A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.

Closer to the Light

How many times have we talked about how Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted? 

Probably enough times that you’re sick of hearing about it….

But it’s true. One of Jesus’ primary purposes in coming to earth was to mend broken hearts. 

I bet you and I could each fill a notebook with the names of friends and families who fall into the brokenhearted category.

In my dream the other night a young homeless girl just needed to be comforted. The weight of the world was crushing her and she found herself all alone. 

Do you know where she was?

At the school library! (See, libraries and librarians are awesome!) 

The librarian knew something was off with the girl and reached out to her. When she did, the girl started to sob. The messy, uncontrollable kind of sobbing that comes from knowing you’re finally safe, someone will help you.

And that’s all the librarian said as she wiped away the girl’s tears: “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now.”

How many times a day do I pass up an opportunity to comfort someone?

If Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, that means it’s my job to help the brokenhearted. 

This is where following Jesus gets real…

It’s also why the Lord gave me this dream. He only shows me stuff that paints a clear picture of where I’m headed in life. 

Friend, my heart is changing.

I think I finally understand why Jesus said lights aren’t meant to be hidden. 

Following Jesus will always take you straight into the darkest places, places where most people are afraid to go.

You will find the brokenhearted, the poor, the sick, and the oppressed in these dark places. 

Picture a light in the distance getting closer and closer to where you are. Bringing hope and light to the darkness is why Jesus came in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Living out the story

Aren’t cliff hangers the worse? 

To be Continued…

No one wants to see this at the end of a TV episode. And don’t even get me started on movies with 50,000 parts. Or book series where the next book isn’t coming out for another 18 months. 

Just tell me what happened!

Thankfully, the Bible tells us the whole story of Jesus. 

This is also why I’m trying to take it easy on the apostles as I read through the gospel. They didn’t have the full story like I do.

Come on, Peter! 

Thomas, what’s your problem?!?

James and John, did you seriously just ask Jesus to give you the best seats in the house? 

Here’s how I look at it: When I start doing everything Jesus asks me to do–without running my mouth first–I can pick on the apostles. 

By tracing the the faithfulness of God throughout His story, I am learning how to trust Him when I don’t have the full story (which is a lot).

Marvin Yoder, my teacher for Bible Interpretation, taught us about the Principle of Application today. I loved Mr. Yoder’s thoughts on seeing ourselves doing the works of Jesus and the early church. 

As Christians, the Bible is the final authority in our lives. However, if I never apply it to my daily life, it’s still just a story.

If Jesus healed, so can I.

If Peter could stand before a crowd and know exactly what to say by the Holy Spirit, so can I.

If Paul and Silas can sing praises in jail after being beaten for their faith, so can I.

 I’ve reached the point in my faith where I’m convinced that not taking the Bible to heart, that not living out the scriptures as practical, do-able truths is the number one reason the world sees the gospel as powerless. 

 

 

 

 

The Color of Grace

The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams is a great book. 

Be warned: It’s intense and some of the stories are tough. 

Bethany is the founder of Exile International. 

She works with former child soldiers to overcome their grief and trauma using art therapy. 

These kids, despite their pasts, are full of hope, a hope that what’s in front of them is better than anything in their pasts. 

These kids love God and thank Him everyday–even though many are orphans living in an impoverished area. 

I walked away from the book totally wrecked…

The redemptive power of Jesus Christ is much more powerful than what we see and hear about in the West. 

There is no difference between the Jesus of the developing world and the Jesus of the West. 

Only a difference in the mindsets of the people. 

 I encourage you to check out The Color of Grace. 

Just be prepared for your perspective to shift. 

Redemption Stories, Part 2

I enjoy listening to other people’s stories, especially men and women  who really love Jesus because of their redemption from a rocky past.

I think about the lady who annointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and washed His feet with her tears…

All of her sins were forgiven! She was so thankful. 

I know that I can look back  over my life and see all my past sin, pain, guilt, shame, and hurt–I’ve been healed from so much!–that God’s goodness is overwhelming in comparison. 

Some people get really uncomfortable about such open displays of gratitude. “Can’t you tone it down a little?” they ask. 

All Jesus says is, “It’s okay. I really appreciate your act of worship, your sincere devotion.”

There are many Christians who feel like they did Jesus a favor by accepting Him, but what did we have to offer?

Enough baggage to fill a cargo plane? 

Empty attempts to gain the approval of others?

In Romans 8:17, it says that we are joint heirs with Jesus, meaning that we are each other’s inheritance. 

This is awesome news for us because it means that all of God’s blessings are given and not earned. Though,  it got me to thinking:

Jesus got the bum end of the deal. 

 I don’t mean this disparagingly, either.  It’s just that in light of His great sacrifice it’s hard for me to be real uppity about how awesome I am. 

Without Christ, I am nothing and I have nothing, so all I have for Him is gratefulness and a heart full of worship.

This is why I get so excited to hear redemption stories and to share my own. 

We were redeemed at great cost and the chance at a do over is more than we could ever imagine. 

Overflowing Love

When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples, He told them not to take anything–not even an extra change of clothes!

The early church sold all of their extra stuff (they shared everything else) and dumped the money at the apostles’ feet. 

The widow in the temple gave everything she had. 

Paul teaches us the secret of contentment: Do all things through Christ who strengthens you whether you’re broke or rich. 

We’re told to not covet in The 10 Commandments and by Jesus Himself. 

We’re told to seek The Kingdom first because God is the supplier of our every need. 

And I could keep going with examples!

I’m packing up to move and I wonder if I’m too greedy…

Am I willing to give everything away?

To share everything?

To see my life–time, giftings, possessions, and money–as simply a means to help others?

I want to say yes. I want it to be an all-the-time truth, but I struggle…

Can’t something be mine?

Here was God’s answer:

Yes, the one thing no one can take away is your relationship with Me. What else do you want?

Ouch!

God is an all-in kind of Father. He gave us everything He had. Nothing was held back from us. 

I want to be that kind of person. 

I want to be all-in. 

My life was so empty before my relationship with God. No amount of success or approval or stuff could fill the void. 

My response to His great grace is that I want to live a life stripped bare of anything that keeps me from being full of Him, of His overflowing love. 

Redemption Stories

unityThere is great power in our personal stories (Christians call this their testimony, but story fits just as well here).

I heard several after Mr. Kirk Dubois finished up announcements on Thursday. He invited students up to share how they ended up at Rhema.

Looking at my fellow classmates now, you would never know about their pasts. Coming to Christ radically changed their lives–and the lives of many of their family members as well. 

Today is Good Friday. At 3 PM, Jesus died on the cross. He was falsely accused, mocked, and ridiculed. The events of His Crucifixion were foretold in the Old Testament and by Jesus Himself.

Isaiah 53 says:

He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed (MSG).

What gets me in this passage is Jesus was “a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand”. The King James calls Jesus a Man of Sorrows. 

Many people claim that no one understands their pain, their suffering.

First off, that’s simply not true. There are others (probably more than you realize) who can identify with you. 

Secondly, Jesus knows your pain.

Blow by blow Jesus was beaten and all of His blood was shed.

Our sins are the reason Jesus willingly laid down His life. 

As you observe Good Friday, maybe even for the first time, meditate on these truths.

Our stories were redeemed because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

Not-so-fun lessons

IMG_1566If you know me, you know that I like when things are fun. The more fun something is, the better! 

And, today, I had to learn a not-so-fun lesson…

 

I had to bite my tongue and walk away from some unnecessary rudeness that was directed towards me. 

What I wanted to do was react–I was angry!

What I chose to do was to walk away and to forgive.

Everything within me wanted to lash out. The words were right there, aimed and ready to be fired.

Honestly! I’m a student at Rhema! I sit under the Word for 3 hours a day. And I can’t control my tongue? 

It was this thought that stopped me from doing something stupid, from tearing someone to shreds over nothing, really. The lady was being herself and I know her heart was not to send me into a frenzy. 

Why am I sharing this story?

Because words matter and reputations are ruined in minutes. 

And here’s a reason even better than not making yourself look like a fool:

Every person matters. Tearing someone down is destroying what God says is most important. 

This is why the Bible talks a lot about how to interact with others–and giving someone a piece of your mind is not one of God’s instructions.

Now, let me throw the grenade, the thought that had me repenting pretty fast: 

How many times have I been forgiven for being careless with my words? 

BOOM!!!!

Put down your weapons, Audra. This is no time to attack.

Some lessons are not fun to learn. The sooner you learn them, though, the sooner you can get back to helping and loving others, which is the most fun you and I will ever have. 

 

 

Share your story

I want to share a praise report with you…

A father and daughter were reunited because my dad shared our story with the father. 

The father is watching our video series to help him navigate this new relationship. 

And a couple of other men are now encouraged to reach out to their abandoned children, too. 

I am incredibly humbled by this news, especially since sharing this part of my life has been a stretch for me.  
Thank the Lord for allowing my dad and I to help others. God gets all of the glory because it’s only by His grace any of this happened. 

Abandonment is a big issue in our world. A growing percentage of children are being ditched by the people who are supposed to love them the most. 

Sadly, most of them see God as another bad parent and walk the other way. 

One of the biggest desires of my heart is to help these hurting children–child and adult alike–see the love of God for them. 

The revelation of God’s love will heal the wounds of broken hearts. 

The power of redemption is best expressed through the narratives of redeemed and restored lives. 

I encourage you to share your story and watch how God uses it to change lives. 

The things left undone

Many years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the Book of Common Prayer. I must admit that it didn’t take at first…

Everyone saying the same prayer?

The entire gathering scripted from beginning to end?

The notion seemed backward and antiquated. 

(I’m thankful the Lord forgives us for our ignorance.)

Eventually, I understood the value of this style of worship. I fell in love with the poetry and the historicity of liturgical literature. 

Here’s my favorite prayer:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

What’s been left undone can haunt me. We’ve talked a lot about what it means to be enough. 

The things left undone can send me spiraling into “I’m not enough” faster than anything else. 

Friend, you’ll never be enough on your own. If you could do that Jesus’ sacrifice would be unnecessary. 

Do the best you can right where you find yourself. There’s grace for where you falter. 

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing your own limitations or acknowledging areas that need improvement. That’s why the above prayer speaks to me so much. 

I need help, I mess up, but my confidence remains firm in a gracious God who equips me to do all things.