Grace Period

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“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”  (John 3:16 -Message Bible)

Wouldn’t it be great if things in the world were “right again?”

I’ve heard stories of atrocious behaviors in this crisis: hoarding toilet paper, hatred boiling over from one’s heart if someone sneezes, fighting over a clean grocery cart… 

However, in spite of the terrible ways we’ve been behaving, not just in our life times, but through ALL time, God’s GRACE has been there. Waiting for you. And out of His great mercy, we’ve been given a grace period.

When we come out of this COVID 19 crisis, and we will come out of it, things will never be the same. And some of that is good news – Never again underestimating the value of a hug, a gathering of people to dine, laugh and be together; Esteeming and caring for our elderly, looking out for neighbors, honoring store clerks, first responders, truck drivers, janitors; donating blood, staying home when you are sick, valuing having a job to go to, paying your debts, taking time to examine the condition of your heart, praying like your life depended on it… 

Right now, we’re in the in between. A moment in time when we should be taking stock of what’s really important. A grace period where we must choose what’s important. 

Do you accept the gift Jesus already pre-paid for you? A gift far exceeding any amount of Clorox wipes, respirators or doomsday preppers stash – A gift offered as payment of our ultimate debt and lasting beyond this crisis -lasting through eternity.

This current grace period is the time to choose. 

Choose to hear Him

Choose to accept Him

To believe

That’s Grace

PERIOD

 

photo of child reading holy bible

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Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Battle Call

signboard informing unavailability of sanitizers

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Battle Call

“For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.” – Ephesians 6

Two days ago, we listened to the press conference from the COVID-19 task force leaders in America on whitehouse.gov

It was said that the threat we face is invisible. 

This virus is invisible, the spread is invisible, and I can think of a few other invisible things this pandemic is spreading.

I watched the hoarding unfold, the greed of many trying to use this for their own pocketbook, and witnessed the fear wrap its spindly fingers around many people hearts with each news cast…

Please know i am NOT writing this in judgement. 

Apparently, many of us are about one roll of toilet paper away from losing our common decency. 

However, I AM writing this because I know there is a better Way.

Proverbs 4: 23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The invisible enemy has indeed come to steal, kill and destroy. 

We’ve witnessed the havoc, chaos, depletion of decency. 

And yet, there is an invisible force  and a Way that has more power than the all the powers of darkness.

And it is very real.

Some people think that God is invisible.

Or they ask, “How do we know He’s here. Does he even care what’s going on?”

Answer: He cares more than you can even fathom.

The threats man has been facing since the beginning were invisible. 

And God knows us so well that He knew we’d need to see it to believe it.

So He sent us His Son.

The invisible made visible in Jesus Christ.

John 3:16

I read this story recently in Mark chapter 2 and feel it is so pertinent to right now. Jesus is having dinner with some tax collectors and “sinners” while the religious authorities are wondering why he’s doing this.—“When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’”

Have you heard the call?

The following is summarized advice from the WHO (World Health Organization) Director General for individuals during this crisis—He emphasizes that keeping in good physical and mental health is needed to help fight against COVID-19 if you get it:

First: eat a healthy and nutritious diet

Second: limit alcohol and avoid sugary drinks

Third: Don’t smoke

Fourth: Exercise (keeping a safe distance from others)

Fifth: look after your mental health (reach out, check on neighbors, family, etc) – He stated, “Compassion is a medicine.” Get info from reliable sources

Work together as one humanity

Good advice. 

But shouldn’t we already be doing these things?

The difference, I suppose, is that people are finally, actually listening and obeying.

Our external health is important. 

But no amount of antimicrobial soap and hand sanitizer can cleanse the heart.

Jesus came to call the sick. He came to call those who knew their hearts needed cleansing. He came to tell and live out stories of kindness; to be an example of mercy, of forgiveness, and of how to live a life of love. 

Jesus, God made visible, real; and yet he forces no one to listen to his call. He offers it freely to ALL and allows us each the chance to respond. The opportunity to cleanse our hearts by accepting the redemptive grace of a God who will not rest until everyone has the chance to hear and the option to bow and to confess freely.

And that’s not all. When He ascended to heaven, he left us the gift of His Holy Spirit.  A Spirit that lives within those of us who choose to hear his call and accept His gift of grace. 

A Spirit that will light our way, counsel us, heal us, protect us, guide us. A Spirit that communicates on our behalf and will never leave us or forsake us.

An ever present Helper in times of trouble.

It is He who who cleanses us from the inside out. 

Psalm 51:7 (THE MESSAGE)

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes,

give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me,

shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash,

or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Doesn’t that sound like good news? 

I guess the questions is:

Are you listening?

Upside Down Love

UPSIDE DOWN LOVE

John 3:16

You guys know this one. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

But, I wonder, do you know about John?

As I’ve studied more about the Bible, I’ve learned more about John. (I usually relate more to the disciple Peter—the one who spoke boldly, but then would waver and screw up—I totally relate to that.) But this John refers to himself as “the disciple who Jesus loved.”

Why don’t I relate to that more? Why don’t all of us relate to that more?

Love.

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Love and Marriage Engagement photo by Greenlight Photography

 

It’s the statue in Old Town Scottsdale that my fiancé and I took our engagement photos around.

It’s what we promised to do “until death do us part.”

It’s on the coffee mug that I bought for him on our three year anniversary.

And he loved that coffee mug.

So much so, that he uses it every day.

Little did I know that it couldn’t go in the dishwasher…and my husband is really busy in the morning: up at 4 am, out the door by 6 am, back home at 6 pm to grade papers. He’s a teacher, so he often doesn’t have time to wash the dishes in the sink.

And that irritates me. Every day.

I mean, how much effort does it take to wash that mug? Obviously, too much for him.

So, every day, that LOVE cup sits there and talks to me from the sink, “Remember that fight where you were wrong? And he forgave you even before you admitted you were wrong?” It urges, “WASH ME.”

Then there’s this other voice that speaks up, “JEEZ— it’s your day off—didn’t he even think you might want to do nothing today?”

Back and forth. Two opposing voices. One on each shoulder battling it out over LOVE inside me

But something is happening.

—-

“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10

I was walking and talking with a friend about an exquisite (and very expensive!) piece of art that she and her husband had both admired and then decided to “splurge” and to purchase. Having this piece for their very own would allow them to be enchanted by it on a daily basis. But it was like she had to justify it to me.

“It’s really spectacular. But beyond that, the artist is a genuinely nice guy. He has helped me when I was hurting, encouraged me when I was struggling, and he’s been there for me in so many ways,” she explained. “I love this piece we bought. It represents so much. I already loved it and because I know the creator of it, it makes me love it even more!”

—-

I have been struggling with some defensive, gossip-y, and often down-right mean individuals with whom I share an office building. There are times when I walk in the room and suddenly they hush up.  Hmm…

Other times, I’ve overheard the complaining and back-talking about others in the workplace and, yes, there are times when I get sucked into the talk.

It’s a slippery slope.

And once I get sucked in to the “conversation,” it is quite difficult to get out. Then I feel awful. I feel worse than I did when I believed it was me that was being talked about.  This back and forth struggle of opposing forces in the world…Where’s the LOVE?

But something is happening.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95: 4-5

I’ve been reading my Bible; studying the stories about the Creator of the universe.

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” NIV Psalm 33:6. “The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed, and all the stars were born.”

It’s something to wrap your brain around—a Creator who can just exhale and out comes the Milky Way! And what’s cool is that the very same “star breathing” Creator also made you and me; breathing His breath into us as we are born.

And, as told to us beautifully by John, that same Creator loves us so much that he sent his one and only son, Jesus, to earth to show us what Love is.

The more I study, the more I read about this unconditional, faithful, immeasurable LOVE, the more I want of it!

John, the one who Jesus loved, tells us :

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”-John 15:13

And it gets even more crazy. This LOVE that Jesus teaches throughout the Bible in Luke 6:29 says, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

Hmmm…

And, ultimately, even more remarkable is the type of love discussed in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

A true representation at the Cross: A love that died for the sinner that repented AND died for the one who didn’t.

The more I read, study, discover, ponder… something is happening to me

I think my friend hit on this when she so wisely observed, because I know the creator, it makes me love even more.

LOVE

On those days when I am exhausted and just want to do NOTHING, it urges me to not only wash the LOVE mug, but to do ALL the laundry, get to the grocery store, make lunches for the week and send him a text that I’m thinking of him and praying for his day…

But that’s my husband.

I can grasp the brotherly love; the parental type of love that would sacrifice one self for those you love. But to die for the ones who are asking for your shirt? Slapping your face? Betraying you? Disappointing you?

I’ve heard it said, “Those least deserving of our love, are the ones most needing of it.”

That’s upside down.

And yet, I am suddenly reminded of those times I listened to the “other voice.” The times I slid down the slippery slope and got involved in the gossip, and played a part in things that were UN-loving— No wonder I don’t associate myself as one who Jesus loved—do I deserve it?

“I am the thorn in your crown, but you love me anyway”-Sidewalk Prophets

And then I read about Jesus explaining why he took on flesh and came to the earth in Mathew, Mark and Luke–He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” 

Those, like me, who struggle with those two opposing forces. Those, like me and Peter, those who keep screwing up.

A Savior was sent because we need saving!

I read about Jesus’s last moments on earth- nestled between those two thieves, listening to their voices. Two souls in opposition fighting it out.

He reconciled it for the repentant sinner who listened to the voice of LOVE.

AND He reconciled it for the one who rejected Him.

Jesus did it for the Johns and for the Peters.

For those who are well and for the sick.

For the you’s and the me’s.

Willing to die for every last one of us.

As he exhaled his last breath on earth, He loved.

Oh how I wish I could love like that.

But something is happening to me—The more I experience my Creator’s mercy toward me, the more I am moved to extend it to those I’m struggling with. But not on my own. Without my Helper, that kind of forgiveness or tolerance is much too difficult. But with Him, I don’t have to do it alone—He who is in me is  much greater than me. He can do the things that I cannot.

I recall over my life, how my Creator has been there when I was hurting, I sense His LOVE and encouragement when I’m struggling, and I see His artwork all around me uplifting me and speaking to me in so many ways. I see it in my husband as he bears with me when I don’t wash his LOVE mug every day. And, as I allow my life to be turned upside down, He allows me to see the pain in those that have hurt me instead of myself.

As I learn more and more about the power of His LOVE, the more I Listen to the voice that says  “WASH ME.”

The more of Him (and less of me!), the more His Upside down kind of LOVE is available in me—To be poured out to a hurting world from my own Love cup.

I want to know Him more.

And then I found out about Peter. That disciple that I relate to the most.

“According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.”-Wikipedia

A love so impactful it cannot help but completely turn everything upside down.

I see how this Upside down Love, proven at the Cross, is poured out on the World from The Creator’s Love cup.

And this love, His work of art accomplished at the Cross, although very expensive, (priceless really,) is available for us all to have for FREE, to be enchanted by it every day.

That’s upside down.

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LICKING ASHES

Licking Ashes

Licking Ashes

LICKING ASHES

“How about a nice greasy pork sandwich, served in a dirty ash tray?”

Sound pretty tasty?

Can you name that movie?

—I I LOVE movies and this used to be my favorite movie quote. (A quote from Gladiator now holds that place in my heart.)

Back to the quote–

Anyone?  Anyone? Buehler?(Hint: not that movie!)

Hint: An 80’s classic

Hint: Starred Kelly LeBrock, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton…

Remember “Weird Science?”

When I was in Jr. High, (and high school and college)my friends and I would often spend entire weekends catching a movie at the mall and/or being holed up in my parent’s basement with a supply of movies to get us through the weekend, only arising to pee or grab a snack.

One day, my Jr. High best friend Kelly and I spoke to each other only in movie quotes.

The whole day.

Totally awesome.  ;)—(It was  the 80’s)

I love the smell when you walk in the theater. I love the dumb quizzes they have if you arrive very early. I get excited and start planning my calendar watching the previews. I love movies so much that I stand in lines for premiers, pay ridiculous ticket prices, splurge the $20+ in movie snacks (P.S.- HARKINS Theater’s popcorn is the very best!) I love an interesting character, a plot twist, a poignant scene. I debate about them, blog about them and, like I said earlier, I speak “movie.”

Most people who know me, know my love of movies. It‘s contained on every one of my profiles on Twitter, both Facebook pages and my blog (www.juleseddy1.wordpress.com)

But do people know I love Jesus more?

Do my words, actions and thoughts honor this love?

Would I stand in line for hours to go to church; sacrificially give to further His kingdom? Would I discuss and debate the intricacies of this relationship with friends and with strangers? Will I raise my hands in praise at worship of THE MOST HIGH?

“He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’”

–Can you name this quote?

Hint: The Bible

Hint: A prophet spoke it

Hint: Old Testament

It is found in Isaiah

Beth Moore’s book “Breaking Free” discusses this passage and reminds us that anything we place higher than God is idolatry or misplaced worship.

It is a lie.

It is like licking a dirty ashtray.

I thought about the greasy pork sandwich quote as I read the Isaiah verse. We often sustain ourselves on lesser things; on empty, unsatisfying, non-satiating remnants that are dropped from the world’s table.

I admit it.

God created some pretty terrific things and He created us, so He knew we would have these tendencies to put these pretty great things before Him.–He saw it over and over and throughout the ages. Time and time again, people worship empty idols; placing things (and people, and success, and pride, and comforts and movies, etc.,) over Him.

But God also loves us so much that He pursues us; tracks us down in our misguided paths and shows us a different way.

Relentlessly, He does this by reminding us of John 3:16–

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son”

And:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. His mercies are new each day” (Lamentations 3:22)

And:

“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:13)

And:

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

Just a few of my new favorite quotes. 8)

Turn from what it is that has “that place” above The Most High and return Him to the place of Honor.

And, guess what?!—They also made a movie of it all—Check out THE BIBLE mini-series now available on DVD! 😉

FIERCE LOVE

fierce love

FIERCE LOVE
“I will cease to live if I cannot be with you.”

Sounds Shakespearian, or maybe a line from “50 Shades of Grey,” or a RiHanna song?

It’s all about context.

Now-a-days this could be a codependent red-flag if spoken by a boyfriend, lover, stalker, etc.
Change the context; it changes everything.

–Scene change–
Picture these words being spoken by a parent or grandparent who, through no fault of their own, is faced with the thought of being denied access, sight and time with their beloved young child or children.
Though I am not a parent, I have been witness to this type of love; a fierce, almost angry, wild love.

Altruism: the sacrificial love of one for another.

It is a willingness to set aside your very life for the life of someone you love so intensely that life wouldn’t be worth living if they aren’t a part of it.

Soldiers do it for the love of their country.

A parent will step in and sacrifice for their innocent children.

This love is found between siblings, partners, families and spouses who willingly lay down their life to save their beloved.

But what if you were asked to sacrifice your life for something you didn’t care that much about?

Envision being asked to die for your abuser.

Or, for a follower of a different faith that harmed your country;

Or, the ex-boyfriend who dumped you for the larger breasted, more popular girl in school.

What about for the friend who betrayed your trust?

Or, being willing to give your full life for the child who turned away from all your teachings, stole from you and chose a drug ridden path on the streets…

**gulp**

This type of love happened.
This love happens.
This love is available to us because of Jesus.
It is the love He demonstrated on the Cross.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-7)

God, our father in heaven, loves us with such intensity that he sent us the ultimate sacrifice so that we would not cease to live. What He accomplished on the cross makes a tough life worth living, makes death not final and turned everything on its head. It’s the upside down that made things right; the death of an innocent for the lives of the unworthy.
It is the most quoted and therefore the most recognizable verse: John (3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

He seeks us out when we are lost. He calms the storms of the seas of our life. He provides daily for our strength and gives us a hope worth clinging to when all else seems void.

Just know that no matter how unworthy this life can make you feel; that no matter what shames haunt your heart and, despite the burdens that weigh down your willingness to carry them one second longer, you have One that knows you, One that empowers you, One that believes in you, One that died for you because of His fierce, fierce love for you.