Conversations 4.1: Means of Grace—Openness to the Experience of God
Volume 4:1 Spring 2006
In the Spring 2006 edition of Conversations, “Means of Grace,” the team that developed that issue invited readers into honest dialogue about living life in the Kingdom of God, in particular their openness to the experience of God. What was unique about the journal was the variety of Christian traditions represented among the writers, editors, and readers. The editors aimed to have a “seat at the table” for everyone, and curated articles and interviews which gave readers an understanding of the variety of ways that one can experience God, and learn from those in traditions other than their own.
As Gary W. Moon introduced the theme of the issue, he shared about a unique retreat experience that a Navy chaplain created for “outcast sailors.” Chaplain Harris came to see that those young sailors most in need of his help were those that struggled the most to receive love from others, especially God. He used the avenue of music as a means of grace. “Razor-sharp honesty and pulsating bass chiseled through hardened hearts and opened passages for grace to seep in. Perhaps Leonard Cohen summarized it best when he sang: Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” Grace came in the form of music and the persistent, loving presence of Chaplain Harris, and softened the hearts of those gathered. God is always creating and redeeming his creation, and he offers grace in the most interesting ways. This issue is about our openness to that experience.
Many themes emerged as writers began to share with us about their openness to God’s grace—brokenness and suffering can serve as openings for grace; for example, Christie Pettit’s story on how recovering from an eating disorder brought about a shift in her view of self and God.
This quote by Philip Yancey in his interview with Larry Crabb conveys just what is so amazing about grace, “There’s something in Jesus that brings to the surface the buried sense that you’re not as good as you’re projecting you are, but it doesn’t make you feel bad in a way that you want to get away from Him. Somehow you want to get closer to Him. That’s grace.”
The arts, too, are avenues for grace. Don’t miss the lovely article on page 52 by Luci Shaw and Jeannette Bakke. In fact, we did an entire issue on the arts as a means of grace in “Created to Create” (vol. 14.2). Ken Boa explored God’s accommodations to our multifaceted nature as an ushering of grace in our lives. The editors also didn’t overlook the most profound aspect of grace: it finds us. Read more about that in David Benner’s interview with Barbara Hudspith.
The issue closes with a Conversations Guide written by Kim Engelmann to help readers consider the theme. It is also useful as a small group resource. I’ve patterned the classroom experience after this concept and borrowed some of those questions—so keep scrolling to read an interview between Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, and learn more about “Christian Disciplines as a Means to Grace.” I hope you’ll experience this issue of Conversations as a means to grace.
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