Grace Notes in the Desert

Grace Notes in the Desert is written for the saints of Rio Grande Presbyterian Church and the surrounding community.

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Grace Notes acknowledges we need God's grace and forgivness as much as the desert water.


Christmas Reflections for the New Year

During these twelve days of Christmas, which end on Epiphany, January 6, I offer these bright words of Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky--some of which were quoted at Rio Grande's Christmas Eve Service. I share them with you who long for 'something more' taken from one of his greatest works, The Brothers Karamazov:

"Mitya had a strange dream, utterly out of keeping with the place and with the time.

He was driving somewhere in the mountains, where he had been stationed long ago, and a peasant was driving him in a cart with a pair of horses, through snow and sleet. He was cold, it was early in November, and the snow was falling in big wet flakes, melting as soon as it touched the earth.

...Not far off was a vilage, he could see the black huts, and half the huts were burned down... And as they drove in, there were peasant women drawn up along the road, a lot of women, a whole row, all thin and wan, with their faces a sort of brownish colour, especially one at the edge, a tall, bony woman, who looked forty, but might have been only twenty, with a long thin face.

In her arms was a little baby crying...The child cried and cried, and held out its little bare arms, with its little fists blue from cold.

"Why are they crying? Why are they crying?" Mitya asked, as they dashed gaily by.

"It's the babe," answered the driver, "the babe weeping."

And Mitya was struck by the saying, "the babe"...

"But why is it weeping?" Mitya persisted stupidly, "why are its little arms bare? Why don't they wrap it up?"

"The babe's cold, its little clothes are frozen and don't warm it."

"But why is it? Why?", foolish Mitay still persisted.

"Why, they're poor people, burnt out. They've no bread. They're begging because they've been burnt out."

"No, no," Mitya, as it were, still did not understand. "Tell me why it is these poor mothers stand there? Why are people poor? Why is the babe poor? Why is the mountain barren? Why don't they hug each other and kiss? Why don't they sing songs of joy? Why are they so dark from black misery?

Why don't they feed the babe?"

And he felt that, though his questions were unreasonable and senseless, yet he wanted to ask just that, and he had to ask it just that way. And he felt a passion of pity, such that he had never known before, was rising in his heart, and he wanted to cry, and he wanted to do something for them all, so that the babe would not weep anymore, so that the dark-faced mother should not weep, that no one should shed tears again from that moment, and he wanted to do it at once, at once, regardless of the obstacles, with all the recklessness of the Karamazovs."


A Saint's Life

"It was a late Easter, the days were bright, fine, and full of fragrance. I remember how (my brother) used to cough all night, and sleep badly, but in the morning he dressed and tried to sit up in an arm-chair. That's how I remember him, sitting, sweet and gentle, smiling, his face bright and joyous, in spite of his illness.

A marvelous change passed over him, his spirit seemed transformed...My mother would go to her room and weep, but when she went in to him she wiped her eyes and looked cheerful. "Mother, don't weep, darling...Don't cry, is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won't see it, if we would, we should have heaven on earth the next day.

Every one wondered at his words, he spoke so strangely and positively; we were all touched and wept. Friends came to see us. "Dear ones," he would say to them, "what have I done that you should love me so, how can you love any one like me, and how was it I did not know,I did not appreciate it before?"

When the servants came in to him he would say continually, "Dear, kind people, why are you doing so much for me, do I deserve to be waited on? If it were God's will for me to live, I should wait on you, for all (people) should wait on one another."

Mother shook her head as she listened. "My darling, it's your illness makes you talk like that."

"Mother, darling," he would say... "every one of us has sinned against all (people), and I more than any."

..."Why, how could you have sinned against all people, more than all? Robbers and murderers have done that, but what sin have you committed that you hold yourself more guilty than all?"

"Mother, little heart of mine," he said (he had begun using such strange carressing words at the time), "little heart of mine, my joy, believe me, every one is really responsible to all people, for all people and for everything. I don't know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on then living, getting angry, and not knowing?.."

The windows of his room looked out into the garden, and our garden was a shady one, with old trees in it which were coming into bud. The first birds of spring were flitting in the branches, chirping and singing at the windows.

And looking at them and admiring them, he bagan suddenly begging their forgiveness too, "Birds of heaven, happy birds, forgive me for I have sinned against you too." None of us understood that at the time, but he shed tears of joy. "Yes," he said, "there was such glory of God all about me; birds, trees, meadows, the sky, only I lived in shame and dishonored it all and did not notice the beauty and the glory..."

There was a great deal more I don't remember. I remember I went once into his room when there was no on else there. It was a bright evening, the sun was setting, and the whole room was lit up. He beckoned me, and I went up to him. He put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my face tenderly, lovingly; he said nothing for a minute, only looked at me like that.

"Well," he said, "run and play now, enjoy life for me too."

I went out and ran and played. And many times in my life afterwards I remembered even with tears how he told me to enjoy life for him too. There were many other marvelous and beautiful sayings of his, though we did not understand them at the time. He died the third week after Easter."

--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov