Grace Upon Grace

by Katie on July 2, 2019

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:16-17 (NRSV)

I was a senior in high school when I attended LifeLight with my youth group. Camping out in tents, meals on the grill, and cars humming in the background to charge cell phones! LifeLight was a multi-day Christian music festival in the Middle of Nowhere, South Dakota. It was my first introduction to Family Force 5, the inspiration for purses made out of ties, undercooked frozen pizza on the grill, and the weekend of flattened air mattresses.

It was also the weekend of amazing friends, goosebump inducing moments, and laughter that echoed for years to come.

On the final night of the festival, Chris Tomlin was the headliner on the main stage. Our youth group sat toward the back with blankets spread out over prickly grass and exhausted heads resting on the shoulders of friends. Despite the desperate need for sleep, worshiping with 20,000+ in a field was an unforgettable and moving experience.

At some point I pulled my focus from the stage and looked around, taking in the moment I wasn’t going to experience again any time soon. Behind us, lit up by the light of the moon, was a tall cross. It was skinny and looked somewhat fragile, but it was there – a steadfast reminder of the love of Christ, holding us tightly and never letting go. Filled with a reminder of grace, I quickly returned my attention to the performance, determined not to miss a moment.

Wandering back to our campsite, that cross was always in view. No matter which direction we turned, how far we walked, I could see it. It was as though the cross watched over us, keeping us safe and loved, holding our burdens tightly and carrying them with us through the night.

At the campsite, I sat outside on a log for several minutes, not quite ready to give up this reminder of grace that was keeping warm. Staring at this reminder of what had been done for me, I cried.

I cried tears of joy for the love I was gifted by the Creator.
I cried tears of sorrow for all of the days I doubted and feared that I was unlovable.
I cried tears of relief, knowing I wasn’t walking alone.
I cried tears of thanksgiving, knowing grace gave me a second chance.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that grace exists, that God created this world, these people, and called it good.

But I think back to the cross. The tall, lanky cross. It’s a symbol of hope for so many of us, a reminder of promises and goodness. But the cross is a source of pain, of fear for Jesus and the people of his time. Yet, through Jesus’ death on it – a death that was never deserved or earned – it has been redeemed. Just as the cross is never the same, neither am I.

Some days I’m scared… of who I am, of the mistakes I have made and will make, of whether or not I can ever deserve the people, the love, the grace I’ve been given.

Yet, I remember that we live in an assurance of grace upon grace, a never ending stream of love and redemption. Grace isn’t something we can control, but rather we receive it. To fully receive this gift, we must accept it. We must know that grace is neither deserved nor earned, but holds steadfast as we strive to live in the light of faith.

In the promise of grace and its effect on who we choose to be, how we choose to live.

All in response to the gift of grace upon grace.

Forever and ever.

Amen.

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One Piece

by Katie on June 26, 2019

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to Gods and the piece of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)

I have gone skiing exactly one time in my life. In elementary school my childhood best friend Lizzy and her mom offered to let me ride along and ski at the towering, oh-so challenging Mt. Crescent in Iowa. Yep, that’s right, Iowa. Because the Midwest skis, too. 

Upon arrival, we rented our skis and immediately set to work in a class of other novices. We moved in circles, trying to keep our balance and move gracefully, our gazes focused on the giant hill holding dozens of talented, skilled people gliding to its base. It was the point of our trip. The goal set before us. And if I had anything to say about it, I was going to make it down that mountain. (And, I use the term mountain loosely. It is in Iowa after all.)

Hopefully in one piece.

We took a break for lunch and then it was time. Lizzy was nervous, but I found a courage I didn’t know existed and rode up the lift with her mom. We got to the top and the butterflies in my stomach were going crazy with loop-de-loops and quick flutters. I stared down the hill with tunnel vision and couldn’t hear anything but the wind blowing around me and my own heart beating much too quickly. 

And off I went. 

Except no one told me that once you started moving you would just gain speed unless you made the little ‘V’ with the skis they had taught us in class or swooped side to side down the slope. Or maybe I just hadn’t listened to those instructions. Because it wasn’t long before I was rolling head-over-skis, unable to regain control and terrified that this was it.

When the rolling finally stopped people surrounded me. They were asking if I was okay and helping to make sure there were no injuries. In my shock and confusion, I allowed someone to help me up and into a chair. And out loud, I vowed to never, ever do that again.

But I was still in one piece.

Sometimes life snowballs. One struggle after the other, sending us down a hill head-over-skis, and when we get to the bottom, the risk of pain and fear of going back starts over. It can feel like a never ending, overwhelming cycle.

Sometimes it’s lonely. Living in the unknown and uncontrollable is challenging. We muster up the courage to step forward another day and sometimes we feel unstoppable, but others wind up with just another blow. The fear of falling apart as though we’re coming undone at the seams invades and we just want to take our skis off and vow never again.

But we’re still in one piece.

Because even when it feels like we aren’t whole, God desires a wholeness for us that is like no other. The reality is that stumbles and falls are human nature. It’s the realness of sin in this world; it’s the evolution of God’s good creation. And sometimes that doesn’t look exactly how we’d like it to. The truth is…God doesn’t always like it either.

But we are held firm and secure in the promise of God’s love, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit advocating for us. Those promises renew us in every minute of every day. In them we find courage to do both great and difficult things. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We try again. We can trust that we are never alone, that God is with us, in us, and working through us.

The brokenness? It doesn’t last forever. I hurt for days after that ski trip. But eventually the soreness and bruising faded. I was up and running again. I was still whole – just as I was created and called to be.

Even in our worst moments, we are called beloved. A new day comes. We are restored because grace wins every time. God holds space for us to hurt, hurts with us, and renews us because the love of God is greater than all things. And for that, we can give thanks and rejoice.

With God’s help and unending love, we are in one piece.

Amen.

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