So What's the Big Deal?

I swear, it is when you think you know that you really don't know. I do not think it is true, that the older you get, the less you think you have a handle on. I think the real truth is that the wiser you get, the less you think you know.

I was practically bottle-fed and burped on the Roman's Road, John 3:16, the Wordless Book, Jacob's Ladder, Onward Christian Soldiers, and the books of the Bible. I had the books of the Bible memorized, Old and New Testaments, well before the third grade. I was born again at six years old, and baptized in the Spirit (a very real "second experience") at eleven years old.

So you can imagine how that, in my adult life, I thought I had knowlege of the gospel of God and manifold grace. Meanwhile, my consistent default mode was lawlawlawlawlaw. What's the big deal about grace? It's a doctrine.

I. Did. Not. Know. Jack.

::she says, laughing::

And I still don't know...not as I will come to know as I grow ever older and hopefully ever wiser. All I know now, is that this gospel of Jesus is all there is to know, and I will be a lifetime understanding it, applying it to my life, and ministering it into the lives of others. Oh, happy calling!

The great hymn writer Isaac Watts said this: "Acquaint yourself with your own ignorance. Impress your mind with a deep and painful sense of the low and imperfect degrees of your present knowledge."

Deep. Painful. A deep and painful sense. Oh, Mr. Watts! Been there, done that recently. I've decided I prefer to stay "down here", though. I want to live my days out in the low posture of a student...only then can I truly teach with bold confidence. And teach I will. I will not be silent. I read today that there are two things the devil will always, always capitalize on: unhealthy solitude and self conscious silence. I do not learn wisdom in a vacuum, I do not gain wisdom by myself, in solitude. I learn it from God, and very often through others.

What He shows me in secret, in that deep and painful place, that I will shout from the housetops, all silence and self absorbed propriety, be gone!

The Beauty of the Gospel

For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 4:6)

Sin is ugly. The gospel is beautiful. The reality of sin does not alter the beauty of the finished work of Christ.

Hear me when I say - I know what I am talking about. For almost sixteen years of pastoral ministry, my husband and I have been exposed to the worst in human nature - you name it, we've had to deal with it directly, everything from adultery to pornography to pedophilia to lying, self righteous pride, and gossip.

And it used to rock my world. I would mourn, for those trapped in sin, as though there were no light in the darkness.

Then, along came deeper revelation into the grace of God. Now, I mourn for those trapped in sin, while believing God that "joy cometh in the morning." Today, I am intimately acquainted with the reality of these words, "Where sin abounds, the grace of God much more abounds."

So do we wink at sin, that grace might abound? God forbid.

Do we wink at the grace of God, so that sin might abate? God forbid, because that won't work anyway. If, in a reaction to some awful sin, I attempt to de-emphasize the unbelievable, unfathomable grace of God, well, that would be utter unbelief and foolishness on my part.

It would be akin to allowing soot, dirt, and ashes to pile up in my fireplace, and then turning out the family room light. Suppose, hours later, I return to the fireplace and turn on the light of revelation, and exclaim, "Look what turning on the light did! It encouraged my fireplace to be more dirty! If I dim these lights, the fireplace will be cleaner."

Nah, the light exposed what was already exposed the reality I was hoping to ignore. The grace of God is no different. It never encourages sin - it rather exposes it as being exceedingly hideous in the light of divine and sacrificial love.

Christ gave his life to justify the sinner....never the sin. "Sin" is not justified, in any way, shape, form, or fashion. But I have been justified, because I have put my trust in the finished work of Christ, because I have cast all my hope onto the grace of God.

The real result of true grace-illumination, is the power of God to clean the fireplace. A well-laid, crackling, happy fire feels far more natural than letting ashes pile up. The light of grace is not a pretext for pretending the toxic mess doesn't really exist, and no spiritually sane person blames the light for all the mess, soot, and ashes. Rather, the light helps you see what damage the dirt has done, and then it helps you take joy in participating with God, as He creates beauty for ashes. You can finally have a good fire.

Grace gives beauty for ashes. It justifies the sinner. It is a fire - the very power of God unto salvation. It is still the gospel of God that by grace I am saved through faith, and nothing else. And, as I have received Christ Jesus, I will continually walk in Him. Sin, in my life or the life of someone exceedingly dear to me, will never....never....diminish the light of God's glory and grace.

Again. I know whereof I speak. I am walking this out in the most painful of ways, in this season of my life. Everything I know about the grace of God is being put to the test, is being walked out, as Jacob limping. I've wrestled this one out, in the dark night of my soul, and God has come away glorified, and His great grace magnified, and I am beautified in vials and vials of the oil of joy, the oil of joy He gives to replace my mourning.

It is well with my soul. The gospel is most beautiful. I can never allow what may be going on in the life of a dear son or a near friend's daughter, or a precious woman's husband, or a precious man's wife....I can never allow any of it to diminish the beauty of grace, or make me run back to law. Rather,this battle, difficult and heartbreaking, will one day bring about sweet victory, as the grace of God teaches everyone who is His, to deny ungodliness.

Lord, let your light shine!

This N' That, July in My World

Our "baby" practicing his drums. (Note the cleaner in the windowsill. We do make him do his chores.)

part of tonight's dinner ~ tomato and cucumber salad from the garden, in a creamy blend of mayonaisse and sour cream (2 to 1 ratio of mayo to sour cream), with lots of chopped dill.

Told you I'd take you with me, on our trip to the mountains, day before yesterday. This was our brief brush with danger. This bear was as big as the Barbie Jeep! He stood his ground for awhile!

Oh...what a view.

Up through the top-down "Barbie Jeep" (red Geo Tracker)

One of many tiny waterfalls - this one went all the way up the steep ridge.

"Run river, run." (Anyone else, like me, love old Bread songs?)

A Walk Through the Garden

A few pictures from the gardens, just this morning. I never "style" my photos, so everything you see is as it is. I want to post pictures of my rosemary and foxglove, but I'm out of time. My beloved and I are planning a trip to the mountains (in the Barbie Jeep) late this afternoon, and I have much to do in the meantime. I'll try to remember to take my camera when we leave, so that I can "bring you along" for the ride - top down. Won't you come? Bring a bit of cash for a snack at Dead Beat Pete's. Maybe bring a hat to avoid what I call "crazy convertible hair"....I never wear a hat, though. I don't mind the windblown look. Nothing more relaxing, in my simple version of the world.

tealights along the back deck...

peppers - got 5 coming in, and a bunch of blossoms!

the sunflower patch - nothing blooming yet...

Kentucky Wonder pole beans in the back, and basil in the front. (There's thyme in the middle, but you can't see it.)

Our old, broken chimnea, now a planter. My gardening apron and back brace (ahem) hanging where I always reach for them, each day.
(Told you I don't style my pictures. Don't they look hideous, hanging there?)

Rudbeckia and salvia. I want tons more rudbeckia! Masses of it! Billows of it!

The hydrangea I planted this spring has finally bloomed.

The butterfly garden...

Roma tomatoes

a small variety of patio tomato - we've a total of 32 tomatoes coming in.
They'll all ripen at about the same time. Want some?

Of Books, and Words Underlined

excerpt from "Seeking the Face of God" by Gary Thomas...

"...'We do not keep ourselves by our own power', Pascal wrote, (in our own strength), 'we have only the counterbalance of two opposing vices, just as we stay upright between two contrary winds. Take one of these vices away, and' (in our own strength), 'we fall into the other.'

What did Pascal mean by this? A man or woman who works very hard may simply be avoiding the sin of laziness by being filled with selfish ambition or greed. Remove his or her hunger for more money and this person will immediately become as lazy as any of us.

Others might be very disciplined around food. They would be the last persons on earth you would label as gluttons. Yet they are disciplined around food because they want to have a physique that will draw attention to themselves, not because they don't want food to have a hold on their hearts and steal their affection for God. They may be free from gluttony only because they are slaves to vanity.

Do you see how we play vice against vice - using vanity to destroy gluttony, for instance - and are upheld by the struggle of two sins? This is a much different holiness than the ancients' view of a transforming passion that gives birth to virtue. On and on we could go, showing how 90 percent of our virtue is a sham, a vice wearing a coat and tie. That is why Jesus constantly pointed us to the heart..."

Reading this yet again today, I found myself rejoicing over the grace of God. In the gospel, I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. No longer do I have to lean on my own understanding, depend on my own human performance, or compare myself to anyone else. I am certain that I am quite imperfect in the estimation of a friend or spouse or child or employer, but none of those people are God. In the estimation of God, I am fully accepted in the Beloved Son.

The gospel of this radical, divine love, as displayed in the finished work of Jesus, is the transforming passion that gives birth to true virtue....grace alone gives birth to accomplishments of any eternal value. He only is "Maker". I can not make of myself anything resembling true virtue. I have set a trumpet to my mouth in this regard, and intend to use it to make a clear and certain sound...trumpeting New Covenant glory...until I leave this earth for heaven, where I will take it up again for the same reason.

90 percent of "my" virtue is a sham. Thank God for the gift of the righteousness of God through Christ.

Powerful Hymn

My latest, most favorite song. I cannot hear this without tears. Oh, the riches of His glorious grace!

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high Priest whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God!

One with Himself, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God!

Can We Articulate It?

Grace. There is a "grace speak" that can only come after long acquaintence with the gospel of Christ. For example, I can hear a phrase in Spanish and I can make those sounds ,while not understanding a word I am saying. But those who speak the language can tell the difference.

On the other hand, if I immerse myself in Spanish culture....ah, that is entirely different. Fluency in the language comes. I can begin to pick up on inflection, nuance, and cadence.

There was a time in my life when I could make grace-sounds. After all...I had heard about grace, through some messages here and there in my short life. "By grace I am saved through faith, and that not of myself. It is the gift of God."

I had to have been not more than ten years old when I memorized that Bible verse. Therefore, as a grown woman, I thought I understood grace, and could speak about grace...what was there not to understand? I'd heard the "song" enough times before, I felt sure I could sing it.

Here is how I may have sounded:

English sounds, in a way, but no real words, and obviously no understanding. Likewise, I used to make grace- sounds...I could speak gospel syllables...but with no immersion in the truth, there was no clarity, no real personal impact beyond my own assurance of heaven, and behavioral modification.

Gentle reader, I am no Mariah Carey, but let me tell you. Today ~ I can sing the wonderous love of Jesus. I can sing His mercy and His grace. My language is effortless, passionate, and clear. I've been immersed in the gospel of Jesus - grace besotted, fluent and confident in all Christ has done...and consequently the old dialect of law, which distorts the language of grace whenever you try to mix them together, that old dialect of law has nearly disappeared altogether.

I speak native grace.

Now, when I speak about grace, the words and the phrases and the stories I tell all reveal immersion in the concept. I'm living it, not just repeating sermons I may have heard about it. Not just parroting doctrine. Not just singing songs that have no passionate and personal meaning to me.

No more "Ken leeeeeeee tulibu dibu douchoo."