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La Vita Grassa

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Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Monday, August 22, 2005

More Reflections on Grace

Money eases the way to him who holds it,

But the arms of grace will carry any man.

- Rachel Beach

Reflecting on the sensation of being offered grace, the sickened feeling of shame and then joy at unmerited, unexpected kindness and mercy of friends and strangers in these past few weeks, I consider how much more it should speak of our attitude toward God. Were it not for His overwhelming love and grace, we should be hated and cursed specimens, worms undeserving of anything but squirming in the mud, our sin. If I was oppressed for a week at the thought of breaking a friend's trust by wrecking his truck, how much more should our every day and every thought be consumed by the agony of hurting our loving God, our Creator, of sinning day after day and laughing about it. Yet Christ does not want us to walk in this misery, he wants us to walk in irrepressible joy, as one walking forth from a prison, our jail-time paid by his death.

The sad truth is, however, that we do neither. We neither care nor consider how wretched we are, how much we hurt our Father. Sick to our stomachs over our sin? Rarely. We take for granted every day we walk upon the earth as if we created ourselves and will, by our fine speech and glossed-over deeds, deliver ourselves inside heaven's gates. Nor do we find joy in our salvation. The prospect that our destiny is a most incomprehensibly lovely place, not torture and continual death does not evoke spontaneous laughter or tears of gratefulness. It should.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Beautiful Grace

When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.

- Phillip Yancy

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven ...
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.

- William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

I have been shown grace. I have wept before acts of kindness. My stomach, sick with shame, has felt relief by undeserved forgiveness. I have seen the power of God’s hand reclaim my future from disaster. This has been my past few weeks’ experience.

The circumstances are innumerable, but a few I will recount.

August 4, 2005, Journal Entry

This day my God has done great things. He is mighty and powerful. The Lord blesses the way of the righteous. He gives good things to those who love Him and whom He loves. He makes all their plans succeed.[i]

He showed me His grace this morning at my dentist’s office. After an emergency appointment drilling several additional cavities that the Peace Corps MD had requested, my dentist, Dr. Donaldson realized I needed a root canal. My immediate thoughts: I have so little money, no dental insurance, no time. If I cannot get into someone within days I will lose my invite to Morocco. The PC Staging was a little over four weeks away and I had to be dentally cleared a month before. I almost cried as I thought of all the horrible scenarios this might incur. Moreover, I have an extremely sensitive mouth and after six shots of Novocain for two teeth, I was still shaking with a cold sweat and gripping the chair, trying to mentally overcome the pain as they drilled. The prospect of a root canal was abysmal.

Dr. D. walked into the room. “Every endologist is booked until the 15th.” My heart fell. “But,” she continued with a gentle smile, “I have a friend. She is so very sweet and does beautiful root canals. She saw the needs among poor people for affordable dentistry and went back to school to help. She can get you in at 2PM today. She takes CareCredit too, unlike most other dentists.” I gasped. “And,” she continued, “I’m not charging you for these cavities”. “You can’t do that!” I protested. “Yes, I can.” I broke down in tears, right there in the office among five sweet ladies. “You’re so sweet!” the assistant Mary hugged me. “You’re going to help poor people, we can help you.” I was overwhelmed with joy and love and gratefulness at God’s provision. He brought me to these kind ladies who have done so much for me. Dr. Donaldson came over, smiled and hugged me. “Good luck.”

That was one scenario. Here’s another more recent:

August 9, 2005, Journal Entry

Grace is an amazing thing. I have just been shown grace and feel an utter lack of ability to repay, nor express worthy gratitude. I wrecked my friend, Adam’s truck. He drove me to his parent’s house, two hours away in Columbus, on Friday, and we drove back for work early in the morning. His car (which I was driving) got a flat tire on the way home, 6AM. He patiently called AAA and then patiently waited for Goodyear to open to repair it. He called in to work and explained he would be late. Not a hint of frustration.

After finally getting home around 10AM, I began breaking down furniture to pack in the truck. I was taking some of my belongings to my sister Tabi, in Chicago. It took much longer than I thought and when Adam pulled in from work later that afternoon I was just beginning to load the truck. He quickly came to my aid. I told him he had already done enough, but he said it he was “more than happy to help!” I felt guilty to be using so much of his kindness.

I drove to Chicago, unloaded the furniture with Tabi and a few kind neighbors’ help. We spent a memorable weekend together. Monday I proceeded to head home. Between construction blocking lanes and the nearness of rush hour, traffic was one-lane bumper to bumper. Everyone stopped short; I slammed on the breaks. This was not my Honda Accord. It did not obediently jerk to a standstill. I watched in horror as my pickup neatly rammed the Geo in front of me. This is not my truck! Oh my goodness! How will I pay for this?! What will I do? I can’t tell Adam. How could this happen? I rushed out, in a flurry of nervousness and billowing tears, shaking my hands. “Are you okay, sir? I’m so sorry.” He was the one calming me, however. There was just a small crack in his bumper. The bumper of Adam’s pickup, however, was spectacularly bashed. “I’m fine, these things happen,” he assured me, patting my shoulder. I flittered back and forth between him and the pickup cab, not doing much of anything of use. I called Tabi to come meet me. A gentleman came up to me as I fumbled through the glove compartment. “I just called the cops and I have a tow truck on its way, free of charge. Everything will be okay.” “Okay thanks,” I responded. Wait a moment, who was this man? “Umm, thank you sir, you didn’t have to do that! What’s your name?” “My name’s Dave, I own a body shop down the street, your radiator is leaking and you cannot drive this. We’ll call your insurance company and handle everything at the shop, don’t worry. Everything will be okay.” The cops and Tabi showed up shortly. We filled out paperwork, traded information between parties. The gentleman I had hit was able to depart for work, no hard feelings. We followed Dave’s BMW to his beautiful body shop (a renovated show room/museum of sorts). His sweet wife handled everything, amused at the strange situation, as the car was not mine, but made many calls trying to coordinate everything. I finally realized I must call Adam, as fearful as I was.

“Are you okay, Rachel? If you’re okay, then everything’s okay.” He was on vacation in South Carolina. We needed to contact his parents as the insurance was in their name. They were in Europe on vacation. I called him back. He had already contacted their cell in Europe and left a message. Tabi and I went back to her apartment and I spent then next day pacing the floor, sick to my stomach at what Adam and his parents must be thinking, making various calls between the body shop, insurance agents and Adam, who was patiently sweet every time we spoke. I was waiting on confirmation from Adam’s parents that they “knew me” and approved of me borrowing the truck, so the insurance would cover the expenses and a rental car, so I could head home. How ridiculous it all was. I was in Chicago, but didn’t live there. I was driving a truck, but it wasn’t mine. It was my friend’s truck (my ex, to be more specific), but it was in his parent’s name. He was on vacation in South Carolina. They were on vacation in Europe. How much more of a mangled a situation could I possibly have dreamed up? Finally Adam called and said he had reached his parents. “They were just so happy that you’re okay! Everything’s going to be fine, don’t worry, Rach.” I almost fainted with delight and relief. How could I ever thank them?

I could have had to pay for over $3000 in damages between his car and mine. I should have had Tabi drive me back and forth between Cincy and Chicago. The man I hit could have sued me; he could have been at least very angry. I could have roused the wrath of Adam and his parents and should have lost all trust and favor and fellowship with them. I should have had to pay for a tow-truck. I should have at least had to call the tow truck and cops. I could have spent much time finding an acceptable body shop. I could have been much farther away and had to pay for a night in a hotel. None of this happened because of the many sweet strangers, a sister, and friends who unquestioningly, patiently helped me in so many ways. Adam and his parent’s had shown me grace much undeserved. I wished I could kneel at Adam’s feet and kiss them at that moment. I would not see him for more than a week, but when I did, he was nothing but sweetness; quick to forgive and confirm that I was okay.

I am convinced that God has placed situation after situation in my path, during these last few weeks of preparation (before I leave for Morocco) to show me that this is His plan, and it is His provision that will allow me to go. He has demonstrated grace, mercy and kindness through many people and situations and freed me from many situations, any one of which could have prevented me from leaving, debt-free and physically fit for the road ahead. I give Him glory and honor and thanks. Let these next twenty-seven months be ones of service and grace.

[i] Psalms 20:4

Sunday, August 14, 2005

No Compute

I don't have a computer right now.. it's been sent off to be fixed to be fixed .. I have lots of stories to tell and have been traveling all over in preparation, I'll post again shortly. (Right now I'm in Nashville with my dear sis Miss Priss for the weekend).


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

3 Doors Down

Ok, so 5:20pm rolls around and my friend Meliss calls. Are you doing anything? Are you still working? Were you going to the Red's game tonight? "No.. I don't think so, why?" Cause I have free VIP passes to the 3 Doors Down concert tonight. "When do I have to leave?" Right now. "Umm.. okay, but a couple is out driving my car, they might want to buy it.. they should be back soon..I'll leave as soon as I can." Good, because we need to get there early with traffic.

5:30 rolls around. No sign of Tawana and her husband. Was my car a convenient getaway? 5:35, Tawana calls: "Sorry, didn't want you to think we stole your car, we just got stuck in traffic. We're on our way back." Meliss calls back: "Can you leave by 5:45 at the latest??" I dunno, let me call Tawana back and see where they are. I call twice, no answer. 5:45 ... still no sign. I finally give up and call Meliss back. Just go ahead without me; give the ticket to someone else. "Are you sure? Sting is going to be there too.." "What! Oooh, oh well." Sigh .. Yep. I hang up, look out the window.. my car comes into view. I call Meliss back: "They're here, still have a ticket?" Yep. "Okay, I'm leaving."

Sting actually turned out to be Stained. Stained was band number three and by that time we were both deaf (sitting in row seven facilitates hearing the bands QUITE well). 10:00 .. 3 Doors Down crashes into the first song with fireworks and flashing lights. We scream. It was all worth it. Song number four.. we're laughing and screaming and singing along. Massive fireballs burst out of their set at programmed intervals, the lead guitar rams out a solo, then bam. Everything went black. We screamed more, waiting for them to cut back in with blinding lights. No lights. No more guitar solos. The guys scrambling up the set ladders weren't doing stunts. Flashlights and scurrying bodies shuffled across the stage. Groups huddled in consultation. This, it was dawning on all of us, wasn't part of the plan.

Ten minutes later the ushers spread the word, row to row that the show was over. We finally gave up and left our prize seats. As we were walking toward the exit gates we heard loud screams down by the stage. I ran up some steps to see what was going on. Brad Arnold, their lead, was sitting on the edge of the stage, microphone in hand. Somebody was shining a flashlight on him and he rested his hand on a generator-powered speaker. "What do you want to sing!?"

We turned back, only to find the polo'd staff blocking our way back. Tickets didn't matter. Ridiculous. We waited 'till there was a crowd surrounding her and walked right past them. We found more roadblocks closer to the front and gave up, happy to be at least this close. Ten minutes later we saw a guy give the usher his ticket and was permitted to go back to his seat. Tickets help? We got through and happily returned home to the seventh row. "When I'm gone.. " the audience sang along with Brad. Someone grabbed a drum and held it for the drummer. They went on singing, beautifully, in the dark.. five more songs or so. Then Brad, naked and sweaty from the waist up, grabbed a bottle of vodka and a cigarette. He blabbed more, sang less.."Listen to me, listen. I swear .. Listen to me brothas and sistas, are you listening..?" Meliss and I laughed and decided it was time to head home.

Memorable night.