We are 23 days in, only a week to go in this series on changing the world. I had a rough idea, when I began, of where I wanted to head. But it has surprised even me that the further we get into thinking about changing the world, the more compelled I am to be quiet. To still. To slow. To pray. To believe. I do not think that is just by chance. So join me, if you will, on this late Sunday – consider God, believe in his goodness, trust him to move, and be still.
May you know without doubt or shadow that life is found as you live it, and may these words from friends and family be used to encourage, inspire, and move you to change the world.
“Life can be carried only in the hands of the unhurried.” Ann Voskamp
And if you have 4 minutes to spare? I have gone back to watch this video too many times to count. We have an influence whether we like it or not. But this video, Ann’s message – these words and images will remind us to live fully awake. And then perhaps our influence will be on purpose rather than by default. Watch and be reminded?
We are now finished with the eighth day in a series. Read 31 Days to Change the World from the beginning. Go here to see all of the other 31 Day series happening around the internets. Want to have Chatting at the Sky delivered into your email inbox? Subscribe here for free.
It is certainly hard to believe that today is the last day of October. When this series began, I invited you here everyday in October, to come with open hands, a willing heart, and a soul ready to breathe in sweet grace. From the comments and emails I’ve received, it seems you have done just that. I hope that is true for those of you I haven’t heard from.
As promised, I wanted to close out this series with a list of some recommended resources for further study, if you feel so inclined. This list is in no way exhaustive, and I may add to it as more come to mind.
Over the last 10 years or so, The Man and I have found some books that we keep going back to. A bit of a warning, we can be a little geeky and theology-ish when it comes to this subject. As in, we listen to sermons on tape (yes, tape) and we read books written by people who have been dead for a while and we have notebooks filled with scribbles and scrabbles on grace. We talk about the doctrine of grace a lot, about the finished work of Christ and other things that may not be super user-friendly language. So some of the books I suggest may reflect that. Just so you know.
The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whittal Smith :: Because it was originally published in 1875, it is now part of the public domain and you can read it here. It is fantastic.
The Saving Life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas
The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderan :: a well-worn favorite. I’ve linked to the updated version with study guides for families and small groups.
Breaking the Rules by Fil Anderson :: a family friend, Fil has an easy-to-listen-to voice and a great story of how he learned grace after a lifetime of religion.
Grace Works by Dudley Hall :: if you are a good girl or grew up thinking you had to be perfect, this could be a book you might relate to. This was one that loosened up some of my rigid religion when I was in my early twenties.
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young :: a 365 day devotional. You already have this one though, right? Essential.
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity by Bill Gillham
. . . and coming Fall 2011 My Almost-But-Not-Yet-Titled Book :: again, for all you girls out there who are tired of living a try-hard life, this (I very much hope) wil be a grace offering to you. More to come on that.
. . . and a few I’ve not read yet but heard are good
Gracenomics: Unleash the Power of Second Chance Living by Mike Foster
The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley :: we have this one, and I’ve thumbed through. Really cool cover.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers :: based on the story of Hosea and Gomer. A beautiful, captivating read.
The Defiance Texas Trilogy by Mary E. DeMuth :: Mary confronts difficult issues in this beautifully written 3-book series, issues that have grace and redemption weaved throughout.
“It is extraordinarily powerful. It is often extraordinarily slow. Fear works quicker. But fear erodes relationships. Grace is like a crock pot.” – Andy Stanley, on grace from the Michael Hyatt interview
Grace is for Sinners Serena Woods
A Holy Experience Ann VosKamp
Face to Face Heather Gemann Wilson @ (in)courage on showing grace to your enemies.
Grace-Hating Sarah Markley at The Best Days of My Life on showing grace to grace-haters.
31 Days of Grace :: you may click here to read each post in this series.
And of course, I have to say hello and yay to the other girls who hosted a 31 Days Series this month: my sister at Nesting Place, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, My First Kitchen, Life With My 3 Boybarians, Reluctant Entertainer, The Inspired Room, and Remodeling This Life.
Are there resources you have discovered on this topic of grace? Please, share them with us in the comments – title only – if you leave a link, it will go to spam. I have had so much fun writing this month. Tomorrow I’ll share a bit of the behind-the-scenes about that. Or maybe I’ll wait til the next day !! And again, thank you for joining me for 31 Days of Grace.
On Tuesday, you linked up photos of grace. Today, you get to use words. Somehow in the last 30 days, I haven’t yet run out of words to say about grace. I’ve talked about what it is and what it isn’t, what it feels like, what it looks like, and why it can be hard to give and receive. I’ve talked about grace in marriage, in parenting, and grace for when you don’t feel graceful at all.
But today is not my turn. Today is your turn. What have you learned about grace? What does grace feel like to you? What difference has the presence of grace made in your life? Or perhaps, the lack? I look forward to hearing your stories, seeing more photos, and learning more of what grace means to you personally. When linking your post, remember to use the permalink rather than your blog’s main page.
To those of you who may wish to link up but have never linked up before, I want to extend a special invitation to you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, eloquent, or succinct. It just has to be authentic. If you are scared of linking wrong, just know you cannot break the internets. There is much grace here. Thank you in advance for your words and creativity.
From the woman at grocery store who looks at me funny because I let my kid eat two cookies in the cart, to the Maker of the Universe who invites me simply to come and be while I insist on all the things I need to go and do. From the girl who didn’t mean anything by it when she inadvertently insults me, to the child who needs me at the most inconvenient times.
Defending yourself can become a full-time job, one that takes up brain-space at work, in your car, on the weekends, at the grocery store. You may find yourself explaining the actions of this ungracious person to your spouse, your bff, your sister, your mom or anyone else who will listen. I only know this because I have done this.
During those moments where everything, everything in you says to defend yourself, I find it the most difficult to either receive or extend grace. Normally it’s because in every insult, there seems a bit of truth. And so I fear, and then I lash out. I want to defend, protect, take care, and make my case. Everything in me says that is okay – everything, that is, except one small voice that speaks gently, softly, inviting me to receive my identity from a different source. When I am offended, it is often because I was looking for acceptance from someone, and they did not offer it. Not always, but nearly always.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
As I said earlier this week, there will be another chance to link up to a post about grace on your own blogs. I will post the linky tomorrow, Saturday. Then on Sunday, I will share some useful-to-me resources I have found on grace. I hope you will join us for these final days of grace.
You might be thinking it seems too good to be true. To that I will simply say, yes, it does seem that way. Most things that seem too good to be true probably aren’t true. Except this. When you get to the point of wondering if this lavish grace is too good to be true, then you have gotten the point.
The result of someone getting the point is never, ever permission. It is never passive or lazy or apathetic. If it is, then the point has not been made. True reception leads to gratitude, service, worship. I have never been more energized than when I began to understand the fullness of his grace. Because it was not an energy that came from me and my try-hard performance. It was an energy that came from his life in me.
Still, it always seems like people are afraid to talk about grace too much. I notice this particularly with adults as it relates to teenagers. If you teach too much grace, the kids will abuse it. They’ll use it as an excuse. Yes, there is that. I’m never sure what to say when people say that, because of course there is risk. Isn’t everything good risky? We love, even at the risk of rejection. We give to those who can’t give back. We pray for those who will never know. Why would we withhold extending grace because someone might take advantage of the freedoms? Of course they will.
Yesterday, I was so pleased to read an interview with Andy Stanley about his new book, The Grace of God. Finding it couldn’t have come at a better time for this series.
“The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that . . . Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.”
You can read the entire interview on Michael Hyatt’s blog, and I highly recommend that you do.
We have 3 days left of these days of grace. There are 28 behind us. If there is only one thing you take away from this series, let it be this: grace is getting something I don’t deserve. That’s it. Because Someone came and lived a perfect life so I don’t have to. Someone came so I could walk around free even though I’m guilty. I’m Jean Valjean with a bag full stolen silver, and then The Bishop gives me the candlesticks, too. Someone took a risk on me, and he didn’t wait until I appreciated or understood it. His name is Jesus. His name is Grace.
I sit at the kitchen table for hours, working towards the next deadline, squeezing out only a letter at a time. The resistance is in full force today, pushing hard against my desire for progress. One word turns into two. I make a sentence. Then delete it. I forget how to do this, it seems.
I open a new tab, click over to check email, my worst enemy at times like this. Also, my most comfortable friend. I see a (1) in the inbox, Ann has a new post. I read and take her in. Ben Harper comes on Pandora and I cry through The Three of Us.
This post has a video. If you are reading elsewhere, you may need to click over to listen.
I cry for no reason, except everything. Sometimes the art overwhelms me, and I just can’t keep up with the longing of it all. I am heavy with thankful and burdened to communicate, and those two things bump shoulders squeezed tight in my heart, both trying to come out of a too-small-space in words and stories, neither quite making it.
I finally give up, make a grocery list, run a load of laundry. Find the tennis shoes, pull the hair back, wash the apples. Ideas start to rattle around, connections are made ever so slight. And I realize as I do, it’s true what Agatha Christie said: The best time to plan a book is while doing the dishes. In that place, I discover the sweet act of grace it is, that living life is what inspires the art. God made it so that we have to live it first, to receive all the gifts from his gracious hand, before we can think about offering it in words to others.
I think of all your photos from yesterday, your snapshots of grace from life, in death, with family, in nature — all that living captured still in time. All those undeserved gifts showing up in colors and pixels. But they only existed because you lived them first. The living, then the art. Your photos were beautiful. And I thank you for sharing them.
There will be one more chance to link up before this series ends (soon!) but I haven’t decided which day yet. Maybe Friday? I am very organized.
Welcome to 31 Days of Grace. If you’re just joining us, you can browse the previous posts here if you are interested. Yesterday I shared with you some photos that remind me of the grace that exists all around me — of the gifts that circle and weave themselves into my everyday, of the freedom that is available to me each minute. All I have to do is receive it. All of my photos were of children either laughing, playing, learning, being. I chose those because they represent what I long for life to be and also, what I know it can be because of grace.
Now it’s your turn. Choose a photo or a series of photos that represent grace to you. Then, link up to that specific post from your blog and share them with us below. Your post doesn’t have to be word-free, but I would encourage you to say the least amount as possible. Let your image speak for itself. If you feel like you have a lot to say, save it for later this week when we’ll have another link-up to finish the sentence, “Grace is . . .” But for today, it’s photos. If you wish to link up to a previous post, well that would be just fine. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Just a reminder to use the permalink to your blog post when you link. If you need help with that, see this post by Darcy, one of my fellow 31 Dayers this month. Also, be sure to include a link back here to Chatting at the Sky so your readers can join in if they would like. I look so forward to browsing your images of grace!
If you watch children closely, you will see grace all over them. There is freedom to play (playing is their job you know), real-life proof that even in labor, lightness and joy is possible.
They have a willingness to be weak, a longing for comfort, an excitement for learning, and best of all, a deeply rooted inclination to live in this present moment. Grace is constantly pulling us into The Great Right Now, encouraging us to cease worry over the future, to release regret over the past.
I want to encourage you to find an image that says grace to you and come back to share it with us tomorrow. I will have image links set up, just like we do for Tuesdays Unwrapped. No need to write a long post. Think in pictures this time. It can be anything that whispers freedom, lightness, acceptance, love, truth — grace. Later this week, you will have another opportunity to link up to a more in depth post, but for now, I want to see those images. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Thinking more on grace in parenting, I found this short video clip about the way our parent role reflects how we see God, for better or worse. It’s about parenting, but really it can apply to lots of relationships. It has been said backwards, forwards, upside down, around and through – but it is worth repeating: You cannot extend what you have not received. Consider the words of Danny Silk:
“As much as love casts out the fear, fear casts out the love . . . All you have is what you were given, most of us have tools that create anxiety — that transfer the anxiety that’s inside of me to my child.” – Danny Silk
*The systems, tools, and processes he mentions at the beginning are fully explained in his book, Loving Our Kids on Purpose. This is one of my favorite books on parenting.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
Grace is her middle name, born two months early, fighting strong in the NICU in that miracle way only 4 pound babies can do. Grace escorted me, a mama of twins, away from the hospital while they slept inside. Grace got up with me in the wee morning hours, through the tears and the tylenol, to tend to children who needed healthy and well. Grace pulls me down, again and again, to my knees. And when I finally get there, Grace kneels with me, with tender mama hands holding tight to mine, and strong daddy arms to pull me back up again. Grace is a three-year-old balancing books on her head, walking slow with still face and arms stretched out wide. Grace is beautiful and feminine and pink. Grace is strong and masculine and deep shades of magnificent strength. Grace shows up on time, every time. And also, grace is always there.
Grace is said before a late November meal, around a table circled with family hands politely joined together. Grace is poured out like an offering, all over us, like when Peter said Never! and then did it anyway. Grace offers a gift, a freedom, a sense of belonging. Grace welcomes us home when we finally return. Grace is enough. Grace is a person. Grace lives in me.
There are so many ways to think on grace — through a child’s eyes, a mama’s eyes, or worldly-worn-out, needy eyes — when you start to look for it, the grace that comes from God is everywhere. I wouldn’t stake my life on Anne Lamott’s theology, but I love the respect she gives to the concept of grace, admitting that it both accepts us and moves us — He both accepts us and moves us on.
If you would like to write a post about what grace is, there will be opportunity to link up here next week. Tomorrow I will share with you another linky party I have planned, so you will have two chances to link up as these 31 Days of Grace come to a close. It’s time to put this grace into your hands and see what comes out! In light of all we’ve talked about this month, finish this sentence for yourself this morning: Grace is . . . And I would love for you to put it in the comments so we can hear your voice.
One thing I have learned for sure when it comes to parenting: there is a lot I don’t know. Seven years isn’t a very long time. In so many ways, we are just beginning. But there is this other way, this clock-eating way, where it seems we have so little time left.
Just this morning, I felt the tears well up as I sat in the quiet hours before anyone else got up. I believe every word I’ve written here, every truth that Jesus speaks, every thought on grace I’ve shared. Even so, I can get caught up in the living of it. Writing on grace for so many days in a row is un-doing me in good ways. But there is a nagging voice of shame that still speaks, haunting me with fear, especially as I prepared to write about grace in parenting: you aren’t doing enough.
And it made me think about how that is the sentence I nearly always hear when I turn my thoughts toward mothering. There is a competing voice of truth to counteract that shame one, but it is harder to hear sometimes.
And so I have to find words that reinforce the truth voice, weapons to battle the discouragement, the shame, the worry that I’m messing up my kids. I don’t think I’m alone in that. And so, for this 22nd day of thinking on grace, I simply want to extend grace to you – not a list of ways to be a better parent, not an arsenal of great ideas on how to be a more fun mom (although I’d love to read a post about that!). Instead, I want to offer you (and me) some truth voices to take the place of the nagging voice of shame.
If you are a parent who feels overwhelmed with decisions that need to be made — breast or bottle, send or wait, private or public, soccer or violin, work or stay home, medicate or second opinion, group dates or not at all, curfew or no curfew — let these words first wash over you today.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Everything begins and ends with this — that the Lord is living among us, a victorious warrior. Strong. Ready. Prepared. Able. And somehow still, in the midst of all that strength, he sings. It is a beautiful, perfect picture of tenderness, both strong and soft, like a man and a woman, like a father and a mother all at once. He parents me in the way parenting was meant to be. But he isn’t simply the best example to follow, as if he were far away and we are to try to somehow imitate him. The goal is not to parent like God, the goal is to let God parent through us.
“The first step is learning the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God’s job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace. And it is more restful than you can imagine.”
Jeff VanVonderen, Families Where Grace is in Place
If we could believe that this work of grace is restful, if we would dare to parent from a place of love rather than a place of fear, we would see that he is able. Not just to do the parts that I’m not good at, not just to pick me up when I begin to feel weak, but that the God of the Universe takes up residence inside me, and he will parent — with me, in me, as me — as I trust him. Dare to believe he is who he says he is. That is grace in parenting.
I will be sharing a list of resources near the end of this series for any of you who might like to study further on grace. Don’t forget to visit the other lovely blogs hosting 31 Days Series, my girls at Nesting Place, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, My First Kitchen, Life With My 3 Boybarians, Reluctant Entertainer, The Inspired Room, and Remodeling This Life.