Small graces are enough

Toad said, “My list tells me that we will go for a walk.”
“All right,” said Frog. “I am ready.”
Frog and Toad went on a long walk.
Then Toad took the list from his pocket again.
He crossed out: Take a walk with Frog
Just then there was a strong wind.
It blew the list out of Toad’s hand. The list blew high into the air.
“Help!” cried Toad. “My list is blowing away. What will I do without my list?”
“Hurry!” said Frog. “We will run and catch it.”
“No!” shouted Toad, “I cannot do that.”
“Why not?” asked Frog.
“Because,” wailed Toad, “running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!”

Nothing messes with your list like illness. I had a good week planned. And a full list. Being bed ridden was not on the list. My birthday was Friday, and I woke with a wicked fever and nasty body pain. It has carried through the weekend, which is another way of saying I’m not quite all here mentally (but at least now I have an alibi). This much is true. Sickness makes certain that we take a look at our priorities. It may be time to slow down. And get well.
Not easy to do, as we live in a world that does not honor slowing down or space for healing.

Confession: As a ‘P’ on the Myers-Briggs–translated, “deadline means time to get started,”–I give ‘Js’, the list makers, a hard time. But this is not just about list making. It’s about our cultural obsession that production be married to urgency. Like the company whose motto is “we only do rush orders.” So. Our adrenalin is wired to “get stuff done. NOW.”
And it reminded me that worry and urgency are the peer pressures of my world.
Here is what I know: One. Urgency is predicated on our need to overcome, or tidy up, fix, or cope. There is something about control, I suppose. And I wonder what kind of control I need, and what does it feed? And why am I so afraid of any uncertainty, or unpredictable part of my world?

Many years ago, at the Gardens and Grace Conference in Baltimore, the Cathedral of the Incarnation had a lovely blue slate courtyard, surrounded by shrubs and trees. The setting and marriage of deep green and slate blue (still wet from the evening rain) is calming. The patio is littered with yellow leaves dropped from the nearby trees. The leaves are scattered, random. And exquisite. The impression is playful and whimsical. I hear a noise, all too familiar, as a custodian carries out his assignment of blowing the leaves off the patio. After ten minutes, the patio is “clean,” and ready for use.
So. When he finished, and there was no one else around, I picked up a few handfuls of leaves and scattered them, onto the patio.

And Two. Letting go of urgency (for the purpose of rest and renewal) is intentional.
John Killinger once asked Sister Corita Kent, a nun known as a leader of worship, to help lead worship services. He received a postcard a few days later that simply said, “Dear, I am trying to be quiet. S. Corita.”

Why do we need permission to give up urgency, even for a day? If you have a patio, scatter some leaves. If you have a pond, sit on a rock and sip your coffee. This is not an assignment. It is all about healing that place where urgency will be born.

A SM friend passed along this from Kent Neburn’s book Small Graces. It did my heart good…
I have walked a quiet path today… Do we really need much more than this? To honor the dawn. To visit a garden. To talk to a friend. To contemplate a cloud. To cherish a meal. To bow our heads before the mystery of the day. Are these not enough?
If we should be so lucky as to touch the lives of many, so be it. But if our lot is no more than the setting of a table, or the tending of a garden, or showing a child a path in a wood, our lives are no less worthy.
To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly with our God.
To bring peace to the old. To have trust in our friends. To cherish the young. Sometimes, it seems, we ask too much. Sometimes we forget that the small graces are enough. 

Our Jewish brothers and sisters use a prayer beginning, Barukh Adonai, Blessing God, or seeing God in all things, in all places. It is a way of slowing down.
So, wherever you are, just sit still. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Light a candle.
Carry a talisman (a stone or some object from a place) that reminds you of a sacred space.
Say the rosary.
Watch the birds dance at the feeders.
Walk in a park and enjoy the autumn air.
Spend an afternoon in your special chair.
If none of this helps, you can always make a list.
Item one on my list: Today, I want to lose the list.

It is Advent for those of us in the Christian Church, one of the busiest times on our church calendar, which is puzzling, as Advent translated means, “Time to Wait.”  After I finish this I will return to my couch for napping and let Celtic Music wash over.

Quote for your week…
By means of a diversion we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day. Pascal

Note: Story above from Frog and Toad Together… great reading when you sick.


Learn by little the desire for all things 
Learn by little the desire for all things
which perhaps is not desire at all
but undying love which perhaps
is not love at all but gratitude
for the being of all things which
perhaps is not gratitude at all
but the maker’s joy in what is made,
the joy in which we come to rest.
Wendell Berry (“Leavings”)

We are all great rivers flowing to their end.
Swirling inside us is the silt of ages and creatures and lands
and rain that has fallen for millions of years.
All this makes us cloudy with mud,
unable to see God.
As we struggle for clarity and the open sky,
the Lord keeps saying the same thing:
Come to me now and be blessed,
Hafiz (1320 – 1389)

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