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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.