Family Grace

Today I was privileged to attend the celebration of life for a friend’s husband who passed last year. Due to COVID concerns, the family put off holding a gathering until now. I had only met her husband once that I recall, so I was attending purely to support her. I have found that when I attend such gatherings without much history with the deceased I actually walk away with more to think about. No exception today.

The top thing that struck me was an admittance from the youngest son. In his sharing about his dad, he spoke transparently stating that they hadn’t always had the greatest relationship. He said he didn’t want to go on about that. Instead he said this:

As an adult I’ve come to realize that parents are people to. My dad was a person. We all mess up.

He then went on to tell terrific stories of how he relied on his dad in many ways and will miss his being there to give advice and fix his mistakes. He gave a terrific image of how he remembered feeling like his dad would be behind him watching him do something and sensing that his dad wished he could wrapped his arms around his sides in order to fix what he wasn’t doing right. He said he imagines that his dad is still doing that.

This husband/father/friend was loved. And it appears he was loved because he accepted everyone’s humanity including his own. Could that be the answer to a tight family? Each one receives and shares grace out of their acceptance of their humanity?

As I listened to this son laugh and cry talking about his dad, this passage came to mind:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children-with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:13-18

May families remember that they are dust.

May families receive and share grace.

May families bask in the everlasting to everlasting love of the Lord.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Groaning (Part 3)

In Parts 1 & 2, I shared that we are all born groaning and how that viewpoint can encourage grace giving to ourselves and to one another.

That grace choice isn’t always natural. In fact, it goes against our groaning nature. Left to our instincts, we reach for anything to ease our groaning without considering the impacts of that reaching. Grace isn’t natural.

So back to those four verses that started this series, when you finish reading the rest of that chapter, which I’ll include at the bottom of this post, you see how hope and grace are made possible. They are both made possible by a supernatural grace choice-a choice only explained by love.

God saw his creation groaning. He was there for the first groan. And in that moment, he offered grace. He made a plan. He made a choice-the only choice available to stop the groaning. He chose to enter the groaning, to embrace it in order to crush it.

Chilling. There isn’t a human groan God didn’t feel and now doesn’t remember. He saw them and chose to experience them in order to redeem them…forever.

As you read the rest of this chapter, pause after each verse. Consider a prayer of thanks between each verse. Voice a prayer of adoration, of worship, of awe, of victory because you do not groan alone.

Romans 8:26-39

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Photo by Pinakeen Bhatt on Unsplash

Groaning (Part 2)

This morning in his message my pastor shared a story about some friends who have a young daughter. Around the age of two, she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. As they were dealing with that reality, other diagnoses came taking them down a very uncertain and unpredictable path. His purpose for sharing their story was to illustrate that their shared journey through uncertainty brought them closer to each other and to God.

Theirs is a story of groaning. As parents, they groan. As children of God, they groan. As spouses, they groan. When they choose to groan together, recognize each other’s groaning, they are actively choosing to draw closer together.

Sounds perfectly natural for a couple to do. But you and I both know, that’s not what all couples do. Not all relationships survive such trials. And when you examine similar challenges that a larger group is facing together, the possible response scenarios are multiplied.

  • How might responses be chosen if the challenges were seen as “the whole creation groaning”? (See Part 1)
  • How might we listen to one another if we viewed other’s words as groaning prayers?
  • What if we shared groanings without trying to win?
  • What rewards would be received if at least once we chose to listen to another’s groans without demanding they hear ours?

Most likely, all the answers to these questions have a common thread-choosing grace. Grace says, “I hear you. I see you. I’m willing to listen to you. Your groans matter. You are allowed to groan however you want, how loud you want, about whatever you want.”

We are all born groaners. We all have the opportunity to become gracious groaners.

Who is a gracious groaner?

  • That person that you know is in pain, but they refuse to suck the life out of the room.
  • That person that shares their groans along with the lessons they are learning, the questions they are asking, and the hope they have anchored.
  • That person that understands everyone around them also groans and offers the grace they desire to receive.

How did that person nurture such grace? Most likely, they admired someone else with it. Or even better, they grew from being gifted undeserved grace in return for their lack of grace. They received the benefit of shared grace.

More about that in Part 3.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Groaning (Part 1)

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

These verses precede one of the most quoted verses from the New Testament. Back to that later.

Recently I’ve been meditating on this passage, particularly focusing on the groaning references. In the past I’ve always focused on two elements of this teaching by Paul (hint to where these verses are found).

  1. Creation is groaning. So the challenges of our physical world-storms, fires, droughts, etc.-illustrate this.
  2. The next two verses that follow (familiar verses about prayer) mention wordless groans through which the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Praying is groaning.

I’ve taken a third focus lately that has brought further peace and clarity to a believer’s identity. And the focus follows this thought pattern:

All of Creation is Groaning

>Humans are part of Creation

>Humans are Groaning

Strange as it may sound, I find freedom in that truth. Not necessarily comfort or satisfaction. But this different view of our status brings deeper understanding. I’ll put it in three points:

  1. We’re all born groaning
  2. Shared groaning births grace
  3. God chose to enter our groaning

Growing up in the church, I’ve heard “we’re all born sinners” all my life. I’ve never heard anyone say, “We’re all born groaners.” All of my being is groaning. My spirit groans. My mind groans. My body groans. I was born this way. And there’s nothing I can do about that.

Although that’s true, I can do at least two things according to these two verses. First, I can wait eagerly for the groaning to end. In other words, rather than sulk over my status I can look forward to what’s ahead in eternity. Second, I can foster hope. Yes, my groaning spirit and mind and body produce stuff I don’t like; but I have the option to choose to humble all of myself to the Holy Spirit who gives me hope by being with me in that groaning.

I was born groaning and continue. It explains much. But there’s more. Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3.

Photo by Felipe Palacio on Unsplash

Lessons from “When Mama Can’t Kiss It Better”

Finally finished book #6 for the year.

And did I learn a lot. The challenges this family dealt with due to adopting a child eventually diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) are astonishing. How this played out through the adoption, health care, and education systems sheds light on the many challenges of families trying to love and care for their mentally ill children.

This story is a good reminder of three lessons:

You never know what is going on in a stranger’s life. You may witness something you think you understand, but it’s impossible to know the full story.

Media can get it wrong also. Just because the headline says it doesn’t make it true.

Grace goes a long way. Give it as much as you need it.

This Easter

I started this Thursday listening to my Easter playlist. In that, Lauren Daigle’s “How Can It Be” played. These lyrics from verse two stuck in my ears, mind, and heart.

The main reason they stuck is the contrast between the doubting of love and the exchanging of grace. Been on my mind for several weeks now, so these lyrics heard through the lens of Easter stopped me in my morning routine.

That’s what grace does. Makes you pause. Humbles your expectations. Erases your doubts. Brings you back.

May we all pause in humility to be brought back from our wandering through the erasing of our doubts of God’s love this Easter!

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.”

Grace to Fake It

I was called a liar yesterday. In jest while proofing my email, my colleague accused me of not being honest by expressing appreciation for a phone call that they understood I wasn’t really thrilled about having received. They were right, sort of.

My reply, “It’s called grace.” Amy Cuddy would call it “faking it till you become it.” (From her book Presence)

Let’s be honest. We don’t always have grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, trust-all the things we want to have, to be, to give. It’s that fruit of the Spirit list (Galatians 5:22-23) that we strive for, that we judge ourselves by, that we possibly believe just isn’t attainable.

Although Cuddy wasn’t making a spiritual statement with her suggestion, I’m suggesting we can adopt it when it comes to producing spiritual fruit. Following the Spirit’s lead, we can give grace, even if it feels less than 100%. We can forgive, even if it isn’t 100% pure…yet. Does that mean we are lying? I’d say it means we are “walking more in the Spirit than in the flesh” (back up to verse 16 in Galatians 5).

We have to start somewhere. Maybe what we all need is grace-grace to allow ourselves to fake (submit to it when it isn’t 100% what we feel) the fruit until we become it. Sorta like when your parents made you say you were sorry and you loved your sibling as part of their discipline tactics. 100%?

P.S. The reply email I received produced better results from faking it than not.

Problems to Society

“Beatitude people aren’t problems to society.” -J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare (2021 book #2)
Students of the New Testament understand that adjective beatitude. It’s a reference to the first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. Chapter 5 verses 3-12 contains a list of eight descriptors for people that Jesus taught are blessed. These descriptors run, just like they did then, contrary to society’s thoughts about being blessed, being happy. Take a look at this summary by Pastor David Jeremiah, and you’ll see why:
  1. The humble (those poor in spirit)
  2. The hurting (those in mourning)
  3. The harnessed (the meek)
  4. The hungry (those seeking righteousness)
  5. The helpers (the merciful)
  6. The holy (those with a pure heart)
  7. The healers (the peacemakers)
  8. The harassed (the persecuted)
A different worldview describes happiness and blessing by what you own, by getting what you want, and even more by what you deserve. That worldview potentially leads to a society full of self-indulged citizens who, unintentionally and intentionally, cause problems. For those hungry for peace in their hearts and in their world, we must take the lead. We must be beatitude people. Will we be perfect? No. So in those moments, we’ll need other beatitude people around us. People who say, “I’m for my society more than myself. My worldview is different. I am a beatitude person. I’m not perfect either, but God gives me grace. I’m going to share that grace and decrease problems in our society.” Photo by Sabine Van Straaten on Unsplash

A Grace Lesson from “Walking with Elephants”

Last night I caught the replay of Animal Planet’s “Walking with Elephants.” This 3-episode documentary follows Levison Wood’s 650-mile journey across Botswana to observe the annual migration of elephants to the Okavango Delta.


In the first episode, he is allowed to visit an elephant orphanage before heading off on his journey. The young elephants there had been rescued from various traumas-bush fires, death and separation from herds, poaching traps. The philosophy of the orphanage was to prepare the elephants to go back into the wild by not trying to control them as much as let them learn on their own. 

When asked how long the elephants would be there, I was a little surprised at the answer. The director said it usually takes 8-10 years. But as he explained his approach, it made sense. Before they are declared rehabilitated, they need to be able to survive on their own in a harsh world of predators. Outside of their herd, they are very vulnerable up until they are roughly ten years old (they live to an average age of 65). 

I see many applications from this reality for our lives. Here are the main two:

  1. Children of trauma have a long road ahead of them. It’s important their trauma is understood, their work through it is supervised, and their recovery be thorough. Whatever role we play in that work, it’s vital we understand this and give the grace and patience for that work to be completed.
  2. Trauma recovery or rehabilitation of any kind takes time. A quick-fix mindset sabotages the goal of full recovery. The body and the mind have to reset, reprogram, and strengthen. For some reason, the midlife of Moses’ story comes to my mind. After finding out his true identity and then losing control of his emotions and committing murder, God graciously gave him 40 years to recover before lighting up that bush. Moses needed full recovery.

Whether we are on the receiving or giving end of this kind of work, grace is key. That grace will empower the work to be completed, and the new life to start well. May we embrace that grace.