Oily Grace


Blog post titles are so hard for me.
Here’s a confession.
Oily Grace” is my version of clickbait.

Unfortunately it sounds like the name of a slimy gang member’s repellent girlfriend.

That is not what I’m writing about, although gang members and their girlfriends need grace.
My focus isn’t even how much I need grace.
I know.
I’ve got grace. By the bucketfuls.

God rains grace on me. I’m forgiven, justified, in the process of being sanctified, someday to be glorified. All showered on me by grace.

It’s the giving of grace to others that I struggle with.
You’d think someone drenched in it would be able to give big ol’ soggy grace hugs to others.
But no.
Grace pours over me, refreshes and rehydrates me. And then it seems to dry up before I can extend it.

I could swear I’m made of microfiber.

Here’s what a Christian like me needs.
Oily grace.
The kind that doesn’t absorb right away.
I need the kind of grace that will drip off from me onto others.
So anyone who gets close to me can’t help but walk away soothed and softened by
the essential oil of grace that I have in abundance. So I leave footprints and fingerprints of grace everywhere I go and on everything I touch.

Not that I haven’t been known to extend grace. And to gracious people, it is SO EASY to give. It’s trying to grant grace to everyone else that dries me up like a potato chip.
By ‘everyone else’ I mean all humans from the ungracious, nasty types to the person in front of me in the checkout lane. Whose sole fault is that they are in front of me in the checkout lane.

One of my favorite hymns starts like this:
“Gracious Spirit, dwell with me, I myself would gracious be;”
It’s a favorite not so much because of the tune or great poetic phrases.
It is my heart’s cry.
And yet every day—EVERY DAY—I grasp more grace for myself than I spare for others.

This is getting old. I’m getting old.
And I don’t want to be one of those greedy, grasping old women who behave as though grace were so limited it needs to be hoarded and stockpiled and hidden.

Lord, let me ooze grace. Let me shine with it. Let them smell me coming a mile away.
Let my oily grace be a sweet aroma, let it improve flavor, let it make hurts slide off me, let it give light and energy and let it reflect and refract your iridescence.

I’m too self-absorbent for grace like rain, dear Lord. Give me oily grace, please.

Wallowing in blood


Here is what happens Sunday during a sermon on how fallen sinners can approach a Holy God:
I wonder if the stuff in the crock pot will be done when I got home.
I get a grip and concentrate on the sermon. Until my meandering brain wonders why X isn’t in church and maybe X doesn’t like our church anymore or maybe Y had said something to hurt X’s feelings or maybe Y hadn’t said anything to X at all and that was why X wasn’t there and then I turn my head a bit and there X and Y are both sitting.
Paying attention to the sermon.

Imagine that.


Please join me over at Heart”wings” this morning to hear about the realization that hit me as my brain continued to leak in various directions.


Already. Not Yet.


My pastor is fond of the phrase ‘already, not yet.’
We’re new creations in Christ already, but bits of the old man’s skin  cling to us. Sometimes entire swatches haven’t yet shed. Oh wretched people we are. Just when we think we have this Christian life figured out we get slapped upside the head with God’s requirements and see how short we fall. Not perfect yet.

Christ already came, bringing His Kingdom. But not every citizen of the Kingdom has been gathered in. Not yet.

Heaven is already ours. But we’re not there yet. We’re still in the messy, contentious, polluted, violent world that, unlike the one to come, is filled with war and death and tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Speaking of not yet: ever notice how warty the body of Christ is? Sure, the church is already the bride, already hands and feet etc. But does it look lovely and pure and fully functional?
Not yet.

Since the ‘already’ doesn’t look nearly as good as the ‘not yet,’ hope can by mighty hard to come by.
Another day hearing about hatred and its Pandora’s Box of evil deeds, another season seeing the earth we’re supposed to steward laid waste,
another Sunday wondering why we didn’t get to choose who would be our siblings in Christ because this bunch ain’t cutting it.
Another nightfall of self-examination and muttering over the ugliness in our hearts that refuses to heed the eviction notice.

Seems like hope for the ‘not yet’ is too much to hope for.

I live in the land of four seasons. Six months of winter coming, staying, and leaving, almost-three months of mosquito-spawning humidity, and the four remaining months divided haphazardly between autumn and spring.

March is an odd month in Four Seasons Land. Technically spring begins toward its end. March displays flashes of fine-weather promise interspersed with dour skies and spiteful snowfalls. After beguiling us with a glimpse of bare earth and its awakening aroma, songs of birds returned to the hearty climate, the feel of balm on one’s skin instead of ice, March retreats to do what it does best. It disappoints.

We get discouraged. We think we cannot hang on one. More. Day. Spring has to come or we will go absolutely, spectacularly mad. Underneath the gnawing need for spring to appear right this minute though, is the realization that it is closer than it was last month, last December, yesterday.

With no definitive glimpse into the mind of God, I still speculate if March is one way He chooses to help us comprehend the not-yet-edness of our existence. The landfill a few miles from my house grows by the day. Birds still see fit to nest along the top. My siblings in the body of Christ squabble one minute, rally round each other in deeds and prayer the next. We are family you know. Against all earthly odds Christ has sustained and nourished this body for two thousand years.

I went to bed last night more aware than ever of the hopelessness of my sin nature.
I woke up this morning more aware of, more humbled by, and more exhilarated because of grace. The Kingdom is nearer at hand now than it was yesterday.

It may not be spring yet, but the robins are already singing outside my window.

Garfunkel isn’t all you need

Some of those childish dreams and cringing humiliations of our past need to be pulled out and gently chuckled over. It helps exorcise them. This particularly mortifying bogie has now been relegated to a manageable discomfiture. But youthful foolishness can bear the fruit of adult insight.


A song, I realized that fateful night, wasn’t going to change the world. At least not via me. I couldn’t sing, for Pete’s sake. Why hadn’t anyone told me? I couldn’t play guitar. (Actually several people had told me this, but I  assumed they just hadn’t heard me at my most soulful.) I had bullied my friend into supporting a naive and humiliating venture in futility. Worse, people had witnessed it. People I didn’t know.

It would be years—decades—before I began to comprehend the hopeless mess we humans are, the mess we’ve made of the world, and the nastiness we inflict on each other. Nothing we could generate from inside our grimy broken selves, no matter how pretty and sincere, could change ugliness and evil. We require something—SomeOne—outside of us.
Once we realize that, we needn’t feel frustration about our inability to change the entire world. We can, however, change the parts of it in which we live and move and have our being.

We work at being good friends, like Nan.
We do our best, like my Calvinette leaders, to guide silly, giggling pre-pubescent girls with love and grace.
We enjoy beauty and truth, because by God’s common and uncommon grace, it is everywhere.

God made the music of the spheres to begin with, He keeps the song going in spite of raspy voices and broken strings, and He’ll make the song new and perfect someday. He just requires that we hum along faithfully in our own spheres, whatever their size and scope.

As for my preteen self? Did I wallow in self-pity? Of course. For at least 36 hours. But there was more Simon and Garfunkel to enjoy, some Montego Bay and Mungo Jerry, and a glorious first crush on David Cassidy. Changing the world could wait. My pillow transformed into Keith Partridge each night and I covered him with chaste, closed-mouth kisses. I was becoming typical. My parents breathed a sigh of relief.

Late that year, I misplaced my little yellow transistor radio. Then I ran out of requisite-size battery. Finally, my father remembered to buy a pack of 9 volts and my little radio was ready to rumble. Maybe, I hoped, maybe ‘I Think I Love You’ will be the first song I hear. I tuned to WCFL, locked my bedroom door and turned up the volume.

For the first time, singing only for me, Neil Diamond’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother’ crooned its way through my little transistor and into my heart.

The next day I dusted off my old string of love beads and wrote a fan letter to the Peace Corps.