Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Reservoir of Grace

At the office, we have a provision called a "Sick Bank", whose basic purpose is to provide sick leave to fellow employees who really need it, but have used theirs up. Here's how it works: Let's say you've had a really good year, and health-wise, you've had a banner year. So good, in fact, that your accumulated sick time has been untapped; you have plenty left over. This accumulated, unused sick time goes into a "bank" so that your colleagues can draw from the savings when they most need it. The Sick Bank is not for sniffles and minor setbacks, rather it is available for a person in case of incapacitating, catastrophic, personal illness after his or her own sick days have been exhausted. So I was thinking. Wouldn't it be great if we had something in life called a Grace Bank? This would be a fluid, refreshing cascade of GRACE available to anyone suddenly incapacitated by, say, a broken spirit or extremely low hope platelets. Maybe the person is a bereft parent with a wayward child and has spent every last bit of his own grace on the kid; he could certainly use a hefty withdrawal from the Grace Bank, for his unseen, debilitating wounds. Or maybe the person married to an alcoholic, who carries battle scars from years of worry and heartbreak. Couldn't she have access to the Grace Bank, too? Wouldn't its reservoirs of strength get her through another day? Certainly her personal illness, though unseen, is catastrophic in nature. I could list a plethora of scenarios here - you get the picture. For you, too, are surrounded by dear ones who have spent all their Grace and the only loose change left in their Bank is jangling misery, crumpled bits of counterfeit hope. How amazing, then, to step up to the Grace Bank and withdraw during seasons of despair? We all travel in seasons. Some of us, maybe you, are enjoying a season of calm. You are able to build up your Grace Allotment and you're so grateful for this boon that you choose to pour your excess grace into the lives of those around you who are suffering. You are doing something so precious, so under-the-radar, yet so very critical to the wellbeing of another. When you give to the Grace Bank, you are carrying someone out of the depths of discouragement. How do you contribute to the Grace Bank? Simple - a smile, a hug, a personal note of encouragement. When your grace is overflowing, extend it to the person who has used theirs up. And you can take that to the bank.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Thrill of Hope

Have you ever had a sudden twinge of anticipation? A jolt of joy? Out of nowhere, a thrill of hope?
If so, dear reader, you are twice-blessed: dwelling in possibility, yet validated with little snippets of well placed hope.
A dear friend called me amidst the holiday hustle to share an insight she'd had about the sacred song, O Holy Night. The line that struck her was "....a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices..."
It was enough, she said, to stop everything for a moment and consider the unexpected surprises in life; the little care packages of pure love; the thrills of hope, from God Himself.
For my friend, it became a prayer: "I invite you, Lord, to surprise me with hope!"
Indeed we are a weary world, a people burdened with wayward children, empty chairs, draining accounts, tired soldiers, and worrisome futures. And yet! And yet -- in the midst, when we are not really looking Up, an otherworldly current of electricity pulses through us. It is an infusion of trust, a blinding shaft of sunlight, a thrill of hope!
Such jolts are surely meant to delight us and to remind us there is always hope. When the mortgage is due, when the baby is crying, when dark storms are swirling on distant horizons, there are little "thrills of hope" welling up inside anxious souls like yours and like mine.
How thankful I am that my friend paused to consider a familiar phrase from an old carol. It became a gift to her, a gift she is carrying into the new year with a sense of expectation.
May you, too, be surprised and renewed in the middle of an ordinary day. It is a gift, a prayer, a splash of gladness in a weary world. This is hope, God with us, Emmanuel, beyond the nativity and into our needy hearts.