Dear Friends,
I’ve gotten to know the inside of my house very well! Not that I didn’t know it before, but I’ve never spent days on end around home. As I watch our dogs and cat sleep away the day, I wonder if this is what they do when we’re not here. I’m getting to know the rhythms and sounds of the neighborhood – that the mail truck first goes to the other side of the street, and once I hear it there, it will be at our mailbox about 10 minutes later. I now can identify our neighbors’ dogs by their barks. I never realized how many deer wander into our yard or come just to the edge of the woods each day. I listen to the kids next door play in the yard. I sometimes hear snatches of someone on our street practicing trumpet. And piano. And a beginning violinist somewhere down the street. I’ve learned that the people across the street grill out and make things that smell amazing.
In other words, I find I am paying attention more than I ever did before. I’m more aware of what is going on around me. Things I never noticed before have caught my attention. When it seems I was so busy before, now I’m taking time to look around, to see and to listen. To treasure.
I pray that I can continue to be more aware when it’s time to “go back.” I hope I continue to listen for the children’s voices, to smell dinner cooking, to hear music from new musicians. I want to continue to watch for deer. And the fox and the heron I’ve seen a few times.
And I want to treasure the time I have with you all. When we can laugh together, and join together in prayer, in song, in a meal. I want to hug and work together. I want to sit next to you in a pew or at a table in the fellowship hall.
There is so much I think I took for granted before March 15, and I pray I never do again. I want to see God’s hand in those things I’ve missed, those things I never thought would be taken away. And I want to treasure them, to give thanks for them.
During this time of being away from so much that felt so familiar and ordinary, I’ve come to see the joy, the grace, the gift, the wonder in all the things that seemed so mundane. I see now more clearly than ever before that God isn’t just present in the large, spectacular, important, and momentous occasions. God is present in the simple things that are so easily dismissed.
May we all take the time to give thanks for the little things, the simple things, the things that would so easily be overlooked. And when we come back together again, may we give thanks for each other, for holding hands, for singing and praying together. And may God open our eyes to that amazing presence in all things!
Here is a poem by Elizabeth Alexander urging us to praise God for the ordinary everyday things.
Praise Song for the Day
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
Source: Praise Song for the Day, (c. 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander, pub. by Graywolf Press). Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem in 1962. She grew up on Washington, D.C., however, where her father, Clifford Alexander, served as United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman. She earned her Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania. Alexander is chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a professor of poetry at Yale University. She composed and read the above at President Barak Obama’s inauguration in 2009. You can find out more about Elizabeth Alexander and read more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.