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Daily Dose (May 14 – 17)

TUESDAY MAY 14 —

Once upon a time, a man named Fred Rogers decided that he wanted to live in heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, but this man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m invested in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”
The next afternoon, I went to his office in Pittsburgh. He was sitting on a couch, under a framed rendering of the Greek word for grace and a biblical phrase written in Hebrew that means “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” A woman was with him, sitting in a big chair. Her name was Deb. She was very pretty. She had a long face and a dark blush to her skin. She had curls in her hair and stars at the centers of her eyes. She was a minister at Fred Rogers’s church. She spent much of her time tending to the sick and the dying. Fred Rogers loved her very much, and so, out of nowhere, he smiled and put his hand over hers.
“Will you be with me when I die?” he asked her, and when she said yes, he said, “Oh, thank you, my dear.”
Then, with his hand still over hers and his eyes looking straight into hers, he said, “Deb, do you know what a great prayer you are? Do you know that about yourself? Your prayers are just wonderful.” Then he looked at me. I was sitting in a small chair by the door, and he said, “Tom, would you close the door, please?”
I closed the door and sat back down. “Thanks, my dear,” he said to me, then turned back to Deb. “Now, Deb, I’d like to ask you a favor,” he said. “Would you lead us? Would you lead us in prayer?”
Deb stiffened for a second, and she let out a breath, and her color got deeper. “Oh, I don’t know, Fred,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to put on a performance…”  Fred never stopped looking at her or let go of her hand. “It’s not a performance. It’s just a meeting of friends,” he said. He moved his hand from her wrist to her palm and extended his other hand to me. I took it and then put my hand around her free hand. His hand was warm, hers was cool, and we bowed our heads, and closed our eyes, and I heard Deb’s voice calling out for the grace of God.
What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it… and it hit me, right then, with my eyes closed, that this was the moment Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—had been leading me to from the moment he answered the door of his apartment in his bathrobe and asked me about Old Rabbit. Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn’t, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time. “Thank you, God,” Mister Rogers said.
(“Can you say, Hero,” by Tom Junod. Esquire Magazine, 1998)

Grace calls something—invites something beautiful—from each one of us, and grace never leaves until the invitation is heard and embraced. It may shake up our life, there’s no doubt about that. We’re not used to being unconditionally loved.
I don’t know where you see Grace in your life. I do know we don’t cut ourselves enough slack, and I do know that when Grace appears, it’s best if we don’t analyze it, but just… pause, and let it seep into the core of our being.

WEDNESDAY MAY 14 —

The church of my childhood told me that grace was something I needed to earn. And I was told often, that I didn’t deserve grace, or that I did things which kept grace away from me. I do know this; such scripts can imprint you, and stay with you for a very long time. Gratefully, I now know that they are not true.
Grace calls something—invites something beautiful—from each one of us, and grace never leaves until the invitation is heard and embraced. It may shake up our life, there’s no doubt about that. We’re not used to being unconditionally loved.

And there are two affirmations about grace I now carry with me.
One, grace is not something that is compulsory to search for. As if finding it is a theological check mark. You see, grace is alive and well, and the grounding of our lives and well-being. Now. Right in front of us. Even in the “imperfect” now. And even if we may not “see” (or feel) it.
And two, I often don’t see grace because I have forgotten that grace is about the presence of the sacred in the daily, and in the very ordinary.
Grace is the gift of enough in this moment.
Grace is the inherent dignity and beauty in all of creation.

This week I’ve been listening to—and enjoying—Pierce Pettis’ “State Of Grace.” What an affirmation of the gift of the sacred in the ordinary.
“Oh I wash my hands
And I take my place
Bow my head
And clean my plate
I think and act
And I talk this way
For I was raised
In a state of grace
Oh I hear the call
Of the whippoorwill
As the moonlight falls
Over cotton fields
And if I should die
Before I wake
I will lay me down
In a state of grace”

So. I want to remember my Pause Button for grace. Each day on my walk, I look for little gifts of grace, that may be too easy to “walk by”. And I embrace and am embraced by those gifts. This week the delights in bird songs; Robin, junco, finch and red winged blackbird.
I don’t know where you see Grace in your life. I do know we don’t cut ourselves enough slack, and I do know that when Grace appears, it’s best if we don’t analyze it, but just… pause, and let it seep into the core of our being.

THURSDAY MAY 16 —

“Suddenly an ordinary day
becomes holy ground.”
Stella Nesanovich

Yes. That is the gift. Grace isn’t the unimaginable. Okay, maybe it is not always “visible”, because we have missed the profusion (yes, abundance) when life comes alive in the very ordinary.
Reading this column in the NYT this week did my heart good. “Understanding My Son, One Game of Catch at a Time” by Jessica Shattuck. The gifts of grace in the ordinary indeed.
“I have never played on an athletic team. As a child, I was not fast or coordinated or interested in anything that involved chasing, catching or otherwise playing ball. My mother, who grew up in postwar Germany, associated youth sports with the Hitler Youth and the Nazi obsession with fostering the ‘prey instinct’ through competition and strength. These concerns dovetailed conveniently with my anti-gym-class feelings.
But in the long, cold and gloomy spring of 2020, I found myself the mother of an 8-year-old son who wanted nothing more than to play ball. This was the heart of early Covid; there were no organized sports, no activities, no babysitting, no school. Will’s older sisters (both teenagers) wanted no part in this activity. My husband was game, but Will’s appetite for catch was voracious. So I donned his spare baseball glove and let him teach me how to catch and throw…
Will was not struggling to meet my expectations, even as I might be struggling to meet his. He was the teacher here. I got to appreciate his patience, his focus on detail, his encouragement.
We also weren’t talking. I am a writer who loves putting things into words, but Will doesn’t always love my questions or my boring mom-talk gambits. Here our closeness was measured in tosses, not words. Best of all, by the simple necessity of keeping the ball in the air, we were both fully present.
Parenthood is so full of letting go — not just of children turning into young adults and leaving home, but of so many little selves along the path to adulthood. The smiley, round-cheeked toddler becomes the shy 7-year-old; the thoughtful, shaggy-haired kindergartner becomes the clean-cut, Celtics-mad fifth grader. Sometimes the urge to hold on feels almost frantic. The only way to pin time down is to remember: this moment, this boy, this place. Ritual and repetition.”

Take a moment. I don’t know where you see grace in your life—where you see the ordinary moment gifts this week. But I do know we don’t cut ourselves enough slack, and I do know that when grace appears, it’s best if we don’t analyze it, but just… pause, and let it seep into the core of our being.

FRIDAY MAY 17 —

This week we’ve been talking, and learning, about grace. And it does my heart good. And it is my wish for Sabbath Moment. To be a reminder and dispenser and spiller of moments of grace.
Here are a few of those reminders from my readings this week… Grace grounded in the affirmation of inherent beauty at our core.
“Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet; and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.” William Sloane Coffin

And yes, we may walk right by moments, and gifts, where that grace is real… but gratefully, “Suddenly an ordinary day becomes holy ground.” (Thank you Stella Nesanovich)
So, yes. Let us remember, that grace, that inherent beauty, that value, is sprinkled on, and embedded in, all of creation. Yes, in the very ordinary.

This poem did my heart good. James Crews’, Small Moments.
“The world is not made only of sorrow
and heartbreak. Something always
slips through the gaps of a given day—
dew, for instance, clinging to blades
of grass newly risen from the lingering
sleep of winter, those droplets soaking
your boots and the legs of your jeans
as you pass through, as proof that you
are here, and belong to this planet.
If that’s not enough, then I give you
buttered sourdough toast smeared
with as much strawberry jam as that
bread can hold, and the first bite
whose burst of summer returns you
to the body, where small moments
like these are stored, like nutrients
leaves pull from the sun as soon
as it breaks through storm clouds,
filling the cracks with gold.”

Prayer for our week…
Everyday Grace
It can happen like that:
meeting at the market,
buying tires amid the smell
of rubber, the grating sound
of jack hammers and drills,
anywhere we share stories,
and grace flows between us.
The tire center waiting room
becomes a healing place
as one speaks of her husband’s
heart valve replacement, bedsores
from complications. A man
speaks of multiple surgeries,
notes his false appearance
as strong and healthy.
I share my sister’s death
from breast cancer, her
youngest only seven.
A woman rises, gives
her name, Mrs. Henry,
then takes my hand.
Suddenly an ordinary day
becomes holy ground.
Stella Nesanovich
Poem copyright ©2016 “Everyday Grace”

Photo… “‘For the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies.’
Thank you for the reminders to restore, rehydrate, pause to notice the Holy One with awe and wonder in the simple wild turkey feather and glorious sunset through an approaching storm. Blessings from Santa Rosa, CA,” Lynn Lankford… Thank you Lynn… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to [email protected]


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