Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Grace of a Good Book

I have an addiction.  I simply can't walk out of a public library without at least one book in my hand.  I love to read.  When my to-do list is crossed off and I know I can sit in my comfy chair and ottoman with a book, I feel a silly sense of glee. It is then that I can toss aside my cares, my thoughts, my planning and my worries and crawl into the pages of a good book where I'm taken to faraway lands, immersed with people from another time and exposed to ideas I had never contemplated before. I can't be without a book.  Lately, my good friend Donna gave me a book about grace. I wasn't sure if she gave it to me because there was a lifelike illustration of a dragonfly on the cover and she knows I am attracted to dragonflies or if there was something in the book's pages that she felt I needed to read.  As it turns out, I believe it may be a little of both, but certainly the latter. After plowing through one mystery book after another from the library, this slim book emerged at the top of my reading pile beside my comfy chair. And just as I believe we are given signs of grace every day in myriad of ways, I found that this book about grace was yet another sign of unearned blessings in my life.  I'm grateful to my good husband, good family and friends, good books and the many graces I receive. They comprise the riches of my life.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dance of the Butterflies

I love this time of year when all of nature seems to be in celebration. The birds begin singing before dawn and the crickets lull me to sleep at night.  It took the wood floors being sticky underfoot and the carpeting feeling "thick," as my husband Larry called it when he vacuumed, for us to finally turn on our air conditioning a few weeks ago. I'm resistant to it because we are cooped up all winter with closed windows and dreams of fair breezes.  To have to descend back into a sheltered existence in the summer seems like a regression that I don't want to have to make. Summer is made for open windows, box fans stirring up a faint breeze, iced tea glasses sweating in your hand, and plump tomatoes as big as your fist. On one recent Sunday, Larry and I ventured out for a midday walk into the woods. We knew it would be shady and cool, despite the nearly 90-degree temperature. As we started our walk, we were greeted by myriad species of butterflies, small and large, colorful and subtle, all dancing around our ankles as if they were glad to see us.  The air was warm and heavy and fragrant with the scent of blooming purple clover.  The ascent up the hill into the woods brought welcome shade and a noticeable drop in temperature.  The air became thick with the scent of dampness. It was truly enchanting. As often as I can hop out of my air-conditioned confines this summer, I will.  I'll be dancing right along with butterflies. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Peace Prayer

For two Sundays in a row, our pastor spoke about the life of St. Francis, including what led him to his life's calling. Whenever I think of St. Francis, I think of the peace prayer attributed to him:  "O Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace! Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, harmony. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sorrow, joy. Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life." When my mom passed away nearly three years ago, that prayer was included at my request in her memorial service.  Afterward, the pastor gave me a laminated version of the prayer, decorated with a colorful image of a stained glass window. As she gave it to me, the pastor said that Mom's "life lived this out."  So, as my mind wanders to St. Francis and to my mom, I reflect on what I can do each day to live out that prayer. I find myself these days returning to the actions of my childhood where I kneel at the side of the bed before I go to sleep, praying for a greater use of my words and actions and the discernment to be an instrument of peace.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Terse Words, Smiley Faces

My friend Mike and I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago about my new smart phone.  I told him that I prefer to send an email from my laptop where I can collect my thoughts and use a full-fledged keyboard over the little tap, tap, tap of my smart phone. He noted the increasing use of brief texts to convey our thoughts in the work place and how the texts are often so brief that they appear terse, thus causing the need to use emoticons, those little faces with smiles, quizzical looks, humorous expressions, sad eyes, etc. to ensure that our words (or lack thereof) aren't misconstrued.  Right about that point, I missed the days of land line phones with rotary dials, cursive writing, manual typewriters, mimeograph machines, letters written with care and sent through the mail, and longer, more thoughtful ways of communicating with each other. By our grunting a few words into a text and then adding a smiley face to ensure that the recipient understands our tone seems a disservice to and desecration of our beautiful language. It's as if we've returned to the days of cave art when symbols had to express our thoughts. One has little choice but to hop on board today's technology train, but I'll try not to forget the loveliness of communication and how a few choice words still mean more to me than a smiley face will ever do.