LEARN THE UNFORCED RHYTHMS OF GRACE

Jesus ultimate invitation

Matt. 11: 29-30(the Message)“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I looked up the word ‘forced’ and I saw a pattern begin to form. Forced means compelled, obligatory, mandatory. Then it shifts to become strained, unnatural, artificial and insincere. From there we find knocked down, kicked in., wrung out and squeezed. Does that sound like your day, week or life? Yet Jesus calls us to a different way to walk in our hurried forced world. He calls us to learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Don’t you like the sound of that phrase? In our busy lifestyles this seems such an impossible thing. Yet, He invites us and welcomes us into that place with Him. A place in our spirit to rest, a place in our soul to breath, and a place to stop, look and listen, even if just for a few minutes.

Stop: Just stop! Just be. Believe it or not, God can handle the universe and even your problems for five or ten minutes without your help. Meditate on this phrase and pray, “Lord, help me learn the unforced rhythms of your grace.” Jesus stopped. In the midst of saving the world, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and teaching the disciples, he stopped. He stopped and blessed the bread. He stopped and noticed the lepers. He stopped to watch and see what His Father was doing, then he knew what he should do. He stopped, learned and walked in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Look: Open your eyes and REALLY see. Do you have a small child? Look at the intricacy of his tiny hands and toes. Can you look out a window and see the atmosphere and think, “Thank you for the abundance of oxygen today, enough for all of us and more besides! Thank you for the clouds that bring rain. Thank you for the beauty of the flowers, the many shades of green, the colors of the birds.” Look. Jesus did. He saw the beauty of the lilies. He saw the harvest of the fields. He saw the woman at the well. He saw the man up in the tree. He saw. He stopped, looked and saw in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Listen. What do you hear? The cries of a baby? The laughter of a child? The chuckle of an older person as they remember? The bird songs, the chatter of people on the street, the whir of a machine? The soft, quiet voice of God? Jesus listened. He heard all of these sounds and more. He heard the voice of His Father thunder as he was baptized. He heard the sounds of souls crying out for freedom. He heard the wails of death and the sighs of hopelessness. But he also heard the shouts of joy and celebration of births. And he heard the explosion of resurrection power that was coming.

He stopped. He saw. He listened and heard. Yet he never let any of these cause him to be out of rhythm with heaven because he had learned the unforced rhythms of grace.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.

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Chippy’s Back!!

 

Oh My! March, 2013 I wrote about a small sparrow I had named Chippy. Chippy was different than all the other flock of sparrows. His left leg was broken and dragging.

Today has been an unusually beautiful ‘bird’ day. This morning in addition to the bright red cardinals, the gloriously yellow finches, the deep blue indigo buntings, along with our regular doves, sparrows and a few titmice, we had several rose-breasted grosbeaks. They migrate through here, but are not seen on a regular basis. Now it is early afternoon, and usually I don’t have the opportunity to watch the birds, that’s a delight reserved for mornings and a cup of coffee.  As I glanced out the back door I noticed a few sparrows and to my surprise there was Chippy!  To tell the truth, I figured since his leg was broken, he wouldn’t really make it that long. After he didn’t return I thought, well, you know, the worst.

But now he’s back. After a whole year he is back, still singing his song of praise! I have no clue of the spiritual significance to this event. Is it a prophetic sign? Maybe. But just maybe it is a simple reminder from My Father of His love and care for his creation, even when we have broken legs, or broken hearts. He cares. He watches over us. He provides for us. He has taken care of Chippy and He takes care of me and you! Love the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” How true for Chippy and How true for us.

Be blessed today! It’s a good day! Chippy’s come home.

Ebenezer?

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” I Sam. 7:12 (The Holy Bible, NKJV)

As a child I sang the song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” As we got to the part that said, “Here I raise my Ebenezer” my friends and I would punch each other and giggle, at least until we got the elbow and stern look from our mom. To us and to many others the name ‘Ebenezer’ means an old, crotchety man like Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. However, later in life I learned the meaning of an Ebenezer, and that has become very special to me.

Recently I was privileged to share with a group of wonderful ladies from Vineyard Church in Jackson, MS. We talked about Ebenezer’s in our own lives, those times when the Lord ‘came through’ for us. Times when we desperately cried out to Him for help, times of great revelation of His love, or even times of sorrow when we felt His comfort. Here we raised our Ebenezer by placing a pretty stone in a small, white-net bag to take home and remember.

I’d like to share with you some of my Ebenezer’s in hopes that you, too, will start a treasure box of beautiful stones of remembrance. On those days when you just can’t seem to feel His love or your quiet times are truly quiet — nothing from Him and dry as toast –you can look at your Ebenezer and remember. A tangible reminder of His love, His provision, His peace.

Alabaster box with Ebenezers
Alabaster box with Ebenezers

I keep my stones of remembrance in small, lovely boxes, which have themselves become Ebenezer’s. I have two. I was ordained several years ago by a precious friend/minister. At that time she gave me an alabaster box she had purchased in Egypt on a prayer/mission trip. As several others prayed for me that day, they each gave me a small item of remembrance to place inside the box. This box has a prominent place in my living room and I remember the time and the words spoken over me on that special day, the day the Lord shifted my heart into a new ministry, a new place with Him. Truly an Ebenezer.

Carved box
Carved box

I have another Ebenezer box, smaller and not quite so elegant. As I look at this hand-carved wooden box my heart fills with joy and my eyes with tears remembering this Ebenezer. A kind, gentle man carved this box from a tree he and father had cut down some years ago. It is quite beautiful in its simplicity. Highly polished dark walnut with a snug lid covering the precious stones of other significant times. Inside the box the marks of the carving tool can still be seen which gives it more value. I see the open box with jewelsintricate handy work of a master wood carver and I am reminded how carefully and patiently he whittled small chips of wood away to form the inside of this lovely wooden treasure chest. As I received this special, small box I felt such honor and am still in awe that he would part with this precious gift from his hands and his heart.

 

Isn’t that a reflection of how our kind, gentle Father lovingly sculpts us, so carefully with his carving tool. He is not in a hurry. He knows just how much to ‘chip away,’ fashioning us into His masterpiece. As we are shaped into His treasure chest, he places precious jewels of reminders in our hearts. His love, His joy, His peace. Actually he places Himself there. What glorious riches we carry in our clay or wooden box. “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.” (II Cor. 4:7, The Message)

 

You are His Ebenezer!

You are His Ebenezer. His living stone of remembrance. As He looks at you He is reminded of how he made you into His image. (Psalm 139) He came to die on a cross to redeem you. (John 3:16) And as He remembers, you bring such joy to his heart that He sings His song, your personal song, over you.

“The Lord your God is in your center, within you. The Mighty One, your Champion, will cause you to be safe, free and will rescue you; He will greatly rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will dance over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17