Earlier today I got a jump on spring cleaning and tackled my “column fodder” pile of scribbles and note fragments.
Sometimes people ask how I think of stuff to write each week. I’d like to say, “The Spirit moves me,” and sometimes that’s hopefully true. Most of the time, however, I read or hear something that sparks a thought. Some result in a full-blown column and some merely snippets.
Today is a snippets day.
• From sermon notes taken during a church service: The pastor asked, “Are you a good Christian or a bad Christian?” Then he said, “If you can check off a list of do’s and don’ts and your pluses are more than your minuses then you might call yourself a good Christian. But that’s a trick question because you’re thinking about your performance.”
He continued, paraphrasing Galatians 3 where the Apostle Paul says if you rely on how well you behave, how many do’s and don’ts you follow, then you are under a curse. The key word, he said, is “rely.” Either you rely on your own performance or you rely on Christ’s.
Truthfully, I’d much rather rely on Christ’s because I can’t even make it out the door in the morning without breaking at least seven of the Ten Commandments.
Being a Christian isn’t a self-improvement program. It’s not about being a rule keeper, but about relying on Jesus who kept the rules for us. That’s good news, y’all.
I’m constantly amazed that people actually resist it — and I’m talking about people who call themselves Christians.
• On a piece of paper I’ve written: “Shadows = scary; they make things look bigger than they are. But if there’s a shadow, there’s also a light.”
In the old “Little Rascals” movie shorts of the 1930s, there’s one where Alfalfa’s aunt comes to baby sit on a dark and stormy night. Aunt Penelope writes murder mysteries, and when Alfalfa finds a page from her manuscript he thinks she’s plotting to kill him, so he gathers his friends to protect him.
Although it’s a comedy, it’s creepy. The lights go out and there are all these eerie, scary shadows cast by Aunt Penelope and knives and candelabras — and there’s a blood-curdling scream as the clock chimes.
But when Alfalfa’s parents come home and the lights go on and the rest of the book is found, the danger disappears. It’s the light — and the truth — that makes the difference.
The prophet Isaiah said of the coming Messiah: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16).
Where Jesus is, where his people are, there’s light, and light brings illumination, warmth and release from fear. And you can’t really ever appreciate light unless you’ve been in darkness.
• On another piece of paper: “Grace — you don’t find it; grace finds you. Grace pursues those it loves...Grace forgives when we don’t deserve it...Grace reconciles when it otherwise seems impossible...Grace is not reserved for good people, but it underscores how good God is...We say, ‘What goes around comes around’ and ‘You reap what you sow’ unless grace shows up. Grace is the exception to this principle.”
Hallelujah! Enough said.
• Philippians 4:8 says to “think on lovely things.” In the newspaper business we hear mostly unlovely things, and it can kill your soul. It’s easy to think the worst about people, but that’s unfair. We don’t know another person’s pain. We don’t know the reasons they do what they do. I believe in giving mercy, because God has been merciful to me. It’s my choice to think on lovely things.
• From an email from a friend: A couple of years ago a well-known Christian artist gave an evening concert at a church in Nashville. Although the concert was heavily promoted, only a handful of people showed up.
The pastor was upset and told the singer he didn’t understand why that had happened. The singer told him, “Only the wounded come out at night.”
My friend wrote, “That’s a revelation — we are for the wounded. We, you and I, reach the wounded, the sinful and the people who don’t fit. That is a wonderful gift to be able to do that. The others, as Jesus said, don’t need a physician. They don’t think they’re sick.”
I can only pray that one day God will use my words for the wounded.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at email@example.com.