In June, I learned of the death of a friend and mentor, the Rev. Nicolette Papanek. Nicolette taught me much about how to appreciate God and God’s creation. She was a quilter, both with fabrics and words. She had a gift for weaving disparate patches of cloth and ideas into a unified vision that brought forth art and light.
The last time I saw Nicolette, she gave me a book Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time by Dorothy C. Bass. After learning of Nicolette’s death, I decided that book would serve as the guide for my time on sabbatical this summer. I’ll lead a discussion on it during the Wednesday evenings of Advent. It’s a book about discovering ways to bring the spirit of Sabbath into our frantic lives by learning to receive each day as a gift.
Over the summer, ‘receive the day’ became my mantra. During our travels, it helped me let go of worry over travel logistics and simply try to relish each moment of encountering new people and landscapes in different surroundings. The book invited me to see time as something to savor rather than rush through to get to the next thing. Dorothy Bass tells the story of a mother who greeted her children when they got home not with ‘How was your day?’ but with ‘Where did you meet God today?’
She also writes, ‘The important thing is to discover in the freedom of this day a place to allow our love of the earth to be rekindled: to notice its beauty, to enjoy its colors, shapes, and smells, and to experience how our bodies move among its waters, rocks, and breezes.’ My friend Nicolette knew how to do this well and taught me and others this different way of living. A mutual friend shared a prayer that Nicolette wrote while on retreat at a mountain cabin in Colorado:
‘Almighty God, maker of mountain, pine, and rock; Breath-Giver to deer, bird, and human, open our hearts to every sentient creature, stone, sand, tree, leaf, and needle. Prepare us for your still small voice heard in the land you have hallowed. Increase our love for the mystery of your creation, that we may honor your glory in all that surrounds us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’