Tapestry of beauty spun
not from yarn but from above.
A masterpiece in the making
by the Craftsman ever dreaming
on life's loom masterfully weaving
Threads of mercy
yarns of love
bits of grace
in time reveal
a sin-stained soul
in Christ made whole.
A beauty of incomparable proportions greeted my eyes this morning. The world has become a shimmering icy landscape. The tiny red berries that grace the leafless burning bush outside my window hang heavy with the weight of their crystal covering. The ground shines with the reflection of the light from across the street.
Oh, nature is paying a great price to be arrayed with such beauty. Limbs and twigs lay scattered across the lawn. Trees once holding their hands high now bend and sag under the weight of the ice. Creaking in the wind, they beg for relief from the load they have been forced to bear. With every strong gust of wind, more small limbs become casualties of this storm. How can such beauty be the result of something so destructive? And yet, it is.
As I sit in my quiet time spot, a squirrel hops onto the porch rail and begins a slippery attempt to make it to the feeder. A smile spreads across my face. He pauses, clutching the rail while staring through the window – is he reprimanding me for taking delight in his slippery predicament? He chatters as I chuckle. Eventually, he lets go of the slippery rail and hops to the ground without the seed he was longing for.
Here, in the midst of this beauty, I meet with the Creator of all things good and beautiful. I whisper prayers of worship and of heartache, of joys and of concerns to the One who spoke the world into existence. How I want my life to reflect the beauty, even amidst the destruction, just like the world around me is glittering beauty amidst the destructive ice. I long to proclaim the goodness and mercies of my Savior in the midst of this current trial.
I must confess it is hard on days like today. Last night, the nightmares came to torment me. I want to say that I don’t know what triggered them, but I do. So, I run. I run into the arms of my Savior, crying out to Him to steady the ache in my heart, the pain in my body from having relived the memories in my sleep. Sin is crouching at the door and I know it – I am choosing to run to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when the ache in my heart and the pain in body are crying to be numbed with the prick of the needle and the rush of poison that will aid forgetfulness.
Sitting in His presence, I read about a man who was instructed to build a tabernacle, a place of meeting, where God would dwell among his people. Moses and all of Israel obeyed. As I read, I am captivated by the God who chose to put the stone tablets where his very hand carved the commandments into the arc of the covenant or testimony. These commandments I have broken – all of them at some point or other, I am sure, if I could see as God sees.
Even while this storm is raging inside of me for poison and its empty promise of peace, God reveals his love. To cover the commandments, the men are instructed to build a covering…the mercy seat. On the mercy seat, blood of the sacrifice will be sprinkled. Tears coursing down my tired cheeks, the realization settles in my aching heart that this God who loves me always planned mercy for me and for you. From the beginning of time, He knew that we feeble humans were incapable of living holy and perfect lives. So, he provided the mercy seat.
Mercy. He chose mercy long ago for the way he would deal with sinful man. Covering the commandments, was the mercy seat, not the judgment seat.
But what is mercy? And how do I receive this mercy? The Mirraim-Webster Dictionary online defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance”; as “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” This is how God covered the commandments he knew we would break. He does not say we were not guilty – that would go against his holiness. Instead, he declares our guilt, but offers His Son Jesus as payment for our sins.
Someone once told me that mercy was God not giving me what I fully deserved. I fully deserve death and hell. I have broken the commandments of a holy and righteous God. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a) “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Sin is falling short of perfection – and so that makes us all equal in one thing – we are all sinners because not one of us except Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life. Not many people like that word now a days because they find it offensive. But you know what? That doesn’t make it any less true.
So here is this hard, ugly, broken, beautiful redemption. Jesus Christ came. He lived a perfect life, was broken and died the death I deserved so that I could experience the mercy and grace of God. Just like the beauty of my ice storm. He ransomed me through His death on a cross – He paid God the price and bore God’s righteous anger so that I could be acceptable to God. My guilt and shame, my sin and failures, my falling to drugs and my unforgiveness. Jesus, in love and mercy, carried the punishment for that to the cross. It is a costly mercy and grace that He offers me, but through Him, God gives me hope of eternity in fellowship with him. My sins broke His body. My addictions and failures and stumblings nailed His hands and feet to the cross.
Jesus paid with His life to redeem my life, but He loved me that much. And here is the beauty of the broken: “Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2.
Friend, if you don’t know what it means to be a sinner saved by grace, can I just ask you today to consider the beauty of a love for you that is so grand, so overwhelming, that it showed itself when Jesus spread His arms out willingly on the cross so that you might come to God?
My tween son and I went to the grocery store today. We were being silly as I kept threatening to break in to song in the middle of the store. Laughing and playing through each aisle – I am sure we smiled and giggled together more today than we had in a long time. Right up until we checked out and my debit card was denied. Then, I was trying to figure out how to pay. How? The money that I was confident was available in my account was gone.
Standing at the checkout as the cashier asked if I had a credit card or checkbook or cash available to pay the $66.33, I felt my joy wilt. I calmly explained that my debit card was my only form of payment and apologized for the inconvenience, but I wasn’t going to be able to complete the purchase. My son stood there, looking confused, while the cashier called over the manager and security. Add a little more wilting to my countenance. Poor kid was even more confused when I said, “I’m just going to have to go home and figure out where my money went, and then come back once I can pay.” As we were walking out, he asked in near panic, “Mom, why aren’t you taking the food?”
From a mama’s standpoint, worse than having to explain to the cashier that I have insufficient funds is trying to explain to this innocent kid with the big blue eyes that we didn’t have any money for food. How do I tell him that the cereal supper he ate last night might be repeated tonight and for breakfast and for lunch and for…well…my heart ached as I told him that we just couldn’t afford groceries for the next week or two. He cried on the way home. I cried with him.
As I sit here typing words on a page, I realize that I am not the first person that has had this happen. I am not alone. I know the kind of shame it breeds to stand before the cashier as the customers in the line behind sneer. So many of us fight for daily provision and for food just to eat. It becomes exhausting to try to juggle bills and feed our families, keep gas in the car and shoes on growing feet. And in so many ways, we end up with insufficient funds.
It is in this daily battle that the good news of the gospel meets our insufficient funds. Every single one of us has a debt we can not pay; we have racked up a bill through our sins and stumblings that our best efforts can not compensate for. No matter the size of the infraction, the sentence is the same: death. That little white lie that couldn’t have really hurt anyone; that red light that would have made me late, so I just ran it; that yelling at my husband when I thought he was too interested in the game and not interested enough in me; that shooting heroin into the veins or the taking an extra pain killer just to calm the nervous heart; that gossip that seemed so harmless have each earned the same sentence. No matter how big or small we think our sin is, we all miss the mark of perfection God requires.
Thankfully, we stand not before a helpless cashier, but before a holy and righteous God who looks on us with compassion. He sees our sin, finds us guilty, and pronounces the penalty for our sin, which is death. Then God does something amazing, astounding, beyond our comprehension. He willingly sends his Son Jesus to die in our place. He takes the wages of death that we have earned and settles the debt we have no way to pay through the death of his Son.
Praise God! He pays when we can’t and in Christ, we are never left standing with a debt that we are insufficient to pay. We never have to guess or wonder if our feeble efforts will be enough to make us right with God. God made a way through Jesus for us to be right, for our penalty to be paid. Christ’s death and resurrection prove He is sufficient. He marks our debt PAID IN FULL.
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23
Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God… ~2 Corinthians 3:4-6
The last few years have been difficult ones for me. I have felt the waves of a raging sea crash against me and inside of me, tossing me to and fro. My faith has been tested – and it has near failed. When memories of the past began to torment me, I cried out to the anchor of my soul. Sitting in the presence of a holy and living God daily, I still fell into drug and alcohol use to quiet the memories and forget the terrors, to enable sleep. It was unexpected. I think anyone who knew me then would tell you that it was out of character for me. But it was in this falling that I discovered the depths of my poverty and the riches of Christ’s grace. I rode the waves of His grace to the heights of heaven – me, a sinner, saved by grace, came to understand the depths of grace I need, not just for salvation, but to live every single day.
It was in the falling, that I have discovered that not only is Christ the anchor for my soul, but His grace is sufficient to catch the one tossed by the sea. I am hoping that in this blog, I will be able to share some of that grace and encouragement with you, no matter where you are in your life journey!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton