Tag Archives: Grace

A Stolen Essay – A Wonderful Work – An Ode to Evergreen

This is a creative essay that was written by the most peaceful, wonderful, talented, and graceful wife any one could ever have. I read her class assignment and decided to share with y’all but I am not sure she knows I’m doing this. So if you see here, try to act surprised. It will be spread out over the next couple of days. The story is fictional, but some of the places and event took place. It was based on those events ….

Treasures of a Grace-Full Legacy

Introduction

An ordinary day in which daily chores were on the list. Little did we know that within a few short hours, lives would be forever changed. The tornado hit Evergreen, Virginia, three years ago. There was devastation of the homes of so many families. Only one person from this precious community lost his life. The day was traumatic for many people, including me. It was a disaster, and it was a blessing—a blessed disaster. One special piece contained memories that are precious. Without it, much of our family history would be lost—maybe forever. That blessed disastrous day was grace-full because of what transpired in the days that followed.

Before I share the story, let me introduce myself. My name is Sarah Grace. The name, Grace, has passed down throughout the generations. My grandmother is Alice Grace, my mother is Caroline Grace, my daughter is Victoria Grace, and my granddaughter is Bella Grace. Every time a daughter was born, it quickly became tradition that Grace was part of her name. One day I asked Grandmother Alice why Grace was such the chosen name. She told me, “Sarah, we have something we do not deserve—Grace. No matter what the family endures, grace is the lifeline and an ever-present reminder to generations that whatever we receive, we do not deserve.” Though I did not understand as a youngster, I look back and understand. Everything I have is undeserved. Even in the midst of pain or sorrow, God extends His sufficient grace. Throughout my 81 years of this grace-full life, I have seen countless avenues of grace. Within this small community of Evergreen, it was grace that permeated the families of this community. We have built a legacy of undeserved grace.

Evergreen Beginnings

My grandmother told me stories when I was young about how this rural, sleepy town of Evergreen, Virginia, began in 1854. She was keen on history, and I loved hearing her stories. She had a unique, dramatic giftedness when she told stories. Grandmother Alice explained how the effects of the Civil War remained evident in the area. Yet, the residents had a spirit in them that would not let them give into the fears all around them. Today, when I slowly walk these streets, I remember what Grandmother Alice told me.

Families in Evergreen have been here for generations. Our family walked to the Baptist church at the end of the street to worship. The walks were enjoyable because we met the neighbors on their way to church. The Baptist church and the Methodist church are within steps of each other. The ladies in their fine dresses, the men in their tailored suits, the girls in their fancy petticoats, and the boys with their nice shirts and trousers with suspenders.

Spring was especially enjoyable because the birds serenaded us with their praises to the Lord, and the cows and donkeys soon followed in the chorus. Even though I am now more mature in age, I still walk the area and reminisce about playing with the other children or swinging on the tree swing by the Methodist church.

Vocation

People of Evergreen were primarily farmers, merchants, or owned their own business. Fathers and mothers worked side by side on their farms and with local businesses. During the war, there were women who worked outside the home as teachers, nurses, or led organizations by promoting community and helping those in need. Families relied on the profits of the harvest or sold cattle as their primary sources of income, and they learned to rely on God to provide for their needs. Since farming is hard labor, some families hired people to help work the farm. My parents grew tobacco and raised cattle for income. During harvest time, we worked day and night to get the produce to the local markets and distributed to our church members who needed food. Pipe making was a good business in Evergreen, and we partnered with tobacco companies and merchants. Plus, we had a large community garden that the families shared providing fresh fruit and vegetables.

a tobacco farm in rural Virginia, very much like the area in Evergreen

The Missing Piece

Now, back to the blessed disaster. My home had minor damage compared to others. Windows and a portion of the house were destroyed. As I scanned the remnants, as much an 81-year-old woman could, I discovered a special large piece was missing. I became distraught because it was priceless …


((Continue reading tomorrow … if my wife doesn’t catch me using here essay … lol))

((a link will be added after it is posted))

Where’s All The Joy Gone?

Have you ever had one of those days? weeks? Maybe even years? You know what I’m talking about – demands at work are piling up, school assignments are past due, your body feels empty of energy, people keep pushing your buttons – or worse, it seems nobody cares. You feel worthless and abandoned – all alone.

Your joy seems to have left the building. But even more, he has gotten in his car, drove off, and texted he is not coming back. This is not a long story, nor one of my whimsically and masterfully crafted narratives – it is a simple reminder.

You can focus on your problems and bathe in those feelings – or you can look fresh into the depths of God’s Grace.

The truth – you’re messed up, life can be hard, and people will disappoint. But we have a God who allows second chances, who gives us the breaths in our lungs anew every morning, and keeps his promises … promises like His presence – no matter where life takes us, His love – no matter what mess we pile on our life, and that He will work it all out – no matter how dark it seems. Granted, it may not be the way you want, or worked out even in this lifetime. But, He will always be there, always love you, and always work it out for good – always.

The truth – Our God is full of steadfast love and forever faithful.

So, look towards Him, get back under His fountain of grace. Let the showers of His simple and undeserved blessings, the reminder of His promises, and the realization of His faithfulness … let His grace, His love, and His mercy … let the renew, excite, enliven, and encourage. May He fan the flames of joy once again – and May you be filled with courage to face the mess and not lose heart.

Maybe it will also brings enough joy and courage that you can share that fountain of grace. Bring someone into your shower – your shower of blessings that is.

Where’s the joy gone? It’s still there, we’ve just gotten away from it ourselves. Get back to the source – get back to the basics of God.’s love and grace. You’ll find joy there. That’s where I want to be too! Will you join me?

School Loans Quandary … Was Warren Right?

I was perplexed. The argument sounded fair and reasonable. And I am in the demographic that this policy impacts. But am I thinking right?

A few days ago, an angry father confronted presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren over her plan to release tens of millions from their student loan debts. The debts, now reaching almost 2 trillion dollars, are escalating to a national crisis. The father, who had saved and paid for his daughters school and now had no school debt, asked if he would get his money back. Many said Warren laughed at his request as she responded, “Of course not.”

Aside from her poor political strategy in dealing with potential voters, Warren is trying to address the issue’s symptoms – while neglecting the real problems. Ignoring her economics on the issue as being untenable and short sighted, she has found a way to legally offer a financial benefit for potential voters. (Isn’t that like purchasing votes?) And overlooking the emotions in the interaction, the father should be proud of his daughter’s accomplishments and that she was not in financial distress.

My quandary? I’m still paying for my son’s college loans. I wouldn’t mind a little relief. I feel for the father in this news story. I understand it seems like people doing the right thing often are taken advantage of in this world.

But am I thinking right? My mind keeps going back to a story – a parable told by the Master Teacher. Recorded in Matthew 20, laborers were hired for a specific wage. Later, others were hired. Hours passed and even more were hired. At the end of day, the employer was paying the workers for their labors. But there seemed to be a problem, for each received the same amount. Those hired early in the day expected more … more than they had been told and more than the others had gotten. After all, hadn’t they done more?

But the employer said he was acting fairly. They were getting what they had been promised. They should not be complaining.

True, he didn’t laugh at them, but he did use it to teach a lesson. He didn’t yield to their whiny logic, but he did give them a fair days wage. He didn’t withhold wages from those hired later, but was gracious in his actions.

Yes, I understand the parallel falls short. For in the parable, the employer was using his money to pay the wages. Warren is using my money to pay off others debts. Me being a taxpayer and all.

And I’m losing control!

Fair is me paying what I have promised. Fair is politicians trying to solve the issue, not bandaid the symptoms or payoff voters.

The challenge is to make sure I am not looking at the world through a selfish, short-termed world view that compromises my values. I need to live with integrity and let my yes be yes. And if others find grace, I should be happy for them.

This is the Washington style!

This reasoning is not an economic or political one – for those thoughts may arrive at a different decision. And I believe it is okay to argue politically and economically, but the ultimate reasoning must be above that. Pragmatism is fine, but limited. Our ultimate world view should be a biblical one.

What would Washington DC and Richmond (my commonwealth’s capitol) be like if we did that?

What a great quandary that would be.

Have a great day!

A Sober Remembrance, A Prophetic Warning

There are some locations whose names just carry a depth of meaning. The Garden of Eden … where it all began and where we lost paradise. Pompeii … where nature’s swift and lethal destruction was shown without regard for humanity. Gettysburg … where the Civil War saw its worst in her bloodiest battle but also inspired a 271 word speech that described our nation and the test for resolve the war brought. Hiroshima … where science and warfare go to a new low, and over a quarter million lives were lost with the use of two individual weapons.

This week was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of a camp that reveals the very evil and depravity and ugliness of what man is capable. Auschwitz. A little suburb of a Polish city. Well, it’s actually more a collection of camps. Auschwitz. Where the Nazis engineered death camps that took 4 times more lives than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan did. Auschwitz. Where 1.1 million lives were taken. Auschwitz. Where mostly Jews, but others determined unworthy, were gassed. The elderly. Couples. Families. Children. No exceptions. Auschwitz.

In a powerful image, almost 200 survivors walked, or more correctly, re-walked through the gates. It has been 75 years since the camps were liberated by the Russians. Families gathered to remember.

From the writings of Anne Frank to Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, we see first hand just a glimpse into the intensity of the events that took place 75 years ago. The sober remembrance yields to a prophetic warning. We must remain vigilant to prevent such acts to be repeated by man. We must be reminded that it takes all of us to stand up against tyranny and evil.

Auschwitz. A sober remembrance. A prophetic warning.

May we remember and may we fight for each other.

But there’s also a problem. We can’t rid ourselves of the darkness. We can’t defeat the wickedness that lurks inside each of us. We just can’t … on our own that is. But Christ can change our hearts, make us new, and the Spirit empowers us for righteousness.

And it was at another location where we find the defeat of the wickedness and evil within us. A place that took all our darkness and took the punishment we were due. A place whose name was equivalent to execution … but because of one particular day that defines all of history … the name now means victory. Calvary.

There are some locations whose names just carry a depth of meaning. Calvary. Where we find victory. Calvary. Where He brings hope to those who believe. Calvary. Where God’s Grace is seen.

Calvary. A sober remembrance. A prophetic message of hope.

I hope you know and believe.

……………………

See more on the Auschwitz occasion here.

3 Little Verses

He was a man after God’s own heart. The slayer of giants. Musician. Poet. As a young lad, he defended his flock from bears and lions. He was a warrior, leader, and king. But his legacy is tainted by three little verses …

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, … But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Sam 11.1-3)

This one moment, this turning point in his life, this tiny sliver of time in the whole journey of life, changed everything. He neglected his duty as King. He made a bad decision. He stumbled. And lives were impacted. A marriage destroyed. Lives were lost.

If you’re like me, we don’t have just one little three verse catastrophic decision. We make multiple bad choices. We neglect our duty, let our guard down, and well, become stupid. And around the board we go again. And again.

For David, God wasn’t done with him yet. It took a strong willed prophet to confront him to his face. But more than that, it took humility, repentance, and the grace of God

Sometimes it takes a person in my face too. Sometimes it takes a nasty stumble. And in every instance, it takes repentance and a whole lot of grace – and God’s got a whole lot of grace. And God’s not done with me – or with you yet either. Don’t let one bad choice let you miss out on all that God has for you. If you’re still breathing, God is not done with you yet either.

But let me give one other piece of insight. Other than correcting the times of erring, we would be better off by preventing the times of stumbling in the first place. Put safeguards in place. Be honest and wise about what stumbling blocks you have. Take actions to prevent the temptations in the first place. Guardrails – Hedges – A System to Protect.

Why would you battle a temptation in the future that you have the power to eliminate today.

… Craig Groeschel

Don’t be defined by three little verses – Our God is bigger than that. He was with David, and He is with you too. He restores our joy. He forgives our transgressions. He creates clean hearts. He restores our soul. And I rejoice. You can too.

Doing It ‘The Chicago Way’

The line is classic, iconic even. You may even have made it your life’s mantra. And since it was recited by Sean Connery, there is an aura of power behind it. Make sure you read it with that Scottish accent …

Wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone.”

But is this the best way? It’s what we see in TV/Movies. It’s what we see in Washington. It’s plastered across Twitter and Facebook in our Social Media world. And you might even see it on playgrounds across America. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Connery was teaching the boy scout Costner, playing Elliot Ness, that he would have to change the way he did things if he wanted to accomplish his goals. And though it may make a great movie, even effective politics-diplomacy if you’re the one with the bigger stick, I do not believe it is the way we are to live as followers of Christ. Our teacher, not a Scot but a Jew from 2000 years ago (and our God from before time began) taught us a different way, a revolutionary way – a better way.

Turn the other cheek, go the second mile, pray for your enemies, bless those that persecute you.

This is easier typed than done.

This is not saying don’t defend yourself. Not about quiet passivity, especially if life threatening. But about having a mindset that doesn’t seek revenge, doesn’t retaliate, nor does it give evil a free hand. If I can suggest three principles from His revolutionary teaching, a concept I call living in the 2nd mile

  1. Show mercy in opposition
  2. Show grace through difficulties
  3. Show love without limitations

We all may think we should respond with kindness to kindness. But to be a Christian is to live revolutionary. Show kindness to enemies, go the 2nd mile … live in that 2nd mile.

  • To love your neighbor, that’s 1st mile
  • To love your enemy, that’s 2nd mile
  • To bless those who bless you, that’s 1st mile
  • To bless those who curse you, that’s 2nd mile
  • To pray for friends, that’s 1st mile
  • To pray for those despiteful to you, that’s 2nd mile

And when we have a 2nd mile lifestyle, we are living like Him. People will notice. And He will get the attention, not us.

It may not be the Chicago Way, but it should be our way.


Want to dig a little deeper? Live in the Appomattox area? Join us this Sunday (10.27) as we look at this revolutionary teaching – at 11am.

Beth Moore, John MacArthur, and Pastor D

Oh it’s on. The red line in the theological sand has been drawn. Words are crossing the Twitter and internet battle field like bullets did at Gettysburg. Comments and responses to articles are like skirmishes between the Jets and the Sharks … and it’s still because of a boy and a girl (West Side Story if you didn’t get that reference).

I am not talking about the Prez and the Speaker of the House. Not politics but religion. I am talking in the realm of the church. Johnny Mac threw a word association bomb against women in the ministry, specifically using Beth’s name in the context. BOOM. It was not delivered with the most grace for a leader of a ministry that has grace in its name. More KAPOWS, BAM, KABLUOEY. Others joined in. Defenders of Beth responded quickly. RAT-A-TATATAT. And now … another holy war is a brew.

Not what I would call our best step towards unity in the church. Not our best day in telling the world God loves everyone.

Wait, I mentioned a Pastor D. in the title. Yep. I did. Years ago, before my marriage, this idealistic Calvinist young adult fell for a young lady that went to a non-baptist church (aghast as that sounds to some). I ventured in to an Armenian leaning congregation, and Pastor D welcomed me … with open arms and kindness. We disagreed on many things, but found we agreed on a lot more. I witnessed a congregational revival of confession and humility unlike I ever had before, and rarely have since. I saw people who loved God’s Word … many of whom served as Wycliffe translators all over the globe. It crossed denominational lines (even though it was itself a specific denomination), it crossed racial lines in an area of Dallas that was very diverse, and Pastor D was used by God as He moles me into a servant leader that cared for souls and discipleship.

I look at (or more specifically read about) the many turmoils in the church. It grieves me. I read the comments and see the responses towards each other … and I hurt.

I so truly never want to compromise truth and God’s Word. I forever want to be based on the foundation of Christ, the Solid Rock. As one who occasionally will speak from a pulpit, I want to be bold and steadfast. But I want to be a person of grace … not just in name alone. I want to be known for love and open arms.

Never compromise, but forever be known as one who brings people together .. not tearing them apart.

Today, what words are you using? Do they divide or unite? Which brings more glory to God?

You are loved.


Post blog comment: this was never written with an intent to tear any person down, nor to read intent into people’s statements. It was more a general observation of how people perceive the way we disagree publicly and privately. May we always be children with the character of our Father. When they see us, may we reflect His character, full of grace and truth.

Monday Minute …

Keeping it short for Monday.


When our guilt turns into shame, then our sin becomes our identity.

But your identity isn’t based in what you’ve done. It’s based in what Jesus has done for you. God looks upon you and sees Christ. He sees purity, righteousness, infinite possibility. (Quote by Kyle Idleman)

This truth is critical to understanding grace, forgiveness, and our relationship with God. Today, remember He loves you.

Past failures do not need to define you. Start today afresh in God’s Grace.

It only took one thing … a lesson from Lexington, VA

What a lovely town.

Wait.

One bad apple.

I came across this statement … I really loved my job, but there was this one jerk there who made life miserable for everyone. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel, unfortunately. (From the web, not my life, just to be clear)

You know what I mean.

Last week I fell on my hike. I won’t let that little spill ruin what was a beautiful time appreciating creation.


Editors note: as I write the next few paragraphs, I realize Lisa will scold me for sharing too much. Such is life. But it gets my point across.


This weekend, Lisa and I visited a lovely little town … Lexington, VA. Walked the streets, got chocolate at the Cocoa Mill, drove around Washington Lee College and passed by the football stadium of VMI while they were combating another collegiate team, ate on the patio of a downtown eatery, walked by Stonewall Jackson’s home, visited The Urban Farmgirl and Walkabout Outfitters, and so much more. Lisa enjoyed the weather, delighted in the little shops, and treasured the company she was with (me!)

But, as we left town, we passed the Red Hen Restaurant. This little bistro gained national notoriety when they asked a then-current part of the presidential team to leave. It made all the news outlets and caused quite the discussions. This Muddy Shoes pondering isn’t about politics, but about being aware of impressions we leave.

It changed the outlook on the little town. And not in a good way. How is it our impression of something changes because of one aspect … one aspect that seems to overshadow all others? I see this all the time in church life. One disappointment changes our mood. One bad sermon and we write of that preacher. One rude person or one time of being ignored, and we think all at the church are like that. One less than stellar worship, and we begin to look elsewhere.

One bad apple.

What would it be like if we focused on the positive, see life through eyes of grace, and realize we live in a broken world?

Lexington … quaint and adorable. Clean and inviting. Delightful and worth the trip. I will not let that one bad apple spoil my trip.

And when it comes to worship … one bad sermon will not make me give up on that church. I will just commit to do a better sermon next time. Grace can take bad apples and make something great … maybe apple pie! I could go for some apple pie.

Felicity Huffman … Elitism Slammed by Elitist

It was a college scandal that rocked the rich. Top schools involved. Six figure bribes. Test taking shortcuts. Some of Hollywood elites connected. And more.

Recently, Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty, appealed to the court as a mother who tried to do whatever she could to help her daughter. She gave some reasonable excuses, but still, excuses. She pleaded for mercy … no jail time. She accepts fines, community service, probation, but no jail.

The women on The View discussed this. They claimed she was rich, entitled, and tried to ‘game the system’. They expressed she deserves to go to jail, for a long period of time. They called it elitism at its worst.

Now … I find this a tough scenario. But I also find it ironic. I would imagine any of those female hosts that sat around the table would also ‘game the system’ in certain situations. If they walked into a restaurant and they wanted a table, yet had no reservation, I would wager they would expect a table anyway. Good seats at a gala. Special attention at the boutique. These little perks seem welcomed and expected.

So … where is the line? When is taking a perk deemed elitism? When does being treated special become elitism? When does helping become favoritism? I get the cheating on tests is too far, but where is the line?

Someone donates a building, multi-million dollar investment, or whatever. Tell me their kid wouldn’t get in. Where is the line?

I am a pastor. Should I get a discount at Lifeway? My friend is a cop. Should they get free coffee at 7-11?

I am not sure. I am glad I am not the judge, the accused, or even one of the kids that got into college that way. (Though USC would’ve been cool).

But there are some great principles here …

  • Don’t think too highly of yourself
  • Pride comes before a fall
  • Honor others more than yourselves

I think we would be better off if we helped each other more than we looked it for ourselves. Radical? How about Biblical. In a world that is quick to judge, let’s be people who are better known for building people up.