Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Gracespotting."

About eight years ago I began to re-evaluate my life, having just turned 50. In the course of that assessment I came to a realization that my faith was important to me and that I really needed to find out what it was all about for me.  After a few months of digging, reading and praying, I read the book "What's So Amazing About Grace," by Phillip Yancey, that changed my whole viewpoint and approach to my faith.  The author makes the point that "there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and there is nothing I can do to make God love me less."  It's all about grace.  While it's not a free pass, understanding the concept gave me a whole new perspective on the faith I had rebelled against since college and brought me back into focus on what God was all about.

Cathleen Falsani's new book "Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace" is the author's journey around the US, Africa and other places where she experiences grace in places both large and small. The author calls it "gracespotting" and whether on the cobblestone streets of Rome, in the halls of Graceland, driving the rainy roads of post-Katrina Bay St. Louis, trekking through the slums of Nairobi, attending a Passover Seder with the only Rabbi in the state of Montana, or curled up with her cat, Ms Falsani finds grace in the unexpected.  Grace that she describes as "the oxygen of religious life."

The writer is the religion writer for the Chicago Sun Times and a blogger I read regularly. Her style, exhibits her own uniqueness as a writer, but could be described as Anne Lamott meets David Sedaris. She is a storyteller above all and the stories of the people and places she encounters, around the world, on her quest to find grace are each unique expressions of finding grace when she least expected it or when she needs it the most. For the author grace is the "lagniappe" of life.  This lagniappe, a cajun word to describe that surprise bonus given to customers for good measure, is there for each of us every day. 

Reading her book reinforced the grace I've seen in the people of my faith community over the past few weeks as I recover from illness and a hospital stay. “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” Thankfully, it's all about grace.
"Sometimes grace is having the strength to persevere through the storm.
Sometimes it's having the guts to rebuild, to take a chance, to follow your nose and your heart rather than your head.
Sometimes grace is finding out that your preconceived notions are dead wrong.
Sometimes it's being surprised by joy.
Sometimes grace is something you can feel even if you can't see it.
And sometimes it's a bowl of watermelon gazpacho when you were expecting Taco Bell."