Grace for the College Girl

165451_593115867367055_1395464689_nAs I began to think about the ways God has been faithful to reveal His abundant grace to me during my freshman year of college, it wasn’t long before I found myself rereading through a few of my old prayer journals. After about two hours of reading and reflecting, I was at a loss for words. I’d read pages filled with the earnest prayers of my 19th year of life: prayers of uncertainty, epiphany, petition, praise, sadness, contentment, concern, and affirmation. I watched as God kneaded my calloused heart like dough and brought me to a place of genuine forgiveness. I recalled my deep concerns for my financial situation. I revisited a heartache fresh from the loss of a relationship I’d cared very much about. I was reminded through the adoption process of my new and deeply treasured cousin, that God is a Redeemer – and my Redeemer at that. And, for a moment, I was stuck between a state of confusion and thankfulness because I’d really realized that God not only heard every single one of those prayers, but He wanted to hear them!

One prayer however, stood out among the rest. I can recall one night in early February when I was mad at God, like really mad. I was mad at Him for allowing me to walk though a particularly difficult season of my life. I was so upset that I started writing out a bitter and accusatory prayer to Him in my journal. And as I sat there pouring out my angry heart to God, almost involuntarily I wrote, “Thank you for the grace You give me in my weakness,” and after that, the prayer changed directions. Suddenly I found myself asking God to give me peace and contentment in the midst of this season, rather than complaining about it. In that moment, God not only humbled me, but He reminded me of His unwavering commitment to me. God had not forgotten me, and surely He had not left me. There is purpose in His plans and by His grace I was reminded to trust in His faithfulness.

As children of the Most High King, saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, His grace is for us to have! God does not withhold His favor and His blessings from us, but gives them freely and unconditionally. Even when God’s blessings are not exactly what we had in mind, He is so faithful to bless us with more of Himself in our struggles, in our pain, in our pride and in our brokenness.

God wants to know our hearts, because He’s the one who made them, and He even died to pay the price for such intimacy. Hebrews 4:15-16 says,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

May we learn to confidently approach the throne of grace – even in our weakness – knowing that God expects nothing, but is willing to give us all of Himself. May we learn to accept and thank Him for His unending and unmerited favor.

LOVE, Jocelyn

If you’d like to read more from Jocelyn, check out her blog “Fan into Flame”  here.

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That One Person

“When you love the unloving, you get a glimpse of what God does for you.” ~ Max Lucado (Grace Happens Here, Page 146)

We all have that one person. Maybe she is always trying to one up you. Maybe he just talks about himself constantly. Maybe she has no idea what personal space means. Maybe he rabbit trails every time he speaks. Maybe she tells information to people that you told her in confidence. Maybe sometimes he’s your spouse. Maybe sometimes she’s your best friend. It’s that one person that is sometimes difficult to truly love.

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And sometimes that one person is a person you live with, work with, or see every day. We say we “love” them because it’s the Christian thing to say; but in reality, we are just tolerating their presence. We mistake being civil to that one person at church or in the grocery store as Christian love. We seem to think that as long as we are not outwardly mean, we can think whatever we want and even say whatever we want when they aren’t around.

That’s not how Jesus worked. He cared for the least of these. The ones that were physically “gross” to the Jewish people, he actively pursued…the lepers…the lame…the tax collectors. These people were culturally unlovely. These people were that one person. Jesus didn’t just tolerate them; He engaged them. He prayed over them. He brought healing. He loved them.

And he loves us. We were also that one person. Our little lies arrested him in the garden. Our bad attitudes beat Him mercilessly.  Our selfishness shoved the crown of thorns on His head. Our pride nailed Him to that cross. We have to remember that we sent the perfect Lovely One to be punished for our sin. Yet, He willingly paid for our un-loveliness. He engaged us. He prayed over us. He brings healing to us. He loves us. What a sobering reminder for us!

May we remember this when we are tempted to write off that one person! May we engage them like Christ engaged the unlovely in His culture! May we never forget that we were that one person that He loved perfectly, enough to die! What a wondrous love it is!!

Tips for Summer Living

255395_3493148531580_1438649888_nLast night as we lingered on the porch in refreshingly cool Colorado, very satisfied after eating our dinner, we watched a red-breasted robin peck away at a worm she was pulling from its home in the dark earth. Across the way, we observed a herd of wild Geese waddling around searching and pecking for their dinner. And nearby, squirrels and chipmunks were waiting for crumbs that we might be willing to share with them. As the moon replaced the sun, we were awestruck by the display of stars, planets and the brilliance of light that they produced in the night sky. We sat marveling at how God has made such a variety of species and the vastness of His creation. What amazes me is how attentively He still cares for each one of us and each and every creature He has made!

These thoughts of our Heavenly Father led me to thinking: How do we stay spiritually close to Him during this wonderful season of summer? Somehow summer manages to be both busier and less busy than the school year. I don’t know how it manages to do that. So, how do we remain consistent when the summer gets busy or when the hot days tempt us to take a vacation from spiritual things?

Here are five little practical ways I have found to help me stay actively pursuing the Lord during the summer!

1) Make a plan. Reading through the Bible following a plan helps me to keep a daily commitment to reading God’s Word. I find this helps me get the overall context of each book and the Bible as a whole that is so important to understanding it correctly. I also love to throw in a section from Proverbs every day. It’s so important to get a good dose of wisdom for those busy summer days!!

2) Share what you learn. Taking the time to share scriptures with a friend daily by text, phone or other social media gives me great encouragement. This kind of “catching up” allows me to more actively and specifically pray for my friends and family in a biblical way. It can also help me develop deeper intimacy and community with different women in the church and in my family.

3) Take advantage of devotionals. Reading a daily devotional can be a great source of encouragement. It may add something extra to share with others as well. Online versions and apps can make great truth available to you anywhere and anytime. It’s quick to access these encouragements and also so quick to share!!

4) Ask questions. I have found that these 5 questions can deepen my study of the Word: Who? What? Why? Where? When? It’s a very simple approach of study but yields great reward. Sometimes writing it all down can help you keep consistent and keep track of what you’re learning.

5) Pray, Pray, Pray! As you are reading through each passage, pray that the Lord will teach you what He wants you to learn. Pray as you share with friends that the Lord will give you opportunity to minister to their hearts. Also, pray that the Lord will convict when you’re tempted to slack off in those toasty summer days.

Our close relationships with God and others stem from the state of our hearts!! No matter what method we employ to read and study God’s Word or what acrostic we might use to direct our prayers, we must open our hearts fully to our Heavenly Father for His Spirit to do His Work! 2 Timothy 3:16 states, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We must come to our daily time with God with a teachable heart, humble and contrite. This is what our Heavenly Father desires most and what produces transformation in our lives!

My prayer for myself and for all of us is that we will grow closer to our God everyday (even in these summer months), becoming more like Him in character as He transforms us through His Word!

LOVE, Tami