Days Without Grace

grace-x

She was being interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR). An American actress playing the mother of a special needs child in a new play from London now touring the USA. The play is getting rave reviews as it explores the inner workings of a 15-year-old boy whose parents love, but can’t touch because of his relational/physical/social discombobulation.

I have forgotten her name and the name of the play, and the director’s name (who I do remember also directed/produced the play, “War Horse”), but she used a phrase that I haven’t been able to forget. She was speaking of those times in a mother’s life (a father’s life too) when a parent seems, . . .  overwhelmed.

When it seems that nothing you do is right
Nothing you think is quite enough
Nothing you can say is said right
Nothing you can do is going to protect your son or your daughter
Those times when you can’t help
Those times when you are completely spent
When you feel that there just isn’t enough of you
When you feel that you are not enough
That your family would be better off without you
When you are completely beside yourself with a combination of sorrow and frustration, and anxiety and the deepening darkness chokes all hope from your soul.

“Parenting”, said a famous counselor, “is not for cowards.”

Maybe not, but that is how we parents feel sometimes.

“Those days,” she said, “those days that are days without grace.”

gracelessHave you been there in one of those graceless feeling days?

I have.

Too often to recount. So often, it might shock everyone who knows me.
And the chances are high, that if you are a parent, you have been there too.

You have been in that place where grace, unmerited favor, seemed as far away as Jupiter.

Farther.

Like, the end of the Hubble telescope’s ability to see farther.

It is crushing to feel that way. It is a soul-crushing, tear-dripping, sorrow-without-light, unadulterated pain to feel that way.

And yet,
if we are Christ followers,
it is not true.

It is real, all too real, but it is not true.

It can paralyze us. It can consume us. It can threaten to completely undo us.

But if we are part of God’s family (John 1:12), if we have received the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15), if we have been purchased by the blood of a sinless Savior (Acts 20:28: 1 Corinthians 6:19), if we have been sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), if we have become inheritors of the promises of God (Ephesians 1:11) there is never a graceless day, never a moment when we are abandoned, never a millisecond that we are without hope, or light, or direction (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

It just feels that way sometimes.

And those “sometimes” are when you need the word of God hidden in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Those “sometimes” are when you need a deep pattern of significant meditation in the heart of the gospel and the greatness of what it means to belong to Christ (Psalm 119:9-10). Those are the times when you need the word of Christ to “dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) so that the world, and you too, will see the beauty of Christ and promises of God as your strong tower and the place you can run to for rescue. 

Baseball Lessons for Life

Baseball Spring TrainingA few days ago, one of the original elders of New Song Church, a man whose friendship and wisdom I have relied on, benefitted from, and whose generosity and kindness toward my family is unequaled sent me an email about baseball and so much more.

Bill Bauer has been a guest blogger here on the ChosenRebel BLOG before. Today, I am passing along the full email of a story that Bill heard and passed on to me. Some of you may have seen this before. If so, you will be blessed again. If you have never read this story, you are in for a treat.

Some of you won’t want to read it because you don’t like Baseball. I pity you. It is a beautiful game filled with lessons for life. But you don’t have to love baseball to learn from the wisdom of this story.

Don’t Widen the Plate!

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

nazfl7tjIn 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.Then, finally …“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. ,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?” “Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’” Pause.

“Coaches …” Pause.”

… what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him. Do we widen home plate? The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.” “And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate and we see our country falling into a dark abyss while we watch.” I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside. “… dark days ahead.” Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

Let he who has ears to hear, hear and apply to his life, family, job and church.

New Article Published

PriesthoodEFCA Today contacted me back in February and asked me to write an article for the Summer edition. Here’s the link to the article that they titled “Commanded to Function as Priests. http://efcatoday.org/story/commanded-function-priests
 
Spoiler:
The bio lists me as the pastor at Trinity Church. I left Trinity as Senior Pastor in June.

New Podcast Up

Dr. Mark Williams is airing his second interview with me on his podcast today. This one is on the advantage and benefits of reading good biographies.

You can hear the podcast at this link and read what he has to say as well.

Pray for me this week as I finish up my last week at Trinity Church and begin to look more aggressively for my next adventure with Jesus. Today I am praying and looking into an opportunity that would take me out of the country. Steph and I need wisdom.

Understanding and Befriending Your Catholic Neighbor

Currently booking this seminar for Saturdays in June and July 2016.

Outline of the Seminar Understanding and Befriending Your Catholic Neighbor A one day (Saturday) seminar to help you understand your “Catholic” neighbor (or yourself)  …

Source: Understanding and Befriending Your Catholic Neighbor

Preparing for Easter (1)

Preparing Our Hearts for Easter

Easter is only three weeks away! Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Christ. If Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, everything is proved. Everything is fulfilled or will be fulfilled. 

  • Jesus is God.
  • The Scriptures are accurate.
  • The prophecies are fulfilled.
  • Sin and death have been conquered.
  • The gospel is man’s only hope for salvation.
  • Forgiveness is available.
  • New life is available.
  • Redemption is possible.
  • Sorrows can be turned into joy.
  • Hallalujah, the tomb is empty!

.     “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55   “O death, where is your victory?
.       O death, where is your sting?”  
.
56 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.     
1 Corinthians 15:54–58 (ESV)]   

Empty Tomb image 1

Lord Jesus,
my heart runs away from suffering
like water down a hill.
I shrink back from suffering
at nearly every chance.

But You willingly took upon Yourself my sin. Your love for me is amazing and my spirit is bowed in awe of Your matchless sacrifice.

Thank You for the wonder of Your love.
Thank You for laying down Your life for me.
Help me to live all of my life for You.
In Your steadfast name, I pray.

Amen.

Prayer excerpted from
Experience the Passion of Christ, page 6.

Resolves and Grace

Grace imageGrace.

Unmerited favor. The free and unmerited favor of God whereby He freely bestows His blessings and forgiveness on sinners.

Grace is the healing generosity of God that touches us so powerfully that nothing is ever quite the same again.

—Calvin Miller

A faithful band of men and women at Trinity Church have been seeking revival of their hearts by ruthlessly going after sin that entangles us and instead, fixing their eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is part four of the weekly encouragements I have sent out for their Jesus-seeking hearts.
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Hi all,
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If you are anything like me, you had your work cut out for you this past week with Resolution 3. Frankly, my list of people that I might have to make something right with was pretty long and I simply need more time to fit everyone into my schedule. Humbling. Pray for me.mmm

Resolution #3
Make Right Any Wrongs Between Yourself and Othersmmm

So here’s where we have been:
  • Repent of every known sin.
  • Forsake all questionable acts.
  • Make right any wrongs between yourself and others.
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Every week, honestly, every day, I need to repent of known sin. You would think after 42 years of walking with Jesus that I would have made more progress but the reality is that I have both made progress and still have more to confess and repent of. In fact, the more I repent, the more I have to repent. It is as if each repentance lifts another set of blinders I had and now I see other areas or attitudes more clearly and have to deal with them.
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In that context, it is helpful to remember grace. Isn’t it marvelous to know that every failure of your life, every crappy attitude, every bad response to a spouse, every wicked thought or action has been paid for at the cross by Jesus and that Jesus has extended grace to us?
We don’t deserve it. But He, great Savior that He is, gives us the thing we don’t deserve but desperately need. He give us forgiveness and promises us eternal relationship with Him.
,,,,,
So, remember you are forgiven as you continually seek him and ask him to revive your passion for him.
…..
I’m praying for you and I covet your prayers for me.