Thoughts on #MbirdNYC16

mbirdconf16It’s hard for me to put into words what the last few days at the NYC Mockingbird Conference have meant to me. I’ve felt a lot of feelings while being there. I laughed, cried, danced, prayed, worshiped, and more.

This conference is special to me. It’s special because this is a place of relief. The majority of my Christian life has been marred by spiritual abuse, and most of my relationships have been based on conditions and expectations I could never meet. Because of that, I at times feel like screaming “I can’t get no relief!” None of that is present at a Mockingbird conference. For the first time in my life I’ve felt like I’ve joined with a group of people who have reached the lowest common denominator. The expectations are minuscule because we have brushed up against a Jew who met them all for us.

The people really make Mockingbird a unique place. From the outside looking in we look well put together. But, If you peel back the veneer of our lives what you might find is suffering, mourning, grief, pain, loss, and more. We are all different, but very much the same. There are no spiritual elite present. Essentially, Mockingbird is full of losers joining other losers dancing the night away, and for a moment we are getting relief from the outside pressure that we will face when the conference is over.

Many, including myself have little ambition. Most, if not all of us are not going to change the world. We have acknowledged our humanity, sin, and bound will. We know we have a hard time towing the line, following the rules, and I know I personally excel at rebelling. We have acknowledged our “righteousness as filthy rags.” We have also become aware that there is not much we can do about it, and we don’t have to because our justification is not at stake. In the words of Robert Farrar Capon:

“We’re all dead here and we’re having a terrific time. We’re all lost here we feel right at home.”

In truth Mockingbird is not for everyone. No one is going to tell you what to do here. There are no tips at how to live a better life. No church growth principles. No steps to success. No demands or expectations. No spiritual to-do lists or chores. No creative ways to enhance your quiet time with the Lord. We get enough of that everywhere else. Here there is grace.

I wouldn’t call it a mountaintop experience. It isn’t cool hipster Christianity (thank God). It’s not a church nor does it want to be. It is, however, a lot of fun. I’ve never had more fun at a religious gathering. It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis once wrote; “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” That is what a Mockingbird conference is like.

You can smoke here and no one will fuss at you. There are people there in recovery, and there people there that might need to be in recovery. Maybe a Mockingbird conference is our recovery group. A recovery group that tells you that you are forgiven over and over again.

It’s a place for the wealthy and economically distressed because we all know deep down we are poor in spirit. It is a place where you can quit pretending, or keep right on pretending.

For me, Mockingbird is a place where I can start trying to be myself. Which is absolutely terrifying because I’m not exactly sure who I am anymore and if these people actually knew the real me would I still be accepted? I believe the answer is yes.

Lastly, Mockingbird is a slice of heaven. As Robert Farrar Capon says:

“Heaven is Miller Time. Heaven is the party in the streaming sunlight of the world’s final afternoon. Heaven is when all the rednecks, and all the wood-butchers, and all the plumbers who never showed up – all the losers who never got anything right and all the winners who just gave up on winning – simply waltz up to the bar of judgment with full pay envelopes and get down to the serious drinking that makes the new creation go round. It is a bash that has happened, that insists upon happening, and that is happening now – and by the sweetness of its cassation, it drowns out all the party poopers in the world.”

Merle Haggard and Me

merle haggardYesterday Merle Haggard died on his birthday. I’m absolutely speechless to even wrap my brain around that fact. All I know is his music has touched my life.

If you are like me you can pinpoint times in your life when you first heard music that changed you. Merle was making music long before I was born (I’m 32). Like most of the great music I found in my life, my father first introduced me to Merle probably around the age of 11 or 12. At that point in my life I had first discovered heavy metal and rock and roll and didn’t have much interest in country music.

I believe we were on a family vacation at Myrtle Beach visiting a record store, and my dad bought a Merle Haggard live CD. We put it in the car, and I was done. “Misery and Gin” was the first song I heard.

Memories and drinks don’t mix too well
And jukebox records don’t play those wedding bells
Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass
All I see is a man who’s fadin’ fast

It is a daunting task to tell you where to start when it comes to his catalogue. He had tons of hits. I would just encourage you to start anywhere and be amazed at what the man wrote.

Country music today can’t touch Merle Haggard. We live in a music world today where a lot of stars don’t write their music. Merle lived the songs he sung, and that’s why he could write about it. If I could sum up his catalogue in one word it would be pain. Just listen to “I think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”:

Could be holding you tonight
Could quit doing wrong, start doin’ right
You don’t care about what I think
I think I’ll just stay here and drink

Hey, puttin’ you down, don’t square no deal
Least you know the way I feel
Take all the money in the bank
I think I’ll just stay here and drink

Listen close and you can hear
That loud jukebox playin’ in my ear
Ain’t no woman gonna change the way I think
I think I’ll just stay here and drink

Hurtin’ me now, don’t mean a thing
Since lovin’ you, don’t feel no pain
My mind ain’t nothin’ but a total blank
I think I’ll just stay here and drink, yeah

The only way you could write that is if you have been hurt. You can’t be married for five times and have multiple children without heartache. Merle had his bouts with drugs and alcohol. You don’t fight battles like that without being in pain.

The music of Merle Haggard is a music that touches me because of the universality of pain. Pain will hit you. Pain has hit me. And when it hits you you will understand his music. You will understand “I think I’ll just stay here and drink”, and “Misery and Gin.” And when someone hurts you and you experience the unrequited love that we all will then you will know what this means:

Each night I leave the bar room when it’s over
Not feeling any pain at closing time
But tonight your memory found me much too sober
Couldn’t drink enough to keep you off my mind

Phil Anselmo – Do Apologies Matter?

phil anselmoI can still remember as 12 year old kid listening and becoming exposed to heavy metal.  I’m a music freak and at that time in my life when I heard the thunderous sounds of metal I knew I had found what I had been looking for.  For some reason I was drawn to the darkness, speed, and aggression.

I had been listening to Metallica for some time (still one of my all time favorite bands) when a friend of mine introduced me to Pantera.  I was blown away.  They were all very talented at their craft.  I’ve gone back in the last 48 hours to listen to them, and they are still great.Not only were they talented, but they were very controversial at the time.  Their story has been told many times over.  Plagued by drug use and the untimely death of Dimebag that rocked the metal world.

I was excited last week to read on (as I do everyday) to see Dave Grohl and Robert Trujillo of Metallica playing a Motorhead cover with Phil.  I watched the video and enjoyed it immensely. Not long ago after that video popped up that another video of Phil came on blabbermouth of Phil making a racist gesture and saying “white power” to the audience.  Obviously wrong and bad taste, no question about it.

This obviously fired the internet up and the metal community.  The heavy metal moral police have come out to share their disapproval of Phil’s conduct.  Again, he was wrong and should not have done it.  It wasn’t nice and it is very very offensive.  

Every since the beginnings of metal the music has been very controversial.  The origin of metal begins with the likes of Black Sabaath, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin.  The three of which were very controversial in there day.  Read the lyrics sometime and you will see.  Now we revere Ozzy, Bon Scott, and the Zeppelin boys for their contribution to music, and we should…they are awesome and always will be, in my opinion. However, they are/were controversial.  Every form of art has some level of controversy.  Doesn’t justify it. It’s just true.

Should we expect anything less of an artist?  I may be wrong.  Seriously I might be.

Back to Phil:

Phil apologized.  You can see the video here.  

Was his apology sincere?  I don’t know.  I’m just wondering what does Phil have to do to atone for his sin?

As I think about myself I can’t help but notice that most of my sins are in secret.  Unfortunately, for Phil his sins have been in public and he has now under public judgement from his peers and internet trolls. What if every thought you had was made public.  I would be in a lot of trouble.  I say stupid stuff daily and I’m glad not a lot of people here it.  It is different when you are on stage. Again, what he did was wrong, but my point is in the words of Phil, “I’m broken.”

All of us are broken.  Phil’s broken.

It’s easy for us to be armchair quarterbacks as we watch Phil’s mistakes unfold.  Again, what does someone like Phil do to atone?  

As a person of faith I look at what my faith teaches me.  “there is therefore now no condemnation.”  Phil isn’t condemned, and neither are you.  Phil is loved and so are you.  

I will close with a few lines from Pantera’s songs

In the states
There’s a problem with race
Because of ignorant past burned fires

Taught when we’re young to hate one another
It’s time to have a new reign of power

We’re home free

we're home freeThe overwhelming accusation of the Bible is that we are all guilty.  We are terribly screwed.  There isn’t anything that you and I can do to help ourselves or get ourselves out of this mess.   No amount of good works.  No amount of prayer, church attendance, pennance, or philanthropy can save us.  It sucks.  I feel bad about it because I want to make myself good and right.  I want to be morally ok, but as I climb that ladder I slip.  I slip and fall.  I keep trying to get back up to the top, but I can’t.

Thankfully, there was a man that came down.  The ladder I was trying to climb, the tower of babel I was trying to build to him, he decided to climb down it.  He looked down and saw me trying, and he saw that it wasn’t working.  He actually gave me permission to stop climbing.  He sat there with me.  He cried with me.  He sang with me.  He listened to The Grateful Dead with me.  He had a drink with me.  He held my hand.

There is also another overwhelming theme in the Bible.  You are no longer guilty.  God what freedom.  It is shocking to think that all the things that I’ve done that are terrible and wrong I’m free of.  Also, the things I’m going to do…in the future that are terrible and wrong I’ve already been pardoned for.  In fact in some kind of crazy way God has forgotten my future sin.  It makes no sense, but thats what makes it amazing grace.

There are no longer any records of your sins or my sins.  When Jesus gave himself up on the cross he died for the sins of the whole world and absolved them all.  There is no record of them.  Love “keeps no record of wrongs.”  He has no memory of it.  The sin happened but for some reason God can’t remember what we did.  He can only remember what his son did.

In the words of Robert Farrar Capon:

“I will go and open my other book (Rev. 20:12, again), the book of life — the book that has in it the names of everybody I ever drew to myself by dying and rising. And when I open that book, I’m going to read out to the whole universe every last word that’s written there. And you know what that’s going to be? It’s going to be just Arthur. Nothing else. None of your bad deeds, because I erased them all. And none of your good deeds, because I didn’t count them, I just enjoyed them.”

You’re not guilty and the book of judgement was thrown away 2,000 years ago.  NO ONE can judge you. Hebrews 13:6 – “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  

All the charges against you have been dropped.  You’re home free.

If he forgot them, and he has no record of it.  How do we now live?


A New Year and Bad Sermons

new yearLooking back over my church career I’ve heard some of the worst sermons of my life around Christmas, Easter, and New Years. Unfortunately, clergy have a way to botch major holidays and turn them into something they are not. I’m here to write today to tell you the truth that you might not hear in a sermon about the New Year.

What I typically heard in sermons around the New Year were about what I needed to do, how I could accomplish the impossible, and how I could pick up my bootstraps and do better than last year. What I heard was performance based religion and not the Gospel. Sadly, what you are likely to hear in church is a version of self-help.

You might hear that next year might be better than this year. You might hear that God is going to bless you with glorious amounts of money. Your pastor might also take up a special offering promising you “if you give your best seed now, then God is going to bless you in the new year.”

You will also hear that you need to read your Bible and pray more. This is a big one in most churches, and the challenge to read and pray more will echo throughout churches in our country. Your pastor might even encourage you to read your bible in 6 months and pray for hours a day. It sounds great and we all know that praying and reading our bible is important, but we tend to not keep our promises and resolutions to do anything.

Every year, without fail I have made a promise to God that I NEVER EVER KEPT! That promise was to read my Bible and pray more. Sure I started on the right track, but usually on or about the end of January I was done, and back to my normal routine. The good news is that God knew before the foundations of the world that I couldn’t do it, and he is ok with it.

We are at our most human state when we break them. I tend to fall back into the routine of hitting the snooze, watching Seinfeld reruns, and drinking beer.

God is going to be just fine if you don’t keep your resolutions.  He loves you anyway. Thankfully, Jesus kept his resolution.

Back to church. What I’ve typically heard this time in church is there is a pie in the sky waiting for me next year if I do my part. I hear about the windows of heaven opening for me if I…

I hear about God doing this and that for me if I…

The problem is I can never really do my part and neither can you.

My goal is not to be a negative nancy, but to tell the truth.

The truth is you might not meet any of your goals and your life might fall apart. Your friends might leave you. Someone in your family could die. You may lose everything you have.

The truth is there are no guarantees in life. The worst might happen. The bottom might fall out.

What you might experience next year is pain, suffering, and death. Unfortunately, this is also when we are most human, and something that we can’t avoid. In the words of C-3PO, “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”

Thankfully, we have someone who understands our lot and portion in life and his name is Jesus.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

When Christmas Music Hurts

Clark-Griswold-PortraitI love Christmas. Ever since I was a kid I looked forward to the Christmas season more than any other. It wasn’t so much the Jesus part of it as it was getting out of school, staying up late, eating lots of food, and presents.

I love everything about Christmas. I love Santa Claus. I love the folklore and mythology. I love seeing my kids eyes light up at the thought of Santa. I even love Elf On The Shelf. I also love the music.

I think music heightens just about everything. Christmas included, and Christmas music is just down right awesome. I’m not just talking about the hymns, I’m talking about Rudolph and all that stuff. I love the love songs and hearing Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin croon. At the first sign of fall, way before Thanksgiving, I anticipate and eagerly wait to listen to my favorite Christmas songs (in secret of course).

However, this year is different. Life happens and when it does it can suck the life and spirit right out of you. This year I just can’t listen to the music. Most likely I will keep listening to The Grateful Dead or some of Sinatra’s depressing albums.

For many the holidays are not a reminder of Jesus being born, happiness, or ho ho hoing. No, the holidays are a reminder of pain and loss. For the person that hasn’t found their soulmate or for those who have lost parents and other loved ones, the holidays could be salt on the wound that hasn’t and may never be healed.

And that is where I’m at right now. It’s hard to sing about going to grandmother’s house when she ain’t around no more. It’s hard to hear Dean Martin sing Baby It’s Cold Outside, when baby may not be around. And, what if Santa can’t come to town because daddy lost his job. Don’t get me started on I Saw Mamma Kissing Santa Claus.

Christmas music, and the joy that it represents can be lovely or it can be downright depressing. There is too much pressure in the music to have a feeling that might not be real. There is too much pressure in Hallmark movies to have a love and romance that is just not real. None of these things represent real life. Unfortunately, life’s many problems can’t be solved in two hours.  This is where Christmas…the way it is portrayed in song and film can seriously betray us.

My favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It is untouchable in the genre, and ranks as one of my all time favorite comedies. There is a scene that means more to me this year than before.

Clark Griswold has grandiose plans of creating a perfect Christmas with two sets of families. What was the man thinking?! How could he get all these people in his house and not think that the in-laws would not eventually be at each other’s throats?

With the help of a dog, his boss, cousin Eddie and the rest of the gang, they ruin it for him. Then he has a talk with his dad, Clark Sr.

Clark Sr.: “In years to come, you’ll want your children and your family to remember all the love you gave us, and how hard you tried to make the perfect Christmas.”
Clark: “I just…”
Clark Sr.: “You just cocked it up. It’s okay, it happens.”
Clark: “All our holidays were such a mess.”
Clark Sr.: “Oh yeah.”
Clark: “How did you get through it?”
Clark Sr.: “I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels.”

I’ve never cried watching this movie, but that scene got me this year.

For some of us Christmas is not and never will be the same. And in those times we have Jack Daniels, Jesus, and the ultimate screwed up family, the Griswold’s.  Merry Christmas.

Whoring around

The Bible from beginning to end is an amazing book that is full of entertainment, twists and turns, and dare I say bad language.  I love the fact that the writers of scripture never sugar coat a situation or try to spin it, instead they give us an honest depiction of real life.

Lately, as I’ve been thinking about the Old Testament, the children of Israel, and human nature, I see recurring themes. The theme I see is that the children of Israel can’t get their act together.  No matter how hard they try they continue to do the opposite of what God wants them to do.  You also see that God is not very happy with them, and even second guesses why he even created this horrible race of people.

The language that the Bible uses to describe their behavior is downright shocking.  Simply, they are referred to as whores. Two-timing, no good, sleeping around all over town, whores.  What a symbol of betrayal.  The God of heaven who continues to bail them out, gives them what they want, and protects them is married to a whore.  God is heartbroken.  

But, the heartbreak of God cannot stop him from loving them or us.  What I have to come to grips with is their actions towards God are my actions.  It reminds me of the hymn, “Come thou fount of every blessing”, where in says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

We are all prone to wander.  We all like sheep have gone astray.  We have no choice but to wander, but God came down. The hymn also says:

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.”

Like the coin, the sheep, and the lost son, we were once lost but now we are found.  Even in our attempts to run away we are found.  His love and kindness is always pursuing us.

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalm 137:7-10

It is amazing that even in our fleeing he is still guiding us.

His love is so great that no matter how many times we cheat on him, he continues to search us out and love us.  This love is so amazing that there is nothing we can do to make it stop.  God is love, and therefore he has no choice but to love us, even in the midst of our wretchedness. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

God and failure

ExamI had the best math teacher when I was in high school.  She was really good to me; helped me with my work, encouraged me, and was just all around great person.  I did something in one of her classes in my junior year that was very out of character for me.  She passed out a test, and I decided to cheat.

Maybe I wasn’t confident enough in my own capabilities or maybe I just didn’t study for it.  As I looked over on my neighbors test I began to copy down all of his answers.  Then the unthinkable happened.  As my teacher took the test back she announced to the class that each row had gotten a DIFFERENT test with different questions on it.  So the answers on my test reflected my neighbors questions.  I was royally screwed.  I knew I would get caught.

I went home that day, and decided not to go to school the next day because I was afraid to face my teacher.  The next day I complained of an illness (which was a lie), and stayed at home.  I can’t remember what happened in the course of that day, but I do remember being tipped off by someone else saying that others had been caught and my teacher new I had cheated. In the words of Styx:

The jig is up, the noose is out
They finally found me

I had to come clean with my parents.  My dad was outside and I went out, sat on the front porch and told him I needed to talk.  Then I cried.  Not a little cry, but a big cry.  I’ll never forget what happened after I told my dad what I did.  As he saw the level of remorse on my face, he put his arm around me and told me everything is going to be ok and I would get through this.

He told me I had to go back to school tomorrow and face whatever punishment they deemed necessary.  But, in that moment he expressed so much love and grace that it made me feel ok.  The grace he showed me actually made it easier for me to come clean at school.  Knowing that I had the love of my father in a time where I had messed up had made such a difference.

There are more stories like this in my life than I care to admit, but for some reason my mind went back to this one this week.  I didn’t deserve that love he gave me because I had messed up.  That one action could have done harm to my grades, future college, and broke trust with my teachers.  In the moment grace is what I needed.  I needed the love of my father.  Nothing meant more to me than to know that my daddy loved me even in my weakness and failure.

This is an example of earthly grace, but what about heavenly grace?  Lately, when I read the Bible I think this message is too good to be true.  How is it that God can love me and nothing can come between that love (Romans 8:39).  There is nothing that can stop him from loving me.  In all of my sins, weaknesses, failures, God will not stop loving me.  I didn’t know how my father would react to my failure, but we do know how God acts in response to our failure. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Watch your speed!

speedingI wanted to share with you a story of grace that I experienced last week.  I made the long trip via a rental car from my home in NYC to visit family in my home state of North Carolina.  To quote the Grateful Dead, “it was a long strange trip.” As a side note I listened to the Grateful Dead nearly the entire drive!

As I was driving through Virginia with a speed limit of 70 mph, I decided to make sure I stuck my cruise control at a safe 75 mph.  As the Dead played and I heard “Casey Jones you better watch your speed”, I saw blue lights in my rearview.  At the time I’m thinking there is no way this guy is pulling me over for doing five over!  Well he was and I pulled over.

His name was Officer Smith and he approached my window and the conversation went as such:

Officer Smith: I pulled you over because you were driving above the posted limit.  I clocked you going 76 in a 70.  Is there a reason you felt the need to go that fast?

Me:  Well officer, I actually set my cruise at 75 not 76.

Officer Smith: Ok, is there a reason why you set your cruise above the legal limit of 70?

Stop!  This is the law being thrown right at my face, and I’m guilty!  When we look at the law of God or the law of something or someone else we are always guilty!  No attempts at self-justification (“I was only going 75”) will work with the law.  Now back to the conversation:

Me:  I have no excuses I broke the law.  I was in a hurry as I am going out of town to visit family.

Officer Smith:  License and registration.  Where is your family and where do you live?

Me:  They are in North Carolina and my wife and kids and I live in New York City.

Officer Smith:  You just gave me a NC license.  How long have you been in NYC?

Me:  Two and a half years.

Officer Smith:  In the time that you have lived in NYC you never thought to get a new license?

Me: Not really.  You see sir I take the subway everyday and rarely drive.

Officer Smith:  In the state of Virginia you are supposed to get a new license after 60 days of a change of residence. Why don’t you step back in my car.

At this point I’m thinking “Oh Sh#t.”  We get in his car and he discovers I have a clean driving record, and we talk a few more minutes, and he said; “I’m going to let you off with a warning.  Slow down and have a good trip.”

I drove the speed limit the whole way after that!  To be honest, I deserved the ticket because I was 100% guilty, but this officer gave me grace instead.

Grace is always getting something you don’t deserve.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Grace is a gift and cannot be earned.  We deserve the ticket of death because we have all sinned, BUT instead we get eternal life, acceptance, love, mercy, etc.

Repent and Confess!

confessHave you ever been to a revival or evangelistic crusade?  If you have then you most likely have heard bad theology.  Most of the ones that I have been to consist of the same elements.  One of the main themes is if you confess and repent of your sins then God will be merciful to you and forgive you and accept you into the Christian fold.  Until you clean it up and recognize just how bad you have been you can’t be a member. To be transparent, most of my Christian life has been lived this way.  Confession, for me became a way for me to barter with God.  I thought that this was my way of showing God I meant business, and if God saw how remorseful I was then maybe, just maybe he would spare me this one time.  Confession for me was a transaction.  It was me trying to save myself.  I couldn’t be further from the truth.

Repentance and confession should be in response to the goodness of God.  When we look at the Bible we see that Christ has already forgiven us without our consent. Think about this, when Jesus is hanging on the cross he says in Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”

While they are gambling for his clothes he has pronounced them forgiven. Or how about Matthew 9:1-2, “And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

The sick man didn’t confess nor repent of his sins.  Jesus just did it…maybe he did it for all of us? Love came down and we couldn’t do anything about it.

I believe when you come to face to face with the radical grace of God then repentance and confession naturally flows. Confession and repentance come after you have been faced with this marvelous too good to be true news that you already are forgiven.  There isn’t anything for you to do.  There are no transactions with God.

In William Hordern’s book, Living by Grace, he says this:

“If repentance is a work necessary to achieve God’s forgiveness, we are left with the problem that always haunts a doctrine of salvation by works.  How much work is necessary?…In the Bible forgiveness is often linked to repentance, but there is no evidence that repentance is a cause of God’s forgiveness.”

I agree, repentance and confession are not causative, they are responsive.  One of my favorite writers whom I quote often, Robert Farrar Capon says:

“…all confession that is not just a fudging of our tattered books but a plain admission that our books are not worth a damn – is subsequent to forgiveness.  Only when, like the prodigal, we are finally confronted with the unqualified gift of someone who died, in advance, to forgive us no matter what, can we see that confession has nothing do with getting ourselves forgiven.  Confession is…the after-the-last gasp of a course that finally can afford to admit it’s dead and accept resurrection. Forgiveness, surrounds us, beats upon us all our lives; we confess only to wake ourselves up to what we already have.”

What happens when somebody gives you something you don’t deserve?  What is your natural response? You think, “oh my God, I don’t deserve this…what can I do to repay you?”  A true gift comes without any strings attached, there is nothing you can do to repay the giver.  The only thing you can do is acknowledge that there is nothing in you that is good enough to warrant such a gift, and say thank you. That my friends is confession.

Confession is an acknowledgement that you are not worthy of this grace and forgiveness, but God in his love gives it to you anyway, without you having to do anything for it.