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. 


Glimpses of Grace DailynDevotion for October 25, 2017

And God said, I will set my bow in the sky and it will remind me that I have made a promise to you and your descendants. (Genesis 9:13, 14)

I awoke to a rainbow this morning. After making a cup of coffee I stepped out onto the balcony and looked over at “the squinty” bridge in Glasgow, Scotland. And there it was, a rainbow! A “promise remembered”! A great start to a new day, one that was mixed with exhilaration and small disappointments. 

Throughout the day I remembered the rainbow as well as what it meant; God’s promise First given Noah and to all of his descendants until the end of time. What was a weapon of war became a symbol of reconciliation and hope and peace and Love. 

God is not angry with us; disappointed at times, but not angry. God does never writes us off, even if others do. Rather, God calls us to a new way of life, a way of life that sets aside selfish ambition and seeks to “enjoy and glorify God forever”, for that is why we were created. 

Lord God, thank you for the promise that You will neither forget or forsake us. Teach me to live in such a way You will be glorified. Amen


Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 11, 2017

The Lost has been found!

I doubt that there was rejoicing in heaven, but there was rejoicing in my heart! All that being said, those who know me best may think that I seem to only think 5 minutes ahead but in reality I always have a Plan B, C, D and, at times, even an E in the back of my head. I don’t know why my brain works this way. Maybe this hardwiring was set when I was a toddler. A “family systems” approach would seem to say this. Maybe it occurred when I tried to learn how to master chess–I never did, by the way. Maybe it was reading a lot of biographies of military generals and Presidents in my youth–I read few of them nowadays. Maybe it was because I admired football quarterbacks who didn’t stay in “the pocket” and who could “scramble” toward a successful play or basketball point guards who made things happen. I could do neither. Maybe it’s “just because.”

President Eisenhower once said that plans are worthless but planning is essential. Some are puzzled by his seemingly contradictory statement, but I understood it immediately. Charles Darwin would have, too. He didn’t say that it is the strongest who survive, but the most adaptable. 

Life is unpredictable. There will always be detours, missteps and “unforeseen” things along the way. Consider the Old Testament figure Joseph; Joseph as in “Joseph and the Amazing Technocolor Dreamcoat” fame (see Genesis, chapters 37-50).  His life path was full of twists and turns but ultimately he ended up right where he needed to be. I suspect that the same will be true of you and me. It may not be where we wanted to be but it will be where we need to be for whatever Eternal reason.

The Apostle Paul once wrote that he has learned the secret of being content. The secret is relying on the strength, power, wisdom and love witnessed in Jesus.  Not my will, but Thy will be done. (Luke 22:42) Jesus was at one with God. Those who wish to take Him seriously are invited to seek that same fellowship. 

So here are three little glimpses of grace: 1. Take Proverbs 19:21 to heart–Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. 2. Be adaptable. (Things never go as planned, so deal with it!) 3. Remember, Tomorrow, Today will be a memory. Make it a good one. 


My Heart Grieves

My heart is grieving. Given the events that have captured the headlines in the news, my heart is grieving.

I am grieving for those homes that will forever have an empty place at the table.

I am grieving for parents who don’t know what to teach their sons and for officers who leave their homes wondering if they will return home when their shift is over.

I am grieving for the children who will grow up without a mommy or daddy, for spouses who receive death benefits that in no way compensate for the loss that they must endure, for men to think that their manhood is proven by the number of the progeny instead of the amount of time they invest in their children, for the abused who become abusers and for those who need to strength to end whatever destructive cycle they were raised in.

I grieve for the neighborhoods in Chicago that in one weekend alone experience more shootings and death than New York City and Los Angeles combined, for those who worry when their loved one goes out the door, for those who do not feel safe behind their doors, for mothers who tuck their children in at night in bathtubs because they fear the stray bullet from outside their home, for politicians and citizens who appeal to not to our better angels but to our darkest fears and desires.

I grieve for those who are so insecure that they propagate hate and I grieve for those who are victims of hate.

I grieve for those who are skilled at the destructive half-truth and innuendo as well as for those who succumb to these variations of falsehood.

I grieve for the fact that we often look for the worst in people rather than look for their better virtues.

I grieve for the fact that we do not seem to take the words of Jesus seriously—we too often do not seek to be Peacemakers—the very children of God.

I grieve for the refugees who are welcomed nowhere, for the unemployed and underemployed.

I grieve for those who have too much and are never satisfied as well as for those who don’t have enough and are in hunger.

I grieve that there are too few who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

I grieve.

But grief can never have the last word. Tears may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning, the Old Testament book of Lamentations tells us. Grief alone leaves us powerless. But we are not powerless. We have God and God always has the last word. As Christians, called to be ambassadors of God’s Kingdom, the Light to the dark world, the Church—you and I—are called to be engaged and involved. Like Jesus we need to touch the broken places, not just with a bandaid but to get to the root causes and address them in ways both great and small. There are no small acts when done for the glory of God. Remember the parable of the mustard seed; the Kingdom of God starts small, with one person, one group, one congregation, and takes on a life of its own.

I remember attending a worship service in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in which the minister apologized that he and the elders would not be able to greet the worshipers and guests after the service—as was their custom. Instead, they needed to spend the rest of the day in prayer and fasting in order to hear God more clearly. Prayer and fasting is an ancient custom found in all faiths and recommended by our Lord Jesus Christ and affirmed in the writings of the apostle Paul. It is the first step that I am going to take to defeat my sense of helpless grief. I have decided to follow the ancient tradition and set aside time for prayer and fasting from sun up to sun down, as I go about my work. I invite you to join me wherever you may be.

We are not battling flesh and blood enemies—though some would have us believe that we are. No, we are battling evil forces in a dark unseen world that slither among us.  The face of Evil is dark and daunting and there are no easy solutions or quick fixes. But, we shall overcome for ultimately, Thy will, will be done, on earth as well as in heaven.  Frosty


Glimpse of Grace Through a Poem

I was in eighth grade when Mrs. Miller introduced me to poetry. The truth of the matter is that I am not a “poetry kind of guy.” I’ve never really appreciated the giants of the art whether they be American or European. Whitman and Longfellow leave me cold, no matter how beautiful others say they are. Burns and Chaucer, ditto. I guess that I am more of a limerick kind of fellow. But Mrs. Miller did expose me to one poet who touched my soul, Robert Frost. His is the only set of collected works of poetry that I own.
    When I was young there was still a vestige of eighth grade being a “terminal degree”, if degree is the right word. And in this shadow, we had eight grade graduation complete with a class motto and poem. Our class poem was Frost’s “Two Roads.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
    In this season of graduation seniors are thinking about their futures. They have many decisions to make. Many “roads” from which to choose. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once wrote that the most important decision a person makes is who they will marry. “90% of your happiness or misery will depend on that decision”, he said.  I think that there is a bigger decision. What will we do with Jesus?
    As Jesus concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” one can hear the echo of  Joshua. Standing on the edge of the Promised Land generations earlier Joshua gave the Israelites a very simply choice. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).  I don’t know if Jesus was thinking of Joshua when He told the crowd before Him,  “Strive to enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13)
    Prior to saying this, Jesus painted a picture of how God looks at the world, and what it means to walk “the Jesus-Way.” Jesus never sugar-coated. His Way, the Kingdom Way, is not easy. It requires discipline and commitment. It requires a new way of thinking and looking at the world around us. But, Jesus said, His Way will lead to “real” life, to a life that matters. His Way moves us from fleeting success to eternal significance.
    Frost ended his poem with these words.  
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better clim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,  …
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
    Enter through the narrow gate, Jesus said.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction… But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. Which road will you travel? Within that decision there lies a glimpse of grace.


Glimpse of Grace on a Playground

Years ago, when my daughters were young, I spent many warm summer mornings playing in a park near our house with the youngest of the two while the older one was busy mastering First Grade.
One morning I knew it was time to go home for lunch and a nap when my daughter started staring off into space while swinging. As was often the case, whenever it came time to go home, her legs were just “too tired” to walk.  Rather than debate or cajole, I scooped her up in my arms and headed home. She was fading fast. I could tell because she started her “nap-time-settling-in” routine. She began to rub her sweaty brow into my shoulder. Not wanting her to fall asleep before lunch, I whispered in her ear those magic words that makes everyone’s ears perk up. “I’ve got a secret,” I said. Her head popped up off of my should as she asked, “What is it?” Busted! I didn’t really have a secret.  I was desperate. I took a shot in the dark. I said the first thing that popped into my mind. “I love you.”
That wasn’t really a secret but I hoped that it would suffice for the moment. But, no. Now alert, she pressed on. “Why?” she demanded.
“Why?” Boy, I should have seen that one coming since it is the favorite question of most three year olds.  But I didn’t. I didn’t see it coming. God is gracious, though.  Without missing a beat, without even thinking, I replied, “Because you’re mine!”
Later that day, and many times since then, I have thought of that little scenario played out so long ago. I’ve pondered her question and my response. I didn’t need to think about my answer. It came out naturally, spontaneously. And in that little exchange between a father and his sleepy little girl we are reminded of the heart of the Gospel embodied in Jesus of Nazareth. God loves us. Why? Because we are His.


Glimpse of Grace from a Cracked Chalice

I have a wooden cracked chalice in my office. It was a gift given to my wife and I by a parishioner on Easter morning in 2001. The craftsman who made dated the bottom of the chalice and signed his name.
    It wasn’t cracked when he gave it to us but within a few months, the chalice dried out and cracked. When the master woodworker saw it he was embarrassed. He wanted to make us a replacement but we said no. We rather liked the cracked chalice. One day he snuck into my office, where it had taken up residence and added a bit of humor to the chalice. Over the crack he placed a butterfly bandaid! I liked the added touch and never removed it. The chalice still sits on my shelf. I still like it.
    God likes broken things. More than that, God is connected to the broken in a very special way. In the 147th Psalm we are told that God mends “the brokenhearted.” The old prophet Isaiah announced that the Spirit of the LORD was upon him because God anointed him “to bring good news to the poor” and “to bind up the wounds of brokenhearted.”
    The Almighty uses broken things to reveal the divine glory. Soil is broken so that seed can be planted. Grain cracked before it is made into bread. Grapes are crushed before they are made into wine. And the One whom Christians call “Lord” and “Savior” was broken to take away the sin of the world. Cracked grain. Crushed grapes. Bread and Fruit of the Vine. The Risen Lord. Body and the Blood, broken and shed for you and for me.  A glimpse of grace. Image


Glimpse of Grace–What if God’s Plans for Me Are Not My Plans for Me?!

    I have been haunted by a question, a possibility, an insight over the past few weeks. It was something Jefferson Bethke wrote in a book I received this past Christmas, Jesus >Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, ding More, and Being Good Enough (Nelson Books, c. 2013). In a section entitled “Not Your Mom’s Jesus” Bethke noted that when he was in Sunday School and attending Christian summer camps the counselors often tried to encourage the campers with two well known Scripture verses. The first was Isaiah 40:31—“Those who wait for the LORD will renew their strength; they shall mount of with wings like eagles.”  It is an inspiring verse. It is the basis of a beloved hymn often sung, in my experience, at funerals. I once used it in a prayer when I briefly coached a soccer team at a small midwestern college. They played their best game of the season but still got killed! If you do a Google search of Isaiah 40:31 you will find you can buy it  engraved on rings and bracelets, printed on tee shirts and embossed on coffee cups. All very nice, I’m sure, though a few seemed to be a bit gaudy for my tastes.
    The other verse was a personal favorite, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare  and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This passage has comforted myself and others during times of challenge and hardship. I even wrote it on notes to people when I didn’t know what else to say but wanted to express my sympathy or support.
    Bethke turned this “personal comfort” on its head when he asked a very simple but profound question. What if iGod’s plans for me are not the same as my plans for me! Ouch! Check please!
    Every since I read that I’ve been haunted by how I have attempted to “get” God’s blessings on my plans and my agenda while never once considering the possibility that those very plans may, in fact, be contrary to  God’s plans for me.  Believe me, this is a troubling thought! This very real possibility has caused me to reconsider many of my preconceived notions. It has shed a new light on my worldview.
    Although—as I have often said to others, given my age—I have more of a history than a future, it’s not  too late for me to learn a new trick or two—after all I am not a dog. Nor is it too late for me to make a course correction in my life. As a matter of fact, I am in the process of doing this exact thing. It is not too late for you, either. Maybe both of us—you who are reading this blog and me, have just discovered a glimpse of grace.


A Glimpse of Grace from a Frozen Water Pipe!

    It has been an usually cold winter this year due to an arctic vortex that has taken a liking to the eastern half of the United States. As a consequence, our high temperatures this winter have frequently hovered in the single digits, Fahrenheit. Wind chills, which are “cold temperatures with a press agent”, have plummeted into double digits below zero, Fahrenheit.
    Early one morning my wife went into the bathroom after a particularly cold night of howling winds and turned on a faucet to the sink. Nothing came out. Not even air. She tried again. Still nothing. She called to me and I tried a different bathroom faucet with no more luck than she had. In all of my years, this had never happened to me before.
    The first thought that crossed my mind was that the problem had to be with our reverse osmosis water system. I vaguely remembered when it was installed I asking the service representative how I would know when it was time to change the filters. He told that that was easy. We would know because the water would simply quite coming out of our faucets. So, I thought to myself, no water=change filters.
    Off to a You Tube tutorial to learn how to change the water filters. I changed the two filters with a minimum amount of mess. Tried the faucets. Still no water! Damn! What next? You may have guessed it, call a plumber.
    I have an very good relationship my local plumber because I learned long ago that there are two ways I can fix something. I can fix it and then call “The Man” to fix it OR, I can simply call “The Man” and simple save myself a lot of aggravation.  I’ve call my “plumber Man” so often that we’re on not only a name basis but a nicknamed basis!
    When he arrived the plumber checked things out, confirmed that I had installed the reverse osmosis filters correctly and diagnosed the problem as a frozen water pipe. “Impossible,” I thought. I’ve never had a frozen water pipe in my entire life! But, as he followed the various water lines it seemed that I indeed did have a frozen water pipe.
    He cut a hole in our drywall about four inches from the ceiling to expose the troubled pipe. It was frozen! You could see the frost around it. As he worked on the problem I asked him how this could have happened as the house was more than sixty years old and there was no evidence of this kind of problem happening before now. Surely over the years, I reasoned, the house had seen winters just as cold as this one AND without the benefit of central heat.
    “Have you had work done down here recently?” he asked. I thought a bit and then remembered that we had a baseboard dewatering system put in last summer. “I suspect,” he concluded, “that the new drywall is more insulated than the old drywall was. The water pipe was sealed off from internal air circulation that would have offset the outside temperature.”
    It all made perfect and maddening sense. Once again, an example of unintended consequences. Fix one problem and create a new one! Isolated and self-contained the water pipe froze—and I might add, broke—for the first time in the life of the house!
    After the plumber left I bought a cold air register vent to cover the hole in my drywall. I wanted to ensure circulation of air and save a little money. As I screwed the vent into place a thought crossed my mind. The water pipe was a parable about us. When we are sealed off from one another, isolated and insulated in our own little worlds with our own little concerns, we can become cold inside. The movement of God’s spirit within us slowly hardens until we find ourselves “frozen.”
    We were made for each other, to be in community, to be part of something greater than ourselves. Happiness, true happiness, is found not in having but in giving ourselves away. And that, my friends, is a glimpse of grace.