If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

I spoke at a church conference a few years back and had an interaction I had with the pastor that has been replaying itself in my head since. For reasons beyond me, I always seem to end up speaking at churches that are ripping themselves apart over the meaning and application of grace. They have people who are barely clinging to the implied hope of an explicit Gospel on one side and people who are trying to maintain some form of orderly structure that resembles a religious institution in their communities on the other side. Then, here comes me: this incredibly small person with a giant message of grace and a free spirit with no real respect for structure or status.

My message was always the same. When I needed a Savior to forgive my sins, standards and structure weren’t the answer. They can alter behavior, but not the heart. They can make you pass human inspection, but not the Holy Spirit’s. You need Jesus, even at the expense of getting nothing else in the religious realm right. As a matter of fact, all the religiosity, structure, and status are used to crush the one who needs Jesus, not lift him up. So, yeah, I have no workable respect for religious status or man-made structure.

The church was located in gorgeous Massachusetts. I used to live on the Cape and left a bit of my soul there, so any chance I can get back there, I jump on it. The visit was timely for me because it wasn’t long after the Boston Marathon bombing and I wanted to be close to others who had the same hurting New England heart that I had.

We were sitting in a Mexican restaurant having lunch when the topic of the bombing came up. In preparation for speaking, the potency of grace was paramount in my own mind. The two subjects rolled around together in my mind in the days and weeks leading up to my speaking engagement. The one surviving bomber was only eighteen, the same age as my oldest daughter. I could be his mother. He ran over his big brother trying to get away. He hid and bled out while, undoubtedly, trying to reaffirm his mission as the events and his fate played over and over in his mind. I have been the villain and I know the hell it can be. My heart, as a mother, broke for him. My heart as a grace recipient had hope for him.

I said as much in response to a comment the pastor made about the young man. My burrito was steaming up at me from my plate and I could feel the screeching halt of conversation as I took a bite. I looked up to see the pastor and his wife exchange raised eyebrows. They turned the subject quickly and I ate in silence wondering where the limits of grace were supposed to be, even for a grace preaching pastor. He was losing half his congregation because of his message about God’s love, but I found his faith limit within the first ten minutes of meeting him. All I thought, for the rest of my time with them, is about how they could possibly embrace anything I have to say if I’m preaching an unconditional love to a conditioned congregation.

My question then and my question still is this: If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

Boston


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repugn the weathercock

Posted: October 30th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. -Romans 13:1 NIV

You have a choice regarding how you look at life. You can choose fear or faith. You can’t have both. You can’t choose fear when it socially suits you in your pursuit of relevance, only to choose faith when the emotional fork-in-the-road is over. Decide who you are, what or Whom you serve, or forever become an empty reflection of an unthinking social media ticker. One day they abhor divisive talk and the next day they bait a divisive discussion. One day they choose left, then the wind changes direction and they are the biggest advocate for the right. Repugn the weathercock.

They burn with fear and call it passion. What will become of all of their fear-talk and ultimatums when this is over? The braveheart would fight to the death. They present as warriors for their cause when they’re behind the safety of a screen, but time and change turn them into weak and insipid pawns. They won’t fight to the death, they’ll normalize it and find some other parade float to ride on.

Choose faith. You already know Who wins. What is your problem? Don’t you recognize fear-mongers taunt by now? They report as though there is no God. They speak as though He cannot hear. They flirt with your need for something meaningful and call you away from your First Love. The easily manipulated take a bite like they’ve been invited to a King’s feast. Run from them. Fear’s secret lovers think they know how this is going to turn out. They confuse satire for breaking news and sing karaoke quality gossip like they’re going to change the lives of their listeners.

Make hope your center of gravity. Seal out irrational sensationalism. Don’t be a cheap conduit of panicked ultimatums. There are forces that want to pit us against one another, but we are not naturally inclined to be like that. We don’t look for differences, we look for similarities. But, when presented with requisitions and threats of impending doom, we are forced to consider the faulty logic and reject the weak-minded fuel of the mob mentality.

Pray. Do it with certainty that God has authority. Pray with faith based on the fact that He gets His way. Pray without doubting and if you have people in your life who make you forget, then silence their voices by blocking their path to your door. It’s weird seasons like this that are a sieve to catch the unstable and uneducated. You can’t talk sense to a nonthinker, they’ll just dumb down your efforts. The intelligent publicly ignore the nonsense of fools and privately pray for the prevalence of unity, freedom, intelligence, and truth. Go down in history as an advocate for wisdom and peace. Be a Rock-anchored beacon and let the storm kick up your hair, making you all the more beautiful.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8 ESV

Photo by *Prismes

Against The Wind by *Prismes

 


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on entertaining fools

Posted: October 27th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words. -Proverbs 23:9 MSG

It’s hard for me to not speak up when someone is wrong. There’s a place for it, undoubtedly, but it’s a tender, almost sacred thing. You can’t always assert your way even if you think, or are convinced and convicted, that your way is right.

Dear Convinced & Convicted, flip the roles. Can you imagine someone trying to talk sense to you? It would make you indignant. It would flare up and elevate you on a fiery pillar of pride. Or thereabouts.

What good can come from your mouth when you are breathing in your own righteous smoke? How can you be tender if you’re burning with contempt?

Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself. -Proverbs 26:4 MSG

Silently mute the line and slip away. Unfollow, unfriend, or talk about something else. Turn it off or turn the channel. Do whatever you have to do to not get baited into the foolish discussions.

People compile conspiracies and lure the unthinking and the unstudied with fear as their bait. You can’t eat fear. Fear cannot sustain you.

A proverb quoted by fools is limp as a wet noodle. -Proverbs 26:7 MSG

They mix bits of the truth with their sensationalized scenarios. They imply that nothing can be trusted while asserting their trustworthiness. They make you afraid so they can keep you at their feet. Even when they speak the truth, it’s muddied by the rest of the nonsense they use to bait your attention and recalibrate your moral compass.

Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there! Tigers are prowling the streets!” and then pull the covers back over their heads. -Proverbs 26:13 MSG

It seems like the most dedicated to circulating hearsay are the ones who never check the sources. Their sources use themselves as sources, it all circles back to the gossip ring. It takes too much effort to do the work of making sure they’re not spreading the bad bait, so they repeat the talk of fools and draw their curtains in a little closer.

“Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool. You’ll only look foolish yourself.”

Your time is too precious to have to sift through that much nonsense. Set yourself up to not have to waste it. Don’t engage. It’s designed to create divisions, so engaging with the foolishness ensures the divisions. Let it pass. Not because it’s hopeless, but because you serve a God who is bigger than the weirdness of this life. 

on entertaining fools

 


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i’m not a marlin

Posted: September 6th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Most of my writing, lately, is in the form of bad penmanship in a little notebook by my bed. I’ve been busy raising my daughters for the past few years. All of the things I’m learning and the areas where my time goes aren’t directly “grace is for sinners” related. My kids were small when I started this blog. Now they’re bigger than I am.

As I grow as a writer, I’ll try different approaches and allow myself to go where it takes me. One of those places is a multigenerational word blog, Long Live The Thing. “…we’re mostly about real, raw, honest, and encouraging words…

“There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body.” 1 Cor 12:12 (NIRV)

My first post on that blog is up today. It will be a good writing outlet for my other passions. In the mean time, I’m working on another book. It will be my childhood framed as fiction.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s blog at Long Live The Thing. It’s called, “I’m not a Marlin”.

“I’ve been having bad dreams lately. It happens when my anxiety kicks in. It’s such a dichotomy within because I’m a breeze-loving free spirit, but stress wakes residual symptoms of PTSD. I talk myself through most things and reason that as long as my family is with me, nothing else can really break me. But, my kids are growing up and venturing further away, making it impossible to use them as my barometer for safety. I’m thinking that using my family isn’t the best tool for treating my stress anyway. I need something else. Something immovable.

I have four daughters: 20, 16, 13, and 10. Having one become an adult has been a huge wakeup call for me. People always say this, and it’s true, they grow up fast. I secretly cried for almost the whole year my oldest turned 18. I had put so much of my identity into being a mom that them actually growing into self-sufficient adults never seemed real to me. But we were on the cusp, and I wondered if I did my job right. Did I teach her anything? Would she survive without me? This thought process reveals more about me than my daughter.”

Click here to read the rest.

I'm not a marlin


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lost and found

Posted: August 31st, 2016 | Filed under: God | No Comments »

Today’s the last day blogging through Soul Bare. I’ve never blogged through a book before, and I discovered two benefits: I finished the book and I got back into the practice of blogging. Soul Bare was
idea and she spent a couple of years putting it together and trying to get it published. She says that now that the book is finally out in the world, she believes it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

Because the intent of the book was for the writers to share something personal, you end up getting a sense of the author. It’s like having a long visit with a group of 31 people where you got to spend time with each one. There are a few standouts for me. Some stand out because of their writing, and others stand out because of their story.
Cara’s chapter was a perfect way to end the book. Her writing is great, but it’s her story and perspective that stand out to me. She has been through a lot and that always give people this dimension that makes them more beautiful. I was sitting in my living room reading Cara’s chapter last night when I called out to my husband, “Hey, listen to this…” and began to read:

“I was fourteen when I met Jesus at a Christian summer camp. It was the year I’d started secretly cutting myself with a rusty X-Acto knife after sneaking shots of vodka from the jug in our cupboard. It was the year I’d kept myself distracted enough to numb the boredom of my after-school janitor job by carefully plotting the details of my suicide while I vacuumed junior high classrooms” (page 193).

Becoming a Christian didn’t magically make all of Cara’s issues go away. She says, “Some of us have wounds that survived the baptismal waters” (page 194). She recognizes the hole on the Christian bookstore shelves where discussions beyond the shiny religious veneer should be. People in the faith community think that if you have enough faith, then your life will fall into a neat pattern. That’s why I became a Christian at 19, I wanted all of my life prior to disappear so I could start over. But, that’s not how it works.

“But, I have never found redemption to work with the simple math that has always seemed suggestive of the Christian life, the formula written on my notebook during one high school retreat by a well-meaning youth pastor: You + Jesus = Enough” (page 194-195).

If you deny the pain, you deny God in the pain.

cara sexton


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