Tag Archives: Grace

Grace and rebellion

My husband preached in our pastor’s absence today, on the theme of the promise of the Messiah, from Isaiah 9.  I thought the two sermons were wonderful, and I wanted to remember a construct I thought especially important:

Only grace overthrows rebellion.

p1010464-bit-of-a-tussleIt takes a lot of grace on both our parts to get Effie combed, and most tasks I undertake require much more. I pray for grace to persevere because she’s worth it–no one this cute needs hairballs.


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I am reading Edmond Sanganyado’s very engaging book, The Good Shepherd: Grace sets back your setbacks, and wanted to share one of the most encouraging passages, outside of the Bible, that I have read in a long time. I am finding Edmond’s book a refreshing explication of grace, perhaps because it reminds me that dealing with the limitations of physicality at all, much less compromised health and strength, is a setback–which is a roadmarker, which we only see if we’re on the road.

I love this thought; thank you, Edmond.

A destination is born out of desire. The place or position you desire is to be your destination. A destination is the intended disposition, which is the utopia so to speak, of a person who has through life’s dissatisfaction learnt to cultivate a pilgrim mentality in pursuit of personal fulfillment. (Italics mine.) Visionaries recognize life is a journey and only those who know their destination can ever get there. Since they know where they are going, they know it when they fall short. Setbacks come to those who have a place to go and not to those who do not know where to go. Only travelers who know where they are going can miss the bus. Setbacks are for visionaries because they have a destination. —Sanganyado, Edmond (2014-02-07). The Good Shepherd: Grace sets back your setbacks (Kindle Locations 1044-1048). Origen House. Kindle Edition.

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Ernie plays in a steel drum band!

In my dreams, we ship Ernie off to Westlake Square, where he is the first mouse ever recruited to join a steel drum band.

Three Ernies before him this week succumbed to spring traps where they practiced on our furnace vents, day and night. We really aren’t horrible; the space is simply too tight for a Have-a-Heart trap. Before we replaced the original plastic vents with steel, the first resourceful Ernie gnawed his way into a vent, into the furnace, and into the house. It was his final Very Bad Idea. After that, we acquired a H-a-H, from which I released Ernie II in a pleasant picnic ground some miles away. But the current steel-thwarted Ernie generation will see no picnic park.

Coolidge seems to be rallying on the weight front; he lost just two ounces last week, after losing three to four in previous weeks. He has gained back a full ounce in three days. Unfortunately, but we knew inevitably, his glucose numbers make it clear that feline endocrine systems, like human ones, remind us that this side of glory is whacked—sin-whacked. Diabetes, which will not exist in fully redeemed creation, is a disease, and disease is disorder. Health conducive to ongoing survival is ordered. Redeemed creation is ordered. But for now, our cat’s health is not ordered, and hasn’t been for nine of his nearly 17 years. Eh bien, nous continuons. . . .

The first two of the first daffodils we have planted at our present house came into bloom today: a cheery sight. They are such complex life forms, and will spend so little time with us! What a gracious boon it is to have them here!

Miracles of God’s grace abound in our midst. Our cat continually keeps us mindful that our times are in God’s hands alone; the complex frailty of a daffodil; a mouse who persuades me to imagine he aspires to play in a steel drum band. . .

0326151329 first daff 2015


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No shades of grey in glory or along the way

I have a hurt foot; I saw my doctor, who said it was either one thing or something else; but either way, a remedy that will make it hurt more will eliminate the problem. So much for life with human medicine. And yes, I’ll use the suggested remedy. Beyond the sting, improvement will come.

John Gill (1697 – 1771) has been more uplifting. Last night I began reading his small amphora of vitality, Efficacious Grace. Gill’s persistent emphasis is the fact that the unwrought, gratuitous change God makes in sinners whom He chooses, does not improve them. Grace does nothing at all to improve sinners. No one receives grace to become a new, improved sinner. God’s grace renders sinners new creations: new—not improved—sinners, whose ultimate, greyless future is not improvement, but perfection.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve apprehended this teaching. Reading Gill at a particular time of somatic discouragement repositioned these things to their rightful forefront where I could see them at a needful time. The fact that they were still with me in the bright light of day could be due to the three-hour tussle with a migraine that survived three doses of two different triptans, before letting me sleep.

Sin isn’t about only our own sin; sin is the consequence of all sin from the onset of the Fall. A hurt foot and a migraine are the consequences of sin: mine and everyone else’s, since the first apple-tasting bash.

We don’t get any better at striving against sin. We can only be delivered from striving and from sin—actually made completely new. And not new again, but new as we never were, and as we will be.

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Such a lot of rain we’ve had, and cold; I think the last day one would call “sunny” was nearly a week ago; this is unusual for the Lewis-Clark Valley. This evening, the sun put in its first post-semi-retirement appearance just in time to set. The fiery sky caused me to forget that all week I have had to bundle up and wear a hat and gloves to get the mail. I’ve read that the Desert Tortoise spends 95% of its possible 100-year life underground. I can see his point. I won’t clarify that.

I ventured out on Monday to go see my doctor. Another day, another rash, but this one looked very different from the one I resolved with an OTC product last month. It was more like micro-measles or something. He asked whether I’d had any unusual pain recently. I suddenly recalled something that occurred a couple of weeks ago–I couldn’t remember exactly when because it seemed like no big deal at the time. I was driving, and suddenly I felt as if I had nettles up my sleeve and down my side. It didn’t interfere with my driving, and it lasted maybe 20-30 minutes. I wouldn’t call it pain so much as an annoyance.

My doctor looked closely at my rash and said he hated to tell me something. The pain can precede a rash, even by a few weeks, he said. The pain and rash of what? I said. This was uncommonly stupid, as we are both bluntish, intelligent people. Of shingles, he said. He was quite certain everything lined up pointing to shingles. I don’t deserve this, I said. I deserve hell. I don’t deserve shingles. The only person I know who has shingles is an ex-Marine who is leveled by an attack of shingles a few times a year. But the sense of having a hornet up my sleeve just really was not that bad.

He went over the various protocols and scenarios in case of a less moderate attack in the future. One of me wanted to cry; the other me wanted to affect cool indignation at such an affront coming from a stupid case of chicken pox I had when I was seven.

Something ugly: another day, another diagnosis–what a bore, this gratuitous insult from my own nerve ganglia that had waited in ambush more than 50 years! Then I remembered Jonah. God took back Jonah’s consolation, the gourd plant that had shaded him from the sun’s intensity and a scorching wind God appointed to discomfit him. And God gave Jonah to know that God’s own incomprehensible plan of salvation was more important than the mundane consolation that had contented Jonah, even as Nineveh was perishing.

God’s grace and the gratuity of all the beauty he gives us–hummingbirds, roses, and tulips came to mind as I fingered tiny representations of these things on my charm bracelet–the gratuity of beauty will not be overshadowed by the possibility of pain from a virus that lodges for decades in everyone who has had chicken pox. The cytological mechanism itself is miraculous, even beautiful in a way, if sinister; and most people will never present any symptoms at all of shingles.

And sadly, many people will fail to apprehend the gratuity of beauty, just as Jonah failed to reckon the value to God of all the souls he would save in Nineveh.


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toward the adequacy of a thanksgiving thought

In his photo essay of unintelligible conflicts, malaria, and starvation in Central African Republic, TIME’s William Daniels identifies a generalized dearth of grace as “chronic humanitarian crisis.” It seems a compelling diagnosis, but I am not sure what exactly it means.

Starvation, disease, rape, murder, and war: I cannot begin to ponder or even imagine such conditions as those in Mr. Williams’ images; nor do I wish that I could. Does this make me an afflicter of these people with whom I find few if any common referents? No. A receiver of certain common graces does not make one an afflicter. I am far too unimportant to have any such impact. Does the fact that my cat routinely receives medical care prevent anyone in Central African Republic from receiving any medical care at all, perhaps ever in his or her lifetime? No; my cat is not the cause of the socio-political corruption that prevents distribution of medical resources anywhere on earth. He is important, but not that important.

I can only be thankful: thankful for the gracious blessings I have received, knowing God had no duty to bestow any at all, nor any duty to continue them. I can pray for the light of the Gospel of our sin bearer, Jesus Christ, to dispel the darkness of those places where the gates of Hell–the sphere of chronic humanitarian crisis operations–now holds sway but will not prevail.

That is why it is right to give thanks and praise before I say, “Amen.”

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“Eradicate evil”? Then who’s left?

“And there is–there’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.”— MedStar Washington Hospital Center Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowski, 9/16/13

First off, I have no doubt in my own sin-dazed mind that Dr. Orlowski is a competent—likely a superb—physician and administrator, and someone who by all societal standards would be rated a Good Person. Unfortunately, what I take away from her passionate plea to Americans to unite to “eradicate evil,” is nothing. Nothing, anyway that makes any sense.

The idea of effectually eradicating evil is the great aspiration of humanism, but it makes no sense to a Christian molded in the exquisite logic of the doctrines of grace. As the pastor of my church in my former location said so many wonderful and so many necessary times, “All things are disciplined by theology.”

The idea that we could eradicate evil is a logical impossibility because we are sinners ourselves. To say that I am less sinful in the eyes of God than a mass murderer is like saying that I am closer to the moon than my husband is right now, because I am standing on a chair.

Man blew it at the outset in the sinless world he was originally given, but God’s grace has nonetheless abided with us. Thirteen dead is a horror, but it wasn’t 23, and could as easily have been higher. The 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting left 32 dead.

We could all get T-shirts with SAS (Sinners Against Sin) printed on them. Then what? Fortunately for us, the eradication of evil is not part of the human agenda. If it were, there would be no difference between the bounty and the hunter, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 is both profound and basic at the same time.

Sin is, and will be until the end of time, as old as man. We can’t rid society of evil, because we can’t rid ourselves of evil. We can’t rid ourselves of evil, because, “the enemy is us.”

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of birds, thermochromatic ink, and other things

Meadowlarks arrived in our field two weeks ago, but until today their cold-subdued spirits weren’t much for singing. Today however, inspired by their willingness to sing while the thermometer still pointed to a mark between 30° and 40° F (for my centigrade friends, this is fairly brisk),  I scrubbed the back-door threshold as I went about my regular Tuesday window and upholstery-cleaning circuit.  I was considerably less thrilled to note the return of the tiny black drugstore beetles to my window tracks, than I was to note the singing of the meadowlarks.

People who have a regular Tuesday anything tend to be kind of a breed apart in the way they think of things and sequence things. True to my calling, I promptly began to wonder whether the endocrine chemistry that causes color change in the plumage of some species of birds during their breeding time, works anything like the thermochromatic liquid crystal ink in my Starbucks Valentine tumbler, that makes the black hearts turn red in response to hot liquid. But I didn’t wonder for long, because I didn’t think I’d understand the answer if I found it; and in any case, I didn’t look for very long, mostly for want of sustained interest, but also because I was fairly certain no such connection existed. I have no idea whether the color change in birds has anything to do with temperature change, either internal or external.

I am positive that God does not rely on thermochromatic ink to clothe his birds in bright breeding plumage. I only wondered whether some resourceful chemist had managed somehow to simulate the process—but of course it is unlikely that an organic process would be extrapolated to an acrylic tumbler. The birds will retain their breeding color for a time appointed by their Creator; the hearts on my tumbler will revert to black when my coffee gets cold—which it will, for I am a slow drinker. I make my cup of Komodo Dragon last.

From there, I thought of all the trials and perturbations in my own life—which thankfully are fewer and more minor than they might be—and the lives of those close enough to me to share their own undulations along their ways—and I came to feel very, very thankful that the God who appoints the color and the time of a bird’s breeding plumage, is entirely powerful, entirely good, and entirely loving. Furthermore, he is entirely approachable when we weak wingless sparrows finally remember how without power and goodness and love we become when we assume we are self-sufficient in these things.

And now I can face wiping down the upholstery. It’s still Tuesday.


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The wind blows where it lists

“… true grace is indestructible grace; it can never die.” — Octavius Winslow: Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul

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grace astounding

I suspect wheat-sprout green
will always astound me; much more, I fear
sin will always astound me, as much as
my green naïveté: why must our sin
be still so awful, his atoning death
by slander, mutilation, murder, hatred
already fulfilling all things? Why must
we still have hatred, slander, mutilation, murder,
gratification in these things; why do men
yet lust for war, slaughter children while they sleep…
why must I sin by wondering, not trusting
him to magnify his grace: yes, even in these things?

At length the proper query’s given: why have we not
much more of this — and why is grace so good?
Comfort comes through answers, and answers
are right questions.

Be still, he says, and know I AM: the light shines,
shines, present active indicative: the light shines
and the darkness has not overcome it: never has,
never will.

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