Posted tagged ‘saved by grace’

Driving with Ill Will

July 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 10, 2017


My wife Carol says that I’ve been a lot happier since I retired eighteen months ago. I’m not going to disagree with her and say, “No, I’ve been totally depressed!” If that was the case she would vote for more depression time in my schedule.

I have been happier…for some reason! I get to read more, walk more, hang out at Starbucks more. I laugh more and tend to spout some really bad puns.

But when I get behind the steering wheel I tend to take on a different personality, one that wishes ill will on some of the other drivers I encounter! I wish I understood it, but I don’t! Perhaps the inside of a car is a quarantined area where the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience… can not enter.

I pray for motorcycle cops to appear right when that oversized pick-up truck roars by me doing ninety! When the motorcyclist cuts over three lanes in a crazed burst of speed I long for flashing lights to come from behind.

When Mario speeds by me and we’re coming to a stop light I pray that God will change it to red so that we’ll end up at the same place and I can look over and smile. When someone races by me and then cuts in front of me I stretch my hand out towards him in a way that communicates “Go ahead, if that makes you feel special!” I’m hoping that whoever the driver is that he/she will be looking back at me as I make the mocking gesture!

Yes, I do all those things! I even yell at someone who sits stationary at a stoplight even after it changes to green. I say things like, “Come on!”, “Idiot!”, and “Wake up, fool!” I’m especially unchristian towards speeding BMW and Mercedes’ drivers. I’m guilty of praying for hail to pummel their vehicles! It’s not road rage, but rather the justified vengeance of God. I admit that I have a tendency to ask God to lower the boom on certain people that irritate me!

When I drive I am a different person! I am a firm believer in our need for grace, but I show no grace when I’m in the driver’s seat! I hear the words of Paul in my mind. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

I’ve tried to remind myself that we are all sinners saved by grace, that there was a time when I drove my 1974 Gremlin a hundred miles an hour down a two lane Illinois backroad. I’ve tried to remind myself that I’ve fallen short and driven fast, but then about that time another Beemer goes racing by me and the vindictiveness rises to the surface again.

Oh, what a wretched sinner I am! What am I to do with myself!

I can hear Carol whispering, “Sit in the passenger seat!”

Church Covenants

February 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            February 23, 2017


Churches are weird places! I know, I know…that’s a hard thing for a person who pastored for 37 years to say, but I’m owning up to it. Weird…strange…loving, but disapproving…like the free offer you get in the mail, but then find out there’s strings attached.

And the thing is, churches don’t intend to be that way, they just kind of warp into that!

One of those weird things about churches is a document that is called “the church covenant.” Depending on the congregation, the church covenant can be very affirming and loving, or it can be more like Ivy League entrance requirements.

I remember the covenant of a church I was on staff for that included restrictions on partaking of alcohol and participating in gambling. Everyone knew that there were a number of church members who included those two activities in their lives, but didn’t talk about it at church.

No church covenant has “abstaining from gluttony” as a part of their membership requirements!

Church covenants get glued on to the last page in the hymnal, like they were an afterthought, but they get trumpeted at hastily called church business meetings to support someone who has an axe to grind!

They are documents that create a “who’s in and who’s out” atmosphere.

The interesting aspect of church covenants to me is that they come out of communities of believers who are saved by grace, and yet operate out of rules and restrictions. Very rarely does a church covenant include procedures on how to restore someone who has screwed up, and yet grace is often referred to like it’s the holy grail of beliefs.

Churches rarely read their covenants. They are like the fine print that Apple puts on their products that read on for infinity. Click the “I agree” button and head to lunch! That’s why the covenants are in the back of the hymnal instead of the front, like the shed in the backyard that you rarely enter because you hate spider webs.

There is the covenantal language of the Bible…and there is church covenantal language. Church covenants say things like “It shall be the duty of members to familiarize themselves with the church covenant…to endeavor with all earnestness to practice the same (Huh?)…to attend habitually the services of this church.”

My suspicion is that most church covenants were “sacredly stolen” from some other congregation. Why reinvent the wheel? So most covenants are like on-line wills that someone has done all the work for already.

Should we have church covenants? Yes, but make them simple! Create them out of mindsets of grace to help people in their walk, not afflict them in their struggles.

I wonder…yes, I wonder how the covenants of new church plants shape up compared with the documents of long established congregations? What is the language like? Or, better yet, do newer congregations even have church covenants? Do they come to a point…like ten years into their journey…when they decide in their warping…they need one?

Or do they simply covenant to journey together, normal people and weird ones, in their pursuit of being the people of God?

The End of Grace

January 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     January 28, 2017


All of our neighbors are familiar with a tree that has been in our front yard since before we moved there in 1999. Just to the side of the basketball hoop, it resembled a pine tree that had been on a Slim-Fast diet…for years! Each year it kept growing towards the sky, but not getting any broader at the base. Our former neighbor would always look at it and say “Um, um, um…pitiful!” We never had to worry about rabbits hiding under it, or trash accumulating around its base.

For the past several years Carol and I have looked at it and discussed whether we should chop it down and raise the property value of our house…but it became a symbolic sight for us. We named it “The Grace Tree”, for it was only by the grace of God that it had not met the blade of an axe.

Several times when I preached about grace I’d use the Grace Tree for a sermon illustration. I’d show a couple of pictures of it to the congregation and hear the sighs and facial expressions of pity.

But grace came to an end a couple of weeks ago!

High winds hit our area and we woke up one morning to discover that the Grace Tree had taken a tumble. Think of it as the end of its stay in “Arbor Hospice!” Just kind of keeled over and done with!

We’ve received no condolence notes from our neighbors, no flowers, or other things that grow out of the ground!

Grace came to an untimely end on January 9! We’ll never know now, but perhaps if it had put some firmness and width into its base over the last 20 years or so the January 9th tumbled demise would not have happened. But you know something? Trees quite often have minds of their own. It’s hard to reason with them and make them see the long-term consequences of tree anorexia! As my mom used to say, “You can talk until you’re blue in the face”, but it doesn’t make any difference.

To be honest the Grace Tree received more grace than it deserved, but it was an ongoing message to us: That the tendency in our culture, and, sadly enough, in the church, is to be the executioners of the imperfect instead of the conduits of grace. Many New Testament followers of Jesus still live by Old Testament justice!

Whereas, many of our neighbors are a bit delighted over the passing of our Grace Tree, I’m a bit grieved. Don’t get me wrong! Carol and I aren’t going to put a grace…I mean, grave marker there! It’s just that the reminder won’t be there every day as I back the car out of the garage, or every time I’m shooting baskets in the driveway. (It did act as a ball stop once in a while!) There are a few things in life that we just need reminders about. What will remind me of grace?

I do still have a “selfie pic” of the Grace Tree in the background behind me! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll make that my new screen saver! Wouldn’t that be ironic, the Grace Tree being my screen saver!