06 February 2008

Uncommon Graces

I have gotten to where I dread the political season. It makes me weary and my heart hurts. I spend much of it saddened, frustrated and confused. I know I am not alone in this.

Where I may find myself alone is in the cause for these reactions. It's not the endless political posturing by the candidates, it's not the various slants to the reporting, it's not even dissatisfaction with the candidates themselves. It comes from those "well-meaning Christians" who wish to spread their often impatient and frequently rude comments. Harsh words and unpleasant jokes run rife through the season. It seems disaproval of someone must be done with a hostile attitude.

Six years ago an old beau who is now a priest sent me a book in which I found someone to share my view. (the whole beau to priest story is for another blog) He sent me Uncommon Graces: Christlike responses to a hostile world by John Vawter. He helps us to remember the grace of gentleness, attentiveness, loyalty, candor, mercy, kindness, and repentance.

During this season of political mayhem intolerant spirits abound. When did it become accepted by people of faith to be so mean spirited to those who disagree with them? I receive emails with unflattering jokes, hateful and deriding words all in an effort to sway me not to vote for the ungodly candidate. One thing I have learned is you cannot expect "Godless" people to behave in a Godly manner. Lately I have wondered just how "Godly" people differ.

The only way anyone can see God in us is for us to reflect His love and grace. Notice I said His love and grace. Sometimes it is hard to feel loving or gracious to those around us. The marvelous thing is we can ask the Spirit to fill us with the love and compassion we might lack. We don't have to be perfect and do this all ourselves. I am convinced anyone who tries to love on their own will fail. True love comes from God. He is it's author. Unless you allow His love to channel through you, all you have is a pale pitiful offering. No one can share a grace they have not taken into their own heart. At least this has been my experience.

When I was in my twenties I knew well of God. Knew all the right words to say to my Christian friends, read all the right books and did all the right things. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that being a Christian means a wondrous love affair with the Lord. I thought that by growing up I would have to leave the intimacy I had found in my teens years behind because it was a childish way to work my faith. I had forgotten that I don't work out my faith, the Spirit works it out in me. By limiting my relationship with God to the confines of my mind I failed. Failed miserably in sharing His love with others. Failed superbly in finding joy for myself. And failed my brothers and sisters in Christ by stepping out of sync with their fellowship.

As I struggle with the sadness at the vindictiveness of the season I try to remember that sometimes even those who assert they know Christ still don't know Jesus. They too have confined God to their minds and kept Him from their hearts. I ask God to help me to remember to share His love because they might need His Son. Thankfully I had friends who loved me enough to tell me they saw no evidence of Christ in me. I'm grateful to them for doing so, I'm thankful the Spirit was still with me to show me how to open my heart again.

Tonight is the start of Lent. We celebrate Ash Wednesday to bring our hearts to repentance. A chance to tally up whatever is wrong in you and bring it to the One who can forgive and make it right. The Psalm I started the day with was Psalm 51. I like to say it's a favorite but truthfully I 'd be hard pressed to find one that isn't.

Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.
You're the One I've violated,
and you've seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.
Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.

Psalm 51:1-17
The Message

I pray that wherever you find yourself this Lenten season you will be open to reflecting God's grace.


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