Tag Archives: grace

Tiger Woods is but a foretaste

I, like everyone else, had tears in my eyes Sunday watching Tiger Woods win his fifth green jacket at the Masters.   Against all odds, Woods treated all of us to the beautiful, joyous story of redemption as he raised his fists in triumph on the 18th green in Augusta.

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This was Tiger’s first Master’s win since 2005 and first PGA major win since 2008.  Since that time, Tiger has been famous for things other than golf, such as his sexual addiction, divorce, DUI, and four back surgeries.    Any one of these things could understandably ruin a person.  Taken together, it’s a shipwreck.   But little by little, step by step, Tiger Woods put one foot in front of the other culminating in the resurrection you see pictured above.

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

There is a simple explanation why stories like these evoke such emotion in us.    There’s a reason anyone with a pulse gets teary eyed over stories of redemption like the one played out for us this past weekend (and the one about to be played out for us next week on Easter Sunday).     That reason is this:  You and I are like our Father in Heaven.

If you wonder why you get excited and joyous and, yes, even tearful, when someone comes back from something that should have destroyed them it’s because God is like that. 

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a few stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and he does so by describing the emotions God (and all of heaven) has when someone lost is found.    In heaven, Jesus says, there is much rejoicing over the one sinner who repents – the one who is down and out and shipwrecked.    All of heaven celebrates when even one of us overcomes.

The story of Tiger Woods inspires us not because golf is great or because Tiger Woods is great.  It inspires us because God is great and has made us like himself, giving us hearts that long for and explode over resurrection.   And you want to know something even better that that?   We don’t resurrect ourselves.  God does.   It’s all a gift!

This truth is both liberating and devastating.   Liberating because, once the truth of it hits home, you realize you don’t have to do this alone.  You don’t have to be stronger, or better, or smarter, or braver, or have more will power.   Deep down you know that if that were the case, you’d be damned for sure because you’ve tried all that before and failed.  We can’t resurrect ourselves.    It’s going to require a supernatural intervention.    Which is why this is also devastating.   We are so used to being self-sufficient.  Our lower nature, the one that too often controls our thoughts, has us convinced that we are the master’s of our fate.   It is devastating to learn that only God can and must be our Master, and we have not allowed him to be such in our lives.

Tiger’s story is but a foretaste of what can be with God.   There is an even better story than Tiger’s coming to us this Sunday.  It’s the one where God became a man in order to die on a cross for my sins and yours.   It’s the one where God chose to become all that is shipwrecked in my life and yours so that the works of the shipwrecker, the devil, might be destroyed.   It’s the one where God then raised from the dead the one who takes away the sins of the world, setting us free to live as new creations, not just better ones.

And all of heaven rejoiced.   And this day, as with any other day, all of heaven is waiting on pins and needles (much like we all were as Tiger sunk his last putt), to see your redemption story.    Will you trust the one who is ready and able to write it?

May you have a blessed Holy Week.

No other requirement

“The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

This is the third tradition of AA, adapted to fit all other 12 Step programs of recovery and for today, my favorite. We discussed this tradion in group yesterday and it meant a lot to me that it is groups like these who accepted me without requirement. They were patient and non-judgmental, holding me up when I would let them or holding me in prayer when I left them. From day one I was an equal member, seen as a person of value and worth. Set backs were not met with raised brows or wagging fingers but with hugs and sincere refrains like “We are glad you’re here,” and “Keep coming back.” Even the amount, little to lots, of the desire I had was never scrutinized or idolized, nor was it used as a litmus test to judge my worthiness to be a part of these groups.

It was and continues to be the epitome of grace in my life, that I would be so unconditionally accepted and loved in spite of my behavior, my thoughts, my beliefs or lack thereof. All that was required was that I have something within me that longed for something more, something better.

This tradition helped to save my life along with countless others. I have listened to numerous men, many of them lifelong church goers, recount how they never witnessed such grace and mercy in their entire lives until they dragged themselves, bruised and battered from life, into one of these rooms. And it proved to be their salvation.

I find myself wondering many times throughout a meeting if there isn’t something important that churches everywhere could learn if they would choose to listen to the wisdom found in the 12 Steps and Traditions. Something to think about, huh?

Hi, my name is Chad, I’m a recovering addict

My pastor and friend asked me a week ago if I would be willing to share at church this past Sunday. After praying and discussing it over with my sponsor I decided to give it a go. It had been nearly 3 years since I’ve done this, and as you might imagine I was rather nervous. Much of the nerves came from fears of feeling inadequate or imagining I am no longer qualified to share in this way. Those fears, however, were quickly vanquished by the love and support this church graciously gave me.

This is how I live out the 12th Step and give back a small portion of what I have received. I hope it blesses you today half as much as it did me to share it.

it’s pentecost, ya’ll, and walls are coming down

It’s Pentecost, ya’ll, and walls are coming down.

I’ve read and studied Acts 2 for years but tonight I heard something new when the preacher talked about the miracle of everyone hearing the gospel procaimed in their own tongue.

I was struck by the amazing, barrier-breaking, outlandish and lavish ways God extends God’s self in order that someone somewhere would believe the Good News. The miracle of people speaking in languages they do not know but some do, and the miracle of some hearing their language while someone may be speaking another, is nothing short of Divine Grace saying, “I love you so much that I want nothing getting in the way of you hearing this news.” Speaking in tongues, in this instance, is perhaps less about a specific thing that happens when the Holy Spirit falls and more about a God willing to use whatever means necessary in order that some might be saved.

Pentecost is about tearing down walls.

This has implications in 2018, as it did then. Today there are people who can’t hear the Good News because of walls. They have walls because they have been hurt by the church or shown a distorted, sinful picture of God through the church’s actions or inaction. They have walls because of broken homes or abuse or addiction or fear. They have walls because they can’t imagine anyone truly loving them because no one has ever stayed, or walls because someone important told them at some point that they were unworthy of love.

Walls abound. But where walls abound, grace abounds even more.

That’s what I heard today at Pentecost. The way the gospel is proclaimed today may not break my walls or your walls, but it’s breaking down the walls of someone somewhere. I’m sure in Acts 2 there were many conversations after the fact where people said, “I didn’t hear it like that,” even though they all heard essentially the same thing: God loves you and sent his son Jesus Christ to save the world, including YOU. Where and how people are hearing this message, even if it’s not in the “tongue” you and I might speak, we should rejoice and be glad.

What if in 2018 the Church seized the power of Pentecost – lavish Grace – and ceased to criticize the ways in which someone else is proclaiming the Good News and instead celebrated everywhere we witness walls coming down? I may not say it the way you would say it, and you may not say it the way I would need it, but perhaps we can trust that God is bigger than our language and so long as we are lifting up Jesus, God can sort out the details among those who understand your tongue or mine.

Everywhere that walls are tumbling and people are hearing the name of Jesus is reason to rejoice and be glad.

It’s Pentecost, ya’ll.