Sola Gratia

Who doesn’t love getting gifts?

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.                                                          And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”   ~Ephesians 2: 8-9

Anytime I receive a gift, it is not my doing.

If I earned it, it’s called a wage.

If I deserved it, it’s called an honorarium.

Being Grandma’s favorite means getting stuff the others don’t. It’s those secret conversations that leave you holding an heirloom, an extra batch of cookies, or a crisp hundred dollar bill.

What’s incredible about Grandma’s favor is that you didn’t do anything to get it.

Well, nothing you know about.  Face it.

Grandma’s grace has more to do with who you are than what you are doing.

Sure, you thought it was because you are the first one in the family to go to college…or the only grand-kid who ever goes to church… but Grandmas are far more intuitive than that. The discernment of that denizen of older age sees more with her aging eyes than your pitifully acute, young eyes ever possibly could.

Grandma sees the person you are, the one you are becoming, and who you may yet be.

So, there is this gift given.  It is a sign of relationship; an expression that is both parts knowing and loving you.

A gift has nothing to do with justice. Juries deliver verdicts. Judges hand out sentences. Grandmas give gifts.

Grace is a gift. It is the favor of God bestowed for no other reason than your actually being known and loved by God.

Grandma gives you an heirloom; you treasure the legacy; preserve it and pass along its story to others.

Grandma favors you with a handmade sweater; you wear it proudly.

Grandma grants you a special batch of homemade cookies; you gobble them with yummy noises and grunts of appreciation between mouthfuls.

Grace is a gift from God. The gift says everything about the gift giver, but it is also saying something about the one receiving the gift.

It says you are loved.

And we say “I love you back” by what we do with the gift.

Gifts, after all, aren’t meant to be left in packages with pretty bows.

Gifts are given to be opened; put to use; acted on; employed.

Grace is a gift.

The question was never what did you do to deserve that?

The question has always been, what are you going to do with that?

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  ~1 Peter 4:10

 

 

Sola Scriptura

“…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:15-17

Getting back to my faith roots.

Scripture was my first love.  In the concrete walled halls of a small Baptist church school I fell in love with story.  Bible was the first class of the day. Memory verses were important, but it was the flannel graph figures whose lives resurrected against a velvet gray each day who captivated my imagination: from the great patriarchs of the Hebrews to the socially disenfranchised who found both mercy and healing in Y’shua‘s words and touch.  Some heard the stories and came away angry or confused at the cruel, punishing deity on one side of the book and the Utopian idealism of the ragged rabbi of Galilee depicted in the other.  Not me.  I heard the epic in a different way.

Always being smaller, slower, and socially awkward John the Evangelist dialed straight into this introvert’s frequency.

What will we play?  My words dismissed by the group as if unspoken.

When the Alpha would speak, play began.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. – Luke 7:32

Say again, John, all after “He was in the world…but the world did not know Him.”

He came to His own…but His own… did not accept him. –John 1:11

The jealous protective fiery response of the deeply loving, ever rejected God begins with a deep wound which could not be reconciled; a bustling playground vacated at the sound of the approaching happy-excited running-steps.

 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: “Where are you?”    –Genesis 3:8-9

So my mind was attuned to the God of the Bible who gives in grandiose ways and protects by exaggerated means, just to convey affection to those who seem unreachable and unresponsive.  And yet I remain keenly aware of the unresponsive ones who likewise find God unreachable and non-responsive; repulsed by the over-the-top gestures which seem to erupt out of nowhere with little to no context.

No one understands the Autistic God of the Bible quite as I have.

So I did not find the extravagant act of God: being found in appearance as a man, self-humbled, self-limited, becoming obedient to the point of suffering humiliation, even death, on a cross, such a difficult thing to grasp.  The words of the cross echoing the same confused cry spoken through creation and prophet since the world began: Love me!

The God-breathed text of the old covenant whispers the same audacious promise God speaks from the cross. It is as much a promise for us as it is a promise God made to Himself: that one day God will no longer be rejected- no longer alone.

Loved, and Loving, in eternal reciprocity.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4

Your Package Has Arrived

Package-Delivery

Gracious God,

Today is a long awaited package that has just arrived.

The return address tells me this gift is from You.

That’s the thing about packages from far away.

When I open it, I find the sender is very near.

 

Inside this day will be

each person that I meet

every moment that decides what the next will look like.

 

Inside this day I will learn

when to speak

when to listen

when to linger with my thoughts

when to share my ideas and feelings

 

This package has challenges and decisions

carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

I’ll be cautious with those.

 

Inside this gift I also hear the whisperings of your Wisdom.

 

And I find beneath the packing paper ordinary and unnoticed tasks,

that were nearly overlooked.

 

I’m glad I didn’t miss those! They are the simple joys.

 

Inside this package I am also unwrapping

New possibilities

And

Sabbath moments

 

It’s very clear to me, gracious God,

That what you have sent is a care package

To restore my Peace and Harmony.

 

In this day you have given as a gift to me,

My long awaited package,

I find your Goodness.

Thank you.

 

Amen.

package delivery

Adapted from “Morning Prayer” by Pat Bergen, C.S.J. (Xavier University)

Courage

courage1

An attribute of good character is Courage.

It is the stuff respect is made of.

Heart like this is not bravado

Real bravado is heart like this: risk takers and justice seekers who win over the mind of others because they conquered themselves first.

 

Today we practice courage:

 

When we are afraid, still we will act.

Fear and courage are brothers.

 

We will follow our heart.

To dare is to lose your footing for a moment. To not dare is to lose yourself.

 

We will continue on in spite of adversity.

Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but the hero was braver five minutes longer.”

 

We will stand for what is right.

From caring comes courage.

 

We will go farther and see more

No one ever sees new oceans without the courage to no longer see the shore.

 

We face everything with dignity.

There is no need to be ashamed of tears. Tears are courage packaged in suffering.

 

Today, we will practice courage.

Let the exercises begin.

And be stronger because of them.

 

Amen.

 

 

Adapted from the article:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage