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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Overwhelmed by grace

Photo Credit: Shannon Ho – Instagram: @shannonhophotography
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16
When Kelsey and I embarked on this unexpected journey over 4 years ago, I had no idea what sorts of hard things God would allow into my life. The converse of that is I also had no idea of how much grace would be outpoured in my life. I am so thankful for the “throne of grace” where I have consistently and repeatedly seen God’s mercy and grace which has been an incredible help in time of need.

There is no magic “easy” button in life. There is no magic prayer I can pray which will “force” God to act in a way which makes sense to me (and as I look back, I am thankful that is the case). The idea that we just need to “grin and bear it” is a load of horse manure. Over the past several months, there has been a word which has continued to turn over and over in my mind: Providence. What a mysterious and wonderful word. It is that word which helps us have faith that we can trust in a God of Whom the following verses are completely true: "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" - Lamentations 3:37-38

God is completely in control in EVERYTHING. In the good times, we celebrate that fact as complete truth, but in the hard times, there is a part of us that begins to wonder if perhaps, this one time, God wasn’t paying attention and something snuck by Him. But, as we see in a familiar passage (which we often stop with the first verse), God is working things for our good (specifically that we are conformed to Christ’s image): "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." - Romans 8:28-29

Isn’t it interesting to note: there were a WHOLE LOT of bad things which God was in complete control of, leading up to the horrific death of Jesus. And, Jesus was not a victim, but a victor in His death – fulfilling Scripture and triumphantly finishing the task which had been set before Him. Because of His death, if we choose to follow Him, we will experience eternal life in heaven with Jesus instead of the condemnation to an eternity apart from God we deserve. Because of His pain and suffering, if we choose to follow Him, the worst pain and suffering we can ever experience is here on earth, followed by an eternity without pain or suffering. Because of His separation from God as He bore our sins, if we choose to follow Him, we will NEVER again be separated from God. Those horribly bad things – shams of trials, mocking, beating, slapping, crowns of thorns, carrying a cross, crucifixion between thieves, taking on our sin (unimaginable as the perfect Son of God to have that sin put upon Him), separation from God (a state which had never happened in eternity past and will never again happen in eternity future), and a relinquishing of control as Jesus gave up His spirit (the Creator and Sustainer of all recognizing He would be powerless in death) – all for OUR good.

I know there are so many of you who have been faithful to pray. Many of you I know, but many of you I don’t. What a picture of the universal church it has been for me as I hear from people I don’t know at all who have prayed for Kelsey, Alexa and me during this journey. Thank you for those prayers! It is one of those moments of grace in my life that I want to share with each of you, my prayer warriors. God has brought an incredible young woman into my life. She has been willing to jump into the nuances of my situation: widower, single dad, two families who will continue to be involved, and an ongoing journey of grief. She has cared for me, cared for Alexa, cared for Kelsey’s family and the Kennedy family. We have shared many hours of FaceTime communication (she is currently living in Louisville, KY), exchanged a multitude of text messages, and had two incredibly sweet extended times to spend with each other and our respective communities (she knows a vast percentage of my community from having been here in Norman prior to moving to Louisville 5 years ago). It is exciting to see God’s direction, amazing to see the capacity of a broken heart to care so deeply for someone again, and so fun to see the excitement of our friends and family. And, photo evidence – otherwise I might be accused of making all of this up!
Me, Alexa and Sarah Malone (and a couple animals who joined as well).

Prayer requests:
-- Direction for both Sarah and me as we continue to seek God’s wisdom and clarity in our relationship – for our own personal walks with the Lord to grow and thrive.
-- Alexa as she processes this new development in life – for her to understand the great benefits of this relationship and not just see the potential changes.
-- For Alexa’s salvation
-- For wisdom with balancing the details of life well: time with Alexa, time with Sarah, time investing in the kingdom, time at work, time to rest.