Archive for December, 2014

Advent: The Coming of Grace


“Every hour is grace.”  Nobel Peace Prize winner and famous author Elie Wiesel said that.  I’m not familiar with the context, but I suspect his definition of grace may be different than mine.  Still, I can’t get the quote out of my head.  It seems to capture the essence of my life.   

For me, as I’ve written elsewhere, this is a season of grace.  A season both on my calendar and in my life.  I seem to come across grace everywhere. 

I recently read a fascinating novel entitled Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger.  There’s a lot about grace woven into this piece of fiction.  A quote from the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus about “the awful grace of God” provides background music for the whole story.

I’ve also been working on a new retreat topic: Gritty Grace.   I’ve been combing through scripture verses on grace—124 of them, it turns out.  I’ve also come across some great quotes on grace.  I like how Max Lucado put it: “God answers the mess of life with one word: Grace.”  One of my favorite Philip Yancey books is What’s So Amazing about Grace?  I remembered this recently when I saw the title of his latest book: Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? I can’t wait to read it.

Then I exchanged emails with our son-in-law about his most recent sermon.  “This one was harder to prepare, he commented.   “It was on grace . . . so maybe it should be hard to understand?”  Richie has a way of saying some pretty profound things in short sentences—a gift I’d like to have!  But it got me thinking. 

Grace is indeed hard to understand.  God’s relentless, remarkable, amazing grace.  Free, but not cheap. Costly grace. Oh, how it cost Him. Words from an old hymn come to mind: “Amazing love! How can it be?  That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?”   I resonate with Anne Lamott’s words: ”I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

Grace: It came with Christmas.  The Gospel writer John heralds its coming: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17)

This is a good season to be thinking about grace.  Of course, that’s true of any season.  But Advent may help us focus.  I’m finally reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas—way behind many of you, I suspect, as it came out in 2013.  I’ve just started the book, and grace has found me again. I love how she describes Advent: “This slow unfurling of grace.” (p. 5)

Wishing each of you a “slow unfurling of grace” in the days ahead.

Such a Good Mother

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I saw her in the food court at the mall the other night.  Actually, I saw her little girl first.  Precious snow-white tights with buttons and bows, squiggling across the floor near the table.  So typical, I smiled.  How many times did I get my little girl all dressed up to go out—and before I knew it, whatever was pristine and adorable was wriggling across or into something that might turn it black and torn?  But, oh, such fun in the process.  Isn’t that part of what being a child is all about?

Then I saw her mother.  It turns out we knew each other, from a local Mom to Mom.  I walked over to their table to chat a moment. “How old are you?”  I asked the cute little girl.  “She’s two,” a voice said.  Lucky girl has a cute—and helpful—older brother.  Lucky mom has two adorable little kids.

But I know more about this mom.  We’ve talked before.  We have a lot in common.  Her very gifted husband is an oncologist, like mine.  And this very gifted husband works all the time, it seems—as did mine.  This mom is alone a lot with the kids, as I was.

We talk some more.  She tells me of another mom she’s getting to know whose husband is also an oncologist.  The two of them have lots and lots in common.  “You really need to know about this program I go to,” this young mom has told her friend.  The woman who wrote the material is married to an oncologist, too.”  The new friend laughs back:  “Oh, Mom to Mom is my lifeline. I go to it at another church.” 

Back to the food court.  Woody and I sit at a nearby table, and I watch as this patient mom talks and laughs with her children, and buys them an ice cream to share.  Then she packs them both up again, along with the diaper bag and assorted other mom baggage, and pushes the stroller wearily (she’s a beautiful young woman who looks great, but I recognize mom-fatigue) toward the door out of the mall. Miles to go before bedtime.

One mom. Two kids. Not much conversation with anyone over the age of four.  I am taken back to that same food court many years ago.  It looked very different then (as did I!), and I was plus one child.  But the feelings flood back. 

I wonder if she knows what a good mother she is.  Just a night eating fast food at the food court.  Just a chance to get out of the house.  Just one night not to cook.  A sanity saver, perhaps.  I know the feeling.  But still, conversations are being had, questions are being answered, everyday memories are being made.  This is a good mother.

I wonder if she knows it.  Just before she leaves, I stop back by her table.  “You are such a good mother,” I tell her.  I hope she believes me.  I hope my own daughter and daughters-in-law believe me when I tell them that, too.  It’s true.  It’s just so hard to see, sometimes, in the ordinary, everyday, tough-stuff mom moments.

I hope you have someone to tell you.  And a lifeline—like Mom to Mom.  Just in case, let me say it, and ask God to give you grace to believe it, even in the mall food courts of your life:

You’re such a good mother.

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