Tag Archives: grace

The Grace of Lent

We’re now one week into Lent. I consider myself successful so far. But I can’t get too excited, because Lent isn’t about success or failure. I’ve learned this week that Lent involves a lot of grace. In biblical Greek, the word for grace is ‘Charis” meaning; a gift or blessing; favour, gratitude and thanks.

God has a lot of grace for us, his human creation, but I also believe we have grace for God as well. I offer God grace by giving thanks for all He has done for me and others. I give him my grace because I continue to fail and falter at being all that He has created me to be, yet He still loves and cares for me. His grace is what allows me to offer Him grace.

 

St. Paul shared this experience with us, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

 

He tells us that His gift to us is His power. We can withstand so much more with God’s divine power. We are wanting, wishing for, and maybe even missing what we’ve given up for Lent. We know that our Lenten sacrifices are temporary, but our other struggles might not be. With God, it’s not a matter of time. Whether the struggle is short lived or life long, He is asking us to accept that his Gift to us is sufficient. Our weaknesses are met with God’s power.

During Lent we are given the luxury of choosing our desert experience. Jesus didn’t get to choose his desert experience; it was handed to him and God allowed Jesus to decide how he would handle the struggle. Jesus showed us with his own life how to handle the difficulties that are part of our life. He accepted the gift offered by God and was victorious. God didn’t offer one gift to Jesus and a different gift to us; God offers the same gift to everyone. The differences lay in whether or not we choose to accept it.

 

Questions and Reflections:

What are some ways that God’s gift (grace) is present in your life?

Do you believe that the same gift that God gave to Jesus, He has given to the rest of us? Why or why not?

In what ways are you making use of the grace that God has given you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hate is Easier Than Love 

 

Ephesians 4_26

During the month of June, 2016, my Facebook news feed was filled with posts about choosing love over hate. Not unlike any other month, there was a lot of hate being spread around the world. Hate in the form of injustice, sexism towards males and females, religious fears, political extremism, and talk about gun control were the most popular.

As an INFJ personality, I have this annoying habit of seeing both the good and bad, negative and positive, and can find hope and hopelessness in any situation. This habit annoys both myself and others that I know. Seeing both sides to a situation can some times cause people to accuse you (me) of being sympathetic towards those who commit acts that society, accurately, in my opinion, believes to be wrong.

I hear of and read news stories about people who commit horrific acts and my heart breaks. After the surprise or shock wears off I tend to start asking questions about the offender: Where did he/she grow up? What was their life like? What experiences, situations, and beliefs influenced this person’s actions?

I currently work with a population that has committed some atrocious acts of violence against their victims. My job does not allow for acts of judgment, non-legalized justice (frontier justice, vigilante justice, street justice), or discrimination based on a person’s criminal history. This means that me and my co-workers and those who work in this industry are in a position where we are called to see both sides to a situation. It doesn’t mean that we defend the violent actions of people who cause harm to others, what it means is that we have to be aware of the social, psychological, spiritual, and emotional roots of why people commit horrific acts against others. I’m not going to pretend that this is easy; it can be a challenge at times to be supportive towards a person who habitually inflicts harm on others.

The only way that I have been able to remain supportive and serve others is to cultivate grace.

romans-12_19

My One Word for 2016 is “Grace”. This word is difficult for me to fully understand and practice; but with each passing day I have grown bit by bit in understanding why God, Jesus, and St. Paul stressed the importance of this amazing action. Grace is what helps me and others understand why people do the things they do, both positive and negative. Grace is what prevents me and others from seeking non-legalized justice. Grace is what prevents myself and others from being reactive in the form of spitefulness, revenge, gossip, bullying, and all the other popular methods of “getting back” at someone. Grace also means not allowing yourself to be a victim when “it ain’t about you!”.

When I am continuously bombarded with news about acts of hatred committed against innocent people; I don’t want to become filled with unrighteous anger. I want to remember the powerful words written in the bible that caution us about filling our hearts with anger by giving the devil, the enemy, a foothold. As believers we are cautioned to not be angry, while simultaneously not allowing acts of injustice to be carried out against the vulnerable, the innocent, and the marginalized. This is another commandment that is difficult to practice.

God wants to protect us from the never successful game of “tit for tat and tip for tap”. He wants us to fight our natural urge for retaliation and replace it with this difficult act called grace. We can’t claim to be choosing love over hate if refuse to understand the roots of hatred. In order to replace love with hate we are called to take time to understand what causes individuals to become so angry within themselves that they’d take the lives of others. We also need to protect ourselves from allowing the injury of others to feed hatred in our own hearts.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Miroslav Volf
“But those who forgive need not abandon all disciplinary measures against offenders. …A violent offender may need to be restrained if there is any danger he may harm others. Discipline for the sake of a wrongdoer’s reform and the protection of the public is compatible with forgiveness. Discipline even for the sake of upholding the moral good assaulted by the offense is compatible with forgiveness. Retribution is not. Those who forgive will have a system of discipline, but retribution will not be part of it.”

 

Fit Guy Fat: Lessons Learned With Grace and Understanding

 

My Personal Trainer Is Killing Me

We’ve heard the complaints: Personal Trainers are evil! They are mean, bossy, and pushy! They’ve never been overweight so how could they know how we feel and what we go through?

There might be personal trainers who fit these descriptions, but from what I’ve noticed; a number of people who have a dislike for personal trainers and their profession, have all failed at successfully losing weight or achieving any significant fitness goal.

We need to be honest; personal trainers are there to challenge their clients mentally and physically. They are not there to babysit us or do the work for us. I’ve had personal trainers in the past, some were great, some were a waste of my time. What I liked about having a personal trainer was the accountability that came along with having someone design a program for me with the expectation that I would follow it during the week until our next one-on-one session.

If I had to guess why some personal trainers develop a lack of sympathy or compassion for overweight and out of shape clients it is because they’ve heard every excuse possible from people who don’t want to do the difficult work of changing their habits and routines. I hate exercising and any time I’ve paid for personal training services I’ve informed the gym staff to pair me with someone who has a lot of patience for an overweight out of shape crybaby like me.

I do as I’m told to, but I don’t do so quietly. I’m that woman at the gym who sometimes mumbles swear words under her breath and looks as if I am ready to roll over and die while engaging in exercise I’ve deemed “too hard” for me. Yup, I tremble, sweat, and swear. I’m never quite sure which is worse, the grunting weight lifter, or me the whimpering, mumbling, shaking lady who creates a backlog of annoyed lifters as they wait for me to finish.

Personal Trainer Personal Lies

There is a new show in on A&E as of January 2016 called Fit To Fat To Fit. The purpose of the show is to help personal trainers experience what it’s like to be overweight and have to lose weight. It is meant to help trainers develop more understanding and compassion for what their clients have to go through. According to A&E, this show is “A ground breaking new series that follows personal fitness trainers from across the country as they undertake the most extreme weight-loss experiment ever: by forcing themselves to gain weight, they aim to better understand the struggles of their obese clients as they lose the weight together.”

Listen and learn. Don’t let your stubbornness, ego, and pride ever prevent you from achieving a necessary and important goal in life.

Personal Trainers Are Fun

A trainer shouldn’t need to have been formerly overweight in order to help clients. People who have never had a trainer don’t want to accept the fact that we, the clients, still have to do the work. It’s uncomfortable having someone tell you what to do and how to do it, but personal trainers are teachers and we are the students.

As I continue to focus on my One Word for 2016, grace, I am reminded to have grace towards people who don’t understand the struggle of weight loss. I can’t expect people to know what it’s like to have to develop a new way of thinking, eating, and moving if they have never been obese. With grace I am able to decrease my feelings of anger and frustration that occur every time someone makes an oversimplified suggestion or assumption about ways to loose weight.

Grace allows me to not focus on personal trainers who haven’t yet arrived at a place of compassion or for those who have become tired of hearing repeated excuses from clients. Grace means not being hard on myself when I have skipped a session or didn’t stick to the workout schedule for the week. Grace means not being discouraged when the scale or a measuring instrument doesn’t reflect the numbers I want to see.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle or run further and quicker, grace needs to be included in your transformation. Kindness and compassion towards yourself and your body will keep you going unlike self-punishment which never leads you to a place of healthiness.

Bad vs. Good Christians

good-bad

Bad Christian vs Good Christian

The other day I was thinking about how bad I am at Christianity. Really bad. What is it that symbolises my badness. Well… here’s my personal list.

  1. I have not been able to consistently engage in “traditional” prayer practices. (Head bowed, hands clasped, and eyes closed).
  2. I still swear inside my head. The powerful F-word being the most frequent, followed closely by J.C.
  3. I don’t like listening to our local contemporary Christian music station. I like hip-hop, hip-hop country, country music and house music; none of these are played on our contemporary Christian music station.
  4. I skip the worship portion of the service because I don’t like the genre of music that either of my churches play.
  5. I’m not a fan of Mark Driscoll’s theology, in fact, I’m not a fan of Mark Driscoll himself!
  6. I’ve grown tired of doing Beth Moore bible studies (I’ve done at least 10 of them, all of them were great, but time to for something new! )
  7. I think The Message is not a good resource for bible study. (It’s not a translation, it’s a paraphrase)

After I thought about all the reasons that I am a “bad Christian”, I started to wonder what God thought about my list of “badness”. If God wrote my top ten list of Christian no-no’s, would the contents match what I had written?

Good Michelle vs Bad Michelle :D
Good Michelle vs Bad Michelle 😀

I wish I had an exact theological answer for what constitutes being a bad Christian. The only reference I have is the mental list of conscious and unconscious actions that I expect of myself and others. My personal list is full of things that I now realise are somewhat ridiculous. Who and what is determining good vs bad; is it our cultural norms or is it God’s standards as set out in the bible?

For now, I’m going to continue being a so-called “bad Christian”. The only thing on my list that I want to actively work on changing is my bad habit of using Jesus’ name as a cuss word and internally swearing. That’s not just a bad habit, it’s a sin! 

amen!
amen!

QUESTION:

  • Do you ever think of yourself as a “bad Christian”? What criteria are you using to determine “good” vs “bad”?
  • Which influences your Christian standards more, cultural norms or biblical standards?

ACTION:

  • Take some time to reflect on your notions of “good” and “bad”. Ask God to help you remove unhealthy notions of what to consider right and wrong.
  • Develop some grace for yourself. Being hard on our self and others doesn’t bring us closer to God.