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Back in 1996, I had the good fortune of literally sitting at the feet of the great Vermont Poet, David Budbill, as he shared his poems with my Cohort at Vermont College of Norwich University in Montpelier, Vermont. He was so earthy, in fact, David was as much as “earthy monk” as any person I ever met. He was amazing, humble, down to earth, true blue Vermonter (although he was born in Cleveland, OH). I love his words and this spectacular poem came into my Inbox and I looked David up online only to learn that he died back in September 2016.
Saddened by this, it is right and fitting that one of my favorite poems of David Budbill be shared here…especially since I now reside in the neighboring state of New Hampshire and I am deep in the soulful state of Winter
Enjoy David Budbill
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
“Because the Word that God speaks to us is always an incarnate word – a word spelled out to us not alphabetically, in syllables, but enigmatically, in events, even in the books we read and the movies we see – the chances are we will never get it just right.
We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit. But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear [God], he is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, his word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling.
In that sense autobiography becomes a way of praying, and a book like this, if it matters at all, matters mostly as a call to prayer.”
– Originally published in Now and Then
“Those who look to the law of love as Jesus taught it, as the law of perfect liberty, and act accordingly as doers, whose acts are motivated by that love, will be blessed by God for living by that teaching.”
– Br. David Allen
“Jesus risked reputation and dignity in order to love—risked loving even a sinner. “O Lord, who risks everything to love, show us compassion that does not count the cost, and teach us to share it without hesitation.”
Do I risk ‘everything’ to love like Jesus? Do I follow a royal law of Love at all costs?
Do I risk my pithy reputation to love like Jesus loved? I sit in churches so often and all I hear is sermons majoring on the minors (so to speak), but rarely do I hear sermons about loving like Jesus did. Some say love the sinner and hate the sin, but I am only human and do not possess the surgical precision needed to separate the “sin” from the sinner, so I end up hating the sinner even as I say I am only hating the sin.
I can sit in the rooms and listen to others share their experience, strength and hope and I slice my fellow alcoholics to bits with the surgical knife of my mind.
Plain and simply put, I am afraid to love like this.
I am aware that most followers of Jesus are afraid to love like this: we fear being called gay, radical, Muslim, liberal, drunk, addict, loser, sinner, scum, one of “them” if I am in proximity to “them” attempting feebly to love like Jesus.
Or even worse, I fear being called “Jesus freak” – which is actually a grand compliment.
The old adage says, visiting someone with cancer does not mean I condone smoking; but I fear if I love those different from me, then I will be accused of being one of “them.”
But is that so bad?
Jesus was accused of being a sinner, a glutton, a drunk, a ‘friend’ of sinners, one who dined with traitors and whores… And yet, all he did was love, love, love.
Here is a simple truth: prayer works. And it works always (in all ways). I make a statement like that because in my three decades of being a ‘novice’ pray-er, combined with what I am learning daily about prayer is this:
- Either prayer works on me changing me and my responses; or
- Prayer works in me transforming my heart and my perspective; or
- Prayer works through the events and circumstances for which I am praying sometimes altering them.
But the bottom line about prayer working is that prayer always, always, moves me closer to God and to those around me.
Prayer can turn burdens into blessings and obstacles into opportunities.
Prayer can heal my heart and the heart of another.
Prayer is the name of the constant, ongoing conversation I am having with God.
Prayer opens my eyes to see the holiness of all creation.
Prayer moves my heart from resentment to gratitude.
Prayer leads me to embrace the truth that all that happens to me and within me is the will of my loving God.
Prayers helps me see and taste God in the mundane and the profane as well as the profound and the cursory.
Prayer can move mountains, open doors, lead to the miraculous, soften the hardness, and turn wrestling into nestling.
But for me, today, above all, prayer is the language and movement of love I use to speak to my Holy Beloved.