Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Dumpster Diving November 5, 2012

Filed under: Luke — Stephanie Rische @ 1:07 pm
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Six months after we got married, Daniel discovered, to his great dismay, that his wedding ring had accidentally been thrown in the trash.

 

He was just wrapping up after a long day at his full-time position and then a stint at his part-time job when he looked down at his finger and realized it was bare. He mentally retraced the events of the day, when all at once it dawned on him: the gloves.

 

In his job working with special needs students, Daniel often has occasion to wear disposable gloves, and somewhere around midday he remembered turning the gloves inside out and tossing them in the trash. Had he seen the ring since? He frantically made some phone calls, hoping to stop the trash before it was taken to the dumpster.

 

No such luck. The next morning he arrived at work before the sun came up, bedecked in his grubbiest clothes and his most determined expression.

 

The ring was important to Daniel—not just because of its objective value, but also because it represented the commitment he’d made. The ring was a tangible symbol of our wedding day: “With this ring, I thee wed” and all. He was willing to go to great lengths to scavenge for it, despite the obstacles and grime he’d have to wade through in the process.

 

 

As I read Luke 15, I’m struck by God’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and dive into our grimy world to bring us back to him.

 

Jesus tells three parables in this chapter—one about a shepherd who leaves his whole flock to chase down a runaway lamb, one about a woman who loses a coin and turns her entire house upside down to find it, and one about a father who runs to greet his beloved son who once was lost but now is found.

 

God is willing to dive into the dumpster on our behalf because he sees value in us, even when we’re covered in muck. And besides, he has made a commitment to us. No amount of garbage will hold him back.

 

An interesting side note about each of Jesus’ parables is that once each item has been found, a party ensues. There is much rejoicing—over the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son.

 

I got a phone call from Daniel later that morning, and sure enough, he’d found the ring! And yes, there was much rejoicing (after a bit of scrubbing and Clorox). The lost had been found.

 

Thank you, God, for going to great lengths to bring us back to you. Thank you for keeping your commitment to us. And thank you for diving into the dumpster on our behalf.

 

Question: Have you ever lost something and gone to great lengths to find it again?

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

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Like Amish Peanut Butter October 24, 2012

Filed under: Luke — Stephanie Rische @ 8:15 am
Tags: , ,

I have a weakness for peanut butter. On any given day, you’d likely find four jars of the stuff in our pantry: generic creamy, chunky, the brand-name “good stuff”… and a backup.

 

So when I received homemade Amish peanut butter from one of the authors my company works with, you can imagine my delight. Just one spoonful was enough for me to know I’d be ruined for all other peanut butter for the rest of time. In all my years of history with peanut butter, I’d never tasted such gooey, creamy, sweet deliciousness. The fact that it was made from scratch by a Pennsylvania woman in a bonnet only added to its divinity.

 

As I was eating my toasted peanut butter sandwich, I was reminded of the quote a friend of mine uses as part of her signature at the bottom of e-mails:

God spreads his grace thick and gloppy…the way a child spreads peanut butter.

 

It struck me as I took another bite that something like Amish peanut butter isn’t meant to be skimped on or rationed out. It isn’t meant to be analyzed for calorie count or obsessed over for exactly which spot on my hips it’s bound to end up.

 

Forgive me if this sounds a touch sacrilegious, but maybe my friend’s quote is right—maybe grace isn’t so different from peanut butter. God spreads his grace with such extravagance that it gets messy and smears all over us, until the globs rub off onto other people too.

 

When Jesus interacted with people, he was often accused by the religious folk of being too generous with grace. On one occasion when he was eating dinner with a group of people, he was approached by an “immoral woman” (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus didn’t condone the choices she’d made, but he extended forgiveness to her nonetheless. Forgiveness of the thick and gloppy variety.

 

I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.

—Luke 7:47

 

Having received extravagant forgiveness, she responded with extravagant gratitude:

 

She brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

—Luke 7:37-38

 

No matter how hard we try, we’ll never deserve God’s extravagant grace. But we do have a choice about how we’ll receive it. Will we clench our teeth and portion it out over so many bread crumbs? Will we nibble each bite guiltily, washing it down with the sour milk of regret?

 

Or will we take in the gift the way it was meant to be received, with joy and abundance and overflowing gratitude, the way the woman in the book of Luke did?

 

May my peanut butter communion remind me of how God intends his grace to be: thick and gloppy. Like Amish peanut butter.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.