Tag Archive: Forgiveness


Ask a really good mechanic what he values most in life and he should reply, “My toolbox.”  There is something about a mechanic and his toolbox.  Yes, the tools are important, but what we kept them in was more important.  Don’t mess with a mechanics toolbox.  Your life might be in danger if you do.

When I started out working in the family business (automotive repair), I purchased a red Snap-On box.  I could go home looking like I got run over by a car with leaks from every system, but my box, she was clean and polished.  Eventually, I traded my big red for a smaller black Snap-On toolbox with a wood top.  What does a mechanic do with his toolbox when he decides to hang it up?  He takes it home.  The two are inseparable.

We would leave our toolboxes unlocked at night.  Why?  If a thief broke in, they could have the tools.  Don’t pry open the box! That would be a disaster from which no one recovers.      

It made its way to South Carolina with me.  Eventually, it was time to let her go.  Since we don’t have basements on the coast and our garages are small, there was no room for Black Beauty.  Not only that, but I had no real use for the tools that graced her shelves.  

One by one, I sold the tools.  Now, if you own a Snap-On box you must have Snap-On tools.  There is a little room for some “other” ones, but not much.  It’s a man thing.  I loved Snap-On tools.  They fit my hands well.  Not only that but they carried a lifetime guarantee.  I have to admit, I do miss some of the tools at times.  Not that I would use them much.   I think it’s an ego thing.  

Eventually I auctioned Black Beauty.  I admit, it was hard.  If she could talk she could tell you all sorts of stories.  Maybe it’s best she couldn’t speak.  

Honestly, while a mechanic will judge his place in the shop by his toolbox, the value of a mechanic is in the tools.  Tools make the mechanic.  If you don’t have the right tools, nothing is going to get fixed.  There are some tools that only go with certain vehicles and certain models.  Crazy, isn’t it?  That’s why I decided to auction my beloved box.  It wasn’t worth having if it was empty.  

The center focal point of being a believer in Jesus Christ is grace.  Without God’s grace as expressed through Jesus Christ, it would be like having the toolbox with no tools.  As Jesus pours his grace out to us, we are called to pour grace out to others, especially the weak and underprivileged.  

As I, from time to time, think about Black Beauty and the wonderful tools she held, I have come to understand grace a lot more.  It came through my relationship with my dad.

Dad and I were in business together.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We didn’t have a bad relationship, but we didn’t have a good one either.  Being in business together brought out both of our weak points.  Dad and I struggled to be on the same page.

When father and son aren’t on the same page, the relationship gets strained.  Again, it wasn’t like we didn’t like each other.  We just kept our distance and worked more to avoid conflict than actually enjoy one another.  Dad wasn’t a big talker.  I was.  Over the years, I would hold on to some things I should have let go along time ago.

Eventually, as I was packing up my office getting ready to move to South Carolina, Dad, suddenly, without warning, appeared.  He asked if I had a few minutes.  “Sure,” I replied.  Our interaction didn’t take long.  Dad sat down in the lone chair, and with head slightly lowered and almost in a whisper, said, “John, I’ve come to say I’m sorry.”  He caught me off guard.  I was a bit of a jerk (and still am at times), so I asked, “Dad, what are you sorry for/”  wishing I could get details.  He looked up and honestly answered, “I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t do things right with you.”  “Dad, you are forgiven.”  At that moment in time, I saw my dad in a different light.  Grace came alive.

Dad had a toolbox.  His tools were not my tools.  Too late in my life I realized Dad did the best job he could with the tools in his toolbox.  He was raised by a sheepish mother and one of the worst alcoholic fathers I have ever met.  He wasn’t raised in a Christian environment.  He didn’t have the tools for this model of son.  And for the first time, it was o.k.  

We all have a toolbox.  Sometimes, we, like the longtime mechanic, wrap our ego up in our toolbox.  We think we can fix anything.  Only, we don’t have the tools.  On top of that, some of those tools are broken.  Grace means realizing life isn’t about the size and make of our toolbox.  It isn’t about the tools in the toolbox.  It isn’t even about our ability to use the tools we have.  Grace is about realizing its o.k. even if we don’t have a toolbox and about not expecting someone to have the right tools.  Only Jesus had ‘em all.  

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I came across an article by Dr. James Emory White in which he listed the top 10 books that helped shape his faith.  I’ve written that one before.  I must be a slower learner.  My list of 10 is really about 18.  

At about the same time I read Dr. White’s article a dear friend dropped off a worn copy of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son picture.  He and I are constantly discussing the amazing story Jesus told to give a picture of his great redemption.  We talk about how we often demand our lot from God and run away squandering it.  Rembrandt’s rendition catches the attention of  both of us.

I don’t want to list the top 10 books that almost everybody reading this article will not read.  If you want to know email me.  I don’t want to list my favorite verses.  Why?  They are mine not necessarily yours.  I would like to talk about the Prodigal Son story.  Tim Keller, author and theologian, calls the story the Prodigal Father.  He’s right.  Prodigal means “wild.”  It’s not about the wild son.  It’s the wild nature of the Father who welcomes his son back to the family with no questions or demands.  The Scriptures are fulfilled in this story where we read in Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us,” and Hebrews 8:12, “For I … remember their sins no more.”  

Rembrandt’s picture details the love, grace and mercy in such forgiveness.  It is consuming and mysterious at the same time.  Henri Nouwen, author, had an opportunity to sit for hours with the original painting.  It humbled him and inspired him at the same time.  

The hands of the father bring comfort to the weary son whose shoes and feet reveal his troublesome paths.  We like to think we can hide the paths we have taken.  If only our feet and shoes could talk!  So often those paths are far from a loving God.  We like to think we know better than the young boy.  But, it’s the hands of dad that bring safety, drawing the smelly, stained and broken boy to his bosom.  

The eyes of the Prodigal Father look downward with compassion at his long lost boy.  He isn’t looking for a response from the onlookers.  He isn’t rolling his eyes as if to say, “What do I do now?”  No, they look to his boy.  His son!  Yes, “all we like sheep have gone astray.”  But, He, as the Good Shepherd welcomes the wayward one home.  No questions.  No demands.  The safety of His embrace is all that is needed.

Meanwhile, the onlookers are watching every move.  The older jealous brother of the prodigal is shadowed in the darkness that surrounds the embrace.  Their faces speak volumes of questions.  Those questions often like ours are not ones of redemption but rather ones of judgment.  

Can you hear those questions?  Where has he been?  What is wrong with the father?  Will he not have to give account?  They go on and on.  All questions whose answers cannot satisfy the one asking.  After the questions come the comments.  We have all heard them.  He must pay!  He is not allowed in the house smelling like a pig!  He needs to take a bath?  His father is out of his mind!  

From the Father come no words. His actions are more important than his words.  Few understand it is not the actions of the son that are the center of this story. It is the actions of his father that are the emphasis!  For his actions say more than words can.  Anybody can say, “I love you.”  What they do in the name of love will reveal them as true or not.  

Of course this picture and story reveal the nature of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christianity has forgotten that the faith is not about the Christian.  It is about the Christ.  HIs love transcends the expectations of a fallen people.  HIs grace is limitless.  HIs mercy is so profound a wayward son can’t help but be on his knees.

Left in the shadows is the brother.  His attitude and words reveal that he doesn’t understand the heart of his father as well.  He thought it was about obedience.  His love of the law kept him as well from the love in the heart of his father.  So, he stays in the background.  He should be on his knees as well.  

Our world is full of questions.  It’s full of condemnation and criticism.  What will it take to turn it’s focus as in the Rembrandt masterpiece, to the love, grace and mercy of the Prodigal Father?  We know the answer.  In the end of the Good Samaritan story, when mercy was given,   Jesus gives a simple command.  He says, “Go and do likewise.”  As we embrace the love of the Father, the words echo again, “Go.”  There’s more.  “Go and do.” Nope we are not there yet.  “Go and do likewise.”  Like whom?  His name is Jesus.  We can’t be known for our obedience.  But we can be known for our love, grace and mercy of which the Father through Jesus gives immeasurably to us and desires for us to give to others.  

Today I write a letter to Generation X and Y…Z is too young yet.  This is to my children’s generation and my children as well… 

Dear Millennials,

You are my children and the parents of my grandchildren.  I have watched you grow up.  I will admit I complain about you.  However, at times I have stood in awe of you.  Every time I think I have you figured out, you surprise me.  My generation (baby boomers) likes to think we are the greatest generation and you are the not so great generation.  Forgive us.  We have our issues for sure.

The world has changed in your short life.  We thought it was awesome when man stepped on the moon.  What has transpired since your birth makes the Apollo program pale in significance.  There are more and more discoveries, inventions and philosophical changes I can only imagine how hard it is for you to keep up.  Just when you figure out life, it changes. And, often, that can be in hours.  As for us, we are pretty set in our ways.  

Watching you try to figure out employment and financial security makes me hurt.  We got college degrees and made a living with ease.  If we didn’t get a college degree, we learned a trade and often made more money working the trade than those who went to college.  As for you, the age of specialization has failed you.  We did not encourage you to learn a skill.  We told you to get degrees that are meaningless.  Careers have totally disappeared from our society, and we wonder why you came back and lived in the basement.

We hate to admit it but, many times, big business sent your jobs overseas to make our retirement accounts profitable.  However, we don’t want to talk about that.  In your lifetime greed morphed into avarice, leaving your entire world governed by consumerism and the mighty dollar.  In that, you better have lots of them.  If you don’t become workaholics like us we think you are lazy and selfish.  Boy, are we wrong.

I’m worried about you.  Opioid addiction is not retreating.  Your suicide rates are increasing yearly.  Divorce is now commonplace.  We didn’t have to worry about sexual identities, and we didn’t have to worry about offending someone of a different sexual orientation.  It must be confusing.  Our sexual revolution in the 60’s has blossomed into total sexual confusion. We started this mess and now don’t want to talk about it.  Even in the church, a young man told me recently it is hard to find a virgin.  The silence of my peers speaks.   

Instead of demanding your repentance, we need to repent.  We need to repent of our selfishness.  We left it up to the professionals to do the “Jesus” stuff.  We lived one way on Sunday and told you to be quiet about what went on the rest of the week.  When you rejected our form of Christianity we blamed you.

We griped about the 10 commandments being removed from public arenas and “Merry Christmas” being absent in our local stores, but we did not want anyone to hold us to the 10 commandments, especially the 10th one (go look it up).  We often demanded the Christmas greeting but cursed others if we were not served adequately.  

Our generation told you to worship our way and believe our way but seldom listened to your questions.  In fact, we seldom talked to you about anything.  We tried to buy your allegiance by giving you everything and yet abandoned the one thing you really needed…our time and our love.  

Forgive us.  There was a man named Nehemiah who, when he heard the walls of Jerusalem (the Holy City) were in ruins, sat down, cried, and asked for forgiveness of his sins and his father’s sins.  Forgive us for failing to cry.  Forgive us for not confessing our sins and blaming you for the ills we face.  

After you forgive us, will you find it in your heart to talk with us?  I know we tend to talk to you, but we need help.  We need your help.  The Bible says if a brother asks for bread, don’t give him a stone.  Forgive us for giving you stones that weighed our relationships down.  It says if a brother asked for a coat, give him two.  Forgive us for selling our souls to give you what you wanted instead of what you needed.  We left you naked.  Last of all, it says if your brother asks you to walk a mile with him to walk an extra mile.  We need you to walk with us.  Please forgive us and walk with us once again.  Yes, we need to talk about Jesus.  I would like to know what you think.  I want to talk about the “why” not just the “what.” 

There is a lot more I would like to say, but, instead of a letter, let’s walk.  Let’s talk. The relationships are broken.  They need to be rebuilt.  I love you.  I miss you.   

From my heart to yours,    John R. Ring

When I was a kid I used to watch Lost in Space. The marooned explorers had a robot that would call out “Danger, Will Robinson” when the young member of the party was venturing into places engaging dangerous elements. For today’s article, I’m going to issue a warning, “Danger, Willing Readers.” The thoughts and expressions in today’s article may be offensive to some. If you choose to read further I can at least say, “I warned you.”
Thursday, May 3rd was the National Day of Prayer. Many churches, organizations and groups held prayer vigils. Usually I don’t attend these types of meetings. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon or overly critical. Prayer shouldn’t need a meeting or a day to itself. Prayer should be the staple of our Christian lives. Anyway, it is what it is. I decided this year to attend two prayer opportunities on this one day.
As I listened to the prayers, I became concerned. I heard prayers of what we wanted God to do. We want God to do all sorts of things from healing our nation, having the non-believers live like believers, to desiring great prosperity (even though we already have had that one for quite a while). God has a really big list after Thursday. It’s not to say we can’t ask God for these things. In actuality, by grace, we can make our petitions to God in any way and for anything we so desire. It’s in God’s hands anyway.
But prayers tend to show the heart more than we realize. What I didn’t hear in our prayers were requests to transform our hearts. I didn’t hear prayers that called those in attendance to be active for the cause of Christ. I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, we are your children, direct us to gospel ministry.” I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, what would you have for us to do?” I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, send me!” Nope, the National Day of Prayer was the day we asked often in an attitude of expectation for the nation, state and county to cater to our desires and keep us all prospering. I thank the Lord, honestly, that he is interceding for us to the Father. We need it!
At the end of one of the meetings an individual prayed, “Thank you, this has not cost us that much.” I wanted to stand up and thank them and end the meeting right there. That is one of the issues that has Christianity in America reeling.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, modern day martyr, wrote a book titled The Cost of Discipleship. The entire first chapter is the difference between “cheap” grace and “costly” grace. He writes, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods…It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple will leave his nets and follow him.”
Jesus said in Luke 14, “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” It’s interesting; Jesus proceeds in the next sentence to talk about salt that has lost it’s saltiness. Is there a correlation? You bet there is.
Our current expression of a comfortable faith has cost us. It has cost us the next two generations. It is our children and grandchildren. Youth workers across the nation know we are having major issues keeping our own children in the faith. The Word of God they hear is not the Word of God they see. We talk about the armor of God in Ephesians only to stand in a museum for show instead of engaging in the gospel war.
The Bible talks about repentance. It is a constant call not so much to the non-believers but to the believers. I don’t hear prayers of confession and repentance. Instead I hear prayers asking God to continue our comfortable faith. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” wrote Bonhoeffer. Die to the elements of this world.
My generation has built great buildings, written wonderful books and created numerous programs. Only we failed to build our vital relationships that take the most valuable asset we own today…time. It takes time to walk with a child. It takes time to love well. It takes time of which we spent building a kingdom on this earth instead of the kingdom of God. We left that to the paid staff. Epic fail.
Hope is not lost. Repent and ask forgiveness of our God and the generations we have failed. Instead of a National Day of Prayer, let’s have a National Day of Repentance. We will see how many will show up for that one.

Have you ever gone to a movie and paid close attention to the background or elements of the film on the edges instead of the center focus of attention. I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I don’t quite get it on this one. However, I enjoy spending time with my family. My son would take me to Harry Potter movies. Instead of sleeping through them I would pay attention to the edges of the film scenes including the supporting cast facial expressions. It can make for a totally different experience.
As we enter the Passion or Holy Week this Palm Sunday take a look at some of the surrounding cast and story. It reveals some amazing revelations that affirm and verify the redemptive work of Christ.
In regard to Scripture sometimes we focus on the big events and miss the little elements that add depth to the most amazing story in the history of man. So much of the little elements emphasize the nature of man and the complete work of Christ.
The first edge of the screen view is the disciples as they are going to Jerusalem for the grand entrance. They literally walked with Christ for three years and sat under his teaching and still did not get it. So, don’t feel bad. James and John cause an argument over who was going to rule with Jesus in Jerusalem. Ummmm, guys, it’s not an earthly kingdom. Duh! But Jesus doesn’t chastise them. He reminds them that his kingdom is different. He tells them it is one of service not a kingdom of dominance. He tells them they have to learn to follow his example to lay down their lives for the sake of another. Jesus doesn’t miss a beat.
The redemptive work of Jesus in the raising of Lazarus was the rush of energy that causes the uproar on Palm Sunday with men, women and children proclaiming Jesus as king. Did you know that there was a plot to kill Lazarus. Amazing. Jesus raises him from the dead and the jealous wants to kill him. They never kill Lazarus. They kill Jesus. Why? Jesus was the one to be the first fruit of our new life not Lazarus.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus washed Judas’ feet instead of revealing his traitorous heart before the vital lesson on servanthood? It’s Peter, bold Peter, who gets in a tussle with the washing of his feet, not Judas. Suddenly, Judas is revealed. So, why wash his feet? Why not reserve it for the faithful? The message is the same for saint and sinner. The humbling of the soul is an important element in the kingdom of God. As Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” There is not a place for the proud. It is a place for the humbled.
When we read a biography of a famous individual most of the story is about their life with a few chapters focused on their death. In the book of John, he reveals Jesus as the Son of God, the story begins to focus on the Passion Week in chapter 12. There are only 21 chapters in John’s epistle. That makes 12 of 21 chapters focusing on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Almost 60% of the epistle focuses on his death not his life. Instead of grabbing ahold of the motto “What would Jesus do?” we should probably live a life that asks “What should I do because of what Jesus did?”
As mentioned last week, Jesus sums it all up coming out of the Garden with the “faithful” followers who couldn’t even stay awake and pray at this vital hour. Don’t feel guilty when your evening prayers end in a snore. Jesus graciously tells them, “The spirit is willing, the body is weak.” Bingo! This is not faith in Christians but rather in Christ. Jesus’ operational methodology is and continues to be grace and grace overflowing. We are weak. We don’t get it. It is Jesus who did the work. It is Jesus who walks with us. It is Jesus who continues today to pour out his grace to such weak creatures who think they are big and bad.
Consider the depth of our weakness. Consider more the greatness of his grace that offers forgiveness to sleeping disciples, cursing and denying Peter, runaway followers, doubting onlookers, and tremendous sinners every step of the way in his Holy walk to our redemption. Live by and because of such grace. It’s what all the details portray.

Sitting at the table it was an opportunity to unload all of the burdens the exhausted man carried.  In just a few minutes the sins of the father, mother, brother and sister were poured out on the table like a glass of spilled milk.  If that wasn’t enough a few comments against fellow church members and the pastor were thrown in.  Last but not least it was time to pick on the spouse.  There were few gasps between sentences.  The listener from time to time would try to interject only to have the weary traveler on the path of life in front of him spew more.  So much for lunch.  With all the pain inflicted on the poor fellow it wasn’t worth eating.

As the story teller began to wind down it was clear he carried a lot upon his weary shoulders.  Expressions of regret etched across his face.  Tears would well up in his eyes ever so often when the pain was more then he could bear.  Betrayal was a common theme.  Lost friendships were a close second.  When loneliness prevails leaving each one of us defiant, scared and confused.

It hadn’t been that long ago when the fore lorn gentleman was walking down the hall way and the pastor grabbed him by the shoulders to express his gratitude.  His words were sincere but foundationless.  “I wish we had more families like yours in our church.  I could sure use them.”  The response was prophetic.  “Don’t wish that upon yourself.  You don’t know us all that well.  If you did, you would probably take those words back.”  The surprised pastor was left speechless.  If this was one of the good ones what do the bad ones look like.

Two years later and the family was in shambles, the pastor had been asked to leave and here the burdened disciple was weary from a lack of sleep and doing what every red, white and blue blooded American does (Christian or not) looking to blame everybody else for our problems.  On this day it was no different.  The new pastor could tell he was carrying immense baggage and needed an ear, if not more.

The minister took a bite out of his Subway Chicken Teriyaki sandwich and looked longingly at his new friend.  He wanted to choose his words wisely.  At this point it’s easy to placate the sufferer.  It’s easy to affirm their pain.  It’s easy to blame everybody else.  Surely somebody else is responsible for our sadness, bitterness and anger.

Instead of feeding the blame game the wise and patient man of the Word softly asked, “Are you aware of the pain you are causing those around you?”  Some readers may want to explode at this moment.  Some would think the pastor is mean and cruel.  He isn’t.  Instead he loved the man across from him and couldn’t leave him floundering in the actions and events of his past.  He needed to awaken him .

We can’t change a bit of the past.  One day in a recovery group a young lady stood up and said, “We are the only ones letting our abusers beat us up every day when the events happened years ago.”  We can’t change the hurt and pain from our past.  However, what we can do is look at it differently.

When we need surgery we don’t ask the doctor if there is a pain free method.  When things need changing pain is nearby.  The same goes for our emotional being as well as our physical being.  When the pastor asked about the pain his friend was causing he connected the pained friend to the reality that we are responsible for the pain we cause.  By being in connection with the pain we cause others we can discover that indeed Jesus was right on when he calls us to live by grace.  We live by grace to those who have offended us by realizing how many we have left offended in our wake.

The silence from the beaten down fellow was healing at the same time.  Something connected.  Somehow  he was connected to those who hurt him in seeing the hurt he has caused others.  Broken together allows grace to flow.  Healing grace.  The same grace that comes from a broken Savior who was broken and bled for our trespasses.  And he didn’t even complain.

The coach grabbed the young man by the collar of his jersey and lifted him up off the floor pushing him hard into the wall of lockers.  With his hand balled up full of jersey he was screaming endlessly into the players face.  Eventually the anger subsided and he let go of the jersey turning his wrath against the rest of the team.  The only offense to the young basketball player was a weakness in his left handed dribbling and the inability to read the half court press put on by the aggressive opponent.

This would not be the first time nor the last time number 10 suffered the aggressive anger of his coach.  It happens to be the one he remembers the most.  The coach never mentioned the fact that the center never flashed to the center of the court during the press.  He never made adjustments for the weak left hand of his point guard.  Nobody was going to play in the NBA on this team.  Only one player would ever play one game beyond high school.

The coach had a reputation.  Few let out about his anger and abuse.  His reputation was his ability to win basketball games.  He won games with limited talent.  He won National Championships with talented guys and that’s all that mattered.  It’s funny how when one is of impressionable age what becomes expected and normal when the distance between good and encouraging is a world away.

The point guard was asked to show up years later at a banquet honoring the “successful” coach.  He refused.  He was one of the only men to avoid the event.  He got a phone call.  It was one of his old teammates asking him to attend.  The callers voice went silent when he heard the answer.

Without hesitation the now husband, father and coach replied, “If I want to honor a man for his ability to win basketball games I would come.  However, the cost was too great.  It is only by the grace of God that I remain a Christian.  If his example was what a “Christian”  should be I should have given up on the faith a long time ago.  I can’t honor him.  He won games.  He molded young men to be just like him.   He is not what I want to be nor my kids to be.”

That night they hung a banner in his honor in the largest Christian school in the Baltimore, MD area.  I wasn’t there.

Somehow “Christian” was boiled down to praying before everything we did and obeying the school behavior code which was thicker then a large print Bible.  We weren’t allowed to curse.  The coach could but he won games.  Doesn’t the Bible say to respect authority?  As long as we hung under the line of shame it must have been Christian.  Cross that line and there was hell to be paid.  That was the Christianity I grew up with.  At times when my mind reminisces I wonder how I remained a believer and follower of Jesus.

I think of so many who took the other path.  We all knew what we saw and what we experienced was far from Christ.  When what we see and what we hear does not match up a choice has to be made.  So many chose to run away.  The problem is I don’t blame them.  I wanted to run.  It was an act of God that I didn’t.

There are times I still want to run away.  I don’t want to run away because so many are no different then my old coach.  I want to run away when I find myself being that arrogant, abusive coach fighting for recognition and control in my own abilities.

I told a friend lately that my greatest flaw isn’t my left hand is basically useless or I can’t read the half court press.  I also have no concept of mathematics beyond algebra.  I can’t spell a lick either.  No, my greatest weakness is I think to highly of myself.  Not only is it in the genes as you can tell from this story, I had excellent teachers.

For those who have run away, come on back.  The example we ran from wasn’t Jesus.  Begin by forgiving me for the pain I have caused.  Begin by forgiving instead of condemning.  Now that is the Jesus in the Bible not in the locker room or the basketball court.

Maybe I wasn’t listening.  Maybe I was too hard headed.  I don’t want to blame someone for my own self absorption.  All I know is I don’t want to continue in it.  I thirst for having grace dominate my life even when those who light my fuse surround me.  I’m hungry for Christ to make a difference not so much in my moral behavior but more in my heart.  I want a lot.  Just like staying in the faith has been an act of God, it’s going to take the same to keep me from being just like the guy who could win basketball games.  No different than my salvation, it must come from Jesus.