Category Archives: Commentary

The Power of Grace

Will Campbell was born into a farming family in Mississippi, under the shadow of the Ku Klux Klan. Ordained at 17 in his Baptist church, he began to sense that God was asking him to take a difficult, controversial direction in life. Being a white man who supported and worked for civil rights in the deep South was dangerous. He received death threats and was cautioned to stay away from his hometown. He did except for the time he just had to return. His 12 year-old nephew was struck and killed riding the bicycle that his Uncle Will had given him. Following a long-held tradition called sitting up with the dead, Will Campbell sat at the funeral home late into the night. Around 3:00 that morning, someone approached out of the dim light and handed Will a cup of coffee. It was Will’s uncle, a man he hadn’t seen in many years … a man who vehemently disagreed with Will’s activism. Looking back on that experience, Campbell wrote: “Until the dawn, I sat in the redemptive company of a racist Jesus.”

 

I think I know what he meant. Grace wins. On this day when we try to make sense of the racial divide that still exists in our country, we need grace more than ever.

I’m only human

I’m only human. What are my other choices?

  • Animal
  • Vegetable
  • Mineral
  • Robot

Some might suggest we represent all four plus more.

Normally when we hear someone say that line it is accompanied with some clarifying excuse:

“I know I made a mistake, but I’m only human.”

Is being “only human” a bad thing? Are we subject to fear, failure, disappointment, betrayal? Of course we are. Flaws are evident, even in the most respectable persons of high integrity. Scripture makes it plain: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard,” Paul wrote to the Romans.

We get it. We’re not perfect. We stumble, we fall; sometimes we wallow in our misdeeds and mistakes.

God didn’t create automatons. His amazing gift of life carried with it an enormous risk. He gave humans alone the privilege and responsibility to live with free will. There was always the possibility … okay, the probability … okay, the certainty that we would make bad choices, try to live life on our terms instead of God’s.

But being “only human” isn’t a curse; it’s an opportunity. One of my favorite authors is Brené Brown. Think about her words: “To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards. It means learning to forget myself on a regular basis in order to attend to the other selves in my vicinity. It means living so that “I’m only human” does not become an excuse for anything. It means receiving the human condition as blessing and not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality.”

Today could be your celebration of “I’m only human” day!

 

 

Roses for Mom

Christmas is a time for magic and mystery. It is also a time of generosity and grace …

It was Christmas Eve. The florist shop stayed open late and was doing a brisk business. A line waited at the counter. In that line was a 7 year-old boy. His clothes looked worn out and his shoes had more than a few holes in them. When it was finally his turn, he placed a wadded up dollar bill on the counter and spoke boldly, “Mister, do you have any roses for my mom? I’m willing to pay a buck for ‘em.”

Roses for $1? The other customers couldn’t help but snicker and whisper some comments of incredulity. The shopkeeper looked down at the boy and said, “Let me see what I can do for you.” The man headed for the back of the shop. After a few minutes he returned with a dozen long-stemmed red roses, picked up the dollar bill, and placed the roses in the boy’s arms. “You’re in luck, son. On Christmas Eve, we have a special on roses for young men who want to do something nice for their mothers. Merry Christmas!”

With a big smile on his face, the boy gathered his roses and walked proudly out of the store with his head held high. “Wait til mom sees these!”

May you find opportunity to bring joy this Christmas to someone who really needs it!

Any color you want

Henry Ford, according to Wikipedia, was a famous “American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.” He was also known for some pithy quotes.

The one most folks might know concerns the ground-breaking Model T automobile: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black.”

Some of my favorites:

“Don’t find fault; find a remedy.”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

“To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.”

Ford was more than a brilliant capitalist; he was progressive in his practices and innovative in his business. He was also generous. That quality was expressed in his association with Martha Berry. The long-lasting friendship between Martha Berry and the Fords began when, in 1921, Miss Berry accepted a dinner invitation from Thomas Edison, who at the time was a friend of the Fords. At this dinner, Martha Berry met the Fords and began her life-long friendship with them.

What a combination! Martha Berry’s commitment to making educational opportunities available for any person and Henry Ford’s willingness to do more for the world that the world did for him changed many lives.

 

We can follow Ford’s advice. Success is indeed making a difference for all the right reasons.

“You’re kidding, right?

Apprentice angel to supervisor: “Hey, boss, I just heard the strangest rumor.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Some of the other angels were whispering and I wonder what’s going on.”

“What did you hear?”

“I heard that there was a baby to be born soon.”

“Did you miss orientation or what? That’s how it’s done down there. Babies are born every day.”

“Yes sir, but this is supposed to be really unusual, and get this, the word is that the King is personally involved.”

“The King is always involved when it comes to what happens on earth.”

“Yes sir, but the story is that He is going to be that baby! How does that work?”

“Well, this is way above your pay grade but I’ll give it try. When the Father gave humans the gift of free will, He made it possible for them to accept it or reject it. He knew that humanity would fall so He put His plan in place. Someone would have to take the penalty of their disobedience and rebellion. The King volunteered to be that someone.”

“So He had to become one of them? Why couldn’t He just send some of us to straighten out the mess that humans made?”

“It’s not easy to understand but when you love someone like the Father loves those creatures, you are willing to make sacrifices. In this case, the greatest sacrifice anyone could imagine.”

“Let me get this straight. The King becomes a baby, lives like a regular human, tries to show people how God feels about them, then is willing to lay down His life to save them?”

“Well, there’s more to it, but that is really what is about to happen.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

 

A holly, jolly Christmas

Hurry! It’s cyber Monday! You need to buy stuff you don’t need quickly! We seem to suffer from one of two maladies: conspicuous consumption or perhaps constipated consumption.

With our church recently experiencing the Matthew 25 Challenge through World Vision, it is even more painfully evident that we live in shuttered world. If we open the shutters, advertisers would have us believe that there is a brand new SUV or other luxury vehicle sitting in our driveway with a big red bow. They just appear!

Materialism isn’t new. Our consumer-driven society has been splurging on itself for many years. One silly column isn’t going to change selfish to selfless.

Still, it is heart-warming when you see people more interested in giving than receiving, people who accept blessing by blessing, people who intentionally open their homes and hearts. Yes, Christmas is the best time of year because we are confronted with the amazing gift of a generous God who knew exactly what we needed.

Let’s think of how we are going to invest not spend this year. I don’t mean to make ourselves more comfortable; I mean being more concerned with eternal values than earthly bargains.

Heavens to Betsy!

We say some strange things. One that always confused me: “I’m just beside myself.” Does that mean there are two of me standing here? One is plenty. Or how about: “Heavens to Betsy!” No one knows who Betsy was or why heaven was involved.

Some of these sayings have an easily understood back story. A “scapegoat” comes from Jewish history. A scapegoat is a person who is a convenient fall-guy or unfairly blamed for problems. The concept originally comes from Leviticus, in which a goat is designated to driven into the desert symbolically bearing the sins of the community.

What if you were trying to learn English and heard some of these?

  • As Cool as a Cucumber …
  • Hold Your Horses …
  • Kick the Bucket …
  • Blue in the Face …
  • Storm in a Teacup …
  • Head in The Clouds …
  • Dead as a Doornail

I’m certain people have their favorites and every culture has their strange idioms. The truth of the matter is that communication is hard enough without navigating through colloquialisms. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise more diligence in expressing our thoughts and feelings.

It might be as easy as falling off a log or you could gum up the works. I’m not pulling your leg that you probably have bats in your belfry. See how easy this is? You try it.