Today marks the completion of one year, and the beginning of another year, of my being back on the staff of the Deer Run Church of Christ. It has been an incredible year — a year best described by the words “amazing grace”! My return to Deer Run was nothing short of the gracious hand of my God upon me, to favor me with His compassion.
My brain seems to be wired in a way that makes verbal conversation difficult — though many believe God has gifted me with an ability to write that can make up for the verbal inadequacies. As a side note, it is amazing to me that God continues to show up in my preaching and teaching with the ability to speak powerfully through me. For me, writing is therapeutic — it helps me to see where I’ve been and how far God has carried me. While I still carry scars and hurts that continue to heal, God has taught me much over the past year.
I know I have a long way to go, but His mercy has helped me be more merciful. His grace has taught me to be more gracious. His compassion has led me to be more compassionate. And perhaps the most difficult of all for me, His love is helping me know how to love.
So, how does this all happen? What’s the secret? I think the key to all of these lessons is that God continues to draw me to Himself and surrounds me with people who have a genuine concern for me as a person and as a child of God. So, what’s so amazing about the grace God has shown me over the past year?
- Generosity — God has given me the grace of generosity. A lot can be discovered about a business or organization by looking at the way they treat employees and staff. While your first thought is likely about financial compensation, an attitude of generosity can be seen in so many details of the way a person is treated. God has blessed me with an environment that cares about my needs being met. I am valued by people who are generous with their resources, time, and abilities. The people around me help me to see the grace of God through their generosity.
- Rest — God has given me the grace of rest. Our need for rest was called for and designed by God, yet it is a need that we often ignore. The year began with God providing the opportunity for a vacation with my family. For the first time in a very long time, perhaps ever, I was able to sit on a sandy beach and actually fall asleep! But the rest didn’t stop there. Throughout the year, God has surrounded me with people who help me to rest when I am away by taking care of things as they happen rather than save them all up for my return.
- Acceptance — God has given me the grace of acceptance. Most people have heard that God accepts them just as they are but loves them too much to leave them that way. Many people doubt God’s acceptance of them because people who claim to represent God will only accept them if they fully conform first. My family at Deer Run has seen the good, the bad, and they ugly in me and they still accept me. They see me not only as being valuable to them, but more importantly, they accept me as simply having value for who I am.
- Compassion — God has given me the grace of compassion. When we struggle with the pain and sorrow that is part of life, we want to know someone not only understands, but they really feel what we are going through. God has surrounded me with people who are willing to share together what we are going through — not for the purpose of a pity party, but for the building up of one another through a heart of compassion. I am part of a team that is walking this road together and we all feel the same bumps and scrapes as we take this journey.
- Encouragement — God has given me the grace of encouragement. The people around me at Deer Run are a great encouragement as they allow me to use the various gifts God has put in my life. Whether I am cleaning, mowing, writing, teaching, preaching, or anything else, I am surrounded by people who encourage me through their words of appreciation. The willingness of people to help in so many areas and a multitude of ways is also a great encouragement as I know I don’t have to accomplish the necessary tasks alone.
This has been a very brief summary of some of the ways God, and His amazing people at Deer Run, has extended His grace to me over the past year. While the descriptions of this amazing GRACE that I have experienced over the past year focuses on what God has been doing for me, the real point is that God is using all of it to teach me how to extend His GRACE to others!
God surrounds me with generous people so that I learn to be more generous. He gives me times of great rest so I have a greater understanding of the need for others to rest. He showers me with His acceptance, when I deserve it least, so that I would accept others more freely. He surrounds me with His compassion so that I will be a more compassionate person in my preaching and teaching, as well as in all of my interaction with people. He encourages me daily so that I would be better prepared to encourage the people around me.
As God teaches me these lessons of His amazing grace, I pray that I learn to practice them so that others would learn of His amazing grace through me.