An Act of God, An Act of Grace

Marcia Lee Laycock is a pastor’s wife and mother of three. She writes from central Alberta Canada. Her devotional books have been endorsed by Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Jeanette Oke. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone.

The day was bright and sunny with just a touch of crispness to it. It was the kind of morning that should have lifted my spirits but as I gazed out the window, my thoughts were far away and all gloomy. I sighed and tried to prepare for the day ahead. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy one. There would be the gathering of friends and family at the church and then the funeral and a reception immediately afterward. My friend’s death had been a shock to us all. As I got ready I prayed that the Lord would help us get through the day.

I heard the birds as I was eating breakfast. At first I didn’t pay much attention. There is a large tract of bush on the other side of our street, so we hear the birds every morning. By the time I was ready to head out our front door, I was wondering why the birdsong was so loud. As I stepped out into the fresh spring air, I was astonished at the reason. The entire bush across from me was full of robins. They flitted from branch to branch and tree to tree, singing. I stood and watched and listened and suddenly my spirit was lifted. A verse of scripture that can sometimes seem so impossible came to mind. “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I was witnessing an act of grace, a gift given in reply to a plea for help. The gift worked wonders.

I don’t know if robins usually move about in large flocks. Perhaps it’s part of their migration pattern, but I have never seen a flock like that before. I’ve always looked for that single robin that heralds the coming of spring. I would never have dreamed of looking for over a hundred of them.

Perhaps God knew that’s what I needed that day – something unusual and delightful, something that would take my breath away. As I drove to the church I realized that it’s just like Him to do something like that. He has said that He does not only want to give us life, but He wants to give us abundant life, a life full of delightful things like birdsong, to banish the gloom, a life in which the darkness of death is overcome by the blazing light of life.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Assurance

Marcia writes from Central Alberta Canada. Her devotionals have been endorsed by Phil Callaway, Mark Buchanan and Janette Oke. Visit her website at www.vinemarc.com

2 Timothy 1:11-12 – “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald … I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

There have been times when I have feared that I’ll die before writing what I really want to write – that great novel, the perfect devotional, that poem that sings and that article that changes a life. After all, death is the final interruption. It always comes at an unexpected time and often in the middle of something.

I hope my death doesn’t come for a very long time, but I know it could be sooner than I want. It could be today. That’s why I love what Timothy says in his second epistle. When I read that verse this morning it reminded me again who I work for.

He’s the kind of boss everyone wants. He’s organized and efficient, He knows all my weaknesses and strengths and exactly what direction I need to go to develop my skills. He provides ample opportunity for me to learn those skills and learn about him in the process. He knows the beginning and the end of my life and my career. He has it all mapped out so that it will give me everything I need, bless others and bring him glory.

I have committed my life and my work to Jesus Christ. I can rest in the assurance that I won’t die until He has accomplished all that he intended through me. I don’t have to fear an “untimely death.” Neither do I have to fear that death is the end of it all. To the contrary, scripture tells us it is just the beginning. We will have all of eternity to accomplish what God intends – singing his praises, glorifying him forever.

After all, death is only an interruption. The novel might be half finished, the poem only begun, but the words will continue to flow in that new reality. I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able.

Delusions of Grandeur

Marcia Laycock is a pastor’s wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website – http://www.vinemarc.com/

It was a silly, pre-adolescent movie. The plot involved a group of misfits who wanted to be super-heroes. They dreamed about it, dressed like it, talked the talk and even tried to walk the walk. In the end they do save the day, of course, in a manner that would make all those who love underdogs cheer wildly. But in the end, one of the characters has learned that it’s okay to be “just Roy.” It’s okay to be just a guy with an ordinary name, living a normal life.

We all have delusions of grandeur. We all have dreams of doing something great someday, something that gets noticed, something of significance. We all would like recognition, even a taste of fame. And of course the fortune that comes with it would be nice too. Deep down inside, we all want to be “somebody.” This common human trait goes back to man’s earliest days. There’s a record of it in the first book of the Bible. The writer of Genesis tells us the descendants of Noah disobeyed God and began to scheme. It seems they wanted to be super-heroes. “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4)

The desire for grandeur is part of us because in fact, we were created to be grand. We were created in the image of God, meant to be as glorious as a reflection of Him can and should be. So it’s natural that we long for it. But like the descendants of Noah, we try to achieve greatness in ways that God does not support. He tells us to serve but we want to be the masters. He tells us to seek spiritual food, the knowledge of God, but we want burgers and fries and everything else the world offers. He tells us to care for the poor and the oppressed but we struggle for prosperity on our own behalf. He tells us to praise and honor Him but we have better things to do with our time. Like the descendants of Noah, we want “a name for ourselves” and it is not the name God has given us.

All the things God tells us to do are meant to bring us the grandeur we seek. They are meant to make us more like Him. The irony is that we will achieve that grandeur only when we submit to Him and be content with who we are. When we discover that it’s good to be “just Roy,” a person living an ordinary life in obedience to God, we make a grand discovery. We realize we are growing into the image of God. Then the grandeur we seek falls in line with the grand creatures we were created to be, creatures who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8)

Stretching

Marcia Lee Laycock is a pastor’s wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website – http://www.vinemarc.com/

The Yukon autumn was sliding into winter as my friends and I sipped coffee and stared out the window of our warm log home at the heavy frost on the ground. The conversation turned to the subject of wood. Firewood. We all admitted our woodpiles weren’t quite as high as they could be. We all knew what minus 60 was like, that our stoves would deplete the store of fuel in no time.

Then Anne mentioned a local sawmill was giving away slab wood. The slabs were mostly bark with only an inch or two of wood, but they were dry and made great kindling. Enough of them would be a welcome and needed addition to the stock of wood in our yards. But we also knew our husbands’ jobs left no daylight hours to haul wood. It was Barb who said, “So it’s up to us.” I was the last to agree. I knew how heavy our chainsaw was, having run it once or twice. The idea of spending a whole day running it didn’t appeal to me. But my friends assured me we could do it. Barb rented the truck, Anne packed the lunch and I prayed.

A few days later I found myself staring at our saw as my husband sharpened the chain and explained how to avoid stalling it. For most of that night I considered how I might get out of this adventure, but the next day the first crack of light found me and my two friends stacking slabs on the deck of a five-ton truck. As the pile grew, we took turns climbing on top to trim the ends on the far side. My arms, already aching from tossing the slabs, shook as I leaned over and tried not to think of falling off with a roaring chainsaw in my hands. But the pile slowly grew until the three of us, dirty, exhausted, but smiling, stood back and surveyed the stack of wood, piled as high as it could go on the back of that truck.

The sun was setting and the temperature dropping as we drove home. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on our husbands’ faces when we arrived with that loaded truck. The knowledge that we had made a significant contribution to the comfort of our families that winter made all of us smile. The episode had been a stretch for me, but the accomplishment made me realize with the Lord’s help I was capable of more than I had thought. It felt good.

I once heard a challenging sermon about stretching. “It’s in stretching that faith grows,” the pastor said. “It’s in stretching that we learn to rely on God’s grace.”

Stretching your faith might mean letting go of something you’ve been worrying about. It might mean reconciling with someone who has offended you. It might just mean attending a Bible study group for the first time. It might mean writing a poem or an article even though you’re a fiction writer. It might mean starting that first novel, or hitting the send button to put your words out there for the world to read.

Maybe you’re thinking the same thoughts I did the night before my wood hauling expedition – “I don’t think I can do it.” Maybe you’re right, but God’s grace can do it through you. So pray. Then go ahead and stretch.