Feather on the Breath of God
pay attention, be astonished writes Mary Oliver.
be still and know says a Psalm poem
what will surprise me today?
am I ready to receive that gift?
I A few weeks ago Joe and I had a business appointment in Houston and stopped by to get lunch in a busy restaurant that is famous for the delicious enchiladas prepared in its kitchens. We enjoyed our lunch, but the food is not what stopped me on my way out. In the middle of an adjacent dining room sat this magnificent carved prayer rail. It might have seemed oddly out of place if not for its careful placement on wonderful Mexican tiles and my sudden realization that it delivered a powerful message: You can pray anywhere.
I quickly took my photo and wondered if anyone ever takes the invitation to kneel. All the way home I wondered about the prayer rail and thought of the stories it could tell. How many bent knees and clasped hands have rested on its dark wood? The same God who heard those prayers heard mine offered in gratitude.
When I first saw this photo, I almost missed the tiny, solitary figure of my 11 year old granddaughter standing still to gaze at the beauty of this mountain lake in Nevada. She and her sister hiked here with their Daddy, my son. They fished for trout in the clear cold water. I am thrilled to see that Maddie also stood still and experienced the wonder of tall reaching evergreens, and glistening lake with its ripples and reflections. I like to think about the beauty she experienced here, the sounds and fragrance of the woods. I have seen her Dad stand still and wonder, too. I believe moments like this do come suddenly, as glimpses, when we turn a corner. I am thankful I can experience this with her, prompted by a photo, felt deeply in my heart.
We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes… –Madeleine L’Engle, from The Rock That Is Higher
Last week as I started to step up into my truck to leave and begin a list of errands, I walked by beauty I would surely have missed if I had not stopped to look at a spot on the garage floor. I bent to look closer and was flooded with pleasure at finding this art right there in the middle of an otherwise unattractive canvas. The beveled glass in a side door to the garage was a prism creating a spot of perfect rainbow colors. It was just the right moment of time and light and I stepped unknowingly into that moment. It was a Mary Oliver “pay attention and be astonished” time, however brief.
I believe we miss many of those moments because we are not paying attention and do not expect to find them. Opportunities like this one call me to slow down, stop, and wonder..
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we were little girls, my sister and I played under our raised back porch, shaded by two magnificent hydrangea bushes. The huge leaves and blooms were part of our tea parties. At times the leaves were the plates and blossoms separated into dainty cookies and cakes. Other times the same leaves and flowers became bridal bouquets or fancy hats. I was amazed when I learned the colors of the blooms can be changed by what is added to the soil. Only pink and bkue blooms can be influenced. White blooms never change! I am thankful everyday for the beauty of God’s creation, and that He gives the same gift of these blooms over and over. I am reassured that the lovely white hydrangea blooms like the ones on my kitchen table are not going to change. Everytime I look at them I smile and think, “Again!”
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.