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Receiving the Rain

“As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” –Isaiah 55:10-11

On my youngest son’s most recent visit home from college, he took time to plant a garden in our backyard. He carefully researched which plants would grow together best, including a fun mix of flowers and vegetables which he told us were known to cooperate with each other. The Luffa Gourds have been my favorites. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I got to watch two tiny plants sprout from little, bitty seeds and climb all over the trellis Seth built around and above the garden for that purpose. We yielded the biggest harvest from these. We also had a bumper crop of Marigolds, Sunflowers, and cucumbers and might have enjoyed a bit of corn had the last remnants of Harvey not come through with destructive determination even in his waning strength. The Luffa Gourds were unimpressed. They’re still trying to sneak into the neighbor’s yard as I type this.

Before Seth left, he gave me strict instructions for the care and feeding of my new plants. I was to water them at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening before and after the hottest hours of the day. I did well at first. Sadly, I became ill a few weeks into the project. I continued to do my best, but every now and then I missed a day or two. When I was able to get back out there, I’d see some of the plants beginning to shrivel. Texas heat in summer can be a bit harsh, you know. I’d give the plants a healthy soaking and celebrate when they began to thrive again.

This is the analogy that God has given us regarding His Word. He sends it as rain for our spirits. And He never becomes ill or misses a day. His Word is available to us all the time. We just have to choose to soak it in, saturating our minds and hearts daily, strategically misting between soakings.

And when we do, our spirits will bud and flourish, yielding seed for the sower and bread for the eater. More seed equals more produce. More bread means more people are fed. The more of God’s Word we take in, the more His Spirit can do through our lives and the more our God will be glorified, we will be resourced, and others will come to know Christ.

All we have to do is read our Bibles and let God’s Spirit go to work. More water; more Luffas. More Scripture; more accomplished in and through our lives for Christ.

Father, thank You for Your Word. Help us all to read it faithfully, letting it revive our souls and prepare our hearts that Your Spirit can accomplish Your Will in and through us. Thank You for the promise that Your Word will achieve the purpose for which You sent it. Help us to receive it with joy and gratitude each day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Eliminating Intolerances

In 2012 I came to understand the difference between allergies and intolerances this way: Severe allergies can threaten your life. People who are allergic to things like peanuts or bee stings have to be prepared to take immediate action in case they come into contact with these. Intolerances, on the other hand, aren’t life threatening, but they will make you uncomfortable, steal your energy, slow . . . you . . . down. In 2006, I learned I was lactose intolerant. In 2012, I became soy intolerant as well. I can let a little bit of each slip into my diet from time to time, but too much messes with my digestive system, joints, sinuses, and energy levels, so I try to be as vigilant as I can about eating right.

Now there’s something new going on inside of me. Doctors haven’t figured it out: a new intolerance, a virus, a disease? It’s a mystery. But I’m becoming even more vigilant about what I eat, eliminating anything suspicious in hopes that I’ll start feeling healthy again. If you happen to think of me, please pray. I really want to feel strong and healthy again.

As I’ve done my part to solve this mystery, I’ve recognized a spiritual parallel. Any sin we allow in our lives is like an allergen. It won’t just slow us down; it will halt our spiritual growth altogether and keep us from enjoying an ever-deepening relationship with Christ. As David prayed, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” -Psalm 66:18. Sin is a deadly toxin that stands between a person and God. It is something we must eliminate. We do this by confessing it to Christ (admitting that we’ve done wrong), receiving His forgiveness by grace through faith, and by turning away from it—turning to Christ instead.

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, though, His Spirit will begin to reveal other activities, habits, thought-processes that need to go. These wouldn’t necessarily be characterized as sin, but our growing spiritual life won’t thrive, we won’t be able to reach our potential, until they go. Susanna Wesley did go so far as to classify these as sin when she said, “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.” Her relationship with God was so precious to her that anything that kept her from drawing closer to Him was an abomination. The more any of us comes to know and love God, the more we’ll also aspire to this.

This is how I’m currently treating most anything that threatens my health—even that mouth-watering slice of double chocolate fudge cake that is okay for everyone else in the room to eat. As much as I want it, I reject it because I value my health more. And my relationship with Jesus is more important than my health.

But, like Susanna Wesley, I’m not going to go so far as to start listing what’s okay, what’s not, and how much of something can or should be “tolerated.” That’s taking a legalistic view of the Christian life. The many and ever-growing number of denominations in our nation prove that it’s practically impossible to agree on such a list anyway. Instead, each person has to do what David did—and do it with a sincere heart—one that wants an ever-deepening relationship with Christ. Each of us has to ask God’s Spirit to reveal anything that weakens our reason, impairs the tenderness of our consciences, obscures our sense of God, takes off our relish for spiritual things, or increases the authority of the body over the mind. And, just as I’ve had to eliminate different foods from my diet every few years for the sake of my physical strength, God may ask us to rethink different activities, habits, and thought-processes over time as we grow closer to Him. He leads us to grow up in Christ gradually, knowing that to demand perfection at the moment of salvation could overwhelm and discourage us, could cause us to give up.

We turn away from sin in order to enter a relationship with Christ, then we allow His Spirit to help us remove anything in our lives that impairs our spiritual development and health. As our sincerity and desire for God grows, so will our determination to remove anything that weakens us. Another prayer of David reveals He had this heart for God: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” -Psalm 139:23-24. I want to develop such a heart for God as well.

Lord, just as I want to eliminate any food or product that is stealing my strength and health, I need Your help and guidance to eliminate any activity, habit, or thought-process that a thriving spiritual life can’t tolerate. I want to draw closer and closer to You! You gave me life; You are my life. I surrender to Your scrutiny, testing, and knowledge. Lead me in Your way. Amen.

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Our Most Inspirational Heritage

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” -1 Timothy 1:3-4

Oh, no! I hear the old lady singing – again. Now the spunky island princess. Softly. Building . . . building. Brace yourself – here it comes! Four adolescents and their beloved hero, all at the top of their lungs: “I AM . . .”

Can you name that princess, star of the latest cartoon musical slowly driving parents out of their minds? When our boys were little, I could almost quote Pocahontas line for line. Now Moana is getting all the air time.

Every few years, a new princess. I’m okay with that. I love the movies almost as much as my children do. I’d just prefer to see them only once or twice instead of over and over . . . and over . . . again.

I’ll come back to this.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I knew why genealogies were so significant in Bible times. She was reading through Chronicles. Talk about endless genealogies! I told my friend that if I remembered correctly, it was more cultural than theological. The people of that day found their identity in their ancestry . . . not unlike our island princess. Moana struggled to understand her purpose until she learned that her ancestors had been voyagers. Suddenly all became clear; she knew what she was called to do and found the strength to do it in knowing who her people had been. People in Bible times were the same – and so are some people today.

But what if your people didn’t leave you an inspirational legacy? What if, instead of being the son of King David, you learn you are a child of Saul? Because of his poor choices, he was rejected as king by God. Or even more confusing, what if both David and Manasseh, Judah’s most notorious king, are in your family line? Are you bound to go one way . . . or the other, enslaved to your ancestry? Truthfully, we’ll all find both heroes and villains when we climb our family trees. I think we tend to think we have to follow in the footsteps of those closest in lineage to us. This can be troubling for those whose parents or grandparents made hurtful choices for their lives.

Thankfully, though, once we receive Christ as our Savior, we’re adopted into God’s family, grafted forever onto His family tree. We may trace our biological family lines for the fun of it, discovering the unexpected people and places we’re connected to. But we won’t find our identity in these. Our identity is in Christ, Who gives our lives a meaning and purpose and direction and power and calling greater than that of any spunky island princess. We are not bound to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors. Jesus came to give us the perfect legacy.

You wanna sing with me? Nevermind, I still can’t sing. But I know who I am. I am God’s child. I am a child of the King of Kings.

Lord, may our lives reflect this heritage. Amen.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” -Romans 8:15-16

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Okay, Stones – Your Turn!

Dear Blog World,

I’ve missed you! I hope you’ve missed me, too. I also hope you’ll forgive my extended absence and welcome me back. I really do have a lot to say. In fact, I’ve been saying it in my journals all along, processing . . . learning . . . praying . . . absorbing. Now I’m ready to write out loud again.

Where have I been?

In April, we added three new children to our family. I still feel kind of like I’m not quite telling the truth when I say that I have seven children, but I do. God has grafted a total of four beautiful girls – biological sisters – into our family tree in the past year and a half in much the same way He grafts those who receive His Son as their Savior into His. (Someday I’ll have to write more about that.) But in case you didn’t know this, whenever you add a family member, whether by birth, marriage, adoption, or alien invasion, there are adjustments to make for all involved. These adjustments pretty much filled my brain with fuzz.

And then I got sick. One day I was fine. The next I woke up and was not. We’ve only recently gotten a partial diagnosis about what’s going on. The good news is it’s not life-threatening. Now we’re just waiting to see if what it is can be treated or if I’ll have to learn to live with it. I’m already doing the latter, hoping this living-with-it-thing is temporary, but knowing that life must go on. If you think of me, please keep me in your prayers. (Maybe I can even be one of your Parachute Prayers . . . whenever you see a wildflower . . . I’ll let you work that one out.)

One of the limitations of this mystery illness is that I can no longer sing. Okay, so all I really did before was make joyful noises to my King, but now I can’t even do that. When I go to church on Sunday, I stand and listen and pray the words to the songs. If I try to sing, my lungs hurt, my heart flutters, and I have to sit down and assure myself I’m okay. The doctors in the ER don’t want to see me anymore. (That’s okay. I never wanted to see them in the first place. Not that they aren’t perfectly nice people, but . . . well, they’re in the ER.)

A few weeks ago, instead of listening and praying, I was whining to God about the situation. (Technically, that’s praying, but it’s not very worshipful.) The following verse came to mind: “‘I tell you,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'” -Luke 19:40. I almost laughed out loud, thinking, “Okay, stones. It’s your turn!” I’ve had that thought in my head each worship service since.

Our God is so amazing, He just has to be praised. If the Pharisees try to shush His people, He can make the stones cry out instead. If one of His children has a physical limitation that keeps her from adding her voice to the mix, He can call in a few rocks to fill in for her too. So far He hasn’t chosen to do this.

But He could. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Lord, how I thank You that one way or another, Your Name will be praised. And one way or another, I will find a way to praise You even if I cannot sing! You have worked miracles on my behalf and for the benefit of my family this year. I’ve been amazed to see what You can do when You decide something must be done. Nothing and no one can stand in Your way. I’ve seen the truth of this – and I love You for it! No one else deserves my trust, my life, my heart like You do. I will praise You however I can. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Intentionally Removing the Bitter Root

Inch Plant Bloom“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” -Hebrews 12:15

We have an interesting plant in our yard. It’s called an Inch Plant. The flowers on this plant are a pretty shade of pink. The rest of the plant is a purplish, kind of leafy vine. It’s trying to take over the yard.

My husband has learned that if he trims the plant, he can take the trimmings and plant them in other parts of the yard where they’ll produce new plants. If he doesn’t pick up the trimmings and do something intentional with them, though, they will take root where they fall. And if he never trims the plant, it really will take over the yard—perhaps the whole neighborhood—and fast!

Bitterness is like that Inch Plant. When someone hurts us, we may choose to forgive—and even mean it. But memories tend to linger like the plant trimmings. If we don’t do something intentional with them, we may find ourselves dwelling on the memory, then on the pain. Just like that, bitterness can take root in our minds and hearts again.

Inch PlantTo be intentional, we need to take hold of the memory as soon as it forms. We need to remember that we chose to forgive and reaffirm that decision. Then we need to take the memory to God. Forgiving doesn’t mean that justice won’t be done. It means we choose to trust God’s method of handling the matter—without our action or input. We remove ourselves from the judgment seat—and even from the witness bench.

Then, instead of demanding justice or dwelling on how we were wronged, we can talk to God about how we felt when we were hurt and tell Him about whatever feelings returned with the memory. We can tell Him that we choose to forgive yet again—just as He’s forgiven us. We can ask Him to heal our hearts and take away the pain. We reaffirm our faith in God’s care and go on our way full of His peace.

Interestingly enough, God’s peace can grow and spread just like bitterness can. We can (and probably will) pass either along to the people around us, too. Rehashing a bitter memory may tempt us sometimes, but peace is a healthier option to let take root in our hearts and minds.

Father, remind me to treat bitterness like a weed and root it out whenever it appears. I choose to forgive those who’ve hurt me. I trust You to work in their lives—just as I know You are working in mine. Help me to surrender painful memories to You to cultivate Your peace in my life. Amen.

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Living Together in Unity

Psalm 133-1

It was like a Beatrix Potter story come true in our own back yard!

Two squirrels were fighting high up in our tree. My son turned to look just as one threw the other to the ground. The victim landed on his back and stayed there, stunned. As Seth was thinking about going to check on the squirrel, the neighborhood cat, who likes to hang out in our yard, beat him to it. The squirrel came to his senses just in time, jumped up, let out a screech of horror, and raced back up the tree.

I’m sure the brother squirrel apologized. The mother squirrel scolded. And everyone drank some chamomile tea.

Because the little squirrels couldn’t get along with each other, they left one of their number vulnerable to another threat. Thankfully, the drama in our backyard had a happy ending—for everyone except the cat.

Sometimes Christians struggle to get along, too. We’re still human after all. There are just so many different ways to not see eye to eye!

Yes. It’s challenging. But when we don’t make the effort to live in unity, we leave each other vulnerable to an even bigger threat:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8

Not to mention the damage our disagreements do to our testimony.

It’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity. It’s dangerous to all, though, when they don’t. Let’s learn a lesson from the squirrels: be thankful for our shared refuge (for us, in Christ, rather than in a tree)—and stock up on calming, chamomile tea!

Father, thank You for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, for adopting us all into Your family. Though it’s sometimes hard to get along, help each of us with this. Please give us patience with each other and the ability (and desire) to forgive quickly. Show us the bigger picture: we’re vulnerable to Satan’s trickery whenever we fight. Give us a Spirit of unity to stand together in You, come what may, for the glory of Your Kingdom and the good of all humankind. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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Inviting Messy to Come

Prayer for All the Children“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –Matthew 19:14

I saw the cutest thing at church last Sunday morning. My uncle would say it made it worth the cost of admission. The pastor had called the ushers back up front to pass something out to the congregation, but one usher’s son came with him. This toddler was determined to help, and his smart daddy let him. Naturally, there was some subtle wrangling going on. The little boy wanted to choose rows of people at random instead of stopping at each row in turn. At one point, he decided he’d rather hand things out individually then trust people to pass them on down their own rows all by themselves. The dad was ready, though. Whenever the little boy tried to change course, his dad just stepped in front of him, like a shepherd keeping sheep from going the wrong way. Together, father and son got the job done—and anyone watching was thoroughly entertained. Even God was smiling. Of that, I’m absolutely sure.

Letting kids help takes a lot of patience. Sometimes they make bigger messes than they clean up. Sometimes they get really excited about starting a task then lose interest halfway through. Sometimes they want to take on more than they can handle, balking at doing the simple tasks that would really be of help to you. Parents must learn to see this process of helping the children learn to help as a primary parenting task—a task more important than perfectly done household tasks. Wise parents know this is worth the effort in the long run.

Letting kids help around the house:

  • lets children know they are members of the family. They are part of a team with something to contribute. They belong.
  • gives them a sense of ownership. The house they live in is their home to help care for. They can take pride in a job well done. (In fact, picky eaters are sometimes less picky if they’ve helped prepare the food.)
  • builds their self-esteem as they practice and master new skills. That desire to take on new tasks is a desire to learn and mature.
  • prepares them for adulthood when they and their spouses will raise their own families.

This same principle applies, though, to letting kids help around the church. The imperfect process of letting children learn to help is worth the effort and inconvenience. For example, the little boy who helped pass things out after the offering on Sunday now knows and will remember that he is a part of his church. He has something to contribute, and his church family supports his efforts, is willing to let him learn. As he grows and watches his parents and other members of the church, he’ll discover other things he can do to help, and he’ll be ready to try with confidence, knowing people don’t expect perfection right from the start. They’re just thankful he’s part of the team.

When we invite children to participate, to try new things, to do what they can, we treat them the way God treats each of us. We are His children, members of His Kingdom. He could do everything Himself, but He doesn’t. He invites us to help. He challenges us to try new things. He expects us to do what we can, trusting Him with everything else. He doesn’t demand we reach a certain level of maturity or skill before letting us join in. Instead, He shepherds us, giving guidance as needed, bringing our efforts to completion in His strength. He knows we’re messy and don’t always get it all quite right, but, evidently, He believes we’re worth the effort in the long run. He is a wise parent. To Him, the process of helping us mature in our relationship with Him and our ability to serve as heirs in His Kingdom is more important than anything else.

Father, thank You for being such a patient parent. Help us to follow Your example as we raise the children in our homes and in our churches. May they all come to know You early and live faithfully for You all through their lives. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Letting a Little Child Lead

Woolly Shepherd

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite sights so far this Christmas season is still bringing a smile to my face when I think of it. At the beginning of this month, my husband and I, with some friends, went to see the Christmas festivities in a small town not far from where we live. Shops were open; some were serving cider and sweets. Christmas lights decked every store front. There was even a horse-drawn carriage for people to ride in up and down the streets. The church near the end of the main boulevard offered a living Nativity complete with donkeys, sheep, and goats. We started our tour there.

We walked slowly to view each scene from the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem with their little donkey. Shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Angels on pedestals, all serene but for one boy-sterous little one who wanted nothing more than to fly away. (With the head angel’s encouragement, he was making a great effort to stand still, sweet child. I was proud of him—and tickled at the memory he brought to mind of my own boy-sterous angel child of just a few, well, maybe twenty, years ago.)

Finally, we came to find Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus, all in the stable with shepherds, wise men, and animals galore. As we approached this highlight of the experience, a mother among the witnesses was tending to her child in a stroller. As she did, her slightly older daughter quietly slipped over the ropes separating guests from the living display. She sat down primly on a bale of hay, crossed one hand over the other in her lap, and settled in to watch Baby Jesus. And watch she did. I think she’d settled in for the duration.

Was she supposed to be there? No. Did anyone disturb her? No way. This little child was leading us all. While we were casually enjoying the festivities, she was adoring the baby. And, though I knew that baby wasn’t really The Baby, the memory of that little girl boldly moving closer, so she could see and not be disturbed by the chaos around her, has stuck with me since that evening. That little girl’s actions defined worship and peace.

Father, thank You for using this little girl to remind us what Christmas is all about. Even as we enjoy the celebration of Your Son’s birth with family, friends, church, and community, help us do so with hearts full of worship and adoration for Jesus. After all, He came to reveal You to us. That fact alone deserves our awe-filled contemplation. Thank You, Lord! We love You. Amen.

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Preparing in Advance to Give and to Worship

1 Chronicles 16-29As I walked into the grocery store yesterday, the bell ringer standing outside caught my eye. I was trying to avoid this because I had no cash on hand; I just wanted to sneak quietly by. But he blocked my path just enough to get me to look up, then he wished me a merry Christmas. This determined bell ringer was on a mission to make eye contact with and speak to every person who entered the store. On my way back out again, about forty minutes later, he was still at it. This time he said, “God bless you!” I appreciated the fact that he wanted to offer Christmas blessings to everyone, even those who had no money that was drop-in-the-bucket-able.

I went on about my day and forgot about the whole encounter, but God brought it back to mind this morning. I wondered if that group gets fewer donations now than they used to because people are less likely to carry cash. Then I realized that it is December after all. This is the only month of the year they are out. We know they are going to be there, so if we want to give, why not go prepared? Would it really be so hard to keep a little bit of money on hand for worthy giving opportunities that arise not only for this group, but others we might encounter? —not only in December, but all through the year? God’s instructions to the Israelites on intentionally leaving some of the harvest in their fields for others to gather as they have need comes to mind. (See Deuteronomy 24:21 for one example.)

As I continued to think about this, read, and pray, I came to this verse in my day’s reading: “Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.”1 Chronicles 16:29, NLT

When we give in God’s name, we enter His presence—even if we’re entering the grocery store! As we prepare to give, we’re preparing to worship anywhere! When the Spirit prompts us to follow through, we’re doing so with our Lord.

Father, thank You for giving me something to think about this morning. Please remind me to be prepared. I want to share the gifts You’ve given with others who may need them. I also want to enjoy Your presence everywhere I go. I’ll prepare, You lead, I’ll obey. Together we’ll encourage others and magnify Your name. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Grace: The Stuff of Which Priceless Pearls are Made

Grace is The Stuff“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands.”Psalm 119:165-166

As I continue to study the topic of grace in my weekly Bible study group, I’ve been presented with many examples of people trying to find the grace to forgive the big stuff—the seemingly unforgivable, usually one-time, wrongs. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out how to come up with the grace to forgive little irritants—recurring annoyances that I must encounter again and again. Sometimes we are bound to people or circumstances that cause us much stress. How do we respond with grace?

My husband’s and my current irritant is an oppressive property manager. Before signing our lease, we read it carefully and asked many questions about everything that concerned us. Once we were sure we understood what we were getting into, we signed. This was about two weeks before we actually moved in. When we arrived in town and went to pick up our keys, however, the property manager presented us with one more paper to sign. This paper had all the deal breakers on it. Had he been up front with us, we never would have signed the lease. Yet our choice at that point, he made clear, was to sign and proceed on his terms or refuse to sign, forfeit our security deposit, six weeks rent, and non-refundable pet fee, and find ourselves without a home.

We signed under duress.

Most of the time it is okay. We love the house. But once or twice a month we have to deal with property-manager-related irritations. If he would leave us alone, we’d happily live here for three or four years and prove to be among the best tenants ever. As it is, once our lease is up, he’ll probably be looking for someone else to live in this house. Those last minute additions to our lease are just. that. annoying.

When I think of this situation, I pray for grace. Lots of grace! Here is what God is helping me to understand:

Irritants like our property manager are like the grains of sand that get into an oyster’s shell. The sand irritates the delicate oyster, but there’s nothing the oyster can do to get the sand out of the shell. Instead, the oyster produces some kind of secretion to coat the sand and ease the pain. Every time the sand irritates, the oyster adds another layer until a pearl is formed. Naturally, the greater irritations produce the largest pearls.

This is grace. When I feel irritation building up inside of me, I ask God to help me wrap it in grace. The grace doesn’t come from inside of me, though. I must go to God for what I need. He calms me down and comforts me. A pearl is born. If the irritation won’t go away, I must go to God again and again. The pearl grows every time I do. It occurs to me that this process works, over time, whether I’m dealing with a recurring, little irritation or trying to forgive a huge, unforgivable-in-my-own-strength sin. In either case, when I feel pain, I go to God and ask for more of His grace.

I saw this in action this morning as I read through Psalm 119. I’ve always seen this Psalm as a tribute to God’s Wisdom, praise for His Word—for His Law. This morning, though, I noticed there are actually two recurrent, almost parallel, themes. Along with expressing his devotion to God’s Law, the psalmist is pleading for salvation, deliverance, and freedom from oppression. This man was dealing with a serious irritant. Yet he responded by declaring his devotion to God, his loyalty to God’s law, his love for God’s Word as he asked for relief.

We can do this, too. No earthly oppressor has any kind of ultimate authority over us. We are members of God’s Kingdom. In His perfect timing, He will fight for us. He will set us free. When we look at any annoying, aggravating, or troubling situation from that perspective, the irritant seems to shrink. In fact, we can almost laugh at some; our God is just. that. BIG!

Paul wrote about this when he told the Corinthians about his thorn. We don’t know what this thorn was, but it irritated Paul. Three times, he asked God to take it away, but God refused. His reply to Paul was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is a challenging passage, but I think I’m starting to get it now. God’s grace is the stuff we ask for when we need comfort from the pain of life’s thorns. As the grace builds up, beautiful pearls are born and grow for the glory of God’s name.

In a future post, I’ll write a little more about how these pearls bring glory to God’s name. In the meantime, I’m still calling on God for grace in irritating situations.

  • What are you asking God to take away or free you from?
  • How can you remind yourself to go to God for grace when something irritates?
  • How has He comforted you in troubling circumstances that you have no immediate power to change?

Father, thorns are ugly and painful, yet sometimes we choose to endure the pain and complain. Please remind us that You have all the grace we need for any situation. We only have to come to you. Please comfort us until You choose to set us free. Create a beautiful pearl in our lives for all the world to see. Thank You, Lord, for grace. Amen.