Tuesday, February 12, 2008 

Well the blog has moved. A new and improved version can be found at gracerant.wordpress.com.

See you there.

Paul G.

Monday, November 06, 2006 

Why Go to Church?

There are many things in life that we do out of obligation. I am legally obligated to pay taxes, so I do. I am legally obligated to follow the speed limits (although my driving habits might not indicate this). For years, I went to church out of obligation. I went to church not because I wanted to seek the presence of God, or even be in fellowship with others of like mind; no, I went to church because that was what was expected of me. I knew most of the answers to the questions that would be asked in Sunday School (this was not too hard, as most of them were one of three things: Jesus, Prayer, or Bible). I felt at home at the church. People knew me and I knew them.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that church is not about me. It’s about God. It’s about seeking a transforming experience with the divine. It’s about relationship. It’s about worship. It’s about finding life and living it abundantly. It’s not about the building, nor is it about the preacher, nor is it even about good things the church does. It’s about God and our participation in the life of God in this world. Most of all, it’s about love. The words of the apostle make this clear:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4: 7-12)

Why do you go to church? I am not sure I like this question because this question assumes that the church is a place. I am going to McDonald’s has the same effect that I am going to church does – it locates the church as a building. Perhaps a better way to ask the question would be “why are you apart of the church?” Really, why are you apart of the church?

C.S. Lewis is most famous for writing the wonderful children’s allegories in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Yet, those are the only books that he wrote that were intended for children. His other writings are brilliant. Read his words. Soak them up.

“The perfect church service, would be one we were almost unaware of.
Our attention would have been on God.” –C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, p.5

May we live out our lives so that our attention, in the building and out of the building is so focused on God that we love each other like God loves us: not out of obligation, but out of pure, unadulterated, real, inconceivable, love.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 

God. Silence.

I am amazed at how fast life moves. That amazement comes, of course, only when I find the time to actually be amazed. More often than not, I am too busy to be amazed. Life moves and I get caught up in the mix of it – deadlines have to be met, meetings have to be attended, calls have to be made, and then I still have to try hard to be the best husband I can be, the best pastor I can be, and the best student that I can be.
Rob Bell begins the Noise video by telling us this story:

I was reading about this guy named Bernie Krause, who records nature sounds for film and television. He was saying that, in 1968, in order to get one hour of natural sound, like no airplanes no cars, that it would take him about 15 hours of recording time, and he was saying that today, to get that same one hour of undisturbed sound, it takes him 2000 hours of recording time.

I have been trained to look for faults in statements, so my mind went immediately to things like, “he’s just picking the wrong places to record.” But as I thought about it, I realized that the sheer number of cars and planes are exponentially greater today than in 1968. There is more noise than ever. Power lines seem silent, but even they produce a constant humming sound. Silence is lost.

What kind of noise do you have in your life? Many times, I cannot answer that question because there are too many noises to differentiate between them all. Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Maybe our prayer should be, in this hectic and crazy world, “God here am I, a servant of yours; tired, weary and burdened. I want rest in you.” But that prayer only gets us half way there. Let us remember that much of this world will fade away, and the things eternal – like our relationships with each other and with God – must be tended to. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then how can we honestly say that our relationship with God is any better if we don’t put the time into it to make it better?

Our model is Christ. Luke 5:16 says that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Solitude. Silence. Prayer. These are the examples of Jesus.
Perhaps one of the greatest books of the 20th century that deals with spiritual practices is by Richard Foster and entitled Celebration of Discipline. He writes:

One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

So may we take the times that we are given to just do what we want to do and just be silent. In the words of the Psalmist, may we search our hearts and be silent (Psalm 4:4).

Grace and Peace,Paul G.

Thursday, August 31, 2006 

Meeting places

I attend quite a bit of meetings. Too many, some would say. I even attend meetings for the sole purpose of reporting to other meetings. And so the cycle continues.

In the church, we are inundated with meetings, and sometimes those meetings can be frustrating especially when it appears that only the wheels turn and no forward progress is made. But I am reminded in meetings that ultimately the goal of followers of Jesus is to arrange a meeting between those who do not know the divine and the One who is divine. Put another way, as Christians our call is to witness to the gospel in such a way that when we meet with God - the real, lay it all out on the table kind of meeting - we are transformed. The difference is so noticeable in our words and actions that people see (and feel!) God in us.

Isn't this what God does: meet us? Isn't this what the incarnation - the coming of God made flesh in Jesus - is all about? Isn't this what the story of Pentecost is about? The exodus? Isn't this the witness of the resurrection? The celebration of communion? The new beginning of baptism? God is meeting us, over and over again. It might be slight and barely perceptible, but it is there. It might be obvious. But God arranges meetings all the time. Now if we could just show up to those meetings more often.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 


One of my favorite movies is built on this line: "When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep... and you're never really awake."

Scripture reminds us about sleep too: "Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."-Psalm 121:4

I think that we go through life in a state of insomnia. We never really are awake. We are never really asleep. Too often, we tread life like we are taught to tread water. It is mundane, laborsome, and defeating. It lacks beauty, art, and peace. Where is the vigor? Where is the abundant life? The grays all run together.

I want to really sleep. I want to rest well - the kind of rest that you know after a workout - where every aching muscle in your body relaxes and then collapses only to rejuvenate after the rest. I don't want this just for my physical body. I want this for my soul. This is the call of Jesus - rest for the soul AND rest for the body. Rest from oppression and rest from worry.

I too want to really live. I want the abundant life that comes with knowing, honoring, sharing, and living in tune with the God of creation, the God of the incarnation, and the God of the Spirit movement. I want all the joy and love that comes with honoring God and loving neighbor. And I want it for others too.

But perhaps for me to really live, I must first really sleep. Sleep, biologically, rebalances our bodies. Rest in the Lord, spiritually rejuvenates our relationship with the God who has called us to be Christ's body - to live, to serve, and to love. I thank the God who gives me sleep, because it is that same God that gives me full life.

Thursday, August 10, 2006 

.: Could you put someone's eye out that way?

My friend Steve, a pastor in the Central Texas conference has good things to say on his blog. This is especially true this week. It's about risk, our aversion to it, and God's call to take it. Check it out here:

.: Could you put someone's eye out that way?

May we remember that when we risk for God in this world, all we risk is dust. "Dust to dust, ashes to ashes."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 


Recent musings have landed my thoughts on the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we are made holy. John Wesley likened Christian Perfection to holiness, saying that Christian perfection. . .is only another term for holiness." ( Sermon on Christian Perfection).

One of the things I hear often in ministry is the phrase "nobody's perfect" or "we all sin" or "I’m only human." On the outset, all these things are true. Taking a large perspective of our landscape, humans, and indeed humanity, are sinful, are not perfect, and are finite. But I wonder if these descriptions mask a larger, spiritual issue: that of perfection. I will show my Methodist under-girding here, but I find those types of excuses (and they are ones that I make on a daily basis!) limiting on the grace God offers us. Indeed, if we are really encapsulated by the grace of God, and through Jesus we can be made whole, then it stands to reason that we too can become "perfect" in this life.

The Apostle Paul said that he hadn't attained perfection yet, but that he was striving to that goal. While he hadn't attained it at that moment, perhaps he thought it could be attained in this life. If for some reason we think that it can't be attained in this life, then it will not be attained in this life. God's realized eschatology will never come into fruition simply because we have limited God's grace in our lives. So maybe the point of this post is simply to see if we can't strive for perfection, with the goal being perfection in this life and the next. Maybe it's just a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we think it can be done, imagine how much harder we would work at it.