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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Delight in Us’

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident.

 

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So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

 

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we haven’t achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

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We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

 

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

Reblogged from June 15, 2015.

 

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Remember the old song, Kids Under Construction, by Bill and Gloria Gaither?

The chorus went like this:

“Kids under construction –

Maybe the paint is still wet.

Kids under construction –

The Lord may not be finished yet.”

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  Well, it’s not just the little folks that require refurbishing. Most of us still need our:

  • Patience polished from time to time
  • Kindness cultivated every now and then
  • Joy rejuvenated on a regular basis
  • Self-centeredness scoured away occasionally
  • Faith uplifted once in a while

 

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If we’re not careful, such realities can push us toward discouragement. Thoughts like these begin to peck away at our spirits:

“I’ll never measure up. Why even try? What’s the point?”

Might it be we’re even harder on ourselves than God? Might he actually take pleasure in our imperfectly right efforts toward spiritual growth?

Think of Charlie Brown’s small and scraggly Christmas tree. Imperfect? Definitely. Heart-warming and charming nonetheless? Oh, yes.

Think of the pleasure listening to a young child sing—off-key, with unsteady rhythm and incorrect words. But everybody loves the performance anyway.

 

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Think of dust—how it shrouds our belongings and irritates our allergies. But sprinkle a bit in a sunbeam and instantly we’re mesmerized by the magical display of glitter and shine.

Think of the wrong word written or spoken at the right time and how the result can produce uproarious laughter.

When my husband, Steve, began his ministry, he was assigned to a congregation of mostly older folks. One Sunday the bulletin listed the first hymn as, “’Tis So Sweet to Rust in Jesus.”  

And that brings me to Mrs. Bisso’s muffins. Mrs. Bisso was a member of that same church, and lived down the street. She loved to bake. It wasn’t long after our arrival before Mrs. Bisso began to regularly supply us with muffins. Sometimes she’d call at 6:30 or so in the morning to let us know she’d be over in a few minutes with fresh muffins for our breakfast. Hold the oatmeal!

Problem is, Mrs. Bisso’s muffins were always over-baked—rather thoroughly. That meant, even if we cut off the black bottoms, the sharp, charred flavor still permeated all the way through to the tops.

 

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But dear Mrs. Bisso took such pleasure in baking for us, we continued to enthuse over her burnt offerings—batch after batch after batch.

All these thirty-some years since that time, we’ve occasionally remembered and smiled nostalgically about Mrs. Bisso’s muffins.  After all, her heart was in the right place, and she gave so lovingly and generously of her time and effort.

You see? There is much for us to celebrate in the imperfectly right.   And I think God does, too.

 

(Photo credits:  www.drexelchurch.org; http://www.highlandschristianfellowship.org; http://www.christchurchlikely.org.uk;  www.salmonavocado.com.)

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