Thursday, February 15, 2007

Simple and Steady

On Feb. 9, I had the extreme pleasure to attend a concert down at the Chicory House, which was housed at St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Wilkes Barre. The group was a Canadian folk rock band named Tanglefoot. They were a very entertaining band, full of storytelling and music about Canadian farmers, lumberjacks, deep sea fishermen and Great Lake sailors. There was even a ghost story or two! Oh, and of course, they had a mandolin player.

Two songs in particular struck me as significant, perhaps for lessons I need to learn in my own spiritual practice. One was the story of Maggie, a 61 year old woman who fell into a river while trying to cross it over an old log carrying two heavy buckets of Maple tree sap. She began to build a bridge, and over the course of days, weeks, months, and finally years, she continued to work on it, in her own small simple way. It took her 20 years—she was 81 when she finished it! She lived a full life, I assume, while she was doing this, but she did nonetheless stay focused on this project. It was not a spectacular bridge, in the sense that the Brooklyn or the Golden Gate bridges are, but the significance of the bridge is the story. And the band told us that the bridge is gorgeous in its own way.

The other song was almost a prayer about how to be satisfied with enough to live our lives. It’s called For the Day, and it is about peace of mind. One verse goes as follows:

A little sun, a little rain, A little money now and then
And the knowledge of enough to eat tomorrow
Keep the locust from our fields
Take a portion of the yield
For the folk less blessed by fortune than are we

Lent can be a time of re-evaluation, of fresh perspective. As we enter these days approaching the events of Jesus’ suffering, death and new life, it doesn’t hurt for us to remember that the important stuff comes with effort over long periods of time, and that a simple life unburdened with outsize ambition or greed, which perhaps not popular in our culture, is easier to live and much more in touch with God. If you wonder which is God’s will, between the loud, public and sensational attitude, or the quiet, simple life full of integrity and kindness, remember this—which life permits more opportunity to hear God’s still, small voice?

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