Tag Archives: grace

Beware of Black Ice

Fun morning – started out as usual, headed to the office by the normal route, up a ramp onto a freeway. I’ve been doing it for 2 years now, and this winter has been decidedly un-wintery so far. No worries…. until I saw the ambulance backing down the ramp and the blue lights on the vehicle midway up. To my left, the subject, a truck that suddenly took a steep drop off the freeway and landed on the driver’s side.  Continue reading Beware of Black Ice

How Superstitions Start

I have to throw away my shoes. They’re fine shoes, my go-to shoes for a quick dash out the door, but there’s something about those brown shoes that make Doug’s friends see red. They haven’t said anything outright, they don’t really seem to take note, but there’s a strange coincidence between their worst occasions and my choice of footwear. Yup, it’s official, the shoes have got to go.

There have been other times that I’ve worn those shoes around Doug’s friends with no turmoil, and other rough times when I was wearing different shoes, so I know there’s no direct correlation. The observation has been made enough times, however, that it has become a running joke. Bad night? Wrong shoes. Should’ve known. And thus begins the newest superstition.

I’m not a superstitious sort, but many are. They put some merit to the fear of black cats and walking under ladders (although, caution around a ladder seems prudent). Finger crossing, rabbit’s feet, and lucky t-shirts (and unlucky shoes) are on an ever-growing list of things to keep handy or avoid. Where do these odd ideas come from? I’m beginning to learn…

Something unusually good or bad may occur, and we look for the rhyme or reason behind it, the cause to the effect. Sometimes an identifiable cause exists, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, we keep searching. If there’s a similar event later, we study the previous event to find matching facts. We’re willing to go so far as to recall wardrobe choices or pocket contents to come up with an answer. It’s somewhere in our human nature, we want there to be a predictable cause, so that we can have some control over what may affect us. Some people become absolutely crippled by the need to do everything just right, lest they miss something and get blindsided by the randomness of life. Superstition to the extreme.

There’s an easier, less stressful way to live. Get to know the One who knows all things and is in charge of keeping the world spinning at a consistent rate and direction. Granted, He allows pleasant and unpleasant circumstances to touch people who may be declared good or bad – rain on the just and unjust. He also makes two massive promises that He alone is able to keep. One, nothing happens without His foreknowledge and approval – it can’t touch you before it has gone through His hands. (Job) Two, He will cause all things, good or ill, to work together for the good of those who trust Him. (Romans 8:28) It could take a while, it could get ugly before the dust settles, but He’s got a plan to make the best of even the worst circumstance.

He’s constantly working on connecting unique lives for two objectives: first, to draw people to Himself, and second, to transform them into His character, fit to live with Him forever. This may mean that the sweetest lady you know is suddenly thrown into the hospital for three weeks by an accident involving a drunk driver and the death of her husband of 60 years. What looks horribly unfair to us may be a specific assignment to reach some nurses, a doctor, your niece the candy-striper, or that person you’ve been praying for for years who is in the next bed, scheduled for critical surgery.

The next time you need to find a cause, go to the original cause of all things, Jesus, and trust Him to affect your life in excellent ways. Let go of the need to be in control, and with it, the oppressive false responsibility for bad things happening.

I’m still going to get rid of those shoes. Spring is here, and I much prefer going barefoot!

Dishwasher Inspections

I’ve been inspecting dishes as I unload the dishwasher for many years now, perhaps you do too.  The thing is, the jets in that machine are fabulous at what they do, washing many dishes at the same time, but there are a few food bits that can hang on until they get some special attention from someone with a good eye and a soapy dish cloth, perhaps even one of those plastic scrapers. (I love my scraper!)

It occurred to me, we Christians are the same… It’s not that we need to be ‘saved’ twice, Jesus did all that was required in one shot.  He promised that whoever trusted in Him would belong to Him, done deal.  We who believe all “have our place in the cupboard”, as it were, but some have more stuck-on stains than others.  Some need special attention, just like the dishes.

The bad news is, we ‘dishes’ look at one another & start comparing….the plate sees a spot of milk in the mug, and the spoon sees a bit of egg between the tines of the fork, and we start refusing to share our cupboard space with one another.  It’s especially easy for those of us who were either well rinsed before the washing, or were barely used to hold a piece of toast.   How clean we are! Balderdash – the measure is spotless, and no one qualifies.

The good news is, Jesus inspects and gives that extra cleaning that’s required.  It may take a little time and some elbow grease, but He will get us cleaned up and useful.

There’s more good news – Jesus isn’t Doug.  Doug, you see, has a rather disposable view of dishes.  If he can’t get something clean enough to suit him, he’ll throw it away, smashing it to bits if possible.  (Doug doesn’t have many glass dishes now)  Jesus, on the other hand, will continue to pick and scrape and wipe and rinse, using as much time, soap, and as hot of water as He sees fit.  We may not enjoy all that attention, but we can rest assured that if we belong to Him, He will never give up & throw us away.

As you look at one another, or as you unload your dishwasher, remember:  Some of us have more set-in stains, so show some grace, even if it’s to yourself.

Grace is a Gift

He stood in his doorway, an old man sobbing like a small child, a millionaire baffled over a $5 can of mixed nuts.  A gift, for no reason other than an expression of care, was beyond comprehension for this successful businessman and world traveller. 

He understood trade well. Much of his money was gained by stock investments started years prior with $50 at his kitchen table.  Now, he and his wife were in an upscale apartment literally wallpapered with photos of their adventures: dining with the captain aboard the Queen Elizabeth II (twice), kissing the Blarneystone, safaris, tours, and places I’d only imagined I’d like to go.  Like his ancient grandfather Jacob, he had mastered the economy of tit-for-tat. Gifts were for the sake of good marketing or because it was culturally expected. His year-end mailing list was sorted into nicer cards for those who had sent nicer, lesser cards for those who had sent lesser, and a stack of small checks for charities with careful accounting for the tax deductions. He was every inch a business man, though much friendlier than old Ebeneezer Scrooge. His reputation among the “who’s who” of society was very important to him, as though even his friendships were a business venture. Another story suggests this to be true.

He could have purchased a whole case of the finest brand of nuts, perhaps exclusively almonds or cashews, without flinching. Yet, in all his wheeling and dealing, trading and investing, he simply couldn’t comprehend a gift without expectation. It overwhelmed him, and so he wept. The image is imprinted in my mind – I can still see his red smoking jacket and his facial expression. The caption in my personal gallery is “What profit is there to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” I don’t know, of course, the condition of his soul – but I know that in that moment, he was dumbstruck by a simple gift.

Between the time of considering this article and actually getting it typed up, I encountered another woman in another town. She just had to share with me that she had been praying for our mutual friend, in hopes that the One to whom we pray actually intervenes on behalf of ‘normal’ people. He did intervene, by the way, in our friend’s case and in mine, and I shared my story. Her response was that, being raised by a Jewish father, she couldn’t see herself accepting such a gift without somehow paying or trading for it. I understand that, and yet I remember my old friend and a can of nuts.

Pray for the Jewish people, that they learn of Grace before they have a face-to-face encounter with the Lord of the Law. What a pity to be so blessed and beloved, and miss out. This was Jesus’ thought as He wept over the city of Jerusalem, bustling with business, strict in their sanctity, and ignorant that Jehovah Himself was in a humble carpenter’s body, about to be mounted like a trophy to wood beams, to give us all the one gift we cannot trade or pay for – Grace. “How I’ve longed to gather you as a hen gathers chicks under her wings” He said, “but you would not, and so the outsiders are entering ahead of you.”

Pray for the Jewish people… and for all others who put their full confidence in their own resources. It is when we realize that we have nothing to trade that we begin to recognize Grace.

A Lesson in Grace

The budget wasn’t lining up.  Tapping into the last dregs of my savings accounts would drain them dry in a matter of months.  It would take only minutes, if I chose to clear off the credit cards, again.  Something needed to shake loose, and one hour before I made a drastic move, it did.  God had prepared a lodging arrangement for me, with a few personalized perks.

The trade, as I understood it from the coordinating party, was a bit of cleaning in place of traditional rent fees.  I was ready to roll up my sleeves and dive into the systematic extermination of dust-bunnies, to ‘pay my way’, so to speak.  Duster in hand, I began my quest, knowing there’s no way to repay their generous hospitality, but it’s only right to try.  This is a core principle my family, and my Bible, have taught me. 

During the few years since I moved to North Indiana and began relationships with my current group of people, they have endeavored to teach me another principle: Grace.

Now, grace is a word I used frequently back home – responsive grace that doesn’t react harshly when provoked.  I tried to teach it to those around me, with varying degrees of success.  But, there’s more…

Back to the cleaning… The lady of the house came into the room and announced her revised plan to go shopping with her daughter, then she noticed the duster in my hand. Reducing the next few minutes of dialogue and eye gaze, she essentially said that I share their home by grace, not contribution. The price of my shelter is simply to participate in the household, to come and go and share and rest and do, as it meets our schedules and priorities.

Of course I will still seek to contribute, but from the perspective of appreciation rather than a list of demanded chores. This, this is grace.

God provided Himself, the only solution to our impossible problem, and far too valuable for us to ever afford. We cannot earn the grace He has extended, though we sometimes wear ourselves and one another out in the effort. Instead, if we will stop & look into His eyes for a moment, we can rest from our list-making and bask in His provision. Strengthened by His unconditional love, we can show our appreciation by participating in His household, extending Grace to others.