Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Problem With Free Grace

Having been raised in the Protestant Work Ethic, the problem with free grace is just that: it's free.  There's something about free that seems to bother us; for one thing, because we've been taught there's no such thing as a free lunch, we always look for the hook.  I remember working in a leisure ministries progarm on the Michigan thumb one summer.  We were at a street fair giving away helium filled balloons with the name of our ministry on them. I was surprised at the number of parents who wouldn't let their childen take a balloon because apparantly they thoutht we would preach to them or ask for a donation, something. The thought dawned on me that if we have this much trouble giving away balloons, it's no wonder we can't give away grace.

The idea of free grace has come home to roost in my partial retirement.  This week I actually took off the days I am not supposed to work--and I found myself feeling guilty for not working.  Yes, I had accomplished all the tasks I was assigned, and then some--but somehow the idea of being paid (drawing my retirement) for not working is just so foreign to me I have trouble accepting it.  We are supposed to work for what we get--or so I've been taught, and I'm not working for this.

Yes, I know it's supposed to be the reward for all the work I've done in the past; but somehow that just doesn't fly.  I've been working for 47 plus years, and I guess I just can't quite get it out of my system.
I am beginning to see why parents had trouble with free balloons, and why free grace can be so hard to give away.  There is something in us that wants to earn, or deserve, what we have--and when we feel we have neither earned nor deserved it, it's almost like stealing it.  Let's face it, even Christmas and birthday gifts are expected to be reciprocal.  What do we give to deserve God's grace?  Nothing.  It's hard to accept, harder still to understand, but that's simply the way it is.  God loves us not because of who or what we are, but simply because we are.  Like drawing my retirement pension, I guess I just have to learn to be blessed with it. 

Blessings to you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Going Home

Gee, hard to believe it's been over a week since I wrote anything; of course I was away for 6 days so that may account for it.
I love to travel.  Seeing new places and new things, meeting new people and trying new ways and new foods is a joy of my life.  But it's also great to be back home again.   Which brings us to the question: "were is home."  Usually when people ask this they mean, "where do you live, now?"  But it can mean, where were you born?  Where did you grow up?  or even, "Where does your heart consider home?"  And for me, I think, that's really where home is.   As an itinerant United Methodist Elder, I have lived in 5 different towns in 2 states, prior to that I had moved 14 times in three states.  So where is home?  For most of my life I have considered home the place I came back to at night--wherever we lived at that particular time.  But now, as I retire, and look to settling down in one place for the rest of my life, "Home" takes on a different meaning.

To some extent, "Home" is where family and friends are, where we gather wilth our loved ones to celebrate the sacred and meaningful events of our lives--births, marriages, graduations, holidays, and so forth.  This is why the railways and airlines are jammed at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But I think 'Home" is more than that.  "Home" is that place to which we are emotionally attatched by bonds of love, friendship, and a shared history.  That's why, as the old saying goes, "It takes a heap of living to make a house a home."

As Fay and I spend the next year and a half transitioning from active ministry to retirement, and moving into our new house, we will be saying farewell to friends we have come to know and love--leaving behind familiar restaurautnts, stores, movie houses, and other services: But we will also be saying "hello" to new friends, beginning a new shared history in a new place, learning new restauraunts, stores, campgrounds, fishing holes, golf courses, movie houses and so forth.  It is, indeed, and exciting journey--but life is change and change is live.