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I’ve been watching it for the past few weeks:  a new gas station going up on the corner where I turn to go to work every day.   Now, I’m not thinking of buying gas there, although I probably will, but I’m wondering what type of soda fountain they’ll have.  You know, I have to stake out all the best diet coke stops along any path I take more than once so I’ll be prepared.

I saw a “Now Open” sign as I drove up today so I stopped in.  There were lots of great soda choices – including caffeine free Diet Coke!  Obviously the one running this new establishment has good taste.  I filled up my cup, sauntered around the place just for fun, checking out their price for 5 gum (another favorite of mine), then went to the cashier.  She asked if I had a Crystal Flash reward free-signcard.  “Why no, I don’t” I replied.  “Well then, fill this out and take this,” she said as she handed me this tiny card to put on my key chain.  “And,” she added, smiling, “since you’re signing up for the card today your drink is free.”  Cha-ching!  Bonus!

What a fun way to start the day.  Isn’t it fun to get something for free, especially when you weren’t expecting it?  I hopped back into my gold minivan with my free diet coke and headed cheerfully on down the road to the office.  I’ve been listening to all the songs on my iPod in alphabetical order for a while now and am in the I’s.  A song came on (“It’s Beautiful” by Eleventyseven) that I love and sang along with loudly.  The chorus has these words:  “It’s beautiful.  You can turn mistakes to miracles.  The way that You still love me after all…it’s beautiful.”  I thought of how true that is – the fact that God loves me even when He knows me better than anyone else.  Truly amazing.  AND…his love is free.  It doesn’t even seem right – that Jesus should give his very LIFE for me so that I could accept salvation freely.   Very costly to God – free to me.  Free to you.

Sometimes when stuff is free I don’t appreciate it as much.  It seems when I’ve given of myself to something or for something, or worked hard to save up for something, it means more.   When I saw the movie “The Passion” I saw more clearly how much it cost Jesus.  I sat there with my hands partially covering my eyes whispering, “I’m sorry, Jesus.  I’m so sorry!”  My sins required a payment I couldn’t pay.     I was watching him take my punishment.

How can I pay him back?  There’s no way.  How can I thank Him for giving me the gift of His love and forgiveness for free?   Not possible.   But I love it.  I love, love, LOVE Him for it.  I’m trying to give myself fully to Him every day in response to it.   It’s been good to remember it today.

You know, I could have refused this morning.  I could have told the cashier, “No thanks, I’m going to pay for it” or “I don’t want it for free.”  How silly!  Especially since it was Diet coke!

I had to accept God’s gift, take it into my hands, open it and keep it, make it a part of my life forever.   He holds it out lovingly hoping each person He’s made will reach back and take it so He can be close to them, so He can pour out His love in their life.  Relationship with God is that simple and that available.  And it’s free!

“You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own.”  Ephesians 2:8  CEV

[Jesus said] “Give as freely as you have received!”  Matthew 10:8  NLT

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