Sister Lychen had a word of prophesy every Sunday in her Pentecostal Church. She’d stand up and say, “The Lord has revealed to me that I will be caught up in the clouds of glory.” Every week, the same prophesy.
Eugene’s parents would make him take Sister Lychen a plate of cookies, and when he’d get to her house, he would find all the blinds down, and all the shutters closed. Old Sister Lychen lived in a house of gloom. She was waiting to die. Eugene Peterson writes that Sister Lychen represents a brand of Christian faith where life here and now is just a trial, so that life can really start in heaven. You know, someday.
Eugene had a fantasy of bursting into Sister Lychen’s house, opening all the window blinds, and saying, “Sister Lychen, look! There’s a whole world outside! There’s a world of turtles and hummingbirds and hawks and grizzly bears.”
You gotta smile…
Although if we’re honest we’ll admit that we all have some closed shutters or blinds somewhere in our mental and emotional house. It’s our way of waiting for someday.
“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.”
Whether we’re unsettled by the life we have (or the world we live in). Or capitulate to “if only” and “when”, we’re waiting for our real life to begin. And when we do, our shutters stay shut.
I read Terry Tempest Williams write about the desert lands of Utah. The wild lands. She calls them alive. She writes, when someone says, “Look, there’s nothing out there,” what we are really saying is, “I cannot see.”
Lord knows that there’s a plethora of cheerleaders (with can’t miss advice or products) who find great motivation in lists, and will give (or sell) me a list of things I need to do to find inner peace, and live in the moment. Sort of like the movie, Bucket List. That list of things we want (or need or feel compelled) to do before we die (to make our life meaningful).
In a small bookstore, I once saw a book called 10,000 things to do before you die. Of course, I had just started my own list, with only three things on it, so the number 10,000 made me a little dizzy.
And when that memory returned today, before I give in to the dizziness, I gratefully did what needed to be done. I stood at the back-patio railing and watched a Red-Wing blackbird perched on top of one of the tall cattails. Posing (or catching some sun), and serenading with his conk-la-ree, a musical trill that bounces off the water, apparently unaware of any pressure about a list of things to complete before bird heaven.
Our Canada geese Irv and Dottie are on the pond, settling into their nesting spot.
And as I say hi to them, I smile big remembering an email (with photographs) I received yesterday from my friend Molly (who lives on Vashon Island), “Are these your sheep? I’ve wanted to photograph these sheep for a long time. Yesterday they were in the right place and I had the time. They were quite curious, friendly, and talkative. Held still well for the picture-taking. We all miss you.”
Ahh yes. The sheep congregation who made room for my daily homilies for two years. They kept me grounded. And sane.
There is dirt under my fingernails, from this morning’s garden work. Yes, it’s much smaller garden, but then gardens wave a wand of healing calm, regardless of their size.
So. The good news is that for a chunk of time I didn’t care one whit about any list to check off, that would make my life complete.
It is the miracle of the sacred present. Yes, just like the twosome on the Road to Emmaus (who, looking for “answers,” missed the resurrected Jesus) after breaking bread said, “But were not our hearts burning within us?”
Thornton Wilder’s reminder, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
The hitch in our giddy-up is that we’re wired to consume, add on, scurry and expand. Like the rich man in Luke’s Gospel, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'” When the goal of living in the present is just another conquest (what we attain, buy, achieve), we are like (to borrow from Meister Eckhart) a man riding an ox looking for an ox to ride.
Oh, there’s another hitch (no need to have just one)… If we’re going to be conscious of our treasures, we must somehow make sure we do it “right.” Is it in our genes, this troubling pursuit of perfection? In my workshops, I like to use crayons and have people color a lot. Someone will inevitably ask, “Did I do this right?”
And I tell them, “Yes you did, right up until you asked me that question.”
But hey, if you’re a list maker, more power to you. Just don’t make it so heavy it weighs you down.
I guess if push came to shove, I could make a list with three things.
One. Practice the prayer suggested by a Buddhist monk, “If I should wake before I die…”
Two. Savor a Sabbath Moment (or day if you let it stretch). Sit still and let the other stuff go. If you’re lucky, a Red Winged Blackbird (or turtles and hummingbirds and hawks and even grizzly bears) may stop by. You see, if rest is woven into the fabric of our very selves, then Sabbath is the Creator’s invitation to re-create, dance, celebrate, enjoy, take pleasure in, absorb this gift called life. An invitation to live–to enter into, to be present in–this life, without the need to complete the list for the life yet to be.
Oh, I just remembered number three: So, I go down to my garden, and let myself get distracted by the new shoots on our native Lupine. And a river of daffodil gold. Gratefully, it will open one of my shutters.
For basketball fans, congrats to the teams that made the Final Four. Gonzaga came up just short, but we cheered them on.
And our hearts are with our friends in Mississippi and Alabama after the deadly tornadoes killed 26 people.
A good reminder today, to tell the people you love that you are glad they are in your life.
Quote for our week…
“Contentment. I’m 24 and have never known it. Forever in pursuit and don’t even know what I’m chasing.” Harold Abrahams (Chariots of Fire)
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, It is Spring time in Texas. Here are a few snaps of our wildflowers.” Bill Taylor… Thank you Bill… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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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.
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Letters that do my heart good…
–The goings on around us sure send me fleeing to sanctuary! Your Colorado River trip and great selection of philosophers of our day brought a comforting image to soothe me. I imagine we are all in the raft being thrown to and fro by the force of the water careening down the rapids of life, making history as we go along. On board are the sages of our day; John O’Donohue, Mary Oliver, James Taylor, Pooh, Jimmy Buffet and all the others in your library of quotes. The direction of the river, our historical moment, doesn’t submit to our wishes. We are just living along as it prints itself in a history book in the making. All I can say is “Oh, my!” Vicki
–Terry, I don’t have a picture – but imagine my surprise when I went into the public library here in Ocala, Marion County, Florida, and found that a new branch had opened up with the name Sankofa! Thank you for your words I find in my mailbox every morning. Iris
–Thanks so much for this story — and your beautiful phrase “unraveled by an iris”! Your words are balm to my entire being. Couldn’t be more perfect and pertinent. Shauna
–Just wonderful… wonderful… I feel blessed reading your words this morning. My cat, a big loving orange tabby, can bring me into the sacred present – the love between us. Thank you for today. Must save and reread today’s SM often. Love you! Carolyn
POEMS AND PRAYERS
There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you,
bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by
in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may,
for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face into the pillow,
or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the sky and want,
more than all the world,
Mary Jean Iron
Where Does The Temple Begin, Where Does It End?
There are things you can’t reach. But you can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.
And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.
The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.
And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree-
they are all in this too.
And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
At least, closer.
Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold
fluttering around the corner of the sky
of God, the blue air.
From Why I Wake Early