Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conditional Grace?

Sunset over ridge by Betsy Markman

Everybody tastes God's grace, every day.

Most don't recognize it for what it is.

God could have made the world monochrome. He could have made the atmosphere of our planet only 200 feet above the ground, eliminating mountains (not to mention all sense of grandeur). He could have made us eat nothing but flavorless paste all the time.

What explanation can there be for the riotous explosion of colors all around us, for the majesty of the heavens both day and night, for the blessings of food and flowers and music, for the wonder of snowflakes, or for any of the countless glories that He gives to the world each day?

It's all grace. Theologians call it "Common grace," because it is given to all, unconditionally (Matt 5:45). What man ever earned a sunset?

Like the wonderful examples of grace that we discussed last time, common grace is designed to tell people about God (Acts 14:17). The beauty of creation glorifies the Creator (Ps. 19:1, Ps 139:14) This fact is plainly visible to anyone who is willing to see it (Rom. 1:19-20)

But is all grace "common?" Or is there a more extraordinary grace -- call it "special grace" -- available?

And what about those verses in the Bible that make grace sound conditional? Is there some grace that's given freely, and other grace that's earned?

God's Word makes it clear that grace and "earning" are polar opposites. You can't have both at the same time (Rom 11:6). So then what do you with verses like Dan 9:4 and Neh 1:5 which make it seem like grace is conditional?

Is it possible for something to actually be conditional, without being earned?

Let me answer this question by setting up a rather absurd image. Suppose one of my children came up to me and said, "I need to borrow a washcloth so I can unlock the car door." I would look at him in confusion and say, "washcloths don't unlock car doors," and I wouldn't give it to him. Or, if I did give it to him, his futile attempts to use it would present a sad spectacle.

Suppose that same child kept coming up to me for weeks on end, requesting washcloths to do all sorts of bizarre things like making phone calls or cooking dinner. Aside from worrying about his sanity, what would I do?

I probably wouldn't keep giving him washcloths, but if I did, he wouldn't benefit from my actions. The washcloths would do him no good.

But suppose one day he came to me and said, "Mom, I need a washcloth because I'm dirty and I want to get clean!" Would I give it to him? Of course, and gladly!

How many people daily request grace from God for incongruous reasons, so that they can use it in ways incompatible with grace? Does God give it to them? Sometimes no. Sometimes the Scripture says, "I will not grant you grace" (Jer 16:13).

When He does grant grace to the wicked, it does the wicked no good at all (Isa 26:10), because he doesn't know what to do with it. He takes something that is supposed to make him clean, and he uses it to try to unlock the doors of worldly success, or to thicken the padding in his comfort zone, or whatever.

But back to my silly washcloth scenario. If my son were to ask me for a washcloth to make him clean, would I give it to him because he "earned" it? Could anyone say that it was awarded to him based on merit, or even that I was making him jump through hoops to get what he wanted? Of course not! The washcloth was given without any merit or earning in mind, simply because he wanted it for what it was designed to do.

And so "conditional" grace is given as well. God's purposes for grace are always to bless us, which inevitably means bringing us closer to Him. He may not give us this "conditional" grace if we're going to use it in ways that take us further away from Him (Jas 4:3). He loves us too much to do that to us.

So, in our day-to-day lives, we constantly receive common grace. And in all those areas where we are set on doing His Will, we will find His special, "conditional" grace freely available to us, unearned by us. Our past failures do not inhibit this grace, and our past successes don't grant us more. What God offers is what we need for accomplishing His Will in the moment at hand.

And at those times when we are not pursuing His Will, He may withhold certain kinds of grace from us. But even His withholding will be a gracious deed, though we may not feel it as such.

But please don't misunderstand me here. In no way do I mean to imply that there's an "Easy Street" waiting for you if you just determine to do His Will. Remember, please, what His grace is sent to accomplish for you.

  • Grace enables your obedience when the flesh could not possibly obey
  • Grace empowers you where your flesh is weak
  • Grace opens the Word of God to your heart and mind, where the flesh only sees gibberish
  • Grace gives bold access to God's throne room
  • Grace keeps you from being destroyed when your flesh has abundantly earned destruction
  • Grace shines the light of truth in your heart
  • Grace enables you to worship God instead of turning to idols
  • Grace enables you to love your enemies, when the flesh wants to despise them
  • Grace enables you to love God when the flesh can only feel cold toward Him
  • Grace enables you to bear witness for Him when your flesh is afraid
  • Grace enables you to mourn over sin and repent of it.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Don't search your life for evidences of grace by asking yourself how comfortable you are, how pleased your flesh may feel, how well your plans are working out, or how admired you are. Search your life for evidences of grace by looking for the Godwardness that grace supplies.

So what about those inevitable "dry spells" that all Christians go through? What about those times when God feels a million miles away no matter how hard we pray? What about when Scripture seems as parched as the Sahara, and we just feel dead inside? Does that mean we've "fallen from grace?"

Hopefully I'll address that in the near future. In the meantime, you might enjoy this entry, especially the second half, which was written from my own "dry dock."

And now it's your turn. How have you experienced "special," unearned grace in your life? Please leave your comments below.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Does Grace Do?

If grace isn’t just God’s way of getting us off the hook, then what is it for?

Does grace have a purpose?

Target by FlyCat

I’ve been putting a good bit of time into studying what the Bible has to say about the purposes of grace. I’ve even put it together into a spreadsheet which is still taking shape. There’s much more to study. It’s been slow going, with much to absorb, and many other things competing for my attention. I had thought about waiting to complete the spreadsheet before writing another entry, but that would take too long. So you’re welcome to peek at the work in progress, knowing that it will be rough.

But even unfinished, the chart is showing an undeniable trend.

Grace is all about God’s enablement of man’s participation in the marvelous truth of Rom 11:36.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

I think we all understand that grace is something that comes from God. But do we realize that it goes back to Him as well?

Grace has a purpose.

As I’ve said, my study isn’t complete. But let’s look at what sorts of things God has given grace for in the verses I’ve studied so far (note that sometimes "grace" is referred to as "favor." Also note that the word "gracious" means "full of grace"):

  • Allowing people to see God (Ex 33:19)
  • Compassion, survival, access to God (2Ki 13:23)
  • Covenant blessings restored (2Ch 30:9)
  • Preservation of a remnant to be saved, a stake in the Holy Place, new life, light to the eyes (Ezra 9:8)
  • The ability to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 9:9)
  • Favor in the King’s sight and strength in God (both given so that Nehemiah could accomplish what God wanted him to do) (Neh 2:8)
  • Not being abandoned or destroyed (Neh 9:17, Neh 9:31)
  • Being saved from eternal ruin (Job 33:24)
  • Causing God’s wonderful works to be remembered (Ps 111:4)
  • Light shining in the darkness (Ps 112:4)
  • Instruction to keep us from the way of deceit (Ps 119:29)
  • Being led on level ground and taught to do God’s Will (Ps 143:10)
  • (By implication) being able to worship God instead of idols (Jer 16:13)
  • The ability to recognize the Messiah, to mourn over past sins, and to repent with weeping (Zec 12:10)
  • The ability to love our enemies because of God’s grace toward His enemies (Luke 6:35)
  • Love for God (Luke 7:42)
  • The ability to bear powerful witness for God (Acts 4:33)
  • Power to perform miracles to the glory of God (Acts 6:8, Acts 14:3)
  • Salvation (Acts 11:23, Acts 15:11, Acts 18:27, Rom 5:21)
  • Empowerment to do the work God has assigned us (Acts 14:26, Acts 15:40, 1Co 3:10)
  • Bringing about the obedience of faith on behalf of His Name (Rom 1:5)
  • Justification (Rom 3:24)
  • Righteousness, reigning in life (Rom 5:17)
  • Victory over sin (Rom 6:14)
  • Having the ability to say what God wants us to say (Rom 12:3)
  • Boldness for God (Rom 15:15)
  • Becoming what God wants us to be. Becoming hard workers (1Co 15:10)

This is just some of what I’ve found, and I haven’t finished working my way through the New Testament yet.

Do you see the pattern? What sorts of purposes for grace did you see in the list above? Being brought into God's family, being made right with God, becoming obedient to God, having the ability to remember His works, being able to understand His Word and His ways, having fellowship with God and others, effectively serving God…is this Godwardness what you think of when you think of grace?

Grace is not just from God. It’s accomplishing a work for God in bringing us to God. Just as His Word does not return to Him without doing what He wants it to do (Isa 55:11), so His grace has a purpose to accomplish (2Ti 1:9), and our grace-empowered work will prove that the grace was not given to us in vain (1Co 15:10).

Grace is undeserved favor given with a goal in mind.

“Wait,” you may say. “Does that mean that God expects payback, like a negotiator who says, ‘I’ll give you grace if you give me X?’”

No, that’s not it at all. But you may have noticed that there are verses which make grace sound conditional, like it’s something to be earned. Some examples from the spreadsheet are Amos 5:15, Joel 2:13, Ps 119:132, and Pr 3:34.

So which is it? Is grace freely given and un-earned? Or is it given with preconditions, with some kind of "catch?"

Our next entry will look at the apparent paradox of "conditional grace."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Grace – More Than “Get Out of Jail Free!”

Little Rebel by Xanderalex

In “Resisting Grace,” we talked about the misguided desire some of us have to protect God and His Gospel from being abused.  We see the potential in our own hearts to abuse grace, so we conclude that grace is God’s dirty little secret, one best kept under wraps so no one will make a sucker out of Him.

In “Why Grace? we began to see just a tiny bit of the reason why Grace can never turn God into a sucker.  Grace freely pardons, saves, and transforms those who receive it.  But those who abuse it don’t make a fool of God.  They only make fools of themselves as grace does its other work…that of revealing the true condition of a person’s heart. 

Hopefully that’s enough of a review.  Today’s subject is one I hadn’t anticipated writing, but it came up because of a famous Spurgeon quote I read in someone’s blog…one of the few Spurgeon quotes I have ever disapproved of.  I feel the need to write about it here because it helps to explain why many Christians have a distorted view of God’s grace in salvation. 

Spurgeon relates the following scene (I’ve edited it for brevity’s sake):

Once a poor Irishman came to me in my vestry.

“I'm come to ax you a question. You say, and others say too, that God is able to forgive sin. Now, I can't see how he can be just, and yet forgive sin: for I have been so greatly guilty that if God Almighty does not punish me as he ought, I feel that he would not be just. How, then, sir, can it be true that he can forgive, and still retain the title of just?"

"Well, then," said I, "This is the way Christ is able to forgive. Suppose you had killed some one. You were a murderer; you were condemned to die, and you deserved it."

"Well, her Majesty is very desirous of saving your life, and yet at the same time universal justice demands that someone should die on account of the deed that is done. Now, how is she to manage?"

Said he, "That is the question.”

"Well," said I, "suppose, Pat, I should go to her and say, "Here is this poor Irishman, he deserves to be hanged, your Majesty. I don't want to quarrel with the sentence, because I think it just, but, if you please, I so love him that if you were to hang me instead of him should be very willing.

"Pat, suppose she should agree to it, and hang me instead of you, what then? would she be just in letting you go?"

"Ay" said he, "I should think she would. Would she hang two for one thing? I should say not.  I'd walk away, and there isn't a policeman that would touch me for it."

"Ah!" said I, "that is how Jesus saves.”

Have you ever heard the Gospel presented this way?  How does it sit with you?

This is what I wrote in response to the blog entry that offered this Spurgeon quote:

As much as I love the doctrines of grace; as much as I love Calvin and Spurgeon and the like; as much as I am banking my eternal soul on the substitutionary atonement of Christ... I still HATE the "gospel" explanation Spurgeon gave here.

Sometimes those of us who love the Gospel are so eager to see it vindicated that we will be pleased with the sort of scheme presented here, even though we would be appalled at it in any other setting.

If your loved one was murdered, and the identity of the murderer were known, and the government came to you and said, "Good news! An innocent party came and offered to be executed in place of your loved one's killer, and we agreed! So now the innocent party is dead, the killer is back loose on the streets, and isn't that great?"

Would you agree that justice was done? Wouldn't you be horrified? Imagine if that official looked at you in confusion and said, "Well, we had to kill SOMEBODY for the crime, and we did! How could you not be satisfied with that?"

Stay with me here, because I fervently believe in the substitutionary atonement. But the explanation Spurgeon gave was not adequate, as an honest look at the hypothetical situation above would show. What Spurgeon described was a gross miscarriage of justice. The substitutionary atonement which happened at Calvary was absolutely just. So something more happened at Calvary than what Spurgeon described there.

What happened at Calvary was this: An innocent party, completely identified with the murderer, stepped up to take the murderer's punishment and die in his place. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! He also gave a "heart transplant" (if you will) to the murderer! The murderer's own heart was to be taken out (in essence, "killing" him), and the innocent man's heart was given to him, changing him forever. When he was turned loose, no one could rightly say that a murderer was out on the streets. Instead, a new life, with a new nature, was turned loose on the streets. (It's better than just killing the murderer, if you get a better man added to the scene in his place!) AND the innocent party who died was raised again from the dead, and now enjoys the well-deserved love and adoration of all those whom He has redeemed in this fashion.

Tell me, is this a miscarriage of justice? Could you, even as a relative of the murder victim, object to this arrangement? This is the brilliant, incredibly wise, justice-serving, grace-giving, fully divine Gospel that no human could ever dream up. It should make people admire, praise, love, and joyfully receive the God who came up with it. And it should be attractive to more murderers than just those interested in getting off scot-free. (Think about it. Doesn't the version of the gospel presented there by Spurgeon inadvertently support the very same kind of easy-believism that Spurgeon himself despised?)

Of course Spurgeon knew the true Gospel. Why he presented this illustration is beyond me, but I know it's been used by many people over the years, and every time I hear it, it makes me queasy. If just one person re-thinks this whole thing and decides not to present this distorted view of the Gospel again, it will be worth whatever ire I may bring on myself here.

If we think that the grace of the gospel is merely “getting us off the hook,” then no wonder we look at it as something potentially embarrassing to God!  The “salvation scheme” that so many people have heard all their lives is embarrassing, because it’s so blatantly wrong and unjust!  The true Gospel is glorious beyond words.  If people are offended by it (and they will be), then they will answer to God for that.  But let them be offended by the true Gospel, and not by an unjust caricature of it.

Grace is so much more than we think it is!  Next we’ll look at some wonderful ways that God, through His grace, works on our behalf, far above and beyond a “get out of jail free” card.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Grace?

Pioneers' Wagon Wheel Ruts by Betsy Markman

Have you ever had a Bible verse hit you in a whole new way, opening up wider vistas for you? It may have been a verse you’d read before, but this time the Spirit of God shone His light on it like never before, and you truly saw it for the first time.

I had that happen recently with this verse:

Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness: In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. (Isa 26:10)

“Grace” – undeserved kindness from God. God seems to expect that, when He sheathes His flaming sword and extends kindness, people should respond in a certain way. They should learn righteousness…but in many cases they don’t.

So grace fails sometimes? God sends His grace to someone, and it does not achieve what God had hoped for. Right?


Grace does exactly what it is supposed to do. Yes, it is God’s instrument for saving those whom He saves. It kindly and forgivingly cleanses them and makes them new. But that’s not all it does. It also clearly differentiates legalists and libertines from reborn lovers of God. It reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It shows whose heart has been changed, and whose heart remains in a sin-deadened state.

Look at it again. Think about it.

Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness.

What is this indictment against the wicked? He does not learn righteousness from God’s gracious kindness! What does the wicked learn from God’s kindness, then? He may learn to revel in sin, trusting that he’ll get off scot-free. (That’s called being a “Libertine” or, in far too many cases, it’s what passes for a “Christian” in the freedom of the West.) Or he’ll invent legal systems and religious strait-jackets to force himself into a semblance of righteousness, because he can’t pursue righteousness without some kind of external pressure (that’s called being a “legalist”). Neither the Libertine nor the Legalist can learn righteousness from the liberty of grace, because when there is no coercion, people will do what they want to do. And wicked hearts want to do wickedness or, at best, to try inventing their own self-exalting righteousness. And God says that those who do not learn true righteousness from His goodness are called “the wicked.”

Only grace can miraculously change a heart so that it wants to do what is right and good and righteous and holy in the sight of God. And only grace reveals what kind of heart a person has!

Let me say it again. As long as grace is extended, people do what they want to do. Their actions are in perfect harmony with their hearts. People reveal who they really are, and who they really love, by what they choose to do when the flaming sword is sheathed. And this is why Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them (Matt 7:20).” This is why the Bible speaks of judging us according to our works.

Remember, Judgment Day is a public event. The most public event in all of history. God does not examine our works for His own benefit, in order to make up His mind. He already knows His own, because they were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), because He saved them decisively through Christ’s death on their behalf (Heb 10:14), and because He has sealed them as His own by His Spirit (Eph 1:13). But He will show His justice to everyone on that Day, and so there will be corroborating evidence shown to everyone there…to the Holy Angels, to the Fallen Ones, to other humans…evidence of whether a heart has been truly changed by a miraculous work of the Spirit. What will He show them as His evidence?

  • A perfect life? No, none of us will achieve perfection in this lifetime (1 John 1:8-10).
  • Slavish obedience? No, He’s not impressed with those who obey Him outwardly, but inwardly hate Him and love sin (Matt 15:8-9).

Then what will He present as evidence?

Do you remember when Satan came before God and accused Job of only being loyal to God because God blessed him (Job 1:9-11)? God refuted that claim by taking those blessings away. All of the Spiritual Beings and many mortals watched as Job vindicated God’s righteousness and remained loyal to Him even in his agony.

And all of the Spiritual realm (and many mortals) watch as God gives grace to the wicked and to the just, and lets them reveal their very different hearts by how they respond to it.

Ever since seeing and memorizing Isa 26:10, I’ve been hearing His heart-revealing grace telling me how fickle my love for God really is. And that’s a good thing to hear, because I can’t repent of what I don’t see. But how does one repent of such a sin? Isn’t it counter-productive to say you’ll try harder to live in grace?

Of course it is. So, as a redeemed soul wrestling with vestiges of legalism or lawlessness, what am I to do?

I am to pray for more life-changing grace. More grace to love Him as He deserves to be loved. More grace to obey out of love instead of coercion. More grace to learn righteousness in the vast open prairie of His liberty. More grace to be humble. More grace to be changed from the inside out. Grace given to me not so that I can use it to earn His favor, but grace given because I already have His (undeserved) favor. When tempted by sin, I am to pray for grace to resist…not slavishly, but as a freed, reborn soul.

And I am to rest on the promise that “He gives more grace” (Jas 4:6), the promise that His grace is sufficient (2 Co 12:9), and the promise that His grace saves even me (Eph 2:8).

How do you respond to His kindness…by wallowing in sin? By rejecting grace in favor of manmade coercion? Or by learning righteousness?

What is His heart-revealing grace telling you about yourself?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Resisting Grace

World is mine by lusi

Why does my soul erect walls against something as beautiful as God’s grace? Why don’t I leap for joy over it?

I know I’m saved by God’s grace. I know I’m supposed to live every day by His grace. Yet when I read about grace in the Bible, I tend to skim right over the word. And when I read about it in other books, my emotions start mortaring bricks quickly enough to make any mason jealous.


Is it because I don’t believe that God is that good…that He could possibly be gracious enough to forgive even a wretch like me?

Well, there was a time when that would have been true. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I believe I know now that God’s grace is all about who He is, not who I am. (If this is something you struggle with, I recommend Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges.)

No, my walls are made of Fear Bricks, well-mortared by a thick, pasty Distrust. Not distrust of God, but of myself. The giver of grace is holy and good, but the recipient…namely, me…is pretty rotten.

My concern isn’t that my rottenness will make God unwilling or unable to give. Not at all.

My concern is that I will abuse what I receive. I am offended and repulsed by a mental image of myself as I grab God’s grace, click my heels, and shout with glee, “I got away with it all!”

Are you with me? Do you struggle with the same thing?

It’s a terrible thing to abuse grace, twisting it into an excuse to sin (Jude 4, Rom 6:1-2, Heb 10:29*). But we all do it, to one degree or another. If you doubt it, just ask yourself about your pet sin(s). Would you be less likely to indulge in them if you could see an angel standing nearby with a flaming sword? I know I would. And that’s a sure sign that, at least subconsciously, I abuse the grace of God. I sin because I don’t expect the sword to fall. (*Am I implying that every time I sin I’m in danger of the kind of drastic consequences mentioned in Heb 10:29? No, not at all. But that discussion is for another day.)

I know this about myself, and I hate it. So when I read about grace, I do Jericho in reverse. The walls go up.

I don’t want to make God into a sucker, so I get protective of myself, to guard against that sin. And I don’t want anyone else to make God a sucker, either. So I get protective of Him.

Wait a minute…me, protecting Him? Does that strike you as just a tad humorous?

I’m sure that, at some confused level, there are noble motivations here. But I think I need to raise my view of grace, as well as my view of God Himself.

Do I really believe that God came up with the idea of grace during a moment of weak na├»vete? Did He fail to foresee the abuse potential here? Did love make Him foolhardy enough to be willing to do something wild and reckless, even though it would come back to make a mockery of Him sometimes? If we aren’t willing to go that far in our views of grace, then what? Do we think He chose grace as the least flawed of all His options?

Or did He choose grace because it was absolutely the only way, the best way, indeed, the perfect way to save us and sanctify us?

Why did He choose to save us by grace through faith? Because we weren’t good enough to save ourselves? Sure, that’s part of it, but is there something more? What does grace do that nothing else could do for our salvation?

Is there more to grace than just choosing not to punish our sins? What exactly is the role of grace in our lives, and in our growth in holiness (known as “sanctification”)? What does grace do that nothing else could do for our walk with Christ?

If you, like me, have feared grace because of the human potential to abuse it, I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Accept God’s wisdom as higher than your own, realize that He does not need you to protect Him from His own ways, and ask Him to help you grow in grace…in an understanding of what it is, why it is, and what it means to all of us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stirrings of Grace

tropical_waters_2 by xymonau

Sometimes God isn’t in the whirlwind. Sometimes He’s in the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Sometimes my writing comes out in a whirlwind, and I trust that God is in it.  But lately there’s just been a still, small voice, stirring something holy within me that I did not dare touch for a while. 

I couldn’t write. 

I had no “writer’s block” this time, but rather a restraining Hand on my spirit.  My Lord wanted me to hold my tongue for a while.

Sometimes I talk so much that I can’t listen.  And God needed to still me enough to get my ears tuned in to Him, so He could talk to me about something absolutely vital.


A week ago Sunday, a kind and encouraging friend from church asked me how I was doing, and I told him that I was chewing on the whole concept of grace.  “I’ve used the word all my life, but I realize I don’t really know what it is.  I have always thought of it as a passive thing…just the absence of punishment.  But there’s so much more to it than that!”

Yesterday at church that friend brought me a book called “Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love” by Jerry Bridges.  I’ve only read a little bit of it, and I’m liking what I’m reading so far. 

I’ve read other books about grace.  One favorite is “Future Grace” by John Piper.  I’ve been reading it off-and-on for a while now.  It’s classic Piper, full of good truth and very satisfying. 

Most books on grace haven’t hit me well, though.  Partly it may be due to a deficiency in them, and partly due to a deficiency in me.

I won’t spend much time talking about the deficiencies which might appear in books about grace.  Suffice it to say that I must, and do, reject any book which tries to get me to accept grace by bolstering my self esteem.  The very meaning of grace is lost on those who see themselves as deserving of it.  And books that tell me just to “relax and enjoy grace” don’t meet my need, because they don’t address the heart of the matter at all.  Enough said.

What about the deficiencies in me?

I’ve known some good definitions of grace since I was a child.  If you had asked me as a teenager, I could have recited the acronym “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,” and could have told you that grace was undeserved kindness from God.  So why is it that I feel I don’t know what grace really is?

Why, when I read about grace, do I feel defensive walls going up around my soul?

Why am I so un-gracious in my dealings with others, including those I love most?

Do you sense a series coming on?

The Still, Small Voice has been whispering holy things into my heart…sometimes granting a new perspective on things I’ve heard or read before, and sometimes broadening my horizon with ideas that were totally new to me.  And I think I have permission to start writing them down here.

Thank you for your patience with my long absence.

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