I think back to long ago when I was a high school student dancing at the community college. A petite African American woman with short clipped natural hair danced a solo to the song Amazing Grace wearing a long flowing white dress. It is the picture of an angel for me in my mind’s eye. If I close my eyes I see the lines she formed alone on stage in the soft light. I stood in the wings out of sight watching from the side, entranced with the words, and the melody matched with the fluid movement. It was the first time I remember hearing the song. I wasn’t a Christian until I was married and 22, but as a teen I had a sensitivity to spiritual feelings and a curiosity to understand God. I rejected religion and religious people. I wanted to feel God in my own soul. It was as if I was asking Him to come to me and let me know who he is. I sought relationship but I rejected other people telling me what to think or what to do. I had no idea the answers to my questions were in the bible. It would be many years before I embraced the word of God. But the song Amazing Grace lassoed my wild wandering spirit.
It still does. Pastor Alex Kennedy at Kingsland Baptist church spoke about it last Sunday, and I learned that the lyrics were written to a popular pub melody. It remains after so many years the most recognizable hymn today. As I was a teen and uninstructed about things in the bible the song was a teacher, a sign post in my lonely journey pointing me in the direction I should consider going, I understand now. Maybe I have become one of those religious people I rejected, but I don’t care. My life changed when I embraced Jesus as my savior. “My chains are gone I’ve been set free. My God my savior has ransomed me.”
The word Grace, in terms of the grace of God, has always been defined to me as “getting what you don’t deserve”. For an example in my life, I say “by the grace of God I am allowed to help the orphaned children in Uganda have a family life.” I don’t deserve to do this work. I don’t have a degree in anything specific that would equip me to do it. I simply said, “yes Lord.” And he’s taken me on a journey. I get to do this work and I don’t deserve it. I thank God for the grace in my life. Similarly, of all the millions of orphans in Uganda the fourteen who were chosen to belong in the Kirabo Seeds family are there by grace alone. They didn’t do anything to merit the invitation.
Pastor Alex gave us a better definition of grace: “Grace is the action of God to meet the need of salvation of man.” No other religion in the world serves a God of grace, it is uniquely Christian. I am so eager for grace to be given to me that I have to remember it is also my responsibility to extend grace. I can only know when and how to do that by keeping my mind focused on the teaching of the bible, and having a supple sensitivity to the prompting and whispers of the Holy Spirit. It is the quiet place I must retreat to so I can discern. I have to hunger for the word, craving pure spiritual milk.
This morning I woke up in Park City, Utah. (by the grace of God) I was invited to join Craig as he has a board meeting here this week. He asked me what I plan to do while he works. I said, I want to seek intimacy with God here in the mountains. I want to worship him and feel his presence. I need a heavenly hug. He smiled and said, “that’s my honey.”
I downloaded four versions of Amazing Grace by different artists to my phone. I think I will add to the collection. It was interesting to hear it sung in different ways. Something hit me though as I listened to them all in a row. The fourth version sung by a Christian artist, Chris Tomlin, unexpectedly caused me to choke in tears. He sung it as one who understood what it means to be wretched, lost, and blind, then to be found by the grace of God and restored by salvation. His heart bled for the meaning of the song and the Holy Spirit in me connected with the feeling behind his singing and it moved me to tears. It wasn’t just an artist’s interpretation, it was a heart sob.
Morning is opening in the mountains here in Utah. This hotel is nestled in the side of a mountain surrounded by ski slopes waiting for winter snow. The slender white aspens are ablaze in yellow autumn pixels. The air is cool and crisp and the quiet invitation of nature to come explore God’s creation is luring me. I can set my hope fully on the grace I will discover in this new day. I already know it will be Amazing.