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Surprised by grace

I returned the book* one day late. I knew it was late. I could have returned it the day before, but I had a few more pages to finish. So I kept it. Kept it from the next person on the list, who had put a hold on it, whose right it was to have it. To get to start reading it. I was delinquent and I knew it.

Sheepishly, I approached the white-haired woman at the checkout counter. Producing the book, I apologized for having kept it a day past its due date. I fingered the coins in my hand, ready to pay for my transgression. The woman smiled at me as she took the book. “You’re probably OK,” she told me, “We build in a day of grace.” After scanning in my return, she paused a moment and then declared, “You’re forgiven.”

Ho-ho! How delighted I was to hear those words! I admit I had a sudden urge to ask this woman to repeat herself so I could record her on video. Thought better of this, though, and left the library, smiling broadly, my quarters still in my pocket. I’m actually not sure how much the one day fine would have been had it been assessed, but not much. Certainly, my gratitude at being excused was out of proportion with the giddiness I felt. Not at getting away with something, but at confessing that thing and being surprised by my forgiveness.

That’s the singular thing about grace that has us kicking up our heels in delight. Because we don’t deserve it we don’t expect it so it catches us completely off guard. It’s a gift we didn’t see coming. Swoops in and sweeps us completely off our feet.

Funny, this instance has reminded me of the conversation Jesus had with Simon-Peter when he was belly-aching about the extravagant love shown Jesus by a woman “who had lived a sinful life.” Jesus asked Peter to reconsider her via a parable about a money-lender who forgave two debtors, neither of whom could pay; one owed 10X the amount owed by the other (Luke 7:41-48*). Then Jesus asked, Now which of them will love him (the money-lender) more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

Well, here I am, over the moon about my small debt forgiven while I celebrate this moment of grace. Until the sinner in me realizes that now that I know there will be a day of grace extended, I will very likely be tempted to take advantage of “my extra day” as if it were mine to take rather than His to give.

Apparently, the amazing thing about grace isn’t its quantity, quality or availability. It’s that it comes as a complete and utter surprise. After that, we’d do well to keep the gratitude gig going.

*Searching for Sunday, by the late Rachel Held Evans

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Ex-Poser

You know it when you read it.

You haven’t heard from this friend in a looong time, but it’s nice that they are trying to reconnect. You accept their friend request and they respond pleasantly enough. “Thanks for accepting my request. How are things going with you?”

You send a brief reply, intending to follow up more later. They come back with sloppy grammar (could be keyboarding error) but also phrasing this friend wouldn’t use. They end with a question, “Guess what?”

OK. She’s been hacked. How do I know? I’ve learned to recognize deceit when I read it. When we write, we expose ourselves. What we’re like, how we feel, where we’re from, what we’re up to.

Isn’t it magnificent that words can do that?

Biggest challenge going. When I put myself in print, I expose everything about myself. Do I have the boldness this hacker has?

Guess what?

I want to write the book my kids want to keep

My bookshelves are piled high with titles from the past. Books I purchased because they were assigned. Books I used for reference. Books I consulted. Books that taught me how. Books that showed me where. Books, books, books, books!

So many, in fact, that I couldn’t read many of the spines, because we were long past setting them neatly side by side. They were piled in front and slipped in between and laid on top. It had been a long time since we had visited these old friends. Couldn’t we dispense with a few?

In fact, we could. After sorting and sifting, the girls and I filled several boxes with the books whose time had come and gone. They were entertaining back then, but now they could belong to someone else. Except a few.

book shelves for kids

As I looked on, my girls set a aside a few of the books, a very select bunch. Some hard cover, some soft copy, some thick and tall and some thin and flimsy. The reflection of each of these shone in their eyes, a recollection, a fond memory, or a connection to the characters, I’m not sure.

“Oh Mom, we have to save Angelina Ballerina,” my nearly 25 year old daughter said.

“And Tacky, we have to keep him,” said my 18 year old, recalling the protagonist penguin who was the hero of her second grade classroom.

Somehow, over these many years, the impact of the stories has remained. Just picking up the book stirs feeling and memories they don’t want to give away. That feeling is theirs and not meant for another. These are keepers, these few. We must save them.

I must confess, there were a few I set in the keep pile as well. A Light in the Attic, Winnie the Pooh, Make Way for Ducklings, and a few others. Upstairs in her room, my middle daughter has sequestered many titles that are too precious even to risk to the basement shelves. Among them, The Pokey Little Puppy, I know this without even looking. That was the book she pretended to read to me because she had memorized all the words. It’s value is but memory and yet it’s alive and well twenty plus years later.

Now there is plenty of space on our shelves to see the scant collection of titles that remain. I scan the remnants and smile. What treasures these are.

I’m sure that their authors didn’t set out to write a “classic” or “great literature.” They just started with an idea and a page. And a love for children. Surely, that’s so, because they are loving them still, in a way still so tangible that simply hefting the book brings it back.

I want to love like that.

I want to write the book my kids want to keep.

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