Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vulgar Grace

Found this quote from Brennan Manning’s new memoir, All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir to be especially compelling today.

“My life is a witness to vulgar grace — a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request — “Please, remember me” — and assures him, “You bet!”…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…

Sin and forgiveness and falling and getting back up and losing the pearl of great price in the couch cushions but then finding it again, and again, and again? Those are the stumbling steps to becoming Real, the only script that’s really worth following in this world or the one that’s coming. Some may be offended by this ragamuffin memoir, a tale told by quite possibly the repeat of all repeat prodigals. Some might even go so far as to call it ugly. But you see that doesn’t matter, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand…that yes, all is grace. It is enough. And it’s beautiful.” (cited on

Christmas is about vulgar grace! Grace that shows up with bloody afterbirth in a stinky stable smelling of crap. That’s where we have to go, folks. If God got that “real” for us, how can we pretend anymore?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I’m reflecting on at least two passages today:

Ps 107:1 (ESV) "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever!"

Our God is good, his love eternally on display through the sacrifice of his beloved Son, so let’s trust him enough to celebrate today! (It takes real faith to celebrate, you know).

Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

God gives joy to his people and this joy (in Him) provides us strength. Perhaps the robustness and freedom in which we feast and celebrate is indicative of our belief in this truth and the good Giver who came up with it.

Let’s trust him enough to have fun and feast!

For those of us who feel a sense of brokenheartedness during this season (many family issues are stirred up, aren’t they?), take heart friends. Even though we may not be able to experience complete freedom from regret or sadness, let’s press in to our merciful God today. He will hold us and our tears and celebrate over us when we can’t celebrate (over) ourselves.



Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Walk with Two Selves

This morning I tried a meditation exercise while on my walk. I have been reading Albert Haase’s book, Coming Home to Your True Self, and I wanted to try and unpack some of what he was saying. Specifically, I wanted to acknowledge my false selves (some of the ways I am false), then try to transition in prayer to my new self. It turned out to be a series of “I am ___” statements.

First, some of my false selves:

I am . . .

what others think of me;

what I have;

what I do;

my weight;

my intelligence, etc.

Then I tried switching to the new self:

I am . . .

chosen, beloved and redeemed in Jesus;

uniquely made;

never forsaken;

safe in his arms;

free from sin and all lies, etc.

At the end I felt more in touch with my true self than false; I acknowledged before the Lord that the cause of my false self is my feeling alone, abandoned and afraid. I asked the Lord to be with me in these places and I sensed his presence. It was a good exercise I think.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Hurt, But the Cross is Close

This title comes from a blog I came across today that I just had to share. In this blog Jason Clark reflects on whether or not the Cross is big enough for dealing with the suicide of both his parents. I can’t even imagine what he must be suffering, but my heart immediately resonated with his as he struggles to articulate what he is feeling. Here is an excerpt, but I encourage you to read the entire thing (it’s not too long).

So I circled back to the cross this June with my mother's suicide, and I find myself, back to the cross today, asking again 'Jesus is your cross big enough for this'?  And the more I come to His cross, with the darkest and most painful things that seem to have no end, I sense in the peripheral vision of my soul, that his arms on the cross are bigger, wider and stronger than anything that has befallen me. (emphasis mine)

Clark talks several times about “circling back” to the Cross throughout his life, particularly in painful seasons. I like the way he puts it: “Taking my pain to the cross, not hiding who I was or what had happened . . . was like being dragged naked to an emergency doctor, for critical and life saving care.”

As I reflect on my own past and come to grips with large elements of it that can only be described as abuse, I take heart from Jason’s words to “circle back” to the Cross, bringing my very real pain to this place of mystery and suffering – the revelation of the suffering God.

Somehow this is the only place my pain can find a home. Wherever else I take it, the effect of the pain is to destroy and perpetuate itself. Only the Cross provides the infinite grace for my wounds to find healing. The Cross is so much more than the mere forgiveness of sins! It is certainly not less than that, but is so much more! At the cross we see the clearest revelation of God’s heart. The Cross was not a reluctant “role” that God played for a time, but was central to who He has always been, a God whose greatness doesn’t primarily consist in his ability to speak worlds into being, but rather in his kindness and endless mercy in stooping down to lisp sweet words of redemption to his enemies.

“Come to the Cross, my beloved, for there you will find not only forgiveness but healing, you will find me, and with me you will have life. Come!”

I come, Lord Jesus, I come.