Tuesday — I lived in my Vashon island home for about 20 years. And the garden took its time (something about the gardener’s procrastination, just sayin’), which meant that for a few years, behind my house was a large hole. More like a mud pit.
“It’s going to be a pond. You know, someday,” I would explain.
When people visited my garden, I directed traffic so that we enjoyed the charming areas, making sure that no one would notice the eyesore. On one visit, a young woman (unaware of proper protocol), broke from the pack, and stood at the abyss…
I went over to explain to her, how this will all one day be tidied up. And I see what she sees… now, from years of neglect, a hole filled with dandelions.
An amphitheater of dandelions. As if a five-gallon bucket of butter yellow paint were poured, creating a river to where the waterfall will begin, 140 feet away.
She stood mesmerized. “What a remarkably creative idea, to make a river and pond of dandelions. I never would have thought of that. It’s peaceful and beautiful! It’s genius! What ever made you think of it?”
“Oh,” I said (modestly), “It just came to me one day.”
Yes. What I saw as blight or indictment or shortcoming or deficiency or scarcity, she saw as genius.
Let life in…
And that is where spirituality and growth begins; with acceptance: “Look. I never noticed that before.”
In other words, I begin here. In this moment. I am not a pawn or victim or puppet. And in beginning here, I accept my imperfection–my brokenness, my divided and fractured being (what William James called my “torn-to-pieces-hood”). That here, even with the untidy parts, the untidy emotions, I can embrace the sacrament of the present moment… in this conversation, this conundrum, this moment of grace, this dandelioned pond, this serendipity, this relationship.
Scotoma (selective blindness) means we see only what we want to see. And we miss the holy in the ordinary. I’m grateful for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s reflection, “I feel only gratitude for my life, for every moment… Never once did I ask God for success, wisdom, power, or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me.”
So, this week…
Let life in… in the splendor.
Let life in… in the complications.
Let life in… in the gladness.
Let life in… in the disagreeable.
Let life in… in the broken.
Let life in… in the unfeigned moments.
Which may be… this moment. Or, as Jane Kenyon wrote, in her final days, “Trust God and be where you are.”
Wednesday — Once I outfitted a group of children with makeshift butterfly nets, and watching them skip over the meadow was even more delightful than watching fireflies sparkling above the grass in the dusks of July. In April, before the ball diamond uptown dries off, our softball team uses the biggest meadow as a practice field. My son and son-in-law also use it as a golf driving range. These values should go on the cottage farmer’s computer spreadsheet, but how?”
(From Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer)
We live in a world wired to tote an emotional “spreadsheet” about our well-being-value that bellows, Never Enough.
I guess it’s no wonder when we miss the gifts from simple moments of grace.
In one encounter with a teacher in India, Donald Hall asks him to define “contentment.”
“Absorbedness,” the teacher replies.
Now, I can’t find absorbedness in any dictionary. But here’s my best guess — “Let life in.”
It’s not a surprise that Jesus rocked the status quo when he told everyone that the kingdom of heaven is within. Now.
From never enough, to the sacrament of this present moment. The gift of enough.
An invitation to change the way we weigh and measure significance and value. And enough. About welcoming those small gifts wrapped in the ordinary.
Mornings at Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
Mary Oliver, Red Bird
So, it’s a paradigm shift which reminds me to ask different questions. Not “What did you do or accomplish?”
Rather, “What did you see or hear that made you smile real big?”
“What did your heart good today?”
Thursday — Our paradigm shift this week: from weighing and measuring, to awe and wonder. It’s about where we park our well-being and life’s value. The permission to be here now. To embrace (and savor) the gift of enough.
I mentioned the sacrament of the present moment at a retreat, and someone asked, “But what does it mean?”
“For starters, let’s not think of it as a belief,” I said. “It’s really an invitation. If the ordinary is indeed the hiding place for the holy; if this moment, even in its craziness or brokenness, is permeated with the sacred, we are invited and given the permission to fall in love with the idea of living.”
Daily pressures and conundrums and adversities do indeed weigh us down. And, they make us forget the gift. That’s when we need a time out. Not to give ourselves grief. But to let life in.
I loved this from Tish Harrison Warren. “Take a gratitude walk. When my 11-year-old was very little, she invented something called the ‘beautiful game,’ where we walked around our neighborhood spotting as many things as we could that we found beautiful. It helped me see how much goodness I regularly overlook. In the same way, take to the streets (by foot, bike or car) and give silent thanks for what is around you: your favorite coffee shop, a burst of red leaves in a tree, the local school, the crossing guards, a friendly neighbor, the quieting of city streets in the evening.”
That does my heart good. And for me today? The family of ducks on the back pond, oblivious (unmindful) of our stormy weather. The way the sun peaked through the clouds as they scuttled though the sky. The living room filled with Bocelli’s Christmas album. Emails from Sabbath Moment readers. And, at my front door, a box; with 125 bulbs (daffodils and tulips) for my new garden area. My Oh My.
So, my friend…
“What did you see or hear today that made you smile real big?”
“What did your heart good today?”
Friday — Today I had a checklist, which is typically not my thing (unless it’s something I misplace), but carried some vow about making sure a few things got done. Buy Christmas tree. Check. Have window in house replaced (from errant golf ball). Check. Emails answered. Check. Plant new spring bulbs in the garden. Check.
I realized that I forgot to add, write Sabbath Moment. Which begs the question, can you do something that never made it on the list?
I confess that I have given list-makers a hard time. You know, people who put stuff on their list they’ve already done, just for the unmitigated joy of checking it off. Just sayin’
Anyway, I sat for a spell, and deliberating about what to write for Sabbath moment. But the chair was very comfortable, and I got distracted with a book, and lost in a Mary Oliver poem. Which filled my emotional and spiritual cup.
And that… that is enough.
A reminder from Alice Walker, “You don’t always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that’s plenty.”
Here are excerpts from…
Six Recognitions of the Lord
1. I know a lot of fancy words.
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray.
2. Lord God, mercy is in your hands, pour
me a little. And tenderness too. My
need is great. Beauty walks so freely
and with such gentleness. Impatience puts
a halter on my face and I run away over
the green fields wanting your voice, your
tenderness, but having to do with only
the sweet grasses of the fields against
my body. When I first found you I was
filled with light, now the darkness grows
and it is filled with crooked things, bitter
and weak, each one bearing my name.
3. I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town,
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-
where I have never been before.
4. Of course I have always known you
are present in the clouds, and the
black oak I especially adore, and the
wings of birds. But you are present
too in the body, listening to the body,
teaching it to live, instead of all
that touching, with disembodied joy.
We do not do this easily. We have
lived so long in the heavens of touch,
and we maintain our mutability, our
physicality, even as we begin to
apprehend the other world. Slowly we
make our appreciative response.
Slowly appreciation swells to
astonishment. And we enter the dialogue
of our lives that is beyond all under-
standing or conclusion. It is mystery,
It is love of God. It is obedience.
5. Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying:
Excerpts from Mary Oliver, Thirst
So tell me… what filled your emotional and spiritual cup today?
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
only you can see into my heart and know
that under all the busy-ness of my life,
there is a deep longing
to make this Advent one that welcomes you
more deeply into my own life.
My heart desires the warmth of your love
and my mind searches for your Light
in the midst of the darkness.
Help me to be a peacemaker this Advent
and to give special love to those
who disagree with me.
Give me the strength and courage
to forgive those who have hurt me.
Help me to free my heart
from the prison of my anger and hurt.