Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

Living intentionally

This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

I want it to be gain not loss, good not evil, success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.   Paul “Bear” Bryant

I found this piece when I was sorting through my friend Jim’s papers. Like Bear Bryant, I want to pay attention to how I am spending my days, to live each day conscious of what that something is that I am leaving at the end of the day.

When I ask myself what a successful day looks like, I think of how open I was to God. Was I of service to someone? Was I loving, compassionate and forgiving? Did I pay attention to the gifts God offered me throughout the day? Did I say yes more than I said no?

I begin my day letting the dog out and stepping outside with her. I like to look up to see the stars and listen for the sounds of nature.

At this time of year, the crickets are full-throated, and I love to listen to their morning song. Do they only sing in the morning? I wonder, or is there so much other noise during the day that I do not hear them?

Mary Oliver wrote in The Summer Day,

…Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

The grasshoppers in my yard are abundant and very large this year. The other day, I watched one sitting on a zinnia.

grasshopper2

When I can tune into the seemingly smallest things happening in nature, I can then be more open to notice the nuances of relationships, of people who are in need of a kind word or some assistance. I can slow down, listen, look and appreciate every day.

The Summer Day ends with a question:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I want to live my one wild and precious life intentionally, noticing the little things that happen around me, attentive to God and the abundant gifts God offers me every day. Only then can I hope to use each day for the good God desires. Only then do I know that I am trading my day for gain, good and success.

 

 

 

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Faith in times of trouble

This week, I went to a child’s funeral. She had been born three months premature and had a host of physical ailments throughout her short life. Her parents spoke of her struggles and her strength. They talked of how she brought them closer together and the lessons they learned from her. Her father pointed out that she only lived 524 days, but they seemed to be days filled with meaning and life lessons for her family.

The words of Mary Oliver’s poem A Summer Day popped into my mind:

“… Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Looking around at the people gathered in that church, watching hands wiping away tears, young and old, men and women, I wondered who will be changed by this event. Who will allow the vulnerability of this moment to stay with them over the next hours, days, weeks? Who will sit with the questions death raises? The whys and what would could have been questions. Who will rethink the paths they are following and make course corrections? Who will allow the sorrow of these young parents to affect them, not just for today but for the foreseeable future and beyond?

Will I?

Sitting in that church, listening to the pastor talk about the resurrection hope of this Easter season, I thought about life and death and faith—especially faith during times of trouble.

I sometimes wonder how people who have no faith cope with the tragedies that life brings. I wonder how they make sense of a baby born too early and dying so young.

Because of my faith, I hope for a life beyond this one.

Faith enables me to picture this baby move beyond the pains she endured in her short life into a new life. I can imagine her surprise at being enveloped in light and being totally free. What joy! What bliss!

Abstraction is not something I am particularly good at, so I don’t have a clear image of what heaven looks like, but I don’t need it. I have faith that there is a heaven and that life is not ended with death, but that it is changed into something unimaginably more fantastic.

I will continue to think of this young family who lost their daughter. I cannot imagine the depth of their sorrow, but I can imagine a supportive community of faith believing with them that their daughter was a gift to them for the time they had her and that she continues to live through them. St. John Chrysostom wrote, “Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.”

I will hold this family in prayer and hope that the lessons they learned from their daughter will continue to shape their lives for many years to come.

Faith teaches me that all in life is gift, including life itself.