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*****= An all-time favorite
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*        = Good, with reservations


***The Unmistakable Touch of Grace

by Cheryl Richardson

Reviewed April 24, 2006.
Free Press, New York, 2005.  256 pages.

Available at Vogelweh Library (MCN 158.1 RIC).

Cheryl Richardson says, “One decision, made almost twenty years ago, altered the course of my life and brought us here together in this moment.  Since then I’ve come to believe that my life is guided by a powerful Divine force, and when I choose to align myself with this energy, the best and most advantageous path unfolds before me.

“I’ve also learned that there are no coincidences.  Every event we experience and every person we meet has intentionally been put in our path to help raise our level of consciousness.  When we awaken to this fundamental truth, life becomes a true adventure, a spiritual adventure.  The person who smiles at you while you’re walking down the street is no longer a stranger.  The phone call from an old friend who crossed your mind the day before is no longer a surprise.  And the failed relationship that left you brokenhearted is no longer a source of bitterness and pain.  Instead it’s seen as a blessing in disguise, a gift that makes you stronger, more conscious, and ultimately more alive.

“Over time, as you come to understand these events for what they really are, you recognize that a benevolent force of energy has been available to guide and direct your life all along.  I call this energy ‘the unmistakable touch of grace.’”

Some readers will not like it that she leaves readers to their own choice of name for the “Divine force.”  I chose to call it God, and left it at that.  Her description of this Higher Power as loving and concerned about our lives certainly fits with my conception of God.

As an example of a “non-coincidence” in my own life, shortly after I noticed this book at Vogelweh Library, my sister Wendy recommended it to me.  I decided I’d better pay attention to what it has to say!

I’ll include some good bits:

“Over time, as I watched what happened, one thing became quite clear—grace was unmerited.  People didn’t need to work hard to earn it, feel worthy enough to deserve it, or work hard to earn it, feel worthy enough to deserve it, or surrender their needs to receive it.  The gift of grace had been available all along.  They just needed to be awake enough to see it.  Then, from this more conscious perspective, they would engage this power as they faced the truth about what wasn’t working in their lives and began making changes.  Doors would open, resources would appear, and a veil of uncertainty would lift, revealing their next step.  Seeing evidence of grace allowed them to trust that there was a higher purpose for their lives, and this fueled a desire for a more conscious relationship with this Divine, creative force.”

“Often, at our most trying hour, an experience of grace lets us know that all will be well and that we’re not alone.”

“For many people, books are a conduit for grace.  They open our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking and being in the world.”  (Boy, have I ever found that true in my life!)  “It’s a good example of how people experience grace—they are given the right message at the right time.”

“As I continued to heal and to get my life in order, something strange began to happen.  Little coincidences seemed to occur at the precise moment when I needed encouragement.”

“Have you ever considered that events that were painful, disappointing, or unfair may have occurred to nudge, or perhaps even shove you in a more positive direction?  Are there themes or patterns that seem to be trying to get your attention?  Your life contains evidence of grace, and you’ll see it if you take the opportunity to look at your past in a new way.”

“‘God speaks to us through people,’ is a phrase many of us have heard at one time or another, but few of us ever recognize how true it really is.  When we set out to look for evidence of grace, we soon find it in the interactions we have with others.  Sometimes it’s during a brief exchange with a person who delivers a piece of wisdom that makes us look at the world, or ourselves in a different way.  Other times it might be through an on-going relationship with a person who challenges us to acknowledge an unhealthy habit, or shortcoming we’ve been unable to admit.  And then there are people who, through their unyielding love and support, leave an indelible mark on our hearts, giving us the strength and encouragement we need to stay true to our souls.”

“The ability to surrender is a sign of spiritual maturity.  It’s a skill that requires patience and practice.  Whether we’re faced with a fear of loss, anxiety about an uncertain outcome, or the aching desire for something we can’t have, our willingness to relinquish control and put faith in an outcome we cannot yet see is a crucial element in learning to dance with grace.  The challenge is learning to surrender before the suffering begins.”

“Our source of suffering is always related to our resistance to what is.  The soul doesn’t try to control life, the ego does.  When your ego is wrapped firmly around a desire, your peace of mind and happiness are held hostage by an obsessive need to control the outcome.  After enough pain and suffering, you’ll eventually get the message:  If you don’t learn to surrender your will, you will surrender your peace.

“It takes a leap of faith to abandon your way for the right way.  It means letting go of how you think things should be and accepting them as they are.  When we surrender, it doesn’t mean that we simply throw our hands in the air and do nothing at all, it means that we pay close attention to the messages we get from our Divine partner so we can act on this wisdom.  Then, once we’ve done what we can, we let go and allow the Divine to take over to bring about the result that will serve our spiritual development.

“Here’s another thing you should know about surrendering:  it doesn’t just mean placing your trust in the unknown.  It also means facing the reality that you may not get what you want.  It took a long time for me to see that like so many of us, when I struggle and suffer, it’s often an attempt to control a situation in order to avoid disappointment.  But the reality is that we will be disappointed at various times throughout our lives.  As we practice the art of surrender, however, we allow grace to shine a light on a better path.”

“When things don’t fall into place in the timeframe you expect, use it as an opportunity to practice patience.  Remind yourself that it’s probably for a good reason.  Write the following phrase on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet:  “Haste will take the place of something better born from grace.”  When you’re feeling frustrated, take it out and read it.  In my experience, the most exciting and/or beneficial opportunities have always taken more time than I would have expected.  And, they’ve always been worth the wait.”

“As we respond to the influence of grace we naturally begin to live a more soul-directed life.  Our perspective on what it means to be truly happy matures and it becomes obvious that a satisfying flie is not about making money, finding the right career, or enjoying perfect health.  Instead it’s about using life experiences as learning opportunities to grow and evolve as spiritual beings.”

“When we learn to balance silence with activity and strengthen our spiritual foundation, it becomes easier to release our attachment to the outcome and have faith in a higher plan.  Being able to surrender not only frees us emotionally; it releases the spiritual or energetic hold we have on the events themselves, allowing the right result to occur at the right time.  Whether we realize it or not, we all walk a spiritual path, one that’s aligned with our soul’s development.  Any attempt to force or manage an outcome only disrupts this alignment.  As we learn to let go, we come to understand that when things don’t go our way, it’s because something more important to the growth of our soul is in the works.”

“Grace turns up the volume on all of our senses.  Whether we find pleasure relaxing in a warm bath, delighting in the touch of a baby’s hand, or enjoying the gentle tinkling of chimes as they sway in the wind, we start to see that, aside from the necessities of living, much of what brings us joy can be found in the milieu of our daily lives.”

Reading this book helped me to realize that a beautiful coincidence that happened to me a couple of weeks ago was a direct gift from God, telling me that He is going to take care of me.

Surrender and be patient.  Grace is on the way.”

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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