Grace Link Growing Pains

Greetings from the folks at Grace Link International! We are reorganizing our internet presence and we are not yet ready for prime time.

If you are interested in an appointment for discipleship counseling, contact Blake Rymer at 256.682.2216 or at gracelink@gmail.com.

To learn more about the message and ministry of Simply Life you can go to http://www.simplylifenow.org or by contacting our Director, Blake Rymer, at gracelink@gmail.com.

To learn more about the message and ministry of Life On Life, contact Jeff Mikatarian at 256.763.9411.

Our mission is to encourage seekers by communicating the message of Christ as life through any relational context God provides and our goal is to facilitate the transformation of lives in Christ.

Remembering Mom

(Today is the first anniversary of my Mother’s death.  I have officially been an earth orphan for one year.  I thought I would share with you what I shared with our church last year as part of our Thanksgiving service.)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5)

Good morning…I’m Blake Rymer. As some of you know I just buried my Mom last Thursday. We had a beautiful memorial service…all the grandkids had something to contribute and it was a beautiful day as well. Of course we only buried her body.

As she struggled this past week, it seemed as though her body knew that its end was near and it was desperately clinging to her soul, refusing to release her from that fallen, imperfect state in which you and I still live. The passing of the physical body is the last tenuous hold that death has on the sons and daughters of God. Death has been defeated by Jesus Christ, but it doesn’t always let go so easily. I am thankful that Mom has crossed that final threshold into God’s presence.

But today, still so close to that reality, I must confess I have some ambivalent thoughts and feelings about it all. I rejoice that she is no longer suffering in the dying experience… I hope and pray that she is totally overwhelmed with the glory of life in the hereafter… I grieve that I cannot enjoy her loving smile now when I walk into her home… And I wonder how long it will take for life to settle in to the new normal that awaits us without Mom’s physical presence to bless our lives…

Ross and Steven asked me to share some of what I have learned through this experience, but I really think it’s a kind of soon to know much of that just yet. However a couple of things came to mind….some things I wrote about as I spent time with Mom last week.

The first one has to do with control or really lack of it. My brother, Mike, and I spent some good time together as we sought to plan a way through all this for Mom – the insurance, the finances, the hospitals, the rehab – but in the end it just didn’t go the way we planned. Oh it was good planning, it just wasn’t informed by everything that God knew, if you know what I mean.  It was linked to doctors and hospitals and antibiotics and such, and ultimately, to Mom’s will to keep a survival attitude and work at it. And Sandra and I had planned to be in Poland till Nov. 15th. But because of Mom’s illness we had to return early on Nov. 3rd.

I posted this on FB just three days before Mom passed on… “This journey I am on with my ailing Mother is driving home to me an important truth – we are not in control. At times we do not realize that and make presumptuous choices that grow out of a deceptive sense of comfort. Reality then has a way of bringing us back to our senses. I’m learning that the locus of control over my life must be positioned in the living God. I can then rest in Him and know a peace that isn’t always comfortable but is certainly calming and liberating.”

Perhaps I got caught up in trying to help Mom live and wanting her to get better, which certainly aren’t bad things to want. But it is ultimately about what God wants…it’s about his plan. We really don’t have much control over the way things go and when we realize that, it can take our stress level up sky high. So I had to surrender, I had to let go.

As is evident from the Romans 5 passage above, God has his plan. Often suffering and even death are his plan for us and for our parents as he grows us and releases his character in us. Understandably, we don’t like either one of those suffering and death options much. In Christ we see how suffering can be redemptive and build character. And in Mom’s case we also see how death can be a glorious deliverance from that suffering. And for now those are actually things I have peace about and for which I am thankful.

The other thing I want to share concerns hope. Again the Romans 5 passage offers insight. It tells us that Hope is the fruit of God’s character building process in our lives. I shared this as part of Mother’s eulogy on Thursday: “She was a woman of hope. I think that hope is one of those words that truly benefits from a vital relationship with Christ. As we grow in Him, hope is transformed from a shallow misty desire into what the writer of Hebrews calls an anchor for the soul. Our confidence in Christ becomes stronger and stronger as we walk faithfully with Him. It becomes more and more substantial so as to hold us firmly in Christ.

This was the hope I saw in Mom as she went through all that she faced these past four months. Those last few days of desperately trying to get a satisfying breathe of air in her lungs challenged her greatly. It challenged me! She faced some strong winds and powerful waves but that hope in life eternal, that anchor held her soul firm. Through it all she presented her needs toward Christ. Her hope had been made firm by her life of dependence on Him.”

Honestly, there were moments when my heart told me to intervene somehow, as though I was in control. Or to question God’s grace and the wisdom of his timing. Time after time I saw Mom put her hope in Christ. I pray that I will not forget this experience with Mom and the way she demonstrated to me that her walk with Christ had transformed her hope from an “I want” to an “it will come.”

Finally I’m thankful for the ministry of Hospice of North Alabama. They were there only near the very end of Mom’s journey. But the encouragement they offered me and the comfort they provided for Mom was truly a Godsend. And I want to thank you, our (Rivertree) church family. We were so blessed by all the prayers that you sent up for us and by all the encouraging words you sent our way. You truly helped lighten this burden for us all.

So while we won’t have Mom to add her love and cornbread dressing this year we do have a great deal to be thankful for!

God Thoughts – the struggles of a message bearer (an aside)

As I prepare to present my favorite message in the whole world, Christ our Life, I sit in a flat in Warsaw, Poland trying to keep my concentration on editing the “Simply LIFE” material I have worked on the past few years, so I can share it in the time that has been set up for me by a hard working Polish pastor.  My recurring fear in these situations is that somehow my presentation will not do justice to the radical message that Christ came not just to give us life but to be our life.

The fact that I am here again is pretty bizarre.  Although we served for two years as missionaries in Budapest, Hungary and I’ve made numerous return trips to central Europe to follow up with ministries here, I always struggle with what to say, how much to say and will they understand how totally amazing is this grace and truth covenant that Christ has inaugurated to include us.

This is the message that reoriented my life around Christ (from ministry) and that gives substance to that ministry I asked Father to allow me to pursue.  As many times as I have shared this same message in as many venues and to thousands over 30 years, I still stumble over this concern – will anyone be able to understand me and have their relationship with Christ transformed the way mine was?

That is the sincere desire that awakens me some nights and occupies my mind even now as I try to refine away anything “American” or “Alabaman” that might contaminate the unveiled mystery that is Christ in us, us in Him and is our hope of experienced glory.  I do not want to miss this chance to speak the message well.  It was well presented to me and it changed my life.

Lord, allow me to do the same for others…you deserve the awe and the praise that it might evoke…as my gift to you.

God Thoughts – The View from Crikvenica

Since last Friday I have had the pleasure of staying on the Adriatic coast of northern Croatia. That alone has been a wonderful treat. This afternoon’s walk along the coastal road was sunny and beautiful and quite warm, a first for the week. The crowds are gone from this popular summer venue, but the vistas are undiminished in their timeless beauty.

Crikvenica

I am here for a small gathering of Christians, most of them from the former Communist block of central and eastern Europe – Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. There are four westerners in the group – a German living in Romania, two Californians living in Spain and me.

I was struck again this morning with how unlikely this sort of gathering is.  25 years ago it would have most likely been impossible. They were the bad guys, the black hats in the “cold war,” the political chess match between NATO and the former Soviet Union. Thank God, most of that is history. And here we are now with the freedom to travel and gather as believers in a place that used to be another part of that block of bad guys, Yugoslavia.

Today we all meet as more than friends. We are family, brothers and sisters in Christ, joined to celebrate the grace of God, to pray for a different peace and to engage in a different but far more significant conflict. As everyman’s story is special, theirs are no less so as they relay the audacious love that Father had for them to reach them in the darkest of times in their lives and gift them with His grace of life in Christ Jesus. This has been the best treat for me: to celebrate the anniversary of my 40th second-birth day (as well as my 68th birthday!) with this branch of my eternal family.

Tomorrow I’ll board a plane in Zagreb and fly to Warsaw, Poland, another one of those formerly black hat places. There I’ll regather with my daughter and my Polish son-in-law and my Polish-American grand daughters and continue our mission to call Poles to come and be transformed by the powerful grace of God.

God is good!

God Thoughts (7)

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  1 Peter 5.5

I think it would be hard to find a clearer statement about God than that above.  It’s stated in one way or another at least five times in the Bible.  I wonder if that means it might be important?

I think so.  Do you really want God to oppose you, to resist you?  This is actually a military term that communicates that God Himself takes the fight to those who are proud.  Someone has suggested that the image here is that of God putting on His boxing gloves and stepping into the ring to take on all comers.  Do we really think we want to go 15 rounds with God?

Pride, you see, gets God riled up.  Arrogant self-sufficiency, self-promotion, or foolish independence is in direct opposition to God’s design for us.  As a good friend and mentor of mine has said, pride is the mother of all obstacles to the experience of God’s grace.  The proud proclaim to God that they do not need Him and He often agrees with their proclamation.

Humility, however, is a God magnet because God loves to show Himself to those who know they need Him.  God created us to work in league with Him and it is His grace flowing to and through the humble that magnifies and multiplies the impact of each submitted life.  As a ray of light passes through the prism and bursts forth in all the colors of the spectrum, so the grace of God works with humility to manifest the beauty of the character of God in the life of the humble.  This is what we see and love in Jesus.

Fight with God or flow with God?  The result a simple attitude can have on our lives is truly amazing!

God Thoughts (6)

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”     Numbers 23:19

There is such a temptation to make God in our image.  That way He becomes someone we can more easily relate to and try to manipulate.

What? You’ve never tried to manipulate God by promising Him something to get something you want from Him?  “God if you’ll just get me out of this mess I promise I’ll….” (fill in the blank).  We know how to weasel what we want from humans, this doesn’t work with God.

Your relationship with God is unlike any other relationship you will ever have because He needs nothing from you.  There is nothing we can offer to Him to change His mood or to make Him more gracious or forgiving.  He is what He is, to coin a phrase.

This why religion (doing or not doing something to make God happy with us) is an exhausting futility.  God initiates the relationship with us because of who He is not because of what we do.  God reveals Himself to us because He is good, not because we are good.

Once we accept this reality life takes on a freedom and a joy we can never sustain in any other way.  Let’s take religion out of our relationship with God and rest in His grace.

God Thoughts (5)

 “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.”  Psalm 139.14

I find it compelling to return to the question “why are we here?” I know that we often find ourselves searching for an answer when things are challenging. Being in a mess is not often fun and “why” is a normal human reaction.

I’ve decided that we can seldom get an accurate answer until we step outside ourselves. Like it or not, God is in control. Any answer must begin with Him.

As Psalm 139 so powerfully communicates, we are here because God wants us here. The God of glory wants us to have a relationship with Him. Mind you, it is not something that He needs, but something He wants. And it doesn’t change who He is, but it blesses Him when we turn to Him.  Think of the privilege granted to us that He wishes for us to know Him and arranges for it from the very beginning of our lives by giving us life.

The fact that we are here, the fact that we are living, breathing beings, this fact in itself is of enormous significance. This gift of life from God means that we have been given the privilege to know God experientially, and the potential to grow into the glorious creatures that God’s creative vision intended for us to become.  It should assure us of his provision of an eternal, ever deepening relationship with him!

Think about that for awhile.