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On my run this morning I turned away as I passed the spot.  I crossed  over so I didn’t have to even set a foot in that part of the road.  My stomach churns.  My chest tightens.

We wanted good seats for the belt test last night.  So I took Josh and Abbey early.  Abbey to save seats, Josh to warm up.  We spend a lot of time doing taekwondo lately.  They jumped in the car and we headed out.  Moments later as I looked at the stranger on the side of the road waving her arms at me- terror across her face-I realized something bad was happening.  Then I felt it.  I looked back and saw the dog in the street.  I heard the dog. Deep cries of pain.    I heard my neighbors screams.

 It was horrible.  I have never had that happen in my life.  I’m not an animal person, but the pain, the yelping- it was searing.  I never saw the dog until it was over.  I had no idea what I had hit at first.  A living breathing creature, now so broken.

 I stopped the car and ran back to see what happened.   Immediately my neighbor, who is comforting her dying pet, looks me in the eyes and says, “It’s all right.  I’m not mad at you.  She’s been running in the street a lot lately.”  Then they painfully moved their dog and went quickly to the vet ER.  I knew she wasn’t coming home.  Injuries were too bad.

This could have been so much worse but all I could do was think of all the reasons it was my fault.

I was distracted by looking at that other person.  I was thinking about what was happening next.  Was it the glass of wine at dinner?  Was I looking down? How did I miss seeing the dog altogether? Where was the dog?  HOW did that happen? What just happened? I JUST pulled out of the driveway 5 seconds ago!

I sat through Josh’s belt test in a blur, my heart aching, my insides churning.

When I returned home, I went to check in.  The friend staying with the kids said they were on the way home.  They had just put the dog down.   The friend was so kind and forgiving- the way she looked and me and talked to me.  She put me at ease.  I got the neighbors phone number (I had only met them once!) and headed home.  I sent a guilt ridden text, full of I’m sorrys and I feel so bads.

No response.

Minutes later our door bell rang and I ran, hit the porch light on and swung open the door.  My neighbor, eyes full of tears, stood there and said, “I couldn’t send a text, I had to come.”  We hugged.  She wanted to relieve some of the burden.  She carried it for me.  She forgave.  She explained how the dog had been getting loose and running into the street often.  She said she saw her dart right into my car.  She said she had done the same thing once, years ago, and KNEW how it felt.  She wanted me to be ok.

 Last night, the arms of grace reached out and broke my fall.

They could have been words of anger, blame.   Fingers pointed.  Arms crossed.  A push away.

But grace was offered and gratefully recieved.

At convention last week one of the speakers, Ingrid DeSanctis, shared her story of growing up as a pastor’s daughter, spending her childhood in the church.  But when her father made some very hurtful mistakes, they had to leave the church.  It broke their family in half.  But when the congregation invited her back 16 years later for a visit, they welcomed her with open arms.  “One by one these people I had not seen in 16 years would hold me and squeeze me and hold me tight and say, ‘Ingy, we loved your father.  He brought us to Jesus.  We forgive him.”  She called it whispers.

They opened their arms, drew her in, whispered grace in her ear.

“Church,” she said, “is not perfect.  That’s OK…. It is about the people- messy and broken- working out and trying to follow this beautiful Jesus.”

Last night those whispers of grace were a gift.  Grace extended to me  only makes me want to do the same for others around me.  What if this is what we did for the hurting and broken people around us?

This is the radical message.

This is the game changer.

Reach out and stop the fall.  Give freedom by reaching out those arms of Grace.

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