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GRACE NOTES

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New beatitudes

Perhaps one of the most poetic and familiar passages in the gospels is the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus gathered his disciples together to teach them and began by saying, “Blessed are the (fill in the blank),” and then told them why they were blessed.
For example, he said the poor in spirit are blessed because they would richly receive God’s kingdom; those who mourn are blessed because they would be comforted. The merciful would be shown mercy and the pure of heart would see God. I have a few beatitudes of my own that I’d like to add to the list:
•Blessed are those who can sit still in a quiet room without a Tasmanian devil inside their brain making them crazy and upping their stress.
As I write this, the house is quiet. It’s raining and there’s thunder rumbling in the distance. It’s a perfect time to be still and let God speak, but my mind won’t let me. I’m thinking ahead to what needs to be done next week when what I should be thinking about is what God has done for me today.
Once I met a woman who lived in complete solitude – no radio, no TV. Her house was so silent you could hear her cat’s soft paws treading on her tile floor. This woman spoke slowly. Quietly. Deliberately. Gently. Softly.
Drove me nuts! Come on, honey, pick up the pace, I wanted to say.
Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal said that all human evil results from us not being able to sit still in a room. I don’t know if that’s true, but God once said – and still says – “Be still.” He says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
I think the fear of stillness is the fear of hearing God speak, that he just might say I’m a disappointment. But that’s a lie.
“There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Next time it’s quiet maybe I’ll sit still long enough to hear that.
•Blessed are the skeptics and doubters, for God seems to take great delight in surprising their socks off.
One of my favorite Bible people is Thomas, a disciple of Jesus who was a bit of a buzz kill. Nicknamed “Doubting Thomas,” he tended to see the glass half-empty and expect the worst.
When the other disciples were giddy with the news that Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas said he wouldn’t believe it unless he could physically touch the Savior’s wounds.
Poof! Jesus appeared to him and invited Thomas to take a poke. Jesus could’ve chastised him for not believing, but he didn’t. He loved Thomas, despite his unbelief.
I totally get Thomas. Even though I’ve written two books on prayer, I truly don’t believe God answers my prayers – and then he goes and does and I’m left sockless and filled with awe. Each time that happens I’m humbled and amazed and a little bit ashamed to realize afresh how kind and merciful God is to me.
•Blessed are the truly contrite, for God shall make them LOL, or at least grin like a Cheshire cat.
I firmly believe that only those who know and are well-acquainted with the depth of their sin and the extent of their unrighteousness can fully appreciate the greatness and the magnitude of God’s grace and forgiveness. If you only see yourself as a small sinner, God’s grace is small, too, and what joy is there in that? But for those who see themselves as great sinners, there’s no better reason to laugh -- the laughter of the forgiven and redeemed.
We have a saying around my church: Cheer up! You’re a lot worse than you think. But God’s grace is a lot greater than you can even imagine. Blessed are those who know it.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.