A Note from Pastor Rick: CARPE GRATIA!

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A couple Sundays ago my youngest grandson, Jonah (8 years old) was baptized. That in itself is news worth celebrating. But there is a story behind the story worth sharing.

Jonah had planned to be baptized about a year ago, but as the day approached he became nervous about being in front of the entire congregation. So he backed out. Understandable, especially for a young boy. There would be other opportunities.

A few Sundays ago when Jonah came to church he read in the bulletin that baptisms were scheduled for that morning. So he said to his mother, “There are baptisms today. I want to be baptized!”

“Great!” she replied. “You can be baptized the next time.”

“No,” said Jonah, “I want to be baptized today!”

He had already met with Mrs. Jenn and shared his testimony with her and the reasons he wanted to be baptized for the last go-round. He had studied the Bible verses and understood what baptism meant. He was sitting on ready.

Somehow some extra clothes were rounded up for him to wear in the baptistery. So he did it—he seized the opportunity! He was not going to allow for another delay in following through on what the Lord wanted him to do.

Well done, Jonah!

All of us have passed on opportunities or occasions to obey or invitations to step out in faith. I have. Usually that leads to regrets. Sometimes those opportunities or invitations don’t come around again. How great it is when they do, and when we can muster the courage and faith to seize them the second time around.

In reflecting upon this, I can’t help but think of one of the greatest days of my life. I passed on an opportunity—and then had a chance to seize it all in the very same day! It is not particularly spiritual, but it does illustrate this principle of seizing the opportunity.

When our children were younger, Debbie and I took them to Busch Gardens. Mark was not with us, but Mike was in middle school at the time. He wanted to ride the roller coaster, so I took him to the ride while Debbie escorted our younger two to the “kiddie rides.” I had been traumatized on a roller coaster when I was a young boy and had sworn never to ride another one. So I was planning to take Mike to the coaster and then wait for him as I watched his exploits. It was early morning at the park and there were no lines (unbelievable, but true). So I put Mike on the ride and then backed away, while the attendant waited for other thrill-seekers to fill out the other coaster cars.
Standing there, I had a flash of inspiration (from the Holy Spirit?). “What are you doing here on the sidelines?” I asked myself. “Your kid is there in a coaster car with an empty seat beside him. This is a chance for making memories!” So I rushed to the attendant and asked him if I could join my son for the ride. Given the fact that there was no line (unbelievable, but true), he agreed. So there I was, big as you please in the next-to-the-front car of the park’s signature roller coaster. Only then did I second-guess my second-chance grab at opportunity to make a memory with my son.

Fortunately, the ride took off in a moment or so and we were off!

I will never forget that day. Mike and I probably rode three different roller coasters a half-dozen times. We had a blast—even took young Sam along on one of the rides. Mostly I was glad because they were having such a fun time. There were other details that added to the drama of that day—like two summertime pop-up thunder storms that left us drenched; my shirt ripping up the spine; the park emptying out after the second storm, giving us virtual free reign of the entire park. But what I remember most was the opportunity to grab an opportunity that was almost lost and claim it for a spectacularly positive experience. It is a day I will never forget.

Here is the spiritual principle from these two narratives—when an opportunity to step out in faith comes along or an invitation of grace is proffered, GRAB IT!

God’s grace is, like God himself, infinite and limitless. But sometimes grace knocks right on your front door. Sometimes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities really do present themselves to you. Those are not the times to hold back. Those are the times to seize the grace. I cannot explain why sometimes grace or opportunity seems more accessible or closer to hand. I just know that life works that way. I also know that sometimes those opportunities don’t seem to come around again. I also have learned that regrets are the leftovers of missed chances. So, when you see in the bulletin that baptisms are happening today, or you realize there is an open seat in a roller coaster memory-in-the-making, seize the grace! Carpe gratia!

Blessings,

Pastor Rick

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