Summer’s end may not seem like a happy time for many people. For me, however, it’s a chance to reset and restore. As the normal schedule of fall overtakes my family, I find myself able to actually return to a structured lifestyle, and although I am busier than I have ever been, I actually have time to restart some things that are lovely and meaningful to me, but that I haven’t been able to be about, like writing. Here in my fifth decade, and particularly this year, I have more new projects and goals than ever in my life. Energy is wasted on youth, at least it was on me. I would love to recover the vigor of my twenties! On the other hand, if value is increased by sacrifice, then I am doing the best work of my life. It does make me wonder if I am staying so busy to appease the god-of-my-ignorant-youth who demanded perfection and whose highest ethics were ‘purity’ and work. I’m much older now and perhaps a bit wiser and in my striving to follow ever closer to my Teacher/Master/Brother/Friend/God Jesus, I am increasingly grateful for the amazing grace that is the expression of the love of God. I haven’t always been in this place or comfortable with His grace. There are reasons. In the church traditions in which I was raised, grace was taught but seldom practiced. the best example I can give you is the experience of my Dad. Here’s an excerpt from another project I am working on that will shed some light on my meaning:
Dad was divorced.
It was a defining fact of our lives. He had married young in ‘63 or ‘d\64 and was
working in the ministry as a youth minister. His wife wasn’t ready to be married.
She cheated. He left. Simple. He met my mom and they were married in
January of 1966. Dad had been called and groomed for the pastorate, but
because we were Southern Baptists, he wasn’t allowed to be ordained. It
affected everything. Dad could serve our church in any leadership role except
a deacon because he couldn’t be ordained. Dad did a lot of interim work in the
70’s and one time he pastored a church in a small town in Texas before, after,
and between three other pastors. He had served that church longer than any of
them, and yet, could not be called as pastor because he wasn’t ordained because he was divorced.
We taught grace in the churches I attended, but we didn’t live it at the highest levels.
The fact of Pop’s legalistic ceiling was rendered even more ridiculous in that scripturally. his divorce was allowable by even the strictest “literalist” standards. And yet, he couldn’t serve as he was called because, perhaps God forgave him, but the church deicided that he was tainted by a sin that he had no control over and forever would have to live outside of the grace of marriage. Now add to that, if he had been single, he probably wouldn’t be invited to pastor a church because single pastors, single adults really, were suspect.
Ridiculous and damaging, all the moreso because it was so contradictory to the very heart of the God of Christianity, rendering God the Father as a capricious dictator, Jesus as a lesser figure of our faith and the Bible as a contradictory, therefore inherently flawed text.
I came out of those years with my faith intact because my parents were REAL disciples of Jesus. Grace and unconditional love were practiced in my house. Compassion was our watchword and it affected every decision, including my parents politics and their lifestyle choices. They were broken and flawed and generally transparent about it with their sons. They lived and relied on the Love of God, through Jesus and expressed through grace.
As a young minister in 1992 I was trying to recover from some of the greatest abject spiritual failures of my life as I was learning to minister to teenagers, within the same traditional boundaries I had grown up with; including of course, the hypocritical and contradictory concepts of taught, but not practiced, grace. Through a series of events unknowingly orchestrated by my young bride (she is ever the midwife of new revelation in my life, never with intent) I discovered a book by Brennan Manning called The Ragamuffin Gospel. It was all about grace in practice and it changed my undertanding of God. For possibly the first time in my life, I understood the love of God expressed through the Grace of His Son. It began a lifelong quest to find the love answers for the people God has placed in my circle of ministry. Recently I have had the opportunity to teach our teenagers at my church the concepts from that book: Simply put, that God loves you and that His grace is available, simple, and close at hand. Over the next few weeks, I’d like you to join me as I share that journey with you through this blog. I can’t promise that it will be entertaining or persuasive. I can only promise you that it will be as real and true as I can make it. Some people ask me from time to time why I believe in Jesus of Nazareth or how I come to the conclusions that have shaped my life. It’s all about God’s grace which is, as it ever was, amazing.
I will write at least once a week until the Spirit leads me to something else.
Love and Peace