Grace That Never Runs Out

This morning I am contemplating what it means to have a sound mind. I think a really huge part of it is to be slow and steadfast. Steadfast in mindfulness—that is just being fully connected to the present moment and taking our time to notice things. That really is a gift. Deep breaths are also important. Inhale, exhale and take life in for what it is worth. The deeper the breaths, the more thoroughly we can inhale life, and take in all of its beauty and mercies. Life is a gift.

I am tempted to recount all the things I’ve missed out on as I’ve found myself speeding mindlessly through life. Little things have slipped right through my fingers, and it is in the little things that I find the most grace. It is in the way that the bus arrives at my stop right on time. It is in the way that a roommate leaves folded laundry lying neatly on my bed after a day of errands and not feeling so put together really. It is in the way rain is in the forecast, but I forget my umbrella and so the heavens don’t burst open with dew until just moments after I arrive home. It is in these things that I slow down, count, and feel God’s grace constituting the very fabric of my life. He is a God that is most wonderful,  and endlessly gracious. 

What have we to mourn really when we realize that our God, big as he is, is ever-present in the little things? Perhaps a laundry-list of things to mourn even considering the fact of small blessings, but there he is, even in the tears. There he is writing the story, and weaving grace through the details. Jesus wept, even as we weep. He grew weary just as we did, and my hope lies in this: that he is still present in the form of the Holy Spirit comforting us, empathizing with us, knowing us. His grace never runs out.

On Time & Gratitude

This post is a multi-faceted summary of the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This poetic memoir is strictly for those who dare to dive deep into the mysteries of pain and suffering and reconcile them to the true image of a perfectly good God, who loves and gives good gifts. In it Ann teaches us the art of living fully, which begins with returning to our perfect Edenic state by means of gratitude.

My notes and commentary are added to each section of this summary, which also contains direct quotes from Anne herself. Enjoy.

Audio Recording of this post:

Access full episode when you follow on Spotify

The Questions We are Answering:

The first question is regarding the character of God and the second is regarding our own view of God, in light of who He is. In order for this study to work, you must have the view that the bible is the infallible, spirit-breathed word of God.

First Question:

“Where is God really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away? Where hides this joy of the lord, this God who gives good things and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?” (Voskamp, page 12)

Second Question:

“What is the heart of God? Do I believe in a God who rouses himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through the carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job, and a house in the burbs—and then finds himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil? A God of sporadic random splattering goodness—that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? Somebody tell me:

What are all the other moments?( Voskamp 85-86)

Reflection: We notice here that in the first question Ann primarily gears the question’s tone toward challenging the character of God. How can I believe in this gracious God who allows pain, and tolerates destruction? What a heavy hand He uses when dealing with humanity….and am I supposed to believe these suggestions that He is actually good?

The second question is not any less bitter, save that Ann acknowledges that perhaps humanity has a role in this distorted view of God—that He is cruel, and unconcerned. She reasons this rationale with the idea that in a certain way we may have evidence that points to Him having a corrupted nature, but we do still have a choice in what to believe, and how we frame what we see.

Addressing Question 1:

Where is Grace in all this madness?

“And he took bread, gave thanks and took it and gave it to them.” – Luke 22:19

“He gave thanks” reads eucharisteo in the original Greek. (Voskamp 32)

  • Eucharisteo is: Charis meaning grace
  • Chara: meaning Joy. (Voskamp 32)
  • We give thanks, just as Christ commands us to do, in one fashion by taking the bread and drink, and also in “all things” as mentioned in the epistles and we thereby enter into his grace.
  • Also joy is proportionate to gratitude, so therefore God is not harsh in asking us to see past our sufferings, but kind, and willing that we should posses his heart, his vision, thereby entering into His grace.

“As long as thanks is possible joy is possible.” (Voskamp 33).

Note: We can see clearly that man is responsible in part for this distorted view of the character of God, because we stepped out of perfection and into the lie that “God is withholding something good from us” as Ann puts it.

In Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve that they would be allowed to eat anything in the garden except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). We see in Genesis chapter 3, that the tempter came that is Satan, and told them that God did not want them to eat of that particular tree because then they would be like God, knowing all things.

  • This poisonous mistrust for the heart of God toward man, entered into mankind with the doubt of his commands and the intent behind them.
  • Man believed the lie that God was withholding good from them.
  • Sin entered into the world, which is now as a result, fallen.

Ann teaches in her book that man can return to the state of perfection by means of believing that God will withhold no good thing from us ( Psalm 84:11). We can also return back to our perfect Edenic state might I add, by choosing to believe in God’s word, who is Jesus, thereby repenting from the sin of doubt and by causing the tempter to lose power.

What are you doubting? What are you afraid that God is withholding from you? I encourage you dear friend to open your palm, reach out, and give it over to Him. I love that Ann shows us that God can handle it. He is not daunted by our antics, nor will he be moved by our accusations as we see in Job. He is waiting for our surrender.

A Life of Gratitude

Throughout the book, that is the questions, the doubts, the throes of a hard-knock life of financial uncertainty, and trying to make sense of an all time traumatic witnessing of the murder of her younger sister, Ann leads by example and dares to count her blessings amidst it real life. As a farmer’s wife and mother of six, she is piled under the responsibility of a chaotic life of trying to find moments of miraculous, grace-filled gratitude, all while trying to be present with her family and do ministry.

Ann gently guides the reader into the truth that even time is a gift, and while it is seemingly insufficient, and always passing by, God transcends time. This means that we can always make time to be present with him. How precious.

“Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention. I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. (Voskamp 68)

Friend are you present with God? He is present with you. He is the answer. We like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), but can return back to the Father and enter into his grace at any time by means of our trust in Him and gratitude.

Call To Action:

The story behind the title of the book One Thousand Gifts is that Ann finds her way back to a fuller more joyful life by beginning with a list of 1,000 gifts that turns into a never-ending gratitude list throughout all her life. This list helps heal her ache from the witnessing of the death of her sister, the pain of a family member with cancer, and man other heart-wrenching woes in life.

Friend, I dare you to live fully by beginning your own list!!! (:

Here is a glimpse into mine:

  • The sound of rain lulling me to sleep.
  • A clean kitchen
  • The stillness of quiet at the break of dawn
  • A good therapist who is gentle but willing to speak truth
  • A friend who gives me money when the stock market is crashing and uncertainty overwhelms me
  • Cuddles with my kitty
  • Perfect imagery in a poetic good old-fashioned book.
  • A ring given by God parents

  • The way that seasons change
  • The way that God has a sense of humor.
  • The gift of A simple heart and a heart of wonder.

The list goes on. I thank you for reading this post and for believing in the mission of Jesus & Tea. If you enjoy posts like these and would like the ministry to continue, feel free to give a give on the support page:

Christians Getting Serious About the Image of God We Are Projecting to the Unbelieving World

The Message We are Conveying to the World

Before I begin the message that is weighing heavily on my heart, I want to admit that I am guilty of the very same form of hypocrisy that I am about to address. We as Christians are children of God, and when we are healthiest, we are full of love, compassion, and a burning desire to reconcile sinners to Christ. That’s the ideal we should be striving for, but instead, we often forget to step down from our thrown of judgement– that is, our “high and mighty horse”, move an inch outside of our tiny little Christian bubbles and empathize with people. We are children of the most high God who partake in the sweetness of a relationship with our savior. We are not here to project an image of complete perfection, where we have realized the highest peak of morality, and proceed to demand that if the world would ever seek to behold God from that same mountain on which we stand, then they had better get right with God. That is simply not grace. It is only half of the character of God, and an incomplete image of his character can create a number of warped beliefs about who God is.

“The Most important thing about a man is what comes to his mind when he thinks about God.”

–A.W. Tozer (A man of God)

Do we believe in the kindness and the faithfulness of God? Or are we concerned that if we do not tell people what they ought to change about themselves, he is not going to meet them where they are? Do we fret that they will slip from his hand and darkness will prevail if we are not the voice of God in their lives?

“His kindness leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4

Here is some food for thought: A heart that is not prepared to receive the truest of truths will not receive it more readily, when it is drilled in intrusively and abrasively. It will only harden more. It will learn that truth is abusive, domineering, and will shrink from the things of God and turn to darkness because it feels comfortable. It is less threatening. I know that we as Christians mean well, but God has been revealing to me that he really does love the world, and that we as Christians need to see ourselves as servants.

“For the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mathew 20:28)

We, though being unworthy, were redeemed by a humble king who “for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Romans 12:2). We are not judges. We are not here to project an image of perfection, but to share the good news that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” We are utterly wretched, and the world needs to know that we have been loved despite that, redeemed, and transformed.

Realizing My Own Mistakes:

I am most pleased to provide an example of how this phenomenon has played out in my personal life:

I have a colleague who I became very close friends with, and by the way I don’t recommend becoming so tied at the hip with colleagues. It gets to be messy. That aside, this beautiful and very genuine human being happens to be particularly liberal, which I don’t typically mention politics in my blog posts, but that is an important note to take, because people whose ideology leans strongly left, tend to possess beliefs that strongly contradict those of traditional Christianity; for example the support of abortion.

His ways are higher than our ways…..Isaiah 55:8-9

I believe that God arranged this friendship because, once she offered to be my ride home from work, we got deep into conversations about God, and I quickly learned that she had been wounded by a campus ministry I was once part of called Chi Alpha. Certain well-meaning individuals in leadership had drowned her in suggestions that she needed to lay aside her concerns for the environment and animals, because they are of lesser importance than religion. They told her that her heart for justice in humanity, and in the animal kingdom was not necessary to speak of, and completely diminished something that she has dedicated her life to protecting, for her own moral purposes.

Why it Matters:

Upon learning this, I prayed to God and asked him, “What do you mean by placing her in my life. We’ve had similar experiences with rejection by Christians, what do I do?” He simply told me just to be a friend. It was that simple.

Why this? Why Now?

Here is where I went wrong. I was her friend, but I often engaged in arguments about human children being more important than animals, and pointed out the hypocrisy of her support of abortion, but strong desire to preserve the lives of animals.

I still believe that what I was saying was right, but what God has shown me recently is that his love is deeper than skewed political ideologies. He is concerned more with her soul, and with her feeling loved, than with me getting my conservative Christian point across.

He is gentle, and he KNOWS what she has been through, and the entire sequence of events that have resulted in all her beliefs. He sees the pain and her aching heart that cares for people who feel they have no voice or rights in the United States. At her core, she simply needed to be heard, and to experience validation from a person who represented a group of people who had previously wounded her

God Loves Me Too:

God was slow in showing me this, because my motives were entirely wholesome, and I did not necessarily do anything wrong. It has simply been a learning curve for me to know not to magnify the smaller things, but to focus on the major things. The primary thing is always for the light and love of Christ to be projected. From there the Holy Spirit is able to minister into, and correct the smaller things. In the light of his love, sin dissolves into nothing. It looses it’s power.

Let’s Nurse More Wounds–It might Heal us all

Have we forgotten that the world is fallen, and that sin encroaches upon the lives of even the most wholesome of people? We should not direct our anger at the people, but Satan who is scheming restlessly and “seeking whom he may devour.”

I believe that we each need to have more grace with not only sinners but with each other. Christians should be allowed to be broken, have seasons of depression and just be without answers. I’ll tell you that no group of people has been harder on me about mental illness than Christians. My depression has spiraled seven fold, due to feelings of inadequacy and like I’m just not Christian enough because I feel like I am falling apart.

Let’s stop expecting too much of each other and spread the love. Let love prevail!!!

Who should we really be angry with?

Check it out:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for puling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. ( 2 Corinthians 12:3-5).

What do you believe about God? Are you afraid of grace? Grace is not weak, it is capable of miraculously changing lives and breathing the spirit into that which is dead. Who are we projecting our frustrations on? Is it the wanderer who does not know the truth from a lie, but seeks to do what he knows to be good, or is it against the devil and his wicked schemes?

Let us Not Forget the Power of Grace

” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

This is is such a precious truth. There is nothing sweeter than the precious blood of Jesus and nothing more enjoyable than his love. Allow your heart to soften, so that when you speak to this dying world, you may do so with speech that is full of Grace. Die to yourself and your concepts of how life should be, and by filled with Christ. He gives life. He is life.