The Commonplace of Grace
I gave my blog a title this past year because it seemed like that was what all serious bloggers did. Honestly, I suppose I thought I would take the work of sharing my ideas more seriously if I named the place they were going to live. Perhaps a specific title would assure everyone that I was serious about the ideas that had caught my mind in their soulful webs . . . and maybe even catch the eye of a new reader or two. And along the way, I discovered the perfect reason for giving title to my words; it has served to relentlessly remind me of the purpose for my writing. In the end, I named my blog to echo my best hope for everyday living: Encountering Grace.
It’s no surprise to any who know me well . . . I enrolled myself years ago in a lifetime course on hope. And now I live my days ready for signs and symbols, situations, decisions and human narratives that serve to proclaim grace alive and well in both the wide world and the commonplace. We most often live in the everyday – an unfolding of our typical and conventional life – so my homework has been to stay available to recognize surprising experiences within the ordinary, to notice gracious, unexpected encounters of loving forgiveness, radical kindness, unanticipated joy, inspirational beauty and compassionate mercy happening subtly around me. My ongoing course exam? Understanding my place in each encounter . . . and learning from them.
Let me share the following from the brilliant Naomi Shihab Nye. Though the poet never mentions grace directly, her elegant message brings us into spaces where grace is held, seen and felt. Her words connect ordinary elements, elevating their presence into a “famous,” valued encounter. We encounter grace in that way . . . like the butterfly who discovers sweet sustenance and a resting place in a common, valiant blossom using the soil of a cracked wall to thrive colorfully. Grace greets us where we are, in the commonplace, and stays available to help us connect, learn and thrive. And, through it all, if we pay attention, we just might learn that our most important and satisfying job is to pass it on . . . to become the everyday grace for another.
“The river is famous to the fish
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom is famous to your bosom.
. . .
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it . . .
I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole,
not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.”
May you encounter grace moments, entering them with open-hearted expectations and always exiting with gratitude. May you be, for others, the grace in their commonplace.
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