Tuesday — Yes, we live in a disquieting world.
And this week, in our Daily Dose, we come face to face with our propensity to worry and wonder about whether (if, or how) we can make any difference.
I confess than I have found that this question (“Does what I do even make a difference?”) messes with me only when I assume that something is missing from my life. Or that I need to prove something to someone.
In those moments, I’ll turn on the coffee pot, and remember Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wisdom that “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”
I do continue to marvel at our need (temptation? requirement?) to mentally categorize (or put in a box), the inexplicable.
So. Let us begin here… (with my favorite verse in the gospels, two words: Jesus wept.)
Let us allow our hearts to hurt or feel the pain, shall we?
It should hurt.
It reminds us than our heart still works, and it lets us know (gratefully) that the pain is a reminder that we are connected as humans. We are indeed brothers and sisters, children of God. And we hurt whenever dignity and humanity is attacked and shattered.
Which brings us back to our Sabbath Moment theme this week: the power of presence. It brings to mind a quote from 9-11. During the days immediately following, first responders rested and were fed in St. Paul’s Chapel. In St. Paul’s one reporter overheard a firefighter say, “When I come in that door, I’m covered with blood sometimes, and they hug me. They love me, they take care of me, they treat me as a real human being. And then they feed me, and they massage me, and they give me adjustments. These are my people. This is my place. This is where I come to be with God.”
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Thank you, Henri Nouwen.
My TV comfort food these days is usually a BBC series. This week, Murder in Provence. This from last night, “It’s weird isn’t it, how life can be absolutely appalling and actually not bad at all, all on the same day. Love and death banged right up against each other. Thank God for the love.”
Wednesday — “Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.” (This soul gift from Pope Francis on World Communication Day, 8th May 2016.)
I say amen… and yet, still get tripped up if I continue to see listening (presence) primarily as a skill to master. Assuming I will fall short. And missing the point. Presence (listening) is already a gift that exists, inside of me, and it is what spills when I am unafraid to be at home in my own skin, even with a sore heart. (Here’s a thought for Lent, let’s give up the need to impress or jump hoops for laurels. Let’s just be. Present. You see, presence does not distinguish. Or judge. Presence just is.)
Henri Nouwen’s take: “Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”
Or, in the words of a four-year-old to his mother, “Momma, momma listen to me; but this time with your eyes.”
Now we’re talking. Listening and presence is about the permission to be here. Now.
Yes… we’re back to the sacrament of the present moment.
Today, I read this from Thich Nhat Hanh (in his book Peace is Every Step). “The practice of the Eucharist is a practice of awareness. When Jesus broke the bread and shared it with his disciples, he said, ‘Eat this. This is my flesh.’ He knew that if his disciples would eat one piece of bread in mindfulness, they would have real life. In their daily lives, they may have eaten their bread in forgetfulness, so the bread was not bread at all; it was a ghost. In our daily lives, we may see the people around us, but if we lack mindfulness, they are just phantoms, not real people and we ourselves are also ghosts. Practicing mindfulness enables us to become a real person. When we are a real person, we see real people around us, and life is present in all its richness. The practice of eating bread is the same. When we breathe, when we are mindful, when we look deeply at our food, life becomes real at that very moment. To me, the rite of the Eucharist is a wonderful practice of mindfulness. In a drastic way, Jesus tried to wake up his disciples.”
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hated, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may no so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi
Thursday — Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
(A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)
We need one another.
More than ever.
No one is on this journey alone.
We need (and we can be) sanctuaries of listening, presence, grace and redemption.
Speaking of Pooh and Piglet… one of my favorites…
It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”
Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.”
And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There.
No more; no less.
The gifts of being there… Thanks for the light you spill my friends…
Friday — More than ever, we need the gift of presence.
But here’s the deal: presence is not a skill set. Presence is what spills from one who is unafraid to be at home in their own skin, even with a sore heart. Or at the very least, one who has given up the need to impress or jump hoops for laurels.
You see, presence does not distinguish.
Presence just is.
My grandmother—Southern Baptist born and bred—didn’t cotton to folks in her church who played the judgmental-eternal-damnation-card just to feel good about themselves, or for the sake of proving a point. She understood that in her church’s “theology,” there were many kinds of people “on the outside.” (Truth be told, in her church, “most” people were “on the outside.”) But my grandmother lived by an overriding imperative: “Anybody is welcome at my dinner table, no questions asked, no matter what.”
My grandmother understood the power of presence.
In the latter years of her life, in the back yard of her home in northern Florida, my grandmother had a porch swing. She liked to sit, and swing, and hum old church hymns, like Rock of Ages Cleft for Me. I can still see her there, wearing a white scarf over her head, a concession to chemotherapy’s unrelenting march. When I visited her, as a young adult, she would always ask me to sit with her on the swing, for a spell. She would pat my leg, and she called me “darlin’.”
As long as my grandmother lived—and in spite of her pain—there was always a place for me on the swing. If I were asked to explain Grace, I would paint the picture of my grandmother’s swing. There, I never had to deliberate or explain or worry regardless of the weight I carried. The swing–my grandmother’s presence–existed without conditions.
And I am here today, because of that swing.
I’ve told the story of my grandmother’s swing many times before, but I love re-telling it. I was reminded of it yesterday, reading emails from readers about the power of presence (our topic for this week)—and stories about people in their lives who lit a candle, offered a cup of coffee, made space on the swing.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Thank you Leo F.Buscaglia.
Speaking of which… yesterday, International Women’s Day. A shout out to my Grandmother. And to all the women who (gratefully) keep our world sane and safe.
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.
Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue