I do not read so-called devotional books. By ‘devotional books’ I mean Christian ‘how to’ books. I just don’t. OK? Yes, yes, yes, I know… I’m wrong and they’ve given many millions of people great comfort and teaching. I know I’m wrong.
I don’t care.
Anyway, almost by accident I’m reading a book by Philip Yancy “What’s so amazing about grace?” I’m going on a 7 day break at the end of the month and I’ve bought a load of books to get me through it, a Michael Frayn (for wit) and a Marian Keyes (for the writer’s equivalent of easy-listening) and a non fiction account of a US trial (for cold reality), and then I wandered into our church bookshop and idly thumbed through this one. It was readable. It wasn’t pious and it didn’t have five steps to a closer walk with God, or three steps to perfect prayer or any other step-by-step, DIY shortcut to spirituality. And it’s well written.
In the afternoon, again by accident, I started to read it. It’s fab, my chicks. Tear prickingly, breath-catchingly fab. It’s floated me into a bubble of delight and wonder. We say so easily, “God is good” but when you pause and reflect and understand and delve… God is mind blowingly marvellous! He is fabulous and shining and love itself. He is the bee’s knees and the apple of my eye, as I am His.
Ain’t that amazing ? ‘As I am His.’
There are loads of definitions of grace but the one I like best is ‘Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense.’
Anyway, in all this confusion of delight I started to think about the grace of God that I sometimes (mostly!) fail to recognise in my daily life. Of course any search for grace has to start with Christ, with His sacrifice and unending love shown in His life here on earth… but then I came upon something so sweetly surprising. You know what one of God’s greatest and richest gifts of grace is for me? It’s a friend I can send an email to. It’s a friend who has put up with my blundering emails about God and about His work in my life for the last four years. I see now that this friend, and his patience, and just the bloomin’ fact that I can send him an email saying ‘Hey, listen – let me tell you this’ is one of God’s great great gifts to me. Without him at the other end of cyberspace, I would have been alone, never able to share my enthusiasm and passion, never able to reach out to another living soul to celebrate and recognise and declare that God is great. And just having him there has helped me to formulate thoughts and to grow,
Another great dollop of God’s grace is that the recipient of my blundering emails often doesn’t reply to them. That means I don’t have to feel guilty about the time he spends on them. Well, OK, a bit guilty because he probably reads the things. But it also means that he doesn’t correct or top what I’ve written. He allows it. Like a good conversation when the wine is flowing, and the evening is late and you can say what’s on your heart and no one’s going to drag your fumbling phrases out into the light and start picking over them. I can trust this friend with my foolishness and passion and mistakes. He won’t find fault, he’ll just pour another glass of wine (cyber wine) and listen and smile and nod. What a great big dollop of grace!
What a great God. His gifts are to be found in every corner of our lives, even our emails, even our long suffering friends. And apparently (who’d’a known?) in the occasional devotional book. Every good thing comes down from heaven.
And these blogs are another example of God’s grace. That I can spout off to you and enjoy the writing and reach out to people I can’t see. For someone who doesn’t find conversation. easy, God has the answers.
I’d quite like to have written ‘God’s Grace’, giving the word ‘grace’ its own capital. But my writer’s heart rebels. And it looks ugly. And when you read it over it feels a bit priggish. So I haven’t.