Embracing Mercy

When was the last time you witnessed a merciful act? Can you recall a moment when your heart melted at the sight of unconditional love and grace towards someone who may not have deserved it? Mercy’s current definition in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reads as: “(the) kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.”

In Webster’s 1828 dictionary the definition holds even more depth.

“That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. In this sense, there is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy that which comes nearest to it is grace. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders. Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being.”

I’m amazed at the 1828 definition.

I never considered mercy as only exercised towards offenders, had you? When we are in a family, a community, or even apart of a church family for example, Mercy comes in all shapes and forms. When I’ve snapped at my teenaged son and he hugs me instead of snapping back. When I’ve taken a daughter’s privilege away because I believed someone else’s word over hers, grounded her, and she forgave me. When my husband and I have argued or a friend and I have disagreed, and we’ve made the effort to reunify–mercy shows up. Whenever I’ve personally experienced or shared mercy’s goodness–I’m the one that’s experienced change. God’s mercy on Calvary reminds me to give what I’ve received. For me, mercy says I’ll stay and I’ll care even though I want to run or take revenge. I’ll die to my own desires, choose to see you and value you, as Christ see’s me. I’ll love you in spite of our own personal imperfections only because Jesus showed me how–He set the perfect example.

I remember those moments like yesterday, when God asked me to extend mercy while suffering, rather than sever the very last binding thread in the relationship. Believe me, I can still picture that thin scarlet thread in my minds eye–the one that held my marriage together, the one that allowed my father to remain in my life, the ones that test boundaries in relationships, and the one that preserved our commitment to serve people in ministry.

I now see what mercy accomplishes and the fruit that grows from it.

When our situations become overwhelming, and they may at some point, I believe God will help us choose mercy–if we ask Him to. I also believe He’ll show us what to lay down–anything that may hinder mercy’s flow. He may show us our pride, judgment, bitterness, perfectionism, anger, and the like, and we will have to make a decision. The question we’ll have to answer is–is He worthy? Is Jesus and His sacrifice worthy of ours and the effort it’ll take?  In these dark days, may we the Church return to truth, our Savior, and devote ourselves to praying for His love, mercy, forgiveness, and courage. Let’s never forget, His plan hasn’t changed and He still wants to shine though us by His grace–all for His glory.

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement

of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Hosea 6:6 (Read More Here)

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’

For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:13

 

 

 

 

 

Outrunning The Storms

 

They are so thrilling to watch build in the sky…storms. Up until a few years ago–their images and the devastation they bring have rattled me to the core.

Last week, God saw my need and the necessity to stretch me yet again. My ability to cope with yet another storm up close and personal–was challenged. He must’ve wanted to deal with any remaining personal fear and help me surrender more control–trusting Him alone for the outcome. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t raise my hand to become a volunteer–not many of us would. Now however, I can honestly say I’ve experienced the terror and thrill of outrunning a handful of violent storms in my lifetime. This past week, it was Tropical Storm Hermine that had our family fleeing–all the way up the east coast of Florida to settle in the Carolina’s.

Preparing for our departure from Florida felt as slow as molasses poured from a squirt bottle. My little ones weren’t motivated to gather their bags at lightning speed and climb into the truck. They didn’t understand the mental weight or magnitude of getting ahead of the hurricane’s wind shear or it’s blinding rain. They didn’t understand the ball of stress sitting in the driver’s seat or the anxieties of riding along as a passenger. They couldn’t comprehend the temptation for us to sacrifice our plans to enjoy a long weekend with their brother and sister-in-law–they were oblivious. On a personal note however, storms seem to have a way of sharpening my mental reasoning, getting my adrenaline pumping, and forcing me to make quick decisions based on simple prayers–in some ways it’s a lot like raising toddlers or teenagers. :) 

I believe that the prayers lifted for us made a critical difference in our traveling success–the northern road before us out of South Florida was clear, we drove on the storms edge for over ten hours, and my nausea, body aches, and a fever subsided before midnight. We did make it safe and sound to our son’s home and the relief that followed wiped away all that we’d just experienced–we were right were we hoped to land.

Life may hold numerous storms for us all, but I would venture to say–most of us will probably tend to avoid rushing into them, am I right? Some of us may prefer to keep things routine, safe, and non-adventurous–but I’m quickly learning that it’s when I come to the end of myself, my ideas, preferences, abilities, and trust the Creator while I’m in a storm­–I find real peace because I learn I’m not in control and never will be. During those times, I think God wants my eyes to open wider to the opportunities around me and assure my crying children of His presence, open to the needs of strangers around me, and welcome the courage and God dependence I’ve grown in since the last storm. Maybe He wants me to learn how to pray new prayers, trust Him at a moments notice, believing in and thanking Him for His saving grace once again. God reminds us that He’s still good in the midst of the storm and still in control. Just like he was long ago, He’s still willing to pour out His good grace and still willing to answer our prayers. I pray this day, in whatever storm you are coming out of or going into–that you’ll cling to the One who’s able to give a word and calm it. Even if when all else seems impossible, truly nothing, nothing, will remain impossible for Him…especially when it comes to making us His new creation.

 

Frustration Can’t Win * A Mini-Vlog

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Many of us are finishing up the summer by squeezing in as many last to-do’s that we can and when life throws us a curve–it can result in frustration. I hope that this little Vlog will encourage you a bit today as you prepare for a new school year and a new season! Blessings dear friends!

 

 

Sardine Breath

 

Of all the scrumptious food items our eight-year-old son could have chosen for me to purchase this last week–he chose sardines. Something about the mysterious little fish inside a miniature can intrigued him. A few siblings teased him and said they were waiting to see their eyeballs attached. Some said they’d have scales and bones to spit out. I’ve never opened a can myself, so even though I wasn’t going to eat them, I was game towards the new experience.

                                                                          Breathe.

Joshua nagged me all morning to open the can with the flip top lid. His enthusiasm drew a crowd of siblings around the dining room table and they all waited for a peek. I stood back from the table while he opened it and I’m glad I did. The stench wafted through the house quicker than burnt popcorn. Squeals and shrieks over the strips of fish preluded their eager taste testing experience. No one had to convince the other to sample the sardines–everyone relished in their snack and I just shook my head.

 

     

                                                                       

                                                                              Amazing.

If I had wanted everyone to sit down and eat sardines–do you think that would have happened? What a mom thinks about definitely isn’t what a son thinks about.There’ve been other moments that reemphasize this too, like the time our son ate an alligator burger, or another ate chocolate covered insects.  I suppose that this is another one of those teachable moments–for me. 

                                                                                   Yuck.

It’s a wonder isn’t it? This event reminds me how uniquely we were created. Yes, we all have different preferences and giftedness, yet all of us have one thing in common. We were created to love and fear God, love each other according to His will, and carry out our God-given purpose upon this earth. Some won’t like our unique purpose, but that’s okay we have a important good work to do anyway. Today, even though my circumstances are riddled with germs, sneezing, coughing, and body aches–I will remain faithful. What about you? Are you working your God-given purpose on this earth today?

 

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and

trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and

to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  

                                                                Philipians 2:12b-13

 

 

 

Days Like This

Days Like This Blog

                                                                                      http://www.kellymcmanus.org

My mom never said there’d be days like this, days as a mom when I’d have to choose between the urgent and the important. The days when I would wake in the morning to busy little guys who’s mission it was to climb into the refrigerator for a snack, chew the basement television cord, or tear apart a siblings treasures. Or the days when I’d have to care for my own flu-like illness and still manage the household from the recliner in my office. I don’t remember her dealing with dog vomit on her bed sheets, items up a nose, or how she managed our household while she juggled her home business schedule. She made it look so easy.

We ate mostaccioli at least once a week with a day for leftovers–I dreaded it and complained. Little did I know she did the best she could within her budget, within her energy level, and by God’s grace. I don’t remember her complaining, but maybe the  occasions when she felt overwhelmed and irritated with our self-centeredness. We were a self-centered bunch for sure. We wanted our sugared cereal, our new school clothes, weekly sleepovers, and our lunch bag filled with more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the third day in a row.

We three girls wasted shower water, hairspray, make-up, and don’t even get me started on the toilet paper and paper towels. We took for granted what our father and mother worked so hard for and we never comprehended it. We took all they gave and more–because they let us and because our god wasn’t a selfless or loving god. We worshipped ourselves and couldn’t get enough. We were taught to say thank you but we did it out of obligation rather than a thankful heart. On the outside we were clean, well dressed, and mannered but on the inside we were ungrateful, uncaring, and angry. We looked to our own interests instead of the interests of others–we needed boundaries and guidance.

Do you ever feel taken for granted or alarmed as a parent? Let me tell you, I can relate. For over twenty-two years, I’ve parented little ones who don’t consider anyone else’s needs or wants other than their own. It’s tempting as a parent to just give in and grow tired after that many years of parenting, but I’m here to say embracing that idea mustn’t be an option. My kids, as was I, are bent towards destruction. They don’t know how to think things through, consider the natural consequences before leaping, think about the effect of their choices on another person, how to share their feelings before they morph into a destructive action, or feel grateful. All of those things come from investing the time, attention, prayer, example, and training our kid’s need.

So, do you need daily help like I do? I’ve heard the old saying that God didn’t give us a manual when he gave us our kids and that’s right. God gave us a manual thousands of years before we all had children–the Bible. So, if you’re relating to anything I’ve said, I’d like to suggest our taking a few action steps today:

If you find yourself in the same cycle as I do at times whether you’re you have biological or adoptive children, it’s okay to start over. It’s okay to tell the kids it’s a new day and we are going to do things differently at home. Let’s show them the love and grace of our Lord today and give them the tools they need to shine their lights and make this world a better place. Mom may not have said their’d be days like this but with God’s help, we can parent well. 

“Train a child in the way he should go,

and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Sweat Equity That Lasts

 

 

What’s that dripping down my face in the 5 a.m. hour? Oh, it’s just a whole bunch of sweat equity. It’s the idea driving me to get up while the crickets are still chirping. It motivates me to leave my down pillow and snoring husband behind to work my body into shape. I slip out of the house, go to the gym, and plant myself upon an odd human configuration of metal and plastic. I have my dear friend Grace to thank for asking me to join her and spur me on towards achieving my fitness goals.

Go.

Makeup isn’t applied, my hair is swung up into a simple ponytail, I go to the gym ready to work, and fully aware of my need to do so. While my feet are strapped to both pedals, my legs push and spin in constant rotation. Yes, my legs would rather run back to bed but I won’t let them. I must continue to grow in self-discipline and I want to achieve something far greater than the state I found myself in five months ago. The need is real and it’s up to me–one conscious effort and one circular motion of follow through at a time. I’m moving faster and stronger day after day. What used to feel excruciating, now feels doable. I sit among both older and younger women who have also adopted this discipline in the wee hours. No one complains–instead we grab a towel, grasp our handles, turn down the lights, and prepare to fine-tune our bodies into what we’ve hoped for.

Work.

It all began with a thought, led to feelings, and with Grace’s help, an opportunity to work rather than just talk about it. I’ve faced it, I’m not a size seven anymore. In spite of my body’s changes over the years, while I’ve come to accept myself as is, I’ve also decided to turn from old habits and take responsibility. No more wishing to look like anyone else and no more comparing myself to others. Yes, I’m tempted to look back on my once high metabolism and a season I shed more than sixty pounds. In spite of that victory about eight years back, my health unraveled. For the sake of encouragement to you–I confess I currently accept thyroid support, do regular anti-candida cleanses, eat a boring diet, maintain hormone balance, commit to gluten free eating, and digestive care–all obstacles which cry out for daily attention. If you’re anything like me however, over time, we all discover that ignoring our physical needs cannot become an option for long. Avoidance and apathy are always an option but the rippling effects will always cause more long-term problems for me. So, here I am, once again accepting God’s grace, now in the area of personal health. It’s time to take responsibility for my thoughts, my negative self-talk, personal choices, and my faith.

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Sweat.

Grace did invite me to workout at an ungodly hour but I didn’t just accept the invitation–I went, began working, and sweating. In a similar way, maybe you’ve noticed, there are a lot of flabby Christ followers walking around. Please, let’s not think our lack of boundaries, self control, or double mindedness go unnoticed. If we can agree on anything, let’s agree on this–Church we have some work to do. The time has come to strive forward and become more fit–running, reaching, and peddling towards a life that honors our Savior again. How did we become so numb? Yes, we can remain seated and adopt the world’s patterns but for those of us who desire maturity–those aren’t options.

A new life with renewed purpose will require effort, energy, and sacrifice. If we are so blessed to have a friend or mentor who encourages us to become more self-disciplined with resources at our disposal, we must make the most of them. If we are in need of wisdom, time, a renewed desire, or the drive to move forward instead of backward–let’s ask God who gives generously.

Mature.

Don’t be fooled, others have taken notice. Church, some of us do look pretty sloppy in our faith, wavering in our convictions, boundry-less, are double minded in what we say and what we do, and we’ve become a sorry bunch. Some of us are even indifferent to the needs around us, stunted by fear, and lacking in Biblical understanding. I believe there is a better option. Investing sweat equity into our personal relationships with Jesus Christ will always remain worthy of our time. It will remain worthy because He still loves us, forgives us, saves us, frees us, has purpose for us, and His good returns are eternal. If we believe in Him, the time has come Church to start living and praying like we do.

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What Now?

As I attempt to process and pray for those who are suffering in our world and involved in situations beyond understanding–I resonate with the words of Tolkien today.

“I wish none of this had happened….So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23New International Version (NIV)

My friends, you are constantly in my prayers and my heart is burdened for you.