So Shaun Groves drove up the gravel lane here last night.

We heaped mashed potatoes and roasted herbed ham and fresh sweet corn from the garden onto his plate.

The Farmer made him ice cream.

And the boys wore him down with jokes and dares to slip down their little backyard zipline and after we all laughed too hard and then held hands and prayed, we sent him to bed with promises of bacon in the morning.

His guitar’s sitting here.

The man knows how to plucks and pulls strings — so a bit of God’s heart falls into your lap.

Shaun and I traveled to Guatemala together with Compassion last year.

Compassion Bloggers in Guatemala

He came to our neck of the woods to talk about his new album, Third World Symphony — and it’s first track, All’s Grace. To play it out here in the fields, under the sky where we farm and  surrender all to the perfect will of God.

So I’m sitting here this morning, sun rising over the fields, the hens clucking quietly out here on the back lawn… and I’m thinking about All’s grace — what I’ve signed above my name for years, a testament to Him.

Thinking about words I wrote in One Thousand Gifts:

What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is grace?

And the more of the blessings I name, this theological problem deepens…  If I am numbering gift moments to one thousand and now beyond—what moments in my life count as blessings? If I name this moment as gift, grace, what is the next moment? Curse? How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses?

What is good? What counts as grace? What is the heart of God?

Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through the carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job and a nice house in the burbs—and then finds Himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil? A God of sporadic, random, splattering goodness—that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? Somebody tell me:

What are all the other moments? ….

To read His message in moments, I’ll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world.

Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, “I know. I know.”

The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain. …

I stand in our bedroom by the window and hold a cue card to the light I’ve had for years, carried around with me. I can hardly now make out the water-splat words of Isaiah 14:24, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (NASB). As God plans … so it stands.

I read the faded ink below, and I remember what I felt the day I copied those words, “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has planned it?” (Amos 3:6). And I feel it again today and I breathe: A good God plans everything. Everything. So a good God can only … make plans for good? He only gives good gifts? A thing of evil cannot be created by a good God?

Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps. …

I  awaken to the strange truth — that all new life comes out of the dark places, and hasn’t it always been?

Out of darkness, God spoke forth the teeming life. That wheat round and ripe across all these fields, they swelled as hope embryos in womb of the black earth. Out of the dark, tender life unfurled. Out of my own inner pitch, six human beings emerged, new life, wet and fresh.

All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness.

That fullest life itself dawns from nothing but Calvary darkness and tomb-cave black into the radiance of Easter morning.

Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. And there is no other way.

Then … yes: It is dark suffering’s umbilical cord that alone can untether new life.

It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.

And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering….

My pain, my dark—all the world’s pain, all the world’s dark—it might actually taste sweet to the tongue, be the genesis of new life?

Yes. And emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.

So God transfigures all the world…

I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the embracing love of a God who “does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace. Isn’t this the crux of the gospel? The good news that all those living in the land of shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun.

That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart—and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?

What in the world, in all this world, is grace?

I can say it certain now: All is grace.

I see through the woods of the world: God is always good and I am always loved.

God is always good and I am always loved. …

And all is grace — only because all can transfigure.

Shaun will sing it this morning here — All’s grace…And we’ll be sharing a few clips of him singing here out here in the farm fields, us talking about how God has changed how we see. God’s got a message in Shaun’s music that’s grabbed hold of me and won’t let me go. And I’ll listen to the songs and I will believe again that God is transfiguring all that hurts into the hope of His glory and I will think of this powerful story, this clip here below. A video I’ve watched how many times? The powerful, heart-rendering story of a couple that can look into the face of their own deep suffering and say it too, because they know the love of their Father:

This is grace.

This was grace – short film from Andrew Laparra on Vimeo.

(RSS readers can click here to watch this never-forget-it video within the post)