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The doorbell rings.

Behind the screen door stands my plumber Rob, the beak of his cap shielding the morning sun from his eyes. I smile, knowing I am in good hands, skillful and sinewy. For years he has kept my kitchen and bathroom in good repair. More significant than his skill, though, are his cheerful manner, his willingness to address any problem, and solutions are found within the drawers of his battered toolbox or the compartments of his van. Unlike other plumbers I have had, he also wipes up watery streaked floors with paper towels that he carries with him, then disposes them.

On a deeper level, I view Rob’s lifelong profession from a spiritual perspective. Instead of wearing a suit and tie to work, he pulls on clean jeans, a red T-shirt, canvas shoes, this morning’s attire. Instead of scrutinizing proposals in boardrooms, he studies clogged sinks, leaking faucets. Instead of lunching at gourmet restaurants, he snacks in his truck, in between customers. Instead of ordering state-of-the-art adornments, he replaces worn fixtures or makes others serviceable. Such humble work has etched Rob’s servant-character, not unlike Jesus, beautiful to behold.

On an even deeper level, I liken Rob’s knack of cleaning up stinking messes and restoring water flow with Spirit’s action in human hearts, gone amuck with disorders. The process can be complicated, costly, even exhausting, but with the restoration of the flow of grace/water, exhilarating life returns in its myriad colors.

The Spirit-Plumber is still working on me.


“You’re doing so well, Mary Elizabeth. Just two more stitches,” the emergency room surgeon said as mother gripped my hand, diverting my attention to the ice skaters on the wall calendar hanging next to me. “I know this hurts but there’s no way I could give you an anesthetic for that cut on your shin—a nasty one.” Ten years old then, screaming heaved my entrails. In no way could I break free from the hungry alligators chewing on me, then spitting blood parts on the grass.

Such was my first experience with surgeons and harrowing pain. With each recurring insult over the years, the wounds and bones eventually healed and I resumed my life, but my body remembered and still does. A subsequent wariness seemed to harness my senses to skirt additional injury, and a growing compassion for others, so wounded, adhered to my spirit.

Through heart-prayer I also learned to reframe such experiences.The third Beatitude of Jesus of Nazareth was critical in this process: Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Its inclusion in the psalms and the prophets reiterates God’s critical interest in our lives, expecially when brought to our needs. In my perception, Jesus’s own satiation with loss informs this beatitude, a satiation far more horrific than ours. He, too, experienced the comforting, but not in the usual sense of the word: a comforting that opens the psyche to the ultimate of mysteries, the redemption itself. Within his suffering, ours makes sense.

Within this beatitude, Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted, I take solace with each day’s incremental loss advancing me toward my transition. When rough spots occur, I pray, “He knows.” This is working out …

It finally happened! Yesterday, two speckled white eggs filled the nest outside my study window; in their place today, bob three naked chicks patched with gray down, their yellow beaks splitting with hunger, awaiting insects caught by their cardinal father; their mother keeps guard on a lower branch of the viburnum shrub, the afternoon sun shadowing its green leaves. For the next two weeks, frequent feedings will feather out the chicks and enable them to eat parts of berries or seeds softened by their parents.

Similar drama is enacted all over the world, the replication of the Genesis story: On day five, God created every winged bird…blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life. It is precisely this unbroken chain of life that heartens the weary. Often when I used to walk in the nearby woods, a bird trill would seize my imagination and transport me to the wordless realm of the Sacred. A later blog told the story.

Never before this cardinal family appeared in my viburnum shrub, had I observed their instinctual caring, how it fosters fresh life with darting colors. It’s like Creator God orchestrated this event for up-close learning in my present circumstances—A more than timely lesson for me to assimilate.

And if Creator God set all this in motion what have we to fear?


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