Grace Speaks…Beware but not Afraid

Reminding, “Beware, but not Afraid…”

     The second stanza of the cherished hymn, Amazing Grace, says,

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
grace my fears relieved;

      The beloved lyrics in the hymn written by John Newton reflect his personal experience. During a violent storm off the coast of Ireland, the terrified, non-believing Atlantic slave trader cried out to God for mercy.

      God’s mercy enabled John Newton to embrace God’s grace. His conversion experience led him away from the vile business of slave trade. Instead, he began studying theology, eventually becoming a curate in the Church of England and writing a poem that would be set to music and revered worldwide.

      The kind of fear Newton wrote about reminds me of the U.S. National Weather Center’s ‘red flag warning,’ which is the highest level of alert for extreme fire danger. When the voice of grace reminds me to ‘beware,’ I imagine the divine ‘red flag warning,’ may be God’s way of alerting me—not to cause panic but to help me prepare and avoid choices that have the potential for extreme danger in my life.

      I was growing up in the church, fear of God’s judgment was often a tactic used to help control potentially damaging conduct. I’ve come to believe the intentions of leaders were good, and this strategy may have protected me from some harmful behaviors. But, behavior modification wasn’t enough to transform my heart.

     Grace is transformational.

          Grace declares God loves little ol’ me—simply as I am, just who I am.

               Grace changes my desires—transforms ‘should do’s’ into ‘want to’s.’

                    Grace reassures God is for me and not against me.

                         Grace promises God will never leave me.

                              And, Grace my fears relieve.

     I agree with John Newton. God’s grace is amazing! How sweet is the sound of this 5- letter word.

     If you are struggling with a sense of fear or condemnation today, I pray these simple words will point you to the promise of God’s Grace.

Sue Reeve

Grace Speaks…

“I may be veiled, but I’m in this pain.”

     My friend and co-worker, Joanie, knows a lot about navigating grief. Her father died when she was a young teen. Less than 40 years later, she was widowed.

     For several years, Joanie has facilitated grief support groups, taught grief workshops and has helped numerous people catch a glimpse of light as they seek to find their way through the dark night of grief.

     Like many I’ve met who’ve trudged through deep loss, Joanie lives life fully, loves those around her extravagantly, and walks through her days with great intentionality. My friend embraces what she teaches:

Pain is inevitable.
Misery is optional.

     Joanie introduced me to an outstanding book. In A Grace Disguised, Dr. Jerry Sittser shares the story of his family tragedy with authenticity, tenderness and wisdom.

     Recently, I walked and talked with a dear woman whose grief is raw and deep. “My husband and I cry every day,” she told me. I cannot comprehend this woman’s pain. I have no great wisdom to give, but I asked her if I could bless her with a copy of Dr. Sittser’s book.

     I realize one book is not a magic wand. Dealing with significant loss and grief is a process—one faltering footstep following another through the fog. The journey of others, however, validates the pain of the passage, and may encourage the one grieving that even though the dark fog is real, the light of grace—now veiled—exists and will keep shining through.

     If you’re traveling through a season of loss, I’m praying,

God of comfort,

May the light of your grace guide my grief-filled friend to a new place;

A place overflowing with hope and joy and purpose;

A place where memories are filled with more sweetness than bitterness;

A place full of more laughter than tears;

A place where grace shines brightly,

where compassion and mercy are felt fully;

To that place where grace has never left and always will be.

Amen

 

     Blessings to you…

Sue Reeve

Grace Speaks…

Asking, “May I Guide You? …”

     I have a terrible sense of direction!

     Once while staying at a motel, my husband said as we left our room, “I watch which way you turn and know to go the opposite direction!”

     I’m sure you can imagine, GPS (Global Positioning System) is a very good friend of mine!

     In my spiritual journey, scripture is my GPS—God’s Positioning System.

     One of the times I rely on scripture is during nighttime hours when sleep eludes me. As I meditate on a verse or passage from the Bible, I am often led back into slumber. One of my favorite sleepless-night meditations is Psalms 23. My favorite Bible version for this beloved psalm remains the King James, which I memorized in Sunday school as a little girl.

     Not so very long ago, during one of ‘those’ nights, a single line felt particularly personal—a place God invited me to pause and ponder:

…he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalms 23:3b)

     Losing my way while driving or walking because I’m directionally challenged has created some stress-filled moments. I admit some of my problems may have been minimized if I had only taken time beforehand to more carefully think about and study the correct route—or, even turn on the GPS!

     Losing my way spiritually has also created stress. I know beyond any doubt, some of my problems in life can be averted if I more wisely consider before moving ahead, determined to go ‘my way’ rather than ‘God’s way.’

     One brief line from Psalms 23 assures me, however, that despite my inability, ignorance, or willfulness, The Good Shepherd cares so greatly about my journey that he will continue to lead me onto right paths. I am his child, and for his name’s sake, God cares about the direction I take, even as I care about the direction one of my children or grandchildren takes.

     I may lose my way, but the Good Shepherd won’t give up on me. He may allow me to take more detours than necessary, or even take multiple laps around the desert, but “for his name’s sake,” when I seek and desire his will and way, I will be guided back in the right direction.

     I have no idea where most Listening on the Journey… readers are in their faith journey. I don’t need to know because as I conclude these words, I believe with my entire soul that

     God knows you;

          God cares about the path you’re on;

               God cherishes you;

                    God’s ways are good;

                         God desires to lead you in “paths of righteousness.”

Blessings on your journey…

Sue Reeve