Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

Seeing The Big Picture

April 6, 2023

I sit in contemplation this morning with the full moon beaming in the sky in front of me. This full moon signifies the special calendar times for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All together. I feel connected somehow. 

Andy Stanley once asked people to consider what breaks their heart. Many things break my heart—one of which is how much those three religions separate from each other and generate hatred while each professes love.

A couple of days ago we had heavy rains. The next morning earthworms flushed from their lairs in the ground were on the streets and sidewalks by the hundreds. Were the robins out there feasting? No. They were in their same hunting areas as usual hopping, looking, pecking.

They couldn’t see the big picture. They were fixated on the way they’ve always done it.

This full moon 1,990 years ago found Jesus’s friends and followers fixated on what they thought the Messiah would be and do. Jesus spent a huge amount of the day teaching them. They didn’t see the big picture.

Even on Sunday with the empty tomb and the resurrected appearance of Jesus they could not comprehend the big picture.

It must have been 40 days later when it all came together for them.

How about for us? How often do we miss the big picture? How long does it take for lessons to sink in for us? Have we even now grasped Jesus’s teachings of love and grace? Sit in stillness and let those thoughts sink in. And see the big picture.

The Futility of Controlling Nature and Others

April 5, 2023

My study window faces west. Early every morning even before dawn I see robins already beginning the days chore of finding food.

This morning I sit in my mediation chair and look out I see lightning from an approaching thunderstorm. I know it is supposed to hit about my usual time for walking to the fitness center.

I realize, there are no robins. What do they know? Are then sheltered in the evergreens and bushes already?

The rain will come soon.

Do you have any water leaks in your house? Or water rising in the ground around your house? We puny humans have been trying for thousands of years to control water, yet it remains a problem from catastrophic to annoying.

Yet, we think we can search through the writings of the Apostle Paul in order to compile a list of things we are not to do or be and then force other people (or even ourselves if truth be known) to follow these rules exactly!

We can’t control ourselves, let alone have the responsibility to control others.

The power of Easter morning and the realization of the extent of God’s grace.

Search diligently instead for Jesus’ teaching on how we are behave toward ourselves, toward others, and toward God.

Extend grace and love to yourself and each person you meet today.

See if you can do that better than you do controlling water in your house.

Gospel of Welcome

April 4, 2023

I’ve been reflecting on this week almost 2,000 years ago. Yesterday I reflected on what we advertise through what we do.

John Fischer was a “Jesus Music” pioneer who started an online church trying to reach younger people with the message of the Gospel of Welcome, Grace Turned Outward. Sunday’s church at The Catch focused on this teaching after the “Sons of Thunder” James and John approached Jesus about being his next in command in his “kingdom.”

You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.

Mark 10: 42-44

There are places around the world, including here in America, where leaders using the name of Jesus are intentionally doing the first part of Jesus’ observation. They stopped reading after the first full stop (period). The last sentence is the teaching for us who are followers of Jesus to digest and incorporate into our lives.

This is something I’ve tried, and often failed, in my management and leadership career. It’s not easy. I’ve seen many people proclaim themselves “servant leaders” and yet go down in flames. Jesus never made things easy.

Except for grace. Something that comes over you at the moment when you realize you don’t deserve it. The supreme paradox of life.

Sin Is A Pass or Fail Test

February 6, 2023

Shortly after I get up in the morning, I put my coffee on to brew and then I measure my blood pressure. I thought about the test. At the doctor’s office, they hustle you back to the examination room, have you sit on the table, they may or may not tell you to put your feet flat on the little shelf, then they measure. One time. That reading is today’s reading. Pass or fail.

But in reality, your blood pressure will vary somewhat during the day. If they took a measure, waited a few minutes and repeated, the measurement would be different.

Once upon a time in my career, I was proficient in preparing products for testing by UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) in order to meet a safety standard. I was even on the Industry Advisory Board for standard development for one standard.

The procedure goes like this:

  • make an appointment
  • send product and any required accessories
  • UL engineers and technicians run the test
  • UL engineer informs you–pass or fail

The test engineer for my standard told me once that companies from one geographic region always asked about going 2 out of 3 if the first test failed. Companies from another region would want to negotiate.

This made me think of some discussions Jesus had with his religious opponents–the Pharisees. To Jesus, an act (physical or in your head) was either a sin or not. Pass or fail. He accused the Pharisees of negotiating. If a law of Moses was inconvenient to their way of life, they made up a rule to circumvent it. Remember the discussion about the law about supporting one’s parents but how the Pharisees had a rule that was like a loophole out of the sin of not doing that?

How about us? Do we negotiate with God? Do we ask to go 2 out of 3?

A sin is a sin. We all do several every day. I know people who sort out certain groups or types of people and won’t let them participate in church because they are sinners. Well, we are all sinners. Why bother pointing our finger at some certain group?

That is why God invented repentance and grace. We have the ability to become aware of our sin, talk with God about turning our ways into a different direction, and then accepting God’s grace that we are still loved and accepted.

That was the Good New Jesus brought. That offering still exists. And will exist.

Rich and Poor Have This In Common

January 23, 2023

The rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.—Proverbs

We humans are prone to divide people into groups—usually us and them. The “us” are then disposed to look down at the “them”. 

We forget that all humans are children of God. Perhaps we should learn to treat each person we meet or with whom we interact on social media as such. Perhaps our tone would become more temperate and, indeed, even more loving.

A smile and kind greeting upon meeting someone establishes a positive context. Doing so to your enemy takes the wind from their sail of enmity.

Do the smile and greeting often enough, it becomes your nature. People might even think you are a nice person, and treat you as such in return. That makes for a happier day.

We need all the happy days we can get.

A Humble and Contrite Spirit

September 19, 2022

From Isaiah 66: 

But this is the one to whom I will look:

    he who is humble and contrite in spirit

    and trembles at my word.

We are watching a Scottish (supposedly) police drama series called Rebus. Rebus, a detective inspector, talks with a murder suspect at the end of an episode. The guy killed his father while the father was hitting the guy’s sister who was 9. The killing was never reported. Like most trauma buried in childhood, it came back to bite those involved.

The boy grew up to be successful in business and started a movement to help the poor globally. But the killing haunted his life. He told Rebus the killing was justified, seeking sympathy. Then he got in his expensive car and smirked as he drove away. At that, Rebus pulled out his mobile and called the police station. He gave description and registration of the car telling the duty sergeant to detain the driver for murder of his father.

I wonder if the “up yours” attitude of the killer tipped the scales.

I have done that in soccer matches. I was referee of an “Elite Eight” boys tournament contest one evening years ago. With the first half in its final few minutes, a defender committed a hard foul. I blew my whistle and ran to the spot. Yellow card or talking to debated in my mind. I approached the young man, “That was a hard foul.” He replied with a measure of pride in his voice, “Yes, it was.”

Yellow card / Caution. Or as they would say in England, he was in my book.

Pondering this, this thought from Isaiah entered my mind. A humble and contrite heart may not let you avoid all punishment. But it is a far better response than pride. And God’s grace will follow.

Trust and Grace

January 26, 2022

I have had engineering jobs where the company trusted me to do the work correctly. A mistake could cost the company profits on the project. At the worst, someone could be hurt.

Trust is something earned over a period of time where you show competence and reliability. It can be lost quickly and easily. Make an obvious mistake, and you start all over again. Say something stupid, and you can live with the loss of trust for a long time.

Sometimes we violate the trusted relationship with God with thought, word, or action. Like any relationship, closeness is shattered.

The thing about God, grace is offered more readily than from almost all human friends. It’s actually there, waiting for us. God knows we will screw up in life. It is evidently expected of us. Unlike our human relationships where sometimes trust is lost forever.

With God, grace is always there, waiting on us. It is our own attitude correction that is required. With people, I wish I could be more like that. Offering grace more readily, that is.

The practices of receiving and offering grace are steps in our journey of spiritual formation.


October 14, 2021

Ryan Holliday has created a lucrative niche writing about the Stoics. Unlike writers on spiritual disciplines from the Christian tradition who are not mainstream evangelicals. He recently looked a a series of Stoics who, although writing deeply about wisdom, weren’t always all that wise in action. They made mistakes in their daily and business and political lives.

Jesus never invited a perfect person into his group. Never. Check them all out. Flaws. Some glaringly obvious. Peter—need I say more? James and John arguing over political positions in the kingdom that was coming. Mary, the former prostitute.

Yet, our evangelical churches (maybe almost all churches?) act as if you need to be perfect to join and remain perfect for life. Otherwise, the gossiping, avoiding, criticizing begin.

But (and as they like to say, a big but), we are not perfect. Not one of us. Perhaps some of us manage to sail through the calm waters of life thinking we’re perfect, but those people are delusional.

God made an unforgettable impression on me in mediation years ago by showing me all the ways in which I am not perfect. Not that I don’t have small remembrances many times a day of actions where I was less than perfect.

That’s OK. God also showed me that none are perfect, yet all are welcome into his domain. Jesus brought them all into the fold. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson.

This has a name, and its name is grace.


September 8, 2021

I’ve heard this story several times lately. That must mean it’s time to share it with you. This one comes from Ian Morgan Cron, an Episcopalian priest, therapist, and Enneagram whiz.

In Japan, when a valuable tea bowl or piece of pottery breaks, the owner doesn’t throw it out. 

They take it to a craftsman who gathers the shards of the broken vessel and mends it with lacquer dusted with 24k gold powder in an art form known as “kintsugi.”

The result is an object that is imperfect but paradoxically more beautiful than it was before it broke.

What we can learn from kintsugi is what the Japanese call “the perfection of imperfection.” 

When mended, the owner displays the kintsugi bowl in a place of honor in their home where visitors and guests can see and admire it. The display reminds them that imperfections are not only okay–they can even be made resplendent!

So the next time your Inner Critic tells you that you’re beyond repair, incapable, or even unworthy of love and relationship, turn to it and say, “No. God has made me perfect in my imperfection.” We can overcome the many forces that conspire to keep us from fully living our lives when we believe that God can make our damaged hearts beautiful.

“Repaired” is also known as “Grace.”

Spiritual Practice of Giving

February 11, 2019

Why do we practice acts of charity? Giving money to people or organizations?

This is definitely a spiritual practice.

Jesus told the rich young man who followed all the commandments (one wonders if he was as perfect as he let on) and who still felt far from perfect, “Go, sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”

The young man didn’t want to be that perfect!

I discovered the Jesuit priest and therapist Anthony de Mello more than 30 years ago. Recently one of his books was recommended to me, so I am reading Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality again.

De Mello can be brutal. He says to face it. We give out of two motivations. One is selfishness of feeling good about ourselves as helping people less fortunate. Or, we help others by giving to charity, but then we feel good about ourselves doing good.

Awareness of our motivations can help us to notice this trait. Then we can give with the intention of following Jesus. I say that awareness brings us to realization that we are far from perfect but that we are practicing the right things.

When Jesus later explained his story, he pointed out that only God brings the grace that leads to perfection.