the meaning of "grace"

Okay, this is a treat.  This morning, I enjoyed some sweet, silent moments on the back deck before the little guys and girls woke up.  I'm reading Brennan Manning's modern classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel for a "book club" I joined for the month of June.  It's a book I've meant to read for years and this was perfect motivation.  So I read the first chapter and this one page in particular knocked me over.  I feel compelled to share it with someone, but I don't think my kids will sit still for it since there are no pictures to accompany the words.  :) I hope you will. 

"When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes.  I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play games.  Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. 

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God's grace means.  As Thomas Merton put it, 'A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.'

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes.  It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches.  For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift.  All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.  While there is much we may have earned--our degree, our salary, our home and garden, and a good night's sleep--all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love.  We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh.  We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.  This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer.  Even our fidelity is a gift.  'If we but turn to God,' said St. Augustine, 'that itself is a gift of God.'  My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.'

Sweet, huh?