conviction-and-grace

I found myself seated in a wooden pew facing a stone cross one Sunday this summer, right on the end like I used to sit with my grandma…except this time my head could no longer rest upon its structure.  Next to me was a beauty of a girl, the one who made me a momma, beaming and shining as she invited me to share her faith journey. Though this isn’t the church I normally attend, it was a familiar sight to my heart.  We were worshiping together in my grandparent’s church, my momma and her siblings were baptized here…I came as a girl and met Jesus in Sunday School.  I even have a certificate of attendance still in my box of keepsakes that says I made the decision to follow Jesus long ago.

When the music started and the voices blended, I could still hear her singing. My grandma’s cracked voice came back on a memory and instantly I remembered the look of her hands resting on the hymnal, felt them rest upon my shoulder as a reminder to follow along closely. I was supposed to be singing instead of watching people, but because she taught me the craft herself, she would smile and wink…she was people watching too.  She used to put her finger on the book so she could sing and watch without losing her place. She was so funny and she loved people, she looked deep for the good, the true and the beautiful.

It was the songs, though, that felt like home.  The stolen memory was the start of healing my beating heart was needing. And I wonder, if He allows us those gentle moments of remembering so we can build grace into our lives piece by piece…so we can continue to praise when things are not easy.

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Faith Words are the seeds that build foundation walls.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.- Hebrews 11:1

Of the words that were spoken that day,  many good ones, two stood out loud and clear: faith and conviction.  And a challenge to be someone who knows the meaning of both, equally armed with the knowledge of why they are important.

The sermon came from Hebrews 11, the superstars of faith chapter. Yet, Hebrews not only calls us and invites us into the deeply personal walk of faith, we are challenged to be people who hope for substance that isn’t always seen.  There is no mincing of words in this book, faith is defined and laid out with ample evidence of people who didn’t always see what they believed in. It is full of lessons to persevere in faith, hold fast to hope, and stand firm in prayer even when the world feels crazy out of control.

And though the  lessons from that morning, and even in this chapter still touch me,  I found myself deeply altered by the realization of what faith and conviction really mean.

To be convicted is to be formally declared guilty of an offense, a judgment…a sentence,  or to have a firm opinion or belief, thought, or view.

With believers, this work of conviction is a representation of an ongoing communication between the One who loves and the one who is loved…the BELOVED.

When He calls you beloved, it is because He is entreating you to hear a truth, a hard truth.

Sometimes that hard truth is to know straight up that you are valued and loved and adored.

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do with that truth because it is easier to believe what is bad than it is to believe what is good, about ourselves and about others.

And sometimes it is an open door to allow truth to penetrate our hoarded space; to entice us to let Him come in and sweep clean the  cobwebs in the storage house of our hearts.

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When He convicts, it is a gentle invitation to go deep and let Him change us. I wanted to ignore the invitation because I was filtering out the hurt and the difficult and putting up the strongholds that keep me protected from people, but God  never wastes a moment to fix the broken pieces we hold on to. Romans 8:28 reminds us that His love is about working out good in our midst, even in the hard and the difficult days.

I felt like that little girl in the pew again, looking up to see if I was going to be chastised or if grace would smile down. I didn’t want to look up because I didn’t want to let go of the self-preserving space that I had so diligently erected around myself.  Because sometimes, the freedom of not being attached to something makes it easier to keep from being disappointed later.  It is like being a people watcher that can take in all the beauty of the crowd and catch all the unique blessings that shine through others without taking a risk of rejection, and without the invitation to see deeper than surface.

Which is funny, because I look deeper than the surface. I long for conversations that take time to play out and that go beneath the layers to seek the roots below.  I revel in the ability to put away the costumes of formality and just get real. But not if that means the layers get pulled back before I am ready to let go.

Conviction as a belief sets us in the space where we draw lines and establish boundaries. It isn’t always comfortable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Biblical conviction is meant to lead us, by His Spirit (John 16:8) through His Word (James 2:9) to repentance and forgiveness. Sometimes that forgiveness, or the lack of it, is what we are lacking the most…and we might not really know that’s what it is.

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When conviction reminds you of the passion that your soul feeds on, it is time to let it bloom within.  I was reminded…convicted…that the purpose of these letters flowing together into words and sentences are meant to look beyond the shell.  But in order for that to happen I need to be real. I need to share the hard things here, in hopes that in some way, even if it is just for one person, grace will be found.

I realized that day there are some walls I have built to keep the shallow waters of discontent nicely enclosed and undisturbed. Even here I had not been letting people in because it is safer.   I supposed it is a learned behavior. Years of putting on the armor in order function together because sometimes people are hard.

I think it can be a deposit we make into our lives, this distrusting of one another, especially the beloved of God. I mean the world is wary of us, because we are sometimes the meanest people in the crowd. Those on the outside often wonder if we are trustworthy, and there are times I agree.

I have been on other side of that sideways look down the pew. The one that sizes you up because your skirt isn’t long enough or your kids aren’t behaving or you were late, heaven forbid… or perhaps you missed a Sunday and a Wednesday service.  I have been the one whose child was rejected because they didn’t fit and who was discussed in a group and later brought in for a conference to lay out the best way to parent your child so they won’t cause a problem in class.

I recognize the looks all too easily, and I find that I expect them… I look for them… I anticipate them.

And this is the part that is burdensome to me. Because when you spend so much time on the outside, you are not sure how to fit on the inside. All you see is a questioning glance and assume it is more than what it is. I was convicted of not allowing those He has sent to bind up the breaking, because history hasn’t always shown grace in abundance.  I know that is partly why I pursue this journey to grace so strong.

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Confessions of a grace seeker…

So with conviction comes confession. My daughter doesn’t go to church with me, friends. Do you have any idea how hard that is to write to you? But she is going to a church of her choosing with someone we love and trust and she is branching out on her own. She is seeking her place and trying to find where she fits.  I realize, as I think about that visit, I was expecting them to reject her.  I was preparing for the battle where I would pick her up and dust us both off and maybe, just maybe build a wall to protect.

Yet, His Spirit convicted mine. His gentle heart quickly blanketed my own to remind me that the way of grace is one that lets the doors stay open. The way of grace doesn’t build walls that separate.

Because here in the space of being loved by God we are hedged in together. We don’t have to look hard for the broken shards that pierce. We can love deep and we can be real and we can excuse mistakes… because grace is enough.

There in that space, I saw my sweet shy unsure girl beam and sing with a heart so pure and so free that I was convicted deep.  She was flying in the beauty He had prepared for her long before I knew it was possible to see her soar. The hard days of her indecision about God, the years of prayer…no, years of begging God for something, someone, to come in and come alongside of us…in a moment I saw His faithfulness meet us.

 Because that is always how He is… faithful and convicted to work goodness into our lives.

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I still find myself looking for the exit signs, as a defense to protect me from disappointment. But even in the discouraging places, God is always there to meet us and pick us up and dust us off. Even in the hard and the breaking His grace reminds us that we are loved beyond words because The Word made flesh dwells within us.

We are all on this journey, breaking together into the pieces that are plunged into the furnace of His love.   Like the seeds of grace we scatter willfully hoping for a harvest of plenty, there are times when we need to deposit the shards of our heartbreak into the fire of God’s eternal grace. The ashes of our brokenness become the beauty He places upon our shoulders like a mantle that reminds us of His provision, of His forgiveness, of His purpose for us.

And I was convicted to let faith see rather than my faithlessness perceive what is not really there… to be one who looks for the good, the true, and the beautiful because it is His heart.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things.[fix your minds on them.]-Philippians 4:8

And in this space, I want to be real. I want to meet you in humility and get to the heart of the healing He longs to bleed into us.  To be convicted together to come to the altar of grace together, seeking the restoration of our souls, not just with the Father but with one another. I am so glad you are here to join me on this journey to grace, friends.

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IT’S YOUR TURN TO BE A GRACE COUNTER!  SHARE YOUR GRACE MOMENT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND THEN COUNT GRACE WITH A FRIEND WITH COMMENT ON A BLOG OR TWO.

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