Grace Notes, by Nancy Kennedy
In a story told by Rabbi Kushner, a group of tourists on an African safari hired several native porters to carry their supplies for them. After three days the porters announced they needed to stop and rest for a day.
They didn’t appear to be tired, so the tourists asked why the need to stop. The porters said, “We are not tired, but we have walked too far too fast and now we must wait for our souls to catch up to us.”
I totally get that. I run and run and work and life zips by and my soul gets left behind in the dust.
So, today I’m letting my soul catch up to me. Below is a hodge podge of things I ran across today while going through some old folders of stuff I’ve kept. Each helped revive me.
• Email exchange between me and my pastor from 2007:
Me — “Do you ever feel like an imposter when you preach? I spoke Saturday to a group of women who were gracious and attentive, but I struggled big time. As I got to the real meat of my message my thoughts got muddled and I felt like I was talking gibberish so I stopped mid-way and said, ‘I’m sorry. My brain is mush — I need to pray’ and then went on. But how amateurish is that?
“On my drive home I felt like I was a dirty vessel and God couldn’t shine through me. I feel like I’ll never get any better and I don’t know how to get better, as a speaker or as a person.”
Pastor — “Every week I kneel and pray with a deacon or elder before church. My prayer is always the same: ‘Father, forgive me my sins; don’t hold them against these people.’ I am almost always self-dependent, prayerless and struggling to connect with God as my Father. I figure I’m only an imposter if I act like this isn’t so. People expect me to be a better Christian than they are, yet I’m not. So, who I am falls way short of what they want me to be (and should be), but I’m not an imposter, just a very weak man trying to do a very hard job.”
• “Nothing exceeds Thy power, nothing is too great for Thee to do; nothing is too good for Thee to give.” — quote from “The Valley of Vision,” a book of Puritan prayers
• The blood of Jesus is sufficient for repeated failure — repeated repentance is progress. — from notes taken during a sermon in 2008
• “True saints do not get discouraged over their faults, for they recognize that a person who feels no guilt can never find healing — neither can a person who wallows in guilt. The sense of guilt only serves its designed purpose if it presses us toward the God who promises forgiveness and restoration… I now realize that Christians are the only persons who do not have to go through life feeling guilty. Guilt is only a symptom; we listen to it because it drives us toward the cure.” — Philip Yancey, Christianity Today article, “Guilt Good and Bad”
• Another email to my pastor from last year:
“I’ve been thinking that if ‘religion’ wasn’t part of my job then I don’t want to do it anymore. I still like Jesus, but something inside me wants to chuck it all and not have to think about ‘Am I doing well spiritually? Why do I let my Bible sit and collect dust? Why am I not excited about my faith like others seem to be?’
“And then I came to church this past week and we sang, ‘If you tarry ’til you’re better, you will never come at all’ and ‘Not the righteous…sinners Jesus came to call.’ We sang, ‘He is able; he is willing; doubt no more’ and ‘Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream’ and ‘All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him,’ and finally, ‘He has washed us with his blood.’
“I hugged my bulletin all the way out to my car!”
• Here’s a great soul catch-up message from Jesus:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me…learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:29-30, The Message
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 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.