Strange Mercy

"... and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Location: Mid-Atlantic Sprawl, United States

I'm a former idealist turned 'defensive pessimist' who has concluded, after living on two coasts, two continents, and an island, that most of us spend our lives as prey, economically and psychologically. Awareness is the key to understanding this; but once we understand it, we may transcend it, choosing, when we can, to be neither prey nor predator.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring Out, Wild Bells -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1850)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For Friends Twice Bereaved At Christmastime

Not for you, this year, the easy laughter,
The feasting and teasing and drowsy smiles,
Wading through mountains of discarded wrapping paper
To find the child asleep in the box her treasure came in.

This year the cat will curl on your lap
And reach up his paw to touch your cheek,
Because he knows that wetness does not belong there;
This year the child, now grown, will rest her head
Against your knee, and weep, all gifts pushed away.

That song the angels sang
Will be a clashing, rending dissonance;
Not for you, this year, the hymns of hope and love.

Jesus wept
At the passing of Lazarus,
Wept though He knew his friend would soon live again,
Wept though He knew this new life would be His doing,
Wept though He knew as none other could
How truly all mourners shall be comforted.

It is too soon to think of comfort now.
Never be ashamed to weep.
He who has the right to scoff at Death and Time together
Wept for them both, long years ago.

Today, tears are the proper sacrament.
But as you weep, believe, as best you can:
There will be a tomorrow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Saying Grace

Isn't it odd that we only say grace at meals?

For many years now I've tried to say grace, literally, at many other points throughout the day.

When I awaken in a warm home, and the light comes on when I press the switch -

When hot water comes out of the bathroom tap -

When my animals run to me to be held and cuddled and fed and loved and fuzzed and smooched and played with -

When I smell and taste that first unspeakably magnificent cup of COFFEE...

When I lift clean clothing from the hanger or the shelf, and marvel at the color and weave, the softness, the warmth [in winter] or the comfort [in summer] of the fabric.

Give thanks to God for the people who built the power plant, strung the wires or threaded the cable, tend the generators and power substations. Who climb the towers and hang the insulators and risk their lives in bucket trucks repairing pole transformers in thunderstorms...

Give praise for the people who invented the water heater and indoor plumbing... who build houses and wire and plumb them, who make the drywall and the pipes and fittings and wires...

Thank God for 'shapely, wholesome cats'... and warmth and fur and purring, and hands to pet with and ears to hear with...

Thank Him for coffee bushes and the people who tend them and pick the berries, and roast them and pack them and ship them... the people who pilot the freighters and trucks, who run the plants, who make the coffee cans[!]... and fill them and seal them and load them, and drive them away, and take them out again, and place them on the shelves, that we may take them home.

Praise Him for the pickers and shearers, and spinners and weavers, and dyers and cutters and seamstresses and tailors... and packers and shippers, again and again...

For the farmers and the farmed, for the gleaners and the gleaned. For carpenters and cabinetmakers and mattresses and light bulbs, for bottles of milk and cups of tea.

Praise and bless and cherish each and every part of these wonders. We live, unaware, amid a procession of miracles, and everything we touch and hold and eat and wear and prize and admire and love traces back and back, through time and space and innumerable human hands, to incredible beginnings in amazing places.

Blessed be He!