Finding Hope in Amazing Grace

In my Bible study this morning, I was led to sing a hymn. It was Amazing Grace.

The fourth verse brought special meaning to me in this early hour:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

The last few months have been a bit of a challenge in one particular area of my life—we all have those times, don’t we?

…thing is, it’s been an unexpected area, with predictable yet unexpected antagonism. I have standards—we all do—and those standards have suffered repeated violations which continue to interrupt the productivity of my time, my heart, my vision, my experience and even my ethics.

I’m being vague, I know. Please extend a bit of grace to me for my intentionality. There are others involved, and some caring discretion is needed.

Toils and snares

Grace has been what has brought me through them in the past, oh so many times… Grace is what will bring me through them now.

The book from which I was reading also recommended reading Romans 5:1–5. Well…that was a completely awe-filled thing to suggest!

Let me share those verses with you (from the New International Version), and understand that I’ve added the bold words, because they stand out to me and propel me forward:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Do you see the AWEsomeness of His Word? Oh, it is simply incredible!

Each day is a new day, and I needed to sing out those words this morning, and I needed to be directed to read some of my favorite hope-filled verses this morning. My Heavenly Father and my incredible Savior knew what I needed, and with an open Book, a voice and a precious Word, my cup was filled. My daily bread was gathered. The table was set before me.

I am grateful to always find hope in His amazing grace.

 


 

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Finding Hope in the Grace of a Prison Visitation

I’ve written before about how someone I care deeply about is locked behind the walls and the concertina wire of prison. (You can read about that here)

While visiting with him this weekend, grace tapped on my shoulder.


At this facility, visitation (after the stringent security search, the full-body pat down, and the K-9 sniff test for the visitors, and the complete strip search for the inmate) means hugs and kisses upon arrival and departure, and it means cherishing the opportunity to sit in the presence of your loved ones (it’s worth every bit of inconvenience). There were aging parents visiting their sons, tired moms with toddlers visiting their children’s’ father, a teenaged boy laughing with his dad while playing a smack-down game of UNO, and a young momma who had brought her newborn to visit with his daddy.

The people in the room were here for different reasons. They were there to share a few hours with loved ones, trying to maintain relationships, trying to imagine the future together, or working out life’s inside-outside and outside-in differences.

Prison is hard.

It’s hard for the inmate, and it’s hard for the family of that inmate. You may have heard otherwise about prison, but, unless you have experienced it personally or lived the life that comes with loving someone on the inside, you have absolutely no idea…


Yesterday, in that prison visitation room, grace tapped on my shoulder.

As a woman was readying to leave the visitation room at the end of her visit, she approached my chair from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. She was with a man and two boys who appeared to be middle schoolers. Visitors are allowed to speak with other visitors; inmates are allowed to speak with other inmates. Visitors, however, are not supposed to speak with inmates, other than the one they are visiting, and inmates are not supposed to speak with visitors, other than those visiting them.

She tapped me on my shoulder and “whispered” loud enough for the others at my table to hear:

“He was my [doctor] for many years.
He helped me so much.
He changed my son’s life.
My son was plagued with ear infections
until we brought him there, and with all
he taught us and showed us, my son, who is now 11,
only ever had one ear infection after that.
He was such a good [doctor].”

The man I was visiting used to be a doctor. He’ll always be one, but he just doesn’t hold any licenses to practice anymore. The likelihood of him ever being able to practice again is very slim. It was his passion, and it was a part of his purpose for a long season of his life.

With the comments from this woman, his face grew white, and his entire mood changed. I saw regrets, sorrow, embarrassment and devastation in his eyes.

I took a deep breath, and so did he. I asked him if he remembered her. He was flustered and didn’t want to answer. He couldn’t remember her name, but he eventually did say that he did remember her.

I asked him if he was ok.
He said he was, but his demeanor didn’t affirm this.

“You know,” I said, “that was so kind of her to stop and say what she said. She could have just ignored us from across the room and never said a thing as she was leaving. She took a moment to come over to let you know how you have impacted her life. What a gracious thing for her to do.”

He nodded in agreement, as tears started to fill the corners of his eyes.

Grace. 

Unmerited favor;
Finding favor toward another;
Offering that which is often undeserved;
Love in action.

When I arrived home a few hours after my visit, the phone rang. The caller ID let me know that an inmate call was coming through the line.

He called to tell me he had just gotten back from church, and that instead of napping on his cot in the 90-degree, un-airconditioned cell block during the afternoon between our visit and church, he spent some time in prayer and reflection about this woman’s words to me following her tap on my shoulder.

He apologized to me, saying he “sucked thumb” and sulked for a while after we left, but he had come to the conclusion that he appreciated his former patient’s willingness to share the impact he had made in her life during his own past life and career. In his reflection time, he was able to remember the thousands of people he had helped over nearly 20 years of doctoring, and he was grateful for the people he had met along the way. He had decided that her words were going to serve as a positive reminder of his former season of life, rather than be a stinging reminder of what he didn’t have anymore.

And then he said it:
“She didn’t have to do that, but she did.
That was grace in action.”

Yes.
Yes, it was.
It was grace in action.
Grace brought on by a tap on the shoulder at a prison visitation.


 

 

Can He Really Use My Imperfect Parts?

CT.4-6
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


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.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

The Comparison Trap:  Week Four, Day Six… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

We all have a story.
Our story matters.
It matters to God, and there are others who can learn from our story.

I feel like I say this to women all the time, because there are so many who are hesitant to share their story, thinking it means nothing, it’s full of shame, it’s full of mistakes, and that none of those things really matter… to anyone, but especially to God.

Sandra Stanley begins this devotional by telling us, “Comparison may be whispering to you the lie that those pieces of your story should be kept hidden—that admitting them out loud would be intentionally pointing out that you don’t measure up, that you aren’t perfect enough.”

His grace IS sufficient for us, and His power IS made perfect in my weaknesses. We struggle to believe this… and we struggle when we think we need to have no weaknesses to be used by Him… and that we must be perfect in order for His power to be made perfect. Stop it.

We’re so wrong when we allow those whispers to speak lies to us.

“God can leverage and use the unpolished, imperfect parts of your story.”

He will if you let him. It’s often in the shattered dreams that we find Him. It’s often in the broken bits that we discover more about Him. It’s often in the questions we ask where we’ll find hope. It’s often in hearing others’ stories where we’ll realize ours matters, too.

Whose unpolished and imperfect parts can be used?

It’s those of us who wonder from where our value comes.

It’s those of us who want to know how a broken heart can heal.

It’s those of us who are living in singleness.

It’s those of us who wonder who else cares.

It’s those of us who have watched our husbands die.

It’s those of us who cry in our quiet moments.

It’s those of us who feel the need to put on the smile mask.

It’s those of us who have watched our marriages fall apart.

It’s those of us who were violated.

It’s those of us who are lonely.

It’s those of us who wonder, “Why me?”

It’s those of us who have lost a child.

It’s those of us who have never been able to carry a child.

It’s those of us who have been cheated upon.

It’s those of us who feel lost.

It’s those of us who don’t know how to get through today.

It’s those of us who don’t know from where our hope comes.

Sandra walks us out of today’s devotional with a wonderful prayer:

“Heavenly Father, it seems a little crazy to me that you’re interested in taking the broken stuff of my life and using it for good. But since you say so, I’m offering all of it to you now. Please give me new eyes to see my story the way you do and to see how I can put it to good use.”

Amen. His grace is sufficient… even in our weaknesses. He uses every bit of it for His purpose, when we allow Christ’s power to rest on us.