Foreknowing, Causing, Allowing…

Foreknowing, Causing, Allowing…

In my Lenten small group, this morning, we were debating if God allows tragedy, causes tragedy, or both.  Though the word wasn’t used this morning, God’s foreknowledge also comes into play.  If God knows everything, then God knows what is going to happen in advance.  If God knows a tragic event will occur, does that mean God caused it?  Is foreknowledge the same as causality?

Undeniably, God has caused bad things to happen.  The ten plagues unleashed on Egypt during the Exodus would fit that category.  But, does that mean that causes ALL plagues and maladies?

Undeniably, God allows bad things to happen.  Every moment of every day, evil is at work around the world – war, crime, injustice, etc…  God allows that.  But, is allowing the same as causing?

Where is the place of free will and choice in this debate?  How much choice does God allow?

I, for one, believe in free will.  I believe that God gives us the gift and responsibility of choice.  We can choose to love him, serve him, and honor him.  Or, we can choose to be selfish, and do unspeakable evil.  And, of course, there are a wide range of choices, good and bad, in between. I believe that every human is capable of choosing remarkable good and unspeakable evil.

I also believe that God is intimately at work in his created world – blessing, sustaining influencing, hearing and answering our prayers, and, more often than not, redeeming for good the many, many things that have gone wrong.

Can God control the events of this world, like a chess player moving the pieces on a chess board?  Yes, of course.  God is God, which means God can do whatever God wants to do.  But, it seems to me that God has imposed self-limitations upon himself, in order that we have the freedom to choose.  We aren’t chess pieces.  We move ourselves.  We choose.

After all, love is a choice.  Relationship is a choice.  Obedience, really, is a choice.

I’ve heard it said, “Why did God allow…?  Why didn’t God stop…?”  When tragic things occur, such questions are inevitable.  “God, why don’t you intervene when you know something terrible is going to happen and people are going to suffer?”

But, my question is, if we believe that God gives us choice, and that we are responsible for our choices, and if we can connect someone’s choice to the tragedy-in-question, where would we draw the line?  What choices do we think God should allow?  What choices do we think God should stop?

Should God stop the drunk driver from running into someone innocent?  Should God stop me from adjusting my car AC, or changing radio stations, if that potentially distracts me and leads to the same kind of accident, and the same result?  Should God stop me from driving if I’m ever sleepy, irritated, distracted, in a hurry, etc.?  Should God stop me from riding in cars, at all, if I might be a potential distraction for the driver?  Should God just keep me locked up in my house – safe and sound – where I can’t be a danger to anyone but myself?

Where’s the line?

Do we believe that God is ultimately the cause and responsible party for every tragedy?  Or, is tragedy a reality of living in a fallen world where people make unfortunate choices?

I, for one, don’t blame God for the ill that happens in this world, or specifically in my life.  But, I do look to God to comfort my pain, strengthen my weakness, redeem my failings, and restore what get’s broken.

I do wonder, sometimes, why God doesn’t move a little faster.  Why does he take so long to answer my prayers, to give me direction, and to fix my problems?  But, those are questions for another blog.

We’re All Mad Here…

We’re All Mad Here…

I just finished the manuscript for Sunday’s sermon.  Unfortunately, I had to cut a quote a I planned to use from Alice in Wonderland, “You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Confession: Sometimes, when I am preaching, a little voice inside my head says, “You sound like a crazy person.”  I just keep preaching.

Think about it.  Most of what we believe, as Christians, is pretty crazy stuff – an invisible God, a Heaven you can only get to by dying, angels and demons, a dead man rising from the grave – not to mention all of those miracle stories.

We’ve become so accustomed to the teachings of Jesus, in particular, that I think we forget how much he must have sounded like a Mad Hatter to his original listeners…

When someone slaps you, offer the other cheek.

When your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.

It’s easier for a camel to climb through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to go to heaven.

Take the log protruding from your own eye before kindly helping someone remove the teensy tiny little speck in their’s.

You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.

You must be born again.

I speak in parables so that no one will understand what I am talking about.

I’m a king.  But my kingdom isn’t of this world.

The Father and I are one.

Go, sell everything you’ve got and give it to the poor.

Love your enemies.

Forgive someone 77 times.

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Blessed are you when you are poor, hungry, sad, and everyone hates you and says mean things about you.  Rejoice and jump for joy!

Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear…

You see.  But, you don’t see.  You hear.  But, you don’t hear.

In Alice in Wonderland, Wonderland is an odd place, filled with stranger characters, where the rules are different, and where no speaks or acts “normally.”  Everyone is bonkers.

Is it possible, that if we were to really take the teachings of Jesus seriously, and really lived like Kingdom people, that we wouldn’t seem very normal in this world either?

“Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven – we’re all mad here.”

But, if the values of this world are “normal”…

  • obsession with wealth, power, beauty, and fame
  • war, fear, and hate
  • self-advancement and looking out for #1
  • “fake” news

Shall I go on?

If what this world offers is “normal,” I’ll choose the madness of Jesus any day.

Ah.  But you, like Alice, might say, “But I don’t want to go among mad people.”  I’m afraid I must side with the Cheshire Cat, “You can’t help that.  We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

You must be mad… or you wouldn’t still be reading this blog!  You must be completely off your head!

 

Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory

I used to be very involved in Martial Arts – Kenpo Karate, Modern Arnis, and Kickboxing.  I spent hours upon hours at the dojo, eventually earning my black belt, and even helping with the classes.  I loved it, and grieved when I had to give it up (my body just couldn’t take it anymore).

I still think about the forms and techniques.  I still think about how I would handle different situations, if I had to.  I still miss it terribly.

I still remember my first class, wearing my white uniform (gi) and white belt.  I didn’t have a clue.  But, I was eager to learn.  During that first class I was taught about 5 or 6 things – a few kicks, punches, and blocks.  Slowly, as I demonstrated proficiency, I was taught more.  As I learned and improved, I was given opportunities to test for the next higher belt.

But, on my very last class, though I was competent in dozens and dozens of strikes, kicks, blocks, etc.; though I had been tested 11 times; though I was instructing others; I was still required to accurately perform the basic techniques I was taught at very my first class.  The same had been true at every class – hundreds of classes – between my first and my last, and countless private practice sessions.

My instructor (sensei) used to talk about developing muscle memory through repetition.  He wanted us to be able to react correctly in a dangerous situation, without needing to think about what the right strike or block needed to be.  In fact, he was a stickler for accuracy, saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”  If I was doing something wrong – even small things – repeating the error only reinforced the error.  So, he was quick to correct.  And, I was corrected often.  And, I repeated the technique again – accurately.  And, once I did it correctly, I repeated it some more.

I’ve been told that there really isn’t such a thing as muscle memory.  Muscles don’t remember – the mind remembers.  The mind, however, has an amazing capacity to absorb and retain what we do routinely.  Eventually, repeated actions become second-nature.

Similarly, when I first started riding a motorcycle, I had to concentrate on every detail of what I was doing.  The right hand can brake or throttle, and presses down to steer right.  The right thumb pushes the right turn signal.  The left hand works the clutch, and presses down to steer left.  The left thumb presses the left turn signal, and the horn.  The right foot brakes.  The left foot shifts between the gears.  You shift your body weight to steer.  You watch everywhere. You listen.   And, you do it all simultaneously.  The details really matter when you’re riding a motorcycle!  It’s life or death!

But, I noticed on Monday, as I was riding, even while still being very attentive to my driving, how little I have to think about the details.  They’ve become automatic.

We call repeated actions or behaviors, that become automatic, habits.  Obviously, there are good habits or bad habits.   I have more than a few bad habits.  And, just as bad habits are hard to break, good habits can be hard to form.  Developing good habits is like learning karate or riding a motorcycle – doing the right thing over and over and over, until it becomes second nature.

Honestly, bad habits, formed unintentionally, come a lot easier to me than forming good habits. In fact, for years I resisted living my life habitually.  It seemed boring and uninteresting.  I acted on my impulses.  when my impulses were good, that was good.  When my impulses were bad, that could be a problem.

But, as I’ve “matured,” I’m increasingly realizing the value of habit and routine.  I still fight them, sometimes.  But, increasingly I’m forming “muscle memory” – particularly in my spiritual life.

I need time with God, every day, and the morning tends to be my best time.  I need weekly Sabbath.  I need annual retreat – usually to a monastery for a week of silence.  I have a rhythm for my sermon prep.  I have a basic rhythm for how I structure my week.  I increasingly value the cyclical nature of the liturgical seasons – like annually using Lent to reevaluate my habits, and work on new ones.  The Church calls these spiritual disciplines.

There are some habits that I still need to break and some I need to develop.  I still haven’t managed to develop good habits around eating and exercising.  I also need to develop some better mental habits, to reign in the negative thoughts and responses that come way too easily.  I’m discovering that even some basic character attributes can only form through practice.

So, while my martial arts days are unfortunately in my past, I’m still working on developing healthy and holy habits, that will, hopefully, also lead to proficiency and “muscle memory.”

What habits are you working on?

 

Embracing the Grey

Embracing the Grey

I had a very random conversation with a complete stranger, yesterday. He said that the hot issue many counselors/therapists/psychotherapists are dealing with, lately, is how to help their clients deal with friends and family, with whom they have differing political views.  His point was that, in our current political climate, friends and family are being ripped apart by opposing loyalties and ideologies.  People are increasingly afraid to open their mouth, and state their opinions, for fear of other’s reactions and potentially being ostracized.

Differences of opinions – even within families – is nothing new.  But, tearing families and friends apart?

What’s wrong with us?

I listened to a speaker last night, who said many wise things, and much that I agreed with.  But, there were HUGE holes in his arguments.  And, he unfairly villainized his opposition.  As much as I liked and agreed with the speaker, the voice in my head kept screaming, “YEAH!  BUT…  WHAT ABOUT…..?”

Even my denomination is currently polarized around the issue of homosexuality; opposing sides condemning the other.  Many are fighting and praying to find a middle-way.  And, many fear that no middle-way will be found, and that we, like so many friends and families, will also be ripped apart.

It is just so easy to paint everyone with the absurdly broad brushes of black or white, right or wrong, saint or sinner, good or bad.  And, it is so inaccurate and so unfair.  Why must my opposition be evil, ignorant, and immoral?  Is it possible that both could be partially right, and partially wrong?  Is it possible that neither could be right?  Is it possible that both could be right, depending on your perspective and agenda?

Can’t we see that the truth – the TRUTH – is often somewhere in the middle?

As I watched the endless political debates of 2016, both Republican and Democrat, I constantly thought “There’s got to be more to the story.  The other side can’t be THAT wrong; THAT evil; THAT short-sided.  The solutions can’t be THAT obvious.”  Are either the Democrats or the Republicans right about everything?  Of course not.  Neither party can even find agreement even within their own ranks.  But, neither are 100% wrong, either!

Why must we villainize each other?  Don’t people matter more than points of view?  Can’t we disagree, and still find ways to respect one another, and even work together for solutions that just might be wiser and richer from considering broader points of view?

Grey is not a watered down version of black, nor is it a dirtier version of white.  Grey is a legitimate color.  In fact, it comes in many shades.

I’m embracing the grey.

What Have We Lost?

What Have We Lost?

Disclaimer:  I don’t I have a nostalgic bone in my body.  I don’t look back to my childhood, or any other era, as idyllic.  Every day, month, year, or decade of human existence had its problems and challenges.  Humans have never been perfect.  

Now.  Onto today’s topic.  Sabbath.

I try to keep Mondays as my Sabbath day.  No, the Bible does not say that Monday is a Sabbath.  Technically, the Bible doesn’t say that Sunday is a Sabbath day either.  Saturday – the seventh day – is the commanded day to Sabbath.  But, early in Christianity, the Sabbath was moved to Sunday, to commemorate Jesus’ day of resurrection.

On my Sabbath Mondays, I tend to rest.  I’m exhausted after Sunday, which is why it really can’t be a Sabbath day for me.  As a Pastor, Sunday is a work day.

On my Sabbath Mondays, I spend more time reading, writing, and praying.  I intentionally move slower.  Depending on the weather, I might work on my bonsai trees or go for a motorcycle ride.  Some days I just read.  Occasionally, I work on some tasks around the house.  All in all, I tend to be un-productive, which is the idea of the Sabbath.  Sometimes I have some work-related obligation on a Monday, like an evening meeting.  But, I try to avoid those as much as possible.

It  has taken me a while to realize that I need to Sabbath.  For years, I lived at an unsustainable pace, and burned out over and over.  My pattern was go-go-go-crash, go-go-go-crash.  I practiced sick-Sabbaths, only taking time to rest and recover when I got too sick to do anything else.  That really was sick.

I just can’t do that any more, and shouldn’t have done it to begin with.  I still go-go-go – for six days.  But, now, I fight to keep my Sabbath day.  I just have to.

Now, as I take Sabbath more seriously, I’ve become more observant of how little Sabbath I see in other’s lives.

I live near a conservative, traditional Jewish synagogue. On Friday nights and Saturdays (the Jewish and Biblical Sabbath), I observe Jewish families walking to the synagogue, dressed in traditional Jewish attire.  They are walking, because they believe that driving is a violation of the Sabbath, which also implies that they have chosen to live within walking distance of their synagogue.  Though I have never spoken with any of them, my observation is that Sabbath keeping is a priority in their lives.  They are honoring and keeping a sacred duty.

I respect that.  I envy that.

Though my family never consistently attended church, when I was a child,  I can still remember the influence of the Church on Sundays.  Sunday morning worship was followed by chatting with fellow congregants in the church parking lot, followed by lunch with church friends, followed by family time, and perhaps concluded with some evening church activity.  Sunday was for church, friends, family, and rest.

I still remember Publix being closed on Sundays.  I remember the glass doors at gas stations being locked on Sundays, prohibiting the sale of beer.  I’ve been told that movie theaters and bowling alleys were also closed during my childhood – but, I wouldn’t know.  We never would have gone anyway.  Instead, most Sundays we visited my grandparents, which included long afternoon motorcycle rides on country roads, followed by big dinners.

Things have changed.  The Sabbath is no longer sacred in our society – nor in our churches.  I observe so many young families (the vast majority, really) that come to church when they can.  They are torn between attending church and various sporting activities.  I watch families scurry out of church, when they can make it, on to the next activity, which I am sure will be followed by several more.  More and more people have to work on Sundays.

I’m not saying that sports or other Sunday activities are bad, necessarily.  I just wonder what we have lost – and are losing – and are stealing from our children – by habitually violating the Sabbath.  What are we teaching them about priorities, rest, and the value of worship and time with family?

Sabbath is a commandment, by the way – not optional.

I’m thankful to have finally discovered the wisdom of Sabbath-keeping – even if I have to do it on Monday.  Now, it’s time to finish my coffee, eat my breakfast, and see where my motorcycle takes me today.

Restored Fortunes – the fourth sermon in a series called “Restoration,” preached on March 26, 2017 at First Church Coral Springs.

Restored Fortunes – the fourth sermon in a series called “Restoration,” preached on March 26, 2017 at First Church Coral Springs.

This is the fourth sermon in a series called, “Restoration.”  The basic premise of the series is that God can take what is broken, worn-out, and seemingly beyond repair, and restore the broken pieces and parts into something new and beautiful.  So far, we have talked about God restoring our hearts and our broken relationships.  Today, we’re talking about God restoring our fortunes.

I suspect just about everybody knows who Frank Sinatra is.  Probably his most famous song was, “My Way.”  In fact, he referred to it as America’s second national anthem.  This is the second verse…

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I don’t know if Sinatra intended to be autobiographical, or if he was just singing the words to a song that people liked.  But, in spite of his great success, fame and wealth, if you look closer at his life story, you discover that he had more than a few things to regret – multiple failed marriages, multiple publicized affairs, arrests, associations with the Mafia, and bad press, just to name a few.

I’m not condemning or judging Frank – far from it.  Who am I to judge?  My point is that few of us can say we only have a few regrets.

            A regret is defined as, a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.”   Who, of us doesn’t feel sadness?  Who of us hasn’t experienced disappointment?  Who of us doesn’t have something to repent?

In fact, Scripture is pretty clear that we all do…

  • All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
  • If we claim to be without sin,we deceive ourselves.” (1 John 1:8)
  • “A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise(Psalm 51:17)

Who hasn’t made mistakes; missed opportunities; experienced disappointment; suffered loss and set-backs; failed; sinned?  Nobody!

You don’t get through this life without regrets.  I regret…

  • Not taking my college education more seriously.
  • Not having a closer relationship with my father.
  • Not being a better parent.
  • Losing some valuable friendships.
  • Not developing a routine and habit of exercise and healthy living at an early age.
  • So many dumb, irresponsible things I’ve done.
  • Things I’ve said, or should have said. But, now it’s too late.
  • I even regret some missed opportunities in my ministry.

If we don’t have regrets, then I think we’re in denial.

But, when we draw close to God, there’s no avoiding it.  We can’t help but face the regrets.

Think about Isaiah, who saw a vision of God in the Temple, seated high and lofty.  Isaiah’s immediate response was an awareness of his sinfulness, “Woe to me!  I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).  One day Jesus stepped into the boat of a man named Simon, who had spent the entire night fishing, but had not caught a single fish.  Jesus said, “push out the boat away, and throw in your net.”  The net gathered a miraculous catch of fish.  Simon immediately hit his knees, right on the deck of his boat, saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).

I think there are two categories of regrets.

The first comes from a line in a commonly known prayer of confession, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done…” 

Sometimes we have regrets about what we have done.  Sometimes we have regrets for things we failed to do.  Either way, we know we are the responsible party for our regrets.

The second category is a simple edit of the first – “Those things OTHERS ought not to have done…”

Here is a fact – there are consequences to all of our actions and inactions.  There are consequences to our sin.  Obviously, sin impacts my relationship with God.  It also affects me.  But, sin also has consequences for others.  Think about the Ten Commandments.  Commandment 5 through 10 relate to the impact our sins can have on our neighbors.  Thus, some of our regrets are a result of our own action or inaction, whereas other regrets are as a result of someone else’s sin. …

  • Think about the ugly, mean words that have been spoken to you, or about you.
  • Maybe there has been a lack of love and support from your parents or a spouse.
  • Maybe something or someone you love has been taken away from you.
  • Maybe you have experienced betrayals and broken trust.
  • Perhaps you are the victim of some form of injustice.

The point is, whether we’ve caused our regrets, or we regret what’s been done to us, we all have regrets.

So, what can we do about it?  Are we just stuck feeling this way?  Or, can God help us?

Donald Miller writes, “When something happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You can either get bitter, or get better.”

            As we talk about regret, I think it would be helpful to also talk about guilt and shame.  The words, are related, but different.  Guilt means that I’ve done something wrong.  Shame means that there is something wrong with me.

Here’s an example.  Imagine that I drive to fast.  Imagine that I get pulled over by a Coral Springs Police Officer for speeding.  He shows me the radar gun, that clocked me going 20 miles over the speed limit.  I’m guilty.  There’s no denying it.  I’m guilty of exceeding the speed limit and breaking the law.  That’s guilt.

Shame would say I speed because there is something wrong with me.  I speed because I am a speeder.  I am the kind of person who speeds.  I am impatient.  I am too aggressive.  I don’t care about the law or public safety.  My speeding is a symptom of my speeding shamefulness.

Most of us know that Jesus carried the guilt of our sin to the cross.  But, we forget the cross also heals our sense of shame.  Lent is a great time to confess and admit our guilt and our shame.  According to Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Now here is where regret comes in.  We confuse shame and regret.  The cross sets us free from guilt and shame.  But, there is no escaping the consequences of my sin in this life.  If I get caught speeding, I will have to pay a ticket, have points added to my record, go to driving school, and have my insurance rates go up.  I regret the mess I have made by driving too fast.

But, watch this.  It is possible that I learn something from my getting a ticket.  Maybe I feel bad about my irresponsible driving.  And, maybe the cost of the ticket and the driving school make an impression on me, that leads to me being a better, safe, more responsible driver.  Then I don’t just regret getting a speeding ticket.  I would regret that.  But, some good – my improved driving – has come as a result.

Regret is healthy and honest.  Regret acknowledges wrong that’s been done.  But, that’s not the same as shame.  Whatever your regrets might be, God can actually take the brokenness of our past, and restore your fortunes.

Before we move on, let me ask you, what are your regrets?  What shame are you carrying?  What memories haunt you?

The phrase, “restore our fortunes” comes from Psalm 126,

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.   Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.  Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126 was probably written about 500 years before Jesus was born.  The Israelites were returning to their homeland, after 70 years of slavery and captivity in Babylon.  70 years prior, the Babylonian armies invaded and utterly destroyed everything – homes, cities, orchards, vineyards, groves, Jerusalem and the Temple.  People were led away as captives.

They had been released and were going home.  But, they were returning to rubble and wasteland.  And, it was their own fault – a result of their straying from God.  Many had been born during those 70 years of captivity and into that communal regret.  They would always feel regret about those years of captivity, the loss of what had been, and the shame they had experienced.

But, now God was doing something new.  They were going home.  Dreams were coming true.  They had been carried away as weeping captives, but they were returning, singing songs of joy.  Someday, the surrounding nations would say, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  And,  as they returned, they prayed, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord.”

We often associate the word “fortune” with financial wealth.  We say that millionaires are worth a fortune.  We say the lottery winners win a fortune.  It is about financial gain, potentially.  But, it is bigger than that.

Think about the relationship of the word “fortune” with the words “fortunate” or “unfortunate,” or the phrases, “good fortune” or “bad fortune”.  Maybe you go to fortune teller to tell you about your future.  At Chinese restaurants, they bring you a fortune cookie with your bill, with a little slip of paper that tells you some good thing is going to happen to you – but never does.

“Restore our fortunes, Lord,” is simply asking God for a better future – whatever that might mean. It doesn’t erase the regret or consequences of the past.  But it is the hopeful belief that God can take our biggest regrets, and redeem them; that it is never too late to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.  As the Psalmist wrote, even with regrets, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

            I don’t think there is a verse of Scripture that I quote more often than Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”   I also like The Message translation of that verse, “We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

All things.  Every detail.  Not just the good things.  Not just the godly things.  Not just the things we like.  All things – every detail.

Think about your biggest regrets.  Dare we believe that God can take the very worst things we have done, or that have been done to us, and use them for something good?

Think about…

  • Former addicts, at Alcoholics Anonymous, becoming sponsors to guide addicts who are new to recovery.
  • Victims of sexual assault, who have been healed from their trauma, offering help to more recent victims.
  • Convicts, using their incarceration as time to turn their lives around; getting education, and training, and possibly even finding Jesus.
  • Older vets helping younger vets who struggle to re-enter this world after war.
  • Those who have grieved helping those who are now grieving.
  • Or, the wisdom that comes from accumulated life experiences – good and bad.

            Think about the horror and ugliness of the cross, where Jesus died a death he did not deserve to die, and the beauty of our redemption.

God causes all things to work together for good – every regret, every detail.  That doesn’t mean that what happened wasn’t horrific – nothing can change that.  It doesn’t mean that God causes bad things to happen.  But, God doesn’t let any opportunity go to waste to redeem and restore what is so terribly broken.

Brennan Manning, who was a Catholic priest for years and an alcoholic, in and out of recovery, once wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark (substitute regrets). In admitting my shadow-side (substitute regrets, again) I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”  

Wherever you have been, whatever you have done, whatever has been done to you, whatever pain you have carried or are carrying; however horrible, tragic, embarrassing, foolish, or shameful your past may seem; God has a better future for you.  And, God doesn’t just erase the past.  God actually use the details of your life – good and bad – to create something new and beautiful.

So, what are your regrets?  What are your regrets?

Restore our fortunes, O Lord.