The gift of small graces
On my walk this morning, a light rain and cool gray skies. It’s a little early for November weather, but it feels good to put on my Seahawks rain jacket.
So. I stand with the geese for a wee bit, and they wonder about my silence. “No homily?” their look says.
I tell them it’s been one of those weeks. When I put pen to paper, and I feel like I’ve got nothing to draw on.
“Okay,” says one. “But you can at least tell us a story.”
Toad said, “My list tells me that we will go for a walk.”
“All right,” said Frog. “I am ready.”
Frog and Toad went on a long walk.
Then Toad took the list from his pocket again.
He crossed out: Take a walk with Frog
Just then there was a strong wind.
It blew the list out of Toad’s hand. The list blew high into the air.
“Help!” cried Toad. “My list is blowing away. What will I do without my list?”
“Hurry!” said Frog. “We will run and catch it.”
“No!” shouted Toad, “I cannot do that.”
“Why not?” asked Frog.
“Because,” wailed Toad, “running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!”
(From Frog and Toad Together, Arnold Lobel)
Nothing messes with your list, like life turning left, or going catawampus.
And it’s not news that there’s already a lot on our lists, and a lot on our plates, and too many plates to juggle. A combo that makes list-making precarious; an exhausting recipe peppered with the word should and a pinch of guilt.
Sometimes I don’t know why I find myself unnerved (and overwhelmed) by what I see, read and watch. And somehow also feel guilty, as if it means I don’t care enough.
Okay, my confession: As a ‘P’ on the Myers-Briggs test—translated, “deadline means time to get started,”—I give ‘Js’ (those are the list makers), a hard time. But this is not just about list making. It’s about our cultural obsession that production must be married to urgency. Like the company whose motto is “we only do rush orders.” So. Our adrenalin is wired to “get stuff done. NOW.”
And it reminds me that worry and urgency are the peer pressures of my world.
But (this is important), urgency is not just about speed. It’s about filling space (data overload, multitasking, public opinion, losing track of our heart), until we are bursting. And it takes a toll.
Bottom line: It’s time to hit the pause button. This is never easy to do, as we live in a world that does not honor slowing down or space for healing, and replenishment, and spiritual hydration.
It’s easy to blame “the world”. I know because I used to have a crazy schedule. On the road, in and out of airports. It was what I “did”. And being tired was a small price to pay. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t had that life for some time. But here’s the deal: urgency still has a way of tracking you down.
Here is what I know: One. Urgency is predicated on our need to overcome, or tidy up, fix, or cope. There is something about control, I suppose. And I wonder what kind of control I need, and what does it feed? In other words, why am I so afraid of any uncertainty, or unpredictable part of my world? And why am I afraid to use the pause button?
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty,” Etty Hillesum wrote. “To reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
Yes. Yes. That’s the gift.
The space enables me to see the sufficiency that is already there.
The space enables me to be at peace with my enoughness.
The space enables me to know that my enoughness is never predicated on what I’ve collected (or on the length of the list, or on anything external), but on the gentle hands of grace that hold me no matter what.
And, as Etty, wrote, this kind of peace spills to the world around us.
What was number two? Oh yes… letting go of urgency (for the purpose of rest and renewal) is intentional. We can choose.
John Killinger once asked Sister Corita Kent, a nun known as a leader of worship, to help lead worship services. He received a postcard a few days later that simply said, “Dear, I am trying to be quiet. S. Corita.”
Why do we need permission to give up urgency, even for a day?
If it is rainy where you live, stand and catch a few raindrops. (Although, as I write this, I see my east coast friends are getting more than a few raindrops, so you stay safe and hunker down.)
If you have a garden, sit on a rock and sip your coffee.
If you have a bird feeder, make a note of how many colors come your way.
This is not an assignment. It is all about healing that place where urgency will be born.
This is from Kent Neburn’s book Small Graces. And it does my heart good… “I have walked a quiet path today… Do we really need much more than this? To honor the dawn. To visit a garden. To talk to a friend. To contemplate a cloud. To cherish a meal. To bow our heads before the mystery of the day. Are these not enough? If we should be so lucky as to touch the lives of many, so be it. But if our lot is no more than the setting of a table, or the tending of a garden, or showing a child a path in a wood, our lives are no less worthy.
To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly with our God. To bring peace to the old. To have trust in our friends. To cherish the young. Sometimes, it seems, we ask too much. Sometimes we forget that the small graces are enough.”
I do have a good idea for a list. Not a to-do list, but an “I’m grateful for this in my life and our world” list. One or two things a day on that list will do your heart good.
With this weather here, it was perfect for an afternoon book (A Natural History of North American Trees), a nap and tonight, something on the grill with a glass of wine.
And a shout out to all the volunteers gathered at Northern Virginia Community College, who greeted and supported hundreds of Afghans arriving today.
Quote for your week…
By means of a diversion we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day. Pascal
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Today’s Photo Credit: “Thanks Terry for bridge-buiding! I received the gift of this image through my camera lens ‘Before the Storm’ as I had to pull off the highway to behold the gathering storm clouds, remnants of Hurricane Fred, all the while receiving the rays of light breaking through the clouds. Blessings,” Bob Keener, Shippensburg, PA… Thank you Bob… Keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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In the mailbag…
–Terry, Just received your August 16th Sabbath Moment forwarded by a dear friend. So need a moment like that each day in these trying and sad and frightening times. Would like to sign up. Thank you thank you for the beautiful words. Bobbi
–Your meditation today on dirt and gardens was an affirmation of my new space. Designed and created this year around my 616 sq ft Lake Huron cottage, the tiny garden invites birds, bees, butterflies and me to visit, stay a while. Jill
–I am enjoying the peace of retirement and working at being at peace with who I am. Thank you for this morning’s Sabbath Moment. Susan
–Terry, my maiden name was Pethybridge from my English grandparents. It was a mouthful for some of my students so I used the bridge bit first as something they knew for real and the importance of bridges in life. The first part of my English name was Pethy with the y like in baby so they had no trouble with the Peth-y–bridge after that. I have been told that Pethy relates to pleasant pastures I always connected it with my favourite 23rd Psalm and the song Bridge over troubled waters. Grace (New Zealand)
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depth the laughter of God.
This is What Was Bequeathed Us
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
Left to us.
No other world
But his one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
Normal day, 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 in the pillow,
or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the sky and want,
more than all the world, your return.
Mary Jean Iron