I haven’t always gone to church. I have found church to be both a place that is inviting, beautiful and healing (like it is today) and I have also found it to be a place of a lot of rules and judgment. My first experience that I can remember with church was in 6th grade. My mom and I moved from Bellingham to Redmond. My first day at school I met my best friend. This is how the story goes…
I walked into my first period choir class and scan the room for someone who looked like me. And there she was, short and chubby, sitting in the front row. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing a fragile insecure girl looking back–begging for me to sit next to her. We were instantly friends secure in our common insecurities. Her dad was a pastor and it wasn’t long before she invited me to church. The first week I attended, the pastor gave an invitation for salvation at the end of his talk he said something like this: “If you want to go to heaven and walk the streets of gold, come forward and be saved. If you want to burn in hell, stay seated.” (at least, that is what my 12-year-old brain heard). As I ran, well almost sprinted, to the front I was baffled by all the on lookers. Didn’t they hear what the minister had said?
Fast forward 5 years of committed and devoted church attendance – every time the doors were open. I was going into my senior year. I was tired of being called the “Fat Bible Thumper”. So I put myself on a diet of nothing and decided to ditch God for a date. I was much more interested in being liked by boys than by God.
The diet worked, I got skinnier and my popularity rose. But somehow the emptiness I thought popularity would fill, stayed. I tried everything from partying to people pleasing and over-achieving. Nothing worked. Living from happy hour to weekend. From weekend to vacation…It all seemed so pointless.
In 1991 I was in a car accident. I ended up with a traumatic brain injury and seizure disorder. But something more important happened in the midst of my messy life – I met the real God. Not the God of guilt and shame I had been introduced to at church years ago, but the God who told me my life mattered. The God who told me he had a purpose for my life. The God who believed in me when I had no reason to believe in myself. It seemed He wasn’t going to relent his pursuit of me until I accepted his offer, and so I did. I accepted the grace of God in my life. It was something I didn’t deserve and something I didn’t expect, but something HE FREELY wanted to offer.
I found myself EMBRACED BY GRACE.
Now it is my passion to help other women LIVE LOVED and set free by the power of God’s GRACE.
But, what is this thing called grace?
The song sings about it, the preacher teaches about it, I learned about it in seminary, some of us say it before we eat dinner.
You may have even heard someone say: I was saved by grace. Maybe you have said it yourself.
But do we really know what it means? Have you experienced it?
Has your life been permanently changed by grace? (Lucado, 2012)
I asked a table of ministry leaders: How would you describe the experience of grace in your life. One of the leaders said: “WOW, you don’t waste any time going deep fast, do you?”
Eventually, half the group was able to articulate what grace has meant to them – and beautifully so, I might add. But it took a while. I feel if professional Christians have a hard time describing their experiences with Grace, Grace may need an advocate! Maybe like me, you have questions too? Let’s see if this will help.
In the book, Shaped by Grace, Max Lucado says: God’s Grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water riptide, turn you-upside-down-ness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then give us the power to pull it off.
When grace happens, we receive not a nice compliment from God but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ, and he returns the favor. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezek. 36:26).
The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: GRACE (Lucado, 2012, p. 4 & 8).
Grace is not something I do, it is something I receive.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.”
Friends, this month we are going to make sure no one misses out on the grace of God. We are women who were born to be set free and live loved in the embrace of grace!
Are you ready to receive it?