Monday, July 7, 2008

Whose Grace-Builder are You?

Please join me in welcoming Cecil Murphey as today's guest blogger. Cec is the author of the "Everybody's a Suspect" three-book series for Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES and has written or cowritten more than 100 books, including the New York Times' best-seller, 90 Minutes in Heaven. His thoughts on "grace-builders" really gave me cause to stop and think about how my words and actions affect the writers God sends across my path. Thanks, Cec!

"Since you came, Mr. Murphey, our church has lost some of its dignity," Dorothy said as she served me tea from an ornate silver pot resting on a silver tray. And with the next breath she asked, "Milk or sugar, Mr. Murphey?"
"One lump, please," and I reached for the cup.

"We had such—such quiet dignity before you came. I don't want to hurt your feelings in telling you all of this. But…"

I had been the pastor of the church less than four months before she and her two sisters invited me to tea. For the next forty minutes the three of them tried to help me see the error of my ways. They didn't seem interested that we had added new members or that attendance by members had increased. Their concern was the loss of decorum.

Dorothy smiled as she offered me a cookie from a silver plate. "And another thing…" She looked at a pad of paper on which she and her sisters had written a number of items.

As I walked out of the house, depression weighted me down. Their criticism hurt. I sat in my car for several minutes and prayed in deep anguish. By the end of the day, however, I had grasped one significant fact about those three sisters. They were God's grace builders in my life.

Since that I've realized that every church, company, and neighborhood has at least one grace builder. They serve a divine purpose: They teach us invaluable lessons about patience and longsuffering. They force us to grow spiritually. Grace builders drive us to pray more fervently and to scrutinize our motives. Maybe they do more for us than all the sweet, kind, and encouraging people we encounter.

Grace builders: I've known many of them. Like Johnny. He pats me on the back and sounds friendly. He makes everything into a joke so that means I can't get angry—not even when he insults me. Even when he ridicules me. I'm not paranoid; I don't feel persecuted. But I have enough sense to know when a person insults me even though hiding behind jokes and light-hearted humor.

For the past 25 years I've been a full-time writer and I haven't escaped those grace builders. They email to remind me that they discovered a misspelled word on page 197 of my latest book (as if I yearned to know that or could do anything about it once the book is in print). Or one woman said, "You're a decent writer, not as good as _____."

We all have our grace builders. Our occupation doesn't matter. And, as much as I hate to admit it, they make life miserable enough for us that we pray and realize how much we have to depend on God's help. They serve a practical, spiritual function.

I don't like the grace builders in my life. I try to avoid some of them as much as possible. With others, I grit my teeth and face them. When I think of the grace builders at work in my life I have several words to describe them: They're obnoxious, self-centered, opinionated, and demanding. Without them I could accomplish more, and feel better about life and—or could I?

Probably not: They serve a practical purpose: They are God's gifts to make us grow. And we all have them.

Which makes me wonder: Whose grace builder am I?

8 comments:

Karen said...

Cec's lessons from life are always inspiring. Thanks!

NancyMehl said...

What a great attitude. And it's true. Adversity allows us to depend on the character of God inside us. Nice when we find it, but a wakeup call when we react in the flesh.

Thanks, Cecil. I intend to take these thoughts to heart.

Nancy Mehl

Myra Johnson said...

Grace builders--I'll have to remember that next time I'm faced with a difficult person, a rejection, or a critique that's hard to swallow. Thanks for the reminder!

Looking forward to having you as our guest speaker at our ACFW chapter meeting in Tulsa next month, Cec!

Mary Connealy said...

Grace builders, huh? Okay, I can work with that. :)

I've got my share.

I'm now hoping I'm not somebody else's grace builder.

Frances said...

Grace builders. Ah. That's what they are. You're right. I'm dealing with some of those now. And the way I deal with them will ultimately determine if my character gets stronger or not. Thanks Lord, for grace builders.

And thanks, Cec. I needed this today.

Vickie said...

Cec,

Every time I hear you speak--or read what you've written--you inspire me.

We're counting the days until you come to Tulsa.

Vickie

Lynette Sowell said...

Oofy, I'm someone's grace builder? Lil ole me? I sure hope not, but I imagine so...

This reminds me of the book "Couldn't we just kill 'em and tell God they died?". Yes, it's a real book all about grace-builders. Ironic that so many of them are Christians...

Pam Hillman said...

Oh my.

Off the top of my head I can identify several Grace-Builders in the various areas of my life: family, friends, co-workers.

Oh my.

Whose Grace-Builder am I? I'd like to think I can build grace with a positive attitude, but there are so many times when maybe I wasn't so positive.

Thanks for the lesson in building grace, whether I'm giving or receiving.