Grace and Peace

The theme of yesterday’s reading and sermon was grace and peace, words taken from the opening of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:2-4)

Pastor Sara spoke at length about just two simple words in that salutation – grace and peace – and what those words meant to people living in Paul’s time and what they might mean to us today. She told a short anecdote to illustrate her point – the story of a Lincoln grocery store cashier who shines grace and peace on the world-weary customers who file through her check-out line.

Toward the end of the sermon Pastor Sara asked some insightful questions: do you share grace and peace with the people – friends, strangers, loved ones – that cross your path every day? Do you exude grace and peace, shining the light of Jesus Christ on those around you in your daily life?

As I sat in the pew and listened to Sara’s questions and words, I thought back over my week. And the answer to her questions was an emphatic no.

It was, frankly, not a good week. As temperatures in Lincoln plummeted to -15 degrees, and winds gusted to 30 mph, the public schools closed. For three days straight. The week following a 16-day holiday hiatus.

Rowan asked. “What can I do now?” in fifteen-minute intervals for three consecutive days.

Brad and I, still in post-Disney recovery mode, were in no mood to entertain. Non-stop. For three straight days.

My cabin fever culminated in a tantrum of epic proportions on Saturday morning. As my brand-new vacuum suddenly lost all suction power, I quickly spiraled. The kids, glimpsing  the wild look in my eyes, scurried to their rooms like mice ducking for cover. I heaved attachments and hoses onto the couch, slammed the dirt canister over the garbage can, stomped back into the living room and cursed the Hoover to Hell.

It was so stupid – I can see this clearly now – but I was furious, absolutely furious over that vacuum cleaner.

“Don’t even bother,” I fumed to Brad, as he patiently detached the hose. “What a complete waste. It’s totally broken. My new vacuum is ruined. What a piece of crap. I can’t believe this.”

I ranted and raved, fuming as I tore off my extra sweater (I was working myself into quite an overheated frenzy). Brad poked and prodded into the hose with a pencil, peered into the end with a flashlight, and finally fished out a motley mass of hair, string, Christmas tree pine needles and an acorn. Then he threaded the hose back into place, snapped on the canister and switched on the vacuum. It purred sweetly, full suction power restored.

Suffice to say, I did not, in fact, spread grace and peace throughout my home on Saturday morning. Chaos and unrest? Yes. Anxiety and stress? That, too. But “grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ?” Not a glimmer.

I was pretty humbled sitting in the pew on Sunday morning -- ashamed by my childlike behavior and disgusted by my performance in this, the very first week of the New Year.

“So much for new resolutions,” I thought to myself. “So much for fresh starts. I can’t even make it through seven days, never mind an entire year.”

To be honest, I thought about throwing in the towel, of giving up hope. The phrase, “Why bother?” skipped through my mind.

I’m not going tell you that I experienced a momentous epiphany in that pew. I didn’t see the light, or recognize the Holy Spirit descend upon me or even feel much peace slide into my heart. But I didn’t give up hope entirely.

We exited the sanctuary. I took a deep breath, picked up the kids from Sunday School, ate a donut hole (okay three), and began anew. And the words of Paul to the Philippians, his prayer for them, rang through my mind:

“And this is my prayer for you, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best.” (Philippians 1:9-10)

I prayed that prayer, that I would somehow, through the grace and peace of God, through his love for me, gain knowledge and insight to help me determine what is best.

This post is part of the "Use It on Monday" series. Click here to read other posts in the series.  And I am also linking up with Bridget Chumbley's One Word Blog Carnival -- peace is the theme.

Dawn  – (January 11, 2010 at 8:06 AM)  

but isn't it lovely that GOd had already covered your temper tantrum with His grace? i am so thankful that He can do that, when i can't see straight...

grace & peace. i hope i spread it on a regular basis... and you, my friend, do. through your words. i think it is just common for us to focus on the mess in us, while we see the best in all around us (barring the vacuum, of course!) i hope that your week is a bit warmer... and that the school bell will be ringing!

(now i'm going to slowly press post andwait so i don't lose yet anopther comment!!)

Jamie @ Six Bricks High  – (January 11, 2010 at 8:25 AM)  

I love that prayer, I'm going to start my day with that one today.

I'm so thankful for God's grace in those times when I'm throwing tantrums.

Kathleen@so much to say, so little time  – (January 11, 2010 at 9:06 AM)  

I can't help chuckling...I've been guilty of those kind of tantrums, too! I know a few people who exude grace and peace. They are the people who "preach always; when necessary, use words." I aspire to be one. I have a long way to go.

Deidra  – (January 11, 2010 at 1:12 PM)  

So wonderfully written! I was right there with you, taking off my extra sweater.

We don't always get it, and that's the whole point about grace. Next to peace, it's my favorite word.

andrearichards  – (January 11, 2010 at 5:51 PM) never fail to make me laugh by being so honest in your life and your blog. As you know I have thrown a tantrum or two in my lifetime and then hung my head in shame and uttered apologies afterwards while resolving not to let it ever happen again. It's so easy to say "forget it". Much harder to continue on your journey, your resolution. God speaks to us in many ways, and through many people, providing us with the words that we need just when we need them. That sermon was meant for you on Sunday and you are helping the rest of us take the time to listen to. Thank you for that!!

Playing Sublimely  – (January 11, 2010 at 8:24 PM)  

Thank you for the honesty...I loved the visit today!

Bridget Chumbley  – (January 26, 2010 at 11:41 AM)  

Oh... been there and done that! Thanks for being so honest and for sharing this story with us. I'm so thankful you found the carnival and posted this... it fits perfectly!

Russell Holloway  – (January 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM)  

We are the agents of God's grace and peace ... I, too, have messed it up sooo many times ... but, we have a Father who picks us back up and who loves us.

Bonnie Gray  – (January 26, 2010 at 2:31 PM)  

Thanks for sharing your not-so-good week that included an epiphany of grace and peace, Michelle! I see Grace through you...

Glynn  – (January 26, 2010 at 7:50 PM)  

On Sunday, our gas log fireplace decided to start acting up. I was gone, and my wife worked it and fretted and was petrified that the house was going to blow up. When I got home, she wasn't yelling, but the look on her face was was "if one more thing goes wrong I'm going to throw something" look. And me -- who's not exactly intuitive around stuff that has to be fixed -- checked out the gas log and turned the knob a quarter inch. And the problem was solved. She had to sputter for a while. Which was OK. Because I've done similar things.

We're all human.

M.L. Gallagher  – (January 26, 2010 at 8:35 PM)  

Yup. Been there. Done that. Torn off the sweater. Thrown in the towel. Stomped my feet and thrown up my hands.

Thank you for sharing this -- you made me smile and remember (my kids are grown), my greatest growth comes in my greatest dramas.

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