No longer a foreigner to Grace


The day we moved to Haiti was exciting and exhilarating. We got up at 3am, headed to the Detroit airport with our giant suitcases, hugged our selfless middle of the night chauffeurs/friends and headed off on adventure.

My first thought when we arrived in Haiti was, “We can handle this!” With the warm greetings of our Haitian friends, our bellies full with plantain and celebratory cake, and the distraction of unpacking and settling in, the culture around me seemed a curiosity, rather than shocking. It took little more than four days and a trip to the Haitian marketplace to feel thrown completely off my footing, to know that “we can handle this” was hopeful at best, a mild delusion at worst.

In the marketplace, there were people everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I have shopped the foreign marketplaces before. I’ve traveled all over. I don’t love bartering, but I have some skills. I enjoy people, crazy mixes of smells, and the sound of vibrant language overlapping in the pleasant chaos of the day’s busyness. But I have never had to do it for my survival. I wasn’t there just to browse and procure a few souvenirs for friends back home. I needed groceries, and I needed them on a limited missionary budget. I needed to figure out how to cook said groceries, and I needed to not get hit by a mototaxi doing so.

I stood in the marketplace that morning and realized I was a foreigner. I was an outsider. I had no clue what I was doing, and do you know what that translates to? That feeling of utterly alone. Standing in the middle of a crowded marketplace, the sounds dissipate around you, the tears well up and you realize, in the end, it’s just you on an island. No one knows you here. If you fell, would someone pick you up? If you disappeared, would anyone notice?

In the marketplace, lost in my lonely thoughts, I felt a tug on my elbow that brought me back to the movement and the noises all around me. I looked into the chocolate eyes of my friend Sydney, who placed her arm around my back, held on to my shoulder for dear life and said, “Heidi, I am right here.”

That day in the market, Sydney gathered me. She didn’t just gather me in her arms to reassure me, but she also gathered me to be part of her people. Our friends in Haiti did absolutely everything they could each day to make us part of their lives. To welcome us, yes, but also to gather us as part of them.

Have you ever been the foreigner? Alone in another country, another town, another family? Think past the obvious. Have you ever been left standing in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit? Have you ever had to walk into a new church praying it felt like home? Have you ever rolled over in bed and realized afresh that the other side now lies empty and this world of loss is something harder than you ever imagined?

God promises that in all of our aloneness, all of our wanderings, all of our cast aside and walked away and went far off, He will gather us to Himself.

Isaiah records this promise in Isaiah 56:5-8. Read that below –

I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.”

Child, you are better than a son, better than a daughter. That means that you who were once a stranger to God, a foreigner to grace and mercy, are now more than family.

You are gathered.

He has joined you to Him, gathered you up from your dark places or your regular middle-of-the-road day and brought you into relationship with Him. Verse 7 above proclaims that He brings us to His Holy Mountain and makes us joyful in His house of prayer.

God made someone else joyful in His house of prayer. She also felt like an outsider, a less than, and wondered if she was foreign to God in her barrenness. Look at Hannah’s story fresh. Read 1 Samuel 1:12-16.

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

Hannah brought all of her anxiety, all of her burden, all of her pain before the true God. Her heart overflowed, “pouring out her soul” before the Lord. If you think that Hannah’s prayer was polite, I would offer up a different vantage point. Hannah herself tells Eli in verse 16 that she has been speaking with the Lord in great anxiety and vexation. What’s the English definition of vexation? Annoyance, exasperation, indignation, aggravation. The Hebrew word here is marat, or bitterness. Hannah didn’t just pour out her requests, she poured out her bitterness in this house of prayer.

Hannah was gathered by the Lord.

He gathered her up to hear her bitterness, hear her dissension, to hear her shock and her distress at a world that was not fair. Is it possible that Hannah wondered in her distress if she even knew the Lord? Did Her beloved Savior feel foreign to her in her struggle? Have you ever been there?

You are gathered.

This is how God gathers. Maybe the house of prayer is simply honest relationship with God. Peak back at Isaiah 56. What did the Lord want from His people? He just wanted them to come to Him.

…To love the name of the Lord…

…to minister to Him…

…to hold fast…

…to place our sacrifices, on His altar…

You are gathered and He promises to gather others as well. That means all the Hannah’s you have around you, bitter and struggling with something. He’s gathering them. When He brings you to Himself, whether in bitterness or joy, He will use you to gather and gather and gather some more.

You are gathered. You may look a foreigner in this present land. You may feel a foreigner in your family, your church, or this culture. You may have some annoyance, some frustration, some distrust stored up to pour out before Him.

Go ahead and do it. You are no longer a foreigner to His grace.

You are gathered.

Trust in the One who holds you tight.

 

Gathered Scripture Engagement Tool

Exploration:

Present your requests before the Lord. Set a timer and challenge yourself to pray for 10 minutes straight with no distractions. Please feel free to pray longer, but let’s challenge each other to pour the cares of the day out to Him and spend time with Him and Him alone for just a bit. If you’d like to share some prayer requests, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

 

*psssttt – a birdie told me that the “No longer a foreigner to His Grace” photo makes a great iphone wallpaper. Just save it to your phone and insert as wallpaper under settings.

Coffee, tea, and Jesus please

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How do you feel about coffee? I tend toward ardent fan. I’m totally on the bandwagon for the coffee memes that proclaim it’s wonderfulness.

“Come here you big beautiful cup of coffee and lie to me about all we’re going to get done today.”

“All this girl needs today is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”

“First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.”

Perhaps you are more Captain Picard, and a little less Captain Janeway. Is tea your bag? What gets you going in the morning? What ignites your energy for the day?

What wakes you up?

God tells us that we all need something to wake us up. We all were once sleeping through life, but He had a better plan. A better way.

Metaphorically, the Bible talks about sin as our sleep drug. Look at Proverbs 6:9-11.

How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

Sin makes us sleepy. It closes our eyes to what is right and good. It’s surprisingly cozy and comfortable, lulling us into a complacency that leads to more sin. We love comfort so much that the light around us dims and we don’t even notice until we are standing in utter darkness.

This kind of thing happens when we disrespect our husbands and lash out at our families. We feel better for an instant, but then the darkness comes.

It happens when we skip church or avoid our Bible study group over and over again, for other things that sound fun or for the busyness of life. It feels good for a second to sleep in or not have to chit chat, but then the darkness comes.

It happens when we have a juicy conversation with the girls at work. It feels good to talk about someone else and know that your own shame is not the topic of the meaty conversation. It can’t hurt her if she doesn’t know, right? Then the darkness comes in.

It happens when we roll our eyes at our husband’s attempt at communication. We slam a cabinet and walk out of the room to get his attention. Then the darkness comes in.

Sin doesn’t wear a bright sign that says beware. Instead, it wraps us up slowly like a cozy blanket and then attempts to strangle us at the last minute, when we’re all tucked in.

Ephesians 5:7-14 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture and it’s about being awake. It is practical and bears the truth of the relationship between light, darkness, sleeping and being Awake Children of God –

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

At one time you were darkness…

Can you hear the grace? We are no longer darkness! We are light in the Lord. That means we are Daytime and Sunlight. We are not third shift, 3am, sluggish and sleepy children of God, trapped in sin.

We are Awake.

How do you wake up in the middle of a gossip session, especially when it feels so good? How do you wake up when the words of disrespect pour out of your mouth?

Do not become partners. (v.7)

Some people were meant to be avoided like the plague. This is not you being hurtful or failing to eat with tax collectors. This is you knowing your own limit. This is caring for others, but knowing when you aren’t at the place to resist the temptation. Don’t make your closest friends those who partner with darkness.

Don’t speak of shameful things. (v.12)

I know it’s the worst when everyone else knows what happened in the royal marriage that was shameful and catastrophic (Sorry royals, I know you have kept the marriages pretty stellar as of late), but if it’s someone else’s shame, it’s not our business to speak of. This goes for the divorce of the couple next door, or the mental illness that befell someone’s child. If it’s not our story, it’s theirs to share.

Let Christ Shine. (v. 14)

Brightness is His name. When we let go of what we want, the light of His glory is so bright that we can’t help but live Awake. Let the Spirit out, my friends! Let Him out. Tea and coffee, even a triple mocha espresso double skinny dark, have nothing on a real and living God inside of us. Pray – Lord shine through me. Let my life shine of only You and always You.

Ephesians 5:16, just a couple verses later leaves us with a good Awake reminder –

…making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Our time here is so short. I want to live Awake. I am Awake in Him. Why would I want to go back to that darkness, even for a brief stroll? Gag. No, thank you.

Awake, O sleeper…

Awake, precious Child…

Awake, daughter, brother, friend…

Grab your giant mug, inhale the scent of forgiveness, take a moment in prayer, and let Christ Shine.

Exploration:

What gets you going in the morning? Coffee, tea, exercise, more sleep? 😉

What does your morning routine look like?

What do you do in when gossip or disrespect from your own mouth seems imminent? Do you have a way to tamp it down and let light out instead?

How can you let Christ shine today?

Mama said there’d be days like this – when awake just isn’t working…

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Ever had the day when you’d like to just go back upstairs, put on your pajamas, crawl back into bed, and hide from the world around you? Yes? So this was my day last Tuesday. It took everything I had to leave my clothes on and walk around out where the people live.

These are the kind of days that we are reminded of a hard truth – we are sinners, living in a sinful world. Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, but it certainly is worthwhile. As much as I want to slip on my pajamas and hide under my covers, He calls me out for more.

Israel in the Old Testament had plenty of pajama-and-under-the-covers kind of days. Some were their own fault. They chased other gods, let lust have its way, and set aside the opportunities to worship for whatever seemed good at the moment. Sin creeps into our lives in ways we least expect as well.

We think we’re pretty good people, we go to church, we do alright. The Truth: Not one of us is without sin. We have blunt and obvious sin – hurtful words and anger, ignoring our neighbor, the chitter chatter of gossip, and more. We also have the secret sins – hate in our heart, lust, discontentment, thinking highly of ourselves.

Look at Isaiah 26:16-19

O Lord, in distress they sought you;
    they poured out a whispered prayer
    when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
    who writhes and cries out in her pangs
    when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18     we were pregnant, we writhed,
    but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
    and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
    and the earth will give birth to the dead.

As we read, we hear the Israelites proclaim their allegiance to the Lord and the Lord alone. They recognize their sin and the mess they’ve made, while looking around and seeing the sin and mess of the nations around them. They recognize the goodness and necessity of the Lord’s discipline. Consequences happen, but in this instance, instead of sneaking away, they cling tightly to the promise that only the resurrection can offer – life eternal and an eternal life perspective.

Sometimes God not only gives me grace, He also gives me excessively practical advice for these exact situations in my own life. Isn’t it nice when it works out like that? What can we learn for life from Isaiah 26?

They pray:

…they poured out whispered prayer…

He wants to hear our sin. He knows it, why say it? Why confess it aloud?

Hearing it from our lips and poured out from our hearts, gives Him the opportunity to pour in.

He pours into us forgiveness and life. He pours tenderness and healing. Do you have past sins that sit on your heart like a boulder? Do you ever feel like if people found out your real story, they would never look at you the same way again? God says, No. I heal. I restore. This sin, let me use it for my testimony. I have a plan.

“pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray unceasingly also means pray about all of it, even the ugly. God invites us to pour out every last sin and temptation to Him.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

 

They rise:

(v.19 ) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

God invites us to confess, not to make us sit in the dust, but to pick us up out of our shame and pour Himself into us.

“…my cup overflows…” Psalm 23:5

This exchange of pouring is part of the overflowing cup – Him filling and filling and filling some more, releasing us from the burden of our own incapabilities and inadequacies. “Let me take that,” He says, “I already carried that cross.”

When faced with our sin, we can look to Jesus, or we can look away. We can crawl back into our jammies and hide under the covers, or we can let Him give us a New Day.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

My cup overflows with mercy and grace. I pray you know the truth of this today. Forgiveness and grace, poured on you for every last sin, every last fail, for pajama days and rockstar days and every day in between.

fontcandy-42Exploration:

When was the last time you wanted to crawl back into your pajamas and hide under the covers? How did God tend to your heart?

Read John 17:1-5 Identify the following:

Who is praying?

Why?

What does he identify as eternal life and how does this perspective change each of our days?

 

*background images courtesy of Pexels.com, memes always sharable`