GRACE: The Search For Grace by Lee Strobel

January 17, 2019

From: The Case for Grace God waits to be wanted.  Too bad with many of us he waits so long, so very long, in vain. (A. W. Tozer) He was leaning back in his leather recliner in the wood-paneled den, his eyes darting back and forth between the television set and me, as if he didn’t deign to devote his full attention to our confrontation.  In staccato bursts, he would lecture and scold and shout, but his eyes never met mine. It was the evening before my high-school graduation, and my dad had caught me lying to him – big-time. Finally, he snapped his chair forward and shifted to look fully into my face, his eyes angry slits behind his glasses.  He held up his left hand, waving his pinky like a taunt as he pounded each and every word: [...]

GRACE: Jesus Loves Cannibals by Preston Sprinkle

January 17, 2019

From: Charis God’s scandalous grace invaded Portage, Wisconsin, with unwelcomed splendor in April 1994.  It sailed past several churches and seminaries and targeted a criminal serving multiple life sentences in the Columbia Correctional Institution.  It’s not uncommon for thieves and murderers in prison to encounter God’s grace, but this day was different.  The villain who attracted God’s love was a man who had killed, had sex with, dismembered, and eaten portions of (in that order) seventeen young men.  Reviled as the epitome of human depravity – is human a fitting term? – Jeffrey Dahmer turned heads and stomachs with his imaginative acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. His vile behavior elicited a nauseating response when [...]

GRACE: “No Faces—“Yes” Faces by Charles R. Swindoll

January 15, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening Dr. Karl Menninger, in a book entitled, The Vital Balance, at one point discusses the negativistic personality.  That’s the type of person who says, “no,” to just about everything.  Calling these sad folks “troubled patients,” Menninger (no doubt with tongue in cheek) mentions several of the things that characterize their lives.  They have never made an unsound loan, voted for a liberal cause, or sponsored any extravagances.  Why?  He suggests it is because they cannot permit themselves the pleasure of giving.  He describes them in vivid terms: “rigid, chronically unhappy individuals, bitter, insecure, and often suicidal.” I would add one further description – they have never given themselves [...]

GOD 101: Forgiveness, Grace, And Mercy

January 13, 2019

I have a new little wooden box that is sectioned off.  It allows me to put small bottles in each section. I relate to that box.  My mind likes to put its ideas in little sections, and organize and reorganize the sections to see how things line up. Like a kaleidoscope.  Each piece standing in its own place, but changeable in its relationship to the other pieces. There’s a lot in theology and even in our liturgy that I find sloppy.  Or is done in such a way that causes a person’s sloppy thinking. I would like to say, Well, we don’t have to always be exact about things in the church, and mean it.  But, well. That’s just not me. Yes, I know.  People are good-hearted.  And they mean well. But let’s talk [...]

GRACE: The Case For Grace, Preface by Lee Strobel

January 10, 2019

From: The Case for Grace God’s grace is the sole basis for both new life and spiritual vitality. (Stanley Grenz) Defining grace can be as simple as one declarative sentence: “Grace is the favor shown by God to sinners.”  From there, it can be expounded upon in volumes of theological treatises, but at its core it is an unmerited and unconditional gift of God’s love that we can never earn or deserve. Grace enables us to respond to God, enfolds us into his family, and empowers us to change.  Theologian Thomas C. Oden said grace is necessary “to know truth, avoid sin, act well, pray fittingly, desire salvation, begin to have faith and persevere in faith.”  Grace, he said, is nothing less than “the motivating power of the [...]

GRACE: Charis, Preface by Preston Sprinkle

January 10, 2019

From: Charis Seriously?  Another book on grace? Trust me, this one will be different.  I promise you. This book stems from half a dozen years of teaching the Old Testament in a college setting.  You might think this would produce a book about judgment, perhaps a book on hell, but no way.  The Old Testament is all about grace.  I tell my students that the reason we don’t offer a course on grace is because we already offer several courses on the Old Testament.  A class on grace would be redundant, superfluous, a swift kick to an already dead horse. The Old Testament is a kaleidoscope of grace.  And this book will admire its beauty.  Genesis, Exodus, even Judges and Kings – they’re all greedy to be read by tired Christians [...]

GRACE: Grace—It’s Really Amazing! by Charles R. Swindoll

January 8, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening The moralizing and legalizing of the Gospel of God’s Grace is a dull heresy peddled to disappointed people who are angry because they have not received what they had no good reason to expect. (Richard J. Neuhaus) There are killers on the loose today. The problem is that you can’t tell by looking.  They don’t wear little buttons that give away their identity, nor do they carry signs warning everybody to stay away.  On the contrary, a lot of them carry Bibles and appear to be clean-living, nice-looking, law-abiding citizens.  Most of them spend a lot of time in churches, some in places of religious leadership.  Many are so respected in the community, their neighbors would never guess they are living next [...]

PRAYER: Soften Our Hearts by Henry VIII

October 1, 2018

O most merciful Father, who by the mouth of our Savior Jesus Christ has said, “Ask, and it shall be given you,” receive, we beseech thee, our supplication, and for thy Truth’s sake hear us in thy righteousness.  We make our prayers unto thee, most blessed Father, not trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold mercies.  Have mercy upon us, thy sinful children.  Soften our hard hearts with the dew of thy grace.  Fulfill thy promise made unto us by thy prophet.  Take away from us our stony heart, and put a new spirit within us, and make us to walk after thy commandments.  Lighten, O Father of lights, our blind hearts, blinded with error and ignorance.  Lighten them with the true light of thy holy Word, that we may [...]

POETRY: The Chimes Of Neverwhere by Les Murray

August 15, 2018

How many times did the Church prevent war? Who knows? Those wars did not occur. How many numbers don’t count before ten? Treasures of the Devil in Neverwhere. The neither state of Neverwhere is hard to place as near or far since all things that didn’t take place are there and things that have lost the place they took: Herr Hitler’s buildings, King James’s cigar, the happiness of Armenia, the Abelard children, the Manchu’s return are there with the Pictish Grammar Book. The girl who returned your dazzled look and the mornings you might have woke to her are your waterbed in Neverwhere. There shine the dukes of Australia and all the great poems that never were quite written, and every balked invention. There too are the Third AIF [...]

POETRY: Apple Fools by David Craig

August 1, 2018

Apple fools we are Ripe as cups of cider and the horse’s clodded wake let the wet mornings come ring out green beans beneath the leaves pumpkin piping on the vine Speckled corn aloft Indian feathered high on the door Squash squats on the rafters pot belly bent legged Buddha stove boots and coveralls Give us this grace and all this day the crowded table the pinions’ [...]

POETRY: The Sacraments by Francis of Assisi

August 2, 2017

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments— he got so excited and ran into a hollow in his tree and came back holding some acorns, an owl feather, and a ribbon he had found. And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear, you understand: everything imparts His [...]

SACRAMENTS: With The Silent Glimmer Of God’s Spirit by Lambert J. Leijssen

November 6, 2014

From With the Silent Glimmer of God’s Spirit My grace is sufficient for you. (2 Corinthians 12:9) To celebrate the sacraments is to enter into a dialogue with the self-giving God.  We allow God’s Word to come to us, and we know that Jesus’s story directly addresses us.  This encounter unfolds in the real circumstances of our life.  It is rooted in the power of the living Spirit who issues forth from the Father and the Son.  In this way, we come to stand in the mutual love of the three divine persons and become immersed, as it were, in this divine mystery.  We participate in their love that is offered to us.  Our response to God’s love, which consists in voluntary acceptance and thankfulness, is itself [...]

POETRY: Gravity And Grace by Betsy Sholl

November 5, 2014

Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it. (Simone Weil) Simone Weil, it’s hard to concentrate on you with those three boys on the next bench blowing up balloons and letting them go, all squirt and grunt, fizzling into— the void, I think you’d say. And leaving a void too—if spent breath becomes exhaust, if everything we do ends up empty. So prayer, you’d add, becomes a little death as we pour our desires into words that fill to bursting, then leave our lips to corkscrew and sputter into thin air, selfless, anonymous enough to rise. Now the boys race up the slide, all high-fives and laughter, blowing off gravity, while I read you’d like to be blown away, see a landscape [...]

FAITH: Grace by Kathleen Norris

November 4, 2014

From Amazing Grace Jacob’s theophany, his dream of angels on a stairway to Heaven, strikes me as an appealing tale of unmerited grace.  Here’s a man who has just deceived his father and cheated his brother out of an inheritance.  But God’s response to finding Jacob vulnerable, sleeping all alone in open country, is not to strike him down for his sins but to give him a blessing. Jacob wakes from the dream in awe, exclaiming, “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!”  For once, his better instincts take hold, and he responds by worshiping God.  He takes the stone that he’d kept close by all night, perhaps to use as a weapon if a wild animal, or his furious brother Esau, were to [...]

POETRY: Grace by George Herbert

June 18, 2014

My stock lies dead, and no increase Doth my dull husbandry improve: O let thy graces without cease Drop from above! If still the sun should hide his face, Thy house would but a dungeon prove, Thy works night’s captives: O let grace Drop from above! The dew doth every morning fall; And shall the dew out-strip thy dove? The dew, for which grass cannot call, Drop from above. Death is still working like a mole, And digs my grave at each remove: Let grace work too, and on my soul Drop from above. Sin is still hammering my heart Unto a hardness, void of love: Let suppling grace, to cross his art, Drop from above. O come! for thou dost know the way. Or if to me thou wilt not move, Remove me, where I need not say, Drop from above. [...]

SERMON: A Tough Mind And A Tender Heart, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

May 4, 2014

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16) A French philosopher said, “No man is strong unless he bears within his character antitheses strongly marked.”  The strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites.   Not ordinarily do men achieve this balance of opposites.  The idealists are not usually realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic.  The militant are not generally known to be passive, nor the passive to be militant.  Seldom are the humble self-assertive, or the self-assertive humble.  But life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.  The philosopher Hegel said that truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an [...]

SATURDAY READING: Severe Grace by Sue Monk Kidd

February 1, 2014

From Firstlight God calls us throughout our life to severe grace, the grace of the cocoon. We are called to separate from the old, to die in order to be born.  If we open ourselves to this severe grace, we encounter God in new places: in the cyclone, in the dark, in the crisis that shatters our old confining consciousness.  It is this severity that makes us new. † Last year I visited a woman in the hospital who is a poet and deeply contemplative.  She was in a lot of pain from crippling arthritis, but she said with confounding vibrancy, “Today I have discovered God as the awful throbbing in my joints.  God is the pitiful crying of the woman in the next bed.  God is my loneliness.  God is the angry nurse who avoids me.  I did [...]

MIRACLES: The REAL Problem With Miracles

January 7, 2014

I have to come out and admit that, with reference to miracles, I pretty much sit on the opposite side of the world than most other people. Other people have doubts.  Or questions.  Or stammerings. I have none of these. When I began to have visions that I would eventually experience in reality, I had to stop and admit that I was witness to a miracle.  I was fairly young then, but wise enough to know that a person just can’t “see” into the future to an event that hasn’t taken place yet, an event that eventually does occur, without the grace of God. Or, without the interference of God. You take your pick. Because everyone (even I) know that life on Earth is not a set matter.  It is ever-changing.  Intentions may [...]

GRATITUDE: The Grace Of Disorder

November 25, 2013

I feel like I am traveling back in time these days, back to my childhood, when the majority of my visions were focused on the learning that all around me was God. Is this you?  And this? It was like making my brain into a pretzel, then straightening it all out, then twisting it up again, as the levels of understanding increased. No matter where I turn, it is always You. So I found myself the other day, while listening to a woman seeking healing, having a lively “conversation” with God. No! he screams.  This is a gift I’ve given her.  It is not to be healed. Only you, I think. So I continued to listen, confident I would find God in there somewhere.  Somewhere where no-one else would look and find.  Because we care [...]

PRODIGAL SON: The Difference Between Grace And Love

November 21, 2013

So the words were flying around. Faith. Works. Salvation. Wesley and Calvin were mentioned. Both faith or works?  Or one at a time, one ruling over the other? It was all a pat decision. Salvation is based on faith AND works. Yipee. What do you think, Julia? Well, I don’t follow either Wesley or Calvin. And it’s God who is in charge of salvation. In my own (one of these days it might get to be) humble opinion. What? That’s right.  Man isn’t in charge of his own salvation. If it’s works, I call that ham Christianity: the occasion that after all I have done for you, God, now I get my plaque certifying my salvation.  (As one gets a ham at Christmas for work well done.) And faith can be so many things: a [...]

PRAYER: The Prayer Of The Mind In The Heart

May 20, 2013

From The Art of Prayer – An Orthodox Anthology Sometimes we pray by using the words of prayers already composed; at other times prayer is born directly in the heart, and from there rises to God.  Such was the prayer of Moses before the Red Sea.  The Apostle refers to it in the words, “By grace, singing in your heart to the Lord.”  Explaining this text, Saint John Chrysostom writes: “Sing from the grace of the Spirit, says Paul, not simply with the lips but with attention, standing with your thought before God in your heart.  For this is what singing to God means: otherwise the song is in vain, and the words vanish into thin air.  It is not sung to show off, for even if you are in the market place, you can [...]

SERMON: The Spirit Of Prayer by Francis de Sales

March 10, 2013

We have not to speak of the efficient cause of prayer.  It is necessary for us to know, then, who can and who ought to pray.  The question would soon be decided were we to say that all can pray and that all ought to do so.  But in order the better to satisfy the mind, we shall treat this subject at greater length. In the first place we must realize that God cannot pray at all, since prayer is a petition which is made by grace and requires that we know that we are in need of something, for we are not accustomed to ask for that which we already possess.  Well, God can ask for nothing through grace, but rather, he does everything by divine authority.  Moreover, he cannot have need of anything, since he possesses everything.  It is [...]

SERMON: The Goal Of Prayer by Francis de Sales

March 3, 2013

Saint Bernard – whose ministry is dear to those who have to speak on prayer – in writing to a bishop, advised him that all that was necessary for him was to speak well (meaning to instruct, to discourse); then to do well in giving good example; and finally, to devote himself to prayer.  And we, addressing this to all Christians, shall dwell upon the third point, which is prayer. First, let us remark in passing that, although we condemn certain heretics of our time who hold that prayer is useless, we nevertheless do not hold with other heretics that it alone suffices for our justification.  We say simply that it is so useful and necessary that without it we could not come to any good, seeing that by means of prayer we are shown how to [...]

SERMON: Lent — My Night Knows No Darkness by Karl Rahner

February 24, 2013

Even today, the liturgical year of the church has a time dedicated to penance.  Does this not seem strange?  We certainly understand that in former centuries such at time was considered necessary for the management of the spiritual and the religious life.  People back then were full of life’s joy, satisfied and carefree, and they celebrated Mardi Gras in the streets and laughed the laughter that still came from the heart.  Therefore, they could presumably experience a brief period of recollection, of contemplative seriousness, and of ascetic restraint from life’s luxuries as a beneficial change from everyday life and for the good of the soul. What about us?  Do we not consider the proclamation of the church about the start of a [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Finding God In All Things: A Spirituality For Today by Monika K. Hellwig

February 21, 2013

Excerpted from Sojourners, 1991 Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the largest Catholic religious order, the Jesuits, has been attracting widespread attention this year, the five hundredth anniversary of his birth.  Ignatius’s legacy goes far beyond the founding of the Jesuits – he launched a distinctive style and tradition of spirituality that is particularly apt for our time. The Spiritual Legacy of Ignatius In their basic form, the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius consist of a silent retreat of about thirty days in which four or more hours are given each day to certain prescribed meditations.  In an alternate form, the Exercises are spread over a much longer period of time and are done while a person follows his or her ordinary [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Third Station — Jesus Falls For The First Time, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

February 16, 2013

From The Journey to Peace Have pity on me, O God, for men trample upon me; all the day they press this attack against me. . . . O Most High, when I begin to fear, in you will I trust. (Psalm 56:2, 3) Faith is a Great Gift to be Lived Saint Paul reminds us that faith is a great gift, a gift to be treasured but not a gift to be put away.  It is rather a gift that is to be lived, to be put into practice, if it is to be alive and effective.  This is the challenge we all face: How do we deepen our own faith so that we can put it into practice?  How do we live as examples of faith to others?  How do we best hear and respond to the call of God in our lives? Jesus extends the call to each of us to follow him and hopes that we will respond.  [...]

GRACE: The Grace of Aridity and Other Comedies by Kathleen Norris

October 13, 2012

From Portland Magazine It’s all about water, and grace. Our planet is mostly water, as are we: one fact of nature that astonished and delighted me when I first encountered it as a child, and which I still treasure as evidence of the essential unity of all things, is that human blood, chemically speaking, is nearly indistinguishable from sea water.  While we live and breathe, we are literally at one with the ocean, and when we die, our bodies become earth.  This is not New Age fancy, but science. We human beings, however, are remarkably adept at ignoring elemental truths; we’d rather place our faith in technology, and keep playing with our toys.  Every now and then I read of a survey conducted by sociologists in which Americans are [...]