Crazy, Holy, Grace

In Life Reflections by Paula Stone Williams

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Paula Stone Williams

Paula Williams

A couple of weeks ago it was my privilege to be the featured speaker at the Boulder, Colorado PFLAG Awards Banquet. It was the first time I had done a scripted presentation (which is how I write and present sermons) since November of 2013. My talk was at the end of a long program, so I wanted it to be tight and brief, no extraneous words. The audience was wonderfully responsive.

Only one person had heard me speak before. I had lectured in one of her classes at the University of Colorado. To the rest I was an unknown quantity. One of the award recipients was a retired Methodist minister. As I sat down he looked across the table and said, “You are a preacher.” I fought back tears and answered, “Yes, yes I am.”

The audience was secular, with many who have been stung by the church, but try as I might I could not fashion a talk that did not mention the call of God, the grace of our Creator, and the abiding joy of the Divine Mystery. So I went with it, and based on the response, it was not a problem.

Throughout much of my adult life I was a skeptic, alternately thanking and screaming at the God I was not sure was there. I still have my moments. When life seems dark, much of what I see seems devoid of the transcendent. But that says more about me than it says about God.

Once I stopped fighting against the call to live my life, not someone else’s, a great cloud lifted and the world took on a whisper of promise. Though I was in the midst of great loss and turmoil and recently abandoned rage, I could not escape the sense there was a crazy holy grace at work, taking the rough edges off my existence and weighing the whole of the human story towards the redemptive.

Do I have proof of this holy grace? Of course not. Do I have evidence? Pretty much everywhere I turn offers a glimpse of that grace – the laughter of a granddaughter, a crisp spring day with a mountain bike and an empty singletrack trail, an old friend tentatively returning after a painful absence. All point to what seems best defined as the gentle work of the great I Am.

This crazy holy grace, this defeat that allows me to leave the shouting voices behind, this gentle rain that washes the anger from my dusty shoes after having been banished to the desert, all this benevolence asks something of me. The Prince of Peace asks me to speak a word, to assure others the road less traveled by does not lead to fear and despair and hardening of the categories. It leads to light and love and hope and peace. This ground on the other side of emptiness and anger is a land of gentle breezes, golden hours of lengthening shadows, and blessed rest.

Soon this holy grace will find its expression in the place I know so well, the place that in different manifestations has both rejected and healed me. Through the great generosity of two loving pastors I have been asked to preach again. And I answered, “Yes! By all means, yes! So life goes on, and it is good.

The last lines of Mary Oliver’s The Journey come to mind:

But little by little, as you left their voices behind
The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds
And there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own
That kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world
Determined to do the only thing you could do
Determined to save the only life you could save.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Svante Adermark

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Paula Stone Williams

Paula Stone Williams

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For 35 years I worked with the Orchard Group, a church planting ministry in New York. For most of that time I was Chairman and CEO. For 12 years I served as a weekly columnist and Editor-At-Large for Christian Standard, a leadership magazine. I was also a teaching pastor for two megachurches. Those responsibilities ended when I transitioned to live as Paula. I currently serve as a pastoral counselor, church and non-profit consultant, writer and speaker. You can read my weekly blogs at Rebel Storytellers, and at I am a runner, hiker, and avid mountain biker. The first two are relatively safe. The third, not so much. Still, I pedal. Cathy and I have been together for 42 years. She is a retired public school teacher and practicing psychotherapist. We have three children and five grandchildren.
Paula Stone Williams

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