It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

A year ago today, my life changed dramatically in one moment.  I had already begun the search for a smaller house as we moved from just talking about downsizing to doing it.  This was already a major change for someone who had lived in the same home for twenty years.

For the first time in too long, that morning I had stopped my normally busy activity just to worship my wonderful heavenly Daddy.  In those moments, He dropped into my heart that we were to relocate from North Carolina to Texas in this downsizing.  While there was no doubt about what He revealed, and there was no doubt that I would go, it didn’t stop the tears as I reminded Him of what He had already heard so many times, But I hate Texas!

DSCN0615 hungry babies croppedOver the course of the next nine months (interesting how it coincided with the timing of a natural birth,) besides an amazing European adventure, my shoulder surgery and my husband’s two separate foot surgeries with their accompanying recoveries, we planned and prepared and prepared and planned for the sale of one home and purchase of another, as well as the physical move.  Along the way, our minds were changed.  Just as the child forming in the womb doesn’t change themselves, we didn’t change our own minds.  Jesus did it in us, taking us from sadly obedient to excited about such a major change at this stage of our lives.

More of the Spirit’s change in our hearts became obvious the day we left our comfort zones completely.  The online house hunt had gone on for six weeks with the only positive result being a change in attitude about what we to expect.  A ten-day house-hunting trip was on the calendar for early November (between Tom’s two foot surgeries), though it looked as though we might be wasting our time.  Looking at the latest online real estate additions that mid-October morning, one immediately attracted my attention.  Enough so that we enlisted the help of our son and the realtor to do an in-person inspection of it the next day.  With our son’s positive report, as well as his accompanying video, we found ourselves on the verge of making an offer to buy – sight unseen.

We got busy about our day, separately, as we awaited the realtor’s call, each dealing with excitement of what we were about to do at the same time hearing inner screams of What are you doing? As I spoke with the Lord about it, wanting to hear only Him, yet feeling like we hadn’t done the needed laborious house hunting, I heard in my spirit so clearly, It doesn’t have to be hard.

It doesn’t have to be hard.  In those words, I found release.  In those words, I was assured we were walking by and with His Spirit, and it was far different from and far better than our norm.  I also knew effort would still be required to complete this moving out and moving in process. I just didn’t need to rely on my own wisdom or understanding to make it happen.

Our house-hunting trip three weeks later was, in fact, a house closing trip.  I’m pretty sure this was Daddy’s plan for us when we made our airline and hotel reservations. 🙂   Instead of exhausting ourselves traveling from one house to another, we had a different type of exhaustion as we arranged for work to be done on our new home before our move.  When I felt myself becoming overwhelmed again by all the details, He lovingly reminded me, It doesn’t have to be hard.  Once again I found release from trying to work it all out myself and went back to doing the one thing I could do right then.  You know, every single detail was handled from beginning to end – not one left out . . . at just the right time.

So, on this one year anniversary of that life-changing day, three months after moving into my new home, I realize His words to me that afternoon were not just to help me through the move.  Instead, they are for my whole life:

It doesn’t have to be hard!

Sometimes, Grace Looks Like . . .

As I drove into the parking lot, I thanked God for His favor in advance. I was here not to make a purchase, but to get some money back on my new laptop that was now on sale for less than the purchase price two weeks ago. And, I was here in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend, not normally a time I would venture out to make a transaction like this among the crowds. I hoped God’s favor would include no resistance by the customer service people in making the price adjustment. Beyond that, I also hoped there would only be a few people ahead of me in line at this busy time. That was what I expected grace to look like – complete with the patience to wait and be kind.

Imagine my surprise as I turned toward the customer service department to find no line. As in, there wasn’t one. No one was even being waited on at the counter, and the employees were waiting to be needed. I picked up my pace (really!) to beat all the customers I knew would appear from other parts of the store, all who would have long and involved problems. They didn’t come.

One of the service reps, who noticed me arriving, promptly stepped up to the counter to welcome me. Before I had a chance to explain my situation, she saw the receipt and advertisement in my hand and asked with a smile, “A price adjustment?” With no further questions, she performed the required steps on her register and handed me a new receipt, indicating a nice credit to my account. In under a minute from the time I entered the store, I was out the door and on my way home, a completely satisfied customer.

Now I thanked God for His grace after the fact, contemplating how it looked so different from what I expected. But God knew in advance what I needed. This time, I didn’t need the grace of His patience to wait in even a short line, nor of His self-control in convincing the employee to give a price adjustment – or even to walk away gracefully not having gotten my way. Another time, I might need it to look like that and more.

Today, God’s grace was far beyond what I had even dared to consider. No delays in any way by employee or customer. Rather, His favor made my errand such smooth sailing that it seemed I was on a sea of glass with no one else around.

B Stocking family 102014 (4) LRI don’t know what His grace will look like next time, but I know it will be exactly what is needed for that moment and that situation. As simply as a child, I want to expect, without limitation, God’s abundant grace in my life, just as He has promised.

Sometimes, grace looks like . . .

Ready for a Challenge?

Sunset at Cadillac Mtn 031Pure Grace, The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace, is my latest eye-opening find. Clark Whitten, writing with sparkling clarity concerning the gospel and its multi-faceted simplicity, has opened my eyes wider to our glorious Savior Christ Jesus. The brief passages included here should refresh you even as they challenge some mindsets – but that’s a good thing. If you are challenged or encouraged (or both) by what you read, purchase the e-book or the print version to read it in its entirety. You won’t be disappointed.

Sin, for the Christian, is a violation of friendship – relationship – not a violation of the law. Christians are not under the jurisdiction of the Old Testament law. Many believe and teach grace without law is a pathway to sinful behavior. They see grace and law as “balance.” The Apostle Paul saw it as “mixture.” 1

What is salvation? Many would say it is getting me out of earth and into Heaven, but that is not salvation. It may be one result of salvation, but it is not salvation. Salvation is not getting me out of earth and into Heaven; salvation is getting God out of Heaven and into me! 2

. . . the only way to sin against grace is to refuse to receive the grace it cost Jesus His life to give. Our only hope of “putting to death the deeds of the body [flesh]” (Rom. 8:13) is receiving the abundance of grace.3

True repentance cannot be achieved by a response to condemnation. Condemnation has no place in a believer’s thinking. If it is present, you can rest assured it did not come from the Holy Spirit. Condemnation has its source in the kingdom of darkness and is ministered by demons. When a person is born again, that person is translated form the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. There is no condemnation in His Kingdom! (See Romans 8:1.) 4

If I am a believer, I am in Christ and there is no safer place to be! I will die when He dies – and He lives forever. I will be condemned when He is condemned – and that is impossible. I lose my position at the right hand of the Father when He loses His position there. I lose my inheritance when He loses His – and that is never going to happen. I am as secure as He is secure. I repeat, there is no safer or more secure place to be than in Christ! 5

  1. Introduction, p.20 
  2. A Grace Reformation, p.30
  3. Receiving the Abundance of Grace, p.42
  4. Like Rats in a Maze, p.108
  5. Saved Completely, p.131-132

P.S. I was not asked to endorse this book, or paid for it in any way.

Surprised Again . . . But Not Really Surprised

lettersBefore I explain the title, let me explain something else. I indicated some time ago I wouldn’t be writing here on a regular schedule. What I didn’t say was how infrequent the posts would be – because I was unaware of entering a different season.

There’s been a book in me for many years. I’ve taken stabs at working on it many times. And I’ve tried to give it up completely many times. Even when I stop working on it, when I try to give up on it, it just refuses to let me go.

Keeping any kind of consistency in posting to the blog and writing the book does not work in my world. The posts generally take hours to prepare to my satisfaction, after which I’m not interested in crafting more words.

On the other hand, when fully focused on the book, my writing brain is cooked after a few hours. As I attempt to describe the season of my life in which I was caregiver to my dad, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, my emotions are fully engaged. Effectively, I re-live those times, putting into words the ups and downs of the natural. I am also reminded of my Daddy’s amazing grace toward me when I struggled to continue on that path one long day after another.

All my efforts recently have been on one particular chapter, requiring more time than the rest. As I walked across the parking lot of the Y toward the entrance early yesterday morning, the struggles of the chapter swirled in my brain. I even wondered whether to remove this chapter from the book – not because of the difficulty of the writing, but of the experience it revealed.

As I began to get into a rhythm on the elliptical machine a few minutes later, a man stopped by to chat.  Seemingly out of the blue, he spoke of continuing to remember with great fondness the conversations he had with my dad at the nursing home.

As often as we’ve spoken in the succeeding years, we’ve never mentioned our common bond – his mother and my father residing at the home at the same time, both being enrolled into Hospice care in the same week. His mother passing within a week, and my father remaining another few months.

On this morning, however, he mentioned my dad, leading to a brief mention of each of our parents. Then I brought up the book and my current dilemma. After listening with a pastor’s heart, he encouraged me to continue despite the struggle. In addition, he reminded me of Christ’s struggle in His life on earth, and how He persevered to its resolution.

We were both aware the Spirit had ordained our steps this morning, as well as our thoughts and words. We were surprised, but not really. I was surprised by His wonderful grace right there as I worked out on the elliptical. And yet, that’s how He is. That’s Who He is.

Now you’ll know where I am when much time passes between posts here. Until this book is out of me, I’ll be persevering to that end. And I’m sure I’ll continue being surprised by His grace – yet not really surprised.

The Simplicity of Grace

What happens when you hear or think about the word grace? As frequently as grace is discussed among Christians today, confusion abounds and arguments arise. How refreshing it is, then, to read a clear and simple blog post by fellow writer Eddie Snipes. It is with his permission I share his work of Mar 15, 2014, with you.  He titled it When Grace Becomes a Threat. Be sure to follow the link to his post, where you can find out more about this book and other writings.

People like the idea of grace being a tool God puts into our hands, because this makes us the achiever – which feeds our pride. It’s when you unveil the full teaching of God’s grace, which calls us to trust completely in what Christ has done, that people call grace hyper. People are not comfortable with being completely dependent upon Christ alone. Religious people would rather believe that God is proud of their efforts.

abounding-grace-coverThe truth that the only way we can please God is to trust and receive what He has accomplished is not palatable to religion. God is love, and because of His desire to express His love, God gave the gift of Himself through the promise, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That is grace. Anything that replaces His gift of ‘all things’ has replaced grace with a cheap counterfeit. This substitute then denies God the pleasure of expressing love, and denies us the joy of experiencing all things. The counterfeit may call itself grace, but it is nothing more than a fading form of religion.

Don’t allow others to turn you away from grace with misinformation. Find out what grace actually teaches. Read Abounding Grace here. If you are not able, or don’t want to pay 99 cents, email me here and I’ll send you a free ebook copy.

Up, Up, and Away

Most of you know I am a journal keeper, since journal entries have made their way into an occasional blog post.  Aside from the regular journal, I also keep one specifically for my international adventures.  In it, I pray and prepare for upcoming trips, as well as using it to jot down a few thoughts while actually traveling.

jet in flightWhile preparing for at least two trips, the Lord helped me envision myself in a luxurious jumbo jet – in the comfort of first class seating, no less – while He piloted the craft.  Sometimes, the lesson was in the flight itself.  At other times, we “landed” in places needing intercession before our return flight.  The following journal entry turned out to be preparation and perspective change for far more than a physical trip. Please fasten your seat belts, sit back, and join me on this journey.

Why don’t you climb up here in the cockpit with Me?  You’ll see it differently here than from the side windows.  You might see the why for the what. 

You’ve been graced.  Now you realize the reason things are the way they are is because I have already poured forth My grace so that what was deserved – what should have been – is not what is received.  It doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t – not in the natural world.  But aren’t you glad I do the same with you? 

Now look carefully and you’ll see it’s Jesus I see when I look out these windows – no matter where I look. So, why would I fret about anyone or anything?  It’s not possible, for one thing.  In seeing Jesus, I see the fullness of My justice enacted.  And, I see the fullness of glorious eternity.  All in One. 

Kay, Jesus never was upset by facts, for though He lived among facts, He resided (dwelt) in a higher realm than facts.  He resided in Me.  Yes, He had to suffer agony beyond agony that you will never know.  Yet, He was completely at peace because He was in Me.

That is the life I have for you, Kay, for you are in Me by Christ Jesus.  You dwell in me regardless of facts.  Let Me do the leading – always – and you cannot go astray . . . even if it looks for a time as if you “missed” Me.  Didn’t Jesus look like He messed up when He arrived four days after Lazarus died?

In Me, Kay.  It’s about dwelling in Me.  Yes, this is for your trip, but it’s for so much more.  It’s for your living, real living.

Enough Already!

“This is how it is for the believer when the gospel of righteousness takes root in their heart.  The first reaction is one of sweet relief.  “Really?  Jesus did it all?  I don’t have to work to impress him?  I can stop studying for the exam?  Oh happy day!”  Many are dreading the final exam.  The good news is there is no exam.  Jesus already took it on your behalf, and guess what?  He passed.  School’s out forever!1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had spent so much of my Christian life trying to do more for God, to prove how much I loved Him, because that’s what I thought Christians were supposed to do.  No matter what or how much I did, I knew it was never enough.  I was always frustrated and felt guilty.

I have become one of the believers described above.  One who realized I had been trying to do for God what I never could, and that Jesus had already achieved it all at the cross for me.  His blood not only paid for my sins, but for my self-efforts, too.  Every righteous requirement of God’s law He fulfilled.

To put this good news into the language of the quote: Jesus not only passed the final exam, but He gave me His grade!  In Him I am now completely righteous.  I graduated simply by receiving Christ and the work He finished for me so long ago, and His righteousness is my diploma.

Jesus is enough – already and forever!

1  Paul Ellis, The Gospel in Ten Words (KingsPress, 2012 version 1.0), Kindle edition, chapter titled Righteousness