A Love That Pursues

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 NIV

It was easier for me to say nothing. I kept reasoning to myself that I didn’t want to create a rift in our relationship or cause unnecessary awkwardness. But the more I tried to make small talk, the more impossible it became.

Years of past hurt swelled in my heart. So with gentleness and restraint, I told my loved one how his choices affected me. To my surprise, he received it without bitterness or resentment.

What did surprise me was this: He didn’t know. He didn’t see how the ripple effect of his choices extended further than those he was in contact with on a daily basis. It affected his entire family, friends and loved ones.

As I look back on our conversation, I wonder how long he would have continued in oblivion if I’d said nothing. Years? A lifetime?

When I see a brother or sister veering off the narrow path God has for them, I often assume they know. I think they are aware of the consequences of their decisions and see the long-term effects, but often this isn’t true.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m honored to be sharing what these verses from James taught me over at Deeper Waters today. Click here to join us.

How Our Black and White View of the World is Ruining Our Witness

ruining our witness

My seven-year-old has asked questions for as long as he could string sentences together. He is a sponge learning about the world around him, and he loves figuring out how things work.

Often, he asks me a question I don’t know the answer to. And parents are supposed to have all the answers, right? But I don’t, so I simply tell him I’ll have to look into it and get back to him, or I’ll help him find the answer.

A few months ago, I discovered he was learning about storms at school. He loves engineering and science, and was repeating some of the things he’d learned about tornados, hurricanes, and floods.

Since he goes to a public school, I like to hear about his curriculum. I give him reminders about how God orchestrated all of this, and how nothing which takes place here in our solar system is out of his control.

I don’t do this so that he won’t ask questions, but so he will have a strong foundation for asking them. He continues to ask, and I am humbled because often, I have to search.

After a recent conversation I jumped on social media and found a rather heated debate taking place about whether it was ok for Christians to drink wine. Some of the comments were downright degrading.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m sharing over at Purposeful Faith today about the dangers of seeing everything in black and white. Click here to read the rest of this post.

black and white view

Bringing the Lost Soul Home

bringing the lost home

My first baby is a runner.

She doesn’t wear human skin or have opposing thumbs, but she’s a member of our family all the same. She’s a four-legged ball of mischief who looks like a cross between a Rottweiler and a Beagle. Her name is Zoe.

There are a hundreds of things which can beckon our mutt to the woods covering the mountaintop we call home, and most of them run on four legs too. She smells their scent, follows their trails, and despite the comfort of a warm house and a full bowl of food, she’s on the move before I can give my best whistle.

A couple of nights ago, I thought she was gone for good. Visions of coyotes and bears who call this mountain their home filled my head, and I was certain my runner had met her match.

When a watchful neighbor returned her to our doorstep, I collapsed onto her chilled, tail-wagging frame. I wanted to chide her and rebuke her for the worry and sleeplessness she’d caused, but all I could do was hug her and run my hands through her soft fur.

It wasn’t the rebuke that kept her here all these years. It was the kindness.

As I sat there, marveling at the sight of the dog I’d near given up as dead, I thought of certain family members and friends who, like my sweet Zoe, are runners. They run to escape hurt and pain that’s never healed. They run because they think God’s given up on them.

And deep down I know it’s not judgment which will bring them back, but love. Though we must speak the truth, we can do so without condemning those who are not ours to condemn.

I think about my own seasons of running and what brought me back to the feet of Jesus. It wasn’t finger pointing or raised eyebrows. It wasn’t a long list of rules or a tally of all the ones I’d broken.

It was grace. Undeserved, relentless grace.

God’s conviction may keep my path straight, but his grace keeps me in love.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4 NIV

 Does God correct those he loves? Absolutely. But the often clichéd phrase, “It hurts me more than it hurts you,” didn’t become cliché overnight, and it’s sentiment needs to be at the heart of all correction.

It takes a Spirit in tune with the Most High to walk the fine line between grace and truth. And the only way to walk it is time spent with Him, moment by moment, day by day.

May all of the runners who keep us up nights be drawn to the grace and love which saved us from ourselves.

May we be living beacons of light beckoning even the most lost souls home.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday, #CoffeeForYourHeart

Why We Don’t Need to Fix People

control freak

The realization came as a blow to both my pride and my false sense of control. He did not want me to fix it. He wanted me to let it go.

For months I’d offered opinions as much as I’d offered up prayers.

For months I’d judged behavior more than I’d offered love and support.

Sleepless nights left me seeking apologies from those closest to me. I knew they were not the source of the problem, but often our wailing falls on whatever ears will listen.

In the midst of my utter lack of control, I tried to keep a spotless home. One day in early fall a friend stopped by for an impromptu visit and remarked on how immaculate my home was. It the middle of the day, but everything was tidy and in its place.

She had no idea how chaotic my life felt. She didn’t know how in my current season, this house was the only place I felt peace.

There are few valleys more brutal than watching a loved one self-destruct. And while you desire nothing more than to offer a permanent solution, the only Fixer is not of this world.

True soul mending comes from above and within, not pat answers and easy formulas.

The best answer we can offer? Unconditional love. Though we draw a boundary to protect ourselves and our families, we let our brothers and sisters know we will love them no matter what.

We will be here when they come home. We will be here when they decide to call on the Name of the only one who can heal even the deepest hurt.

Jesus came to heal the sick so we could share his gift with others, not judge others.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Matthew 9:12 NIV

I think of how far he’s brought me far from the pit I was in, I know it is only by his divine grace that I am here. It is by his mercy that I am not still wallowing in my depression, my anger and resentment.

The only trait which distinguishes me is that I called on the name of Jesus when I was at my worst. And he transformed me into someone who could bring Light and life to those who don’t know whose name to call.

I want to be a Light-bearer, not a control-freak. Lord knows the world is much safer in his hands than mine. So today, I’m giving it to him.

I’m giving him the weight of the world. I can’t handle it on these frail shoulders anymore.

I’m trading my clenched fists for hands extended in praise. Because I know in his sovereign power and grace he can transform any heart and exalt it, in his time.

And time is something I don’t want to waste.

 

*Photo credit

*Linking up with #LiveFreeThursday and #GraceAndTruth. Come join us and be inspired.

When You Withhold Grace

extend grace

They turn on each other in a New York minute. One second they’re playing nicely together, sharing toys, and laughing. The next I hear screams of “Mama!” as my six-year-old chases his younger sibling through the room.

Part of me wants to just close the door and lock them in there. But I figure I should at least see if both kids are still alive.

After I kneel down on the floor and get the scoop on what happened, I tell both boys to apologize. I am struck by how quickly they forgive each other. There are no grudges held over what happened or didn’t happen. They simply return to their toys and pick up where they left off.

Later, as we’re winding down for the evening and saying the evening prayers with the boys, it hits me. I see the example of grace God is giving me through my children. He is always teaching me through these little vessels who stretch me in more ways than I can count.

While my kids freely extend grace, I often withhold it. Isn’t it interesting how the older we get, the more fiercely we hold onto something that Christ freely gave?

We act as though we are wiser and try to be anything but vulnerable. We protect our hearts from anything which threatens to wound or cause pain.

Often, we throw around the phrase, “You’re acting like a child” as an insult, but didn’t Jesus say for us to have the faith of a child? Didn’t he command us to let all the little children come to him, and not hinder them?

If we are honest, there are a lot of things we could learn from our children.

And if I take an honest look at my life, the times when I’ve withheld grace are too numerous for me to count. I see friends and family members freely forgive and reconcile with someone who hurt them, and I wonder how they could be so naive. I speculate about how long it will be until further damage is done.

I see my God extend grace upon grace to those I love, but often I would rather see him deliver judgment. After all, doesn’t judgment bring repentance?

As I open the pages of my Bible, I’m struck with the truth of his word,

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Romans 2:3-4 NIV (emphasis mine)

The fact is, friends, that God’s grace illuminates my sin. And my sin makes me uncomfortable.

It is much easier to put a microscope on the faults of others than to put a mirror to my own.

However, in doing so, not only am I causing God to withhold grace, but I am ensuring his judgment. And the judgment will not be on the one I’m pointing my finger toward.

It will be against me. I am desperately aware of my need for forgiveness, and of the number of times I fall short every day.

There is only one person who belongs in the judgment seat, friends, and trust me, it is not a responsibility that you or I want. That task belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

When I extend grace, God’s favor is extended to me.

Let’s hand over the gavel to the One who can handle the weight that comes with it.

Let’s replace it with the grace that was given so freely to us.

 

*Linking up with Kelly Balarie & FriendsHolly BarrettMeredith Bernard, and Jennifer Dukes Lee to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.