The magic of beginnings
“I’m saying goodbye,” I tell the sheep. “This will be my last Sunday with you all.”
They look, but say nothing, maybe waiting for a punchline.
“I know, I wanted to tell you sooner, but there’s been a lot on my plate. I will be saying goodbye to Vashon Island. I will be saying goodbye to my home and garden, and moving to another part of Washington state.”
“Okay,” their look tells me, “now I see why it wasn’t easy.”
I stand for a while. This morning, the fog is thick, as if gently holding our emotions in place. “I will miss you,” I tell them. “You helped me make it through this year. You have no idea.”
As I walk away, I think I hear one say, “Just so you know, you’re our favorite preacher.” And that did my heart good.
2020 has been a year of significant change. A sentence with zero hyperbole. Life altering for too many. And yet, it’s not change, so much as uncertainty, that unnerves us is it?
I think because of some ingrained lure to find closure and make sense of it all. Not knowing what’s next, isn’t the kind of fun we had in mind. Of course, the way we frame life and circumstance is curious and makes a difference. Because when keeping score matters, we’re not able to embrace our vulnerability and fragility, and the way it introduces us to what is strong and sufficient, on the inside.
So. Today, can I allow the gift of life (the sacred in the ordinary present) to be enough?
Someone asked, “So, you’re no longer a gardener?”
Well, ‘tis true that I will no longer have a garden. But at my core, I am (and will always be) a gardener. Because here’s the deal: “People who love this world, people who pay attention, are gardeners, whether or not they have ever picked up a trowel. Because gardening is not just about digging. Or planting for that matter. Gardening is about cherishing. And to cherish, we must be present. The garden is my teacher. And a wondrous and incurable obsession, which takes you meandering to garden paths. Just for the sake of meandering. Of course, the obsessed tend toward jealous excess. I will be unable to hide my proclivity for the sacred necessity of Adirondack chairs, my infatuation with old garden roses, my enchantment with early summer’s butterfly cabaret, or my distrust of anyone who is put off by dirty fingernails. Just so you are forewarned. And that, will never change. (I smile big writing this.)
A Zen roshi is dying. All of the monks gather—an eagerness restrained—around the deathbed, hoping to be chosen as the next teacher.
The roshi asks slowly, Where is the gardener?”
“The gardener,” the monks wonder aloud. “He is just a simple man who tends the plants, and he is not even ordained.”
“Yes,” the roshi replies. “But he is the only one awake. He will be the next teacher.”
Now. It is time for what is next. “And suddenly you know,” Meister Eckhart wrote (I am certain just to encourage me), “It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
I know that the magic is in the invitation… the invitation to be awake.
First, the invitation to pause, to take time to re-examine our priorities and recall what we treasure most. To ask questions about what really matters. It’s not the labels we wear, or the address, vocation, or prefix in front of your name. It’s about the kind of people we want to be.
Let us continue to be a community resource for sanctuary, replenishment, tenderness and wholeheartedness. Through Sabbath Moment Monday and Daily Dose, I want to remind us that peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, rediscovering charity and finding ways to grieve keep us spiritually hydrated. And that radical kindness always matters.
Here is what I know: I want to be a dispenser and bestower of grace.
And secondly. “Which is more important,” asked Big Panda. “The journey or the destination?”
“The company,” said Tiny Dragon. (Thank you James Norbury)
Meaning, your well-being matters to me. Because we need one another. No one of us is on this journey alone. Let us together build sanctuaries of empathy and humility.
Of this I am certain; From time to time, I will forget the power of grace and sufficiency… But gratefully, in the garden memories of my heart, there are those lucky days, when the sun illuminates the translucent “bat wing” ruby thorns of the rose sericea pteracantha, or a swallow-tail butterfly provides a cabaret while sipping at a wallflower, or a rainbow arches its back through the northern sky after a morning of fateful clouds have skittered and leapt, or peonies glow, faithful and sanguine near the maple tree, or the late spring sun stays in the sky well into evening, letting you sit on the back deck listening to frogs in the pond well past bedtime, or the candied scent of a bearded iris transports you back to a high school dance when the best looking girl in town really did want to drape her arms around your neck during all the slow numbers.
Moving is not easy. Those of you in the midst know. Lord have mercy. But getting rid of stuff is a blessing, by the way, so that’s a good thing. If you need boxes of stuff, stop over.
Speaking of enough. This week Southern Resident Orca Whales (24 in J Pod and 17 in K Pod) visited Vashon. Including new baby Tofino. When you see orcas, it brings to mind a scene from Cold Mountain. When Inman and Ada meet, he wonders aloud, “If it were enough just to stand without the words.” “It is,” she tells him. “It is.”
This past September, I was scheduled to lead a tour of sacred sites in Ireland. And had planned to live in Ireland for a few months. That changed. Now, next week, I’ll be writing SM from Port Ludlow, WA. And my garden will be the parks and forest that surround. Stay tuned…
It is Advent, and today we light the first candle representing hope. And inviting us to rest, to step back, to learn to appreciate the small events and simple gifts that flow through our days. (Thank you Diane Houdek)
Quote for your day… “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.” Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’m grateful for those who have joined us for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
My new book is here. Order today. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media).
Plus… A new eCourse available at no cost – This Is The Life.
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Today’s photo credit — The sheep congregation this morning… Vashon Island… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Dear Terry, I’ve been reading your weekly Sabbath Moments for years now and they always give me a lift. When I see you struggling with all our world’s problems and those big and small ones right in our own backyard, I am encouraged to keep going. I love your conversations with the sheep. They are wise aren’t they? I am a Catholic Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon Ohio. I live in an apartment complex with 40+ other sisters and about the same number of lay folks. Our community has been very strict with us regarding going out during the pandemic, once in two weeks for essentials. It is working. We have had no cases here. Thanks be to God. However there are times when we need to do self nurturing as you mentioned and not feel guilty about it. Choosing to be grateful, be joyful, be supportive, be positive are recipes for a brighter spirit one that is able to reach out because my own well is full. Thank you for reminding me! Thank you for helping me see that it’s in the little “stuff” of daily life that we become holy and wholly for others. Bless you, Terry and know I have prayed for you and your family on the death of your dear Dad. I send you a virtual hug. Amen! Sr. Eileen
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton (Thoughts in Solitude)
Let us go forth from here,
blessed and renewed
in the Spirit of Shalom
in the Spirit of Integrity
in the Spirit of Illumination
in the Spirit of Transformation
with hopes lifted heavenward
with hearts loving the earth
in the name of our creating, liberating, nurturing God.
I will miss Vashon Island and the sheep greatly, although not nearly so much as you will, I am sure. Thank you for all the sharing of conversations with your dear sheep friends. I look forward to hearing of your new adventures. Hope you find some lovely rose gardens. God bless you