The Stigmata

Galatians 6:17, From now on, let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body scars for the cause of Jesus.

I have a funny image in my head from when I was a small boy. My family left Manassas, Virginia at the end of my third grade year in school to move to Texas. And since this funny image took place in Manassas, it had to have been put there sometime in 1970 or before.

At any rate, I remember watching this group of four men at church (my daddy being one of them) standing in a circle and simultaneously all looking down at their pants legs. I remember a bit of grumbling. I remember the look of confusion on all of their faces—as if somehow, someway the whole world had shifted on them.

I laugh at that image in my head. I laugh at the thought of four wives conspiring together—worse, shopping together—all to see their four husbands wearing strange new pants.

Bell bottoms.
Flared legs.
No more Mr. Straight-Legs for these guys.

And laugh as I might all these years later, fashions have changed and changed again. What once was, comes again. As I sit here today, I feel quite certain that should elephant-eared bell bottoms to come back in style, I would do my very best to avoid that particular fashion disaster!

Personal expression has changed an awful lot.
People watching has never been a more amazing, humorous, and scary event.
Not that I am the epitome of style and good taste.
(Let’s please hide all of the pictures from long ago that might possibly show a younger version of me with a quite unfortunate mullet hairstyle.)

But I digress.
Personal expression changes; and yet, some things have remained the same.

I am not a fan of piercings (if you have one, this isn’t about being critical of you or anybody else). But piercings have been around an awful long time. More than just a show of personal expression, they often signaled ownership.

Even better, in our biblical example, it signifies you have chosen to be owned.

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for six years; then in the seventh he is to leave as a free man without paying anything. If he arrives alone, he is to leave alone; if he arrives with a wife, his wife is to leave with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children belong to her master, and the man must leave alone.

But if the slave declares: ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I do not want to leave as a free man,’ his master is to bring him to the judges and then bring him to the door or doorpost. His master must pierce his ear with an awl, and he will serve his master for life.
(Exodus 21:2–6 HCSB)

How’s that for a personal expression?

And so we sometimes sing:

Pierce my ear, O Lord, my God
Take me to Your door this day.
I will serve no other gods,
Lord, I’m here to stay.
For You have paid the price for me
With Your blood You ransomed me.
I will serve You eternally,
A free man I’ll never be.

Marked.
Not my own.

What makes this even crazier, that’s what grace does.
It changes us.
It marks us.
It signifies we are owned by one greater than us.

What are you marked by? What stigma do you wear?

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Practice

There are four violinists in my house.

I am not one of them.

Years ago, I took violin lessons for a short time. But when I was in college I met this beautiful girl and badly wanted to take her on a date.

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So I took my violin to a pawn shop, had a fantastic date, and in another unimagined life many years later, that beautiful girl became my wife.

Unknown to me during the intervening years, her mom took up violin and eventually she and her two boys did as well. After we got married, the youngest in our Brady Bunch World began taking violin lessons. And he took to it like the proverbial duck to water. He has a natural ability.

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I don’t mind paying for music lessons. I would love to take some for myself. However, at this stage of life, I mostly have to be content with playing a radio louder and better than most.

But, do you know what costs more than music lessons and instruments to play?

Practice.

As in pulling our hair out to get somebody to practice like they should.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to get someone to do what they ought to do.
And not just where music lessons are concerned.

As it turns out practice is not cheap for anybody.

The same could be said for grace.

I am so thankful for the grace given through Jesus.
I know I don’t deserve it.
I know I rarely live worthy of it.
I know it requires an unfathomable amount of love and patience for me to have it.
And I know it is the costliest thing in the world.

Grace has never been cheap.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinhians 6:20 we were bought at a price. The cost of our redemption came at an awful expense.

Grace is never cheap.
Nor is the practice of grace.

If I give you grace, it costs me something.
It might be time.
It might be personal pride.
It might be a change in attitude.
It might be a change in behavior.

Giving you grace means I don’t have to be right.
I don’t have to force my understanding.
I don’t have to have my way.

How I wish we could be as quick to give grace to one another as we are to judge and condemn.

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I am thankful for you.
I am thankful for grace.
I am thankful for the grace God gives each of us to begin each day anew.

Practice grace.

It will cost you something but the benefits are out of this world!

Les, Jr.