Traversable Grace

Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. 

Hebrews 4:16


Snow days.  How can you not love them?  Well, I guess if I had an occupation other than school teacher, I might be inclined to receive them with less enthusiasm.  But, since I am a teacher, I love them as much today as I did when I was young!  There’s something stolen about these days that’s derived from the feeling of getting something that you weren’t supposed to have; instead of a scheduled day, it’s a free-calendar day!  I guess, in this, I am a thrill seeker:  a snow day kleptomaniac.  It’s not that I don’t want to go to school; it’s not that I don’t want to enjoy the company of students; it’s not that I don’t want to enjoy the routine of a daily schedule; it’s just that I love getting something for nothing!  And when the phone call comes through…the one whose message I already know before I press one to hear the recording…I feel the excitement rising and the anticipation mounting as I prepare to receive yet another “free day”!

Well, with that said, today was a snow day.  For me, that means catching up on reading while perched beside a window that permits me to watch the falling snow.  My mind, however, always wanders and thoughts pile up as quickly as the snow.  Childhood memories form a flurry of their own and, before the day is through, I’m outside tromping in the snow.

I don’t know which comes first:  the admiration of the snow or the thanksgiving for the snow.  But, regardless of the order, the outcome is always the same; the result is a lesson from the snow.  A few years ago, it emerged in a poem entitled “Snowflakes of Grace”.  Then, there was the lesson of Dirty Grace followed by the revelation of The Accentuation of Grace.  And today, thinking there couldn’t be “anything new under the snow”, I saw there was something new on top of the snow.

The realization came as I walked through the woods…over hill and over dale, so to speak.  I love making the first footsteps in unchartered snow, so I took the liberty of claiming new lands to the right and to the left.  In doing so, I walked in areas that I normally would steer clear of.  There’s the swampy area that I avoid, unless I want to have a pair of boots sucked off my feet.  There’s the uncleared area that I detour around, lest I feel the need to start cleaning it up.  And, lastly, there’s the ‘snakey’ area that I respectfully circumvent because, well…if I were a snake, that’s where I would live.  But, today…today…today I put my footprints where no man has gone before…or at least not since last winter!  And, when I realized that nothing was off limits this time of year, that everyplace was navigable when covered in snow, I knew I’d received my newest lesson on grace…which, for me, is always blanketed in snow.

Snow is seasonal; it comes when it’s cold.  Grace is seasonal, it comes when we sin.  Snow, because of the season in which it occurs, is accompanied by temperatures that make some areas more traversable…and less snakey, let’s definitely not forget the less snakey element…decreasing our boundaries and increasing our territorial borders.  Just as snow makes everything accessible, so too does grace make everything usable.  Are there areas in our life that sin causes us to avoid?  Areas that suck the boots off our feet and clutter our paths?  Grace can cover that.  Are there areas we avoid because we’re afraid of what might lie in the unseen…in the creations of our mind and not the reality of our sight?  Grace can illuminate and provide new vision.  Just as snow falls in its season, so too does grace fall in its season.  The beauty, however, is that the season for grace is perpetual; grace, truly, is never out of season.  Since it’s ushered in by the jet stream of our waywardness, the winds of grace are always circling.

How wonderful to know that God sprinkles grace over all of our terrain, making that which was once avoidable and in need of a detour sign, now fully accessible and even traversable!  There is nothing that grace cannot cover; there is no place that grace cannot fall; there is no sin that grace cannot restructure; there is no one whom grace cannot transform!

As I walked the unchartered areas of the woods, God showed me the unlimited access of His grace.  As I saw the vast area that snow allowed me to traverse, God revealed the vast area that grace allows me…and others…to tread.  As I saw the seasonal element of snow, God showed me the seasonal attribute of grace.  How refreshing it is to walk in nature and to hear from the One who has lessons scattered about for all to find…if we will but look…and listen.

Here’s to walking in the snow.  Here’s to walking upon grace.  Here’s to grace walking all over us.  Here’s to lives that are accessible and traversable in season and never out of season!

Hark!  Is that my phone?  Could it be…oh, my…it is!  Here come those wonderful words… “This is a call from the board of education…please press one to hear this important message”.  I know the words that I will hear, and yet…I still have to press that number one!


The Accentuation of Grace

The Accentuation of Grace

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”  Titus 2:11

Snow in the south is like rain in the desert.  It’s prayed for, rejoiced over, and trampled through.  Its occurrences are rare, so when it does arrive, it is welcomed with squeals of delight and thunderous rounds of applause.  This past Friday, it received a standing…and sliding…ovation!

There’s something magnetic about snow.  Somewhere, in its molecular makeup, there’s a very powerful, people-pulling electron that makes one grab coats, boots, and gloves and run out into the midst of it.  No matter how old I get, when snow starts to fall, so too does my attraction to the indoors.  With each falling flake, I’m magnetized and hypnotized.  The next thing I know, I’ve been pulled outside and the polarized snowflakes are wreaking havoc on my molecular composition!

That’s what happened to me this past Friday.  The snow was falling so beautifully that I just had to go outside.  I walked to the creek, enjoying the snow as it fell within the woods.  As I looked about, I couldn’t help but notice the way the snow outlined the trees…each tree…every tree.  My eyes moved from one to another until I realized I was no longer looking at the woods, but through the woods!  And, my visibility didn’t stop there.  As far as my eyes could see, not only were shapes outlined, but so too were their details, bringing clarity and closeness to that which otherwise would have seemed far away.  Then I wondered…if this is true for snow, is it also true for grace?

If you’ve read a couple of my earlier posts, namely Snowflakes of Grace and Dirty Grace?, you know that I like to compare snow and grace  There’s just such an apparent correlation between the two that it’s hard for me to see the one without thinking of the other.  So on this day, when I was looking at the snow, I was thinking about its counterpart, grace.  And so I wondered, is there a connection between the visibility snow brings to trees and the visibility grace brings to lives?  Does grace etch a person’s life the way snow etches a tree’s branches?  Does grace impact a group the way snow impacts a woods, reducing the assemblage of many to an assortment of individuals?  Does grace, like snow, draw our vision out further and further until we see that which was once unnoticed?  And as I asked, the answers fell with the snow…and within the snow.  And that’s when I saw it:  the accentuation of grace.

I must say, I was not expecting to receive such a lesson.  Snow-lined trees had never appeared before as tutors of God’s word, but on this day that’s just what they were.  And because of God’s grace, I had ears to hear…or, more precisely, eyes to hear.  And through my eyes, God spoke gracefully, glisteningly, and gloriously.  Once again, He showed me truths through His snowflakes of grace.  As I attempt to share these truths with you, please have your visualization glasses handy…they may enhance your hearing!

Remember how I said the snow on the trees caused them to stand out so that I was able to see further?  That simple tracing of white caused each tree to stand apart from the others so that my eye traveled from one to another.   Those that, in their natural coloring, would have blended in with their wooded surroundings, now stood out as if highlighted by nature’s pen. Well, in much the same way, that’s what grace does to us.  Just as snow defines a tree, grace defines us.  Grace has a way of collecting in our crevices, of smoothing over our rough surfaces, and of highlighting our structures.  The presence of grace also causes us to stand out from others as our individuality is illuminated so that we’re no longer seen as a part of the whole, but now we’re seen apart from the whole.

So just how does this grace fall upon us?  How do we become people whose lives are etched with its snow-like purity?  It begins when we are drawn to God; this pulling is nothing short of God giving us that which we do not deserve (the definition of grace).  Paul records this snowfall in Ephesians 2:8.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  The first dusting of grace fell upon us when God called us to become His children through faith in Him.  The second sprinkling came when we received “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7).  The third flurry fell when we were justified freely by His grace.”  (Romans 3:24).  Then, because we have a Heavenly Father who loves to shower us with grace, He allows us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16).

With such an outpouring of grace, how can we not be demarked and defined?  How can we not stand out among and within the forest of humanity?  What snow does for trees, grace does for people.  The trouble, however, lies in the eyes; in the way that we look with them…and the way that we hear with them.  It’s one thing to notice snow on a tree…it’s quite another to notice grace on a person. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as our eyes scanned across the people we encounter every day, we saw them bedecked in grace?  What if we saw all that God covered rather than all that nature creased?  What if we saw the person instead of the party, the kid instead of the crowd?  What…if…we…saw…grace?  Would it change the way we greeted others, or treated others?  Would it change the distance of our vision…and the distinctness of our vision?  Would we see beyond what lies before and before what lies beyond?  And, if we saw such grace, how much more would we hear?  Instead of letting our eyes give voice to the world, would our eyes now give voice to the Creator?  Would we hear Him every time we saw them?  Here’s what I think:  what’s true in the woods is also true in the woulds.

Oh, that we would allow God’s grace to fall upon us, and to cover us, and to defines us.  Oh, that we would look upon others the way God looks upon us, as recipients of His robes of righteousness.  Oh, that we would see the accentuation of grace on mankind as clearly as we see the delineation of snow on maples.  Oh, that we would see every individual conspicuously outlined by God’s snowfall of grace.  And oh, that we would hear God’s gentle reminder…“for by grace you have been saved…and that not of yourselves…it is a gift from Me.”

A quiet snowfall, a quick walk, a quaint woods, a quaking lesson.  I hope you were able to see it with me…and to hear it with me.  Now, with God’s grace, I hope you will try to walk it with me.  We’ll need grace upon grace…but we have access to a never ending supply at the throne of grace.  Let’s plan on meeting there!

Dirty Grace?

Dirty Grace?

Jack Handy isn’t the only one who can have deep thoughts; occasionally I have them too.  Today was one of those days.  Perhaps it was the snow; perhaps it was the sun on the snow; perhaps it was the oatmeal that, finally, proved its self-worth by producing a healthy thought.  But whatever the reason, the snow or the oats, I had a deep thought and felt the need to commemorate it in print.  I hope it takes you beyond surface thinking, too.  If not, perhaps you need to grab a bowl of oatmeal (I recommend peaches and cream) and then read this again.

As I delighted in the snow this morning, I walked along the edge of the woods taking in its beauty.  I have been praying for snow and thought the least I could do, along with a shout out of praise to God for sending it, was to stomp through it.  That seemed like the right thing to do.  So as I walked and visually ate up the scenery around me, my thoughts wandered and wondered at the beauty and Biblical truths that are evident in nature.  Whenever I see snow, I think of grace.  Not a difficult leap.  If we were to do a word association game it would go like this:  you say house, I say shoes; you say carrot, I say cake; you say snow, I say grace.  I think it’s the whiteness and purity of the snow that does it, along with the fact that snow falls over things…all things; pretty things and dirty things, revealed things and hidden things.  Snow covers everything it falls upon, and so too does grace.

So today, while walking and pondering the beauty of snow…and of grace, I wondered if this connection between pure snow and pure grace could be stretched to include dirty snow and dirty grace.  I know that snow can become polluted, but can this be said of grace as well?  Is there such a thing as dirty grace?  And there it was…my deep thought; dirty grace. I decided to test this concept.  I thought about how snow became polluted.   If you’ve ever lived in or travel to the city after a big snow, you’ve seen the piles of snow pushed up along the sidewalks or mounded up in parking lots.  In this state, snow is less than appealing.  Once it’s been scraped and scooped and piled, it’s no longer white…no longer a thing of wonder.  The answer, then, is that snow is sullied when what it covered has been dug up and mixed back in with it.  Now, could this same truth apply to grace?  Grace covers sin as snow covers the ground; if sin is dug up and mixed in with grace, could the result be dirty grace?  Ah…yes…it could.

To the level that my mind…and my stimulating bowl of oatmeal…propelled me, I thought of two ways in which grace may be tarnished.  First, by the digging up of past sins that it has covered.  We know that grace is God’s gift to mankind through His Son; “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:1, 14)  We also know that “Christ suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that we might be brought to God” (I Peter 3:18).  So if God has bestowed His grace upon us to cover our sins, once and for all, then why in the world would we try to dig through that grace and uncover those sins?  All we’d accomplish would be the mixing of sin with grace, which would result in dirty grace.

The second way in which grace may be tarnished is by forgetting that grace is meant to be the covering and not the covered.  This truth is displayed when we mistakenly, and unbiblically, think that grace allows us the freedom to sin; when we attempt to place sin over grace.  Apparently this was what some Roman Christians believed because the apostle Paul addressed this mode of thinking when he wrote that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5:20), but then went on to state that this did not give liberty for believers to increase their level of sin in order to increase the depth of God’s grace (Rom. 6:1).  In fact, Paul said this was foolishness, and truly it is.  It’s how snow becomes black; it’s how grace becomes dirty.  Grace fell down to blanket sin; sin should not wipe its feet upon such a covering.

This hymn written by Julia Johnston hits on this truth:

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!


Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;

What can we do to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,

Brighter than snow you may be today. 

So, there you have it.  My deep thought for the day as well as some words for the day:  snow, grace, clean, dirty, white, black, mixed, covered.  Just a walk in the snow; just a little reflective thinking; just a small bowl of Quaker’s finest and, whoa-la…a reminder of God’s ability to speak to and through His creation.  Now, if I can just embed these truths into my life and remember that when my mind goes digging up past mistakes and trying to uncover forgiven sins, I’m only polluting God’s restoration; I’m only making dirty His grace.


Side bar…or end bar, since it’s at the bottom and not on the side (deep thought #2)

Being completely beyond the inspiration of my morning’s bowl of oatmeal and having sustained myself for the past thirty minutes on butter mints, my thoughts have quickly spiraled downward from quoting Scripture to quoting Jack Handy.  But, lest you be among the unlearned in your familiarity with Jack Handy quotes, I feel led…nay, compelled…to give you a sampling of them.  May they be for you what they are for me; verbal junk food that leaves me with the inability to eat (read) just one!

  •  If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
  • To me, it’s always a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, “Hey, can you give me a hand?,” you can say, “Sorry, got these sacks.”
  • Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind.” Basically, it’s made up of two separate words,mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind. 
  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
  • I hope some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays its eggs in my brain, because later you might think you’re having a good idea but it’s just eggs hatching.

Snowflakes of Grace

A few years ago as I was driving into town, I noticed a section of land that had been clear cut. The scene was bleak and depressing; man’s impact on nature isn’t always a positive one.  But, when I returned home, snow had fallen and this formerly forlorn area was now glistening and beautiful.  I knew what lay underneath the snow, but the formerly rugged edges of fallen trees had been transformed into soft snow drifts.  It was amazing.  I wondered at how something so ugly could become so beautiful.  And then it hit me. What I was seeing was a depiction of my heart before and after the covering of grace.  Just as snow transforms a landscape, grace transforms a heart.  I went home and wrote this poem to reflect this truth.  I hope you find it rings true for you, too.

Snowflakes of Grace

I took a walk one wintry day and had a look around;

A landscape that once hailed her God was nowhere to be found.

The trees once standing tall and straight, lay scattered on the ground;

The creatures that once sang and chirped no longer made a sound.

 On past the trees a patch of thorns had overcome a fence;

It too had fallen, worn from age, with weeds that were immense.

The thorns and thistles blocked my path, their branches were so dense;

I wondered at such lack of care and overt negligence. 

Then as my footsteps found their way around this grove of pain;

The bleakness of this landscape grew as it began to rain.

My heart felt heavy, even sad, this walk had been in vain;

Instead of beauty, all I saw was nature’s great disdain.

Then suddenly, to my surprise, the rain turned into snow;

And as it fell, it blanketed a land of waste and woe.

Snow covered every broken limb; the land began to glow;

As softness covered brokenness, and beauty status-quo. 

I stood awhile and watched the scene, in wonder and in awe;

Amazed at how a landscape changed, once touched by nature’s law.

Amazed at how the snow transformed a landscape that was raw;

Amazed at how my soul did leap to see all that I saw. 

And then I knew this scene without did mirror one within;

As God revealed how flakes of grace had blanketed my sin.

My life had been a land of waste, till God’s light filtered in;

Once covered by His grace and love, my new life did begin.

Where thorny pride and weeds of doubt had tried to gain control;

 God’s mercy came and firmly claimed my life, my heart, my soul.

Then grace fell fresh where sin had been, my life at last was whole;

And serving God, my Savior, Friend, became my pressing goal. 

I took a walk one wintry day, and had a look within;

I marveled at the bleakness of my heart impaired by sin.

But then those flakes of grace came down and made a different scene;

A heart once desolate and scarred was now all white and clean.