A Gift for the Holidays – Part II

He’s offering the gift of grace. G – Guilty No More, R – Rest in Christ . . .

It’s much to absorb, and He hasn’t even spelled out the whole word. You hesitate. The Lord reaches in the box and pulls out the next letter, “A.” With trembling fingers you reach for it, running your thumb down its long, sleek sides.

“Accept my unconditional love,” He says. ” I stand before you with my arms open wide, longing to enfold you in them, but sometimes you duck your head and walk away. You let shame, guilt, or feelings of inadequacy keep you from Me. I have loved you with an everlasting love. ** Nothing you’ve ever done has made me regret that great love, and nothing can take it away.

“When I died on Calvary, I made it possible for us to be in close relationship. I washed your every misstep away in the river of my blood. There is nothing to separate us.” ***

You’re weeping freely now. He’s right. The Christian life is about Jesus and the righteousness He gives. You make it about your performance, causing both your pride and your guilt to keep you from His arms.

“I’m sorry.” You whisper.

Jesus puts an arm around you. “Take the next letter.”

You reach into the box and hand Him the “C.” He lays it across your heart. “C is for Christ in you, dearest. I am your hope of glory. You try so hard to be good. Trust Me and let Me make you good. The good work I’ve begun in you will be completed. Stop striving. You are My masterpiece. Will I not finish it?” ****

The Lord reaches into the box for the last letter. You still weep silently, leaning your head against His shoulder.

“E is for Empowered. I am the One who empowers you to be all I’ve created you to be. Spiritual maturity isn’t chasing after good works or achieving your dreams. It isn’t being perfect. It is knowing Me and letting your life flow from our relationship.

“Let me empower you, dear one. I am the one who gives you the grace to accomplish all I ask of you.” *****

You nod.  He hugs you and then kisses your cheek. As He walks away you finger each letter, His words echoing in your soul. You place the letters back into the box, one by one:

G – Guilty no more

R – Rest in Christ

A – Accept His unconditional love

C – Christ, the hope of glory

E – Empowered by His Spirit

You linger with the open box in your lap, breathing in the scent of grace. There is no greater gift.

How does his unconditional love change you? How is He your hope of glory? Where do you need His empowerment?

***Ephesians 2:13

****Philippians 1:6 & Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

*****Philippians 4:13, 2 Timothy 3:17

A Gift for the Holidays – Part I

Come.

Do you hear the Master calling?

There’s a twinkle in His eyes and a gift in His hands. Notice how the golden paper glistens with a metallic gleam. And don’t you just love the big, blood red bow?

A present. Just in time for the holidays.

Your Best Friend is excited about your gift. He’s done all the work—choosing what you need most, going to great sacrifice to procure it for you. All that’s left is for you to open it. Won’t you focus on Him and unwrap His gift?

You pull the red bow apart and lift the lid. You can’t see what’s inside, but you can smell it. It smells like lilacs and fresh cut grass and sunshine. You can feel the present, too. It’s solid as iron, soft as a baby’s cheek, and makes you warm all over. You can even hear your gift. One minute it swells with symphonic melody, the next it sings with the sweetness of a child. You can almost taste it on your tongue. It’s meat, potatoes, and vegetables—all that is solid and healthy—and it is also silky chocolate and all that is sweet.

“What is it?” You ask.

“It’s my grace.” He speaks with hushed voice, a tinge of emotion lacing His words.

You stare at the box. You’ve heard about grace before, but you’ve never really experienced it. Who knew grace had a smell, a feel, a taste?

He suggests you reach inside.

You pull out a “G” and frown.

Jesus chuckles. “G is for guilty no more. Too often you heap condemnation upon yourself. You are overwhelmed with your many tasks and feel guilty there’s dust on the mantle.

“But it goes deeper. You beat yourself up for faults and failures I’ve erased from your record. I’ve already forgotten them. There’s no need to be angry with yourself. I gave my life so you could live without condemnation. You are guilty no more. If you don’t believe me, read Romans 8:1. Read it a thousand times and tape it on your bathroom mirror. Live as you are, my dear: Free from condemnation.”

You have a big lump in your throat and since you can’t talk, you reach back into the box. The letter “R” is in your hand.

The Lord gently lifts your face to his. “R is for Rest in Me. Come to Me when you labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. I will ease and relieve and refresh your soul.” *

“It’s hard to rest,” You say.

Jesus tilts his head. “Think about a nursing baby—how a mother cradles him in her arms, and he nuzzles to her breast. He is nourished, body and soul. As he’s fed he never takes his eyes off of his mother, gazing with complete satisfaction, trust, and peace. Rest in me as that baby rests. I will nourish you. I will lead and comfort you.”

Your eyes are glued to the Master, hungry to believe all He is saying, but there is hesitancy, a fear you don’t deserve to rest.

My Child, did the baby do anything to earn love?”

You shake your head. “He could do nothing to help his mother.”

“In the same way, I don’t expect you to earn My love or the right to rest. I simply come and say, ‘Are you tired? Let me help you. Are you burdened? Let me carry it.’”

Little tears gather in your eyes as you listen to Him. There’s still more to discover. You peer into the gift box.

What special ways do you embrace His grace?

*Matthew 11:28 (AMP)

First Contract Jitters

It wouldn’t happen to me.

At least not full-blown.

After all, I’d written for ten years, penned multiple novels, experienced a myriad of rejections letters, sold a bunch of articles, and met repeated free-lance deadlines.

I would NOT get the dreaded-first-contracted-book-jitters. Or writer’s block. I was a professional, just taking a next step in the industry.

Right?

You know what’s coming. My first book deal was contracted on a chapter and a synopsis. It was time to write to meet my first book deadline.

Only I needed to do more research. Read more widely within the genre.

I read 13 novellas in less than two weeks.

Obviously, it was becoming an addiction, all of this reading instead of writing.

I should quit—and would—as soon as I finished the 400 page novel that just arrived in the mail.

Then my friend brought me her collection of novellas to help with my research.

(Why do best friends feed addictions? Seriously!)

I had to write.

So I tackled every left-brained project I could find. I wrote non-fiction free-lance assignments, submitted proposals, started a devotional facebook page, and spent a bunch of time networking and marketing.

Which made my brain hurt, so I slipped away with a good book . . .

Renewed and with great resolve I went to bed excited for the morrow, when I would do nothing but write my first contracted novella.

I got up earlier than usual—not because I was eager to write, but due to the need to escape nightmares about inadequacy.

Bleary-eyed, I curled in my recliner, grabbed my journal and Bible, and prayed it through. The Lord reminded me of His promise ten years ago to lead me on the best pathway for my life, to guide me and watch over my writing journey (Psalm 32:8).

He asked if He’d done a good job so far. I said yes. He asked why I would think He would stop now. I said He wouldn’t. He promised to be with me.

Buoyed by God’s assurances for this new writing season I told my husband the whole wonderful story. Then promptly burst into tears.

The sweet man tried to hide his chuckles as he reminded me I was living my dream—that I could do this. Then he resorted to an illustration that good, non-fiction reading, left-brained, red-blooded husbands turn to: football.

Quoting Tim Tebow, the Bronco’s new wonder boy, my husband talked about going out there and doing what you love because you love it and because it is fun.

Oh, yeah.

This is what I love to do, this thing I’ve been avoiding for the past month. It’s fun.

No more fear! I’m going to get creative and let this story pour from my fingertips  . . .

Tomorrow.

(How about you? Got a “first contract jitters” story?)