Friday, August 30, 2013

My New Promotion: A Life of Grace


“As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

What a beautiful verse from Peter, a man known for being more than a little rough around the edges. This fisherman-turned-fisher-of-souls struggled with his promotion. In fact, after the One he followed was repaid for a ministry of love, service, and healing on a lonely cross, Peter returned to what he knew. He went back to fishing. Yet, having been promoted to a new ministry, the fishing experience was simply not the same, and the catch was disappointing.

Once Peter began to grasp that, as promised, Jesus defeated death, the grave, and the power of sin, Peter regained a sense of purpose, and he was ready to give his own life for the sake of Jesus.

Peter’s life was transformed through a relationship with the living God. Not exactly known for his social graces or interpersonal skills, Peter’s heart clearly softened after his transformation. He became interested in others’ well-being and the state of their hearts and souls. Peter embraced his new calling as God's ambassador of grace, and his focus shifted from earthly things to eternal things.

“As each has received a gift,” said Peter, “employ it in serving one another.” He understood that all gifts come from above for a reason. Our gifts are not for hoarding, and they are certainly not for boasting. We are to serve one another with our gifts.

Peter reminds every follower of Jesus that we’ve been promoted by the King. Our gifts have eternal purposes. Peter calls us to be good “managers of the grace of God in its various forms.” As servants of Christ, sent by Him to finish His work on earth, we are managers of God’s grace.  

We are not called to be managers and manipulators of people or events. Peter says that we are to manage God’s grace, dispensing it in season and out of season. Like a river bringing sustenance downstream, we've been given a gift ... to share.

God has entrusted His grace to us; this calls for good stewardship.

God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor that flows from the love He’s lavished on us, is the gift that keeps on giving. As we share God's love with others, their ability to love increases. When we share a smile and offer kindness to a stranger, God's love is manifest. When we give without expecting something in return, the recipient experiences God's grace flowing like a river.

As when we love others, God's grace multiplies when it is shared. Here are a few more thoughts on grace:

"One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend" (Proverbs 22:11).

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them" (Acts 4:33-34a).

"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

Like Peter, we've been promoted. We are instruments of grace, love, and peace. Let us embrace our promotion and become willing ministers of God's grace, spreading His goodness and love in this broken world.

Joyfully,
Dr Mari

For more on God's gift of grace, read Second Chances: Heaven's Heart.

Photograph by Manuel Diaz Photography. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Healthy New Land for Military Families

Bratland. I like the word. It is one that military families everywhere will recognize. Thankfully, they won't need to transfer to a new station in a different country to find it. Bratland is in cyberspace, in the corner where Compassion and Hope meet.

This healthy new land is a place where military families--children and their parents--can find encouragement, inspiration, and hope. My faithful readers will remember the Little Pink Books and the Little Patriot Books I translated and edited over the last few years. Written with a touch of whimsy by Maryann Makekau and beautifully illustrated by her talented son, these books help people going through tough journeys like Alzheimer's, cancer, and military deployments. You can find links to the different titles by scrolling down the right column of my blog. You will also find links there to my Health & Hope Corner at Hope Matters.

Follow this link to my latest contribution to their blog, A Doctor's Welcome to a Healthy New Land: Bratland! And let your military friends know so they can pack their imaginary bags and check in.

Because hope matters,
Dr Mari

Friday, August 2, 2013

Let the Voiceless Speak: A story of faith in action

This week I had a heart-warming experience of God's faithfulness and the importance of trusting Him. For the last nine months, I've been invited to speak to various groups to share the story of what God has done in my life. This week I was scheduled to speak to a group of faith community (parish) nurses at a local hospital. The organizer of the event is a lovely woman with whom I connected right away, and I sensed her deep faith instantly. I couldn't wait to be among them to share how God continues to transform my practice of medicine into a ministry.

Two days before the talk, I lost my voice completely. After using all my doctor tricks to heal my vocal cords, I woke up around four in the morning on the day of the talk ... still voiceless. I tested my voice and out came a shriek. So I said to God, "Well, that won't do, will it? How will I share about You with no voice, Lord?"

God replied, "Rest. You will have your voice by then."

So I went back to bed in peace. As the hours passed, my voice slowly strengthened, and I had just enough sound by noon. I gave the talk as planned, and we had a beautiful time together in spite of my husky voice.

Two more things happened that were significant. A flood on the hospital floor where the talk was scheduled forced a sudden location change. So the organizer and others scrambled to find a new location, reorder lunch, and inform the participants by phone of the last-minute change. I was ready for a very small crowd.

It turns out that, as in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit was hovering over those waters, and He was about to do a new thing in me and among us.

I was forced into a two-day silent retreat right before my talk, which deepened the message and moved it in a new direction. For God uses all things for His purposes, and what the enemy means for harm, God uses for good.

So during my two days of silence, feeling like Zechariah (John the baptist's dad), I was led to God's Word. I delved into John 15, where Jesus reminds us of the absolute need for us to abide in Him continually, not just every so often.

As I meditated on this chapter, I remembered something I'd noticed years ago. The word remain appears eleven times in the first eleven verses. Hear the words of Jesus,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love." 
(John 15:1-10)

Let us remain in the Vine, for that is how we can be fruitful, spreading the goodness, love, and hope that will bless a hurting world. As we remain in His love and show it through our obedience, we can expect to see and experience the living waters of His Spirit. And there is nothing better and more needed than that.

Remain!
Dr Mari

Photo by Manuel Díaz Photography. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.