“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”
— J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (Thorin Oakenshield addressing Bilbo Baggins)
It’s a safe bet my toes and your toes have never been subjected to a blessing. But I like the idea of being blest starting from the bottom up, encompassing my most humble and homely parts first.
The world would be a better place if we rediscovered the art of bestowing blessings–those specific prayers of favor and protection that reinforce community and connection to each other and to something larger than ourselves. They have become passé in a modern society where God’s relationship with and blessing of His people is not much more than an after-thought. Benedictions can extend beyond the end of worship services to all tender partings; wedding receptions can go beyond roasting and toasting to encompass sincere prayers for a future life together.
But let’s start at the very beginning: let’s bless our hairy toes.
That is a very good place to start…
“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”
— Flannery O’Connor
May you always have…
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire
May those who love us, love us;
and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping.
Traditional Irish Blessing
Ask any Christian you know that has spent time dwelling upon it: the Incarnation is magical as a fairy-tale… It is the wondrous event at the heart of everything, and yes, we mean everything. It is a thing wonderful to behold and to ponder. I get all misty-eyed when I think about it, and for good reason, for in it, we glimpse the mysterious ways of God Himself, saving and surprising us despite ourselves, drawing us ever closer to the deepness of a love vast as the cosmos.
~John Caswell from “Concerning Tolkien’s Faith –Incarnation as Eucastastrophe”
The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love;
the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.
~G.K. Chesterton from Orthodoxy
He came to us, not because of the gladness of our earthly existence, then or now. We are falling apart, and only He is the glue.
He came to us then, He comes to us now because of our unquenchable need and our unbearable sadness. We are loved that much.
When we are done with earthly things, there will be nothing but gladness — no longer will clouds obscure His glory.
I enjoyed watching these boys sing this old hymn
As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So most gracious God may we
Evermore be led by Thee
As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him whom heav’n and earth adore
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat
As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare
So may we with holy joy
Pure and free from sin’s alloy
All our costliest treasures bring
Christ to Thee, our heav’nly King
Holy Jesus ev’ry day
Keep us in the narrow way
And when earthly things are past
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide
Where no clouds Thy glory hide
~As With Gladness Men of Old
“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
In our despairing moments, we recollect and hold on to memories most precious to us, recalling what makes each moment, indeed life itself, special and worthwhile. It can be something so seemingly simple that becomes the most cherished and retrievable–the aroma of cinnamon in a warm kitchen, the splash of colors in a carefully tended garden spot, the cooing of mourning doves as light begins to dawn, the velvety soft of a newborn foal’s fur, the embrace of welcoming arms.
Today, as our family once again heads to two cemeteries to honor our dead, it is those simple things we will recall and treasure, pass on in stories, and never leave buried in the ground. The legacy of these memories lives and thrives in the next and then the next generation, to be told and retold, not to rest, eventually to be forgotten, under a marker.
Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? Do you remember?