The best of Bowl Parades happens everyday. It’s called Grace on Parade.
Did you watch any of the New Year’s Day Bowl Parades? According to www.thepostgame.com, seven College football bowl games come part and parcel with a parade, the most famous being of course, the Tournament of Roses.
Better known as the Rose Parade, the event is a celebration of flowers, floats, and sports that takes up to 80,000 hours of manpower and nearly 18 million flowers. Did you know that the 2017 Rose Parade was held on Jan 2 because of the “No Sunday” rule? When the parade started in 1895, parade organizers were afraid of spooking horses tethered outside churches along the parade route. While the route no longer passes churches, the tradition continues. The Parade Board awards a number of trophies to winning floats including the Bob Hope Award for the most humorous, and the President’s award for the most effective use and presentation of flowers.
I didn’t watch the Rose Parade. I didn’t see the Citrus Parade or the Sun Bowl Parade either. The parade I watched lasted much longer than any of those parades. It’s an ongoing parade that has lasted centuries. I happened to witness a fraction of it over the New Year’s Eve weekend starting at 6 p.m. December 31, 2016. There were no floats and not one single flower. I saw people, beautiful people whose lives represented the best of life here on earth. I guess you could call my parade the Grace Bowl Parade. You see, the people I saw were touched by God’s grace.
Our family, along with my daughter’s new boyfriend, attended a party of mostly 70 year olds. Believe me, this is a rockin’ group who knows how to have fun. And there wasn’t even a drop of liquor on the premises! As we left the party, our guest expressed his amazement at some of the people he had met. I couldn’t agree more, for I knew their stories more in-depth than he did.
“There was a lot of courage in that room,” I told him.
Staying Faithful No Matter What
Maybe courage wasn’t the right word. We often think of courage as the stuff people have when rescuing a child from a burning building or trying the impossible feat of scaling a mountainside. These folks have their own daily, often unseen battles to face. They scale the mountain of aging, determined to keep living, interacting, and connecting with others in spite of health issues. Their leaps of faith happen on a daily basis and are rarely caught on Youtube or digital film. Steadfast? Faithful? Determined? I still like courageous.
One man suffers from out of control diabetes and congestive heart failure. He and his wife, who has the beginnings of macular degeneration, drove forty miles from their home so they could be with their friends. Another woman has had three hip surgeries this year that left her with chronic pain and a broken arm caused by pushing down on her walker.
“I am so ready for this year to be over,” she said as she tried to organize her cards for a Dub Bridge game. I showed surprise they even came that night. The woman shrugged and grinned. “Might as well sit here instead of at home.” In spite of his labored efforts to breath, my older gentleman friend gave me sage advice and encouragement on a writing project. “What you want might not happen for ten years, then out of the blue, boom, someone will pick it up. You keep trying,” he told me.
Their broken bodies make every part of life more difficult. But they were there. They were bound and determined to not let their physical ailments stop them from celebrating life, being with their friends, and inspiring the rest of us to stay the course of life.
The parade of the courageous continued down God’s golden boulevard of grace the next day. Our worship service song leader for the first Sunday of the month is a 75-ish year old man named Harry. He and his wife used to lead the music at revivals many years ago and were quite good at it, I’m told. Today, Harry is a survivor of a massive heart attack and a seven bypass heart surgery. In two weeks, he is slated for ankle restructure surgery. Until that time, he walks with a cane in obvious pain.
Harry is still leading music.
So filled with pain, he had trouble concentrating, finding his scripture, thinking of the words he wanted to say. At one point he compensated by joking, “Don’t you just love old people?”
The world and, sad to say, many churches, would have found a replacement for Harry a long time ago. Many more like Harry would have relinquished their job or allowed self-doubt to squeeze the joy from their work. So many times, I’ve used my own frailties as an excuse for not doing more or not doing my best. I’ve glanced to the side, wondering if others are basing my worth and value to an organization upon my abilities or lack thereof.
He served in spite of his pain.
Yes, Harry’s pain kept him from doing the best he could, but he was still up there, faithfully serving the Lord he loved, proclaiming his favorite topic, his hope of heaven.
What’s our best anyway? What does God count as our best? Doesn’t God look not at the outward appearance but on the inner heart (1 Samuel 16:7)? Maybe we’ve got this success thing backwards. Maybe the winning entries in God’s parade are those who steadily serve God no matter how their physical bodies falter, their minds fade, or what obstacles life dumps in their path.
These veterans of the Faith truly become Grace on Parade. Weary, broken, messed up people who depend on God’s mercy to pull them through and on God’s power and wisdom to use them anyway in spite of who they are or what they’ve become.
Courageous? The word doesn’t begin to cover the fortitude and faithfulness of these saints of God. Faith for them is not an “in the moment” emotional decision at one point of their lives. It’s a steady, consistent dependence and surrender to God to use them any way He chooses for the up building of God’s Kingdom here on earth. These beautiful people of God inspire me to keep going, keep doing the best I can no matter what that is, with the realization that God has a different definition of “best” than what the world terms it to be.
God’s grace is all around us. Sometimes the Lord leaves the fingerprints of His grace on the events of our lives. Like a calling card from yesteryear, He reminds us that He is there. Other times, we see His grace mirrored in the lives of his people as they serve as the hand and feet of jesus, extending mercy and love to those who need it more than they deserve it. Often, by simply living out their faith in spite of the challenges, they stand out in stark relief to a despondent world looking for a ray of hope to pass by their vantage point. Like a mom drawing her child’s attention to the next entry in the bowl parade, the goal of the Grace on Parade blog is to point out glimpses of God’s grace that pass our way every day.
Who is in your Tournament of God’s grace this week? Who inspires you to be God’s best?