In his book Too Small to Ignore, Wess Stafford (President of Compassion) tells a story from his childhood on the Ivory Coast of Africa. About a village visited by a convoy of French colonial officials for a government survey. Their questions had to do with “expectations of the future.” (Including numbers and size and growth and development.)
Stafford writes, “The chief and his tribal elders tried to explain to their exasperated visitors that they really didn’t know the answers to those kinds of questions, because the future had not yet arrived. When the time came to pass, then the results would be apparent.” This, to be sure, made the officials less than pleased. And they left, in a huff.
That day, at dusk, the village gathered in the chief’s courtyard. He said, “I want to talk to the children tonight.”
“We are not like them,” the chief said. “To them time is everything… the smaller that men can measure the day, the more angry they seem to be.”
“The present is now—the days we live today. This is God’s gift to us. It is meant to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest. The present will flow by us, of course, and become the past. That is the way of a river, and that is the way of time. The Frenchmen cannot wait for the future to arrive. They crane their necks to see around the bend in the river. They cannot see it any better than we can, but they try and try. For some reason, it is very important for them to know what is coming toward them. They want to know it so badly that they have no respect for the river itself. They thrash their way out into the present in order to see more around the bend.”
“They miss so much of the joy of today all around them.
Did you notice that as they stormed into our village, they didn’t notice it is the best of the mango season?
Though we offered them peanuts, they did not even taste them.
They did not hear the birds in the trees or the laughter in the marketplace.
We touched them with our hands, but they did not really see us.
They miss much of the present time, because all they care about is the unknowable, the future… The present is all we can fully know and experience, so we must.”
“We must love each other. We must smell the hibiscus flowers. We must hear the singing of the weaverbirds and the grunts of the lions. We must taste with joy the honey and the peanut sauce on the rice. We must laugh and cry and live.”
That last paragraph alone, could be our prayer for the day.
And whether he knew it or not, the Village Chief took Jesus seriously. Remember when Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
Meaning, “is… right here—in the midst of you—right now.”
Meaning, this ordinary moment can be a container of grace. And a hiding place for the holy. What the Celts called ‘thin places’, places when and where the sacred is almost palpable.
“All of earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush a flame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
So. Here’s our invitation: We can walk in reverence, taking off our shoes.
Or, we can tell ourselves that the kingdom is yet to be, somewhere in the future, something we are willing to give up today for. And we give up who we are today, for who we think we should be.
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then. You know we’ll have a good time then.” Harry Chapin
We are born to savor life, to live in the moment. What holds us back? When we stop the noise, the distraction, the compulsion to perform, the fear of rejection, we make space to savor the power of the present moment.
And yes, there are significant issues in our world (in my world) that invite and require investment and healing; and I want to show up. And I want to bring my real self, my whole self, and spill light in any small way that I can. But today reminded me that I cannot forget, in my fixation to “make sense” of everything, or to wait for “real life” to begin… along the way (even the messy way)… I don’t want to miss the small gifts of life.
I don’t want to miss…
the serendipitous gifts of grace,
the invitation to look for daily miracles,
and the presence of the holy,
and the gentle dose of the sacred reflected in our everyday,
and extraordinarily ordinary world.
Here’s our new word for the week: Ambedo (noun), meaning a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake. (from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
It reminds me of a traditional Jewish saying which does my heart good, “On the day of Judgment God will only ask one question: Did you enjoy my world?”
I did not know what Sabbath Moment would be about today. But, for the past couple of weeks, on my walk, I stop (and linger) at every new flowering plant (or shrub), feeling grounded in savoring the nuance in the diminutive, even with plants I normally ignore, or walk by—say, Morning Glory, often missing exquisite beauty and grace, and yes, soaking in the experience of being alive.
Quote for our week…
It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. Laura Ingalls Wilder
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Thinking of you with geese on Monte Verde Lake, Angel Fire. All God’s Critters got a place in the band; people too. Blessings.” Kent Bohls… Thank you Kent… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
Letters that do my heart good…
–I pray the “Spiritual Hydration” (Grace) you will speak about will reach the listeners and at the same time enrich you soul too. If the weather permits, take your walk and like a sponge absorb each of the “little things” you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, there are your sources of Grace. You and those attending this weekend Retreat are and will be in my prayers. Try to remember, your sheep, your geese, all those part of Sabbath Moment will be “Walking you home.” May your days be peace-filled. Elaine
–Greetings from the hot and sticky east coast. I had to chuckle and think of you Terry, as I just spent a couple of hours in my yard. The birds and I had a sweet chat. Last night I filled the small ceramic feeder hanging in the weeping beech and this morning, they were going to town. I let them know I appreciated their song filled company as I weeded and they seemed to let me know it was the least they could do in thanks for the peanuts I leave for the squirrel, to occupy him away from the feeder. May I ask whether you have a schedule of speaking engagements that you publish? If you ever made it to the north east coast (I’m in CT) I’d surely try to be there. Thank you! Blessings and peace. Sheila
–Replenished and hydrated. In my garden filled with hanging baskets and plants that bloom beautiful flowers. Here is GA this time of year plants start to get dry and start to die but not this year with all the rain they are flourishing. The scents of the blooms and the sound of birds and even the chipmunks and rabbits who love to eat some of the plants fill my heart with such joy. Here in my garden I feel God’s presence and it does my heart good. Especially love this week’s prayer and the reminder to stop, stand, close my eyes and feel the breeze and inhale and I find refreshment in this simple little gesture. As always Terry thank you for Sabbath Moment. It does my heart good. Blessings Mary Anne
–I love your posts and often forward them to others. You seem a real quality fellow and I thank you for your work for God in our troubled world. I found out about you from a member of my covenant group at church. She shared one of your posts with our group and I was hooked. Peace and good wishes to you Susan
POEMS AND PRAYERS
You live your life as if it’s real,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.
Why I am happy
Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.
I sense that all is your creation
and everything, and all of us,
are being drawn back toward your loving heart.
Help me to be a person of peace,
To speak about it in an uneasy world,
And to live it among the people
you have put into my life every day.
Light in me a desire to prepare
for your coming to stand in the darkness,
waiting, eager and filled with joy.