Tag Archives: Grace


“When they were satisfied, Jesus told the disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.'”  – John 6:12  NRSV

Communion Bread

Communion Bread – Before Worship.  Photo: TLClark.


Five loaves and two fish.  About five thousand ate as much as they wanted.  All four gospel accounts* agree there were twelve baskets full of left-overs.

But only in the Gospel according to John does Jesus direct the disciples to gather the fragments so none will be lost.


Fragments.  The parts we call left over.  Extra bits we try to hide.  Pieces we are tempted to toss out.  “Gather them up,” Jesus says.  Gather up the all the parts of your life that make you you.  Not just the happy, pleasing, joyful fragments.  Gather up the broken, the hurting, the fragile.  Not to discard or to be rid of.  But to let Jesus mend or heal or restore or purify.  Jesus wants all of it.  Jesus wants all of you.  For you are valued more than you can imagine – at least 12 times more!

So none will be lost.  No one.  Not you.  Not me.  Not friend, family, neighbor, stranger, enemy.  Jesus intends that not a single, solitary soul be lost.

“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. …”  – John 10:16 NRSV

Jesus has more than one fold!  Jesus’ followers are not all alike.  Some call on Jesus by another name.  God’s people come in an amazing array of endless variety.  Look at the crowd on the hillside:  5000 people who were each there for their own reasons.  Sinners and saints, skeptics and believers.  ALL were fed.  None are to be lost.

*The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle story told by all four gospel writers.  See Matthew 14:31-21; Mark 6:33-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-14.

Think on These Things

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”   – Philippians 4:8 NRSV

It’s been one of those weeks – months actually – where all the news is bad or sad,  discouraging or disheartening.  Probably not all the news, but it has felt that way.  I could make an extensive list.  But I won’t.  Some stories are widely known.  Some are not mine to tell.

As central Iowans dealt with flash floods three weeks ago and tornadoes three days ago, the wisdom of Mister Rogers ran through my mind:  “Look for the helpers.”  Notice the neighbors, the friends, and the strangers who show up to lend a hand hauling debris, who bring food and water, who share tears and prayers.  Agents of God’s steadfast love and mercy (whether they know it or not), they are out there everywhere.

Awake in the night, lamenting over the messiness and brokenness in the ordinary lives of people I know and love, the words of Philippians floated through my mind:  “whatsoever things are true … pure … honest … just … lovely … of good report … think on these things” (the King James Version memorized in my childhood).  “Take account of these” a footnote in the New Revised Standard Version reads.  (Compare different English translations here: Phil. 4:8.)

Holy One, when the news seems all bad all the time, help me look for the helpers.  Help me focus on you and your word.  Amen.


“On Your Left”

Over the din of traffic on 36th St., I heard, “On your left.”  Instinctively, I stepped to the right.

When I heard “on your left” a few days ago I started to the left then quickly went right, laughing at myself.  Which is left?  Where do I go?

If you ride or walk on the bike trails in central Iowa you know “on your left” is both good manners and a bit of a warning.  It means “I’m behind you and will pass on your left.”  It could also mean “watch out, here I come.”

Last week it was a preschooler, prompted by his mom.  “On your left,” he hollered from quite a ways back.  “You should wait until you’re a little closer,” his mom called out to him.  I turned to see how far back they were and smiled.  The little boy was pedaling mightily until he got close.  I said “thank you” as he rode by a little close for my comfort – after all it’s hard to pedal, steer straight, and look at the woman walking to your right.

It was teenager this morning.  Probably not quite old enough to drive, making her way wherever she was going via bicycle.  “Thank-you,” I smiled as she rode by on my left.  Still pedaling forward, she looked back with a blessing, “have a great rest of your day!”

I will.  And hope you do too.

Pinochle and Grace


John’s Double Family takes the game. Image: TLClark, December 2007.

48 playing cards.  The usual four suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.  Two cards per suit:  ace, ten, king, queen, jack, nine.  A pinochle is a queen of spades with a jack of diamonds.

Whether four-handed (playing with a partner) or three-handed (you’re on your own), pinochle is family fun.  It is about being together, telling stories, sharing laughter, and occasionally holding really good cards.

When “family rules” are in effect – and they are always in effect – pinochle is also about grace.  A few examples:

  • Players new to the game get assistance, often in the form of an experienced player looking over their shoulder to help bid or to offer advice on what card to lead.
  • Young players are allowed an occasional hand signal when bidding – especially when bidding for 300 pinochle (was that two legs or three?).
  • Players of every age and experience are allowed to pull back a card just played when they realized they’ve played the wrong card.
  • When a game goes too long or ceases to be fun or it’s time for a nap or a meal, the cards are put away.

Goodwill.  Second chances.  Much love.  All signs of grace.