Monuments of Grace

November 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

Memorial “And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.” Joshua 4:9

Katherine and I had the privilege of visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial earlier this week. It is located in a field just outside of Shanksville, PA, in the Allegheny Mountains, the sight of one of the four jet airliners that was hijacked on September 11, 2001 in which thousands were killed in the worst attack on American soil in history.

What distinguishes this site is that it represents the only failure among the attacks, though it came at great price. While three jets successfully targeted the World Trade Center in NYC, and the Pentagon in DC, this one was intended for the Capital, where Congress was in session. On a purely symbolic level this represented the most potentially devastating to the Nation.

Forty brave souls consisting of flight Crew and Citizens rushed the flight cabin as one in an Hemlockattempt to foil the plan. As they did, the hijackers rocked the jet back and forth to knock them off their feet. But this caused the jet to roll and then crash in the field pictured here. The boulder you see through the gate was at the edge of the crater created by the blast, a huge explosion. That sleepy field instantly became a sacred burial ground and monument to heroism and sacrifice.

The wood gateway to the field is made from Hemlock, the local tree that stood tall lining the wreckage, even as they burned. Forty notches representing each hero have been hewn into each beam.

I love that the Guides focus on the heroism.

A monument.

So it is with our journey with Christ. Each of us – unfinished and under repair – bear sorrows and regrets. And because it is our nature to cover and attempt self-repair, we never get past what we can’t ‘fix.’ Something deep within refuses to believe that God has something better than what we think we have lost – but He does.

And fortunately His grace has been inescapably memorialized with two wood beams notched and stained with Christ’s own blood, our reminder that in the wreckage and devastation of sin through His sacrifice, there is a big, wide and beautiful story beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

This is our monument…

…our good news.


the Man in the Glass Window…

September 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Last week was one of reflection and remembrance of that horrible day, September 11, 2001 – so many memories. This past Thanksgiving Day our family, along with friends, took the train to NYC for the Macy’s Parade, and part of our day involved going to the 9/11 Memorial. It would be impossible to put into words what I felt because the memory of that visit just after the attacks remains so fresh and real.

The picture in this post is from the yet-to-be-completed museum that is situated on a corner of the Memorial property. If you could actually stand in that spot you would see twisted metal from the original structure on the other side of the glass. It remains as it was from the moment of the collapse on that horrific day.

Because we are unfinished, in some way, each of us is like a monument of twisted steel. We bear the reminders of our painful experiences. Some of that pain is self-inflicted, but some, the result of what has been inflicted upon us.

While going through pictures from the Monument, I realized that this picture was not only of the twisted steel from the attack it memorializes, but also my own reflection as well. Yes, that’s me in the picture. I’ll get back to the picture in a moment.

At the end of the day, when it comes to being free from the chains of the memories of past hurts, the gospel clearly teaches that the only path to such freedom is that we forgive. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.

The best way to understand this is to consider when you have ever been hurt. I mean really hurt. Damaged. Wounded. Stolen from. Humiliated. Disgraced. Devastated. Crushed. Cheated.

You know what I mean when I say that such things bring unspeakable pain.

What did you want when this happened?

Revenge? Probably. If you’re human. I get that. We want someone to suffer as we did. But in his profound book, Free of Charge, Miroslav Volf says that when we say we want justice, we really want revenge, and we always want to cause more pain than we experienced. That is our nature. We say we want justice, but we would never settle for that.

No, the answer is to forgive, and the way to forgive is to do more than make a pronouncement – such pronouncements usually come from a misguided sense of Christian duty, but lead to even more bitterness and mounting resentment.

No, Volf says that to forgive is actually to condemn, and then to leave it to God for vindication.

But this is no cakewalk, and in fact it is impossible to forgive, unless, as in that picture, we see ourselves in the wreckage caused by others. Because the truth is that behind every evil act is an evil intention, and I am full of evil intentions, even if I don’t commit those particular acts. Only God’s grace restrains my wicked imagination.

And my only hope for more than surviving, but also for being truly free, from the evil that has been committed against me, and from the tyrannical prison of daily bitterness, is to see myself in it, and to believe that while I never have to excuse sin or bear the blame for someone else’s sins against me, I also don’t have to live in the daily misery of reliving what may never be reconciled on this side of heaven. Frankly, that’s their problem!

Essentially this is Jesus’ point in His story of the Unforgiving Servant: Forgiveness always begins by seeing that we too have been forgiven much (Matthew 18).

Because we have. Jesus affirmed this when He prayed, ‘Father forgive them…’

And this is our good news…


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