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A transformed heart

A young man grew up with the notion that before he got too old, he needed to set about the task of becoming somebody. So, he busied himself with setting goals and accomplishing much. He learned the art of juggling many duties and obligations and believed that hurry was a requisite evil, in order to become a person of accomplishment and success.
The young man’s life was run by a strict timetable, and he periodically checked his progress. He valued his family commitments, so he monitored his smartphone, in order to stay in touch.
One day, quite by accident, rushing out the door on his way to a very important appointment, something caught the man’s eye. He stopped, just for the briefest of moments to see what created the stir and commotion. Poking up from under the trimmed shrubs which lined the sidewalk, was a flower. A single-stemmed flower of clear pale lavender. And before he could stop himself, he knelt down to see if he could enjoy the scent. It smelled of baked apples and reminded him of his grandmother’s kitchen. The memory took him by surprise.
The man didn’t know the plant’s name, so he called it Fran.
Later that day, sitting in an important meeting, the man thought about Fran. And without realizing it, a smile crept across his face.
“What’s so funny,” his boss asked.
“Nothing,” the man said, flustered.
“I hope not,” the boss replied, “Now let’s get back to work.”
The man told himself he was being silly and passed this preoccupation off to pending middle-age. He had read somewhere, that in middle-age you start to lose your bearings and allow yourself silly luxuries.
Even with this new resolve, he found himself hurrying home, relieved to see Fran still standing, smiling and greeting him as he walked toward the house. He ran inside and called his two children, a boy and a girl, ages twelve and fourteen. When he showed them the flower, they scrunched their faces and looked at one another for a clue.
That night he didn’t do any of the work he had brought home. He asked his wife if they had any books on flowers. The man’s wife didn’t know what to make of her husband. Something strange had affected him.
“Are you feeling alright?  Do you have a fever?” She asked.
And he told her that he didn’t think so. And he didn’t. Himself, not knowing what had come over him.
“It’ll pass,” he told himself.
That weekend, the man decided not to spend the morning rifling through important business paperwork. Instead, he talked with Fran.
He put on play clothes and knelt down in the dirt. He used a hand cultivator to let the soil breathe. It made him think that Fran could use company, so he went to the local nursery and bought a flat of companions. He also bought two chairs. They were placed on the other side of the walk looking at the new flower bed.
And I can tell you this. It made him smile real big. And his heart felt very alive.

“God spoke today in flowers, and I, who was waiting on words, almost missed the conversation.” (Thank you Ingrid Goff-Maidoff)

I once asked my analyst why I was in therapy. He told me it would make me a better gardener. Gardening can be strong medicine—an elixir that nurtures and shapes the soul. For that reason, it is a tonic seldom taken straight with no ice. Gardening has a way of seeping into your soul, and one day you find yourself, in the words of poet May Sarton in Plant Dreaming Deep, spending the first half hour of the morning “enjoying the air and watching for miracles.”
Fortuitously, these are not lessons learned from books or classes. You are compelled to meander, if only in the garden of your mind. Better yet, the process demands putting your hands in the soil, letting the sun sedate your disquiet and warm your face, feeling your lungs fill with the honeyed sweetness of winter jasmine, or the rambling rector rose, watching a re-tailed hawk surf the currents, savoring the chamomile scent of crushed cedar leaves, allowing the garden to render its power and magic. In a world where we are enamored with image, it is in the garden we are slowly weaned off our steady diet of the spectacular, and the “real story,” in order to revel in the daily, the ineffable, the sacred, the surprising.
In other words, the garden—the everyday in our wonderfully ordinary world—is a place where it feels good to be alive.
“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence,” Phil Cousineau wrote. “What evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”
Yes, and I’ve always loved Saint Augustine’s prayer, “Give me a transformed and undefended heart.”

So, why do we assume we will find solace only in a fastidious box. And, acting like four-year-old children five minutes out of the driveway on any family trip, “Are we there yet?”
But let’s pause. And begin here: This is not an assignment or project. Or motivational story to inspire us to perform. Here’s the deal: Pausing leads to seeing.
Seeing leads to celebrating (and yes, to being giddy with delight).
Celebrating leads to honoring.
Honoring leads to cherishing.
It may not be a flower for you, but I wonder, when was the last time you were intoxicated with life? Enraptured, enthralled and captivated.

And no, this was not the Sabbath Moment I had “intended” to write. But some days the news unravels me. And I forget where my wellbeing is tethered. On my walk this morning, the leaves of the Katsura tree a summer blue-green and covered with our morning rain. Even so, in a slight breeze, they shimmer as a wind chime. I stop at our English rose, Olivia Rose Austin, and bury my nose in a blossom, its heady sweet fragrance a bracing effect no less potent than Seattle espresso. New lateral growth shines with a deep Merlot-red contrast. And even in this weather, one bee is taking delight in the Cosmos flowers. And I smile, ear to ear, that trademark giddy and whimsical grin associated with folks “not quite all there”. Gratefully, it just cannot be helped.

Quote for our week… “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” Thich Nhat Hanh


Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, ‘And how does God speak to you?’
‘In the language of everything that is beautiful.’ (from Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War). This tree is on Lake Chaminwood near Channahon, IL,” Joe Durepos… Thank you Joe… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, Your message really spoke to me and then I looked again at the photo. What I see now is the mighty sun with arms out-raised pushing the dark clouds out of its way as if declaring “This is my space in which to shine! Find your own space elsewhere.” I think I feel another poem coming on, Terry
–Hi Terry, Tremendous Sabbath Moment reflection today.  In the last week I was reminded of a Bertrand Russell quote, “War doesn’t determine who’s right, only who’s left.” God’s blessings to you, Ian
–Dear Terry, Thank you for your wonderful inspiration. We know you have made us more conscious of the beauty and quiet all around us in Minnesota lake country. How blessed we are by God’s creative abundance. Have a blessed summer. Suzanne and Bob
–Hi Terry, St. Andrew’s Abbey is near where I live. In fact going there today. It is such a peaceful place. A good place to see God. Thanks for your Sabbath Moments. I enjoy reading them each day. Peace. Katie
–A story retold. Every time I entered Jeremiah class at seminary, I sang Jeremiah was a bull frog. I wonder now what other students thought but what does it matter? Beginning a sermon on a Jeremiah text with the song does indeed get people’s attention at least before they fall back to sleep or into their own thoughts. Thanks for the reminder. Your friend, Flip, of very wet Minnesota. Thanks again for a great beginning to my day. 


Welcome Morning
There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.
Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton.
Mariner Books, 1999

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