Grace Given Vs. Grace Received

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us” (Anne Lamott).

During the homeward commute, I thought I’d play the Good Samaritan and let the car beside me merge in front of me. Little did I know that the next three cars behind that car would take advantage of my generosity.

For a brief moment, I was upset. I was livid. I mean, how dare they? All of us good and faithful drivers have been patiently waiting in line while these others felt they could rush past us and force their way in at the last possible moment.

There’s no way they deserve to merge in front of me.

Then it was like God spoke to me. I don’t claim to hear the audible voice of God and I’m not claiming I had a prophetic word, but I had the strongest impression that God said, “You know that you’ve deserved far less and received far more than these people have.”

The heart of the Gospel is that Jesus came for the undeserving– the hell-deserving– and instead of giving them what they (and I ) deserved, He lavished them (and me) with exactly what they didn’t deserve but needed most. Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness.

That’s why I don’t buy into karma. I don’t go around bragging about other people getting what’s coming to them because I know where I’d be if I ever got what I truly had coming to me. It wouldn’t be pretty.

That’s why I’m such a huge fan of mercy and grace. I don’t get what I really deserve and I get what I don’t deserve.

I believe that if we’ve received so much grace, we should be the first to show it not to those who deserve it, but those like we once were (and still are at times) who deserve it least but need it most.

That means those with different political ideology than yours. It means people that irritate you and get on your nerves. It means bad drivers who don’t know how to merge.

Ultimately, it means forgiving yourself when you let yourself down, remembering that God has already forgiven you.



All Is Still Grace

That’s it. At the end of the day, all is still grace.

That breathing in and breathing out thing you’re still doing? Grace.

Being able to see and hear and touch and feel and smell and live? Grace.

That job that you go to every day and the car you drive in to get there? Grace.

The food in your belly and the pillow beneath your head at night? Grace.

Karma is you getting what’s coming to you. Grace is you getting what you never expected in a million years and never counted on because you knew you didn’t deserve it.

Waking up tomorrow to a new sunrise and new mercies? Grace.


Two Kinds of Love

“There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give” (C. S. Lewis).

This is why I’m not a fan of karma. Karma says that you get what’s coming to you. That’s it. No discussion. Side note: I notice that a lot of people are wishing karma on everybody else but want and expect grace for themselves when they screw up. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.

But what if I don’t want what’s coming to me? What if I know that at times I’ve been stupid and disagreeable?

The secret is to treat others like you yourself want to be treated? The key is to love others like God has loved you.

Of course, none of us ever come close to that perfect standard of God’s love. Most of the time, we do good to love those who love us. We do less well with those who annoy us.

Still, the more God’s love has its way in us, the more we are able to love those who can’t reciprocate that love, who can’t repay our kindnesses. The more we become like Jesus the more we love those disagreeable people (sometimes without even realizing it).

It all starts when you really and truly believe that God loves you as you are and not as you should be. God loves you no matter what. You can’t do anything to make Him love you more and you certainly can’t do anything that will cause Him to love you less.

The more you believe that, the more your love looks like His.


Praying for Orlando

I, like so many of you, was horrified by what I saw on my social media feed. a gunman murdered 50 people in a night club early this morning.

Regardless of your stance on the LBGTQ community, we should all mourn the devastating loss of life. No one should celebrate when someone else dies. Ever.

Remember, each one of these victims was someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister,  aunt or uncle. More than that, each was an individual created in the image of God and therefore possessing inherent value. Each was someone Jesus willingly went to the cross and died for.

I’m praying for the families of these victims tonight. I’m praying that God can take what was meant for pure evil and turn it into something good. I know that in God’s plan, tragedy and loss will not have the last word. God’s story never ends with ashes.

I read a post that said that those that died got what they deserved because of their lifestyles. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to get what I deserve based on some of the choices I’ve made in the past. I don’t want karma. I want and desperately need grace.

Hatred cannot overcome hatred. Only love can do that. Only the love of God as expressed in the person of Jesus can do that. Only a kind of love that was willing to lay down its life for enemies can do that.

In response to so much senseless tragedy and horror, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Only You have the power to set things right again and to wipe away the tears from every eye and to vanquish evil and hate and the lies once and for all. Only you can make a happy ending out of so much sadness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”


Vulgar Grace: Final Thoughts on All is Grace


“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. He is enough. Jesus is enough” (Brennan Manning).

I think grace offends most of us because we’re all about the American work ethic and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and earning our own way and yada, yada, yada. Grace says that no, you did not earn God’s love but you got it anyway. Grace says that what you do deserve is exactly what you don’t get and be thankful for that.

I will love grace as long as I live because without it, I wouldn’t be alive. I wouldn’t be anything at all.

I hope that I can come close to writing about grace as well as Brennan Manning did. Of course, I’d rather not go through a lifetime of alcoholism and all the destruction it wrought in his life. But there are no convenient and easy paths when it comes to dispensing grace to others. It’s much easier to wish karma on to those who hurt others or (especially) us. Karma may appeal more to our ideas of justice, but when it comes to love, grace always wins hands down.

So, go read this book. I’ve even provided a link for you to go directly to amazon’s page to buy it. So there are no more excuses.

Now there’s no more crowds and no more lights,
still all is grace.
Now my eyes are wrapped in endless night,
still all is grace.
Now I pace the dark and sleep the day,
yet I still can hear my Father say –
‘all is grace’.

It was easy as a younger man
To squander in the far off land
Where sin is sin, like black is black.
But the older brother sin is white,
this doubt that creeps me up at night –
‘does Jesus love me still?’

Now I take my meds and hear the game,
still all is grace.
Now old friends drop in and bless my name,
still all is grace.
Now a prodigal I’ll always be
yet still my Father runs to me.
All is grace.”

Karma vs. Grace at Christmas

bono grace karma

I hear a lot of people who profess Christianity talking about karma. Well, more specifically, I see many of my facebook friends who post how people who mess them over are gonna get what karma’s dishing out.

It’s funny how people always want karma for others but never for themselves. Just my opinion.

I prefer grace. Period.

I know where I’d be if I got karma. Majorly screwed.

Besides, Jesus didn’t come to give karma. Jesus came to give grace, which in my mind is infinitely better.

Karma says you get what you deserve. Grace says Jesus got and paid for what you deserve. That’s the difference.

Karma is all about what you deserve. Grace is what you don’t deserve but get anyway. Karma may be getting your just desserts, but grace is more like a feast– much more satisfying and filling.

Karma says that it’s up to you. Grace says that God is up to it.

Karma says that if you try really hard and be nice to people then maybe, just maybe, on the next go-round, you won’t be a bug. Eventually, if you’re really lucky and eat all your vegetables, you may wind up in a good place. And I admit that I’m exaggerating a bit.

Grace says that no matter how badly you’ve messed up and how even if you’ve made enough mistakes for several lifetimes, Jesus offers forgiveness and a do-over. Jesus offers a new life, not just in the eternal by-and-by, but here and now. Life to the fullest.

I choose grace.

If you want karma, that’s fine. I don’t want to wish for someone what I wouldn’t want to receive myself. I know that it’s not right to want karma for others and grace for myself. It just doesn’t work that way.

So grace wins in my book, hands down. The end.


Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In the Bible, grace and mercy are many times used together. I’ve heard it put this way that grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Mercy is withholding the right to revenge and giving grace instead. One of God’s characteristics is that He is merciful. If anyone had the right to exact judgment on what we’ve done wrong and how we’ve screwed up and when we’ve outright rebelled against Him, it’s God. But He in HIs grace gives us what we don’t deserve– forgiveness– and in His mercy withholds from us what we do deserve– everlasting punishment in hell.

To be merciful is to be like God. To forgive, even when forgiveness is not sought, is to be like God. Mercy is loving the unloveable. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back, but God calls us to love those who are so caught up in and trapped by fear and addictions that they are unable to love us back.

I like the Message version. It says, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

If you show mercy, you get mercy. I also like to think that one of the characteristics of those who have experienced God’s grace and mercy is that they live out that grace and mercy toward others. You forgive much because you have been forgiven much. You don’t worry about the $100 worth of wrong someone did to you when God just forgave the $1 million worth of wrong you did against Him.

Brennan Manning says it best: “Our encounter with Mercy profoundly affects our interaction with others . . . . We look beyond appearances, beneath surfaces, to recognize others as companions in woundedness. Human flesh is heir to the assaults, within and without, of negative, judgmental thoughts, but we will not consent to them because God is merciful to us. We will not allow these attacks to lead us into the sins of self-preoccupation and self-defense. Swimming in the merciful love of Christ, we are free to laugh at the tendency to assume spiritual superiority– in ourselves. We are free to extend to others the mercy we have received.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.