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.

e3860b58337a2e43fb9158be464433d6

Bittersweet Memories, Regrets, and Grace

St Pauls Frank rescan 20001

Today, I found out that a friend of mine who has cancer is in ICU. He’s septic and may not make it through the night. And if I’m honest, I didn’t really know him in high school. Or at least I don’t remember much about him. I regret that.

Lately, he’s been one of my biggest encouragers, even though what he’s going through is a million times worse than anything I’ve ever faced. I’m praying for one more miracle.

I find myself missing my childhood best friend Nathan. I miss my Grandmother Iris and my Granddaddy Bud. I miss both Uncle Bob and Uncle Monty. I even miss my high school homeroom teacher.

I have lots of unspoken words I wish I had spoken and a lot of unfulfilled promises I intended to keep but didn’t.

I can never go back and tell these people what they meant to me. I can never see their faces and hear their funny stories and hear tales of a legacy of faith that’s been passed down. I can never ask those questions that I thought I would have time to get around to.

But grace means that I still have a chance to set that right. I can say those words to the people who are still in my life. I can make good on promises I made to family and friends in honor and memory of those whom I’ve lost and miss still.

Don’t presume that you’ll have tomorrow to say your “I love you”s. Don’t think that anybody whom you love is guaranteed a tomorrow. Whatever you need to say or do, today is the day.

I’ve said before that when you take things and people for granted, what you’re granted gets taken. And I’ve asked the question before: “If God only let you keep what you thanked Him for and were grateful for verbally, what would you have left? Who would you have left?”

There’s an insidious kind of casualness to relationships these days. Maybe it’s because of people having 5,000 friends on facebook. Maybe it’s because no one thinks they’re really and truly mortal. But once someone is gone from your life, you can never rewind the tape. You can never skip back to the last scene. You can only live with those unspoken words and unfulfilled promises.

I know this is not one of my usual frivolous and witty posts. But sitting in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with tears rolling down my face, I was reminded that sometimes I need a wake-up call. I need to be reminded that life is precious and people are more precious. Right now, have one purring cat in my lap that I must attend to, so I bid you all adieu and a good night.

A Face to Call Home: Still Another Letter to my Future Wife

I chose this picture because I want my wife to look this radiant. The actual girl pictured is probably-- no definitely-- too young for me.

I chose this picture because I want my wife to look this radiant. The actual girl pictured is probably– no definitely– too young for me.

Little by little, inch by inch
We built a yard with a garden in the middle of it
It ain’t much but it’s a start
You got me swaying right along to the song in your heart
And a face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home . . . .

So good you didn’t see
The nervous wreck I used to be
You’d never know a man could feel so small
And you never look at me
Like I’m a liability
I bet you think I’ve never been at all

Little by little, inch by inch
We built a yard with a garden in the middle of it
And it ain’t much, but it’s a start
You got me swaying right along to the song in your heart

And a face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home

A face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home

Maybe I could stay a while,
Maybe I could stay a while,
Maybe I could stay a while,
I’m talkin’ like all of the time” (John Mayer).

Here I am again, writing you another letter instead of holding you in my arms. A verse in Proverbs says that a hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a hope deferred is still better than no hope at all. And my hopes are alive, even if the monitors would barely pick up a heartbeat. I still have hope.

I’m seeing more and more of what you’re like and I’m loving it. You have a beauty that’s all your own and you’re probably not even aware of it. It’ll be my job to show you and tell you every single day how beautiful you are and to bring that radiance out of you. You have a smile that makes me weak in the knees and a laugh that warms my heart. I don’t deserve that way you look at me and only me.

If I were to say that I’m up to the task of being a husband and a father, I’d be proving once and for all that I’m not ready. I can say for certain that I’m not up to it– not nearly– but I’ll be calling on all the power of Christ in me if I have any hopes of making us work.

So yet again. I’m praying that you hold on to hope. I’m praying you don’t listen to anyone who tells you how to become their idea of beautiful. Don’t let any man (even me. Especially me) treat you like anything less than a Princess, Child of the King, Beloved, the one Christ thought was to die for. Don’t settle. Don’t compromise. Don’t quit.

I love what I heard while you search for the perfect man, you could be missing the one who’s imperfect but would do anything to make you perfectly happy. I’m praying when the time comes that will be me.

Until then, I love you already and I can’t wait to meet you.

Your future husband (and still another Ragamuffin who’s living his miracle).

Greg

 

Raise Your Hand: A Blog About Relationships

Ok. Informal survey. See if any of these scenarios fit you. Here goes.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been interested in someone and gone to the place where he or she works or hangs out in the hopes of “accidentally” running into him or her? And technically, that’s not stalking. It’s only stalking when you know for sure that person will be there.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted something on facebook in hopes that a certain someone would read it. Because that always works. Not. Of course, I’ve NEVER done anything REMOTELY like that. I’ve NEVER found out the hard way how completely futile that is.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever judged the health of a relationship based on how many times the other person likes or comments on your statuses and posts on facebook. Yeah, I seem kinda hung up on the whole facebook thing, but play along with me. Maybe you see the absence of response to your posts and texts as a lack of interest on the other’s part, or even an indicator that that person is upset with you or doesn’t like you. Again, I can say that I’ve never . . . . ok, I’ve been there, done that, thrown the pity party. Now I take pills and I do much better.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever obsessed over the next time you might see that certain someone and rehearsed in your mind what you would say to them. You even got the script down perfect. The only problem is that real life never follows those rehearsed scenarios and real people tend not to want to stick to your script.

What little I know about relationships is this: there are no perfect relationships because there are no perfect people. You can’t make any one person your life or build your future on the hopes of a relationship. To put another person on that kind of pedestal is to put that person in the place of God and put a burden on them that they were never meant to bear.

So I’ve learned to trust God. And pray a lot. And take deep breaths. And not freak out. The other person most likely is just as scared and intimidated and nervous and self-conscious as you are. They just have different ways of showing (or hiding) those things.

By the way, I bet you feel pretty silly sitting in front of your computer all by yourself with your hand raised in the air. You can put it down now.

Swing Dancing And What I Learned From It

astaire-rogers

I’ve improved a great deal in swing dancing. Ok, so I’m not Fred Astaire quite yet (aside from maybe in my own mind occasionally), but I’m definitely more confident in my own abilities than I was even two weeks ago. The Waltz? Not so much.

I’ve learned a few life lessons from my grand total of two times swing dancing.

1) Don’t give up. At first, I felt hopelessly lost and like I would never get it, but I found someone who knew what she was doing to talk me down from the ledge and help me figure out what I was doing wrong. It takes time and effort to learn anything worthwhile. At least anything that’s worth learning.

2) Step boldly. I discovered a secret. Even if you mess up, you can still keep going and pretend like it didn’t happen. The worst thing to do is to stop or become hesitant. You will mess up, so you might as well mess up royally by taking a chance and trying.

3) You never know unless you ask. I’m learning that I have to be the one to step up and ask the girl to dance. And that won’t happen with me standing across the room sending telepathic messages. My ESP isn’t all that good. I have to be willing to walk across the room and go up to her and ask. I might try and fail but I am guaranteed a 100% failure rate if I don’t try.

4) Don’t take yourself too seriously. I have a tendency to overthink and make things more complicated than they need to be. I’m learning with swing dancing to relax and have fun with it. It’s not like I’m in a competition getting marked off for every little mistake I make. It’s all about having a good time.

5) Fake confidence. A friend told me once that sometimes when you’re not sure of yourself and what you’re doing, to fake like you are. That way you can fool yourself into doing more than you think you can. It works. Trust me.

6) Give grace. You have to allow yourself and others the freedom to fail if you want to learn anything new. You won’t get it 100% right on the first try, no matter what you’re trying to learn. Plus, you will learn far more from your mistakes and failures than you ever will from success. So be kind to yourself and others. Practice forgiveness and second chances. You will inevitably need it yourself one day.

Wow. All that came from two lessons? Who knows what will happen after I’ve been at this swing dancing thing for a while? I don’t know yet, but you’ll be the first ones to find out.

Lucky you.

To Be Liked or To Not Be Liked. . . That Is the Question

cameronincar1

I have given this a lot of thought. Probably too much, given my tendency to way overthink matters. But here goes.

I’ve decided that it is just too much work to hate anyone. To spend all that time concentrating negative emotions on one person and letting that person dictate your life is tiring. Just thinking about hating someone is enough to make me want to lie down until the feeling passes.

I also believe that life is too short to spend it disliking anyone. I know this opinion is probably one I hold by myself and I don’t ask you to agree with it, but I’m standing firm on this one. You may not get along with every single person, but you can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them grace, because if you haven’t already needed it from someone else, you will one day. I guarantee it.

You have the perfect right not to like me. You don’t even have to have a valid reason for it. It’s your choice and right as an American. You may not like my personality. I may rub you the wrong way. I may occasionally say and do (without realizing it) really dumb stuff that turns you off.

It’s your privilege as a human. It is also my privilege to not return the dislike. It is my calling as a believer to show kindness and the love of Jesus to you. It’s my calling in Christ to pray for you daily and to wish you nothing but the very best.

Sometimes relationships go wrong, whether in the workplace or in social settings or anywhere else, and you will never be able to put them right again. You will always wonder what might have been. But just because that person has vanished from off your radar screen doesn’t mean they’ve vanished from God’s. He still knows where they are and what they’re going through.

So I have a list of people I’m praying for who will probably never know it. That’s okay. I only pray they find a true peace that passes understanding and a lasting joy that nothing can take away. I pray they find Jesus to be more desirable than anything else in this world.

And I wish them nothing but the very best.

My Disclaimer

Just in case you thought I had it all figured out, this is my disclaimer: I don’t.

Sometimes, I have no clue what’s going on. Sometimes it really feels like everybody else on the planet has got their act together and I am wondering where I left my cell phone when it was just in my hand a second ago.

I know what Tom Hank’s character in the movie Big feels like. I know what it feels like to be a kid in a grown-up’s body. Sometimes I ask myself questions like “When did I get grown-up? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a kid?” and “Haven’t they figured out by now that I’m faking this whole adult thing?”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be an adult. It means I survived with the vast majority of my mental facilities. That’s a good thing.

But no, I don’t have my 20-year life plan mapped out and diagrammed just yet. I’m not too sure what I’ll be doing tomorrow. Surprises are much more fun, don’t you think?

I do know that while I don’t have a clue sometimes, God always knows what’s up.

I still believe that he who began a good work in me will complete it. I still believe that he works all things together for good. I still believe that he knows the plans he has for me.

So if you feel like you haven’t quite figured out this whole “being an adult” thing, remember that you’re not the only one. I haven’t, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who haven’t, but just aren’t brave enough to admit it.

I find myself leaning on the sovereignty of God a lot more these days and trusting him a lot more. These days, it’s not about trusting him with my whole life. It’s more about trusting him for the next five minutes.

I think that’s a good place to be.

 

I Made This!

I made a pumpkin hazelnut cheesecake today.

Normally, I am not a culinary-type. I enjoy good food, but I am normally not a fan of creating new good foods. I’d rather eat someone else’s cooking for the most part.

But I got wild and daring. I found a recipe for pumpkin hazelnut cheesecake online and said to myself (not out loud), “What the heck? Why not?” Even when the recipe called for hazelnut flour, which I was unaware even existed until I saw it in bold letters on the printout.

So I followed the recipe to the letter, step by step, hoping I wouldn’t blow up the kitchen or inadvertently create a new life form out of the ingredients.

It is a good feeling knowing that you have created something. Whether it’s a song or a poem or a book or a photo, it’s an amazing rush knowing that you have put something new out into the universe.

I think that when God made us, he didn’t marvel at his own creative skills. He didn’t prance about the garden of Eden yelling how awesome a job he did. He simply said, “This is very good.”

Get that? He said that YOU are very good. Not because you pull $1 million a year or because you’re in the 100 most beautiful people list. Simply because God made you and liked what he saw.

OK, I’m not sure how I got from cheesecake to theology, but roll with it. Remember that whatever anybody else says about you or how they assess your worth, God has already rated you “very good,” and that is ultimately the only opinion that really matters.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. Eat lots of turkey (or tofurkey or chicken or tofu or whatever makes you happy). Get that second helping of dessert. Heck, try ’em all. Holiday calories don’t count (or at least I read that on the internet, so it’s got to be true).

And remember you are precious and unique and chosen by God himself.

Friends And All That

I love the TV show Friends. I’ll admit that. I love the characters and how they interact and how while relationships and love interests come and go, that core group of friends remains intact. Well, at least it did for 10 seasons. But it seems that just about everything good comes to and end on this side of heaven.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friendship. I know I am still a novice when it comes to being in a friendship that goes beyond the surfacy “How you doin” kind of relationship. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I try too hard and say the wrong thing or press too hard.

I’m starting to see that not every friendship will last forever. Not every relationship should.

I don’t mean that the relationships are bad or toxic or destructive. I don’t mean that something bad will happen to mess up a good thing.

What I mean is that sometimes God puts people into our lives for a limited time. Some are there for 5 minutes, some for 5 months, some for 5 years and some for 50. That’s just the way God intended it.

I may only have one or two meaningful conversations with you and never see you again, but walk away a better person because of those conversations. That relationship has served its purpose.

It’s not up to me to sustain every one of my relationships. If that person is meant to be in my life, God will keep him or her there. He or she will be around. That’s not to say that I can’t do my part to be supportive and encouraging and a good listener. But I don’t have to worry constantly about ruining the relationship.

Honestly, that epiphany has lifted a proverbial weight off my shoulders. I don’t have the anxiety of worrying if my friends will desert me after they find out what a humongous goober I am. At least I have a lot less anxiety in that regard.

I can only do my part and be the best friend I can. I can’t worry about how the other responds or about how much or how little of an impact I have on the other person. I can try to be Jesus and leave the results to God.

I have an awkward confession to make. I took one of those “Which Friends Character are You Like?” quizzes on facebook a couple of years ago. I was sure I’d be like Ross or maybe even Chandler or possibly Joey. I ended up being most like Phoebe. I never saw that one coming. But I can see that spontaneous free-spirit sometimes. And I do so like smelly cats.

So I can watch re-runs of Friends and be grateful for the friends I have while I have them. So can you.

Why I am Deactivating My Facebook Account (For Now)

This is the official announcement that as of today, I am taking a break from facebook for the time being. It was a decision that had been in the back of my mind but I think I finally reached the breaking point today.

As juvenile as this seems, I got upset when a friend of mine liked someone else’s post and not mine. That was the epiphany for me, the sudden realization that facebook had become an idol in my life. And for the record, this is not in any way to blame the other person at all, but to show how messed up my priorities had become.

I was too wrapped up in whether people liked or commented on my posts and was at times defining myself by that. I spent way too much time trying to figure out why this or that person never commented on or liked any of my posts. It was getting out of hand.

Hence, the break from facebook. I will still be posting on twitter.com and writing blogs and you can always call or text me if you want to get in touch with me. This won’t be forever– just until I can get my priorities straight again.

Please pray for me during this time. I know it will be difficult at times to resist the temptation to get back on and just check that last status update. Pray that I will fill the time wisely in seeking God’s face and really be able to hear His voice.

I want to thank all of you who were (and still are) my facebook friends. Your friendship has meant so much to me and I cherish each and every one of you and all the ways you’ve blessed me both in and out of facebookland.