Saturday, December 05, 2009

Grace at 4:00 AM

I ended my tirade against banks and bankers on Friday with these words:

My next adventure in the corrupt world of money is to find out why my Social Security benefit check is $110.37 less this month than it was last month.
Thus I spent most Friday on the telephone and Internet in contact (or trying to make contact) with three Federal agencies: the Social Security Administration, the Department of the Treasury, and the Veterans Administration. I shall not go into detail about the contacts; I did write as a sort of on-going narrative on Facebook. If you want more than the brief summary below, you may access me on Facebook at:

That said, the following is part of the Facebook on-going narrative:

The $110 taken from my Social Security check this month was done by the Treasury Department for the Veterans Administration. It seems that I am not paying enough monthly of the Rx co-pay to VA. I have been paying them what I can afford, $10 - $30 per month, depending upon what I have after paying my utility bills. This is a hell of a Christmas present!

After the experience, like the Hebrews in bondage in Egypt, I cried out:

My God! How come every time I think that I have caught up financially something like this happens to take away the little progress I thought I had made! This is one hell of a Christmas present.
This post is about grace. I am defining grace as:
the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Yesterday's hours dealing with the Federal bureaucracy exhausted me. I also felt despondent to the point of an on-coming episode of transient situational depression. Therefore, I went to bed early, like before 10:00 PM. Alex joined me and we snuggled and snoozed. After about five or so hours of this, I awakened, decided that I had had enough sleep, and the furball and I got up.

After feeding Alex and splashing water on my face, I had to deal with my inquisitive cat who wanted to go outside even though it was still very dark and the temperature was only 28 F. (Crazy cat!)

When I opened the door for Alex, I remembered that, with all of my busy-ness yesterday, I had neglected to check the mailbox. I did and was surprised with a graciousness that amazed me.

There, among the junk mail and Christmas catalogs, I encountered an envelope from the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ. Inside that envelope was a Christmas gift for us retired and disabled pastors. The check was large enough to replace the funds that the VA took from my Social Security check!

I do not know why this amazes me! It has happened time and time again in my life: unexpected and undeserved grace has come to me over and over and over again.

And, so I ask myself (again), why did I allow the VA's actions to create a despondency in my me? Why did I not have faith that God would provide for my needs? Why do I not remember:

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”   ~ Matthew 6:25-31


  1. Praise be!!

    You've reminded me of another of those "long stories," Nick. One day I'll send it to you, but suffice it to say that He does provide for us when we need it most. I'm very happy for you!

  2. That same thing happens to me all the time. And I wonder why it is that I can't just "not freak out" and keep the faith. I'd prefer the securitiy of not even having to think about not freaking out... but there continues to be a lesson for me there... thanks for posting this... and so glad!

  3. Looks like a case of the left hand actually knowing what the right hand was up to!

  4. Nick,

    I LOVE your new banner photo! Very festive!

    Isn't life fascinating? All there is is grace!

    Much Salaam and Shalom!

  5. Lynilu: I love to hear similar stories! Yes, share it when you can. Grace is so amazing! The sad thing is, so many people have experienced gracious gifts and never recognize their Source.

  6. What a marvelous story! Please, Nick, write more about "unexpected and undeserved grace has come to me over and over and over again."

  7. Shimmerrings : I am amazed how many people experience such grace. I, too, don't know why I "not freak out!" Even when I have felt that I am at rock bottom, I have had a gracious arm reach down and snatch me from the pit.

  8. Jinksy: I think you are right! And I am amazed when it happens.

  9. Carol: Thank you. I played around with the banner very early this morning and I find the results acceptable. I truly love the concept that "all life is grace!" I must write a post about shalom and salaam someday. Of course, it is already written, but that was ina sermon many years ago. I promise not to repeat the sermon, even if I could find its manuscript!

  10. I knew as soon as I saw the title of your post that whatever you had to say would inspire me. I was not disappointed.

    The lesson for me here is "why" indeed do I allow things to unravel me when I know with just a little more trusting on my part, I need not worry at all. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    And speaking of grace...This came as intanbible proof yesterday that your definition of grace as "the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them." is spot on.

    I had a conversation with my sister about the dream I had Tuesday night of my father. She asked me tell her so I began....and when I got to the part "and he was wearing a yellow shirt"..she gasped and burst into tears.

    On the same night, Nick, he comforted my sister as well...wearing the same shirt in her dream.

  11. Nick (((BIG HUG)))

    I'm so glad the story had a happy ending.

    I was talking about Grace with an internet friend recently. I love your definition.

    I hope the rest of December is filled with miracles and Peace on Earth for you.

  12. Good story. I find that God has a way of being there when we humans aren't looking and then we are amazed of his Grace.
    Nothing is easy anymore even with all the electronic convenices and especially if the government or finanacial institutions are involved. I am sure we all have HORROR stories to tell about each these and others as well. Just remember to Pick your Battle and remember God is the head of our Army.
    May you continue to be Blessed by unexpected gifts of Grace. Peace

  13. We are happy we can stay away from bureaucrats! We thank the good people who sent to you that Christmas present.

  14. great post nick! im happy somethang good has happend to you!

  15. Abby: Thank you. OK, I shall write more about my experiences with grace.

  16. Mimi Lenox: I believe it is amazing grace that your sister and you dreamed of your father on the same night. That is not just coincidence.

    I have learned (the hard way) that faith in God's grace does relieve most worries. Like you, it would be nice if I could remember that when the stress enters my life.

  17. Michelle: Thank you. Here is a (((((HUG))))) in return. I'll be responding to your email this morning.

  18. Lady Di Tn: Thank you, my Lady! Life does seem to be so very complex these days that it is difficult to remember and make a place for God's graciousness in our lives.

  19. Kanga n Roo: Thank you, my friends! I am glad to hear that your can stay away from bureaucrats! That makes life much simpler.

  20. chica40208: Thank you, my dear friend! Please check you blog for the comment I left this morning. OK?

  21. I'm so happy for you that the shortfall in your pension was made up another way. :)

  22. Akelamalu: Thank you, my friend! I really wish I'd not wasted all of the emotional energy worrying about the actions of the VA.