I just finished reading What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey. First, I must say that I recommend it. It’s one of those books, that as I read it, I found that I was nodding and saying to myself, “Yes, that’s right – that’s what God meant it to be.” I also would stop and tell myself, “Well, ouch.” Good book. If you are ever sitting in a library, or a doctor’s office, or someone else’s house, and see this book lying round, and have only 10 minutes or so to read from it, then turn to page 49 and read the retelling of the Prodigal Son story that begins on that page. The end of that story, of a daughter lost and then returning, is the very definition of grace.
That all being said, I must confess that I am a nerd. I took notes. I was reading this book, and phrases, sentences, stories, ideas just kept flying at me from the pages (and that was only the first chapter) so I started writing them down. I have several pages of grocery store style lists of thoughts gleaned from his book. (You know – grocery store list paper – skinny and long). I thought about a blog entry of just a transcription of my list, but decided that might be too close to a copy-write violation (like a preview of a movie that has all the good scenes). Want my list? I’ll send it, but I probably shouldn’t publish it on the internet.
That being said (all this being said, and no meat yet), I think that many of the thoughts on my list are going to appear in the next few days in blog entries. I don’t feel nearly qualified to write a series of entries about grace, but when has lack of qualification stopped me?
I think grace is one of those “church” words that we hear all the time but couldn’t really define if asked. Yancey says he didn’t want to dissect grace, like a frog, and kill it in the process. His book is full of stories and illustrations that paint a picture of grace. As I look at my grocery story list, I see words that kind of make up a definition:
Costs everything for the one who gives it.
Very difficult to understand
Gift, not achievement
The hymn Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, who has a very interested life story (found here). He was the captain of a slave trading ship, who eventually became a minister. When he says, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that sav’d a wretch like me,” he was speaking of himself.
When I was in high school, I started attending the church that I still attend today. Our youth group sponsored our church’s tape ministry at the time, and every week a friend and I would take a cassette tape of the service to two particular shut-ins of our church. Twice a year – at Christmas and at Easter – the entire youth group would spend the day driving around Huntington, visiting every shut in who was part of the tape ministry. During Christmas visits, we would always sing Silent Night. At Easter, the song was Amazing Grace. At every house, nursery home and apartment building, we sang that song over and over. When the day started, I didn’t know the words. At the end of the day, I knew them by heart – in more ways than one. Those two years in my life were when I changed from someone who attended church very rarely to someone who came every week. Special times, and that hymn still holds special meaning for me today.
(If you are a parent or are someone who works with youth, let me scare you for a moment – we did this in our own cars, driving around, following each other (or getting lost) – no vans, no transportation except our own. That’s how we did all of our off-site events. And yes, one day one of our youth was involved in a car accident during transportation to an event.)
Image note: Photos are of a bird S found in a nest in our crabapple tree. It has nothing to do with the post except to say, "Hey, look, I got a picture of a bird actually in a nest. I still would like to capture images of the bluebird that keeps appearing in our back yard (never gonna happen) and one of Dave's (wood)pecker.