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Glimpse of Grace in a Facebook Mesage

The invitation came as a complete surprise through a Facebook message. A few days earlier I let a mission-mentor-friend know that I was home after a visit to Wana Wa Mola in Mombasa, Kenya. My mentor-friend helped arrange my initial exploratory visit to East Africa some four years earlier. A few days later he responded and asked a very simple question. Did I want to attend the 62nd annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D. C.? The possibility, let alone the likelihood, had never crossed my mind, not even in my wildest dreams! “Yes.”
    First organized in Washington, D. C. in 1942 by the members of Congress, members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives gather weekly for a time of food, fellowship and prayer. Politics is left at the door. Members, regardless of party or voting record, or region of the country, encourage, support and pray for one another. And then, each February since 1952, they host the National Prayer Breakfast which brings 3000 representatives from around the world together at the International Ballroom of the Hilton Washington. Every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the breakfast, and every President has spoken about the importance of prayer in his life.
    This year’s hosts—Representatives Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Janice Han (D-California) set the tone and the mood early. Positioned at opposite ends of the political spectrum with seemingly little if anything in common, they displayed the good natured banter and kidding that comes from deep friendship and mutual respect. The thing that united them–and everyone who sat on the platform, regardless of their spiritual background–was Jesus; the Christ to Christians, a major prophet to Muslims, and honored by people of all faiths. And indeed, all faiths were represented at this breakfast.
    Flying from Washington, I mulled over my experiences. I dined with people whose faith stories were far greater than mine. I shared a bagel with a man from Nepal, passed a pat of butter to a Native American social worker from Minnesota, joked with a diplomat from Great Britain, learned about how a major cookie manufacturer met his wife, marveled at the energy of an ER doctor who also provided foster care for difficult teenage boys, and listened to a college student from Kosovo talk about his homeland. I was waaay out of my league. But then, isn’t that a definition of “grace”? Being out of your league? Not being deserving?  Grace isn’t something that we’ve earned. Nor is it something that we can buy or make. Grace isn’t about us. It’s about the One who gives. It is a gift, a true gift with no strings attached.
    It didn’t take an invitation to a National Prayer Breakfast to make me aware of grace, but it did remind me how “grace-full” I am.  How truly “lucky” I am. Grace touches me every day; as I open my eyes in the morning of a new day, when a grandson runs to me as I pick him up from school, or another one calls to tell me that he got his first base hit. Grace hangs on my refrigerator door in the illegible handwritten notes and cards sent by my granddaughters. It sits on my desk in a calendar sprinkled with family pictures from the past year. I experience it on Sunday mornings when a child wanders into my office for a cookie or a neighbor invites me over for a Downton Abbey dinner party knowing that I’m not a fan but that I would be eating alone that evening. It touches me through the touch of a spouse who loves me even when I’m not the least bit lovable, and the friend who drove me home from an emergency room at 3 in the morning when no one else was around.
    Ol’ John Newton got it right. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

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