AlanGustin Blog2

Can We Ever Really Understand?

Posted in Church, life, Spirituality by alangustin on February 17, 2010


Ponder this…

“At the last judgment Christ will say to us, “Come, you also!  Come, drunkards!  Come weaklings!  Come, children of shame!” And he will say to us: “Vile beings, you who are in the image of the beast and bear his mark, but come all the same, you as well.”  And the wise and prudent will say, “Lord, why do you welcome them?” And he will say: “If I welcome them, you wise men, if I welcome them, you prudent men, it is because not one of them has ever been judged worthy.” And he will stretch out his arms, and we will fall at his feet, and we will cry out sobbing, and then we will understand all, we will understand the Gospel of grace!  Lord, your Kingdom come!”

Over the many years that I have tried to understand God’s love, all the while knowing in my heart that it simply could not be that a loving God would shut out those of us who are imperfect, those of us who seem to never make the grade, or conquer our demons; this passage by Dostoyevsky is a life-renewing, soul-quenching, love drink.

The passage is quoted by Brennan Manning in his book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”.  The passage is quoted early on, and states – what I consider to be – the main theme of the book.  As someone who often considers my humanity to be a curse, something to be overcome or beaten into submission, I now feel as if I have been truly set free.  Free to sin?  Heck, no… although I am still a seasoned sinner.  But free to shed the chains of guilt and shame that accompany a version of Christianity that places me under the thumb of a harsh, strict, judgmental God.

Oh, how I long for a complete understanding of God’s love for me.  I believe I am now closer to that understanding.

Do any of you feel the same way?

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Back at it!?!?!?

Posted in Church, Spirituality by alangustin on August 18, 2009

Well, it would seem that my season of contemplation has turned into a season of liberation. I have been set free! Actually, I just needed some time to remember that.

Being human is such a wonderfully silly experience sometimes. Especially if you’re me. But since you aren’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I am prone to forgetfullness. My wife, Valerie will testify to this fact anytime, anywhere. I forget what day it is; I forget where I put my keys; I forget appointments… let’s see… what was I talking about? Oh yeah… things I forget!

I forget a lot of things that may seem trivial or unimportant. I always find my keys… eventually. Val always reminds me of the appointments I’ve made – or what day it is. Most of the things I forget are eventually remembered, and life goes on just fine.

Life is not just fine though, when I forget one thing: I am free. Free to live a life without fear.

I have to admit that recent events have caused me to forget the fact that God is faithful. Even in the midst of very tough circumstances, God is good. We humans – even we followers of Jesus – sometimes forget that there is an eternal aspect to life.

Many families are facing very trying times right now, and my family is no exception. Both Val and I have lost our full-time jobs. Jobs that we took as part of a relocation across the country. Often we wonder how we are going to make it. Soon fear sets in, and we let it control us.

“Fear not, for I am with you, says the Lord”

I sing the song “Fear Not” often at the Christ-centered treatment center where I present music for chapel services. But as much as I’d like the message of that song to sink in with the residents, I sometimes have a problem taking that message to heart myself. And I don’t believe that I’m the only Christian who has a problem with fully trusting God in all things. But lately, I have learned how to give up more control to God, and trust that He will take care of my family.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

There is true freedom in the belief that God “knows the plans” that He has for us. Plans not to destroy us, but to bring prosperity into our lives. Of course, this ‘prosperity’ most times doesn’t just fall into our laps, does it? No, we must do our part. My part is — at the very least — to have faith.

Often times, faith is all we have to get us through. I remember a Lou Reed song titled, “Busload of Faith”, in which he sings, “…one thing you can depend on honey – sometimes you need a busload of faith to get by.”

Of course, Lou Reed’s song was a statement against God and the ultra-religious, and I laugh when reading the lyrics to his song where he states that you can’t depend on God or Godly people, yet you need a busload of faith to get by. Faith in what, Lou?… Luck?… Yourself?… What is it that we can have faith in other than God?

Lately I feel as if God is singing that to me; “You need a busload of faith to get by.”

And as I think about how little faith I have sometimes, I am reminded of the blessings in my life. God has provided much. If it weren’t for His divine intervention, I would be in the grave instead of looking for things to complain about. So my very life is a blessing. I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful and healthy kids; we’ve got a roof over our heads and food on the table; I have loving parents who are still reasonably healthy; we have a caring church community who loves and supports us.

It’s in times of stress when I seem to forget all that. It’s during the really tough times when my mind gravitates toward grumbling and complaining rather than praise and thanksgiving. Am I abnormal? Hardly. Our immediate circumstances often act as a wall that blocks the knowledge that we are loved and free — free from the fears and worries of this life and hopeful that there is a better life ahead.

So I will shake off the dust of discouragement and step into a new season of growth. And I will get on board that bus when it pulls up to the curb and beckons me with the sign that reads “Destination: Faith” — remembering that sometimes it takes a busload of faith to get by.

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