Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 28, 2017

Do you “journal”? 

I do. I’ve kept a journal, on and off, since 1981, the year our oldest daughter was born. I decided to start journaling so my daughter and her sister would know “the real me.” 

Over the years my journal has taken on different formats. For a short time I tried the “Doogie Howser” approach and journal electronically. It wasn’t satisfying. 

Before my trip to Scotland one of my sons-in-law gave me an orange journal. He said that it was so that I could easily find it during my travels. There is a subtext; I lose things!

Tonight I am sitting down and reading about my adventures over the past few weeks. Søren Kierkegaard once wrote that we can only discern the Hand of God in our lives as we examine our Past. 

Reading my journals reminds me of the times God’s finger touched me. Each touch is a glimpse of grace. 

Lord God, thank you for Your hand that had never left me, Your Love that sustains me, and Your Grace that envelopes me. Amen. 


Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 27, 2017

Palm Trees in Scotland

Palm trees in Scotland! Yes, palm trees. The ticket agent at the window laughed when I said that I wanted a ticket to the place in Scotland where there are palm trees. He didn’t believe me. 

But there really are palm trees in Scotland! 

On Scotland’s Isle of Bute a species of palm tree grows due to the warm currents of the Gulf Streams. I think that it’s an example of God’s sense of humor, a practical joke to keep us on our toes and to expect the unexpected. 

God’s grace is unexpected. One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, wrote most insightfully about “Grace” in his book, Wishful Thinking. “A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by graceThere’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do

“The grace of God means something like: ‘Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.’”

The palm trees of Scotland are God’s little reminders to expect the unexpected in life. Live for the surprises and in them catch a glimpse of grace. 

Lord, thank you palm trees in Scotland and for all of the surprises that remind us of Your amazing grace. Amen. 


Glimpse of Grace in a Church Garth (edited)

For the last four years a mallard nested in our church garth—a walled outdoor garden courtyard located in the middle of the church building. She first showed up when the garth was being excavated so that new drainage tile could be laid. While it was under construction we had an unusually wet spring which resulted in a six foot deep hole filling with runoff water. This “pond” surrounded by high brick walls must have been just too inviting to resist. She saw not a garth with a water-filled mud hole, but a safe small pond. Over the years she has been dubbed, “Garth Duck.”
    These last years we watched her nest, give birth and even mourn. Last year all of her little ones died, one by one. I hated going into the garth each day knowing that I would find another little body. We wondered what killed them. We knew that it wasn’t a predator. Had they been poisoned? Was there an unknown toxin? Maybe the fertilizer?  It wasn’t until after the last duckling died that someone mentioned that our Associate Minister, who left the previous year, put feed out each morning the previous two years! All this time I thought they forged(this should be foraged) off the land! But no, they had been fed! 
    After the last duckling died it was heartbreaking to see the mother walk around the garth mournfully calling to her brood which was no more.  Each evening she would utter what can only be described as a mournful cry to the setting sun. I felt terrible about what had happened and vowed that if she returned, there would not be a repeat.
    Well, as I said, she came back this year in all of her glory. It was almost as if she wanted to make up for lost time as she  laid fourteen eggs! Patiently she sat on her next(this should be nest) under an evergreen shrub. And then, a couple of weeks ago while the Benediction was being said at the outdoor worship service, she decided to take her brood on their first morning walk, around the perimeter of the garth to the excitement of all the worshipers! Needless to say, God gave a greater Benediction that day!
    As I sit in the minister’s study watching Garth Duck and her little ones on an early morning run-about, I see a glimpse of grace. What drew her back to this spot over the past four years, especially after a year of great sadness? Watching her silhouette against the high brick walls of the garth, I think that I know what it was. In the words of the Psalm, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer…in whom I take refuge.” (18:2) Surrounded by the sanctuary of a worship space, she found true sanctuary, even in the shadow of sadness.


Glimpse of Grace

My dad loved thunder storms, especially, it seemed, at night. I remember as a child sitting on his lap as a real “rumbler” rolled through from the west. I’ve often wondered why he liked them. He seemed to find a certain peace, especially in the summertime.  If I ever asked him “why”, I don’t remember his answer. He entered the Church Triumphant several years ago. But still, I wonder.  Was Dad fascinated by the wind or the lightening? Perhaps he was reflecting upon life’s hard knocks, the storms and disappointments that he confronted and largely overcame? Maybe he was having a “Walter Mitty” moment, imaging himself back in the navy standing on the deck of a ship cutting though the North Sea.  I don’t know why, but I do know that I was afraid.     
        The disciples knew what it was like to be afraid. One night they were taking Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Suddenly a storm arose. They were sure that they were going to die. They desperately looked for Jesus and found Him, asleep, in the stern of the boat!  “Don’t you care?” they cried.  I can understand their fear. I can imagine their desperation. We’ve all been afraid. We’ve all wondered at one time or another, whether we want to admit it or not, “Don’t you care?”
        “Be still,” Jesus commanded. And, just like at the Creation when God brought silenced the chaos, the wind died, the waves calmed, order was restored, and the disciples looked at each other, wondering, “Who is this man?”
        “Why are you afraid?” Jesus asked. The question cut to the heart of the matter. It cuts us, too.
         Overwhelmed. Swamped. Afraid. Life has a way of making us afraid. “Don’t you care?” we ask. Yes, He cares. Jesus does care, and if He cares, then we know that God cares.
         Therein lies the good news, the glimpse of grace. Sooner or later, in His own time, always at the right time, He “stills the storm.”



Glimpse of Grace While Waiting for a Delayed Flight

As I write this I am sitting in an airport terminal waiting for my next flight. Our departure is delayed because of late arrivals due to weather conditions and, I am sure, other complications of which I am not aware. These delays can drive us crazy.
We are not a society that likes to wait. The Disney parks have “fast tracks” for we who are impatient. Grocery stores have “express lanes” for shoppers with a limited number of items. Expressways have “express lanes” for people with a certain number of passengers. Toll booths have “X-Press” booths for those of us with “I-Passes.
While I am as impatient as the best of them, I try to use these delays as a form of “spiritual discipline.” “Wait for the LORD,” the Psalmist advised (27:14). I remember reading a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Gardner Taylor in which that eloquent old preacher said that the good Lord may not show up when you expect, “but He’s never late.”
So, I try to relax as I wait, watching people rush to their various gates and reflecting upon what glimpse of grace God has in store for me next!