There is an analogy between plant growth with sunlight and spiritual growth with grace, in that sunlight provides the power to photosynthesize and grace provides the power to do virtuous deeds. Grace is not only a way to live, but to live fully a life that blooms. It is an omnipresent influence and gift of God on the soul.

Wages for a fair day’s pay, trophies for performances, and awards for recognitions and achievements are all man made. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, winning a prize, or deserves no award; that person can still receive a gift anyway – God’s Grace. The grace of God does not have to be earned, it cannot be controlled, and we don’t even have to deserve it. Grace isn’t based on a scorecard; it just is. Grace can be a hard concept to embrace and even harder to receive. Grace can create a feeling of indebtedness. Many of us hate feeling like we’re indebted. We must learn the art of receiving. It’s the only posture that makes room for Jesus. Accept it.

Grace isn’t a doctrine, it is a gift, a core truth from God. I have an acronym for what I feel the essence of God’s Grace is to me.

Gratitude– a thankfulness for what I have as opposed to looking at what I don’t have. God gave me what I need to live the life He has for me. It’s important to appreciate all that I have, to literally “count my blessings.” Gratitude promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Respect/Reverence– a reverence for life, an awareness of what I am doing in respect to all things around me. I witnessed an example of this during a funeral procession of cars between a church and the cemetery. A gentleman, total stranger to the deceased, got out of his car and bowed his head as the cars went by. When asked why he did that for someone he didn’t know, his answer was “since when do you have to know someone to pay them respect.”

Accountability– an ownership of my actions in accordance with my beliefs and God’s standard. I own my thoughts, choices and responses. I have control over myself and the impact I have on what is going on around me. I create my results.

Civility– a politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech. I find it alarming that many of today’s hit reality shows are based on uncivil interactions between people. I also feel that texting, blogging, Facebook messaging, emails, etc. allow people to hide at a distance behind a façade and be uncivil. I sign what I write and would welcome going back to George Washington and his “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” he wrote when he was 16.

When General Lee surrendered to General Grant in April 1865, Grant formed his Union troops in two formed lines of respect with their swords at attention as Lee, with great dignity, progressed the final yards to the farmhouse. The surrender had been elevated to a moment of civility. That is what mercy, compassion and sacred honor produce when the servant heart leads the best of leaders.

Empathy – an identification with another’s feelings, emotionally putting myself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is directly dependent on the ability to feel and identify our own feelings. When we do that for others, they’ll want to do it for us, creating a virtuous cycle.

“Great things can be achieved by leading through wisdom, empathy, and integrity—with no other agenda than humanity.” —Richard Branson

If we feel that Grace is out of our reach, then let go and let God be in charge. I have been guilty of standing on pride with my self-reliance and failing to see the gift being offered. It may take some practice to receive. Saint Faustina said, “We get as much grace as we are willing to trust.” Jim Dension adds, “God cannot give what we will not admit we need. Prayer positions us to receive what grace intends to give.”

We are asked to rediscover the life that awaits us; to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Let us not suppress grace’s flickering flame that never falters and allow it to rekindle us. Embracing all the hardships of the present time, means finding the courage to create space to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and unity. To make room for inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

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