By Pastor Scott Records

One Christmas when I was a boy I opened a gift from my parents. It was a toy. Toys are supposed to be fun, right? And this toy was fun, but now and then it also made me mad. I even hated it at times. It was an Etch-a-Sketch.

With those two knobs you could have lots of fun designing anything you could imagine. I was quite talented with the horizontal and the vertical lines. Up and down and side to side was a breeze, as most users can attest. It was trying to create anything at an angle or in free form that drove me crazy. I could never get it to do just what I wanted it to do, and it could get quite aggravating.

When the frustration mounted, I would often set it aside and go on to something else. But Etch-a-Sketch has a great feature. You can just turn it upside down and shake and – Voila! – you have a clean slate to work with. Every shake brought a new possibility and hope for a better result.

Sometimes we wish life could be like an Etch-a-Sketch. We’d like to go back and erase something we did or said, or we’d like to not be feeling the results of something bad that may have happened to us.

There are many hurtful words I have spoken that I wish I could unsay. And I have not spoken at times when I should have. I have forgotten important things in my wife’s and children’s lives and hurt their feelings. I have wasted time and resources. I have neglected the needs of people.

I can come up with a large list of failings, or what the Bible calls sins. Our mistakes and failures can create a heavy burden on us. We simply can’t get life to do just what we want it to do, and a wake of brokenness often follows us.

There’s good news for people like me, though. God’s Word gives us ample reason for hope. I recently asked a friend what single word best captures what Christianity is all about… or what the Bible is all about. I told him that I thought the word was – out of many that could be chosen – grace.

Grace is the Etch-a-Sketch of life. No matter how deep the need, how many the mistakes, how terrible the deeds or words, God’s mercy and grace are greater and stronger. A passage in the Old Testament that encourages me is Lamentations 3:22-26 – “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (New International Version)

I especially like those words, “new every morning.” Grace is God’s way of granting me a fresh start. Whatever my foul-ups, goofs, and out-and-out sinful acts may be, there is always enough mercy to cleanse my heart and make each new day a clean slate. I also can see that grace is a gift I can give to others and do for them what God has done for me.

This word – grace – is what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was all about. As His follower then, it is what my life is – and is to be – all about as well. Yours too, I believe. Whether receiving or giving it, grace will always bring you true and deep joy.

Pastor Scott Records ministers to the congregation at the First Baptist Church of Bar Harbor. 207-288-3563

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