Monday, February 14, 2011

The subversive nature of grace

Yes, the Christmas tree is still up and lighted --- but it's getting near the time to take it down.

Wind is roaring around the house this morning, pushing us full-sail toward spring (although winter has by no means given up). But there have been signs lately --- the evening light lasts longer, snow is melting and probably by week's end will be mostly gone (for a time at least). Owls already are nesting in the woods, I'm told --- and the owl walk is scheduled next weekend at Bob White State Park.

The deer are running, too. Driving toward lunch yesterday and after cresting the South Chariton hill south of Cambria, passing the lane to Rush Cemetery and meandering with the road off to the southwest a flash caught my eye as six or seven cleared the fence to my left with no effort and bounded down the embankment, across the road and off into woods on the other side. The smart thing to do in a situation like that is to stop and watch, so I did.

Later on, sitting around the dining room table with the last of the dinner wine into late afternoon, we watched a much larger herd edge out of the woods, clear the fences and spread across the open field beyond the big south windows.

It's high time to start looking out again --- add a little balance to the weighty mid-winter introspection that those of us who experience life and love in cold climates are prone to.


Since it is Valentine's Day, I'm thinking of taking the Christmas tree down --- it's served its purpose and by the 1st of March, I hope, will be packed away (no need to rush).

The curious thing about Christmas, when we light symbolic candles against the darkness, is how we rush to extinguish them --- just when they're needed most in the cycle of a natural year.


Group a liberal Methodist, a Unitarian Universalist and an Episcopalian around a dinner table and when the conversation turns to the nature of grace --- what else did you expect us to be talking about on a Sunday afternoon? --- hang on.

Call it the love of God, if you like, or the embrace of the infinite, unknowable and unnamable (although by no means unapproachable), we were able to agree that it is universal, unstoppable and undeniable --- and that no one has the power to block another's access to it, although many of us quite often operate under the illusion that we've been given or can grab the power to do just that and therefore have the potential to do considerable damage.

We can try and often do block our own grace, of course, by curling up into tight little balls, plugging our ears, pulling the covers over our heads and whistling Dixie --- but even then grace just wraps itself around us and waits.

Believing we can somehow block the access of others is just another way of adding a layer of shellac to our own tight little knots of denial.

Another interesting twist in this line of thought is realization that those running deer and nesting owls are illuminated by grace, too --- and that their self-important cousins --- that's us --- are really of no more consequence; that if we manage to fight and kill our way to self-destruction, chances are they'll still run in the spring and nest as the days lengthen. Consider the lilies, which soon will be blooming, after all.

That's one of the secrets of grace --- the wonderfully subversive nature of it.

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