Good-bye 2012! A Year of Lessons about Grace

5:17 PMHeather

Happy New Year!  Actually, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, since I haven't blogged since before Christmas.  I pray each of you bloggy friends had a wonderful holiday with at least one wonderful new memory in the midst of the usual Christmas hustle and bustle. 

As we roll into another new year, we are once again being bombarded with messages about resolutions and weight loss and perfectly organized homes and new goals being set.  You know, the usual hype that sets incredibly unrealistic expectations so that our constant state of discontent might drive us as consumers.  So, once again, I reiterate my greatest resolution that has been thus far successfully met since 2010.

No more resolutions.  Nope.  Not one.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  You see, on January 1, 2011, I adopted my friend, Nicki's tradition of setting a word for the year.  Not a resolution.  But, a word.  A promise to stand on.  A hope to pray for.  A word to meditate on and study in depth.  Much more realistic.  And, life changing more so than any ole resolution I'd ever set.  And, thus, I have carefully prayed through and considered what word I might set my mind and heart to each year.  My word for 2011 was intentional.  My goal was to live with greater intentionAll year long, I considered how to live in the moment with my kids rather than tied to tasks or calendars.  I learned much.

And today, I dive in to explore with you the lessons I've learned from my 2012 word--GRACE!  Amazing grace.  God's grace.  Free of obligation.  Offered so that it might overflow and be shown to others.   

1.  Grace is never earned.  It's just given.  It's unmerited favor, by definition.  Therefore, it's offered with no conditions or expectations.  So, quit trying to earn it--from God or others.  And, quit holding others to some conditions before you show them grace.  Remember how much has been given to you--saving you, a sinner, from well deserved punishment, and offering eternal life instead.  Grace is a gift just waiting to be given.

2.  From my year long Biblical study of grace, I saw an interesting pattern.  In the original language, I first saw grace appear in the Bible as favor.  As in, can you do me this favor?  Or, if I have found favor with you, then please do such and such for me.  Often, it's a favor shown from a superior to an inferior.  Next, it appears as lovingkindness--or favor upon favor.  As in compounding favor.  Not just once, but repeatedly and beyond expectations.  Incredible kindness.  And, of course, we see grace appear in it's greatest form, it's most fundamental root.  You see, when grace appears in the New Testament, his name is Jesus.  With Jesus, we see the astounding display of complete grace.  An unmerited favor.  Beyond loving kindness.  Awe inspiring.  Not just grace, but a fullness of grace.  

I believe this shows a pattern.  We grant favors to others.  Cheerfully.  And, as believers in God, we are to show favor upon favor.  As Christ followers, we are to show even more.  We are to show grace.  We let others off the hook.  We choose forgiveness and love and kindness and we overlook offenses.  Not because others deserve it.  In fact, it's often the contrary.  But, because it was first shown to us.  

3.  Grace is the most God pleasing way to respond to others.  Because it requires us to put our agenda aside.  It requires us to put our rights aside.  It requires us to often even put our feelings aside.  Because grace requires us to simply show favor no matter how we've been treated.  Grace requires us to ban entitlement.  Ouch.  

4.  Grace is not always noticed by others. In fact, I believe it's seldom noticed.   When given, it does not always change other people's opinion of us, and even worse--it often does not change the way we are treated or even mistreated. In fact, it can often fly right past the radar of the one we've shown grace.  But, this is not just cause to stop showing grace.  No, in fact, I believe it only fuels the need for grace.  Indeed, when you commit to showing grace, it may never change the one you give grace to but it will radically change you.  When you extend grace to others, you are choosing to model yourself after your Savior.  You are mindful of the grace you've been given.  You are softened and shaped into a jar of clay that the Potter can use for His glorious purposes.  And, news flash, you can never "outgrace" God.  I don't care how much grace you pour out to those undeserving.  God extends infinitely more grace to fill you back up.  He blesses your obedience to obey by gracing you even more.

5.  Extending grace is a great way to melt discontent, disagreement, and conflict.  I cannot tell you how many times this year I preached to myself and my family to "please show more grace with one another."  In those moments of fatigue, say an early morning flight and a long day of travel, when chaos and frustrations are on the rise, extending grace calms the storm.  From a human perspective, it gives me something that I can control.  It gives me a focus and something to work on.  And, when you extend grace to others, you give them no ammunition for continuing a fight.  It's a rather effective way to just end an argumentNot to say that bones of contention should be swept under the rug with a broom of grace.  On the contrary, showing grace is a great way to get to a productive and calm and reasonable resolution.  

Can you imagine what might have happened in D.C. this past week if both sides of the politcal debate had first responded with grace to each other by way of working toward real solutions?

6.  Grace is such a short, oft repeated word.  But, I simply cannot wrap my brain around this complex word.  I could study it for decades.  But, still, my flesh cannot comprehend the depths of grace and all its meaning.  Or all the ways it's been shown to me.  Grace.  I don't think that on this side of heaven, I will every completely understand this God sized concept called grace.

7.  We don't live in a culture of grace.  We live in a society that has, in fact, lost much of our social graces and thoughtfulness and common courtesy.  Just look at any prime time television show.  Cut throat reality competitions.  "Family" comedies where the lead characters (even married couples) often cut each other down in word and deed.  Dramas about revenge and violence and fighting for your rights.  I agree with a blog I read yesterday that said this may be a main reason that Duck Dynasty is gaining in popularity.  The blog author offered his opinion that we crave such family togetherness and values.  I add to this discussion to say that I think we crave seeing others extend grace to one another.  Sure, Willie and Jase may fight and fuss.  But, in the end they choose love and forgiveness.  They choose grace.  Indeed, we live in a culture hungry for grace.  Who better to point the way toward Ultimate Grace than each of us as we interact with others?

I ended most of my blog posts in 2012 with a little wrap-up paragraph called "glimpse of GRACE."  I have, in fact, seen many glimpses of grace this past year.  In the incredible generosity shown to me by loved ones.  In the God seeking heart of my teenager.  In the perseverance and determination shown by my pre-teen.  In the kindness and thoughtfulness shown by my youngest.  In the commitment and loyalty shown by my husband.  In breaking news stories where a first responder or eye witness showed heroism and concern.  In the courage and bravery of friends who have faced and fought cancer, suicide attempts, health crisis, death of loved ones, and other gut wrenching circumstances.  Their grace under pressure is awe inspiring.  As they choose to worship, choose to serve the Lord, choose to go on for one more day.  

It's amazing indeed the grace that is seen when we set our eyes to seek it out.  Dare to glimpse it, bloggy friends.  You'll indeed be amazed.

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