Fully Alive, On Purpose

There is an old Jewish prayer that comes from the Talmud that I have grown to love. It’s a prayer that is reserved for very special days, especially a day one has been looking forward to for a long time. It goes like this:

Blessed art Thou, O Lord,
King of the Universe,
Who has kept us in life
Preserved us from death,
And has allowed us to reach this moment.

What a beautiful thought, what a beautiful prayer. But I think it’s one that should be prayed much more frequently, even every day. For life is a gift, a wonderful gift, that should never be taken for granted. This moment, this very moment, will soon be past and will never return. What you do with this moment matters.

I love this prayer too, from the Amplified Bible: And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight, so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value, recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences. Philippians 1:9-10

Being fully alive means living each moment to its fullest, valuing what has value, and ignoring what doesn’t. I’ve recently discovered a new author I love, Wendell Berry. I read this just tonight in Hannah Coulter. These words leapt from the page.

You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come.

You look around presently, and it is summer. It has been dry for a while, maybe, and now it has rained. The world is so full and abundant it is like a pregnant woman carrying a child in one arm and leading another by the hand. Every puddle in the lane is ringed with sipping butterflies that fly up in a flutter when you walk past in the late morning on your way to get the mail.

And then it is fall and the cornfields are ripe and the calves are fat and shiny and the wooded valley sides are beautiful with color. The sun is bright, the air clear, and the shadows dark. There is the feeling of completion and storing up and getting ready.

You have consented to time and it is winter. The country seems bigger, for you can see through the bare trees. There are times when the woods is absolutely still and quiet. The house holds warmth. A wet snow comes in the night and covers the ground and clings to the trees, making the whole world white. For a while in the morning the world is perfect and beautiful. You think you will never forget.

You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can’t remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind.

And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.

  • http://www.xanga.com/ozarksfarmgirl ozarksfarmgirl

    Life surely IS a gift, and it’s good to be reminded of this truth, for we sometimes forget when we get so busy living. I, too, am reading Hannah Coulter. It’s almost eerie for me to read it…her life is, in many ways, my life. The way she and Nathan feel about "their place," the way they work together, the way she enjoys nature and hersurroundings…it’s spooky. The author’s languageis beautiful…but almost sad for me because it IS so much like my life.

  • http://www.xanga.com/SavedByGrace65 SavedByGrace65

    I agree, this is a prayer we should be repeating everday.

  • http://www.xanga.com/susie91793 susie91793

    Thanks for posting those prayers. Thankdfor what you share with us. Blessings, "Susie"

  • http://www.xanga.com/libzsonshine libzsonshine

    I loved the quote from your book. This is one reason I love my job…traveling in the country watching the seasons change. There are times when the changes are so drastic it seems my landmarks have changed and I ask myself, "did I miss my turn?" Only to realize, no…the crops are harvested or the corn is so tall or the snow so white, etc. I love seeing the seasons change! I try really hard to live for the moment. When I read your prayer I heard in Susan Marcus’ voice! I too remember thinking that it was a beautiful prayer! One that needs to be embroidered and put in a prominent place in one’s home! God bless!

  • http://www.xanga.com/cyndymac cyndymac

    So very good! Every moment is a gift. Your excerpt from Hannah Coulter is so true. There have been times when experiencing moments of awesome wonder, that I have actually prayed to God to "never let me forget this". And I can remember them, but can never feel that thing that was felt "in that moment". On a side note: I’m thankful that I live in a placewhere I get to experience four seasons!

  • http://www.xanga.com/eloc_nosnarb eloc_nosnarb

    That’s what I told my husband just the night before last! I want to go to Hawaii and he wants to save our money . . . how does one reconcile living in the moment AND being wise about the future? I guess I’ll answer my own question. I guess I just need to live in the moment no matter where I am, huh.

  • http://www.xanga.com/angiewashington angiewashington

    Lovely. I think that prayer is beautiful. I like what you said: what you do with this moment matters. "The world is so full and abundant it is like a pregnant woman carrying a child in one arm and leading another by the hand." This line rang true for me.

  • http://www.xanga.com/vienna_waits90 vienna_waits90

    Life always seems like it will go on forever. I’m 16, but I’m starting college on Monday. I’m realizing that I’m an adult now. I’m looking back on my life so far, and comparing it to what I thought it would be, and wondering if my future is going to be anything like I expect it to be. I have so many hopes and dreams, and I think that makes it easy to take life for granted- being so caught up in what you want to be, that you forget to be thankful for what has been, and more important, what is . Your post reminded me of a quote from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which is in desperate need of re-reading by moi ): ’Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life… And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one piece of living is ever lost.’

  • http://www.xanga.com/cotaroba cotaroba

    This reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies: "When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

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