Tag Archives: grace

Remaining Pure of Heart

“Clothe yourself with Christ.”
– Romans 13:14
You already know the world is full of enticements to pull you away from your higher purpose.
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Haha! My phone just buzzed with another message…

Simple things. Complicated things. External and internal things. Relational, familial, emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual. Positional, theological, philosophical, existential, practical, organizational, tactical, political… The realms of knowledge and experience you must learn to navigate are vast–and you’ll have to ignore them all at times.
If you want to remain attuned to what’s truly important, focus and discipline are crucial. You know by now–it’s your work as a writer of the ideas your Inspirer has entrusted you to steward.
And you might think that discipline is exactly what you need. Just to get fully inspired to take the weighty privilege seriously. And then hold onto that at all costs.
But this word-work isn’t all work. It’s also a lighthearted tromp through imaginary meadows made specifically for your great enjoyment. And to grab hold of the seriousness without including the joy would be like knowing the depth of your depravity without the freedom of grace.
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You need both.

Lately, I’ve realized how easily I can forget this.
I’m serious by nature, but like many people I was also trained to be this way. As a kid, I was taught to do everything right, please, and right away, without complaint. So I learned to keep my attitudes, and my free-play, locked inside.
Brene Brown says you can’t selectively numb. I guess you also can’t select what you hold in.
The great news is, I’ve learned, and so have my parents, that kids are God’s gift to help us take ourselves and our important work less seriously. I thank him every single day that we get to learn this lesson together. And had we not struggled to learn it we wouldn’t value it now like we do. Without the tickle fights and the trick-or-treating and our constant new adventures, I’d be a boring old man at 41.
Frivolity isn’t just about having fun, you know. It’s in letting go that we remember the purity of being children of One High Parent.
Today it was basketball. Charlotte wanted to practice for her upcoming first season in Upward. I’d post pictures, but I was having too much fun.
Charlotte made exactly 42 baskets. And at number 36, Ellie reminded us of another favorite frivolous pastime, quoting lines from favorite movies:
I even made a few shots. And all of this on a perfect fall Sunday afternoon (with All Saints Day and the gift of the Reformation fresh in my mind) I was remind that even when I’m an old codger and I’ve written a whole mess of books, I’ll still have to practice doing at least one frivolous thing every day.
The light-hearted know something the wisest men have forgotten.
Hopefully, some grandkids will be around to remind me. I think I’d better start getting ready now…
Recently we went to my nephew’s marching band competition. That was some serious fun. And when Ellie wore her costume (Dark Link from Legend of Zelda) to her youth orchestra practice on Saturday, I was such a proud dad.
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Remember–discipline without frivolity is deadly. Discipline alone would convince you only of your deficiencies, your faults.
It’s only in releasing control that your heart becomes light. When you have fun, you inspire happiness. You release the people around you to enjoy.
Sure, discipline is necessary. And there’s nothing more important than persistence in the creative arts. But you also need a light heart to remember that your deficiencies don’t matter one ignorant lick next to the sufficiency of the One who chose you before the beginning of time.
Purity of heart is to will one thing, Kierkegaard said. Will yourself to have some healthy fun and you’ll remain pure in heart. I promise.
I know you don’t think it can be that easy. But who said letting go to have good, clean fun was easy?
It takes practice. So get started.
Your faults are covered, my friend. Every mistake. Every wrong move.
Let them all go.
And go have some fun.
For the higher purpose,
Mick

Stop Trying So Hard and Trust Your Inspiration

inspiration—from Latin, inspiratio, “to blow into;” “to breathe in,” 1300s, literally, “[under] immediate influence of God.”

[WARNING: This post may get a bit Jesus-y…]

ike everyone, my faith has been a long time in coming.

kids in play pen
I’m the short one on the left.

But I wanted to share the amazing discovery I got this week about inspiration. Editing projects have brought lots of fresh ideas and it’s been a busy blog week! I’m excited for what this next week will hold.

A daily email I subscribe to brought a prayer from Scottish pastor and theologian John Baillie, in A Diary of Private Prayer (1936):

       …I will go nowhere this day where you cannot come,

       nor court any companionship that would rob me of yours.

       …I will let no thought enter my heart that might hinder my communion with you,

       nor let any word come from my mouth that is not meant for your ear.

An excellent goal, but is it even possible? Could we go nowhere God is not, or never have him stolen from us? Could no thought or word come between us? Sounds about as possible as “rejoice always…pray continually…and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

My grandpa, somewhere in Germany.
My wing-walker grandpa, somewhere in Germany, years before he believed.

But read it with the key words:

       By Your grace, I will go nowhere…

       By Your grace, O God, I will let no thought enter my heart…

Only by God’s grace–his undeserved favor and mercy to us—can we keep such promises. Striving in our own strength would break the prayer’s promise before we even started. My friend reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Realizing we’re at the mercy of God’s grace should make the prayer a bit less daunting, right?

In a way.

But it also creates uncertainty. How do we let his grace guide? If we don’t control our own lives, how do we give him control?

me and my mom
Me and my mom, about 3 years before I first “prayed the sinner’s prayer.”

This is where I struggle, and I need to figure out how to know I have him and that he’s leading. Because if I don’t, I’ll go back to striving to make things happen myself. I know I’ll try to choose good and be good and do everything right, believing I can do it, on my own, indefinitely, which is basically the same thing as God leading.

As if!

I need to be guided in this freedom. But what exactly does that mean? I need instruction, some rules I can follow. Something I can understand.

But his permissive grace doesn’t work by a formula. We can’t remake the law because he broke the law to set us free. And now we have to learn not to strive to “do right”–that’s not what it takes to follow God—but to be still and let him be God and guide our steps for us.

I can see why friends have rejected it and others try so hard. Neither know what it means to start “by His grace.”

Can’t we get it? Can’t we look around us and see the most logical conclusion is that God must guide?

So how?

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Here it is: As I thought about being Christian writers together, I know we all have our favorite theories about how the voice of God works, maybe our favorite writers, pastors or theologians who’ve helped us figure out how to hear God’s voice and trust it. But as writers, we’re also uniquely gifted with direct inspiration, hearing the spirit in our hearts and learning to listen as we stop resisting and still.

That’s how great stories get written. And it’s how great stories get lived out.

Too long I let people convince me I couldn’t trust my heart. The doubters and the strivers both believed this Christian thing required a lot of effort. They couldn’t all be wrong, could they?

Last week I realized the grace I need to guide me is already in me, infused with the core of me, and I don’t have to do anything because it’s the nature of grace to be unmerited and unearnable.

Grace is his offer of ever-present help to live it out. I dare you to ponder on that.

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I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, ah, shut up.

My amazing discovery was that my struggle ends when I finally, fully let it and realize I have his inspiration already. He’s shown what unity with God looks like: Jesus.

Him alone. And who is he? Grace incarnate. And what did he do? He called us out of our existing loyalties, and into his grace. Out of our feeble efforts, and not into striving for anything.

Can I believe it could be that easy? To believe his inspiratio, his breath is in me because he’s in me? Can I just accept it? Isn’t that the foundation of the gospel—accepting his free gift of grace to guide my life?

I think it may be so. And I think I’ll take it. Maybe I just needed to “come out of” some old Christian teachings to see it so clearly. Old ideas have to be discarded before we can see the process underway and appreciate it.

But as soon as I did, there he was. And I’m one more step toward a faith of my own, directly from God.

With no rules to follow there’s nothing to fight. That’s free grace: the chance to finally stop resisting it.

Come, inspiration come.

 

“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”