At times, life’s pains and problems seem overwhelming—and the more so if those times coincide with holiday celebrations. When this happens, it can be hard to feel much beyond the flood of sadness flowing out of the circumstances of our lives. You know that there is much more to your life than that current crisis or struggle—but sometimes it fills your field of vision so that it is hard to see anything else. I’m learning that it is precisely when this happens that I need to look for grace notes from God.
If you haven’t heard or understood about grace notes, they are essentially musical ornamentation: a special series of notes to increase the interest and enhance the artfulness of a melodic line. Some grace notes are long and others are very short. Because they appear smaller than regular musical notations on the music staff, and because they can pop up unexpectedly, it requires extra attention to execute them properly. As a trumpet player, I have long been aware of the importance of grace notes in music, but more recently I’ve seen that, as in music, so it is in life.
God provides His children with grace notes: little reminders of His mercy and sovereign care for us that pop up and intersect with the challenges of our daily lives. We know that the Scriptures are full of reminders of how God cares and keeps His promises to His children. For example, the Psalmist encourages, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). The Bible enumerates all those benefits, providing an anchor of hope to help us weather the fiercest storms.
It’s important to go regularly to the Bible to strengthen our faith and to receive instruction as we wait on God to act. But I would like to invite us to think of the grace notes of God as His multiplied mercies that come to us in the circumstances of our daily lives. They are the small blessings that appear to us as the smile of God, His tender hand on our shoulder, the gentle reminder of His presence if we tune our hearts to hear.
Perhaps Jeremiah was speaking of these grace notes when he wrote: “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23). God’s “new mercies” can be seen in the midst of daily life as situations that reveal His kindness. I think of grace notes as refreshing reminders of God’s favor and mercy. As in music, they may be small or fleeting signs, easily overlooked—or they may be more sustained. Either way, they add beauty and ornamentation to my life; another reason to remember and give thanks to God.
As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, it can be easy to focus on all the challenges confronting us. Many might be tempted to give in to discouragement and despair as our country—indeed the entire world—is embroiled in all manner of troubles and trials. The economy has been nothing but a giant rollercoaster that has left many people in need, some quite desperate. Our military is caught up in seemingly intractable conflicts and seemingly endless wars leading only to uncertainty. Our politicians appear completely incapable of governing successfully or with real integrity, and corruption is often the norm among our leaders. Likewise, many popular church leaders seem to be toying with ideas that call into question the clear teaching of God’s Word.
Yes, life’s circumstances could leave us far from thankful this Thanksgiving. That is why I believe we need to look extra hard for the grace notes of God in our lives. It takes a certain amount of discipline, attentiveness and prayer, but when God shows us His mercies, it becomes an occasion to remember long after the moment is gone.
It might be good to make our own list of grace notes that God has arranged for our lives. This list can be for private reflection, or possibly something to share with loved ones around the Thanksgiving holiday. However you choose to use your list, I know that the spiritual discipline of looking for these grace notes will make us all more grateful and graceful servants of God. We may find that our grace notes as shared with others will turn into a symphony of praise to our God. If you would care to share, I would love to hear some of your recollections of God’s grace notes from this past year. Here are a few of mine:
This past year has been the hardest of my entire life. Yet, in the midst of great sorrow God has blessed me with the joy of seeing my son Isaac marry a wonderful, godly Jewish believer in Jesus named Shaina. Together they are serving the Lord with Jews for Jesus while attending Biola University. My daughter Ilana also loves Jesus, attends Biola University and serves the Lord with our Jews for Jesus children’s ministry. My children are a wonderful ornament of God’s grace in my life: His smile of favor that continues in the midst of a storm.
For Jews for Jesus, the fact that our founder, Moishe Rosen, went home to be with the Lord a year and a half ago has been an incalculable loss—a sorrow deeply felt, especially by his immediate family. Yet it was a joy to see God’s hand at work as the gospel was powerfully proclaimed in the many news reports that covered his death around the world. In that same vein, this year God provided a wonderful publisher, Thomas Nelson, to bring the story of Moishe’s life to print so that it will continue to be a witness as well as an encouragement to many. What an answer to prayer and a sign of God’s continuing favor resting on the life and ministry of his servant Moishe in perpetuity.
One of our greatest challenges in Jews for Jesus has been to raise up the next generation of missionaries to the Jews. This concern has grown more urgent as our founding leadership continues to age. None of us likes to think of ourselves as getting old, but the years do add the pains of wear and tear on our bodies. Various conditions and illnesses have visited many of us this year, deepening my concern not only for my friends and colleagues, but also for the future of this ministry that I love. We have urgently prayed over this and little by little we’ve seen answers, but this year God’s provision has been remarkable.
Young people have been joining us in larger numbers than at any time in recent memory. This year I had the privilege of encouraging four young men in leading our summer witnessing campaign in New York City, a campaign that was carried out by more than twenty young Jewish believers—who were all in their 20s. In fact, if I add up the young people coming alongside our staff to take part in our ministry just this year (including new staff, interns, volunteers) it numbers more than fifty. Hallelujah!
What a huge blessing we find in the evidence of God’s favor even when facing our own frailties and limitations. These grace notes add so much to my appreciation of what the Lord is doing in Jews for Jesus and in my own life. I trust God will help you recall His many grace notes in your life this year, so that you will have many more reasons to celebrate a blessed Thanksgiving.