Sunday, February 7, 2016

Grace is an Open Door

"The parental relationship is supposed to be built upon unconditional love—a gift that cannot be bought and cannot be earned. It sits outside the logic of meritocracy and is the closest humans come to grace." (David Brooks)

God is so generous with His grace that it sometimes seems radically out of balance with our good works.

On January 31, 2016, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning as my wife (39 weeks pregnant) got out of bed. When I reached out to grab her hand and ask if she is OK (she just needed some water), a voice spoke to my heart with a message as random as it was clear: "Don't reject the gift of grace I will give you."

True to His word, God has spoiled us with gift after graceful gift this past week. But I don't understand why because I know I don't deserve them (my wife, on the other hand…). As David Brooks says above, God's love is so deep and His mercy overflowing that it surpasses the stale meritocratic logic of our world.

Blessed by Grace

At 3:30 a.m. the next morning, my wife woke me up again--this time to say she was in labor. We made our way in the 20-degree early morning Utah darkness to the hospital, where she gave birth 14 hours later to our third daughter, whose middle name we made Grace. And what a pure, priceless gift she is.

Other gifts came from dozens of angels among us. These include:

  • Nurses and doctors (mostly women) who blessed us with their tender care and skill. It's a blessing to have medical professionals who listen with their heart.
  • Our Christian neighbors and family members who brought us dinner for five consecutive evenings after we returned home from the hospital.
  • My parents and siblings. My Mom watched our two older girls from Sunday night to Wednesday morning so I could be in the hospital with my wife. My sisters Angie and Ginger drove my Mom to our home (a two-hour roundtrip drive) on Sunday night so she could be here. And my Dad made the same drive Wednesday morning after work to pick up my Mom. On Tuesday afternoon we received an unexpected long-distance delivery from my always-charitable sister Nikki (who lives in New York)--a delicious fruit bouquet full of bright yellows (pineapple), oranges (cantaloupe), greens (honey dew) and reds (strawberry).

The prayers of friends and family cover this birth experience like a warm blanket on a cold winter night (going from two kids to three feels frigid at times). A week before our labor, a neighbor from our congregation prayed for us in our home. He asked God to bless the doctors and nurses to perform their duties with the utmost skill. And in our Sunday School class the day before my wife gave birth, a 14-year-old girl prayed that all would go well with our labor. And we know more prayers, both silent and spoken, were said in our behalf. All these supplications may seem small things to those who voiced them, but they filled (and continue to fill) our souls with inconceivable comfort.

A popular Christian song says, "God put a million, million doors in the world / For his love to walk through / One of those doors is you." One of God's chief forms of love is His boundless grace.

I'm grateful that so many wide-open doors of love and grace surround us.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Earthly Realities

Only hours removed from heaven,
your eyes are shut as if in intense remembering.
Your ruddy, serene, sleepy face scrunches briefly into worry,
punctuated by puppy-like whimpers.

What would I see if I could peer into
the movie screen of your mind?

Perhaps these started as glorious pre-mortal dreams—
fresh and warm memories of
thrilling celestial playgrounds,
laughter-filled discussions with grandmas and grandpas,
all-you-could-eat heavenly buffets,
ineffably warm embraces of Heavenly Parents—

All suddenly snuffed out
by wintry reminders of
what is coming—
the cold realities
of mortality.

Ah, but there I see you crack a half smile!
I'm glad you've remembered the other half—
Adam and Eve fell so you can live,
and you are here to know
tremendous joy.

Samuel B. Hislop