Glimpse of Grace—New Every Morning

“The steadfast, love of the LORD, never ceases. The Lord’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23a)

Watching the sunrise over Austin, Texas I was reminded of those words from the Old Testament book of Lamentations. This book of poetry was written to “lament” the destruction of Jerusalem around 586 BCE. It’s words, though, are timeless.

I first read those words not in seminary, nor in Sunday school, but on a small wooden plaque that hung in the bathroom of our first manse. I do not know how we got the plaque, but every morning I would see those words as I got ready for the day. They were a constant reminder that no matter what happened yesterday, today was a new day. It may be that from years of those few words unconsciously simmering in my brain that I developed a mantra that has carried me through many difficult and challenging moments. “Remember: Tomorrow, Today will be a memory.” The corollary is “Make it a good one!”

I’ve often broken that little mantra down to an hour of difficulty or even a minute that cannot otherwise pass soon enough. I guess that it is my variation of taking life “one day at a time, one moment at a time.” We can both get through and just about do anything if we break it down into smaller bits.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…the Lord’s mercies never come to an end…they are new each and every morning.


Glimpse of Grace—Fathers & Sons

While being a guest at a dinner I sat next to someone who had a unique lapel pin. It gave rise to the following conversation.

“That’s an interesting lapel pin. I don’t believe that I have ever seen anything quite like it, yet it is vaguely familiar. Is there a story behind it?”

“It was my dad’s”, he replied. “He was career military. When he died I took some of his ribbons and placed them on various pieces of clothing. It helps me remember that he is still with me in some way.” I understood what he meant.

In the aftermath of my own father’s death I have reflected upon the special bond between a fathers and sons. This is true whether a father was a “good”dad or not, present or absent, engaged or distant, biological or adopted … our fathers are a kind of yardstick by which we measure ourselves. Against them we compare ourselves at one level or another; do we measure up, are we doing a better or worse job at traveling the road of manhood?

In his book, Dreams of My Father, a work that I consider to be a sort of spiritual autobiography Barack Obama reflected upon his own relationship with a largely absent father: “Where once I’d felt the need to live up to his expectations, I now felt as if I had to make up for all his mistakes.”

Our fathers are an enigma, a puzzle never fully known or understood yet a forever part of our lives.

I remember going to grief counseling a couple years after my father died. Breakthrough came in the fourth session. I don’t remember exactly how my therapist and I got there or what exactly I said, but he exposed what I had unknowingly been seeking all along, what every man seeks from his father, a blessing. “You know, that was when your father gave you a blessing.”

My circuitous journey in grief had come to an end with that blessing, and with it a sense of peace…of understanding…of acceptance. And that was a glimpse of grace.



Glimpse of Grace for February 9–Peaceful Sleep

Lucy asleep

Years ago I read a biography of the late legendary baseball announcer “Red” Barber written by NPR Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. Inspired and based on his weekly Friday morning interviews with “Red” they covered a wide range of topics, including faith.

I learned that Barber was a lay preacher in the Episcopal communion and a spiritual guide to many sports figures of the day. His faith was a quiet faith, not showy or in your face or worn in his sleeve. Always a courtly “Southern gentleman” he referred to ball players as “Mister” or “big fella” or “old” no matter their age , but it was his serene thoughtful presence and knack for creating an unforgettable turn of a phrase (a wining streak was described as “tearin’ up the pea patch”) that was his calling card.

He said evening prayers, and it was these evening prayers that came to mind as I watched my cat, Lucy, lie peacefully at me feet. Red Barber ended each day with the words, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, majesty me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, KJV)

Sleeping peacefully, serenely in the knowledge of the Lord’s eternal care is a glimpse of grace.


White as Snow

“Come now, let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow” the prophet in Isaiah declared.

With the winter months upon us and plummeting temperatures the landscape becomes a wonderland as gently falling snow covers the ground. Leaves and toys, garden tools that were not put away and other miscellaneous things lie hidden below a blanket of white.

Yesterdays tire tracks and footprints disappear with each new fresh layer of snow. The snow acts as a cold blanket insulating bulbs and seeds that lie in wait for a Spring melt and a new birth.

In speaking to a people broken by sun Isaiah proclaimed a word of hope. God covers the brokenness of our past for those who have a penitent heart with a blanket of forgiveness.

We may not be able to change the past but we can learn from it and by the grace of God begin to write a new future.


Change Is In the Air

For everything there is a season,” the Hebrew Scriptures remind us. “A time for every matter under the sun.”

Autumn is upon us. Trees that once had branches covered with green leaves that rustled in summer breeze turned into a palate of orange, red, and yellow. Monet would have been envious. Soon the leaves will fall and branches will reach toward a gray winter sky like fingers only to be covered once again with the buds of Spring—of Hope and new beginnings. The cycle of change will then repeat with each cycle a little different than the last.

Life is full of changes; some welcomed, others not. But God is with us in all of life’s chances. As the psalmist wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea … the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46, selected)

Whether we be on the mountaintop or in one of life’s darkest Valleys, we are not alone. The One who created us is within us.

Lo, I am with you always…until the end of the ages, Jesus, the Incarnation of God, promised in his great commission. And that, my friends, is a glimpse of grace.


Reality in a Covid Era

Necessity is the mother of invention

My wife and I have a bird feeder outside a dining room window. Various birds from the common house sparrow to more exotic song birds visit so often that I need to refill it several times a day. Our house cats, Eleanor and Lucy, enjoy watching with rapt attention the birds’ comings and goings . Occasionally they’ll call to the birds with a wobbly throaty cat imitation.

We also have squirrels visit the feeder at the end of they day. They are largely scavengers, cleaningup “the left-overs.”. I don’t mind. All of God’s creatures have gotta eat.

Over the past few months I have been impressed by the squirrels’ tenacity and dexterity. They continually find new ways to get that last seed. In their creativity I find a glimpse of grace.

We are living in a Covid era. I am hesitant to call it “post-Covid” because Covid is the latest virus to emerge from Pandora’s Box. I believe that it will be with us for the foreseeable future. We will learn to live with it. This is a new reality. We will never be able to return to a pre-Covid time. I also believe that Covid pushed existing trends ahead 10 to 20 years. The Church as well as local congregations will need to adjust to this new reality. Like “my” squirrels we will need all of the dexterity, creativity, strength, and skill to continue to fulfill our mission of going and making disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded, and most importantly remembering thatthe Risen Lord is with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28).


Wasp Trap

Wasp trap at our cabin.

What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul. Jesus

We put a couple of wasp traps up at our summer cabin. They are very simple affairs; simply an amber plastic bottle with a several large exterior holes that lead to narrow interior openings. The bait is a sweet liquid. In our case, a few ounces of Coke. Attracted by the Coke the wasps enter through the inviting entrance, but once inside they cannot escape.

Jesus once asked , What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul. It is easy to be attracted by the sweet Siren call of the culture around us. Advertisers offer us success, popularity, and even fulfilled by driving the right car, wearing the right clothes or fragrance, but these things are only illusions. They don’t feed the soul or fulfill our deepest need.

Columnist and political commentator David Brooks wrote that there are two virtues in life; resume and eulogy. Resume virtues are essentially the values, positions, and honors of this world bestows upon us; educational degrees, job title, and so forth. They are largely fleeting. Eulogy virtues, on the other hand, are those things that we are not only remembered for but treasured. Were you kind, loving, comfortable to be around. Did you make a lasting impression on others or made this world a better place?

When the wasps enter the amber tube driven by the sweet smell of Coke, they do not realize that they are entering an inescapable trap. When we chase the accolades of this and judge our success or worth by their acquisition , we enter a trap not unlike the wasps. As the letter to the Romans reminds us, “do not to be confirmed to the values and ways of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2)


That In-Between Time

Hang in there

It’s that in between time of the year. I awake to 6 degrees Fahrenheit and by the afternoon it’s 60 some degrees. Such is life in the Midwest but it’s also life in general. Highs and lows can happen within the blink of an eye! One minute you’re on top of the world and the next minute you fall to the depths of hell.

When I was a weekend hospital chaplain I thought about the tipsy turvy nature of life. A guy—it’s usually a guy—has his Saturday all planned out. In the morning he’d do a few chores around the house, run a few errands in the afternoon before taking his spouse for dinner. But then, as he cleans the last gutter he misses a step on the ladder and ends up in the emergency room with a broken ankle or worse! Life’s falls are hard.

My cat and I have been watching a squirrel perform acrobatics on a bird feeder (a squirrel has to eat, too) when it struck me; the key to living through life’s ups and downs is to simply hang in there. Hang on tight even if you have to do a few acrobatics. You’ll not only get stronger but more creative in your resilience.



There is a sidewalk outside of the church that runs through a city parking lot. Along the sidewalk there is a Via Crusis, a Way of Sorrows. The fifteen Stations of the Cross mark Jesus’ journey to the Cross and beyond.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon a young couple was on a walk when they came upon the Via Crusis. Curious, they followed the path reading a Scripture and a prayer. The last “station” was at the foot of the Memorial Garden’s Cross. There the modern day “pilgrim” read of God’s great love revealed in Jesus Christ.

In the gospel of John Jesus told a nighttime visitor: For so love the world that he gave his only son so that whosoever believes in him shall perish but have eternal life. For God did it send the So. Into the world to condemn the world, but that the world shall find life in him.

In Christ we are shown not only of a great love, but a new way of life…real life, a life that never ends.


Consider the Daisies

Sue’s daisies

Jesus once said, “Consider the lilies of the field, they neither sow nor reap but even Solomon in all of his glory cannot compare.”

When I was young a coach once told me that I tried too hard. I didn’t understand what he meant. Isn’t one suppose to try hard? How can you try too hard? Isn’t that an oxymoron? It wasn’t until many years later that I understood what he meant. I was pushing. We can try so hard that we miss the natural flow of things, including life.

“For everything there is a season”, Wisdom literature tells us, “a time for every matter under heaven.” We may not be able “to have it all” in life, but we can have a lot, just not all at once.

As I look at my wife’s daisies I am reminded of that truth. For the last few years we didn’t have many daisies. They seemed to be the neighborhood rabbits’ food of choice!

But this year is different. There are fewer rabbits, for reasons that we do not fully understand but can make a guess. With their absence, the daisies thrive. It’s a different time, a different season.

The daisies have a glimpse of grace for me to learn. Don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t push. Relax. Go with the flow. There will be setbacks and disappointments but at the right time, at a time of God’s choosing, you will bloom. You will bloom in ways that you can neither anticipate or control. And when that time, that season comes, not even Solomon in all his glory will be able to compare.