Gift or Loan? Repost from Oct. 2006

I wrote this back in October of 2006.  I think it bears repeating. 

On Sunday, I heard a pastor say that because Christ has died for us and saved us from Hell, we owe Him a huge debt and all He asks or requires of us now is that we live holy lives. I don’t know that he intended to, but he strongly implied that we have to live holy lives to sort of repay that debt to Christ.

I became physically uncomfortable listening to that. That didn’t sound right to me. Now that I’ve thought about it more, I still disagree — probably even more strongly.

The huge debt we owed God was because of our sin. God is holy and our sin separated us from Him. The Bible says the wages of that sin, the debt for that sin, is death. Complete separation from God. Christ died. He paid the wages of sin for us. Now we don’t have to be separated from God. That was our debt to God, and it has been paid already. We just have to authorize that payment, in a sense — declare that we were sinners and deserved to be separated from God, deserved to die, and accept that the debt has been paid on our behalf by Jesus.

Now that my debt has been paid, what do I owe God? Nothing. Quite simply — nothing. If I say that I owe Him something now, then I am saying that Christ’s payment wasn’t enough.

Do I really think I should spend the rest of my life trying to pay Jesus back? As if His payment for my sins was a loan.

No. No. No. The GIFT of God is eternal life! It’s a gift, and I cannot pay Him back for it. Nor does He expect me to. That’s Grace.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be living holy lives and all that, but I’m saying that we shouldn’t see that as our obligation to Jesus in order to pay Him back for saving us. And I do think a lot of us live our lives that way. We try to exercise self-discipline and make ourselves live righteous lives because we’re saved now and this is what God expects of us and because we owe it to Him.

I’ve been thinking for a while now that this isn’t how it works. Are we really capable of making ourselves be good and holy? Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t. I’ve tried. Every time, I mess up. Some days I barely make it past breakfast. And those are my good days!

Chapter 7 in _Blue Like Jazz_ is called “Grace.” I was reading it over my cup of coffee this morning, and Donald Miller put a lot of my thoughts into words. He writes about how difficult, even foreign, it is for us to wrap our minds around the concept that we cannot pay God back. That we truly are charity cases. That we are not above receiving charity from God. It’s humbling. Our attempts to pay God back for saving us are really evidence of our PRIDE.

Donald Miller writes about how frustrating this whole approach to Christianity can be. We think we have to pay God back for saving us by living holy lives. But we can’t. We mess up. Then we feel horrible. We feel like God’s going to stop loving us because we can’t live up to our end of the bargain. Donald Miller calls it “something like torture.” And I think he’s right.

Finally, he writes that our “role in the relationship with God [is] to humbly receive God’s unconditional love.” Tha’ts it! Just receive God’s love. Donald Miller goes on to explain exactly what God has been teaching me in the past year or two. When we receive God’s love, we will love Him back.

Miller writes, “[I]f I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. . . . In exchange for our humility and willingness to accept the charity of God, we are given a kingdom. And a beggar’s kingdom is better than a proud man’s delusion.”

I like that. Can you imagine what a revival there would be in the Church if every believer would simply stop and receive God’s unconditional, passionate love? If we basked in that love? If we truly received this love that is unlike any love we’ve ever known? We would be transformed! And it would be so much better than what most of us are doing now — trying to make ourselves act the way we think good Christians ought to act, trying to pay God back for all He’s done for us.

Now, imagine God — all He wants is for us to receive His love. All He wants is for us to be still and let Him love on us. Instead, we’re racing around trying to be good, trying to please God with our self-discipline and our good choices. I imagine Him, the lover of my soul, shaking His head in sadness and pleading with me to just sit still and be with Him and let Him love me, knowing that if I receive His love, I will begin to truly love Him back, and then His goodness will rub off on me — sort of the same way couples who have been married for years start to look like each other. I think He wants me to stop treating Him like a loan officer or a strict master and start treating Him like the Ultimate Husband.



Filed under Uncategorized

Waiting in Expectation

A sweet friend recently gave me the book Jesus Calling. This morning’s reading was exactly what my heart needed.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” -Psalm 5:3

Wait quietly in My presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being. Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound.

Waiting quietly in His presence. Waiting in expectation, knowing He is going to hear my requests and answer.

Quiet expectation.  That is my prayer for myself.

Is there anything in your life for which you need to lay your requests before your God and wait in quiet expectation?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Often, when people find out that I’m the mother of six children, they will say, “Oh, you must be much more patient than I am!” And I laugh. Sure, I’m more patient than I used to be, but I still don’t consider myself a patient person. And if I had begun to believe those comments about how patient I must be, this waiting season of life is certainly clearing that right up for me!

I’m not wrought with anxiety. I’m not terribly fearful about the future. But I do feel this recurring sense of antsy-ness.

As my husband emails resume after resume and sends one job application after another, I am sharply aware of how unsettled we are. My brain knows that God knows the future and has a good plan already in place for us. My emotions struggle to absorb that truth.

You’d think I’d have this trusting God thing down by now, after all we’ve been through. I suppose I am indeed a slow learner. And that’s frustrating. In the midst of this time of transition and uncertainty, I want to feel a stress-free peace. Instead, I feel on-edge.

I don’t like that I still have to work hard to remember Truth. I don’t like that taking stressful, worrisome thoughts captive is still such a deliberate, difficult discipline. I don’t like that my gut response is, “Yes, Lord, I’ll trust You; just please show me the whole plan now.”  I so want for my first response to be, “Yes, Lord, I’ll trust You.” Period.

I want to wrap this up with some sweet spiritual lesson, maybe a verse from a song or a cute little poem. But we’re still waiting. While we wait, we’re doing the next thing that’s in front of us – the next homeschooling lesson, the next job for the communications department, the next meal, the next load of laundry, the next meeting or phone call, the next night of wrestling boys into bed. All the while, my brain reminds my emotions that God is in charge, that He is good and I can trust Him, that it’s all going to work out for our good.

And as I wait, I hope that, baby-step by baby-step, I am becoming more patient. I believe that, once again, I am learning how to trust. My brain keeps repeating to my stubborn, control-freak emotions that God is using this time for our good and His glory; and bit by bit, that truth is beginning to seep into my soul.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Art Project & What a Thief I Am

A while back, Holly over at Seeking Faithfulness posted this amazing art project she did.  So, of course, I totally stole her idea.

Years ago, I heard Emilie Barnes speak at a women’s conference, and she mentioned that she prayed for her children and grandchildren every day that they would have hearts to love God and hands to serve Him.  Well, I just loved that!  So I stole that idea too.  (I told you, I’m a total thief!)  So I have been praying this for my children for years and years now – that they would have hearts to love and hands to serve.

I still have a couple layers of modge podge left to go, but soon this art project will be hanging on our dining room wall.  Lauren has already called dibs on inheriting it after I die.  (Do the people in your family have that morbid sense of humor too?)

So, how about you?  How are you getting your artistic freak on?  And what have you called dibs on inheriting?


Filed under Uncategorized

Genealogy of Redemption

Do you ever feel used, abused, mistreated?  Have you ever been the outcast, the loner, the foreigner?  Have you ever gotten carried away with your own scheming, ever dug a hole of trouble so deep you didn’t know how you’d climb out?  Have you been gossiped about even though you haven’t done anything wrong?  Or maybe you have.  Maybe you’ve broken promises, broken commandments, broken hearts.

If that’s you, if that’s me, then I have good news for us.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Homeschool – First Week In The Books

We survived the first week of homeschooling.  I deserve some chocolate. Good chocolate.  Like Ghirardelli. Like Ghirardelli I don’t have to share with anyone else.  Yummmm . . .  Oh, yeah, what was I saying?  Homeschooling.  Yeah, we made it through the first week.

And we didn’t just survive the first week; we had a great week!  Sure, we had our moments — this one hates handwriting, that one hates algebra, this one wants to play computer games instead of reading a book, and that one misses his friends in school.  They acted crazy during our Bible lesson, and I yelled (you know, nothing promotes a love of studying scripture like a crazy, screaming mother).  But, in spite of the yelling during Bible lessons, I’m calling the first week a success!

Since my first child started kindergarten eight years ago, I have been an on-again, off-again homeschooler.  But this is the first time I’ve homeschooled all SIX of them at once.  Though there’s still some tweaking to do, I think we’ve found a daily schedule that works for us.  And as long as I can maintain the self-discipline to stick to the schedule and my daily lesson plans, I think we’ll be golden.

I’ve learned that there are advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling and advantages and disadvantages to having my kids in a school.  But I had sort of forgotten some of the things I absolutely love about homeschooling.  This week, it has been fun to rediscover the things I love.

I love doing The Story of the World history together as a family.

I love that my children are becoming each other’s best friends again.  Would you look at those two brothers?!  LOVE that!

Even though I’m not a math person,  AT ALL,  I love doing algebra with this teenager.  I love having her around all day – and not just because she vacuums the dining room and makes chocolate chip muffins for a mid-morning snack.

I love getting hugs from this second grader in the middle of math and letting him play computer games when he finishes his schoolwork.

I had forgotten how many hours of enjoyment cardboard boxes bring to children!  Textbooks come in cardboard boxes.  We had A LOT of cardboard boxes.  I have loved watching this kindergarten boy cut and draw and tape, making houses for stuffed animals and boats for pirates.  I love that he labeled one box for a naughty stuffed pig – “EVUL PIG,” spelling it all on his own.

I love spontaneous games of Monopoly after they finish their bookwork.  I love that they can wear whatever they want — pajamas, costumes, the jeans I won’t let them wear in public, whatever.  I love that they work at their own pace; and when they finish a subject, they can go on to the next one or play Monopoly or Boggle.  Have I mentioned that I love how my children are rediscovering their friendship with each other?

I love that we don’t have homework consuming our evenings.  I love that I sit around the table sipping coffee with my daughters discussing To Kill A Mockingbird.  I love that I am teaching my kindergarten son how to read, that I get the joy of watching his face light up when he gets everything on his math worksheet correct.  I love that my second grader will remember that Momma taught him how to write in cursive.  I love that I chose the textbooks and curriculum that I thought suits each child well.

It’s very likely we will enroll our children in school again, maybe, probably even next year.  But for now, I am enjoying all the blessings of homeschooling.

Even when it’s a little bit messy and chaotic.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Giant Question Mark

That’s what the future looks like right now.  A giant question mark.

We joined this mission organization back in 2007 as associate members.  That’s a six-month to four-year commitment.  At the end of four years, we can either stay on as full members or pack up and move on to the next thing.  Our four year mark is coming up in December.

Initially, we assumed we’d stay on forever.  Now, we aren’t so sure.  Actually, we are feeling more and more sure that we are not supposed to stay.

So what’s next?  Who knows?

My husband is sending his resume out.  Right now, his resume is hanging out in the inboxes of a ministry, some non-profit organizations, and some corporate places — in Atlanta, Washington DC, Blacksburg, VA.  The resume is probably on its way to Charlotte, maybe even some places in the Orlando area.

We just don’t know.  Big question mark.

I am gearing up to homeschool the children this year.  I’ve been an on-again, off-again homeschooler for a while now, but I’ve never homeschooled six children.

This is the year my baby would have gone off to kindergarten.  I was this close to having a quiet home, time for mid-morning coffee with friends, time to stay caught-up on laundry, the opportunity to watch Rachel Ray.  I could have eaten dark chocolate with my last cup of morning coffee without having to hide!

Instead, I’m bringing everybody home.  I’ll be teaching kindergarten, second grade, third grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, and eighth grade.

I’m excited!  I’m terrified.  I’ll love it.  I’ll hate it.  I’ll feel like SuperMom.  I’ll feel like LoserMom, losing her patience over multiplication tables and cursive writing.

So, we’ll be starting our homeschool year in Florida.  And we have no idea where the school year will end.  It’s all a big question mark.

How about you?  Have you ever lived with a huge question mark hanging over your head?  You survived, right?  RIGHT?  You can encourage me?  You can encourage me, you know, right down there in the comment section, by telling how you survived the dreaded question mark.

And you’ll pray for me.  For my husband’s job search.  For my kids. For our apartment neighbors, who probably enjoyed the hours of quiet while my kids were in school.  Right?  RIGHT?


Filed under Uncategorized