Grace in Relationships

I love my friends. But I also often struggle with feeling responsible for the behavior and happiness of everyone around me. Can you identify? I will pretty much do whatever it takes to keep the peace and avoid conflict. But I’ve taken that behavior to the extreme. I will offer five hundred restaurants for my group of friends to choose from, but I do not want to be the person in charge of making that final decision. That’s too much pressure. I could choose the WRONG place.

As a recovering “good girl” I’m learning that having grace-filled relationships doesn’t mean avoiding conflict at all costs. Ephesians 4 does remind us “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” but I would be doing a disservice to my friendships if I never expressed my own opinion. Loving someone doesn’t mean just appeasing them. Love wants the best for another, even if that process is initially painful.

“Wounds made by a friend are intended to help, but an enemy’s kisses are too much to bear.” (Proverbs 27:6, GWT)

“It is so hard to receive criticism, but if you can’t you are showing one of the prime characteristics of a fool, according to Proverbs. Understandably, it is easier to receive criticism from someone who really loves you, but even then, it is always hard to listen to something that will bring you pain… I believe that one of the purposes of best friendships is to help one another recognize blind spots.” (Dee Brestin, The Friendships of Women)

My desire for approval sometimes puts me on the defense when it comes to receiving constructive criticism in my life. But thankfully, a new understanding of God’s grace is changing the way I give and receive love. His grace frees me from the need constant approval. Living in light of grace means that love is the highest priority in all relationships.

“Grace isn’t natural, but supernatural. The natural responses when you get hurt are either to strike back or to withdraw. When we instead step out of the way and allow God to work through us, responding with unfailing love, even perennials that have endured a deep freeze may lift up their wilting heads and live.” (Dee Brestin, The Friendships of Women)

How does God’s grace transform your relationships?

Following and learning,
Ginger

Heads Up!  A GRACEFUL GIVEAWAY! Two copies of “Graceful” the book by Emily Freeman are up for grabs this week. Follow this link for details and entry form!

“Because we are loved and known by a graceful God, we are free to relax our shoulders, unclench our fists, and open our hands to receive all he has to offer. And the best thing he has to offer is, quite simply, himself.” (Emily P. Freeman, Graceful: Letting go of your try-hard life.)

Grace for the World

Have you ever eaten a bad piece of fruit… a rotten or mealy apple? It’s disgusting and sometimes one bad grape is enough to keep me from eating any more from that clump. Fuzz on blackberries makes me want to gag. Can also I just stop and say that canned fruits and veggies aren’t overly appetizing? Anyone agree? Who knew peas could actually be spring green rather than puke green? I’m getting off track. Apologies.

I spent my summers during college working at Pine Cove Christian Camps. After 6 days of exhausting and fulfilling work I would stay with my grandparents for less than 24 hours before starting it all back up again. 12 weeks straight. My grandmother had a fridge full of food – but I was usually only ever tempted by one thing – the fresh fruit. I would practically eat a meal of the chilled fruit before finishing it off with a small glass of freshly frozen peaches. When fruit is good you can’t keep me away from it.

Jesus loved to teach in metaphor and parables. A consistent theme throughout the New Testament is the use of fruit to represent our labor and love.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing… When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father…You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:5, 8, 16-17 (NLT)

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. (Matthew 7:16-17, NLT)

Followers of Jesus and fruit (LOVE) are to be synonymous. Jesus said we are identified by our fruit… and that fruit is our love… and yet… Christians today are known more for what they dislike rather than what they love.

How you and I respond to culture is eternally significant.

So what does good fruit look like in our lives? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23,NIV)

Good fruit is attractive. It’s not hateful or hurtful. Good fruit is full of grace.

So as we enter into the final weeks of the election season, let’s pray that our conversations, posts, and e-mails would be full of grace. May our fruit be evident to all.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1Corinthians 13:13, NLT)

Following,
Ginger

A GRACEFUL GIVEAWAY! Two copies of “Graceful” the book by Emily Freeman are up for grabs this week. Follow this link for details and entry form!

“And so we have some important choices to make. Every day, a direction. Every minute, a decision about what we will believe. Are you going to keep trying hard to be good on your own? Or will you dare to believe that you are graceful in Christ, marked forever by his divine favor?” (Emily P. Freeman, Graceful)

Graceful Love

Yesterday I mentioned that I have lived most of my life trying to earn the approval of God. I believed I was redeemed, and by no doing of my own. But I also believed that 99% of the time my Heavenly Father was thinking one thing about me: “I’m so disappointed in you.” 

Here’s how it came to a head this summer.

My counselor encouraged me to journal through some of my deepest fears. Here’s the list straight from the journal page:

  1. Fear of rejection.
  2. Fear of failure.
  3. Fear of disappointing others.
  4. Fear that at the end of my life I will be found wanting and faithless.
  5. Fear that I’m not doing or being enough.

These needs and fears keep me anxious, worried, frustrated, and discouraged. They cause me to keep walls up and to continue performing in my relationships with others and with God.

I’m like Sally Field at her acceptance speech for winning best actress. I desperately want to shout, “YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME!” 

And yet, somewhere deep inside my heart I’ve known the truth, I just couldn’t take hold of it.

One side of my mind yells: GINGER, you can’t keep the law. That’s not the point. It can’t be done. The purpose of the law is to lead you to grace!

But the other side screams back: BUT you aren’t even really trying! DO MORE NOW!

Pendulum living is depressing. I will admit that freely to you today. For so long I didn’t live aware of God’s grace. My emotional highs and lows were often fueled by the grade that I awarded to my own performance.

And then one morning as I lay in hotel bed in North Carolina I knew I had to get up and pull out my journal again. I pulled back the drapes in the early morning light and fell to my knees in tears. I was just so tired. I felt as though God was speaking freedom to my heart in a whole new way. Here’s what I wrote that morning.

Ginger, will I ever be enough for you? You are all that I want. I just want you- your heart, your dreams, your ministry, your future, your relationships, your words, your comings and your goings. Have I asked you to try harder or did I ask you to come with me and get some rest? Won’t you come and choose what is best… sit at my feet?

That’s your fear, isn’t it? That I’m looking for BEST and you aren’t it or aren’t doing it and if you COULD just read, do, love, serve, give MORE… then I would turn to everyone else and say, “Look everyone! Ginger chose what was best!” That’s what you want, isn’t it. You want my approval.

My child, you have it. You always have. You always have.

Perhaps you also have performance tendencies like me. Friend, we weren’t made to perform. We were made to live in freedom and grace. When we choose to make guilt and shame our daily companions we do not accept the gift of God. Of course, there is the good kind of guilt that leads to repentance, but if you find yourself living out of fear rather than faith, chances are that grace is a vocabulary word and not a lifestyle. I know. I’ve been there for far too long.

But I’m not going back.

“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” (Galatians 2:19-21, MSG)

Here’s to grace-filed living…

Following,
Ginger

GRACEFUL GIVEAWAY! Two copies of “Graceful” the book by Emily Freeman are up for grabs this week. Follow this link for details and entry form!

“Instead of holding so tightly to the outcome, I can know that God is with me in the process. Instead of working to be right on my own, I can choose to believe God is gracious toward me. He lives in me, and he wants to flow gracefully out of me in every situation.” (Emily P. Freeman, Graceful: Letting go of your try-hard life.)

Renewing

“Emotions don’t have a brain. They are reactors. They may respond to truth, but they may also respond to lies with the same passion and conviction, sometimes more so. You must decide if you will trust the feeling or if you will trust the truth.”

-Emily P. Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)

For the next few weeks we are going to address our feelings, our responses, and our challenge to renew our minds by absorbing God’s Truth. I hope you’ll join in on the conversation.

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Grace for the Good Girl

I wandered through the halls a nervous wreck last Friday evening. I walked back and forth hoping to catch a friendly eye. This was my first big time conference and I was attending all alone, feeling smaller than ever.

I recognized the author of one of my favorite blogs in the hallway and stopped her. I’m usually terribly awkward when it comes to meeting anyone remotely famous. However, she was gracious as I gushed and grabbed her hand and fumbled over my words. She simply smiled and asked me a few questions about myself. Soon all of my pent-up nerves were leaving.

I went to the She Speaks conference with every intention to network, dream, improve my speaking skills and connect with a publisher.

But I did not meet with a book publisher last weekend even though I was on the top of the waiting list. I spent hours preparing my proposal last week. I furiously finished drafts and letters and chapters… and I never got the call.

But I wouldn’t trade the weekend for anything in the world. For two days I sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. He spoke to my worried, fearful, and busy heart: “Just stop.”

I wandered over to the resource table and surveyed the vast selection. Out of all the resources available on writing, speaking, and teaching I ended up selecting a book on Christian living, the book by the smiling blogger from the first night.

I purchased “Grace for the Good Girl” by Emily Freeman and finished half of it on the flight home Sunday… tears flowing all the way. I read paragraphs aloud to my counselor on Monday, feeling as though I finally had words I hadn’t been able to express during a whole month of counseling.

“Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition. I lived under a system I designed for myself and I labeled it The Gospel. As a good girl, every choice I made was dictated by a theology of self-sufficiency. Life was up to me, and I was prepared to get it right.”

Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

I choked those words out through tears, but the kind of tears that mark the start of a very good thing.

Who knows? Perhaps the sole reason I attended She Speaks was to accidentally accost Emily in the hall and then be prompted by the Spirit to pick up her book. Regardless of His reasons, God is using her words to touch the heart of a tired good girl.

I should tell you that I haven’t finished it yet. But that’s how much faith I have in recommending it. I still have 70 pages to go and I’m declaring it to be one of the most influential books in my spiritual development. If you’re tired of trying to hold it together – I highly recommend this book.

Happy Friday!

Following in freedom,
Ginger