How we live

By Rev. Anna Blaedel

Toni Morrison wrote, “In too much of our religious and theological thought we only focus on the transcendent—at our own peril. What we must also concentrate on is the immanent dimensions of the holy, for this is where we sit as living, breathing flesh. This is where we live out the drama of our humanness.”

Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama has been tuning me to the immanent dimensions of the holy as the drama of our humanness rages and unfolds. From his work, two phrases that sing of divinity enfleshed:

mo sheasamh ort, lá na choise tinne
you are my standing on the day when my feet are sore

ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine
it is in the shelter of each other that the people live

Last night I was sitting on my front porch as evening faded into night, and my next door neighbor appeared. They held out their hands and offered me strawberries.

This I believe: small kindnesses like this make life livable.

In my first pastoral appointment in rural northeast Iowa, a woman appeared in the doorway of my office, tears spilling down her face, raspberries spilling from cupped hands. She was awash in grief, losses both sharp and haunting.

This I believe: her raspberries and tears both were holy offering.

Last Sunday a dear one chose to spend her 40th birthday coming to hear me preach. While the service was underway, a monarch emerged from the chrysalis her daughters had been tending. Our worship continued after the benediction, as we waited for the monarch’s wings to dry. We nicknamed her “Joy,” and lingered as she prepared to take flight.

This I believe: lingering together in joy and longing is a sacred practice of saying “Yes” to life.

Last week a beloved sent me poetry in the mail. One of the poems, written by Rev. Peter Ilgenfritz, was titled “Blueberries”:

How do these present times
change what you write?
the poet asked.

Another poet responded,
It means we can’t write
about blueberries anymore

The poets, around the circle, wiped their tears
as another rose,

In this present time,
in this necessity to write of what is real
and what matters most
how can we not write
of blueberries?

I mean, in our time of such ugliness
who will recall us to beauty?
I mean the shape and fragrance of it,
how in this small blue orb rise oceans and seas,
mountain lakes and tears.

Who in our time of such grim truths,
will tell of the surprise of discovery,
I mean, this patch of bushes we discovered
along the mountain trail
as it opened out of the dark woods onto the
rocky peak?

Who will remind us in such a time of bitter discord
of the taste of sweetness?

This I believe: lingering in the places and with the people who recall us to beauty, and remind us of the taste of sweetness, is how we meet and are met by the Divine. This is how we live.

May it be so.

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rev anna blaedel

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