actual grace

last december, emily rose, a junior at butler high school, went home to be with Jesus following a battle with leukemia. since then, her family has found a home at threshold, mainly because of the way members of the church have reached out to them in the ways they do best.

this week’s blog is a bit different – i wanted you to hear from emily’s stepdad, mark. the following is a testimony to the tangible activity of God in the lives of his people.

As some of you know, Amy, Brendan and I are now members of Threshold Church. THD reached out to us during Emily’s illness and during the aftermath in a way that made us want to be a part of your worship and ministry. We first visited on Sunday December 28, 2008. We were planning on going to Elevation Church, but they didn’t have worship that Sunday, and Amy and I were determined to go somewhere to be close to God on the first Sunday after Emily’s service. Amy, Caleb, Zach and I attended, and uncharacteristically sat on the second row. As a long and proper Baptist, I’m more of a back row guy, but somehow we ended up at the front.
As the praise band started their second or third song, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” we felt the spirit touch us. We had chosen that hymn for Emily’s service just 5 days before. Then as pastor Jeff began to speak about 2008 coming to a close, and all the trials, all the hardships, all the financial hardships, the job losses and the deaths in the family, we began to feel the spotlight on us. We felt singled out, tagged, touched, lifted up. We knew in our hearts before the service even concluded, that THD was where God wanted us to be. To serve Him there.
After the service we spoke with Jeff, whom we’d never met before. We introduced ourselves, but he cut us off, saying “I know who you are. I was praying and worried during the whole service that what God wanted me to say wasn’t too raw, too difficult, too soon for you.” We assured him that while he may have been apprehensive, and we maybe wouldn’t have wanted to hear what he said, that God knew it was what we needed to know.
Since that time, there have been many more moments, random meetings, school dedications and meetings, dinner with friends, that have been tough in the moment, sometimes tough immediately after, but, ultimately, in His perfect time, what we need and what we embrace.
This weekend, Threshold held a 24 hour prayer vigil tied with the youth’s 30 Hour Famine for hunger initiative. It was held at the clubhouse in our neighborhood. Several prayer stations were set up to direct our prayers and reflection. Some of the stations directed us to look inward and confess to God our sins, our worries, our burdens. Some directed us to look outward to others, to help and to pray for them. One station was different, though. It was very open ended. It consisted of an easel with a large drawing pad attached, a wall for display and pins to affix the drawings. No directions were given, no suggestions, nothing to guide us except our selves and our prayers. Some pages were hung with scriptures, some with prayers. Some were simple drawings of the cross. Some were elaborate drawings of Christ’s wounds, or images superimposed on the cross. We were there at about 10 pm Saturday night. Sometime between when we left and 7 am on Sunday, someone drew the newly posted picture (see the top of this blog). It, along with several other pictures, was displayed at the church service the following morning. As of now, we don’t know who did it, or even for certain that they had Emily in mind. It doesn’t really matter either way. But God put that image in someone’s heart. Someone was compelled to draw a picture of a beautiful blonde young woman, with a rose in her hand and surrounded by purple light, entering into a glorious light.
We showed it to Jeff after service, and he immediately said “That’s your girl, entering into God’s glory.” Michelle Gardner told us when we showed it to her about “actual grace”. That is when God provides a tangible “something” for us to see, to hold, to cherish, as a reminder of His grace. We had not heard the term before, but we do believe that it applies totally to this picture.
Once again, our idea of “coincidence” is defeated. Our concept of God’s sovereignty, His power and His Plan, however, is reaffirmed and heightened.
To whoever drew this picture, thank you. If you would tell us who you are, we would like to thank you personally. If you are not comfortable with that, then please know that we have already thanked God for you and your expression of caring. We will frame the drawing and we will hang it with respect and thankfulness to remind us where Emily has journeyed ahead of us.
(from Jeff – if you are the artist of this picture, or know who is, you can get in touch with Mark and Amy by emailing me,

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