Thursday, January 17, 2013

grace

"Vic, aren't you and Momba attending that new Bible Study at the church this morning?"  My husband asks as he prepares our morning coffee.

"Yes."

"What's the topic?"

I respond, "It's about being a gracious wife." Then I coyly kid around, "Don't worry, I'm all over this one, Honey... it's in the bag!  These women don't know who they're dealing with!!!"

Chuck chuckles and rolls his eyes.  Without missing a beat, he chimes in with his own lovable wit, "Well, you know... there can only be one 'Ace' in grace, Baby!"

(ROFL!  He is so funny!!!)

OK, but seriously... this past week Momba and I started attending a Women's Bible study held in a new church my family is considering.  Since moving to Houston, both Chuck and I have been praying over what church our family should regularly attend (a daunting assignment), and among many other contenders, this lovely congregation was introduced to me by an old teacher/friend who used to live near our new neighborhood.  (Thank the Lord for how He uses His people to help each other - and in His perfect timing too!)  Long story short, Chuck and I checked out the church's website, then called their office to introduce our family in advance of a planned visit this upcoming Sunday.

In doing so, I learned that their Women's Ministry was ramping up this very week for the upcoming Spring quarter and was asked if I would be interested in registering for one of their classes.  "Sure!"  So with the Hubby's consent, Momba and I decided to jump right in and make our first in-person encounter via the side door of their Women's Ministry.  Nonetheless, we all are very much looking forward to attending their more formal services this upcoming Sunday together as a family.  In the meantime, we have been getting to know them via their podcasts and agree with the teaching they have offered.  Yay!

Anyway, back to Tuesday morning...

I called through the house, "Momba, are you ready?... We're going to be late!  We should have left fifteen minutes ago!"

(Grrrrr.  I hate being late.  Where is she?)

"I'm coming, sweetie."

Momba turns the corner of her bedroom looking just as cute as ever.  We both survey one another's outfits, smile in approval, and then start to leave the house.  I yell out, "Honey we're going.  LOVE!"

"LOVE!" He calls back.

As we hop into the car to head out, I worry out loud again, "I think we are going to be late, Mom."

She answers relaxed, "No, we'll be just fine."

"Alright, if you say so."  (But I'm thinking otherwise.)

But as usual, she was right.  We were just fine.  God got us there in record time, with five minutes to spare.  And once settled in our meeting room, I realized that we could have shown up much later.  For the women in the room were in no hurry at all.  These southern belles had all the time in the world to gather, and sing, and worship, and chat, and relax.  Soon, the efficiency of my Midwestern side began to get the better of me and I became impatient.

I internalized, "When do we start the Bible Study, people?  I have a life, ya know!  I have things I want to get done later today!  Is this gonna be an all day thing?  If so, perhaps you need to rethink and be considerate of those of us who have a schedule!!!  Come on, already!  I have to go home and show Chuck how much more gracious I've become!"  (I know, I'm embarrassed even as I type this.  LOL.)

Finally (a whole hour later), the time had arrived for each of us to break into groups and begin our Bible Studies.  You see, the topic I had chosen wasn't the only study about to take place in this Women's group.  Unlike my small Bible Study group back in Chicago, this group of women is large enough that they can conduct several Bible Studies at one time. In fact when signing up, I had the choice of three morning studies and one evening study to choose from.  First, there was a study reviewing the Names of God with Kay Arthur; second, a study that got into the book of Ephesians; third, a study on the Patriarchs (it seems no Women's group is complete without at least one Beth Moore video series); and lastly, the study I chose because it was taught and developed by one of the pastor's wives at the church, and I thought that might be nice as we will be getting more familiar with the church in weeks to come... The Gracious Wife.

The doors were closed to the classroom, we were handed course outline papers, and a small-framed beauty stepped up before the remaining crowd.  Upon first glance I could tell that our instructor was clearly gracious.  Her outfit was impeccable.  Her voice was soft and her heart was evident in tenderness and total love for Jesus.  As she introduced herself, we learned that this was the third time she had facilitated this particular study.  She was someone who had overcome physical obstacles.  She was a mother, a wife, living through the many challenges we all face.  Then she began to share God's Word as it related to being a gracious person.  But rather than take in the truths being read, my mind started to race as I perused the course outline...

I internalized again, "Wait, there is no homework?... No formal study materials?... Just this quick outline!  What kind of Bible study is this?  When will we actually be "studying" the Bible, lady?  (Darn it.  I should have signed up for that Beth Moore study!  Ya always know what your getting into with Moore!)"

I leaned over to Momba who was peacefully enjoying the presentation and whispered, "Ya know, we can still sign up for that Beth Moore study if you want."

Momba looked at me confused.

"I mean, if you want to have more homework and all to keep us accountable."

Momba smiled and said, "Whatever you want, sweetie."  But as she said the words, I knew.... already, I had given up.  Already, I had rushed ahead and moved on.  Why?  Because (a) my heart was not focusing on Christ, and (b) because my expectations were not being met to my liking.  My way wasn't happening.  For in my opinion, too much time had been wasted from the start.  Too little materials were produced for the study.  It didn't matter that every woman sitting in that room was there to worship Jesus... I had simply forgotten that same purpose.  As a result, I had already dismissed giving this lovely instructor the chance to teach me something valuable for the next two months.  Why... because it wasn't happening in Chicago..., because it wasn't with good ole' familiar Beth Moore-like materials..., mostly, because my mindset was lofty and my heart was hard.

I could hear the Holy Spirit question, "Really, Vic?  REALLY?"

Humbled by my own ungraciousness... I prayed forgiveness and realized, "I really don't have this in the bag, do I, Lord?"  I asked God to open my eyes and ears.  To teach me.  To open my heart to all the new people, places, and things here in Houston.  To slow down my anxious, internal pace and allow me a second chance to please Him in how I act and think within this new place... within this new church... within this new life.  Praise the Lord for every revealing moment of our New Life in Christ!  May we continue to be restored and corrected in His holiness!  May we continue to be humbled by His everlasting graciousness.

Grace.  To offer unmerited or undeserved favor.  To love completely without strings attached.  To give freely.  To extend ongoing consideration and goodwill.  To display elegance, charm, ease, kindness, forgiveness, charity, mercifulness, loveliness.  To cultivate decency.  To petition every blessing and to be thankful.  To glorify and honor.

Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Now, let me share the key points I took away from Tuesday morning's Bible Study...

  • True humility is preemptive and disarming.
  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • The world says, "Change to be accepted."  Jesus says, "I accept you in order that you might change." 

Blessed be the gracious Name of Jesus!!!
Let us each strive to be near Him and know Him.
Let us always choose to glorify and honor our patient, peaceful Savior as we freely love one another... without strings attached.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

Lord, let us be humble... and let our humility be preemptive and disarming to the devil's snares.  Let us be thankful for your blessings and obedient to your instructions... so that we might be changed in your holy, New LIFE!  Teach us... teach me... to be more and more gracious like YOU!

Blessings!

~Victoria

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