I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Where Your Treasure Is

Ah, Santiago… searching for the elusive “treasure”.

It’s always where we least expect it, isn’t it?

And, you know what the Bible says… “Your heart will be where your treasure is.” -Matthew 6:21

Yeah. Tis true.

Tonight, I leave you with a line from a book that will always be considered one of the Best Books Ever, The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho.

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Oh that humanity would strive for this:

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

Indeed.

To read other posts on the Best Books Ever series I’m writing for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below.

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A Gift Indeed

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea back in 1955. Here’s what astounds me about good books written by good authors: they are timeless. The principles hold despite the changing tides of culture.

And it’s certainly true of Gift from the Sea.

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The fact that she names chapters after shells she finds during her weeklong vacation, alone, immediately drew me in.

Getting alone and digging in to the deep places that hurt or peeling back the layers of doubt is the only way I have ever found to alleviate the angst that doubt brings. Or maybe more importantly, to begin the healing of hurts.

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.”

It surely is. Is that true for you, too?

I remember reading this book the summer I was to be married. It was the month before our wedding and I had a treasured handful of blissful days reading on the beach in my hometown before becoming Mrs. P.  I soaked in each sentence, with the sun, as the ocean waves lapped at my feet.

The day is burned in my memory. Literally. As I neglected to slather sunscreen on the tops of my feet that morning. I hobbled around for days full of the stirring words Lindbergh littered each chapter with.

One sentence in particular held deep significance to me. As a soon-to-be bride, I was buoyed by my relationship to this soon-to-be husband. He kept me afloat on many levels. His logic to my feeling. My adventure to his stability. His calm to my storm. When I read the following, I exhaled with a truthful knowing:

“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”

Jesus did this for me. My husband, as well.

Those good, healthy and loving relationships that provide a guidebook are vital. Lindbergh highlights the importance of taking care of self by replenishing, forgiving, and loving. And then, she provides beautiful imagery to spur on the pouring out of all of the filling up.

Love, once again. And I took it in and tucked it into my heart as I headed out on the grand adventure of marriage.

This book was a gift indeed.

 To read other posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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Passionate Fiction

After reading a fictional account of a woman so desperate to hide her beauty that she would pour Drano on her face to end it all, I realized that Lisa Samson’s characters would never bring me comfort.

I’ve now read every piece of fiction that Lisa Samson has ever written. Not one character or story left me comfortable. But, each character certainly did beckon me into their hearts. Every one has invited me to question my own motivations – spiritually and personally.

And the stories that Mrs. Samson concocts are riveting.

In the The Passion of Mary-Margaret, I was moved to tears. It wasn’t just the stunningly crafted sentences or the angst of longing for a life that isn’t meant for you. It wasn’t the harrowing way the main character, Mary-Margaret, and her precious Jude ultimately reunite. What could possibly go wrong when a nun and a man living in the red-light district come together?

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Tears fell as I saw my propensity to love only on my own terms. They fell again as I saw the enormity of shame’s shadow on a person’s soul. And they fell, yet again, as I could only imagine sacrifice on the level that Mary-Margaret was able to pour out.

The best books do that, don’t they? They transport you into a world where anything is possible. Even ultimate sacrifice. And it somehow makes perfect sense.

I will tell you that this book was not wrapped up in a nice neat bow of finality. That played with my mind for a good long while after I read the last word. But the end is just right for these characters.

Lisa Samson is a writer who is expert at pointing to the light refracted in the midst of dark lives. Our humanity, Samson constantly points out, is no match for God’s Divinity. And His mercy and grace take forms we can only begin to make out in the murk of ordinary living. In the very first pages of this, one of my favorite pieces of fiction, she writes:

“The mercy God gives us is our own  to receive, and while sometimes it overlaps with others’ like the gentle waves of the bay on which I now sit, for the most part, the sum and substance of it, the combination of graces, is as unique as we are.”

Truly. I have experienced this for myself time and again. Reading it only heightens my awareness of just how often Grace comes and mercy reigns.

And once again, I’m drawn to a book where Love wins. I probably always will be.

As I’m also continually drawn to Grace. And, I pray I always will be.

Yes indeedy.

If I could break out in song, I would totes start singing “Livin’ on a Prayer”, right now, because I’m halfway there! My participation in the Write 31 Days challenge was tentative at best, this year. But, I heeded the call to just write, and I’m so thankful. If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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Me and Mrs. Who

If you know what a tesseract is, then you know where I’m going with today’s book choice. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of those books I reread every few years. And, each time I crack open the book, I discover an entirely new perspective on the story.

When I was pregnant with Sweetboy, I was reminded that there are always helpers along the way. That truth was a mighty encouragement to this soon-to-be-mama’s heart.

Five years later, when Sweetgirl was newly brought home from the hospital, I was keenly aware of Mrs. Whatsit’s sacrifice. She was a star, for crying out loud! Nobility took on a new appeal as I looked at sacrifice from yet another point of view.

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Meg, the plucky protagonist of A Wrinkle in Time, has always resonated deeply with me. Her struggles, and the lessons she had to learn on her quest to find her father were familiar.The ideas that gave her head and heart the most trouble were ones I wrestled with: doubt, ambiguity, uniqueness, and creativity. Meg also must come to understand that something greater than words, saves…

Love.

And then, there are the parallels to the inner thought life of a writer. Writing is a labor, for me.  Of love, yes. But, attempting to put words to thought can be excruciating. There are more than a few references to difficulty expressing thoughts. I get that. Mrs. Who might be my favorite character in any story, ever. She simply finds it too difficult to put her thoughts into words so she resorts to speaking the quotes of others. Oh, Mrs. Who… I so get you.

Aunt Beast, the name alone is fantasticalwisely said:

“…it is not easy at all to put things the way your mind shapes them.”

Indeed.

While this book is geared toward YA (young adult), I think it is timeless and ageless. Have you read it? How old were you? Do you remember any characters? Do tell!

Click the button below to see other posts in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days challenge.

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Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

One Wonderful Kindness

Jesus calls us to be light. Not to be liked.

The two words may sound the same, and I’ve done my fair share of confusing the two as I seek to be liked light in my community, but they are different. This side of Glory, they are so very different.

Those of us who long to be more like Jesus and less like us, are also called to a higher standard of caring for one another. Both the other that we know, identify with, and like, as well as the other that we don’t.

I come a little late to this discussion, but I’ve been giving The Pool Party incident a lot of thought. As I’ve wrestled with strong feelings about both sides of the story as it was initially presented in the media, I realized what it comes down to, for me. This is a story about the depth of our willingness to forgive each other and then pursue reconciliation.

And smack-dab In the middle of this whole news story, I find myself faced with the opportunity to, as a fellow writer I deeply admire recently wrote, “stay at the table”. As I read this article by Deidre, over at the Washington Post, I was reminded that we are invited to spread the Good News that Jesus came to restore.

By living that way.

By speaking that way.

And every single time we choose to love, by not engaging in an argument over who is on the right side of fence, and why, Love wins. Each time we lock eyes with the human on the other side of the table and stay in it, determined to find where our humanity intersects with theirs, Love wins.

Call me an optimist, but, I want Love to win.

Ultimately, of course, it does.

But, I’d like to see it win a few times here on this side of Glory, too.

On this side of the fence.

So, with each new conversation about who was where they shouldn’t have been, and when, or who should teach respect and who should learn it, I choose Love.

I choose to remember how many times I made choices that were so very wrong. Yet someone, somewhere, showed me kindness anyway. I choose to recall the times I should have been in control, but wasn’t, and was given grace.

And still are.

I choose to remember that it doesn’t have to be a “they’re wrong” or “we’re right” kind of discussion. It could be, it should be a discussion about how we can love one another better. It can be another golden opportunity to show wonderful kindness, much like we have been shown.

Not a dismissal of sin.

Not an ignorance of peril.

Not a diss of this or that or them.

But Love. And grace.

Like we first understood it, the first time grace was poured out over us and our own mess.

I might not understand the daily perils of being part of this group or that organization, but I surely do know that God’s grace is one wonderful kindness. I’ve experienced it a time or a thousand.

Have you?

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Oh God…let me pass on your wonderful kindness to another.

Help us all to pass it on, one to another.

Yes indeedy.