A Daily Reflection
by Deacon Kevin Heim
Monday, May 18th
Today is the Monday of the ???th* week of the siege by the virus SAR-Cov-2 and its partner in crime – Covid-19. Nothing is as it was, or is it? That is a question that keeps coming back with every newscast and bulletin. The sun shines, the rain falls, and life goes on. One good thing I have had time for is to catch up on my reading (I have a stack of literature – and possibly a flash drive or two – I had always intended to process).
One of those was a small book, written by a Benedictine nun from Mount Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. The thoughts came from the notebook she kept as she learned the skills needed to tend to the abbey’s vineyard. Since in the Catholic culture, not only misery loves company, but also joy, gladness, peace, and consolation, and since nothing is “normal” any more, I want to share one of her bits of wisdom which reminds us of where we strive to be:
“We can never be sure of what the harvest will be until it has happened. Sometimes the greatest gifts or the most powerful lessons aren’t the ones we initially thought they would be. Most of us have had a difficult experience that we later realize taught us something very valuable. Most of us have performed a task, though it seemed boring or irrelevant at the time, ultimately gave us a skill that was significant at some later time in another circumstance. Life is full of unexpected surprises. Many have had that experience of a family vacation to see some spectacular sight that everyone expected to be the highlight of the trip. Then something extraordinary happens and forever after, nobody talks about the Grand Canyon but about the funny thing that happened in the motel. This moment becomes the real bond because it is unusual and unforeseen; it gives the family a moment, a memory, and shared emotions that are uniquely theirs.
Every journey, and the whole journey of life, is filled with these unexpected twists and turns. No matter how many are the gifts we recognize, there are always more gifts being showered on us. No matter what we see and experience, we can find more in life about which to be excited. We come to appreciate that everything is a gift.
When I was a child, my aunt lived with us. I would often keep an eye toward the bus stop down the street to await her arrival from her exhausting factory job, I was especially attentive on Fridays. After cashing her paycheck, she would go to the dime store and buy us a small bag of candy or nuts. Almost every adult who has ever been greeted by a waiting child has heard the question I would ask: ‘What did you bring me?’
Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’ve never outgrown that question. I seem to keep asking it of my loved ones and of life and of God. I always seem to want more; everything always seems primarily about me and what I will gain from it. I realize now that the real answer to the question of what my aunt brought me was not “a bag of cashews.” What she brought me was far more valuable. I learned that I could trust in her love even on days when she didn’t bring me a treat. I learned that just seeing her approach and running into her arms was itself a treat. I believe she got delight from my delight when she handed me the bag, and I could feel that coming from her as well. I knew even then that I did not value her just for what she brought me, nor did I feel there was something wrong with me or that her love was withdrawn when she came home empty-handed. This is knowledge I know I should transfer to the other relationships where I am still asking the question.
Even better than the Friday ritual are the unexpected treats of life. A gift for no particular occasion, a note of love or gratitude, an unexpected opportunity, can bring a very special joy. If we keep alert, we will see beautiful surprise packages left for us in so many places for no particular reason. Life can be like an endless harvest, where there is something around every corner and under every leaf if one looks hard enough to see it where others went hastily by. A life of gratitude provides an unending source of joy.” Judith Sutera, The Vinedresser’s Notebook-Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting & Abundance, Abingdon Press
I pray each of you find the strength, joy, and peace that only Jesus can give. Stay well!
(the * marked date was to remind me that time really does not matter in eternity – this too shall pass)
What I had originally planned for today follows:
We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city. On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.