grace notes

Look Deep Inside My Heart

You have searched me, and You know me,

Lord, You see me when I rise.

You have formed me, in my spirit,

I am wonderfully created in Your eyes.

 

You see the path laid out before me,

You are aware each step I will take.

 

Even darkness cannot hide You,

Lord, You are beyond it all.

Ever-present, always knowing,

When I cry You hear my call.

 

Look deep inside my heart,

Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move!

Burn with Your flame, remove the shame,

Hear the plea I place before Your throne!

 

Look deep inside my heart,

Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move!

Spirit descend, my prayer attend;

Lord, hear my voice as I come to You.

 

Lord, we bow down in Your presence,

Grateful for Your matchless grace.

We will worship and adore You

‘Til the day we see Your face.

 

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Amen.

Amen.

This is the text of the final song we sang after communion today. It was electric, and I have to say that even when I first got the music, it was my favorite of the pieces we’d do. Powerful, intimate.

We sang today of God’s grace, ineffability, strength, salvation, mercy. We sang of God as a sure foundation, as eternal king, as conqueror, as source of gladness. We asked God to make our hearts consecrated, to fill our days with praise, to take our lives and transform them.

It was, as I write this, a usual Sunday at any church service. But this day was infused with grace, with attentiveness, with reverence and awe. And each bit of the service propelled me further and further into an awareness of the favor God has lavished on us. From the opening prayer—filled with questions that we seldom hear voiced from the pulpit, filled with a longing to hear from God, even though the silence is sometimes deafening—through the communion where we offered ourselves to the sometimes silent God, this service was profound for me.

I knew I was on the right track, and that our small group discussion would be good—for God is good.

I had prepared a lot on the nature of Grace, but particularly on how everpresent the notion of grace is in our everyday lives, and how we’re so accustomed to it that we fail to notice it most of the time—like the background color in the portrait of our lives. I argued that we are not, as is oft emphasized, born into sin, but born into grace. Christ died once for all, and we are born into this grace.

I argued that the notion of grace as unearned brings with it connotations that we must escape. Grace is unearned, but it isn’t that way because we’re all so horribly disgusting awful creatures that we can’t earn it. It’s unearned because it has nothing to do with wages, just rewards, or anything else in the ‘deserving’ category. I spoke of my cat—how I bestow favor on her, by caring for her, by making sure her needs are met, by loving her little furry face off. Cats don’t earn the love of their owners. I spoke of my niece, who is pregnant with her first child. She’s madly, passionately, heart-achingly devoted to her baby. And the thought that this favor she’s bestowed on her unborn child is unearned is, certainly, true, but that this unearned-ness is to be considered in terms of how her baby cannot measure up to such favor is just nonsense, absurd, beyond comprehension.

I argued that this is grace, this is what it means. The grace of God to us is complicated, though, in its simplicity. It is so comprehensive, so huge, that it’s hard to discuss in our little teeny language.

Paul speaks of the grace of Christ being enough for him through the impaling torment of his ‘thorn.’ The grace of God sent that “Satanic Messenger” to Paul, and it was this crushing that enabled Paul to stand stronger in his dependence upon God. I told of a vision I had many years ago when I was so publically removed from children’s ministry. I was looking out my window, through the fire escape, to my wonderful view of the nighttime city lights of Spokane, book-ended by the gable lights of the County Courthouse. I felt as if I was a mass of scar tissue that had been all gashed open again, and I ached with a crushing loneliness and sadness. And in that state, gazing out on the city in my darkened apartment, I saw this pot, like a casserole dish with a lid on it. It was all dark, but I could tell that the pot had been crushed, shattered, and that somebody had glued it back together. But you know how it goes with reglued pottery–chunks were missing, seams were evident, and it just wasn’t all that much to look at. Only, I could see these chips, gaps, and seams only because the pot seemed to be holding liquid light, which poured out through the gaps and shone through the rough seams. It was only because this pot was broken and mended that its contents could be seen. And I knew that this pot was me.

I had that vision when I was 25, but God’s brought it back to me vividly lately, perhaps to remind me of the difficult part of grace. The crushing we undergo is itself a grace, a sign of God’s favor, for it enables us to leak that grace out onto the world. When we are strong, we hold it all in, and then there’s no God being shown to the world, at least not in a way that is evident to any who have eyes to see that it is God.

And then I told them of my experience with Olga, learning to love on her, to show her favor, even after she’d been so cruel to me. That grace is exactly like that. It is so beyond the category of ‘being worthy’ that even when we are clearly not worthy (say, when we spit in God’s face), this does nothing to take it from us. I can close my eyes, but my black view therefrom does not alter the vast colorful splendor of God’s creation. We can do nothing to alter our state of being born into grace, though we can choose to not see it, to not respond to it.

I told of my long-ago prayer that God just leave me alone, because I was so tired of being a Christian, that I felt I’d been one too long, since I was so sure I’d never be happy as a Christian, and clearly wouldn’t be happy in the world. And how the palpable absence of God that so suffocated me showed me just how much I relied on grace. That in fact, we are so surrounded and enveloped by grace that we have gotten accustomed to it, to the point of not even realizing it’s there—kind of like the everyday smells of your home. I roast my own coffee. And I love the smell of it permeating through my apartment. I am aware of that smell for a couple hours, but then I get used to it. I roasted coffee last night, and the same thing happened. I got used to the smell. But this morning, when I got home from church—I was overwhelmed by the still-lingering odor of freshly roasted coffee. I challenged my group to look back over their lives, to see where they’ve been personally impacted by grace, to remember.

I challenged them to step down deeper into their faith, into a place more primitive to Christianity than any creeds or dogmas, any doctrines, into the very core of Christianity—grace. And I challenged them (and myself) to look hard at the portraits of our lives and to see just how important that background is that we’ve gotten so accustomed to.

It was a powerful experience, I think, for all of us. I look forward to seeing how God will use me to communicate the next part in this trilogy of messages I believe he’s given me. As we spoke today on the “downward” vertical direction of grace, we’ll discuss the response, the “upward” direction of grace. The question to consider is, how do, should, would we respond to God if we had 1) (mental) knowledge 2) (soulish) understanding, and 3) (spiritual) realization of this grace that’s so lavished upon us?

Thanks so much for your prayers. I don’t say this lightly—I most assuredly sensed them as I spoke today. I’ll keep you posted on the next two week’s talks, too.

Oh, and as I drove home, I was singing this amazing (my favorite) Terry Clark song, over and over again.

Thank You, Jesus

When I think about, and remember how

There was no way out and You rescued me,

There’s no reason why You loved me then

And you love me now —

‘Least no reason I can see.

 

You have always been my closest friend

Even though I never defended that.

I was so far away, as far as ever I could stray

Yet You were there to bring me back.

 

Thank you, Jesus

For the grace that You have given us

We could ne’er repay, but from my heart, I’d like to say

That I thank You.

 

There’s so much to learn about how to turn

All Your words of life that burn in me

Into a living fountain flowing deep and flowing clean

So that all can come and drink.

 

But I know You’re right there willing to prepare

This open heart of mine to carry on

To the place where I can be Your servant, be Your friend —

One You can depend on.

 

Thank you, Jesus

For the grace that You have given us

We could ne’er repay, but from my heart, I’d like to say

That I thank You.

 

We could ne’er repay, but from my heart, I’d like to say

That I thank You.

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One thought on “grace notes

  1. Eliz Anderson

    WOW! You have expressed how grace is a gift lavished upon us is so powerfully. Keep preaching it sister. I can’t wait for your next instalment.

    Reply

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