From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a May 2002 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Dear Friends,

I have known about grace” all my life, under­stand­ing in a small way God’s mer­ci­ful deal­ing with us. The lan­guage of grace became part of my vocab­u­lary grow­ing up in a par­son­age. My father often spoke of grace in his ser­mons — best in his native Swedish — some­times with tears. As a boy of ten I went for­ward” to accept Jesus as my Sav­ior, flood­ed with joy that my sins were for­giv­en and I was a child of the King.” I was touched by grace. Then dur­ing my first year in col­lege I was called in grace to be obe­di­ent to God’s will, and became more inti­mate­ly acquaint­ed with the Book whose major theme is grace.

But dur­ing sem­i­nary years grace became an object of study more than a gift to be received. And in church work I was often tempt­ed to become a ped­dler of grace,” rather than liv­ing in the won­der of the gift. So at times I have become dull and unre­spon­sive. Tak­ing eter­nal real­i­ties for grant­ed, life can be too much with us. The dai­ly rou­tine and get­ting on to the next project” can keep us con­cen­trat­ing more on the side­walk than liv­ing in the won­der of the silent stars.

But grace can­not be worked for or earned. It is a gift only received when we sur­ren­der, com­ing with open hands. Our old­est son called home on a Mon­day morn­ing some years ago and greet­ed us, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inher­it the earth.” I could only respond, What has hap­pened to you, Randy?” His answer lingers with us to this day, I have capit­u­lat­ed to the Lord.” This after grad­u­at­ing from sem­i­nary. He had picked up two com­mit­ted and sophis­ti­cat­ed Jesus peo­ple who were hitch-hik­ing. They had lov­ing­ly gone to the mat” with him over the Lord­ship of Jesus. Grace has flood­ed his life ever since.

I am thank­ful for all those times I have become fresh­ly aware of grace, times when I have been open to an unex­pect­ed vis­i­ta­tion by a gra­cious God, being quick­ened with­in, like our son Randy, meet­ing some­one rad­i­cal­ly free who has sold all to fol­low Jesus. Or when I have been drawn into a com­mu­ni­ty of open, seek­ing, fel­low pil­grims. Or I have been called on to accept some over­whelm­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty, and I need­ed help for there was no way I could han­dle this demand alone. Or strug­gling to express thanks in some small way for a gen­er­ous, unex­pect­ed act of kind­ness. Sure­ly God has been present in all these and many oth­ers. And I have been opened again to see his grace evi­dent in all the com­mon expe­ri­ences of life.


Some years ago Ruth and I found our­selves fac­ing Tom Braith­waite, our doc­tor and friend. The nurse had called, The doc­tor wants to see you at 4:30 this after­noon.” We were there on time. After a friend­ly greet­ing, he came to the point. I’m afraid I have bad news for you. The exam revealed your white blood count is abnor­mal­ly high — 125,000 — when it should be between 4 and 11 thou­sand. I’m nine­ty-eight per­cent cer­tain that you have leukemia. Let’s hope it’s chron­ic. You can get a sec­ond opin­ion or I can make an appoint­ment for you at the Mayo Clin­ic. I sat in stunned silence, reach­ing out for Ruth’s hand. Could this real­ly be hap­pen­ing to me?” I drew a breath, then man­aged to answer, No, Tom, you’ve helped me before and I trust you. I want to stay with you.” Then, We’ll make an appoint­ment for a bone mar­row biop­sy with a pathol­o­gist and then we can vis­it about an oncol­o­gist. We’re in this togeth­er.” He may nev­er know what those words meant to me.

We drove home in heavy silence. What could we say? We had entered a dif­fer­ent world. I was help­less, at the mer­cy of a strange dis­ease over which I had no con­trol. As soon as we entered our home, we embraced in tears and cried out to the One who holds all our times in his hand. I spent a sleep­less night, toss­ing and turn­ing, wrestling with haunt­ing doubts and ques­tions which I could not put down. The dark night of the soul” St. John of the Cross called it. What had I done with my life that real­ly mat­tered?” How much time did I have?” Where is God now?” I could not help think­ing of those oppor­tu­ni­ties I had missed, the times with the fam­i­ly I had wast­ed, the thought­less, unkind remarks I had tossed at peo­ple. Then chid­ed myself because Chris­tians are not sup­posed to be this way. And inter­mit­tent­ly sought to pray. Next to me lay this pre­cious woman who had been my lov­ing com­pan­ion for more than fifty years. Doz­ing and prayer. How could I ever thank her?

I spent the next day grop­ing and won­der­ing, and shar­ing the news with our chil­dren, who heard and wept, assur­ing us of their love and prayers, ask­ing if there was any­thing they could do.

That evening when Ruth and I opened the Scrip­ture before retir­ing, we came on Peter’s strong words of hope to the scat­tered, per­se­cut­ed Chris­tians of that day. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mer­cy he has giv­en us a new birth unto a liv­ing hope through the res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). Light and hope seemed to flood the room. Here was the Lord’s word for me, per­son­al and clear. A moment of illu­mi­na­tion and life, God had heard my cry, his fresh resources of grace flood­ed my inner being. We knelt with tears of praise and joy, over­whelmed that God had vis­it­ed us and cleansed me, set me free from my self-pity, know­ing again I was con­stant­ly nour­ished and blessed by gen­er­ous gifts I did not deserve — gifts I could not earn, only sur­ren­der and receive.

An open­ness and a spir­it of thanks were giv­en me. I imme­di­ate­ly came to trust and respect my oncol­o­gist, a kind man of hope. I was delight­ed to learn he came from a small town near the Ram­sey Bap­tist church which my father had served. As I began to be giv­en my inter­fer­on injec­tion — at first every day, then five days a week, and final­ly three days a week which went on for four and one-half years — I came to have a pro­found sense of thanks for the men and women who have giv­en their lives to research, mak­ing this med­ica­tion avail­able for peo­ple like me. Tru­ly a gift of grace! The cheer­ful, com­pas­sion­ate nurs­es who admin­is­tered the injec­tion became trust­ed friends. Anoth­er gift! And the can­cer cen­ter wait­ing room became an unex­pect­ed are­na for friend­ly min­istry, meet­ing peo­ple who were eager for some word of encouragement.

I began to see dai­ly com­mon events with new eyes. Dri­ving home from the Can­cer Cen­ter one day I could­n’t resist pulling over to the curb to watch a blond, tow-head­ed boy — per­haps 6 or 7 — lunch buck­et in hand, knap-sack on his back, danc­ing care­free and unin­hib­it­ed through McKen­nan Park. And found myself qui­et­ly weep­ing with joy as I remem­bered Jesus’ words, Unless you change and become like chil­dren you will nev­er enter the king­dom of heav­en” (Matt. 18:3).

Mak­ing the bed with Ruth one morn­ing, now a dai­ly rou­tine to get the day under­way, I found myself sim­ply gaz­ing at this unselfish, car­ing woman, grate­ful that we have been friends, part­ners, and lovers for all these years. Or watch­ing the spar­rows in the bush­es out­side our liv­ing room win­dow, fluff­ing their feath­ers to warm them­selves on a bit­ter­ly cold South Dako­ta morn­ing. Being remind­ed of our heav­en­ly Father’s care for them, will he much more care for us who often have such lit­tle faith.

And what a joy it was to join with Zanab Annan and some of her fam­i­ly this last Holy Week to break ground for her Habi­tat for Human­i­ty house. She had wait­ed two years for this day. Zan­ab’s hus­band had been killed in the bru­tal war being fought in Sudan. She came to our com­mu­ni­ty with her sev­en chil­dren to begin a new life. She now works the night shift at the Mor­rell meat pack­ing plant. Ruth and I have been gra­cious­ly wel­comed into her crowd­ed apart­ment sev­er­al times, com­ing to encour­age her as advo­cates for her Habi­tat house. Now we gath­ered to ded­i­cate this lot on which her house will be built. Grace and glo­ry seem to break out all around us, we are stand­ing on holy ground.

A month ago I went to the Can­cer Cen­ter for my six-month blood test, vis­it­ing freely with some of those help­ful friends in the infu­sion room again. Even­tu­al­ly Dr. Kep­pen slipped into the exam room and greet­ed me warm­ly. Then, Con­grat­u­la­tions. Your blood count is per­fect. The best it’s been since you start­ed treat­ment. We’ll see you in six months.” I could only respond in amazed grat­i­tude, won­der­ing, Why me?” Some who were com­ing here when I began treat­ment are no longer with us. Every day here has become a spe­cial gift, a fore­taste of what is to come!


Ear­li­er I had been drawn by the Spir­it into a fresh, liv­ing move­ment — a com­mu­ni­ty of grace — called REN­O­VARÉ. How sur­pris­ing­ly this all unfold­ed. Lit­tle did I real­ize when I picked up a book enti­tled Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline some twen­ty years ago which tru­ly spoke to my con­di­tion, I would meet the author, Richard Fos­ter. The warm response to that book com­ing from peo­ple in every cor­ner of Chris­t­ian life — Pen­te­costal to Ortho­dox — revealed a hunger for renew­al that was deep and inclu­sive. Not cen­ter­ing on one par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion or dis­ci­pline, but a renew­al bring­ing togeth­er dif­fer­ent streams of life flow­ing through the whole Church.

I have been blessed and have grown in grace serv­ing on the Board of REN­O­VARÉ since its very begin­ning. Not a Board in the usu­al sense focus­ing on insti­tu­tion­al busi­ness, but a cre­ative, ecu­meni­cal fam­i­ly tru­ly rep­re­sent­ing the whole body of Christ. Each year­ly meet­ing, real­ly a retreat, is an inti­mate expe­ri­ence of grace and joy. For three days we share our lives and our dreams for the Church, often with laugh­ter and tears. Now and then we are strength­ened, built up, in times of con­fes­sion and heal­ing. And songs and prayer and Scrip­ture are the cen­ter of our gath­er­ing, con­clud­ing in the last hour with the holy hush of cel­e­brat­ing the Lord’s Supper.

The REN­O­VARÉ Con­fer­ences, led by Richard and var­i­ous Board Mem­bers, are a reflec­tion of this open, refresh­ing style of life. These are times when we dis­cov­er togeth­er through teach­ing and dis­cus­sion the mean­ing of liv­ing out a bal­anced life. As we open our lives to one anoth­er in the ses­sions, vis­it­ing in the halls, break­ing bread togeth­er, we dis­cov­er anew the rich won­der of God’s fam­i­ly. Friend­ships are made that will last for­ev­er. We con­clude those few hours togeth­er by ask­ing peo­ple to form them­selves into small groups (usu­al­ly a time of holy con­fu­sion). Here they are intro­duced to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of being a spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion group back home. What a beau­ti­ful sound to hear the music of dis­cus­sion, laugh­ter, and prayer fill­ing the meet­ing room.

Run­ning through these hours are glo­ri­ous, uplift­ing expe­ri­ences of wor­ship. Will any of us ever for­get singing The Apos­tle’s Creed”? I recall our gift­ed, gen­tle wor­ship leader, George Skram­stad, say­ing almost casu­al­ly at one con­fer­ence, Let’s join in this lit­tle song, Grace to You.’ So we sang, Grace to you, grace to you; May grace abound in all you do. Grace to do the will of the Father; Grace, grace to you.” Then as we turned and sang those words to the per­son near­est us, it struck me that this is what REN­O­VARÉ is all about. Becom­ing more and more a heal­ing com­mu­ni­ty of grace, shar­ing the life of Christ. What a call­ing for each of us. Turn­ing in love, fac­ing those about us — fam­i­ly, neigh­bors, fel­low work­ers, even strangers — being grace to them in word and deed!

Grace to You!

Roger Fredrik­son

Text First Published May 2002

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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