Sunday grace

Sometimes the heart is heavy.


Sometimes it’s caused by the same burden I’ve carried before, the same one I’ve laid at the feet of Jesus again and again. I go back and pick it up too many times. I finger it and examine it, wondering if I will be able to figure it out this time, will be able to  make some sense of it.

But I don’t. My mind won’t wrap around this thing that weighs down my heart, makes me sad and weary, brings me to tears.

It is like that thorn in the flesh Paul talked about, that one thing he prayed three times to be removed. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, the one whose faith amazes me, who learned to be content in the most horrendous of circumstances, who had one focus and only one; this Paul could not get a “yes” answer to that one prayer he prayed three times.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

That was the answer to Paul’s prayer. Grace.

Grace is always the answer. Always sufficient. The undeserved mercy from a merciful and compassionate God who knows the beginning and the end of my life and all the days in between. He planned me, planned for me, and has a plan for this day and all my days to come.

He invites me, compels me to come, me who is weary and heavy laden.  Me who often is faithless, doubting My God is who He says He is. Me who wonders who I am and can I really do all things through Christ?

He offers rest. His admonishment is this:

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.”

There are lessons to be learned here at the feet of Jesus. Lessons I seem to want to skip over. Things like surrender. Things like trust.

“For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.”

My Savior is gentle with me. His call is tender and sweet. He sings over me with words that soothe the ache inside, calling me to come and find rest for my weary soul.

At the feet of Jesus I will lay my burden down.
Once more, I will lay my heavy burden down. *

Sunday grace.

* [Click on the link above to hear Steven Curtis Chapman sing “At the Fee of Jesus.”]


Sunday grace

The grey clouds shower and still the birds give their morning concert. Through my open window I hear them. They do what they were created to do in the morning. They sing.

The week has been a flurry of activity, some planned and happily anticipated. Some unexpected and endured. I put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.

The longing in my heart calls for action and I want to do something. I, the one who tries to figure out how to fix things, am learning once again that I cannot always fix things.

And so I prayer the prayer that never fails, the one author Jan Karon wrote often in her Mitford Series books: The will of the Lord be done.

It was the prayer of my Savior. It was the prayer of Paul the apostle. As my years increase, it has become my prayer more often.

The will of the Lord be done.”

Hadn’t I read it many times? Andrew Murray told me years ago that God’s will is my dwelling place. A place of peace and assurance, a place to settle and be content, no matter what comes, where God’s abiding and strengthening presence is with me.

I count graces and gifts in my journal, the obvious joy and the hard Eucharisteo, knowing that all things are working for my good and for God’s glory.

The verses of Scripture clipped to my memory board, I keep repeating them to myself :

Rejoice always,  pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 24

And so I will be like the birds and sing in the rain and in the sunshine. I will be joyful and give thanks and dwell in the will of the Lord. I will surrender to the process of sanctification, spirit, soul, and body. And when I find I am unable to do it in my own power, I will trust the One who is all-powerful and completely able to do more than I can ask or imagine.

The One who calls me is faithful, and He will do it.

Sunday grace.



I remember sitting in the big church house, just a little girl swinging her legs back and forth under the pew.  My mother and father are on either side of me.  Familiar faces surround me.  The organ plays strong and the piano accompanies.  The leader at the front sings,

“I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.”

And my tender, simple child-heart surrendered to Jesus.

I grew older.  My feet touched the floor as I sat up straight and listened to the sermon.  And once again, I heard the invitation, “Surrender. All.”  I left my comfortable place on the pew and went forward to kneel at the altar.  I cried and surrendered.  I thought it was my all.

How many times have I prayed that prayer?  Too many to remember, too many to count.  Each time I thought I was surrendering it all.  And perhaps I was.  Perhaps each time of my surrender, it was all I knew to give to my Savior.  Perhaps that is the gentle way of our Lord, to call for another surrender and another as He reveals my heart to me and says, “Do you love me more than these?”

I don’t always understand the ways of the Spirit’s working.  He is mysterious.  He is patience and persistent.  He is full of grace.  And He is tenacious and unrelenting and unwilling to let me stay the way I am when there is so much more.  There is an abundant life in His presence where there is fullness of joy and He wants that for me.  It is His desire that I get there somehow, someway, at a place of surrender.

And oh, I want that!  That full-to-overflowing life where I am ever aware of being in the presence of my Lord and I am filled with joy.

But sometimes it alludes me.  And once again I am called to surrender.  Once again, I bow to His will and relinquish.

The plan of Christmas was a surrendering.

God surrendered His One and only Son for the purpose of paying humanity’s unpayable sin debt.

Jesus surrendered His life and the glories of Heaven to be confined to an earthly existence with all the pain that would accompany it.

Mary surrendered her body and her reputation to the Holy Spirit, a vessel of life for a Baby like no other.

Joseph surrendered his honor, his plans, his future because of a dream and a command to obedience.

Shepherds and wise men surrendered their common existence to seek out the miracle that would change them forever.

You and I, we have the opportunity to surrender to the Christ Child who came to offer so much more than what we cling to.  I’ve grasped for what I thought was mine, holding on with clinched fist, expecting it would bring me a forever and complete happiness.

It didn’t.

And so today, I surrender again.  I surrender all that is in my hand and all my hand reaches for, all my heart’s longings, all my hopes and dreams.  I surrender all.

Tomorrow I will do it again.

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart  and my portion( forever.”




Living with open hands

I read a book years ago called Open Heart, Open Home which was aimed at hospitality.  I gleaned from it how to welcome people into the home even on the days when it was in less than pristine condition.  I struggled with that early in my marriage, wanting everything perfect before company came.  It was an impossible dream.  Learning to open my home without all the pressure of perfection was a great relief, and seeing it as a ministry was something I could embrace.  I could focus on my guests rather than trying to be the ultimate hostess.

The concept of open heart has evolved for me over the years as well. I am basically an introvert who is willing to be in the background, the listener of conversations, comfortable with my non-voice.  As a result I have been perceived as aloof, unfriendly, and stuck up. That is not the persona I wanted so I made the effort to become less shy, more open, and welcome people into my heart.  Again the focus was on others, and less about me.

It’s taking a lifetime of learning for God to bring me even close to the person I was meant to be.  I’m nearer than I was but a long way from being there.

Recently I have been making the effort to live with open hands, a concept that should not be new to me, but it has recently become a guiding light.  Perhaps it is because my own plans have run aground so many times in the last several years.  Perhaps because I’ve finally given in to not being in control at all. Perhaps because what I wanted most was not within my grasp and what’s a girl to do with that?

“Living with expectations kills relationships,” I read and am finding it profoundly true.  My unmet expectations produce frustration, anger, resentment, and discontent.  And that is not a happy place to live.

I’m figuring out that even the best laid plans of mice and men and me do so often go awry.  Can I be at peace with that or will I flail against the reality that what I think I want isn’t going to materialize?  Can I be joyful in whatever state I am in?  Can I learn to be content with less than hoped for by opening my hands and living without expectations of others fulfilling my wishes?

I am making the effort.  I find my hands clenched too often, holding onto, grasping for what I believe will make me happy.  But then happy is transient and when it flies away like the summer butterfly, what is left but a fist full of unmet expectations.

I can only pray for the grace and help to do what I know I need to do, live with open hands.  It goes against my selfish nature, but I want to live in servant-hood reality not in a serve-me fantasy.

So I pray,

“Lord and Maker of all, You knew me before anyone else.  You chose my personality.  You gave me gifts to be used to bless others.  You continue to work to form me into the image of Your beloved Son who made the role of Servant the highest and best job description.  He lived with open hands, always reaching out to give, to heal, to restore, hands that invited others to come but always gave them the choice.  Please make me more like Jesus.”

And open hands are ready and waiting to be filled with good things, unexpected blessings, just what I needed all along.