“…Grace shows up in the portal of not knowing. When the heart is clenched tight, whether in anger or certitude, in fear or in grief, grace coaxes the fist open, looks into the palm and reads there a lifeline of a larger possibility. Grace is an open hand, extended to the stranger, to the loved one, to the wounded one within. It is the open hand of relationship, of kindness, of blessing.” – Karen Hering
Few words have stirred as much theological debate and division over the centuries while still arriving in the current millennium as untarnished, as frequently and comfortably spoken and as difficult to define.
Depending on who you ask and when, grace might be equated with salvation or with sacraments, with the presence of God, or with beauty or life itself. Grace is resilience. Grace is forgiveness. It is sin’s opposite. It is healing. It is revelation, the oneness of all being. It is enlightenment. It is light. It comes before faith. It comes after faith. Some say it is faith.
Mostly, it seems, what we know about grace is that it’s largely a matter of not knowing.
One of my favorite confessions of Augustine’s is about grace. “What is grace?” he asked, right away admitting in a nearly palindromic puzzle, “I know until you ask me; when you ask me, I do not know.” I concur. When I woke up this morning I knew exactly what to write about grace. It’s when I got out of bed and put my fingers to the keyboard that things got a little difficult.
Perhaps this is as it should be. Grace, after all, begins with beyond. Grace shows up in the portal of not knowing. When the heart is clenched tight, whether in anger or certitude, in fear or in grief, grace coaxes the fist open, looks into the palm and reads there a lifeline of a larger possibility.
Grace is an open hand, extended to the stranger, to the loved one, to the wounded one within. It is the open hand of relationship, of kindness, of blessing.
Grace moves. Grace heals. Grace dances. Grace is the sigh we release on the last note of a song or when the end of the poem becomes clear.
When a room is closed and stuffy, it is grace that opens the window and grace that then blows in.
“Grace fills empty spaces,” wrote Simone Weil in her journal. “But it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.”
Grace can knock us off our feet when we stand on the shore looking out. Then it’s grace that catches us before we are washed out to sea.
Grace is given, and grace is received. It cannot be stolen, even by the best of thieves.
Grace is an opening. Just when we think we know exactly what’s going on, who we are, who everyone else is and what can and cannot happen next, grace draws back the bolt of our knowing, flings wide a new view.
Grace is the guest of humility. Rumi said it plainly but not unkindly:
You are so weak. Give up to grace. The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
Grace never comes to the fully self- sufficient. But then, which of us really are? Grace comes to each of us in turn and to all of us unmerited.
Grace points to the possibility of more. At the end of the sentence, at the bottom of the page, in the heart held wide open, there is always more.
Salt of Grace
“Spill my tears into this sacred space,
and with a sip of compassion,
I taste the salt of grace.”
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay in his circles) made a rare visit to the Googleplex to lead a half-day Health@Google workshop in the fundamentals of mindfulness. The exercises and rituals of mindfulness lay the path to optimal health and happiness. Thay may be the second most famous Buddhist monk in the world, right after the Dalai Lama. He is certainly one of the best known and most respected Zen Masters in the world. Thay is a best-selling author, poet, and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. He is a key pioneer in actively applying insights from meditation to solving real-world social, political and environmental problems. Thay most recently published Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, with Harvard School of Public Health nutritionist Dr. Lilian Cheung. At 85, he’s touring North America before retiring to his monastery in France. Life at Google is fast, furious and fun, yet it can take a toll on ourselves and our loved ones. Through Thay’s specially crafted workshop, you’ll learn how to reduce stress, eat for health, sleep better, find emotional stability, improve concentration and sustain optimal performance. –Chade-Meng Tan
“…if hope does not disappoint, then hope appoints….”
A few years back a dear friend sat with me as I was suffering the great disappointment of losing my job. He held space for me as I felt the sting of disappointment followed by anger, grief and struggled with a sense of desperation. At one point in the conversation he shared a portion of a bible verse that has stuck with me since: “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope… And hope does not disappoint us.” He went on to share that, if hope does not disappoint, then hope appoints… It wasn’t until some time later that the meaning began to sink in.
Below are a few varying, yet complimentary, perspectives on dealing with disappointment:
In his video talk, Facing Disappointment – Peter Amsterdam comments:
In each of our lives there have been times when we’ve felt that bitter sting of disappointment. When it occurs, it’s so hard to bear. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Hope deferred, or disappointment, is really difficult to recover from.
When things don’t turn out as we’d hoped, either career-wise, or financially, in relationships, with our children, with missed opportunities that you were hoping for, it’s so difficult, so disheartening, and you can feel very alone… In the midst of times like these, the present is not only difficult, but the future seems so bleak as well. You may wonder, “Lord, where are You? Are You aware of my situation? Do You even care?”
Dealing with Disappointment – Abraham Hicks –
A feeling of disappointment is an indicator that what you are thinking right now is not a vibrational match to the desire that you hold.
When you have a desire for something and you believe that you cannot achieve it that is what that feeling of disappointment is.
All negative emotions no matter what you call it, in every single case mean you are activating a thought within you that does not match with your desire. Feeling of disappointment is a pattern of thoughts that is so constant, it is really what you believe and it is in opposition to something that you believe you want right now.
There is never any reason to be disappointed about something because everything that you want is flowing to you. Even if it seems that things are not unfolding right now the way you want.
Oprah’s advice to grads on dealing with failure:
This is what I wanna share. It doesn’t matter how far you might rise, at some point you are bound to stumble… because if you’re constantly doing what we do, raising the bar, if you are constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages, not to mention the myth of Icarus, predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. Now, when you’re down there in a hole, it looks like failure. So, this past year I had to spoon-feed those words to myself. And when you’re down in a hole, when that moment comes,… it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while. Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost. But then, here’s the key: learn from every mistake… because every experience, encounter and particularly your mistakes… are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are. And then, figure out what is the next right move.
Disappointment – the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
“…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us…” – John 14:27-31
She was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She’s best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. She’s Maya Angelou and here in video are her Top 10 Rules for Success, and her famous poem, Still I Rise.
1. Just do right!
She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, sex worker, and nightclub dancer. 2. Be courageous
She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. 3. Love
In 1982, she earned the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University. 4. Laugh
She was active in the Civil Rights movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. 5. Be a blessing to somebody
Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. 6. Turn struggles into triumphs
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. 7. You are talented
Attempts have been made to ban her books from some U.S. libraries, but her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. 8. Learn to say no
She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. 9. Always do your best
Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. 10. Keep rising
She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.
When one conjures up images of General George Patton (portrayed by George C. Scott) in the epic movie, Patton, one can easily think of glory, but what about humility? Much has been written about Patton and his complex nature. Among other virtues, some say he was a man with an iron will combined with humility, at times veiled thinly behind his bluster.
Perhaps it is easier to think of Nelson Mandel as a man with an iron will combined with the virtue of humility. It is written that despite Nelson Mandela’s profound impact on South Africa, democracy and the struggle for equality around the world, he remains a famously humble man. Mandela says it was necessary to transform himself into a modest man in order to change society. During an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, this former South African president shares the importance of humility with Oprah.
These two video clips serve to only scratch the surface of the topic: Of Glory and Humility.
Shared below is an excerpt of Patton’s writings which reveal his knowing about the true nature of glory in the context of victory. His words are poignant and expressed with humility.
“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” – George S. Patton
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson -Author, Lecturer
Oprah’s Favorite Passage from A Return to Love – In 1992, Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love, wrote that “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate—it’s that we are powerful beyond measure”. It is a passage that remains one of Oprah’s favorites 20 years later. Watch as Marianne explains why we fear our light more than our darkness and how everyone has a built-in platform to connect with others. Plus, discover the difference between magic and miracles. Book notes.