“This is Browder Anderson, reporting live from the Saint Jude’s Community Center in Capital Hill. Help us ring in the New Year by donating to Desperate Hope, a campaign to raise funds to keep Saint Jude’s doors open.”
Telephones erupted into a chorus of joyous chimes and clatter, as callers flooded the lines to make donations. With each donation, the festive ball dropped slightly, an electronic monitor marking the countdown to the goal of $50,000. By the conclusion of the second telethon hour, Saint Jude’s had netted a total of $23,800 in donations.
“The spirit of community, goodwill and mercy is alive and well in Seattle tonight. Still the fight to keep Saint Jude’s open isn’t over,” Browder wrapped up the six o’clock news hour. “The phone lines will be open until midnight. You can also make donations online or stop by the center with your donation. Help us drop the ball, working on desperate hope, resolving to be work to love our neighbor and stand up for those in need, with selfless intent.”
Grant manned the ‘Drop the Ball’ donation tent in the alley for several hours. Jairus suggested the station, mimic the accommodations of Seattle’s homeless population. The tent a crude structure, while cardboard boxes and sleeping bags were set up. Information sheets were handed out to passerby, including volunteer and outreach opportunities and list of issues facing those in poverty.
In a span of two hours, the tent received an outpouring of benevolence, with $3,000 in cash contributions and various in-kind donations.
“It is remarkable that most donations are coming from those with hourly jobs, giving $5 dollars. On paper that seems small, yet it adds up, $5 here, $100 from another donor…this is a grassroots movement from the community.” Grant spoke with humble recognition. He had gravely underestimated the value of people and the impact of even the smallest act of kindness and mercy. “The local businesses, small entities, mom and pop shops are giving freely, stepping up to this challenge. They care about their communities and understand the dynamic of business and community. People over profits. I wish I understood the value of people when I was CEO.”
“Glad to see you are learning from past mistakes,” a familiar figure appeared.
“Nicholas,” Grant whispered. “About time you showed up.”
“You’ve been busy.”
“I’m trying to be a better person. I made mistakes, unforgiveable mistakes. My actions here are not to be commended. They are a show of humble penance. I don’t deserve mercy or clout. I’m just a broken man, desperate in hope.”
“Christ’s love absolves sin.”
“I don’t deserve forgiveness. I’m a fragmented dark soul, unworthy for of pardon, let alone mercy.” Grant knew the road to redemption, he trusted Christ’s grace. Still, he couldn’t reconcile himself to accepting the gift. It was easier to hold onto the sin, allowing the burden and pain of that past to act as a tool of punishment, a scourge. He rested in his guilt, refusing to turn over that guilt to God.
“God alone is judge. Christ, incarnate from God, chose to die on the cross, sacrificing himself for our sins. Sin is death, a poison, a burden that leads to death. Christ died, carrying the sins of the world, in that act he killed sin’s power over the flesh, in rising from the dead, Christ offers us a new hope and the promise of grace. Grace is a gift, not a result of our own actions, but a result of Christ’s love and desire to show mercy. Grace is a gift available to all who ask. In choosing to hold onto your sin, refusing the gift of grace you are accepting death.”
“Death that I deserve. I’ve done horrible things.”
“Death by the world, is not God’s justice. God operates in the law of love, love that searches out to redeem and cleanse, to reconcile and to guide out of error into truth. It doesn’t abolish the law, which is good and just, rather the law becomes a guiding post, a fruit of the spirit. Grace gives the gift of reconciliation to the Holy Trinity, so that even if we miss the mark, we are not forsaken, we can find new life and desperation transforms into a hope of faith that cannot be severed. In the process of asking forgiveness, you are confronting the implications of your sin, recognizing the reason why the sin is a burden on the spirit and its destroying power. It isn’t an arbitrary formality. There is an awakening of the spirit in the act of forgiveness.” Nicholas spoke with gentleness and patience. “Unless you let go of the burden of sin, with a contrite and humble heart, accepting the divine forgiveness and love of God, then any recognition you have of your sin, will only hinder you and others around you.”
“I’m unworthy to accept such grace.”
“No one is worthy of grace under the shadow of the law. Grace is from God, it is living mercy, and God’s judgment to choose love and gentle care for his creatures, despite their sin. In grace we are sealed with love, and in that love the Holy Spirit moves us to act by the law of love. Grace forgives your sins and offers eternal life instead of death. It doesn’t mean that you won’t face consequences from sin. The penance doesn’t act to cleanse the sin, grace does; penance works to reconcile human flesh to God’s purpose in our lives. Penance and active forgiveness is a fruit of the spirit of grace. When we are forgiven by grace, we seek to sow love and to endure justice for our crimes, because we understand the law, yet we are comforted in the grace and hope of redemption Christ provides us. The road to grace is the flesh’s admission of the reality of sin and the pain it causes, the recognition that our acts of sin harm not only ourselves but others, who are innocent, leading to difficult consequences. In seeking grace, we want absolution not as a get out of jail free card, yet because we crave the love of God and want to be reconciled to Him. We wish to follow the example of Christ, learning through our sin, refined by that pain and the mistakes to accept grace, and in that grace to help others and to serve with a new purpose, a purpose of love not of selfish desire. In penance to grow in faith, so that we can atone for the effect of our sins, while guaranteed through grace eternal life and reconciliation with God.”
“I want desperately to ask forgiveness. I don’t know how. I still struggle with faith, and I have a selfish heart. I’m still confounded why God cares about me, a sinner, whose heart, and mind have been set on malice and greed. I deserve wrath, not love’s redemption.”
“Rend your heart and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. For the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Christ is the good shepherd that searches out the lost, comforts them in love and heals their wounds. Sin inflicts pain, love and forgive heals. Are you broken? Of course, let the love of God heal your fragmented soul. Yes, you will face trials and tests, the flesh will seek to break your spirit, yet you have a counselor and advocate. I was sent by God to help you. It is your choice by freewill, whether to accept the gift of grace. God is patient and continually hopes and waits, working through all his creatures to bring them home, reconciling them to his love. He will not forsake you, even if you wander in darkness.”
“I cannot forgive myself.”
“Forgiveness isn’t about ignoring the consequence of sin or the wrong committed. It is letting go of the anger, the ability to turn to defense in love, not be guided by hate. Forgiveness also tries to work to call out the best in people, hoping that those lost in the dark of their hate can be reawakened by the light of love.” Nicholas paused. “Zeke for instance, he struggled with guilt and hate, when love and forgiveness actually opens a door to a future.”
“I barely know how to pray.”
“God doesn’t care about the words as much as the soul’s intent.” Nicholas encouraged. “Go humbly in prayer and God will hear you, comfort you and forgive you.”
Nicholas disappeared in the crowd, before Grant could utter another word.
“I have something I need to take care of,” Grant told his fellow volunteers. “I’ll be back.”
Saint Jude’s has a chapel, a humble and reverent space, adjacent to the alley. He awkwardly fell to his knees. Desperate, he anxiously wished to request forgiveness in the promise of grace, yet fear paralyzed his resolve.
A unique stained-glass window serves as an inspiring motif to mission of Saint Jude’s. The window is a vibrant mix of color, a montage of oddly shaped pieces of glass, from what resembled mason jars to hand blown artisan glass. The haphazard assortment forms a cross. Each panel of the cross features a different theme, a message that is born as a fruit of Christ sacrifice. The cross itself, is placed in the middle of a crossroads, redemption the road coming out of the cross. Artistically written below the glass is the following quotation:
“Christ is an example of a crossroads, a choice between doubt and faith, the living faith rises above the oppression and depression of death into a new life. Choose the road to life.”
Grant heaved a sigh as he stumbled into a pew. He sat there listless, staring at the altar, unsure as to how to proceed. He nervously picked up a prayer book, as if by a guiding hand the page opened to the prayer for ‘Confession of Sin.’ Grant silently read the prayer, reflecting on his remorse and desire for forgiveness.
“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.”
Grant felt the Holy Spirit working through him as he read the prayer.
“God, I’ve never been good with prayer. I’ve blasphemed your name and gone against you at every turn. You gave me the gift of this experience, life as a beggar, to understand my faults and I am trying to rectify them, with a humble heart. I don’t deserve your love and I don’t merit the gift of grace, yet I hope you will forgive my sins and help work through me, so that I can live through works of love and kindness, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, humility, gentleness and the hope of grace…I am grateful for this experience and the blessing to serve others as you would have me do, not my selfish desire to manipulate and exploit others for my own greed. I still will falter, I am flawed, yet I trust in your mercy and forgiveness. The light of your love is my guidepost in the journey out of darkness.”
As Grant spoke, full of regret and sorrow, he felt his spirit cleansed, a burden of guilt, anger and darkness lifted. Without explanation three candles on the altar burst to light, a quiet sustaining fire.
“God, you have forgiven me. I am so grateful.” Grant moved to tears. “You have set your servant free. I will go in peace by the light of your promise and act by the grace you have given with humble thanksgiving.”
Grant felt the chains were released he felt empowered by righteousness and fearless love. In that moment he could confront the darker areas of his past, things that had blocked his soul.
“My family. I don’t expect reconciliation, at the least I can offer my remorse.” Grant unsure if they would even recognize him in this life. Either way he resigned himself to the task of contacting them. “I’ll research their address and phone numbers, if I have to take a Greyhound back to Shuskan, I’ll find them.”
Grant returned to the tent imbued with a steadfast spirit of joyous hope and a resolve to act by faith. On the seventh day of Christmas, he understood the true meaning of the season.
As the countdown to midnight fast approached, Saint Jude’s became closer and closer to their goal of ‘dropping the ball.’ By 11:55, the total donations should just under $39,000, enough to keep the center operational through at least September. The donations came from across the board, including $5,000 sponsorships from local businesses to $1 donations by passerby.
“Thank you,” Marissa glowing as she addressed the crowd of supporters. “The support has been overwhelming. St. Jude’s is humbled and grateful for every donation and for the volunteers who gave up their night to help man our ‘Desperate Hope’ campaign and chaperone our New Year’s Eve Party. The youth have had a great time, dancing, and sing karaoke, eating lots of treats and playing games. I give the first toast to our youth, a vital foundation of the Saint Jude’s community and mission. My second toast is hats off to our Labre Center residents for their hard work in pulling this event together at such short notice.”
After Marissa’s speech, partygoers hit the dance floor for the final waltz of the year.
“Mind if I have this dance?” Marissa asked Grant.
“I have two left feet.”
“Lucky for you, I also have two left feet, which puts us in perfect rhythm.” Marissa contended. Her smile broke down Grant’s defenses.
“One dance, with you is a night full of starlight. How can I refuse?” Grant took her hand, as they glided across the floor, caught up in the excitement of the moment.
“I thought you said you couldn’t dance?” Marissa couldn’t remember the last time a moment had felt so right. She had to remind herself that Grant is a colleague, a client…Her heart argued with her rational head. Still she couldn’t deny the attraction and chemistry she felt with Grant.
“I’m following your lead.” Grant smiled. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so happy, the world in perfect rotation. He knew Marissa was out of reach, still he allowed his heart to be sweep up in a moment of romance, not a fickle romance, instead the spark of love.
As the song ended, Benny used his microphone to begin the countdown to midnight.
“I’m thrilled to announce, that we have received an anonymous donation for $11,000 with mere minutes left to midnight. This gift secures our annual funding …Thank you all for your support.”
“We did it!” Without thinking Marissa, kissed Grant on the cheek, overwhelmed with emotion. He shied away, secretly wishing that moment would not end.
The cheers of joy resonating through the room, as the ball dropped, to the floor. Noisemakers and revelry filled the room, as the attendees broke out singing Auld Lang Syne.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old Lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
The bells of Saint Jude’s tolled twelve times to signify the transition into the New Year
Grant was unsure what the future would hold in this reality or the next, on this winter’s night, a doorway from the darkness of his path to a future of humble promise.
Please excuse any typos/grammatical errors
Stay tuned for next chapter(s)