Below are selected writings, including my award-winning nationally syndicated column with the USA Today Network distributed to over 600 papers reaching more than 21 million people in 36 states.
This column was also featured as a chapter in my book,
Some days, I just have an inordinate need for “grace.” And by “grace,” I mean the theological concept, but even more so, I mean my grandmother. A tiny, rather squishy woman, “Ganny” gave hugs that felt like being pressed into a fluffy feather pillow.
I called her “Ganny” because I had trouble pronouncing all three syllables of “grand-mo-ther.” That was ironic, given that my other grandmother, a woman of German and Scots-Irish descent required all three syllables to be pronounced along with her last name: “Grand-mo-ther Whit-mire.” (While I adored them both, their naming preference should tell you something about the difference in the two women).
Ganny lived with “Grand-dad” (I could manage those two syllables) in a modest little house next to the A&P Grocery in Gaffney, South Carolina. And thanks to that grocery, I’ll always remember the weekly visits we made to their home.
Upon our arrival, Ganny would grab me up in an inordinately long, squishy hug and call me “her precious little thing” (even though there were many days my parents would disagree with that title). Then she would scurry me off to the kitchen to enjoy some kind of treat.
My favorite was the cherry pie filling from the A&P. Ganny knew that I didn’t like pie crust, so she would peel away the shell and feed me spoonfuls of the cherry insides. (And no, I was not spoiled. Okay, maybe a little.)
While her nickname was “Ganny,” my grandmother’s real name was Grace—Grace Foster Sparks. And while the great theologians like Martin Luther and St. Augustine have attempted to describe grace in powerful ways, I believe the home of Grace Foster Sparks provides the best image of all.
To me, grace is not necessarily a thing, but a place—a place of grounding and belonging where you feel special, like you are wrapped in an inordinately long, squishy hug, eating the filling out of a pie.
We all need to find that place. Every day we are bombarded by corrosive voices from the world outside and from inside our own hearts. We are assaulted by words that slowly tear us down, bend us over in shame, make us feel less than the beloved children of God that we are. We need to find that place called grace.
One of the best places to find it is in scripture. In fact, I’ve put together a list of what I like to call “squishy scriptures”—Bible verses that make me feel like I am wrapped in an inordinately long, squishy hug, eating the filling out of a pie. I have included a few examples below.
I hope that you will take a moment throughout your week to pause and read them, reminding yourself that you are called as God’s precious one.
Then spread that joy.
This week, think about three people who need to hear from you. Perhaps a family member, friend, or spouse needs your words. Maybe it’s someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or maybe it’s a stranger on the street. Share a hug or a some “pie-filling-eating” kindness with someone to remind them of their divinity as a child of God.
While I miss sitting in Ganny’s kitchen eating A&P pie, her legacy lives on. And through that memory, I learned that living a life of love and beauty is not that hard, even in these difficult times. It’s all about recalling who we are. It’s all about remembering from whence we came.
It’s all about finding a place called grace.
Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.
“Squishy Scriptures:” Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 55:22, Isaiah 43:1-2,
Exodus 23:20, and Isaiah 40:31.