Sample Chapter: Sparks of Redemptive Grace

Dearest Lord, may I see you today and everyday in the person of your sick, and while nursing them, minister to you. Though you hide yourself behind the un-attractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say, “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”

Mother Teresa,  A Gift for God

When I was a kid and when my kids were children, we played with sparklers. We waited until all around us was night. Then we would ignite the slender stick and watch the wild display of tiny sprinkles of light. The sparks burned out as soon as “Ooh” left our lips. But, for a short second, we could see.

Along the dark journey with Douglas, God’s redemptive grace has sparkled. Brilliant and brief, it is just enough to remind us that He is here. We have seen it when a friend a 1,000 miles away sent an email to say that she saw Douglas at a mall near her home—a reassurance that our missing son was safe. Or when a non-religious relative marveled at how steadfastly we’ve gripped our God over all this time and began to consider faith for himself. Or when a friend who struggles with depression observed how much better Douglas would be if he would just take medication, and then recognized the same could be true for her.

In these tiny bursts of light, we see glimpses of God at work. The work of God is to take the broken, the lost, the hopeless and reflect from them His own redemptive grace and goodness. Nowhere have Nelson and I seen this more clearly than in our own hearts.

In loving Douglas we have learned what it means to love. Loving him has taught us that love must be selfless, generous and forbearing. It must be patient and kind. And most of all, it must be from God. Even as parents, we can’t begin to come up with the kind of unconditional, unrelenting love that is required. But in our darkest times, God’s redemptive love sparkles through us and we see grace.


Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

—I Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message)

O God who is love, teach me to love. My own love is so anemic and fleeting, and his need for love is so cavernous and constant. Only Your love, infinite and fierce, is big enough for this. Blast the light of Your conquering love into my life. Purge out my lust for self-pity and gluttony for approval. Root out resentment. Unearth bitterness. Cleanse me from the deceptions of hypocrisy. Jesus, reduce me to love.  Amen.