I’m not particularly gifted in hospitality. Actually the word “particularly” is probably superfluous to that statement! I once famously kept a friend of my flatmate’s on our doorstep for over an hour before it dawned on my that maybe I should invite the poor guy in. And maybe when I did I should have offered him a cup of tea or something while he waited. Don’t think I ever saw him again. I’m guessing he gave our house a wide berth from then on!
All these years later, I’m still learning the art of hospitality. This week I put my brave on and invited my neighbour who has moved here from China to lunch. Aside from meeting her when she first moved in and the occasional wave out I hadn’t done much more and it was bothering me. Yes language is a barrier, but she has been brave and moved to my country and she is in my neighbourhood. I could sit back and assume that others are extending invites and friendships, but what if everyone was assuming the same? I could also make excuses about the busyness of my life or I could simply step out and extend kindness myself.
Did it put me out of my comfort zone, stop me doing other things I wanted to do that day? Yes! Was I nervous? Yes! But sometimes living life is about us showing the grace of God to those around us. It’s about making space for those around us who might need it. It’s making room for new friends or talking to that person sitting by themselves at church or standing by herself on the sidelines. And while my action was simple it is something that God values and calls us to do.
At the end of the day, in a very quiet way, just maybe I made her day a little bit less lonely and mine a little richer.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
It’s tempting, habitual even, to worry about what is ahead. Sometimes about what is happening tomorrow, next week or even next year. We can worry about work, about events coming up, changes that are to happen. We can worry as to how we will cope – or will we cope? Will God give us strength and grace to cope with that meeting, that appointment, to carry that extra load, to go through uncharted territories? We can spend our day worrying, playing out what if scenarios in our minds. But this gives us no reprieve or solution. All that worry does is rob today of its joy and blessings. All it does is sap today of its strength.
God will give us grace for when that day comes – when it comes. In the meantime He gives us sufficient grace for TODAY. Joseph Prince once wrote “God doesn’t give us tomorrow’s bread today, and today’s bread is not meant for tomorrow.” Each day receives its own portion of grace. Just as God provided manna for the Israelites each day – enough for that day, so He provides us grace for each of our days.
Jesus taught us to pray “Give us today our daily bread.” In other words, each day we pray for God’s provision for that day and each day we receive that grace. We can trust our future to God. And we can know that there will be grace waiting there for whatever we face.
“My life is in the tranquillity of your grace” –
These are the translated words from a line in a Tongan hymn that captivated me at church and had me rummaging around in my handbag for a pen and paper to scribble them down. All the while tears were streaming down my cheeks as the anointing fell. True I read the translated words on the screen but the language of the spirit is universal and listening to the harmonious arcapella worship of the Tongan family, as a church, we entered into the presence of God.
Tranquillity – calmness, peace, serenity. When we surrender our lives to the Lord we find ourselves surrounded by His grace. Within that grace is peace, serenity and there is tranquillity. God’s grace provides us the calm within the storm. It is the still waters, it is the banquet in the presence of our enemies. It is our comfort. Fear does not exist in God’s grace, nor anxiety. Tranquillity though is found.
My boys love family movie night. They love choosing which seat or couch to be snuggled in along with pillows and blankets. Regardless of the movie – that’s their most fun right there! There’s something to be said about the coziness of a couch, where you feel almost hugged by its warmth and comfort while at the same time provided with support. It’s one of my favourite parts of movie night too! Being couched in comfort is deliciousness itself!
In life we are always couched in grace. God’s grace. His grace is surrounding us – always. In a season of change, in a time of transition or trial even, if we look we will find that God’s hand – His grace, has been on our situation the whole time, even if we are unaware. We are surrounded, always, by His grace. In hindsight it is easy to see what He has done. But as you walk through challenging days it is often hard to remember that is indeed the case. Sometimes we just need to pay attention and look a little closer.
I was reminded of this just recently. In a challenging moment, when my heart cried out to God, He enveloped me with His grace. In that exact moment as I was grasping to pull myself out of a place of discouragement, when I was feeling that it was all beyond me, an email arrived. And it arrived with a word that spoke directly to my situation. Before I had uttered my heart’s cry, God was already on my case providing grace and encouragement for my situation from another precious person. A gracious reminder that God is in control.
Couched in His care for us. Sometimes, we just need to look around. The evidence is there. Grace is there.
I could hazard a guess that if I were to ask how you were the word “busy” would appear at some point in your answer. It seems to be the default answer nowadays and almost what we are expected to say. Busy means successful and fulfilled right? We wear the “busy” like a badge of honour as if it is something to aspire to. Yet answering “busy” says nothing about our enjoyment of life or even whether we are “achieving” in life! Being busy should not be our identity or goal. If anything it merely suggests an overwhelmed schedule. More often than not the answer “busy” is given with an undertone of tiredness and exhaustion.
In the pace of busyness it is our personal margins of space that are neglected. The time to take a pause, to rest is what is sacrificed and we are easily left overwhelmed, tired and feeling much like we’re only one nostril above water. Yet, in this life where technology keep us continually connected to work and the online world we can find space in the pace. We can find balance within the crazy.
We find it in GRACE. God’s grace.
Grace is an important and powerful spiritual reality. It is a resource that we have unlimited access to through Jesus. God’s grace helps and empowers us through busy seasons of life. In the crazy pace of life God has grace for us. It is fuel, it is a supernatural enabling for us. God’s grace empowers and strengthens us.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
The Waterfront on Tamaki Drive is a gorgeous and popular place to go for a walk. Stunning views across the harbour, Pohutukawa trees providing as much beauty as shade, a fresh sea breeze. As I head into work on the early morning commute I can’t help but envy those out taking advantage of our clear autumn mornings for a walk.
What I have observed as I drive by are the variety of walkers. From the Power walkers pounding the payment to the music of their ipods to the couples taking an early morning stroll together. There are the runners and also the amblers. The ones there for the social chat to the mums with their babies snuggled in the buggies making the most of their early morning wake up calls. They are all there for various reasons and purposes. All going at their own pace. All at their own rhythm.
It gives a great illustration of life. We are all in different seasons to each other, in different stages of life. And God gives us grace for the season that He has called us to. Grace to stay in that job or endure the challenges that life is bringing. Grace to endure broken nights sleep for the care of little ones, grace to write, to create, grace to chart new territories.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your live. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)
Creflo Dollar wrote “The grace of God on our lives gives us the ability to do everything He has called us to do as we allow our steps to be ordered by Him.” Grace is the kindness and favour of God. Where He calls us, He also equips us, including a big dollop of grace!
Jesus offers us a life lived with grace. An opportunity to live a life with God’s rhythm of grace.
Remember the “He loves me, He loves me not” game with a daisy that you’d do? Pulling a petal off one by one to see if it ended with “He loves’ me or “He loves me not.” It struck me today that it’s something we can also play with our lives. Maybe it’s the “Good mum, bad mum” version. The one when you’re a good mum because you got the kids off to school on time and without forgetting or losing anything (including your temper!) and then bad mum because it was a “lunch order” day. Good for doing the laundry, bad for not serving them enough vegetables at dinner.
Or perhaps for you, it’s the “Good Christian, bad Christian” version. You know, the one when you’re good because you started the day with your quiet time, or prayed with someone that day, or you’re star of the day because you shared your faith. But then you hit yourself with the “bad Christian” label because your mind wandered during your Pastor’s sermon, you know your attitude in life definitely leaves you lacking, or you can’t remember when you last prayed.
Playing this game is as futile as the daisy one. It doesn’t achieve anything but put you on a rollercoaster of emotions as to whether you are winning or succeeding at life – parenting , being a Christian etc. It keeps us tied to guilt. And really at the end of the day, it’s a guilt game. Sure you can have days when you feel like you’re nailing it, but you will also have days when the condemnation and guilt railroad you into depression and failure.
It runs contrary to God’s will for our lives, which is to see us reside in grace. A grace that forgives the failure, gives strength for the good and hope for the future. Grace which picks us up and let’s us keep going. Grace that doesn’t base love on performance. Grace which doesn’t give us a label, but says instead that you are loved, cherished and precious to God no matter how your day has gone. God is not a “He loves me, He loves me not” God. He loves you. Full stop!
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. ” (Ephesians 2:8-9)