How to respond to the in-your-head monologue with grace?

God loves us even when we screw up.

I don’t know why, but this always amazes me. Really? God is still willing to take a chance with me? In spite of my crummy choices?

It’s not what I typically tell myself. My internal dialogue runs along the lines of…

  • I can’t risk that. I might fail.
  • I can’t do that. I’m not good enough.
  • Who do you think you are, that people should do as you suggest?

But God keeps trying to help me replace this grinding, degrading voice. God reaches out to me, reminding me again and again, with a message of grace-filled love:

I’ll give you another chance.
Try it. I’ve got your back.
Hold my hand when you are afraid.
You are mine. I love you!

In our Rotation on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we hear others suffer from wounding self-talk:

  • The younger son was telling himself a story: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21b).
  • The older son also had a story: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends!” (Luke 15:29).

Jesus shows us how God responds to these storylines:

It’s not about deserving; it’s about receiving.
Open your heart to receive my gift.
It’s all about grace.

Can grace guide us to counterclaim our hurtful head-chatter?

a gift is brought by a little bird

Perhaps you have heard it said during a Baptism:

All this is God’s gift to us, offered without price.  [1]

Grace is a free gift from God. There is no way to earn God’s forgiveness. Sins can’t “go away” by performing lots of good deeds to make up for the bad ones. Grace is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.  [2]

What story are you telling yourself?
Try changing the words you say to yourself; make it be your remade mantra.

God loves me no matter what. Can I treat myself the same way?

Grace isn’t only a truth about the way God operates; it transforms us. As we open up to God’s continuing offers of grace, we can find ourselves responding by becoming more Christ-like in character and conduct; more loving… even towards ourselves.


[1] The Services of the Baptismal Covenant are found in The United Methodist Hymnal.
[2] I don’t know who first said that but it sums it up nicely don’t you think?

Photo credits:
A delivered gift by LaughingRhoda, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Accept mistakes and celebrate grace

It’s a nasty train of thought that I’ve carried with me for a long time:

But it’s not perfect!

All of my life I’ve been a perfectionist. In the 2nd grade when we were creating self-portraits at school, my mother was mystified by my insistence that I wear the same dress for several days in a row. (I wanted to get the details just right.)

I recall in 8th grade getting a “D” in Art class because I couldn’t finish my projects; I couldn’t get them to be perfect.

It’s a disease and I know that others suffer from it too. (Like the 5th grader I worked with who was afraid to estimate an answer to a mathematical problem because, well, it could be wrong!)

I think perhaps it is something that we teach ourselves to believe?

Here’s the pitch I’m repeating these days: Jesus is bigger than any mistake.

Try this at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together): Have everyone (adults included) share a mistake that they made that day. Repeat the process on a daily basis.

Child tends broken seedling

Exposing and naming our goof-ups teaches our kids that:

  • Everyone makes mistakes;
  • Home is a safe place to confess our sins;
  • When necessary, forgiveness can be extended;
  • We can all celebrate God’s gift of I-love-you-anyway Grace.

It’s not too late to learn: Jesus is bigger than any mistake. What learning is happening in your family?

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Broken seedling by D. Sharon Pruitt, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Tying the story of Joseph to the story of Easter

We are nearing the completion of our Rotation on Joseph’s Coat. But, you might ask, what happens to Joseph?? (The last bit of our story had Jacob in tears and Joseph packing off to Egypt after his brothers sold him to a band of passing traders.)

Joseph's brothers sell him to passing traders on their way to Egypt

Yeah, that’s where we left off in the story. So what happens to Joseph?

'The Lord was with Joseph. He gave him great success.
Genesis 39:2a

Ah! But even that is not the end of the story! The story continues with a “part two” (which we will come back to, after an Easter Rotation). In part two—the story of Joseph in Egypt—we’ll see Joseph faced with even more chances to ask:

Where are you, God?!?

We will see that God has a plan. God’s great plan is all about love! And that conveniently leads us to Easter. (Which is God’s ultimate love story.)

Watch this short (3 minute) video (appropriate for even young children) which tells the story of Joseph and his coat and nicely ties to the Easter story!

(There is one small mistake in this video. Can you catch it? (See the answer below.)

The answer: What was the blooper in the video? Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver, however the reader made a mistake: Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver.

Something in Common: Youth Worship and The Runaway Bunny

This weekend we’ll get to watch our Youth lead us in worship. Youth Worship is a spring tradition! It’s alway lively! How can it not be, when worship is led by gobs of 7th-12th graders!

photos from Youth Worship in 2012

Youth Worship always has a theme to it. This year’s subject is Grace.

Help your kids to get more out of this worship by talking about the concept of grace ahead of time. (And debriefing about it afterwards.) What is grace?

Grace is someone saying: “I love you anyway.”

Ask your child(ren) if they could say “I love you anyway” in response to some of these situations:

  • When someone doesn’t want to play with me.
  • When someone uses something of mine without asking, and then breaks it.
  • When people laugh at me when I make a mistake.
  • When someone gets me in trouble for something I didn’t do.

It is hard isn’t it!

This is what God’s grace is; God saying, “Even though you messed up, I love you anyway. It is a gift from me to you. There is nothing you can do to pay me back.”

Want another way to teach about grace? Use a popular storybook.

Cover of the book The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

This story starts off…

Open quote markOnce there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”

This bunny invents all kinds of scenarios where he runs away from his mother. But, no matter what, his mother assures him that she will run right after him.

It’s just like that with us and God.
How have you noticed God loving you no matter what?

a blue line

Photo credits:
Book shot from Amazon.
Youth group photo collage used with permission.

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A picture of grace?

Share a picture that represents grace.

That was the request of Emily. I’ve been lurking at her blog lately as she has been doing a series of posts all month called “31 days of grace“… All about grace and how it’s a free gift, and all we have to do is receive it… spoken in eloquent words of course.

Today we were instructed to share photos of grace. (Go check out Emily’s blog, Chatting at the Sky to view other peoples submissions.) So here’s my picture… I spotted this just because I happened to glance skyward.

A cross "painted" with jet contrails in the sky

Jet contrails had formed a great, big cross in the sky. A picture of grace.

Our Cool Disciples at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI are studying about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This story is not just about a bad choice and its rough consequences; it includes God’s grace! Adam and Eve had disobeyed God but God still searched for them.

God calls out, “Where are you?”

(Even though God knows exactly where they are – God is God after all!

God’s call is an opportunity to come clean. They cast blame so God casts them out. They grasp for a cover-up of fig leaves; God makes them clothes out of animal skins. Yes, God throws them out of Eden, but God goes with them, and as we know, he eventually dies on a cross for them.

There it is. My picture that represents grace.
What would you use as a picture for grace?

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photo: from my archives.