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Daily Dose (Jan 23 – 26)

Tuesday — Many years ago, I spend some time in a village in Holland, near the border of Germany. I was there for a two-week writing workshop. And yes, it was life-giving.
As friends, each evening, we sat around the river and swapped stories and laughed from the gut.
One evening just before sunset I jumped on my bike and rode through the village. I stopped near a wall and watched a villager in her garden. She was bent at the waist, had a small garden tool in her hand and was scratching the soil around her lilac shrubs. She was doing it lovingly, coddling, caressing. It seemed like she had nowhere to go and was in no hurry to get there. An old stone wall surrounded her garden lot, and a stone path surrounded by emerald green grass led from the gate, flanked by autumn blooming flowers; monkshood, asters, hollyhocks. Tears welled in my eyes and I was filled with some longing for something that was yet unnamed. I knew this for certain: around me it was blessed.

With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
Navajo blessing prayer

And I wanted to jump the fence, and give her a hug for the gift she’d just given me, understanding that rediscovering wonder is about seeing with new eyes.

This week, the permission to Pause. Yes, our invitation to have “new eyes”, knowing that the ordinary the hiding place for the holy… we are “reintroduced to wonder.”
Albert Einstein’s: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Wednesday —

Two men, walking on the road to Emmaus, were having a very difficult day. They were part of “the group”—followers (or disciples) of Jesus—and they were walking from Jerusalem not long after the crucifixion. Put simply, their world had turned upside down. And when that happens, all bets are off.
And then three days after the crucifixion, there were rumors that Jesus’ body was gone. Some of the women from their group and some of the men had gone to look, and it was true, the tomb was empty.
So, what does this all mean—now so filled with shock, confusion, disappointment and pain? As they walked, Jesus caught up with them on the road, and began to walk with them. Here’s what we know: their pain affected their ability “to see”…  and they did not recognize Jesus.
He asked them what was wrong. “They stopped, looking downcast.”
In their disillusionment and despair, they did not even look at him closely. They just wanted to tell him the story of their pain. “We were hoping…” they said. We were hoping. Yes, I get it.
So many times in our lives, we get caught up in our own burdens, distresses, disruptions and distractions. And now, preoccupied with uneasiness, apprehension and fear we don’t recognize that the stranger, standing there with us, is Jesus.
Yes, “We were hoping”… that our lives would not be so messy. Instead, uncertainty in our world encumbers us; loved ones do become ill; friendship and marriages are not always what we had hoped for; our friends and even our children can frustrate and disappoint us; addiction is real; cultural noise is real; and promises don’t always come true.
They tell him their stories, and something in Jesus draws them to him: his warmth, his understanding. Simply put, He “sees” them.
He tells them about the suffering servant of Israel. He says suffering is part of the story. He touches their hearts as they begin to see the scriptures in a new way, though they don’t fully make the connection.
When it comes time to separate on the road, they urge him to say with them. “It is nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” It might have been common to ask a traveler to stay as night drew on because the roads were dangerous. But there is something more. They feel so drawn to him and want to stay in his presence.
Things are more hopeful as he speaks. They feel his deep care for each of them. It is somehow a very personal connection with this stranger they do not recognize.
So, he stays with them. As they gather around the table for dinner, there is warmth and prayer and then Jesus takes the customary bread, blesses it and breaks it. And their eyes were opened… Jesus is here.

And then, Jesus is gone. Astounded, the two friends stare across the table at each other. “Were not our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us on the way?” They had not recognized him, but still, they felt it to their very core.
Rediscovering wonder is about the invitation to see with new eyes, knowing that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy. With the breaking of bread, Jesus is here. We are “reintroduced to wonder.”
(With gratitude, some of the story is adapted from Creighton University’s online-ministries.)

And I have a memory. Some years ago, standing in the Basilica of Saint-Michel (Bordeaux, France—built between the 14th and 15th centuries). I see an expansive painting of the Gospel story about the Road to Emmaus.  I overhear a conversation between a father and daughter. “Do you remember that story?” She tells him she’s not sure, and he begins to explain… It is not until he breaks bread with them that their eyes are “opened.”
“But why couldn’t they recognize him?” the daughter asks, incredulous.
“I don’t know,” the father tells her. “All I know is that something happened when they broke bread together.”

Thursday —

Our topic this week, rediscovering wonder, and I have been gratefully meandering down memory lane. Reliving moments where the gift of wonder made me smile real big and made me glad to be alive.
Each experience an affirmation of Proust’s invitation, that the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

I enjoyed another memory from a trip to France. We are staying near Baruch, south of Bordeaux. The stone wall stands cragged and etched and clothed in moss. The sun soothes and blesses. It is a rare day in January with a blue sky bleached of any rich or subtle hues. I was in writing mode, single-minded on the need to write something “meaningful”. But nothing came to mind, which meant I wondered what I was missing, so I slipped out onto the patio with a baguette and a plate of rillettes and pate, and a St. Emilion Bordeaux wine. (I try to live by the motto that’s there’s nothing a picnic can’t fix.)
Near our patio drapes a Kiwi vine. The vine is leafless on this winter day, with some fruit still clinging, dogged on the vine. I watch a young woman, with a spoon in hand, peeling the fruit to taste it, giddy at the discovery of real kiwi—“the first time I’ve seen kiwi outside of a store,” she tells me. I’m smiling big because her sense of being “surprised by wonder” is blessedly contagious.
So. Here’s my question; do we give ourselves the permission, the freedom to Pause, in order to see wonder, to be giddy, to let our heart swell with joy and awe?

At dawn I walk.
It is blessed where I walk.
Behind me it is blessed where I walk.
Before me it is blessed where I walk.
I walk. I walk. I walk.
It is blessed where I walk.
Navajo Poem

Our mind tends to reduce such episodes, “It’s just a kiwi,” we say. Forgetting there is a corollary here: The gift of enough. We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship, meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace—in very ordinary moments. Every encounter, every relationship, is a place to rediscover wonder… allowing us to be present. Yes, allowing us to include, invite mercy, encourage, receive, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, refuel, and to befriend our own heart. 

For friends on Vashon Island, this Sunday I will be guest preacher at Burton Church. Join us if you can at 11 am.
And this is fun news. We’ll soon be making my Power of Pause audio book available to all.

Friday —

It is marvelous, yes, even heavenly, that we have, and enjoy, and savor, moments of wonder. When we know the “thinner membrane” is alive and well. I am so glad and grateful.
Of course, I’m smiling, because even as I write this, I realize the urge to want to figure it all out. To be sure, there are those occasions when we absorb wonder, and our heart is compelled to marvel.
And, of course, re-living some of the memories I’ve written about this week, as I write about wonder while I sip wine in a two-hundred-year-old chateau. Where yes, it is easy to “be in awe”.
So. What’s the deal?  Is wonder in the geography and place (the terroir)?
Or, is the capacity for wonder somehow something that I literally carry in my heart… regardless of where I may be?
St. Ignatius’ reminder that we can “find God in all things,” a delicious invitation to be on the lookout. There it is… to be on the lookout…
And I love this from Vladimir Nabokov, “Caress the detail, the divine detail.”

No, it is not easy, and I do know that we all resonate. And that, all the while, we are still looking for the manual. You know the one, where life reduces itself to explication?  We want to find meaning—passion, spark, wonder, awe, appetite—but it would be helpful if we could figure it out in our minds. (I’m just wondering: Why does it feel like some people received this manual, and we never got ours?)
But here’s the irony: this need for control just gives us so much more to fret about. (Not that there aren’t a boatload of things to fret about. Life is filled with catastrophes both real and imagined.)
This is an old story, but true.
As long as we fret. . .
We miss the wonder.
As long as we fret. . .
We miss the moment.

This week, I have a favorite new word: Blazemoche (n.) – The therapeutic tranquility one feels when listening to the crackling wood and dancing flames and feeling the cozy warmth of a fire or bonfire on a starry night.
And grateful for this from SM reader Deb Pierce McCabe, “Blazemoche settled over me that evening, which sustained me for the rest of the week.”

Let’s give Barry Lopez the final word, “In the evenings I walk down and stand in the trees, in light paused just so in the leaves, as if the change in the river here were not simply known to me but apprehended. It did not start out this way; I began with the worst sort of ignorance, the grossest inquiries. Now I ask very little. I observe the swift movement of water through the nation of fish at my feet. I wonder privately if there are for them, as there are for me, moments of faith.” (River Notes)

Prayer for our week…
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the curragh of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

Photo… “Terry, I was at a slight elevation (on a hill) which allowed for this angle of vision and the clouds were very low on the horizon. Spanish moss at Florida sunset.” Carolyn O’Leary…

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