Filled

Maybe this hurting world needs to be inspired by recognition of the pleasures of goodness instead of the consequences of sin, and news of works inspired by faith instead of efforts based on despair and resignation.

Maybe it’s time for a shot of goodness right into the heart of darkness.

“With this in mind, we constantly pray that our God will empower you to live worthy of all that he has invited you to experience. And we pray that by his power all the pleasures of goodness and all works inspired by faith would fill you completely.”

(2 Thessalonians 1:11,12 TPT)

There is more.

Grace/Disgrace

green vase limp flowers

I was known, as a child, as the kid who asked too many questions. I remember one exasperated church lady saying, “Questions! Questions! Why do you have to ask so many questions? Why can’t you just have faith?”

I felt reprimanded and like I was about to be assigned to the lower decks of the good ship Faith. I thought about it for a while, then realized that if I didn’t have faith that God is good and has an answer waiting discovery, I wouldn’t be brave enough to ask questions.

I still ask impertinent questions, but now I have a somewhat better sense of where and when it’s safe to ask them. Maturity or pragmatism? I’m not sure.

I ask God a lot of questions. Sometimes I get a direct answer in sundry ways. Sometimes all I get is a nudge to rephrase or ask a better question. Sometimes God asks me a question in response to my question. That happened this week.

I woke up to the clear question, “What’s the opposite of grace?” (I was too focussed on how wonderful my pillow still felt to come up with it myself.) Two mugs of coffee later I contemplated the opposite of grace. The question, “What does grace feel like?” (here) took months to answer. I’ve learned not to rush when my heavenly Father asks something he already knows. Something important this way lies. This time it didn’t take as long.

What is the opposite of grace? Disgrace, I guess.

And what is disgrace?

Help me out here, dictionary. The pre-fix dis means to do the opposite, to deprive, to exclude, expel, annul. If we put the prefix dis on a word it changes the meaning to the opposite. To empower is to give power to someone. To dis-empower is to remove power. Dis-ease is a medical condition that negates ease. When a lawyer is dis-barred, he is not called to the bar, he is sent away from the bar. It’s like a “not” added to the word. Dis-agreeable means not agreeable. When we say something is a disgrace it is without grace. It is loathsome, unhelpful, shameful. When we say someone has been disgraced, they have been dis-honoured, shamed.

I think that’s it. When someone has been disgraced, when there is no grace for them, they have been shamed. When someone is a disgrace, they are an embarrassment, a source of shame, an object to be rejected. (Guilt comes from something we have done wrong. Shame is the feeling that we are something wrong.)

There you have it. The opposite of grace is shame.

Why are you asking me this, Lord?”

So then, what is grace?

Your grace is the empowerment to become the person You see when You look at us.*

Grace is not an excuse to be content with dis-obedience or dis-function. Grace empowers transformation. Ah! I get it. Dis-grace wraps a wounded soul in a trash bag, hides it in the trunk, and hauls it to the dump when no one is looking.

I realized how many times I have seen dis-grace masquerading as grace: unrequested judgmental prayer or “prophetic words” that mislabel, unfaithful “wounds of a friend” that leave marks, demands to maintain “standards” that are really about maintaining power, discipleship training that instills dependence on a leader, sermons emphasizing sin-focussed “shoulds” that dis-courage, or traditions that make putting on a façade of respectability more important than enjoying the freedom found in a loving, honest relationship with God.

I realized that although I write about grace, I still have areas of my life in which I have believed the lie that I didn’t just do something wrong, I am something wrong. Every time the enemy of my soul wants to make me less effective, he tugs on the lie like yanking on a rug and I topple over. Sometimes I even hide under the rug. I have not always soaked in the grace God lavishes on us, but rather have self-applied dis-grace, mistakenly thinking that shame could motivate anything other than temporary change.

My prayer in the days before I heard the Lord’s question was like David’s in Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. (verses 23, 24 NASB)

After I asked to be shown any place where a lie had taken residence in my heart I saw an area of my life in which I felt like I was still a failure, even after years of effort to measure up. For the next few days, I was sucked into a vortex of shame and anger. (But God! It’s not fair!! I have tried so hard!) I wanted to hide. I realized later, that in his kindness God was not showing me the hurtful way at the root of so much frustration; he was showing me the shame that kept me bound to the lie that I expected him to reject me like so many others have.

He hasn’t rejected me. Instead, in his kindness, he is showing me a little more of who he is, and a little more of how he sees me. Shame is what he intends to remove by his grace. He says I am a person he enjoys walking with. He continues to lead in the everlasting way.

*via Graham Cooke.

To Walk in Wisdom and Discover Discernment

eager hill trail ch sq

Today I have been asking, “What’s really going on here?” Spiritual discernment involves far more than sensing something is off and coming up with an argument to beat someone at I-know-more-Bible-quotes-than-you. Spiritual discernment is also far more than sensing something is on, because it backs up my opinions.

Spiritual discernment means gaining a sense of that which is not obvious — the forces and mindsets that influence us without our being aware of them unless we learn to pay attention. Discernment means stepping back out of the current of flooding emotion or the apparent logic of “facts and statistics.” It’s not suspicion. It’s not cynicism. It’s a matter of seeing the bigger picture and understanding the times.

I have also been asking for wisdom. It is one thing to see things as they are and another to understand what to do to bring about change. May I admit the phrase, “It is what it is,” feels like defeat to me? I react with irritation, particularly when it’s delivered with a sigh of hopelessness.

There must be more than this. Which voice is telling me there is no hope? Which voice is reminding me Jesus promised he will never leave me and his grace is the empowering force to transform me into what he sees when he looks at me? Which voice am I actually paying attention to?

I didn’t feel very powerful today. I was tired of dealing with another life test. I needed to get away and go for a walk with the Lover of my soul. No talking. No doing. Just being. Just listening.

When I got home I read this:

My child, never drift off course from these two goals for your life:
to walk in wisdom and to discover discernment.
Don’t ever forget how they empower you.
 
For they strengthen you inside and out
and inspire you to do what’s right;
you will be energized and refreshed by the healing they bring.
 
They give you living hope to guide you,
and not one of life’s tests will cause you to stumble.

(Proverbs 3:21-23 TPT)

Lord, thank your for your never-failing love. Reveal to us the way that leads to wisdom and discernment. We thank you for provision for empowerment, strength, inspiration, energy, refreshment and healing. Show us how not to drift into distraction but keep our eyes fixed on You, our living hope.