for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Giver of abundant gifts, on this Thanksgiving we celebrate . . . we celebrate. Ah what are we celebrating God? It seems to me that we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to be thankful for, except empty hearts and soulless comments.
Too many children are dying before our eyes on beaches, in stormy seas, in mountain passes, and refugee camps. Too many are blinded by their fears, unable to see the path to your love. I don’t know God, I can’t really think of something to be thankful for this year, you see my eyes are clouded with tears and my heart is screaming in pain for those who are being denied entry into our so called circle of love. By the way if it is a circle of love would there really be boundaries?
God I don’t know how to say this but I do believe we humans have failed you and maybe it is time to pull the plug on this experiment. We are tired, I know I am, so please just let us go and let us be thankful for the too few moments when we recognized your love and shared it with the world. Let some other species give being your priestly people a go at it. That task is very plainly to difficult for us. Dogs would be a good choice they love without condition just by being who they are, yes; Dogs would do a good job of being your treasured people.
So I guess I do have something to be thankful for. I am thankful for your love, for your compassion, your presence in the darkest of times. I am grateful for the times we danced in the sunlight, and sang at the moon. I am grateful for your faith in us when we have no faith in ourselves. I am thankful for the many blessings you have given us, sunrises and sunsets, a newborns smile, oh so many gifts. So if it’s alright with you God I will lay my gratitude down at your feet and if it pleases you Lord, I would like to come back as a Dog. AMEN
“I have come to believe that God, Truth, Beauty, Love—all those concepts I associate with the Divine—are not things that are “found” at the end of the path, like the post of gold at the end of the rainbow, but rather are what I experience on the journey as I travel through life—or perhaps, more explicitly, they are the journey itself.” Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time
The above quote by Jan Phillips states beautifully one of the revelations of my own life. Searching and hoping to ‘find’ love and truth is an exercise in futility. Beauty, truth, love, and G-d come to me in those moments when I least expect them to arrive on my doorstep. They often ‘find’ me when I am in the darkest and most terrifying moments of my life and they pull me from the depths back into the light. Or they show up unexpectedly, like a un-birthday present, while I am in the midst of something totally unrelated.
In your time of prayer this week reflect on when and where the Divine has surprised you with love, a new truth, and beauty. Give thanks for those moments of joy and vow to be more open to the un‑birthday moments in your life.
Amelia is a 5 year old, little girl who is a mixture of tomboy, imp, princess and budding scientist but most of all a Grammy’s delight. Walking home from school with Amelia is always an adventure. Today we hadn’t gotten even 100 feet from her school when she bent over and said, “Look Grammy, I found a purple maple seed.” Amelia hands me the seed and says “now you carry this for me I want to show dad.” Off she runs to her next exciting stop, which is about 50 feet ahead. “Look what I can do Grammy,” she said as she runs up a yard to the brick wall and with one heart stopping leap lands safely on the ground in front of me. “My, my you are so good at jumping,” I said as I pushed my heart back into my chest.
Running ahead of me again she suddenly stops and gets down on her knees, as I walk up to her she is talking to a small ant hill. “Look how busy they are, Grammy, where are they going so fast?” “Well,” I tell her, “this is a new ant hill so they are just building it up right now and gathering in some of the leaves for food. Don’t disturb the nest or they will bite.” “Really,” she says as she prepares to test my theory. “Yes really, and those bites hurt so let’s leave them to their work, OK.” “Ok,” and she is off again.
“Help me look for snails, Grammy.” Amelia has a love affair going with snails of every shape and size. She picks them up and carries them carefully along with her, until, that is, she forgets she has them in the heat of a new discovery and then the snails are old news. Sometimes she carries them all the way home and we release them into the backyard and into the wild.
Every moment with Amelia is a discovery in a half, every rock a treasure trove, every leaf a rare jewel to be enjoyed. Worms and snails are potential friends or pets to be trained. We sing songs to stop traffic on our progression across a busy street and she dances down the street to a tune in her head.
Oh the life of a 5 year old, a world of discovery ahead and an imagination that has no boundaries. Where does all of the enthusiasm go to as we grow older? Is life so trying and stressful that we forget just what it means to be in the moment? As I watch my little adventurer skip down the sidewalk I am trying to remember what it was like to be that carefree, and find delight in a snail slowly making its way up a wall.
Maybe that is what grandchildren are for, to awaken in each of us that little boy or girl lost in the mists of time. To remind us of the important things like snails, red leaves, purple maple seeds and sunshine and shadow. Amelia has reopened a door I thought was shut and locked. A part of me remembers and dances with my little genius, princess, geologist, archaeologist, biologist, and junk collector as we walk home from school.
“Do not urge me to leave you,
to turn back from following you.
Wherever you go, I will go;
and wherever you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God. 17Wherever you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord do this to me
and more so,
if even death separates me from you!”
Just over 13 years ago these beautiful words from scripture were read at my wedding. I have always loved the book of Ruth, and yes one reason is because I was named for her, but, primarily I love it because Ruth took her destiny into her own hands and made a place for herself among strangers. Like the biblical Ruth my own life has been one of making my place in strange places and with strangers all around me. My wedding was just one of the many steps along my journey to find the face of God.
Now I really don’t want this rambling to be about John and me rather I want to tell you the best part of my marriage, our grandchildren. Ok, so they are John’s grandchildren not mine, but the youngest ones have known only me as Grammy Ruth and I love them and their parents as much as if they were my blood relations. And, I have watched with great joy as the two older ones Granddaughter S and Grandson A grow into loving adults.
Recently John, me and our little Chihuahua Suzie spent a joyous week in Boston with John’s son M and daughter-in-law LB and the littlest grandchildren, Grandson L and Granddaughter A. John’s birthday is January 17th and he shares it with L who turned 7 this year, so for the first time they decided to celebrate their birthdays together. Watching L as he opened gifts, as he gently held our little dog Suzie, and talked excitedly about everything was a pleasure all its own. Holding little A and reading a story to her, playing games, watching as she and her brother played, and squabbled, and listening to giggles, laughter and tears put me in a place of bliss that I can’t really describe to you.
I watched as M and LB did a ballet of sorts as they prepared breakfast and got the kids ready for school. As I listened I realized just how much M and John sound alike and how much grandson L is growing into a young man so like his father and grandfather. Granddaughter A has inherited her mother’s artistic talents which she combines with her father’s and Papa John’s determination to succeed and do it well. Even though she is only 4½ she is determined to dance and draw her life in her own way.
I said my journey was to find the face of God and I do, in all of creation including people. The most important Faces of God I see is when I look at John early in the morning just before rising, in the faces of M and LB when I spot them waiting for us to come from the plane. I see God’s face in the sleeping, laughing, crying, and determined faces of Grandson L and Granddaughter A. I hear God laugh and giggle when Granddaughter A dances and runs in play. I hear God’s voice when I listen to LB and John talk in the kitchen doing clean up from dinner. I hear God’s voice as Grandson L talks with so much certainty about how something works in his 7 year old world and see God at work as he figures out how to build a new structure of some sort.
This is the wedding gift that never stops giving. I have found a place here in the midst of strangers. I have found people I love. After much searching I have found where I belong. I have been welcomed and accepted as family and been blessed with the love from John’s 3 sons and 4 grandchildren. I have watched the two oldest grow into strong adults where a future of unknown adventures lies before them. I have held in my arms Grandson L and Granddaughter A as newborns and offered my blessings and prayers for God to watch over them.
I have watched each of the grandchildren grow into people I want know. All of them are young people who question everything and when no one can give them an answer they go in search for it. Even if Grandson L and Granddaughter A might not believe in a Divine force, they know they have a Grammy who sees that Divine force whenever she looks into their eyes. It is in the question of why does Grammy believes what she does that opens a door to their own journey of discovery of who they are and where they fit in.
My blessed babies, who are babies no longer, have begun their own journeys. Someday they too will say “wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay.” That day lies long in the future but time passes quickly and before you know it they will be searching for what they believe. My prayer for all four of the Grandchildren is they find what feeds their souls with love, compassion, mercy and a passion for justice. I pray they build a life that gives more than it takes, a life open to the blessings of God whether they call Her God or not.
Yesterday seemed like a perfect day to read poetry. The rain was coming down, the wind was blowing, Suzie was snuggled in my lap so I opened up two of my favorite books of poetry, Thirst by Mary Oliver, and a book of Celtic prayers collected by Alexander Carmichael titled New Moon of the Seasons, Prayers from the Highlands and Islands. A poem of Mary Oliver’s and a prayer collected by Alexander Carmichael struck me as I read them. The first was a Celtic Prayer:
The Three who are over me,
The Three Who are below me,
The Three Who are above me here,
The Three Who are above me yonder;
The Three Who are in the earth,
The Three Who are in the air,
The Three Who are in the heaven,
The Three Who are in the great pouring sea
The Celtic people lived close to land and they cherished it as a gift from G-d. They saw the creator in every plant and animal and rock. They saw the grace of G-d in rain and snow, the roar of the sea and in the breath of spring air. This simple prayer is an acknowledgment that G-d, Christ, and the Holy Spirit surround them. G-d wasn’t “out there” looking down at them, no G-d was surrounded them in grace and blessings of many shapes and colors. As I watch the rain fall outside my window and feel Suzie’s warm breathing in my lap I understood what this prayer of gratitude meant to fisherman, a farmer, a mother tending the hearth. G-d is here, now, with me, with you, with us all. For the Celts and for us today G-d lives beside and within each of us.
Mary Oliver’s poem Praying is a lovely companion to the Celtic prayer. Praying reminds us that prayer doesn’t have to be framed with elaborate words. Prays really happen in those moments when your mind has no words so your heart speaks. Some of the greatest prayers are never written down; simple words of gratitude for the healing of a friend, or gasp of awe at the beauty of a sunrise, or joy of a laughing child are beloved prayers of the heart. Here is;
by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
I invite you to read the Celtic prayer, and Mary Oliver’s poem. Look around you; do you see the work of G-d, Christ, and Holy Spirit in the everyday living of your life? Where does your heart speak when your mind has no words? Let the simple words of gratitude, sorrow, or joy shaped in your heart form the bases for a prayer that speaks to the Divine that walks beside you. May the all surrounding presence of The Three be your comforter in times of crises and dance with them when joy rings in heart.