In the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, there is a church named Lagniappe (“lan-yap”). It is an old Creole word that means “something extra”.
Pastor Jean Larroux explains, “Down here if you go into a seafood shop and order a pound of shrimp and they put in an extra handful, that’s the lagniappe. It’s something you can’t pay for. Something for nothing. Something for free.”
In an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jean began this church, in his words, with people “primed for grace.” Accustomed to teaching church people how to celebrate, Jean was surprised to find himself in a community of people who already knew. Even in the middle of their hardship.
Here’s the good part.
This celebration (fullness of life from lagniappe) is not predicated on life as we expect it.
The party doesn’t start when our fear is gone.
The party doesn’t start when our beliefs are unadulterated.
The party doesn’t start when doubt has been appeased.
The party doesn’t start when our circumstances make it feasible.
This I know; if we wait for all that, we miss the resurrection every time.
I’ve written about Lagniappe a couple of times in Sabbath Moment over the years. Truth be told, I can’t get enough… Because Lagniappe is what Easter is all about. When I was a kid Easter was about believing the right things (even when I wasn’t sure), and saying the right things (it helped to speak loudly), and pointing fingers at those who didn’t see it the way I did. And then after church we hunted eggs and ate enough chocolate to make even our Baptist parents pray for Happy Hour.
Last week I talked about burnout, and the big three symptoms of emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective. So, it is no surprise that we live in a world (inundated with the need to outdo or outrun) where grace is suspect.
Did you know that the Greek translation of the Gospel of Mark (the first gospel written) stops in the middle of a sentence? It’s not so neat and tidy as we want to make it, and ends oddly, like a Game of Thrones cliff hanger, leaving us wanting more. But maybe that’s good. We get hung up on our need for control and a future we can predict. I appreciate Rev. Brian Hiortdahl’s take. He says, “It’s scary to think that God is alive and able to do things so far beyond our prediction and beyond our control. The future is wide open. We can participate in it, but we’re not in charge, and we are a people who like to be in charge of stuff. We like to predict. We like to figure out when the economy is going to get better and plan for it. Resurrection just blows all of that away.”
Lagniappe necessitates a paradigm shift. Without it, we stay stuck in our head. We like to say that we teach or preach grace. Which makes grace something to comprehend, like the answer to a test question.
And we miss the party, the fundamental reality that grace lights up our day, and our world. Regardless of whether we fathom it.
We miss the wakefulness that grace bestows, fueled by two simple words, Thank you.
We miss the power of Lagniappe. The something extra? The joy in the ordinary, in dollops of gentleness, kindness, connection, empathy, compassion, generosity, wonder and healing.
Ordinariness opens us up to our humanity, now absorbed in moments of grace. Instead of needing to fix or analyze, we absorb and invest; we notice and listen and feel and love. We are safe, at home in our skin. An antidote to what we spoke of last week, (in the words of Seneca) “that tossing to and fro of the mind, that can nowhere find rest.”
And here’s the deal: Lagniappe, grace, always spills.
We are primed for grace.
It means that the party has been staged on our behalf. While Christians celebrate Easter, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover and the Seder meal. What is assuredly true is that both stories remind us that nothing –absolutely nothing– can separate us from God’s relentless pursuit to set us free.
“Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how Adonai freed you from it with a mighty hand.” Book of Exodus
So. Life may be uncertain, but the party is on.
And there is only one requirement–bring who you are.
This is not about who you are supposed to be.
Or who you should be.
This is not about the denial of pain and suffering.
Or the denial of grief and loss and hardship.
Or even the denial of death.
It is about what the people of Bay Saint Louis knew. If there’s a party, jump in with both feet. Jean says, “they take every drop of juice out of the lemon that they can get, and they love it.”
In other words, they live whole-hearted. Because grace imbues courage. “I want to separate courage and bravery,” Brené Brown writes. “Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language, it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart, and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart… and wholehearted folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others. Because as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last is, they had connection–this was the hard part–as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.”
When someone asks what you are doing this week, tell them, “I’m practicing Lagniappe.”
I can tell you that lagniappe is alive and well in my garden. I’m the good kind of tired, every day shuttling wheelbarrows from the mountain of moodoo, to eager garden beds.
On Saturday I celebrated my 40th anniversary of ordination. The years have taught me that ministry is not about being right. But being real.
Golf’s Holy Grail ended today. The Masters. If you are addicted to golf as I am… Oh. My. Goodness.
Speaking of a healthy garden, April 22 is Earth Day, and it’s time to channel the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi in caring for creation. It matters.
A blessed Holy Week to everyone.
Quote for your week…
Be the hand of a hopeful stranger, Little scared but you’re strong enough. Be the light in the dark of this danger, ‘Till the sun comes up.’
Sara Barielles, A Safe Place to Land, Amidst The Chaos.
Note: Jean Larroux story from Sin Boldly, Cathleen Falsani
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Sabbath Moment, what a great newsletter. So real. Anne Marie
–To the Sacred Necessity group, I learned from you and I thank you for being open and for sharing little wisdoms along this way. And a big thank you to Terry Hershey. You are doing a good job providing time and space for everyone to be restored spiritually. Thank you for the course and thank you for the Sabbath Moment and for your sharing your insights, humor and humanity with us. Take Care Everyone, Jami
–Wonderful course! It couldn’t have come at a better time. I know the importance of being in the present moment and how important it is to be aware of the beauty that is around us and the incredible gift of friendship…but I forget those things from time to time and it seems especially when I need it the most. I get caught up in the stress or worry or whatever it is at the time. It certainly isn’t what I know it is what I don’t remember to remember. Thank you so much Terry for this very needed reminder! Kathleen
–Terry, I so appreciate your blog every Monday, like finding a tropical island of refreshment! I’m a retired healthcare chaplain and pastor with the Mennonite Church. One evening my wife and I took a walk after a thunderstorm and we saw this beam of light breaking through the clouds. Bob
–I needed your Monday Sabbath today. Having intentionally and dramatically changed my doing life style to one of contemplation and trying to learn how to just BE God’s child, I am again accosted by my church friends wanting me to serve on this committee or speak at this event, I find myself really struggling with the guilt of saying no and wanting to fill in the reason part – I have done a lot in my life I did not want to do to please others. After reading your offering today, I realized I simply need to say, I am sorry my life is full. Because it is full and overflowing with time and grace to enjoy just being alive. Ruth
–This week’s Sabbath Moment brought back the memory of the Andy Griffith episode where the business owner passing through Mayberry has to make an un-planned stop on a Sunday because his car breaks down and he demands that his car be repaired on the day of rest because he has important business to attend to in Charlotte. In the end he takes a lesson from the locals about getting one’s priorities right about life, love and relationships. Tim
–Your SM is just plain lovely. Brenda
–Dear Terry, My heartfelt thanks for Sabbath Moment. It is a joy to read each week. My husband and I retired from many years of teaching at the same school almost two years ago. It has been absolutely wonderful to enjoy this time together. We frequently run into people from our school and the church community who ask us if we are enjoying retirement, followed by the puzzled questions, “But what do you do? Are you keeping busy?” I can’t seem to explain what daily joy means. We are “busy” enjoying every day together, whether it be going for a hike, sitting on our backyard patio reading, going to the store, exercising at the gym, running errands, traveling, seeing friends and family, playing with our five grandkiddos and loving every minute! Thank you for your wonderful reminders about the sacred present and the power of pause. God bless you. Barbara
–Thank you Terry. So affirming that I am living my retirement life in “acceptable and pleasing way to God”. Sharing a photo of my favorite pastime (birdwatching). Claire
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs:
to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow,
rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound,
walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.
Terry Tempest Williams
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.