For the first part of this week I was at a denominational gathering of thinkers…and at times I was frustrated, and at times I was intrigued, and at times I was bored, and at times I was curious and restless.
At the end of the event was worship that included a sermon and Eucharist. I convinced myself to stay, willing to be transformed by the experience of worshipping in a “new” community.
And the word I received has me pondering all the moments of grace that have shaped who I am and where I am…all the other lives transformed so that is also transformed and becoming each and every day.
John Wesley talks about “preventing” grace – the grace that goes before us before we even know about Jesus, before we recognize the breath of the Spirit that surrounds us, before we recognize the gifts we receive each day at the hands of a creative, loving God.
My maternal grandmother was “rescued” from a hard home by what I imagine as my dashing, albeit balding, blue-eyed and witty grandfather after meeting a gathering of the Wesley Foundation on the University of Illinois campus in its very first year…not just the first year of the Wesley Foundation at U of I; no – the very first year of ANY Wesley Foundation. The movement of gathering young adults sprouted there, and two of the young adults gathered happened to be Will and Edna.
My father should not have been conceived. Edna her had lost a baby and was not in good shape…she wasn’t supposed to get pregnant so soon. And she did. And Charles Everett came into the world.
My parents met (of course) in an MYF meeting…but they didn’t immediately hit it off. In fact, they were off. And then Eileen had a tragic and horrific sledding accident that left her in a body cast, and the good pastor at the local Methodist Church implored his son to go visiting while she was bed-ridden in a body cast. Chuck really never left her side again.
Chuck and Eileen had four beautiful stair steps in five years between 1954 and 1958. They were making the baby boom – and their names were Linda, Glen, Sharon and Debra.
In 1968, my dad’s older brother, Jim, took his own life after a lifetime battle with mental health issues. The family struggled to understand. I have to imagine that for a pastor’s family when these things were not the stuff of open discussion it had to be a sad season.
But then along came a little surprise in 1969 – 11 years after Debra earned the title of youngest child. Laura entered the world, the fifth child to Eileen and Chuck.
Chuck wasn’t big on church. But I went to Sunday School and VBS and to youth group. Youth group was my sanctuary during awkward and sometimes lonely years while Linda, Glen, Sharon and Debbie launched into adulthood.
Chuck was diagnosed with cancer (the first time) when I was 15 and told he had 6 weeks to live. For the record, he lived another 25 years.
There are the deep stories about call and arriving at seminary and wilderness and confession and repentance and reconciliation and more and more abundant grace.
But before all that there was this family tree…this series of happy accidents.
Grace upon grace upon grace.