Shalem Timer
Categories & Formats

Miracle, Light and Considerable Magic

Article by by Carrie Newcomer – August 2019 eNews

“Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?” (Mark 8:12)

Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I know when the world feels anything less than miraculous to me, I’m probably not paying attention. The group of people Jesus was talking to in this gospel story wanted hard evidence of the sacred presence—a flashy, parting-of-the-Red-Sea verification. Jesus responded with a question inviting them—and us—to reframe what it means to see and experience the living presence. He invited them to think of a miracle as more than a statement punctuated with a period, but rather as part of an ongoing spiritual conversation including many heart-opening questions. How and where does the sacred presence move in our daily lives and world? If I experience a sacred presence within me and all around me, how then shall I live with this knowledge?

As a spiritual songwriter, I often wonder and write about experiencing the mysterious indwelling of the Sacred—in Quakerism referred to as “that of God in everyone” or “The Light”—in ordinary things and daily experiences. Consistently, when I am open to a daily relationship with wonder, wonder usually shows up, or more likely, I finally see what has always been there. I live in southern Indiana, about where the glaciers of the last ice age stopped. It is a rolling green area with deep ravines and lovely deciduous forests. It is also the home to an unusual abundance of a particular kind of stone called the geode. On the outside, geodes look like lumpy grey-brown rocks, but inside they are filled with beautiful quartz crystals. There is a creek that runs through the woods where I live, and it is filled with these amazing rocks. In Monroe County, Indiana, geodes are as common as corn, and yet each one is a wonder. I have a friend from New York that came out to visit me in the wilds of the Midwest. I took her for a walk thinking that we would pick up a few geodes in that creek. She kept looking around saying, “I don’t see them. Where are they?” Finally I picked up one, and showed it to her. I said, “See, they look like lumpy, brown brains on the outside?” Then she stopped and looked around and said, “Oh, my gosh, they’re everywhere, they are absolutely everywhere.” Now that she had seen the miracle, she could not unsee it.

All these things that we call familiar,
Are just miracles clothed in the commonplace
You’ll see it if you try in the next stranger’s eyes,
God walks around in muddy boots,
Sometimes rags and that’s the truth,
You can’t always tell, but sometimes you just know.

(From “Geodes” by Carrie Newcomer)

When I began sensing the Light in even ordinary things, it changed how I experienced the world, reframing it in a way that counteracted our cultural narrative of lack and replaced it with a wondrous sense of abundance, gratitude and responsibility. I remember taking my daughter to the Monet room at the Art Institute of Chicago when she was five years old. I had shown her postcards of his haystack paintings, explaining that this artist loved the way things looked and felt in different kinds of light and that he used tiny dabs of color to recreate the feelings he loved so much. When we entered the room she stood transfixed, then she ran up to the haystack painting and stood so close to the image that it dissolved into individual strokes. She said, “It’s gone. It’s just little dots.” Then she walked slowly backwards until she was standing next to me, viewing the painting again as a whole. She took my hand and breathed, “There it is. I see it and it’s totally made of magic.” I said, “Yes, honey, that’s how it all works.”

The world is made of water and dust, ordinary physical things, but all of them are filled with miracle, Light and considerable magic. When I see the world with this frame, small things take on a luminous quality and daily actions become a sacrament. There is no need to wait for a miracle as proof—the miracle is already here.

Holy is the dish and drain,
The soap and sink and the cup and plate
And warm wool socks, and the cold white tile,
Showerheads and good dry towels

And frying eggs sound like psalms
With a bit of salt measured in my palm,
It’s all a part of a sacrament,
As holy as the day is spent.

Holy is the busy street
And the cars that boom with a passioned beat,
And the checkout girl counting change,
And the hands that shook my hands today.
Hymns of geese fly overhead
And stretch their wings like their parents did
Blessed be the dog that runs in her sleep,
The chase some wild and elusive thing.

Holy is a familiar room
And the quiet moments in the afternoon.
And folding sheets like folding hands,
To pray as only laundry can.
I’m letting go of all I fear,
Like autumn leaves of earth and air.
For summer came and summer went,
As holy as a day is spent.

Holy is the place I stand,
To give whatever small good I can,
And the empty page, the open book,
Redemption everywhere I look.
Unknowingly we slow our pace,
In the shade of unexpected grace,
With grateful smiles and sad lament
As holy as a day is spent.

And morning light sings “Providence”
As holy as a day is spent.

(From “Holy As the Day is Spent” by Carrie Newcomer)

From Carrie Newcomer, The Beautiful Not Yet: Poems, Essays and Lyrics. Light Publishing, 2016. Used with permission.

1
Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Anita Davidson Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Anita Davidson
Guest
Anita Davidson

And THIS is why Carrie is being honored with the Contemplative Voices Award. She has articulated in words and expressed in music the depths of the holy in the ordinary. I depend on her wisdom to ignite my own when words fail me. Thank you, Carrie.