“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” ~ Frederick Buechner
“Grace is but Glory begun, and Glory is but Grace perfected.” ~ Jonathan Edwards
Writing for me is like hunting a needle in a haystack; I know it’s in there somewhere, I just can’t put my finger on it. When I do, it generally pricks me before I share the needle with anyone else. My recent travel destinations sound like a litany of C&W anthems or B-Westerns: Amarillo, Abilene, Fort Davis, Cisco, Comanche, El Paso, Pecos, and Waco. On one particular journey I was stalled against my will by road construction along Highway 6 somewhere between Dublin and Eastland. It is a barren stretch of tarmac under the best of conditions, along which I’m never tempted to text and drive simply because I lack cell coverage most of the way. Restless and fighting a mild version of road rage, I tuned in Hank FM for some country therapy. I heard Radney Foster sing “Everyday Angels”, David Frizzell belt out “You’re the Reason God made Oklahoma,” and Willie Nelson croon “The Wall.” I have a missionary friend who took a bullet in Africa and credits God and Willie for getting her through the depression, pain and rehab that followed. In front of a lonely farmhouse on Highway 620, still miles from Eastland, stood a tilted and slightly rusted sign bearing the words: ‘Grace’s Reward,’ below which were depicted a horse, a cowboy, and a cross. Questions instantly surfaced. Was the farm a gift to someone named Grace? Was the sign maker stating cryptically that owning a horse and space in which to ride is its own reward? Was the homeowner making a theological declaration?
As I considered its meaning, the radio voice from Hank FM gave breaking news that country singer Hollie Dunn had died in Albuquerque that morning of ovarian cancer at age 59. I am unfamiliar with her life or music, other than her first top-10 hit, “Daddy’s Hands.” What I am acquainted with are the emotions that reacted like involuntary muscle as I considered the unexpected juxtaposition of an untimely death with a roadside reminder. I am not standing in line waiting to receive grace’s reward; this day, this moment, this breath is divine recompense. We cannot and do not deserve any of God’s bounty, but it overflows in spades for those who pause long enough to detect holiness midst the routine and unremarkable.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul,and all that is within me,bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul,and do not forget all his benefits— who forgives all your iniquity,who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5 | NRSV)