Keeping the younger version of myself

Day 3 – Keeping the younger version of myself

Grace is a living and active part of many of our lives. God offers it to each of us and the community of God in His very self. It is so much a part of who He is, that we can not know God and not know Grace.

However, applying grace in our lives can be the bigger challenge.

I am constantly praying for Grace. It isn’t a justification issue. I know that grace is fully and freely mine in Christ Jesus. I confess and am fully and freely forgiven. I praise and thank Him for the gift of salvation in my life and how that freedom eeks out into every little piece of life lived on this earth. Rather, it’s a sanctification issue.

I pray for God to help me let that Grace flow out to those around me. That the grace of Christ would wrap itself around my children and my friends and my home and my community. We live in a world in need of so much grace. As a fully redeemed Mama, I want that grace to be in every piece of my parenting, even when it looks like discipline. I want my husband to be engulfed in grace when he walks in the door of our home, instead of me greeting him with “Can you do this? Can you take this? This needs to be done…”

I’m hard on myself about grace, which is ironic in the way that the sanctified life so often is. I’m hard on others when they fail to give me grace. I’m frustrated that grace ends up being something I try to get instead of the free gift given, that it really is.

But I’m never more hard on anyone about grace than my younger self. For years I was actually terrified of my younger self. I wanted so much to remove those years from my memory and never go back. My childhood was great, but if I could only do away with years 13 to about 20, I’d be good to go! 7 years, who would miss them? When God talks about blotting out our sin (Isaiah 43:25), I always assumed He felt the same way. Just blot it out, forget it, done.

At this point you are beginning to wonder what in the world this has to do with Ecclesiastes 3:6. Let’s hit refresh on our passage again:
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

There are things we need to keep. There are times we need to keep, that we would rather toss away. Seasons that held sorrow. Seasons that held rebellion. Seasons that held something we’d rather wrap up tight in layers upon layers of blankets, encompass with duct tape, and hide in a dark corner of the attic….in someone else’s house…that may or may not burn down.

A time to keep…

A time to keep a friend that holds a bit more drama than we generally care to have in our life, a time to keep a church that we’d rather walk out of so we can go to the church three doors down, a time to keep a marriage that feels like a desert wasteland.

Friend, those are all hard things to keep. But sometimes that is what we are called to do. Not always, but sometimes.

For me, I was driving the other day and heard this song on the radio. The lyrics below combined with my study of Ecclesiastes 3, spoke truth to my heart.

Hit rewind, click delete.
Stand face to face with the younger me.
All of my mistakes, all of my heartbreak,
Here’s what I’d do differently:
I’d love like I’m not scared.
Give when it’s not fair.
Live life for another.
Take time for a brother.
Fight for the weak ones.
Speak out for freedom.
Find Faith in the battle.
Stand tall but above it all…Fix my eyes on You.”

I always heard this song as guilt. I so badly wanted to throw away, to cast away, that younger version of myself.

For the first time I heard it as Gospel. Would I do it differently? Yes, maybe, I don’t know. I think I always thought grace would be God giving me a redo. Letting my wise self exist earlier, letting all of it go away, letting a more perfect, more holy version of my youth be the reality. This I have learned…

God values me. God would keep me, sinful and imperfect, turning to Him. He sees the broken as beautiful. I am a piece of precious clay ready for molding, being molded over time, in relationship with Him. He is ever forming my purpose and giving me Life as His masterpiece.

Without the younger version of myself, I can not understand grace. 

Am I a sinner now, yes! But without the growth process, without God working from the inside out, I would only find grace as a nice idea. With it, I know Grace, as a the air I breathe, from a Savior who has worked in me from conception and isn’t about to give up on me now.

Praises, sisters, praises! Keep Him close, just as He keeps every little bit of us, close to His heart.

Losing the lost, a prodigal season

Day 2 – Losing the lost, a prodigal season

Today we will piggy back off of Day 1, and look more into Luke 15 and the Lost Parables.

First, review Ecclesiastes 3:6 –
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;”

The word translated as “lose” in the ESV above, is translated a few different ways by other versions. Let’s take a look:
NASB – to give up as lost
NIV – to give up
HCSB – to count as lost
NLT – to quit searching

While many Hebrew scholars would argue for one text being more reliable than another, it gives us a good snapshot of what could be chosen from the original Hebrew word le-abad.
(Normally transliterated with various accents and such things that are missing here.)

The essence of the phrase is that there is a time when you had something, and it is now lost to you. There was a time of searching for it even, but that time has past. There is a time to search no more, to throw your hands in the air and say, “Done.”

In yesterday’s post we were seeking God. He was seeking us before we could even begin to consider Him. He is a seeking kind of God. But I do not want our desire to understand a seeking God, keep us from understanding the fullness of God. This week we will address again and again the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. We’ll get to know Luke 15 pretty well, so find a bookmark. When we look at Scripture, God not only gives us a clear Law/Gospel message. He also gives us pieces of who He is. This is vitally important when we look at the Word.

Let’s read Luke 15 and see who is seeking and who has reached “done.” –

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

The people in the first two parables do not give up. There is no quitting in these stories. They search and seek until the sheep and the coin are found. In the third parable we get a bigger picture. The third parable helps us to see that there is a time to stop searching. We can reach and seek and search, but sometimes God calls us to stay home, and wait, as He, Himself has done.

Have you ever had that relationship with someone? Have you ever felt God speaking to your heart to just stop? To let it be? To leave that work to Him now?

Here is a hard truth that might be a stretch, but I think it’s worth exploring. There are passages in the Old Testament where our hebrew word for lose (le-abad) literally means “to destroy” and the root of the word (abad) can mean “to perish” even.

The prodigal Father knew the risks. He knew the heartache at the end of the prodigal road for His son. He loved Him, desperately, deeply. But He watched Him walk away. He let him walk the path of destruction. He knew that his son may even perish. He metaphorically raised His hands in the air and said, “done” or, maybe more appropriately, “Thy will be done.” He let him be lost. He did not give up on him. He gave Him up, so that He could be found.

Sometimes there are those people and relationships and plans and ideas in our lives that God calls us to say, “done” to. He does it for a purpose. Don’t misunderstand, God’s variety of done is never uncompassionate. We can pray and ask and seek Him, while He works on the details. Sometimes, we experience the pain of heartbreak, we see the one we love, or the plans we held so tightly to, fall into destruction or even perish.

Fear not. We have a God who knows infinitely better than we. Who has each of our names written in His book and Who is waiting on the road. Rest in Him.
Discussion questions:
Have you ever lost something dear to your heart or of value in another way?
Have you ever felt called to say “done” in a search or in a relationship or with a plan?
How did you do it? How can it be done well? (These things are not mutually exclusive.)

Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 6 – Ecclesiastes 3:6

Day One: Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable
Day Two: Losing the lost, a prodigal season
Day Three: Keeping the younger version of myself
Day Four: Casting away, a lesson on change
Day Five: God of the waiting

Heart verse:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

Day 1 – Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable

Let’s open to our Ecclesiastes passage first, so we are literally on the same page, Ecclesiastes 3:6 –
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;”

Today we’re going to seek. 🙂

Zaccheus…he was a wee little man. I relate to Zaccheus, as only another short person can. People my whole life have been identifying for me that I am short. Thank you, keepers of all obvious things.

The Bible tells us Zaccheus was short, not to torture the poor man, but so that we can recognize just how badly he wanted to see Jesus. I have been there. Baptized as a small infant, I had the benefit of the Holy Spirit welling up in me since tininess. I was buried and risen with Christ in the waters. Like Zaccheus, I heard about Jesus. I heard He did miraculous things. I heard He cared. I heard He forgave. I am forever grateful to my parents, my pastors, and so many others in my life who walked me through the stories of Scripture and built and planted and tended my faith. I believed and do believe 100%. It isn’t a belief problem.

But at some point in young adult life, I realized I believed in Jesus, but I wanted a closer look. I wrestled and climbed every tree I could find to see if God was walking down the road on the other side. Doubt for me as a prodigal, like so many others, wasn’t about losing my faith or walking away. It was about wondering whether I was wholy lovable or even worth the effort. I knew Jesus gave me redemption, a free gift, but could He redeem my past? Could He redeem each sin? Could He redeem all the places where I had stolen, and pretended, and forfeited everything that I claimed to be dear?

I wonder if this is where Zaccheus was?

Read Luke 19:1-10 –
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him,“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus tells us a few really important things about Himself in this passage. And that’s the business we are about – seeking Him.

#1 – “I must stay at your house today.”

Jesus wants to stay. He wants to stay with Zaccheus and He wants to stay with us. We are worth staying with. I don’t have to question it, because He tells me it over and over again in Scripture. Read the following Scripture passages and highlight what in these passages reminds you that you are a worthy place for Jesus, not just to visit, but to stay.
Jeremiah 31:2-3
Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
     the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

John 17:23
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wanted to stay with Zaccheus, not because he was perfect. Not because he had it all figured out. Zaccheus didn’t even make any promises for rectifying his untoward indebtedness until after Jesus came to stay with him. Jesus loves Zaccheus, reaches out His hand, and tells him, “You are worth my time. Worth my energy. Let’s figure this out together.”

#2 – “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Ok, so Jesus didn’t say it, but those around Him give us the pleasure of a small window into Jesus with their statement here, and Jesus saw it to be worthy of recording. God-breathed Scripture didn’t leave it out.

He has gone…”

You can hear the gasping of the Saturday Night Live church lady. “Sinners??!!”
I have no patience for pointing and sin labeling. Jesus calls it like it is, but He doesn’t heap on shame in the process.

In Matthew 5:46, Jesus tells us with His own words –
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

What reward is in loving those without sin? Those who fulfill all our desires for us? Those who never sin against us? Jesus was talking hard stuff here. “Why wouldn’t I eat with sinners?” is Jesus’s response throughout Scripture. There is “reward” in giving to a relationship that isn’t perfect. Where the people aren’t just giving to you, but you are filling and giving as well. There will be heartache. Yes. There will be struggle. Yes, but there will be a life shared, and that, is infinitely better than fake perfection in relationship.
Jesus, himself, loves us in our sin. Don’t mistake, he doesn’t love sin. But He doesn’t love me more as I confess. He loves me the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We draw closer to Him in our confession and as we experience absolution, but chief of sinners though I be, He loved me in the beginning. He’ll love me at the end. He loves me in the middle.

#3 – “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

And here is the crux of the matter. This is how seeking works. Jesus- He seeks. Continually pursuing. Sending people and words into our life that guide us perpetually back to Him. He saves us as lost and condemned sinners. He saves us as we grow and learn throughout our life. He saves us in our darkest, and in our days full of light.

We seek Jesus because He loves us and that Spirit of Love rises up in us. We can also tamp it down. But when you read these stories of real people in Scripture, you begin to see and understand and rest in who Jesus is. You want to know Him more and more and more. You can’t stop seeking Him. It’s never enough Him.
Because He seeks us, we can be fully confident in ever seeking Him.

I’ll leave you with this week’s heart verse, Hebrews 4:16 –
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Approach the throne. Soak in the mercy. Seek some grace. Embrace the help.
He loves you. Keep seeking, sister. You are fully and wholly found.
Discussion questions:
Take a look at Luke 15. Which one of these “Lost” parables do you most relate to?
Read Luke 15:1 again – who was drawing near to Jesus? Highlight it. Over and over again in Scriptures, He invites people in to draw near.
Tell us about a Bible passage or a person in your life that made you want to know more about Jesus.