Tuesday’s Theme: Cornerstones of Our Faith
Grace is finding a light shining on a cold, dark, stormy night. These past months with the Pandemic have felt much like a cold, stormy night. Zooms with family and friends have been a godsend for me. There are four weekly zoom gatherings that have helped me make it through this time. I’ve come to measure my days by them. I’ve come to count on them for support and for laughter. These weekly practices have become a touchstone for me, keeping me in balance when my days feel off-kilter.
One of these is the Sunday night family zoom. We have been gathering each week since the spring. My aunt, sisters, cousins, and the next generation (cous-nieces and cous-nephews) have made up the roster, although the role is never called. We are truly a mixed bag of nuts every week. And the graceful part is that every week it feels like a Balm in Gilead. Last night I put my two sisters and six cousins on the spot and asked them to tell me what they think of when they think of grace. This is what I heard them saying:
Karen (Olympia, WA) told a story of how small the world can be and how somehow everything is connected. She and a dear friend, Elizabeth attended Holy Trinity Lutheran in Port Angeles for years. This past summer, Elizabeth’s nephew was in Minneapolis participating in protests around the killing of George Floyd. He was injured by teargas and was taken to a church that was providing assistance. The church where they took Elizabeth’s nephew was Holy Trinity Lutheran, a sister church to Port Angeles. Karen spoke to “grace that happens in circular ways that sometimes we can never understand, we just know is there;”
Betsey (Clarkston, GA) used the word `serendipity,’ saying “Sometimes things just happen in unexpected way, and the best word for me is grace;”
Lisa (Santa Barbara) told a story of the Spirit of Generosity. Years ago, Lisa and some friends were on a tourists’ bus in Hawaii, going from one side of the island to the other. Lisa said, “The bus driver seemed so happy. He knew he had a captive audience. He talked about how wonderful it was that they were all together in Hawaii, that it was such a beautiful day and that they were going to spend the day on the most beautiful beach. `You will be so happy if you always lead with the Spirit of Generosity,’ he’d said to them.” Lisa said, “I’ve always thought about that being grace;”
Julie (Carpenteria, CA) reminded us of the story of when our Aunt Sis was killed in a car accident. We’d been afraid that she’d suffered and had felt alone, and we thought we would never know the answer to that. “A week later, Les you learned in the most fantastic way that a man you knew happened to be at the CVS across the street from the accident and had run out to be with her as she died. Grace is acceptance and allowance;”
Thomas (S.B.) said, “Grace is acceptance;”
Chuck (L.A.) said, “There but by the grace of God go I. Other words for grace for me are compassion, forgiveness and kindness.” He told us about a movie he had seen, Unbroken that was a good example of his understanding of grace.
Claudia (Decatur, GA) used the word `softening’ to speak of grace. She said, “If ever there is a tense, difficult situation, insert grace and then somehow there is a softening that comes and settles in. `Grace’ can be a one-word prayer.” She added, “Remember when Bets got her golden retriever years ago and named her `Grace Abounds’? `Grace abounds’ can be a two-word prayer;”
Jeanette (Oakland) said, “Grace speaks to patience and tolerance in this time. Grace holds hope for all of us. Grace brings us tolerance when others don’t wear masks or are mean to someone or impatient, grace comes right to that place;”
Andy (cousin-in-law in Olympia) said, “Grace is forgiveness. It is letting go of anger, sharp feelings. It is a softening, like Claud said of all of our hard edges.”
And of course, grace found me yesterday as I was writing about it. I was giving a Spanish-speaking dad a tour of the kitchen on the cardiac floor. For those twenty or so minutes, I had been communicating with him through a Spanish-speaking interpreter on my phone. When we were back at the bedside, in somewhat broken English, the dad said, “You and I can talk also in English. It is good practice for me to keep speaking it. We can try to do that next time we talk. I understood almost everything you were saying to the phone. It is good practice for me to speak English with you.” This kind man who is going through one of the hardest chapters of his family’s life story came three-quarters of the way across the bridge to meet me. Grace abounded in that moment for me. How amazing.
I love my family. I love that they jump into the deep end with me. I love their lenses on the world. And I love how I will now be borrowing their lenses as I am continuing to make my way in and through this Pandemic time that is held in our season of Advent.
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"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.