Not an easy opening to follow. But the world has shifted. And the pain and sacrifice are real.
But here’s what I know: Life didn’t stop. And the earth still turns. As I write these words, the moon, waning Gibbous, smiles brightly through the fir branches, on the two hundred foot, one-hundred-year-old trees near my house.
I won’t pretend. Sometimes I just want to close my eyes. But fear doesn’t help any one of us.
So. Pull up a chair my friend. It is porch chat time. I have plenty of chairs, even if only virtual. I’ll pour you a coffee. I made plenty. It’s the good stuff, no church-hour coffee here. It’s early, but I have wine if you prefer. And let’s talk, shall we?
Fear is not easy to avoid with the tsunami of data. And cognitive dissonance is alarming. (Although, I admit, it is an enjoyable diversion to laugh at the toilet paper fights.)
In our circle, there is no room for fear or alarm or panic. And for anyone who trucks in falsehoods, please stop it. This email caught my eye. “Tired of reading about how we shouldn’t worry because coronavirus is only risky to vulnerable people like immune compromised people? Y’all know immune compromised people can read, right?”
Let us remember; no one of us is on this journey alone.
Many of us have been mentally ticking off moments in our lifetime when our world changed. Personal mostly; births, weddings, deaths. And times when our world tilted. Kennedy assassination, 9/11, Katrina (and others). The power here, is that this moment is truly collective. We are, literally, in the same boat. Yes, I know that we won’t be congregating for some time. But we pay a price if we don’t have these sit-downs. Even if virtual. It’s essential to do our part to slow fear and mute voices of alarm and panic.
Here’s the deal: When life is upside down, we easily forget the fundamental truth that we live from sufficiency, not scarcity. Even in times of distress.
Church was cancelled. March madness was cancelled. Public gatherings have been cancelled. There is more to come.
But hope will not be cancelled.
Conversations will not be cancelled.
Friendship will not be cancelled.
Gardening will not be cancelled.
Watching the moonlight filter through the trees will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Music will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
Prayer will not be cancelled.
And lifting one another’s spirits will not be cancelled.
May we lean into the good stuff that remains.
(A shout out to Jamie Taworski for this idea.)
Oh yes. Laughter will not be cancelled. My FB post today…
CDC: To prevent coronavirus stay home, avoid physical contact and don’t go into large crowds.
Introverts: I’ve been preparing for this moment my entire life.
The sacrament of the present moment still anchors us. Centers us. Calms us. Invites us to pay attention to the things that really matter.
So. Here’s our list for this week.
One. It doesn’t hurt to pause. Let yourself be still. Breathe. (Many of us have longed for relief from a relentless pace.) Let the pause be a sanctuary for calm and reassurance.
Two. Who are your people? Reach out to them. Encourage, listen, laugh and celebrate. It lightens the load.
Three. Savor beauty. In moments and snippets. Let beauty make you smile. With beauty there is joy and joy is always a balm for whatever ails us. When life is precarious, the world is astonishingly and exquisitely beautiful.
Four. Find ways to be grateful. Etty Hillesum’s reminder, “As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer, because the fewer expectations we have, the more the good things of life become unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.”
Five. Any crisis reminds us of the truly vulnerable. To be human is to care for one another with empathy and kindness.
This is not a time to castigate. This is not a time to eschew responsibility. In fact, I do take responsibility, to make choices that will fuel hope, consolation, calm and tranquility.
I read that many measures taken have been called radical. Okay, ‘tis true. So, let’s add to that shall we? Say… Radical empathy. Radical self-care. Radical compassion. Radical refocus.
No one of us is on this journey alone.
I loved the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, about poor families in a Louisiana bayou community called the “Bathtub” (cut off from the rest of the world by a levee). The movie follows six-year-old Hush puppy, “I’m a little piece of a big big universe. Once there was a hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy.”
In one scene as a storm approaches, they’re looking for safety in their motorboat. Her daddy tells her, “You’ll gotta learn how to take care of people smaller and sweeter than you are… This boat’ll take you exactly where you need to be. It’s that kind of boat.”
Transformative events will be hard. So, whatever love is in your heart… Nurture it. Develop it. Grow it. Spread it. Spread it to your family but don’t stop there. Spread it beyond. It is the only force that can heal our broken world.
And don’t let your heart be infected with selfishness.
This week I read a poem (“Pandemic”) that did my heart good. Written by Lynn Ungar and I’ve shared it below. Please pass it on.
“We generally think of restrictions as being a negative,” she told a Chicago reporter. “But the idea of the Sabbath is that accepting these restrictions — you can’t exchange money, drive a car, work — can be a spiritual discipline that is a source of beauty, a source of the holy, as opposed to just being a pain in the ass.”
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
I was scheduled to preach today. But church was canceled. Appropriately.
So, I listened to music. I worked in my garden. I fed the birds. Unaware of the pandemic, our mallard pair, Fred and Ethel, (who return every spring) loiter in the pond.
I am in awe of the human spirit. Tonight, watching YouTube videos of Italians singing from balconies. (I’ve included one below.)
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Quote for your week…
Practicing the new virtual hug. Jazz hands in the air, side kick, head nod, words of welcome… repeat. Jan Meyer
Notes… Coming this week…
Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. A wee bit of spiritual and emotional nourishment. You’ll receive an option to sign up.
Weekly Gathering… Music and Storytelling with Ed Kilbourne (musician, humorist and theologian) and Terry Hershey, on YouTube
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s photo credit — Spring garden Vashon Island… keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Hi, Terry, I have long been a fan of you, your writing, Sabbath Moment, and the beautiful way that nature feeds into your spirituality and wisdom. As life would have it, I learned about you only 10 months ago by chance. I was on a retreat in Potomac, Maryland and found your book at a “take a book, leave a book” table. I picked it up and was drawn in by the mention of Vashon–a place I visited multiple times when living in Seattle 2016-2017. Admittedly, I didn’t have a book to leave and I hope that all is forgiven because I simply couldn’t leave Pause behind! The chapters were the perfect length to read on my morning metro train rides to my job in Washington, DC and I began loaning out my copy to co-workers at the medical respite facility for men experiencing homelessness where I work. In jobs that can become all consuming, how beautiful it is to have the reminder to become more by doing less. Thank you for all you do & your continued message. Sincerely, Lydia
–Thank you for your wise words, Terry. I’m glad my friend connected us and made it possible for me to receive your inspiring newsletters. Peace from Park City, Jill
–Dear Terry, I have enjoyed reading your reflections and insights every Monday, and rereading them during the week. Thank you for the Sabbath Moment. Beverly
–I love reading your inspiring work each Monday. Everything about it is uplighting, thought-provoking and memorable. Madeleine
–Dear Terry, thanks so much for SM. It always helps me put things into perspective. Love your stories… and you sure do read a lot! Wish I could, I’m one of those people that reading puts me to sleep! Take care along your travels and best wishes for a plentiful garden. Annmarie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
A Blessing for Washing Hands:
As we wash our hands
Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,
Breathing us in and breathing us out.
May our breaths continue
And our health and the health of all
Be preserved in this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
We take as much responsibility for this as we can
By observing the obligation to wash our hands
Thoroughly: For as long as it takes to say this prayer.
from ritualwell- thanks to Rabbi Chava
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Lynn Ungar 3/11/20