Mercy Has a Name

IMG_1413Like beautiful music, the language of France lingers in my memory from my brief time spent there. My ears delighted in the lilting sound of Parisians conversing on their city streets. French is one of the Romance languages because of its Romanic origins, but its lyricism fits the modern meaning of romance just as well.

“Merci,” often concluded my transactions with shop owners or restaurant staff, so I found myself contemplating this French word for “thank you” and its similarity to our English word “mercy”. The origin of the French word merci is from the Latin mercedem, meaning reward, favour or mercy given to someone when sparing them, so the two words are related. Expressing thanks is common etiquette in today’s society, however, mercy is less often demonstrated. Mercy means to show compassion or forgiveness toward an offender, an enemy or someone within one’s power to punish or harm. Being shown mercy instead of deserved punishment logically gives rise to gratitude, thus the connection between thanksgiving and mercy.

In God’s upside down economy, I walk in the freedom of mercy because He withholds my punishment even when His holy justice demands it. I have lived long enough to know that every day I will struggle with my sin nature. I am not capable of living a sinless life and in His holiness God cannot look on my sin. This is where mercy comes in to bridge the gap. And mercy has a name. It is Jesus Christ.

“But God is so rich in mercy; He loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Christ from the dead — only by His undeserved favour have we ever been saved.” (Eph. 2:4-5 Living Bible)

By my own reckoning, I am not punished as I deserve, but by God’s grace I receive the salvation I do not merit. Mercy has a name because Jesus took my punishment for me on the cross. The Sinless One took sin upon Himself, thus satisfying God’s requirement for justice with His perfect sacrifice. Such magnitude of mercy lays me low before Him, speechless with inexpressible thankfulness.

Like stepping stones, God’s love leads to His mercy, which leads to my gratitude, which leads me to extend mercy to others. How can I not be merciful, in light of the great compassion and forgiveness shown to me? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV)

In my own small way, I want to walk out thanksgiving to God on an everyday level by showing others common, and occasionally uncommon, mercies. When someone is rude or cruel, to see beneath to some hidden pain, and be merciful. When I grow impatient with the elderly woman shuffling through the grocery check-out, to remember God’s patience with me, and be merciful. When I want to close the door on all the needy crying out for help, offer what I have in my hand, and be merciful. This is my true and proper worship for such unmerited mercy.

Dieu merci. Thank you, God.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Beauty Poured Out

pour outI wish I had an alabaster jar. A precious vessel full of extravagantly expensive perfume to pour upon the head of the One I love and worship. I would gladly sacrifice a year’s wages and much more to hear Him say, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  

When I put myself inside the head of the woman who did this to Jesus in Matthew 26, the stately scripture story takes on an emotional passion. This is a woman who has spent time with Jesus, sitting at His feet, soaking in His words, receiving His loving gaze. Her heart is full of devotion for the One who has opened her eyes to the beauty of the Kingdom. Impetuously throwing off social propriety, she breaks into an all-male dinner party to lavishly anoint the head of Jesus with carefully conserved perfume costing a whole year’s earnings. The shock and indignation of the other guests does not deter her. Their negative reaction will not keep her from expressing her heart to her most treasured friend.

In the midst of the sombre events leading up to the crucifixion, this story brings a shaft of light to looming shadows. It is as if she can not help herself, this woman whose spontaneous act of worship pushes aside all protocol to demonstrate a full measure of love in the only way she knows how.

From out of the shadows she slips up behind Jesus as he reclines at the table, breaks the flask open and pours perfume over his head. Immediately the room is suffused with the sweet, heady fragrance of exotic nard. Then dribbling the remaining drops of scent on his feet, she kneels and wipes them with her unbound hair. (John 12:3)

Conversation comes to an abrupt halt. There is an embarrassed silence in the presence of such unbridled devotion, then the accusations fly. She is called wasteful by the disciples, derided for using something better spent to help the poor. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  He sees her heart, her intense desire to make a sacrifice for him. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

It is doubtful she knows of Jesus’ approaching death or at least how close it is. But her heart has been moved by God to perform this symbolic act of consecration without knowing its full significance. What she has done to him will be remembered down through history, declares Jesus himself. Just as His coming act of love for her will never loose its power throughout time.

I ask myself, am I as full of passionate devotion towards Jesus as this woman? Are there times when I abandon all social conservatism to pour out the abundance of my love ? What beautiful thing can I do to express what is in my heart for Him?

There is no one objective answer to these personal questions, but they lead my thoughts to times of unrestrained worship; those “shining moments”, as I call them, when my heart overflows with love and gratitude to my Savior and Lord. My soul is an alabaster jar, a precious vessel broken open so all that is fragrant within streams out in worship to the lover of my soul, who says, “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

May my prayer be like special perfume before You. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening gift given on the altar in worship. – Psalm 141:2  New Life Version