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


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 in the Present Moment

A few months ago I decided to “walk through” the gospel of Mark as a part of my morning devotions. By “walk through”, I mean that I do not read in order to finish the gospel, per se. Rather, I kind of “stroll”, stopping at whatever catches my imagination, reading only until a phrase or a word gives me pause, makes me think for a moment or two.  Some days I may read a whole chapter. of the gospel. Those days are quite rare. Most days, indeed almost every day, I only read a phrase or two, maybe a few verses.  Recently I was stopped by a phrase at the beginning of chapter five; “the man (a demoniac) lived among the tombs.” (5:3)

     It struck me that no matter what the cultural setting may have been, to live among the tombs is live among the dead, the lifeless. In other words, to live in the past. It is to be limited by the memory of what once was but is no more. It is spending time, energy and money in an attempt to re-capture or replicate whatever glory we believe the past held.

     I know that the story is essentially about an exorcism, but it is also more than a simple exorcism. Is it possible that the story is also told to remind us that God can and does free us from the various “tombs” of our own past. Often we think that we are bound or limited by our yesterdays. The story, though, may be telling us that by grace we can be freed from the “chains and shackles” that weight us down.

     Some of us live too much in the past and hallow it to our own detriment. Others are wooed too much by the future and comfort themselves saying, “I’ll be happy when…I’m older, I get out of school, get my first job, get married, become a mother or father, receive an  inheritance, get a promotion, become CEO, get my dream job, etc. The list is endless.

     Look too much at the past or too much toward the future and you miss the present. It is in the present where life is lived, one day at a time. That it is where the living God is found, too. Right here, right now. Today, my friends, is 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.