Gracious Grace

Crash! “Oh, no! I didn’t know that was there!”
“Goodness gracious! What happened now?!”
Responding with good grace we cleaned up the mess together.

Ever been in a situation like that? … I was thinking about how we use the words grace and gracious in so many ways. Handy for many circumstances! “Grace” is the middle name we gave our daughter and “gracious” is literally “filled with God’s grace”. They are beautiful words rich in meaning.

What thoughts or pictures do these two words bring to your mind? Perhaps you think of love, kindness, goodwill, forgiveness, generosity, and maybe a certain ease or elegance…

Can you think of some positive uses of these words? Maybe you have another saying or proverb. Here in the south, we “say grace” when we offer thanks to God before a meal. We are grateful when we have “gracious plenty”, whether that is something physical, emotional, or spiritual. A person’s “saving grace” is some quality about them that balances or makes up for not-so-great qualities. Responding “with good grace”, with patience and politeness, is a good attribute to pursue! Whom of us have not appreciated a “grace period” for some overdue or forgotten responsibility or chore? “Goodness gracious” fills many a need for expressions of surprise, dismay, or awe… Sometimes there are just no other words.

What about some other phrases that express our needs or mistakes?! “By the grace of God” acknowledges our own need for God, as well as our humility and our compassion for others who are in difficult circumstances. We all “fall from grace” at times, losing favor or the liking of others, whether it is a word misspoken or unsaid, miscommunication, or any number of perceived or real shortcomings.

I can relate to Paul as he talked about grace in his letters to the church in Corinth. He said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” *(1 Corinthians 15:10). He reminds us that it’s God’s grace that brings life and that we need to extend that grace to others. Paul called this the “grace of giving”. Isn’t that a wonderful way of putting it?!

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

My prayers for us all is that even as we receive God’s awesome gift of grace, we will also excel in this grace of giving.

Charlotte-Anne Allen

Share your thoughts!

Perspective

“Did that get it?” I squinted my eyes and turned my head to view the window I was cleaning, gaining a new perspective as the angle of light shifted. Rubbing out another smudge on the glass, I stepped back to check out my work. Looking good! No more streaks or dirt.

Isn’t life just like that too… especially in relationships with others?! Our feelings, emotions, and reactions are often wrapped up in our own perspective. We lash out or jump to conclusions… because of course that is what the other person was thinking or planning, right?! At least that is our own presumption. Unfortunately, I have found myself regretting my reactions and undergoing deep hurt or upset because I failed to consider where the other person was coming from, their thoughts or intents.

Considering things from the perspective of others brings a wealth of opportunities for positive experiences. Like the unseen dirt or smudges on glass, a shift in the way we see others and a desire to understand or extend some grace is needed. How often do we pause to reflect on the reactions or needs of others, to consider their past or present circumstances? How will looking at them from a different angle help exchange stress for compassion or lead to better understanding?

Perhaps Matthew and Luke had something of this in mind when they said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” * Don’t we all want to be understood and to be given some grace in those moments when things just aren’t going right? I sure appreciate it when someone recognizes why I may have had a certain reaction and I am encouraged when they offer support and understanding!

Perhaps the next time you are cleaning that window or mirror, when you notice a smudge on your glasses, or when you flip your windshield wipers on… you will pause to consider your own perspective in some current situation. May God, who knows the human heart, grant us peace and a better perspective.

* Matthew 7:12 & Luke 6:31
Charlotte-Anne Allen

Reflections on Leaves

  • Events around us can stir us and carry us
  • We sometimes feel blown about and out of control
  • We gather ourselves as best we can
  • Picking ourselves back up can be difficult
  • Being walked all over can crush one’s spirit or feed resentment
  • Persistence and patience are nothing to sneeze at
  • We long to be swept away from uncomfortable or painful situations
  • A clean wash and fresh start breath life back in
  • May the end results of words and actions bring enrichment to others
  • Build your homes to be places of nurture, warmth, and comfort
  • Listen for the soft answers and quiet rustles to calm your soul
  • Be the fuel to encourage and lead
  • Look for positive opportunities in each season of change
  • Draw from the Source and show bright colors

From “Reflections from the Everyday”Charlotte-Anne Allen

Foggy Mornings

The cool morning greeted me as I peeked out of the window, then stepped outside. Soft fog gently touched my face and chilled my arms. Drops of moisture clung to leaf and blade, lending its nourishment. Sounds of early morning rising were muffled and the neighbor’s nearby chickens clucked contentedly. The cats’ meows welcomed their morning feeding.

I love these soft foggy mornings, where the day begins more gently. The fog hides or softens our surroundings and I am more acutely aware. The quiet invites me to join in, easing my soul and settling my heart in preparation for the day. In that pause, I breathe deeply and feel at peace.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of God’s majesty as seen in His creation. “It is (God) who made the earth by his power…He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.” * I think of God covering us, like a mist or fog, offering us nourishment and gently touching us to cool our anxious thoughts.

What an encouragement and positive start for our day! As the sun rises and begins to burn off the fog, so we turn to our activities or head off to work. Breathe deeply. Draw on God’s covering presence. Know His touch.

Prayers for you each new day. Be encouraged.

Jeremiah 10:12-13

Right Here, Right Now

“Thank you, God, for this day. Be with me and guide me.” These and similar thoughts and prayers are my daily morning greeting.

Whether we’re someone who awakens quickly, fully alert and moving, or are someone who slowly regains consciousness through blurry eyes and reluctant body where moving is concerned, we all have in common our needs or plans for the day.

With each day’s beginning, we also have a choice about our attitude and our outlook. Our thoughts and responses will likely follow what we have chosen to focus on. Are we dwelling on the negative? Do we make a conscious commitment to see the positive? I am learning to capture the bright spots, to be more aware of them, and to be thankful for those moments.

As I stood at my kitchen sink one day, humming to myself as I washed dishes, I was suddenly aware that I was happy. There had been frustrations earlier with my office work. I was concerned about the health of some family members. There were any number of things to get me down. But “right here, right now” I was happy. I repeated that to myself and smiled, and I thanked God for the “right here, right now” times. I am thankful for moments when I can refocus and trust that God walks with me, and I with him, when my focus turns away from stressful things and rests in Him.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he urged people to think on things that are good and positive. He urged them not to worry but to rejoice and to know that God was near and that His peace would guard our hearts and minds. * These words themselves are cause for happiness and hope.

How many times have we rushed on to the next thing without fully appreciating or acknowledging our spots of joy and happiness? Yes, bad things happen. Yes, some days are exhausting. People die or face pain, frustration, or tragedy… Then too, there are the powerful moments, when we realize in the “right here, right now” that happiness and peace comes from our great and loving God and His presence with us. Memories and moments can burst upon us and make us smile, even through our tears, and laugh and know God’s awesome love in the midst of it all.

My prayers for us all are to gather those moments and smile and exclaim to ourselves, “right here, right now… I’m happy.” God bless.

*Phillipians 4:4-9

Reflections on Slugs

• Do we leave positive or negative evidence of our presence?
• Consider where you place your foot as you seek your destinations.
• An appetite for doing good benefits everyone.
• Retreating to a safe dark nook can bring respite in times of need.
• We can get too comfortable in our hideaway.
• Just getting up and moving can be a slow and challenging process.
• There are times to take things slowly.
• Above all things, seek wisdom to see the way.
• Some things draw us closer, and others repel us.
• Sometimes our actions leave a trail of destruction.
• Put out your feelers and be sensitive to others.
• God’s Spirit surrounds us and draws us along the right path.

Root Care

I love gardening… flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, shrubs. I love plants and digging around in the soil, weeding, planting, and tending. Getting my hands and bare feet into the earth and listening to the sounds of nature is a happy place for me. Good soil. Plant food or fertilizer. Regular watering. Sunshine. All of these in needed amounts. Added to healthy plants with good roots.  

This makes me think about the amazing roots! They draw nourishment up into the plant, which in turn provides what the plant needs to grow and flourish. Roots hold the plant securely, supporting it. Strong and deep roots hold firmly. Have you ever tried to pull up an unwanted or unneeded plant that had long, deep roots? It can be quite a job to get up! Shallow roots do not hold securely and are easily pulled up.

Just like those plants with strong and deep roots, God is our source and through Him we can hold firmly. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he encouraged them to continue their lives in Christ, “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” * Our roots are our connections with God. It is from Him that we draw our nourishment. He sets us strongly in a place where we can flourish and grow.

Have you ever found that you have set your roots into unhealthy places or situations? Instead of drawing positive and nourishing things for our lives, we find ourselves withering and unable to thrive. I’m thankful that through God, we can leave those places, and that He can transplant us when we call on Him for help.

I ask myself, “Am I caring for my roots? … What am I doing to help strengthen or establish the roots of those around me?” Maybe you have asked yourself similar questions too.

May we take positive steps to look at ourselves and our connections to others, not neglecting our root care. Reach down deeply and draw on God our source so that we can grow and better care for and support each other. Through Him we can stand firmly.

* Colossians 2:6-7

Reflections on Lotion

• Calmness brings soothing respite
• Words washing like gentle rains will soften the earth
• The right ingredients from a pure heart bring healing
• Soft words soothe but harsh words destroy
• Smooth speech in a vengeful heart covers a drawn sword
• A wholesome balance is restored with purposeful application
• Joy lights the eyes and shines from soft faces
• Doing what comes naturally is not always a positive thing
• Healthy habits are both internal and external
• For good or ill, we absorb whatever we cover ourselves with
• Worries can be sticky and cause severe irritation
• We are protected from dryness when we stay close to the Source

from “Reflections from the Everyday”
Charlotte-Anne Allen 03/05/2021

Attitudes

Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together (An old preacher’s greeting to each new day).” As I looked at the small green slip of paper, which had been carefully typed (on a “real typewriter”) and cut out by my mother, I thought of the positive attitude she had always shown in life. She was a great encourager, a strong support for my father and us kids.

Have you ever considered the tremendous impact our attitudes have on our thoughts, perceptions, and actions?… Positive attitudes lend themselves to a better approach on life, how we react to stressful situations, to resolving conflict, in interactions, and with any decision making. Negative attitudes do the opposite, as we struggle more in these areas and are more likely to give up.

But it is much more than that! What impacts our attitudes? From very early in life, perhaps even day one, our attitudes are being formed. My mom often reminded me to take one thing at a time when faced with an overwhelming task, like schoolwork or major decisions to make. An awareness of how our attitudes affect us allows us to look at and to approach life through a much broader lens and with greater understanding.

Have you ever just made up your mind that you are going to have a good day? While not knowing what each day brings, I have found that beginning with a better attitude helps me to approach things more positively. Do some people just “rub you the wrong way”? Instead of stewing about them, what if I decided to respond with a caring attitude and supportive actions or words that were not dependent on their response or lack thereof? Looking beyond sharp responses, unkind words, or silence requires some major attitude adjustments before they are encountered.

Attitudes are constantly developing and revising as we grow and mature and as life experiences occur, hence we hear admonitions to change our attitude or to examine our attitude when situations warrant. Phrases such as, “Watch your attitude” or “You need to change your attitude” come to mind!

As an early “attitude lesson,” I remember when a neighbor’s grandkids were calling unkind things across the fence between our yards. My mom encouraged us to respond with a positive and friendly attitude and when we did friendships were formed and we enjoyed our time together. “Attitude adjustments” are often needed in all ages and stages of life.

How much control do we have over our attitudes and what can we do about it? How can honest examination and understanding improve our physical as well as our mental or emotional health? What part does our faith background play in our attitudes? I ask myself these questions and think about how my attitude is helping or hindering my relationships, my level of stress, my openness to God’s call each day, and my trust in Him.

Just thinking about this and about life in general has already begun to shift things for the better. I have a feeling that I will be working on my attitude for the rest of my life, and that is not a bad thing! My prayer is for us all, as we dig in and take an attitude check each day. We may be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes!

Imagine

book open_pixabay_cropped

I love to read a good novel! As I am drawn into that world, I see it in my mind’s eye, and I imagine the experiences the characters are going through. I too face the challenges, pull for the hero, and hold my breath as they face terrible odds. What a gift our imagination can be.

As we imagine, we form a mental picture or image of something. An anticipated event we are unable to attend, possible scenarios of actions or words we are considering, and creative projects all involve our imagination. Sometimes I think that I have too much imagination, especially when I get stuck on negative possibilities! Focusing on positive things seems to help.

What would the world be like without artists, musicians, inventors, scientists, and others? We receive so many benefits and enjoyment from each other which arise from our imaginations. I love to watch or join in with a child at play… playing pretend. Theatre and dance are favorite expressions too.

Does God have an imagination? I think He must! When God created the universe, He had an image in mind of this place, of what the world and its inhabitants would be and how it would look… an image of life. In fact, the book of Genesis says that humankind was created in His own image. * Our imaginations are a small but important reflection of His own as we allow Him to work through us. Paul said in his letter to the church in Ephesus that God is able to do so much more than we ask or imagine. *

Great things begin with a great imagination. May we open ourselves up to the possibilities. Imagine that!

* Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 3:20-21