Thursday, February 16, 2012
It's all about Grace
When the word 'grace' is mentioned in most evangelical settings, one's mind almost automatically turns to salvation, justification, and faith. After all, this has been the foundation stone of Protestant theology since Luther. There are other ways to understand this, however. Our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers have a pretty good handle on this. Let me share a bit of my story to make this a tad clearer. Over the many years that I have been a follower of Christ I have sought to build a vibrant devotional life. I've read the books, listened to the messages, and watched the videos. Time after time I have resolved to get up earlier and spend time with God. I have compiled my prayer lists to assist me. I have purchased the devotional books written by the so-called spiritual giants of history. This 'great cloud of witnesses' who seemed to have the answers to my dilemma. And, time after time...I failed miserably. When I was a student at Ashland Theological Seminary I chose a track that required my to take classes in Spiritual Formation. I know, yawn. I was up for the languages and the biblical studies. These were the important classes that I looked forward to. But, something began to happen. I had a class on spiritual disciplines led by a woman who was very unassuming. To look at her one would not think of her as a spiritual heavyweight. However, as is most times the case, looks are deceiving. She used Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth as a text. I had read the book when it first came out way back when. I was not impressed by the choice. But, as the class met I found a refreshing that I had not experienced before. A thirst began to grow that impelled me onward and inward. I thank Dr. JoAnn Watson for her passion and wisdom. But, I did not realize that this was the beginning of God's gracious work in my life. The following year I sat under Dr. Paul Chilcote in a class entitled "Person in Prayer". During this quarter I came upon a web site, http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html, that I began to follow daily. I was able to read the selected passages of scripture in a relatively short amount of time. This enabled me to build a habit. Again, I did not recognize this as a blessed gift from a loving Father. For about 3 years I followed the practice of spending time in the morning using the Office as published at the above site. Of course, there were days that I missed. But, rather than beat myself up and admit that I was defeated, I would be back at it the next day. More grace from God. More recently, since my heart attack, I have found that I need to spend more time with God. This has grown into a desire and passion that causes me to look forward to spending substantial time in the morning. I have begun to remain silent and strain to listen for God's voice; to look for God's presence. The scripture has begun to speak to me about the condition of humanity and our responsibility to serve our fellow travelers on this 3rd rock from the sun. A few days ago I realized, or maybe God spoke, I don't know, God does, that this is an example of Yahweh's grace in my life. The journey from Dr. Watson, through Dr. Chilcote, through 'missionstclare,' through a heart attack, and through this present leg has all been God's grace. None of it was through my own strength, ability or education. God is the author and trainer of these things. So, I thank God; Father, Son, Spirit for this outpouring of Grace. For Grace it is. And, if I should wake tomorrow and it's gone, or changed, that will not alter the fact that God has given it.