Reading the Bible with Mary Oliver, Vol. 5: Unstinting Happiness

It’s late summer, and although fall’s busyness is fast approaching, I refuse to let go of summer’s grace-filled happiness.

READ Psalm 84:1, 3-5, 10, 12
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars,
O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

CONSIDER. In God’s embrace, we have a home. It’s a lovely home. It feels like a sandy summer rental, miles away from our everyday laundry pilling up, cups on the coffee table, grocery list, cat hair chair, lost cell charger, overdo for a vacuum, home. It’s safe. It’s casual and unassuming. There is no desk, and nothing to do there, but be. Nothing is expected, but trust.

What do the totems of summer have to teach us about year-round, unstinting happiness in God’s presence?

Summer’s slipping away, but God’s presence surrounds.

MARY OLIVER. Excerpt from “Roses, Late Summer”
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn’t mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

CLOSING PRAYER. If you want. Fill in the … with your own prayers.
God of late afternoon showers,
cleansing sunlight,
and long weekends,
pull me, body and spirit, to the moment I felt most cared for this summer…
Soften my mind in the sun
and let me turn these worries over to you…
Wash me with the cloudless sky…
Relax my fears, my ambition…
And, relieve my frustrated desires
for anything more
than this moment’s happiness
in your presence.


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