"Experiences with God aren't limited to church altars. Many experiences aren't connected to Jesus. I've encountered God's grace in the most surprising places. Sitting around a campfire and watching the stars. Standing on a beach as a storm rolled in. Having my friends gather at my house during a tragedy. A letter of encouragement arriving on a day I've decided to quit. God delights in taking such common experiences and filling them with his presence. The more I have experienced this love, the more I am persuaded that God extends such grace to every person, not just me...
"Trusting our experiences with God will always change us...
"...we are all children of God longing for a grace we find far too rarely...
"What has been your experience with God?"
--from the book, "If Grace Is True" by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland
Have I mentioned how much I love this book? I think tonight, for my ten things I am thankful for, I'll be listing ten experiences I have had with God that have shaped my relationship and my faith. I'll need the day to ponder... So check back tonight! (And I'd love for you to tell me one or two of yours, too! We learn so much from each other's faith journeys...)
Oh! And check out my give-a-way - be sure to comment by Thursday night to be entered in the drawing!
Sorry about the wait on my ten things... Internet issues last night. So here they are, ten times I have experienced God's grace - and am eternally grateful for:
1. Jamaica. High school mission trip. We went for a walk after dark, and came to the top of a large ravine. It was a cloudy night, so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. All of a sudden - light. And lots of it. Fireflies FILLED the ravine! Miles of fireflies gathered together - a once in a lifetime sight. Magical Grace.
2. Family vacation at a friend's cabin. It's nighttime, the family is inside the cabin. I decide to go for a late-night swim. I jump in the lake and swim as hard and far as I can go, then turn and float on my back. The night sky is clear and full of stars, dragonflies and herons are flying overhead, the only sound is the water rippling around me, and my heart is pounding! I felt so ALIVE! A beautiful moment to feel life-giving Grace.
3. Chicago. College service trip. I spent a night training to do street evangelism in a rough neighborhood of Chicago. Unsure of myself, and scared of this experience, I partnered up with a friend. After an hour or so of walking the streets and briefly chatting with a few people, we decide to stop in the 7-Eleven for some hot cocoa. It's a cold late-October night, and outside the store is a homeless man, obviously fighting the chill. We get him some hot cocoa as well. When we bring it to him, he is stunned. Stunned that two college kids saw him. Stunned that we would think to bring him some hot cocoa. Stunned that we would sit next to him. Stunned that we would listen to his story. I learned a lesson in truly "seeing" people that night, of taking the time to stop and listen - and what a difference that can make in a life. God taught me a lesson in Grace that day.
4. Starting a new job in youth ministy. The kids loved their former youth director, and I'm thinking I will never win over their trust... A rough few days and I'm wondering if I made the right choice to take this job... I have an emotional breakdown in the car on the way home. I check my email that evening - and have received 2 notes from former youth group kids, from another church - both emails were testimonies to how much I meant to them and their faith. Both asking for advice as they were making their first big "adult" decisions... Both thanking me for my presence in their lives. Encouraging Grace.
5. Sister Rita and Sister Angie. My hubby's aunts. It's always rough getting to know a new family - especially the someday in-laws. When I was first getting to know the hubby's family, it took a long time to feel somewhat accepted... But the first moment I met Sister Rita and Sister Angie (both nuns) - I felt accepted and loved. They were kind and gracious from the very first moment. Accepting Grace.
6. My grandma was dying of cancer. I spent many hours with her in the hospital in her final week. One day, she had been sleeping most of the day away - but she woke up, looked at me and said, "I'm not afraid of dying, ya know. I love God, and God loves me, and I know everything is going to be ok." I spent the next night with her, holding her had all night long... and the next morning she passed away. Grandma is a gift of reassuring Grace everyday.
7. During the course of my cancer scare, I felt the grace of many people. When my congregation found out about my serious diagnosis, they surrounded me with prayer - literally. Our little, reserved, Methodist congregation got up out of their seats and surrounded me during a "laying on of hands" prayer. There were tears, hugs, sniffles, and hand squeezes. It was a moment of stepping outside of our comfort zones (me, being the center of this attention, the congregation being open to such a different prayer experience) - and experiencing the healing and loving Grace of God.
8. Rainbows, butterflies, goldfinches, and big band music... Reminders of my grandparents - always let me know they are still watching over me. A reminder of the unconditional love of my grandparents, a reflection of God's love. Unconditional and eternal Grace.
9. In a time when I was going through some sadnesses of my own, my best friend was experiencing the joy of having her first child. When she and her husband asked if the hubby and I would be their daughter's godparents - we were overjoyed! A gift of generosity on so many levels! A generous Grace.
10. My wedding day. I am so lucky to have found my best friend and married him. He knows me better than anyone - all my wonderful qualities, and also ALL my flaws! He puts up with my bad habits, my forgetfulness, my idiosyncracies... and he still loves me for me. Grace for who I am at this very moment - and forever. A beautiful reflection of God's grace...