At a playground, a woman sits down next to a man seated on a park bench. “That’s my son over there,” she tells him, pointing to a little boy in a red sweater, gliding down the slide.
“He’s a fine looking boy,” the man said. “That’s my son on the swing in the blue sweatshirt.” Then, looking at his watch, he called to his son. “What do you say we go, Todd?”
Todd pleaded, “Dad, just five more minutes. Please? Just five more minutes.”
The man nodded, and Todd continued swinging, his demeanor elated. Many minutes passed and the father called again to his son. “Todd, what do you think? Time to go now?”
Again, Todd pleaded, “Five more minutes, Dad. Just five more minutes.” The man smiled and said, “Okay.”
“My,” the woman said, surprised. “You certainly are a patient father.”
The man smiled, and said, “Last year, my older son Tommy was killed by a drunk driver while he was riding his bike, not far from here. I never spent much time with Tommy. And now, I’d give anything for just five more minutes with him. So, I’ve vowed not to make the same mistake with Todd. He thinks he has five more minutes to swing. But the truth really is, I get five more minutes to watch him play.”
This story does my heart good. One of those stories that can, with time, penetrate and nourish our spirit. It is just too easy to rush in for resolution or declaration of meaning. So, whether we are zealous about walling out or walling in, we miss the gentle healing air that comes from the gift of enough. The nourishment that settles deep into our bones. Tell me again, how do I just sit still, and say thank you?
Not that I don’t too easily second-guess, or entertain the fear of an unlived life, or, one of my finer skills, to castigate myself for “wasted moments”. Perhaps you can relate?
But here’s the deal: Well-intentioned or not, nursed regret only puts more padding between the present moment and me–which includes the people and choices that are in my life today.
This story carries two gifts. One, the invitation to honor the gift of the sacrament of the present moment. And two, in honoring this sacrament, we practice self-care. I think we forget that self-care or spiritual hydration (“I get five more minutes,” the father said, acknowledging the benefit to his spirit and emotional well-being) enables me to be more available for you. In other words, I have no need to bring an agenda. Or the word “should”. Or any guilt inducement about wasted time. The invitation allows us to honor all manner of emotion that we may bring to the moment without labeling them.
My good friend Bill knows wine. Writes about it, appreciates it, savors it. He also knows wine people. People with grand and exceptional wine cellars. He told me the story of a couple with one such cellar, a collection to admire. Now mature in age, the couple knew that their years were numbered, and that many of their friends had died with full wine cellars, those rare bottles collected for a special occasion. (“You know,” he told my friend, “when we say we’ll drink it when the occasion is right. And, for some reason, the occasion is never quite right.”) So. They made a decision. They would collect no more wine. They would enjoy, take delight in and share the wine that they have. In their words, they decided to “drink their cellar.”
What all of these stories have in common is savoring the sacrament of the present moment. Or, in the words of poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Okay. Count me in. Just tell me how. Isn’t that the magical question? HOW? Is there a way to do this? Is it something about our need to perform? If I’m going embrace the sacred present, I might as well excel at it! We need to cut ourselves some slack here, assuming that there is a big prize in spiritual well-being for people who have Aced the test on embracing-the-sacred-present technique. I do know this: Embracing the sacred present isn’t a beauty pageant. And I have a hunch that
people who really do love (enjoy, live, give, embrace) life are literally, non-self-conscious about method or practice or performance.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel explains the gift of today this way, “I would say an individual dies when he (she) ceases to be surprised. What keeps me alive–spiritually, emotionally, intellectually–is my ability to be surprised. I say, I take nothing for granted. I am surprised every morning that I see the sun shine again.”
And yet, what a year to hear and take to heart this invitation. So many times, we have said to ourselves or outload, “if only,” or “when normal returns”.
(I do try Jesus’ three-word counsel, “Do not worry,” and just be. Although, truth be told, there is a good deal of adrenaline with worry, and it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.)
The geese remind me of living in the present. And I marvel. I was going to ask them about it this morning, but a few of them had other things on their mind. You see, it’s mating season here. When the males are three, they get to give their courtship audition a public display. These displays can be elaborate, and fun to watch. Dipping his neck and bobbing up and down, hoping she’s looking. (I confess a tinge of familiarity with this dance. Just sayin’.) And if they bob their heads in unison, all is good, meaning that she has accepted him as a partner.
If she moves away from him, or does not participate in the head bobbing, it means she has rejected him. A rejected male moves on and keeps trying. You’ve gotta admire that. The female chooses a mate based on his displays, and how well she believes he can protect her, which is a big deal because Canada geese are monogamous and mate for life.
I hope you are enjoying our full moon. Mercy it is life giving. And today, on my walk, the ‘tete-a-tete’ daffodils blooming, a buttercup yellow heaven.
Quote for your week…
Ten times a day something happens to me like this–some strengthening throb of amazement–some good sweet empathetic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness. Mary Oliver
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s Photo Credit: “Seen on a walk in my neighborhood in Richmond, VA following our recent ice storm during which our neighborhood lost power for a few very cold days. Thank you always for your daily reflections which begin my day on such a positive note,”
Susan Eschenroeder… Thank you Susan… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
In the mailbag…
–Hi Terry, I really look forward to Sabbath Moments each Monday. Your conversations with sheep, and now geese, are sacramental conversations. In the Celtic tradition wild geese represent the Holy Spirit – “the wild goose reveals a spirit which is passionate, noisy and courageous” and so unpredictable. So, I like to think of your current conversations having this element of unpredictable yet unflinching courage of this wind of the Spirit.
–Hi Terry, Thanks for providing the link to Clapton and Winwood performing Presence Of The Lord. A truly GREAT song by a couple of truly GREAT musicians. God bless! Mike
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
We thank you for all your gifts.
This day, this night
These fruits, these flowers,
These trees, these waters-
With all these treasures you have endowed us.
The heat of the sun, the light of the moon,
The songs of the birds and the coolness of the breeze,
The green, green grass like a mattress of velvet,
All owe their existence to your grace.
Dear God, May we forever breathe the breath of your love
And every moment be aware
Of your presence above.