Tag Archives: grace

Resolutions and Great Truths

As I listened to the pastor huz preach it yesterday morning, I was so grateful for what God does through him each week.  Although nearly 200 other people worship with me on a regular basis at Faith Baptist in North Minneapolis, I am quite certain that God gives my husband words to speak to me.  Everyone else is just eavesdropping.

My man is a “big idea preacher” – a method which involves the pastor developing a single idea to which the rest of the sermon drives.  This method resonates with who I am as a learner.  I do want to walk out of church each week with a list of 3-5 concepts that I need to apply to my life.  I love having one central idea from which God can lead me in one direction and the person behind me in another direction.  The truth is universal, but the application is personal.

Yesterday’s big idea: 2013 Resolution – Recognize that I will be weak, but He [God] will be strong.

As the man wrapped up his sermon, a song came to mind called Clinging to the Cross by Tim Hughes.

The lyrics (found on YouTube at the same link as the song) are as follows:

My soul is weak
My heart is numb
I cannot see
But still my hope is found in You
I’ll hold on tightly
You will never let me go
For Jesus, You will never fail
Jesus, You will never fail

Simply to the cross I cling
Letting go of all earthly things
Clinging to the cross
Mercy’s found a way for me
Hope is here as I am free
Jesus, You are all I need
Clinging to the cross

Even darkness is as light to You, my Lord
So light the way and lead me home
To that place where every tear is wiped away
For Jesus, You will never fail
Jesus, You will never fail
(repeat the chorus)

When I see myself trying and failing over and over again at the things that I resolve to do, I get frustrated.  The sermon – and this song – are a great reminder that, though I am weak, Jesus will never fail. His grace is sufficient.  I can do all things (even forgiving people I have no intention of ever forgiving) through Christ who strengthens me.  And when I realize this, Christ is glorified when He is seen as the One who conquers my sin, my failures, and my misguided attempts at being able to do what only He can do through me.

It’s a lot for a Monday, but maybe it’s what we need on a Monday. 

On a Monday, I am going to fail.  But Jesus never will.

At the end of today, I would love for readers to return here and share how Jesus showed up for them today.  It would be a great source of encouragement for me!

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To Be Gracious

On Tuesday, I drove many miles for an appointment that ended up not happening because the young lady that I was to meet became ill.  Unfortunately, I had actually arrived at the meeting place by the time that she told me about the change of events. Either way, time spent on the road at the end of the school year meant that I could actually listen to the radio rather than make phone calls the entire time.

I think I needed to think that day because I have been thinking ever since…

On both the drive to the meeting place and the drive back to the office – on two different radio stations (yes, I use all 6 pre-sets on my car radio) – I heard a song by Mumford and Sons that challenged my thinking and has made me sit back and think and think and think some more.

Typically, my thinking has to do with other people’s behavior, and this allows me to feel as though I have it all together (yeah…right…), but on this particular day, one line continued to hit me over and over…and it hit me squarely in my heart, mind, and soul.

The song is Roll Away Your Stone, and you can listen to it/watch the band perform it by clicking here, and you can read the lyrics in their entirety by clicking here.

I have to be honest that writing what I am about to write is not easy for me.  It is humbling to share in this way, but this blog has always been about being honest and putting myself out there in the hopes that perhaps others can avoid the stupid moves I have made.

If you have listened to the lyrics and/or read them, can you guess couplet has challenged me?  The picture below is both a space holder to give you time to guess as well as a hint.

IMG-20120530-00501

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,

But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works

This couplet has kept me awake at night and has made me rethink who I am and how I approach others.

Who am I?

Am I someone who allows others to burn their bridges with me and still give them another chance?

Nope.

This song…this couplet…has sent me for a loop, and I am not sure how to fix it.

I realized as the day went on during the day on Tuesday that I am judgmental.  I have known this for a long time, but it became quite apparent as a sadness that I felt in the morning due to a circumstance out of my control that broke my heart was replaced by anger when other circumstances which were also out of my control simply made me angry.

Those for whom I felt sadness would likely experience grace from me; however, those whose actions flamed my anger might not.  In fact, I found that I flippantly spoke of them later in the day as I relayed the experience to a friend.

And why would this person stay my friend?

In fact, why is anyone still my friend when I talk this way about others?

I am so thankful that God wrote the book on how grace works, and that He rebuilds the bridges that I have burned.  Now it is time for me to practice what I preach and become one who extends grace – rebuilding bridges when others burn them down.

Interestingly enough, my children have pointed out my character flaw in this area.  In fact, just yesterday as I drove them to school, we experienced this – yet again.  As we approached a 4way stop, two cars sat side-by-side at the intersection.  There was no one coming from any other direction, so I could not figure out why they were not going through the intersection – one turning left and the other turning right.  I have to be honest and say that I was annoyed.  It was nearly 7:30 a.m., and we had an appointment with a teacher at the school.

As the two cars (finally) turned their opposite ways, I noticed that the windows next to each other were down.

They were talking to each other!!!

While I sat and fumed about this, my kids jabbed at me, “Mom, you are so self-centered.”

And they are right.  I am.

How many Stacy Bender’s does it take to screw in a light bulb?

(Just one; the world revolves around her).

While this example does not truly play out because the “offenders” did not even have to experience my wrath, it is a great example of just how high strung I have allowed myself to become (again).  I would like to say that it is the end of the school year, and that might be part of it.  I would like to say that things are crazy busy with teens in the house, and that might be part of it.

But the bottom line is that I have not embraced what it means to be gracious.  I have not extended to others the same grace that has been extended to me by so many others and by God Himself.

It is time to breathe, listen before I talk, and consider before I act.

Maybe I will print out the picture of the bridge above…oh wait, I don’t have to…I just need to step outside of my office and turn my head to see it.  May it be a reminder that burned bridges allow us the opportunity to receive and to extend grace.

Happy Thursday, all!

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Where Have I Been?

My last post was on April 13, and I did not realize then (it was about a book called “The Survivors Club”) that I would take so much time off.  I had made a commitment to myself in August to blog daily, but I have realized that it has become more than I can handle at certain times.  I need to let myself have some grace and post when I can or when I want to do so and not be so tied to this “commitment” that I miss out on other things.

What have I been up to?

IMG-20120422-00410Well – mostly, I have had pneumonia!  I seem to be coming out of the woods on this, but –  WOW! – pneumonia is the worst. Coughing is awful.  If I were ever captured and tortured to get information from me, giving me something that would make me cough would definitely make me talk.  I highly suggest that chicken broth become a prescription, and why don’t they just hand out a 5 day dose of prednasone (sp?) right away?  I even skipped a fun weekend away because of this.

I have also been doing a crazy amount of driving for my job with testing season and court season in full swing.  I head to International Falls on Tuesday – that is on the Canadian border!  I do love to drive, but I am currently out of books on CD.  The library is on my list of stops tomorrow.

But – the fun part of why I have not been blogging is that I have been working on a project for ParentFurther.com.  They asked me to write some content for the bullying part of their website. This has been so much fun!  I just wrapped up 10,000 words of content and sent it off for their approval.  I am dying to hear back from them because I have no idea if it is what they want.

All of this to say to you all a few things:

1.  Don’t get so set on something that you miss out on other things.

2.  When you are sick, take the time you need to recover.

3.  Go after your dreams. Some day, you might just get that writing gig that you have always wanted to get.

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Broadway Comes to Me!

As a teenager, Broadway musicals fascinated me. My first love – back in 1989 – was The Phantom of the Opera.  What girl was not in love with either Raoul or the Phantom?  As I mentioned in a previous blog post when the latest Twilight movie came out, some girls are enticed by the darkness of “bad boys.”  I personally had a great fascination with the darkness of the Phantom.  Unlike others, I actually read the book by Gaston Leroux.  Also unlike others, I took the fiction book at face value and decided that it was historical…that was what the forward said!

Because of my family situation growing up (see “Adoption – My Fairytale“), I spent time each summer in Rhode Island – only three hours from New York City.  Going to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in NYC was a huge dream.  And the dream came true!  For my sixteenth birthday, my parents gave me two tickets – one for me and one for my Auntie Toni (see comments of “What’s in a Name?“).  It was an absolute blast! We spent the whole day getting hot and sweaty in the humidity of NYC in July.  At the end of the day, we took in The Phantom.  I did not want the night to end.  It obviously did, and twenty-one years later I am still a fan!

The Phantom was like a gateway drug into the Broadway world.  That introduction led to Cats, The Secret Garden, Man of La Mancha, and Into the Woods.  And then came the mother of all musicals…the one that would surpass all others in depth and beauty…the one that would touch my heart and soul in a way that none other could – Les Miserables.  Since marrying my huz, we have seen the musical together at least three times.  It is truly that good.  The best, hands down, was still the time – while we were poor and he was in seminary – that we saw it in New York City.  Taking my farm boy to Broadway was a great treat!

Early this past summer, I heard a radio advertisement telling us that Les Miserables was coming to the Orpeum in Minneapolis – literally ten minutes from our house – right during the Christmas season!  Well, it was sort of a no-brainer to the huz and me that this would make an excellent Christmas present, and, once we determined from whom, tickets were purchased and the date on the calendar saved by all.  Yesterday was the day…we took in a matinee!  That rhymed.  🙂  We kept the kids out of school, and the huz and I took vacation days from work – on a Thursday.  So fun!  We had great seats (that is an inside family joke that I will explain sometime in a different blog post because it is a great story), and we enjoyed every minute of the musical.

The musical condenses Victor Hugo’s 513,000 word novel by the same name into three hours of intensity with only about eighteen minutes of comic relief.  Chuck Colson’s explanation of the plot and themes is better than my attempt (literally the last twenty minutes) to summarize.  I am horrible at summarizing.

The moral complexity of this story of an “honest thief” does not blur the distinction between good and evil. Instead, it gives us a very rich picture of the struggle between good and evil.

The redemption of ex-convict Jean Valjean plays itself out against the story of “the redemption of a nation.” The moral, philosophical, and military upheavals that France had experienced over the years serve as a fitting backdrop to this story of the upheavals in one man’s heart and soul.

Just released from prison, Valjean robs a bishop, only to have the bishop forgive him and make him a present of the silver that he stole. We see how this kindness, forgiveness, and “unconditional love” help heal Valjean’s soul.

And we see Valjean become a kind and loving man who in turn helps transform others, even while having to elude recapture by the fanatical policeman Javert. He helps the prostitute Fantine, showing her compassion when no one else will, and later adopts her destitute little girl after her death.

Valjean eventually rises to heroic levels of love and sacrifice, able to show astonishing mercy to his enemies as well as those he loves—a mercy so great that Javert cannot comprehend it, and suffers a breakdown. It is through loving others that Valjean shows his love for God, and truly becomes transformed and fulfilled.

Three hours of great theology with some of the best music ever written is my idea of a great afternoon.  I wrote on my Facebook status that I would go again last night (remember, we had seen a matinee) if someone would have handed me tickets.  One of the best parts about living in Minneapolis is that Broadway comes to me.  What Colson doesn’t mention in the little diddy above is that, in addition to the Valjean/Javert storyline, there is a fun love triangle, a minor attempt at revolution (the Student’s Rebellion of Paris which preceded the French Revolution), and some scandalously entertaining scenes.

Although the cost of musicals might keep me from seeing this again and again as I would like to do, I can be thankful for the soundtrack.  Whenever I need a little refresher course in the story of redemption through Christ allowing God’s grace, and mercy for everyone, all I need to do is hit repeat on my iPod and listen to the soundtrack of Les Miserables.

 

 

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