Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
April 6, 2019


Spring is in the air! I think it’s really coming…finally! For us northerners, it has been a long, hard winter, with lots of snow, frigid winds, below zero temps, and more blizzards than we care to recall! With all of this behind us, we are finding it difficult to contain ourselves! Our excitement is palpable! We look forward to green grass, flowers, gardening, picnics in the park, and camping out under the stars! Yes, it will be a glorious Spring and Summer!

At this time of year, do you get the urge to clean out closets, cupboards or drawers that have gotten clogged up with excess “stuff” that somehow seemed so important to hang onto? You probably talk to yourself, just like I do.

“I need to be prepared, so I should keep it. After all, I rationalize, I just might need this 3 pronged soup scoop when I host 95 people for a dinner party in the dead of January!” RIIIIIIIGHT! Then, as I stare into my jumbled, overflowing closet, I see my cherished, yet to be worn, purple polka dot chiffon blouse with endless ruffles (in all the wrong places) and I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”  Yep, we’ve all been there and done that, too!

With the freshness of Spring in the air, I imagine my house is feeling just a little weary and burdened down. I need to get rid of the excess, the accumulated clutter I’ve been “working around” and stumbling over these past months. It just needs to go!  It is crystal clear in my thinking. I do not need this junk!

This is true in other areas of my life, as well. It is time to “lay aside” the weights that beset me. Whether in my home or in my heart, I long for more of that calm, peaceful feeling that comes with letting go of ‘stuff’ that has weighed me down for far too long. It is time to take inventory, clear the cobwebs out of my house and out of my thinking.  I need to ask myself some serious questions…

What do I need to change? Have I gotten off track somewhere? Has my attitude been less than kind, godly or helpful? Making necessary changes starts with a decision. If I don’t decide to change, nothing will ever change. Now is the time to remind myself of some basic Spiritual Principles that should guide my life. I hope you will join me in examining key areas that we all must keep in balance.

Let’s talk about our relationships. Am I typically a selfish or an unselfish friend? What kind of thoughts commonly register in my brain? “Why didn’t ‘so-and-so’ call me, ask me to go, or do such-and-such for me?” How often do I think, “I could do this for them and be a blessing!” How often do I put myself in another person’s shoes and truly “hear” the thoughts or pain, behind the words they say? In a conversation, is it hard for me to keep quiet and just listen? Am I usually waiting for the first opportunity to jump in and tell my “story,” or give my opinion? Unselfish, patient listening is not necessarily easy to do. It is, however, a special gift each of us can give, and it is often the missing component in our most difficult and challenging relationships!
Am I too proud to admit when I’m wrong? Do I rationalize things to avoid the conviction I feel, as a result of something I’ve said or done that was not right? Is it hard for me to say these simple words, “I’m sorry it was my fault”’?

When was the last time I apologized (with NO strings attached, and NO “qualifying reasons, to justify what I did/said” etc.)?  Do I act as though I must always be right? Moms can have the attitude, “I’m the mother and my way is ALWAYS the best way.” It’s true we need to take our role and responsibilities seriously, but if moms are so rigid, never willing to hear another side, children can close you out of their hearts, greatly diminishing your influence and ability for guidance! In our marriages, we should routinely ask ourselves, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”  Don’t forget, we married that man because we needed and wanted his input in our life. Why are we trying to turn him into our clone?

Mend your fences. Life is short! Actually, it is far shorter than I ever realized it was when I was in my twenties and thirties. I need to take time to appreciate my blessings and the special people in my life, for they will not always be there. Regret is a cruel companion. One of the biggest ways to waste our lives is to refuse to forgive, either other people or ourselves! Everyone makes mistakes. The Bible clearly states, “All have sinned…”  When wrong occurs,  admit it, ask for forgiveness and MOVE ON, no matter what the offense! Let me repeat: No matter what the offense, even if the guilty party never admits it or asks for forgiveness, with God’s help, there is a way to FORGIVE them. If you and I do not, we will taint and warp all of our relationships and live to regret this tragic choice.

Learn to appreciate the differences in others. Don’t be ignorant to the reality that we can always learn something from anybody! Variety is truly the spice of life! I believe all of us have gotten “hung up” on this, at some point. We try to build ourselves up by criticizing and pointing out the faults in others.  When we initiate gossip in conversation, we are revealing our own pride and insecurity. Beware if you have a friend or relative with this destructive habit! Yes, that is exactly what it is! You have a responsibility to be a godly friend and refuse to participate by listening or chiming in. Proverbs  27:17 gives the Biblical analogy, commanding us to be like “iron sharpening iron”.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if it is totally opposite of what I would do, I have learned that most people are doing the best they know how to do. If I want to add more stress and tension to my life, all I have to do is expect everyone else in the world to do things the way I do them. How foolish! Keeping a tally of perceived missteps and offenses, and mentally criticizing others is so debilitating and defeating! It is time to clear out these toxic cobwebs! Let them go! They are harmful influences and we all have more important matters to concentrate on.

The truth is most of us lack confidence. This innate knowledge can cause inordinate self-awareness to the point that we doubt- and even resist- God’s ability to change us! Instead of surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, we opt to go through life feeling inadequate, and self-pitying. This negative thinking typically causes us to be averse to challenging ourselves to try anything outside our comfort zone, and so it is not surprising when we end up believing the “I can’t” lie!

Sadly, as a result, our limiting beliefs keep us bound up and living a “ho-hum” life. Thinking we don’t measure up, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Imagining that they “have it all” (Satan’s lie), we focus on what they have that we don’t have, and miss the opportunity to recognize and fully enjoy the particular blessings we possess, that others do not! As an example, I’ve seen insecure, at times, as a young mother; young moms can become intimidated and competitive over the silliest things! Remember this: Comparison is the thief of joy! Learn to be thankful, content and industrious, diligently investing in and making the most of your unique blessings and opportunities. If you do this faithfully, you will reap bountifully, and joy will naturally come to you!

In this often cold and cruel world, there is one common thread found in everyone: every single human being on the planet needs encouragement. Every person needs to know the message that “God so loved the world.” We recite the verse by heart, but fail to remember that many have never heard of- or seen- God’s love in action. Everyone needs someone to believe in them, to cheer them on, and to literally speak life into them! Why should I not be that person in my family, my relationships, or my circle of influence?

I have noticed it takes regular doses of humility to help me adjust my attitude and keep myself on track. I am blessed that God loves me enough to bring humbling situations into my life to make me more useful in His service. The Biblical commands to “esteem others better than ourselves,” and the fact that “He must increase, but I must decrease,” are oft needed reminders.  My flesh can so easily and frequently twist my thinking. I must take my responsibility to identify and eliminate wrong thoughts and attitudes that fail to align with the truth from God’s Word.
“Give and it shall be given unto you” is a Biblical command. (Luke 6:38) Being a blessing and encouragement to others is actually the way I bless and encourage myself! It does not diminish me to lift up another person, and I should not hesitate to go out of my way to do it. Encouraging people and leaving them better than when I found them should be a way of life.

How about you? Do you need a “reset?” Like me, have you identified some mental clutter, toxic cobwebs, or some “stinkin’ thinkin,’” that is holding you back? What are you willing to do to change your situation? How much does it mean to you to have victory in your life?
I encourage you to surrender your will to God. Just let it go! When you do, the load will be lifted, and that fresh, clean feeling of Springtime will not only be in the air, but will also be in your heart!