Morning By Morning New Mercies I See

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Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
~Thomas Chisholm “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Same scene of our barn weathervane,
through the years
through the seasons
through the changes

of children growing up
of children flying away
of our heads getting grayer
our steps now slower.

Morning by morning
this manifold witness
to such steadfast love
to infinite mercies
to unending faithfulness.

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Hairy Toes Blessings

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photo by Brandon Dieleman

photo by Brandon Dieleman

 

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“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”
J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (Thorin Oakenshield addressing Bilbo Baggins)

It’s a safe bet my toes and your toes have never been subjected to such a blessing.   But I like the idea of being blessed starting from the bottom up,  encompassing my most humble and homely parts first.

The world would be a better place if we rediscovered the art of bestowing blessings–those specific prayers of favor and protection that reinforce community and connection to each other and to something larger than ourselves.   They have become passé in a modern society where God’s relationship with and blessing of His people is not much more than an after-thought.   Benedictions can extend beyond the end of worship services to all tender partings;  wedding receptions can go beyond roasting and toasting to encompass sincere prayers for a future life together.

But let’s start at the very beginning: let’s bless our hairy toes.  A very good place to start…

“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”
Flannery O’Connor

May you always have…
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire

May those who love us, love us;
and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping.
Traditional Irish Blessings

photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Nate Gibson

 

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Hallowing Fire

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…one of man’s purposes is to assist God in the work of “hallowing” the things of Creation.
By a tremendous heave of the spirit,
the devout man frees the divine sparks trapped in the mute things of time;
he uplifts the forms and moments of creation,
bearing them aloft into the rare air
and hallowing fire in which all clays must shatter and burst.

~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 

The setting sun,
trapped and swallowed by a seed puff ball last night,
was released aloft this morning to rise unfettered
hallowed and holy.

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The Holiest Thing

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What God arranges for us to experience at each moment
is the holiest thing that could happen to us.
~Jean-Pierre Caussade

I know there are moments
when there is no holiness in sight,
and even God hides His face;
certainly His Son cried out in anguish too.
So we tread barefoot and bloodied on this holy ground,
whether rocky, muddy, crumbling or cushioned,
and He is there, walking before us,
ready to pick us up if we fall.

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The Price of Restoration

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We live in an unbelieving age
but one which is markedly and lopsidedly spiritual…
an age that has domesticated despair
and learned to live with it happily.
There is something in us
that demands the redemptive act,
that demands that what falls
at least be offered the chance to be restored.
…what <modern man> has forgotten is the cost of it.
His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether,
and so he has forgotten the price of restoration.

This is an unlimited God
and one who has revealed himself specifically.
It is one who became man
and rose from the dead.
It is one who confounds the senses and the sensibilities,
one known early on as a stumbling block.
There is no way to gloss over this specification
or to make it more acceptable to modern thought.
This God is the object of ultimate concern
and he has a name.

~Flannery O’Connor from a 1963 lecture published in Mystery and Manners

He has a name,
this God of specificity,
and asks us to say His name.
It sounds like a breath,
so we say it
with each breath we take
even when we don’t believe.
And He knows our name
and calls out to us
even if we don’t listen.

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God’s Play With Creation

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Worship grounds me again
in the real world of God’s creation,
dislodging me from whatever world
I have imagined for myself.

I have come to believe
when we despair of praise,
when the wonder of creation and our place in it are lost to us,
it’s often because we’ve lost sight of our true role as creatures

– we have tried to do too much,
pretending to be in such control of things
that we are indispensable.

It’s a hedge against mortality and,
if you’re like me,
you take a kind of comfort in being busy.

The danger is that we will come to feel
too useful,
so full of purpose
and the necessity of fulfilling obligations
that we lose sight
of God’s play with creation,
and with ourselves.

~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries

 

Too busy to notice,
too busy to care,
losing sight in our real purpose:
we are here as creatures,
not creators.

So we must cease all other pursuits
and pursue worship,
praising God that we are made
in His image,
not He in our image.

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The Storm Within

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Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions,
beneath our religion or lack of it,
we are all vulnerable both to the storm without
and to the storm within.
~Frederick Buechner – from Telling the Truth

We are so complicit and compliant
in pleasant and peaceful appearance,
sitting in silence allowing
our inner storm to stay well hidden;
if called and compelled to face wrongs boldly,
the tempest can no longer be contained.
Silence in the face of evil
must itself be shattered,
even the rocks will cry out,
as our storm spills forth
speaking the truth.

 Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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