Tag Archives: grace

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 4


Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright…

Except the first Christmas wasn’t calm at all. Nothing about child birth is calm. It is loud and violent and like the rest of us, Jesus was thrown into this world and likely immediately screamed his lungs out. Entering this world is shocking for every human being. How much so for the King of kings, Lord of lords, and creator of it!? And Mary did not have an epidural. Jesus did not have nurses tending to him or to Mary. There was no sanitary hospital bed or hospital food delivered when Mary and Joseph got hungry. The birth was real. It happened as it was foretold.

Silent night, holy night; Son of God, love’s pure light; Radiant beams from thy holy face; With the dawn of redeeming grace; Jesus Lord at thy birth.

Jesus, God’s own son, entered this world in a very real, violent manner and was going to leave this earth in a very real, very violent manner. You can’t have Christmas without the cross. You can’t have the cross without Christmas. Immanuel. God with us. God has come to save us. He entered this world like a common man. He would die like a common criminal. But his birth, life, death, and resurrection would bring redemptive grace for all humankind. Christmas truly brought the dawn of redeeming grace!

Glories stream from heaven afar; Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia; Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is Born!

May we all remember why we pause and celebrate this day. It’s Jesus. It has always been about Jesus. The reality of his immeasurable, unimaginable love for us demonstrated most clearly not only in his death on a cross, but in his birth in a stable. The light of the world has come. Now we are called to carry that light with us into a dark world. And because of Jesus, no darkness can ever overcome the hope and peace we have in Him.

Merry Christmas from MND GMZ Ministries!


We’re All “Undone”.

Stories connect us to one another. In Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life, Michele Cushatt, a master story teller, welcomes us in to her home and in to her heart to hear her story. Hers was meant to be a neat and tidy life of blessings reaped from service sown to her Lord and Savior. However, divorce, cancer, and unexpected children led to a life unraveled and laying Undone before her very eyes.


Stories connect us to one another. Stories highlight the commonality of human emotion. Joy and disappointment, heartache and hope, pride and embarrassment are feelings we are all too well acquainted with and Undone is a story that contains them all. Michele reveals her story with profound vulnerability and authenticity, which invites her readers to examine their own stories with new levels of the same. Vulnerability isn’t always pretty, but it almost always leads to compassion and intimacy with one another and with God. As Michele puts it, “Sometimes messy is the necessary beginning to the makings of extraordinary (p. 137).” In fact, at the heart of Undone is a call for all towards greater authenticity, to remove the masks that hide our true selves. Undone calls its readers to reveal their heart to a loving God regardless of how broken and battered it is. After all, “Our God is a refuge for the broken, not a shelf for the display of the shiny. No more pride for those who have it all together, or shame for those who don’t (p. 214).”

Stories connect us to one another. Stories connect us through the life lessons learned. Michele seamlessly weaves her stories into the truths taught in Scripture by the Author of each of our stories. Michele shares sacred and holy moments of revelation and redemption between her and her Heavenly Father. Undone challenges us all to examine the life lessons God is tenderly teaching us in our own stories. In the midst of trying to keep an “undone” life pieced together, Michele states, “Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion. Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God. One who loves nothing more than to step into the middle of locked and darkened rooms and impossible circumstances, close enough to touch (p. 57).”

Stories connect is to one another. Michele’s story is both unique and ordinary. It is ordinary in that we have all been touched by the fear of a cancer diagnosis whether a dear friend, family member, or from the lips of our own doctor. It is ordinary in that divorce, even among Christian communities, is sadly more common than not. It is ordinary in that many choose to step up and raise children with no where else to turn. It is ordinary in that everyone who has breath has come to grips with life’s cruelty and unfair ways. The ordinary in the story makes it relateable, for we all know what it’s like to watch our perfectly laid plans fall apart, to feel Undone.

The relateability of the story is precisely what makes it so unique. It is unique in Michele’s willingness to share life’s twists and turns, frailties and failures, disappointments and unrealized dreams. Michele’s story is unique in that in the midst of the pain, Michele finds hope. In the midst of chaos, she finds peace. And in the face of fear, Michele chooses faith. Ultimately, Michele concludes, “Faith is choosing the anchor of your focus. It’s about turning your eyes away from the questions that lead to fear, and instead locking eyes with the one who knows the answers (p. 202).”

So, do not delay. I rarely review or endorse a book, but this is a must read. Because frankly, we are all Undone.



Loved, Forgiven, and Beautifully Made

The middle school girl whose head hangs low because the comments she hears from her peers confirm her greatest fears and insecurities, creating gaping wounds on her heart. And eventually those emotional wounds become physical ones on her arms and legs.

It’s the bully, the mean girl, whose only way to feel good is to put others down. The desire to climb the social ladder requires stepping on other students. Collecting social capital means picking on the less popular. But being on top is surprisingly lonely. Popularity is both pricey and precarious.

The college student whose perfectionist expectations of herself are not only unrealistic but unattainable. And so she doesn’t eat, doesn’t stop striving, and doesn’t say no to anyone but herself. And so the more uncontrollable her life becomes, the more she focuses on the one thing she can control – what does, or does not go in her mouth.

It’s the captain of the football team who understands that his acceptance and affirmation from peers and parents alike rests on his ability to achieve. And so he turns to pot to numb the pain he feels from longing to be loved as a person instead of for his performance.

Young people are struggling. I see it everyday in my office. They are hurting because adults are hurting in many of the same ways. The mother who needs her family to look a little bit better than the one next door in order to feel like she is ok. The pressure for perfection is passed on to the children and when a mistake is made the panic is real and the shame salient. Or the mother who’s checked out and given up completely. Her self-worth waning, her stress mounting, and her resources stretched way too thin. The father whose drive for the next promotion and a more prestigious title prohibits him from being present. And even when he makes it home for dinner, his mind is else where and his emotion aren’t engaged. Or the “deadbeat dad” who deserts his family like his father did, fulfilling the seemingly prophetic voices that have convinced him he’s a failure and incapable of being a provider, a husband, and a father.

All of these people suffer from the same core issue, a lack of understanding of their true worth and value. We all struggle with grasping both the source and the scope of our value.

you are loved

John 3:16 (The Voice) says, “For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.” This all too familiar verse is all too often taken for granted. The key to life is believing in the enormity of God’s love, a love so large it did not withhold anything, not even God’s own Son. To believe isn’t just to have a nice thought, to believe requires action. What if I acted as though I were worth so much and loved so deeply that God gave His own son? We are loved!

You are forgiven

We are loved, but we are also forgiven. Romans reminds us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23) and Christ died on the cross in our place despite of our sinful state (Romans 5:8). In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says (The Voice), “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.” What would happen if we acted as if we are truly forgiven?

beautifully wonderfully made

Finally, what if we truly believed that we are beautifully made? Paul continues in Ephesians saying, “For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago (Ephesians 2:10, The Voice).” The NIV says we are “God’s workmanship”. Psalm 139:14 says (NIV), “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We are loved. We are forgiven. We are beautifully made.

What would happen if we truly understood how deeply we are loved, how truly we are forgiven, and how amazingly beautiful we are made? What if we truly believed what God tells us? I can only begin to imagine what a wonderful world it would be! Insecurities would melt away. Pride would become humility. Competition would become cooperation. Fear would give way to confidence in Christ. Hopelessness would be no more. Grudges would give way to grace as the forgiven extend forgiveness. And the Apostle Paul must have known just how important truly believing these things are. His prayer for the Christians in Ephesus reads, “Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings (Ephesians 3:16-19, The Voice).”

And that is my prayer for all of us. That we may live as if we truly believe that we are loved, we are forgiven, and we are beautifully made. So what if…?