Where There’s Grace, There’s Fire.

Candle Flower FREE

   There was a time in my life when I went to confession, having been told by the good nuns (and they were good), that I would receive “grace” for going and that the more I went to confession, the more grace I would get. That was all fine and good – except that I didn’t really have any idea what grace was.

   For the most part, I reasoned that grace was synonymous with mercy. Makes sense, right? I mean, you confess your sins and you have to receive mercy in order to be forgiven. The only problem was, I couldn’t understand how you could get “more” mercy; either you had it or you didn’t have it; either your sins were forgiven – or they weren’t. How could they be more forgiven or less forgiven?

   ???

   Now while I didn’t lose a lot of sleep over the issue, it was certainly a mystery. But I filed it away in the back of my mind and figured that some far off day when I finally got to heaven, some angel or saint would no doubt explain it to me. (It would, I thought, probably be Apostle Paul since he was always declaring “grace and peace” to someone or other.) However, that day came sooner than I thought – and not from Paul. One day as I was sitting in church mostly listening, I heard a woman begin to teach on the difference between grace and mercy. My ears perked up.

   Simply put, mercy is defined as not getting what we do deserve – for example, punishment for sin, while grace is defined as getting what we do not deserve –  in this case, the power and ability to accomplish whatever it is we need to do.

   I took a moment and thought about that. Suddenly it all began to make sense: Mercy and grace are not the same thing. Mercy is the forgiveness of sin, and grace is the power to overcome sin.

   Still, grace is so much more. Grace is the power of God to accomplish and achieve the extraordinary, the supernatural, even the impossible things we are called to do in order to fulfill our destinies.

Grace is not just some vague, wimpy, “nice” little Christian concept. Grace is the fire-power of God.

   Think about that.

   The fact is that grace, like faith, is an actual substance, a “thing” which we can receive from God in order to accomplish whatever it is He has called us to do. And although it’s probably an insufficient analogy, I like to think of grace as a tool without which we can’t get the job done. Can we split wood without an axe or saw? Can we drive without a vehicle? Can we communicate without language?      

   Can we fulfill our destinies without the fire of God’s grace empowering our lives?

   Possibly, but not well. But that’s all right because God says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (Romans 12:9).

   Have you ever been so frustrated trying to achieve your calling, your destiny, that you just can’t seem to do what you feel you’ve been called to do? Have you even doubted that calling?

   Have you ever just wanted to quit?

   There’s fire for that.

 

 

 

What’s the End Game?

Ship with Man FREE

   Why do we do what we do? What is our “why” for the pursuit of whatever visions and dreams we have? Why are we pursuing that education or career or business or book deal or art show or ministry or—fill in the blank?

   What’s the end game?

   Why are we spending our time—our days, our weeks, our years, our entire lives—pursuing that goal? Because spending them we are.

   Is our motivation self-fulfillment? Are we chasing the dream to satisfy our creative selves or simply because we love to do that “thing” —whatever it is? Or is it to escape the grind of working in some job that we hate just to pay the bills? It could be a combination of any of those—and worthy causes all. But then we have to ask ourselves what it is about that particular goal that is so attractive. And how long will it keep us entertained?  

   Is it money we’re pursuing? If so, why? Here’s a news flash: money, as an end, is not a horrible thing— although some might automatically default there. It truly depends on why we’re pursuing it. Is it to pay those bills or to save for retirement or college or to leave to our children? Or is it for a bigger home, a longer vacation, designer clothes? Is it to do the Bill and Belinda Gates thing: give vast amounts of it away? Is it to fund feeding programs for hungry people or to dig wells in bone-dry Africa or to help others struggling with medical bills or with no hope of ever going to college or trade school? Is it to provide jobs for the so many who would love to have one but don’t? Or is it just because we’re “supposed to”?

   Why are we tracking the cash?

   Is our goal to become well-known, respected—even famous? Not necessarily evil either. Again, it depends. Is it so that we can “be the boss”? Is it so that we’re invited to join the country club or some other highly-visible organization? Is it to become known in our communities or states or the nation or even the world simply for the sake or being known? Is it so that everyone—outside of Cheers—will know our name? Or is it so that we’ll have a platform of some kind in order to bring recognition or money to a problem that needs to be confronted or to a worthy cause that needs funding?

   Why are we big-fame hunting?

   Perhaps our motivation is to find meaning in life. Are we spending our lives doing whatever it is we’re doing so that we’ll finally feel “happy”? If so, what does that look like? Will we find it when we hit the pinnacle of our careers and achieve industry fame? Is it the Nobel Peace prize or the prize for literature or science or medicine? Or is it a particular number registered in the savings account? What number? Is it a killing on the stock market and if so, how much of a killing? Is it being able to buy anything our hearts desire without the blinking of an eye? Is it molding the clay day after day or fingers to the keyboard into old age? Is it starting a tiny business and seeing it grow from one employee to 50? to 100? to 1000? Is it touring world-wide and playing in concert venues to thousands, every CD going platinum? Is it getting married or having children or grandchildren? Is it becoming a mayor or governor or senator or even President of the United States?

   Is it possible for any of those things to bring happiness in and of themselves?

   No.

   If the answer is no, does that mean that any of those things are bad things?

   Again—no.

   Fulfillment in life, purpose and destiny happens only one way: by seeking God first and then by pursuing the destiny that He has for you. It is then and only then that whatever we do, whatever we amass, whatever we achieve will bear fruit for all eternity and not simply for the five minutes that we take up space on this planet.

   Does that sound like a sermon? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as truth.

   Why do we do what we do?

 

 

 

 

“Politically Correct” – Destiny Killer?

Billboard - Morally Correct

   I’m sick of the term “politically correct”. Ever wonder who’s responsible for it or what it even means? I have . . .

The nearest I can figure is that the term originated in some smoke-filled back room with a gaggle of politicians sitting around, waving their cigars, and plotting their re-elections: What’s the safest position to take on an issue like immigration? abortion? Common Core? research funding for cupcakes? (Yep, that’s a thing.) I expect the conversation went something like this:

“What about the work requirement for Public Assistance? Should we vote for it or against it?”

“Well, Henry – my constituents are mostly urban folks. More than 33% of them are on some form of welfare or another. I don’t think I want to rock that boat. I’m voting against.”

“My district is primarily working-class – some farmers, lots of blue collar from the factories. I don’t think it would be politically correct for me to vote for a work requirement for welfare – they work hard for a living, don’t you know? It would tick them all off and I might find myself out of a job next fall.”

(Lots of laughter, another round of whiskey rocks.)

“I like that term, Frank – ‘politically correct’ – where’d you come up with that?”

“I wrote it into a speech last week.”

“But don’t you mean ‘politically safe’?”

“Of course, but we can’t actually say that.”

(More laughter.)

(Throat clearing.) “But, ah, what’s it really mean? ‘Politically correct’?”

“You’re too much of a philosopher, Joe!” (Laughter.)

“Cut the boy a break, Danny! He’s only been in Washington for five minutes!” (Even more laughter.) “It really means nothing, Joey. It’s a vague enough term that it could mean anything. Let people use their imaginations – “biased, racist, prejudiced” – no one wants to be associated with any of those. So anything we’re against we’ll just tag ‘politically incorrect’.”

“So it basically means anything we want it to . . .”

“Yep.”

(Lots of laughter, glass-clinking, and smoke-blowing.)

FADE TO BLACK.

So – what if we are ‘politically incorrect’? Is that a Class A felony? Do we go to jail? Get a hefty fine? Or are we just called ‘mean’ or ‘racist’ or some other scary thing? And if so, who cares? Maybe it’s time to start asking what it really means to be politically correct. I’m no Einstein but my guess is that both ends of the political spectrum believe they’re correct – politically or otherwise. And my further guess is that each side has a different definition of what it means to be ‘correct’ anyway.

But why should we bother asking what it means? Why waste the ink?

Here’s why: If the fear of being ‘politically incorrect’ is getting in the way of doing what we really feel is right to do, then we could be nuking our God-given destinies. If the big, bad bogeyman of being labeled ‘politically incorrect’ is defining what’s right and wrong for us, perhaps we need to consider that our moral compasses should not be based on politics. Just maybe it’s time we take a stand and insist on the morality of an issue and not the politics of it.

Maybe we should just ditch the term ‘Politically Correct’ altogether and go with, say, ‘Morally Correct’.

Or is it politically incorrect to be moral anymore?

Just a thought . . .

 

Step Back.

Burnt Turkey

   The fried turkey is burning. But – so what? No one’s going to starve. To my knowledge, a bologna sandwich never killed anyone. And so what if the dishes sit in the sink till the sun rises? (Or sets?) Unless you’re expecting a Department of Health inspector to stop by and report to your mother-in-law, what difference does it make?  So what if the lawn doesn’t get mowed every Saturday at noon? The Neighborhood Association can’t evict you for at least a week.

   Step back. Breathe.

   Sometimes we just have to take a break and get a grasp on the big pic before we get so caught up in the silly annoyances of life that we forget what really matters and what doesn’t.

   Kids have clothes on. Matters. The clothes are designer brand. Doesn’t matter.

   You make scrambled eggs for dinner. Doesn’t matter. You let the kids cook.  Kinda doesn’t matter. You never cook. Matters.

   You’re running behind and late to work. Doesn’t really matter. Late three times this week. Really does matter.

   Computer’s down. Doesn’t matter. You have to hand-write a business plan. Now it matters.

   Stuffy nose. Doesn’t matter. Headache. Probably doesn’t matter. Lyme disease. Matters.

   Bad hair day. Would matter if anyone cared. Dog pooped on the carpet. Doesn’t matter: “Dog 4 sale. Carpet 4 sale.”

   Stupid things – all. Even the things that we think “matter” are often just blips on the radar; here and gone. When we’re faced with a flat tire, a snarky boss, or even a moment (or two) of “intense fellowship” with our spouse or child or parent, we need to step back and reflect on a couple of things:

  1. We even have a tire – and it probably comes attached to three other tires and a car.
  2. We have a boss (even if she is the reincarnation of Cinderella’s step-mom) and a boss usually means a job.
  3. We have a spouse or a child or a parent to argue with occasionally.

What’s life without a little hot sauce?

   Step back.

   So what if we miss the party? No one’s going to die. As I’ve been known to remind myself in the occasional crisis, no one’s going to go hungry or end up sleeping on a park bench, either. Really.

   Certainly there are serious circumstances in life sometimes, and they do require serious attention. They matter.

   But let’s save our panic attacks for those – not the small fender dent or the lack of pizza funds or even the not-nice comment from the Mean Girls or the water-cooler crowd.  Let’s step back and take a look at the big screen: We’re not living in some poor, third-world country where we have to walk three miles a day in mirage-degree heat just to get one bucket of dirty water to drink, wash in, and water plants with. That’s if we have plants.

   We’re not living in a country where children die from strep throat or mosquito bites or a flu bug because meds don’t exist.

   We’re not living in a country where education is a myth or where, at best, it has to be bought and paid for.

   We’re not living in a war-shredded country where explosions and blood and death are as common there as video games are here, where children are dying from real bullets, not shooting imaginary ones on a flat-screen.

   We’re not living in a dictatorial country where “vote” is an evil word and where a brutal regime can reign for decades. If we end up with a bad president, we’ll get a new one. In Cuba they won’t.

   Let’s step back.

   So the washer died and we have to go to the mat to get clean clothes. At least we have clothes. And they’re clean.

   So we broke a toe or a window or a fingernail. They can all be fixed.

   So half the news is fake. We can turn it off.

   Let’s step back and look at the big picture: What will any of it matter in a day? a week? a year?

   In the end?