Monday, January 9, 2012

Where do we find true glory today?

      The following column by Paul Graves was published in The Spokesman-Review, December 3, 2011.

      Sometime during the week before Christmas, most of us will hear the story of Jesus’ birth as told in Luke 2.

      We’ve heard it so many times. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants. We can nearly see the shepherds look into the sky as they hear the gaggle of angels (or is it “heavenly host”?) proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2:13-14)

      “Glory” is both a blessing and a curse in today’s Christian sub-culture. Why? Because “glory” seems to have so many different meanings that it means whatever we want it to mean. Which suggests it could be little more than a cliché.

      “Give God the glory” is sung and said by so many Christians today. But what do we mean by that word? Credit? Praise? Thanks? Do we give God glory because God is doing what we want God to do, because our selfish prayers were answered our way? Pointing to the sky after a touchdown is apparently meant to signal “look what God let me do today.”

      OK, you might sense some skepticism in my tone. I exaggerate only to make a point: “Glory” is an over-used and mis-used word in churches, on the streets or athletic fields. Perhaps it is understandable, since even in the Bible it meant many things. In fact, there are 20 different Hebrew and Greek words that we translate in English as “glory.” Their meanings are just as numerous.

      I try to get past my own discomfort with how I hear “glory” thrown about in superficial, though well-meant, ways. To do that, I look at the word not in its grand theatrical settings and utterances, but as it could have reflected a quieter interpretation of that night of Jesus’ birth. No fanfare as Mary and Joseph find a place to stay. No heavenly chorus as the shepherds find their way through a menagerie of animals to stand in silence before a newborn baby and his parents.

      Where I see God’s glory is not in the words we say or sing, but in the smiles and tears of genuine gratitude when we gaze on a newborn baby, or when we say good-bye as a loved one breathes his last breath. I see God’s glory in countless ways every day. It is likely disguised as an ordinary person or event.

      God’s glory is more real when I understand it as God’s “presence” in my life, your life, in the world around us. When the angels sang their great chorus, they didn’t stop with “Glory to God…” That glory would be manifested, made real and present when persons whom God favored had peace in their lives. Who were those favored ones? According to the Jesus I read about in the Gospels and try to follow in my own life, the “favored ones” were those who work at being compassionate and who seek justice for everyone, here and now.

      How do you see God’s glory?


God won't ask what kind of car you drove, but He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, but He'll ask how many others you clothed.

God won't ask about your social class, but He'll ask what kind of class you displayed.

God won't ask how many material possessions you had, but He'll ask if they dictated your life.

God won't ask what your highest salary was, but He'll ask if you compromised your principles to obtain it.

God won't ask how much money you spent on yourself, but He'll ask how much you gave back to him.

God won't ask how much overtime you worked, but He'll ask if your overtime was for yourself or your family.

God won't ask how many promotions you received, but He'll ask how you promoted others.

God won't ask what your job title was, but He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won't ask what you did to help yourself, but He'll ask what you did to help others.

God won't ask how many friends you had, but He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask what you did to protect your rights, but He'll ask what you did to protect the rights of others.

God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, but He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin, but He'll ask about the content of your character.

God won't ask how many times your deeds matched your words, but He'll ask how many times they didn't.

God won't ask if His Son loved you, but He'll ask if you loved his son.

Author unknown


The Passing of a Saint (Shenouda III) 3-19-2012

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is founder of Elder Advocates, an elder care consulting ministry. He can be contacted via email at
      Facts don’t always add up to God’s truth  7-1-2000
      Christ challenged the 'purity system' by teaching compassion, justice  6-18-2011
      Where do we find true glory today?  12-3-2011

      A Visit to the Lord's Clinic
      The Keeper of the Spring
      Some thoughts by Bonhoeffer & Neimoller