This is a blog I wrote a year ago but that never got posted. I think it’s very apropos to what God is still teaching me and our church today…
As I glanced through my not-so-frequent blogs yesterday, I noticed a theme over these past two years since we started Epikos. In fact, a verse I just put in a blog is the same verse that was in another blog about two years ago. That caught my eye. John 1:16 “From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another…”
God gives one of my friends a word for the year that He keeps emphasizing and reinforcing. With me, He gives a theme usually…and generally, I don’t really notice it in full until after He’s been teaching it to me for a while. For instance, the year and a half before we started Epikos, God was weaving some truths into my life. As we started realizing God wanted us to start a church, I went back and looked over my journals from my habitual times with God. Repeatedly over that year and a half God had spoken two things: 1. Wait on God and bring all my concerns to Him in prayer and 2. DO NOT FEAR for I (God) am with you!
These two themes began to be a record player that He kept reminding me of from different vantage points in scripture and life. Because of these repeating themes, I told the Lord that I wanted to be one who did not respond in terror to His voice like so many I read about in scripture. As I waited on Him in prayer, I asked Him to make me a person who would respond with a “YES!! Let it be to me according to your word!” As we started out on our faith adventure of church planting, these two truths have been pivotal in keeping me going when life requires a courage that I didn’t previously have.
Why all that back story? As I mentioned, I had quickly scanned through my old blogs from these last two years. A repeating theme again surfaced. He has been trying to teach me about living in favor, abundance, blessing and grace. He has been faithful at removing one lie after another that have kept me in a box of “I must earn it” my whole life.
Favor is the Key that opens the door
Last night as I went to bed, thoughts started flooding my mind. These words kept tumbling around…favor, abundance, blessing and grace. Similar, but different words. I then got this picture of a house I was entering because the owner of this fabulous castle-like dwelling had given me the keys. I had FAVOR with the owner. Favor granted me access
Abundance from a stocked pantry
I walked into the house and looked around. Everything about this mansion was stately and just how I would design a place for comfort, hospitality, and to represent my heart in a home. It was as if it held all that my heart desired in its design and features. Not only that, it was stocked to the brim with more than enough to meet my needs, my large families needs, and anybody else’s needs that came calling. I got this sense that as I gave out of my supply…as I pulled something off of the cupboard to give…that resource would be replenished. This was a place of abundance. If favor granted me access, abundance supplied more than enough to meet every need.
“Blessed” is the captivating atmosphere
As I looked out back, I could sense that there was a blessing over the atmosphere of this home. Again, I pondered what blessing provided. I knew that blessing was the inviting, loving, peaceful domain that rested in and around that home. It impacted everyone who entered. It calmed fears, it imparted joy, it resonated peace, it drew in those who didn’t believe. It was an environment rich in miracles and in making the impossible possible. It was an environment where God’s economy worked. The “give and it will be given to you” happened. Where “the joy of the Lord” did provide strength. Where the brokenhearted were restored. And that was just the beginning. If favor granted me access and abundance supplied more than enough to meet every need, blessing was the oil that caused all the intangibles to be tangible. The oil that caused relationships to flourish and the brokenhearted to be restored.
A “Grace Space” is causes the extraordinary to be common place…expected!!
And then there was a moment that caught my breath. The grace factor. As I walked around, I realized that grace was so much more and beyond what I could think or imagine…and it was completely unearned. Somebody else had given me the keys; somebody else had stocked the cabinets; somebody else had made this place feel like it was mine and had designed it just to my liking.
But there was more. There was a “grace space” I saw. This grace caused the influence of this house to go beyond the house. It was as if everywhere I looked there were tunnels and pathways and space alleyways. The abundance and blessing and favor that I had found in that house were designed to go everywhere and penetrate everything around the house. It was like grace is what caused favor, abundance and blessing to function…but it was greater than even that. Grace was like a dew that rested everywhere and went everywhere and that nothing could stop. Grace was the beyond, the more, the unstoppable. Grace didn’t depend on me. Grace had already been done. The influence and blessing and hope grace carried with it was contagious. If favor granted me access; if abundance supplied more than enough; if blessing caused all the intangibles to be tangible…then grace was the canopy God established to create the environment for the extraordinary to be common place.
A picture. Yes.
Something to be learned from this picture? I believe so.
Pride says, “I’ve got to earn it myself.” Grace says, “I’m here to receive, Lord. Bring it on! And show me what to do with what I’ve been given!” Grace says, “I will receive the access granted me, the provision purchased for me, and the intangibles given to me!” Grace positions itself and walks where access is granted. Grace is an adventure. Grace is a faith journey. Grace is a great expanse of space in which I’m slowly learning to live.
Want to come and join me today in the great space of grace??
“Come to me…all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” - Jesus
Want to come and join me on this journey Jesus has me on? I believe it’s going to blow our minds! I say a hearty, “Cause me to see and live in this way today, Lord!!” How about you?
Have you ever lost everything on your phone? How did this make you feel? Was it a blessing in disguise or did it provide for a lot of stress?
I cracked my screen awhile back and because I had so much data on my phone I was having trouble backing it up. I needed to do a backup before I could take it in and get the apple care phone replacement. (And yes, I do admit…I enjoy taking pictures of my family and it takes up a LOT of storage space…) There wasn’t enough space on our computer; there wasn’t enough space on our iCloud plan; and there wasn’t enough space on our hard drive. After a long conversation with tech support, I was going to purchase some more space. In the middle of this conundrum, my phone happened to fall in the filled bathtub. Immediately, we got it into rice; however, to no avail. All was lost from the last couple of years.
Since I moved to Bend about 3 years ago, I was trying to mentally take in that I had lost most of my contacts from Bend. Just. Like. That. A. NEW. Start. A. Clean. Slate.
Easy? You may think so. I told my husband that I was going to choose to see this as a blessing in disguise because when would I ever take the time and effort to go through and weed things out? This was a forced clean slate. And sometimes that’s what we need for a new start.
One scripture that caught my eye this morning was from the first verse of our scheduled Bible plan this year that we are doing at Epikos church, the life journal.
Genesis 12:1, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.’”
That’s quite a promise. This promise also required quite a change. It required a major break with all that Abram knew. Abram was required to leave all that was comfortable and familiar.
The beginning of each year seems to bring a nice break and clean slate for me…atleast mentally. I take some time at the end of the year to access what I’ve accomplished and completed and look at the new year and consider what needs to change and exit so that the real dreams in my heart can be expressed. This year has been no different. As I have been considering what to eliminate it has been so clear to me that unless we say NO to the unnecessary, we can’t say YES to the best. Unless we say NO to the peripheral, we can’t say YES to the essential. Unless we say NO to the urgent, we can’t say yes to the important.
It’s time for a recalibration. We live one life. We all are given the same number of hours in a day. It’s time to redeem the time. It’s time to do the the first things first. It’s time to adjust and align with what’s most important and leave the unimportant. It’s time to ask God:
As we prune our lives like this…I, for one, am excited to see God’s breakout in and through me. I am excited to walk in the calling for which I’ve been called! I am excited to express the passions He’s put in my heart through the minutes and hours I’ve been given. I’m excited to make Jesus famous in Bend, Oregon and throughout the earth as I live His love outloud through me!
Aren’t you???? Come and join me in this grand and glorious purging!! And let’s welcome in the new with open arms!!
Shanda Harris is a lover of Jesus, dedicated wife, mother of 6 and the Women's Pastor at Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.