Category Archives: life basics

It’s Not Just About Me

…the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

[Psalm 19:9-10a, NRSV. For the complete psalm, click psalm 19 above.]

 

English doesn’t quite get the point across. This isn’t fear in the sense of afraid-for-my-life/scared-to-death; this fear of the Lord is the quickening of the pulse, the scared-to-life sense when holiness shows up. This isn’t fear that harm will come, but keen awareness of the difference between creature and Creator.

This awareness of my own limitations, this encounter with the love that created all that is, this is what I should desire more than gold. My finitude in the presence of the loving Infinite doesn’t diminish me: it just gives me the slightest glimpse of God’s sacred love of everyone and everything else.

It’s a wonderful and humbling gift of truth: I am God’s beloved, and I walk a world full of other beloveds.

 

Each and Every One of Us

You weren’t put on this earth to be miserable.

It’s something my grandmother used to say, a truth that’s been handed down three generations and beyond. Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t meant to be awful. Difficulties are a given, and times of trouble and sadness are just part of life’s fabric; so is fun, joy, and satisfaction. Work finds its counterpart in play, tears in laughter, boredom in fascination.

This old world holds so much, as does the world within. You aren’t made for unending misery: you are made for joy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Deep Inside My Bones

“I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

Hebrews 8:10b-11, NRSV

Are you enough? Are you loved, and lovable? Do you know, REALLY know, that God delights in you?

YES is the true answer: you are enough, you are loved and lovable, and you are a delight to God. Know this, accept this, inscribe this in your head and on your heart. This is the law of love that guides life and gives us all we need to embody love in our outer actions and inner thoughts. We won’t do it perfectly, and we might not always do it happily, but we can and will do it. And that, my friend, is reason enough to rejoice.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

[The Deer’s Cry]

Pass It On

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

 

Everyone is born with unique gifts and deserving of deep love. Everyone has something to offer their small part of the world that no one else can, bringing new realities into being. But it takes encouragement and courage to offer your gifts to the world. Often, they seem so small, so limited.

That’s where the second part of this benediction comes in…

Pass on the love that has been given to you. If you haven’t been loved as deeply and broadly as you deserve (and you do deserve such love!), let God’s infinite love fill your heart and pass that on. Gifts alone aren’t enough; gifts offered in love are. 

It’s one of the great mysteries of life, and one of the most obvious. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook.

In My Ever-Living Soul

[Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

It blends in with the rest of the windows in the chapel – blue in tint, full of small symbols, rarely noticed by anyone but the people who sit below it during Sunday worship.

It’s breathtaking to me, this small bird. Surrounded by the virtues, the gospel writers’ symbols, and so many flowers, it’s a visually quiet pane. Peaceful.

Whoever crafted it, I owe you a debt. To see a bird perched on a branch is such a common thing – a glance out a window is likely to offer just this sight. I think that’s why you included this bird. To remind me that God is ever-present, a common element in my life.

But it’s when I remember that God is just as surely perched in my soul that I can trust that ever-living is an adjective that applies to it.

Contemporary Announcement (1983)

Contemporary Announcement 

Ring the big bells,

cook the cow, 

put on your silver locket.

The landlord is knocking on the door

and I’ve got the rent in my pocket.

Douse the lights,

Hold your breath,

take my heart in your hand.

I lost my job two weeks ago

and rent day’s here again.

[Maya Angelou, Contemporary Announcement; Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?; New York: Random House, 1983]

That wonderful feeling when there’s enough money to cover the basics: food, clothing, shelter. The dread and shame when there’s not enough money to cover the basics: food clothing, shelter. In just two paragraphs and a word short of a full deck’s count, Maya Angelou puts us in that rented apartment.

These words are being lived out by millions today, thirty plus years after Angelou published them. Will we ever learn that poverty is not a moral shortcoming or a character flaw?

Jesus, Saint Francis, and Gandhi all figured that out. I have hope the rest of us can, too.

 

The Pasture – An Invitation

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan’t be gone long. – You come  too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf

That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan’t be gone long. – You come too.

[Robert Frost, The Pasture, Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems; New York: Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 15. It’s the first poem in many Frost collections – his invitation to his readers to join him in seeing the wonder that waits just outside the door. Or inside it, for that matter. ]

This isn’t an invitation to a party or a once-in-a-great-while gathering. This is an invitation to come along on the mundane traipsings of daily life, and to help out with the day’s work – lending a hand, or at least providing good company.

Only a select few are asked to come along for these little trips that will add up to a lifetime.

Treasure such invitations, and for God’s sake as well as your own, grab your jacket and go.

Morning Prayer

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep, which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

[A Morning Resolve, Forward Day By Day, inside cover, Forward Movement, Cincinnati, Ohio; www.ForwardMovement.org]

As I write, my local Shaw’s is out of toilet paper, chicken, diaper wipes, and sanitizing cleaners. Fear has caused a number of my neighbors to buy enough staples to last half a year or longer, leaving the neighbors who cannot afford to stockpile such things in immediate need. The problem isn’t the one or two people who take so much more than they need, it’s the ones who see them doing it and follow suit. Fear is catching.

But how should we live our faith in our shopping? None of us wants to be left without, having to depend on others for daily needs, and none of us really wants to live at the expense of those around us. Since we don’t know what the immediate future brings, it’s difficult to make faithful decisions: what if we make the wrong choice?

It’s been my habit for several years to recite a prayer when I awake, before I get out of bed and begin the day’s work: Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. In all things, help me to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal thy will to me.

It goes on, but the rest is really a riff on these first three sentences. It transforms my day from a series of tasks and encounters to the grace of God’s daily gift of life. Peace as the basis, not anxiety, panic, or ambition. Reliance on God’s abundant love for all, not on my own self-centered plans; awareness that I can’t comprehend God’s perspective, and that I must continually pray for guidance throughout the day.

I make mistakes, and I come up short. I act without kindness, and I forget my neighbor. But in times like these, it’s only by beginning the day in God’s peace that I have any chance of holding the needs of my neighbor in my heart along with my own. God, give me the strength and wisdom to begin and end in prayer – especially now, when it’s difficult. Amen.

[Mr.Mister, Kyrie, Welcome to the Real World, RCA records, Recorded October, 1984-April 1985, released November 27, 1985. Purchased from iTunes]

This past day

At the end of the day, am I grateful for the hours I was given? Am I aware, on the superficial as well as on the deepest level, of the miracle I’ve been immersed in? The miracle I easily mistake for an infinite if commonplace resource: daily life.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of its outline or a hint of its face. The way the trees move in the wind, the way my cats interrupt their backyard explorations to rest under my hand, the aeronautic wonder of a sparrow flying from maple to forsythia, the appearance of my still sleepy son packing his duffel before heading to work.

Food on the table, breathable air, loving and being loved. Today may not be perfect, and I may forget some of its gifts. Still…

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou hast sent to me during the past day. 

[nighttime prayer, A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16. This is part of an ongoing series. For the full prayer, click Prayer At Night above.]

Jump in Bed

It was a great way to end the day – taking a flying leap onto my bed. I don’t think I’ve jumped into bed in the literal sense in well over thirty years, save a few exceptions. It certainly isn’t part of my normal routine any more. Even my children are too big for such a nightly action. It seems to be for the young and light weight.

Have I left behind the joy of heading to bed, along with my childhood body and years? I wonder. Have I forgotten what a blessing it is to have a safe, comfortable place to end my day? To let go of the world I think I can control in favor of the dreamscape that springs from well far deeper than my conscious mind’s pool is an adventure offered to me every night. I haven’t given this a thought in a very long time.

Many times, I’ve heard the Spirit more clearly in my dreams than in my waking hours. Isn’t it worth a good jump into bed for that alone?

Now I lay me down to sleep…