The male cardinal in his velvety red coat perches atop my backyard swing in the shade of the sweet-gum tree, and the snow-like bokeh in the background makes this scene look more like a Christmas card than a picture of summer in this sub-tropical heat.

And I'm reminded that things are often not what they appear to be.

Transparent and vulnerable, we trust our redemption stories in life group - and as each story unfolds, we are in awe of God's grace and goodness to redeem our pasts, our failures and our pains. Our stories shatter the illusion that we have it all together - revealing our scars of brokenness, the road we travel to wholeness, and the new creation we have become in Christ

Our shared stories change us - they change me and how I see the others in life group and the person sitting next to me in church or in the doctor's waiting room, or standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, because I know that people and circumstances are often not what they appear to be.

It's an illusion that anyone "has it all together" - only that grace holds us together, and when I'm honest with myself and others, we both know we're not alone.