Grace. That’s the topic for this week’s “This-n-That.” Because grace seems like a much needed salve to the dual viruses of COVID-19 and racial injustice. And because, when you open up to grace, I find it shows up in some pretty interesting and inspiring ways.

It’s funny. When we were kids, grace used to come so naturally. That simultaneous one-ness with both yourself and eternity. It was everywhere. As a little boy, I used to find grace by climbing my favorite tree and looking out into the horizon, until I could hear sounds, see flashes of light, that may not have been part of this world, but very much were part of mine. But then I put grace away. So I could grow up, be a success, check off tasks. It’s only recently that grace has reappeared in my life on a regular basis. Whenever it shows up now, it’s always at just the right time. As was the case yesterday, when I woke up, poured some coffee, plopped down in my recliner (good god, am I that age already?!?!) and heard a book by Rumi call my name. You can read more below…and then, if you want, keep reading…for moments of grace.

  1. A Rumi poem. Sometimes Rumi…and grace…don’t mess around. They put the word right there in front of you, so you don’t miss it. That’s what happened yesterday, when I opened The Soul of Rumi  to his “A Necessary Autumn Inside Each” poem. “You and I have spoken all these words,” it begins, “but as for the way we have to go, words are no preparation. There is no getting ready, other than grace.” Got it? Good! You can find the rest of the poem on my Facebook page.
  2. Aretha at church. Someone once said that religion is when man tries to get between you and your god, while spirit is when you have a direct line. While Aretha Franklin was raised in a religious household (her daddy was a minister), there is no question that when she opened her mouth to sing, it was pure spirit all the way. If you want to hear what grace sounds like when it’s sung, check out her Amazing Grace album, recorded in 1971 at L.A.’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church.
  3. Sidewalk art. My mom has been on lockdown (“prison” she calls it) in her assisted living community since March 11. As March has become April, May, June and soon July, the grandkids of one of the residents have taken to drawing chalk art on the sidewalks around Mom’s building (I’d join in, but as Mom would tell you, my handwriting is awful). Here was last week’s message. I think you could call that grace, don’t you?     
  4. James Baldwin and graceful rage. Grace lives in beautiful places. Spots where angels sing, the sun is bright and life is good, but I find it also dwells in difficult places. Spots that are uncomfortable, angry, full of rage. I think sometimes it is the spots where grace not only is most needed, but also is most felt. Certainly that’s the sense I got as I watched this six-minute mini-documentary from Ken Burns on the mythology…and facts…of American monuments. I like Ken Burns, but I love James Baldwin, who opens and closes the piece. It’s worth your time, I promise.
  5. Cooking can be grace-full. A long time ago, when I lived in Boston and had just gotten out of politics, my friend David taught me how to cook. Growing up as I did in the 1970s era of jello-molds, Tang and freeze-dried onion soup “mix”, it was a revelation to me that you could cook with fresh vegetables that came out of the ground vs. out of a can. I don’t have any veggies in my garden this year, but I do have a few pots of herbs and more than a few of them go into my version of this summer chicken recipe which is marinading in the fridge as I type this (btw, no need to butterfly the chicken; just toss in whatever you have how you have it). It’s a nice way to keep Mama Earth…and her grace…at your table.
  6. Grace isn’t a solitary thing. A few years ago, when I was feeling frustrated that my chubby, middle-aged body just was not going to ever downward dog the right way and my Type-A monkey mind was never going to settle down, my yoga teacher told me to just get on my mat…and listen. When I did, she said, “Every time you step on your mat, you are stepping into your place in the very long line of anyone who has ever stepped onto their mat before you…and all that will step on their mats after you.” I loved that for it put me right in the center. One with myself and one with all of us. That’s grace. And it’s always there. Waiting for you, waiting for me. All we have to do is step into its gifts. May we do so today.

This-n-That is a curated newsletter that offers perspective, inspiration and compassion for living what Mary Oliver called “our one wild and precious life.”