Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grace

Grace - lookin at you in the face!
I mustache you about grace, but I will shave that for later.
I've been singing Amazing Grace a lot lately in my personal worship time (this may explain a lot if you see me in my car in the morning on the way to work). We sang it at a funeral a few weeks ago and I can't get it out of my head. I'm not complaining... I like it there. But it has struck me today that there is a power in "grace" that I hadn't been aware of yet.

I often view "grace" as a love that is undeserved. It is a gift from God. It is the driving force of salvation that is undeserved.

But as I spoke to a group of students this morning, something more was there. I reiterated that God loves you no matter what. I told them to always live a life for God because God's love for us is an encouragement to keep going in trying times (my text was  1 Thess 3).

Then later today, I was reading about the adventures of Joshua. The "be strong and courageous" portions have also encouraged me to get out there and "do something" for God. But the connection didn't click until today.

God's Grace is not just about loving us in spite of our mistakes and sin. God's Grace is also about loving us so that we have the freedom to live a life for God without worrying about looking like an idiot. In other words, we can be strong and courageous because God's Grace will be with us whether we win or lose.

So go for the win. And know that your faith is a win for God.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Soul Singing


"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." -Martin Luther 
We have two violinists in the family. Both are learning via the Suzuki method which has taught me many things about how people learn and ways to incorporate better discipline into my life skills.

A few years ago my oldest violinist participated in a week-long strings camp. Since it was a Suzuki camp, I attended with him. It was amazing and beautiful to hear music in every room and down every hall throughout the day. 

In his private lesson during the camp, the instructor was encouraging him to work on his phrasing so that the music has a better shape and really comes to life. "You might think you are playing with emotion," he said, "but if you are not doing anything technically to make that happen then people won't hear it." So we continued the lesson working on dynamics, bow position, and vibrato. And the song began to sing.

People so often thing that music is all about talent and forget that there are details that need attention or the talent is not as apparent. 

The same can be said for our souls. You may think that you are living a passionate life for God but if you aren't doing some thing technically to make it happen then you might not be bearing fruit. 

"Technical and soul" aren't words that typically go together but there are things that one can do to lift up your soul. In the Wesleyan tradition these are known as the Means of Grace. Prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, fellowship, healthy living, communion, baptism, doing good, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, and giving are a few of the actions that one can take to attend to the soul.

Doing these things on their own do not make for any special magic, just like playing loudly or softly doesn't always make beautiful music. But these are ways to be open to the love of God and have made my soul sing.

And just as I tell my kids, practice makes perfect. Practicing the Means of Grace does not get you into heaven but it will make your soul sing now and help us all to view glimpses of the Kingdom of God.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Most Boring Testimony You've Ever Read

Everybody has a story. From my perspective, each person's journey is a story of their faith. A story that shows God intersecting in their life, often in powerful ways.

Over the years I've heard and read marvelous stories. Stories that read like Jonah and the Big Fish. Stories that make the 10 Plagues seem normal. Stories that lead others to God because they are miraculous.

Not my story. My story is boring. My story begins with God and ends with God but there are no huge adventures along the way. I never hit bottom the way a drug addict might. I've never seen the inside of a prison. I've never failed out of school. Never fired and unable to pay my bills. I'm basically squeaky clean and sheltered.

But that doesn't mean that my story is not worth sharing. Because my story is the story that we want most of our children to end up with. For the most part, we want our children to  love God, be safe, be healthy, learn a lot, do good things, have good friends, and go off into the world to live as "successful" adults. Adults that can manage their personal relationships and money and perhaps contribute something to the greater good. You may debate the various parts of what I've listed but let's delve deeper into those at another time.

Yet many of the testimonies that get shared are those of extremes. Stories where someone overcomes an addiction or recovers from a huge failure or catastrophic problem by the grace of God. These make great stories. It helps those of us who aren't so bad off, put our more "minor" problems in perspective. They give us hope.

Hope, however, can be found in many places. And although my story is kinda boring, I know that perhaps someone can find hope that in the ordinary can come something extraordinary.

So here is my story...

I'm not perfect. Let's just clear that up right now. I struggle with gluttony, sloth, cell phone addiction, being disciplined about spiritual disciplines, and loving my neighbor (especially the unloveable ones - although I realize that's a matter of opinion). I will gossip. I will be hypocritical. I will think unholy thoughts.

But I have never known a day where I wasn't aware of God's love.

Never.

Even when I've been so sad that I did the ugly cry. Even when I've been so mad I threw something across the room. Even when I did things in college that I'm not supposed to write about for fear my children will read this.

Even then.

I've questioned. I've wondered. I've wrestled. I've hidden. I've doubted. I've yelled. I've been human... but I've always known that God was there and that God loved me. Even amidst the doubt - somewhere deep in my soul remembered. And hoped.

Of course there is more to the story. But I feel like this part of the story needed to be told. Because each part of God's story is miraculous and powerful no matter how boring they are. God's stories through God's creation of humans is beautiful.

What is your story? I bet the majority of you think it is boring. But trust me, its not. Its beautiful and powerful and if you are willing to share it, people will be blessed by it.

Until Everyone Hears,


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