Grace upon grace

In her commentary on the Gospel of John, Dr. Karoline Lewis uses a phrase that has become a mantra of hope and encouragement to me:

“Grace upon grace…”

What does grace upon grace sound like? It sounds like when you are deader than dead and you hear your name being called, by the shepherd who knows you and loves you, and you are then able to walk out of that tomb, unbound to rest at the bosom of Jesus. Dr. Karoline M. Lewis, John: (Fortress Preaching Biblical Commentaries.) © 2014 Fortress Press. Minneapolis. p. 160.

These last few weeks I have needed extra touches of God’s Grace. With our church, Twinbrook Baptist, making the decision to sell our building, and gift out the proceeds rather than spend down our resources, there’s been a mixed bag of feelings. At times, my joy has been “deader than dead” but then God’s grace appears and restores me.

I’ve watched my friend and pastor, Jill, and our church leadership respond with honest, heartfelt feelings – but also serve with open-hearted kindness and grace. We have embraced hope. We’ve laughed. We have worshiped with joy. We have reminded ourselves that we are Resurrection people. We have hugged and reassured. We’ve bitched (a little — just human!) And we’ve cried. When I took the last boxes home from my church office on Sunday after worship, the tears flowed down my cheeks.

But grace… Grace has never been far away. God has shown up in a number of grace-filled ways.

I found this photo this morning, snapped unintentionally by my smartphone as I headed home from working out last night. I totally missed it at the time. I was intent on getting a shower and doing some charting. This vista, this contrast of light and dark brought hope and encouragement. The beauty is there, ready to proclaim God’s glory. Do I notice?

“Grace upon grace…”

To provide a backdrop for a sermon on hospitality by Pastor Jill McCrory, I brought this quilt, a family heirloom, to use for the communion table. Its presence on the altar immediately provoked stories and sweet memories by congregants. Who knew this “grandmother’s flower garden” would provide joy and comfort for our last regular worship service? I just pulled it out as a whim. God knew.

“Grace upon grace…”

 I tried to have a healthy snack and boost to my lunch today, so I stopped to get a protein smoothie. Banana-strawberry. Mmmmm… Except the lid was not on tightly and it decorated my white pants! The employee who served my smoothie was embarrassed because she saw what had happened. I frantically tried to clean up the splotches with napkins. She ran to the back of the store and came out with a stain remover pen. “Here! Take this!” I went to my car, mopped up the stain, and brought it back, profusely thankful. She wouldn’t take a tip. So I told her manager how grateful I was and that she needed a bonus.

“Grace upon grace…”

I’m sure there will be more examples. Now I’m more aware of what the Grace of God can do in my boring, everyday, grumpy life. Maybe yours, too?

I’m being intentional. Mindful. Looking for grace every moment. Focusing on the things that show love and joy and faithfulness. Taking a short, private cussing break when the feelings overflow. (Like I said… just being real!) Looking up to see… God. There. Always.

Lauren Daigle wrote a song that is on my “repeat” playlist right now. It’s keeping me going… a love song from God reminding me to Look Up Child.

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

So may it be.

sdg

Here’s What I Know

At the airport

It was a seemingly random phone call as I sat waiting for my flight at the airport…

“Here’s what I know,” I said,
As I watched the criss-cross of people,
Hurrying here and there,
Carrying bags and talking on phones,
Rushing like there’s no tomorrow…

“We don’t know how much time we have,
So make every minute count.
Stay in the moment,
But think about how you act today
Will impact tomorrow.”

“Impact what?”

“Oh…” I said,
“Your loves.
Your goals.
Your standards.
Your heart.”

“But how will I know if I did the right thing?”

I sat for a while,
And rocked back and forth.
The smell of fresh pretzels
And the sound of wheelie bags overwhelmed my senses.

“I think it’s simple things,” I said.
“Whether you built a bridge or burned it
Whether you showed love or indifference,
Whether you showed grace or sat in judgement,
Whether you left people feeling welcomed in,
Or shoved out.”

“Those aren’t simple things.”

“No… they aren’t. But they are everything.”

It was just a random phone call.
But it turned out to be prophetic.

God, help me hear and respond with love to every call…

Bone weary gratitude

 

Something hit me. Hard. Whatever it was (or is!), I went from 100 mph doing chores, cleaning dishes and getting charting done to about 5 mph as I crawled into bed at 9 pm and slept for about 12 hours. A fever and GI symptoms knocked me FLAT!

I have gardening to do, housecleaning to mow through, reading to finish and reviews to write, and absolutely none of them grab my attention. My pillow, electric blanket and bed are calling me…

I am emotionally and physically run down. But I am also blessed down to my toenails with the good things in my life. So what do you do when you know you need a quick re-start to get back on track again?

You. Rest.

I know. DUH. But that’s what I need to do. So today I slept almost all day. answered a few emails that couldn’t wait (about 2 out of 50) and followed my cats’ examples of getting into a good nap.

IMG_0580

I’m still tired. I’m still facing the problems and discouragements of yesterday. I’m still angry at the lies and collusion that appear to be rampant in our government. But I’m a little better rested than I was yesterday.

And maybe, just maybe, I can tackle my “do list” with more enthusiasm and grace.

Mr. Henry’s Wild Ride: Or… what happens when the chaplain is sleep-deprived

Last week was one of those weeks where sleep deprivation did a number on me. I had to take my car in to our mechanic for servicing, which required that I ride the bus home. I am normally a functioning adult and have no trouble picking the right bus. However, due to the creeper factor (creepy mid-day bus riders who are not professionals coming home from work), I left the bus shelter too quickly and boarded the wrong bus. I realized this, of course, well into the bus route that was quickly winding far away from my neighborhood.

I felt a little sheepish. I had reacted out of instinct – Get away from the creeper. Board a bus. ANY bus.

Exactly what I counsel my daughters not to do… Sigh.

I claim sleep deprivation as my excuse, since Wednesday was a short-night of sleep and Thursday morning’s commute home took twice as long. I did get a short nap before driving my car to the mechanic. But it was not enough to be quick on my feet.

When I found common sense returning, I pulled out my phone to verify where the bus route would terminate (at a Metro station), rode back to the original Metro station where I first started my crazy journey, and boarded a bus (the correct one, this time!) to Bearded Brewer’s office. It was a happy coincidence that he was ready to go home anyway.

IMG_3281When we got home, we realized we were minus a cat. When and how it happened we don’t know, but Henry managed to slip out some time between Wednesday afternoon (when I was working in the back yard before I went to work) and Thursday morning (when the back door was open and the screen ajar). I worked Wednesday night, and other than noting his absence that morning, we were both clueless.

We went through every crevice and hidey-hole in the house. No Henry. The other cats paced. We worried. No sign of him all night. We searched the yard and the neighborhood. No sassy boy cat. We sent out prayer SOS bulletins. We went to sleep, worried. Somewhere around 4 am, Henry was mewing at the back door.

We petted him, thanked God, and fell dead asleep. Henry roamed the house, nervous and ill at ease. His caterwauling was music to our ears! He got a visit to the vet for his troubles the next day. (And while we were at it, we took Tiria along for company and her shots.) So ended another tale of Mr. Henry’s Wild Ride.

While it took me a few days to process all this (remember I was sleep-deprived) I finally did reach some conclusions. Here’s what I’ve decided…

There are times we all get going in the wrong direction. And most of the time, we come to our senses and get a do-over. It took a while for me to connect-the-dots on my errant bus ride and Henry’s little adventure. I’m guessing that by the time Henry realized he was on the wrong side of the door, that he wished mightily for things to change. It took a while to sort things out, but eventually, he was inside again.

There are also times we take off on our own, determined to strike out on a new adventure, only to realize it was a terrible mistake. And like the Prodigal in the Bible, the door is always open and we are welcomed home. More times than I want to remember, God’s love and acceptance welcomes my rebellious, stubborn heart home where it belongs.

There are times when the best thing we can do is sleep on it. And then, with a few more REM cycles in our pockets, reconsider what we need to do to make things right. That goes for politics, people, and pussycats.

Thanks be to God.