Welcome to a new year. People have asked about my resolutions. (I tell them I’m still working on last year’s list.) Or, with our precarious world, some ask for advice on navigating it all. (I don’t remember taking a seminary course about advice, but it’s a question clergy hear.) There is nothing wrong with counsel, but sugarcoating has never been my strong suit, and I am beginning to find some comfort in giving up the notion of control. So, I tell those who ask, “I have no advice. But I do heartily encourage this paradigm shift from L.R. Knost…
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
During our snowed in and ice week, I haven’t seen the geese. So, I was grateful they made a surprise visit yesterday, flying in, and hanging out on the snow. I was going to tell them about breathing in the amazing, but smiled realizing that they were the trigger. “Thanks for being here,” I tell them. “You do my heart good.”
And then I remember one of my resolutions: It’s always good to pause for soul-food story time.
Walking the beach one day, Gunilla Norris sees a young child run–determined on very unsteady legs–into the water. The toddler’s intensity is palpable. The mother sits some distance away, outwardly comfortable enough about her child’s safety not to interfere with his adventure. With a wet sagging diaper, the young boy runs into the water with the half-weaving, half-stumbling motion of toddlers who have just learned to walk. Would he fall? Or, perhaps not stop until in over his head? There are so many things that could go wrong.
But the child knew when to stop, and when was deep enough. Seeing the water lap against his chubby thighs, it is clear that from his perspective these small waves are giants. He is with something VERY BIG.
Standing in the water with enthusiastic concentration, his small body thrums like an instrument. He turns, still deep in the experience, walks unsteadily out of the water and over the thin strip of pebbles at the water’s edge. He makes a “kind of circle,” and heads back into the water, again up to his thighs, savoring another experience of the sea. He repeats his foray seven or eight times, as if verifying what this wet, cold living thing called water is to him.
Even yards away Gunilla could feel the exhilaration of the boy’s experience. Finally, fully satisfied, the boy stands in his wet diaper–with arms outflung–and begins an unintelligible but eloquent speech to the water, to the gulls, to the sand, to the world. Obviously not yet speaking with words, he was most certainly speaking with his heart.
This is a story about the invitation to live wholehearted.
However, the headline in today’s paper: “Daunting tasks ahead.” That doesn’t make the invitation easy. And yet, even in daunting and overwhelming, we can choose to live wholehearted. Embracing the gift of enough.
Just savored this heart and soul medicine from Deborah Farmer Kris; “Awe might be our most undervalued emotion. Here’s how to help children find it.”
And this gateway to embrace enough? Awe. Not advice or completing an assignment.
“Awe is what we feel when we encounter something vast, wondrous or beyond our ordinary frame of reference. It evokes a sense of mystery and wonder. And, given its documented benefits, awe might be our most overlooked, undervalued emotion.” Psychologist Dacher Keltner writes. “It makes us curious rather than judgmental. It makes us collaborative. It makes us humble, sharing and altruistic. It quiets the ego so that you’re not thinking about yourself as much.”
Yes… what the toddler knew while frolicking the water—awe. Breathing in amazing.
And yet. Somewhere along the way, someone will tell you no.
You can’t do that. Or, no, you must be careful; watch out! Or, no, that is so imprudent. Or, more simply, grow up, what will people think? (Just wondering… Can you imagine how many times Desmond Tutu was told such things?)
And if you can’t grow up, at the very least do your best to look good (which translates to living guarded), because people are watching, after all.
Bottom line: There are so many reasons to quit and give up.
Living wholehearted builds on the paradigm that who we are now, is enough. Yes, life may be daunting, but I’m engaged. Invested. Alive. And in this, we’re connected.
And I want to be like that young boy in the waves… drawn to the eagerness, the passion, and the wholeheartedness.
But that’s just it: I already am that young boy. He is inside of me, needing only to see the light of day.
This gift of enough tells me I can let go of the need to keep score in order to feed my ego. Which is the permission to be okay with vulnerability.
Yes, it is circling back to wade into the waves one more time. And we can only do that when we are not afraid. Fear tells you “I’ll make you safe.” Love says, “You are safe.”
Along the way we come to learn that what makes us vulnerable also makes us beautiful. Yes, vulnerability can be that place of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, and creativity, of belonging, of love.
Living with passion (breathing in the amazing) will keep you alive. And more than ever, we live in a world where our whole heart is required. Where, as a parent, friend, gardener, human, I literally give a damn.
Thank you for being a part of the Sabbath Moment community. Let us find ways this year to live wholehearted and keep one anther spiritually hydrated. Here’s to our new year, one small gesture at a time. One moment of awe at a time.
There were no real waves today for me, not unless I wanted a Nordic ice plunge. Just sayin’.
And big smiles and a raised glass to Betty White. RIP.
To our friends and family in Colorado, our prayers as you begin to put life together after heartbreak.
This week, we countdown to the twelfth day of Christmas, the Feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings day) (and maybe take the tree down).
And, I have a new question to try out… Instead of, tell me about your resolutions. Try, tell me about a moment of awe this week.
Quote for your week…
Sometimes saying payers keeps us from being prayers. Words come then not in response to life but in substitution for life. Gunilla Norris
Notes: Story adapted from Gunilla Norris, Being Home.
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–Dear Terry, I had to stop and think. When you talked about losing your job, of course, no travel engagements, church services canceled to avoid spreading COVID. Of course, out of work minister. Thank you for all you have gifted through the internet during this time. What the pandemic has brought about, will be the story young children in school now will tell their children and grandchildren. I work in a hospital and saw how doctors and nurses were working so hard to keep people alive. In over 50 years of nursing, I have had difficult heartrending times, however never has it been this spiritually sad for health care workers: both in the work involved to help people and the loss of life they worked so hard to save. And the numbers of COVID patients, that kept on coming, just heart hard. With gratitude, thank you for all you give through your ministry, I enjoyed your visits and presentations each time you came to Lewiston. Fran
–I especially like your comment before the prayer… about you being enriched by the SB community… I too feel that enrichment by your daily thoughts and writing. I look forward each day to learn what you have been thinking about and observing in your life around the golf course and local geese community. Many blessings to you everyday. Judy
–Hi Terry, just want to thank you for another great year of daily reflections. I so enjoy reading your Sabbath Moment every day. What a blessing you are to so many of us. God bless you this coming new year and may it be a happy, healthy, healing one for us all. God Bless, Donna
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Whole-heartedness is a precious gift, but no one can actually give it to you. You have to find the path that has heart and then walk it impeccably… It’s like someone laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do. It humbles you. It opens your heart. –Pema Chodron
Let us fall in love again
and scatter gold dust all over the world.
Let us become a new spring
and feel the breeze drift in the heaven’s scent.
Let us dress the earth in green,
and like the sap of a young tree
let the grace from within sustain us.
Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts
and let them light our path to Love.
The glance of Love is crystal clear
and we are blessed by its light.
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?