Note: This is another guest post from my immensely talented wife, Dora. -Michael

For many years I worked in the meal plan office of a large university. In addition to making sure that the meal plans worked for the students, I was also responsible for answering the questions of students, parents, faculty or staff members. Most of the time the questions were what you would expect:

  • “When does my meal plan start?
  • “When is the last meal of the semester?
  • “When/How can I change/cancel my meal plan?”
  • “What happens if I run out meals?”

You get the idea. Sometimes, however, I would get a question that was unexpected. One that would cause me to have to pause for a moment before answering. One of those questions came when a mom called me early one morning and asked, “How many meals come with the Unlimited meal plan?”.

For a split second, I thought she was trying to be funny. Fortunately, before I opened my mouth, I realized she was being completely serious. I paused. Now, she didn’t seem to notice my pause, but it felt like an eternity to me while my brain raced to figure out a way to answer her question without implying that she was asking a silly or stupid question. Finally, the answer, “It depends on how many meals your student eats, I suppose.”, tumbled out of my mouth.

She was certain there was a catch. I assured her the only “catch” was that the meals could only be redeemed when our dining halls were open to everyone (no sneaking into the kitchen to make a 2 a.m. PB&J sandwich) and no taking meals out of the dining hall to eat later because of food safety issues. When she hung up the phone she seemed quite satisfied that the Unlimited meal plan was Unlimited, at least for the needs of her student.

Now, as silly as that mom’s question about the unlimited meal plan might seem, I find many of us asking the same question about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. What’s the catch? We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough for unlimited anything from God. We get angry. We get jealous. We aren’t cheerful givers. Sometimes, we break our promises. The list of all our faults could go on and on.

The truth of the matter is that we aren’t “good enough” and we never can be. We live in a fallen and broken world. But that’s what is so amazing about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t perfect, or that despite our best efforts we still make mistakes. He loves us anyway. He forgives us anyway. He pours His grace over us anyway.

But, there is a catch. It’s not that we can only receive His gifts during certain time periods or in certain places. The catch is that we have to accept His love. We have to accept His grace. We have to accept His forgiveness.

That’s it. The only catch to God’s unlimited grace is our choice of whether or not to accept it.

Furniture Restoration

As a person who works a lot with people, I get blessed by the occasional deviation from human interaction.  I am now finishing up a project that has taken many hours of blood, sweat and tears.  Over the past four weeks, I spent time stripping four different coats of paint off of a kitchen set:  table, deacon’s bench, and two chairs.  Why now?  This set has been in my family since the mid-1960’s and will be put back into use for my daughter’s new family in the years ahead.  After all, she is due with her first child next week!

As I labored with the chemical stripper and the sandpaper to go down through the coats of paint, I was reminded of great times at the dinner table.  Mom and Dad sitting on the bench, in the same spot all those years.  We four kids slid up the chairs to find a spot that would get us the best shot at getting seconds….furthest from Dad!

The next kitchen it served was my own.  My parents let me take it to my new house in Brooklyn Park in 1993.  My daughter and son parked their little fannies on the deacon’s bench. Our youngest (third son) would eventually find one of the chairs once he graduated from the high chair.  A lot of great memories once again, with meals, birthdays, board games, and Easter egg decorating with that kitchen set.

Now these finely refinished pieces will bless another family….my daughter’s.

Throughout the process of restoring this furniture, I could not help but be in an attitude of worship.  How thankful I felt that I had the ability to even pull off this task…..and how much fun it was for me!  As I sanded the curves and linear surfaces of the spindles and legs, I could not help but reflect on how God shows Himself through simple shapes and patterns.  How He created beauty in the simple and the complex.  How He created us with the ability to appreciate beauty.  I don’t think my twelve year old Golden Retriever shares my appreciation for visual beauty…..not that I know of, anyway.

The Message has Romans 12:1 saying:  So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.