Sunday, March 14, 2010

Foreseen in Joy, Present in Grace

This morning I took time to read a poem and my hand fell on Sabbaths by Wendell Berry and I opened to this poem, number X:

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.

Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we're asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

What do you look forward to in joy? Is it your work? Do you have a vision, a goal or a harvest that you are willing to sweat for?

Yet, catch the punch line: "no leaf or grain is filled by work of ours; the field is tilled and left to grace."

How are you at leaving things to grace?

I find I am often busy doing, and am less successful at being present in grace, whatever that is. To know and understand that we are a forgiven people, to rest in true Sabbath in God's love and presence, to turn our work and our lives over with the understanding that our work and lives are a part of a greater work, those are inklings of grace.
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. ~Anne Lamott via Jim Taylor in Rumors
Yes, what is grace? My word processor's dictionary offers these definitions:

grace n
1. elegance, beauty, and smoothness of form or movement
2. dignified, polite, and decent behavior
3. a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people
4. a short prayer of thanks to God said before, or sometimes after, a meal
5. See grace period
6. a pleasing and admirable quality or characteristic (usually plural)
7. in Christianity, the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God
8. in Christianity, the condition of being free of sin, for example, through repentance to God
9. See grace note

1. to make a pleasing contribution to an event, often by attending it (often used ironically)
2. to add elegance, beauty, or charm to something
3. to add ornamental or decorative notes to a piece of music

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
I think about grace often—my name, Nancy, means "full of grace" or "gracious." This morning my "Nancy" tea mug reminds me of that. Fortunately, I didn't discover that when I was adolescent and gawky and not at all living up to my name in being graceful. Now I understand grace more broadly, not just in large movements of the body, but in smaller gestures of the hands, and in actions toward others: that "capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people," made possible mostly by God's grace: "infinite love, mercy, and favor."

What is important about this poem is the reminder that joy and grace go together. Looking forward in joy requires grace in the present, or being present in grace. It also may mean getting unstuck from the past as this acronym of GRACE illustrates:

1. Grieve to flush out the frustration over disappointment.
2. Rest to replenish your strength.
3. Accept new hope rising inside you.
4. Create new dreams.
5. Engage life with fresh energy.
Note the first letter of each strategy to identify the great comeback agent that makes all the difference in the world.
from Faithbook by Kirk B. Jones

The grace note to this morning's writing was the singing of Amazing Grace as our closing hymn today at church.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Grace taught my heart to fear? That's in an old sense of that word: to be awed and to have wonder. It's a play on two meanings of the word, where today fear is almost always used negatively. But it is always wonderful when grace appears.

This morning's serendipitous occurrence of amazing grace reminded me of the bumper sticker I saw the other morning on the way to work:

The grace, joy and peace of God be with you.


  1. I am doing a study on this poem right now and googled it and found this. Thanks, I was having a crappy day. This made it better.

  2. I am doing a study on this poem right now and when I googled it this came up. Thanks it gave me better insight and helped me with my crappy day!