Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

God with Us December 10, 2013

Filed under: Christmas — Stephanie Rische @ 8:15 am
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On the last day my three-year-old nephew was in town for a visit, his grandma and I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to do before he went back home. Without hesitation, he and his big sister replied, “We want to go to BOUNCE TOWN!”


For the uninitiated (as I was prior to aunthood), Bounce Town is one of those places with giant inflatable slides and tunnels, moon walks, inflatable castles, and air trampolines. In other words, a dream-come-true for anyone under three feet tall.



From the moment we walked in the door, Tyler had my hand gripped in his own chubby fingers. He wanted to go everywhere with “Aunt Eppie,” as he calls me.


“Aunt Eppie go with me!” he exclaimed, racing toward the slide as I tried to keep pace.


After squirming my way through tunnels made me for people one-third my size and maneuvering around pint-sized torpedoes zipping down the slide, I asked Tyler what he wanted to do next. “Go on the Batman,” he said. “With Eppie!”



And so I followed him to the Batman-themed inflatable, again contorting my body through various child-sized portals.


Next up was the trampoline. Tyler squealed with delight: “Eppie make me bounce in the air!”


By the time our hour had expired, I was sporting two rug burns, several sore muscles, and one headache. But you know what? It was worth every bruise, every bit of pain.


Because here’s the thing: Tyler can’t enter my world of work and e-mail and adult conversation and grown-up things. So I entered his world. It wasn’t comfortable—Bounce Town isn’t made for giants like me. But I scrunched my body through the tunnels and small spaces—all so I could be close to this boy I love, all so I could hold his hand, all so we could breathe the same air.


On the way home, tired but happy, it hit me that traipsing around Bounce Town in my stocking feet is a pretty good picture of Christmas. God wanted to be with us, but he realized how vast the gap was between us and him. So he entered into the awkward space of a human womb, squeezing himself through a narrow birth canal, experiencing unaccountable pain and discomfort throughout his three decades on earth—all so he could be with us, all so he could enter our world.


Immanuel. God with us.


Even in the tight, uncomfortable spaces of our earthly Bounce Town.


“This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.”
—Brennan Manning




God’s Favorite Preposition July 5, 2012

Filed under: Isaiah — Stephanie Rische @ 4:50 pm
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  One of the highlights of my seventh grade year was learning the Preposition Song in Mrs. Eaton’s language arts class. (I do realize how lame that sounds, but hey, it was seventh grade. It was a rough year.) Every day during our grammar unit, the whole class would belt out the prepositions to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”:

Aboard, about, above, across
Against, along, around….


I confess that I still sing the song on occasion. You know, when I’m sitting around pondering parts of speech.


I’ve always loved the name used for the promised Messiah in Isaiah 7: Immanuel. God with us. It evokes mental images of starry skies over Bethlehem, peaceful Nativity scenes of Mother and Child. But as I take in the events surrounding Isaiah’s prophesy of Immanuel, I’m struck by the rather desolate context. Israel and its kings had been going their own way ever since the end of King David’s reign, defying God and disobeying his commands. God was warning his people in no uncertain terms that if they didn’t turn their hearts back to him, they would face the consequences.


Watch out, because now the Lord’s fierce anger has been turned against you!

—2 Chronicles 28:11


Isaiah described the coming judgment in bleak terms: Israel’s enemy Assyria would invade their country. Their land would become a place of famine and desolation. And ultimately they would be taken captive and exiled to enemy territory. It’s into this sober visual that Isaiah promises the coming of Immanuel.


In other places in the Bible, God is described with a number of other prepositions:

God above us (Job 31:2)

God before us (Psalm 90:2)

God beyond us (Psalm 147:5)

God for us (Romans 8:31)


But when God announces the Incarnation—his revelation in human form—he describes himself as with his people. Not just above us. Not just before us. Not just beyond us. Not just for us. But with us. Facing our struggles with us. Standing against the enemy with us. Going through the years of desolation and hopelessness with us.


When I find myself in a difficult season, I admit that at times I long for other prepositions. I want God to take me out of it. I want to be through it. I want to be over it. But God gives me something messier, more involved. He dives in and enters my world, even in the hard places. Especially in the hard places. He gives me the best preposition of all: Immanuel.


God is with us.


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.