First off, I want to wish all of you a prosperous and joyful new year. May you know in your heart and believe fully that your best – and most blessed – days are yet ahead. (This is bedrock truth for all Christians of all ages in any circumstance.)
As Sandi and I have talked and prayed about 2015 we feel led to this word: Grace. We are positioning our hearts and minds to receive and extend God’s grace this year. It is our intention to:
- Look for God’s grace
- Find God’s grace
- Follow God’s grace
- Extend God’s grace
This began to settle in my mind last Sunday. We just completed the grueling 16 hour drive from Michigan back to Pawleys Island the day before. We slept in that morning, sat down for waffles, bacon and eggs as a family, and then went to church. Usually Grant has to hustle into work on Sunday mornings, and then meet us at church, but he took the day off. There was no rushing.
After church we planned to use a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants that the kids bought Sandi for Christmas – but we were still full from all of those waffles! So, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk the beach. It was sunny and almost 70 degrees…on December 28th! After 46 years living in Michigan this was too good to be true. We somehow realized that this moment was a gift from a Father who delights in giving good gifts to his children. So, with grateful hearts we simply received it. And I felt something inside of me exhale…
As we finished lunch the dessert question was posed by our waitress. (Did I mention that our favorite restaurant is also on the pricey side? The dessert by itself could buy a number 5 – Biggie Sized – at Wendys!) All eyes turn to me at this critical moment. If anyone is going to shoot down the prospect of dessert at a restaurant that provides actual silverware it will be tight-wad Dad! But this amazing thing happened; instead of feeling anxiety over the bill and how it will impact our budget I felt like being generous. I told the kids to go for it! We stayed another 10 minutes while they devoured their shake and we enjoyed just being together. Feeding your children is an obligation, but buying dessert is grace. After basking in God’s grace all morning and afternoon, I wanted to extend it.
So, what exactly is grace? As a high school student I was given this definition:
I still like this definition – it is Gospel-centered, Biblical, and memorable. It elevates Christ and reminds me of my rich inheritance as God’s child.
Another insight? Tim Chester says:
“God is gracious…so I don’t have to prove myself.”
I have come to love this concept in recent months! It reminds me that grace can never be earned or repaid. As Dallas Willard said: “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
So, as Sandi and I look for God’s grace in 2015, here are some bread crumbs we will pay better attention to:
- People taking precedence over projects. As a recovering “get-out-of-my-way-so-I-can-get-it-done” leader, I am realizing that since I have nothing to prove (or to earn) I can relax more often. Yes, I would always prefer to get it all done today and move on to the next project tomorrow, but it’s OK if things get delayed because I spend more time in conversation, or say yes to playing catch with Grant, or decide to cook the kids fried egg sandwiches for breakfast. When it comes to getting the job done and loving the people God has placed in my life – there is grace enough for both. As I release my compulsion to prove myself through productivity, I find more room for relational engagement and enjoyment.
- Unscheduled time. Sandi and I were looking at our property the other day, dreaming about what kind of landscaping we might do this spring. As we walked in front of the house I noticed the “set backs”. Set backs refer to the spacing that must exist (enforced by zoning laws) between your house and the properties around it. Good zoning laws result in good spacing, or green space. One of the things we love about this neighborhood is the green space. And the funny thing is that green space serves no utilitarian purpose. You can’t build on it. You can’t really make it productive in any way. It just is. Green space gives margin, visual enjoyment, and for some reason makes us feel more relaxed simply by its presence. Unscheduled, unhurried time is like green space for the soul. Saying “no” to a crammed schedule means saying “yes” to more margin and green space. And I always find God’s grace there. A good example from our walk on the beach the other day? Because we were not rushing off to the next thing we took about 30 minutes to meet and talk with a man named Bruce about his dog. He has a Boykin Spaniel, and we are seriously considering getting a Boykin this spring. Phone numbers were exchanged, a breeder was recommended in a nearby town, and we made a connection with a neighbor who lives across the street from some mutual friends. Those are bread crumbs of grace – and we intend to follow them to see where they lead.
I was talking with a dear friend last week about our observation that as some people get older, they get more cranky. But, other people mellow out and become more gracious. My dad mellowed out in his 60s – and it was a beautiful thing to experience as a son. I want to follow my dad’s example and grow in grace and graciousness as I near the half century mark. Our word for 2015 is “Grace” – what is yours?