Glad to be alive
I walk every morning. A few miles. Around Fisher Pond, here on Vashon Island.
Not far from my house, I pass my neighbor’s field, home to a flock of sheep.
Today, I stopped and talked with them. Two of the mamas have new twins. Yes, they are adorable.
This morning, it felt like church, so I give them a little homily. Not too long. Seven minutes or so.
I tell them that some days I don’t want to read the news. At least not until after lunch. I tell them our world convulses with uncertainty and anxiety. I tell them that people are on the edge (money, jobs, bills, family members sick or dying), and you may never know the whole story.
I tell them I don’t know what to write for Sabbath Moment, and have trouble finding the words. They stare, seeming to listen to me, but with a passive gaze. I tell them it feels like I’m preaching to Episcopalians, which doesn’t seem to affect them.
Here’s what I do know. They did my heart good. I watched the little ones cuddling and nestling and sheltering up to their mama, so very glad to be alive. I go on with my walk carrying these gifts from my morning congregation, living vicariously and wholeheartedly through their joy, and very glad to be alive.
I’m back on my porch with coffee. I’m glad you’re here. Pull up a chair.
I am aware that some of my anxiety is from the temptation, that in order to inspire and encourage, one must find remedies in tidily packaged mental pictures. It’s just that life doesn’t work that way. Forrest Gump voiced it best for all of us. “Mama always said dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
This week, I have two observations.
One. In the midst of competing anxieties, I want to fully embrace the gift of the sacrament of the present moment.
There’s a Hopi word: koyaanisqatsi. For most of us it’s easy to relate to: it means “living life out-of-balance.” When we’re all doing, without any not-doing, we’re out-of-balance human beings. Half alive. Half here.
After time with my “congregation”, I walk my garden. Lilacs are budded. The shrubs lean (or bow in reverence?) from the heaviness of last night’s heavy rain.
Here’s my prayer: I want to be awake, in this life, in this moment, the very one I am living today.
Precarious? Indeed. Which is why this life is so much more precious.
You’ll permit me to smile at this wonderful irony. This email from a reader last year, “I’d love a day with no obligations, to sit and read and ponder and wander and peruse and just be.” (Be careful what you wish for.)
There is power in words. We used to talk about the need to free up time. Now, a paradigm shift; we can embrace time as a sacred gift.
Another reader wrote this week, “There is something about the light I am guessing, relishing the warmth on my face. An invitation to explore, saunter, sit, savor, grin (with no real reason necessary), soak up oomph, point, laugh out loud, and refuel.” Sacred present indeed. It’s Thomas Merton’s reminder that spiritual life is not about hiding from life or avoiding it, the spiritual life is about life, and how we live it, every day.
I’ll tell you what replenished me today.
The sheep didn’t ask about my bank account or bills not getting paid, or when and if I would work (travel) again. Or, about when life would go back to normal.
Of course, I don’t know when that will be. But here’s the deal: While I’m waiting for “normal”, the sacred is still alive and well. And the ordinary is the hiding place of the holy.
This is the life. Yes. And human connection is alive and well.
Empathy and compassion are alive and well.
Beauty and gladness are alive and well.
Sanctuary is alive and well. Ministry is alive and well.
Spontaneous gestures of kindness are alive and well.
Music from the heart is alive and well.
“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful.” Howard Thurman
The first-grade class assignment: to name the seven wonders of the world. Each student compiles a list, and shares their list, aloud, with the class. There is ardent interaction as the students call out entries from their lists: The Pyramids, the Empire State Building, the Amazon River, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and the list goes on. The teacher serves the role of cheerleader, “Class, these are great answers. Well done!”
One girl sits silent. She is asked about her list. She says, “I don’t think I understand the assignment.”
“I don’t have any of the right answers,” she tells the teacher.
“Well, why don’t you tell us what you wrote on your paper, and we’ll help you.” the teacher encourages her.
“Okay,” says the little girl, “I think the seven wonders of the world are… to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to feel, to love, to belong.”
Two. Transformation (conversion) brings with it an extraordinary gift.
I was raised in a religious tradition that mandated conversion, which punched my ticket for the afterlife. I was frequently asked what I would do if I died today. I was never once asked what I would do if I lived.
But what if conversion is about living this life, today, with my whole heart?
“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full,” Marcel Proust wrote. So we wake up to this life, fragile and exquisitely beautiful, embracing the sacred present.
“When old patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” Tuli Kupferberg wrote. In other words, when I’m not preoccupied (held captive by angst), I notice, I pay attention, I see.
And in taking ownership of my life, this life, I am available. Not frightened by scarcity, I’m not enticed to ask, “what do I need today?” Rather, I can ask, “what do others need today?” You see, I have both resources and assets to give… Listening ear. Empathy. Calm demeanor. Shout out to a friend. Words of consolation.
Let us remember that no one of us is on this journey alone. This
week very sad news for my own family. My Father’s wife, Karen Hershey died
unexpectedly. I would be grateful for your prayers for my Father and my family.
Savor your days my friends.
Quote for your week…
So, at this time, this crucial time, let me say that I or a few of us may not make it through this tidal wave. In a few months we could be fewer. Do not grieve. Do not panic. Do not negotiate with negativity. Trust God, your best self and your pilgrim buddies. Do not worry unnecessarily. You/we have incredible assets. The ultimate defeat is not to die but would be not to live when it is our chance. Be present! Phil Volker
Notes: Resources, tool and practices.
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NEW. Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you Terry, for the invitation to join you on your porch for a chat that always fills my heart and restores my soul. I’m choosing to stay home and healthy. I too am in that age category with a lifetime of lung sensitivities. But for now, one day at a time, I’m finding ways to see things from a new perspective, keeping my hands busy which always quiets my mind, reaching out virtually to others to stay connected, enjoying being outside as spring bursts with blooms and birdsong. Paula
–Dear Terry, I am thrilled with this e-course!! You have given me much to consider and ponder. I’ve printed out all of the exercises and reflections sections as I intend to use them regularly. Perhaps not all at once, but over time. And I’m sure that some of your comments will end up in my blog. It’s as though certain lines in the conversation stand out immediately to me and I’ve had to write them down for myself. Your videos certainly add to the conversation. It is always a pleasure to hear your voice. Thank you so much for this PAUSE. It has done my heart good!!! Ruth
–Hi Terry, What seems to be a major stress was turned into a blessing this morning with reading March 16 SM. My heart is opening to the wonderful possibilities of this time to spend with God and God’s beautiful creation. Blessings and peace. Marlene
–Dear Terry, I wrote this Haiku and wanted to share it with you. I am a very blessed person…this crisis has opened my heart and eyes to that fact. Praying that this trial will lift the veil of bigotry and hate from our world.
“Our collective sigh
A pause in our awareness
We will catch our breath”.
Please stay safe and thank you for all you do. You are a “helper”! Annette
–Terry, my son Michael received a phone call from our grandaughter Alia this afternoon. She is studying in Germany. It appears she has the virus. Please pray for her. Pat
–Thank you Terry. Your voice, a warm salve… made for this. Sincerely, Valerie
–Thank you, Terry, for this lovely cup of “coffee” with which to start my day. Finding ways to adapt my “routines” in this time of change helps. Blessings and a virtual hug to you. Jo
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
A Coronavirus Prayer
Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us.
Kerry Weber, Executive Editor of America: The Jesuit Review
Hi, Terry; Loved the Virtual Choir! Because that is what we all are; a choir of virtual earthly angels meeting as God’s chosen ones; meeting with God’s grateful goodness and mercy; the best of ourselves carved from Creation’s Heavenly space. I think we need to remind each other that it is not over until it is over, and it is never over. The road winds on and we walk with the light of love showing us the way. Our time becomes all time. Godspeed always, Sky Ann