My walk this morning is in a new neck of the woods. I will be in discovery mode for the next several weeks. I do miss the sheep. But in the coming days, I will be on the lookout for a new congregation (well, let’s say, more like a sounding board). Where I live now is still vintage Pacific Northwest, a palette with hypnotic and calming shades of green, a cathedral of cedar, fir and hemlock, and a backdrop of the Puget Sound.
On the pond visible from the new living room, a Mallard pair loiter. I tell myself it could be Fred and Ethel, making the trip north from Vashon Island with well wishes and Advent Blessings.
On Saturday, a Zoom retreat (sponsored by the Franciscan Renewal Center). We talked about our need for Reset Buttons. When we are disconnected from the sacrament of the present, and from the gift of enough, we disconnect from ourselves, and we need a reset button. Each button a way of saying, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for our well-being if we quit keeping score, in order to remember what really matters. (And I confess, my little talk was mostly aimed at me.)
It’s never easy to admit (or say out loud) when the load you carry is heavy, in part because so many are carrying much, much heavier loads. And I don’t want to make a fuss. But my spirit knows I’ve been lugging a lot, and I shake my head, knowing that I don’t give myself the permission to set that stuff down, and to take nourishment. It’s been one of my life-long wrestling matches.
It doesn’t help to add the obligation of a list. Because this I do know; though I do want to travel lighter, it seems contradictory—only exacerbating the problem—to add another to-do list to the menu necessary to live this life fully alive. And yes, we can get oddly grandiose about this whole state of affairs. We can turn loving life into another contest. You know, if we’re going to try this on for size (living the sacrament of the present), we might as well excel at it, as if we can become some sort of expert at loving life or productive stillness. You never know who might notice.
Every time we add the compulsion, we reinforce the discomfiting implication that this day, as it currently stacks up, is not sufficient. It needs to be improved upon, made more respectable or enviable by some gadget or self-help course available for only three low monthly payments on our credit card.
I love Lynne Twist’s reminder, “The problem is not simply that we work too much, the problem is that we are working for the wrong reward… We are paid in the wrong currency. What if we were to expand our definition of wealth to include those things that grow only in time-time to walk in the park, time to take a nap, time to play with children, to read a good book, to dance, to put our hands in the garden, to cook playful meals with friends, to paint, to sing, to meditate, to keep a journal.”
Gratefully and gladly, the full force of life and the gift of enough, usually envelops me when I’m looking the other way, say for answers or magic or resolve (maybe a reprieve from the disquiet of moving). It is a lot like grace in that way. It enters in, slows the heartbeat, and before you know it, you’re sitting still. Relishing, contemplating, savoring and just being, if only for a moment. These moments re-introduce me to a world that is antithetical to the world that tells me the five things I must do to get past, or get over, or stay on top.
For me, it happened on Saturday, my final day on Vashon Island. On this early December day, the sun graces us, now lower in the sky, with shafts (marionettes) of light, messages of hope through the cathedral of trees. Lord have mercy. I walk the garden slowly, as a prayer.
Just off the back patio, resilient blooms on Mary Rose. They are advent candles for peace. It makes me smile real big.
Much of the garden is all cheerfully, though terribly sprawled, flopped, and askew. Winter is around the corner. Nuthatches and chickadees continue their resolute forays to the feeder. When I look up, an occasional wispy cloud rides a river through the southern sky like a backdrop which has missed its cue and is hastily escorted across the stage. The air is touched with the smoke of wood stoves. And except for the nuthatches and an occasional stirring of our wooden wind chimes, there is silence.
Here’s the deal: People who love life, embrace particularity. Particularity means not shying away from the detail. In fact, particularity throws caution to the wind and jumps, whole hog, into the fray of details. It’s about awareness. Noting the specifics. Slowing us down and immersing us in the full weight, the density of the daily and the ordinary. Yes, the ordinary, the hiding place for the holy.
“’Real life,’ as we once knew it, lacks our newfound essential need for sustained titillation,” Neil Postman recently wrote. “Therefore, solitude and the pleasure of a cup of coffee while lounging outside in leisure soaking in the bliss of a garden or a setting in nature becomes an abhorrent abyss of boredom. This sort of pleasure (of ‘real life’) satisfies the soul while ‘toys’ arouse only the outer senses… Like love, we seek pleasure in all the wrong places… the real loss is the negation of my soul.”
Normally, this is the time of year you would be receiving an email from me inviting you to make a donation. I’m a little behind… but it will be on its way. First, I need to tell you how grateful I am for the Sabbath Moment community. This year has rocked all of our worlds. And our community reminds us that even with all the upheaval, there is the benefit of a reset button as we walk one another home. To remember what we may have lost; but also the permission to live with a soft heart; to create places for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness; spaces where we are refueled to make a difference. Thank you for spilling your light.
Quote for your week…
To be available to the spell (beauty) is very easy. All you need to do is calm down and look around. To be imperious to the spell requires a far greater effort–plus it costs more in lost quality of life. Terry Theise
I’m grateful for those who have joined us for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. 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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(By check: PO Box 2301, Vashon, WA 98070)December 11 — Zoom fundraiser for Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, “How to Stay Spiritually Hydrated in a World that Depletes Us”NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — To make a difference (the audio to honor my father)
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Dear Terry, when I read your goodbye to the sheep, and then, further on, that you are leaving Vashon Island, I was struck silent for a few beats. I am sad that I won’t hear from the sheep anymore–but am hopeful that there will be other sheep, besides your readers, in your future. Bless you for being courageous enough to pack up and go. Blessings too on all the sorting, tossing and goods-sharing that accompany any move. Will send prayers for the relocation – already looking forward to you exploring your new surroundings. I will “Google” Port Ludlow to “see” where you are. prayers and hugs, Diane from Cross Village, MI (a tiny, caring community near Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt)
–Dear Terry, In some strange way, unbeknownst to you, you have become part of my life. There is a piece of your wisdom, compassion, and just plain humanity that resides somewhere within my being. So, as part of your family, although I have no right to wonder, why are you leaving? Is this a difficult, or at least challenging, moment for you? If so, I send you my loving support (not much help, I realize, but maybe a bit comforting with a glass of good red wine) Luise
–Dear Terry, My world is jilted reading you are moving. Can you believe the stability I find in knowing you are on your precious island? I feel like I am in the pasture with the sheep, rocked by your news. I know the move is orchestrated by the Master Planner so all will be well, but my heart is momentarily heavy for both of us. I apologize for making this so much about me. How good it was to be with you in a place I will never see, but thanks to you, loved. I hope the boxes do not get too heavy. Gwen
–Dear Terry, Your moving announcement brought tears to my eyes. Surely you must be grieving that which you are leaving, for your writing has been so grounded in the land on which you live. So, I say a special prayer for your well-being as you settle into a new place. This pandemic continues to challenge us all, and I thank you for the Moments shared with others. All things, small or large, can indeed be embraced as part of a creation in which we garden in all we do. May my words nurture as yours do; may our poetry and photography, our art and music, be touches of the holy, sustaining and repairing all that is broken. Shalom, Terry, shalom. God’s blessings, Jackie
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
(César Chávez’s “Prayer of the Farm Worker’s Struggle,” which shows how devotion to God combined with action in the movement. I am deeply touched by the simplicity and humility of his prayer. Richard Rohr)
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home respect and support those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who are losing our investments, remember those who have no home.
During this time, when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us each find ways to be the loving embrace of humanity to our neighbors.
Be aware. Be accepting. Be supportive. Be kind.