For the Living of These Days—A Word from Jim England

“For the living of these days”… a line from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s hymn of the same name, implies the facing of difficult challenges in our days. At this moment, my own challenges are more personal. The long illness and death of my mother-in-law was followed by the sudden, unexpected death of my niece. The griefs compound each other. I don’t think I am alone. The reading of names of those who died this past year reveals that many of us enter Advent grieving. For many of us, past losses leave us tender and vulnerable, especially now.

I have people in my life who ask how I am. When I give the reflexive, “I’m fine,” they speak then with gentle skepticism reminding me it is okay not to be “fine.” I am deeply grateful for the touch of such gentle hearts. I hope you have such friends. They abound at Highland.

The hymn line more fully stated reads, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days”. For me the wisdom for “these days” is that which accepts both the verbal and physical embrace of my friends. It’s the wisdom of saying their names out loud and repeating stories of their goodness. It’s the wisdom to light a candle for them in the morning and intentionally remember rather than practice stoic  resistance. It’s the wisdom of uttering brief prayers of gratitude for the gifts they were to our lives.

The courage for living these days feels more related to reality than to heroism. There is a courage that knows you will survive, even if you think you won’t. Courage requires going ahead and doing the things of the season. Courage asks you to sit with the grief. Sometimes courage asks politely and sometimes not. Courage demands enduring the pain.

Michael Coffey wrote a poetic vision of God with her sacred garments touching all manner of human events including grief. This character surveys it all and says, “It’s a good day to be God.” I take it to mean that God is busy with all in the world trying to make it better, using us as instruments of love and comfort for each other as well as others outside Highland. I take it to mean that God is in the business of hope.