Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Grace Spotting: The Prodigal God November 16, 2012

Filed under: Book reviews,Grace spottings — Stephanie Rische @ 7:58 am
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The story of the prodigal son is one of the most well-known parables Jesus told. So when my small group decided to read it and discuss The Prodigal God by Tim Keller, I admit to being a bit skeptical. Really? An entire book about twenty-some verses of the Bible?


But before I’d even navigated my way out of the introduction, I realized I had a whole lot to learn. Keller suggests that this parable told by Jesus in Luke 15 shouldn’t really be called the parable of the lost son; it should be the parable of the lost sons, because in fact, both sons are lost and separated from their father—the younger brother as a result of his rebellion, and the older brother as a result of his own self-righteousness.


Interestingly, Keller says that the true prodigal in the story is the Father himself. If prodigal is defined as “recklessly extravagant; having spent everything,” then our gracious God certainly fits the bill. “Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children,” Keller points out. “God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope.”


Whether you are an older brother or a younger brother or somewhere in between, you will come away from this book with a fresh appreciation for our prodigal God. When we are reckless, he responds with reckless grace.


For more thoughts on this parable, take a look at my musings on dumpster diving.


Grace Spotting: A Modern-Day Emancipator September 12, 2012

Filed under: Grace spottings — Stephanie Rische @ 8:10 am
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Last month I attended the Global Leadership Summit hosted by Willow Creek. They had quite a lineup of speakers, from Jim Collins to Condoleezea Rice, but I was especially taken by a woman with a small voice and a big story.

When Pranitha Timothy was getting ready to graduate with her master’s degree in social work, she felt like God gave her a vision for life, straight from the words of Scripture. As she read these words from Isaiah 42, she sensed that God was speaking them afresh for her.

Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.

He is my chosen one, who pleases me.

I have put my Spirit upon him.

He will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout

or raise his voice in public.

He will not crush the weakest reed

or put out a flickering candle.

He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

He will not falter or lose heart

until justice prevails throughout the earth.

Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.

—Isaiah 42:1-4

But shortly after she sensed this call, tragedy struck: Pranitha was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, the doctors were able to remove the tumor, and it turned out to be benign. But in the process, she lost movement in 60 percent of her face and she no longer had feeling in her shoulder and neck. Worst of all, she could no longer speak. This woman with a dream for justice suddenly found herself mute.

Shattered, Pranitha returned to the Isaiah passage, asking God why he would give her this vision only to snatch it away before she could even begin. But upon closer reading, she was struck anew by certain parts of the passage: God’s servant “will not shout or raise his voice….He will not falter or lose heart.” Pranitha hardly dared to believe it, but what if God hadn’t revoked his call after all? What if it would just take a different form than she’d ever envisioned?

And so, after a period of recovery, Pranitha joined International Justice Mission and devoted her life to setting slaves free in her homeland of India. Over the years she has gradually regained some range of movement in her body and face. And God has given her a voice—a thin, feeble voice, but a voice nonetheless.

To date, Pranitha has led more than 50 slave rescue operations with IJM. She serves as a legal witness, representing these individuals in court, and she has also developed an aftercare strategy to help freed slaves find healing and integrate back into society.

To Pranitha’s surprise, in God’s hands her weakness has become one of her greatest strengths. Her trials provide a kind of common ground with the slaves she seeks to help. When they see the struggles she herself has faced, an immediate connection is formed—a level of trust that is usually hard won from people whose lives have been consistently marked by fear and distrust. She can speak from firsthand experience about what it means to rely on God on a daily basis, from a place of desperate need. “This pain constantly reminds me every day that I need God,” she says.

As I sat enraptured by Pranitha’s stories of risking her life to set slaves free, I was reminded of God’s heart for captives. I, too, was a slave to sin, trapped and full of fear. Christ risked everything to come to my rescue and break me out of my chains.  He defended me before my accusers, and he continues to take care of me after I’ve been set free.

It is because of grace that I’ve been set free. And it’s because of grace that he calls me to set other captives free too.

*             *             *

For more about International Justice Mission and their mission to end slavery and trafficking around the world, check out IJM’s documentary film, At the End of Slavery or read the book The Just Church, available this October.


Grace Spottings, Take 2 July 17, 2012

Filed under: Grace spottings — Stephanie Rische @ 4:53 pm
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Today I’d like to share a few grace spottings I’ve come across lately. Enjoy!

Grace Spotting #1: Redeeming Love

This book by Francine Rivers is a retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer, set in California during the gold rush of the 1850s. Not only is it a romantic story of boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy wins girl back, but it will also stun you with its portrayal of the kind of pursuing love God has for you.

Grace Spotting #2: Women at Risk International

This organization is dedicated to providing safety, dignity, life skills, and job opportunities for women and children around the world who have been rescued from various kinds of abuse, including human trafficking and sexual slavery. My friends Michael and Kay Killar and their three children serve women and girls trapped in such situations in Thailand, and there they show God’s redemption in a tangible way.

Grace Spotting #3: Corrie ten Boom

If anyone ever had a right to withhold forgiveness, it would have been Corrie ten Boom. She was sent to a German concentration camp for hiding Jews during World War II, and she suffered unspeakable horrors there, including the death of her father and beloved sister. After the war she devoted her life to traveling and speaking on God’s faithfulness and grace. At one of these speaking engagements, she came face-to-face with a guard who had inflicted on her some of the most brutal torture at the camp. Would she run away, like Jonah did, or would she live out the message of grace she preached? Watch this compelling interview for her firsthand account.


Grace Spottings June 8, 2012

Filed under: Grace spottings — Stephanie Rische @ 8:03 am
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I’ve been awed by several grace spottings lately, and I didn’t want to keep them all to myself. Here are three I’d like to share with you.

Grace Spotting #1: Our Good and Perfect Gift

Amy Julia Becker has written this touching post about her young daughter Penny, who has Down syndrome. When she and her husband received the news about Penny’s condition shortly after she was born, they were initially hit by a wave of doubt and shock. But over these past few years of Penny’s life, they have come to see that their smiley, pigtailed little girl is a gracious gift from the hand of God. In Amy Julia’s words, they have moved “from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from fear to wonder, from doubt to faith, from bitter to sweet.”

I highly recommend her book as well: A Good and Perfect Gift.


Grace Spotting #2: Craving Grace

Lisa Velthouse is one of the most grace-filled people I know, so it should come as no surprise that her book is called Craving Grace. For most of her life, Lisa thought Christianity was about doing things right, about being a “nice Christian girl.” Her memoir is about how God revealed his surprising sweetness to her, how he shocked her with how abundant, how scandalous, his grace really is.

When you read this book, you’ll feel like you’ve made a new friend. An authentic, grace-filled friend.

Grace Spotting #3: Forever Family

To me, grace looks a lot like this: a parent loves a child and gives her a home, for no reason other than love. If that’s the case, then Casa Viva is in the grace business. This nonprofit organization is committed to finding families for orphaned or abandoned children in Latin America. I had the privilege of serving with them on a short-term trip several years ago, and I found myself amazed by the hospitality of the staff and the families who dedicated their lives to caring for the fatherless.

This story from the Casa Viva blog is about a little girl named Gloria and her brother, David. It will give you a glimpse of grace (and maybe, as in my case, a sweet lump in your throat).


Have a grace-filled weekend!