thankfulness, a thorn, and grace

for years now, i have been experientially aware of my own mortality.

at around 40 years of age, i started a curious personal tradition: when i flew anywhere, i imagined that that specific plane might crash. odds are that it would not go down, but nothing in life is 100%. so before takeoff, during the initial taxiing, i would give thanks for the life, people and experiences that i had been given and think these words: i have had a good run (if it is my time to meet my maker). then i let my mind wander freely as i gazed out the plane window. if i had an aisle seat, i would close my eyes and feel the take off.

today, i will fly to LA. it will be my first time in a plane since october 2019. that was our last regional day of claretian meetings. i have not been in seattle for this long a stretch since high school. (next month will be my 40th reunion by the way!) those who know me know my sensibilities and that i am not naturally wired to be enclosed to four walls. personally, i find living a “home ownership” type existence burdensome– like a huge metal ball strapped to my ankle.

since leaving full time public ministry three years ago, i have had all sorts of “new”– mostly mundane– experiences in home life and helping my mother. can the mundane really be profound?

for me, these past three years in seattle have highlighted a basic teaching of our faith: the Holy Spirit is guiding and helping us.

i am constantly being humbled by my own sinfulness and character flaws. i hate and embrace them at the same time. and there is a constant dance of accepting that they exist in me and wanting to eliminate them. but ultimately, there is the realization that these weaknesses are part of who i am and will always be– i can live with these weeds.

this morning, i am thinking of this passage from paul’s second letter to the corinthians (ch 12 v. 5-9)

About this person (himself) I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.‘ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

i have written about this wonderful image– a thorn in the flesh– in a previous post. enough to say today that sometimes i can push that thorn deeper into my flesh in an effort to remove it.

the power made perfect in weakness is not a power that our world readily applauds. or a power that i can easily cultivate.

grace is one of my favorite theological concepts. in my most lucid moments, i see us and our world swimming in the waters of grace. something that engulfs us so much, that oftentimes we have difficulty realizing it is there at all. pure gifts are something we all like but have a hard time believing that they are given to us freely.

so, now let me get back to packing…

indeed, i have had a good run.

i pray for you who are reading these scattered thoughts; i ask for your prayers in return


  1. Steve Niskanen says:

    You’ve got my prayers, BB! Have a good flight! Odds are you’ll make it. Even in a Max 8!


    1. frarthurcmf says:

      We didn’t crash once!


  2. DC says:

    Beautiful reflection. Grace is a favorite reflection pastime of mine too.


    1. frarthurcmf says:

      I wish we would hear more about it from all who teach


    2. frarthurcmf says:

      Amen! Rarely do we hear teachers of our faith go into depth about grace


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