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Grab Bag


'Cause Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
My sin had left this crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

It's washed away, all my sin
And all my shame

Jesus Paid It All, Elvina M. Hall

One of my favorite people to visit when I was a young girl was my great-grandma, Anna Johnson. With her loud flower dresses, large-beaded necklaces, fancy hats, and solid build, she could have been quite intimidating. But with her frequent giggle and her busy hands sewing yet one more outfit for my dolls, she was anything but. And you knew every visit, you’d be greeted with encouragement to open the bottom doors of her homemade wood pantry to dig out a homemade cookie from one of her many large glass jars. (Even if she knew your parents wouldn’t necessarily approve because it was right before dinner.) 

By the time I knew my great-grandma, she had settled into retirement in a small, second-story flat above our Main Street stores. A handy place to visit almost any time.

There was one time each year the street below my grandmother's place became quite loud: Crazy 8 Days. Held each summer, I loved Crazy 8 Days! The stores on Main Street would set their merchandise outside at a steep discount. It was a good time for my mom to stock up--with my help of course--and it was one of the few times our streets were buzzing alive with activity. 

But, my first experience alone at this event was a little embarrassing, I have to say.

I was having the time of my life going down the street checking out the different offerings, feeling all grown up out on my own. After quite some time, however, I was getting tired, hot and thirsty. So I climbed the steep, long, dark staircase to my grandma’s place where my mom was later scheduled to pick me up. (And yes, it was normal in those days to be allowed out on your own at a young age, especially in a small-town farming community.)

After I had retrieved my mandatory cookie and lemonade, of course, my grandma settled herself in one of her favorite plush rockers in her high-ceilinged great room. I plopped myself down on the red velour couch across from her. (My grandma liked colorful furniture just as much as she liked colorful clothes.) 

I excitedly put my hand into the brown lunch bag I was holding. I couldn’t wait to show my grandma what I had in my little bag. She always gave such enthusiastic responses. I reached in and pulled out the small kiddle with white hair, blue eyes, and a blue striped white dress. (Kiddles were a smaller version of the Barbie doll that was to become popular a short time later; yeah, I’m THAT old.) I reached back in and pulled out a small deck of cards and a few other trinkets.

My grandma was very impressed. “That is a wonderful grab bag! You sure got many great things! How much did that cost you?” 

Cost? What was she talking about? “…Well, nothing, grandma,” I replied. “The sign read, ‘Grab bag’ so I grabbed.”

My grandma laughed. I guess she found my naïveté pretty amusing, since it was awhile before she found her voice. “Oh honey,” she finally managed. “That’s just what they call them. You don’t know what’s in them, and that is part of the fun and gamble, but there is still a cost.” 

My face started to burn in embarrassment. I was a thief and hadn’t even realized it.

She dabbed tears at the corner of her eyes with her white embroidered handkerchief and then dug out her little coin purse. She handed some money to my older cousin who had walked in. “Here, go down with your cousin and pay for the grab bag.” Then she looked at me and said, “And you will need to explain the misunderstanding.” 

My shame spoke so loudly that it must have overrode any desire my cousin must have had to tease me.

I had stolen. I owed a debt. My grandma in her kindness covered the cost. 

The store owners were gracious, quick to forgive. 

I would love to say I walked the straight and narrow after that, committing no more misdeeds, knowingly and unknowingly. But, all of you that know me, as well as those familiar with the overall human condition, know that’s not true. 

But, thankfully, all my sins have been covered and forgiven, paid for by Someone even greater than my precious grandmother. And it cost much more.

Jesus loves me so much that he gave his life to pay the cost of my falling short of my perfect, holy heavenly father. He feels the same about you. Our father wants our relationship with himself restored, having been broken by us by our sin. He wanted it restored at all costs, so he gave his only son’s life, who had no sin, as payment. And Jesus willingly paid this price.

Do you understand this love? Have you experienced it? Restitution and restoration with our creator is the only thing that will fill the gap in our hearts we try to fill with so many other things. Jesus is the only one who is able to remove the shame we feel at falling below the mark. When we hurt others, lie, steal, cheat... And his spirit helps guide us away from doing these destructive things the more we listen and get to know him. 

This new, clean, forgiven life offers love, joy and peace beyond measure. It is available to you. And this gift is indeed free. Have you grabbed it?

You're not the only one who feels like this
Feelin' like you lose more than you win
Like life is just an endless hill you climb
You try and try, but never arrive

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This racing, this running
Oh, you're working way too hard!
And this perfection you're chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause he love's you like you are!

—Live Lie You’re Loved, Hawk Nelson

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. 

—Ephesians 2:8















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    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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