I gave a sermon this past Mother’s Day Called Alternate Avenues of Grace from Timothy I & II. And from that text we noted that growing up, Timothy had some relationships that were lacking in his life. He had no grandfather on the scene and seemingly, his father was pretty much absent from his life as well. So God provided some alternate avenues of grace for Timothy through his mother, his grandmother, and the Apostle Paul. My own husband, Mike, has a similar story: When Mike was a boy between the sensitive ages of 8-12, his mother and father got separated and then finally divorced. This isn’t appalling or shocking nowadays. In fact, in 2014, divorce is pretty commonplace, isn’t it? But back when Mike was growing up in the little mining town of Linton, Indiana, divorce was a reason for gossip and criticism. And as a child, Mike certainly felt it. Like all kids, Mike wanted and needed a stable home and a Dad to teach him how to be a man, someone to nurture and care for him. But with his own dad out of the picture, God provided another way. In the neighborhood, there were two boys Mike hung out with a lot – they were twins – Jim and Jerry Brumfield. And all the kids called their father “Big Jim.” So it was Big Jim who took Mike under his wing, invited Mike to share meals in his home with his family; and it was Big Jim who took Mike swimming, to the park, on family outings. It was Big Jim who laughed and talked with Mike and who, in short, became a surrogate father to him. And looking back, we can see that God had his hand on Mike way before he ever knew it… God was working in ways Mike couldn’t see. Then a second avenue of grace came when my dad, Rev. Lloyd Shannon, was moved to his new church assignment in Linton my junior year of high school. And when Mike and I started dating, being the smart guy he was, Mike began to spend time with my father; and they did make a strong connection. And again, God provided a sort of substitute father for Mike. In fact, it was after one of our dates that my dad gave Mike a book to take home and read called Youth Meets a Master. And Mike read the book that very night, got down on his knees by his bed, and asked Jesus into his heart. And that started a whole chain of events beginning with Mike and I and 4 other high-schoolers starting a witness team. We went from church to church singing and sharing our testimonies with other church congregations. Mike was the main speaker and went on to get his license to preach. And then we decided to attend Asbury College where Mike’s passion for theology turned to a love of philosophy. So he got his PhD and now, as you know, Mike teaches seminary students, administers grants and writes books that are read by people all over the world – including professors and students, renown atheists, folks in prisons, and people in impoverished countries. I tell you this not to elevate Mike, but to elevate God. Listen, we serve an amazing God, and he stands ready to aid us – to actually save us, when our lives seem to derail and dead- end. I mean what chance in life did a kid have from an obscure little mining town with no father at home, and a mom who could barely make ends meet? No chance on his own, but every chance in the world–with God on his side. And please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not insensitive or cavalier to people’s disadvantages; and I’m not trying to cast a rosy glow on anyone’s disappointments in life. Certainly, some things should never happen. It would have been better if Mike’s parents had loved each other deeply and had stayed together in a healthy marriage. And it would be better if a child never got cancer, even if we find a cure. And yes, it would be better to never lose a spouse, even though there will be a reunion in heaven. But the point is this – with God on our side, we do not live as people without hope. And in this broken, sin-scarred world, where things happen that never should, aren’t you grateful that right in the middle of our challenges and struggles, God provides some unique avenues of grace? And so, I invite you to share your “alternate avenues of grace” with us in this blog. We would love to hear how God offered himself to you in some broken situation (whether it be large or small). And when you do, we will all be encouraged, we will all be blessed. And once again, we’ll rejoice in God’s goodness and faithfulness!

Avenues of Grace