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Posts Tagged ‘women’s breakfast’

Jo 12Have you heard of of those loyalty card deals where, if you spend a certain amount for a certain period of time in a certain supermarket chain, you get even more to spend? A few weeks ago, my husband was offered one we felt we could not pass up. It involved receiving a hundred dollars off our grocery bill, if we spent that amount in-store first—as well as spending fifty dollars each week for four weeks in a row prior to this. I was sure I could find enough to buy, so we decided to take part.

What fun it was, buying a hundred dollars worth of goodies! I easily made it to that total—and beyond. In the process, I met some friends who were doing something similar. We congratulated one another—it was as if we were in a conspiracy to wring every last cent out of our windfall. After all, the supermarket chain had done well out of us over the years, so we were entitled to do this.

Later, I reflected further on this experience of getting something for nothing. At least, it wasn’t really for nothing. We still had to spend to get that bonus—we still had to stay loyal to that supermarket chain. Then I remembered how, after speaking somewhere, I have sometimes been given a monetary gift. After one particular women’s event, I received an amount far beyond what I felt I was worth. I was shocked—I actually wondered whether an extra ‘0’ had been added to the amount by mistake! Yes, I had spent hours preparing my input and had put my heart and soul into my message, but I had enjoyed doing it all. They did not need to give me so much—or anything, really. In fact, I felt quite ashamed they had been so generous on my behalf.

These two responses to receiving a gift could not be more different, could they? With the supermarket bonus, we had a sense of entitlement. After all, we had earned it by shopping at that particular store. But with the gift I received for speaking, I felt as if I didn’t deserve it at all. I wonder if these two responses give us a picture of how we can tend to treat the grace and forgiveness God offers us. I have known some people who feel entitled to ending up in heaven with God. After all, haven’t they been to church often enough or lived good lives and not hurt anyone too much? But I have met others too who have great difficulty believing God could love them enough to forgive them and offer them the free gift of eternal life. They don’t deserve it—they feel too unworthy and insignificant—and are unable to accept it.

Both responses are sad, don’t you think? One is full of entitlement, while the other is full of shame. Yes, God has given us something for nothing, something we didn’t deserve, something made possible only through Jesus’ death. We can’t earn this gift of grace. All we can do is come in humility and receive it, then live for God in return, with a heart filled with gratitude.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

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Have you ever experienced one of those moments when a truth you have almost come to take for granted hits you smack between the eyes once again? It can be just a tad humbling, in my opinion.

There I was this past weekend, speaking to a great group of women at a church breakfast. Little did I suspect God was going to remind me of a home truth in my own life. I have seen before how the things I pass onto others when speaking at such events are the very things God wants to impress on me as well. I should know this, having spoken many times in connection with my books over these past few years. But I had forgotten. And God knew that.

I reached a point in my talk where I had decided to include part of the story of how God became real in my own life, so I began sharing with the women about the three things that had impacted me most deeply back then. I told them how I was shocked when I realised that the Jesus I had heard about in Sunday School and church was actually real—and further, that he was still alive—in which case, I needed to do something about letting him be Lord of my life. I told them about the awe I felt when I realised I mattered to Jesus—that he knew all about me and loved me. And I told them too how I knew at once that, by believing in Jesus and accepting his love, I had indeed discovered the purpose for my being on this earth—to live for God and bring honour to Jesus, whatever my future career path might turn out to be.

I was right in the moment, sharing from my heart with the women. Then, through some almost joking, ‘throw away’ words of mine, God spoke to me.

‘I hate to say it,’ I laughed as I told the women, ‘but this happened to me over fifty years ago now when I was fifteen—so now you can do the Maths easily!’

No, there was no blinding flash that knocked me off my feet at that point—but I did feel the impact of the following gentle words from God deep in my spirit.

‘Yes, it has been fifty years, Jo-Anne. A long time of journeying together, through so many ups and downs.’

Straight away, I was filled with such thankfulness for that journey that I began all those years ago as a fifteen year old, so full of uncertainties and anxieties. Yes, I thought to myself, even as I stood there and kept speaking to the women, God has been so, so faithful to me through it all—so patient and so forbearing and so understanding and so forgiving and … well, just so plain caring about me. But for God, where would I be? Certainly not where I was right at that point, standing on the platform and speaking to those women present.

Yes, I have kept the faith—but only by God’s amazing love and grace through all those years. That’s all I can say.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John :1

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