Monday, August 20, 2012


It is not new news that much of the United States has been experiencing record heat and drought-like conditions this summer. In Michigan, my home state, this has also been true.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love our generally sunny summers with wonderfully warm temperatures, usually in the mid-80’s with occasional jumps into the 90’s. And I don’t really mind our humidity unless it becomes particularly high and oppressive. I actually much prefer it to the skin-shriveling dryness of some western states.

But this summer we have experienced numerous periods of above 90 degree heat, often with high humidity, and even several short periods (3-5 days each) of temperatures that soared above 100 degrees. Given that a good part of the year in Michigan we live with our windows closed because of cold temperatures, I detest having to turn on my air conditioning and live with my windows closed in the summer as well. Under these conditions, however, I did exactly that. Our newlywed daughter and her husband even moved home for a few days at one point because they simply could not stand their upstairs, un-airconditioned apartment for one more day.

At least as strange as the high heat were the weeks on end with no rain and no prospects of rain. Rarely does a week go by in Michigan where there are not at least some clouds in the sky. A “Pure Michigan” sky is a beautiful blue with a few white puffy clouds hanging around to add interest.

It got to the point that I felt like Elijah after the showdown on Mt. Carmel. If I saw a cloud the size of my fist in the west, I hoped it was bringing rain. But even when we did have a few clouds, they managed to scuttle by without dropping any moisture at all. There was frequently not even any dew on the ground in the morning.

About a month ago the sky was quite dark because of some clouds that were passing over but, as usual, not producing rain. I was feeling a bit glum that day. Some circumstances of life were getting me down. Some prayers I had been praying seemed to be hitting heaven and bouncing back down. I was having a bit of a pity party.

That morning, I walked out of my garage to let my dog out and saw the most beautiful rainbow stretching from just above the house across the street all the way to the farmer’s field to the west (or so it seemed). It was beautiful not just in color, but because I knew that somewhere close by it was raining.

And then I thought about the occasion for the rainbow: God’s sign of his promise to Noah and Noah’s descendants. A promise God has kept. And I realized that just as God has kept that promise, so also has he kept his promise to be a God to his people, to be with them, as the divine name suggests. That, of course, meant that he was with me, and listens to me, and loves me, despite my feelings to the contrary. I felt as if that rainbow was placed right there, just for me.

And maybe it was.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


As I walked today, I was thinking about how people change or rather, if they change. It seems that humans by nature—fallen nature, that is—choose to act more like beasts than images of God. Everything in culture pushes in that direction: science, advertising, movies, ‘that’s just the way I am’ mentalities, to name a few examples.

But Scripture offers quite a different picture of humanity. Scripture radically claims that we are not animals; we are not just the most developed being on the evolutionary trajectory. Genesis 1 already makes this clear in the structure of the chapter, a structure based on separation. Each component of creation is separated from the next with the aim of preparing a place for the grand finale: humans. This final creative act is clearly different from those that precede it in both form and function.

So regardless of the messages that culture sends, and regardless of the ways our own fallen nature tries to convince us that we are nothing more than naked apes, the Bible is clear that we are intended to be so much more.

And this is where grace comes in. Proverbial wisdom tells us that a zebra can’t change his stripes. Or, we might say, a human can’t change their fingerprints. The point of this proverb is, of course, that people don’t change and you shouldn’t trust someone who says she has changed because, after all, ‘zebras don’t change their stripes.’

Grace, however, in fact changes our ‘stripes.’ Grace picks us up, turns us around from a trajectory toward beastly behavior, and points us toward and enables truly human behavior. Grace, in other words, not only changes our stripes, it moves us in the direction of the stripes God intended us to have: image of God stripes.

And maybe, that is one part of what is so amazing about grace.