"What's So Amazing about Grace? (excerpt)
As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside. I've found that words tend to spoil over the years, like old meat. Their meaning rots away. Consider the word "charity," for instance. When King James translators contemplated the highest form of love they settled on the word "charity" to convey it. Nowadays we hear the scornful protest, "I don't want your charity!"
Perhaps I keep circling back to grace because it is one grand theological word that has not spoiled. I call it "the last best word" because every English usage I can find retains some of the glory of the original. Like a vast aquifer, the word underlies our proud civilization, reminding us that good things come not from our own efforts, rather by the grace of God. Even now, despite our secular drift, taproots still stretch toward grace. Listen to how we use the word.
Many people "say grace" before meals, acknowledging daily bread as a gift from God. We are grateful for someone's kindness, gratified by good news, congratulated when successful, gracious in hosting friends. When a person's service pleases us, we leave a gratuity. In each of these uses I hear a pang of childlike delight in the undeserved. A composer of music may add grace notes to the score. Though not essential to the melody - they are gratuitous - these 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.
In England, some uses hint loudly at the word's theological source. British subjects address royalty as "Your grace." Students at Oxford and Cambridge may "receive a grace" exempting them from certain academic requirements. Parliament declares an "act of grace" to pardon a criminal.
New York publishers also suggest the theological meaning with their policy of gracing. If I sign up for twelve issues of a magazine, I may receive a few extra copies even after my subscription has expired. These are "grace issues," sent free of charge (or, gratis) to tempt me to resubscribe. Credit cards, rental car agencies, and mortgage companies likewise extend to customers an undeserved "grace period."
I also learn about a word from its opposite. Newspapers speak of communism's "fall from grace," a phrase similarly applied to Jimmy Swaggart, Richard Nixon, and O.J. Simpson. We insult a person by pointing out the dearth of grace: "You ingrate!" we say, or worse, "You're a disgrace!" A truly despicable person has no "saving grace" about him. My favorite use of the root word grace occurs in the mellifluous phrase persona non grata: a person who offends the U.S. government by some act of treachery is officially proclaimed a "person without grace."
The many uses of the word in English convince me that grace is indeed amazing - truly 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
2011 Mission Gambia
("Into Their Lives... With Our Lives..." - A Christian Missions Organization)
2010 Mission Haiti
in partnership with The Food for the Hungry International
("He is No Fool who Gives what he cannot Keep to Gain what he cannot Lose." - Jim Elliot)
2009 Mission Gambia
(People waiting in line - often for hours - to receive treatment)
(Dental Team, praying before seeing patients)
(Dental Team, treating patients)
(Children of Gambia)
2008 Mission Paraguay
(Dental Team (back row): Dr. Jay Leer, Dr. Esther Choi, Dr. Seung Ho Yoo, Ms. Fortune, Dr. Dan Kim, Mr. David Lee, and Dr. Chris Yoo)
(Streets of Paraguay; Patients waiting in line)
(Dental Team, with a patient)
(Dr. Chris Yoo, treating a patient)
(Dr. Seung Ho Yoo, treating a patient)
2007 Mission Gambia
2006 Mission Belize
2005 Mission Peru
2004 Mission Ecuador
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