Every Circle Grace

Grace is an interesting topic. In my years in the church, the focus of grace has mostly been on the grace we receive from God. Rightly so. And during this Lenten season, it deserves top of mind.

Devoted followers of Jesus’ teachings believe we are to give what we receive. Everything we receive from God we are to pass on. Love. Mercy. Forgiveness. Faithfulness. And even Grace.

My observation is we tend to gift grace in various degrees. Some people give themselves plenty of grace…much more than they give to others. Some people disproportionately give their family members grace in comparison to others-some more, some less. One amazing observation that stands out more and more is the grace people in the church give to themselves compared to the grace they give people outside the church. Again, it goes both ways. Some people give better grace to their fellow churchgoers while others give better grace to those outside the church.

For better or worse, I’m the latter. For the record, neither is correct. Grace is to be shared with all people equally.

Looking at Jesus’ relationship circles, we observe supernatural grace giving. He gave Peter as much grace as he gave the woman at the well. He shared his grace equally with Nicodemus and Judas. His mother and Pilate both received appropriate grace. What an example he left us.

I most often fail at giving grace to those in my closest relationship circles. That awareness provides growth opportunity so whether in the next hour I engage a stranger in the store, a friend on the phone, or a colleague in the office, my grace is for every circle.

Jesus practiced every circle grace. His resurrection power says, “So can I.”

Light

Light uncovers

the begging to be

seen, corrected, confessed, forgiven, celebrated, heard, protected, cleansed.

Light pulls

out the

disfigured, undiscovered, forgotten, lonely, hurting, rotting, hidden, stolen.

Light comes

rhythmically to every

morning, home, friend, neighbor, child, field, highway, mountain.

Light resurrects

what darkness

broke, destroyed, severed, tore, distorted, invaded, belied, abandoned.

Light wins

in every

heart, mind, city, neighborhood, country, family, room, soul.

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

Mile 4

Pat Schneider’s writing is inspiring. Needed attempt at brain pressure release.

Unsuspected I approach

They meander

Pacing and pecking, flapping and feeding, united and unique

Unsurprised I pause

They pass

busy and bothered, noticed and noted, caught and captured

Unhesitant I acknowledge

They came

sent and selected, happy and harmonious, celebratory and committed

Reflecting on seeing the flock of ibis on my run this morning, the day after my birthday, and my friend who joked I work like them. “The family flew in.”

Looking for Book #1?

Book #1 for 2021 done. And it was a good choice to kick it off.

It’s time to let God heal you. It’s time to let God restore you. It’s time to let God do a mighty work.

Franklin takes the first half of the book to define and describe love.

Don’t speak to the fool in others; speak to the king in them.

Chapter four, “Stop Keeping Score and Start Losing Count,” by title alone moves you in the right direction. He had this to say about Jesus’ work on forgiving:

Before he could leave this earth, Jesus had to forgive those who were torturing him, those who were mocking him, those who were blaspheming him. This was important because God’s hands will not touch spirits that do not release forgiveness. Wherever you release forgiveness, you release the power of the Spirit of God.

For several chapters, Franklin focuses on the family. Why? Perhaps because it’s the place where we learn about love and also where we are most prone to be hurt by it.

You cannot be so spiritual that you neglect natural things. And you cannot be so natural that you neglect the spiritual things. God’s will is somewhere between Martha’s kitchen and Mary’s altar.

The final three chapters address one’s love relationship with God. He argues that the enemy’s goal is to create distrust. And what happens often is instead he pushes us to pray more, to run to God, and to increase our faith-particularly when we love like we’ve never been hurt.

Franklin wrote a Keeper.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt


This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

What Now? (book review)

Recently a friend told me about a newly published book that could help many people. The book is coauthored by two ministry leaders, Jim Henry and Deb Terry. They wrote this book about their experiences of being caregivers for their loved ones who dealt with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They titled their book What Now: Help and Hope for Caregivers, Family, and Friends.


Thinking there is potential opportunity for future programming with my new position (more on that in future posts), I reached out to Deb. She graciously sent me a few copies. I finished my copy today and have already given away all the other copies to people who are walking this journey or provide counseling to those who are.

One caregiver that got a copy read it in four days and had this to say:

I cried and was just in the preface. I would describe the book as a big dose of realism with hope thrown in! I’ve started a journal for my husband, going back to January at his diagnosis and including decisions and events. I plan to start another one for me and my journey through this. I plan to go back through the book again at a slower pace, including looking at resources for each chapter. An example is a chapter about telling friends and family. His family hasn’t been told at his request, and we need to revisit that. Thank you again for giving me a copy.

When I was a child I watched my mom and her twin sister walk this road. This road isn’t easy. What Jim and Deb have produced is a resource to make the road less difficult. They did this by answering 18 questions addressing the journey from diagnosis (How Do I Share the Diagnosis? and What Can I Do to Prolong the Good Years?) through carrying on at the end (What Might I Expect When the End is Near? and How Do I Move Forward with My Life?).

If you are on this journey, get this book. If you know someone who is, get them a copy. In general, I encourage you to share this post with others to help Jim and Deb’s work accomplish its goal.

Known: God’s Great Encouragement

(Post #2 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Frank Welch (bio below)

When I was a teenager, I was pretty confident. I had the great blessing of growing up in a Christian home with my mom, dad, and little brother. There was a lot of love in our house; and I had great friends who also cared for me. But best of all, I knew my Savior Jesus Christ, and that He loved me more than I could ever imagine. During this time in my life, it felt natural to really enjoy just being alive.

However, as I got older and started my adult life I started to see the world a different way. My family is still very loving and I still have incredible friends, but there are a lot more people in the world than just them. There are people across the world who are suffering and dealing with persecution for their faith. There are also people in the world committing a lot of evil.

There are times when I struggle with the darkness in the world. Please do not think too highly of me, but I do not get mad at God for it. It is when I see the way other humans treat each other that I feel a deep sorrow in my being.

Of course, none of this is a secret to God. He knows that I can get discouraged when I see the evil things people do to each other around the world, and even in the city where I live. And when I do, He shows up and helps me find my joy and my confidence again. This is how I know God knows me. He pulls me out of the dark times in my life and guides me back into His light and fills me with a hope that comes from who He is.

One of the best examples that has happened to me recently in life is that I used to struggle with negative thoughts that dragged me down and almost depressed me. To get through that, God guided me to memorize scriptures that give me hope, such as Romans 5:5, 12:12; John 12:46, and Matthew 5:14.

He also led me to create a list of phrases that I say every morning so I start the day in a mentally healthy way. This idea came from a video I watched about a pastor who does this same thing. So, the idea is not originally mine, but it greatly blesses me. Some of these phrases include: “Christ is stronger in me then the wrong desires that are in me,” “I am blessed beyond measure because the Holy Spirit lives in me,” and “The world will be different and better because I served Jesus today.”

God knows I need His love and His encouragement to get through life. He also knows just when to give the encouragement I need. Without God’s encouragement in my life, I do not know how I would have made it to where I am today.


Blogger Bio: Frank serves the students of First Baptist Bradenton. He and his wife Shelby met while studying at Florida Southern College and were married November 12, 2016. Frank can talk all things Marvel.

Miracle in the Andes (book review)

I’ve been obsessed with this book while listening to it. So much so that when disc 7 wasn’t listenable because of scratches, I checked out the book today in order to read what I missed. (NOTE: Manatee County Library rocks! Not only did they bring the book from another branch to the branch closer to me to pick up, but they also called to let me know it was ready. BOOM!)

Nando Parrado is one of sixteen survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Argentine Andes Mountains. Another book, Alive, was written and made into a movie in the 90s. I’ve never heard of this story, so I was riveted by it. My riveting is a credit to Parrado’s storytelling and personal account of the survivor’s ordeal.

If you enjoy true stories that make you think and marvel, you should read Parrado’s book. You’ll be satisfied. But what you’ll hopefully also receive are some life lessons to model. He gives you plenty. These 72 days gave more than 72 lessons. The survivors continue to live them out. Read it and see what you could live out.

The Closer (book review)

If you keep telling people about thoughts and stories from your current read, it must be worth sharing. Such was the case for me with Mariano Rivera’s book, The Closer.

Unless you’ve been an avid follower of his throughout his career, it’s likely you don’t know much about his upbringing in Panama, that a career in baseball wasn’t his childhood dream, and even crazier, that he wasn’t groomed as a pitcher (he loved the outfield).

He certainly gives the baseball nut much to ingest, but there’s something for any reader in this book. Like he married his childhood sweetheart. Oh, and that after baseball they renovated an abandoned Presbyterian church in New Rochelle, New York, to open a new church, Refuge of Hope.

An audio find in my local library, this was worth the listen. I had to get accustomed to the reader; but once I did, I was all in. Even shed a tear or two.

Baseball. God. Passion. Love. You’ll find that and more in The Closer. Add it to your next up list.

The Gift of Balance: Work (Part 1)

(This is part one of the third topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. We talked in and out of two thoughts, so this entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Mark: I believe work is beneficial and important, but it isn’t a separated secular and sacred thing that our Christian community has made it out to be. Work isn’t the end all to be all, so the balance is valuing it correctly.

Tonya: Everybody benefits from work.  You feel better about yourself, and scripture backs that up.  My perspective on my work is that it is my calling and ministry. I feel passionate about it and called to do it. Even so, it’s not what gives me value. My work flows out of my “being,” who I am in Christ.  So my work gives me satisfaction as it flows from that place.

John: So is the question how to have balance or how to avoid being unbalanced?

Tonya: I think they flow together. My work is my calling, but there are those who think their work is their means to provide for their families and they don’t connect it with a calling. Colossians 3:23 helps us, whether we see work as a calling or a means to provide, to approach it as unto the Lord. Finding satisfaction in that is important.

John: One way I believe we can get unbalanced in our work is by compartmentalizing life in such a way that we leave God out of our work life, like you were suggesting Mark. For the person who hasn’t grabbed a hold of the fact that God is with us 24/7 and cares about all details of our lives, it’s a challenge to stay balanced because God isn’t acknowledged in all areas of life. He doesn’t have full access. That’s a temptation.

Mark: I see two tempting thoughts there. There’s the “I don’t know how or I don’t want God in my work area of my life.  I’ll keep him contained to my religious area.” The other aspect has to do with understanding the idea of sacred versus secular, like Tonya was talking about.  Maybe that distinction is a myth, and we just need to go do what God has given us to do with the skills we have. Regardless of what that is, it’s opportunity that we don’t have to describe as sacred versus secular.

Tonya: That’s makes me think of Brother Lawrence who talks about being in the presence of God even while he’s washing dishes in the monastery. How do we give God glory in whatever our work is? I think you’re right in saying we as the church have led that in the wrong way with the idea that if you’re called to ministry it looks one way.  We are all called to ministry. What does that mean in your everyday work life?

Mark: That leads into a thought that if we view something as “God’s work,” we can do it 24/7 and get out of balance because it is my calling, it’s sacred. That’s not healthy and particularly in the scenario of when it leads to neglecting your spouse, children or other key relationships. That’s a temptation people can fall into.

John: Is that a misdirection of someone trying to find their identity and worth and using this work as a deflection?

Mark: That’s certainly part of it. They can also be taking on too much responsibility for accomplishing God’s purpose and trying to own too much of it. Other important things in life suffer detriment.

Tonya: I see this happen a lot with the pastors I work with. I think it comes from a misguided understanding of priorities. Every minister can spout out the priorities of God>family>ministry, but their practices don’t always match. There is a confusion between what is my time with God and what I do for God.

I like where this is going because if we go back to what was said at the beginning, a well-defined idea of work will help us across the board. If the most important thing is to understand who we are in Christ first, then what we do comes out of our being. Whether we are a pastor, a doctor, or a garbage collector, everything we are doing is under God’s glory. Our work isn’t where we find our value or who we are. The work flows from who we are. I can’t work to the point I’m neglecting important relationships, my body, or my personal time with God. So for me as someone building a coaching practice, I have to set my hours ahead of time. Otherwise I will allow clients to dictate my schedule. That wouldn’t be good stewardship and balance.

John: This circles around the mentality, “it all rests on me.” Someone can take the savior mentality that the success of the company or ministry is all on them and they have to make it happen. That imbalance is another way of squeezing God out.

Tonya: Like in our coaching practices, “I have to build this. I have to make this happen.”

John: And subtly, we don’t even recognize that we are doing it.  There’s a check on who’s running the ship. “How much control do I have or should I not even try to have?”

Mark: There’s a phrase that I read a while back that has stuck with me. “Do what is yours to do and trust God to do the rest.” We can only do so much. Coming to that conclusion is easier for some than others, but if we simply do what is ours to do and trust God to do the rest, then it’s more likely to work out the way he wants it to work out. It may or may not be what we had laid out, but it will be more aligned with his plan and purpose.