Grace at a Distance, Grace Close at Hand — But Grace

[Image: “Winter Forest Illustration,” by Jim Basa. (Found it on Pexels — thanks! — and used here in reduced scale; the thing is huge.)]

From whiskey river:

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness. Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

(Henry van Dyke [source])


Laugh and be Merry

Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.
Laugh and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man.

Laugh and be merry: remember, in olden time.
God made Heaven and Earth for joy He took in a rhyme,
Made them, and filled them full with the strong red wine of His mirth,
The splendid joy of the stars: the joy of the earth.

So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,
Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,
Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured
In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.

Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,
Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn,
Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends.
Laugh till the game is played; and be you merry, my friends.

(John Masefield [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Be attentive lest you miss the grace that passes before you, whether as small as a single birdsong or as broad as the rising sun of your own life restored. Be grateful, lest these pearls have been thrown to swine. And be ready to speak of it in the grandest or simplest words or deeds. You have not invented your own hope; it has sprung, green and living, from the grace that has rained upon you, has welled up from deepest springs, has come to you in steadfast rivers.

(Steve Garnaas-Holmes [source])


So it unfolded, year after year always the same, the precise stately clockwork of Christmas, ticking and tocking all the way down to tonight, the best night of all: Christmas Eve…

After church tonight, back home again, The Boy and his sisters and brother had been bundled off at once upstairs to their bedrooms, their parents’ eyes feverish with some mysterious variety of adult distraction. As he lay in the bed, The Boy could hear, beneath him in his parents’ room, the frenzied rattle of wrapping paper, the soothing zzzzzziiiippp of tape being pulled from the roll. The Boy imagined his father carrying armloads of gifts out the back door, tramping in the snow around to the back of the house and handing them up to Santa, who was tapping his booted foot impatiently on the roof, waiting to convey them (as required by law) down the chimney. The Boy wondered for at least the twelfth time that year how Santa managed it — managed to get down the chimney and into the house; The Boy had checked, and to his knowledge there was only one route out of the chimney: into the oil furnace in the bowels of the cellar. But Santa must have pulled it off again this year; The Boy could hear the reassuring faint rhythmic squeak on the cellar stairs of his oil-soaked bootsteps.

Here, upstairs, The Boy’s siblings slept peacefully, their breathing slow and measured like the imagined sound of all the massed snowflakes now sifting down outside the windows. Even the ghoul beneath the toy chest was quiet tonight, the clicking of his awful claws on the floor replaced, tonight, by the click of reindeer hooves slithering about for a foothold on the icy shingles. Looking from his bed out through the window at the front of his room, The Boy saw once again, this year as every year, the pale steady red beacon (surely from Rudolph’s nose) illuminating the exterior of the house across the street.

He lay back against his pillow finally, his eyes shuddering closed with the weight of a hundred anticipations. Outside, the snow continued to fall, picking up pitch and rhythm as The Boy’s soft breathing joined that of his brother and sisters. And in his now-dreaming mind fluttered the slow easy snow angels of ten thousand memories past and memories yet to be, pressing into the deep drifts of The Boy’s imagination all the permanent outlines, the wonderful forms, of how it always and forever was.

(JES, How It Was: Christmas)

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