So Many Presents to Open

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It is your birthday and there are many presents to open. The world is to be opened.

You are alive.
It needn’t have been so.
It wasn’t so once, and will not be forever.
But it is so now.

And what is it like:
to be alive in this one place of all places anywhere where life is?

Live a day of it and see.
Take any day and LIVE IT.
Nobody claims that it will be entirely painless, but no matter.

It is the first day because it has never been before
and the last day because it will never be again.

BE ALIVE.
~Frederick Buechner from The Alphabet of Grace

 

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Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
~Mary Oliver from Red Bird

 

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To do the useful thing,
to say the courageous thing,
to contemplate the beautiful thing:
that is enough for one man’s life.

― T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

 

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During these turbulent times
(and there have been many in my 63 years)
when too many regret living and quit,
when too many are deprived of even taking a first breath,
when too many live life shrouded in pain and sorrow~

I tend to forget each day is a gift to be opened and savored.
Each day a first day, a last day, a birthday of amazing grace.

I myself was never expected to be:
seven years of my parents wanting and not conceiving.
The papers to adopt a baby boy were ready to sign
when my mother began feeling sick in the mornings
and she celebrated her misery.

I think now of that baby boy and wonder whose arms took him in
when I unexpectedly came and filled my parents’.

I am alive, by God,
it needn’t have been so, but is so now.
I don’t want to waste a moment of astonishment
and breathe each breath, amazed.

 

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as a yearling

How to Conquer the World

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The love for equals is a human thing–
of friend for friend, brother for brother.
It is to love what is loving and lovely.
The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–
the love for those who suffer,
for those who are poor,
the sick, the failures, the unlovely.
This is compassion,
and it touches the heart of the world. 

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–
to love those who succeed where we fail,
to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice,
the love of the poor for the rich,
of the black man for the white man.
The world is always bewildered by its saints. 

And then there is the love for the enemy–
love for the one who does not love you
but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.
The tortured’s love for the torturer.
This is God’s love.
It conquers the world.
~Frederick Buechner

Christ’s example is showered on me
every time I am shown love
when I deserve none~
when I am selfish or cruel,
unfeeling or hurtful
and yet am loved nevertheless.

Christ’s love acts through me
every time I forgive,
show mercy, extend grace
though I am hurt and bleeding.

I pray God’s conquering love
for His enemies
disarms me,
renders me helpless to protest,
girds me with gratitude,
sinks me into submission.
I am overtaken
by His illuminating Spirit.

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Fathomless Mystery

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There is no event so commonplace
but that God is present within it,
always hiddenly,
always leaving you room to recognize Him
or not…

Listen to your life.

See it for the
fathomless mystery that it is.

In the boredom and pain of it no less
than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the
holy and hidden art of it
because in the last analysis
all moments are key moments…..

and Life itself is Grace.
~Frederick Buechner from Now and Then- Listening to Your Life

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Lenten Reflection–In the End, It’s All One

photo by Josh Scholten


Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.
Proverbs 14:13

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Luke 6:21

Laugh till you weep. Weep till there’s nothing left but to laugh at your weeping. In the end it’s all one.
Frederick Buechner

I work in a place where there are kleenex tissue boxes everywhere you turn. On any given day hundreds of tissues cover sneezes and coughs and blow over 120 runny noses. That is reason enough, but they are essential for those tender and vulnerable moments when eyes start to well up and overflow, and the tears start to stream. There is nothing more helpless than crying and having it leak and puddle all around you with nothing to catch the stream. Handing someone a tissue is one of my most nurturing acts. My standard line is a variation of Buechner’s quote: “sometimes our feelings are so overwhelmed we aren’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so we end up doing both–just let it flow.” It almost always gets a smile and chuckle even from the biggest toughest guy who is sobbing his heart out over a lost love or his parents’ divorce, or the confirmed cry baby who has been designated the “town crier” by her roommates because she can’t not cry at every little thing.

I know something about this personally as I’m an easy crier as well, though these days it is primarily my family who is aware of it. In fact, it has become a contest to see how early on Christmas Day will Mom start to cry. Certain movies will always trigger my tears. Even certain commercials–remember those old Kodak commercials with the song “Turn Around”? And especially the whistled version of Greensleeves for the old “Lassie” show. Gets me every time.

Our joy and sorrow become so intertwined in our hearts and minds that we actually dwell inside both at once. That is the essence of Lent–the Bright Sadness of our long journey through His pain and suffering to find that His death–our death–has been transformed to eternal life.

Laugh through the tears and cry through the giggles. In the end, it’s all one.