On my walk this morning, I tell the sheep about reading an article, “Keep Your Sanity with the Personal Craziness Index,” and that I took the index and had a high score and that it didn’t surprise me but unnerved me a wee bit.
They just look at me.
And then one young one says, “We like it better when you tell us a story.”
“Fair enough,” I say.
Ryoken, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut, only to discover there was nothing in it to steal. Ryoken returned and caught him in the act.
“You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the disillusioned prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered. But he took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon, “Poor fellow,” he mused. “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”
Sometimes I feel like that thief. Standing (in my own home, or in front of an audience—well, now on Zoom—or all alone) I am still looking for something, for whatever ails me or creates a hole or emptiness; but, like that thief, not finding it. “What am I missing?” I ask myself. What am I wanting, yearning for, that I find myself weighted down, or my mind set on pell-mell… hoping to fix it, or find it, or mend it. So, I mentally run and race and call on God, or the sky, or roll the dice with some prayer from my childhood. This will solve it, I tell myself. But the more I push, the more I ask, the more I beseech, the further I move from the center.
Here’s the deal: In my state of distraction, I cannot see that the core of my identity, the place where I stand in this moment (even at times with craziness, and without clarity or stability), I still stand smack dab in the center of an awesome and illogical grace. Smack dab in the center of the sacred present.
I forget Etty Hillesum’s reminder, “There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.” (This Etty wrote while in a German concentration camp).
I forget to give myself the permission to know that I am grounded in the sacred present.
I am now able to breathe in and out,
and rest in, and live from,
this acceptance and grace.
When the Shawnee and Chippewa (and other early people) went on hunts or vision quests or long journeys, each traveler would carry in a small rawhide pouch various tokens of spiritual power–perhaps a feather, a bit of fur, a claw, a carved root, a pinch of tobacco, a pebble or a shell. These were not simply magical charms; they were reminders of the energies that sustain all of life. By gathering these talismans into a medicine pouch, the hunter, traveler, or visionary seeker was recollecting the sources of healing and bounty and beauty. (Adapted from Scott Russell Sanders, Hunting for Hope)
I do know that if my medicine pouch is filled with a need for control and answers, I can easily be seized with fear… or panic, rage, despair or exasperation. (Does that sound familiar?)
But what if? What if the “tokens” in that pouch are not a magic wand to undo life, but instead, the power and the freedom to embrace the life we have been given. (Not the circumstances, the life.) And to see in this life, this day, even in the very muddle of the ordinary, even in the very chaos of the ordinary gone awry, the permission to experience a whiff of the holy.
God is not waiting until we have it all figured out, or eliminated craziness. The gift of life is in this present moment.
I love Blaise Pascal’s reminder that, “In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart.”
In recent days, I haven’t thought specifically about carrying a medicine pouch, but I do have my ear buds close by, and Bruce often saves my emotional bacon. I love to listen to Springsteen sing, This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine. To be reminded that my day may be crazy, but my well-being is not defined only by the craziness (which is real), but about the deep well inside, which holds the gifts of purpose, determination, love, hope, faith, a will to live, joy, and the freedom to help activate healing and redemptive forces in the people who are around me.
Okay. So, it isn’t a sacred claw or bit of fur. But it works. Every time.
I don’t know what you’re carrying in your medicine pouch today. I hope that whatever it is, it has the gift to nourish and heal.
The sun is out today, soothing and healing. The leaves have begun their parade of color. It does my heart good, this snapshot now imprinted, essential and indispensable.
Tonight’s moon gift, Waxing Gibbous in the southern sky.
And I think of the question a friend asks me, “What holds you?”
In other words… What sustains you, and carries you gently through your days? And this is my question for you this week…
I know this for certain: when we do not pay tribute, we are like the thief in the Zen story–without even knowing it–and we settle for less. So much less. So, it is not just a question of what holds us, but of what holds us back… from being wholehearted, true to our self, fully alive, light-shiners, unafraid of uncertainty, and grateful for the gift of this moment.
It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holy invitation for atonement and repentance. Let us honor that invitation.
Quote for the week…
In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you. Deepak Chopra
Please join me 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.
My new book is here. Order today. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media).
I love to write. Since I was a boy, paper and pencil have been on my list of favorite things. Now, I’ve added a nib pen. As a boy, I journaled. I still do. Some years, writing every day. All journals have this in common: They give voice to what is inside. They become safe space. In that way, journaling is like a sanctuary: a time and a place that allows us—gives us permission— to pause. To look inside and to embrace what is here, what is alive and well. To embrace our enoughness. Think of this “sanctuary” space as a dose of grace. It bestows gifts upon us… stillness, gladness, calm, mystery, delight, discovery, learning and peace. This resonates because it is in our DNA to be renewed, nourished, replenished and spiritually hydrated. The Gift of Enough: A Journal for the Present Moment
Plus… A new eCourse available at no cost – This Is The Life. I will be announcing Zoom gatherings for September.
Other eCourses at no cost.
Join our eCourse Retreat. The Power of Pause.
Join our eCourse Retreat. Sacred Necessities.
The retreats are available to anyone. No cost. Sign up today.
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Today’s photo credit — Just walking each other home. Mathews County, VA… Mary Chapman… Thank you Mary… Keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Sign up today. (This is in addition to the Monday Sabbath Moment)
In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–This book (The Gift of Enough) is a gem. Each page has a meditation on some idea–you know, like “the simple pleasures of life.” And then it invites you to journal about it, guided by a question. I think it’s a beautiful and generous book and I plan on gifting it to many others. Michael Bader
–Thanks for this morning’s message. As a second career seminary student I too would sing the same song as I walked into my Old Testament Jeremiah class. I’m sure some young seminarians thought this old man, age 30, had lost his mind. And oh how I remember the rivalry as a former PLU student when playing your son’s school across town, UPS. Thanks again for the inspirations each day, they do fill my soul in these crazy times. Flip
–Thank you so much as always for your ministry! I want to especially thank you for John O’Donohue’s poem that you included in today’s Sabbath Moment. As an educator, that poem spoke volumes to me. The pandemic and the subsequent move by schools in CA to distance learning has been, to say the least, challenging. I’m part of an informal support group of like minded educators in our district and we are feeling the overwhelm – students, parents, teachers. I sent my administrative colleagues the poem with a note that, while it’s not October yet (the longest period of time between breaks – Labor Day to Veterans Day), we need to stop and take in all the good that surrounds us; that pause will help in the recharge that we need each and every day to be present to those we serve. Thanks again! Deanna
–Hi Terry, I have to tell you that I had ‘one of those days’ yesterday when you not only feel uncomfortable in your own skin, but you just flat out don’t like being in it. It was a culmination of pandemic fatigue and caring for-older-relative-fatigue. I came home from my care-taking duties and read the day’s Sabbath Moment and noticed the Springsteen reference at the end. I have seen this note on the Sunday edition but I must confess that I have never viewed/listened to it. Well, yesterday was the day and it turned my whole self around for the better. It’s hard not to get caught up in the vibe of that video and I will say that it was one of the most Holy Spirit infused moments that I have had in a long time. So thank you for that. Blessings to you, Nancy
–Thank you! We all need to strap ourselves in for the wild roller coaster ride we’ll be on these next few months. Your posts, Terry, are links in the seatbelt holding me steady. Andrea
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Unseen, we have seen you this day
In the lights of the sky,
In the bright fall colors of the earth,
In waters flowing and still.
Untouchable, we have felt you this day
In the warmth of the sun
In the wildness of the wind,
In the touch of another,
In and beyond our sense,
In the taste and touch and sound
You have made Your mystery to be known.
At the ending of the day
In the darkness of the night,
In and beyond our senses,
Let us know your presence,
O Wild and Untamable One,
Let us know your everlasting presence.
(Thank you Rev. Martin Townsend)
A Blessing Prayer
For When I Sit Down To Write
Lord my God
Here I am at last:
Let me not be afraid
To create bad art.
Steady the coracle of my heart,
Still the waves of my wandering thoughts.
Bring me into the harbour
Where I am at home
And any words will do.
Even if my poems be
Little, fragile paper boats,
Enfold them into something beautiful
To sail to somebody’s soul.
And in the writing
May I be blessed.
Sarah Sansbury–Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks