The week of the Pensacola mini-conference is upon us! And to entice those of you who are still on the fence, we thought we’d offer one final preview from the main speaker himself, Dr. Paul Zahl. This event is not to be missed, so don’t wait another minute – register today. And for the updated schedule and other details, visit the microsite:

This Friday night’s talk, entitled “Revisiting the Gospel Message — Grace Again”, will simply describe what grace is, and how it works. I’m interested in what grace, or one-way love, has to offer tortured relationships. For “tortured” you can substitute, “not as close as I’d like it to be”.

Some of us are on semi automatic-pilot when it comes to understanding the one really important thing — our love life. (I mean the phrase broadly: our life of love, and love distorted, and love meant well but unwise, gone wrong, not getting what it’s looking for.) This talk examines the human love life, and especially marriage and parenthood. Oh, and also singleness and aloneness. It examines anger and burning hurt; defeat, as in, “I am a defeated person“; aspirations simply never accomplished, dreams gone unfulfilled, and the chronic misfires represented by the phrase “looking for love in all the wrong places”.

The text will be Galatians, especially Paul’s list of things ‘against which there is no law’ and Paul’s insight that creativity and love exist in direct proportion to their not being called for. Exhortation sentences to death the hapless earthling who only wants to love and be loved. My first talk in the Pensacola Mini-Conference is therefore something quite familiar — though forgotten in about five seconds — which is the Gatorade of grace and imputation.

Saturday morning’s talk will try to relate the grace-message, that one great inspirer — or rather, grace itself, electrifying change-agent in love — to the culture and world in which we are living. I’m focussed just now on some of the ‘back-story’ character dramas in Herman Wouk’s ‘Tolstoyan’ epic War and Remembrance. He is not a Christian author. Yet there is in that book more wisdom about and understanding of human relationships than exists in a ton, a literal ton, of religious literature. Wouk, together with the television genius, Dan Curtis, who translated the book into a powerful series of images in the 1980s, understood people. He also understood how grace works, without even calling it by name.

I am also interested in some things LeRoi Jones, the African-American writer known as Amiri Baraka, had to say about communicating — about communicating real things person to person. Between Wouk and Jones, between Paul and Luther, between “The Browning Version” and “Red Beard”, we can find a host of friends. These people often know more about grace in practice than we seem to. Let’s listen to them. Why did these creators, and their productions, become instant classics? For the same reason the Christian Church recognized in Galatians a voice of diagnosis and truth, and therefore the Holy Ghost.

I hope the first talk will comfort you, delight you, aid you, and give you joy. Hope also it will make you laugh! The second talk I hope will set off some depth charges in your archaeological psychic ocean. I hope it will open some new doors. I hope it will connect you anew with things you already like that have addressed you in the past. As William S. Burroughs never tired of saying, you can only really teach a person what he or she already knows.

Deep down, and sometimes not so deep down, everybody already knows about grace, in practice.

[ed. note: speaking of which, a big congratulations to Dr. Zahl on the just-announced second printing of Grace in Practice!]

So there you have it, your final warning/exhortation (!): “plans” you will always have with you… cancel them, hit the road and join us in sunny Pensacola