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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Floored by Grace

In his book Messy Spirituality, author and pastor Mike Yaconelli recounts the story of a home remodeling project. 


He and his wife decided to redo the tile in their kitchen. 


Their house, which was situated in a rugged part of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, was more than 60 miles from the home furnishings store in the “big city.” The tile folks called Mike and said they couldn’t dispatch anyone to lay it for at least three weeks.


Perhaps they might want to hire a local worker from the mountains. They even suggested a name.


"Absolutely not!" Yaconelli shouted into the phone. 


The worker the company had suggested was well known to them. He was the alcoholic father of a young man they had befriended through their church youth group.


This teenager’s life had been miserable. He had been in and out of juvenile detention. His father had been emotionally and physically abusive to everyone in the family. And now he was the one who would lay the new tile in the Yaconelli kitchen? 


“No way,” Mike concluded.


But when it became clear that every other tiler in the area was booked, Yaconelli grudgingly gave in. "But I'm not going to let him cheat us," he said to his wife. He demanded a written estimate in advance, and he got one: $350 for three days' work. 


During those three days Yaconelli hovered over the kitchen like a hawk. As the work neared completion, he said to the man, "When you're finished, come to the other end of the house and I'll write you a check." 


"Oh," said the tiler. "About the money… I'll talk to you when I'm done."


Yaconelli stormed away. He said to his wife, "I knew it. I knew he was going to try to cheat us somehow. Well, I have a signed contract, and I am not going to pay him one more dime than we agreed." He was still ranting when the tiler, his work completed, came to see him.  Here’s what happened next, as Yaconelli recounts the story:


“I was ready for him and glanced at my wife with the look of testosterone on my face. He started to hand me the bill, but then paused for a moment and said, ‘A couple of years ago I was drinking too much. 


“’I am an alcoholic and was at a very low point in my life. I almost lost my family because of my drinking. I mistreated my wife and my children, especially my oldest son. 


"’But you and your wife spent a lot of time with him at a critical moment in his life when he could have gone either way. Shortly after that I went to AA, and I've been sober ever since. 


“’Because of you and your wife, I still have a relationship with my son. I've never been able to thank you, but I'm thanking you now.’ He handed me his bill for $350. ‘Paid in full’ was written across the page. 


“This abusing, untrustworthy man...had just shown this arrogant snob the meaning of grace.”


What is the meaning of grace? 


As proclaimed in a million sermons, it can be an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. 


It’s also an assurance: There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less.


And it can be the surprising reality that transforms all of our relationships:


Just as God offers us the gift of open arms, even though none of us deserves a second chance, we can learn to do the same with others.


No wonder we sing that song that says it’s amazing.

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