Sometimes I read something that sounds like good news.  Kenneth Burke once wrote, “We might get he truest slant on ourselves by thinking of our lives as first drafts, as hastily organized essays that we never have a chance to revise.” (Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along, Gregory Clark)

I like that thought. Every day is different. I am different. The people I am with are different. The historical context is different.  Change is the only constant and so each action we take is new. We are constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of our life and how to fit into world in which we find ourselves living.

And so, this is the first draft of an essay that we can never revise because life moves on and the next situation will be new.

I think this is why grace must exist. First drafts are often full of mistakes.  We can’t always say or do the best thing.  We are trying out ideas—some of which work out pretty well and others are disasters. But, tomorrow is a different day and if we are to live without the burdens of mistakes from yesterday, grace must exist.  Forgiveness has to be there to free us to spend our energy on today’s problems without exhausting ourselves trying to rework what might have gone wrong yesterday.

And the truth of Mr. Burke’s statement also points to why it is important to live mindfully. Pay attention to your life as you are living it because that life will never be lived again.  What is happening with the people you live with and love now will never happen again. Your relationships at this moment are the material with which you write the story of your life.  You don’t get a chance to revise it.

Grace and mindfulness.  Important gifts because living is always about writing first drafts.



1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

Ideals are good.  They are principles toward which we might reach. They help give shape to images of what we hope can be. We imagine something different and maybe better than what is and that image or ideal gives energy to our growing and changing.

But, where ideals are good, being an idealist can become problematic.  When people attach “ist” to ideals, the ideals can become so powerful that we are unable live and love the life we have. To add “ist” to ideal is to allow those images of what we hope to be true to block our capacity to see value in what is true. If I have an ideal of how I want to look and become so obsessed with making that happen that I can’t be contented with how I really look, then life can become a daily grind of discontent.

I have been an idealist in my life. I have had images of what life might be and have sought to live up to those images. One of the problems I have discovered is that I not only have images of what I want to be, but I develop images of what I want others to be as well. And when I try to measure life according to those images that others may not have bought into, I find myself disappointed by them. 

So, what I try to do with this idealism that has been part of my DNA is to allow the images of a better self shape my actions, but also allow the grace of forgiveness to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by my inability to live up to the ideals.  And what I do for myself, I try to do for others. I have values and dreams. I work for the kind of world that I believe is loving and just, but I know that reality can never be what my images conjure. And I hope that growth toward that just and loving future will improve my life and the life of those around me.


I found it and was moved. I was looking through the Moseley Suitcase* at the recent Moseley family reunion. And there they were—love letters.  There in a crumbling scrapbook were envelopes and inside were 2 letters. They were the first love-letters my mother and daddy ever wrote to each other. They were written in 1934.

And they were such a treat. For they revealed young and flirtatious people whom I never knew. By the time I knew my parents, there were five children to feed and love. These letters were written during the depression and before the second World War. I did not know them till the war was half over and they were trying to make ends meet. 

And what was cool about these letters was that I saw my parents as human beings who were not parents. They had not been changed by the deep responsibility that love of children calls forth. They had eyes for each other that had not been tempered by the reality of war and struggles to raise a family. They were young and playful.

As I read those 2 love letters, I was moved to tears. These were people whom I had known all my life and yet, were people I had never known. I was sad that I had not known them and was so happy to meet them now. For I saw an innocence and a delight that all young people need. And I saw that my parents were far more than I knew them to be.

Maybe that is important for us all to remember. Every one of us is more than we know—more than we can know.  Each of us is a collection of experiences that have shaped us but experiences that are unique and hidden from each other. Maybe that is why looking at each other with eyes of grace is so important.

* (The Moseley Suitcase is one piece of luggage that contains remnants of my parents’ life. This brown fake-leather case with a green strap holding it together was created by me and my siblings when my mother died and we disposed of her furniture. The suitcase contains old photos and scrapbooks and reminders of my parents’ life. The suitcase has been carried from house to house where we can all delve through the memories.)


Some people are pivotal in our lives. They are present to us at just the right time with just what we need. Fred Craddock was one of those people for me. This dear man died 2 days ago.

As a sophomore in college, I was in Dr. Craddock’s class on spirituality in novels. The seminar helped us explore the sacred in the mundane. I presented a paper to the class for my final. I wrote it and then presented the essence of it orally. I then turned in the paper. When I got the paper back, I had 2 grades. An A+ for presentation in class and a B for the written paper. The note from Dr. Craddock below the grades read,  “The moral of this is always speak, never write.”

So, I became a preacher. I heard a call to speak and I did.  But, I also wrote. I worked hard on writing sermons and articles, on communicating as well on the page as I did orally. Sometimes a word at the right time gives insight and challenges growth.  A pivotal point in my life.

After I had graduated from seminary I was preaching. I was struggling. My early training in preaching taught me to give a speech structured this way: “tell them what you are going to tell the, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” (And occasionally end with a poem!) I struggled to know, “Where do I get the right to tell others what is truth?” And then I read the newly published book by Dr. Craddock, “As One Without Authority” and my life was changed. I remember the first sermon where I guided people on a journey of discovery rather than trying to tell people what to do.  I had much more fun and the listeners seemed to enjoy the journey of discovery much more than my telling them what I thought was true.  A  pivotal point that made preaching the delightful center of my ministry.

I think about Fred Craddock as I grieve his loss. His presence in my life was sheer grace. He had the courage to share his gift which struck me at a point where I needed that gift. Neither he nor I manufactured the relationship nor knew what would happen when we met. But my need and his gift resulted in my life changing. I call that grace.

And Dr. Craddock had another gift. His humility. He simply offered who he was, not forcing himself on others, not trying to control what others thought or did. He shared with quiet passion and compassion his insights and his wisdom. I never felt coerced. I was simply invited into his journey of discovery as he allowed me to run my fingers through the treasures of his  mind. I call that grace.

So, Fred Craddock is a pivotal person in my life. And no one can ever know how grace changed me. But, in this time of grief and loss, I can only say “Thank you” to God for having my life touched by such a kind and graceful soul.


We spend a lifetime building them. We lay the foundation for them and carefully work to create stability and equilibrium. Our ego, our self-esteem, our relationships, all intangible but essential to our sense of safety and security. 

But, inevitably something happens. Self-doubt invades. We make a mistake and wonder what happened. We don’t live up to our own expectations and beat up on ourselves. We are betrayed or hurt and our relationships feel fragile. We lose our job and doubt our worth. 

And it is at times like this that we can sing with meaning the words of Leonard Cohan in his classic Anthem: “There is a crack in everything.” It doesn’t seem to matter how hard we try, that which we love seems to always give way to the aging, decaying, breaking reality of mortal life. Storms come, foundations crack, windows break, walls warp.

But, if we are able to hold on, sometimes hope comes, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” The cracks in the secured ego allow the of the outside in and more of who we are to be revealed. It can allow light to shine into the unexplored regions of our self-understanding or our relationships. We can know more fully who we are.

Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to see. The light reveals things that we would rather not know. Our confusion about who we are can frighten us and make us reluctant to step out and give ourselves to relationships in the future.

Or, we can relax and sing the other part of the song’s refrain, “Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” None of us is whole. We are all cracked. Our offering to each other will never be perfect.  So, forget your perfect offering and give yourself, cracked and broken, filling with light.