“Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’” Acts 10:4 (NIV)
“Hey! Kids! No riding bikes on my sidewalk,” she hollered.
Interesting way of saying “welcome to the neighborhood,” don’t you think? Seems we missed the “Stay-Off-My-Sidewalk-and-Other-Random-Rules” meeting and were unaware all bikes must be diverted into the street so as to bypass “her sidewalk.”
This neighbor was a handful. And she was our handful for the next 7 years.
Ever meet someone who didn’t tempt your grace to come out and play?
Regarding said grace: I tried.
Regarding said attempts: It’s only right I inform you that I didn’t always succeed.
I’d love to say I had my grace-face on at all times, but, that would fall into the category of Things-That-Make-Your-Nose-Grow.
Like that one time the boys came running inside (from our very own backyard, mind you) and informed me she’d fussed at them for playing outside while she was outside. She sure did.
So. Well, then.
Like any good-ish mother would do, I set the example-bar high. “She needs to get a life already,” I said. The door might have still been open. And, while we’re on the subject of admission, I may have said it loudly enough to hear across the iron fence.
Yeah. Like that time.
Please tell me I’m not alone — that you’ve forgotten your grace-face once or twice, too?
I’m so glad the Spirit’s good at saving us from ourselves, as every bit of credit goes to Him for ensuring this unlovely response was the exception rather than the rule.
You see, the humbling truth He kept tethered to my heart was this: She needed God. And, so did I.
Everyone has a story, and I’d guess hers hadn’t been a fairy tale. Outwardly, she appeared strong, but her sorrow betrayed her. Broken and vulnerable on the inside, she bled pain — through her eyes, her harsh tones, her reclusive lifestyle — carelessly staining those around her. And herself. Especially herself.
When my efforts at friendliness failed, I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed.
And, there in the bedrock of my weary heart, an accidental memorial was being built. These prayer offerings became my stones, like what the Israelites used to signify crossing over the dry Jordan River (see Joshua 3:17-4:8 for more on that). Those prayers were an offering by fire in the temple of my heart, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
What a comfort it is to know God sees when we choose humility … when we swallow bitter words before speaking them … when we smile, even when we’d rather sneer. Better yet, He sees from the inside out and knows when our devotion isn’t from an onerous place of cliché religion, but from the quiet of a heart that longs to please the Lord.
He sees. He hears. He remembers.
It’s been many years since we sold that home, and, unfortunately, her wall never did come down. But my prayers for her didn’t evaporate, and I trust the Lord will ultimately redeem that time for Himself. The God of yesterday is still the God of today and tomorrow, and He is able.
Absorbing offenses that seep through frayed pores of the wounded doesn’t come naturally. And sometimes our humanity runs out in front of us, tripping us up.
Oh, but then there are those sweet spots of partnering with God as He exchanges our grief for His glory. He can help us put our grace-face back on again.
We see that in our key verse today. A devout and God-fearing man, Cornelius knew what it was to partner with God and understood the value of service and prayer.
It’s hardly a stretch to see caring for the needy as a sacred directive — a ministry where fruit is seen with human eyes in human time.
But I’m especially touched by the angel’s words to Cornelius about his prayer life: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4b).
How beautiful this insight from across eternity, where prayers land on the ears of a listening God. Welcomed, received, memorialized.
When at first we start to pray, we make a difference in the Kingdom. A memorial arises from the temple within, sacred boundaries are erected, prayers spilled bare are received on holy ground, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 2:2, NASB).
Father, I’m so grateful the deeds and prayers of a true heart aren’t disappearing into nothingness but are falling softly to rest at Your throne. Help me remember my grace-face as I represent You to a hurting world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 141:2, “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (NASB)
Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (NASB)
Sometimes the hardest place to show grace is in our homes and with our spouses. Gain a new perspective on your relationship with the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ 30-Day Devotional: Fighting For Your Marriage. Click here to get your copy today
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How does knowing that God receives our prayers as an offering bring comfort to you today?
© 2016 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.