98. Gratis

Usually I write when there is something else pressing that I should be doing but I put the other thing off. It works for the blog. Not too sure how the other thing works out. But those things come and go, leaving nary a trace behind. Don’t get me wrong: I like my life, and I’m not trying to escape its work and responsibilities. It is because of the work and responsibilities that I experience a lot of purpose and meaning daily, not because I’m so cool, no, but because I am blessed beyond measure.

Gratis is an old Latin word that means “free, without cost” as well as “thanks”, like a party favor. And that word is hovering above me in a thought bubble at the moment… at no charge. This blog is gratis. It costs you nothing. It comes out of an abundance of time and unused brain cells at no charge. I spend about an hour or two on each post. Totalled, that adds up to a month’s vacation. Naturally the National Day of Thanksgiving is at hand, and my mood orbits the planet gratis tonight. “Thanks, I appreciate…, I feel so grateful…, I am gratified, so favored, blessed, gifted, etc.” I did nothing to deserve this gift anymore than you did a thing to receive it. It’s free, no obligation, without cost or expectations. I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible passages, Isaiah 55.

Invitation to the Thirsty (NIV)

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,     come to the waters; and you who have no money,     come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk     without money and without cost.2 Why spend money on what is not bread,     and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,     and you will delight in the richest of fare.

It’s all free and deeply satisfying and incomprehensible. How can you buy and eat if you have no money? And since when are wine and milk and bread costless? Isaiah is wildly poetic as he mixes in the concrete things of this world with the abstract spiritual food of the other world. The food and drink he leads with turn into the words of God. He leaps from the material world to the barely describable divine.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Just this morning as I drove to BWI at dawn to pick up my pregnant daughter and my son-in-law, the mountains and fields were choked with fog, making the familiar drive anything but familiar. Sun poured through fog banks sporadically and then these visual trumpet blasts would close up. Most of the time the sun was veiled by pale gray mist and hung like a pie pan on the other side of waxed paper. The trees took on anthropomorphic qualities in the dramatic light. Welling up in me was gratis, blessings, thanks, appreciation, favor. I reviewed those in my life who need prayer and blessing, starting with my grandbaby, my daughters, wife, son-in-law, brothers, extended family, friends, clients, students, etc. until my mind fogged over, leaving me feeling like a grain of sand next to the ocean.

Though the radio stations near Baltimore are far superior to what we have locally, I turned off their melodies to listen to the song of the hills and mountains and strained to hear the handclap of cedar trees. It’s poetry, folks, not psychosis.

I would not make a good monk. I’m too easily distracted and would miss my wife. She is not a nun, by the way. I’d miss the very dance lessons that I pretend to endure. And her quiet spirit and occasional frying pan pat on my head moments. Her mahogany eyes. The laugh at my insufferable jokes.

A grateful person can’t be arrogant, I think. If you are busy giving thanks to other persons and to God, you are acknowledging the source of the gifts in your life, right? The arrogant don’t do that unless there is some angle or it seems like the mannerly and socially acceptable thing to do. They are called ingrates or ungrateful. Failing to recognize or acknowledge one’s gifts and blessings is failure to recognize the gift giver, the blesser, the fountain where the water originates. I hope that this day finds you bathed in blessings and filled with a spirit of gratis. May your loved ones faces shine back at you in joy. And maybe, your shrubs and hedges applaud the wonder of your life.


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