This week we’ll be talking about seeing the “gifts in the present”. And I’m smiling as I type this, because seeing the gifts is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes, quite the opposite. Like last night, as I traveled from So. Cal back home to the PNW. And there were enough kerfuffles, to make me wonder about “seeing” any gifts. Gratefully, I did finally get home about 2 a.m. (this morning).
And no, life is not always stress-free or tidy. And it is easy to get emotionally (and spiritually) derailed.
So. Let us pause. And remember that it is not will power (or some special skill), it is gratitude that grounds us. Gratitude allows us to be in, to see, the present moment. And yes, to see the gifts there. Every time…
(Like my drive home very early this morning, accompanied by a perfect half-moon. Oh my.)
I have always assumed that I could live in gratitude—or entertain God at my doorstep—only if and when everything was in order, and tidy.
What I needed instead was a reminder to be gentle with myself.
I needed to befriend those parts of me that are untidy.
To befriend those parts of me that do disappoint.
To befriend those parts of me that too easily miss the present moment.
To befriend those parts of me that don’t always see the divine at my door.
And here’s the good news. Living from this place of gratitude settles my spirit, allows me to be here now, and that spills to the small world around me. Because no one of us is on this journey alone. James Finley’s reminder and invitation that we can be a “healing presence in a tumultuous world.”
Reading this from David Whyte helped me… “Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us, gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life… Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape… Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences.”
I say yes. And thank you.
And this… My hero, Mr. Fred Rogers died on Feb 27, 2003. “Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbor.” We miss you Mr. Rogers.
I spent a good bit of today captivated and enchanted by our snowstorm here in Port Ludlow. Well, for us, snowfall might be more accurate. But watching it, squall is not far off. It is not something we see in this neck of the woods in March, so there’s the entertainment value (as long as you’re not driving).
From the inside, looking out, firs, cedar and hemlock now snow covered, and the sky chock-full of unhurried parachuting flakes, blanketing all that we see with a magical hush. And calm.
Time to sit by the fireplace with a book. Smiling because my email today from the NYT: Books Briefing–The best thing to read in a snowstorm.
This is a good segue to our topic this week: gratitude. And I’m still learning that gratitude is not exactly just an attitude choice, but rather, the invitation and permission to stop, and to be in the moment. And to see what is there. Now. And to put our arms around it. And while there (here’s the real good part), we get to let go of the other weights (expectations) we carry.
And speaking of letting go, it is Lent, and I’ve always been grateful for this (attributed to Pope Francis).
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with love.
Fast from worries and have trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressure and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words and be silent as you listen.
Many years ago, an Irish family was coming to America. Using all the money they had, there was enough to purchase four tickets for passage on a ship. Two for the parents, and two for the children, a young boy and a young girl.
The tickets allowed them to bunk—to live—in the dark belly of the ship, along with all the other poor families making the passage to a new land, to a new freedom, to a new life.
The trip was long and arduous, and it was dark, cold, and dreary down in the belly. The only food they had was what they could bring, only a few potatoes and apples, and little else. Each and every day, they nibbled from their supply.
The young girl and boy were told by their parents to never venture out of the belly of the boat. But one day, when their parents were preoccupied, the young boy and girl climbed the ladder, and found their way onto the top deck.
They walked around, beyond amazement to see buffets of food spread out and available. With so many people enjoying fresh meats, vegetables and fruits. People at one buffet, invited the boy and girl to step up, and to eat whatever they wanted. They did, and they could not believe their experience, their enjoyment, their gratification. And they took some of the food back down to the belly, to share with their parents.
When their parents saw their children carrying scrumptious food, they asked suspiciously, “Where did they get this food?”
And the children told their parents, “We learned that it is all included in the price of our ticket.”
For this story, thanks to SM friend, Kathy Tosney, “This Celtic Story I heard maybe 40 some years ago when I lived in a Carmelite lay Monastic community in Canada. I was in my early 20’s and it changed my life. Love to pass it on to you.
My Good News take… We all have the ticket too, and actually, we were born with that ticket. There is nothing we had to do to earn that ticket. The buffet is set out every day and everyone is invited.”
And I say, Amen.
“When you look at life through the eyes of gratitude, the world becomes a magical and amazing place.” Jennifer Gayle
My mentor, Lew Smedes, reminds us, “Gratitude dances though the open windows of our hearts. We cannot force it. We cannot create it. And we can certainly close our windows to keep it out. But we can also keep them open and be ready for the joy when it comes.”
I like that invitation: Living one open window at a time.
I once did a workshop where I asked the participants to describe life. One woman said, “Life is so… life is so… life is so… daily.”
Yes. She’s right. And that is the secret.
The miracle is that there need not be a miracle—just a slow drip of experience. Being mindful of small things; let us never forget that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
Places where we are able to receive.
And places from which we give: wholeheartedness, joy, grief, compassion, tears, sorrow, kindness, grace, laughter, forgiveness, gladness. And until I understand this truth (until I take it to heart), I miss the gift.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.”
Mary Oliver (Evidence: Poems)
Prayer for our week…
Making Our Souls Great
To pray is to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings,
the divine margin in all attainments.
Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return.
Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time?
Here we are admist the meditation of the land, the songs of the water, the humility of the flowers,
flowers wiser than all alphabets –
Suddenly we feel embarrassed,
ashamed of our complaints and clashes in the face of tacit glory.
How strange we are in the world!
Only one response can maintain us:
gratefulness for the gift of our unearned chance to serve, to wonder, to love life and each other.
It is gratefulness which makes our small souls great.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Photo… “Greetings Terry from upstate NY. This morning it was 14 degrees when this photo was taken. As I communicate with a snowbird friend who is in Florida today, I remember how I stood outside, taking in the quiet beauty of this winter season and I know there’s no place I would rather be. I say, ‘thank you God for putting me here to enjoy the beauty and the gentle tranquillity of winter.’ As always, thank you Terry for your stories that often make me laugh, the ones that make me cry, and the ones that give me pause and fill my heart with gratitude. Blessings,” Debby Eiler-Crumb