Poems and Prayers
An inspiring reminder of a wider-view perspective for your Friday. Enjoy your weekend!
Albert Schweitzer was the type of person who it seems is almost no longer possible in our modern world – he was a world-renowned musician (revered to this day for his interpretations of Bach); a unique and well-known theologian; and perhaps most famously, a missionary doctor who sought to bring the advancements of modern medicine beyond the artificial borders of the West. Coming from someone so clearly dedicated to the pursuit of self-betterment, this quote carries special weight.
While characters as large as Dr. Schweitzer may be rare, we can still do all we can to do whatever good we are able to.
An interesting aspect of Dr. Schweitzer’s quote is the connection between the two sentences. Is it by doing good that one makes his or her self more noble; or is it that by ennobling the self through interior work, one is able to do more good?
If you’re unfamiliar with his life and work, take a few seconds to look into the life of this singular man.
Today’s quote of the day comes from the always thought-provoking Anne Lamott, who writes often on the topic of grace and its mysteries. As is typical for Lamott, she distills a complex concept to a pithy statement that is no less true or impactful for its brevity.
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace,” she writes, “only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
A beautiful thought to contemplate and a reminder for us to actively seek out and think on the mysterious gravity of grace and the way it has shaped or influenced our own lives.
This week’s poem of the week comes to us from Mary Oliver, a beautiful poem called Summer Day. This poem continues with our theme of the importance of leisure to our spiritual lives. Leisure allows us to slow down and to see the countless ways in which the hand of God presents itself to us in all aspects of the overflowing bounty that is creation. It’s all there for us, if we only have eyes to see, this poem reminds us. The author sees God in the “complicated eyes” of the grasshopper, in the joy of spending a quiet day on a vast knoll. And finally, the poem turns to us and asks poignantly: “What is it that you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
The Summer Day | a Poem by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
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.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
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?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Greetings! Today, continuing our theme of the need to slow down to be able to tune in to the sacred that exists all around us like some unfathomable dance. Our poem of the week is called Prayer by Marie Howe. Do you empathize with her struggle in this poem? What do you do to peer through all the clutter to see God’s will?
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention- the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the fallen piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
Marie Howe, from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.