just grace

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. 
Victor Hugo 

What’s the last 700-page book you read?

Yes, I’m aware ninety percent of you, if you have read a 700-page book, just responded with something in the Harry Potter series. Few authors have the guts to attempt this feat. She is one who did it well.
But mine is different. I fell in love with the story of Les Miserables watching the nonmusical version. I took up the book with some trepidation, noting its bulk. It’s rare that I’m going to say a book is totally worth all 700 pages. I’m one of those people who believes if you can’t say it in 25 minutes, you probably haven’t thought out what you needed to say. An appreciated quality in a preacher, but Les Mis would have suffered considerably by turning it into a novella. It was totally worth it. All. 700. Pages.
Going downtown Chicago to see it on stage followed, naturally, as I am a fan of musicals in general and this story is particular. Now, the movie.
But what is it that makes me love this massive story so much? Yes, it’s a fascinating study in character, which is what I’m all about when I read or write. But more, its point is also what I’m all about in life. Les Mis is about second chances. About looking at someone others have written off and saying, “God hasn’t written you off. So neither will I.” It’s about giving them dignity and another shot. And yet another if that one fails. It’s about looking people in the eye and communicating, ‘You my well let me down, but I’m going to love you anyway and extend as much grace to you as I’ve had extended to me.” Which is more grace than any single one of us deserves. That Hugo’s story does this all while feeling more like you’re listening to a great symphony than poring through a book adds immeasurably to the enjoyment level.
So while we’re still thinking about Christmas, I invite you to do a couple things.
One, extend grace. Give a second chance. Do what was done for you at Christmas—go out of your comfort and personal space to love someone else. Not just a little and not just because they deserve it, but with genuine sacrifice on your part, because they don’t deserve it at all.
Second, if you’re looking for someone to help this year, whether because you’ve been grabbed by the Christmas spirit or because you need a write-off before any more great fiscal cliffs, check out a couple organizations that specialize in second chances. These people are on the front lines of loving those others have written off. Give them a look this year. Love sacrificially through those already doing it. 
http://www.prisonfellowship.org. Love this group. I’ve organized angel drives for years. No one feels more unwanted than prisoners and their families.
http://www.setfreemovement.org. Working to free people from modern day slavery. Yes, it still exists, and not only overseas.
http://worldrelief.org. Working to empower and encourage refugees. Definitely a forgotten and unwanted group in so many places.

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