The blessing of Grace

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By Ken Begley

“Bless us, O Lord, and for these thy gifts which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Grace is such a simple prayer.  It’s a prayer of thanksgiving and a reminder that all we have comes from a loving God.  

I had an uncle who died many years ago that never ate anything without saying Grace, and I mean nothing.  He seemed to take it to extremes.

My own family always said Grace before we ate.  I still remember being led in prayer by my daddy while all 11 of us crowded around the table.

I fell out of the practice over the years.

To be honest, I would never say it in public because I just felt a little bit odd doing it.  You know what I mean.  People around you see you praying and are startled by the act.  They tend to look at you, then turn away, feeling like they’re intruding on a very private moment.

Yet, that one little act of public gratitude to God can sometimes influence people and make them think.

I remember eating at a fast food restaurant with another family.  We’ve become like an extended family with these friends.  Suddenly, the mother, Stacey, said a quiet prayer of Grace before she ate.  I watched her until she was done and said, “Do you do that all the time?”

Stacey said she got into the habit of doing it when she and her husband, David, first had kids.  She never stopped.

That simple, silent prayer in such a public place, an unembarrassed show of thanks to a generous God, impressed me.

A month or two later I was working some duty days for the Army Reserve with another sergeant down from Louisville.  This guy’s a large bear of a man who played a lot of football in high school.  He’s one tough sergeant who could have gone either way in his youth.  Fortunately, he joined the military and excelled there.  Otherwise, it’s not too hard to imagine that he could have ended up in trouble with the law.

We took a break from work and went to McDonald’s for lunch.  The place was loaded with very young kids that day.  We were wearing our uniforms.  The kids kept glancing back at us with great curiosity.  It was obvious they didn’t, if ever, see many people like us.

I started to ignore them and eat when the sergeant next to me dropped his head down and began to say Grace.

I glanced up to see the kids staring.  

They watched this physically powerful man, serving in the most powerful military force the world has ever known, humbly, gratefully, thanking God for the food he was about to eat.  He knew who the Master was, and that he was the servant.  He also wanted everyone else to know this as well, including those kids.

You had to be there.  

It was the most moving demonstration of faith to young eyes that I remember seeing coming from such a small public act.  It’s my belief that those kids watching will remember that scene for a long time to come.

Last story.

You know that uncle I was talking about?   Later, after he had been dead for many, many years, I talked with my aunt about him.  She told me why he always said Grace before eating.  

You see, he served in the infantry during World War II.  He was captured at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa.  He spent the next 26 months in German prisoner of war camps.  During that time, he, along with many others, nearly starved to death.  I’m sure some did.  He wasn’t rescued until the very last days of the war.  

After that he didn’t care who saw him give thanks to God for the food he ate.

He knew he survived by the Grace of God.

He was forever grateful.

He never forgot.

Have a happy Fourth of July.