[Reflection] Abounding Grace

I’m constantly blown away by God’s grace towards rebellious people. We repeatedly miss the mark, yet He continues offering us grace after grace. When I was new to the Faith, the Old Testament terrified me. Why? Because it tells stories that reveal God’s power to destroy disobedience. As I’ve matured, I now see these stories in a new light – laced with grace and hope in the coming Savior, rather than wrath. Traces of grace can be seen throughout the entire Old Testament, beginning with the moment we first tasted death.

At the fall (Genesis 3), God had every right to kick Adam and Eve out of Eden without caring about their livelihood. He didn’t even owe them a “Sayonara!” God clearly stated they were not to touch or eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, and all it took was a serpent spitting promises of false wisdom for them to break God’s only ground rule. I’m not a parent, but I’ve spent several summers coaching. I’ve felt disappointment towards athletes I’ve invested in when they’ve disregarded clearly stated instructions, and can only imagine how much more disappointment and anger God felt towards the very people He breathed into existence. He had no reason to show an ounce of compassion towards Adam and Eve, but…

…the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. -Genesis. 3:21

The very same God who was betrayed, showed grace. My heart can only praise Him for that undeserved gift and what it foreshadowed…Jesus.

At the fall, we became incapable of communion with God because of our sinful nature. We needed someone or something to bridge the gap. We needed to be clothed by robes of righteousness, not rags of corruption. A little over 2,000 years ago a man named Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, preached the Word of God, was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, spat on by the very people He came to save, and hung on a cross to die with criminals. Three days later He conquered the death we ate in Eden and bridged the gap.

At the cross, God clothed us – again. The leather garbs from Eden foreshadowed the coming of a greater garment – the righteous robes of Jesus Christ. Those who’ve confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord are no longer draped in rancid rags, but instead are covered in the righteousness of Christ. We’re given grace upon grace upon grace. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels. -Isaiah 61:10

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21

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Mission to Memphis: Wrap Up

Can I brag on my Lord? Seriously – He’s awesome!

When you get the chance, watch this video about me and Mary’s mission trip to Memphis, TN.

Sorry for the length…it was just such an incredible week!

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

Mission to Memphis: Day 6

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:38am and our crew just finished playing sardines and signs throughout the church. My alarm is set for 5am to pack and head back to Tejas…it’s going to be a struggle to wake up, but that’s beside the point!

Another phenomenal day has come to a close in Memphis. Today we served at a church organizing rooms, libraries, wiping down walls, picking up “spiky balls” in the front yard and conversing with people who stopped by for the free lunches provided by our partners in crime from Iowa.

The highlight of the day was a conversation I was blessed to have with a mother and daughter. As we began to talk, the pair opened up about their lives and how they got where they are. My heart broke as the mother recalled being beaten by her boyfriend causing her to become disabled and miscarry her child. It took just about everything I had to hold back tears and continue listening. I couldn’t get past the pain this beautiful woman of God had endured.

When the pair left briefly, Jenny turned to me and pointed out how joyful the mother is despite many trials. That struck a cord as I recalled her finishing the tragic story and immediately following it by singing one of her favorite Beyonce songs. While I was consumed in her misfortunes, she had already moved on to discuss how much she loved music. What a beautiful display of JOY!

To top the conversation off, the daughter revealed her plans to attend college to study science and also shares her mother’s love for music. Hope and joy abound from two lovely ladies.

I’ll forever owe the two women a huge “thank you” for giving me a whole new perspective on what it means to be joyful through trials!

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

Beautiful Things – Gungor

These lyrics couldn’t possibly be any more fitting for what was experienced today in Memphis:

“All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found

Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new

You are making me new

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new”

Beautiful Things, Gungor

Mission to Memphis: Day 4

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” -1 Corinthians 15:55

I was served a slice of Humble Pie today as our group worked to clean Zion Christian Cemetery. And when I say clean, I really mean chopping down trees and brush with hand saws, axes, machetes, and loppers while digging up tombstones that were buried a foot underground. It was labor intensive work, but the Lord’s strength prevailed.

Here’s a little background information about our location: The cemetery is one of the first African American cemeteries in the country. The last person was buried there in the 1970s. Since then, those buried across the 17 acres have been disrespected tremendously. The cemetery has been used for drug deals and as a prostitution site. The project to restore the cemetery began in 2005 and over 100 groups have served on site.

My experience was capped off when I began clearing out some low brush with loppers. At first I thought I was going to chop down a few bushes and move onto the next grouping until I hit concrete. Underneath all the shrubbery was a tombstone. The Spirit took over as I was digging and I kept thinking “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” Despite all the evil that has taken place on that soil, it was being destroyed. Those who’s bodies laid to rest were being dignified again.

My beautiful sister, Claire, eloquently stated her view on the Cemetery as follows:

Looking at the cemetery for the first time, the task seemed daunting. Only five acres have been cleared since the project began (in 2005) and there are at least twelve left to go. It’s easy to become disheartened by the task facing us. It’s only when we started to uncover the gravestones, one by one, that we realized that the mission is not simply to clear land. Every time a headstone revealed the name of someone who was laid to rest ages ago, that person springs alive, into the minds of a generation that had no knowledge of how time is simultaneous to God. Those who lay in Zion Christian Cemetery are now brought back into the lives of the living, and their families will no longer see an empty space in history where their ancestors were lost. One uncovered headstone is a victory for God and all of His children, those living and dead. THAT is the point of our mission, and it will be fulfilled, no matter how long that may take.

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

P.S. We celebrated God’s victory with Sonic Happy Hour!

Mission to Memphis: Day 3

Psalm 139 – who’s read it?! If not get your Bible out NOW! 🙂 It’s such an awesome scripture that speaks to me in a different way every time I read it.

Tonight as we closed out a day full of powerful messages, organizing, painting, playing with kids, fellowshipping, crying, and laughing, Jenny shared with us her take on Psalm 139.

Surrender. That’s what God wants us to do. Surrender every aspect of our lives to Him and trust He will lead us in the right direction.

I’m a control freak. I organize my schedule daily and each hour I pretty much know what I’m going to be doing. Naturally, one of my struggles is surrendering everything to the Lord, which is why Jenny’s tie-in to scripture hit home. Psalm 139 explains why we should surrender our lives to God’s plan!

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself:

“Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. [This] extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to [reach] it. Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I live at the eastern horizon [or] settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night” – even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You. For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. God, how difficult Your thoughts are for me [to comprehend]; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with You.b God, if only You would kill the wicked, you bloodthirsty men, stay away from me- who invoke You deceitfully. Your enemies swear [by You] falsely. Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You and detest those who rebel against You? I hate them with extreme hatred; I consider them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” -Psalm 139:1-24

Praying this scripture moved you like it did me.

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂