The sky was the kind of brilliant blue you only see in fabulous nature magazines, and all the leaves were fallen and brown, leaving the trees empty and waiting for winter. Around us, somewhere in the neighborhood, we could hear the relentless sound of a leaf blower. We have neighbors who are extremely particular about their lawns, and leaf blowers in the fall and lawn mowers in the grass growing season are very familiar sounds.
Except this time the leaf blower noise was getting closer and closer. Generally we have it down…we can tell when it's the neighbors next door, across the street, a couple houses away etc. But this was definitely different. "Look!" My husband suddenly exclaimed. "It's a guy blowing leaves in our back yard!" Now this was a first, and much needed as we sure had a yard full of leaves.
John has an electric leaf blower but hardly has time to use it.
So, who was this guy and why was he doing us the kindness of blowing the leaves out of our yard? He was extremely diligent, starting on the side, chasing the leaves along the way, out of the large dried daylily bed and ridding them all from the herb garden. When he got to the lower part of the back yard, I told my husband, "You've got to go out there, find out who he is and thank him!" He didn't have any rinky dink kind of leaf blower, either. It was gasoline powered and he had it strapped to his back. Rarely did the man look up, but concentrated on getting every single leaf out of our yard.
Pretty soon I was in the upstairs bathroom window watching John approach the leaf blower man gingerly so as not to startle him. Oh! It was a neighbor! He stopped his machine long enough to receive John's heartfelt thanks and to explain quite seriously, "Well, I needed to pray. And this is one of the ways I do it best". After nodding to John, he started up his machine and went back at it until he was done. He wouldn't accept anything in return for what ended up to be an entire afternoon of work….and prayer. Wow!
It's late in December and the snow is covering everything outside, but still those words continue to stay with me. "I needed to pray…and this is one of the ways I do it best." Think of it. "Praying best" by doing it while working, doing a nice thing for someone. Actually, everything about it makes complete sense. Deep contemplative prayer is best done while the rest of you is occupied with doing something else, or you'll find your mind wandering into other territory than what you're wanting to meditate on or talk with God about. And to combine the praying with doing something for someone else, now that's a triple blessing: you're praying, you feel good that you're doing something nice for someone, and the recipient(s) feel gratefully delighted!
As I've continued to think about this simple but profound notion since that gorgeous fall day, I've found small ways to incorporate this concept into my everyday life. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and I have found it to be a way which not only blesses others but brings peace into my life. It will make you feel that the work of your hands which God has given you to do is something sacred. Bingo! We are called to lead a holy life and this brings us out of the mundane into the observation and peacefulness of things we'd otherwise ignore and involve our mind in worry or other similar things.
More importantly, it gives us multitudes of ways to pray for others in the time we never knew we had! How to do this? Some of the ways I weave this kind of prayer into my life are to pray for the car in front of me (especially at stop lights), to pray for the people in the houses I drive by, to pray for all the people in our church whenever I'm looking at it or doing "ordinary" tasks inside it, to ask God to bring people to my mind to pray for when I'm cleaning, and many other ways I won't share or I'll be disclosing secret kindnesses as well as perhaps keeping you from creating and designing your own methods. Friends, this is a simple pathway to happiness and contentment. In keeping our mind on higher things, in doing small things for others, we are not only happier and more peaceful, but also doing some of the work of God.
Every day is a new beginning, every moment brings us a new start. Although I'm not ready to get a gas powered leaf blower, I'll never forget the wonderful lesson I learned that day. Why not begin to engage in this way of praying for others, as well as continuing an ongoing conversation with God? I promise you you'll be mightily blessed! Happy New Year Every Day!