The Lens of Grace (from Abundant and Free)

I was raised by an Army officer  and eventually became an Army officer myself. There are many good things about growing up or training in that environment. At the same time, there is a lens through which those so trained see people that can make life difficult. When the mission is critical, judgment of others can be, as well. There can be harsh, rigid assessment of people based on their performance and contribution to the mission.

After my time as an Army officer, I eventually went to law school, passed the bar, took the oath and for a season made a living standing in courtrooms arguing cases. As an advocate, I continually viewed people and their stories through my law knowledge filter. I applied that filter to things that led to the disposition of the question in the case as well as procedures compared to the rules of admission. If the opposing party tried to get inadmissible evidence into the record or question a witness in a way not allowed, I would object. It was part of my duty to my client.

Even though I no longer argue cases in a courtroom, I find myself sometimes thinking like an attorney. I don’t think the word “objection,” but often form a thought regarding something or someone I find “objectionable.”

In doing so, I make a case against another person in my mind. This is particularly true when I perceive the other person has a responsibility to behave a certain way.

The judgment I pronounce is a revelation of the lens through which I see people. I’ve discovered I turn that same lens on myself. I struggle to be satisfied with anything less than excellence, so I struggle to be satisfied. I compare my behaviors, performance, accomplishments and the evidence of my success to an external standard and make a case against myself.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 12:2).

The judgment I form against others is the standard for the judgment I form against myself. Where I compare them to expectations, I hold myself to those same expectations. Where I give grace, I am able to receive grace. I see people through a lens, and like it or not, that lens is the same for me.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

Because of Jesus, we have a choice: We can labor under the yoke of the law or we can submit to the reins of the truth. Jesus replaced the law with the truth, because the law is a subsection of the truth. The truth is the broader reality. We no longer need the law because Jesus is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Grace is the lens through which we are invited to view the truth. We either see through Moses or through Jesus; therefore, we see ourselves either as guilty or forgiven and will see others as we see ourselves. If you want to know what you think of yourself, consider how you think of others.

From Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace, now available on Amazon.com. 

Wisdom Requires Lower Gears

I love driving in the mountains as it requires different techniques than what become routine in the city. Routine driving amounts to gas, brake and steering. Going up and down mountains requires consideration of the brakes or they will get burned up. When ascending and descending, the gas is required to get up the inclines but the brakes will smoke and turn red if you ride them to slow down on the declines too much.

The solution is changing gears. You have to drop down to a lower gear to allow the engine to do the work. The lower gear cause the engine to turn faster and, in effect, lose some of its efficiency. When going down hill in low gear, the higher revolving engine slows the car without using the brake. Then, a shift back into high gear puts you in position to go up the next incline.

I was going up and down a mountain yesterday and thinking about the dynamics of what it takes. It seemed like a good picture for where I am in the broader context. I feel like I’m traversing windy roads that go up and down and the same old habits of brake and gas are not sufficient for navigating the course. I have to be skilled and dropping into a different gear.

As I turn fifty, I’m finding that less is more. As I hit challenges and circumstances, I’m learning not to just apply the gas and press the brakes. I’m learning to throttle back. Otherwise, my brakes start smoking and you can smell the friction.

Working with people requires emotional coasting. While they are working their stuff, I can’t make it my stuff. When their perspective and intentions don’t align with mine, I need to allow for lower gears to get me down the hill as things are worked out. Lower gears, in this case, means security in my identity that affords me the calm that comes with confidence. My emotions can’t take the ride that the road suggests; they have to be governed or I’ll burn up.

Less is more and God is a better driver than me. I’m learning how to trust Him with me and others differently. I don’t always get it right and I can tell when that is the case by smelling the friction of my emotions. When I am able to trust God with my circumstances and know that He is good and for me, I can release the need to speed up and slow down where I should be coasting and letting the engine do the work.

Enjoying Joy and Relating with Eternity at 50

Fifty years ago today, I was born. Seventeen years ago, I was born again. Life was born where there had been living without depth. Along the way, I’m trying to figure it out but it gets more simple, I think, not more complicated.

Here’s what I think I know: my new life, given to me by the grace of Jesus, is intended to be shared with people and theirs with me. The other stuff we tag onto the grace of Jesus “in His name” may not have ever been intended to be a part of the sharing of Him among us.

This is supposed to be easier than we make it, I think. We can choose to pile a bunch of religion and expectations and criticism of each other on top of His grace, but we shouldn’t think that it’s Him. He doesn’t do that. He calls us His friends and friends don’t treat each other like that.

In the next 50 years, or whatever number are left on this earth, I want to increase in my presentation of Him in His grace. I want to be His friend and a friend His other friends as well as those who He would like to be friends with. I want to smile and encourage and laugh and cry with people who don’t want or need to be alone.

God, the Father, presented Himself through Jesus, the Son. Now they, along with Holy Spirit, are willing to present themselves through us and among us. They aren’t critical, upset, disappointed, concerned or corrective. I’m convinced that they aren’t worried about the order of service or the mastery of ideas about them as much as they are desirous of relationships. Relationships with them and relationships with each other. I think the whole Book is about relationship.

Jesus is more than willing to live among His people who laugh and sing. The songs don’t have to be from Hillsong or a hymnal, they can sometimes be from the Eagles or Johnny Cash. Then people who don’t know anything about Hillsong or hymnals can join in and have relationship with us, too. Relationship with us might lead to relationship with Them, but if it doesn’t nothing changes about the graceful display of the intention.

 

 

The First Thing Fuels the Other Things

I was running on empty lately because I was running from my own ability. I have been invited into good things, eternal things, but I was applying temporary efforts to an eternal equation. The cost of the disconnection was my own relationship with the One that extended the invitation in the first place.

Our ability is fueled by our source. If we are the source of all that we seek to do, the well is perpetually running dry. We can get things done for as long as the weekends, whiskey, vacations, television, computer, exercise or other indulgences afford us the chance to escape. Those escapes, however, provide a stop-gap re-charge to a reservoir that is destined for empty.

The only way to realize the fullness of life in the living of life is by connection to the Source of life. Connection to the Source is intimacy, not knowledge. In fact, the intimacy is what fuels the understanding that is required for interpretation of knowledge.

He’s a Father. He birthed us from the design that He had for us. The plans for our lives are connected to eternity. As my friends David Terry and Marc Owings say, we are hardwired straight from the factory. Our hard wiring is for connection to the One that put the wires there in the first place.

Eternal purpose requires eternal supply. Temporal supply to an eternal purpose yields a diminishing return. In other words, even ministry and the stuff that we do “for God” requires God to fuel it. His fuel is relational connection. It’s intimacy.

Intimacy with the Father fuels everything. It fuels friendships and marriage. It fuels family and work. It fuels purpose and destiny. Intimacy with the Father is the point. The rest of the stuff is secondary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

The first thing is Him. He is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We when are routinely engaged in an intimate relationship with Him, that stuff comes out of us. When that stuff isn’t there, we are probably our own source. Even when we are trying to do His stuff. Doing His stuff without Him was never the plan.

 

Freedom is in the Flow of Authentic Life

My first year of law school, I had a contracts professor who was the most intimidating professor we “One-Ls” faced that initiation year.  He was a master at what is called the Socratic Method and would work a given subject and a person’s learning of it masterfully by asking one question on top of the other.

The questions he chose surgically peeled back your answer to examine the reason and logic that was used to reach the answer you offered.  Through his cross-examination, you would doubt things you swore to be true just minutes before.  That was the point:  Know the “why” of the conclusions to develop your thinking in order to best advocate the position you represent.

This professor would get most frustrated with students who didn’t want to delve as deeply as he was leading them.  He would rant when it appeared a student was attempting to skip the logical support to get to what they concluded was the rule of law.  The rant was typically something like, “You first-year law students are all the same, ‘The rule; just give me the rule.’  It’s all you think about!”

He was right, but not just about novice law students.  We all want rules to follow.  We want to know where the boundaries are so we can stay between the lines.  If we know what to do, we’ll do it and then we will be accepted or approved of based on our following the rules.  The rules and boundaries make it easier to gauge our performance.

Performance is effort under the law.  A life of grace liberates us to purpose.  Performance is reverse engineering our behavior to look like the thing we want to be.  Grace allows us to simply be it.  The Father desires children walking in purpose to establish His Kingdom, not servants performing for the sake of appearance or approval.  There’s no freedom in pretending or striving to “be”; freedom is realized in the flow of authentic life that happens when we agree with our identity and operate from it.

– From “Transforming the Prodigal Soul” available on Amazon at: https://scottprickett.com/scotts-book/

 

 

Satisfaction Allows for Multiplication and Prevents Fortification

John Eldredge wrote a great book called “Way of the Wild Heart” which details stages of development and how they inter-relate one to the other. For example, young men usually require satisfaction of what Eldredge calls a “cowboy” stage. This is a time where the young man seeks adventure to know inside of himself that he is capable. Once this question is answered, he doesn’t have to wonder if he has what it takes to fight and survive when faced with a battle to fight. He is able, through experience, to walk with confidence which eliminates insecure over-reactions.

Problems arise when those questions go unanswered yet we progress in life to positions of greater responsibility. We often progress into what Eldredge calls the “king” stage where there are positions of leadership and responsibility. We’ve likely all seen the effects of a “leader” who is insecure and “leads” with fear. They are not prepared to walk in the position they have been promoted into because they did not naturally satisfy the internal questions to prepare them.

I started practicing law as a second career and had to cycle back to the beginning; went from running a company generating significant revenues to sharing an office with two desks and two paralegals. So three of us with only two desks and I knew less than they did about how most everything worked. If they were both present and busy, I had nowhere to sit.

Nice big cup full of humility to drink from did me good. I’m thankful for that time. That time was necessary as a foundation for what is and is to come. If I had tried to self-promote or refused to walk through what was before me, the foundation would not have been as solid.

Fear and control are enemies of leadership. They are also fruit of insecurity. Security comes from within; not from promotions or the accumulation of stuff. When you know who you are and Who it is that promotes and provides, the temptation to manipulate for your protection is set aside. The understanding of His faithfulness comes by the experience of His provision in the risk of trusting Him. Life lived dependent on Him and not you allows for the questions to be settled from within.

Leaders promote others because they aren’t promoting themselves. Insecurity will prevent or limit the freedom necessary for the release of others as the temptation will be to fortify more than multiply. Insecure kings build and adorn their castles while secure kings release and multiply the Kingdom of the King through others.