GRACE and Starbucks…

Yesterday was my younger daughter’s birthday. Today’s post, entitled GRACE and Starbucks, is dedicated to Sarah, a wonderful daughter, wife, mama and 4th-grade teacher, plus a woman who exhibits much grace—and, like her mom, enjoys Starbucks!

     I know. I write often about GRACE! That’s because I never cease being amazed by the sweetness of God’s grace.

     I had a unique thought about grace while wrapping Christmas gifts a couple weeks ago. Let me try unwrapping the story.

     It began at a Starbucks in Williamsburg, Virginia last October. We were on vacation, and I wanted to return with a “Been There…” mug to add to Sarah’s collection.

     As is often the case, Starbucks was very busy, and I needed to wait in line. When my turn came, I placed an order—iced coffee for Ron, an iced green tea for me, plus Sarah’s mug.

     I pulled out my phone, ready to pay with the Starbucks app, when a lady standing next to me told the employee at the checkout counter, “Here, I’m getting that for her!”

     I have occasionally done a random act of kindness, but this was the first time I’d been the recipient. Several months later, the encounter still makes me smile.

     The mug was one of Sarah’s Christmas gifts. As I wrapped her present, I revisited the Virginia incident. Perhaps it was because it was Christmas, but my thoughts transcended the generosity of a stranger.

     Grace thoughts came to mind as I wrapped–cutting paper, taping, affixing a sparkly bow and adding a snowman gift tag: To: Sarah; From: Mom.

     em>This is an example of “First-World” grace.

     Over-priced drinks from a hip Seattle coffee company are excessive. Although I knew the gift would bring Sarah pleasure, it certainly wasn’t a necessity. My daughter already has a cupboard filled with trendy mugs.

     I’m glad God doesn’t withhold grace because I’ve been blessed to live in an affluent land. I sure don’t deserve such grace.

     But, wait! Isn’t that what grace is all about—the divine gift of receiving what I don’t deserve?

     Even after Sarah’s gift was wrapped, I couldn’t shake the thought of “First-World” grace. I’m aware of abject conditions experienced by millions living in “Third-World” poverty. I’m acquainted with the horrors of a little girl being sold as a sex slave because destitute parents can’t afford to feed her.

     My prayer following these thoughts was in the form of this question:

     Lord, what do you want me to do with these thoughts other than to give you thanks?

     Immediately, three organizations I know work hard to alleviate “Third-World” suffering came to mind. Go into your office and write each a check. I felt certain the thought came not from goodness in my heart, but from the heart of a good God who has lavished much grace upon me.

     As I placed Sarah’s Starbuck package under the tree, I realized layers of grace were represented in that one small gift.

     First, the grace-filled memory of a stranger who blessed me.

          Next, Christmastime reminded me her grace reflected God’s grace.

               Finally, recalling God’s grace led me to a gracious action.

     There is nothing simple about God, and there is nothing simple about grace.

     Grace enables us to trek through some dreadful seasons.

     Grace gives courage when our situations are terrifying.

     Grace nudges us to forgive grievous wrongs.

     John Newton wrote ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.’ Holy ‘fear’ convinced Newton to surrender his life to God and leave behind his involvement in vile slave trade.

     Then, there are times of sweet, simple “First-World” grace like I discovered at Starbucks. Grace stirring me to show grace to others.

     My Starbucks discovery illustrates that planting a seed of grace has the potential to grow more grace.

     As we enter a new year, I pray you and I will be recipients of God’s great grace and in turn, we’ll be givers of much grace to all whose journeys intersect ours.

Happy birthday, Sarah (and Karol, my sister who shares the same birthdate) & NEW YEAR blessings to ALL!

Sue Reeve

Above All Else Christmas Means LOVE!

     Winter Solstice came and went on December 21st. The day with the shortest period of sunlight in 2018 is now history. Slowly but surely, dark winter days will lengthen. It won’t be long until we’re watching for the first signs of Spring. Bulbs will begin poking their sweet little green heads up through still-snow-blanketed soil.

     Christmas 2018 is also now history. At our house, we’re already thinking about taking down the beautifully-decorated tree. It doesn’t look nearly as welcoming without brightly-wrapped gifts beneath. In a few days, Ron will disconnect the timer which has so faithfully turned on our cheery outdoor Christmas lights.

     Christmas Eve, our two youngest grandkids, 7-year-old Emmi and 3-year-old Reeve, lit the candle representing Jesus on the Advent Wreath. It joined the candles of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE.

     I now find myself asking, “Where the rubber of my faith meets the often mundane, cluttered and unkind road of life, how do I keep alive the Light of LOVE Christmas is all about?”

     The word “love” is used 202 times in the New Testament (KJV). John, the youngest of Jesus’ twelve original disciples, penned those words a whopping 71 times.

     John often described himself as the “one whom Jesus loved.” There wasn’t a doubt in John’s mind that he was beloved by Jesus, and he in turn loved Jesus deeply.

     So, how can I, how can you, love Jesus deeply?

     The Apostle John, writing words when in his elder years, provides that answer in a letter to his friends. John’s words remain relevant to you and me in the 21st Century.

 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

     1 John 4:7-11 (NLT)

     These are great words. If I’m honest, however, I’ll confess that way too often, I desire to be loved by Jesus more than I want to love like Jesus. This is an area of life where I want to grow.

     As we recover from the stress of the Christmas season caused by too much—perhaps too much spending, decorating, gathering with family and friends and eating rich foods—I hope you’ll join me to reflect on the gift of God’s LOVE, JESUS.

     What if each one reading these words asked this question of God prayerfully:

Since you loved me SO much, God, how can I love you by loving others more like JESUS loved?

     Somehow, I imagine that’s a question God will like and be pleased to answer.

In closing today’s post, quoting Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol,

“…And God bless us everyone!”

Sue Reeve

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you…
yes, it is Christmas every time you smile…and offer…your hand.
~ Mother Teresa

Advent – Week Four LOVE

     Yesterday marked the beginning of the fourth week of Advent. Ron and I lit the candle of LOVE, which joined the three previous candles, symbolizing HOPE, PEACE and JOY.

     If I were asked to describe God and could use only one word, I would choose LOVE. Since Jesus came as Emmanuel—God with Us—then we can say without reservation it was LOVE who came as a babe in a manger.

     In today’s post I’d like to highlight a Christmas hymn with which I wasn’t familiar. I appreciate the profound simplicity of these lyrics written by Christina Rosetti (1830-1864). [1]

Love Came Down at Christmas[2]

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

     Christina grew up in a highly artistic family. The beautiful young Italian woman lived in exile in England with her family. She was deeply devout but also suffered poor health. The fragile young woman found great comfort in writing poetry. Among her poems was the Christmas Hymn, Love Came Down at Christmas.

     In her poem, Christina personified LOVE as the babe born in a manger, realizing full well he was no ordinary baby. Rather, the babe of whom angels sang and shepherds and wisemen worshipped was the incarnation of God. The baby from Heaven took on human body and human nature. He would illustrate what Godly love looks like and build a bridge between God and humankind.

     If you’re anything like me, you’re immersed in all the last-minute details of this lovely but hectic season. You may be asking, “How in the world can I get everything done? Or, as one over-stressed, overwhelmed young mom commented with a sigh, “I don’t even know if we’re going to have Christmas this year!”

     Won’t you, along with me, take a moment today out of the busyness to reflect on the amazing gift of the incarnation—LOVE that came down at Christmas?

God, please immerse us in that LOVE this final week of Advent and as we celebrate Christmas…

Sue Reeve