skip to Main Content

Daily Dose (May 30 – June 2)

Tuesday —

This week, we will listen to Mr. Rogers’ invitation, “It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have. The alphabet is fine, but it’s what we do with it that matters most. Making words like ‘friend’ and ‘love’. That’s what really matters.”
How do we find the courage to choose what really matters?
There are poems that help me name and hold on to the good stuff that matters. And I’ve often used this one in homilies (sermons):
What is success?
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded!”

I say Amen. But there’s another story here. I’ve always read that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote it. Except, he did not.
The author? Bessie Anderson Stanley (1879-1952). No, she was never a renowned writer, but spoke and wrote from the heart. You see, in 1904 she participated in a magazine writing contest where the task was to answer the question ”What is success?” in 100 words or less. Her entry won first place and the prize was $250 (quite the sum at the time). Over time, as we’ve done often, we attribute to people who are more “well known”.
But today, I say, “Thank you Bessie.”
The one above is a modern version of Bessie’s original. Here’s her original from 1904… take this one into your day… (or post it on your fridge).
He has achieved success
who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.”

Wednesday —

We’re talking about tethering our well-being to things that really matter. And the garden helps me with that journey. May Sarton’s reminder, “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

Although it’s not amusing when something happens to our script for this journey.
In my garden on Saturday, I fussed and futzed, and smiled real big. And then, stopped. At a rose bush, now missing every single rose bud (and a few leaves). And I knew at once. The infamous desperado Odocoileus hemionus. The black-tailed deer. I wasn’t sure whether I would laugh. Or cry. So I did a little of both.
It all reminded me that gardening, after all, is not some place we arrive. It has to do with the direction we are going. Which means that your garden doesn’t have to be complete, or without blemish. It doesn’t even have to be close. It just has to feel like it’s your own, your own little slice of bliss.
In our paranoia over what’s missing, or what’s not quite right, we forget the solace and medicinal quality of our garden until hours after we’ve left it. Say, for example, you are numbed, slogging through an airport, bombarded with the panoply of sights and sounds afforded by our modern technology, and the ballyhoo of headlines on newsstand papers.
So, you sit down. Just for a minute. And then you remember the garden in morning light, around 6:30 that very morning, when armed with salt, you went to battle slug legions, all this before you were yanked away for God-knows-whatever business.
And you remember the heady fragrance of the rose arbor: New Dawn and Trier. The velvet lilac color of Penstemon Midnight rising out of a clump of bellflowers, backed by the nodding white blooms of the damask rose “Madame Hardy”. All of this tempered by mourning the loss of a trio of Madonna lilies, slug-slaughtered, their buds all but gone. Tempered, yes, but not erased. For while you are muttering and shaking your head, you notice the dewdrops of the evergreen huckleberry and a Robin playing tug of war with a morning worm. They go together, these extremes. They are inexorably and wonderfully intertwined.

Gardening (like our spiritual journey) can be an exasperating way of life, but only if we expected some intended result, needing our garden or landscape to conform to some predetermined goal. And it’s not just the garden we’re talking about. Any issue relating to the good life, personal growth, and the soul is suffocated by demanding some pre-arranged goal.
Ray Anderson, my theology professor, would say, “Spirituality is the ability to live with ambiguity.”  This was not easy for a young man doing his best to play “the right notes”. I know now that Dr. Anderson was reminding us that spirituality means learning a willingness to embrace life—yes, this life—in all of its imperfections. Spirituality is, in fact, not some predetermined destination, but the direction we are going. And that, my friends, really matters.

(Note: the memories of the garden in morning light is from my book Soul Gardening)

Friday —

I’ve been asked, too often in my life, what I believe. My favorite variation, is any inquiry about my doctrinal statement. This begins a volley of theological catch phrases, which become de facto passwords for many religious organizations. It’s the way we tell who’s in and who’s out.
Here’s the odd part; I have never once been asked about what nourishes my soul. Or to list what moves me. Or for stories about what warms my blood, sends gooseflesh up my arms, makes me want to dance, makes me love life, or laugh and cry at the same time. I’ve been asked about what is appropriate, but never about what is important. About what really matters.
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… along the way (even the messy way)…
I don’t want to miss the small gifts of life,
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.
I want to be at home in my own skin, with this gift of enough. Say, on refreshingly cool June morning, on my walk marveling at the way the clouds create shapes and stories on a cornflower blue sky. And giddy chatting with two of our new “neighborhood” families. Mallard waddles. And a Canada Geese brood.
Nature and gardens always bring poetry to mind, in this case Francis Ponge, who spoke of the meaning that is locked in the “simplest object or person,” and “in these terms, one will surely understand what I consider to be the function of poetry. It is to nourish the spirit of man by giving him the cosmos to suckle.” Yes. And Amen. Perhaps gratitude, and honoring enough, begins there. Phil Cousineau’s reminder, “What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”

Prayer for our week…
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Bob Dylan

Photo… “Hi Terry, My friend took this photo of our recent play date in the Blue Ridge mountains of VA. She has recently shared your Sabbath Moment Daily with me and I’m a devoted reader now! With gratitude,” Colleen Carrell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top