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Category Archives: grace

I’m not enough. But I know the One who is.

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grace is enough

I’m not enough and I never will be.

That’s not very motivational or uplifting, is it? That’s not typically the message we hear these days. That’s certainly not what we want to hear.

We generally hear, albeit with the purest hearts and best of intentions, that we are enough. That we can do it all. The message I hear is, “Press on Christian soldier! You’ve got this!!”

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Useless Fires

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altar sacrifice“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands”. Malachi 1:10 NIV

“Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship! Malachi 1:10 The Message

Well…. anyone who has ever said the Bible doesn’t read clear can’t use that argument here. I’m not sure how God could have been any more clear on this matter of giving our best sacrifice. He did not mince words.

“I am not pleased with you,
says the Lord Almighty.” 


There have been plenty of times that I’ve given less than my best. Only we know if we have or haven’t offered our best sacrifice and the Lord Almighty judged the intentions of their physical offerings at the altar then but He judges the intention of our heart offering now. Since we don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, thank the Lord!, this becomes a matter of the heart.

This passage was written in the time when an animal sacrifice was offered for payment of sins. The rules were clearly laid out in Leviticus (strange read, btw) on what was considered acceptable and what wasn’t considered acceptable. For anyone reading this who hasn’t grown up in the church or read these scriptures, this probably all seems super weird. And it is. But, in a nutshell, pure animal sacrifices, the best animal they had, were to be offered as a sacrificial blood offering to keep a right relationship with God. Yeah, still weird, I know. But this was God’s provision for the people in what we call the Old Testament times. Then when Jesus came, He became the ultimate and final sacrifice needed to forgive our sins when He died on the cross. Therefore, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Yes, I know, still seems strange. So much of that Christian faith is just that, faith. If this seems like a bunch of jibberish to you, I simply ask you to find people and resources you can trust and keep searching.

A three-legged animal, a blind animal or maybe one that was sick and going to die anyway was what these people were offering. To the Lord Almighty! Figuratively speaking, it’s what most of us offer every day too.

IMG_1277We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday. I planned (I even contacted his favorite restaurant in Singapore to see if they’d give me a recipe for his favorite burger there. And they did!), prepared, shopped for the best ingredients, created a pleasant environment in our home, all that jazz. He deserved his requested meal and was very much looking forward to it. His mouth watered for days. What if I was lazy and didn’t feel like going to the store or preparing the meal or even having clean dishes. What if I just went and picked up McDonald’s? He would be disappointed. You can’t make anything at McDonald’s taste remotely like a Brewerkz Volcano Burger. I suspect that not even a miracle can make that happen.

I’m not saying that McDonald’s might not
be someone’s best but it’s not my best.

Can we talk food drives? You know those food drives where we go to our pantry and grab everything we don’t eat like cans of beets or cheap soups that we bought 10 of because they were on sale? Or do we go to the store and buy things that we would want for a holiday meal? The good stuff? Yeah, I’m guilty too. I was actually convicted of this several years ago. The recipient of the food doesn’t know who gave it or if it was my best, but I do. And the Lord Almighty does.

I’m so guilty of placing my pitiful
offerings before useless fires.

I was reminded of an encounter with a homeless guy many years ago. I was very young at the time. I’m not proud of this encounter, but it was a learning experience for me, so not wasted. In a nutshell, the guy had attitude and he wanted money. I wasn’t giving money. After a long and heated discussion with him (heat from him and attempted love and grace from me) I told him I would get him some food when I went through the drive-thru and to meet me on the other side if he wanted it. He did meet me and I gave him a burger meal and he said “that’s it?”. I was taken aback that he was so ungrateful. I mean he was homeless for goodness sake! In my heart, however, I knew that this was not my best. Somehow I think he must have known too. The Lord Almighty definitely knew. I drove away furious and feeling all self-righteous that I had totally wasted my money on burger meal for “that ungrateful homeless guy”. As I drove off I looked back and he was not there. He was not anywhere. I hadn’t gone that far and he couldn’t have disappeared that quickly. I have often thought that he might have been some sort of messenger sent from God to teach me a lesson. Which I did learn or at least began the process of learning.

I say “began the process” because a few years later another encounter happened in Nepal that indicated there was still work to be done. I wrote about this story in more detail here if you’d like to read it.

Nepal shopping.sunrise.citytour 015

An adorable young girl followed us around town asking for 5 “rupee” and saying “hello” over and over to us with her sweet smile. I was alone with our 11 year old daughter at the time, in a foreign country, so I feared that if I gave her anything it could turn into more than I bargained for so we smiled back with every bit of our hearts and offered her nothing more. She later ended up outside the cafe of the hotel we were staying at and I asked the restaurant manager if he could give her some food and that we would pay. It was their custom to only give bread. If they gave anything more then they would come back often and disturb the guests. So that was all I could do. I thought… Until a young woman saw her and invited her to eat with her at her table. She pushed her plate of food over to the other side fo the table for her to eat. I didn’t think her smile could have become any sweeter, but it did. I watched this play out before my tear-filled eyes and even snapped a picture of her from a distance so this moment could be a reminder of my innocent ignorance and lost opportunity to be brave. But more than that even, a picture of God’s grace that covered the situation anyway. I knew I had not given my best. She knew it too, but she managed to smile back at me anyway as if to tell me that it was all ok. God took care of it. Took care of her. Grace.

Cambodia July 2012 213Back in our traveling days we often traveled to impoverished and broken countries where we were confronted with a host of beggars and peddlers. We knew that if we gave or bought their goods that we would likely be feeding the corruption and brokenness but if we didn’t then that little one might go hungry. We found it heart-wrenching to decide what to do especially when a little 4-year-old comes up to beg or sell their goods or a mom holding her 2-year-old peers at you through the window while you eat your meal that cost more than they’ve probably ever held in their hand and maybe had in their lives. We did what we could without asking for a mob scene which would likely have happened when they got anything from us and went back to tell the others.

I’m not saying that we need to give every homeless guy a thousand dollars or every sweet begging girl a gourmet meal. I only know that we know when we’ve given our best and when we haven’t and God does too. I know I have offered my share of pitiful and unworthy sacrifices to the fire but that’s not my intent. I’m not an awful person. I’m not even that selfish. Spoiled, unthoughtful and ignorant perhaps, but not selfish. I’m so thankful for God’s grace in my “useless fire” offerings. I truly believe He sees the heart above all else. That being said, I can’t count on His grace to cover me if my heart grows cold. The Lord Almighty knows.

So I stand convicted. Again. No more three-legged goats or sickly rams offered which render the redeeming fire of God useless. No more nasty canned beets, no more measly burger meals or not giving God’s precious children more than a piece of bread and a smile. The Lord Almighty and His creation deserves my best because He has given me His best. I know I miss the mark on pleasing Him all too often. I am so grateful we do not live under the Levitical law and there is grace and mercy because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

I’m trying, Lord. I’m trying.



John 3:8-21 The Message (The Bible paraphrased by Eugene Peterson from the original version to understandable English/contemporary US slang.)

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

Grace and Social Media

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Tori OwenI know I’m not thirty years into the mom thing. I’m new at it and some of you may read this and think I’m naive and dumb but I’m writing it nonetheless. It’s too heavy on my heart not to write. Maybe this is harder to put into practice than I am making it out to be and I guess if I’m totally off-base you can come back later and say I told you so…

The last few days in social media have left me with a heavy heart. If you haven’t seen all of news articles, Facebook posts, and tweets about the Duggar family and their oldest son yet, I’m impressed you’ve made it this long. Congratulations on staying out of the social media craziness…I wish I had missed this one.

I first read about all of this yesterday and didn’t think much of it at the time because the news articles were so new and not from sources I trusted. As the day went on more and more was posted and the day ended with my laying in bed reading about it all. The more I read, the heavier my heart grew.

I’m not writing this post to tell you my thoughts on the Duggar news. I’m not writing this post to judge them or tell you what I think they should or shouldn’t have done. I don’t know their full story and I won’t pretend to.

I’m writing this post because as I laid in bed last night all I could think about was how I wanted to protect my son from all of this.

As I read the back and forth on multiple social media fronts last night I couldn’t get past how many people were being so judgmental. How in the world could we really be so quick to judge when we don’t even know the truth from the lies? We are trusting fickle and biased Facebook and Twitter to tell us what someone did over a decade ago and in turn feel it is our right to pass judgement.

I can’t be okay with that. And I don’t want

my child to be okay with that either.

I want to teach my son to love others. I want to teach him to err on the side of grace. It saddens me to realize how much more prevalent all of this will probably be as Owen grows up. We have a front row seat to every single misstep and conflict in our society today and I can only imagine that none of that will change as the years go on. When Owen is faced with all of that and has to make a decision to pass judgment or extend grace I pray that he chooses the latter.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that I must teach Owen to know right from wrong, and to protect himself from the evil of our world. However, I want him to know the balance. I’m not asking him to be best friends with people that will lead him in the wrong direction. Exactly the opposite. I will always try to steer him away from those people and situations that could land him in a dangerous situation. But, how many times did Jesus extend love and offer kindness to the sinners he encountered? Over and over and over. He loved people that I would have had a hard time not judging. He sat and talked and had dinner with people that I would not have wanted to have been in the same room with. He loved people that were uncomfortable to love.

Our world is full of darkness and sin but Jesus came and died on the cross so that all of this would be redeemed one day. Until that day, I pray that my husband, my son, and myself choose to remember that by offering grace and love.

Plain and simple. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, the Duggars are sinners and Jesus came to save us all. I am called to love you, Jesus will handle the judgment part. I am so thankful for that.


(Tori is a regular contributor to this blog. Find out more about her here.)