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My Granny was one of my greatest spiritual mentors. It was not until she had a stroke and could no longer walk or talk that many of the words that she had spoken to me over and over throughout my life finally really sunk into me. It was like all of her teaching time was over, and the lessons were finally transferred to me, and I began saying the words back to her….reminding her of her own lessons as she suffered greatly at the end of her life. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.

“I finally get it Granny, and now we cannot talk about it together. You can no longer speak, and I am speaking your words back into you.”

But the good news is that although she is no longer with us I did finally get it, and she has left a legacy of spiritual wisdom here on earth.

Granny had many flaws and issues. She was far from perfect, but she lived a long life of fearless faith. She showed me the power of the Holy Spirit in a surrendered and humble human being. She never made a spectacle of herself when the spirit moved her. It was not for show with her. It was reality.

She taught me far too many things to mention in one short post, but a few small examples come to mind.

She taught me about the power of spoken words to create in our lives through faith or in fear. It is our choice.

She taught me that prayer works.

Everyone used to call her and say, “Will you pray for me about such and such because your prayers work.” She would always firmly tell me, “Your prayers work too! But, yes, I will agree with you in prayer of course.”

I will never forget walking into her bedroom as a little child crying with unbearable pain in my feet…..an odd ailment that tormented me many a night in my childhood. She whisked me upon the bed with Papa and her, grabbed my feet and began praying out loud for healing. She even commanded the devil to leave my feet alone which I thought was very strange even as a child…..but to my astonishment it worked! My feet instantly stopped hurting, and that had never happened before. It was a lesson in faith that bewildered me but that I also never forgot.

I sometimes quietly told myself that she was really an angel in disguise on earth. She had learned over her long life the art of  keeping a gentle tone in her voice when dealing with us kids, and her hair was even snow-white which fit the angel persona in my childhood mind.

Although she was quite the Alpha woman, a leader, a mover and a shaker….she was also gentle and compassionate in her approach…..a delicate balance of power and humility.

Even her death seemed divinely orchestrated. She passed away quietly in her sleep early one Thanksgiving morning when the family was already gathered in from out of town for Thanksgiving Day. And it seems fitting that she would leave us with one last message just by passing on that day…..Be grateful for all of life, but do not fear death for it is also a part of life.

Last year when my family suffered two horrible losses…..the death of a baby and the sudden death of a beloved young uncle…..my mom found a copy of a prayer tucked away in my grandmother’s keepsakes. We read it at our private outdoor memorial. It seemed like Granny’s contribution to us during this difficult time. It must have been a prayer that she kept close to her heart, and it is a prayer that I hope to live by every day. I will close with the prayer:

Keep us O God from pettiness: let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.

     Let us be done with fault finding, and leave off self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face without self-pity and without prejudice.

     May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

     Let us take time for all things: make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.

     Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight forward, and unafraid. Grant that we realize it is the little things that create differences and that in the big things of life we are as one.

     And may we strive to touch and know the great common human heart of us all, and O God, let us forget not to be kind.                                                                                                                                                                 Amen

 

I think that the revelation of grace is one of the best kept secrets of all time. People hear about grace, read about grace, talk about grace, sing about grace and even extend grace to others all the time, but very few seem to really “get it.”

I was raised in church my entire childhood. We were there every week an hour early for “Sunday School” and then stayed for the actual church service. We went to weekday services between Sundays, and I always attended or worked at summer Bible schools and camps.  I was blessed not to be in a fear based “hell-fire” atmosphere. There was a lot of love there and focus on giving to the poor. We were taught the actual Bible and not watered down stories even as kids so I had a very good foundation in teachings about grace, and one would think that grace would be a no brainer for me.

But my own experience is that grace really is a revelation or an epiphany that takes place in the soul or spirit. It is hard to describe it in words because it is almost beyond words. The word is “grace” and that does not really explain it. I have found that when I try to explain it to people they either light up with recognition because they have had this epiphany themselves or they look at me with eyes of confusion because they either do not understand what I am saying or they think that I am saying something wrong…I don’t know.

It was not until later in my adulthood that I had the realization of grace. And when I did I honestly felt as if I had been born into a new life.

I walked around in awe telling people “I feel like I have been struggling to get through a very tight dark womb and have finally been born into the light of the free world.”

The experience for me was so intense that I worried that people might think that I was a little “crazy.” They probably did.

I  remember saying, “Oh! This must be what those people mean when they say “born again!” But do they even know it?”

So what is it? How do I find the words?

Well I used to think that I had to try really hard to be “good.” I had to struggle to “do the right thing” all the time. I had to work hard. I had to help everyone that needed anything. I had to “be there” for everyone all the time. I had to strive and strain to achieve perfection, and with all of this hard work I would one day “arrive” at this Christ like state of being.

I would drop everything in my own life and help others…friends, family…no matter what. I was doing many “good” things for others. I was ALWAYS there if they needed me and not just there as a friend or in comfort, but I was there doing everything ..being everything…..I was playing God!

I was the one that they came too for literally EVERYTHING. I was very co-dependent. I was being their Holy Spirit. With me around no one had any need to go to God for anything. I had all of the answers and all of the help available 24 hours a day…Haha!

I was getting my self worth from “helping” everyone else…from being needed…from trying so hard to be good…to be God.

I was also getting more and more drained, depleted, and resentful. People never gave as much to me as I did to them. My own life and all of my own problems and issues were conveniently being ignored by me, and my own life was not going so great. I even dropped out of college several times because there was ALWAYS a big crisis in my dysfunctional family during the semester, and I would turn all of my focus onto that drama instead of my own life. Co-dependence is just another form of escapism.

So the revelation of grace did not happen overnight. I guess it was a lifelong process that finally came to a head, but when it finally clicked it seemed like it happened all of a sudden.

I realized that all of this trying and struggling and being everything to everyone was wrong. This is not the way to grow into the Christ-like being of love that I was hoping to emulate.

I realized that Christ does indeed dwell within me (Ephesians 3:17)…that the Holy Spirit is inside me (1 John 4:13)…that God which is love is within my very heart, soul, spirit and body.

I, like every human, am a unique creation. I am created specifically a certain way in order to express a unique aspect of God (love) on this planet at this time. I am created “in the image of God.” I, like everyone, am a unique ray of God’s immense love. This is cliché, but there has never been nor will there ever be another expression of God’s love on earth that is exactly like me so if I am not my true self…the “self” that I was created to be… then the world will not experience this unique aspect of God’s image ever again. In being my true “child of God” self I am fulfilling my purpose.

Grace is not about how hard I try, how much I do, how good I am, how much I struggle to be something.

Grace is about surrender…letting go…allowing the spark of God that I carry within me which is without limits…without fear…eternal and infinite to come alive on this limited 3 dimensional earth in this limited 3 dimensional body that I live in for this finite time.

It is nothing that I have or can ever earn by working hard and following rules, but as I surrender to this gift which is given to me because of the love of God that is within me and around me I am then COMPELLED to do the good things…the loving things that I was uniquely created to do.

I am no longer struggling to prove myself to God or others in order to earn love, approval, or status. I no longer have to wear myself out to do everything right and to be everything to everyone in order to achieve a Christ-like state of being.

When I let go of all of the struggling and trying and working, and I release myself from my inner task master in order to surrender to the spirit of love (Christ) that is within me I almost naturally but also supernaturally begin to walk on the path of fulfilling the purpose and doing the good works that God has purposed for me and my life……And that does not include every good work that my poor body can possibly do.

Yes…sometimes I catch myself slipping back into my co-dependent ways. I do not have it all perfectly figured out. I have not “arrived”

But I can at least catch it now at some point before it gets out of control because of the revelation of the grace of God which is given to me by the grace of God.

*”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.”   Matthew 11: 28-30 (Jesus’ words) emphasis mine

* “What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”   Luke 14:11 (Jesus’ words)(emphasis mine)

* “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”  Romans 8:1

* “If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.

 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”   Galatians 2: 18-21

Just like a mighty Oak Tree receives the light of heaven freely through its branches,

As I reach toward heaven the love of God flows freely through me by grace.

Just as the tree is nourished all the way to its roots by the sun,

So am I nourished through and through with the light of God.

As the tree sways in harmony with the breeze while remaining firmly rooted to the dark womb of earth,

I remain solidly grounded as I am moved in a dance like flow by the breath of the Holy Creator.

Everywhere I look nature teaches me about the love of the one who created it.

And in looking at the tree I am reminded that I too am a conduit between heaven and earth.
As I gently walk the earth in this dense physical body totally open-hearted and surrendered in spirit,

The love of Christ flows to me and through me, and I humbly become a bringer of heaven to earth.

I think that there are some Christians who just cannot understand why there are  certain types of non-believers who resist no matter how hard we hit them over the head with the Gospel. Why…we wonder…why do they dislike Jesus? Why are they so angry and annoyed with us? How can they not want to run to the Bible and to church. How can they reject the love of God? Why won’t they believe us???? (Shaking fist into the air)

Well I certainly do not have all of the answers about anything, but I do know at least a few of the answers to some of these questions for some people.

This is not intended to be an attack on Christianity. I am a follower of Christ and a believer in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I just think that it is important that we as Christians try to understand others more instead of judging them.

First of all we tell them that the Bible is true and that we know this because it was divinely inspired by God. It was spoken by God to prophets and apostles and men  (no women???) who wrote it down for us so that we can know and understand God. Well I understand this as a believer, but let me tell you what many people are thinking about this.

They are looking around at all of the other religions who also have Holy Books (Koran, Book of Mormon, Bhagavad Gita etc. etc.) that they also say are true. And they also claim that they know that their books are true because they were divinely inspired by God. They also believe that these books were given to prophets by God so that we can know and understand God and his ways.

Just like people who were born into Christianity or converted into Christianity were taught the Bible as the true Holy Book, others were born or converted into other religions and were taught that their book is the true holy book. And if you read these books there are some really good things in them, and there are some really strange things that are hard to believe in them as well as some really disturbing things.

Non-believers see this in the Bible too. They see some really good things and some really off the wall sounding, hard to believe things as well as some disturbing things. They know that the contents of the Bible were decided on by a group of men (no women???) and that some of the books were thrown out too. So they do not see why they should choose to believe us Christians over any other world religion. Many times non-believers see us all (religious people of the world) as equally brain washed to believe the faith that we were taught is true.

So they think, “Why should I believe this crazy story just because someone is telling me to believe it? After all that is how people end up in cults!”

They have heard it a million times before. They have had family members badgering them. They have been given Gospel tracks. They have had people coming to their door, and they have even been to church. So they are just getting annoyed by it all now. Telling them the same thing over and over is not working! Arguing with them, and telling them that they are going to hell is not working. Just like telling them how happy you are now that you have “found” Jesus while they can see right through you and can see that you are no happier than anyone else is not working either! It is making it worse because now they see you lying so now they really cannot trust you!

I say this because it is the people who have to constantly tell others and try to convince others that they are happy who are obviously not really that happy inside! People can tell! People who are genuinely happy or have genuinely changed do not have to constantly tell people or try to convince people. They do not have to say it at all. People can just tell!

So just like many Christians or believers in God in general see atheism as an arrogant and self elevating belief…..many atheists see Christians as arrogant and holier than though too. Yes, it does seem a bit arrogant and self-centered of an atheist to think that they are one of the few in the world who have been intelligent enough to escape belief in a mass delusion caused by brain washing or to think that there is no power higher than themselves. But many times they see Christians the same way.

They wonder why Christians think that they are the ones who are right about it all. Why do Christians think that their religion is true and everyone else in the world is believing some false doctrine. Why, they wonder, do Christians seem to think that we have the moral high ground? And why, they wonder,  do we seem to use the Bible to back up our own personal world views while completely ignoring some of the other things in the Bible that contradict our views. And why does the Bible itself seem  contradictory sometimes such as a merciful loving God sending people to eternal damnation or giving laws in the old testament that say that the men in the town should stone a woman to death if she is not a virgin at marriage! (Deuteronomy 22:20) But nothing is said about a man’s virginity. YIKES! This alone is enough to scare any woman or kindhearted sane man away!

This takes us to another reason that some people are completely turned off by us Christians. The whole hell thing……If we as humans love our children, who do wrong things constantly, enough that we would never lock them in jail or punish them with eternal torment and separation from us with no way back whether they believe in us or love us back or not…..how can our loving God send us, his children, to eternal hell for believing the wrong things during this tiny finite time that we have on earth? Why would God send us out of eternity into life on earth knowing that we have a few years to get it right before we are doomed to eternal torture and hell? Why would he say that we have a choice, but if we choose wrong during our short lives which are just a blip on the radar compared to eternity…… we will pay for it forever?

I actually had a friend tell me that he loved his daughter so much that he would never do this to her no matter what she did, and he could never worship a God that would do this to his children!…….heavy stuff.… I know. That’s why I am writing it because as Christians we need to understand these very valid concerns that people have about our loving God and our faith.

Another reason that some non-believers reject Christianity is because there are some very vocal Christians who completely reject science. They believe that in order to believe God and the Bible means that you must not believe that there is anything scientific about how God creates. They assume that if God spoke something into creation then there was no physics, quantum physics, chemistry or biology that occurred at that time. It just happened…..poof….and there is absolutely no scientific explanation. Some non-believers study science and understand it’s workings and so to completely ignore it makes these believers seem to be living in a fantasy world.

There are some (not all) Christians who try so hard to fit science into the Bible in order to legitimize Biblical truth that they end up missing the point. The Bible is not a science book. It was not intended to teach science or explain science so why are people trying to make science out of it? There is room for scientific truth and Biblical truth. Science does not cancel out the Bible, and the Bible does not cancel out science. The more that I learn about the intricacies of science and the universe the more amazed I become at God’s complexity, brilliance, and perfection.

And there are many more reasons, but I do not want to write an entire book on the subject so I will stop there, but you get the picture I hope.

I understand these questions and concerns because I have wrestled with them myself. I also talk to non-believers quite often and I understand where they are coming from. I am a believer, but I do not have all of the answers to these things unfortunately. I still wrestle with them at times. I have been given some explanations before that helped  a little but not enough to clear it all up.

So why do I believe at all? In a nutshell……

I grew up in church being taught about God, Christ and the Bible, but when I became old enough to think for myself  I could not believe all of it just because people told me to believe it. I did believe in God and in the love of Christ because I had too much experience with this love in my life to deny it. I could see that the words of Jesus were good, but I still had all of the concerns mentioned above plus some so I left the church and searched for about 10 years.

This search began with me being extremely angry with God for all that I had been through. I did even say,”Either there is no God or God hates me!” Deep down I knew that there was a God, but I was angry and hurt, and I let God know!

As I prayed and searched I came out of this anger. I studied many holy books from different religions including the Bible. I studied under several gurus and practiced different meditations and spiritual practices. I studied other cultures. I constantly prayed. That was the one thing that remained the same. I prayed.

During these years I had many many supernatural experiences. I had way too many tangible brushes with God to ever think that all of this life and the universe could be just a random coincidence. I actually learned so much during my time of searching, and I came to understand other people and their beliefs. Because of my learning and experience with other beliefs and cultures I am now able to connect with and understand different people so much better and without much judgment.

Honestly I cannot explain exactly how, but through all of my searching and learning and praying God brought me back around to Christ. I prayed continuously and genuinely cried out to God to show me the truth. And he did. He revealed things to me in a new way and did miraculous things in my life. But this time my belief was the real thing. This was not the religion that people told me I had to believe. This was not a belief just to keep me out of hell. This was not me blindly following my culture or my family. I had come to this belief through going out on my own in a search for truth. I had come to this belief through real tangible supernatural experiences. And I truly believe in the life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know the great love and mercy of God first hand.

I still wrestle with my faith and with unanswered questions, but God has revealed himself to me enough for me to know that I do not have to have the answers. I will never in this lifetime understand it all. I do not let that keep me away from God because God is way too complex for me to comprehend in my finite life with my limited brain. I just surrender it to him knowing that he is love, and he has it all figured out already.

I think that it is important for Christians to understand that there is a certain group of non-believers who have very legitimate questions, concerns, and problems with our religion. They are not going to believe because we tell them that they are going to hell or because we constantly preach at them or throw Bible verses in their faces. That just makes us sound more judgmental and self-righteous to them. And sometimes they may be right in thinking that.

If we refuse to understand them and accept that they have some good points to think about then we are not doing our job. If we refuse to acknowledge the hard questions and the confusing or even somewhat disturbing things about our own religion then we are leaving behind a large group of people who God loves dearly. And we are prohibiting ourselves from some of the most profound growth in God that can take place in a true believer.

If our own faith cannot withstand the hard questions then maybe we need to examine it and wrestle with it a little in order to grow stronger. If we are just believing because that is what we were always told and that is what we have always done, and we have never really faced the questions and doubts that we have deep inside then maybe we should just be honest with God about our doubts.

He knows already anyway, and I have found that when I bring my questions and doubts and fears to God I am always brought to a deeper faith in him and a more profound understanding in the end.