ABOUT GRACE

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9

 

 

When my blonde friend Bea was asked by her bishop to go to a Latin American country for a mission project, she did not hesitate.  It didn’t matter that she had limited Spanish or that she’d never traveled to that part of the world.  She had a willing heart.  (And she was ignorant of the possible difficulties.)

The bishop told her to go to a certain place, and she would be told how to proceed.  Bea bought her plane ticket, boarded the plane, and took a taxi to the regional bishop’s office for further directions.  There she understood that the next day the bishop’s secretary would drive her to her destination.

The following morning, Bea once again went to the bishop’s office, and, instead of taking her to the location of the project, the secretary took her to the local bus station.  She handed Bea a ticket for the next leg of the journey and assured her she would be met by her co-worker, a tall, red-haired woman.  And then she left.

All was well until Bea saw the hundreds of people, some in groups and others in lines, waiting for their buses.  She carefully made her way from person to person showing her ticket and indicating that she was looking for her bus.  Eventually, she made it to a long line of people waiting for the bus’s arrival.

Somewhat disconcerted at the unfamiliarity of people carrying caged chickens, food for the journey, and various pieces of household paraphernalia, Bea climbed onto the indicated bus and looked around for a place to sit.  She had no clue as to how long the ride would be, when she would get off, or where she was supposed to sit.  As she peered through the rows of people already packed into place, she saw on the very last seat at the back of the bus a wiry little gentleman who was vigorously waving at her.  He called out, “Señora, señora,” and indicated that he had a seat beside him.

Bea moved gingerly through the aisle to the rear of the bus and gratefully sat down next to the kindly man.  They both began communicating with their few words of Spanish and English and generous waving of hands and arms.  The man looked down at Bea’s gold watch and indicated that she should remove it and put it in her purse, which she did.  And then they compared tickets.  “Oh, no,” she sighed.  It looked like he would be getting off the bus in another place and at a different time.

Through the hot, dusty hours Bea and her new friend continued to talk, and at a certain stop in the road, the man leaned over and said goodbye.  He was leaving.  Even though she’d known him only a short while, Bea suddenly felt bereft.  In a country where she was alone and didn’t speak the language, her only friend was leaving her.  She watched him go down the aisle and move out the door.  She turned her head so as not to see him walking away.  She looked again to see who else might be boarding, and, to her surprise, her little friend was returning.  He had come back to sit with her and gestured that he would go with her to her destination.

After many more stops and another long ride, they reach the place where Bea was to meet her mission contact.  Everyone began to exit, and her friend walked ahead of her signaling that she was to keep close to him.  They departed the bus into the large mass of jostling people coming and going and looking for loved ones.  Bea knew she’d be met by a tall, red-headed woman—in a crowd of glossy black waves.  She and her friend looked and walked through the sea of strange faces, and suddenly the way seemed to open as the tall, red-headed woman walked toward them with open arms.  “You must be Bea,” she said.  “I am Grace.”

Bea turned around to introduce Grace to her friend, but he had disappeared.  He was nowhere to be seen.  Bea will always be convinced that the sweet man was an angel sent by God to watch over a blond gringa who had stepped out by faith not knowing where she was going but trusting God to guide her.  And when she reached her destination, she was met by Grace.

 

Father, your angels are ministering spirits who help us on our way, and we are constantly accompanied by your grace.  Thank you that you give us everything we need to serve you faithfully.  AMEN.

SALTY LANGUAGE

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6  (NIV)

 

In Sunday school as we looked at this passage, someone commented that “salty language” often evokes strident, even painful comment.  But actually, at the time this phrase was used by Paul, the Greeks employed it to refer to “witty, charming discourse.”  Oh, how I wish all my conversations could be characterized like that.

Have you ever said anything you wish you could retract?  Are you familiar with the old (probably now considered barbaric) custom of washing a child’s mouth out with soap when he/she said something unacceptable?  Wouldn’t it be lovely if changing our conversation were that simple, but, instead, the origin of those harmful words is the heart and the mind.  Jesus said, “It is what comes from within that defiles you.”

A friend told me about a fishing trip where a group of friends had gone out in a boat with their pastor.  One of the men accidentally stuck a hook into his finger and automatically let out some spicy expletive.  Remembering that the pastor was with them, he looked up sheepishly and said, “Oh, thank God, tomorrow is Sunday.”  What was inside had made its way out.

In Ephesians (4:29 LB) Paul encourages us not to “use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Remember the old saying that you know what’s in a tea bag when it’s put in hot water?  I think this is what Jesus is talking about:  “…whatever is in your heart determines what you say”  (Matt. 12:34 LB).

Our tongue can be a real challenge, especially if we’re trying to control it through our own efforts apart from God’s transforming grace.  As we grow to be more and more like Jesus, our words, attitudes, and behaviors will also become more like him.  And what comes out will be “seasoned with salt.”

 

Change my heart, O God.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  AMEN.