Archives For grace

Christmas. A time to gather with friends and family to celebrate the joys of the season. Of a year ending, and a new one to come. A time to celebrate the birth of Christ, a Savior born (like we all are) in blood and pain. Unlike, His tiny body was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a feeding trough hewn from cold, hard stone.

They didn’t have Apgar scores, or incubators, in His day. No one was standing by with a nasal aspirator to suction the mucus from His nose and throat. What a risk! Eternal God to come and be made man! Think of all He forswore to be contracted into such a span!

The minds reels at the thought of the incarnation. That the God Who made it all could limit Himself to such a lowly estate, and not only, but to be born amongst stinking animals, too.

I don’t think we spend nearly enough time thinking about what Christ lost coming into our world. What He laid down for our sakes.

As such, as someone who knows sorrow (“a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”), Jesus is very tender towards those know loss this season. Maybe this is your first Christmas without that special someone. Jesus knows. Or maybe tour loved one died on (or around) Christmas.

Jesus knows.

And He loves you. He knows your loss, and grieves with you. As I know He is grieving with my family now, having lost a cousin just before Thanksgiving, and a great aunt on Christmas Eve. Forever will the holidays be associated with these events.

There is sorrow, yes. But there is also the  joy of hoped for reunions one day, and the happiness of being able to hold our living loved ones near.

Christmas: A Season of Hope and Loss.

“He shall wipe away every tear.”

How are your holidays? Do think of those who have gone on before, and hold you family tight?

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    James Thomas Harthan, age 75 of Geneva, PA passed away on Monday, November 24, 2014 at his residence.
    James was born April 6, 1939 in Sharon, Pennsylvania, the son of the late Thomas and Elsie Eldridge Harthan.
    He had a long career in retail automobile sales, working for several car dealerships in Mercer, Erie and Crawford counties. Later in life he established his own auto sales business.  He enjoyed buying and selling cars.  He also enjoyed watching old movies.
    James is survived by his son Bradley Harthan and his wife Audrey, several cousins, nieces and nephews, and a close friend Jenny Palmer of Emlenton, PA.
    In addition to his parents, James was preceded in death by his younger brother Edward Harthan and his significant other Verla Shaw of Emlenton, PA
     Services will be private and at the convenience of the family.
     Memorials can be made to the Northwestern Community Educational Foundation, Harthan Character
Award, 100 Harthan Way, Albion, Pa. 16401.
Please sign the online guestbook at hatheway-tedesco.com
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Dickson Funeral Home & Crematory, Rocco R. Tedesco III, Supervisor, 130 N Second Street, Conneaut Lake, PA 16316

I have hypothyroidism, or underperforming thyroid. Of indeterminate origin, there’s nothing for it other than supplementation. This means when I get up in the morning, I take a pill. It also means, because I’ve taken that pill (with a little water), no food for an hour, no coffee for two hours, and no vitamins until four hours after I’ve taken my thyroid medicine.

Having thyroid disease, and the fatigue which accompanies it, is not a blessing. But the time it gives me is. Having to take a pill in the morning essentially means I have to wait to start my day. It forces me, instead of rushing into the day, to slow down.

So I read my Bible and pray. It gives me time to draw nigh to the Lord. (Now, don’t get me wrong: I’d love a cup of joe to go with my study time, but it’s not to be. At least not first thing).

I didn’t always think of my thyroid problem as blessing, decrying it as unfair. And there are still times when I wish I could get out the door to the gym sooner. But the only thing I can control is my attitude. As the cliché goes: attitude determines altitude. So I choose to see the time I’m given as a blessing–and not a hindrance.

What about you? Is there something in your life that was at first an annoyance, but which now you count as a blessing? Share in the comments.

What If I Shine?

randomlychad  —  December 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I drive past this sign every morning on my way to work. It both challenges and convicts me. Frankly, it also frightens me. I mean, what if I shine? It means that, quite possibly, I could stand out (when everything in me wants to fade into the woodwork). My proclivity is to quietly go about my thing not drawing attention to myself (said the guy with blog bearing his name). If anything, it’s the work I want to be known for, and the quality thereof. There’s an old saw that goes: “Take the work seriously, and yourself not at all.”

I have always embraced this. But what if what if I shine? means that I–that you–that we allow world the feel the full weight of just who God made us to be, and the world just has to deal with it?

What if?

Does your soul recoil at the thought, wondering just who you think you are? I know mine does. Who am I to shine?

I am Chad, blood bought, sanctified, spirit-filled child of the living God, Who paid my debt through His Son Jesus. I need to constantly remind myself of that.

Who are you today?

Will you shine?

Had A Hard Year?

randomlychad  —  November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Remember Friends, that much beloved ’90’s sitcom which ran for a decade? Remember the theme song?

“When it hasn’t been your day, your month, or even your year?”

Ever had a year like that? Ever had a couple of years like that? Where you go from victory to falling flat on your face? I have.

I went on a spiritual retreat a couple of years ago, and it was both literally, and figuratively, a mountaintop experience. I felt closer to God than I ever had. Apprehended Him as Father–as my Father–in ways I never had before.

That was in Summer.

And then came the Fall.

I thought I was hearing from God about the direction my family and I should go. It seemed that confirmation was around every corner. But my wife, bless her, didn’t see it that way. I wanted something for her she didn’t want for herself.

You all know how well that works out…

Then I found something out about myself which only deepened my confusion, furthered my disillusionment. While in that season of questioning whether I hearing from God, a family member let it slip that I might have been molested as a toddler. Whether it actually happened or not, it’s plausible because other family stories surrounded the purported molester.

If had been thinking clearly, I would have drawn a parallel (understanding that I’m no prophet) between myself myself and Elijah, who suffered through a season of blackest doubt after his greatest victory (over the prophets of Baal). But I wasn’t. Instead, I retreated into myself–feeling maligned, misunderstood, unappreciated.

Instead of investing energies in getting well, getting whole, I engaged in an online correspondence with a woman not my wife. Because it was safe, because there were no stakes. No one to hold me accountable. All the while telling myself that she (my wife) didn’t need to know because there was nothing going on. But the funny thing is that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The looking forward to responses, the refreshing of my inbox, became an addiction to fill the needy beast of affirmation beating in my chest.

I was looking for validation and acceptance, and was willing to accept a substitute. Of course, as is often the case, I made more of this correspondence than did the other party. When it came to an end, it felt like I’d lost a friend.

But it was a friend I’d never really had in the first place.

The lessons here, I think, are these:

1) Setbacks will often follow victories. Be prepared for them. Decide in advance what you’re going to do.

2) There is an enemy of our souls who knows our proclivities, knows how to make the blacks look white, who knows our stories, and how to punch our buttons. It is when we are the weakest that he will pounce (like a roaring lion) the hardest.

3) Take personal responsibility. The enemy can only use what’s been undisclosed to shame and condemn us. Once it’s exposed to the light, once it’s confessed, it’s no longer a weapon in his hands. He has a vested interest in us keeping secrets, telling us that if we tell we’ll be shunned. It’s a risk, but confession is worth it.

How about you? Is there anything festering in your life that you need to confess? You don’t need to do it here, but find someone in your life–a safe person–and let them know. Confession is good for the soul.

Grace is a subject inexhaustible. A well whose depths we could never hope to fully plumb, a tower so high we could never hope to scale its heights. Perhaps then it’s easier to begin a post on grace by stating what it isn’t:

Grace isn’t mercy.

Mercy, for the purposes of discussion here, is simply the withholding of something deserved. For instance, let’s say you’ve been pulled over by one of our boys in blue for speeding. Both you, and he, know you deserve that ticket. You were speeding. Instead, the officer lets you off with a warning. You’ve just received mercy. A deserved consequence has been withheld.

How would grace play play out in a similar situation (for the sake of argument, please bear with me here)? You were speeding in your battered, beaten old Chevy. You stop. The officer approaches your car. You figure you’re going to get a ticket for sure. You’re not getting out of this one. When the cop asks you to exit your vehicle, you know you’re toast.

And then…

Not only does he give you a warning, he also hands you to the keys to his supercharged Dodge Charger. He says it’s yours, and to go on your way. You deserved a ticket, and instead got a new car!

That’s grace, my friends. Erstwhile theologians the Newsboys put it this way:

“When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Mercy).

“When get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Grace).

Put another way, and let’s say you’re a parent, the difference between mercy and grace is the difference between merely withholding a deserved consequence from your child (mercy), and instead bearing that consequence yourself–and then taking your kid out for ice cream! While the two go hand-in-hand, there’s nevertheless a vast divide betwixt them. As defined by the theologians, grace is “the unmerited, unearned favor of God.” We did nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and yet He pours it out upon us.

Why?

Because Jesus.

Not only did He take our deserved punishment on the cross, He now pours out unearned, unmerited blessings upon us. Like the example above, we deserved a ticket, and instead got the new car.

All we have to do is believe.

The late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein coined the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Respectfully, Mr. Heinlein I disagree. There is, and it’s called Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” All who call upon His name shall be saved.

Have you called upon His Name today? Have you experienced His grace?

You can–if you will but believe.

Thanks for reading!