The Side Effects of Grace

I got hit with a nasty sinus infection this week, which was, of course, a royal bummer right before Easter and Spring Break. On the upside, it gave me the chance to do one of my favorite things: reading the list of potential side effects on my prescription drugs. This is the best cure for whatever ails you. One glance at this litany of horrors is guaranteed to make you feel better about whatever is wrong with you.

Here’s the list of side effects from just one prescription I got this week: diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, chest pain, chills, body aches, cough, seizures, yellowed skin, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, ulcers on the lips, weight gain, swollen glands, unusual bleeding and bruising, tiredness, spontaneous combustion and random outbursts of yodeling.

Okay, I made the last two up, but all the others are listed with this drug on the Mayo Clinic’s website or After reading that list, I suddenly don’t feel so bad. My theory is that doctors and pharmacists just make this stuff up in an effort to make us all feel better about ourselves.

Just once I’d like to get a prescription for something that has some positive side effects. Imagine picking up an antibiotic at the drugstore that had a big label on the side that said, “Warning, prolonged used of this product may cause unexplained windfalls of money, improved eye-sight and six-pack abs.” Now that would be one popular drug.

Some people treat their faith like this. They’ll tell you following God will make you rich, healthy and will chase all of your problems away. The only hitch in this theory is that the God of the Bible suffered and died on a cross and talks a lot about people who follow Him doing the same.

And yet, as painful as it can be to die to our selfishness and pride, the side effects of following God are pretty amazing. In fact if God had a warning label, I think it would say something like, “Warning: repeated exposure to this Divine Being may cause uncharacteristic patience with others, peace in the midst of hardship and frequent outbursts of generosity and love.”

I’ve never had much luck manufacturing any of these characteristics on their own, but when I focus on intimacy with God, sometimes I’m surprised to see this stuff popping up in my life as a by-product of that relationship. When I chase after a character trait, I tend to fall on my face. When I chase after God, everything else seems to fall into place.

Maybe, like me, you’re sick of trying to improve yourself and are a ready for a more effective prescription. I recommend a healthy dose of hanging out with the God who loves you, but I have to warn you, the side effects may change your life.

Easter Colors

Image: 'Happy Easter, flickr' on

Image: ‘Happy Easter, flickr’
Found on

To this day every time I smell the pungent odor of vinegar I think of Easter.  When I was a kid, I loved stuffing my face with chocolate bunnies and Peeps.  I loved finding toys in my Easter basket and going on Easter egg hunts.  But, even more than all of this, I loved the process of coloring the eggs.

I felt like a mad scientist setting up glasses across the kitchen table, filling them with water and vinegar and dropping in the mysterious tablets of dye.  The instant they hit the liquid, they began to fizz, filling the concoction with bubbling color.  Every time I dropped one in I wanted to scream, “It’s alive!  It’s alive!”

Then came the eggs, the pristine white boiled eggs.  Scooping each one up in the wire dipper was an art in itself.  You had to carefully balance the egg so you didn’t drop it and crack it open.  But eventually all of that hard work paid off as I dipped the egg into the dye.  It was time for the transformation to begin.

The waiting was unbearable.  I constantly checked them, dropped them back in and checked them over and over again.  They couldn’t change fast enough for me even though I knew it was just a matter of time.  I knew the longer I left the egg submerged, the deeper the color would intensify.

But the waiting almost killed me.  It still does.

As an adult, Easter is still about transformation for me.  Like those eggs of my childhood, the longer I stay immersed in the love of my God, the more I see my colors change.  But some days, the waiting almost kills me.  The change never comes fast enough.

God once told His people that even though their sins were as dark as scarlet, He could make them white as snow.  On that good Friday before the first Easter morning, God did just that.

In Jesus, God mixed the perfect concoction of divinity, humanity and sacrifice.  He was God in the flesh who had come to die.  He was someone who could fully understand our frailty and our flaws, but had all the power of heaven to actually do something about it.

As we follow Him, new life bubbles up from within us like the colorful effervescence escaping from a tablet of dye. Some days that new life flows faster than others.

When I grow impatient with myself, I have to stop and remember how different I am from the day I first experienced God’s grace.  I have to remember that God didn’t save me because I was good but because He is.

The same is still true today.

In that I rediscover the hope of Easter, that some things have to die before they can live and, whether you’re talking about eggs or people, the dyeing process just takes a little time.

The Hope of Easter


Image: ‘Peep..Peep’
Found on

There’s nothing quite so terrifying as an Easter egg. At least in my case there wasn’t. Back in the days when Holiday World was simply Santa Claus Land they had a playground with several concrete structures that included an igloo, a giant fish and an egg. The egg was cracked open in the middle and big enough that you could stand up inside of it. Doesn’t sound so terrifying, does it?

Wait for it. It’s coming.

The two things you need to understand at this point in the story are these:

1. Even though I’m an only child, I have an uncle named Brian who was just a few years older than me who took on the role of my sadistic older brother.

2. I’m claustrophobic.

I think you see where this is going.

So back to the egg. My mom thought it would make a cute picture. I was five. It was a giant egg. What’s not to love? I’m sure it would have been fine if I’d been by myself, but Brian went in with me, and that’s when things got ugly.

I remember stepping into the egg. I remember turning to face the camera. I remember Brian and I leaning into together for the picture. Then I remember him whispering, “Did you hear that?”

“What?” I said.

“It’s the egg. It moved.”

“Huh-uh,” I said.

“Really, there it went again. It’s closing.”


“It’s going to swallow us alive!”

“Moooooooom!” I screamed and bolted for dear life. I haven’t eaten an egg since.

I wish I could say that was the last time I let unreasonable fear get the best of me. Unfortunately, I’d be lying. In the last thirty-five years since what I refer to as the “Egg Incident” I’ve cowered from more fears than I’ve faced. Fear of bullies. Fear of conflict. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. You name it, I’ve probably been afraid of it at one time or another.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe, like me, you’ve heard that voice whispering in your ear that whatever you were dealing with was going to swallow you alive. Maybe you hear it now. And maybe you know that on the surface, your fear is just as ridiculous as my Easter egg. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a real, in-your-face-kind of fear, like your marriage falling apart or chilling news from the doctor or even the specter of death itself.

Whatever your fear, whatever you face, the good news of Easter is that our fear has no basis in fact. Even when it looks like all hope is lost, hope is actually just getting started.

Shortly before that first Easter, 2000 years ago, Jesus’ body was laid to rest in tomb. A massive stone was rolled into place and the entrance was sealed by Roman soldiers. The darkness of the tomb swallowed the dead body of Jesus along with the hopes and dreams of all who followed Him.

Death, chief of all fears, ruled the day. Fear no longer whispered in the ears of Jesus’ friends. It screamed.

But then came Easter. Then came the dawn. An earthquake. An angel. A body that began to move. A stone that began to roll. And fear? Fear was replaced with awe.

When Jesus stepped out of the darkness of the tomb, fear fled. Death, it’s fiercest ambassador, had been snapped like a twig by the King of life, and someday that King will return to make all things right. On that day the Bible says, “the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'”

So no matter how great your anxiety, no matter how overwhelming your circumstances, the only one getting swallowed around here is death in the sweet victory won by Jesus on Easter morning. No matter what whispers you hear this week, cling to the truth and the hope that is sure to swallow your fear.