Grace to Be Who You Are

 As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m riding a bicycle for exercise. I really enjoy it and go almost every day. One day last month, believe it or not, it rained—in the summer, in California!  Well, it wasn’t really rain, but enough moisture I decided not to ride. I don’t have rain gear and didn’t want to get wet. Not that I’m afraid I’ll melt, I just don’t like going out in the elements without the proper clothing. So not wanting to miss a workout, I pulled out an old exercise DVD.

I started to laugh as Tony Little appeared on the screen, telling me to “conceive, believe and achieve.” I used to work out regularly with Tony and realized I’ve missed his wit and wisdom. As we started into a nice stretch for the back, Tony reminded me to go only as far as I can go. Well, of course, I always say. What else does he expect?

Tony may not realize it, but he has hit upon an essential element of grace. As we each work our way through life, we can go only as far as we are able. We may see someone achieving something wonderful and think, Hey I should be doing that. But if or when we can’t, we may become discouraged and may even give up. We compare ourselves to others, then judge and condemn ourselves. Or others judge and condemn us because they feel we should be just like them.

Grace, that which we receive from God and extend to others and ourselves, allows us to go at our own pace, fall down and get up again, without fear of condemnation. God knows our weaknesses and faults. He knows our strengths and abilities. He doesn’t expect everyone to look alike, act alike or be in the same place in their growth. Some of us have been there and done that and it didn’t work too well.

God values our unique personalities and his grace gives us room to be who we are. We can be happy we have different gifts and talents and give glory to him as we use them to serve him and others. How can we do less for each other? Just as we have received forgiveness and are learning to extend it in return, so we are to honor and respect each other by showing grace in our everyday interactions.

Paul was careful to stay away from making comparisons: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).

Even nature teaches us each star, tree, flower, animal—everything—has its own value, glory and purpose. We are the same, each with our unique place in the world. We have the freedom to do what we do best and not worry about what we can’t do.

God’s grace is a marvelous gift and touches every part of our lives. Go as far as you can go and may his grace be with you on the way.

Life is a journey

A television morning show co-host shared with her audience that she has a rare blood cancer. She will be undergoing a bone marrow transplant and will be away from the show for some time. All along, from the diagnosis, through the initial treatment and now with the impending transplant, she has kept a smile on her face. She says life is a journey and her health troubles are part of it, so she intends to carry on with courage and poise.

Even though the phrase is a little over used and can seem trite, it is true. Life is about the journey. But I wonder what people imagine is at the end? Can you really think of life as a journey and not give some thought to the destination?

Some believe this life, this journey, is all there is and the light will simply go out at the end. Others fear what will happen after death. Some come up with religions and theories about reincarnation or becoming part of the universe. Some have no idea and live their lives without any care about what’s next. They decide to cross that bridge when they get to it.

Bicycle Lane
(Photo credit: snofla)

When I ride my bicycle, I travel my usual route or I might take a detour if a side road looks interesting, but either way I arrive back home. The joy is in what I see along the way, from birds, squirrels and the occasional coyote, to the people I meet. They can be other cyclists, walkers and joggers and sometimes, the woman who drives the animal control truck. I enjoy the changing weather, the daily challenge of making it up the hills and the cool breeze when I race down them. I occasionally grouse about bad drivers or people cycling the wrong way in the bike lane, but I always enjoy the ride.

Our journey of life is the same. We’re meant to enjoy it, to live each moment, relishing the blessings and all the people who cross our paths. And just as I always end up at home, when our hope is in Christ, we know our final destination will be at home with God. Some of the details are unclear to us, but we know enough not to fear. We know God will give us new bodies, just like Jesus’ resurrected body; we will be with him forever and will never die again. We know we will be with our loved ones and all the saints who have ever lived. The future will be amazing and surprising in ways we can’t imagine now.

The morning show staff is supportive of their ailing co-host and has done a segment on her journey. I suppose it’s not politically correct to talk about her final destination and audiences don’t want to hear about failed treatments and death. But it’s encouraging to know that after the hard parts of life, climbing the steep hills and riding through the rough patches, we’ll all make it home in the end.

God is our hiding place

“For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory” (Psalm 32:7, NLT).

One of the fun parts of riding my bicycle is watching the ground squirrels scurry back to their hiding places as I get too close for their comfort. They can really run! Sometimes I surprise them and sometimes they surprise me. They have holes everywhere for quickly taking cover.

At times we can feel like a ground squirrel, sunning on a rock, enjoying the morning when out of nowhere comes a hawk, a snake or a wild cyclist to shake us up, disrupt or even destroy our lives. Squirrels escape to their burrows but where do we go? God is our hiding place, the one we can run to anytime, anywhere. He doesn’t make all the dangers in life go away, but he provides the safety of his love and grace, giving us strength to face and get through the troubles, and even gives us a song as we go!

Lessons from a bicycle

Today instead of a verse, I’m sharing one of my articles. I’ve been writing them for several years and posting them on another website (http://women.gci.org/).

Lessons From a Bicycle

My poor bicycle had been in the garage for several years, collecting dust. I’ve loved riding since childhood and missed it, so I pulled my bike out, pumped up the tires and started riding again. It’s true, you don’t forget how, but I had to work up to riding more than a couple of miles. Now I’m riding longer distances and loving it even more. It makes me happy to be out enjoying the fresh air and freedom, and the exercise is great too.

I’ve learned some lessons from riding and even found insight for our spiritual lives:

Don’t be in a rush; you might have to start slow to build strength and endurance. When riding a bike you don’t expect to be able to go a hundred miles the first time out. Why do we think we’ll be spiritually mature immediately? Becoming a Christian happens instantly but being one is a lifelong process.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Your bike and clothes may not be fancy but don’t let that keep you from having fun. We are unique and special. God works with us according to our individual personalities.

You might hit some bumps and even fall. It’s OK, just get back on. Life isn’t easy but God is there to help us keep going until we get home.

If you ride with someone, stay together. Look out for each other. We don’t go through life alone and need to help one another through the rough spots.

Going uphill is hard. If you have to walk partway, don’t worry about it. You are still moving. The extra effort we put in during the trials and problems makes us stronger and helps us trust God more. It also makes the smooth parts more enjoyable.

Enjoy the downhill parts but remember to hold on tight and watch for rocks. Be thankful and keep trusting God through the good times.

Always wear a helmet. Wear all the armor of God from Ephesians 6: “the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (NLT).

Drink lots of water—before, during and after. Rely on the Holy Spirit to continually refresh you.

Keep your eyes on the road, but take time to notice the wildlife and flowers on the way. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Live in the moment and enjoy the blessings of grace.

If you have bugs in your teeth, it just means you’ve been smiling a lot.

Are you inspired to get back on a bike? If you do, you’ll work off some calories and maybe add your own lessons to this list. If not, next time you see someone on a bicycle, give them room and thank God for the ride of life.

Bicycle Party
Bicycle Party (Photo credit: Where is Clifford The Big Red Dog?)