The question is what does God expect of us? Is His love earned by what we do, or freely given because He is Love? Is ours a work-based faith, or one founded on grace?
My husband gives incredible gifts and as his wife I am blessed to be a primary recipient of his generosity. Gifts like rockin’ clothes, iPads, and trips to warm places with beaches and palm trees. He gives me those gifts because he loves me and because he loves to give gifts and he delights in my happiness. His heart is good.
But what happens when I take those gifts and set them on a shelf? What if I never wear the clothes he buys, even though they fit and look good? What if I go on that trip and do nothing but complain about the food and lodging and the texture of the sand and the color of the water? What if I take that iPad and set it on a shelf and never use it? What does that say about my heart? About my thankfulness for the gifts? And my heart toward the giver?
What about the hard gifts he gives? Gifts like expectations about how I will spend my time and money. Gifts like holding me to a high standard with what I do with my day. Can I be thankful for those gifts from my husband too? That he loves me enough to desire more out of me than I already am? That he accepts me as I am now, but that he wants me to become someone even better?
If I know the right response to gifts from my husband, even the hard gifts, should I not assume that my God who loves me even more perfectly, even more completely, would have similar expectations? Not requirements. Not obligations. Not determining my salvation. But a desire for a right response to His gift of love.
“The real journey of faith requires that our choices, our actions, and everything else in our lives be surrendered to God’s will rather than our own…Yes, we must believe that Christ loves us, but Christ also calls us to demonstrate His love to others through the good things that we do, what the Bible calls “works.” Faith without works is no faith at all. But authentic faith, rooted in the heart of God, expressed in deeds done to ease the pain of others; it is imbued with personal sacrifice, and it comes with a cost…This is not an argument that salvation comes through works, but rather an assertion that one who has committed his life to Jesus will bear quality fruit as evidence of the lordship of Christ.” ~ The Hole in Our Gospel
At a minimum, how can I not declare His goodness and record His faithfulness? By practicing the art of listing the gifts, I am reminded daily as I sit down with my gratitude journal of His abundant, generous – and sometimes tough – love. His gifts are not always easy to accept, but they are always allowed by love and always for my good.
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.
~ Romans 8:28-29 (The Message)
Counting God’s good gifts from recent days and reflecting as He molds me into the image of His Son….
0876. everything prepared
0877. five days
0878. our favorite place
0879. just us
0880.inconveniences that turn out to be okay
0882. walking to Starbucks
0883. Juan’s eleven-year-old daughter
0884. old issues
0885. never giving up
0887. new running shoes
0888. seven year old giving pedicures
0889. checking for head lice
0890. a beautiful fall day on the front porch with my daughters
0891. clean floors
0892. clean bedding
0893. being outside
0894. bike rides
0895. freeze tag at the park
0896. volunteers to bring in groceries
0897. four year old learning to control her temper
0898. rainy, fall evenings
0899. staying in for family movie night
0900. organized shoes
0901. my own private Nutcracker performance
May you have a blessed week, giving thanks for His endless gifts.
* photos from a recent – quiet – get away to our favorite place