Lenten Meditation–Grace Be With You

Our pastor has just finished a very illuminating evening study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, which ends with a few concise words in 4:18, the final verse.

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

The Apostle shares remarkable humanity with his Christian brothers and sisters in these words that deserve deeper exploration over the next several days.  What initially caught my attention was the interesting contrast between the last line of the letter compared to the opening line in verse at the very beginning of the letter:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

What is the difference here in the greeting “Grace and peace to you” at the beginning and “Grace be with you” at the end?

The following explanation is proposed by Dr. John Piper (www.desiringgod.org)  in his book Future Grace:

“Paul has in mind that the letter itself is a channel of God’s grace to the readers. Grace is about to flow ‘from God’ through Paul’s writing to the Christians. So he says, ‘Grace to you.’ That is, grace is now active and is about to flow from God through my inspired writing to you as you read – ‘grace [be] to you.’ But as the end of the letter approaches, Paul realizes that the reading is almost finished and the question rises, ‘What becomes of the grace that has been flowing to the readers through the reading of the inspired letter?’ He answers with a blessing at the end of every letter: ‘Grace [be] with you.’ With you as you put the letter away and leave the church. With you as you go home to deal with a sick child and an unaffectionate spouse. With you as you go to work and face the temptations of anger and dishonesty and lust. With you as you muster courage to speak up for Christ over lunch. . . . [Thus] we learn that grace is ready to flow to us every time we take up the inspired Scriptures to read them. And we learn that grace will abide with us when we lay the Bible down and go about our daily living” (Future Grace, 66-67).

This is what it is like each Sunday, as I enter Wiser Lake Chapel, and am filled with the Word from Pastor Bert’s inspired teaching.  The spirit flows from our Pastor’s study of the Word, to accompany each of us as we go about our week.  Grace to, and then with us.

Just as Paul intended for his brothers and sisters.  We are deeply blessed.

The Horse of Few Words

He was a horse of few words. After twenty five years of living with human beings, he didn’t find it necessary to call or greet us as the other Haflingers did when they were hungry. He stood patiently despite his voracious appetite, waiting his turn, knowing and trusting he would always be fed. He knew his family took care of him, no matter what.

Amos was a do-it-all Haflinger. He could be ridden, driven in a cart, taken on trail rides, jump in a show, and even was the platform for horse back gymnastics, or “vaulting.” He knew his job, did it well, and raised many children in the process.

One night, while I was heading to the barn for evening chores, my husband greeted me at the barn door with a concerned look on his face.

“We’ve got trouble. Amos is down.”

Sure enough, he was cast up against the wall of his huge double stall and, covered in sweat, and clearly had been there for some time. Incredibly, when he saw us, he nickered a “huh huh huh huh” greeting in his deep throaty voice. When we approached the stall with lead ropes ready to loop around his legs, it was if his “huh?” was clearly saying, “whatever took you so long?”

He lay still as we snugged the ropes on his legs and using every ounce of strength, we hauled him over. He lay on his side, breathing heavily, then pulled himself up, put his front legs out in front of him and staggered to his feet. Every muscle was quivering.

He had never had a bout of colic before so I called the vet as our daughter, his biggest fan, started walking him. He passed several loose stools but whenever he stopped walking, he was ready to lie down again, or would paw or kick at this belly. However, even with such bad cramping, he also tried to snatch at hay bales as he passed them and nibbled clumps of grass in the lawn.

By the time the vet arrived, Amos was not as shaky and looking brighter eyed. The vet was quite impressed by Amos’ strength for his age and was very amazed at his appetite in spite of being in pain. I reminded him he was dealing with no ordinary horse.  This was a Haflinger. The vet chuckled, “I guess maybe he would be chewing during his dying breath if he could, wouldn’t he?”

Once the necessary medication was administered, we allowed him back to his stall to lie down and rest. He no longer needed to roll in pain. He was exhausted and wanted to sleep. I cut up some apple pieces and a few carrots from our garden and put them in his food bin in case he decided he wanted to have a treat to eat. Then we went to bed too.

At 2 AM I got up to check on him. When I turned on the barn aisle lights and started toward his stall down at the end, I heard his low nickering “huh huh huh huh” again. What a wonderful sound! And then I saw his velvety nose poking out of his stall window by his food bin, grabbing for apple pieces lying on the sill. There is no better sight than a hungry horse after such an ordeal!

He was absolutely fine for seven weeks when it happened again, but worse. This time, nothing the vet could do could turn things around for Amos. He remained in pain despite all our efforts, and the vet told us we were at the end. My daughter and I stroked his sweaty neck, seeing the fear and agony in his eyes, and knew the time had come. Amos took his final walk with us out to a grassy slope in the moonlight. We offered him a bite of grass; his big lips picked it up and held it for a moment, but then he let it drop.

He sighed, giving us one more “huh huh huh huh” as the vet prepared to administer the sedative. Soon he would be lifted to a place where the sun would forever shine warm on his withers, the tender spring grass was always tasty, and there would never again be a need for goodbyes.

Someday again we will see him galloping toward us, his mane flying in the wind, calling out with the few words he knows, as if to say, “whatever took you so long?”