Gratitude at 20,000 Feet

airbusa340-600on_final_approach

An Airbus 340-600 on final approach

The Meditation of Not Being in a Plummeting Aircraft

I am ashen-faced, my pulse is racing
like a rabbit, as the sleek airliner
in which I’m a passenger is streaking
through the bright blue sky. The flight attendants
serve my choice of beverage, obscenely
alcoholic; all the other passengers,
insouciant, are chatting, reading, dozing;
yet I know I am about to die.
I know, moreover, planes can’t really fly —
the one I’m in will any moment realize the
speciousness of all aerodynamic
principles, and plummet, just like
Wile E. Coyote, to the seething desert
floor. So I implore the God Whom, up to
now, I mostly have ignored, and ask to
be delivered safely to my destination;
and I vow to never take for
granted anything henceforth. I promise
I will always be contented once this
mortal peril I am in no longer
threatens.

I think of my small discontents, the
day-to-day annoyances disturbing my
serenity, and see them as not merely
trivial but absolutely radiant, the
jigsaw-puzzle pieces of my life, which,
now that I’m about to lose it, gleams with
incandescent loveliness. How fine a
thing it was to take a breath and know that
I could take another and another,
practically forever. Apparently you have to be about to
die to see your life as burnished, jeweled,
precious; to be grateful thoroughly for
all things great and small — for people, family and
friends, but also chicken-noodle soup, and
watermelon; bookends, blankets, tennis
shoes, a vintage flick; the symphony, to
which you never go, but will — oh, yes, at
least four times a year if you survive; and
every single dance recital, soccer
game, and Christmas program featuring
your grandchildren you shall attend.

Then the engine noises change; the plane
descends; you send your promises to God on
angel wings, express delivery; you
shiver. Are we meant to fall so fast? Is
this the End? Or will you live to see
tomorrow? Fear gives way to sorrow, that you
didn’t say “I love you” oftener. How
softened are the grievances that made you
bitter and unkind. God willing, you shall
overlook the little things and leave your
pettiness behind, white contrails in an
azure sky, forevermore.

For surely God is gracious; you arrive, and
do so — can it be? Yes — quite on time!

I write this
to remind myself to practice gratitude,
and grant the world more latitude to
fall amiss of my exacting expectations.
There are only to be celebrations,
for entitlement is left in
outer space. God’s grace is manifest.
And with a few forgivable omissions,
once I knelt and kissed the
tarmac, I have (so far) honored all I
pledged at twenty thousand feet, and dwelt
upon my blessings, praising God
unceasingly since he delivered me, with
generosity divinely tendered,
not as toast, nor as a smoking cinder,
yesterday.

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Advent Hymn 2

magi

Waiting, we are waiting, for the wonder of his birth—
the child sent down from Heaven bringing peace to all the earth;
the one who will teach happiness, kindness, humility;
the savior who would die for us and set our spirits free.

Singing, we are singing, for the child who is to come—
our hymns of gladness ringing as we hail the holy one.
We join the joyful chorus—angels, shepherds in the hills
who gathered ‘neath his star on high, the star we follow still.

Journeying, we journey like the magi from afar
who like the lowly shepherds took direction from the star.
They knew the ancient prophecy whose time had come to pass.
We travel like the three wise men to know God’s child at last.

Praying, we are praying that we have the eyes to see
and ears to hear his message of salvation. May we be
as eager as the humble shepherds and the noble kings
to celebrate the baby’s birth and with the angels sing:

Alleluia! Amen. As the planet holds its breath.
This is the final battle, yielding vict’ry over death
by one child’s birth; the day is won, all glorious, all joy.
Now wait with us—his time is near—the little baby boy.

Anticipating Dawn

before-sunrise-pixabay

I have been a stranger in a strange land,
where my compass failed and every step was
labored and directionless. I prayed; I listened;
you said, Come out of the shadows. Barely
visible above a silhouetted slope, a gold-red
sliver broke the firmament, restored my
equilibrium, and gave me hope. Because I
asked, you spoke. Because you showed me
heaven’s glorious awakening, I promised, I will
follow you.
Before the sun went down, I had
forgotten all of it, and even now, beset by
doubts, I wander off, disoriented, lost. Again
you take my hand and lead me from a
treacherous and twisted path onto a high,
straight, sunlit road. Friends wait, you say,
hospitably at this day’s journey’s end. And so it
is that to my left are shade at noontime and a
place to rest, and to my right, a dozen steps
beyond, fresh water gushes from a spring
between two ancient moss-clad stones. In you
I lack for nothing; I have all I need. With you
beside me, I am not alone. I lean upon your
strength; it never stumbles. Night holds neither
mystery nor terror, though the moon is dark,
the stars dim. At the cusp of morning, redbirds
interrupt the silence with their song, and
poplars and acacias whisper, Carry on—
anticipating dawn.

Amen.

You Are Made for Happiness

two angels

Psalm for Advent

…Be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.  —Isaiah 65:18

Be happy, my children.
For happiness I have created you, and your misery brings me no pleasure.
You will have burdens, which friends will lift when you are overcome.
You will shed tears, and another will wipe your eyes.
Your brothers and your sisters will care for you through illness and adversity.
They will milk your cows and feed your chickens,
plant your grain or harvest it according to the season,
as you shall do for them when you are strong and well.

For happiness I have created you,
and it grieves me to witness your anger and jealousy.
Have I not made the foliage green enough?
Are the valleys too deep and the prairies too vast for your delight?
Do the flowers offend you with their
fragrant red petals and sweet, gentle scents?
Is the honey too sweet that bees make from their nectar?
Do the robins sing too loudly and the redbirds too early?
Does your neighbor possess greater abundance than you,
with your overstuffed chairs and your pantries full to bursting?

For happiness I have created you,
and I offer help for your misfortune.
Do not rehearse your woes but practice cheerfulness.
Take hope from others who have triumphed over the
very obstacles that overwhelm you.
Do not wallow in your hardship, lest you become
too accustomed to wretchedness and
forget the loveliness of bliss and the beauty of enchantment.

For happiness I have created you,
and your gladness spreads like the dawn across the
forested vale, leaf after leaf gilded even as the stars fade.
Share not your bitterness but your faith with your husband
or wife, your children, your mother and father.

For happiness I have created you,
for out of happiness spring compassion and charity.
Depleted yourself, you have nothing to give.

For happiness I have created you,
and your happiness is my joy.
So complete is my love for you that I have sent my son
to make you whole where you feel lacking.
All I require is that you remember whence your
good fortune comes.

For happiness I have created you,
so be happy, my children.
May your days be many
and your love perfected in me.

Advent Call

Edward_Burne-Jones_-_An_Angel_Playing_a_Flageolet

Edward Burne Jones, An Angel Playing a Flageolot, 1878

I used to speak in poetry,
but now my voice is still.
I thought I’d sing for you again,
but now I never will, O God,
I guess I never will.

You used to guide my steps, O God,
unto the hallowed hills.
I thought I’d see your face, O God;
alas, I never will—oh, no;
I guess I never will.

You heard my everlasting prayer
and answered as I asked;
but that was oh, so long ago,
and now that time has passed, O God;
that far-off time has passed.

They say that you will come to Earth
and live among us all
and teach us how to live in peace.
Oh, may we hear your call, O God,
may we obey your call.

God, may the gospel e’er be told
and may it come to pass;
and may I speak in poetry
and sing for you at last, O God,
and see your face at last.

Amen.

 

Advent Hymn

morningstar-markmallett-com

Photo: Mark Mallett

O Morning Star (Hymn)

O Morning Star, thou soon shall rise
attending dawn in eastern skies.
Draw then our eyes to thine ascent;
may we behold thee, innocent.

O Rose of Winter, blooming e’er,
thy foliage green, thy blossom fair,
thy seeds on many winds be blown
and in the humblest gardens sown.

O Savior, when at last we meet
thy gentle soul and wash thy feet,
heal thou the sick, lift up the poor,
and grant us peace forevermore.

Amen.

Thoughts and Prayers

renaissance-art-angel

There is a kind of energy in prayer
that lifts a body up and off the grime…
and fervent wishes, too, and fare-thee-wells…
and every one that’s given, each received,
makes light the one whose chariot is air.
So never slight the usefulness of prayer
in healing and escorting one to flight,
as long as the intention is sincere
and not an empty promise or cliché,
as long as there are love and earnest hope—
enough to drown a cynic’s weary doubt—
as long as there’s a flame within the heart
and faith to thwart the candle’s burning out.
Send thoughts and prayers, oh, send this very hour
to those who suffer, those whose spirits fail
a burst of happiness, a gust of cheer,
a surge of certainty of higher things…
and let them be the energy that lifts
a body up and sets it on the breeze;
yes, let them be the wind beneath their wings
that flows unfailingly to joy and peace.