The HyperTexts

Grace Notes

compiled and edited by Michael R. Burch

Grace, what is it?

Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.
T. S. Eliot

I know nothing, except what everyone knows
if there when Grace dances, I should dance.
W. H. Auden

The drippings of grace … longing for a scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. C. S. Lewis

In his book What's So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey makes the point that grace is the "one grand theological word that has not spoiled." He points out, in illustration of the downward slide of other "grand theological words," that the King James translators once settled on the word "charity" to describe the highest form of love. Today "charity" has negative connotations, as in "I don't want your charity!" But grace remains unspoiled. Yancey calls grace our "last best word" because every modern English usage and coinage thereof "retains some of the glory of the original." Yancey points out that we say grace for our daily bread, that we are grateful for the kindnesses of others, that we are gratified by good news, that we are congratulated when we do well, that we are gracious in hosting friends, that we leave a gratuity for good service, that a British royal is addressed as your grace, that students may receive a grace that exempts them from academic requirements, that an undeserved pardon is an act of grace, that someone who pleases us by their mere closeness to us graces us with their presence, that a free copy of magazine is a grace issue, and that finance companies often offer a grace period of interest-free borrowing. Yancey says that in each of these uses he hears "a pang of childlike delight in the undeserved." (I would counter that grace has nothing to do with something being deserved or undeserved.)

Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yancey goes on to point out how much we value grace by what we say about someone who lacks it: we call such a person graceless, an ingrate, a disgrace, ungrateful, without a saving grace, a persona non grata (a term the U.S. government uses to officially proclaim someone a "person without grace").

Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. Karl Barth

Yancey says: "A composer of music may add grace notes to the score. Though not essential to the melodythey are gratuitousthese notes add a flourish whose presence would be missed. When I first attempt a piano sonata by Beethoven or Schubert, I play it through a few times without the grace notes. The sonata carries along, but oh what a difference it makes when I am able to add in the grace notes, which season the piece like savory spices."

I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty. John F. Kennedy

I chose "Grace Notes" as the title of this page because I'm a poet, and so I understand and appreciate the need for grace notes, and for notes of grace, in our lives. MRB

Sip from the teacup,
the tide lies beyond you.
Stick a toe in God’s Ocean,
lest Heaven abscond you!
Michael R. Burch, "Grace"

We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers. Lucius Annaeus Seneca "the Younger"

But those rare souls whose spirit gets magically into the hearts of men, leave behind them something more real and warmly personal than bodily presence, an ineffable and eternal thing. It is everlasting life touching us as something more than a vague, recondite concept. The sound of a great name dies like an echo; the splendor of fame fades into nothing; but the grace of a fine spirit pervades the places through which it has passed, like the haunting loveliness of mignonette. James Thurber

People who have exhibited the kind of grace that Thurber describes include Albert Einstein (who was said to have shone like an angel), Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. 

Ah, what a thing is man devoid of grace! George Herbert

As a child I understood how to give; I have forgotten this grace since I became civilized. Ohiyesa

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
W. H. Auden

O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God.
William Shakespeare

Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.Martin Luther King, Jr.

Courage is grace under pressure. Ernest Hemingway

He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must cross himself. George Herbert

Man is born broken. He lives by mending.
The grace of God is glue.
Eugene O'Neill

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
Lyrics from "Grace" by Bono

He sags, bent beneath her search for grace,
believing her the One, believing her
words, her gentle touch, her smiling eyes,
believing destiny has led him here,
believing destiny has brought him home
finally to rest in grace, to rest ...
Harvey Stanbrough, lines from "Grace"

Heaven will not be as good as earth,
unless it bring with it
that sweet power to remember,
which is the Staple of Heaven here.
Emily Dickinson

May we live like we were dying ... with no forgiveness withheld and no anger held within. Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, "Live Like You Were Dying" companion booklet

Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
Emily Dickinson

What once was "Heaven"
Is "Zenith" now
Emily Dickinson

Grace, it's the name for a girl
It's also a thought that could change the world
And when she walks on the street you can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything
Lyrics from "Grace" by Bono

Trace the roots of grace, or charis in Greek, and you will find a verb that means "I rejoice, I am glad." Philip Yancey,  What's So Amazing About Grace

The root of grace: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin grtia, from grtus, "pleasing"  The American Heritage Dictionary

Grace is indeed amazingtruly our last best word. It contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun.Philip Yancey,  What's So Amazing About Grace

The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. Steven Weinberg

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too. Carl Frederick Beuchner, author of The Alphabet of Grace and The Entrance to Porlock

Grace is what God gives us when we don't deserve, and mercy is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve. Anonymous

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age. Victor Hugo

I should have been too glad, I see
Too lifted for the scant degree
Of Life's penurious Round
My little Circuit would have shamed
This new Circumference have blamed
The homelier time behind.
Emily Dickinson

I guess grace doesn't have to [be] logical. If it did, it wouldn't be grace. Max Lucado, author of Traveling Light

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Reinhold Niebuhr

Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
T. S. Eliot

I love cats. I love their grace and their elegance. I love their independence and their arrogance, and the way they lie and look at you, summing you up, surely to your detriment, with that unnerving, unwinking, appraising stare. Joyce Stranger

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out, and your dog would go in. Mark Twain

When she goes to work you can hear the strings
Grace finds beauty in everything
Lyrics from "Grace" by Bono

Our thanks to Esther Cameron for sending us "The Journey to Unity" by Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen. 

Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

And here in dust and dirt, O here
The lilies of His love appear.
George Herbert

Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Romans 5:20

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark no longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace finds goodness in everything
Lyrics from "Grace" by Bono

It is to the prodigals ... that the memory of their Father's house comes back. If the son had lived economically he would never have thought of returning. Simone Weil

But can he want the grape, who hath the wine?
George Herbert

People must be charmed into righteousness. Reinhold Niebuhr

The church also communicates ungrace through its lack of unity. Mark Twain used to say that he put a cat and a dog in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing. — Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace

"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"
"O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them."
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home.
John Newton, reformed slave ship captain

So, sad-voiced dove, no pity-plaints for me —
Till His Dove swoops to swallow my last groans,
I'll sing for grace to light in all my bones!
Anton N. (Tony) Marco, "A Walk with the Old Man"

"Strange that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstandings of God's true nature. God's heart is more gentle than the Virgin's first kiss upon the Christ. And God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being." St. Catherine

O thou, in whom we live and move
Who made the sea and shore;
Thy goodness constantly we prove,
And grateful would adore;
And, if it please Thee, Power above!
Still grant us, with such store,
The friend we trust, the fair we love
And we desire no more. Amen!
Robert Burns, "A Grace After Dinner, Extempore"

He sags, bent beneath her search for grace,
believing her the One, believing her
words, her gentle touch, her smiling eyes,

believing destiny has led him here,
believing destiny has brought him home
finally to rest in grace, to rest

in truth and love, within her supple arms,
believing in her angels, believing
most of all that she believes, that she

would stand up for herself, that she would stand
for him, for them, for truth and love and grace,
believing she would never sacrifice

him beneath her search for grace, beneath
a long, sad goodbye, believing she,
on finding grace, would never let it go....
Harvey Stanbrough, "Grace"

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