Grace Makes Beauty Out of Ugly Things

1374033_79721327On Sunday we are moving past my love of indie-rock bands that as my wife would say, “no one knows or loves but you”. To a mainstream giant band. We are going to be looking and listening to a song called “Grace” by this band you may have heard of…U2.

But before we get there, and you all send me the U2 song you wish I was using, I want to share with you one line from that song.

Bono sings this, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things”

And I just think that’s both so true and also beautiful. That is what grace does. And come Sunday we are going to be talking about grace, how to show grace, and how to live grace. But before we get there I think it’s important to reflect on the power of grace.

So if you can – take a moment and think about this – what ugly thing in your life has grace made beautiful? Because before I can convince you to share grace, we need to become convinced of the power of grace.

“Hudson why are my arms so long?”

Today I want to talk a little bit about a picture my son Hudson drew. Because it’s really meaningful to me, but also revealing of something to me too. Here it is:

11011097_10155314245870328_5885636940752658802_n

He drew this during his quiet time, came and gave it to me, and said, “Daddy that’s a picture of you and me hugging.” Melt your heart type of stuff as a dad.

But it got me thinking – when did we stop doing this?

When did we grow out of doing this?

We so often take the closest relationships to us for granted, rather than cherishing them. That’s what Hudson was doing. He was trying to show me that our relationship matters to him. He was trying to show me that he loves me. He was trying to show me that he thinks about me and appreciates  me. When did we stop doing that for others?

So often our tendency is to neglect or take for granted those closest to us. We don’t send thank you notes to our spouses, but we do to our employees. We don’t send flowers to our parents, but we do to our friends or new potential clients. What I’m saying is that somewhere along the way we maybe have lost something that kids seem to intrinsically know. That relationships are to be appreciated. Appreciated through gifts, cards, thoughts, actions, flowers, and of course, drawings with long arms and hockey stick feet.

So my challenge for all of us is this: to learn from the kids around you and appreciate your closest relationships – and here is the key – make sure they know it. Do something special today for them and appreciate them.

Because sometimes a little thing, like a drawing during quiet time, can just make your day.

Long Days…And Gifts of Grace

1249444_83938048This week I had a long day…I mean a really long day. Sometimes this happens. The day started out with nothing planned. But by the end of it I had met with upwards of 15 people, with 5 groups of people being in major crisis or really important decisions being made. Also, I’m an introvert which means I had really hit my quota of conversations for the day. I didn’t get home till it was well after dark and supper, and even then had a pile of emails and critical phone calls to return.

Have you ever had a day like this? A day that jumps out of nowhere. A day you didn’t plan for, and a day that just seems to keep going? Have you ever had God show up on a day like this? Were you looking for him in the midst of it?

Because here is the thing – this day was important. Every one of the meetings, prayers, and conversations was critical. There was nothing wasted in it, but it was long, it was tiring, and as I drove into my driveway, knowing it wasn’t even close to being finished, I was drained. On top of that I know that my wife had a long difficult day with the boys.

And as I get out of the car in the rain, and feeling drained, my neighbour walks up to me and says, “I hear you’ve had a really tough and long day. I’m here to watch your kids so your wife can have a break, and you can finish what you need to.”

How beautiful and amazing is that?

And I know the question you’re all asking, and the answer is “no”. No I’m not moving and you can’t have my neighbours. But it just reminded me of the beauty of community, of friends, of family. This is the type of community we dream of having, neighbourhoods we want to live in, and friends we want to have. So rather than dreaming about it, why not start to create it? Why not be the neighbour who shows up with help. The friend who gives when the day has been long.

Because I can tell you – it changed my night. It was still a long day, but I saw God all through it, especially in the help from my neighbour. So why not be that type of neighbour, the one who blesses and changes lives. Because I can tell you from personal experience – those types of neighbours matter.

Pure Joy and Pure Wonder

This is a picture of Hudson. I think it just shows pure joy. I love this picture because it is who Hudson truly is. He is a boy with a lot of joy.

1014160_10153073173975643_332362380_n

And to be honest Hudson shows his joy and thankfulness a lot. His prayers at supper and lunch tend to be long as he thanks God for everything he can think of. They are full of joy of what he has done in the day and hopes to do.

What amazes me is how much he has to thank God for, things I don’t even think of. He thanks God for all his cars (often by name…so it takes a while). He thanks God for our family, for Grandma and Nana and Papa (often also praying that he will go there on Tuesday), and for sunshine, for his backpack, for Skylanders, and for everything else.

I got to wondering if part of the reason Hudson is so joyful in this picture is because he is able to be so “present” to things?

Every experience for Hudson is like a brand new experience. He enters into with eyes-wide-open. We have been to the Splash Pad in that picture dozens of times, but he loves it like it’s new each and every time. There is a sense of wonder that permeates his life. There is a sense of joy that spills out.

I wonder when was the last time I felt like that?

When was the last time you looked like that picture?

I think this is something to strive for. I think this is something to seek, about being at a place of pure joy. So this week practice being thankful, practice entering into familiar places and relationships with wonder and awe. Practice being fully present. And if none of those things work. Why not try running through a splash pad…

“The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive…I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me”. Abraham Joshua Heschel