Forgiven: Accepting God’s Amazing Grace

In 1992, artist Thomas Blackshear II, painted a picture titled Forgiven. It took my breath away the first time I saw it. The image is a contemporary man wearing a T-shirt and dirty jeans, holding a mallet in one hand and a nail in the other. The expression on his face is desperation and exhaustion. Standing behind him and holding him up, is Jesus. His nail-scarred hands appear large and strong. His face is tender as he embraces this man, a picture of God’s love and forgiveness, the real message of Easter.      He-is-Risen-from-StudioJRU

Tears welled up in my eyes. The man in the painting reminded me of my husband Randy. He had tried over and over to stop the deadly spiral of alcoholism that he was caught in. Sometimes he broke down in sobs of desperation and anger. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop drinking–even though it was destroying him.

But this painting gave me hope. Though Randy’s addiction seemed hopeless, as a Christian, I had to believe that Jesus was right there loving Randy, and that his arms wrapped around him would never let him go.

One week before Easter in the early 1990s, Randy agreed to have our pastor and others pray for him. Pastor Mark and several others placed their hands on Randy’s head and shoulders and prayed. It was powerful. We all felt the intensity of God’s presence. Pastor Mark turned to me and said, “Deb, here’s your husband back.”

I noticed Randy’s eyes seemed clear and at peace, no longer tormented. He felt free! Sadly, after a week of experiencing this miraculous freedom, the old patterns crept back in. Randy struggled with his addiction until 1998 when he finally came to believe that God loved him and had forgiven him. Grasping that truth made all the difference for him. He has been free in Christ since then!

Today, on Good Friday, my thoughts have turned to this painting and the picture of a defeated and desperate man. Tears come to my eyes as I realize once again, the power of forgiveness. Maybe Randy needed that very real taste of freedom he experienced in order to ultimately be able to accept God’s unconditional love for him.

Really, Randy is no different from any of us. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all have held the mallet and nail in our hands, demanding our own way, instead of humbly submitting to God. I like to think I would never have been part of the crowd shouting, Crucify him! I know better, though. Without God’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness, I’d never have submitted my life to Him. Only through the pain and heartache of Randy’s struggle with alcoholism, was I finally able to surrender.

I can’t do this.

God can.

I will let Him.

Whatever challenges you may be facing today, the promise and hope of Easter always follow the desperate darkness of Good Friday.

God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Ephesians 3:20,21 (MSG)

 

To receive peace, you must change your grasping, controlling stance to one of openness and trust. The only thing you can grasp without damaging your soul is My hand. -Sarah Young

Jesus Calling (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004)

New Hope for Marriage Women’s Retreat

I’m excited about the NEW HOPE FOR MARRIAGE women’s retreat I’m co-facilitating with Christie Miller. We have a few spaces available for the Feb. 20-21 date. Know someone who is discouraged in her marriage and needs some new hope – new energy – and a new plan? This is a great weekend opportunity. Small, private, encouraging!

For more information: www.nwspeakers.com

Let Freedom Never Be Forgotten


In the late 1970s, Randy and I and our two sons spent three years stationed on Okinawa, Japan with the Air Force. On our first 4thof July overseas, we gathered with other families of the 15thTactical Reconnaissance Squadron to celebrate the freedoms I had often taken for granted.

If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine being back home and not on an island the size of New Jersey. I savored the familiar aroma of barbecued hamburgers and hotdogs. Picnic tables laden with steaming corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, and even juicy watermelon, an expensive delicacy in the Far East, waited for the lineup of hungry guests.      

Living in another culture had offered a multitude of new opportunities. I enrolled in Japanese courses, our sons played with Okinawan children with hardly a language barrier, and we sampled tempura-coated vegetables managing chopsticks instead of forks.  

I would never trade our experiences, but we missed the United States. Silly things like TV commercials that were absent from the Armed Forces station, but showed up with taped programs like Star Trek and Dallas. The usually annoying advertising now gave us glimpses of ordinary life back home. A way of life you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.  

Even a trip to the movie theater on the military base got me choked up with nostalgia. They always played our National Anthem to preface the featured film, against a backdrop of Americana scenes.  Dorothy was right. There really wasn’t any place quite like home–Kansas or otherwise.

Years later, I still remember the rush of emotion I felt when our plane nosed through wispy clouds and the stately Golden Gate Bridge came into view. After three years, we had finally come home to the land of the free and the home of the brave. I would never take my country for granted again. 

Dear Lord, thank you for showing me the great value of freedom.