What is grace? Depending upon your worldview, you may understand grace to be elegance, a nice gesture, or a prayer before dinner. As a Christian, grace is something much more to me than all of those things. Grace is a gift from the creator of the Universe. It is a gift that we don’t deserve. I will begin by explaining my understanding of grace from a biblical perspective and then I will conclude with the application and importance of God’s grace in my life.
As humans, I believe we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This sin has separated us from God. It is for this reason we all struggle with various things in our lives such as sickness, death, defeat, failure, imperfection, confidence, emptiness, or whatever it may be. Of course, we can try to work our way out of this, but there is still something missing.
We can tally up our good works, but all of our “righteous works” are nothing more than “filthy rags” or “polluted garments” to God. There is “no one righteous” before God. Even worse, the wages of sin is death. Therefore, if we want salvation and freedom, then a self-made purchase isn’t the way to go about it.
Thanks be to God, the “good news” is that a purchase was made, but I wasn’t the one who did the purchasing – and neither were you. As a Christian, I have been purchased by, and through, the blood of Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible says that the “free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). It is a gift that God the Father purchased for us, through Jesus. It isn’t a gift we purchased ourselves.
In fact, Christians have been given the Holy Spirit as a down payment and we have the promise of eternal life until we acquire full possession of it after the resurrection.
God’s love and holiness find their perfect harmonization at the cross. The justice of God demanded death. The mercy of God demanded compassion. He gave us something we didn’t deserve – Himself as a sacrifice! He became our substitute for us on the cross and died for our sins in our place. The grace of God provided a gift for us – eternal life. This gift is received (not earned) through our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation. So, why is this so important to me and what are the implications and applications?
First, this means that I don’t have to carry the weight of my guilt and shame around any longer. How nice does that sound? God remembers my sins no more and has casts them as far as the East is from the West. I have found someone who accepts me, despite my shortcomings (Of which I have many!).
Second, it means that I can have a perspective about my life that isn’t confined to just the temporary. As a Christian, I can find joy in trials. I don’t fear bad news or worry about the future. The reason? Because I believe that all things are ultimately working out for the best. In other words, I don’t worry about the future because I can’t control it and when bad things do happen, I can still find joy.
Finally, I don’t fear death. I believe that I have eternal life in heaven with my Savior and with all other believers who have trusted in Jesus. This means that, whether I live or die, I find myself in a “win-win” situation.
So, what is grace? Well, it depends upon your belief and perspective. But grace, as I understand it, has completely transformed my life, my actions, my belief, and my perspective. I hope one day you can experience this joy and peace that passes all understanding if you have yet to find it. “Come, experience that the Lord is good.”
 Rom. 3:23
 Isa. 59:1-2
 Isa. 64:6
 Rom. 3:10
 Rom. 6:23
 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Col. 1:14; Rom. 5:6-11; 8:31-39; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 5:12-21
 Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Jn. 2:25; 1 Cor. 15:50-56
 Rom. 6:23; Isa. 53:10; Heb. 2:17; Mt. 27:46
 Lk. 23:15; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:6-11
 Eph. 2:8-10
 Heb. 8:12; Psa. 103:12
 2 Cor. 4:18
 Ja. 1:2-4
 Psa. 112:7; Mt. 6:32
 Rom. 8:28
 Heb. 2:15
 1 Jn. 4:18; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 15
 Phil. 1:21
 Titus 2:11-13
 Phil. 4:7
 Psa. 34:8
Kevin Pendergras, 34, lives in Shawnee, OK. He worked in full-time ministry for over 13 years and graduated from the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies in 2008. He and his wife, Bethany, now own a promotional product company, Pendergrass Promos, Inc.
Integrity- the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
We hear about the importance of a person’s integrity all the time, but how does one get integrity? We are not born with integrity, we earn it. There is a quote by an unknown author that goes: “A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.” It does not come and go, but is earned daily. Once it is lost in the eyes of others, it is rarely regained.
To me, integrity is personal, something from your soul. Most people have a sense of right and wrong. It is choosing to do right, even when it is hard. There may be consequences to doing right, but having the courage to take responsibility for your actions speaks volumes to other people. Kids and teenagers have accidents around the house all the time. When I was growing up, at our house, “It” usually did it -- be it a broken mirror or vase, a stain on the carpet, or whatever other accident occurred. No one wanted to take the blame. Over time I learned that if I fessed up to my mistakes, the punishments were usually lighter. I would also feel better about myself for being honest with my parents. This helped lay the groundwork for me learning the importance of integrity.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” This quote reminded me a something that happened several years ago. My wife’s cousin and her family were in town from Kentucky, and we took them to spend the afternoon in Bricktown. One of the things we did that afternoon was see a movie. (I don’t remember what we saw, but I do recall that our relatives were happy to get out the Oklahoma heat, and into air conditioning). As my wife, Tonya, was walking up to the entrance, she saw something on the ground. It was a $100 bill. Without hesitation she went and turned it in to the front desk. The person who lost it more than likely never went and claimed it, and if they did, there was no way they would ever know it was Tonya who had the integrity to turn it in. I was so proud of her for the example of integrity she was to the teenagers in our group. She could have easily put the $100 bill in her pocket, went on her way and no one would have ever known. But because of her integrity, she did not hesitate and turned it in, probably not even realizing the impact of her action on the teenagers. As I noted before, integrity is personal, rarely seen in action, but when it is, it can have a lasting impact on those who witnessed the act.
Remember, having integrity is up to you. No one can make the choice for you, but choosing to live a life led by integrity can be a catalyst to helping make the world around you a better place.
David Ricks is a husband and father living in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and recently retired after 28 years with UPS. His favorite past time is playing golf with friends and youngest son, Braden.
What does it mean to expose our own humility? Is it something we conceal at times so we don’t appear weak or small? Is it the crucial missing piece humanity has lost sight of in our “look at me, look at me mentality?”
Humility by definition is “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” I found myself truly struggling with this word, humility. I didn’t exactly know where the rabbit hole would take me when I began thinking about what the word meant to me.
It wasn’t until I read the question “Do you think it’s possible to come into your power and also practice humility?” Thank you Alicja Carter for the SORRY NOT SORRY group. There it was! That is exactly the tug a war I am at with my own being.
I also read somewhere that “humility is the quality of being humble…humility comes from the Latin word humilis, which literally means low. If you feel humility in front of someone, you feel small in the scheme of things-that you are just a simple, insignificant person. Someone who spends their life taking care of others shows humility.” DING! DING! DING! Rings a bell for so many right??? Well, if this is the case, and we are showing humility by caring for others, some over extended in that department, then we are doing a good deed.
Well here is where the question turned me on…” can we come into our power and” …practice humility.” In this season of “live your best life” how can we gain control of what seems to be such an out of control script? Would Einstein have the answer we all seek. Maybe. Or do we have the distinctive, custom made answers to our own lives…you better believe we do!
If we take a beat, and examine our own reflections, our own agendas, more often than not we are going to find some things we actually can do something about. In a misguided world where we are sure everything that happens to us is a direct attack to take us out, leaving us feeling lost, defeated and flat out disrespected in all our endeavors to prevent exactly what just knocked the wind out of us…we take that hit personally. Don’t we??? Am I alone in that concept? Like why is this happening to me? Instead of looking at the situation as this is happening for me. This is not a new concept, rather than one that is difficult to digest.
It is easy to take the hit and feel instantly as if failure is our only destiny. Our brains are actually wired to focus more so on the negativity of our being, leaving the positive happenings to require a more intentional focal point of our lives. I find this quite disturbing; yet fascinating at the same time. What this tells me is, as the old saying goes…” life isn’t fair.” That we are actually required to put some real effort into our existence. Well don’t we all? Don’t we all find ourselves in the gym, counting calories, switching from organic, no carbs to the Atkins diet, sending our loved ones gifts for different occasions, monitoring social media usage, volunteering, keeping our “to do list” lengthy, showing up for Sunday morning church services, allowing that person to cut you off in traffic, then flip you off without responding with downright nasty road rage. Or isn’t that self-help book we ordered on Amazon that 9 of your Facebook friends swore changed their entire lives. I believe all of us are in a constant rat race to live our best lives. Yet we still fail, fall and find ourselves on the bathroom floor. It is designed that way. A cliché roller coaster of the windy twists and turns, upside down situations we find ourselves in time and time again. Is it because we are not trying? Absolutely not. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I find the better things get in one compartment of life; the more attention is needed in another. That tight rope walk of balance that we all tip toe softly on is often trying to create havoc under our grounding we have worked so hard to obtain. Oprah once said, “you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.” I found this to be one of the truest quotes I ever read.
I think the events of life are all with good intention and meant to leave our mark. It’s when we focus on that one bad day out of 7 that leaves us wondering, what more can we do. It’s not giving up a lifestyle of humility when we feel we are putting ourselves on the back burner, but deprogramming ourselves to feel as if we are not number one in all areas of life at one time we are failing, but that serving our “right now” purpose matters. It will change, it will evolve just as we do. It’s a marathon, not a sprint…a great bumper sticker to keep in mind about life.
Coming in to our power is something we are always chasing and persistently achieving in a million little things. Has a real ring to it! Practicing humility may be the key ingredient to the recipe for peace of mind. As we remember the way the definition reads, on the surface it may appear the practice of humility leaves one feeling empty and drained. However, on the contrary, it will permit a great sense of capability. If offers a freedom to forgive, creates patience, compassion and gratitude. Those words hold power to me. Power is not in our bank balance, our address or our 9 to 5. It is buried deep in our souls, sitting around our kitchen tables, snuggled up in our beds, in our private prayers, behind those closed doors no one else sees in, in our legacies, in our giving. This is where powerful moves are made. Not to be confused with what we want others to see through our social media lens. Although those snap shots of pride, excitement, travels and precious moments are beautiful and absolutely a huge part of who we are, it is in the everyday second to second moments that better capture what our lives are full of.
No one is above you, no one is beneath you, the notion that the CEO that sits at the head of the table is no more or less important than the person paid to dust that table. Practicing humility is understanding that being emotionally neutral and balanced means that everyone matters. Even you.
“A humble person appreciates the fact that the world does not revolve around them, but rather accepts their position as just a tiny piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle.” That how living in humility makes the most difference in the grand scheme of things. The power is in the journey, in the mistakes, in the lessons and most often, in our healing. We should all pause to recall a simpler time when Mr. Rogers said on sharing responsibility, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, “it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem. Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
That is humility.
That is power.
As C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
Carolyn Lawrence is a work sales consultant for Tura Eyewear Company. She is the owner of the artist room in downtown Shawnee where she is aspiring to create a space for an artistic culture. Her favorite times are spent with her three boys, being active, adventuring outdoors, and being creative.
“It’s a shortcut,” they said.
“Okay,” Anne replied. She decided to follow her new pals towards the local playground. It was a sunny day and her team had just won the first game of tag in her neighbors’ front yard. So, off they went. She rounded the corner and into the back yard, through the woods and down the path following a dozen chatty kids. The pace picked up and everyone was running. Anne was not as fast as the boys and a little faster than the other girls. She rounded the big Oak tree, then towards the creek and jumped high enough not to splash her yellow dress. Then, a quick climb up a slight hill towards the ridge and there was the playground. As she turned, she noticed a few kids cutting around the creek towards a small make-shift bridge. It was a quick glance, then a short jog to the softball field for another game of tag. Her team won three in a row.
Until that day, all of the new kids fell for that trick. Typically, they would run down towards the creek at the widest part. Only the kids that could actually make the leap went first; leaving just enough space for the new kid to see where to go. Some would get scared and fall down into the mud. Others would not even try. Anne broke the cycle. There was zero hesitation when she took her leap. No fear at all. She had just enough experience, information, and confidence in herself to trust in her ability to keep the dress dry. Anne was going to have fun with her new friends, however her priority was to keep her yellow dress as clean as possible. She didn’t have much time to worry about anything else.
As children, we are drastically less impacted by the stresses of…"adulting". As adults, we are forced to multitask our decisions. We are managing our bank accounts during the last few days in our credit card billing cycle (on our smartphones) while deciding which organic, gluten-free, vegan oat milk to buy at the grocery store today. When we are young, we only have a certain amount of hard drive space to fill, so to speak. We have parents, teachers, and extended families mixed with homework, hobbies, and holidays. For the most part, our lives are planned for us. Anne had a limited amount of information to prioritize that afternoon: (1) be home at 4:30 pm (2) homework before dinner (3) keep the dress clean.
In Malcolm Gladwell's second book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), the author describes the main subject of his book as "thin-slicing": our ability to use limited information from a very narrow period of experience to come to a conclusion. This idea suggests that spontaneous decisions are often as good as - or even better than - carefully planned and considered ones. There was not enough time for Anne to carefully consider a plan to the leap over the widest part of the creek. Her plan was simply to keep the dress clean and to fit-in with her new friends.
Let’s weave the Pareto principle into this story (why not?). The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Perhaps then, most of our choices (causes) are based on limited information. The outcomes (effects) of our choices are what we have to deal with as humans every day. If we are constantly making a majority of our decisions with limited intelligence, then shouldn’t we expect to learn a lot of lessons along the way? Often times, we can get caught in reflection of those outcomes and attach fear-based emotions to our past decisions or circumstances. This limits our ability to be decisive and make choices in the future and can lead us to in-action; the in-ability to make a choice.
Research into the psychology of indecision shows invariably negative effects, with indecisiveness limiting our success in everything from our careers to romantic relationships. Additionally, indecision psychology indicates there are diverse causes. So, what causes indecisiveness in you may not be the same thing that triggers it in someone else. Your triggers might be trying to please people; thinking that if you let others get their own way, they’ll like you. If you get into the habit of letting everyone else go first when it comes to making a decision, you could lose the ability to make your own choices. After a landslide of bad choices leaves you disappointed, you can lose faith in your own judgment and trust yourself less and less. Modern society also presents plenty of options. When you want to decide where to go for dinner, when to book a flight, or what hat to buy, you’re bombarded by potential outcomes.
Being decisive is scary. The most common reason for being indecisive is fear of failure. Making a decision means that you might be wrong. No one likes to live with ‘being wrong’. Being decisive can be intimidating, but remember that not making a decision is also making a decision. Inaction is often more damaging, so you actually increase your chances of failing by not deciding. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”. - W.G.
Being decisive could mean that you hurt someone’s feelings. Often, making a decision means choosing one person’s idea over another’s. We want to be liked, and so we tend to be afraid that deciding against someone will ruin that relationship. Remember, that not making a decision is also a decision. By not aligning with the best idea, you are essentially saying that both ideas are bad and could lead to frustration from everyone involved. That being said, decisiveness might lead to some people getting upset. That’s life. By being proactive with a decision, you can control how it’s communicated and most of us will respect you for that down the road.
Being decisive means deciding without all the information. We are always being asked to make a decision with limited information and there’s always more intel we could get. This certainly causes delay and at its most extreme, it becomes ‘paralysis by analysis’. If you want more information, be specific and ask yourself questions. What information do you need and how long will it take? Is it really worth your time and effort?
Just for a minute, let’s consider the other side. Is there such a thing as being too decisive? Research in social psychology and behavioral economics suggests that decisiveness is not an unequivocal good. Studies on “mindset” reveal that, when contemplating an important decision, prematurely focusing on execution can exacerbate decision-making biases and lead to excessive risk-taking. Personally, I am guilty of this. I’m the type that will typically jump into the pool before properly testing the temperature of the water. While a decision-making bias may not result in bad decisions, real-world evidence suggests that a poor decision is often the byproduct of prematurely switching to an implemental mindset. “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” they say. For some of us, that’s hard to do. Have you ever found yourself in a situation and wondered, “how did I get into this?”.
There is a balance to everything. Walking the fine line of the “decision making process” can prove challenging for everyone. We’re all unique and fit into different places along the decisiveness scale. For me, I can get into all sorts of trouble by making quick decisions. This leads to situations that often require a fast solution so that I can begin micro-managing whatever ‘next thing’ I’ve gotten into. It’s a high-risk high-reward protocol and I’ve learned to accept that I may find myself dealing with consequences that I could have avoided by more planning. So be it.
No matter what team you play for (Making Quick Decisions vs. Making No Decisions), there are an abundance of tools that help during the process. I use the following list to help me navigate life’s more difficult decisions:
Being More Decisive
● Conquer the Fear - the hardest part is loving and trusting myself
● Stop Analyzing Everything - there’s always more information
● Ask For Advice - confide in a mentor or friend outside the situation
● Visualize the Outcome - meditate and play-out the “best results” possible
● Start Small - prioritize tasks and begin with the ones that take less time
● Perfection Is a Myth - do my best and manage expectations
● Be Proud - confidence is sexy
Finally, utilizing specific tools like prayer, meditation, and focused breathing to practice self-awareness can help calm the chaos of everyday life. The ability to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system during a hectic day is paramount on the journey towards inner peace. In Robin Sharma’s new book The 5AM Club, the author reveals his 20/20/20 formula. Suggesting that we all start our day with 20 minutes of movement (yoga/blood flow), 20 minutes of reflection (prayer/journal), and 20 minutes of learning (reading/podcasts). It’s a fundamental belief that exercise, mindfulness, and educating ourselves can lead to better choices and strengthen our ability to accept the outcomes. At the end of the day, there’s always work we can do to be better versions of ourselves. Not only to make good decisions, but also to be confident and happy with the results. After all, we’re only human
Michael Flowers is a musician, poet, and entrepreneur living in Los Angeles, CA. He is currently working as a consultant with a start-up media company in Hollywood and is the Executive Producer & Host of Why Lab Podcast. When not creating audio/video content, Michael loves spending time outdoors with his dog, Skye.