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Grant me the grace of wonder

A famous travel writer, visiting Japan, was invited to dine in the home of a well-to-do Japanese Family.  Delighted to entertain a well-known visitor, the host invited a number of guests, letting everyone know that this meal would be special one-of-a-kind; because this meal would include blowfish, considered a incomparable delicacy in Japan, both rare and expensive — in part because these fish are fatally poisonous unless the poison has been removed by a highly skilled chef.  It is no wonder that to be served such a fish, is a great honor.
As guest of honor, the writer received the plate of fish with great anticipation, and savored every mouthful.  Not disappointed, the taste was, indeed, like nothing he had ever eaten before.
“What,” asked his host, “do you think of your meal?”
Without exaggeration he extolled, elaborately, the exquisite flavor of the fish.  “It is sublime, among the best food I have ever tasted!”
Only then did his host reveal that the fish the writer had been served was not the blowfish, but merely a common variety.
Another guest, without realizing it, had eaten the prized blowfish.

I’m not suggesting that there are spiritual insights whenever blowfish is served. However, it would make life easier, wouldn’t it?
The truth is this: I’ve never even tasted blowfish.
But after reading this story, how would I know?
This is a story about where we choose to look (focus), and what we choose to see…
About how amazing, ordinary food (and ordinary moments of life) can be, if we pause, and pay close attention to each mouthful.
The difficulty for me is that I can relate to the writer.  Not the famous part, but the need to approach all of life’s experiences with a “set of boxes.”  I carry with me a regimen of preordained expectations.
So yes. I see only what I want to see. Something about our mindset.
It’s the way we have been inculcated to live life. I suppose because we want life neat. You know, tidy. With no loose ends.
As a result, we don’t know what to do when life feels unraveled.
“If it’s not one thing it’s another,” I recently overheard in the supermarket.
But, of course.  Which means that as long as life is “untidy,” we put ourselves on perpetual hold, until we can “figure it out.”  Or even better, until we have a plan of action. 

I confess that there have been times recently, when my spirit has felt unraveled. And I want to close my eyes (to not see), and to retreat somewhere deep inside. And then I wrestle with chagrin.
Isn’t it odd how we immediately dismiss whatever is uncomfortable?
If it feels bad or wrong, we say, “This is awful, get me out of here!” instead of accepting a gentle invitation, “What is this?  What is life bringing me now?”
It is no wonder that we are easily derailed.  There is a disconnect, between what is going on (our emotional state) and what we tell ourselves should be going on (whatever moral price tag we attach).

Here’s what happens: We are no longer “living” our life. No longer paying attention to each mouthful.
This strikes a chord as I’ve been reading about May being Mental Health Awareness Month. And how very easy it is to label our emotions (as negative or unpleasant or problematical or difficult), and kick into “fix it mode.”  Of course, every “unpleasant” emotion (e.g. depression, sadness, anger, melancholy, anxiety) is labeled as a character flaw.
Is it any wonder that we feel unraveled?

I often get questions from people asking about self-care when life feels unraveled. And I do know this: my lists are a good bit shorter than they used to be.
I start with Rachel Carson’s wisdom, “Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
Yes, and amen. The ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
So, for me, it meant a wonderful weekend grinning at Irv and Dottie, the geese on the pond near our house, and their three goslings.
In fact, let us put our fix it lists aside shall we? Today, what if, we enjoy the permission to pay attention (blowfish or ordinary fish), to each mouthful.
Let us take comfort in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s prayer. “Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.” 

Here’s the deal: Life begins when we can savor a plate of ordinary fish. And the permission to let go of our need to “label” it.
Tonight I was going to have blowfish, but I didn’t know how to remove the poison, so I settled for salmon. But hey, I’m a Washington state boy.
And I wonder if in heaven we will have a comprehensive language for unremarkable things.  Perhaps.  Or, maybe it begins here, knowing that every meal (every encounter, hug, smile, kind and gentle word) is a one of a kind.  And in this ordinary grace, a glimpse of heaven.

RIP Naomi Judd, who was candid about her battle with suicidal ideation, panic attacks and the ups and downs of her mental health struggles. So grateful for the fight that led her to advocate for others, offering words of solace and solidarity with those who also struggled with suicidal thoughts.

I was glad to spent a good bit of Saturday on Zoom, with LA Sisters Aging Well, a large gathering from many congregations. And we talked and laughed and told stories about embracing the sacrament of the present moment.
This week Willie Nelson turned 89. My Oh My…
And if you’re up for it, May 7 will be world Naked Gardening Day. Just saying’. It’s one of those celebrations we never announced at church.

Quote for your week…
“’Consider the lilies’ is the only commandment I ever obeyed.” Emily Dickinson (in a letter late in her life)

(Note: The blowfish story adapted from The Mindful Way Through Depression)


Today’s Photo Credit:  “Good morning Terry, I have been enjoying your reflections for several years now, especially during the pandemic. They gave me a break from all the dire news and brought peace to me. Thank you for that. We had the great pleasure of spending 5 weeks in Gig Harbour, Washington last summer in a cottage surrounded by an amazing garden.  We explored the area (even your beloved Vashon Island), and soaked in the mystery of Olympic National Park. Your discussion this past week of the power to pause spoke to me. While staying in the cottage, I gathered poppy seeds from a plant called Drama Queen. Beautiful deep purple center and red petals that are lacy on the tips. They were so enchanting I just had to see if perhaps they would grow in my garden in Austin, TX. And this week, the Queens bloomed. I was sitting on my back porched enjoying my morning coffee and noticed that one of the pods was getting ready to pop open. Rather than grab my phone to video this event for fear I would miss it, I just sat and watched. It took almost 30 minutes to finally shed its little pod and open up and it was spectacular. This ‘pause’ allowed me to see something I never would have seen; this little miracle of birth. By the end of the day, the Texas winds had tossed its pretty petals around the garden but there are still more blooming and I am pausing to enjoy them every morning and remembering our time in Gig Harbour. Thank you for reminding us to stop and savor the blessings of our beautiful world. Warmly,” Barbara Barry… Thank you Barbara… Keep sending your photos… send to 
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Dear Terry, Thank you for reminding me to savor the moments. One day this week I was sitting for some quiet time and just about the time I was going to get up and my mind was beginning to move into my next “to-do”, our cat jumped up in my lap to make herself comfortable. She’s the only cat I’ve ever had and rarely, like next to never, curls up in my lap. She snuggled down and I wouldn’t have moved for the world. She completely changed my mindset from jumping to my next thing to just savoring the moment. That extra pause made me feel more at home with myself because at some other point in my life I would have felt the need to scurry on and get moving. Thank you thank you! Lisa


Circle me O God
Keep hope within
Despair without.
Circle me O God
Keep peace within
Keep turmoil out.
Circle me O God
Keep calm within
Keep storms without.
Circle me O God
Keep strength within
Keep distress out.
Celtic Caim Prayer 

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott 

Time for Serenity, Anyone?
I like to live in the sound of water,
in the feel of mountain air. A sharp
reminder hits me: this world is still alive,
it stretches out there shivering toward its own
creation. and I’m part of it. Even my breathing
enters into this elaborate give-and-take,
this bowing to sun and moon. day or night.
winter, summer, storm, still–this tranquil
chaos that seem to be going somewhere.
This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it.
This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.
William Stafford

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