our friends, family, and coworkers, so we criticize openly.

There’s a lot I don’t understand. There’s a lot I can’t relate to. There’s a lot I criticize. But I’ll tell you what I’ve been learning the last year or two. It’s this little thing called grace. And grace has taught me that God makes unique people with unique situations. Grace has taught me that at the end of the day, I am no better than that which I don’t understand or can’t relate to. Grace has taught me to embrace people—not necessarily their choices—and love them for the unique individuals that God created them to be. Grace has taught me that it’s fine and dandy for me to cast the first stone if indeed I am without sin. Grace has taught me that I’m not.

Criticism is far easier than grace. Criticism is a better road to journey down for those who want to reserve the right to be above the rest. It’s the best way to go if you want to look better, feel better, and pretend you’re better than the rest.

But here’s the thing… From where I sit, an amazing kind of grace has been given to me—not to hoard for myself, but to give to others. If I have been given much grace, can’t I extend a little bit to others—to the ones I don’t understand…to the ones I can’t relate to…to the ones I criticize?

Some people don’t understand me. Some people can’t relate to me. Some, perhaps more than I want to know, even criticize me. Maybe eventually grace will teach them a thing or two.

WHY DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO BE SO LAME?

Why do Christians have to be so lame?

I’m telling you, there are some real dud Christians out there. There are Christians who bash others because of religious preference, sexual preference, political preference, choice of clothing or hairstyle or body art. There are Christians who criticize others because of their parenting style, lack of generosity, choice of music, whether or not you go to church, where you stand on abortion, or what neighborhood you live in. You name it, there are Christians out there who will go to great lengths to make sure you know your sinfulness, make sure you know how wrong you are, and make sure everyone else knows it as well.

UGH! All I can say is forgive us.

You see, I am a Christian. I have Democrat friends, Republican friends, gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Native American friends, Christian friends, non-Christian friends, tattooed and pierced friends, friends who drink, friends who cuss like sailors, friends who vote other than I do, wealthy friends, welfare friends, depressed friends, friends in therapy, divorced friends, friends who’ve had abortions, and on and on. I choose to love these people. I even choose to do life with them.

Here’s the thing…My identity in Christ doesn’t give me the upper hand on any of these folks. My identity in Christ doesn’t give me any authority to condemn other people just because they choose to do life differently than I. My identity in Christ doesn’t mean that I’m better, smarter, nicer, richer, saner, wiser, or more right than anyone else.

Unfortunately, however, there are Christians who firmly believe that if you do life differently than they do, you’re wrong and they’re right. We call ourselves Christians (Christ followers), yet our actions sometimes don’t resemble Christ at all. Again, why do Christians have to be so lame?

Let me enlighten those who are still reading… The world doesn’t get better by Christians going on the attack of everyone “different” than they are. The world gets better when Christians choose to embrace and live out what Jesus taught. And what Jesus taught wasn’t rocket science:

  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
  • Love your enemies and pray for the folks who do you wrong. (Matthew 5:44)
  • Do good to the people who don’t like you at all. (Luke 6:27)
  • Lend to your enemies without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35)
  • Love…other…people…(PERIOD). (John 13:34)
  • Forgive people. (Mark 11:25)
  • Don’t judge. (Luke 6:37)
  • Be merciful. (Luke 6:36)
  • Turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)
  • Be reconciled to others. (Matthew 5:24)
  • Treat people like you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)

In the words of The Lumineers:
Love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

Indeed, we’re bleeding out. The world is bleeding out. And Christians standing in condemnation of others just perpetuates the hemorrhaging.

To all my Christian brothers and sisters out there, stop being so lame! See others through eyes of Jesus. Have some compassion. Dole out some mercy. Lighten up on holding others in contempt of your judgmental court. Embrace humility. Serve somebody. Reach out. Be generous. Love the unlovable. Grab some grace and spread it thick.

Stop the hemorrhaging.

Stop being so lame!

 LOVE like Jesus … LIVE like Jesus!

ARE YOU GOD’S TARGET?

Do you ever feel like you are someone’s target? Like you’re the object of someone’s wrath or anger? Like, unbeknownst to you, you have a big bull’s-eye painted on your chest and the attacks from family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers just keep coming at you?

The insults, frustration, and jabs hurled at us by others can really pierce our heart, puncture our ego, knock us down, and wound us deeply, can’t they? Unfortunately we sometimes become the target of anger carried out by others—not because we’ve done anything wrong, but because we are perhaps a “safe” or “easy” target for others to nail. It’s not right, but it happens. And it’s not at all pleasant, is it?

targetBut let me ask you a different question. Have you ever felt like you were God’s target? Have you ever felt like He was the one aiming the arrows, piercing your heart, puncturing your ego, knocking you down, loading you up with one “wound” after another?

This is exactly the way Job felt. Job (yeah…that guy in the Old Testament) was a good guy. He hadn’t done anything wrong. But when everything was taken away from him (family, livestock, wealth, health, etc.), he felt like he was God’s target. He asked God, “Why have you made me Your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20). While speaking to his friends, Job said to them, “All was well with me, but [God] shattered me; He seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me His target” (Job 16:12). And again, Job lamented, “Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, [God] dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew His bow and made me the target of His arrows” (Lamentations 3:10-12).

That just sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Personally, I don’t believe this is the kind of God we have. Believe it or not, He doesn’t sit up there in heaven searching the earth through cross-hairs for people who screw up, only to pummel them with arrows of sickness, failure, tragedy, financial strain, bitterness, etc. As a matter of fact, 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

So, maybe we indeed are God’s target. But not in the way Job thought. Not in the way you and I sometimes think. He targets us to strengthen us. He targets us to support us. He targets us to grow and encourage us. He targets us in order to bless us.

From time to time, we may end up being the target for others in our midst. They may lash out at us occasionally because we’re “safe” or “easy” even when we’ve done nothing to deserve it. We may get caught in the cross-hairs and feel “punished” by others who have had a bad day. It happens.

But the next time you’re struggling and feeling like nothing is going your way, remember God isn’t a grand punisher aiming His arsenal of painful, destructive weapons at you. No, His ammunition just the opposite. His “missiles” are made of unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, power, restoration, redemption, and this amazing thing called grace.

So, don’t cover up the target painted on your chest thinking God is launching an all out assault on you punishing you to no end. Uncover it and let Him load you up with all of the good stuff He longs to give you even when life gets difficult. After all, if God is who He says He is, He’s got perfect aim and will nail you every time.

Let the missile launch begin. 🙂

WHAT IS GRACE?

Grace. Isn’t that the thing you say before you eat a meal?

Grace. Isn’t she your Great Aunt that died 20 years ago?

Grace. Isn’t that the word we use to describe ice skaters or ballerinas?

What is grace?

What is grace?

I always heard as a kid that grace was an acronym for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. And anytime some other kid gave this answer in Sunday school, they were applauded by the grown-ups as if this were the best definition of grace ever invented. I remember sitting there dazed and confused every time someone used this acronym to describe grace. I still am.

Is grace really about God’s riches? Does grace benefit God in some way? I must admit, this thought continues to puzzle me.

What is grace?

The best definition of grace I’ve ever heard is simply this: getting something we don’t deserve. (FYI…similarly, the best definition of mercy I’ve ever heard is simply this: not getting something we do deserve.)

Grace is:

  • Unearned favor
  • Something that cannot be merited or purchased
  • Being blessed by something of incredible value, although nothing of value was given in exchange
  • A huge debt being paid in full with no questions asked
  • Unconditional love with no strings attached
  • A gift…one received…one given

What is grace?

Anne Lamott once said, “I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Admittedly, I’m not an Anne Lamott fan per se, but I love this thought about grace.

You see, grace, fully formed and fully extended, should blow us away. When we truly understand grace, it should move us. When we stop to reflect on the abundance of grace given to us, it should touch us. Grace has the capacity to transform us from the inside out. Grace meets us in the mire, grabs hold of us, and gently cleanses us by the sheer tug of its wooing, loving hand.

That’s why the song says grace is amazing. That’s why the song calls it sweet. It is grace that enabled a wretched person like me to be saved from an eternity apart from God that I so deserve. It is grace that really does relieve our fears. It is grace that mysteriously, yet tenderly brings us through dangers, toils, and snares. It is by grace, and grace alone, that God made it possible to have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Not only are we privileged to be called children of God, but we get to spend an eternity with Him if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. We didn’t earn that. We didn’t work to receive it. We didn’t have to be nice enough, rich enough, good enough, smart enough, popular enough, or strong enough. Grace just happens.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

What is grace?

It is the extravagant gift of God. It is what you and I have been lavished with. Now…out of what we have been given in abundance, find a way to go give a little grace to those you encounter today.

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