“I wish I read your Sabbath Moment before my meeting,” my friend, a hospice chaplain, tells me. “I was just with my hospice supervisor. Her question to me, ‘What are your long term goals?’”
“I wanted to laugh out loud,” she says, “knowing she was looking for a singular kind of answer, one that fits tidily under ‘Employee’s Goals and Objectives’.
Instead, I’m thinking; I am 80 years old. I have just come through a time of a cancer diagnosis, chemo and radiation. I would like to live another year in my new house with my new garden that my friend will help me design. I would like to live my remaining years with a sense of grace and gratitude. So, I speak honestly.”
“The only reason I am still working is because I love the work and meeting the hospice patients,” she tells the supervisor, “If I stop loving it, I will retire.”
This does my heart good. And I say, Amen.
Here’s the deal: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Thank you Howard Thurman.)
Our work is not only what fits under the heading of job or vocation or accomplishments or resume. Or even “long term goals”.
As Mother Teresa reminded us, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”
What makes you come alive? I want this to be our first question.
That even in times of sorrow or adversity or discontent, this life can become fertile ground for generosity of spirit, mystery, delight, touch, tenderness, vulnerability, risk and yes, even gladness. Alive, we touch this day, places and encounters where our humanity blossoms, and our light spills. We embrace what Mr. Rogers called the “graciousness at the heart of creation.”
In times of anxiety, my tendency is to shut down. I can tell you that I let my heart constrict. I play everything safe. In order to appear tough, self-sufficient or successful. And if all doesn’t add up, I look for an enemy. With an enemy, at least there is someone to blame for any muddle. (The irony is that in every choice above I relinquish or surrender the very ability to choose.)
This week I had a very good wise friend tell me that it is a good time to reclaim Terry. The self I discarded to role or function.
And the fuel for this reclamation? Self-compassion and gentleness with self.
When I bring this self—not just my long-term-goals-self—to any encounter, I see the sacred power in vulnerability.
I have two new words this week. Coddiwomple. To travel purposely toward an as-yet-unknown destination. Yes. And to do so with grace, dignity, mercy and love.
And Opelske. It means loving up, cultivate and encourage. “Loving your flowers, cherishing them into health and vigor purely through adoration.”
There are too many times when I’m unable to celebrate this gift.
On Amazon, I read the 1-star reviews, out of curiosity. This one made me laugh out loud. “The book was a gift, so I never looked at it.”
What makes you come alive?
This all starts to go off the rails when I attach expectations and judgments about success, about enough, about making a difference. Our temptation to weigh and measure. Living fully alive involves letting go of what we hold or carry that prevents or blocks.
Where do we begin?
Love allows us to begin where we are.
We can let go of where we think life should be.
We can be unafraid of what is untidy. Or unknown. Or daunting.
Zen master Suzuki Roshi writes, enlightenment is expressed by being just where you are.
A woman tells Roshi that she finds it difficult to mix Zen practice with the demands of being a full time mother, employee, friend, volunteer, etc…
“I’m trying to climb this ladder of enlightenment. But for every step upward I slip backward two steps.”
He tells her, “Forget the ladder. When you are awake, everything is already right here on the ground.”
And I would add, Holy Ground.
Holy because I embrace the gift of vulnerability and tenderness.
Back to my friend’s story. “I love what I do,” she says. Even at a time where life is catawampus and wounds are real.
The word vulnerable itself comes from the Latin vulnerare which means “to wound,” and so at the root of vulnerability is my own sense of wounded-ness (the broken places). To be authentic in a moment in which I feel wounded, I have to honestly acknowledge the places where I feel hurt and then muster up the strength to just be with the pain. This takes tremendous courage.
Literally speaking, courage comes from the Latin cor, meaning heart. So, when I open up to any experience fully, with courage–whole hearted–it naturally opens me up to a deep love.
And the good news? The blind musician Facundo Cabral said it beautifully: “If you are filled with love, you can’t have fear, because love is courage.” True vulnerability, in its most profound form, is an act of love.
In this vulnerability, we have the capacity for joy, to embrace beauty that blooms amidst adversity. Let’s just say that joy can be an act of resistance.
In Doctor Zhivago, Lara was not religious. She did not believe in rites. But sometimes, in order to endure life, she needed it to be accompanied by some inner music. She could not always compose such a music for herself. That music was God’s word of life, and it was to weep over it that she went to church.
Did you know that November is National Family Care Givers month? Thank you for the work you do. No one is on this journey alone. We can let go of our need to go it alone. We’re all just walking one another home. (Thank you Ram Dass)
Thank you to our Veteran’s. Looking for appropriate wording, one vet says he’d prefer people say, “I hope you’re having a meaningful day.”
And, we raise a glass to our Seattle Sounders, MLS champions. What a game. My Oh My.
Quote for your week…
What did you notice? What did you hear? When did you admire? What astonished you? What would you like to see again? What was most tender? What was most wonderful? What did you think was happening? Mary Oliver (Questions in her poem Gratitude)
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Today’s photo credit — Autumn color, somewhere wonderful… April Gensler… thank you April… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Join me this Fall…
Nov 18 — St. Bartholomew, Long Beach, CA
Nov 21 — St. Serra Parish, Lancaster, CA
Nov 22 – 24 — Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CAJoin me on Facebook. And Instagram. Every Monday, Sabbath Moment. Every week day, a quote or two, to pamper your soul, and make you smile.
In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Dear Brother, Greetings from DownUnder… Yet another book? I’ve already ordered it (had to go through Fishpond cause you don’t post outside of North America apparently), but thanks for whetting my appetite. The ice-cream on the front got me! Blessings, in light and darkness, plenty and aridity. Noel
–Good morning Terry, I’ve missed my Rx of positive this morning. (No email) Can’t dance as well! Your friend, Aldo
–I watched the entire game. It was truly amazing… we didn’t know better but when we were kids we played tackle football without any equipment… none were worse for the wear so when I began playing organized football in Jr. high with. I was invincible. I have always loved the quote from Frodo to Gandalf and his response… speaks so much to the paradox we live in… keep doing what you do, brother. Peace, Charlie
–I wish I could forward today’s SM to everyone in the world. We so need this message. Reading your book, it is great. Almost like having you right here. Thanks. Sue
–Thanks for your Sabbath Moment today Terry. Whether it was the message or just the fact that I’ve been on a relaxing vacation in Kauai for the last week, while reading your reflection on Nelson Mandela, I found my face wet with tears of gratitude. It is good to gather in places both physical and virtual with others who value the Way of peace, love, unity and empathy. I pray that this power of good, that is so often more complicated and difficult to take effect, will continue to be nurtured in this holy and breath-taking space. Peace and many blessings, Greg
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Bring us, o Lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of Heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
but one equal light; no noise nor silence,
but one equal music; no fears or hopes,
but one equal possession; no ends or beginnings,
but one equal eternity,
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
world without end.
The Story of a Circle
A Circle expands forever
It covers all who wish to hold hands
And its size depends on each other
It is a vision of solidarity
It turns outwards to interact with the outside
And inward for self critique
A circle expands forever
It is a vision of accountability
It grows as the other is moved to grow
A circle must have a centre
But a single dot does not make a Circle
One tree does not make a forest
A circle, a vision of cooperation, mutuality and care
Mercy Amba Oduyoye
Prayer for the Life of the World
for everything that emerges from the earth
Thanks be to you, O God,
Holy Root of being
Sacred Sap that rises
Full-bodied Fragrance of earth’s unfolding form.
May we know that we are of You
may we know that we are in You
may we know that we are one with You
Guide us as nations to what is deepest
Open us as peoples to what is first
Lead us as a world to what is dearest
that we may know the holiness of wholeness
that we may learn the strength of humility
that together we may live close to the earth
And grow in grounded glory.
John Philip Newell