I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult — or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.
Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family. I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children. After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old girl into our home.
For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter with a family friend. Usually — at least in the child’s mind — this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.
And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades. But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside. Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the southeastern United States.
I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill. I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional instability. What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and, as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.
A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk through her latest escapade. “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?” The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.
In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage. The easiest response would have been, “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you” — but, by God’s grace, I didn’t. Instead, I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”
She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.
“Are you part of this family?”
She nodded again.
“Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”
I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment. They didn’t. Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista. Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we had promised, and it was a typical Disney day. Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.
In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged. She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded. When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”
She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly. “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”
It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.
That’s the message of outrageous grace.
Outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s. Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return. It’s a farmer paying a full day’s wages to a crew of deadbeat day laborers with only a single hour punched on their time cards (Matthew 20:1 – 16). It’s a man marrying an abandoned woman and then refusing to forsake his covenant with her when she turns out to be a whore (Ezekiel 16:8 – 63; Hosea 1:1 — 3:5). It’s the insanity of a shepherd who puts ninety-nine sheep at risk to rescue the single lamb that’s too stupid to stay with the flock (Luke 15:1 – 7). It’s the love of a father who hands over his finest rings and robes to a young man who has squandered his inheritance on drunken binges with his fair-weather friends (Luke 15:11 – 32)…It’s one-way love that calls you into the kingdom not because you’ve been good but because God has chosen you and made you his own. And now he is chasing you to the ends of the earth to keep you as his child, and nothing in heaven or hell can ever stop him…
But here’s what’s amazing about God’s outrageous grace: This isn’t merely what God the Father would do; it’s what he did do. God could have chosen to save anyone, everyone, or no one from Adam’s fallen race. But what God did was to choose a multi-hued multitude of “someones,” and — if you are a believer in Jesus Christ — one of those “someones” was you. God in Christ has declared over you, “I could have chosen anyone in the whole world as my child, and I chose you. No matter what you say or do, neither my love nor my choice will ever change.” That’s grace that’s truly amazing. (Pgs. 81-84)
Source: PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace
By Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
Buy it Today:
Barnes & Noble
George Mallory is the famous mountain climber who died attempting to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and may well have been the first person to reach the peak. But the pursuit of his dream took a toll on his family. In the introduction to the book Last Climb, George’s son John, who is was just three years old when his father perished, speaks of both his pride at what his father achieved and sadness. He wrote “I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.”
Wayne Bennett is one of the most successful coaches in rugby league history. For over a decade he coached the “Brisbane Bronco’s” (a club side in the Australian rugby league competition). Bennett is revered by players, notoriously difficult for journalists, and widely admired and respected. In 2002 he released a book Don’t Die With the Music In You. Present at the launch were News Limited Director, Lachlan Murdoch, Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, and a host of rugby league identities and corporate heavyweights. Yet when speaking of his greatest success in life he turned not to his achievements in football but to his home life. Bennett paid tribute to his wife Trish, saying “One of the greatest achievements is to be able to stay married to her, and I hope for the rest of my life that will remain my greatest achievement. It is the thing I want more than anything else. I want the relationship to be there forever and the relationship with my family to be there forever.”
Source: reported in The Sydney Morning Herald May 8, 2002
Marian Anderson was one of the great contralto singers of all time. An African-American born in Philadelphia USA, she was acclaimed across the world. Perhaps the most well remembered episode from her career was the occasion in 1939 when she was refused permission to sing in Washington’s Constitution Hall because of her race. The venue was shifted to a public forum, the steps of Washington’s Lincoln statue, where on Easter Sunday 75,000 people turned out to hear her sing. Toward the end of her career Anderson was asked by a reporter to name her greatest moment in life. She had many possibilities to select from – that Easter Sunday singing to 75,000 people, the night Toscanini told her she possessed the finest voice of the century, the concert she gave at the White House for President Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England. But none of these were Marian Anderson’s greatest moment. Marian told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore.
Sources: Biography.com and Alan Loy McGinnis, The Friendship Factor.
Marjorie Tallcott was married and had one child during the Great Depression. The family managed to scrape their way through, but as Christmas approached one year Marjorie and her husband were disappointed that they would not be able to buy any presents. A week before Christmas they explained to their six year old son, Pete, that there would be no store-bought presents this Christmas. “But I’ll tell you what we can do” said Pete’s father, “we can make pictures of the presents we’d like to give to each other.”
That was a busy week. Marjorie and her husband set to work. Christmas Day arrived and the family rose to find their skimpy little tree made magnificent by the picture presents they had adorned it with. There was luxury beyond imagination in those pictures- a black limousine and red speedboat for Dad, a diamond bracelet and fur coat for mum, a camping tent and a swimming pool for Pete.
Then Pete pulled out his present, a crayon drawing of a man, a woman and a child with their arms around each other laughing. Under the picture was just one word: “US”.
Years later Marjorie writes that it was the richest, most satisfying Christmas they ever had.
It took a present-less Christmas to remind Marjorie and her family that the greatest gift we can ever offer is ourselves, our presence. This too is the great gift that Christ offers us, not only at Christmas but throughout the year – himself. If he was to draw a gift perhaps it would be just like Pete’s: three people with their arms around each other laughing – human community with Christ at the centre.
Source: Reported in Illustrations Unlimited
“You have no idea what this has meant to me. All these years I never thought you were even interested in what I had to say,” the old man told them.
It’s my get away. You heard me mention it before. My favorite restaurant for a good old clog your heart breakfast of eggs, home fries, and bacon. Oh yes. Whole wheat toast to make it healthy.
I find the most incredible people and stories in restaurants. Think about it. It’s your family dinner table removed from your kitchen and placed in a public area. Like home, but better. Somebody else is cooking and doing the dishes.
So scattered all around me are families having dinner, friends catching up with the latest news, business meetings and people like me just there to relax. Oh, of course. Great conversation.
Except in the booth across from me. Silence.
When I first sat down there two men sitting together quietly. One man appeared to be in his thirties. He was dressed in some old work clothes and still wearing his baseball cap. The other man I would guess was about 80. He had the most incredible face. The lines and creases gave him character. His white hair was messy from wearing a stocking cap he held on top of the table. He wore one of those red plaid shirt jackets that you might see on a construction worker. Heavy enough to keep you warm while you’re moving about, but not too bulky to limit your movement.
But he didn’t look like he was going any where. Neither was this conversation.
“Boy, I really worked up a hunger today, Pop. All that shoveling and sweeping the snow will do that,” the younger man said.
“Yeah, this is somethin’,” replied the old man.
Silence followed for the longest time.
Suddenly I heard the young man say, “Here they come,” as he pointed toward the doorway.
He almost looked relieved. Somebody who would join in and help get this conversation going.
It appeared to me that the two people who joined them were a mother and teenage grandchild. The woman sat next to the younger man and Pop stood up to let the grandchild slide in place.
“Hello, Dad. Good to see you!” she said as she sat down.
“Yep!” the old man replied.
Silence. Even longer gaps than before.
“I feel real good,” the old man said proudly.
“Oh, you look good Dad,” the younger man said. Then one by one the others agreed.
The waitress approached and took their breakfast orders.
Grandpa excused himself. “Gotta go to the bathroom. It happens a lot when you’re old,” he said.
As soon as he was out of sight, the younger man said, “God, I don’t know what to say to him. We just sit here looking around. He never talks.”
“I know what you mean. God what do you say?” the woman added.
“He’s old. What do you talk about with an old man?” the kid joined in.
Oh, no. Here I go. I can’t just sit here and listen to this. I’m going to say something, swallow hard and wait to see if they tell me it’s none of my business.
“Ask him about his childhood,” I said as I continued eating.
“What? Pardon me? Were you talking to us, sir?” the woman asked.
“Yes. It’s really not my business, I know. But do you realize what he has to offer you? Can you even begin to understand what this man has seen in his lifetime? He most likely has answers to problems you haven’t even discovered as problems in your life. He’s a gold mine!” I said.
“Look, talk to him about his childhood. Ask him what the snows were like back then. He’ll have a million stories to share. He’s not talking because no one is asking,” I told them.
Just then he came walking around the corner.
“Oh, boy. I feel much better now. You know I haven’t been goin’ good in a while,” the old man told them.
They all turned and looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Okay. So old people also talk about the facts of life. And going or not going is a major thing when you’re old. You take the good with the bad.
After a long silence the young girl said, “Paw Paw. When you were a kid were the snows this bad?”
“Gees, honey. This is nothing like the snows I had when I was a kid. Did I ever tell you about the snow storm that covered my house?” he asked.
“No, Pop. I don’t think I ever heard that one myself,” said the younger man.
Now for the next twenty minutes the old man was in his glory. At one point he even stood up to show them how high the one snow drift was. Throughout the entire meal everyone chimed in with more questions. They laughed and he lit up like he was on stage and the play he was acting in was his life story.
Just as I was about to leave I heard the old man say, “You have no idea what this has meant to me. All these years I never thought you were even interested in what I had to say.”
“Oh….. well, I guess we just didn’t think you wanted to talk,” the woman said.
“Well nobody bothered to ask me anything. I just figured I was boring or somethin. It’s been a tough life you know. Ever since Ma Ma died I really had nothing to say.” He paused for a moment. I could see him nervously wringing his rough life worn hands together.
“You see, her and I were like a song. I made the music and she…she was the words,” he said.
Like tough guys of his time are supposed to do, he held back any visible emotion, sniffled and wiping his eye he said, “No sense talkin’ if you ain’t got the words.”
As I turned to walk away I looked across the table. I saw the young girl wave and smile at me as she put her arm around Paw Paw’s shoulders.
She didn’t have to say a word.
Source: Bob Perks © 2001. Used with permission
A businessman who worked very long hours arrived home one evening to find his 7 year old son waiting for him at the door. “Daddy?”
“Yeah?” replied the man.
“Daddy, how much money do you make an hour?
“Well son, I don’t really think that’s any business of yours” the man said.
“Please daddy, please tell me, how much do you make an hour?” pleaded the little boy.
“If I tell you, you must promise you won’t tell anybody else”
“I promise” said the little boy.
“Alright then” said his father. “I make $150.00 an hour.”
“Oh,” the little boy replied. He looked a little sad, then said “Daddy, may I borrow $20.00 please?”
His father was furious. “If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is so you can borrow some you can go straight off to bed!”
The little boy burst into tears and made his way to his room. After an hour or so the father had calmed down and went to his son’s room. “I’m sorry for being so hard on you earlier son. If you tell me what you wanted the $20 for and it’s a worthwhile thing I’ll think about giving it to you.”
The little boy ran across the room to his piggy bank and counted out all it’s contents, exactly $130.00.
“$130.00, that’s a lot of money son. Surely that’s enough for what you wanted to buy” said the father.
“Well with the $20 you’ll give me it will be” the little boy replied. “I’d like to buy an hour of your time.”