Tuesday — “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Thank you Albert Schweitzer.
Let me rephrase… living from our heart with empathy, kindness and compassion becomes a luxury when the weight of hurry and the deluge of distraction become our norm. Hurry (you know, a world where we are rushed) changes us. And not necessarily for the better.
But we already knew that didn’t we?
And whenever we can walk past one another, we forget that we belong to one another, and we lose our way.
We see only what we want to see.
And we live afraid.
So, this week, we will look for ways (and stories) to say NO to the rush, the hurry, the deluge.
I wish I could give you a secret. But there isn’t one.
But I do know this… awareness (or presence or intention or empathy or care or living in the moment) begins with “getting out of our own way.” We’re so intent on improving or impressing or producing, we hurry past every moment. And in the hurry itself resides the obstacle to love, freedom and delight.
Like the little boy who said to his momma. “Momma… Listen to me, but this time, with your eyes.”
A family went out to restaurant for lunch. The waitress arrives, “What’ll you’ll have?” The husband gives his order, and then says, “And the wife will have…”
The waitress turns to the five-year-old daughter, “And sugar, what’ll you have?”
With a smile the little girl pipes up, “I’ll have a hot dog.”
“Oh no she won’t,” interjects the dad. Turning to the waitress he says, “She’ll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes and milk.”
The waitress looks at the dad, and then looking at the child with a smile, she asks, “So, hon, what do you’ll want on that hot dog?” As the waitress leaves, the father sits stunned and silent.
A few moments later the little girl, eyes still shining, says loudly, “Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad… that lady thinks I’m real.”
Rekindling the spark indeed…
Today, remember to tell someone, “I see you. Thank you for being in my life. You make a difference.”
Wednesday — Empathy (our capacity to rekindle a spark) is not about what is missing in some and alive in others. This is about what can be too easily buried in us all. The light that shines in each of us, including the man slumped in the doorway. However, we can be essentially cut off from our own heart.
Or in the words of the song we sang as children, “This little light of mine, I’m going let it shine. Put it under a bushel… No…”
In our world, where hurry and speed are the norm, and fleeting attention the product, that too easily becomes the bushel over the light.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Thank you Albert Schweitzer.
“It’s easy enough to see why so many people seem to be losing heart,” Jon Katz writes. “Watching the news, I feel confused and powerless and sometimes, angry. The forces against what I perceive as good sometimes seem to be growing stronger by the day – greed, consumerism, racism, militarism, the corporate monster running lose, the fight for individualism. This was precisely the challenge St. Francis faced hundreds of years ago, in a time much darker than ours. He had to figure out his true self, what it meant to live a life that was generous and meaningful. He learned that the antidote to confusion, division and paralysis was a return to simplicity, one step at a time, one person at a time, one good thing at a time, the right-in-front-of-you idea of searching for the light and living with the darkness. His genius was that he saw what was hidden in plain sight. It was so simple it is almost impossible to see. The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will ever hear, he wrote. ‘We have been called to heal wounds,’ Francis wrote, ‘to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.’”
There is a lot of talk today about “radical” politics on both sides. The word raises eyebrows and ire. And creates social media prattle.
But did you know that radical comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root”? In other words, to be “radical” is to cut to the root of the issue, to deal with causes, not just symptoms.
So. Back to St. Francis. He lived with the very radical idea to choose weakness instead of strength, vulnerability instead of righteousness, truth instead of practicality, honesty instead of influence. And to slow down long enough to see the world and the person right in front of him.
We cannot change the world except as we have changed ourselves.
We can only give who we are and what we are.
We can’t just pray, we must be the prayer.
There are so many wonderful small ways to rekindle empathy and spill the light.
So, let’s be on the lookout this week. For places where we will not allow someone (even if that is our self) to fall through the cracks of inattention or distrust or hatred.
I hope some were lucky enough to see the Strawberry Moon (the name historically used by Native American Algonquin tribes to mark the June ripening of strawberries ready to be gathered).
Thursday — When the weight of hurry and the deluge of distraction becomes our norm, living from our heart with empathy, kindness and compassion becomes a luxury. Hurry (a world where we are rushed) changes us. And not necessarily for the better.
Here’s what matters: Whenever we forget that we belong to one another, we lose our way. And rushing, we see only what we want to see. No wonder we live anxious.
This isn’t new. Life squeezes every one of us. I overheard a young woman—no older than 20—say to a friend, “I’m exhausted, behind on everything and stressed about everything. I just need to get a handle on it all!” Lord have mercy! As if our stress isn’t enough, we do our best to solve the problem by juggling all the disparate “balls in the air,” in order to find some resolution.
My own preference for resolution? I like to compartmentalize. “I just need to get through this stressed time,” I tell myself. “You know, for afterward, when I can slow down, and catch up, and live my ‘real life.’”
I’m smiling wondering how many events we have planned, looked forward to, only to have them come and go, only to wonder where they went…
As if there is a receptacle in the galaxy for missed experiences.
I’m honored to be a guest speaker for groups of people—ministries, church, educators, health care workers—all of whom spill needed light in our world. And, not surprising, these are men and women whose plates are downright full. And, more than likely, many feel guilty for not doing enough. (We’re good at giving ourselves grief.) Can you relate?
So. Let’s begin here: we’re invited to pause. To be here now. How? It helps when we know that awareness (being present, practicing intention, living in the moment) begins with “getting out of our own way.” You see, when we’re so intent on improving or impressing or producing, we hurry (rush) past every moment. And in the hurry resides the obstacle to empathy, focus, love, freedom, wonder and delight.
On Monday we told the experiment of the students who stopped to help a man slumped in the doorway, encouraged precisely because they were not in a hurry.
In other words… All of our efforts at coercing (or forcing) spiritual growth or ministry or mission or compassion will be, ultimately, ill fated. Which is, ironically, liberating. Awareness is not just about “effort.” It is about letting go of compulsion. And it begins by taking a Deep Breath. And slowing down… to see.
I love the story about the young American student traveling by train in Europe. He is forewarned about a rash of theft and the train’s policy to take no responsibility for any loss. Well, he had a lot of stuff (that’s what makes us American after all). So, he worries. And stays awake, watching, staring at his stuff. Until the inevitable and he falls asleep about 2 a.m. Twenty minutes later, he wakes with a start. And his stuff, is gone. “Thank God,” he says. “Now I can sleep.”
Friday — In a world where we need empathy—to help rekindle the spark and the light within each one of us (Albert Schweitzer)—it is not easy when weighted by stress, anxiety and the pressure of hurry.
So. Where do we go for sustenance?
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it,” Ashley Smith writes. “Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
Really? That’s your advice Terry?
I do want us to begin there.
And I do know this… when we stop (say No to) the noise, we make (allow) space to practice the sacrament of the present. I am here. To see. To listen. To touch. To give. To heal.
I received a call about a job. Would I be willing to give a motivational talk to a group of professionals? The woman explained, “Our people are very busy. Their life can be crazy. They juggle and multi-task. So, your pause message sounds just right,” she tells me.
“Thank you,” I tell her.
“But,” she asks (and this is always the caveat), “How do we actually practice it? The pause part?”
That is the issue, though, isn’t it? Life tilts and turns left when we least expect it. And we want someone to give us the answers. Someone to balance it all.
We want someone to give us the “how.”
And, on a day when we expect inspiration, reassurance and motivation, we are told that it is enough to take delight in the play and laughter—the noise—of children, the gift of a smile or hug (or both), the wind through the trees, the camaraderie of geese.
Excuse me? Am I hearing you correctly?
We live intentionally (and fully alive) from a place of groundedness and internal peace. This is not a technique. There is no list. But if we demand one, chances are, we pass life by—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, wondrous delightful, untidy—on our way to some place we think we ought to be.
There is meaning—consequence, value, and import—only when what we believe or practice touches this moment. In other words, it’s the small stuff that does really matter. Belief is all well and good. But there has to be skin on it—something we touch, see, hear, taste and smell.
So. Today, let us practice the sacrament of the blessed present.
Before we decipher life, let us see life.
Before we wish for another life, let us feel this life.
Before we give in to “if only”, let us hear this moment.
Before we succumb to “someday”, let us inhale this day.
Before we trade in this life, for the life we should have, let us taste this life.
We make the choice to be open, available, curious, willing to be surprised by joy.
To know there is power in the word “enough”.
We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship. Meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace, a place to include, invite mercy, encourage, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, restore, refuel.
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
To live content with small means,
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion,
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich,
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasions, hurry never,
in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common, this is to be my symphony.
William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)